Content Moderation At Scale Is Impossible: Some Republican Politicians Are Indistinguishable From Neo Nazis

from the example-number-380414352908 dept

Over and over and over again we’ve pointed out that content moderation at scale is impossible to do well — in part because at such scale, there are bound to be a huge number of errors, even if the percentage of errors is relatively small. We’ve also pointed out that a lot of the content decisions that moderators face fall into a terrible gray area, where it’s not easy to craft scalable rules that can be applied fairly across the board — in part because context matters and it’s impossible to scale the reviewing and understanding of context.

Motherboard recently had an excellent article detailing one manifestation of this problem, by noting that trying to apply rules across the board leads to some problematic results:

With every sort of content filter, there is a tradeoff, he explained. When a platform aggressively enforces against ISIS content, for instance, it can also flag innocent accounts as well, such as Arabic language broadcasters. Society, in general, accepts the benefit of banning ISIS for inconveniencing some others, he said.

In separate discussions verified by Motherboard, that employee said Twitter hasn?t taken the same aggressive approach to white supremacist content because the collateral accounts that are impacted can, in some instances, be Republican politicians.

And, as the Motherboard piece notes, “banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all the white supremacist propaganda.”

Indeed, as it stands right now, we already have Republican politicians like Ted Cruz screaming about “conservative bias” at a point when it’s clear that Twitter is actually bending over backwards not to unfairly go after “conservatives” (such as described above). Of course, perhaps it all comes together when you look at the widely shared “study” claiming to “prove” conservative bias in Twitter bans, that really just showed Twitter banning a bunch of white supremacists and trolls. Apparently, at least some conservatives themselves have trouble telling the difference between themselves and white supremacists. Which, you know, maybe is an issue…

Jillian York has a great Twitter thread detailing some of the issues here, basically highlighting how bad algorithms are at context. You should read the whole thing, but a short (slightly edited) excerpt:

Here’s the thing: Algorithms, at least right now, cannot identify *how* text is being used. To give you a clear example, the word “dyke” is both an insult and a reclaimed word used by lesbians to describe themselves sometimes. We know that filters regularly censor non-hateful uses of the word “dyke.” Instagram does it and in the 1990s Dick Van Dyke’s name was often collateral damage of this type of censorship. We’ve even got a YouTuber claiming that he had to change his damn name because his content was being demonetized…as a result of his last name being Dyke.

It goes on to talk about the impossibility of filtering text, when language is used in so many different (often creative) ways, and where it’s simply impossible to think that you can use algorithms to filter out “bad” people. It’s the kind of thing you wish more people understood, so everyone should go read York’s thread.

But, either way this continues to demonstrate just how fraught an issue content moderation is. Combine the fact that it’s difficult to separate Nazis from some Republican politicians, and the fact that the grandstanding Ted Cruzes and Louis Gohmerts of the party would absolutely flip out if an actual GOP politician was banned from Twitter, with the fact that plenty of people are making perfectly reasonable calls for trying to get Twitter to kick Nazis off their platform and Twitter (and other platforms) is left in an impossible position. It’s very much a damned if you do/damned if you don’t position. And it’s not just that one group or another might be “upset” by either decision — it’s that people are positively livid about either decision and insisting that no one in their right mind would choose such a decision.

It’s not a tightrope that is being walked — it’s an impossible situation to deal with in a way that doesn’t make people completely furious about.

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Comments on “Content Moderation At Scale Is Impossible: Some Republican Politicians Are Indistinguishable From Neo Nazis”

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A Bysmal says:

Algorithms by leftists attack "conservatives". Who'd a thunk?

It’s a new SMEAR, but fact is that leftists write the algorithms having deliberate flaws which they’re now using to further their obvious goal.

Noting the obvious is all that’s required to deflate Masnick’s copy-paste attack propaganda.

Big Tech Wants Centralized Censorship…

GOOGLE Panic Over Political Bias Leaks…

Now to scan for zombies on this site that has to astro-turf so can pretend is popular.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Algorithms by leftists attack "conservatives". Who'd a thunk

"…but fact is that leftists write the algorithms having deliberate flaws which they’re now using to further their obvious goal."

So every scientist, engineer, software developer, computer programmer and network technician is…leftist, according to you?
and wizards, apparently, given that they can somehow sabotage a mathematical algorithm in such a way that it will magically determine the intended political bias of an out-of-context sentence.

As usual, Baghdad Bob, all you do is demonstrate how little of a clue you have. And quoting a scandal rag mainly known for its white supremacy conspiracy theories doesn’t exactly back you up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Fine People" is a hoax. Stop spreading conspiracy theories.

The full transcript of the quote clarifies the statement. Without prompting neo-Nazi’s and white nationalists are condemned totally. Media whipped up the hoax by responding to statement cut short in context never made.

You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides. … You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, — to them — a very, very important statute and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name. George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So will George Washington now lose his status? Are we going to take down statutes to George Washington? How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think about Thomas Jefferson? Do you like him? Are we going to take down his statute? Because he was a major slave-owner. Now are we going to take down his statute? You’re changing history. You’re changing culture, and you had people — and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally — but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.

Gary (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well your quote really points out that the "Fine People" were all protesting in favor of slavery so… thanks for clarifying?

It was a statue glorifying a hero of the civil war, erected in the Jim Crow era to remind blacks to keep in their place. The confederacy was fighting to uphold their tradition of slavery.

So yeah, "Fine People."

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Your interpretation is subjective. They were protesting the erasure of history. Kind of like if we denied that blackface was ever used in entertainment.

Subjective moderation is the problem. These platforms should just stay out of the censorship business, and advertisers should evaluate them on an all-or-nothing basis.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well damn, I had no idea they were not just trying to remove public statues of deplorable people, but they were even going into the textbooks in order to wipe any mention of said disgusting individuals from history.

That’s a hell of a lot more serious than I’d ever heard, and I commend you for bringing such an important attempt at re-writing history to the attention of those at TD who read it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

That a statue was created for these people is part of history that shows how revered they once were.

"History is written by the winners."

We are no longer judging people in the context of the times in which they live. Now we must predict what will be right and wrong in the future in order to stand the test of time. Cornwallis was a fascist by that standard, rather than someone merely defending his country.

This is actually a good thing, because the ability to be right or wrong against a higher standard not foreseen by others will lead to smarter human behavior which evolves the species into something that doesn’t just act right when others are doing so, but when doing so is "wrong" by present standards. It’s actually quite fascinating. This applies to just about anything, particularly #metoo and anything involving racism/slavery, or even Pete Rose, who belongs in the baseball hall of fame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Were those protesting the event marching with racists? They were at the same place at the same time. Were antifa marching with them along the route? Were journalists covering the event marching with racists?

Recently listened to interview with a free speech supporter who witnessed the event. He wasn’t there supporting or protesting Nazi’s, he was there for his own reasons.

A clergy group attended Charlottesville. They weren’t there supporting or protesting Nazi’s. They were there for their own reasons.

There was at least one black guy there to support free speech. He wasn’t there supporting or protesting Nazi’s, he was there for his own reasons.

Locals living in Charlottesville attended the event. Antifa and Nazi’s apparently going to meet up, and the police stand by to protect those watching? Why wouldn’t locals attend a big local event? There are lots of reasons for why anyone might attend.

We do not know WHO attended, or WHY each one attended. The reporting was ambiguous who was there and for what reasons, and remains ambiguous now.

The safest statement is that it was a diverse group for a diverse numbers of reasons. Fine people on both sides. But not the Nazi’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

If anyone was genuinely there just to "support free speech" (something I highly doubt) then they are a naive fool.

The rally was never about free speech. It was also never about the statue. Those things are, in fact, barely mentioned in any of the Unite The Right promotional material, nor are they central to the agenda of the self-avowed white nationalists who organized the rally and were its featured speakers. The rally was, from its inception, specifically and intentionally about white nationalism, and only about white nationalism.

Anyone who failed to see that and attended the rally for other reasons is a sucker. And if they got there and saw extensive nazi symbology and crowds chanting "gas the k***s, race war now" and didn’t turn around and immediately leave or head over to the counterprotestor side, then you’re a sucker for believing their supposed other reasons.

Bamboo Harvester (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Get with the times. White people are Nazis. Except the college students who "care".

The neo-Nazi / Aryan crew is no different in actions and propaganda as Black Lives Matter, Inc., Antifa, Black Panthers, Weathermen, or any other radical group.

At this point in history, it’s simply Whitey’s turn in the barrel. Mentioning that any non-white group has done anything horrible in the past doesn’t "correct" the claims that they haven’t, it just proves the speaker is a racist.

And what’s never, ever allowed to be spoken of is that about 85% of the US population, of all races, creeds, whathaveyou, simply do not care. They’re busy working to keep their families fed, housed, and clothed, what spare money comes around is banked against future needs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:9 2 4 1 Tiki Polo sale

I guess it’s related to the fact that so far in our History, racist remarks against white people haven’t been followed by genocides or slavery against such white people.

The same can’t be said about other skin colours.

Especially when coming from the State or a major part of our society.

The problem aren’t the comments themselves, but what comes after.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 2 4 1 Tiki Polo sale

"So when an SNL writer called someone a "medicore-ass white dude" was that racist?"

calling someone a "white dude" is probably as bad as calling someone a "black dude". Tasteless but not exactly outright bigotry.

Referring to anyone as an mediocre-ass whatever just leaves us all hanging as to what exactly was meant. Again, no bigotry.

Had he said "you know what white dudes are like" or anything similar, THEN we’d be looking at bigotry. He didn’t, though, so what’s your point?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Trump was trying to lose so he could return to his lavish lifestyle. He wanted to finish a close second.

He’s an NYC liberal who is showing the world how easily manipulated the far-right is. His goal all along has been to destroy the Republican party. Anyone who really knows him would tell you this.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"…the Republican Party has the problem as they are over run by white supremacists and other "Fine People.""

The really weird part about that is that it used to be the democrats holding all the white supremacists. Then came the "New Deal" promoting liberal values and social justice and 30 years after that almost every white supremacist and neo-nazi went republican.

Consider that it was the republicans who used to be frontrunners for abolishing slavery and equal rights when Abraham Lincoln was around…and today "republican" has become synonymous with "bigot".

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: More like a true positive, amiright?

"That’s like saying all Democrats are commies."

Yes and no. the main issue seems to be that the republican leadership currently rely on the very loud Tea Party populists they let have real power when they adopted Sarah Palin.

and that means the good-ole-boys of the kkk have a disproportionately loud voice in republican politics these days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Headline is inverted.

The original article on this topic discusses machine-learning based moderation used against ISIS with a high rate of false-positive. Non-extremist muslim’s are picked up by these algorithms as well but due to high-stakes of ISIS violence and non-native communities living abroad these false positives are considered acceptable.

On suggestion of using similar machine-learning based techniques the issue of false-positives remain an issue. Only the false-positives are not acceptable, characterized by removal of stories reporting on neo nazi’s not by neo nazi’s for example. In the last week we’ve seen watch dog groups have content censored for using pictures of neo nazi’s as part of their article — gets censored whether for or against. Machine learning cannot discern context.

We’ve seen poor reporting by digital media outlets eager for a sensational headline to attack on partisan grounds completely misunderstanding the point of the original article on this topic.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Oh, you are that ‘primary point needs to be in first paragraph’ anon troll. Mike does indeed cite that study when he discusses the study. He then connects it to questions about why twitter can’t use the same filters for white supremacist content – and then answers those questions by citing a tweet thread where they note that some of the collateral damage would be republican politicians. If Mike had cited the twitter thread first, I am certain there would be another troll claiming how he made a point before providing evidence.

The article is structured like most Techdirt articles, background info and evidence which is then used to establish a conclusion, which the Title of the article is drawn from. Just because he cited the ISIS -filter article first doesn’t mean the Techdirt article is about the ISIS-filter article. Its not. The ISIS paper is used to introduce the reader to the filter and its limitations. Then when a twitter thread about implementing this filter for white supremacy is introduced, the reader can potentially see and understand the conclusions before they are spelled out. Now we are following along with the writer, rather than being pulled along as he establishes his evidence is reverse order.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually Twitter (and other social media) bans INTELLIGENT conservatives because they are the greatest threat to Democrats. Anyone who can truly refute liberal dogma is the threat you don’t hear about. If they don’t ban them, they just stand down when they inevitably get attacked by the liberals.

Even then, I don’t think anyone can be banned by the entire internet, but the gatekeepers can and do practice selective enforcement. Many conservative women (Sarah Palin types etc.) have reported inaction when they get threatened with rape or murder, while they’ll ban someone for calling a liberal a name that isn’t violent or even defamatory.

The bias is there, but the real question is how important is it? I don’t think it’s an issue.

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The truly smart conservatives are writing books and articles about how "conservatism" has gone of the rails into Looney-ville, and that genuine, rational conservatives need to take the field back from the racists, the bigots, the climate-change denialists, the right-wing wackos, the conspiracy-theorists, the religious and ideological fundamentalists, the anti-science crowd, alt-fact crowd, and from the wilfully blind, demagogic outrage industry.

That’s the brave ones. The rest are simply declining to vote, or voting independent (if they can find an actually credible one) — or even voting Democrat for the duration of the crisis.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Many are either actively advocating for Dem candidates or have joined the party.

I’ve got some respect for David French of the National Review, though he’s often blinded by ideological positions he never questions.

Meanwhile, Bruce Bartlett has gone way too far to the Progressive left for my taste but I still have a great deal of respect for him. Basically, I rate anyone who’s somewhere in the middle of those two.

We need to reclaim conservatism from the loons and start thinking about what it really means, not what it means now. We used to be the adults in the room. The designated drives. A bit nannyish but a safe pair of hands. Now… don’t get me started!

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

That’s an ad-hominem trap.

How so?

Just like the quality of an artist’s work doesn’t matter if it’s Herzog because Herzog doesn’t care about piracy, but if it’s someone on the other side, their business model is all that matters blah blah blah.

That does not appear to be a valid analogy. You were the one who made a specific, provable claim: "intelligent conservatives" are getting banned. I simply asked you to name one, because I was unaware of any such conservatives getting banned. Nearly all the ones I’ve seen are loony trolls. However, if some intelligent ones were getting banned, I’d like to know about that, because that would be newsworthy and interesting.

The fact that you don’t provide a single answer speaks volumes.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

You prove my point with subjective terms like "loony." Subjectivity, not scale, is why content moderation doesn’t work.

You started with the subject term "intelligent." I was asking you to NAME A SINGLE PERSON who people would argue is an "intelligent conservative" who was banned from Twitter.

I am still left waiting.

I mean, surely if this was a regular occurrence you could pop out a list — and even if I called each and every one of them "loony" all the other readers here could look at the list and call me out if the general consensus was that they were not loony.

So far you have named no one. So far, the only "evidence" of conservative bias was the list in the study named above, and if ANYONE claims that any of the people in that list would be considered an "intelligent conservative," well, I have a "resort" in Florida to sell you…

I, once again, await you naming an intelligence conservative banned by Twitter — which, I’ll remind you, was the exact claim that you made above and now have refused to back up multiple times.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

The disagreement on this individual is an example of subjectivity that makes moderation next to impossible. One person’s authority is another’s troll and vice versa.

Many internet frauds have been perpetuated by badmouthing those who tried to warn about the fraud. It would be better to let everyone speak so that no voices are silenced, and better if advertisers accepted that as a condition of getting their message out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Yeah, it’s kind of telling that he reaches for someone like that as his example of an "intelligent conservative" (irrespective of the standing of their Twitter account) instead of someone who’d actually fit that description, like perhaps Jonathan Adler? (Who seems to get along just fine with Twitter’s TOS, from a cursory review of their Twitter feed, BTW.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Actually Twitter (and other social media) bans INTELLIGENT conservatives because they are the greatest threat to Democrats.

You’d think if they were so intelligent, they’d fuck off and create their own network where their ideas could flourish instead of whining like the snowflakes they are while sucking on the teat of the Democrat’s infrastructure.

I don’t know why this is such a big deal, frankly. They have the same choices as say, an LGBTQ couple needing a cake, and the baker saying they don’t agree with their ideals. Why are they interfering with social media companies’ religious beliefs by insisting they host their bullshit?

Fucking hypocrites.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, as the US isn’t a signatory of the UDHR (it’s withholding the signature) it doesn’t apply, but in at least some of the countries signatory to it, you can’t deny a person a service just because you don’t like their ideas.

AFAIK, in some countries in the EU it’s a criminal offense to discriminate based on ideas, sex, religion or any other reason. For example, the aforementioned baker would have to make that cake for that LGBTQ couple.

That couple wouldn’t be able to deny that baker their services (let’s say, they own a shop), even if they didn’t like his ideas either.

I just wanted to point out that it isn’t that strange to expect that in some countries.

Bloof (profile) says:

Content Moderation that will please both sides is impossible.

The Left will always focus on the worst elements who’re smart enough to manage to skirt around the rules, to walk along the edge of what’s acceptable without ever straying over the line, and the Right will obsess over those who get banned that they agree with without ever stopping to seriously think about why they were given the boot, and will fixate over the loss of followers every time there’s a purge of Bot accounts, acting as though they’re human conservative voices being silenced rather than being part of misinformation infrastructure.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So maybe don’t worry about sides and just moderate. Rick Wilson is conservative, smart and funny and yet to be banned. Why? He’s not a hate-filled loon, he’s just a bit naughty and fond of profanity.

Twitter won’t ban him and I don’t think they should. Actually, I’ve never seen Rick freak out about right wing nutjobs being booted off social media for promoting hate. I think that’s why I like him.

Jim M says:

Using Inflammatory Words Like Nazi Cheapens the Message

You made a good point about the impossibility of the task of content filtering. Unfortunately your argument looses credibility calling conservatives Nazi’s. That is something dump people to do to feel smart. Intelligent people would never call someone a Nazi trying to make a point.

TFG says:

Re: Using Inflammatory Words Like Nazi Cheapens the Message

Intelligent people will realize that Nazi ideology should be recognized when it is seen, and called out when it is seen. Godwin’s law only posits that a reference to the Nazis is inevitable – it says nothing about whether that invalidates the argument that used the reference.

Statements such as yours cheapen discourse overall, because they are predicated on the fallacy that Nazi-ism, and ideology that may as well be that of the Nazi party in all but actual name, no longer exists. This is demonstrably false – but if we all treated the word "Nazi" as some "lose argument" button, it would be impossible to even discuss it.

Please don’t spread this nonsense, and please don’t buy into it yourself. If someone has told you this, please don’t listen to them – at least not on this topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Using Inflammatory Words Like Nazi Cheapens the Message

"Intelligent people will realize that Nazi ideology should be recognized when it is seen, and called out when it is seen."

And also, it would be noteworthy to add that machines aren’t intelligent enough to discriminate between Nazi ideology, speech that resembles Nazi ideology, speech with common elements with it or even speech that just reports about Nazis.

And that telling those same machines to delete "Nazi ideology" might mean deleting speech that we might not want deleted.

I thought that this was the whole point of this article, plus the fact that we only realize about it when speech similar to ours gets deleted, but not when some arabic gibberish gets censored.

The gibberish part was my own emphasis, but I think it perfectly illustrates my point.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Using Inflammatory Words Like Nazi Cheapens the Message

Unfortunately your argument looses credibility calling conservatives Nazi’s.

When did I do that? I don’t believe I did. The only thing I did was point out that a group of conservatives claiming to have "proof" of bias, instead pointed to literal Nazi accounts being banned as proof (The American Nazi Party was part of their sample). So, no, it was not me calling conservatives Nazis. It was some conservatives.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Using Inflammatory Words Like Nazi Cheapens the Mess

You’re comparing some random woman who said something that might be taken as offensive to people who literally refer to themselves as Nazis – and you think it’s some kind of indication of bias when they’re not treated the same way?

That says more about you than it does Twitter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: trying to change the subject

Thank you, Zof, for telling us exactly what you are trying to do. However, as a "normal white Christian" I don’t agree that the subject needs changing, and I certainly don’t agree that what you’ve said has any merit.

If you’d like to prove me wrong, I invite you to provide examples and data that backs up your assertion. Until such time, though, please don’t try to change the subject.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Somewhat less amusing when you realize that you’re talking about the freakin US president calling in the CEO of a company because they’re upset that they lost followers on social media due to a bot purge, because clearly that’s a great use of time for both of them, and it’s not like there’s more important things they could be focusing on.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Something something persecution complex….

Of course it appeals to the base

"They" are coming for us & our values!!!!
Still not seen a single law throwing priests in jail for being mean to teh gays.

OMG they forced him to support a gay marriage by baking a cake!
And the first time a gay baker says fsck your 1st Communion Cake, they are ready to sue all the way to SCOTUS b/c it infringes on their rights.

The war on Christmas!!!!!!!!
Honest, not everyone in this country is Christian (despite what you all want to believe) so Happy Holidays is a nice way to include everyone.

Rights & Respect are not fucking cake!
If others get a slice it doesn’t mean less for you, stop behaving like only your rights and beliefs matter & if anyone dares challenge the status quo in a changing world that you are under attack.

They want to bitch about how they get flagged as NeoNazis… perhaps the computer has the balls to tell you what those outside of your personal bubble want you to understand.
Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, goosesteps like a duck… its a duck.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

None of the above views should be grounds for censorship. Should we ban flat-earthers too? It’s EMOTION-driven. The problem isn’t scale, but subjectivity that causes a bias in how offenses are defined, just like news coverage can be fair but the story selection can be biased.

Make social media sites over a certain size common carriers and require a court order to ban someone. The USPS used to censor mail it didn’t like.

Rick Sanchez was fired in three seconds for saying who he thought ran Hollywood. Maybe he was wrong but Al Sharpton has said far worse. That a view is "abhorrent" doesn’t justify "flagging," and this puts too much power in the hands of the censors, who gain total control over the flow of information.

There are intelligent conservative viewpoints. Is being against vice worthy of being harmed? Is it so horrific a view to say "sex work" shouldn’t be legal that that too has to be censored? How about the feminists who refuse to be lumped in with transgendered "women?" Scale is not the problem, but consistency within a subjective framework is. Banning all uses of the F-word is fine, but banning unpopular speech is exactly what the Founding Fathers warned against.

The most intelligent conservative viewpoints never see the light of day because either they are censored, or the gatekeepers stand down while those who speak them get harassed, lied about, or even threatened with death. That’s bias as far as I’m concerned, but even if one disagrees, it is the potential for bias which is what makes it wrong to censor people.

If I say women are bad with money, that’s "misogyny," but if CNBC says women are more rational investors, that’s "girl power." It’s not the enforcement that is the problem, but the entire framework.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Make social media sites over a certain size common carriers

What happens if that “common carrier” can no longer operate — will the government take it over, or will it be allowed to disappear and take everything on the site with it? Under what objective, one-size-fits-all guidelines would you determine the exact “size” at which a social interaction network becomes “big enough” to become a common carrier?

require a court order to ban someone

The United States immigration system is at something of a standstill because it has too few courts/judges/etc. to handle the number of immigration cases in the backlog. For what reason should regular courts be shoved into a similar quagmire by SINs looking to ban individuals from the service — and, by extension, the individuals in question appealing any such ruling to the highest possible court?

The problem isn’t scale, but subjectivity that causes a bias in how offenses are defined

Scale and bias are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have a massively-scaled system that runs on “objective” guidelines without running into issues such as the Scunthorpe Problem, and you cannot inject subjective bias into the system without being called out for missing “offensive” posts that would likely be “caught” under “objective” guidelines. Content moderation on systems as large as Twitter will always be a tightrope that cannot be walked on fully balanced; to expect otherwise is to expect a miracle from God.

That a view is "abhorrent" doesn’t justify "flagging["]

If people on a specific service do not want a specific “abhorrent” view associated with the service (and themselves by loose proxy), that is a perfectly reasonable justification for flagging said view. The same goes for the service’s owners and operators. A White supremacist forum has every right to flag, delete, and ban someone who posts pro-Black Lives Matter propaganda as much as a BLM forum has every right to do the same in re: White supremacist propaganda. Saying one can do it, but not the other, flies in the face of both the First Amendment’s protection of associations and Section 230’s protection of moderation.

this puts too much power in the hands of the censors, who gain total control over the flow of information

Twitter has control over the flow of information on Twitter. It cannot (and should not) control the flow of information on Breitbart, InfoWars, or Stormfront — and by the same token, neither of those three sites should have the right to control whether Twitter will host speech from those sites. If someone is “censored” on one platform, that sucks for them; they should go seek out a platform that will not censor them, or perhaps make their own. No one has a right to force a platform into hosting speech.

Is it so horrific a view to say "sex work" shouldn’t be legal that that too has to be censored?

Censored? No. Mocked? Absolutely. (Besides: Sex work should be decriminalized, not legalized.) Criticism is not censorship, by the way; if you cannot handle your views being mocked, that is a problem only you can solve.

How about the feminists who refuse to be lumped in with transgendered "women?"

They can all go find a nice, lovely echo chamber in which to share their transmisia. Everyone else can get along fine without them.

Scale is not the problem, but consistency within a subjective framework is.

I covered this already.

Banning all uses of the F-word is fine, but banning unpopular speech is exactly what the Founding Fathers warned against.

The funny thing about this is, depending on who you ask and which infamous “F word” you mean, one or both of them could constitute “unpopular speech”. That you would consider banning all uses of either word (or both words) as “fine” but decry banning “unpopular speech” as an affront to the Founding Fathers is hilariously hypocritical.

The most intelligent conservative viewpoints never see the light of day because either they are censored

If “the most intelligent conservative viewpoints” cannot be distinguished from bigotry and hatred of any and all kinds, perhaps the problem lies with those viewpoints, not with the people who find them distasteful. (Last I checked, even Laura Ingraham had to help one of her guests backpedal after he used the phrase “light in the loafers” to imply that Beto O’Rourke is gay.)

even if one disagrees, it is the potential for bias which is what makes it wrong to censor people

Censoring people from speaking is not as simple as kicking them off Twitter or Instagram. Using platforms such as those is a privilege, not a right; the same goes for having an audience. No conservative, liberal, right-winger, leftist, socialist, communist, Marxist, Trumpist, or Barbra Streisand fan can force a platform to host their speech or give them an audience. To say otherwise is to believe the First Amendment no longer applies to the Internet…and that is an outcome I do not think even you would want.

If I say women are bad with money, that’s "misogyny," but if CNBC says women are more rational investors, that’s "girl power."

Both are stereotypes, and all stereotypes are bullshit. But one is a “negative” stereotype rooted in a desire to tear women down, while the other is a “positive” stereotype rooted in a desire to see women built up.

It’s not the enforcement that is the problem, but the entire framework.

And until someone can come up with a framework that creates a perfectly objective system where no one can be dinged for a “false positive” — where a system can take context into account without any mistakes or misfires — the framework will always be as flawed and fallible as you or I. We live in an imperfect world and imperfect societies with imperfect people; expecting anything even close to perfection in online content moderation from those circumstances is no better than expecting world peace.

Anonymous Coward says:

Banning Politicians

…"banning politicians wouldn’t be accepted by society as a trade-off for flagging all the white supremacist propaganda."

Who is this "society" of whom they speak? I can totally accept banning politician whose rhetoric can’t be distinguished from the propaganda of white supremacists.

The expression "trade-off" has negative implications – let’s promote it as a feature, not a bug. Convince society to accept it as a <applause>bonus</applause>.

Think of it as a public service to teach politicians at least NOT to SOUND like racists.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Banning Politicians

The trouble with deplatforming nasty politicians is it pushes their attitudes underground. It doesn’t change their attitude or culture, just the way they describe themselves and their attitudes.

So "rename file" takes over and incidents like the James Byrd killing and the indiscriminate slaughter of black people by the police continue because we’ve not dealt with the root cause: horrible attitudes that need to be challenged.

Deal with the attitudes and you will see change. Don’t just pretend you’ve solved the problem by banning some Nazis from Twitter.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Banning Politicians

"Deal with the attitudes and you will see change."

Casting out those who employ the rhetoric of white supremacy IS a means of DEALing with it. Telling racists that they are not fit to participate in the forum of civilized thought and naming them "pariah" makes clear that society rejects their ideas.

I don’t debate flat-Earthers. I don’t debate anti-vaxers. I don’t debate creationists. Much tho’ such groups wish to be engaged in public debate, there is no controversy – all of these notions, including racism, are primitive, objectionable, counter-science that serves no useful purpose to argue.

Shun the cave-dwelling racists – let them go underground and suffocate in the darkness of our unrelenting public rebuke.

Wendy Cockcroft (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Banning Politicians

Well we can all see how that’s worked out so far…! The troggies tend to find their way out from underground, is what I’m saying.

The rabid neo-nazis we are seeing now didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, they were incubating their hatred underground for ages, wallowing in pariah status until they could get their views pushed front and centre into the mainstream. Your "solution" doesn’t work in practice, AC. We need a plan that actually works.

Seegras (profile) says:

A great misunderstanding

This is all a misunderstanding. Because some republicans seem to think they’re "Conservatives", like you know, in

"Conservativism: A political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change"

As it happens, it doesn’t have anything to do with supporting radical then-new Nazi ideas of the 1930ies.

Also, you’re absolutely allowed to change your views regarding slavery within the span of 150 years and still be a Conservative.

So uttering radical Nazi ideas does not make you a Conservative and blocking them is not an anti-Conservative bias, but just an anti-Nazi bias.

Rog S., aka Judediah Pinkerton Benjamins says:

…sure. The (nearly non -existent) KKK is somehow worse than ADL /Israeli sponsored Multi -Kultural Kommunity Klubs and Kovens (K 4)

Got it. The “white people ” who financed, fought for, and sponsored slavery were somehow not tribal at all:


Ghosts wear white sheets dontchaknow, not rainbow colored, swastika hoaxing, Hegelian, Israelification sponsored mass shooter creating, and bankster backed flags of RAINBOW PRIDE.

Six of one, half dozen of the other….but call it what it is: racial /ethnic /partisan psychobabble.

The man who freed the slaves, Abe Lincoln dontchaknow, was a Republican.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:


The man who freed the slaves … was a Republican.

And if the Republican party of today was the same party of Lincoln’s time, that might mean something. But several decades of the Southern Strategy have done away with Lincoln’s party. All that remains are people who hang onto that one fact as if it changes the way Republicans and White nationalists/supremacists are practically hand-in-hand vis-á-vis ideology.

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: that poor, poor pony

I dont disagree in principal with what you are saying about the Southern Strategy, or the Bible thumping rights insistence on adherence to radical, racist zionism (which you didnt mention).

But the focus on white nationalists has distracted from other things, like Istaelification of US politics, especially apparent in the Democrat platform via HRCs campaign via Haim Saban, etc; or the new Multi-Kultural Klans and Kovens, who are their own racist, tribalist, ethnic kkk(K4), mobilized by the usual suspects, and ADL-Israel-FBI collusion to coopt the left.

So, I see Israelification and radical racist zionism as an under discussed racist threat, masquerading as concern trolling about WNs and alt-righters(who were led, un-ironically, by a gay, Jewish guy named Milis during the election).

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"The man who freed the slaves, Abe Lincoln dontchaknow, was a Republican"

Then, the parties essentially flipped sides in the 1960s due to the Southern Strategy, and all the racists went to the Republicans while the Democrats were the ones who promoted the end of segregation.

Strange how you missed that last part off, isn’t it?

Rog S. says:

Re: Re: Re:


PT, you are arguing from some illusory perspective that eludes me. Are you calling me a de facto (R) because I repudiate the modern (D)s?


You are everything thats wrong in the US political system, via media, sitting offshore from the US, Israelifying our domestic dialectic, while doing nothing substantive about the issues you claim to speak for or against.

And, I bet you have never once stepped foot in a ghetto hooptie, much less been shot at while in said ghetto hooptie, so STFU, you shitty, cowardly sniper.

Everything you learned about race or politics in America likely came from an NWA album that you pirated as an mp3, and your Hasbara for Dummies Kindle reader.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Are you calling me"

I didn’t call you anything, but thanks for confirming what a scummy piece of work you are in the rest of your comments.

"while doing nothing substantive about the issues you claim to speak for or against"

Not everybody is as lazy or as ignorant as you are. But, thanks for confirming once again that you love to base your arguments on a strawman version of me rather than anything based on reality. You’d probably be scary if any of your arguments bore a passing resemblance to reality once in a while.

Hendrik Boom says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you want to get away from the binary exclusive structure of U.S. politics, you’ll have to make third and fourth parties viable by changing the electoral system. You could use a preferential ballot for this, or move to proportional representation. Either would be a move in the proper direction.

Rog S., aka Judediah Pinkerton Benjamins says:

Re: Re: I missed nothing.

I was there.

And, substituting segregation/Slavery by Another Name for the modern Domestic Violence Industrial Complex (DVIC) that those Dems built in no way exonerates the coded slavery that exists today, practiced by BOTH parties, and especially exploited diabolically by said Democrats.

Dems promoted and end of segregation in order to “control the machinery” in true Judeo-Marxist form, but they still havent "ended" slavery, because they make so damn much money from exploiting the poor via the DVIC/PIC.

Six of one, half a dozen of the other, with the usual suspects at the helm.

I mean, whoever “they” are…..

christenson says:

if "Dyke" is a bad word....

Can you make a filter that makes a distinction between Techdirt discusses your favorite bad word, say, dyke, being used abusively and your favorite abusive use??? (oh, and can I borrow your dykes — diagonal cutters — to cut that wire, thanks!)

Especially when, to make the point that it was abusive, a direct quote of the favorite abusive use is made…..someone said to so-and-so: "<bad words>".

(That is the fundamental difficulty of figuring out whether use of a potentially offensive word is in fact offensive or not)

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