Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

The ID issue vs Digital Empire/Cartel concerns: information utilities/ “superhighway” vs shadow-censoring, de-platforming information gatekeepers

A Google Search on UD, Aug 19, 2018: the sides of the debate are already obvious from the first three results

The ID issue has long been a focal point for intense, often deeply polarised debate on our origins and world roots as informed by science.

Science, being a major source of knowledge and understanding about our world, which also energises technological innovation and economic growth. Science is often treated as though it is the grounds for seeing evolutionary materialism as effectively self evidently true but crucially depends on our being responsibly and rationally sufficiently free to think logically, establish mathematics as a domain of rationally grounded truth about abstract structures and quantities that are necessary for any possible world, and more. Such already deeply challenges the world-picture painted by the magisterium of lab coat-clad atheists.

That is only a gateway to the growing body of evidence — and no, namecalling labels like “pseudoscience” will not make such evidence go away — that key features of the physical world and the world of life exhibit signs that strongly point to their being designed rather than the product of blind chance and/or blind mechanical necessity.

In the old, pre-digital information order, something like the Intelligent Design movement would have been marginalised, de-platformed and dismissed beyond hope of getting even fringe acceptance. Indeed, many like to pretend that it is, to the point of denying the readily verified facts and the body of professional literature that has published favourable results and analyses. But, the days in which key newspapers, technical publishing houses, radio and television players and the gatekeepers of major learned institutions could lock something like ID out died with the rise of the World Wide Web, www.  The web provided a globally accessible information utility that allowed dissident voices to be heard, a new Samizdat.

At first, bandwidth, difficulty of publication and difficulty of dissemination were challenges, but the rise of blogs, bulletin boards and web forum technologies, video host sites and global search engines opened doorways for the marginalised to build platforms and be heard, even in the teeth of polarisation, accusation, strawman stereotyping, scapegoating and other agit prop tactics up to and including notorious cases of lawfare such as at Dover. And in that context, we see how so-called social media became key technologies for the many to put up a stall in the digital marketplace of ideas. (And remember, blogs and web fora are social media.)

Network economics told, and we have seen the emergence of effective monopolies and cartels that own key, dominant platforms for hosting or access. Youtube, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, Wikipedia and the like. In many cases they run at a loss (think, YouTube) and are subsidised by host firms or they may be part of the not for profit sphere (think, Wikipedia).

(BTW, consider the premise that if a service that costs considerable money to set up and sustain is free to you, you — more specifically, market research information you provide — will be the product being sold. Ask, who is buying, why, for how much, and where you draw the line.)

So, the underlying Internet infrastructure is already a utility with network economics that pushes towards monopolies and the same principle of domination leads to emergence of dominant platforms for hosting or finding content, making purchases etc. That legitimately leads to the need for reasonable regulation of market dominance power. The key distinction here, being between being a generally neutral platform (like the phone company) and being a publisher making editorial decisions on content (like a newspaper). I add, that a publisher has particular responsibility for published content, especially when defamation, incitement, privacy violation etc are involved, but also there is a reasonable line where a platform provider can and should act to protect the platform and its valuable services, and/or the public.

What a shadow-ban looks like in a trend line on visits (HT: BA77)

Where also, if one has sufficient dominance as a monopolist or as a cartel constituting a shared monopoly in a given information space, one can have dangerous lock-out power, power of censorship.

And, when vague but loaded terms such as hate speech (as opposed to legally defined incitement) or pseudoscience or “fascist” are in play and policing power is delegated to known radical groups such as the notorious Southern Poverty Law Center, we have a potentially explosive mixture. Especially in the context of the rising power of China [which is still a Communist Party led dictatorship] and in the post-2016 context of even more destructively polarised American politics and government. Putin, the Russian Mafias and the like, by comparison, are small potatoes that may stir chaos but simply do not have the sort of access to dominance we have on the table.

Clearly, the ID movement has skin in the game and we must be vigilant concerning irresponsible ideological domination, agit prop, doxxing and stalking tactics, censorship [including the sort of shadow censorship Prager U just exposed], de-platforming, lawfare and worse. I even notice, there are cases of online financial services/ payment and email providers joining in lockout pile-ons. [I add, BTW, PragerU.]

The principle is simple.

Network economics leads to dominant monopolies or clusters that can become a shared monopoly. When monopoly power can affect vital services such as utilities or the governance process (indeed, media power indisputably can decide elections), there is on its face a public interest to regulate. This leads to a choice: you can be a neutral platform or you can be a publisher, but not both. You cannot put up a front of being a platform then abuse power through open or shadow censorship. Nor, can you pretend that as a private, market entity, you can do as you please. Not when monopoly power that can affect the public interest is in the stakes.

We need to be able to access the Internet, we need reasonable access for search, we need to be able to reasonably promote and access multimedia content repositories. We also need reasonable protection of innocent reputation and power to control trollish misconduct.

For UD, it is crucially important that our baseline platform is a blog.

We have built our own platform.  Thank you, WordPress, for a blog hosting platform that is now effectively a content management system also.

Having our own platform and using social media etc as promotion is already a protection.

But as concerned netizens, we must also be concerned over what was just done to Prager U (and yes, I am highlighting a case that is in the shadows). As Hinderaker of Powerline — yes, we are highlighting another longstanding “stall” in the blogosphere — summarises in the already linked:

>> . . . Many aspects of the left’s outsourcing of censorship to liberal-run corporations need to be explored, but for now, this is an astonishing example: “Silicon Valley Strikes Back: Facebook Censors PragerU After Google Lawsuit.”

Dennis Prager is probably the foremost public intellectual of our time. His Prager University has been wildly successful. It brings a much-needed conservative antidote to the liberal nonsense to which so many Americans, especially young people, are subjected. That has made Prager a key target of the Left.

It started when YouTube downgraded PragerU’s videos. Weird: PragerU’s videos are enormously popular, and YouTube makes money when people watch videos. Moreover, PragerU’s videos are among the most high-quality, intellectually sound productions on YouTube. Nevertheless, YouTube (which is owned by Google) has tried to suppress traffic to PragerU’s products. PragerU has sued Google as a result. So this is the latest:

Facebook has shadow banned PragerU into complete silence to its more than 3 million followers, internal analytics revealed.

“Our last 9 posts have been completely censored reaching 0 of our 3 million followers,” PragerU media personality Will Witt posted on Facebook Friday. “At least two of our videos were deleted last night for ‘hate speech’ including a post of our most recent video with The Conservative Millennial, Make Men Masculine Again.”

“Internal Facebook analytics reveal that as of Thursday, Aug. 16, at 10:00 PM PDT, posts by PragerU on the social media platform have been completely invisible to its more than 3 million followers,” PragerU reported in a news release Friday. “Currently, visitors to PragerU’s Facebook page are unable to see any of its most recent posts.”

“This is a first for us,” PragerU Chief Marketing Officer Craig Strazzeri said in a statement. “While we’ve experienced blatant discrimination from Google/YouTube, which is why we’ve filed legal action against them, this represents a whole new level of censorship by Facebook. at this point, Facebook has provided little clarity saying it will get back to us in another two to three business days, which in the world of social media might as well be an eternity.”

Tech titans stick together. Two weeks ago, Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify simultaneously “de-platformed” Alex Jones and Infowars. Twitter held out briefly, and then, in response to demands from liberals, also banned Jones and Infowars. I have never paid attention to Infowars and have no idea whether its content has merit. But simultaneous bans and suspensions across platforms can hardly be coincidental. The phrase “combination or conspiracy in restraint of trade” comes to mind.

In any event, any claim by the Left that companies aligned with it are merely cleansing themselves of disreputable content would be absurd. First, PragerU is among the most reputable content on the internet. Second, they have taken no action against left-wing extremists like the fascist Antifa, which disseminates its hate speech freely on every social media platform I am aware of.

The Left’s attempt to outsource censorship to its Silicon Valley allies is one of the most important issues of our time.>>

If this case does not give you serious pause, something is wrong.

With you.

It is time to take due note and challenge the censors and manipulators. END

PS: U/D, I just saw that US President Trump has been tweeting again — and BTW it seems his tweet feed has been judicially deemed a public forum. For what it’s worth, here is the string of Tweets:

>> Aug 18

Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others…….

…..Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don’t watch at all..

….Too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!

All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China. But in the end, if we are smart, tough and well prepared, we will get along with everyone!>>

I am of course not endorsing Mr Trump or his specific claims; I am just pointing out the themes that are in play. We need to be particularly discerning in this time.

F/N4: From the 11th page of the smoking gun MM document:
Facebook's virtual monopoly on information distribution has supercharged the fragmented landscape. Almost two-thirds of Americans (200 million) consume news on social media. By contrast, less than half of adults watch local news, less than a third watch cable news or nightly network news, a quarter listen to radio, and only one in five read newspapers. In 2016, a full two-thirds of Facebook users used the platform to get news. Facebook's algorithm fuels confirmation bias by feeding content from outlets that tell the users what they want to hear. Fake news purveyors exploited this vulnerability for profit and political influence.
First, that changed news and views access landscape confers enormous communication power and control to FB. This means, they have power to censor, which the evidence is, they are using. Second, use the mirror/projection principle to diagnose MM et al:
Facebook's algorithm fuels confirmation bias by feeding content from outlets that tell the users what they want to hear. Fake news purveyors exploited this vulnerability for profit and political influence.
Do you hear the likely intent of MM et al, once the censorship power and targetting we see are factored in? Clearly, the censorship needs to be exposed and broken, and those who set about a course like that need to pay the due price. It is time to realise the terrible brink we have come to and turn back before it is too late. KF kairosfocus
F/N3: Gateway Pundit adds its voice in exposing censorship agendas. Again, your neighbour's house. This is far from an issue of support for Mr Trump et al, it is about the demonstrable, documented rise of a censorship plan with now clear evidence of actual censorship. Censorship and abusive cartel or monopoly practice exploiting network dominance is about as serious a general small-d democratic public interest as there is. Once the censorship -- real censorship by those with power to silence in an information space -- tiger has been loosed that is a problem for our whole civilisation. So, let us clip:
The Free Beacon published [a] lengthy document by David Brock, the founder of Soros-funded Media Matters website, from a January donor retreat. The [already linked and cited] 49 page memo outlined how the George Soros-funded groups Media Matters, American Bridge, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and Shareblue planned to undermine President Trump’s agenda and help Democrats win control of Congress and the White House by 2020 [--> within civility and just law, seeking power is a right, but seeking power by unjust, oppressive means is another story entirely. Where, censorship in the relevant sense is injustice.] . . . . The [already linked and cited] document then claims that Media Matters and far left groups have “access to raw data from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites” so they can “systemically monitor and analyze this unfiltered data.” [--> that is access power] According to their report these far left groups [--> fair comment characterisation] have been working with Facebook and Twitter to eliminate conservative content. Via The Daily Wire:
“The earlier we can identify a fake news story [--> what are the objective criteria and relevant sound evidence, or else this is name-calling slanderous accusation and targetting], the more effectively we can quash it,” the memo states. “With this new technology at our fingertips, researchers monitoring news in real time will be able to identify the origins of a lie [--> lies need to be shown not assumed by accusation] with mathematical precision, creating an early warning system for fake news and disinformation.”
The memo went on to state that Media Matters had a discussion with Facebook on how to crack down on fake news, including Media Matters providing the social media giant with “a detailed map of the constellation of right-wing Facebook pages that had been the biggest purveyors of fake news.” The memo also bragged that Media Matters provided Google with “the information necessary to identify 40 of the worst fake new sites” that would be prevented from using Google’s advertising network. And this is exactly what happened. In 2016 The Gateway Pundit was one of the few conservative sites that supported candidate Trump – along with Breitbart, The Drudge Report, Infowars, Zero Hedge, Conservative Treehouse and several others. In 2017 Harvard and Columbia Journalism Review found that The Gateway Pundit was the 4th most influential conservative news source in the 2016 election. Because of this we were targeted and have seen our numbers related to Facebook and Twitter decline dramatically. This had nothing to do with the quality of our posts as we have proof that our generic numbers are up and and continue to increase. In February Facebook launched another algorithm change to their platform. With the changes we saw our traffic dwindle even further. We weren’t the only ones to be affected. The algorithmic change caused President Donald Trump’s engagement on Facebook posts to plummet a whopping 45%. In contrast, according to Breitbart’s Allum Bokhari, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) do not appear to have suffered a comparable decline in Facebook engagement. Facebook took our money for advertising and promised a fair playing field. Facebook lied to us and every conservative group in America. And, according to far left groups, Facebook is working with liberal organizations to eliminate conservative content. [--> on evidence, fair comment] A recent Pew Study found that 71% of Americans see how tech giants are censoring political content. And they are. A Gateway Pundit June study of top conservative news outlets found that Facebook has eliminated 93% of traffic to top conservative websites. [--> the 93% shadow-ban/shadow-censor figure]
Smoking gun level stuff. KF kairosfocus
F/N2: PL's expose on the Media Matters secret censorship and agit-prop proposal/plan targetting the current US President is highly significant on exposing the rise of shadow-censorship. Thus, we have clear evidence of conspiracy to censor and to use agit prop, lawfare (e.g. oh, US Const 1st Amdt does not apply to "private" corporations) and corporate power of monopoly or cartel dominance on key networks and platforms. So, this is not easily dismissed empty-minded, ignorant fear-mongering paranoia, it is direct evidence of serious and sobering destructive agenda backed by powerful interests. Where, once the precedents have been put in place and the strategy has started, it will beyond doubt be extended to an ever growing list of targets as a juggernaut gathering speed. Further to this, there is no doubt that the ID movement will be on that list. We must take due, sober notice, now. KF PS: The leaked David Brock, MM document is linked from PL (at ScribD) and can readily be downloaded here -- 45 MB. It is full of the sort of turnabout projections presented as justification for "defensive" actions that should give the astute onlooker pause. Let me clip:
ln the next four years, Media Matters will continue its core mission of disarming right-wing misinformation, while leading the fight against the next generation of conservative disinformation: The proliferation of fake news and propaganda now threatening the country's information ecosystem. Here's what success will look like: > Serial misinformers and right-wing propagandists inhabiting everything from social media to the highest levels of government will be exposed, discredited. [--> replace that with "left wing" and ponder how the dominant media would pounce on such a statement] > Internet and social media platforms, like Google and Facebook, will no longer uncritically and without consequence host and enrich fake news sites and propagandists. [--> add the subtext: those who differ from us are fake news sites and propagandists, such as clearly PragerU. The failure to address general irresponsibility in news and views media is diagnostic.] > Toxic alt-right social media-fueled harassment campaigns that silence dissent [--> oh, we are the persecuted minorities and victims, we cannot be the bullies, bike lock as club assaults on seven victims notwithstanding . . . ] and poison our national discourse [--> so, what about OTHER poisoners, cyberbullies and stalkers?] will be punished and halted.
What I will say is that we should be willing to recognise that we have here a smoking gun. If we had seen a campaign to reach out across the political spectrum and jointly define responsible discourse and address demonstrable incitement, slander, big lies and other similar agit-prop techniques and associated destructive online or on the ground bullying, that would be one thing. That is not what we see here; what we see is, we are all angels and they are devils, classic Alinsky rules in action. Indeed, arguably, incitement. When your neighbour's roof is burning, wet your own and reach out to help him. kairosfocus
F/N, a clip: https://www.jerrypournelle.com/reports/jerryp/iron.html >>Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":
First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration. Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.
The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.>> Many others have made similar observations. KF kairosfocus
F/N: A useful primer on network economics -- http://www.stern.nyu.edu/networks/94-24.pdf , with discussion of the key externality driving monopoly or cartelisation. Namely that the value to existing and prospective users [or nodes] rises as the number of participants rises, often backed by very high sunk costs to get to the network's infrastructure. Thus, it makes sense to come together around a common infrastructure, interface and protocol, with provision for growth far beyond the present scale, often leading to taxpayer funded infrastructure. A capital example is wavelength division multiplexing which leads to growing capacity of a fibre optic network. Another is how advertisers will be drawn to a dominant media house as the best bang for the buck spent. Then, potential consumers go to the same because that is where the best offers are. This then gives lock-out power to those who gain power over the house. A similar problem is the argument that a bureaucracy inevitably becomes captive to a cabal of its enemies. (This is the bite in current concerns over the deep state and international bodies, also over fakery, incompetence, deceit and manipulation or outright betrayal in news, education, policy-making and politics, disciplines etc. It's not merely ignorant conspiracism and paranoia. Maybe, we need to look at the vexed principal-agent problem, which goes all the way back to Plato's parable of the mutinous ship of state. Notice, how Socrates openly acknowledges that while training in relevant wisdom and ethics etc is important, even that is liable to be captured by the destructive so that educated elites with governance power are also dangerous. The issue of the notorious Alcibiades -- one of the young men Socrates taught -- lurks there.) So too, once a main provider or cluster becomes dominant, it is very hard to replace. Something like the deliberately inefficient QWERTY keyboard is a case in point. Once the net is informational, the dominant cluster gains censoring power and may have the economic rent to buy political protection. This is a serious danger to liberty and responsible democratic self-government. Arguably, the OP illustrates this in action. The issue of regulation of network based monopolies and cartels in the public interest arises. So does the classic mercantilist moral hazard by which the dominant cluster captures the regulator or the politicians who set up regulation. We are at a very dangerous nexus. KF kairosfocus
Godlessness in the Last Days
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9 But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.   [ 2 Timothy 3:1-9 ]
BA77, sobering. I have added a snapshot on what a shadow ban looks like. KF kairosfocus
News, Facebook is sitting on reportedly 1 - 2 billion subscribers or whatever they call them. This gives dominance through network economics and confers censorship power. (If one cannot dominate a relevant community's information space so that one's lockout is tantamount to silencing, one cannot actually have censorship power.) There are competitors or more accurately alternatives, but they are at the fringes. (see here: https://makeawebsitehub.com/facebook-alternatives/ .) It is likely that you are being repeatedly reported, to harass you. Just as, I repeatedly see signs of interference with my web presence, especially around UD. I think the abusive commenter who has vandalised my personal blogs has finally got the message that I only host his attempts as evidence. We are facing agit prop and censorship when they hold power is an agit prop technique. So is lawfare. So are more ugly things up to and including murderous false flag operations of various types. (I guess that is why a majority of the US thinks the Warren Commission narrative is a cover up. That's another technique, and if it succeed none dare call it treason.) Polistra: Yes, carriers mount platforms and either subscribers or advertisers or sponsors pay the bills, and exert influence at minimum. However, when we get into monopoly power and information spaces we are talking about swinging elections and shaping policies. So, once there is a traipsing into shaping content (as opposed to disciplining the demonstrably disruptive) then one has become a publisher with responsibilities under tort law. So if for instance you lock out Prager U but tolerate antifa, that becomes a declaration of sides taken. And other things. KF kairosfocus
These Screenshots Show How Google Shadowbans Conservative And Pro-Trump Content New membership on my Facebook page has stopped dead. My best YouTube videos cannot be found. All because I posted videos of myself going on Fox News. By Doug Wead AUGUST 17, 2018 http://thefederalist.com/2018/08/17/screenshots-show-google-shadowbans-conservative-pro-trump-content/ Historian eviscerates Governor Cuomo in 60 seconds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E3A1iv95hs bornagain77
Funny you should bring this up just now, kairosfocus. Last night, I ran into trouble at Facebook again, with the time-consuming accusation that I am a robot. I post links to consenting ID-related discussion sites at Facebook. Every so often, the accusation mechanically surfaces, essentially preventing me from posting links that are usually rewarded by Likes and discussion. At best, the time spent addressing the no-robot tests cuts into the time I have to accumulate news of interest. I have complained but in vain. Facebook needs competitors. It is as simple as that. Readers, if you don't see us on social media, please do not assume we have disappeared or nothing is happening. We haven't disappeared and lots of stuff is happening. Come here to the site directly. To the best of my knowledge, we have not yet had trouble with our platform, WordPress. Doubtless, that's coming. News
The distinction between publisher and carrier basically comes down to "free" vs paid. If you want "free", you have to understand that you're the product, and you have to expect quality control. Historically the least censored carriers required payment. Bell Tel didn't practice censorship (except when forced by government search warrants), and it was fairly expensive for each subscriber. Among magazines and newspapers, the most autonomous and independent have been solely subscriber-paid, without advertising. Advertisers always impose limits, and in a globalized setting all advertisers are globalist corporations with globalist expectations. polistra
The ID issue vs Digital Empire/Cartel concerns: information utilities/ “superhighway” vs shadow-censoring, de-platforming information gatekeepers kairosfocus

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