Earlier, I attended an online workshop organized by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Technology and Social Change Project on media manipulation in the context of the 2020 US presidential campaign. Very productive conversation on the tailoring of disinformation memes to the various minority communities. I also learned about the Taiwanese “humor over rumor” strategy…
I have belatedly joined the masses in seeing the Netflix documentary. I was surprised that throughout the presentation the issue was framed as one of individual (recreational) choice and of manipulation of interests and inclinations: such a way of seeing the dilemma completely elides the extent to which the platforms have penetrated the workplace, providing compelling market incentives in favor of participation for work reasons to those who are perfectly aware of what the tech companies are doing. Much like the rebuttals to Zuboff’s Surveillance Capitalism argue, the problem with the analysis is not technological, but social and economic.
Interesting article in The Intercept about Facebook’s attempt to achieve ideological balance in its banning practices by juxtaposing its purge of QAnon-related accounts with one of Antifa ones. Whether such equivalence is at all warranted on its merits is largely beside the point: FB finds itself in exactly the same situation as the old-media publishers of yore, desperate for the public to retain the perception of its equidistance. Antifa was merely the most media-salient target available for this type of operation.
It is unclear to me that there still is a significant middle-ground public who cares about this type of equidistance in its editorial gatekeepers, so perhaps the more cynical suspicions, such as Natasha Lennard’s, that this is simply a move to curry favor with the current Administration in the middle of an election might not be off-track. What is more significant in the long term is that the content-moderation scrutiny FB now undergoes, chiefly because of its size, will only intensify going forward, forcing it to conduct ever more of these censoring operations. This restriction on debate will, in turn, eventually and progressively push more radical political discourse elsewhere online.
On the whole, I think this is a positive development: organizations that think of themselves as radically anti-establishment should own up to the fact that there is no reason they should count on being platformed by so integral a part of the contemporary establishment as FB. Public space for political mobilization is not confined to the internet, and the internet is not confined to giant social media platforms.