What Milo Tells Us About Free Speech And Decency

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Adrian Rutt

Life is like one of those sand art thingies that gets destroyed after it's completed.

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  1. Avatar Brandon Berg
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    says:

    I agree; I don’t think that Yiannapolous’s antics (or what I gather them to be, in any case) are helpful. In fact, I think they’re counterproductive. The illiberal left is a real problem, and we need people to call them out on their garbage, but not him, and not this way. He gives them cover, so they can point to him and say, “Look! This is the kind of person who opposes our agenda. You don’t want to be on his side, do you?” It shouldn’t work, but it does, because for most people politics is mostly about self-image.Report

  2. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    Yeah well, screw decency. There’s a lot nice decent folks out there, and I respond to that with the same. For the rest, who aren’t, they get back what they give. Curiously, it seems Leslie Jones isn’t above stooping to Milo’s level but she gets away with it. Thus is exposed Twitter’s biases (for whatever reason), yet they refuse to acknowledge them.Report

    • Avatar Adrian in reply to Damon
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      says:

      I’m with you there. However, Leslie Jones isn’t the Milo of the left. Maybe it’s a distinction without a difference but I don’t see liberals parading Jones’ commentary as representative of the liberal agenda; the right however loves the ‘what’ of what Milo is saying.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Adrian
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        says:

        Indeed, but the lack of even handedness by Twitter is blatantly obvious. They can do what ever they want, but their biases are showing. They should stop the claim of neutrality. I’m certain if I said what Leslie said I’d have been banned.Report

        • Avatar Adrian Rutt in reply to Damon
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          says:

          Everyone from every organization claiming to be neutral is frankly exhausting at this point. I’m actually more likely to read something if they’re up front about their commitments (this usually takes a degree of self-awareness that few “thought leaders” have these days) i.e. not pretending that saying “fair and balanced” resonates with anyone who is even somewhat intelligent.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to Adrian Rutt
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            says:

            Nicely said.Report

          • Avatar Pinky in reply to Adrian Rutt
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            says:

            I strongly disagree. One of the requirements of civil society is that people make an effort to be objective. It’s not hard to do – you’ll never get it 100% right, but you’ll do better the more you work at it.

            To my thinking, the “let’s just admit our biases” approach flies in the face of the civility I believe you’re arguing for.Report

            • Avatar Adrian in reply to Pinky
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              says:

              I’m not sure how it flies in the face of civility.

              Maybe I take issue with your use of objectivity. Politics and political conversations aren’t a science; everyone trying and believing they have stumbled upon objectivity is exactly what’s got us here in the first place. Until we realize that objectivity is not something we can attain in human affairs, we will continue down this road of yelling at the opposition and then sticking our fingers in our ears so we don’t have to listen to them.

              My point about the bias thing might only be a rhetorical issue: until Breitbart admits that they are merely an opposition to progressivism (and Huffpo an opposition to whatever Breitbart is) and not, as it were, the answer, we will continue down this dark, egotistical road.

              This is not politics; it’s pure immaturity. But as I said, I realize this is just a celebrity’s world. They know they’re not really talking politics. So why I give Milo the time of day in the form of criticism is beyond me!Report

              • Avatar Pinky in reply to Adrian
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                says:

                I’m guessing we agree on the following: the first step toward maturity is humility, the recognition that there’s stuff you don’t know. Celebrity is functionally the opposite, as it puts the value of fame above the value of knowledge.

                Where we disagree: I see the the pursuit of objectivity as necessary on the path toward maturity. To declare oneself as biased is to enshrine the principle that your goal is something other than the truth.

                Let me make the distinction between objectivity and neutrality. Objectivity means a commitment to follow the facts toward a conclusion (where possible). Neutrality is a lack of a conclusion. It’s an appropriate starting point where no facts are known, but when facts are known it represents a failure to follow them toward a conclusion.

                We all have biases. They prevent us from being completely objective. To wear our biases on our sleeve can be as bad as celebrity or neutrality, in that it reduces the number of conclusions a person is willing to draw. It embraces the bias, rather than seeking to overcome it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Adrian
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        says:

        It’s a perfectly good distinction: Jones is not accused of forgery.Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Damon:
      Yeah well, screw decency.There’s a lot nice decent folks out there, and I respond to that with the same.For the rest, who aren’t, they get back what they give.Curiously, it seems Leslie Jones isn’t above stooping to Milo’s level but she gets away with it.Thus is exposed Twitter’s biases (for whatever reason), yet they refuse to acknowledge them.

      Damon,

      I can’t say I know the first thing about Leslie Jones, but if she stoops as low as Milo did with his pathetic attempt to defend fat shaming, I’d be surprised.

      This is pretty low…and stupid.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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      says:

      it seems Leslie Jones isn’t above stooping to Milo’s level

      Has she posted forged Tweets in order to drive a wave of harassment at a specific Twitter user?

      Otherwise, your complaint doesn’t appear to hold up to basic scrutiny.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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        says:

        Ah posting racist comments and encouraging her followers to harass others vs posting forged tweets and encouraging his followers to harass other. I see the difference NOW!

        Thank you.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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          says:

          Yes, “racist comments”[1] and forged tweets are, in fact, entirely different things. Building a case for a double standard on the basis that Twitter treats different things differently is not convincing.

          [1] I’ll stipulate that Jones posted these, but won’t actually believe it until I see links to them on her timeline. No, screenshots don’t count–you can thank Milo and his scumbag buddies for that.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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            First I don’t need to build a case for twitter double standards. It’s already established. In fact, I think it was discussed on this very site previously. Second, in terms of the TOS, both ARE violations. That’s all I’m talking about.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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              says:

              It’s not clear to me that racist comments, in general, are banned by the Twitter TOS. The only reference is this:

              “Hateful conduct: You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”

              Just making bigoted general comments about members of a certain race (or other listed class) doesn’t seem to count.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                “posting racist comments and encouraging her followers to harass others”

                But if you’re using that Twitter paragraph to justify Milo’s ban, that’s not cutting the mustard.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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                says:

                I’m not using that paragraph to justify Milo’s ban. I’m using his forgery of posts to justify his ban. However, nothing you’ve presented justifies banning Jones on those grounds. Just posting racist and homophobic stuff doesn’t do it, as that paragraph makes pretty clear.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                I’m going to write real slow so maybe you can understand….

                “encouraging her followers to harass others” and now the twitter policy….”You may not promote violence against or directly attack or threaten other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease. We also do not allow accounts whose primary purpose is inciting harm towards others on the basis of these categories.”

                What part of encouraging her follows to harass her detractors is within twitter’s guidelines you posted above?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Did she promote violence against them?

                Was the primary purpose of her account inciting harm towards others on the base of race (or one of the other listed classes)?

                Neither of the things you’ve accused her of amount to that. And these are the phrases you bolded, so you must have know they were there.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                Encouraging her followers to “get them”. Sorry, that’s promoting violence in my book.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Damon
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          says:

          Forging tweets attacks the value of Twitter as a platform[1]. Banning people who do it is required by fiduciary responsibility.

          1. Yeah, I know, but they think it has some.Report

    • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Curiously, it seems Leslie Jones isn’t above stooping to Milo’s level but she gets away with it.

      Please explain.Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark
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        says:

        See above or google it.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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          says:

          You didn’t provide anything resembling evidence above, and googling Leslie Jones’ name didn’t seem to provide anything that looked likely to substantiate your claims.

          Maybe you should do your own research.Report

          • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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            says:

            Kazzy posts the link below. Your google fu is evidently poor.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Damon
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              says:

              @damon

              What I linked to shows that, despite arguments by the Milo-ites to the contrary, what Jones did is not even close to what he/they did.

              You may find what Jones said unfunny or offensive. But it is not a coordinated attack and pattern of targeted abuse aimed at someone because of their race. Apples and orange-colored rocks.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to Kazzy
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                says:

                I’m going to copy what I said below to you..

                ““They think that is of the same nature of what Milo and his grunts did to her.”

                No, but it’s clear that Twitter is being selective in using the banhammer when their TOS is violated. THAT’S the point I’m making. Both actions warrant action.”Report

              • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Did Twitter say if Milo was banned for:
                1: Targetted attacks?
                2: Being racist?
                3: Forging Tweets?

                Jones is guilty of 2, at worst. Neither 1 nor 3.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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              says:

              @damon

              1.) @kazzy linked to fucking Breitbart, dude. They have less than zero credibility when it comes to accusing black women of being racist, and, you know, are Milo’s employers. If I had seen a link to Breitbart come up, I would have not clicked on it, because of the high probability of it leading to an egregious pack of lies.

              2.) Nonetheless, it did not appear on the first page when I googled “Leslie Jones” or “Leslie Jones racist”. I was not interested in spending a great deal of time validating your charges.

              3.) Unlike Breitbart, Kazzy does not have a history defaming black women with fabricated charges of racism, so I clicked the link. None of the tweets there seem to rise anywhere near a Twitter TOS violation (note again: just saying racist stuff doesn’t cut it), and thus completely fail to substantiate the charge of there being a double standard.

              My days of thinking that Breitbart is completely without credibility on this issue are definitely coming to a middle.Report

              • Avatar Damon in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                Encouraging her followers to “get them”. Sorry, that’s promoting violence in my book. And threatening others because of their race, yah, she did that. You can disagree, but I don’t have an agenda here. Maybe you do?Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Sorry, that’s promoting violence in my book.

                Twitter evidently disagrees, and would have pretty good basis for doing so, since she said she was going to “tell [her interlocutor] about herself” but that instead she would “let [her] followers do it”. She also made no mention of the target’s race, contrary to your claims.

                It looks like a violation of Twitter’s rule against targeted harassment, but since it’s a single instance, and Milo was banned for (quoting the article quoiting Twitter) “repeated violations” of that injunction, there is still no double standard in evidence.

                And threatening others because of their race, yah, she did that.

                Not even in the linked Breitbart article.

                You can disagree, but I don’t have an agenda here. Maybe you do?

                I suppose “refuting frivolous arguments” is a kind of agenda.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Encouraging her followers to “get them”. Sorry, that’s promoting violence in my book.

                Unless you’re parodying SJW histrionics, this is pretty silly. It seems much more likely that she was just asking her sycophants to send abusive messages.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg
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                says:

                “Sycophants n. : a person who acts obsequiously toward someone important in order to gain advantage.

                What, was she giving away T-shirts?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Damon
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                says:

                Damon has a point that “encouraging her followers to ‘get them’ ” is exactly what people are saying that Milo (and RSM, for that matter) did.

                However, that is not what Milo was banned for.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Curiously, it seems Leslie Jones isn’t above stooping to Milo’s level

      Did she commit forgery? If not, Jones did not perform the specific act that got Milo permanently banned.Report

  3. Avatar Adrian
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    says:

    I have to say, upon reflection I feel slightly foolish that I even attempted to make sense of Milo. I’m essentially resigned to the fact that he is celebrity doing and saying whatever he thinks will get him more attention. Which in that case it looks like I fell right into his trap.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird
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    says:

    The thing to worry about when it comes to Milo is that he made being on the alt-right “cool”. It was punk rock.

    Something worth worrying about is whether this coolness transfers over to a new medium (e.g., the next big twitter that is more interested in growing its base than in maintaining decency).

    Twitter’s tendencies to shut down hashtags, for example, could easily result in a next big thing being a better place to learn about certain hashtags… and Milo gets to be one of the early adopters who will point out that “they shut me down the same way they shut down #HillaryKilledHarambe!” or whatever and stories about the hashtags that got shut down will end up making it look like @jack wasn’t interested in protecting some notion of decency, but interested in pushing forward some ideological agenda.

    At which point it is really easy to imagine twitter then becoming digg/myspace.Report

    • Avatar Adrian in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Good point; that cool factor is something I didn’t really think about.

      However, whatever medium happens to be next it doesn’t much matter. The word “medium” itself almost implies a separation between speaker and listener and vice versa. And that’s always going to be the biggest problem for me: Never really having to confront or understand the people you are shouting at…Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Has he really? Among whom?

      I think that Internet political types vastly over estimate our world. Most people don’t know who Milo is. Most people don’t know who the alt-right are.

      Maybe I am living in a very sheltered world of liberal secular types but I don’t see Milo making the alt-right cool or more attractive. No one has proven to me that the alt-right has entered non-Internet discourse.

      And Milo is allegedly Jewish and allegedly gay so his championship of the alt-right is plain weird.

      Where is the proof that the alt-right is now considered cool and large?Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        Allegedly Jewish and openly anti-semitic. It’s a really charming combination.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        I’m referring to his college tours. They appear to be sold out wherever he goes.

        I don’t know how else to measure “cool” when it comes to college campuses.

        As for saying that grownups who have grownup jobs and hang out in grownup circles have never heard of something “cool”… well. Okay.

        Where is the proof that the alt-right is now considered cool and large?

        Trump?Report

        • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird
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          says:

          Are college students fawning on him or going to jeer and protest? My take it is largely jeer which is not great because Milo thrives off that kind of energy but I don’t see a rise of attraction to fascism on campus.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw
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            says:

            There are always jeerer and protesters, true. Milo leverages this. He has people who are his fans there, people who are his detractors, and people who are curious because of all of the brouhaha prior to the actual event.

            Then, during the event, Milo does a great job of pretending to be reasonable and civil and making the people who jeer and protest part of the show and this allows him to come off as the reasonable one who the campus left doesn’t want you to hear.

            I don’t see a rise of attraction to fascism on campus

            How about antiantifa attraction?Report

      • Avatar Adrian in reply to Saul Degraw
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        says:

        I agree with the argument that “most people don’t know who Milo is,” but you have to also realize that those same people also don’t know who Tim Kaine is or know a single platform of Hillary’s. My point being that just because the vast majority of people don’t know who someone is doesn’t mean isn’t having an effect on those people who actually are involved in politics (my point being that ‘the most people don’t know him’ argument is true, but those people don’t know who anyone in politics is because they don’t care). I can’t imagine many people knew who Hume, Locke, or Montesquieu were at the time but here we are! This is not at all meant to insinuate that Milo is any of these… you get it.

        The fact of the matter is, people on the Right read Breitbart. And Milo is the coolest, newest thing to hit that site. Milo hasn’t been around long enough to connect the dots concretely, but it also doesn’t take a political science PhD to take a stab at the effect he might have.

        I agree though, no one really knows for sure what effect he will have. My guess is that the Right will see him as a “see we have a gun-loving gay on our side!” He already is this. I guess ultimately, neither side in this conversation need any more reason to be uncivil or flamboyant merely for the sake of being uncivil or flamboyant. This, to me, is the most dangerous aspect of him.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      Being cool by being outrageous has a short shelf lite, and requires constant escalation. Don’t worry about Milo; worry about the guy who’s going to makes you think “At least Milo didn’t [X].”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling
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        says:

        Going back and looking at the stuff that was considered shocking in the 80’s just makes me smile and think “WHAT WERE WE THINKING?”

        The Beach Boys were seen as degenerate? THE BEACH BOYS???

        The PMRC had hearings and John Denver talked about when he was censored? JOHN DENVER???

        So now we’ve got Milo who is pretty shocking, I guess. As these things go.Report

  5. Avatar pillsy
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    says:

    The degree of disappointment when Twitter supposedly doesn’t live up to its stated standards of neutrality is actually kind of stunning to me. It’s obvious marketing guff, and being upset that it doesn’t describe the reality of the service seems a lot like being upset that drinking a Lite beer won’t actually draw the attention of attractive members of the appropriate sex.Report

  6. Avatar trizzlor
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    says:

    >>Call me a traditionalist, but I don’t see why civility or common decency needed to go when we became a more expressive and open society.

    We can and should have a discussion about civility and decency, but Milo wasn’t banned for being uncivil. He was banned for fraud and incitement. A lot of these discussions start off on the wrong foot by assuming that Milo is just some transgressive dude with a lot of followers.Report

  7. Avatar LTL FTC
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    says:

    The irony of this situation hasn’t escaped me. We have a set of anti-corporate, or at least corporate-suspicious people, defending shutting down unpopular speech because a private corporation is doing it, not the federal government. On the con law merits, they’re right, but it seems like more of a convenient workaround than a principled stand.

    So now we have a situation in which a few corporations, by virtue of network effects, have control over large chunks of our interpersonal communication, and free reign to say what’s appropriate or not. And the left is OK with this because it’s easier to cause a PR problem quelled by acquiescence than actually getting the votes to add an asterisk to the first amendment saying “subject to limitations based on the speaker’s place in the hierarchies of oppression.”

    Today, it’s a repugnant twerp harassing a rising comedic actress who did nothing to deserve it. But tomorrow? Earlier this week, I read a discussion about a writer who goes by an uncommon invented pronoun. Many people, unfamiliar with the author’s work, used the pronouns that one would assume go along with the posted photo. More than one commenters said, on more than one occasion, that using the wrong pronoun, innocuously as anyone could tell, “would be experienced as violence.” I know better than to hang my slippery slope argument on two internet commenters, but it shouldn’t exactly been news that the word “violence” has become very plastic of late.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to LTL FTC
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      says:

      Yes, it is tremendously amusing to see “it’s a private company, they shouldn’t be subject to government restrictions” used as an argument by the mid-left against the far-right.Report

  8. Avatar dragonfrog
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    says:

    So if I think that when someone’s behaviour looks pretty clearly like it rises to the level of criminal stalking, that person should maybe be charged and prosecuted – does that make me a “radical”?

    Are Bill Clinton and the majority of Congress of 1996 “radicals” for passing that law?Report

  9. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    The best quality of Twitter is that anyone can join any conversation at any time, by just invoking someone’s call-sign or hashtag. This is also the quality that ruins it.

    Because someone can find a popular, widely-followed conversation and inject their own message in it. Highly off-topic and inflammatory, because that drives attention. It’s like they get to put free ads on the most interesting art in the museum, and think it should be protected as “free speech”. But that’s not the worst aspect of it.

    The more malicious problem comes when someone who isn’t interested in the conversation and would rather shut it down can intrude him or herself into the conversation, and make participating in that conversation so unbearable that the participants leave. This has little to do with free speech. It’s actually the opposite. It’s hilarious that Milo should style himself a champion of free speech. The purpose of his assaults is to shut other people up and drive them away, and then victim blame them.

    I once heard a tale of some racing game that had an online component. The game also allowed users to design their own skins for their car bodies. Naturally, some group took over the online portion using cars skinned to look like penises. This served their purposes, since they were so obnoxious they drove other people away, leaving them in possession of a valuable resource.

    We’ve seen this tactic before.

    It is the above two behaviors that destroyed an online community that I cherished – the Golden Horde. I see no future for an unmoderated internet.Report

    • Avatar Adrian in reply to Doctor Jay
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      says:

      “I see no future for an unmoderated Internet.”

      I’ve never been so contradicted in my life: I wholeheartedly agree, yet in no way do I want bureaucrats involved in the moderating process. I’d be curious (genuinely) about how to solve that conundrum.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Adrian
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        says:

        I don’t think it will be civil servants that moderate the Internet, it will be the marketing department and consumer repsReport

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw
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          says:

          Which will still likely be bureaucratic.Report

          • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to pillsy
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            says:

            When people write bureaucratic, I usually take it as a short-hand for government.Report

            • Avatar pillsy in reply to Saul Degraw
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              says:

              I’ve spent most of my professional life working for a big company. I think the libertarians are onto something about the superiority of private enterprise–it produces annoying red tape way more efficiently than government.Report

              • Avatar LeeEsq in reply to pillsy
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                Ha. Some people get around this by trying to argue that pro-market is different than pro-corporate and that big corps will not exist.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                Diseconomies of scale are a real thing, but much of the red tape you see in private enterprise is forced onto it or at least strongly encouraged by government intervention, in the form of regulatory compliance and preemptive lawsuit protection.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Brandon Berg
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                says:

                or at least strongly encouraged by government intervention, in the form of regulatory compliance and preemptive lawsuit protection.

                To the extent that things happen as many Rand/Rothbard libertarians envision and that in a minimal state, things that are currently handled by regulations are instead handled by torts, do you see this changing for the better?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Murali
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                says:

                Rand/Rothbard libertarians

                Ones that want people gassed for taking out small business loans, especially if they’re black.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Brandon Berg
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                says:

                Sure, that’s why it took five phone calls to get Comcaat to reverse an erroneous installation charge — government regulation.Report

              • Avatar Guy in reply to Mike Schilling
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                says:

                On the other hand, Comcast is being remarkably scrupulous about not letting me sign up for service, because there is apparently still an active account for my location. I am confused as to what they believe would happen if they allowed two people to pay for service to the same place.

                (I have no opinion on the relevance of government regulation to my case; I just wanted to share an amusing Comcast anecdote)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Guy
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                says:

                There may be a real issue there. If the location is their limit of addressability, there’d be no way for you to have, say, HBO and the other account not. Yes, they’re still better off financially with two customers, even if each are getting some freebies, but what do they do if one complains that he’s suddenly getting a channel full of sex, nudity, bad language, and John From Cincinnati reruns?Report

      • Avatar pillsy in reply to Adrian
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        says:

        Smaller venues? Algorithmic support?

        I bet that if Twitter really put its mind to it, they could set up a system that automatically detected the kind of harassment that Jones was being subjected to and, say, suspend all the participants’ accounts for 24 hours or the like.Report

        • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to pillsy
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          says:

          Yes, but wouldn’t that interrupt the pile-ons that form the backbone of call-out culture?

          Wouldn’t that be tone policing, if applied to the wrong people?Report

          • Avatar pillsy in reply to LTL FTC
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            says:

            Yes, but wouldn’t that interrupt the pile-ons that form the backbone of call-out culture?

            I would certainly hope so.

            Wouldn’t that be tone policing, if applied to the wrong people?

            I don’t think so.Report

            • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to pillsy
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              says:

              The way I’ve seen the tone policing taboo used in practice is that it forbids anyone from criticizing any expression from a person below them on the intersectional continuum as being too aggressive, angry, threatening, hurtful, derogatory or (sometimes) violent. I can’t see how an algorithm would distinguish between all the subtle gradations.Report

              • Avatar pillsy in reply to LTL FTC
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                says:

                I’m assuming it would work by a sudden spike in Tweets with only minimal attention paid to content.

                In any event, both phenomena you’re describing are hideously dysfunctional, so it’s hard for me to see preventing them as bugs rather than features.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to pillsy
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                says:

                I wonder if it’s possible to design a content-neutral platform that avoids this. Regular people reaching out to people who used to have layers of intermediaries is pretty cool. Good ideas signal-boosted by bigger fish is a great thing! But it also means that it’s just as easy to abuse.

                So do we have an upvote/trust system? It can be mobbed easily – just look on Reddit.

                Do we need seven layers of authentication and verification? Phone numbers? Try that in an oppressive country.

                If the only answer is a human moderation system, susceptible as it is to pressure campaigns and management concerns, the threat of ideological manipulation (or things getting through the cracks) remains present. It’s lose-loseReport

              • Avatar trizzlor in reply to LTL FTC
                Ignored
                says:

                Do you mean content-neutral or viewpoint-neutral? A policy where you get banned if you forge tweets or if X% of your followers send death-threats to another user seems viewpoint-neutral to me.

                This distinction ended up being pretty important in the Free Stacy thread we had earlier, where much of the discussion about McCain assumed that he was just a transgressive conservative rabble-rouser rather than someone who had put up personal information about another user and then retweeted his followers encouraging her to commit suicide.Report

              • Avatar LTL FTC in reply to trizzlor
                Ignored
                says:

                I mean viewpoint neutral.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to trizzlor
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s an interesting point. If you’re enough of an asshole, you can escalate to actual criminally, and when you get punished for that, people who aren’t paying attention [1] will assume that you were being punished for just being an asshole.

                1. I.e, most people.Report

        • Avatar trizzlor in reply to pillsy
          Ignored
          says:

          I bet that if Twitter really put its mind to it, they could set up a system that automatically detected the kind of harassment that Jones was being subjected to and, say, suspend all the participants’ accounts for 24 hours or the like.

          I think this is tougher than you might imagine. Naively you’re looking for a spike in mentions with harassing content. But the data problem is that you probably have thousands of such spikes that are positive and make Twitter money (some new #brand starts to go viral); a few hundreds that are disparate harassment which cannot be controlled; and a handful that are actually coordinated harassment that costs Twitter money. Algorithms for extracting tone out of short messages are pretty poor, especially in an abbreviated medium like twitter which is overflowing with internal slang, inside jokes, sarcasm, and allows image-based content. In this specific case, an algorithm would have to be extremely sophisticated to (a) accurately classify a spike in mentions as containing racist jokes, (b) connect this back to a user that’s putting up forged images of tweets, (c) distinguish these mentions from the #brand valuable ones simply discussing the Lady Ghostbusters #movie that just game out (which are also spiking). A person with some expertise in on-line bullying could probably do this in a matter of minutes.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay in reply to Adrian
        Ignored
        says:

        What I think might work is to delegate moderation to users. Google Plus does this to some extent. Users can delete comments and ban people from commenting on their posts, or simply turn off comments.

        What would twitter be like if users could decide “I created this hashtag, and I hold a banhammer for it”. And for tweet-mentions, or whatever they are called.

        You can say what you like, but you don’t get to piss on my parade.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Doctor Jay
      Ignored
      says:

      skinned to look like penises

      Did you have to say it that way? Ouch.Report

  10. Avatar Kazzy
    Ignored
    says:

    Milo also faked Tweets from Jones. I don’t know if Twitter said as much, but I believe this was a factor in their decision to ban. Impersonating someone is different than vile speech. While Popehat said it is unlikely to be legally actionable, the possibility of such may also have weighed in Twitter’s decision making. This wasn’t just punishing a potty mouth.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy
      Ignored
      says:

      As I said above, forged tweets the value of Twitter’s platform. If you see that someone well-known tweeted something and later learn it was a forgery, you start to mentally discount any tweet you see quoted. If forgery becomes widespread. people will stop quoting tweets entirely.

      Twitter has to take forgery seriously, just as professional sports have to take players’ gambling seriously. In baseball, that’s a permanent suspension, period, no matter who you are. Just ask Pete Rose.Report

  11. Avatar j r
    Ignored
    says:

    Maybe Milo doesn’t tell us anything about free speech or decency. Not everything has to mean something.

    About the only thing that I can think of is this: if you have robust enough free speech protections, laws and norms, some asshole will invariably come along and make you question whether those protections are a good idea.

    I still say that those protections and norms are worth defending, because what you risk getting when you go the other way is worse than a Milo having the ability to say terrible things. You risk getting a Milo with the ability to stop everyone else from criticizing his terrible things.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      You can have robust enough free speech protections, laws and norms and still not tolerate forgery.Report

    • Avatar pillsy in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      How do you square robust free speech norms with an expectation that companies which live and die by the messages that they broadcast[1] and the way that they allow communities to form in those spaces should be required to broadcast messages that they (and more importantly, their users) find grotesque and alienating? How much goodwill, user base and, yeah, money is Twitter supposed to lose in order to keep the likes of Milo around?

      [1] I think it’s pretty significant that Facebook and Twitter both have business models that are fundamentally rooted in their ability to control what you see when you use them; they’s nothing like “common carriers”.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to pillsy
        Ignored
        says:

        Who said anything about keeping Milo around?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
          Ignored
          says:

          j r, you said I still say that those protections and norms are worth defending, because what you risk getting when you go the other way is worse than a Milo having the ability to say terrible things. Which sounds like you’re saying Twitter shoulda kept Milo around.

          This goes back to a (brief) discussion we had the other day about how journalistic standards blend with market forces. My argument was that market forces actually run counter to journalistic standards (since eyeballs = ad revenue /= journalistic standards), and pillsy’s argument seems to be similar. Twitter makes a calculation on profitability (or whatever) and decides that net-benefits accrue to the bottom line (or whatever) by banning Milo. Pure market-based decision-making.

          Your argument seems to be that Twitter should have valued speech rights above profitibility, which of course makes no sense from a market-based perspective (unless, acourse, Speech Rights Robustity is valued in the market). Speech rights (and journalistic standards, for that matter) are inherently distinct from, ancillary to and run counter to, market-based decisionmaking.Report

          • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            Your argument seems to be that Twitter should have valued speech rights above profitibility…

            What did I say that has any resemblance to that? I don’t care what Twitter does to Milo, because I don’t care about Milo. Every second spent discussing him, is a second spent giving him exactly what he wants. And that’s why I said “Milo doesn’t tell us anything about free speech…”

            What I care about is when people use guys like Milo to justify incursions into existing speech and expression norms. I’m talking about things like legislation and campus speech codes not Twitter’s terms of service.

            And we didn’t have any discussion about market forces. I made a point about the quality of certain kinds of political media and you made a non sequitur, which is what you’re doing now.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
              Ignored
              says:

              j r,

              Well, now we’re doing what intellectual white guys do: GET LEGALISTIC!!!

              I’m game. Earlier, I mocked you for mocking the decline of journalistic standards, and I gave a reason: that market forces don’t give a rat’s ass about ’em.

              In this thread, I quoted your upthread comment as evidence that pillsy’s claim (regarding your comment) is correct.

              Maybe you spoke loosely up there? I certainly didn’t read the comment I quoted as referring to “legislation and campus speech codes not Twitter’s terms of service.” You didn’t refer to any of those things in the initial comment.Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                Well, now we’re doing what intellectual white guys do: GET LEGALISTIC!!!

                I honestly have no idea what you’re talking about. I did not “speak loosely.” I said exactly what I meant to say. I don’t care about Milo, don’t care enough to condemn him and definitely don’t care enough to defend. And I don’t care that Twitter banned him. Mostly, I’d prefer to ignore his existence.

                The one small way in which I care about Milo is that invariably someone will come along and use him and others like him to try to justify some terrible law. And I think when that happens, we ought to resist the urge to weaken our speech norms. If you disagree with any of that fine, but I don’t know what it is that’s gotten you to all caps and three exclamation marks. You seem a little unhinged.

                As for the other thing, if you want to tell yourself that you “mocked” me, have at it. Whatever makes you feel good about yourself. But here is a little analog that illustrates how that exchange went:

                Man 1: How was your night? You went out to dinner, right?
                Man 2: Yeah, I went to Chez Frenchie. Honestly, I think it’s gone down hill. They used to have some very authentic dishes, but now they mostly cater to the crowds with poor renditions of what Americans think French food is.
                Man 3: [entering the conversation] Don’t blame Chez Frenchie. They’re just responding to market forces. That’s capitalism, right?
                Man 2: Umm.. OK. I’m really just taking about how I don’t like the food.
                Man 3: Market forces!!!!
                Man 2: That’s great. I think I’m going to go now. [leaves]
                Man 3: [turning to man 1] Did you see how I just totally mocked that guy?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
                Ignored
                says:

                You’re speaking a different language than I am, j r.

                As for the mocking thing, just because you don’t think you were mocked doesn’t mean I wasn’t mocking you. I was!Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to j r
          Ignored
          says:

          That’s how I interpreted the segue into the second paragraph, and the discussion of free speech protections and norms.

          If you don’t think such really apply to Twitter (legal protections obviously don’t, but norms certainly could), then I don’t disagree with what you said.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
      Ignored
      says:

      “I still say that those protections and norms are worth defending, because what you risk getting when you go the other way is worse than a Milo having the ability to say terrible things.”

      If I may weigh in, this implies that there is a serious argument being put forth that those protections and norms AREN’T worth defending and/or that folks want to “go the other way”.

      If those arguments aren’t being put forth — here or elsewhere — than commenting on them muddies the waters a bit and invites pushback such as what Stillwater offers here.Report

      • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
        Ignored
        says:

        If I may weigh in, this implies that there is a serious argument being put forth that those protections and norms AREN’T worth defending and/or that folks want to “go the other way”.

        I think that you’re using the term “imply” rather loosely. And, as a matter of fact, there are people who think that our existing speech and expression norms aren’t worth defending, which is why you always have people trying to pass new speech and expression restrictions or trying to sue somebody for saying something that they don’t like or trying to censor this, that and the next thing.

        And I didn’t invite anything, as my responses to the two people who tried to misread my comment before Stillwater might “imply,” I have no interest in defending Milo or arguing against what Twitter did.

        Most of the time that I reply to people’s comments, I use quotes. That way I know that I am replying to what they said and not to what I think that they might have seemed to be implying. And when I don’t know what someone is saying, I ask.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
          Ignored
          says:

          This is getting silly.

          the two people who tried to misread my comment

          Here’s your comment, quoted again, as you would do:

          I still say that those protections and norms are worth defending, because what you risk getting when you go the other way is worse than a Milo having the ability to say terrible things.

          How is understanding that statement as an expression that Milo shouldn’t have been banned because banning people like Milo leads to an even worse outcome “trying to misread” your comment? It’s mystifying to me how you think those words express anything else.Report

          • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater
            Ignored
            says:

            It’s mystifying to me how you think those words express anything else.

            That says much more about you that it does about me.

            And here is a crazy idea. If I thought that Milo shouldn’t have been banned, I might have just come out and said, “I don’t think Milo should have been banned.”Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
          Ignored
          says:

          @j-r

          I certainly don’t mean to tell you what you think, believe, said, or meant. Rather, I’m offering my own perspective on your comment. It seems now that three people (self included) misread or misunderstood it.

          Now, I’m off the belief that once someone clarifies a statement, we ought to work off the clarified statement. At the same time, if someone makes a comment that is misunderstood by many, they sort of have to own that.Report

          • Avatar j r in reply to Kazzy
            Ignored
            says:

            At the same time, if someone makes a comment that is misunderstood by many, they sort of have to own that.

            Come on Kazzy, that statement doesn’t hold water when you apply it to the internet, where people are looking to read people’s comments in the worst possible light if they perceive those comments to be on the other side of an issue.

            It’s a lot more likely that some people saw my comment and thought oh, he’s said things in the past about Twitter and internet SJW and which sound suspiciously sympathetic to people like Milo. He must be trying to defend Milo.

            If that’s how people want to read comments, have at it. Just don’t pretend that’s the right way to do things. Respond to what people say, not what you imagine that they might be saying.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
              Ignored
              says:

              j r,

              What’s interesting in this thread is that you’re attributing nefarious motives to your interlocutors, every one of whom has said that perhaps you didn’t mean to express what you actually did. That is, we’re not reflexively “looking to read people’s comments in the worst possible light if they perceive those comments to be on the other side of an issue.” The opposite in fact.

              I think we all read the comment neutrally, and the evidence is that every one of us has given you the opportunity to clarify it. Instead, you’ve accounted for our views not by conceding that the quoted passage was poorly written or confusing, but rather that all three of us are looking to see the worst in you. Which is sorta ironic. We’re the ones who gave YOU the benefit of the doubt.Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                What’s interesting in this thread is that you’re attributing nefarious motives…

                Gee, why would I do that?

                Well, now we’re doing what intellectual white guys do: GET LEGALISTIC!!!
                I’m game. Earlier, I mocked you for mocking the decline of journalistic standards

                As for the mocking thing, just because you don’t think you were mocked doesn’t mean I wasn’t mocking you. I was!

                Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
                Ignored
                says:

                Is that what you’re sore about?

                Sorry I mocked you for mocking journalism. But in my defense I really thought you knew how markets work.Report

              • Avatar j r in reply to Stillwater
                Ignored
                says:

                @stillwater

                I guarantee you that there is nothing that you could say to me that could get me sore. I don’t know you, but I’d put even money on me having tougher skin than you. I’m not the one using the all caps and ranting about white guys and getting legalistic. Believe me when I tell you that I don’t even know what that means.

                Once you made that comment on the other thread and I asked what it meant and realized that you were trollong, I immediately put it out of my mind. You’re the one bringing it to another thread and trying to rehash some argument that never was. If you think that you got one over on me, great. I’ll play along. All the more reason for you to quit while you’re ahead.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to j r
                Ignored
                says:

                I guarantee you that there is nothing that you could say to me that could get me sore.

                Then why apologize to pillsy and not me? My introduction into this thread was merely to defend his interpretation of your comment.

                I don’t know you, but I’d put even money on me having tougher skin than you.

                I’m happy for you if you think so. Good on ya. Tho having tough skin would not be an attribute in the world I’d prefer us all to live in.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy in reply to j r
              Ignored
              says:

              “Respond to what people say, not what you imagine that they might be saying.”

              If only it were that easy…

              I will speak only for myself and say that reading the section quoted, it gave me a different impression than it seems you intended. And I trust you know I have no particular axe to grind nor much interest in twisting people’s words. I weighed in only to say that maybe, in this instance, you weren’t as clear as you thought you were.Report

        • Avatar pillsy in reply to j r
          Ignored
          says:

          And I didn’t invite anything, as my responses to the two people who tried to misread my comment before Stillwater might “imply,” I have no interest in defending Milo or arguing against what Twitter did.

          Emphasis mine.

          I misinterpreted your comment in the same way two other people did, and that means that I was arguing in bad faith by deliberately misreading it?

          Go piss up a rope.Report

  12. Avatar pillsy
    Ignored
    says:

    I think it’s interesting that we’re just supposed to assume that Leslie Jones is somehow comparable to Milo based on raw assertion. Given the way false charges tend to propagate against victims of shitbird trolls (e.g., Kathy Sierra), I’m extremely skeptical of “common knowledge” of this sort.

    Using Jones’ alleged behavior without providing robust evidence that she actually engaged in it does not make me more favorably inclined towards arguments that this somehow demonstrates that Twitter has a double standard.Report

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