Sacha Baron Cohen Is Wrong About Social Media, Wrong About Section 230... And Even Wrong About His Own Comedy

from the that's-not-how-any-of-this-works dept

I honestly did not think I'd ever be writing about Sacha Baron Cohen's thoughts on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, but this is 2019 and nothing makes sense any more. And because nothing makes sense any more, I'm going to start out discussing Sacha Baron Cohen's views on CDA 230 by actually talking about magician Penn Jillette. Jillette has a podcast called Penn's Sunday School that is often really, really good. And he actually talked about Sacha Baron Cohen in the latest episode -- which, bizarrely, is not on the page I linked to, because it appears that Penn and his team stopped updating their podcast webpage last month.

This was the second time in recent episodes that Jillette talked about Cohen, and he made a really great point, noting that Sacha Baron Cohen and many of his supporters believe that what Cohen is doing is showing the "true nature" of how awful people are, by getting them to do awful things. But, Jillette argues, in a fairly compelling way, the opposite may actually be true. His belief is that Cohen is actually demonstrating how nice most people are, in that when they're approached by someone asking them to say or do something, they want to be nice and accommodate the person who's asking. The argument, which Penn explains in much more detail, is that if someone is talking to you in person, you want them to like you and you want to be nice to them, and thus if they ask you do something silly or crazy, you might just do it out of kindness or, in some cases, just "playing along." And thus, his argument is that Sacha Baron Cohen totally misunderstands his own comedy and what it shows about human nature and how people "really are."

He made the argument more fully last week, in the November 11th episode (if you can find that), where he said:

When I watch Borat, okay, it was alright and funny. But he's an incredible performer. One of the greatest actors ever seen, Sacha Baron Cohen. And deeply, deeply funny. And I've heard from Trey & Matt, the South Park guys, (they know him) that he's a wonderful guy. All that.... And I heard his new show is fabulous. But... he went on and said that the Borat movie showed how much anti-Semitism there was in the US, because people went along with him saying all these things. And I just don't think it shows that.

I think it shows that people are kind -- especially to someone who seems awkward and out of place. And they will say most anything to make them comfortable. And right when all the Ali G and Borat stuff was happening on HBO. Right during that, there were these two girls, they were 16 or something, from Japan. And there was a show, we were told, that they had won. And their big win was that they were able to meet any celebrities in the world that they wanted to meet. And they chose Penn & Teller!

So there were these 16-year-old fans of Penn & Teller from Japan, and were flown over by this TV company. And we're backstage in the monkey room, in the green room, and there are TV cameras set up. And, one person kinda sorta speaks English. Everyone speaks more English than I speak Japanese, but they're not fluent. And the two girls speak very, very, very small amounts of English. And they're doing an interview with us, and spending time with us, and having us hold up fans and put on hats that are Japanese, but it would all feel racially insensitive if we were just doing it. But these two Japanese girls were telling us to do this. And there's cameras rolling. And there are producers. And they're saying "hold up the fan and bow and say this" and it seemed a little bit burlesque-y as to the Japanese culture, but we were being led by people from Japan...

Then on stage they had us come out with our fans and got a shot of it, and had us saying stuff in Japanese. And they were asking interview questions that did not make any sense. And sometimes they were saying things that I think were the opposite of what they meant. And I was answering and going along with them and doing the best job I could to go along with them and make them feel comfortable. And while I was doing that, I kept thinking about Borat and Ali G and how if he came in to do an interview with us, I would do it exactly like those people he's lampooning.

So I think the stuff he's doing is brilliantly funny. What he's demonstrating is not that people are willing to say something that's anti-Semitic, but that they're willing to bend over backwards to make someone comfortable.

On the latest episode that just came out this week, he revisits this point and references someone else's discussion about a specific episode of Cohen's show and how Penn's take resonated, since it was clearly people playing along with the situation, rather than doing something out of ill-will or malicious intent. To be honest, I think both views are probably correct to some degree. Some of what Cohen does is calling out and demonstrating ignorance and bias that was previously (mostly) hidden. But, there's a part of it that probably is what Penn is saying as well: people performing for cameras and trying to be nice to a confused, but (they think) well-meaning stranger.

And, thus, I think the larger truth is that there are many factors involved in what makes people tick, and just taking a superficial view is rarely enough to really understand the deeper workings, motivations, and incentives.

The more I thought about this over the past few weeks, the more compelling an argument it was. And having just listened to the latest podcast, I had been thinking even more about it... just as I heard that Cohen delivered a keynote address for the ADL, in which he slams social media companies, claims that they're effectively complicit in all the bad stuff on their platforms, and then slams Section 230 of the CDA. You can watch it here, via YouTube, one of the platforms he attacks:

And, while I've seen some friends and colleagues celebrating aspects of his speech -- which is funny and entertaining and comes across as powerful -- it occurred to me that he's making the exact same mistake regarding social media/Section 230 as Jillette suggests (compellingly) that Cohen is making about what his comedy shows. He's getting it all backwards, blaming the wrong thing, and misunderstanding what's at the heart of the issue. Along the way, he also makes some factual mistakes. Indeed, it seems like while he's touching on some truths, and some realities about how people are using social media and how social media companies operate, he's so focused on the superficial aspects of it, that he's completely misunderstanding the deeper workings, motivations, and incentives at play.

What do all these dangerous trends have in common? I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar. But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.

That sounds good and many people believe this, but the facts simply don't support this. Earlier this year, we discussed Yochai Benkler's new book, the excellent Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics, which is filled with charts and data showing something pretty damn clearly: most of the disinformation and misinformation didn't go very far until it was "validated" by a mainstream news source, namely: Fox News. Yes, the lies and shams did start out on social media, but they were mostly ignored. Until Fox News validated them, then they spread like wildfire.

So while it's good that Cohen admits that he's not a scholar, "Network Propaganda" is written by three excellent scholars, and perhaps we should listen to them, rather than a comedian, on this subject?

Again, Cohen gets some stuff right, and the written version of his speech also does link to some research, but the conclusions he draws from it don't actually seem supported by what he links to. He's right that the algorithms on these platforms were tuned to increase "engagement," and that resulted in a lot of bogus recommendations, dragging people further down a hole of radicalization. But, as with his view of his own comedy, he leaves out the actual human element. How many people is this actually influencing? He doesn't say. He doesn't know. How many people are being "radicalized" via these platforms? He doesn't say. He doesn't know. He assumes it's so because we hear about it all the time. But where do we hear about it? Oh yeah, back on the mainstream news.

On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel Prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.

I've heard similar claims before, but it doesn't actually seem supported by much evidence. Yes, some people believe utter lies and racist bullshit. But they believed that before. And, at a time when similar rhetoric comes directly from the President of the United States and some of his top aides, it's difficult to see how this is an internet problem, rather than one that lays deeper in our society and human nature.

Cohen's "solutions" to this are equally backwards and often silly. He spends much time going after Mark Zuckerberg in particular, which is fine, but he misunderstands or misrepresents nearly every point that he's talking about. Indeed, I'd argue that Cohen's attacks on Zuckerberg are just as "fake news" as some of the content he's complaining about. Cohen mocks Zuckerberg's point that choices Facebook makes are "choices... around free expression." There are many great criticisms of Zuckerberg's confused notions of free expression (if you want to read a good one I'd recommend Jameel Jaffer's Facebook and Free Speech Are Different Things). But Cohen's point is not that. He first makes a correct point, that Facebook is not the First Amendment and can make any decision it wants about who and what to host:

Zuckerberg claimed that new limits on what’s posted on social media would be to “pull back on free expression.” This is utter nonsense. The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, however, this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook. We’re not asking these companies to determine the boundaries of free speech across society. We just want them to be responsible on their platforms.

But later in the speech he contradicts this point, twice over. First, despite claiming (correctly) that the 1st Amendment doesn't apply to Facebook's hosting decisions, later on he directly urges Congress to regulate speech on Facebook, which is very much prohibited by the 1st Amendment. Second, since so much of his argument is that Facebook and other internet companies need to be more aggressive in pulling down speech, you'd think he's support Section 230, which is what enables them to do so.

But, instead, he blindly, and confusingly, attacks it:

In every other industry, you can be sued for the harm you cause. Publishers can be sued for libel, people can be sued for defamation. I’ve been sued many times! I’m being sued right now by someone whose name I won’t mention because he might sue me again! But social media companies are largely protected from liability for the content their users post—no matter how indecent it is—by Section 230 of, get ready for it, the Communications Decency Act. Absurd!

Fortunately, Internet companies can now be held responsible for pedophiles who use their sites to target children. I say, let’s also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion. And maybe fines are not enough. Maybe it’s time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: you already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.

This is so backwards and confused that it's difficult to know where to start. Other than to note that the "absurd" part is in Cohen's description of all of this. First, the point of Section 230 is not about removing liability, but about properly applying the liability to the party who actually broke the law. He's right that people can be sued for defamation. Because they said something defamatory. Section 230 makes sure that those who are defamed sue those who defamed them -- and not the intermediary tool that was used to publish the defamation.

And his apparent shock that Section 230 was part of a law called the "Communications Decency Act" demonstrates his complete lack of knowledge of the history of the law -- and how it originated as a law for widespread censorship of the internet -- which was all thrown out as unconstitutional. Section 230 is all that remains. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of Jeff Kosseff's book, which explains all the history.

His claim about "internet companies can now be held responsible for pedophiles" seems to be a near total misreading of last year's passing of FOSTA, which added an exception to Section 230 for sex trafficking (not for pedophilia). And, of course, as we've pointed out way too many times, Section 230 has never protected sites from federal criminal charges in the first place.

The final point is also nonsense: how, exactly, is Mark Zuckerberg supposed to prevent everyone from misusing Facebook (to avoid apparent jail time)? Cohen's answer in the speech is a mixture of ignorance and nonsense. He suggests hiring as many people as it takes... and also not posting stuff to the internet until it's been reviewed.

It only seems fair to say to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter: your product is defective, you are obliged to fix it, no matter how much it costs and no matter how many moderators you need to employ.

But that assumes, falsely, there there is a solution that is just "hire more moderators." This is a riff on the standard "nerd harder" idea, but it's equally nonsensical. We're right back to the Masnick Impossibility Theorem. He's assuming there's some optimal level of content moderation that can be reached by just throwing more resources at it. There is not. He might as well be suggesting that the answer to all the bigots in the world is for Hollywood to hire more Sacha Baron Cohens until they expose them all. It's a silly suggestion that makes no sense.

Furthermore, it doesn't take into account a much larger issue that has been the subject of many discussions among content moderation experts: the human cost of content moderation. It takes a huge toll on people's lives to sit them in front of computers and make it their job to look at the worst stuff being posted. And Sacha Baron Cohen wants to force more people to do that job? Really?

Here’s another good practice: slow down. Every single post doesn’t need to be published immediately. Oscar Wilde once said that “we live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” But is having every thought or video posted instantly online, even if it is racist or criminal or murderous, really a necessity? Of course not!

The shooter who massacred Muslims in New Zealand live streamed his atrocity on Facebook where it then spread across the internet and was viewed likely millions of times. It was a snuff film, brought to you by social media. Why can’t we have more of a delay so this trauma-inducing filth can be caught and stopped before it’s posted in the first place?

This is right back to a "nerd harder" idea, that shows a catastrophic level of ignorance of the scale here. Having more time would not have stopped the video of the New Zealand shooting from spreading online. That's not how it works. It also grossly underestimates what this would mean for the internet. It would turn it into TV. In which you'd have a small number of gatekeepers handpicking what shows were allowed, and everything else would be blocked. This may be what Hollywood would like to see the internet turn into, but it would destroy nearly everything good and powerful about the internet today and its fundamental nature as a communications medium.

Cohen also seems to jump on the bandwagon of those ignorant of Section 230 by saying that these big internet companies should be declared "publishers," as if that would do anything.

It’s time to finally call these companies what they really are—the largest publishers in history. And here’s an idea for them: abide by basic standards and practices just like newspapers, magazines and TV news do every day. We have standards and practices in television and the movies; there are certain things we cannot say or do. In England, I was told that Ali G could not curse when he appeared before 9pm. Here in the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America regulates and rates what we see. I’ve had scenes in my movies cut or reduced to abide by those standards. If there are standards and practices for what cinemas and television channels can show, then surely companies that publish material to billions of people should have to abide by basic standards and practices too.

Except... no. All of that, again, is talking about concepts that were brought about (often controversially, or sometimes through questionable legal means) for broadcast media. But the internet is not about broadcast. It's about communications. It's about enabling anyone to communicate with anyone. Should we have "standards and practices" for how the telephone is used? Should the Postal Service read through all your mail and not send it on if you say bad words? That's what Cohen is asking for. You don't apply broadcast standards to communications systems. It just doesn't work that way.

Hell, referencing the MPAA's ratings system is really, really sketchy, since the MPAA ratings system was a direct outgrowth of the Hays Code, which was used to censor films for decades, as there was a moral panic about "decency" in filmmaking. People look back on that era with regret at how that stifled free expression. For Cohen, of all people, to use that as an example of what we should bring to the internet is striking. Strikingly stupid and censorial.

In every other industry, a company can be held liable when their product is defective. When engines explode or seatbelts malfunction, car companies recall tens of thousands of vehicles, at a cost of billions of dollars.

Here's the problem: the assumption here is that it's these internet companies that are "defective" rather than human nature and society itself.

Cohen obviously means well. But, as Penn Jillette noted about Cohen's comedy, it appears he's getting the wrong message out of how people behave on the internet. Some people are bad and behave badly. But many more are wonderful, and the internet has enabled them to connect and communicate as well, often in much greater numbers, and enabled them to do even more powerful things for good. Because, as Jillette points out, most people are, in fact, pretty good deep down inside. Let's not throw the internet "down the well" because some people misuse it. Let's use the internet to spread more good ideas, better help people who need it, and focus on realistic ways to stop hatred, rather than fantastical ideas that sound like they came from the mind of "wanna-be-gangsta Ali G" rather than "brilliant" Sacha Baron Cohen.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, bias, cda 230, comedy, content moderation, free speech, penn jillette, racism, responsibility, sacha baron cohen, section 230, social media


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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 9:46am

    First, the point of Section 230 is not about removing liability, but about properly applying the liability to the party who actually broke the law. He's right that people can be sued for defamation. Because they said something defamatory. Section 230 makes sure that those who are defamed sue those who defamed them -- and not the intermediary tool that was used to publish the defamation.

    This ignores the separate harm created by distributing (spreading) libel far beyond its original audience, into a permanent internet archive in a search engine. The purpose of 230 is to immunize companies who inflict the harm, which is now unchecked and people weaponize search engines against individuals and businesses who have no recourse. Anyone who supports 230 is saying that these are acceptable losses, but that makes them sound awful, so they pretend the harm does not exist.

    The harm obviously exists, or AUS courts would not find against search engines for what they republish. The "person who actually broke the law" is one of many who break the law. Even worse is that if we allow lies to stay online, someone could make a fortune by suing anyone who repeats the defamation, who of course would be to blame for believing what they read online.

    Since 230 immunizes websites against false-advertising lawsuits, one cannot trust advertising they find online, either, as that can be placed by an LLC with no assets that disappears, or even with fake third-party marketing that rewards lies. Section 230 has destroyed truth particularly about individuals and businesses because even one person with a grudge can weaponize the entire internet as the very type of propaganda tool Cohen warns about.

    Section 230 is on its last legs due to abuses by those laughing kids on 4Chan and others like them.

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 9:54am

      Please cite a single legal case from the United States from after the passage of 47 U.S.C. § 230 that backs up anything you wrote.

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    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:01am

      Re:

      Jhon Smith provides no facts in his Complaint that supports these cuntentions. Complaint is summarily dismissed.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:24am

      Re:

      "separate harm created by distributing "

      • Not this bullshit again!

      "into a permanent internet archive"

      • better get one a those flashy thingies cause people remember stuff

      "The purpose of 230 is to immunize companies"

      • Complete and utter bunk

      "which is now unchecked "

      • I sort of agree with this ... in that corporate power has gone unchecked for .... like forevarrrr

      "AUS courts"

      • Is this story about downunder? Huh, not specifically. Why should one country be allowed to wag the entire dog?

      idk, you sound quite delusional.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:25am

      Re:

      This ignores the separate harm created by distributing (spreading) libel far beyond its original audience, into a permanent internet archive in a search engine.

      That is no different to anything published in newspapers being archived by libraries, and that is not considered a separate harm.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 3:46pm

      Re: run John blue run

      “Libel behind its original audience”

      Well man I got bad news.

      Your a wanted man lol

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:36pm

      Re:

      Like... I'm not sure what's sadder. The fact that you're still flogging this dead horse with no name, or that you think 4chan has had any relevance outside of being the fully-intentioned shithole that it is after Anonymous' attacks on Scientology.

      This isn't even 8chan where you might have had some modicum of relevance by talking about incels (but you're one of them who doesn't think #MeToo is legitimate anyway). Your entire complaint is based on a cluster of shitposters that literally nobody has cared about outside its circle of sad sacks since the early 2010s.

      Also the point about 230 enabling false advertising is fucking dumb. AT&T was a thing before 230, and with Pai in charge will still be a thing in the universe where you get your wish.

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    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 6:10am

      Re:

      This ignores the separate harm created by distributing (spreading) libel far beyond its original audience, into a permanent internet archive in a search engine. The purpose of 230 is to immunize companies who inflict the harm, which is now unchecked and people weaponize search engines against individuals and businesses who have no recourse. Anyone who supports 230 is saying that these are acceptable losses, but that makes them sound awful, so they pretend the harm does not exist.

      I've already told you my story many times. Wrong on all counts per my personal experience.

      The harm obviously exists, or AUS courts would not find against search engines for what they republish. The "person who actually broke the law" is one of many who break the law. Even worse is that if we allow lies to stay online, someone could make a fortune by suing anyone who repeats the defamation, who of course would be to blame for believing what they read online.

      In the AUS case, people were complaining about an individual's behaviour and sharing their opinions on what sort of person they thought she was. The court found Google responsible for linking to the complaints about court-documented behaviour.

      Since 230 immunizes websites against false-advertising lawsuits, one cannot trust advertising they find online, either, as that can be placed by an LLC with no assets that disappears, or even with fake third-party marketing that rewards lies.

      So what? It's the advertiser who's at fault, not the search engine.

      Section 230 has destroyed truth particularly about individuals and businesses because even one person with a grudge can weaponize the entire internet as the very type of propaganda tool Cohen warns about.

      Wrong, wrong, wrong, per my own experience. Why are you ignoring this truth?

      Section 230 is on its last legs due to abuses by those laughing kids on 4Chan and others like them.

      Prove it, liar.

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    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 3:01am

      Re:

      "Section 230 has destroyed truth particularly about individuals and businesses because even one person with a grudge can weaponize the entire internet as the very type of propaganda tool Cohen warns about."

      In other words, Baghdad bob, you're miffed that you won't be free to practice untrammeled fraud all over the US without someone calling you out on your bullshit, and are grasping for straws by quoting a crackpot case of bad law exercised in Australia where a court came down on people linking to the courts PUBLISHED information?

      Sounds legit. And so very much you.

      When are you going to finally learn that you still can't sell outright lies even if you try to wrap them in a crappy wordwall?

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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 9:56am

    You don't apply broadcast standards to communications systems. It just doesn't work that way.

    What’s sad is, plenty of people in the U.S. government probably believe it should. One of them might even be the president.

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  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 9:58am

    Amen

    I think you've hit the nail on the head here, Mike, as has Penn Jillette.

    Beware of taking seriously the opinions of anyone - Nobel Prize winner, famous (and incredibly talented) comedian, whatever - outside their field of expertise.

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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:01am

    To be honest, I think both views are probably correct to some degree. Some of what Cohen does is calling out and demonstrating ignorance and bias that was previously (mostly) hidden. But, there's a part of it that probably is what Penn is saying as well: people performing for cameras and trying to be nice to a confused, but (they think) well-meaning stranger.

    I'm inclined to agree. I can see how people might sing along with "throw the Jew down the well" just to accommodate the friendly foreign man; the correct thing to do would be to challenge him and explain that that's not okay, but people might just prefer to avoid confrontation and go along to get along. (That doesn't make it right, and I don't think it's exactly analogous to the situation Jillette describes. But psychologically, it's understandable.)

    On the other hand, there are a whole lot of Cohen interviews that are antagonistic. The Who Is America? segment in Kingman, Arizona where he proposed building a mosque and the locals started ranting about Muslims -- yes, Cohen deliberately provoked that response, but the crowd certainly wasn't agreeing with the character he was playing.

    Plus, let's face it -- whether or not you believe Borat exposed hidden American antisemitism, I'd say the last few years certainly have.

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:18am

      Re:

      Plus, let's face it -- whether or not you believe Borat exposed hidden American antisemitism, I'd say the last few years certainly have.

      This is true, but I think that's a separate issue.

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        R/O/G/S, 26 Nov 2019 @ 9:44am

        Re: Re:

        I think you nail some core issues here, especially the ADL with its hand up Cohens ass.

        What a cute, gangly, hilarious, insightful (in a race based, limited way )puppet he is.

        But you might consider the wider “not -a -conspiracy ” of perception management, and how these religious -tribal factions and social media are guided at the deeper level by actual DoD, and CIA propaganda managers working (with plausible/total deniability ) with SocMed, to whit:

        https://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/how-the-cia-made-google-e836451a959e

        In that light, Sacha is just another useful idiot for divisive tribal -sectarianism and that other form of racial supremacy ; and western MIC /PIC /DVIC business models.

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        • identicon
          R/O/G/S, 4 Dec 2019 @ 3:36am

          Re: Re: Re: HIER ES IST VERBOTTEN!

          ...to discuss:

          1- CIA/DoD perception management
          2- ADL/SPLC/NGO unspecified perception management
          3- pervasive tribal sectarian bias

          ah, the limitations of free speech online are so....so....DoD/ADLified/tribal-sectarian, and capricious, as if all of western civilization will crumble if Oz’s curtain is pulled back.

          Where have we seen ths before in history....

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  • identicon
    nerdrage, 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:10am

    Yeah that's why I loathe Cohen. All he's doing is taking advantage of the natural tendency of most people not to just tell some moron to fuck off, even when they should. And let's face it, if he seems like a weirdo, the best option would be to smile and nod and not contradict him but look for the nearest convenient exit.

    If somebody wanted me to sing a song about throwing Jews down a well, my first thought was, this guy might throw me down a well, so let's not trigger him. Just sing along and look for a way out.

    And let's not forget, I'm sure there are plenty of sequences where somebody did tell Cohen to fuck off. But we never saw those sequences, did we?

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    • identicon
      Adam, 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:33pm

      Editing?

      I'll take Cohen's word on how antisemitic the US is when he releases ALL of his footage, not just the stuff he deems worthy for broadcast. I get the feeling there is a bit more telling "some moron to fuck off" than he's happy to admit.

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    Zof (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:16am

    The Real Issue Is Political Censorship Being Called Moderation

    Every other discussion is a distraction from that. It's talking about the color of firetruck and not the fire.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:17am

    the internet, cameras and everything

    So, if we're going to blame the big social media companies for all of these issues that do exist without the technology being present, then let's really take care of it.
    Let's hold the manufactures of the cameras responsible for not preventing filming/photography of the terrible things people do.
    Let's go ahead and do that with battery manufacturers too... after all, if the battery would just stop providing power in these situations, then these people would apparently stop doing these terrible things.
    Don't forget to include the various raw material providers... without those, we wouldn't be able to create all these things likes servers to run the internet, cameras to film/photograph and energy.... ... so better make sure to include anyone that generates power and sells it (so anything fossil fuel, renewable energy, etc).
    Gosh, if we just held all these companies responsible and made them stop they're products from functioning for "bad things" then people would stop doing all these terrible things...

    If I keep saying it, I'm going to convince someone.... right?

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:32am

      Re: the internet, cameras and everything

      "blame the big social media companies for all of these issues that do exist without the technology being present"

      Why do that .. just because it is the popular thing to do or because there are compelling reasons to do so? Social media cannot and certainly will not correct flaws in human nature.

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    • identicon
      bob, 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:01am

      Re: the internet, cameras and everything

      In every other industry, a company can be held liable when their product is defective. When engines explode or seatbelts malfunction, car companies recall tens of thousands of vehicles, at a cost of billions of dollars.

      Yes we do hold companies liable for defective products. But in the case of people posting garbage online, the person is the manufacturer of the garbage not the platform where the garbage is left. That's what I don't get about the worlds argument. If Facebook created the people and dictated the speech used, then yes Facebook is liable for the actions and words of the people. But that's not what happened (unless Facebook started some new breeding program I don't know about).

      I detest Facebook and everything it does because of how it permeates the lives of every user sucking up information without regard to the security concerns of hoarding data. I hate that information gathering aspect of google as well. But despite those feelings it is obvious that the people posting are the ones who should be liable not the platform. It's just easier to attack the big, wealthy, known company than it is to go after a small, unknown or unimportant person.

      I also really like how people didn't believe in mass numbers the conspiracies until it was validated by Fox News. It shows that most people know not to believe garbage online unless the story is backed up by reputable sources. Unfortunately this time, the "reputable" source wasn't doing a good job vetting the stories before throwing its weight behind the conspiracies. And there was enough people that thought Fox News could be trusted.

      So if people are so outraged at Facebook for propagating conspiracies and lies, why aren't people also calling for Fox News to be liable for the actions of all the idiots that believe the latest garbage spewed by its talking heads?

      Because then the people would have to look in the mirror take responsibility for their actions and admit they got duped too for believing fox news.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 7:16pm

        Re: Re: the internet, cameras and everything

        Why can’t we hold companies liable for creating environments in which people posting garbage are incentivized and rewarded, then? Social media platforms that fine-tune their algorithms, interfaces, and systems of sharing and liking for engagement above all else, knowingly allowing garbage to thrive on their platform, and inevitably “apologize” like they’re a BP exec after the unchecked spread of garbage is brought to light by the press or a catastrophe should be made to suffer some sort of actual consequences.

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        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 7:57pm

          Re: Re: Re: the internet, cameras and everything

          Because they aren't making those changes in order to incentivize the worst, that's just a side-effect.

          You might as well go after knife manufacturers because some people use them for violence, the fact that sites want more engagement and that can result in more deplorable people getting involved is because of the people, not the platforms. Work to increase user engagement and interaction and the fact that a percentage of people are of the vile sort means that some of that engagement and interaction will involve them.

          The real kicker though is if you do try to make the platforms responsible you'll almost certainly just make the problem worse, as the platforms take an entirely hands-off approach lest they be blamed for missing something, crack down on anything that even might offend someone and as a result remove vast amounts of perfectly fine speech 'just in case', or shut down and refuse to allow user content at all.

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        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:14pm

          Why can’t we hold companies liable for creating environments in which people posting garbage are incentivized and rewarded, then?

          Because the First Amendment says so.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:48pm

            Re:

            What's even more baffling about what these "Section 230 dying will solve everything" people is how absolutely obnoxious their proposals are in the analog world.

            Environments where people post garbage and are incentivized and rewarded have been a thing since the time when humans lived in groups or close proximity. There will be disagreements. There will be in-crowds. There will be some asshole who decides that making fun of someone to gain the attention and support of their peers is a good idea. Which is unfortunate, but there's little that platforms can actually solve.

            Let's put it another way to illustrate how fucked up the "moderation at scale" argument is. Suppose a student decides to make fun of his classmate out of prejudice, shits and giggles, to impress the boy he likes, whatever. Other children, being the shitweasels they can be, decide that joining in to mock the unfortunate sap is a fantastic school activity.

            Now, the school authorities would not actually permit this and have various methods of enforcement. But under the "Section 230 should die" argument, this wouldn't be enough. Not only would the school have to punish the original jerkwad, and possibly the kids who joined in on various degrees of casual remarks to possibly serious harassment, anti-230 advocates are basically saying that enforcement needs to be stringent to the point where any student who says anything disparaging should be punished, AND the school must pay a hefty penalty for providing the platform and environment, namely a bunch of immature whelps in close proximity, that encouraged the behavior in the first place.

            This in spite of the fact that the school would already have a disciplinary framework in place (strength of its enforcement notwithstanding), and the sheer impossibility of not only punishing everyone who might be involved, but also pre-emptively stopping the behavior once an instance is detected.

            Does it suck for the victim? Yes, but that's not a reason to ask for a universal "nuke everyone I dislike" button, or demand that someone come up with one, because such a button flat out does not fucking exist.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:24pm

              Re: Re:

              Let me also preempt John Smith and the other fuckbuckets whose response is to say "But that's the analog world, digital world spreads things faster!"

              My counterresponse: you cumsponges say "This would be illegal in the analog world" for everything that makes your copyright enforcement just that little bit more difficult. You want real world standards and punishments applied to every little thing.

              So your little solution turns out to be shit in the analog realm, because it's just as dumb as it would be in the digital realm, and that's before we go over how your scenarios of waiters calling women hookers, incel landlords spying on their pretty customers, and Russians somehow doxxing a doctor a fucking ocean away means that the RIAA is allowed to sue dead grandmas because Mia Khalifa couldn't afford her 32nd diamond studded swimming pool, are so fucked in the head, you gave the skull octuplets.

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        • icon
          Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 25 Nov 2019 @ 8:05am

          Re: Re: Re: the internet, cameras and everything

          Why can’t we hold companies liable for creating environments in which people posting garbage are incentivized and rewarded, then? Social media platforms that fine-tune their algorithms, interfaces, and systems of sharing and liking for engagement above all else, knowingly allowing garbage to thrive on their platform, and inevitably “apologize” like they’re a BP exec after the unchecked spread of garbage is brought to light by the press or a catastrophe should be made to suffer some sort of actual consequences.

          What, like Fox and Breitbart? Don't you know they tend to skew for what plays best with their audiences, in order to drive up ratings? Or do you live beneath a rock?

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          • icon
            Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 3:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: the internet, cameras and everything

            You DO realize that what he's actually after is a paradigm where, as a side effect of abolishing Freedom of Speech ISP's can be held accountable for not actively monitoring and stopping the filesharing habits of their clients?

            The copyright cult has been trying to push this argument down everyone's throat since the DMCA and it doesn't get better that an "anonymous" poster rather than a paid-for lobbyist trumpets the same message.

            Baghdad bob isn't living beneath a rock. He knows exactly what he's doing, which is simply to keep repeating the same message he's been regurgitating on Techdirt and Torrentfreak for years in the hope that sooner or later people give him just that one more inch of leeway to wriggle in the wedge.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:05am

    Sets and subsets

    You don't apply broadcast standards to communications systems.

    This statement needs some editing. Simplest edit would be insert word “all” in front of phrase “communications systems”. That would probably be most in line with the writer's intent.

    As it stands, though, the statement is near-gibberish.

    • Broadcast communications systems are a proper subset within the universe of all communications systems.
    • Broadcast standards do apply to that subset of all communications systems. Furthermore, they should.

    The statement needs an edit. 'Cause you do apply broadcast standards to broadcast communications systems.

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  • identicon
    ThinkAllOvertheBox, 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:09am

    What did he say or is it what her heard what we wanted

    He and Dave Chappell are on the same plane of - throw it back in our face and make us rethink what we thought we thunk - story telling.

    The bigger story to me is that no one really gets section 230 right and perhaps that is what we should rethink what we thought we thunk and start over.

    :p

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:19am

      no one really gets section 230 right

      …except for the people who rightfully point out the intent of the lawmakers who drafted 230, the real effects 230 has on website moderation, and the consequences of repealing 230 in the age of Twitter (which could not exist as it does now without 230).

      But yeah, ignore all of those people, and of course nobody gets 230 right. 🙃

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:31am

        Re:

        …except for the people who rightfully point out the intent of the lawmakers who drafted 230, the real effects 230 has on website moderation, and the consequences of repealing 230 in the age of Twitter (which could not exist as it does now without 230).

        Yet Twitter DOES exist in the UK, AUS, and countless other countries that don't have 230, and even countries that require filtering of certain content (they have to monitor to stop porn/child porn so moderation at scale is obviously possible).

        There's a reason Masnick won't debate this anywhere he can't control the narrative. He's just plain wrong.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:48am

          Re: Re:

          In countless other countries there are no court cases establishing third party liability, and so no need for the law makers to pass a law to overturn a precedent set by a court.

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        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:49am

          Re: Re:

          There's a reason Masnick won't debate this anywhere he can't control the narrative. He's just plain wrong.

          If you want to talk "plain wrong" it's your statement here. I have and will debate 230 all over the place. I was literally just recently on someone else's podcast against one of the most well known critics of Section 230 (https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/vox/recode-decode/e/63405505). I have been on various panels at lots of events about it, including ones sponsored by industries who hate my point of view. I've debated this issues everywhere and will continue to do so.

          So, no, plain wrong is to make false statements about who and where I'll debate.

          Also, I'm right about 230.

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          • icon
            Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:56am

            It‘s almost as if Jhon-boy wants you to debate him, on a playground of his choosing, with rules of his choosing, on a topic of his choosing, with his bad faith argument setting the stage for his eventual “victory”. The poor child can’t win without all the advantages — and hell, even with them, he can only win if you quit first. It’s sad, is what it is.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:12pm

              Re:

              Did someone forget to post anonymously this time?

              My point is that it's easy to debate on one's home site, not that any rules should change. Sites are free to censor, and they are free to lose credibility by doing so.

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              • icon
                Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:47pm

                Sites are free to [moderate]

                Good to see we agree on something for once, bless your heart.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 2:32pm

                Re: Re:

                And my point is you issued the challenge and now you’re running away like the punk birch you are bro.

                Did someone forget to post anonymously this time?

                Did you Jhon? Or should I say Chris?

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:53pm

                Re: Re:

                My point is that it's easy to debate on one's home site, not that any rules should change

                And... the point of this was what, exactly? That posting an argument on a site where you have the home advantage automatically invalidates it, because the home field advantage makes the perspective meaningless? If that's your point, then what does having the argument on your opponent's site where your opponent has the advantage prove? You mean to say that when it's on the opponent's side, the opponent's home field advantage suddenly evaporates?

                Sites are free to censor, and they are free to lose credibility by doing so

                If that's your criteria, great... in which case, why does it matter here? You knuckledraggers have repeated, time and time again, that Masnick is "not a journalist" and is "never taken seriously". What do you want? For Masnick to be taken seriously? To fit some mythical narrative in your head where Masnick is simultaneously both the subject of your Two Minute Hate and some worthy adversary you have Foe Yay feelings for?

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            • icon
              Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 27 Nov 2019 @ 2:18am

              Re:

              "It‘s almost as if Jhon-boy wants you to debate him, on a playground of his choosing, with rules of his choosing, on a topic of his choosing, with his bad faith argument setting the stage for his eventual “victory”."

              Judging from the last few years he's been pushing that message of his, I think what he's really after is to simply repeat the same debunked old one-liners and occasional wordwall until finally everyone gets tired of contradicting him upon which, he wins.

              It's classic copyright cult behavior. Remain irrationally belligerent until the opposition quits the debate in disgust.

              As I keep saying, i don't know whether he gets paid for his shitposting but find it hard to believe that any sane person would keep embarrassing themselves at such length...

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        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 11:54am

          Moderation by machines doesn’t take context into account — e.g., the use of the N-word by White people and Black people can be in remarkably different contexts, but it will still be the N-word to a machine. Moderation by humans can’t be scaled effectively for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the fallibility of human beings — e.g., different people will interpret the same rule in different ways, leading to inequal moderation.

          You can say “moderation at scale is possible” and be technically correct. But you can’t say it and mean “perfect” or even “effective” moderation. That isn’t possible, in the sense that it’ll never be achieved by humanity.

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:11pm

            Re:

            How does child porn never make it onto these platforms? Obviously they're moderating it.

            Modering speech isn't possible for the same reasons we have the first amendment. These platforms could just refuse to get involved without a court order or work like USENET but with greater spam rules. A minor "posting tax" of a small fraction of a cent would stop most abuses there anyway if free speech were that valuable.

            Saying "those evil Nazis don't deserve a platform" is justifying censorship, even if by private individuals -- it's still censorship. At some point the censorship moves to anti-sponsor messages or some gray area. Between censorship and section 230, it's impossible to trust anything one reads online, so the people who will survive under natural selection are those who simply ignore what they read on the internet (for the most part).

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:23pm

              Re: Re:

              How does child porn never make it onto these platforms?

              Because child porn is illegal, and posting on a public site is a quick way to get arrested.

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            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:57pm

              [Moderating] speech isn't possible

              …fucking what

              These platforms could just refuse to get involved without a court order or work like USENET but with greater spam rules

              Except that means they run the risk of being overrun with spam, malicious content from racists/Nazis/Christian Dominionists, and (worst of all) child pornography. No platform, save maybe for 8chan, wants to be associated with that bullshit. This is why they moderate speech — and 230 exists to allow that moderation to legally happen.

              A minor "posting tax" of a small fraction of a cent would stop most abuses there anyway

              Yeah, because pretty much everyone would stop using it the instant such a tax became a thing. Moderating speech isn’t hard if you don’t have any speech to moderate.

              Saying "those evil Nazis don't deserve a platform" is justifying censorship

              The Nazis can have a platform. What they can’t have is a spot on someone else’s platform — because they’re not legally entitled to both that spot and the potential audience that would come with it. You can speak your mind, but you can’t make others listen, and you can’t force someone else to broadcast your speech.

              even if by private individuals -- it's still censorship

              I can’t believe I have to break this out again. (Bless you, PhraseExpress.) But just to make sure you understand…

              Moderation is a platform operator saying “we don’t do that here”. Discretion is you saying “I won’t do that there”. Censorship is someone saying “you can’t do that anywhere” before or after threats of either violence or government intervention. Twitter banning you is moderation; you choosing to not post bullshit on Twitter is discretion; Twitter threatening to have you tossed in jail if you post your bullshit anywhere outside of Twitter is censorship.

              Between censorship and section 230, it's impossible to trust anything one reads online

              Then log off and read a book. I suggest The Twenty-Six Words That Created The Internet.

              the people who will survive under natural selection are those who simply ignore what they read on the internet

              I hope you have no problem, then, with people ignoring what you post.

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            • identicon
              Rocky, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:58pm

              Re: Re:

              How does child porn never make it onto these platforms? Obviously they're moderating it.

              As I and several others have said earlier, child porn is so blindingly obvious it's easy to moderate in comparison to any other content. The argument you are trying to make isn't an argument, it's just a red herring.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 2:04pm

              Re: Re:

              How does child porn never make it onto these platforms?

              It does... Facebook dedicates an entire section in their transparency reports to the child porn that makes it onto their platform. So does Twitter. Snapchat does not appear to release this kind of report, but are mentioned in several related articles, including one by the NYT in 2017. Both Microsoft and Google have been reporting on their efforts to eliminate child porn on their various search engines/cloud storage/youtube for a decade. None of them have solved it yet.

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            • icon
              That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:08pm

              Re: Re:

              A minor "posting tax" of a small fraction of a cent would stop most abuses there anyway if free speech were that valuable.

              Oh I do so love when people make this argument, especially when made by AC's, given how simple it is to shoot down.

              Put up or shut up time: Sign up for a TD account and pay for insider status(that being about as close as you can get for 'pay to post'). If you want to suggest the idea of a 'posting tax' then show that you are willing to accept what you would foist on others, admit that you hypocritically aren't willing to follow your own suggestion, or admit that it's a bad idea.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 12:11pm

          Re: Re:

          Platforms in those countries continue to exist for two reasons:

          1. They (like Twitter) have a big enough warchest to not be trivially taken out by duck bites, or

          2. They're small/politically-irrelevant enough to not attract the aforementioned ducks as a general rule.

          However, when neither of those are the case, platforms in other countries are actually rather exposed. (The link is to an example of how such liability exposure can play out -- while the aggressor came to their senses in the case in question, such is not guaranteed, especially with the types of inane lawsuits we see thrown at larger platforms in this day and age.)

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        • identicon
          Rocky, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:54pm

          Re: Re:

          Perhaps you are unaware of the fact that child porn is so blindingly obvious in almost all cases so it's easy to detect and moderate but even then there's collateral damage where FB for example remove family-vacation pictures of naked toddlers playing on the beach.

          And moderation at scale is possible if you accept the fact that the moderation will be extremely flawed which means perfectly innocuous content will be moderated together with all the bad stuff. Just look at the litany of cases where FB fucked up, like removing pictures of a 30000 year old figurine of a naked woman or when they removed pictures of Flemish paintings depicting nude women. Another case was then they removed pictures of a woman in a bathtub because they couldn't tell the difference between elbows and breasts.

          The thing is, those companies you list built their initial business in the US and later on established themselves in other countries where they have to make accommodations to the legal landscape as it evolved and still is. Just look at the GDPR, RTBF and the EU copyright directive among some of the legal challenges they face. Those companies have repeatedly been forced to take down content in other countries because those countries doesn't have the 1A or CDA230.

          So from what I can see, you are blind to what goes on in other countries compared to the highly visible debate that currently takes place in the US. Because of that, you think Masnick is wrong when in fact you base your arguments on false assumptions which means it's actually you that are wrong.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:06pm

    First Amendment

    The First Amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech,...
    Then if congress were to require platforms to moderate their content, that would be a violation of the First Amendment, right?

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 2:02pm

      Yes. Twitter can choose to ban Nazis and their speech; the government can’t compel Twitter to ban — or host — those Nazis or their speech.

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  • identicon
    bobob, 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:13pm

    I wouldn't get carried away with the idea that being friendly and nice really shows that the person is nice, contrary to Cohen's objective. You don't reach the political level of people like Roy Moore without also being outwardly very friendly and nice. To manipulate people, you first have to gain their trust and being friendly and nice while trying to assess what another person is all about is precisely the way malevolent people get to positions of power. You certainly don't get to a position of power by being straight forward or off putting.

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    • icon
      Thad (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 1:29pm

      Re:

      You don't reach the political level of people like Roy Moore without also being outwardly very friendly and nice.

      Just the level of people like Donald Trump.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 3:49pm

    Nope

    Forget everything up there for a movement.

    I am not hearing borat tell me what seems like: if you want to say disturbing shit get on HBO and stay off Twitter.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:07pm

    you seem to imply the first amendment allows any and all speech

    you seem to imply propaganda source being a source is nullified by larger sources existing and validating fringe ideas

    this whole thing was prefaced with people being shown to be "nice" as some how contradictory to how cohen views his work. where's the nuance? it's not one or the other. you can carry out a genocide and still be "nice" to your aunt.

    you say the internet is not about "broadcast". what do you think a broadcast is?

    you say no communications should be off limits, much like telephones. what about a list that gives you the number's to all the drug dealers in your area. should this list be freely available? surely you'd argue kids are entitled to this list as well

    cite all the articles, books, and codes you want. your takeaways from those sources aren't any less misguided

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    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:34pm

      you seem to imply the first amendment allows any and all speech

      For the most part? Yeah, it does. With rare and limited exceptions, it allows speech of any kind to be uttered without government intervention. I could copy-paste every single anti-Black racial slur as a comment here and the feds couldn’t do a damn thing about it.

      you seem to imply propaganda source being a source is nullified by larger sources existing and validating fringe ideas

      It isn’t. But the larger sources are the more worrisome, as they are what you might call “antibodies” in the media ecosystem. They should be fighting mis- and disinformation instead of spreading it.

      where's the nuance?

      The nuance is that despite people doing and saying horrible things in the presence of Cohen’s characters, those people are doing those things precisely because they want to be nice and not cause a scene. They’re doing awful things for an ostensibly “noble” reason.

      what do you think a broadcast is?

      A one-way transmission of information. The Internet is not a broadcast system; it is a communications system.

      what about a list that gives you the number's to all the drug dealers in your area. should this list be freely available?

      That’s a bad faith argument and you know it.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:56pm

        Re:

        the internet can both be a conduit for communication and/or broadcast. is netflix not a broadcast? it's certainly not a two-way conversation by any means

        and the point you contest as a "bad faith" argument - it is valid though, no? for clarity, the main point I was trying to make was that while the internet can be a communication platform, like a phone, it's also more than that. there is curation, indexing. it's not just a phone, but in this example, a list as well. we both can agree i'm oversimplifying a little, but it's one facet of the argument

        and i think i agree with your response to "wheres the nuance?" the article implies they are contradictory, which they are not. i will admit i didn't read it very deeply, but there is a lot of black an white arguments throughout that do in fact lack nuance.

        arguing a perspective in black and white terms can only be so effective before it stumbles over itself

        i appreciate the response!

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        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:54pm

          the internet can both be a conduit for communication and/or broadcast.

          The Internet is, and was designed to be, a communications network. It isn’t a broadcast medium, even if numerous sites on the Internet operate as “broadcast” sites.

          it is valid though, no?

          No, it isn’t. That’s why I called it a bad faith argument.

          the article implies they are contradictory

          Not…really? It argues more than Cohen can’t see the nuance in his own work, in that he’s more interested in the “people doing shitty things” angle than the “people doing shitty things to avoid confrontation” angle.

          i will admit i didn't read it very deeply

          Don’t come back to this argument until you do.

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        • icon
          bhull242 (profile), 24 Nov 2019 @ 1:44pm

          Re: Re:

          is netflix not a broadcast? it's certainly not a two-way conversation by any means

          Setting aside the fact that Netflix =/= the internet, there is still a distinction between standard broadcast and Netflix.

          The biggest difference is how you start watching something. If it’s being broadcasted, the content is being sent out regardless of whether anyone’s watching or listening. You simply tune in to the proper frequency to “catch” the content you want. With a streaming platform like Netflix, however, it works very differently. The content isn’t constantly being sent out; it just waits on the home servers. Instead, you must send the platform a request for the content you want, and then the platform sends the content you requested.

          For the user, a broadcast works like operating a telescope, while an internet platform is more like calling the operator to make the proper connection or calling one of those systems that go “Press 1 for xxxxx, Press 2 for yyyyyy” or whatever. Note that with a broadcast, the communication is completely one-way, while with a streaming platform (or most other internet-based services) there is some level of two-or-more-way communication. And yes, On-Demand services would also fall under the latter category: you send a request for content not on continuous broadcast and are sent that content. There are also some internet services that, in certain cases, act more similar to broadcasting, but the internet itself as a communications medium is fundamentally different from traditional broadcast media (TV and radio).

          So actually, in a very real sense, Netflix is a two-way conversation. It’s just a very uneven two-way conversation. A broadcast is just giving a speech without being able to see your audience.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:56pm

      Re:keep walking until you fall

      What we seem to be implying is:
      You have broken so many rules that if Facebook found you would be banished to the distant year of 1982 in terms of social taboos as well as general trouble “that can be interpreted”
      And you tread ice on water.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:16pm

    Gatekeepers - Peer Reviews

    "a small number of gatekeepers handpicking what shows were allowed, and everything else would be blocked."

    The Althen Court case says that if somebody is injured, the victim should not have to provide peer reviewed literature to act as gate-keepers when it comes to cause and effect. Yet the government still tries to set up gatekeepers. If thousands of people know how they were injured, all the gatekeepers and peer reviews in the world will not change their minds about the cause of their injury.

    https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-federal-circuit/1108450.html

    ALTHEN v. SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

    On March 28, 1997, Margaret Althen, aged 49, received TT and hepatitis A vaccinations.
    ...
    Despite the testimony of... a board-certified neurologist... that the TT shot caused her injury and that the onset of her optic neuritis occurred within a medically-accepted time period for causal connection, the special master found that because Althen did not provide peer-reviewed literature that demonstrated “ ‘a suspected or potential association’ between the tetanus toxoid vaccine and the alleged injuries”... she did not prove causation-in-fact.
    ...
    The disputed Stevens test requires that a claimant provide proof of:  
    (1) medical plausibility;  
    (2) confirmation of medical plausibility from the medical community and literature;  
    (3) an injury recognized by the medical plausibility evidence and literature;  
    (4) a medically-acceptable temporal relationship between the vaccination and the onset of the alleged injury;  and
    (5) the elimination of other causes....  
    The special master found that Althen's evidence satisfied prong one, but that, because she did not provide peer-reviewed literature linking the TT vaccine to her injuries, she did not satisfy prong two.

    We see no “objective confirmation” requirement in the Vaccine Act's preponderant evidence standard.   The statute's language is clear; section ... instructs that a petitioner must prove causation in fact by a “preponderance of the evidence,” substantiated by medical records or medical opinion...  

    In turn, section... requires a claimant to provide evidence showing that she “sustained, or had significantly aggravated, any illness, disability, injury, or condition not set forth in the Vaccine Injury Table but which was caused by a vaccine...”

    This court has interpreted the “preponderance of the evidence” standard referred to in the Vaccine Act as one of proof by a simple preponderance, of “more probable than not” causation...  

    The government's suggestion that prong two of Stevens does not impermissibly raise Althen's burden, ignores the legal and practical effect of that test:  by requiring medical literature, it contravenes section ... allowance of medical opinion as proof.  

    This prevents the use of circumstantial evidence envisioned by the preponderance standard and negates the system created by Congress, in which close calls regarding causation are resolved in favor of injured claimants. 
    ...
    See Knudsen v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., ... (explaining that “to require identification and proof of specific biological mechanisms would be inconsistent with the purpose and nature of the vaccine compensation program”).  

    While this case involves the possible link between TT vaccination and central nervous system injury, a sequence hitherto unproven in medicine, the purpose of the Vaccine Act's preponderance standard is to allow the finding of causation in a field bereft of complete and direct proof of how vaccines affect the human body.
    ...
    ...the heavy lifting must be done by the petitioner, and it is heavy indeed.   Given the statutory burden of persuasion placed upon the petitioner... ․ it is not surprising that petitioners have a difficult time proving [off-Table cases].
    ...
    If the Vaccine Act does not require Althen to provide medical documentation of plausibility, then it cannot require her to demonstrate that her specific injury is recognized by said medical documentation of plausibility.
    ...
    Althen established by a preponderance of the evidence that the TT vaccination caused her central nervous system demyelinating disorder.
    Her proffered evidence, which the trial court accepted as more convincing, provided the requisite showings of a medical theory causally connecting the vaccination and the injury, a logical sequence of cause and effect showing that the vaccination was the reason for the injury, and a proximate temporal relationship between the TT vaccination and her injury.  
    There is no error in the court's conclusion that the government failed to prove that factors unrelated to the vaccine were principally responsible for Althen's ailment.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:36pm

      Oh god, THE NURGLER IS BACK.

      This article isn’t even about vaccines, you dipshit. Go fuck up one of the sponsored ad posts or something.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2019 @ 2:00am

      Re: Gatekeepers - Peer Reviews

      You very much prove the point that you can lead a white to knowledge but you can’t make it think.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2019 @ 10:02am

      Re: Gatekeepers - Peer Reviews

      Anti vox boys it’s not vaccines that are killing you.
      It’s living off the grid for 48 years and eating raw possum.
      And the government every now and then since most of you are also very bad at a thing called “tax evasion”

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 4:58pm

    'It only seems fair to say to Ford, GM and Toyota: your product is defective, you are obliged to fix it, no matter how much it costs and no matter how many personal chauffeurs you need to employ.'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:01pm

      Re: same result

      You can keep trying to make the internet a car.
      It’s just going to make you look like you still can’t code bro.
      So the results going to be the same.
      Like insanity...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TFG, 23 Nov 2019 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      But we don't hold Ford accountable when someone gets black-out drunk and drives their completely operational Ford F150 into the side of a building.

      We don't hold the beer makers responsible when someone gets completely black-out drunk and drives their completely operational Ford F150 into the side of a building.

      Your example would be appropriate for those cases of "Facebook stored passwords in plain text," or "Accounts that were set to private became public without consent of the account holder" or things like that. That's a defective product.

      People using Facebook to post (the point of the product, aka it is functioning correctly) objectional shit (an action by the person using the product) is not a product defect. It is the action of the person using - aka someone getting black-out drunk and driving their Ford F150 into the side of a building.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:01pm

    Oh the irony...

    Person who plays characters designed to be offensive and trick people into saying offensive things rags on open platforms for not keeping offensive stuff off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:02pm

      Re: Oh the irony...

      He would not last a minute under his own rules lol

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 5:14pm

        Re: Re: Oh the irony...

        Indeed, and one can't help but wonder if he realizes that.

        'So, turns out that there are lots of people who are offended by the whole 'tricking people into anti-semitic statements' act you do, and as a result we're no longer going to be airing it. Also a number of your other acts are going to be pulled for similar reasons. As someone who was talking about social media platforms making sure to keep bad content off of their platforms I'm sure you understand.'

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:07pm

          Re: Re: Re: Oh the irony...

          “One can’t help but wonder if he realizes that”

          Nah he’s one those to guys that plays roulette with the universe Becuase he’s convinced he’s impervious instead of just tempting fate.

          Or every movie character that says “this will be different” before we all know what happens...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 2:05am

          Re: Re: Re: Oh the irony...

          To be fair (and I use the term loosely) Cohen's content did come out at a time where "It's just a prank, bro!" was still an acceptable defense for comedy and all the celebrity perks that came with being an obnoxious fucknugget for clicks and likes.

          What he's putting on now is a hopeful attempt to salvage his reputation and pray that the content he made his notoriety on doesn't come back to bite him in the ass as he cashes in on the "Fuck Facebook" hype train...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Moz in Oz, 22 Nov 2019 @ 6:16pm

    By Cohen's argument *he* is peddling antisemitism

    Someone makes a movie that presents antisemitic views. According to Cohen that's wrong and the movie making is liable. So someone like Cohen who made a movie like Borat... WTF?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:19pm

      The difference between Cohen’s films and your hypothetical anti-Semitic film is that Cohen’s films don’t intend to present anti-Semitic views in a positive, serious light. Whether he fails in doing so is a subjective exercise.

      But even if he does want to rid the world of such content, he won’t be able to do it. For starters, America has the First Amendment; anti-Semitism is protected speech no matter how you feel about that speech. Plus there’s still human nature to deal with, and that isn’t going to change overnight.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2019 @ 12:23am

        Re:

        “Subjective exercise”

        That’s vague enough he could join Rosanne on the “flew too close without a parachute” circuit of possible mistakes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Shawn, 22 Nov 2019 @ 6:25pm

    Missing the point

    Quite simply, what Cohen is saying, as with all other leftist, he wants any Right Wing discussions / news shut down.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:16pm

      If you associate right wingers/conservatives/Republicans with anti-Semitism and racism and whatnot, perhaps ask yourself why.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 8:24pm

      Re: Missing the point

      [Asserts facts not in evidence]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      bhull242 (profile), 24 Nov 2019 @ 1:49pm

      Re: Missing the point

      Antisemitism falls within right-wing discussions/news? I mean, I don’t completely disagree, but I’m surprised to hear you say that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 5:22am

        Re: Re: Missing the point

        "Antisemitism falls within right-wing discussions/news? I mean, I don’t completely disagree, but I’m surprised to hear you say that."

        I think the alt-righters are splitting over ideology. The stormfronters want the bigotry swung all the way to the jewish but the Klan insists the black people are who you really need to rag on.

        No surprise to see Baghdad Bob tossing his two cents in.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Nov 2019 @ 6:27pm

    any more and anymore don't mean the same thing

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bhull242 (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 6:40pm

    I think what’s perplexing to me is that Cohen thinks his comedy reflects the darker side of human nature, while he ignores the idea that the spread of misinformation and hate online is also a reflection of the darker side of human nature.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 22 Nov 2019 @ 10:50pm

    "Here in the U.S., the Motion Picture Association of America regulates and rates what we see."
    So wait, he acutally considers this a plus?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ben L (profile), 23 Nov 2019 @ 2:36am

    Pedos on the interwebs

    His claim about "internet companies can now be held responsible for pedophiles" seems to be a near total misreading of last year's passing of FOSTA, which added an exception to Section 230 for sex trafficking (not for pedophilia).

    I read in Politico that Lindsey Graham is preparing another Section 230 carve-out, this time for child predators (yeah, another one "for the kids"). The goal is, apparently, to use Section 230 as a carrot-on-a-stick to get app developers to adopt "best practices" when dealing with pedophiles and perverts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2019 @ 5:09am

      Re: Pedos on the interwebs

      More like a means of turning social media into an arm of authoritarian government to try and control peoples thoughts an actions. Carve out an exception, and then a second one, and.. and soon you have companies matching to the governments tune less they get hit by another carve out.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Nov 2019 @ 7:33am

      I hope he thought through all the ways those “best practices” could result in false positives and questionable moderation methods that go way too far in “protecting the children”.

      …what am I saying, he’s a Republican. He doesn’t give a shit!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TFG, 23 Nov 2019 @ 8:23am

        Re:

        …what am I saying, he’s a Republican. He doesn’t give a shit!

        The realization that I agree with statements like these is a small hurt each time.

        I used to like that party, years ago. They worked very hard to make sure I can't stand them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 23 Nov 2019 @ 9:20am

        Re:

        Partisanship and prejudice! It's not just for political parties anymore...

        Oh yes, returning hate for hate is just so effective... ever thought about what it's like on the receiving end? Or do you only think about what you want and how you feel and think apathy is just fine and dandy? That only those you agree with matter?

        Is it physically impossible for you to not insult groups of people no matter how you feel about them?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 23 Nov 2019 @ 9:32am

          Re: Re:

          [Asserts facts not in evidence]

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 23 Nov 2019 @ 9:52am

          ever thought about what it's like on the receiving end?

          If someone supports policies and positions that enable the marginalization of the historically marginalized (e.g., queer people, people of color, immigrants), I generally don’t care about their feelings.

          That only those you agree with matter?

          I don’t need to agree with someone to care about them. But I tend not to care when the disagreement involves the oppression of the marginalized and a denial of their humanity and right to exist. I could be friends with someone who (wrongly) thinks trickle-down economics works. But I couldn’t do that with someone who thinks being gay is grounds for legal discrimination (or worse).

          Is it physically impossible for you to not insult groups of people no matter how you feel about them?

          Of a Republican and a Democrat which one is more likely to publicly denounce abortion, pass a law banning abortion, defend it in court knowing that it will likely be overturned, and wait until after the law is overturned to raise funds for a future political campaign with a “pro-life” platform so they can repeat the process until they pass a law that won’t get overturned?

          The Republican party is full of grifters, cheats, and fascists. They’ll stack the government in their favor with gerrymandering and voter purges and other forms of disenfranchisement, pass laws using their cheated-to-win majorities to control what people can do (often using Christian religious beliefs as the foundation for the laws), and fundraise off the “lamestream media” rightly calling them out on their bullshit. Democrats might not be too much better in that regard, but at least they’re not calling for laws that guarantee mandatory births (or mandatory abortions, for that matter).

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          TFG, 23 Nov 2019 @ 9:53am

          Re: Re:

          Please advise why I, as a former Republican supporter, should believe that the current Republican party gives a shit.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Rocky, 23 Nov 2019 @ 11:20am

          Re: Re:

          I've said this before and it bears repeating:

          If you get your shit and giggles from pretending to be an idiot, don't be surprised when you suddenly find yourself surrounded by idiots.

          Which aptly describes the downfall of the Republicans as a political party, you just have to exchange "shit and giggles" for "money and power".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 1:52am

          Re: Re:

          Oh yes, returning hate for hate is just so effective... ever thought about what it's like on the receiving end?

          If a person is receiving hate because of hate they sent out, either they're okay with the negative response back, or they genuinely did not think about what it's like to be on the receiving end of their original hate and are now lashing out. Just like the people who received their initial hate.

          Meanwhile, this "be the better person" junk has been used to justify shitty behavior so often, it's long since ceased to have any credibility as a moral platitude.

          Is it physically impossible for you to not insult groups of people no matter how you feel about them?

          Coming from the guy who worships Shiva and Barr, and has hundreds of posts detailing his loathing for this website and insinuating anyone who disagrees is a leftist lesbian... this sort of whining is just rich. Up yours, Hamilton.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Ben L (profile), 23 Nov 2019 @ 12:05pm

        Re:

        It's hard to judge the bill without seeing the text, but my biggest concern is who determines what the "best practices" are (is it in the bill itself? will the FTC decide?). If you report someone as being a child predator, does that company have an incentive to investigate if that's true, or is the "best practice" just to block alleged pedos on sight for risk of getting sued?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 5:28am

      Re: Pedos on the interwebs

      "...that Lindsey Graham is preparing another Section 230 carve-out, this time for child predators (yeah, another one "for the kids")."

      I swear every time i hear that "For the kids" argument these days I just KNOW someone is trying to railroad something completely unacceptable into legislation under the flimsy guise of it having at least ONE potential net positive no one caring for their public image could possibly argue against...

      Worst part? you used to be able to tell what the dumpster fire of a politician wanted to achieve by bringing fear of terror or pedos to the table - abolishing common jurisprudens. Opening the door on a US version of the STASI. Arguing the benefits of "enhanced interrogation". Circumventing in whole or in part a particular amendment.

      Today whenever a republican opens their mouth the answer looks like "All of the above and then some". At least the dems have a limited agenda of atrocity.

      What happened?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Berty Bassett, 23 Nov 2019 @ 8:02pm

    Pot/kettle

    Mr Baron-Cohen seems to have forgotten about that time he exploited Romanian gypsies for his film Borat. He humiliated them for entertainment and profit. Apparently that is acceptable racism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      R/O/G/S, 4 Dec 2019 @ 3:41am

      Re: Pot/kettle

      yup.

      Every racist has their acceptable fall guy that is “less than” them

      Palestinians are one modern example.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Nov 2019 @ 9:49pm

    "Botnet Extortion" ("Rapeutation")

    https://www.law.com/njlawjournal/2019/11/22/botnet-extortion-and-disparagement-poses-legal-challenge s-for-businesses-and-politicians/?slreturn=20191025004700

    "In August of 2018, flight price comparison website, CheapAir, received an email threatening to spam online review websites and social media platforms with thousands of negative reviews unless CheapAir paid approximately $10,500 worth of Bitcoin, according to an August 28, 2018 article by Joseph Cox of Vice. The sender provided CheapAir with screenshots of disparaging posts about the website that appeared to have been made by botnets rather than human users."

    This is what proponents of 230 consider an "acceptable loss." It's also why no one can trust internet reviews, since the review sites are immune from false-advertising and defamation lawsuits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 8:20pm

      Re: ("Rapeutation") is when you threaten to rape others

      That’s fucking pathetic even for you.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 3:01am

        Re: Re: ("Rapeutation") is when you threaten to rape others

        A failed extortion attempt. Losing 230 would mean no review site could exist. Yelp, etc., will remove fake posts if you can prove they're fake. You lied again.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2019 @ 6:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm more intrigued by the term he used... Holy shit you guys, John Smith was Charles Carreon all along!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Popeye2 (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 10:30am

    My opinion? Best you ever wrote.

    Of course my knuckledragger calluses grow by the day :)

    Whiny bitches complaining/protesting to you? Can fix them quick.

    You legal scholars can kiss my ass.

    Free speech nor Karma can be constrained by law. You can only increase the price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Christenson, 26 Nov 2019 @ 7:49pm

    Calling out trolls... or not

    I have run into two or three folks at work who believe total BS. They aren’t too smart, but, as noted, there’s a substantial price to be paid for even attempting to gently correct them... especially as I have to work with them as part of my job.

    No, sorry, I can’t spend my life on them, I have other things I won’t accomplish.

    Definitely part of the moderation problem, too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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