By this point, we’ve already seen enough to recognize that the core business model underlying the Big Tech platforms—harvesting attention with a massive surveillance infrastructure to allow for targeted, mostly automated advertising at very large scale—is far too compatible with authoritarianism, propaganda, misinformation, and polarization. The institutional antibodies that humanity has developed to protect against censorship and propaganda thus far—laws, journalistic codes of ethics, independent watchdogs, mass education—all evolved for a world in which choking a few gatekeepers and threatening a few individuals was an effective means to block speech. They are no longer sufficient.


The article ends comparing Social Media with the early car industry, suggesting that a suitable response is specific regulatory requirements (Seat belts, lead free paint, etc…). It finishes with the point that the conversation needs to start now… Then says nothing. Another “something must be done” article.

So in the interests of actually doing something. I wonder what ideas we have?

Here are my straw men, ready for you all to burn them to ashes:

1) Responsibility to retract. It is too much to expect an independent body to fact check anything looking like news before it is published. But this is the case with old fashioned newspapers as well. After the fact allow a mechanism for a particular article to be brought before a judicial review board and if judged intentionally incorrect then the media company must issue a retraction to any feed that got fed that particular article. Applied today then every other feed would probably be a retraction notice rendering social media suddenly less engaging. In turn this incentivises FB, etc… to exercise judgement in what they take on rather than sitting on the side lines going “Free Speech. Not our job to regulate.”

2) Visible sponsor. On any article that is “Sponsored” full traceability needs to be provided to find who commissioned the article. Admittedly this would probably end up being an innocuous sounding shell company (Friends for Free Information and Kittens inc.) and inevitably you would end up running into Dark Money, but at least to the discerning consumer it would erect an additional defence against the BS.

3) Commentary is less clear and I have few ideas, but that being said any commentator that re-tweets/reposts an article in effect binds themselves and the social media platform to the responsibility to retract in the future. In the end though one’s own comments are less dangerous as I suspect most savvy social media consumers can spot trolls and shills quite easily.

posted by johan: 32 days ago