Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Pocahontas Fight Heap Big Lies

February 3, 2020

Elizabeth Warren, aka Pocahontas, the Pale-Faced Indian, has a plan to combat the rampant disinformation on social media and the Internet. This is a growing problem since the lies that are spread unchallenged over the web keep people from making the right decisions like voting for Democrats.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday released a plan to fight disinformation and to hold tech companies accountable for their actions in light of the 2016 election.

“Disinformation and online foreign interference erode our democracy, and Donald Trump has invited both,” Warren said in a Tweet Wednesday. “Anyone who seeks to challenge and defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 election must be fully prepared to take this on – and I’ve got a plan to do it.”

Warren proposed to combat disinformation by holding big tech companies like FacebookTwitter and Google responsible for spreading misinformation designed to suppress voters from turning out.

“I will push for new laws that impose tough civil and criminal penalties for knowingly disseminating this kind of information, which has the explicit purpose of undermining the basic right to vote,” Warren said in a release.

According to Warren, we need to control the information that voters have access to protect their right to vote. That seems to be rather an Orwellian statement. Warren goes on.

“The stakes of this election are too high — we need to fight the spread of false information that disempowers voters and undermines democracy,” Warren said. “I’ll do my part — and I’m calling on my fellow candidates and big tech companies to do their part too.”

Great Chief Pocahontas protect braves and squaws from heap big lies

I am sure that I am not the only one who suspects that politicians and government agencies might not be entirely evenhanded and unbiased when it comes to determining what is fake news and disinformation. Authoritarian governments have typically punished the bearers of news that might make them look bad in much the same way as Warren proposed, even if, or especially if the information is entirely accurate. The old Soviet Union did not permit any news, such as airplane crashes, nuclear power plant failures, or the level of crime, that might lead anyone to suspect that the Soviet system wasn’t as perfect as the government claimed. I am sure that the government of China has not bothered to tell its people the full extent of the dangers of the coronavirus.

But aside from such concerns, and the equally obvious question of whether Senator Warren’s proposal is compatible with the First Amendment, there is a more fundamental issue here, who is responsible for deciding what is disinformation? Are we, the American people, responsible adults who are capable of deciding for themselves what sources to trust, or are we ignorant children who need someone like Senator Warren to sort it out for us? The essential premise behind censorship or government control over information is that it is for the protection of the people, who are unable to decide for themselves what might be false or harmful information. For this reason, the Roman Catholic Church used to promulgate an Index of Forbidden Books, a list of books deemed dangerous for laypeople to read lest they come to question the faith. For the same reason, the church discouraged the private reading of the Bible. People needed guidance from the clergy since they were obviously too ignorant to decide matters of faith for themselves. The kings and emperors of old all routinely employed censorship to protect their subjects from dangerous ideas, like maybe kings and emperors were not really needed all that much. The Nazis burned and banned un-German books, to keep the master race from being defiled, and the Communists kept the workers from reading anything which might give them the false impression that they were not living in the Workers’ paradise.

This reasoning is justified in an authoritarian polity, in which the government takes a paternal interest in the physical and spiritual welfare of its subjects. It is antithetical in a democratic polity in which the people’s representatives make up the government. It is not up to Senator Elizabeth Warren, or anyone else in the government to tell us what is disinformation. It is up to us, the people to educate ourselves to learn how to tell the difference between trustworthy and untrustworthy information, and if we are not willing to do this, if we would rather the likes of Senator Warren do our thinking for us, rather than thinking for ourselves, then we do not deserve to be free.

This, then, is part of the larger question of what sort of country we want to live in. Do we wish to be free citizens in a free republic in which we get to decide who to trust and how to live or do we want to be serfs in a country in which our alleged betters decide such things for us? Elizabeth Warren, and really the whole pack of Democratic candidates, seem to be in favor of the latter course. I prefer to be free.

What is it with Twitter?

October 13, 2019

You may have heard the story of Carson King’s troubles with tweeting. If not, here is the story.

Carson King raised more than $1 million for an Iowa children’s hospital, borne out of a request for beer money on national TV. But old racist tweets ended his relationship with the beer company that promised to match his fundraising.

Anheuser-Busch announced it would no longer associate with King after he admitted posting two offensive tweets in 2012 when he was a 16-year-old high school student.

“Carson King had multiple social media posts that do not align with our values as a brand or as a company and we will have no further association with him,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

The 24-year-old shot to fame when he appeared on ESPN’s “College GameDay” program earlier this month, holding a sign that said “Busch Light Supply Needs Replenished” with his Venmo username.

Donations poured in, and after buying one case of Busch Light, he said he decided to send the rest of money to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital. Anheuser-Busch and Venmo promised to match whatever King could raise.

King said a Des Moines Register reporter pointed out the tweets while interviewing King for a profile, which prompted him to hold a press conference Tuesday before the paper’s story was published.

One of the tweets compared black mothers to gorillas and another joked about black people who were killed in the Holocaust, the Des Moines Register reported.

Carson King

One might wonder why it was necessary for the reporter, Aaron Calvin to go through years worth of tweets searching for offensive comments in what ought to have been simply a feel-good, human interest story. These racist tweets did not simply surface. Calvin had to spend some time going through King’s twitter feed. Why? One might also recall the adage that those who live in glass houses should not throw stones since it did not take long for offended readers to uncover offensive tweets by Calvin, which led to his being fired from the Des Moines Register.

What I wonder most is that whenever you hear about someone making some obnoxious, inappropriate, or racist joke or comment on social media, it always seems to be on Twitter. Why is this? What is it about Twitter that seems to bring out the worst in its users? Is it the 280 character limit? Does this character limit make it impossible to make nuanced observations, encouraging tweeters to make short, snarky remarks? Does the ease of tweeting whatever thoughts are on the top of one’s head make reflection and discretion especially difficult? Is there some sort of dopamine rush from seeing your tweets retweeted and commented upon, the more controversial, the more likely to become viral? Does online anonymity make it easy to be a jerk? What is it?

Whatever it is, it seems to me that of all the social media platforms that have come to infest our online world, Twitter is easily the worst. Twitter really does seem to bring out the worst in its users, encouraging them to express their most negative ruminations and setting people against one another. If the Devil were to design a social media platform specifically to bring as many people to Hell as possible, or to make the earth a hell, he would design something very much like Twitter. In fact, has anyone checked Jack Dorsey for horns and cloven hooves?

Jack Dorsey, or could it be Satan?

Whatever the case, we are all going to have to be more careful about what we post on social media, and maybe we should avoid twitter altogether. Perhaps we should adopt the adage that whatever you wouldn’t say in front of your mother, or a live audience, you should say on social media. Maybe there should be some sort of statute of limitations. Surely, something that someone posted ten years ago when they were younger and less mature is not very relevant to the person they are now. We should also learn to be more tolerant of one another and to judge someone based on a single tweet. Just because someone makes an obnoxious comment, that does not make them a bad person. We should judge one another if we must judge at all, on the totality of their lives, and not on a single incident. Carson King seems to be a good man. He didn’t have to give millions of dollars to the children’s hospital. He could have kept it all to buy beer. A couple of racist tweets from years ago do not make him a bad person. None of us should be judged by the most foolish things we have done.

 


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