Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Cleansing the Twitters

I'm less than convinced by arguments that platforms like Twitter should be subject to common carrier regulation preventing them from being able to decide who to keep on as clients of their free services, and who they would not like to serve. It's much easier to create competition for the network in this case than it was for Telecom in the 1950s.

There has been some concern about the coordinated action by a lot of platforms against a set of conservative platform users in the US. It has been taken as suggesting some leftist conspiracy against right-wing views. 

There are, of course, multiple hypotheses consistent with the available data.

Here are some of them, with some very thumb-suck probabilities.

  1. The terms of service always barred what Trump et al have been up to. But the platforms have been cowed by fear of sanction by Trump’s executive branch, until the combination of Trump supporting and encouraging insurrection AND Trump’s having little time to retaliate against them meant they could finally enforce said terms of service. But this hypothesis doesn’t explain coordinated action across platforms where Trump and his people weren’t as active. (1 chance in 8)

  2. Intelligence agencies warned the combination of platforms that Trump’s people (Q crazies, Covid-crazies, etc) were using the platforms to coordinate insurrection, and that Trump’s tweets would easily help coordinate those. The platforms listened and blocked out of fear of criminal liability for supporting terrorism. (1 chance in 8)

  3. As above, but not out of fear of liability. Instead, out of existential worry. If America goes full-despot, the platforms can no longer exist. Barring crazy people from the platforms to prevent that reduces that risk. Both 2 & 3 explain coordinated action. (1 chance in 10)

  4. They’re pandering to an incoming Democratic administration with a tipped Senate, in hopes of more sympathetic regulatory treatment. The GOP losing in Georgia provided the trigger that coordinated action across platforms, not any intelligence tip-offs. (1 chance in 8)

  5. They were always a bunch of commies just looking for an opportunity to knock out conservatives; the timing follows from (1) but the ToS bit is just an excuse. (1 chance in 40)

  6. Other explanations (1 chance in 2) 
What's your preferred hypothesis? Have I missed any obvious ones?

New Zealand's Privacy Commissioner also, bizarrely, weighed in with his worries about the platforms being able to knock out those users without some regulatory democratic oversight. If hypothesis 1, 2, or 3 is what's going on, a Trump appointee overseeing the administrative agency regulating the platforms would not have helped. If it's 4, then that also doesn't help. Maybe it would have guarded against 5.

No comments:

Post a Comment