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Old 05-19-2017, 09:04 PM   #1
Senior Member
 
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The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News Online

"The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News".

There are many experts weighing in on the nature of discussions in the digital age. Thoughts?

Here are two excerpts:

1.

"Many experts fear uncivil and manipulative behaviors on the internet will persist – and may get worse. This will lead to a splintering of social media into AI-patrolled and regulated ‘safe spaces’ separated from free-for-all zones. Some worry this will hurt the open exchange of ideas and compromise privacy."

2.

"Events and discussions unfolding over the past year highlight the struggles ahead. Among them:
  • Respected internet pundit John Naughton asked in The Guardian, “Has the internet become a failed state?” and mostly answered in the affirmative.
  • The U.S. Senate heard testimony on the increasingly effective use of social media for the advancement of extremist causes, and there was growing attention to how social media are becoming weaponized by terrorists, creating newly effective kinds of propaganda.
  • Scholars provided evidence showing that social bots were implemented in acts aimed at disrupting the 2016 U.S. presidential election. And news organizations documented how foreign trolls bombarded U.S. social media with fake news. A December 2016 Pew Research Center study found that about two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events.
  • A May 2016 Pew Research Center report showed that 62% of Americans get their news from social media. Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times argued that the “internet is loosening our grip on the truth.” And his colleague Thomas B. Edsall curated a lengthy list of scholarly articles after the election that painted a picture of how the internet was jeopardizing democracy.
  • 2016 was the first year that an internet meme made its way into the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols.
  • Time magazine devoted a 2016 cover story to explaining “why we’re losing the internet to the culture of hate.”
  • Celebrity social media mobbing intensified. One example: “Ghostbusters” actor and Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones was publicly harassed on Twitter and had her personal website hacked.
  • An industry report revealed how former Facebook workers suppressed conservative news content.
  • Multiple news stories indicated that state actors and governments increased their efforts to monitor users of instant messaging and social media.
  • The Center on the Future of War started the Weaponized Narrative Initiative.
  • Many experts documented the ways in which “fake news” and online harassment might be more than social media “byproducts” because they help to drive revenue.
  • #Pizzagate, a case study, revealed how disparate sets of rumors can combine to shape public discourse and, at times, potentially lead to dangerous behavior.
  • Scientific American carried a nine-author analysis of the influencing of discourse by artificial intelligence (AI) tools, noting, “We are being remotely controlled ever more successfully in this manner. … The trend goes from programming computers to programming people … a sort of digital scepter that allows one to govern the masses efficiently without having to involve citizens in democratic processes.”
  • Google (with its Perspective API), Twitter and Facebook are experimenting with new ways to filter out or label negative or misleading discourse.
  • Researchers are exploring why people troll.
  • And a drumbeat of stories out of Europe covered how governments are attempting to curb fake news and hate speech but struggling to reconcile their concerns with sweeping free speech rules that apply in America."
 
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Old 05-19-2017, 10:09 PM   #2
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Yes the net is indeed now a Hive of misinformation and potential trouble.

The ease of offering False Information only too apparent.

It will need to be addressed, there is no doubt to that.

Regards Tony
 
Old 05-22-2017, 09:39 AM   #3
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Joined: Jun 2014
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Posts: 563
Quote:
Originally Posted by ahanu View Post
"The Future of Free Speech, Trolls, Anonymity and Fake News".

There are many experts weighing in on the nature of discussions in the digital age. Thoughts?
Eh. I'm far more optimistic in this regard. The internet is ultimately a force of Unity. What we are seeing now is, essentially, growing pains and a culture shock as society comes to terms with the existence of this new tool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Yes the net is indeed now a Hive of misinformation and potential trouble.

The ease of offering False Information only too apparent.

It will need to be addressed, there is no doubt to that.

Regards Tony
See, though, while I agree: there is tons of misinformation on the internet, I think there is an important fact that is always missing from this discussion:

Human communication is, and has always been, a "Hive of misinformation and potential trouble" as Tony so eloquently puts it.

Yes, this is a problem with the internet. But it was also a problem of televised news. It was also a problem of the newspaper. It was also a problem of the carrier pigeon. It was also a problem of merchant gossip. It was and has always been a problem in every form of human communication that has ever existed throughout all of human history.

The only difference, and I do mean the only difference, is the scope. Back at the dawn of civilization, the people who controlled the communication, along with its misinformation, were the merchants who traveled the trade routes.

As centralized forms of communication came about, the people who controlled the carrier pigeons and town criers, usually a government of some sort, controlled the communication and misinformation.

The printing press gave newspapers this role and power.

And the television gave rise to a whole new media to control the communication and misinformation of the world.

And now, well, everyone has that power.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
"Many experts fear uncivil and manipulative behaviors on the internet will persist – and may get worse. This will lead to a splintering of social media into AI-patrolled and regulated ‘safe spaces’ separated from free-for-all zones. Some worry this will hurt the open exchange of ideas and compromise privacy."
Selection bias was a problem in the older forms of communication as well. Uncivil and manipulative behaviors persisted in the old forms as well. Always there are people who want to make up their own stories and there are people who will only listen to information they already agree with.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
The U.S. Senate heard testimony on the increasingly effective use of social media for the advancement of extremist causes, and there was growing attention to how social media are becoming weaponized by terrorists, creating newly effective kinds of propaganda.
Propaganda has existed as long as there was communication. But propaganda is most effective when it is the only source of information someone can get. The fact that the internet opens up so much communication can only hurt propaganda efforts overall, while some internet propaganda efforts examined individually will no doubt be successful.

Take for example a very Baha'i example. I'm certain most here are familiar with the fact that Iranian propagandists denounce the faith online... but surely their propaganda was easier back when their citizens DIDN'T have an internet and had to rely on Iranian government sources for information about the Baha'is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Scholars provided evidence showing that social bots were implemented in acts aimed at disrupting the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Yes. Social bots and people paid to work on social media attempted to disrupt the 2016 us election. But isn't it interesting how the biggest such effort, an propaganda effort called "Correct the Record", was in support of the candidate who lost that election. It is somewhat telling of how much harder propaganda is with an internet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
And news organizations documented how foreign trolls bombarded U.S. social media with fake news.
News organizations themselves bombard US social media with fake news. All the time. It forces me to wonder if the reaction we are seeing in the old media now about the dangers of internet fake news is just done out of resentment that they aren't the only ones capable of falsifying the news anymore. Where once there was a monopoly on information and misinformation...

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
A December 2016 Pew Research Center study found that about two-in-three U.S. adults (64%) say fabricated news stories cause a great deal of confusion about the basic facts of current issues and events.
True, but this stat should not be used as if it is only about the internet. I would have answered yes to that, but I would not have been thinking of internet hoaxes when I did so... my thoughts would have been around an older form of fake news, specifically in regards to certain non-existent "weapons of mass destruction"...

Again, I am optimistic. This fake news issue isn't new or an internet thing and, well, humanity has survived well enough up until now regardless.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Respected internet pundit John Naughton asked in The Guardian, “Has the internet become a failed state?” and mostly answered in the affirmative.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
A May 2016 Pew Research Center report showed that 62% of Americans get their news from social media. Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times argued that the “internet is loosening our grip on the truth.” And his colleague Thomas B. Edsall curated a lengthy list of scholarly articles after the election that painted a picture of how the internet was jeopardizing democracy.
The cynic in me must question the motives of two people who once had a monopoly on public perception of the truth. They do not seem unbiased to me.

And as I am someone who found the truth of the Baha'i Faith thanks to this communication tool... well I have some counterpoints to that notion of falsehood.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
2016 was the first year that an internet meme made its way into the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols.
That was the, hands-down, stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life. And it is the most hilarious thing ever.

A cartoon frog.

Which was used on the internet for practically every cause, emotion, issue, or whatever.

Was declared a hate symbol.

Because the universality of the meme also means some racist people used the cartoon frog too at some point in time.

It's as ridiculous as the observation that oxygen is breathed by all racists, therefore oxygen is clearly a symbol of hatred.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Time magazine devoted a 2016 cover story to explaining “why we’re losing the internet to the culture of hate.”
All communication suffers from the existence of human hatred. Take racist war propaganda cartoons, for one small example. The only difference is there is no longer a monopoly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Celebrity social media mobbing intensified. One example: “Ghostbusters” actor and Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones was publicly harassed on Twitter and had her personal website hacked.
Harassment is not a new thing due to the internet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Multiple news stories indicated that state actors and governments increased their efforts to monitor users of instant messaging and social media.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
The Center on the Future of War started the Weaponized Narrative Initiative.
Seems just like old-school propaganda using a new communication tool to me.

Again a problem, but far from a new one!! "Baha'is are Israeli spies" is a weaponized narrative we are all familiar with... and one that has existed far before the internet.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Many experts documented the ways in which “fake news” and online harassment might be more than social media “byproducts” because they help to drive revenue.
Yes. Again a problem. And a problem that has been around forever. The National Enquirer is a print media example of how fake news drives revenue in such a business model.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
#Pizzagate, a case study, revealed how disparate sets of rumors can combine to shape public discourse and, at times, potentially lead to dangerous behavior.
This just makes me wonder how many crazy rumors like this one have been recorded in our history books as facts long before we had the capability to fact check such things. Imagine if, back in a distant era, the only newspaper of your town ran such a story. Would you have any reason to believe the story wasn't true??

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Scientific American carried a nine-author analysis of the influencing of discourse by artificial intelligence (AI) tools, noting, “We are being remotely controlled ever more successfully in this manner. … The trend goes from programming computers to programming people … a sort of digital scepter that allows one to govern the masses efficiently without having to involve citizens in democratic processes.”
So...

My big question here is how anyone can think this was new.

Back when there was just one or two big media companies, wouldn't it have been drastically easier to engage in "programming people"?? Shouldn't propaganda be easier when people have less information sources and harder when people have more??

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Researchers are exploring why people troll.
This shouldn't require research. It is because trolls find people's reactions to absurdity funny, like a reaction where people set out to do well-funded and serious research into trolling.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
Google (with its Perspective API), Twitter and Facebook are experimenting with new ways to filter out or label negative or misleading discourse.
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
And a drumbeat of stories out of Europe covered how governments are attempting to curb fake news and hate speech but struggling to reconcile their concerns with sweeping free speech rules that apply in America."
If the people as the whole cannot be trusted not to promote fake narratives to promote their own agenda... I don't see how any group of people can be trusted with a system to curb fake news.

I mean it seems to me like trying to curb fake news would just result in

Quote:
Originally Posted by tonyfish58 View Post
An industry report revealed how former Facebook workers suppressed conservative news content.
Yeah. Stuff like that.

If the people as a whole can't be trusted to do a good thing, how can we trust a subset of those people to do that thing too??

A problem of the people making fake news can't be solved by making an organization made up of those same flawed people in charge of determining which news is fake.

The solution must logically rely on enlightening the people, not trying to get those same flawed people to form organizations to try to fight a problem caused by the nature of the same people staffing the organizations.

Overall:

These are problems. They aren't new problems, and the perception that they are new or in any way unique seems ... manufactured to me.

I think these problems can't be solved in the manner people are trying to currently solve them. Problems of human nature can't be rectified by trying to regulate people with other flawed people.

More spiritual solutions are needed. Like how Abdu'l-Baha said something to the effect of how wealth inequality will be solved by enlightening people to the point that the rich won't need to even be compelled to give charitably. The only solution that would seem, to me, to have any hope of working is to enlighten the people to the point where none would try to deceive via communication in the first place.

Last edited by Walrus; 05-22-2017 at 09:44 AM.
 
Old 05-23-2017, 11:45 AM   #4
Tony Bristow-Stagg
 
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Joined: Sep 2010
From: Normanton Far North Queensland
Posts: 3,879
Walrus! Wow I must have said a lot in a couple of words

Regards Tony
 
Old 05-25-2017, 05:46 AM   #5
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Joined: Apr 2011
From: Hyrule
Posts: 1,027
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
Eh. I'm far more optimistic in this regard. The internet is ultimately a force of Unity. What we are seeing now is, essentially, growing pains and a culture shock as society comes to terms with the existence of this new tool.
Okay. This sounds like what I read in an article comparing the internet to New York City in the 1970s. That is, things will eventually get better, but the author notes things could also go the other way around. A metaphor for a more pessimistic view? Somalia.
Sean Gallagher, the IT editor of Ars Technica, for example, reaches for an urban reference. “In the New York City of the late 1970s,” he writes, “things looked bad. The city government was bankrupt, urban blight was rampant, and crime was high. But people still went to the city every day, because that was where everything was happening. And despite the foreboding feelings hanging over New York at the time, the vast majority of those people had at most minor brushes with crime.”

“Today,” he continues, “we all dabble in some place that looks a lot like 1970s New York City – the internet. (For those needing a more recent simile, think the Baltimore of The Wire.) Low-level crime remains rampant, while increasingly sophisticated crime syndicates go after big scores. There is a cacophony of hateful speech, vice of every kind... and policemen of various sorts trying to keep a lid on all of it – or at least trying to keep the chaos away from most law-abiding citizens. But people still use the internet every day, though the ones who consider themselves street smart do so with varying levels of defences installed. Things sort of work...”

They do. But the weakness of the NYC metaphor is that the city was eventually cleaned up and a kind of order restored. So in that sense, it’s an unrealistic, optimistic scenario for the net. Consequently, those who fear that humanity will struggle to get a grip on cyberspace reach for more alarming metaphors. Could it, for example, become some kind of “failed state” like contemporary Somalia, with, as Gallagher puts it, “warring factions destroying the most fundamental of services, ‘security zones’ reducing or eliminating free movement, and security costs making it prohibitive for anyone but the most well-funded operations to do business without becoming a ‘soft target’ for political or economic gain”?
Many don't understand the new tool. When we don't understand the tool, we're in danger of becoming the tool of our tool.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
See, though, while I agree: there is tons of misinformation on the internet, I think there is an important fact that is always missing from this discussion:

Human communication is, and has always been, a "Hive of misinformation and potential trouble" as Tony so eloquently puts it.
Yes, and there is an interesting example in the Qur'an.

"And as for those who established a mosque for harm and disbelief, and to divide the believers, and to be an outpost for those who made war on God and His Messenger before, they will surely swear, 'We desire only what is best.' But God bears witness that truly they are liars." (9.107)

The background to this ayah is equally interesting.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Walrus View Post
The only difference, and I do mean the only difference, is the scope. Back at the dawn of civilization, the people who controlled the communication, along with its misinformation, were the merchants who traveled the trade routes.

As centralized forms of communication came about, the people who controlled the carrier pigeons and town criers, usually a government of some sort, controlled the communication and misinformation.

The printing press gave newspapers this role and power.
Only the scope? Consider this . . .

After the appearance of Gutenberg's printing press, Europe had centuries to learn how to control this new form of communication. In order to establish control, states used censorship and licensing. To push back against such control, freedom of speech was adopted by more and more countries in the 19th century. This also caused its own problems. Newspapers had the power to ruin reputations and invade privacy. Rules were created to protect privacy and sue those that falsely slandered individuals.

With the internet today, we don't have centuries to learn how to use our new tool--maybe just a few years or a decade or two! So the rate of change is a problem. Will we learn how to use it well fast enough?

Last edited by ahanu; 05-25-2017 at 07:53 AM.
 
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