This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
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Regulatory Pressures Due to Abuses
Ever been shadow-banned on Twitter? Banned outright on Facebook? All for passing around a politically incorrect meme or expressing an opinion that angers the left? You are not alone. Twitter admits that it removes half of all “abusive” tweets pro-actively. This is now done by automated algorithms with little possibility of a successful appeal.
Facebook has it’s censorship too, as do most of the other social media out there. They use similar Artificial Intelligence (AI) to do so, at a much faster pace and a cheaper cost than human content judgement. The problem is, that content is judged with the biases of the media companies, not always based on what is legal expression. When first appearing on the scene a little after the turn of the millennium, they were advertised as the free public forums of the internet. Now they claim they can filter your content if they don’t like it.
They can’t have it both ways. Global cartels of open, public internet interaction, free for all, advertising revenues and free speech hand in hand. Like virtual Liberty Trees in every digital Town Square. Unless you express that you like the President, or your religion, or perish-the-thought, guns. Basically standing up for Conservative values, supporting the Bill of Rights or telling the wrong joke will get you blacklisted by a now private company that is responsible for your posts.
Publishers Exert Editorial Control, Infrastructure Makers Do Not
That is the gist of the arguments for applying more of the regulations that true publishers have to follow for social medias that engage in censorship of legal content. Hearings were held on this in Congress last year. Twitter, Facebook, and presumably the rest are back-pedaling now and are trying to prevent proposed regulations by suggesting they would agree to lesser ones “to ensure fairness,” right.
Other countries without our Bill of Rights usually censor every packet of data entering and leaving, with respect to localized political and cultural biases. Tourists must often let all their electronics be searched for local digital infractions. America and a few small nations are all that stands for an open internet. Even then it’s pretty clear that the NSA monitors all US-bound international traffic (like if you use a VPN or Proxy not in the US, or visit a foreign website even – all legal for them). Even then the NSA may be using other countries’ intelligence officials to monitor domestic traffic.
Free Internet or Managed Digital Yards?
If methods aren’t found to release most of the net from localized censorship, a patchwork of separately ruled Electronic Dutchies will result. This will turn the net into a tinier, costlier and slower space for everyone, ruining what has made it so revolutionary. Can you imagine logging in with an ID, choosing to go to various websites that are recorded, separately taxed based on server location, checked on a digital passport and filtered where applicable? That’s a worst-case scenario, but within the possible.
The ability to use the net to go anywhere, learn anything, buy things, and speak out, is what brings explosive growth and wealth to all who embrace it. Even to those that merely provide the goods and services that people want. The internet is mostly capitalist, and a shining example of what that means for all. The ability to speak freely on all non-criminal speech is a precursor to a beneficial network infrastructure. Where it is stifled, so are people.