Why Did Not A Single Representative Want To Discuss Jack Dorsey's Plans For Dealing With Disinformation?

from the they-don't-care-about-actual-solutions dept

As I'm sure most people are aware, last week, the House Energy & Commerce Committee held yet another hearing on "big tech" and its content moderation practices. This one was ostensibly on "disinformation," and had Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Google's Sundar Pichai, and Twitter's Jack Dorsey as the panelists. It went on for five and a half hours which appears to be the norm for these things. Last week, I did write about both Zuckerberg and Pichai's released opening remarks, in which both focused on various efforts they had made to combat disinfo. Of course, the big difference between the two was that Zuckerberg then suggested 230 should be reformed, while Pichai said it was worth defending.

If you actually want to watch all five and a half hours of this nonsense, you can do so here:

As per usual -- and as was totally expected -- you got a lot more of the same. You had very angry looking Representatives practically screaming about awful stuff online. You had Democrats complaining about the platforms failing to take down info they disliked, while just as equally angry Republicans complained about the platforms taking down content they liked (often this was the same, or related, content). Amusingly, often just after saying that websites took down content they shouldn't have (bias!), the very same Representatives would whine "but how dare you not take down this other content." It was the usual mess of "why don't you moderate exactly the way I want you to moderate," which is always a silly, pointless activity. There was also a lot of "think of the children!" moral panic.

However, Jack Dorsey's testimony was somewhat different than Zuckerberg's and Pichai's. While it also talks somewhat about how Twitter has dealt with disinformation, his testimony actually went significantly further in noting real, fundamental changes that Twitter is exploring that go way beyond the way most people think about this debate. Rather than focusing on the power that Twitter has to decide how, who, and what to moderate, Dorsey's testimony talked about various ways in which they are seeking to give more control to end users themselves and empower those end users, rather than leaving Twitter as the final arbiter. He talked about "algorithmic choice" so that rather than having Twitter controlling everything, different users could opt-in to different algorithmic options, and different providers could create their own algorithmic options. And he mentioned the Bluesky project, and potentially moving Twitter to a protocol-based system, rather than one that Twitter fully controls.

Twitter is also funding Bluesky, an independent team of open source architects, engineers, and designers, to develop open and decentralized standards for social media. This team has already created an initial review of the ecosystem around protocols for social media to aid this effort. Bluesky will eventually allow Twitter and other companies to contribute to and access open recommendation algorithms that promote healthy conversation and ultimately provide individuals greater choice. These standards will support innovation, making it easier for startups to address issues like abuse and hate speech at a lower cost. Since these standards will be open and transparent, our hope is that they will contribute to greater trust on the part of the individuals who use our service. This effort is emergent, complex, and unprecedented, and therefore it will take time. However, we are excited by its potential and will continue to provide the necessary exploratory resources to push this project forward.

All of these were showing that Dorsey and Twitter are thinking about actual ways to deal with many of the complains that our elected officials insist are the fault of social media -- including the fact that no two politicians seem to agree one what is the "proper" level of moderation. By moving to something like protocols and algorithmic choice, you could allow different individuals, groups, organizations and others to set their own standards and rules.

And, yes, I'm somewhat biased here, because I have suggested this approach (as have many others). That doesn't mean I'm convinced it will absolutely work, but I do think it's worth experimenting with.

And what I had hoped was that perhaps, if Congress were actually interested in solving the perceived problems they declared throughout the hearing, then they would perhaps explore these initiatives, and ask Jack to explain how they might impact questions around disinformation or harm or "censorship" or "think of the children." Because there are lots of interesting discussions to be had over whether or not this approach will help deal with many of those issues.

But as far as I can tell not one single elected official ever asked Jack about any of this. Not one. Now, I will admit that I missed some of the hearing to take a few meetings, but I asked around and others I know who watched the entire thing through could not recall it coming up beyond Jack mentioning it a few times during the hearing.

What I did hear a lot of, however, was members of the House insisting, angrily (always angrily), that none of the CEOs presenting were willing to "offer solutions" and that's why "Congress must and will act!"

All it did was drive home the key idea that this was not a serious hearing in which Congress hoped to learn something. This was yet another grandstanding dog and pony show where Congressional members got to get their clips and headlines they can put on the very same social media platforms they insist are destroying America. But when they demanded to hear "solutions" to the supposed problems they raised, and when one of the CEOs on the panel put forth some ideas on better ways to approach this... every single one of those elected officials ignored it. Entirely. Over five and a half hours, and not one asked him to explain what he meant, or to explore how it might help.

This is not Congress trying to fix the "problems" of social media. This is Congress wanting to grandstand on social media while pretending to do real work.

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Filed Under: algorithmic choice, bluesky, congress, content moderation, end users, grandstanding, jack dorsey, protocols, protocols not platforms
Companies: bluesky, twitter


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2021 @ 9:50am

    This is Congress wanting to grandstand on social media while pretending to do real work.

    More like congress wishing to control social media, and arguing about whose politics should decide what that means.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2021 @ 10:10am

      Re:

      Plus look at the GOP with abortion legislation - they love to have a sisyphean task to reliably campaign against even though they know courts will say "for fucks sake that is unconstitutional" as usual. The best part about it is unlike bills they actually pass they don't have to deal with any nasty consequences or having to come up with a different issue.

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 7:14pm

        Re: Re:

        Ask yourself the important question...
        Why has the GQP never run out any member who has forced their mistress to have an abortion if it is so horrible?

        Abortion is only okay if you promise to vote to ban it (except when your side piece gets knocked up (I mean contraception is bad too!) and you need to ditch the evidence).

        There is a list of these Moral Crusaders who sure seem happy that they haven't managed to ban abortion or DC would be overrun with even more bastards. :D

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 9:54am

    "That doesn't mean I'm convinced it will absolutely work, but I do think it's worth experimenting with."

    It couldn't be worse than having hearings where elected officials just randomly spew out soundbite worthy phrases that mean nothing & at worst undermine the Constitution.

    Congress believe they can just demand it, its entirely possible, & any delay is an attack on them personally.
    Not one of them, except maybe Sen from Virginia Hawley, gives a shit what tech does. They will always manage to keep pissing off one side or the other which then will be mined & refined to pure outrage to power their reelection campaigns.

    500K+ people are dead because they did nothing to fix the problems, instead having hearings to make soundbites to get reelected by cashing in on fantasy while knowing full well they would be first in line for vaccines.

    Imagine how much better the rollout would have gone if Congress was the last to get the vaccine. That they understood they are supposed to put us first for a change.

    But instead we'll hear more stories about how tech is evil from both sides while everyone ignores the evil that is political ambitions that is willing to kill half a million citizens rather than stand up for the truth.

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

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 10:03am

      Re:

      Sen from Virginia Hawley

      I think you're conflating Sen. from Missouri Josh Hawley (R) with Sen. from Virginia Mark Warner (D).

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 3:25pm

        Re: Re:

        No I'm not.
        Mr. Warner and Hawley only have homes in VA.

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

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 5:48pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Ah. I see. I think that should've been clarified in the original comment, but seeing as TechDirt comments are uneditable, I won't fault you for it at all.

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

          • icon
            That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 7:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Its a function of how my mind works.
            When I could tweet the running joke was calling him the Sen from VA as he hates the state he represents so much he won't even live there.

            But then I also saw the video of the hitler youth in the wheelchair beating the crap out of a tree in a forest & someone asked why he was doing it I would have tweeted "Because the trees can stand".
            But I am an asshole like that :)

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2021 @ 11:59am

      Thank you for your insightful pandemic analysis.

      There is, of course, the obligatory XKCD. We can update it for current circumstances, of course.

      ... political ambitions that is willing to kill half a million citizens rather than ...

      By the same token, you could be praising them for their insightful policies, that only a half million are dead, instead of 2 million, or 10.

      500K+ people are dead because they did nothing to fix the problems

      I disagree. Not one but several vaccines were produced - with government aid - in record time. A worldwide vaccination effort dwarfing that against Smallpox is going on. And there are movements - antivaxxers, anti-maskers - which really aren't the fault of politicians, confounding that effort. Of course, some politicians - even top ones whose name I decline to speak aloud - are part of those movements, just as people in the general public are. And they have been criticized justly for it.

      Congress believe they can just demand it, its entirely possible, & any delay is an attack on them personally.

      Think about that a little, and think about what you are asking congress to do in relation to the pandemic. And consider that other things might not have been possible - and that perhaps they even knew that, and so did not ask for it.

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 3:40pm

        Re: Thank you for your insightful pandemic analysis.

        They supported the idea it was no worse than the flu.
        They said mask didn't work.
        They held up needed aid.
        All to stroke the ego of a madman that mattered more to them than the idiots who elected them thinking they would care about them.

        The antimaskers & antivaxxers are the fault of government.

        The first time they decided to create a religious waiver to let idiots skip vaccines that have been proven safe & effective they gave them the power to demand to be taken seriously.

        Yes there is a tiny fraction of people who have bad reactions to vaccines, but there is a tiny fraction of us citizens killed by terrorists flying planes into buildings... we don't offer a waiver to not get felt up to get on a plane.

        Sitting members of Congress EVEN TODAY claim masks do not work, they are responsible for feeding the insanity of muh rights!

        I don't think it is impossible to ask that members of congress who promote not getting the vaccine or wearing a mask get bitchslapped.
        It would be impossible for me to demand that media censor anything they say in real time to avoid offending me, without actually giving them the list of things that offend me.

        Congress says only take away speech I dislike when it is said by someone on the otherside... and people cheer these chucklefucks on for doing it. Sen Hawley is all upset about his 1st Amendment rights & is demanding the government step in and force platforms to allow him to say what he wants...

        Congress is wasting time on these hearings that aren't meant to do anything but make soundbites, we still have people losing their homes, losing their businesses, going to bed hungry because they wanted to make sure they could blame the otherside when they came to power for wasting money on saving people... but rubber stamped bailing out companies with billions in assets who threatened bad things would happen if they weren't saved... who then bought back stock and laid of workers.

        They held up aid we should have gotten months ago debating which american's are worthy of assistance in the middle of a pandemic. Half a million shouldn't have died, but hey POTUS said it was no big deal so I don't have to wear a mask.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    ;l;;gmlxzssaw, 30 Mar 2021 @ 9:55am

    Congress isn't interested in HOW to rob banks, either.

    Congress-critters are clearly well above the smarts YOU believe they have, Maz, and simply don't ask the very criminals under investigation for ideas that will inevitably be SELF-SERVING time-wasters such as YOU always propose.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      ;l;;gmlxzssaw, 30 Mar 2021 @ 9:57am

      Re: Congress isn't interested in HOW to rob banks, either.

      Should have made clear: SELF-SERVING time-wasters such as YOU always propose because you simply do not wish ANY regulation of your precious surveillance capitalism / speech control fascist "platforms".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Mar 2021 @ 9:58am

      Re: Congress isn't interested in HOW to rob banks, either.

      And what's your solution, other than a hostile government takeover of Big Tech (aka communism)?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    ;l;;gmlxzssaw, 30 Mar 2021 @ 9:55am

    "Bluesky", indeed! It's an in-your-face taunt,

    more than "dog whistle" code; it blatantly means, according to my 80s dictionary:

    blue-sky Í adj. of no value; worthless

    That's what they're offering: WORTHLESS.

    blue-sky law Í [Colloq.] a law regulating the sale of stocks, bonds, etc., for the protection of the public from fraud

    Laws against promising the blue-sky as Dorsey is attempting, see?

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

    • icon
      sumgai (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 10:55am

      Re: "Bluesky", indeed! It's an in-your-face taunt,

      Shit-oh-dear, alphabet, you really do have a painful wart on your hard-on, don't you. Sorry to hear 'bout that, but you really shouldn''t've stuck it where it didn't belong in the first place.

      In terms of business, where the very term comes from, Blue Sky is a component of value, but one that cannot be measured in the coin of the realm, i.e. money. Blue sky is dependent on "feelz", to use today's vernacular, and is a negotiable factor in almost any discussion regarding the sale of some item. In fact, the basic meaning about blue sky is prevalent today, most often bandied about when you hear of "brand loyalty" - that's the Case Study in Harvard Business School about the value of a company: tangible assets + blue sky value = total value.

      Blue sky also comes into play for everyday purchases of higher ticket items, such as cars ("This automobile every bit as good as a Cadillac"), homes ("This place has easy access to shopping, and great schools, etc."), you get the idea. You simply can't put a dollar value on location near a school, but you may well be willing to pay a little more upfront for the ease of getting your kid to school in 5 minutes, compared to a 45 minute commute every morning - many people do grapple with that question, all the time. For that matter, why is a dingy run-down fixer-upper in San Francisco worth 2 Megabux, yet a brand new 4 bedroom, with 12 acres and is on a river in Tennesee worth only $250K?? The word you're looking for there is "blue sky" - the perceived value of Tennesee is not as great as the perceived value of San Francisco, simple as that.

      Blue sky wasn't meant to be a commodity, it was meant to differentiate the winners from the also-rans in the world of financial values. Shame that you had to attempt to belittle the concept in order to "gain brownie points". Don't know who you were trying to impress, but it fell flat here in the world where we try not to walk around with our pants pointing like an Irish setter.

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

  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 10:01am

    How naïve.

    This is not Congress trying to fix the "problems" of social media. This is Congress wanting to grandstand on social media while pretending to do real work.

    Congress never fails to disappoint. Did you have any expectation that they would do anything other than grandstand in a dog-and-pony show? The year isn't 1994 anymore and the only congresscritter who seems to know about the consequences of legislation affecting the internet is Ron Wyden but he's in the Senate now.

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 10:51am

    I’m not fully up to date here but I haven’t seen any reference to Republicans angrily asking Dorsey why he failed to moderate Facebook or why Zuckerberg failed to deal with a tweet. Them understanding which company they’re talking to seems to be somewhat of an improvement unless I missed something? Maybe a few more of these and someone will ask a question that really matters, who knows?

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 11:39am

    'Shut up you, you're here as a prop not a speaker!'

    Makes sense, why listen to explanations when you've already made up your mind, or honestly ask for comments when you don't care what the other person says because they're nothing but a prop?

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

  • icon
    Darkness Of Course (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 3:33pm

    Performance art by non-artist

    I did catch a few minutes of it. The #GQP wouldn't let anyone complete a sentence. Clearly they had their script, and it didn't allow for anyone to answer any questions at all.

    Which is consistent with my theory that they have no idea what governing actually means. They do however, fully comprehend grandstanding.

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 30 Mar 2021 @ 3:42pm

      Re: Performance art by non-artist

      They have citizens who have black lung voting for them because they promised to bring back coal.
      Ignoring its dangerous, its killing them, & there are no longer the good jobs they remember out there.
      But the idea that coal would solve everything again is all they needed to blindly support everything these idiots want to do.

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

      • identicon
        David, 31 Mar 2021 @ 5:35am

        Re: Re: Performance art by non-artist

        They have citizens who have black lung voting for them because they promised to bring back coal.

        They have citizens who have black skin voting for them because they essentially promised to bring back Dixie. Granted, not a majority of them but enough to slap your forehead.

        I blame an education system where "but I believe it" is an absolute defense against ignorance about the details of how God's creation has been made to work that the past four millennia have given us the tools and knowledge to comprehend.

        That may be somewhat too specific a fingerpointing to serve as a sole cause but it is one example of the general "ignorance is strength" mantra ailing the U.S.

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

  • icon
    Richard Reisman (profile), 31 Mar 2021 @ 8:51am

    We need to Free Our Feeds!

    Well put. Very disappointing that Dorsey put this on a platter and invited them to ask, and none did.

    But at least there may be some momentum for this, now that Dorsey is supporting it as a possible solution (having cited you as one of the triggers for that), and a number of people beside you and me and Stephen Wolfram (recently in Foreign Affairs and WSJ) are promoting this idea as the only solution that gets to the root cause of disinformation becoming an extreme and seemingly intractable problem in social media. (My recent summary of these efforts is at http://bit.ly/SavDem0, and I expect to publish a fuller summary soon.)

    Of course the problem in the hearings is that the solution is nuanced, and nuance is an ever tougher sell these days. As I put it in my post:

    "Democracy depends on an open, diverse, and well-structured marketplace of ideas. Freedom of speech and of association are essential to our social processes for organically seeking a working consensus on ground-truth. But now, the “feeds” from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a few others have become the dominant filters controlling which information, and which other users, billions of people see. Those oligarchies have nearly total power over what they selectively present each of us, with almost no transparency or oversight – and systematically against our interests!"

    "…democracy requires that our marketplace of ideas be controlled by “we the people,” not platforms or advertisers. We must take back control as soon as possible. Current efforts at antitrust breakups and privacy regulation that leave filtering in the hands of others with their own agendas will perpetuate this mortal threat to democracy. Return of filtering power to citizens can revitalize our marketplace of ideas. It can augment our social processes for “mediating consent” and pursuing happiness – and provide a healthy base for gradual evolution toward digital democracy. But so long as others subvert control of our bicycles for the mind to their own ends, we have no time to lose.”"

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

  • icon
    restless94110 (profile), 1 Apr 2021 @ 4:44pm

    What?

    Uhm, since nobody on Earth even knows what disinformation even is, why would anyone with a brain want to discuss it?

    Disinformation is code for I don't like what you are saying.

    Meaning you are again for the umpteenth time running cover for anti-Free Speech demons.

    Disinformation. Indeed.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 1 Apr 2021 @ 9:31pm

      Re: What?

      Uhm, since nobody on Earth even knows what disinformation even is, why would anyone with a brain want to discuss it?

      I can explain disinformation to you. It's whatever nonsense you post.

      Disinformation is code for I don't like what you are saying.

      No, it's not. Disinformation is purposely posting misleading or false information. Something you have always done here.

      Meaning you are again for the umpteenth time running cover for anti-Free Speech demons.

      You are very, very dumb.

      Disinformation. Indeed.

      Fuck off.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Apr 2021 @ 10:01am

      Re: What?

      "Uhm, since nobody on Earth even knows what disinformation even is,"

      Your Earth. The people in this plane of reality understand it quite well.

      This is why there's so many problems in the modern world - your type have been trained to live on another planet mentally.

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

      • icon
        Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Apr 2021 @ 2:27am

        Re: Re: What?

        "...your type have been trained to live on another planet mentally."

        Oh, let's not give Restless94110 the credit due to insanity we have to provide for Baghdad Bob. Old Restless, Koby, and Shel10 know exactly that what they're pushing is nonsense.

        They want a government guarantee that they will be allowed to walk into every restaurant, bar, mall or open forum and post diatribes about the superiority of the white race without the owners of the venue being able to show them the door.

        They know damn well that's not free speech and that's ok with them because their kind never believed in free speech to begin with - not anymore than they believe in human equality.

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

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 5 Apr 2021 @ 2:23am

      Re: What?

      "Disinformation is code for I don't like what you are saying. "

      Only if what you are saying happens to be outrageously false. I realize, however, that to someone as invested in the white side of things as you are, you may have a big issue with not liking what reality keeps telling you and are thus similarly invested in claiming that what you don't like also can not be factually true. Like a statement that black lives are as important as white ones, for instance.

      "...you are again for the umpteenth time running cover for anti-Free Speech demons. "

      And for the umpteenth time we all have to remind you that the bar or platform owner throwing you out for disturbing the other patrons by heiling too loudly isn't against free speech.

      You "Proud" boys really keep trying to push the idea that your right to speak freely includes overriding everyone else's right to not have to host you. That's not the case and never will be.

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


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