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