Does playing God online lean left?

The Internet was once lauded as a great advance for free speech, but it has faltered as it has been abused by many, and deviously and potentially dangerously manipulated by some.

After the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom and the rise of Donald trump in the United States alarm was raised over the threat to democracy.

When politics is involved there will always be accusations that one side or other is benefiting or is being disadvantaged. One thing is certain – you can’t provide the right amount of balance for everyone all of the time.

There are challenges for those who run social media, from huge forums like Facebook and Twitter, to small scale blogs where moderation is a tricky task.

Decisions can be made by people, and they are also increasingly made by ‘algorithms’. The latter rely on human designed rules that can have unintended consequences, and can be manipulated by other people and algorithms.

Washington Times looks at Playing God online

There are many deities acting online.

Playing God, even online, is not as easy as it looks. Facebook, Twitter and the other technology firms in control of the social-media universe are learning that with nearly limitless power comes the responsibility to administer it fairly. So far social media has failed. Bias, mostly but not all left-leaning, has obstructed the free flow of dialogue. Unless the tech giants figure out how to remedy their tendency to mediate political discourse by leaning left, the bloom will fade from the unmatched flower of human connectivity, and bad things will follow.

Bad things have already happened.

As the number of social-media enthusiasts has exploded across our orb, so has a list of complaints from users who say their messages are electronically folded, bent, spindled or mutilated simply because of an offending turn of phrase.

Google and Twitter last week invited representatives from Facebook, Microsoft, Snapchat and some other of the nation’s most influential technology companies to discuss ways of countering “information operations” and safeguarding their platforms with “election protections.” Buzzfeed, an online news outlet, observes that following the political convulsions arising from Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, computer programs meant to block hacker mischief have been unable to discern the difference between hate speech and edgy opinion, some of it well meant, and this poses a clear and present danger to the First Amendment.

Those silenced are frequently conservatives.

I think that frequently they aren’t conservatives either. Pointing the finger without data or any type of substantiation lokas like playing politics.

The issue of social-media silencing has come full boil in recent days, triggered by the Facebook banning of Infowars conspiracy monger Alex Jones after he violated taboos. In domino effect, other social-media giants followed. Twitter shut down Mr. Jones for “only” a week.

Has Jones been punished for playing devil’s advocate, or for abuse of speech privileges?

Algorithms, or mechanical searches, sift through the billions of messages daily to filter out offensive content, and some of it, from both right and left, is offensive indeed. But that reflects the expertise and foibles of the humans who create the algorithms.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey concedes that his monitors favor left-wing causes, but says that isn’t political bias. Indeed, what makes bias so frustrating is that bias is often difficult to recognize by those with the bias.

It is also very difficult to measure with any accuracy, so it is easy to make general insinuations.

Bias is a symptom of the human tendency to favor the familiar and detest the dissimilar. Like a shadow, it is a constant companion in many a walk through life. Unlike a shadow, however, intolerance won’t disappear when someone turns on the light. Democracy, goes one marketing cliche, dies in darkness.

It is only through honest and transparent engagement with a variety of opinions that someone can evaluate the relative merits of opposing views.

That’s right in theory. But it’s common to seek opinions you like and accept them without question rather than assessing a variety of views.

And there seems to be a lot of dishonest and dirty manipulation going on.

Social media is regarded as electronic bulletin boards where everyone is free to post his thoughts.

That’s the theory. Many people don’t feel free to openly post their thoughts, for fear of attack and abuse – and attackers and abusers deliberately try to shout people down and drive people away.

If the gatekeepers of conversation continue to tilt left as arbiters of acceptable speech, they, too, are likely to be subject on one sad day to the government’s rules, and learn the perils of playing God online.

There are many gatekeepers, of various tilts.

Twitter algorithms may somehow be measured to tilt left, but much depends on who people choose to follow. Those who prefer feeds from Donald Trump and Fox News and Breitbart without balance certainly won’t be tilted left, they will keep having their right wing views reinforced. And those who faithfully follow CNN and Huffington Post will have left leanings reinforced.

Online media and moderators may try to play God, but there are no easy solutions.

I can see no easy way to make people assess a variety of news sources and opinions so as they will arrive at balanced views on things.

Free speech is proving to be a challenge online.

Free choice on what one reads and watches ensures it will be an ongoing challenge,

 

 

12 Comments

  1. Alan Wilkinson

     /  September 2, 2018
    • Corky

       /  September 2, 2018

      But, Alan. If you have done nothing wrong surely you have nothing to fear with regards to the law and your personal privacy? That’s the mantra I’m continually being told.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  September 2, 2018

        Works until someone without your values or politics operates the law.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  September 2, 2018

          Adblock puts an end to that little caper.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  September 2, 2018

            It doesn’t seem to be bank records as such, just shops and whether you buy something from them; and people can opt out. it’s still intrusive, but not as much as it sounds. I would guess that no actual bank would allow outsiders access to accounts; all hell would break loose.

  2. Griff.

     /  September 2, 2018

    Reality has a liberal bias.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  September 2, 2018

      No, reality is what it is, not what people would like it to be. As Jacinda is discovering.

    • PDB

       /  September 2, 2018

      Clearly the left-wing are more likely to make decisions based on emotions rather than reality.

  3. George

     /  September 2, 2018

    Google and Facebook have been proven to bias any search results.
    Time to change to other more unbiased search engines and online media

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 2, 2018

      I was surprised to read that some people are forbidden to use their own names online in some places because they are considered to be indecent. Names like Weiner (Wiener ?), Dick and Sporn have all been censored. Free speech, anyone ? The man called Sporn gave in and called himself Spron.

  4. Blazer

     /  September 2, 2018

    algorithyms…interesting read Principles’…Paul Dalio and Bridgewater.

  1. Does playing God online lean left? — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition