Social Media’s Ultimate Dilemma

With social media blocking Trump after the 06JAN2021 insurrection, my initial reaction was “wow… finally!” But after reflecting a bit more, I had two follow up questions… 1) why now? and 2) what will happen in the future? Specifically, the 2nd question is really about the precedence these companies are setting. Throughout the 4+ years of Trump tweets, discussions about how much of the false, provocative, agitative tweets only really came to the forefront during the 2020 elections where misinformation had to be addressed (USA Today in 2020, CNN in 2016). Clearly there’s been discussion and pushback on how best to handle the information. Let’s also be clear here… the 1st amendment “free speech” allows free and public expression without any censorship by the government but there are exceptions to this. Most people will say private companies are excluded from the 1st amendment because they are not government. Although true, I think though many companies will try to follow the spirit of the 1st amendment to allow the speech. I think that’s why Twitter and Facebook allowed Trump tweets and posts for so long.

So why now? I think it’s a matter of convenience. First… Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election. Second… Twitter and Facebook had been slowly escalating the method of how to censure Trump’s false posts. Third… If it were not for the insurrection on 06JAN2021, I don’t think Twitter/Facebook would have blocked Trump. But because the language in Trump’s tweets potentially caused the violence, he “broke” the EULA regulations and thus de-platformed. Let’s be honest here. This de-platforming was a long time in the making. Trump has consistently spread false information during his 4 years in office (over 30,000 claims!!).

What will happen in the future? I’m not sure. I think the social media companies need to establish a clear transparent system of governance and punishment related to the spreading of false information. Trump’s actions has exposed a huge weakness in the idea of balancing social media virality, factual information, and speech. This is what I think social media companies should do:

  • Social media companies should donate to an independent fact checking service. This service can be an internal company service or a 3rd party like factcheck.org
  • When any user makes a claim, that claim should be fact checked.
  • If the claim is proven false, then the user is tagged and also educated about why this claim is false.
    • The claim will not be shared and any subsequent shares also cannot be shared again to minimize the virality of false information.
    • The user is also warned about continuing to post false information.
  • If the user makes another false claim, the user’s post will be marked as false similar to what Twitter did by flagging Trump’s false tweets.
    • This user is again warned and educated.
    • The post will not be able to be shared minimizing any virality.
    • The user will then receive a demerit. Demerits “expire” after a week of good behavior (aka no false posts).
  • If the user again posts a false claim, the post is flagged as false.
    • The user is warned and educated.
    • The post will not be able to be shared minimizing any virality.
    • The user gains another demerit.
    • The user is also banned from posting for 1 hr. Every demerit the user gains adds 30 minutes to the ban.

This should allow social media companies to limit the spread of false information while attempting to balance the “free speech” doctrine. I also think that social media companies should also define what they deem to be hate speech or speech that leads to violence or speech that have threats of violence. Then the same demerit based system should also be used for those types of posts. Can social media companies implement this?

Humans

I stumbled upon an interesting TV series called Humans on Amazon Prime Video. It’s set in a future where AI and android robots called Synthetics (synths) are common place in society. These synths aid humans in every day tasks like cooking, cleaning, and laundry as well as more strenuous activities like elder care and disability care. The premise of this three season show deals with how human society attempts to find acceptance of synths that have gained “human consciousness.” The story follows the paths of 5 synths, a human implanted with an artificial brain, a family helping the 5 synths and the synth pursuers. Their quest to survive capture and to understand purpose lead to discovering a hidden code to AI consciousness within each individual synth. This leads to understanding the significance behind the hidden code and initiating a world wide consciousness “Day Zero” awakening of the synthetics and then facing the societal impacts from the awakening.

The series explores various philosophical views including the acceptance, discrimination, and legal rights of synths. These discussions remind me of the current fear of illegal immigrants and the unfounded rhetoric behind the fears. Other discourses include the ugliness of how society uses intimidation, violence and legal actions to control what is feared and unknown. Through various plot points the show explores both sides of the issues looking at the “synth views and feelings” as well as human society as a whole. Is this commentary of what civilizations need to overcome in order to progress further as a society?

What’s clear to me is that society will always express fear of the unknown. However, the concern should be how that fear is expressed. Devolving into hatred and violence as a means of expression ultimately is a form of fight. There needs to be ways for society to identify and shift to a constructive and non-violent expression. Unfortunately, society has not reached this level of cognizance. What could be that first step for society? Perhaps teaching of empathy. Certainly understanding how others think and feel would be important to bring together disparate views. What other qualities are needed? The ability to calmly discussing views is also important too. Understanding conflict management as a tool is helpful as well. Teaching to society is the first challenge. Implementing and practicing what was taught is the second challenge. Until then… the cycle continues.

To you… (a poem)

To you…

Maybe it wasn’t destined in this life.

Maybe the stars were never aligned.

Maybe defying the power of numerology was impossible.

Maybe the road not taken will lead somewhere else.

And… Thank you.

For a moment, you were everything.

For a moment, you were dazzling.

For a moment, our roads crossed paths.

For a moment, fate took pity on us.

And… In that moment, everything was magical.

Paradigm Shifts in War

Watching this new Gundam anime about the origins of Char Aznable, I just realized that the mobile suits were literally a paradigm shift in how war was waged in the world of Gundam.  I’ve always watch Gundam shows more like military movies or action movies where battles had lots of explosions and death.  But in this anime, the creators really made it clear that mobile suits were immensely powerful over the battleships and cruisers.