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Facebook, Google, Twitter are the shady bouncers of the web. They should be fired

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Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

"Facebook, Google and Twitter are attempting the same fake-modesty approach used by newspaper publishers and other media outlets for decades. Despite consciously and deliberately trying to get readers to vote in a specific way in elections, plenty of printed newspapers claimed they had no real impact when push came to shove. Editors would boast about their influence on front pages, and then, in the face of looming press regulation or criticism, quietly argue they didn't have any actual power."

Its not our fault we posted fake stuff. We just printed what people told us (though we knew it would sell loads of papers and its not our job to check the facts is it? Being publishers?).

Great piece by the way. Impressive bit of analysis.

==

My two cents. If people are publishing stuff then they should be held liable under the law. Publishing equates to printing, distribution and editorial control. I would need to be much more acquainted with the relevant UK statutes to know where the responsibility lies, but my gut feeling is that liability should lie at least in part with the distributor.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

Oh I agree with what you are saying.

However you can't hold FB, Google, or Twitter liable.

Their argument is that they are not the originator but the conduit therefore they have no responsibility even though they make money from the misinformation.

The real irony... Facebook ran a research project that showed just how culpable they are. How placing information into your news feed, even if just scanned had an impact on your behavior.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

"Their argument is that they are not the originator but the conduit therefore they have no responsibility even though they make money from the misinformation."

They lost that argument the moment they censored the first update. Sorry, that simply doesn't fly any more.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

I think as much as anything that social media has led to the hyper partisan atmosphere in the US, and apparently in other countries if Brexit, the issues in Spain, and so for are any indication. Yeah, some bad actors like Russia may be helping to fan the flames, but even without that I think we'd still be in largely the same boat.

The problem is the homogeneity of opinion - and "facts" - most people surround themselves with, without even intending to. If, for example, you are a public school teacher, many of your friends will be public school teachers, so you'll have a lot of them as Facebook friends. They tend to be liberal, pro union, etc. so you'll see a lot of similar stuff in your feed. If you are an ex military gun and hunting enthusiast, you'll have a lot of ex military and gun enthusiasts as Facebook friends. They tend to be conservative, pro second amendment, etc. so like the public school teacher you'll see a lot of similar stuff in your feed.

Now many of us might have both public school teachers and ex military as Facebook friends, but that doesn't matter if there are enough people who are seeing mostly liberal memes or mostly conservative memes that over time get pushed further to the extreme. The really damaging stuff are stories from Daily Caller or Being Liberal, that basically try to make people on the "other side" sound not only wrong but just plain evil. With a daily bombardment of that, and seeing your friends "like" it and share it, eventually people just get sort of brainwashed or something.

I don't think this is some evil Facebook plot, but they are complicit in it as its inherent in the design of Facebook. It tries to figure out what you like, and give you more of it. The problem is it seems that the human mind isn't able to properly cope with that, any more than my body could have properly coped with it if my mom had figured out how much I liked chocolate as a kid (still do, actually) and decided to make me chocolate cake for dinner every night.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

"Yeah, some bad actors like Russia may be helping to fan the flames"

In the US by far the largest bad actor was the SCOTUS by its decision on Citizens United. $100000 dollars is a big ad campaign? The two major parties attract $billions in funding.

I'm sure the Russians are up to naughty things - they've never forgiven the US for supporting Yeltsin - but come on, less than 0.01% of election ad spending made the difference? Those Russkies must be brilliant at propaganda and the Kochs must suck.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

>> $100000 dollars is a big ad campaign?

I don't believe it's final score. It's just the sum that was proven so far to come from Russia and directed at election ads. The real sums spent are probably in millions of dollars, but FB might be not eager to produce evidence until really pressed.

Besides, with Cambridge Analytica targetting algorithms, they didn't need vast sums of money; they made sure to influence just the right people in right places.

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Facepalm

Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

Social media giants Twitter and Facebook remain at the end of severe criticism from US Congress until Twitter and Facebook shower Congress with millions of dollars in "donations".

Fixed it for ya

<cynic>You have to look at the financial cause/effect in articles like this. For example: how many people noticed that when Obama threatened stricter gun control laws, immediately after profits for gun companies soared as sales when through the roof? Don't you think Obama knew that would happen? Was there a financial arrangement beforehand? Same thing here.</cynic>

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

If the bad evil russians can spend so little and influence the outcome of an election, you'd think the smart folks would simply hire them, get elected (or get whatever outcome for a given democratic process), and save a fortune in campaigning costs.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

@Voyna i Mor

In the US by far the largest bad actor was the SCOTUS by its decision on Citizens United. $100000 dollars is a big ad campaign? The two major parties attract $billions in funding.

There's two issues here: one is Citizens United, which is a massive problem that neither side is ever going to want to fix.

The second is the Russian adverts. Is the $100K the total sum of it, or is it just the tip of the iceberg? Is there more, and if so, why don't we know about it yet? Is it because nobody found it yet? Or are the ad sellers simply not looking? Or maybe the ad sellers sold it to front companies who sold it on to another front company who sold it on to another front company, you know, masking the trail like a competent security service would do...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

that's what Momentum and the Corbanystas have done in the UK .. one of the reasons they did so much better than all the ante-deluvian politcal pundits & pols in both parties thought they would.

so, as all sides get better at this, the capacity for political advertising online to influence campaigns will be neutralised

what's more important, as the OPs have mentioned, is the wider issue of polarisation .. western liberal democracies have worked because of core consensus about the fundemantals (otherwise known as the social contract) is agreed on all sides and politics was mainly an argument around the fringes of that consensus or around the How of achieving the best outcomes derived from that consensus. now, that is rapidly going down the tubes.

Soln: Twitter - irrelevant, mainly used by narcisissts and media types that need a broadcast platform - too few users to make a major difference as long as the Media stops being so lazy and relying on twitter for stories.

Google - tighter authority definitions / indicators for the google news algorithms .. make google responsible as publisher for choosing the titles/links with incent them to do this or just junk google news. On youtube, human review of all uploads in the news category .. categorise via AI. Threaten google with massive antitrust investigations / fines if they don't sort out google news and youtube propaganda vids masquerading as news

Facebook, make them responsible for the news feed as a publisher; no way they can screen everything uploaded so they will be forced to make the news feed just shit from your mates. If your friends aren't constantly being fed dodgy crap that appeals to their prejudices, they can;t share that with you to appeal to your dodgy preferences and most people are too damn lazy to actively seek out whacko crap directly and like it / manually share into their feeds. Nice side effect of this approach is that people are sharing less of their own stuff already so if news feed is de-politicized, they willl lose a boat load of revenue and be less of parasitic influence on the world.

How to acheive this? have the lobbyists and pacs "donate" short options on fb / google stock to pols' campaigns.

Alternatively, we could all appreciate the massive positive benefits of these services accepting there are downsides, grow the F up as societies and individuals and be better educated so we can all read with a pinch of salt and a healthy dose of cynicism .. but ya know, Elon will shagging on Mars and Trump will be working as a volunteer in a Mexican drug rehab clinic for HIV positive users before that will happen.

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

"Alternatively, we could all appreciate the massive positive benefits of these services accepting there are downsides, grow the F up as societies and individuals and be better educated so we can all read with a pinch of salt and a healthy dose of cynicism .. but ya know, Elon will shagging on Mars and Trump will be working as a volunteer in a Mexican drug rehab clinic for HIV positive users before that will happen."

Because TPTB don't want people to grow the F up. Stupid, unenlightened people are easier to control and easier from which to wrest away their rights. People instinctively react more to bad news than to good news. After all, bad news could kill you, directly. Since when has ignoring good news directly killed someone?

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Boffin

@Oliver Jones... Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

I said that its their argument.

I also said that FB themselves showed them to be culpable thru some of their experiments on their users.

As to whether they won or lost that argument remains to be scene. It hasn't been tested in a court of law.

So its still a viable defense.

I don't agree with it and I think that the US Courts as well as European Courts rule them to be a monopoly.

(Google, Facebook, Twitter, and even Amazon to a point)

Having been named a monopoly is a legal status that none of these companies want. Google ... er ... Alphabet has set up a corporate structure to help defend being called a monopoly. But that's a different story.

The point? I don't believe that there's a human in the loop reviewing the content of these ads. So ... it makes it harder to say that they are in the loop and are culpable.

Personally I agree with you but again, what you, I and most people who have common sense think doesn't mean much to a bunch of lawyers and a judge.

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Re: @Oliver Jones... Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

"The point? I don't believe that there's a human in the loop reviewing the content of these ads. So ... it makes it harder to say that they are in the loop and are culpable."

If you are printing and distributing stuff then you should be culpable was my point. If you write an algorithm to print and distribute everything anyone asks you to then you are culpable. The fact you chose to do it with an algorithm instead of hands and eyes doesn't get you off the hook. Does it?

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Re: Just like the Sun (News of the World) then

"If people are publishing stuff then they should be held liable under the law"

It's a little more complex than that for online stuff.

Compuserve vs Cubby held that an online _distributor_ of published content isn't liable for what's there (in terms of defamation law, but it's generally applied across the board)

Stratton vs Prodigy refined that and held that any provider who edited in any way (even good faith attempts at filtering) was entirely responsible for anything they missed. (again, defamation case, but still used as the yardstick.

Under UK law it's a little more complicated. The Demon case was very poorly defended but has effectively set a precedent even with subsequent law changes.

In either case, as Facebook exert editorial control over what's on their site, if it wasn't for the safe harbour provisions of the communications decency act they'd be in deep legal poo in the USA. They've been relying on that protection in other jurisdictions (especially France), but are finding out that USA law doesn't apply in foreign jurisdictions and US Case law precedents are only a guideline at best when judges in other countries are weighing things up (local precedent has priority for starters)

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Bouncers? Hardly.

Slum lords is more accurate.

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Anonymous Coward

Society

If society is being somehow damaged (how, exactly?) by social media, then in my mind it isn't the lack of controls that is the problem, it's the fact that people are too BLOODY STUPID. It's social media, people, geez!

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Re: Society

it's the fact that people are too BLOODY STUPID. It's social media,

Actually it's both. Social media is the dumping ground for the bloody stupid. So let's step back and review our educational systems for not teaching critical thinking anymore... or, come to think of it, they don't even allow thinking on part of students. Given that this has been in action for awhile, the parents probably had the same education or were caught up in the transition to it. It's a death spiral to the bottom and we're well on our way.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Society

And now the world discovers why complete freedom of speech in a democracy populated by people generally lacking a well developed sense of cynicism is a bad idea. If they'll believe almost anything they're told then you can't afford to give everyone the freedom to publish and distribute anything they like.

The damage done to democracy, vaccination programs, race relations, the economy, gender equality, law and order / gun control / counter-terrorism efforts, individual people, religious tolerance, etc. is too high a price.

Winston Churchill once said something like "Democracy is the worst possible way of running a country. Apart from all the others". And he was saying that in a time with a lack of publishing opportunities, publishing restrictions and self restraint.

Here in the UK it can be ridiculous. Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt", and youth voted in mass for him. He later stands up and, in effect, says "oh, only joking". Oh cynicism, where are you?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Social Media

Is Addictive and needs a health warning.

With their AI systems coming up to speed, the likes of FB, Twitter and especially Google will start tailoring the information you see according to your past posts. 'Curated for you!'

Well, I'm glad that I've never even seen a twitter or FB page and have no desire to become a devotee to the church of Zuck, Brin and friends.

the sooner these companies are sued out of existence the better the world will be.

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Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

Except he didn't.

Now, it's true that the Tories say that he did, but apparently there's lots of people out there without the well developed sense of cynicism to work out what they're up to.

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Re: Society

" a democracy populated by people generally lacking a well developed sense of cynicism " is by design.

Governments have been for over a century designing educational systems to beat the skepticism and independent thought out of students, and make sure that they listen to authority, no dissent, become obedient workers.

Now that the major source of information is no longer governments and press controlled by a restricted elite, and now that any idiot or whackjob has a global audience, we get this mess

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Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

"Except he didn't...."

Which is shame, tbh, because other that his ironically credulous last paragraph the AC actually had a point.

Education is the key here, really; most Western democracies have spent a considerable amount of the last 50 years avoiding teaching general critical thinking skills to the population because critical thinking generally leads to questioning government statements ("Iraq has WMDs"), which is dangerous to the party in power in a democracy.

This was basically OK as long as there were a limited number of relatively subservient gatekeepers to information - the newspapers and the TV media. The media outlets were typically very loyal to the administration - even when there was hostility to elements within it, there was little question over the legitimacy of government in general, or criticism of long-standing foreign and domestic policies. See, for example, the NYT and Washington Post's slavish support for the Iraq war in the early 2000s. People lacked the critical thinking skills to disbelieve the newspapers, and so the papers were able to set the dominant narrative of society.

The internet has been slowly but surely eroding the power of these gatekeepers by allowing other channels of information to exist. Many of these other channels are filled with what can only be called utter bullshit. But the deliberate lack of critical thinking training in the general population, combined with a distrust of the old channels as their own biases and misinformation have been revealed, leaves people vulnerable to shit like Pizzagate.

The answer to this is not to empower new gatekeepers, simply because it won't work - if you censor Facebook, people will find a new channel for fake news instead. The answer is to teach people to recognize bullshit on their own, without needing some supposed elite to determine what the truth is for them.

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Lack of cynicism?

You can't complain about a lack of cynicism, and then complain about damage to vaccination programs - cynicism is as responsible for that as anything. The problem isn't blind allegiance to authority or cynicism about that authority. People on both sides are picking and choosing what to believe and what to be cynical about.

Liberals believe the authorities are correct when it comes to say global warming, but cynical when it comes to how the west believes terrorism should be confronted rather than the confrontation itself being largely responsible for the terrorism. By contrast, conservatives believe the authorities are correct when it comes to terrorism but cynical when it comes to global warming.

A "healthy dose of cynicism" isn't the fix. If anything, people are too cynical today (and I say that as someone who has always had at least a triple dose of cynicism) because they don't believe anything can be done about most of the problems we face.

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Re: Lack of cynicism?

DougS,

Have an upvote. Although as a proper cynic I should ask what your real motive was for posting that...

What people need is a healthy skepticism. But also a sense of proportion. And some empathy.

You need to distrust authority, but also realise that a lot of people in positions of authority aren't evil masterminds out to screw the world, they're just as overworked/under-informed/confused as many other people, but with more power. And of course different opinions and sources of information.

If you spend your whole life on the internet having fun and using it as an amazingly useful tool for work, you're going to have one opinion of it. If you spend your whole day reading reams of security reports from MI5 about possible terrorist plots they've spotted - and how much of them is being conducted online - your view of the internet is going to be somewhat coloured by that.

Neither party is wrong - because the internet is an amazingly useful tool. And some of the people who use it, will do so for evil purposes. So what you then need is a sense of proportion to try and work out what balance of policy to strike - and also a sense of proportion to realise that everyone else will come up with a different balance to you. And this doesn't make them all evil control-freaks, or libertarian idiots, it just means thye disagreed with you.

Then maybe we can have a debate about the politics without screeching at everyone who disagrees with us at the tops of our voices, and try and reach some conclusions. And save the screeching for when we think people are being really dishonest.

it's like Trump. If you've spent your whole political career shouting that all Republicans are horrible - then why should anyone particularly listen to you when you say the same about Trump? When it really matters.

So I want skepticism tempered by empathy, a sense of proportion and people to dial down the hyperbole. I'm not asking for much...

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Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

Ok, he didn't say "I'll cancel student debt". He did promise to cancel tuition fees and then said

I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.

He then backtracked on that once it was explained how much debt was being discussed. It's important to note that "those that come after", under Corbyn, would not have any debt - so to not overburden one group compared to these people would mean...? Saying he'll "deal with it" means?

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Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

Either of them.

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Re: Society

The problem is; who gets to choose whose speech is worthy? You, dear anonymous internet commenter? Theresa May? Tony Blair? Jeremy Corbyn? A Quango? MI5? A court of appointed technocrats? Trump? Who would you trust to influence what you can read, not just for now, but always?

I think better accountability (and possibly attribution) for what is said is a worthier goal.

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Re: Society

I'd agree education in critical thinking has to be a key part of any solution. The only other way is state controlled media, and we all know where that ends up.

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Facepalm

Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

You're correct.

In the 2017 manifesto Labour said it will scrap University tuition fees.

And in an interview with NME, Mr Corbyn said that "there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that.."

No idea why people may have thought Labour was going to scrap student debt...

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Re: Social Media

"Is Addictive and needs a health warning."

Like that's going to do anything. Ever wondered why the most common type of people to call cigarettes "cancer sticks" are the smokers?

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Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

@Naselus

most Western democracies have spent a considerable amount of the last 50 years avoiding teaching general critical thinking skills to the population because critical thinking generally leads to questioning government statements

I agree with everything before "because." I think you give government too much credit. The real reason is more likely because to teach critical thinking, the teacher must understand and practice it. And it's hard. Binary thinking is so much easier. You could put forth a good argument that this is an artifact of Western culture, especially that favorite theme: that the U.S. was founded on Judeo-Christian blah blah blah.

Now turn your Bible to the Book of Genesis and the J-C creation myth, and what follows. And what has followed. I'm not an anthropologist, but I've studied the creation myths of Native Americans and compared their relationships to the planet with the myths and ecological relationships of "average" white Americans. The latter are taught almost from birth to not think critically, to accept the Bible as the Word of $deity, accept monotheistic patriarchy as the one, true faith, and all that follows in the family sphere.

El Reg readers probably fall outside these limitations, but the bulk of Americans don't. I wouldn't presume to speak for Brits. But as we're talking about American corporations and the recent U.S. election, it's fair to say the problem isn't the government -- they aren't smart enough to run a long-term con like that. The problem is embedded in American culture. Thus, there are no short-term solutions. Google, FB and Twitter are a problem, but at the same time they have brought the greater problem into sharp relief. This greater problem has existed for a long time, but it's only now that we're giving it serious discussion.

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Re: Some nutter says "We'll cancel student debt"

Problem is, are we past the point of no return: where people are beyond the point of caring, given it's nigh-impossible to teach people who don't want to learn?

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Double-talk

All these companies plead innocence, but it's all double-talk.

"It's not us, it's the algorithms": You wrote the suckers to make your life easier. Guess what: your algorithm = your problem.

"We don't curate the contents, therefore we're not liable for what people post": Actually, see the first quote. You wrote algorithms to boost (or reduce) the standing of posts in your media. Therefore you (the company) *are* curating your contents, deciding which ads I'll see and which news gets posted first. And so you should be held liable.

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Go

Re: Double-talk

If the first thing that happens after Las Vegas on YouTube is conspiracy theories and fake news and the algorithms in YouTube Kids select the sketchiest videos imaginable, their algorithms are shit.

Google needs to drop the "because algorithms" defence, and realise that publishing is actually quite an expensive business. The can't have it both ways. If they reap billions from adverts then they can cough up the money to moderate them.

They automatically generate subtitles for each video uploaded. People flagging one video usually means the rest of the channel is probably dodgy too. It's not beyond the wit of man to get rid of most of the harmful stuff instead of letting it fester there.

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Anonymous Coward

1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

If you think the fake news is bad now, just wait until the government controls it. As evidence, I submit every nation in history where the government has controlled the news. What, we shouldn't worry because Western nations are somehow better? Do you really want Donald Trump's administration controlling the US news? Are you high?

The world will always be full of bullshitters. It is your job as a human being to figure out who to believe. At least these days we have the freedom to do that...

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

I always find it amusing the way the US regards the rest of the world as sub-human. How exactly is democracy undermined? Was voting disallowed by Facebook? If the influence had been bought by American companies/politicians, would it have still been undermining democracy?

Freedom of speech is apparently an American right, not a human right. If you are Russian, you have no right to talk about American politics. A bit divisive were they? Expressed different opinions did they? Outrageous!

There are few things more scary than political unity as a government goal.

Don't get me wrong, social media in its current form is evil and hands way too much power to the corporates involved, but government control determining right and wrong is the wrong answer. We need more competition and decentralisation. How about limiting vertical integration or funding point of presence protocol development?

Sadly, the government doesn't want that. It doesn't want to limit the power of social media, it wants it for itself.

The preciousssss!

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

But not always the ability, given some people's ability to fashion credible fake news complete with referrnces.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

Trouble is social media is like a utility. The market really won't tolerate more than one, trending them towards natural monopolies. Competition really can't last in such a market; winners eventually emerge.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

"If you think the fake news is bad now, just wait until the government controls it."

I think the point of this whole escapade is that the government DID control it. It just wasn't the American government.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

Neither was the film 'Idiocracy' (based on 'The Marching Morons' by C M Kornbluth) meant to be prophetic but it has every indication of being so.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

It's illegal for any foreign government to donate time, money or other advantages to any part in a US election. Quite a sensible law really.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

The market really won't tolerate more than one, trending them towards natural monopolies.

Mostly nonsense - unlike email - Social media platforms have intentionally worked their platforms so you have to be 'in their club' to participate.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

You are right, we don't want governments controlling the news. We *DO* want them regulating Facebook, Twitter, Google, in the same way that they regulate old style broadcasters and newspapers. Want to complain that you don't like government policy, or you don't think they have provided good evidence for WMDs? That's fine. Want to promote stories saying that the secret Jewish World Government is behind the false flag operation that lead to the deaths of over 50 people in Las Vegas? Not fine.

As the article says, the internet giants monetize and then profit from such dangerously nonsense, and it's undermining the basis of a free democratic society. It's time they are reigned in. They'll just have to make do with much lower profits.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

It's illegal for any foreign government to donate time, money or other advantages to any part in a US election.Quite a sensible law really.

Wholeheartedly agree. Now, watch what happens if the foreign government does the same and makes it illegal for US to donate time, money or advantages to THEIR elections.

It's undemocraaaaaaaaaaatic!!! Whaaaaaa!!! Unfaaaaaaaair!!! Whaaa!!!

While it is entertaining at some level observing a (supposedly) world power behaving like a 3 year old which has been told NO in the candy isle in the supermarket the novelty does wear off after a time.

We were taught as kids: "DO NOT DO TO OTHER PEOPLE WHAT YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE DONE TO YOU". I guess that lesson is not part of the essential American upbringing.

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

"It's illegal for any foreign government to donate time, money or other advantages to any part in a US election. Quite a sensible law really."

Presumably it's illegal for the political party to accept it. But what about advertising not directly aimed at supporting a given political party? And how are you going to enforce it?

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Re: 1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual.

"It's illegal for any foreign government to donate time, money or other advantages to any part in a US election. Quite a sensible law really."

Yes, and oh so easy to dodge. One word: shills.

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Anonymous Coward

And the paid editors of Wikipedia?

Look any place where Mother Russia might have been nasty, oh, turns out she wasn't. So says Wikipedia.

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Big Brother

Newspeak

Every time that Google says 'algorithm' truth dies a little.

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Err .... aren't you somewhat glossing over...

Congress shall make no law ... ; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; ???

Yes, there is the "shouting fire in a theatre" issue, but it is settled law that Incitement to Racial Hatred and assorted other offences under the Discrimination and Race Relations Acts (if this were the UK) are Constitutionally protected speech in the USA. It doesn't say anything about "socially acceptable" speech or a "fair, balanced and accurate" press.

Obviously the Constitution only constrains the Federal Government, so FarceTwitGram+ can invent their own rules if they want to, but compelling them to do so runs face first into the 1st Amendment. You can argue that the SVR (FSB does domestic spying) isn't protected by the Constitution, but that is trivially easy to circumvent unless posting privileges are restricted to American citizens only (and even then, finding stooges wouldn't be hard). What you clearly cannot do is filter out information just because it is factually wrong or racist or anti-semitic or well .... This guy has had his own TV show for years!

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Re: Err .... aren't you somewhat glossing over...

So. There's no problem with freedom of speech, people are free to say anything.

But in the US, you can still have laws about political advertising having to be honest about who funded it. And foreign governments apparently aren't allowed to. So they can found a PAC (political action committee), but if you can trace the funding to that PAC - then you can ban it. And then no politcal adverts allowed that aren't sponsored by a specific politician or a registered PAC.

That system isn't perfect of course. Remember the fun-and-games with the Swift Boat Veterans a few elections ago? But the point there is that it became news, so people were given the tools to judge the source of their info - doesn't always mean they did of course - but Facebook and Twitter currently seem designed to hide the sources of info while collecting the maximum revenue - such as making ads/stories look like they was posted by your friends.

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