Greetings, dear reader!
This is my first “long post” - FAIR WARNING - but I put it together and I’m curious what others think if you’re willing to stay with it.
Hypothesis: There is a growing probability of material global changes to social media between now and the upcoming mid-terms or the 2024 election
cycle aimed at establishing greater regulatory control over social media via legislation that will silence freedom of speech on social media without
violating The First Amendment.
Here’s why I think that hypothesis has some legs:
I hold the stance that social media, in theory, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, in practice, it does a lot more harm than good. Depression,
aggression, anxiety, unrest, defamation, and more - which we’re just now seeing explored more frequently by legitimate studies and research.
I suspect what makes social media a “bad thing” is it gives every air breathing human a microphone on any subject. For example, I have a material
depth of expertise in one field that is my vocation and can say the majority of people I see talk about said field online have no clue how it actually
works and/or are the poster children for Dunning-Kruger. I’ve been the poster child of DK on subjects when I was younger and didn’t realize how
little I know
- we probably all have or are experiencing DK now and just don’t realize it (the irony!).
Unfortunately, many people - particularly of younger generations - can’t, won’t or don’t think critically and/or are very uncomfortable standing
alone. Thus, they will flock to the popular stance (right or wrong) to not be outcast/safety in numbers via blind agreement/virtue signaling/group
think etc. even if the person they are siding with has objectively zero leg to stand on to issue an opinion on the matter. Many (maybe most?) people
conduct precisely zero due diligence beyond who else said or “liked” something for the sake of being socially accepted.
So how does Jack Dorsey fit into all of this?
Today, Jack Dorsey - a dude who I respect for his accomplishments but don’t have a great deal of affinity for - resigned as Twitter CEO:
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is stepping down as chief of the social media company, effective immediately. Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s chief
technology officer, will take over the helm, the company said Monday.
CEOs stepping down without notice and with little provided reason isn’t hugely common - particularly for a founder - but seems to be more common
since the pandemic hit.
Bezos, Gates, Dorsey - and more…
So what does this have to do with free speech and censorship of social media?
I found this interesting news from our brethren down in Australia yesterday - I thought about it a bit and found it a tad concerning but didn’t give
it another thought until I saw Dorsey resigned this morning:
Basically, Australian authorities want to be able to “unmask” people who behave “poorly” online - and the Twittersphere is full of some of the
most aggressive aggressive zingers and aggressive commentary:
"The online world should not be a wild west where bots and bigots and trolls and others can just anonymously go around and harm people and
hurt people, harass them and bully them and sledge them," Morrison told reporters.
"That is not what can happen in the real world, and there is no case for it to be able to be happening in the digital world."
Fair point. Social Media and the internet definitely contain some aggressive content - and a fair bit nastier than most public discourse people have.
I might support something that adds some broader decorum and accountability to the Internet if was done right - but I personally don’t think
there’s a way to do that right on a global scale. So instead of arbitrarily created morality, we get Free Speech - where we take the bad with the
But, then there’s the closing paragraph about the discussion in Australia - which is what set my alarm bells off:
Australia's opposition leader Anthony Albanese said he would support a safer online environment for everyone.
But he said the government had failed to propose action to stop the spread of misinformation on social media and accused some of the government's own
members of spreading misinformation about Covid and vaccinations.
That bit about “failing to stop the threat of misinformation” makes me think this is a solution to correct the “spreading misinformation”
problem by virtue of labeling those who aren’t supporting everything the media or the government tells them at face value “trolls”. Pretty
smart - extremely troubling - but smart.
As many people are aware, Twitter is full of “Trolls” or, rather, dissenting opinions relative to the currently preferred “official
narrative”…. The loudest of all being former President Trump who was summarily removed from the Twitter platform (Trump’s Twitter issues may
tie into this whole thing materially, but, for another thread at another time….)
I suspect the definition of “troll” could be cast broadly to include “disinformation troll” or “harmful public health” content. Australia
became quite authoritarian with COVID, and they seem to get away with it, so expanding the definition of “troll” to “dissenters” online seems
like not a big deal compared to other actions the Aussie government has taken during the pandemic.
As a result of that authoritarian acceptance it’s more palatable to roll proposals or legislation out down there - the political climate is more apt
to push this through.
In the US, we get the precedent/learning from the country we just got in bed with more deeply via sharing some of our most sensitive and classified
technology - Nuclear Submarines - tech you wouldn’t share with just anyone. Not to say it’s a quid-pro-quo situation - rather, only to highlight
the closeness in ties between the US and Australia and much of major social media being based out of the US.
Which is why I find it curious that, in a way, the Australian proposal is basically sanctioned extortion and censorship against it’s citizens via
social media platforms that are US based - post approved content and you won’t be “unmasked”.
How does Jack Dorsey fit into all of this?
The extortion pertains to the platforms as well - basically coercing them to “unmask” users:
The platforms could defend themselves from being sued as the publisher of defamatory comment only if they complied with the new legislation's
demands to have a complaints system in place that could provide the details of the person making the comment, if necessary, Cash said.
If you’re Dorsey, you 100% pay attention to the regulatory environment and competitive landscape of your industry constantly. You’re playing at
industry scale - not job or company scale - and you know this is basically extortion.
If you’re Twitter and are forced with ratting out users you’re probably going to see a decline in the user base - which isn’t good for revenue
or the flexibility to run your company as you see fit.