Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

ID vs the shadow-censoring (“shadow-banning”) digital empires, 2


ID is a proposition that, first, it is reasonable to inquire scientifically as to whether certain features of the world of life and/or the physical cosmos can or do show observable signs of design. To which, the answer has long since been given, e.g. by the well known OoL researcher Orgel in a significant 1973 book:

>>living organisms are distinguished by their specified complexity. Crystals are usually taken as the prototypes of simple well-specified structures, because they consist of a very large number of identical molecules packed together in a uniform way. Lumps of granite or random mixtures of polymers are examples of structures that are complex but not specified. The crystals fail to qualify as living because they lack complexity; the mixtures of polymers fail to qualify because they lack specificity . . . .

These vague idea can be made more precise by introducing the idea of information. Roughly speaking, the information content of a structure is the minimum number of instructions needed to specify the structure.

One can see intuitively that many instructions are needed to specify a complex structure. [–> so if the chain of q’s to be answered to specify it is based on structured Y/N points, the chain length is an information measure that indicates complexity in bits . . . ] On the other hand a simple repeating structure can be specified in rather few instructions.  [–> do once and repeat over and over in a loop . . . ] Complex but random structures, by definition, need hardly be specified at all . . . . Paley was right to emphasize the need for special explanations of the existence of objects with high information content, for they cannot be formed in nonevolutionary, inorganic processes [–> Orgel had high hopes for what Chem evo and body-plan evo could do by way of info generation beyond the FSCO/I threshold, 500 – 1,000 bits.] [The Origins of Life (John Wiley, 1973), p. 189, p. 190, p. 196.]>>

Notice, “Paley was right to emphasize the need for special explanations of the existence of objects with high information content.”

Let me add FYI, a flowchart of the design inference explanatory filter, the leading alternative candidate for a special explanation:

The per aspect design inference explanatory filter

Of course, Orgel answered, “they cannot be formed in nonevolutionary, inorganic processes.” That only succeeds in highlighting origin of life as we have to get to life before we can talk about evolution of life. Beyond, we have serious questions to answer on how significant, equally information-rich body plan features can arise, given the needle in haystack blind search challenge imposed by large configuration spaces.

Regardless, we clearly see that the design inference question is on the table and cannot properly be removed through the censorship of an arbitrary ideological rule such asteleological thinking has long been banned from scientific reasoning.”

This is where the modern inference to design comes in, as the only actually observed cause of functionally specific complex organisation and/or associated information is design.

Barnes: “What if we tweaked just two of the fundamental constants? This figure shows what the universe would look like if the strength of the strong nuclear force (which holds atoms together) and the value of the fine-structure constant (which represents the strength of the electromagnetic force between elementary particles) were higher or lower than they are in this universe. The small, white sliver represents where life can use all the complexity of chemistry and the energy of stars. Within that region, the small “x” marks the spot where those constants are set in our own universe.” (HT: New Atlantis)

Similarly, the observed cosmos exhibits strong signs of complex, functionally organised fine tuning that sets up a world suitable for C-chemistry, aqueous medium, cell based life. So, there is also a design inference question on the fine tuning of the observed cosmos.

However, given that the shadow-banning rule just cited comes from a peer-reviewed paper, we obviously have to face the issue of ideological censorship that locks out legitimate but inconvenient alternatives and distorts science into in effect applied atheism dressed up in a lab coat.

This immediately is a public policy issue as much of science is taxpayer-funded and because rules like we just saw are going to be imposed on science education, thus education and the media. We the people have a right to a true and fair view of both sides of relevant controversies, something which is too often denied to us. So, to label us “anti-science” then becomes little more than stereotypical projection driven by ideological polarisation. In effect, “you are the despised ignorant/ stupid/ insane/ wicked other outside the circle of wonderful light shed by the party of progress.”

Similarly, we commonly see appeals to “settled scientific consensus” on other issues such as climate trends, tied to locking out dissenting scientists and those who doubt the dominant view. That such are routinely termed “denialists” or the like (with a calculated echo of “holocaust denial”) should give us sobering pause already, as that is tantamount to “neo-nazi.”

Already, it is important to pause and pose a tool for re-balancing our thinking and evaluation of media sources:

This test, of course, was written in the days before the social media surge, so we need to update to embrace the era of in effect “everyman is his own journalist, editor and pundit” — NOT.

To set a bit of context, let me clip from a key January 2017 briefing and proposal by David Brock et al of Media Matters:

>>Facebook’s virtual monopoly on information distribution has supercharged the fragmented [information/ media] 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. [11th p. of 49]>>

Of course, as we will explore, the “fake news” projection to the despised other immediately raises the mirror principle question. For, it is notorious that one defence from cognitive dissonance is to project, creating the perception that one must fight back by any means necessary. More on that, later.

The prior point is the change in landscape. Social media has become dominant as a means of information and influence, in a context where network economics is at work. Namely, the value of the network and of membership grows with its participation, often backed by entry barriers that impose huge sunk costs to set it up. Indeed, for many years, it was notorious that the biggest value in the Bell telephone system in the USA lay in its network of wires, starting with the simple value of the copper involved. Much the same obtains for the physical infrastructure of the Internet, and extends to major software platforms that inhabit cyberspace. For example, for all its notorious failings, Wikipedia has taken over from traditional Encyclopedias. Likewise, Google and its subsidiary, YouTube, dominate search and video hosting. Windows dominates the Desktop, though that is now becoming more of a niche in the smart phone and tablet era. Facebook seems to have 1 – 2 billion participants, but how many of these are bots is a good question. Twitter is obviously dominant too, and we should not overlook Apple and its walled garden. There are more, but the picture is clear enough.

The implication is, we are looking at a strong trend to cartels and monopolies in the global info-space.

That means, censorship power, the ability to arbitrarily silence or isolate and marginalise or lock out through exercise of dominance, undermining rights to freedom of expression, publishing, association and effective petition for redress. Which is instantly a moral hazard of network economics in a deeply polarised age.

In that context, the rise of vague labels like “fake news” and “hate speech” that target the despised other should give us pause. “Blame the victim/target” is a notorious, long-standing challenge.  (Think, “she asked for it” or “those dirty, trickster Jews” etc.)

Where, of course, the concern is not the state of play of US party politics — fair comment, a mess. No, given that for years ID has been targetted, we must be seriously concerned, as ideologically motivated shadow censorship through algorithm manipulation (shadow-banning) and outright expulsion (de-platforming) are already visible on the ground.

Note, how Gateway Pundit charts:

A summary of traffic impact of shadow-banning for major US Conservative-leaning sites [HT: Gateway Pundit]
It is in that context of evident moral hazard that I posted my prior discussion a few days back, and then made this comment:

KF, 10: >>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.>>

The problem is, of course, that once the censorship juggernaut gets loose and starts to gain speed, it can soon take on a terrible force of its own, leading to serious damage to the delicate fabric of liberty. Balancing this, I immediately note that there is a patent right to innocent reputation (that’s why defamation is a tort), and information platforms also have duties to the public to police fraud, abuse and the like.

Similarly, as there is a public interest in a stimulating and protective environment for children where they can safely explore, there is room for family-friendly limitations on what is readily accessible to or intrusive upon the general public . . . the notorious “ladder against the high wall next to an orchard that could lure a child to climb up and fall” problem.

Such policing has to be regulated and has to make sure that platform providers or dominant actors do not become censors, publishers that lock out legitimate voices that are inconvenient to ruthless power brokers. Where, once one exerts significant editorial control on content, one is not a “neutral” platform anymore but a publisher with liability for content. So too, once one has network dominance in a relevant info-space and exerts viewpoint discrimination (especially if that is backed up by slander and targetting) one is an abusive censor.

ID has faced this for decades, and it looks like the problem is about to become a lot worse.

Digital empires, I am looking at you.

What can be done?

First, build your own platform and make sure you are not critically dependent for traffic and support on censorship-prone digital empires. Judging by recent events, this may extend to payment platforms and certain credit card companies. In the last extreme, put your money in a financial co-op, not a conventional bank. UD already does this, we are an independent blog using WordPress technology.

Second, we must be vigilant now. Censorship always starts with low-hanging fruit.  We have to insist that “hate speech” is dangerously vague and that the proper issue is protection of innocent reputation through principles of tort. Similarly, incitement has a proper legal definition. Beyond that lie rioting, mob violence, sedition and treason, rebellion. Likewise, “fake news” is a propaganda term; we should insist that news sources show habitual objectivity, balance, fairness, soundness, truthfulness, prudence, trustworthiness in claims and views. Already, this indicts major sources all across the spectrum including too many major media houses, as can readily be seen by simply applying the above grid to many popular narratives. (Q: What do we do in a day when seemingly everything is “fake” to some extent? A: The time for reformation has come.)

Third, given demonstrated irresponsibility and censorship, the platform provider cartels and monopolies must be reined in as part of reforms, through transparency and accountability as well as anti-cartel/ anti-monopoly regulation and law. This will be very hard to do (and there will be kicking, screaming, mud-slinging and foot-dragging every inch of the way), but it is necessary if we are to save our civilisation. On this, I am by no means optimistic.

Fourth, we must support alternatives and platforms that are much harder to censor or collect into a cartel or monopoly. This means, we insist that in any community of significant scale there be at minimum two Internet Service Providers, for preference at least three. We must provide for low power community radio and access to satellite networks. We need to go back to old fashioned print books and e-books that are not coming from Cartel Members. If your walled garden device and operating system locks out ebooks from independent sources, walk away. Magazines and newspapers, too. Support print on demand as it emerges. Support your public library and insist that it does not fall into censorship.

Fifth, we need to put a lot of heat under the feet of politicians, policy makers, public academics, pundits and opinion leaders of all stripes, that they act in defence of liberty. Now, before it is too late. Fighting a kinetic 4th gen civil war in an attempt to recover lost liberties is a high risk, low odds of success proposition. But if ideologues dominating power centres subvert the power of the people to govern themselves democratically based on access to sound information and a broad array of alternatives, that is where we are headed.

Our neighbour’s roof is afire, let us wet ours and lend help.

Now, before it is too late. END

F/N: We are now seeing financial lock-outs, not just censorship and de-platforming/ expulsions: https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/08/23/david-horowitz-visa-mastercard-cut-off-payments-to-my-think-tank-based-on-splc-hate-group-label/ That has direct implications for ID. KFkairosfocus
August 25, 2018
08:03 AM
F/N: Overnight, Glenn Reynolds (orig, in WSJ):
When digital platforms become censors . . . Today, the big internet companies are treated not as publishers but as conduits—tools that other people use to spread their own ideas. That’s why the “safe harbor provision” of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, a landmark in internet regulation, states that platforms aren’t legally responsible for what other people publish on their sites. The law was originally intended to protect things like newspaper comment sections, but its application has become very broad, encompassing virtually all of the content on social media and sharing sites. Now these companies are trying to have it both ways. They take advantage of the fact that they are not publishers to escape responsibility for the endless amounts of problematic material on their sites, from libel to revenge porn. But at the same time, they are increasingly acting like publishers in deciding which views and people are permitted on their platforms and which are not. As a narrow matter of First Amendment law, what these companies are doing will probably pass muster, unless some federal court decides, as in Marsh v. Alabama (1946), that their platforms are functionally equivalent to “company towns,” where the public square is privately owned. . . . . The notion that Silicon Valley megabillionaires are actively limiting what ordinary Americans can talk and write about is likely to produce a backlash. The tech industry’s image has already suffered over revelations about Facebook’s experiments aimed at manipulating users’ newsfeeds to test their emotional states, as well as various cases of invasion of privacy and data mishandling. Twenty years ago, most Americans saw Silicon Valley as liberating; now it seems to have gone from the hammer-wielding woman in that famous “1984” Apple commercial to the Big Brother figure up on the screen.
A storm is brewing. KFkairosfocus
August 24, 2018
02:00 AM
Well, duh. How could anyone become dependent on [SNIP -- ed] like Zuckerberg? It's beyond comprehension. But then again, why did Venezuelans vote for poverty and famine? There must be an evolutionary explanation somewhere? I am looking at you clairvoyant evolutionary psychologists.Nonlin.org
August 23, 2018
06:20 AM
ID vs the shadow-censoring (“shadow-banning”) digital empires, 2kairosfocus
August 23, 2018
05:38 AM

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