The content police: Cyberabuse, bullying, fake news, and reductive solutions

Social media’s problems are easy to identify, but its solutions are hard to implement.

Anthony Bardaro
Dec 7, 2017 · 5 min read
Perception vs Reality
  1. “transparent and applied in a consistent manner”
    Radical transparency and predictable consistency enable gaming-the-system. If you show bad actors where the line is, they will always toe it (or tip-toe around it). As opaque as its algorithms are, even Google has to play whack-a-mole all day. Enough mixed metaphors for you? 😝 Let’s just cite the famous adage known as Goodhart’s Law, which observes that, when a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.
Facebook’s Chief Security Officer

“We don’t regulate the curation of publishers’ human editors, who manually dictate what composes our media diet… Citizen journalism has unleashed a host of evils, like cyberbullying, misinformation, and noise; but those evils are overrun by the appreciable benefits. Social media and blogging have provided everyone a megaphone — a momentous historical fulcrum akin to the 15th century’s printing press. Such groundswells have massive, gross positive and negative consequences, but what may appear a small net benefit in the short term compounds into large social/economic surplus over the long term.” — Traditional Media’s Epic Struggle with New Media

Yet, notice the juxtaposition: The subjective/manual/human/editorial era has been succeeded by the objective/automatic/algorithm/curation era. These are extremes on the spectrum of information dissemination approaches. Perhaps the social web will settle into a happier medium. Maybe it won’t. I guess my point is that solutions need be careful so as not to encourage wading further into one extreme or another. Regardless, as the printing press and the industrial revolution showed us, it’s still Day 1 of this modern renaissance.

  • The EU is moving to push the burden of censorship back onto the platforms themselves with both Article 13 (a copyright filtering mandate) and Article 11 (a proposed “link tax”). While this amplifies censorship, it not only makes free speech and open information economically cumbersome, but also gives more power to unelected corporations’ to govern free speech — with all the harm that comes from false positives — which neither the left or the right of the political spectrum want.
  • China is tightening its centralized control over the web, with the heavy-handed government increasingly enlisting private businesses to further the ubiquity of “The Great Firewall”. This is pure censorship, leaving no room for free speech and open information.

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Anthony Bardaro

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“Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away...” 👉