The Internet Needs a Town Square

D.A. Kirk

Outer space enthusiast. Japanese history junkie. I write about politics, culture, and mental illness. Disagreement is a precursor to progress.

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193 Responses

  1. Sir Arcane says:

    The public square on the Internet still exists. You can host your own website/podcast/IRC server/FTP dead-drop/email server and newsletter. You can even do it without a domain name, hand out the IPv6 address of your RSS feed. The only large tech company you’ll have to mollify is your ISP. (That’s an argument for another day)

    This option is complicated and expensive, and you’ll reach about as many people as a drunk shouting obscenities in a park gazebo. Sometimes you’ll grab the attention of the zeitgeist and the people will come to you. But what you won’t get, and what not all free speech deserves or requires, is the amplification effect of social media.Report

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to Sir Arcane says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Arcane! As for your argument, I have to respectfully disagree. If you have to shell out a ton of money for the privilege of bearing heard on the internet, then as far as I’m concerned, you don’t really have free speech online. It wouldn’t cost me anything other than my own time to go hang out in my local park and preach about my religious beliefs or spread warnings about the Illuminati’s secret plans. I could do those for free, which is the real beauty of free speech, IMO.Report

      • Sir Arcane in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

        I made a poor language choice towards hyperbole. I should have said “This option can be complicated and/or expensive.”
        Allow me to speak to my lived experience. Semi-monthly I put out a podcast espousing niche/unpopular opinions (kinky gay sex, and knitting are amazing). At the moment it costs me $15/mo to SoundCloud for hosting and about 8 hours/mo to record and edit.
        At any time SoundCloud and/or Apple Podcasts could tell me to go pound sand. While that would be unpleasant, I still own the rights to the underlying RSS feed. I would be able to point my 125 regular subscribers to a new host, even if that host was my own computer. Not a simple operation, especially if cut off with no notice, but it can be done.
        I would probably have to pay Comcast more per month to upload more bits, but I would still be publishing and still have most of my audience.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Sir Arcane says:

          Sounds great. Now go build your own DNS, Google, and internet backbone, because all of those are private firms who are under no obligation to carry your traffic.

          Oh, what, that’s reductio ad absurdum, slippery-slope, excluded scotsmen? Hey, you’re the one who thinks that “you have every right to speak but not the right to have people help you” is a valid point of view.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Oh, also you need to create your own payment-processing service, because those are private companies too.

            And then you need your own bank…Report

          • Sir Arcane in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Your tone seems very pointed right now. I’m arguing that self-hosted content, with an RSS feed, is a reasonable approximation of the town square. Google is nice, but not required. DNS is nice, but not required. However, all the cases I’ve read of people being cut off by GoDaddy have been using their web hosting, not just the DNS registry. I welcome counter examples.
            I agree that the ISP forms a “weak link in the chain.” If you wish to have a conversation about the appropriate level of regulation for ISP’s, perhaps we could have it in a different forum so as to not take the discussion further from the original topic.Report

            • Maribou in reply to Sir Arcane says:

              @sir_arcane I think the ISP’s role in this is very much part of the original topic. There’s no public square without a public means of access.Report

        • D.A. Kirk in reply to Sir Arcane says:

          Ah, I see! Thanks for elaborating! I hear where you’re coming from on all counts (including the kinky gay sex and knitting, neither of which I do myself but sound like perfectly good fun to me lol).

          I’m glad to hear that there are alternatives available to you if you ever got the boot from those platforms. But I would also point out that there are other private entities (like your aforementioned ISP) who could, if they wanted to, still find a way to shut you down.Report

          • Sir Arcane in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

            >But I would also point out that there are other private entities (like your aforementioned ISP) who could, if they wanted to, still find a way to shut you down.
            Here we are in agreement, but also at this point we are no longer discussing “The Internet Needs a Town Square.” and have shifted to “Net Neutrality.”Report

            • D.A. Kirk in reply to Sir Arcane says:

              Fair point, and definitely one that needs to be considered in this discussion!Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to Sir Arcane says:

              Nope–“net neutrality” is not “you must provide your service to anyone who asks”, “net neutrality” is “anyone who is using your service must get the same level of service”.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to DensityDuck says:

                And, specifically, you can’t accept money from one customer (e.g. Netflix) to change the level of service you provide to your other customers (e.g. all your basic-package home internet subscribers) with respect to a non-customer (e.g. making Amazon video unusably slow but Netflix video really fast).Report

              • Mr.Joe in reply to DensityDuck says:

                There are more than a few net neutrality advocates, including myself, that believe it should mean the former. Internet access as utility. Like the power or phone companies…. boring as hell, very reliable, maybe more expensive than it could be, but provided to pretty much everyone with only the narrowest of exceptions.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Mr.Joe says:

                I think that as well.Report

      • bookdragon in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

        But you don’t need a ton of money to do what Arcane suggests. Complaining that having to pay for something that like that is akin to saying that the ranting in the public park isn’t free speech because Joe Loonie Preacher has to pay the cost of gas to drive from his cabin in the woods to get into town, and then for pay parking and meals (and you know how $$ that is in big cities where the audience he wants to reach can be found…) And if it’s a 10 hour drive away, he’ll need to have somewhere to sleep, and hotels are $$, and you can get ticketed a lot of places for sleeping in your car – my God! unless we require free Uber service and hotel rooms for people like Joe Loonie Preacher, free speech isn’t free!

        Seriously, if the ability to stick your head out a window and yell for free is the beauty of spoken free speech, then online free speech is still free because you can reach just as many people by randomly spamming any email address you find. No one will object to spamming back at every spammer in your inbox.Report

      • Mr.Joe in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

        So the beauty of free speech is accosting strangers, hoping to get a sympathetic ear? The only real change is that the listener has more choice in letting a speaker accost them. The mythical place where anyone can freely say anything and all voices are expressed with similar effort is 4chan and no one wants to go there.Report

  2. LeeEsq says:

    We will always have 8chan. Many people from across the political spectrum argue that the Internet companies don’t control what is said on different platforms enough. They disagree on what should be censored more but argue that there isn’t enough of it. While I’m not totally onboard with private censorship, much of what the Internet companies do not allow is something that wouldn’t be allowed on an Internet commons because they are things government and society can not and will not allow like the exchange of child porn or information on how to make powerful bombs.Report

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to LeeEsq says:

      True, and to be clear, I’m not concerned with censorship of material that is already prohibited by law. I’m concerned with controversial thoughts and ideas being censored even when they don’t run afoul of the law. There is no space on the internet where you can express those sorts of ideas without running the risk of being censored, either directly or indirectly, by a powerful corporation like Google, GoDaddy, Cloudflare, and so on.

      You could try to do what Arcane suggests above, but the way I see it, if you have to spend large sums of money to get yourself heard on the internet, then that just proves that freedom of speech as we understand it really does not exist online.Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    We used to have this and it was called “USEnet”.

    That Twitter is turning into this shows that it’s one of the three ways people actually want to use the Internet (the others being Netflix and Pinterest.)Report

    • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I would say there are five ways people actually want to use the Internet, as Pornhub and Fortnite account for another two.Report

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Now that is very interesting. I have to admit that I’m not familiar with USEnet. A quick glance at the wiki entry shows me that it used to be quite popular until ISPs starting cutting off access to it. I’m curious about this now. I’m going to have to do some more reading on that.Report

      • It was originally used to send text-only messages, sort of like Twitter divided into subject areas and with no length limit. Since there were no controls on unmoderated groups, they became more and more choked by spam. (There’s a good description of that at Nowadays Usenet is almost entirely used to broadcast pirated content, largely movies and software.

        ISPs didn’t exactly cut off access to it; they stopped running the servers needed to access it. Last I looked (which admittedly was some time ago) there were still free servers for text and pay servers for images.Report

        • Mr.Joe in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          A good analogy for the text version of UseNet is email with big shared inboxes. Anyone can send to it, anyone can reply, you get big long chains of discussion. If you are familiar with Reddit just picture the same thing, but with email instead of a web page.Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to Mr.Joe says:

            Heck, it even used practically the same protocols. I used to get on usenet using the Thunderbird email client.Report

            • Mr.Joe in reply to Road Scholar says:

              Not that it is measuring contest, but I go back to Eudora and Telix into local BBS before that. I do not miss waiting an hour to download one low quality porn picture only to discover it is corrupted 10% of the way through.

              Kids these days have no clue how good they got it. :-D>Report

            • Pedantry: NNTP is different from POP/IMAP/SMTP, but Thunderbird could speak all of them.

              I liked Thunderbird a lot, and used to use it as a front-end to Gmail.Report

    • As I was around and peripherally involved at the time, I’ll point out that a sizeable percentage of usenet connectivity/transport was provided by Bell Labs, using its internal network, gratis.Report

    • Mr.Joe in reply to DensityDuck says:

      IMHO… the falling out of UseNet was precisely because, with rare exceptions(dead chickens and all that), there was no way to remove “bad actors” from the communities.Report

  4. George Turner says:

    Texas has a bill prohibiting the banning of people for personal or political views on platforms that advertise themselves as being akin to the public square.

    Texas Tribune story

    A bill before the Texas Senate seeks to prevent social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter from censoring users based on their viewpoints. Supporters say it would protect the free exchange of ideas, but critics say the bill contradicts a federal law that allows social media platforms to regulate their own content.

    The measure — Senate Bill 2373 by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola — would hold social media platforms accountable for restricting users’ speech based on personal opinions. Hughes said the bill applies to social media platforms that advertise themselves as unbiased but still censor users. The Senate State Affairs Committee unanimously approved the bill last week. (Update: The Texas Senate approved the bill on April 25 in an 18-12 vote. It now heads to the House.)

    “Senate Bill 2373 tries to prevent those companies that control these new public spaces, this new public square, from picking winners and losers based on content,” Hughes said in the committee hearing. “Basically if the company represents, ‘We’re an open forum and we don’t discriminate based on content,’ then they shouldn’t be able to discriminate based on content.”

    The abuses were often pretty egregious, so the self-correction mechanisms are kicking in. Half the population isn’t going to let itself get kicked off the Internet because of the censorious proclivities of a bunch of recent college graduates whose lives revolve around virtue signaling and smoking weed.Report

    • So much for the myth that Republicans support the free market, or that calling college kids “snowflakes” isn’t 100% projection.Report

    • bookdragon in reply to George Turner says:

      So what happens when a group of pedophiles complain about their porn or attempts to groom/entice kids into sexual relationships complain that they’re being illegally discriminated against based on unpopular content?Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to bookdragon says:

        What happens if there’s a bomb and some guy knows where it is but he’s not talking?Report

        • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I dunno man. But I think I might call the cops to haul him out of my basement after he refuses to leave.Report

        • bookdragon in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Texas writes a stupid law requiring him to talk? Hordes of free-speech-uber-alles bros descend on him and demand he speak?

          Seriously, unless you think Twitter, Facebook, and Google are planning to lock him a basement and keep him from informing the authorities, this question has zip to do with the discussion.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to bookdragon says:

            wow that was a stupid response. let’s go back to junior high debate team then. you presented a stupid false-choice argument where, if Turner accepts your framing, he either compromises his principles or defends something odious. my response refers to an oft-cited example from a similar discussion involving either violation of civil rights (via torture) or allowing harm to come to bystanders; in so referring, i suggest that you’re arguing in bad faith

            it’s like saying “have you stopped beating your wife” only i thought people here would appreciate a little more elevated choice of false-choice metaphor. more fool me it would appearReport

            • bookdragon in reply to DensityDuck says:

              I got it. It was just a stupid leap from how does this overbroad over reaction to Milo types getting deplatformed deal with infohazards that don’t technically cross the line of legality.

              Maybe jihadi propaganda sites seeking to draw in and radicalize disaffected teens would have been a better example since their views are more explicitly political and more likely to lead to your hidden bomb scenario?

              (For the record though: I’d oppose torture in your hypothetical. It was always a below jr high debate stupid proposition anyway. If the person won’t talk and the bomb is ticking, presumably it’s because he wants it go off, so he knows he only has to hold out X minutes until it does. and if he needs a break from torture, he can just give a false location that will eat some time to falsify).Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to bookdragon says:

                no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no

                the intent of my post is not to get your thoughts about torture

                the intent of my post is a statement that your argument is badReport

      • George Turner in reply to bookdragon says:

        I’m not sure you can illegally discriminate against illegal behavior. You see, the law is entirely about discrimination, which according to its earlier usage was “recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another.”

        Each law discriminates against those affected by the law and those not affected by the law. Laws against bank robbery discriminate against bank robbers. Laws against child porn discriminate against pedophiles.

        Somehow a lot of people have conflated “discrimination” with “unjustified discrimination”, where the government has no compelling interest in recognizing a difference. Limiting housing on the basis of race? Unjustified. Limited airline pilot jobs to those who hold a commercial transport license? Justified.

        “If we let Republicans speak then we have to let people rob banks” doesn’t work as an good argument. Bank robbery is illegal. Expressing a political view is not, or at least views that aren’t advocating for the overthrow of the US government, instigating riots, suppressing free speech, amounting to fighting words, violating a restraining order, constituting stalking or harassment, or revealing IRS tax information without consent, etc, etc.

        Keep in mind that the Texas bill would only apply to large sites that advertise themselves as open forums for the entire public sphere of discourse, such as Twitter and Facebook. It doesn’t apply to places that say they lean liberal or libertarian or toward gun rights or anything else, or sites that say they’re safe spaces or child friendly or moderated discussion forums.

        What they’re focusing on is sites that hold themselves out as being the public square, but which are operating under far more restrictive rules that you might find for a the chamber of commerce meeting in the city hall annex, or the flower club meeting at the library, or the AA meeting in the basement of the First Methodist Church. Those are public spaces, but they’re not the public square.

        Any site could avoid falling under the Texas law with a very slight rebranding. Sure, the fine print in the terms of service probably already says Twitter can take your children and sell them to Gypsies, but that’s not how they portray themselves.Report

        • bookdragon in reply to George Turner says:

          Ah, but merely advocating for pedophilia isn’t illegal. Nor is ‘discussing’ it with minors, so long as no bright lines are crossed. I’m curious to see where these fine upright Republicans come down on the issue when some perv points to their bill and says he can’t be banned so long as he can’t be arrested.

          Honestly, since afaik (I am not interested in investigating all the nasty people listed as banned) the folks who have been tossed off Twitter, etc. were removed for at least one of the reasons you give under “or at least views that aren’t…” I really don’t see what the panic is about.

          And, yes, I doubt the Texas law will have any effect. Terms of service almost always include phrases to the effect that the platform can change the rules any time they like, and by signing up you agree to abide by whatever the new rules will be and accept the service’s right to toss you any time you’ve transgressed those.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to bookdragon says:

            “the folks who have been tossed off Twitter, etc. were removed for at least one of the reasons you give…”

            As far as I remember they actually were banned for violations of specific items in Twitter’s TOS.

            You can say “well, but Twitter chose to enforce those terms with a very strict interpretation and went immediately to the maximum penalty, actions they might not have taken with people whose public profiles were more in keeping with Twitter’s corporate philosophy”, and you’d probably be right, but it’s not as though Twitter said “you know what, we don’t like you” and banned them. (They reserve that honor for Richard Kyanka.)Report

    • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

      Does it matter why tech employees seem determined to kick half Americans off the Internet and off the airwaves? If you ask, “Who should have free speech?” “Just us,” comes the reply.

      Well, that’s not going to be an acceptable answer.

      What’s interesting is how fast the left became that which they used to loathe, and yet that isn’t interesting at all.

      Back in the 80’s the left made fun of church ladies who clucked their tongues at anything they didn’t approve of, upset at the idea that somebody, somewhere, was saying things that shouldn’t be said in polite Christian society. But they were church ladies, and most of them stayed out of the high profile public sphere because it would be unseemly.

      Well, how would you like it those church ladies had the power to boot people off the main thoroughfares of public discourse? That’s what we have now, but from the people who were giving the church ladies fits, but who are an activist version of church ladies.

      This is an ongoing thing with the left.

      Social activists used to become missionaries, traveling to the Third World and preaching Christian truth to the natives. The children of those missionaries then got their fancy college degrees and went to the Third World to preach their newly enlightened American liberal Christian truth to the natives, perhaps preaching of the evils of alcohol or whatever the current cause was, and looking askance at the cruder Christianity preached by their parents.

      Then the grandchildren went to college, shifted away from Christianity, joined the Peace Corps, traveled to the same places their grandparents did, and preached progressive truth to the natives, touting basic development or early women’s rights, while roundly criticizing the preaching and motives of their parents and grandparents who’d done the same thing for the same reasons.

      So then the great-grandchildren graduated college, went to those same places yet again, and preached birth control and female empowerment, while condemning the preaching and motives of their Christian great grandmother, grandmother, and looking askance at their hippy parents.

      And now the great-great-grandchildren are over their preaching green energy, sustainable living, and the need to avoid building infrastructure and its accompanying evil Earth-destroying power plants, while condemning all prior members of their family who went over there to preach their truth.

      What’s common to this cycle is is being young, morally passionate, and unjustifiably certain of possessing a newly revealed truth, and that the prior truth was wrong think. What they lack is wisdom and perspective.

      They were certain that A was wrong and B was right, so anyone advocating A was evil and backwards and shouldn’t be heard. Then they realize that B is wrong and C is right, and all B must be suppressed. And then they move on to D and realize C is wrong, and advocates of C must be silenced. And they’re just moving through the alphabet, unable to realize that they’re stuck in a loop, just a cog that will be condemned by the next cog, just as they condemned the prior cogs, because preaching the truth of the day and condemning the previous day’s falsehood is all they know to do, and they can do no other.

      They are the worst possible people to decide anything about proper discourse because then the entire society will be stuck in the same crazy loop as the many generations of young American missionaries.Report

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to George Turner says:

      Now that’s another interesting development! Thank you for sharing that, George. I’m going to have to keep an eye on that one. I’m genuinely curious to see how they enforce this if it does end up passing. I’m also curious how these companies will respond. Theoretically, couldn’t they all just change their marketing strategies and terms of service to effectively neuter this bill? I also wonder if it gets challenged in court and how that might play out.Report

      • George Turner in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

        Oh, I’m sure that’s all in the cards, including continued denials and evasions from the relevant tech CEO’s. Bezos is probably sitting back thinking “Man, I’m glad I decided to just sell products!”

        From a legal perspective, the litigation should get really, really expensive. Oops. That’s from a lawyer’s accountant’s perspective. From a legal perspective I could see where the incorporation doctrine of the 14th Amendment, which applies the First Amendment to the states, would come into play. I assume there’s quite a lot of settled case law on the subject, but perhaps not so much regarding telecommunications because so far as I know, older telegraph and telephone companies never tried to censor speech traveling within or between states, and state legislatures only focused on annoyances like robocalls or stalking.

        If the Texas law moves forward, other states will no doubt follow it and some will consider similar measures. The tech companies will no doubt lobby Congress for protection under Interstate Commerce or communications laws, arguing that the issue is purely federal. That may be the case, but someone is going to have to present some compelling reasons why Texas doesn’t have an interest in making sure Texans can at least speak freely to other Texans on the same forum where everybody in Texas is speaking to each other, and why someone on the Pacific Coast shouldn’t be allowed to stop them.

        On the technical side, I could see a lot of headaches for tech companies if the US splits into “right to speak” states and “limited speech” states, similar to right to work states versus not, but having to handle the differences second by second in software.

        There might be parallels to requiring Internet companies like Amazon to collect state sales taxes.

        I could see the case going all kinds of different ways, which is why I started from a lawyer”s accountant’s perspective of profit, profit, profit. Look at all those deep pockets. ^_^Report

  5. It doesn’t bother me at all when someone who’s worked hard to make himself a pariah succeeds.Report

  6. dragonfrog says:

    I’m sorry, I think this is a bad take.

    Back in the day when free speech laws were being envisioned, it was about a free (literal) press – people who owned a machine that pressed ink onto paper, paid for maintenance on the equipment and consumables like ink and paper and wages for the people physically setting type and turning the screw on the press with the labour of their bodies.

    If you went to a printer and wanted 20,000 copies of your pamphlet printed, and they read it and said “get the hell out of here with this garbage” – the law did not force them to print your garbage opinions. It didn’t cover your cost of travel to the next town where there was someone else with a printing press who might be persuaded to print your garbage opinions. And if you were eventually left with no recourse but to buy your own printing press and movable type and read the manual and learn typesetting and press operation – well, that was a lot more expensive than hosting your blog on a server in your basement and getting a business-level internet connection because wordpress isn’t willing to host your garbage opinions.

    The possibility of getting kicked off any popular platforms for your garbage opinions is entirely in keeping with conditions continuously present since the passage of the First Amendment, and/or any non-US jurisdiction’s reasonable equivalent.

    Your slippery slope argument is unconvincing, because we started at the bottom of that slope, and have steadily risen up it. If we slip all the way to the bottom we’ll get to the exact place that the framers of the constitution meant to protect.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to dragonfrog says:

      broke: “the 2nd Amendment was written in an 18th-century context and is only applicable to modern society strictly as written”
      woke: “the 1st Amendment was written in an 18th-century context and is not applicable to modern society strictly as written…”Report

      • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

        It is applicable to modern society strictly as written.

        It’s just, that, strictly as written, it doesn’t place any restrictions on private companies at all.Report

    • pillsy in reply to dragonfrog says:

      And of course all of that stuff is still out there. You can still go to a public park or a sidewalk and harangue passers-by. You can print flyers, newspapers, books, posters, or bumper-stickers and sell them or even give them away.

      Hell, all the technology that drove the desktop publishing revolution of the ’80s and early ’90s is still widely available, and at least as cheap and powerful as it’s ever been.

      You have all the free speech that anybody had for the first 200 years of the United States.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

        i strongly agree with your contention that wiretapping and video surveillance are acceptable actions and don’t require a warrant

        because, after all, neither of those things were a factor in the 18th century when the Fourth Amendment was writtenReport

        • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Laser printers and PageMaker weren’t a factor when the First Amendment was written. Neither was video recording equipment or audio recording or DVD burning or a billion other things you can still avail yourself of in order to exercise your right to freedom of expression.

          And if you want to build your own infrastructure for distributing your message now because you are simply unable or unwilling to conform to the requirements other people place if you want to use their property, well you can do that too.Report

          • JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

            There was a reason we had to stop broadcasting our analog modem signals through CB channels. The damn control freaks made a law.

            We still have control freaks.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to JoeSal says:

              Yeah, but we got us a convoy, good buddy.Report

            • George Turner in reply to JoeSal says:

              Well, that’s just a bandwidth problem that the FCC addresses. Ham’s can run up to 100 Watts for WiFi in certain bands, creating what’s called a “Mesh Network”. (details from KE6TIM)Report

              • JoeSal in reply to George Turner says:

                Yeah, I know about the mesh networking and there are a lot of folks on the rightward circles looking at it and some doing it.

                The problem we keep considering, is that if it gets popular, it will either be regulated out of existence and is susceptible to jamming/interference.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to JoeSal says:

                Plus if the leftwards ever found out we had a significant Rightward built communications network, it might make folks uncomfortable or something.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Left and Right don’t apply to Ham radio, where under FCC regulations nobody has a political viewpoint other than those specifically related to regulations affecting equipment and operations.

                Amazingly, it seems to work really well!Report

              • JoeSal in reply to George Turner says:

                I propose we just leave the Ham radio arena out of this, those are a pretty good bunch of folks, and this has the potential to really screw it up.
                (remember the guys who used to freely fly diy drones before the world went fucking crazy?)Report

              • George Turner in reply to JoeSal says:

                I used to fly model airplanes with a pair of Heathkit RC controllers we built. (I got my license in 1995.)
                It was great fun, and we never had to worry about interference from other pilots because we were the only ones up in the HAM bands. 🙂

                The Israelis almost managed a successful moon landing a few weeks ago. If Elon starts flying lunar missions, I wonder how much a useful lunar repeater would weigh? It would be way more reliable than moon bounce.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to George Turner says:

                My thing was rocketry, back in the 80’s. Did you know it was illegal to use RC servos on the fins?
                (control freaks man……. control freaks)Report

              • veronica d in reply to JoeSal says:

                Or in this case “anti control” freak — if you see what I’m saying.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

            And if you want to build your own infrastructure for distributing your message now because you are simply unable or unwilling to conform to the requirements other people place if you want to use their property, well you can do that too.

            It’s much like how you can’t possibly tell me that a basic literacy test and a very minor service fee could at all be considered barriers to voting.Report

            • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Pretty sure the Constitution doesn’t prohibit barriers to speech. It prohibits government barriers to speech.

              Just like those were government barriers to voting because, well, because your analogies are incredibly bad and I don’t know why you keep trying to make it work.Report

              • veronica d in reply to pillsy says:

                Right. This sort of nonsense doens’t even rise to the normal levels of “facile.” Instead, it’s just laughably silly.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

                it is so, so weird to see stone liberals retreating to this free-market-orthodoxy “if it’s a private company doing it than it isn’t wrong” attitudeReport

              • veronica d in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Doesn’t that go both ways? Suddenly conservatives want big government protections.

                And I would support worker owned collectives also banning bigots from their communities. I don’t need to be a fan of FB/Twitter’s business models to support banning bigots. That’s basic.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “Suddenly conservatives want big government protections.”

                that’s the game y’all want to play, so, that’s the game we’ll play.

                if you suddenly want to claim that there’s no need for the government to protect individuals from service providers who conspire to deny them the ability to exercise their Constitutional rights, that’s great, but that same argument says that dudes who want cake can go start their own damn bakery.Report

              • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Facebook bans Alex Jones and suddenly conservatives are all like,

                All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

                Maybe I’ll stop thinking this is funny some day.

                But not today.Report

              • veronica d in reply to pillsy says:


              • DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

                Where did you get the idea that I was upset that Facebook banned Alex Jones? Where did I say that?Report

              • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                If you aren’t upset about these wangrods getting banned by Facebook, what are you upset about?

                That the conservative case about corporate and compelled speech has been convincing enough that even liberals are starting to take it seriously?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to pillsy says:

                The first post I made in this entire comment section showed exactly what I’m concerned about.Report

              • pillsy in reply to DensityDuck says:

                That Twitter is turning into Usenet?Report

      • pillsy in reply to pillsy says:

        And of course you have a lot more, too, it’s just that it probably requires negotiating with private businesses who may or may not decide to rebroadcast your content for free, or at all.

        Because they get their free speech rights too.Report

        • George Turner in reply to pillsy says:

          But they’ll sell all your personal information to front companies for Romanian hacking groups, no problem.Report

          • pillsy in reply to George Turner says:

            That sounds bad. Maybe they’re doing you a favor by banning you!Report

            • George Turner in reply to pillsy says:

              Oh, they still collect all your information, and record you on your iPhone’s microphone and Alexa speaker, and snag all your credit card details, and track all your transactions. They just don’t let you speak in public so that you can’t tell people that they’re selling your personal information.

              It’s actually a great business model, one the Stasi never figured out because their oppression and spying didn’t have a Western business model.Report

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to dragonfrog says:

      I understand your objections, but I disagree with how you framed your analogy. This isn’t about not getting your opinions published on popular, private platforms. I mentioned in the piece that censorious companies like Twitter aren’t even really the problem. They’re private entities that are in no way obligated to provide a voice to every single controversial perspective. And as you pointed out, the same thing applies to the press.

      But in the physical world, there are avenues available to you that guarantee your right to publicly express your views no matter how offensive or controversial they may be. If your local paper doesn’t want to publish your letter about an elected representative who you have a beef with, so be it. You can walk right outside your door, head down to the street corner and pass out flyers to anyone who will take them, or maybe head to the park and just start talking to anyone who’s willing to hear you out.

      But it doesn’t quite work that way online because there are no parks or sidewalks on the internet. No matter where you go to try to express yourself, there’s some private entity that can, and sometimes will, pull the plug on you if you push too far. My argument is that there needs to be an online space where this is impossible, where no one can stop you from expressing your opinions (unless of course you violate an actual law) or prevent you from listening to opinions that aren’t welcomed on private sites like Facebook.

      In the absence of such a space, the tech industry gets the final say in which opinions are acceptable for consumption and which ones aren’t, and that scenario just doesn’t jive with the concept of free speech, in my opinion.

      As far as the founders go, they weren’t all that fond of corporations themselves, and I’m skeptical that they would be comfortable with allowing a bunch of corporate bigwigs to decide what speech is acceptable on the internet.Report

      • Anyone can run their own web server. If that gets shut off, it won’t be because of Google or Facebook or any of the giants, it’ll be because every single ISP in the world refuses to do business with someone. We are not anywhere close to that.Report

        • D.A. Kirk in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          Correct me if I’m wrong (and I very well might be), but wouldn’t it only have to be the ISP(s) that service your area? I mean, I only have two providers to choose from where I live. So if I wanted to start my own web server, and both of the ISPs available to me shut me down, wouldn’t I basically have to move to a new town and hope that the ISP(s) in that area don’t do the same thing?Report

          • veronica d in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

            You can host your content anywhere in the world. Many of the more “controversial” sites simply shop around for a tolerant jurisdiction, and post from there.

            It’s true that your local ISP could refuse to provide internet access, but I’m not aware that has ever happened, nor do I know anyone who supports that.

            It is this: “last mile access” means the line to your home, which provides TCP/IP access to the internet and (usually) things like DNS services. That’s basic.

            “Webhosting” is being able to run a server that provides content. That you can host anywhere, at a fairly trivial cost — unless your site becomes very popular, at which point you will need to monetize.

            The next level is various blog platforms and social media sites that host content for the public: Twitter, Youtube, Reddit, etcetera, plus Gab and Voat. Most of those places have content policies.Report

            • D.A. Kirk in reply to veronica d says:

              “It’s true that your local ISP could refuse to provide internet access, but I’m not aware that has ever happened, nor do I know anyone who supports that.”

              That’s what I figured, but I wanted someone to confirm that that’s the case.

              My only point was that if you wanted to, say, start a blog that covered controversial content, and your ISP decided to cut you off so that you couldn’t continue to operate it, you might not be able to just find yourself another ISP as Mike appears to be suggesting (unless I’m misunderstanding him or he was referring specifically to hosting companies).

              In any case, thanks for the response!Report

              • JoeSal in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

                Brighteon had trouble a couple months back. He mentioned it having to do with ‘upstream infrastructure providers’.

                That platform lost a significant amount of videos. I was following a marine that was explaining some neat stuff about bolt action rifles, when I noticed his entire channel got disappeared.


              • veronica d in reply to JoeSal says:

                Holy fucknuggets check out that comment section though. The first several seem to be about how the NZ mosque shooting was a “false flag,” evidently by liberals to suppress “free speech.”

                Nice place.

                Is there any real evidence that they were singled out, and not just the victims of normal IT infrastructure failures? For example, the right-wing paranoia that Twitter is “shadowbanning” them, when that seems mostly their own fever dreams.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to veronica d says:

                Well, it is for people who don’t color inside the lines.

                Listening to the guy, it was about policy, very vague policy, which appears to be an additional issue.Report

              • veronica d in reply to JoeSal says:

                Well, it is for people who don’t color inside the lines.

                Euphemism much.

                It looks like a place for unhinged hateful nonsense.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to veronica d says:

                Yeah, it’s great. Not as fun as Steemit used to be, that place was chock full of hardcore anarchist types of every stripe.Report

              • pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                And it’s still on the Internet and easily accessible should you want to easily access it.

                So that’s nice.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:


                There used to be a video there, now there is not. And it ain’t a big deal to me.

                I have no idea how the marine sniper that posted the rifle video feelz about it.Report

              • pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                Don’t take web content so seriously, Joe. It ain’t nohow permanent.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to pillsy says:

                Oh, I’m completely comfortable with every social construct not being permanent. I was just pointing out to the conversation above, about if these things were happening or not. There was a point that it appeared people were considering that it wasn’t happening.

                I’m still not certain if this is the type of thing they were talking about, but it appears similar.Report

              • pillsy in reply to JoeSal says:

                Stuff vanishes off the web all the time. Usually nobody knows why. It’s annoying.

                There are a ton of good gun-related channels on YouTube if you’re into that sort of thing. I actually find them surprisingly interesting despite having no real interest in guns.

                (Though these days I watch hobbyist electronics tutorials. Another subject I have no interest in. I think I just like gizmos.)Report

              • Mr.JoeM in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

                As it stands now, theoretically they could refuse you service in some parts of the US for hosting material they disapprove of. That wasn’t the case just 2 years ago. When ISPs were classified as common carriers, it would have been illegal to do so. Now, it’s kind of murky.

                ISPs generally do not look that closely at the traffic. So if you are hosting something, they are not really going to bother to look at it, unless it starts causing them problems.Report

            • It’s true that your local ISP could refuse to provide internet access, but I’m not aware that has ever happened, nor do I know anyone who supports that.

              Most conservatives support the right of ISPs to do that, since it’s a consequence of opposing Net Neutrality.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          I think we might have to look at what Ma Bell could and couldn’t do back when they had near monopoly powers. There were a few other phone companies, but none nearly as big and none enjoying monopoly protections. AT&T restricted what you could attach to their lines, since it was all their equipment.

          It will take some digging, but they were heavily regulated and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t cut off your phone service because Ernestine the telephone operator, or her friend Pam, didn’t like what you said to Bob, although Ernestine (Lily Tomlin’s character on Laugh In) probably thought she could.

          If a telecommunications provider can cut off those whose political speech it finds offensive, couldn’t George Wallace have gotten on the phone with an AT&T executive and said, “Hello. This is Governor Wallace. Hi to you too, Mr. Wilberforce. I’m calling you today about my concerns that various Civil Rights activists are coordinating their activities and demonstrations, which are causing my state a great deal of upset, using your phone system. I would like you to drop the service to anyone who might be doing that….. [Charlie Brown’s teacher voice]…. “No, I don’t know who they all are specifically, so perhaps you can just cut service to all our colored folks. […] Well they are speaking to each other to instigate protests and trouble, if not outright rebellion against our system of government down here. […] Well no, it wouldn’t limit their free speech. They can go out and speak as much as they want. I just don’t want them speaking to each other, or to them reporters from New York, over your phone lines.”

          I’m pretty sure we didn’t allow anything like that. I’m not sure why so many want to allow it now.Report

          • Yes, AT&T had a government-enforced monopoly. They owned the wires coming into your house. The regional phone companies nowadays don’t, which is why you have to pay for service on them.

            Anyway, you just switched to talking about “telecommunications providers”. That would be your phone or cable company, and, no, they should not control what web sites you can connect to. You know what that’s called? Net Neutrality. I am 100% in support of that. Welcome!Report

            • Phone companies are typically common carriers, obligated to provide service to anyone in the area who pays their bill. Cable companies are not, other than what may be required in their local franchise agreement. It is not uncommon to find exurban areas where cable service is not available. And internet access is very definitely not telecommunications or common carriage. When the FCC decided how to regulate internet access back in the mid-1990s, it was classed as an information service rather than telecommunications.

              The decision is understandable. At the time, the only viable commercial data service model was AOL’s. No one had ever made a go of selling a pure switched data com service. Late in Obama’s second term, the FCC reclassified internet access as a telecommunications service (an action since reversed). Doing so opened up an enormous can of worms because the rules for a telecommunications service are very different. At that time, the FCC’s rule included lots of “these parts of the telecommunications requirements don’t apply” caveats. Every single one of those was being challenged in court.

              For the record, mine was a lonely voice at a giant phone/cable company calling for regulation of basic internet access as a telecommunications service.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Basic internet access, along with email, seems mostly on par with phone access. It’s something people need to operate in society.

                Social media seems like a different thing, as the “thing” with social media is connection and community. It’s one thing to say, “I have the right to free speech.” It’s another to say, “I have a right to a specific forum with a specific audience.”

                Since every analogy here is weak, I will add another weak analogy. In Boston, it’s totally legal to stand in the Common and shout nonsense. It is not legal to get on the subway and do the same. The reason is simple: on the subway we’re a captive audience. In the Common, I can walk away from you. In fact, it seems as if most of the nutjobs collect in a certain area of the Common, outside a certain subway stop. I don’t know if they are required to be there, but maybe. Anyway, it’s a high traffic area, but one most people have no reason to remain in. So it’s a win-win. The nutters get to yell where lots of people are, but not in an area where people are required to stick around and listen to them.

                (I would support not letting the nutjobs rant in other areas of the park, simply because people should be able to use the Common to relax in the sun and play Frisbee and such things without having some hateful fucknugget rant at them.)

                Note also that I support letting homeless people sleep in the park (or whatever), inasmuch as they have the same rights I do. They get to take up space.

                But sight is different from sound, and sleeping is different from ranting.


                Anyway, this is all silly, because we know what such an “internet common” would look like. It would look like Gab or Voat. Such places already exist and they are terrible.

                Scott Alexander (paraphrase): “If you build a community that tolerates witches, you’ll end up with three principled libertarians and a million witches.”Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                gosh i’m old enough to remember when the Bush administration floating the idea of “free speech zones” was an obvious violation of civil liberties and was just a scare tactic meant to suppress protest and merely the first step on a short path to tyrannyReport

              • veronica d in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Do you really think that is a good analogy for how to manage a public park on a normal day?

                Next time you have a family picnic, please tell me the time, date, location, so I can arrange to have some people show up and badger you and your family with offensive comments until you snap.

                Oh wait! I won’t do that, because it would be really shitty, and you’d certainly be justified and asking the park police to remove said person, because you’re there with your family at a public park trying to enjoy the day like anyone else would want to do.

                Like OMG, duh. You know this already, which makes me question your intellectual honesty.

                The right to protest a political event is rather different from your non-right to harass strangers in a park.

                What the hell is wrong with you?Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “Do you really think that is a good analogy for how to manage a public park on a normal day?”

                Do you really not remember the early 2000s? These are discussions that went on for quite a while, and “well let’s think about disrupting the public’s day” was most definitely brought up–and not by the liberal side.

                “you’d certainly be justified and asking the park police to remove said person, because you’re there with your family at a public park trying to enjoy the day like anyone else would want to do.”



                you’ve supported both free speech zones and having the cops roust bums from public parks

                whaaaaaat is going on hereReport

              • veronica d in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Stop being dishonest. Seriously. The debates about “free speech zones” were debates about protests of political events, not random street preachers who spend their afternoons harassing people. Those things are different because they are different.

                If some right wing loons want to gather in the park and spread their lunacy, they can do that, but not all across the park. They don’t get to follow random people around, nor seek out areas where people are gathering and interfere.

                And I specifically said that I have no problem with the homeless in the park, as long as they don’t harass people. I wrote that. You either didn’t read what I wrote or you’re dishonest (or both).

                You really are a piece of work.Report

              • George Turner in reply to veronica d says:

                So as long as the homeless don’t publicly advocate for better treatment, they’ll be left alone.

                They are such a wonderful underclass. I couldn’t think of a better one.Report

              • veronica d in reply to George Turner says:

                Obviously homeless people should be able to engage in political activism. Stop being insipid.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “If some right wing loons want to gather in the park and spread their lunacy, they can do that, but not all across the park.”

                but also

                “Obviously homeless people should be able to engage in political activism”

                how do i know whether someone is right-wing or homeless?Report

              • Quoting Veronica:

                And I specifically said that I have no problem with the homeless in the park, as long as they don’t harass people.

                You used to be better at this.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Schilling, I guess it’s possible that you’ve forgotten the entire history of people declaring the homeless to be “harassing” and having the cops run them out of public places, but that doesn’t make me the dumb one here.Report

              • You seemed to be criticizing Veronica for being more sympathetic to the homeless than the Right. Make up your mind.Report

              • Mr.Joe in reply to veronica d says:

                @veronica d – Agree 1000% that internet access is vastly different today vs mid-90s. Mid-90s it was a cool toy and academic tool. Today it is an absolute need. I would argue even more than phone service. Every job that I walked into and filled out an app for just tells people to go the website and apply there. Without proper phone service there is a ton of voice enabled apps, some even supporting appearing as POTS.

                What the internet lacks that people seem to miss from meatspace is public areas used for transit on which to accost people. To take how one functionally moves about the internet it would be like if transit were instant to the place you wanted to go once you knew the address. There are no sidewalks you have to walk down so that those with “a message” can share it with you. All of that spam has been shunted off into these anonymous free speech platforms. The speech the OP seems concerned about losing is
                generally regarded as spam in virtual spaces. Essentially the ability to shove your voice at random passerbys. In the pre-Internet days, I probably agree about the value. In the post-internet days, it is trivial to find like-minded or at least receptive communities. There are so many varieties of communities that what is left that has no home is mostly if not all garbage.Report

  7. veronica d says:

    Can Twitter and Facebook limit spam? But what if a spammer claims his spam is “political.” For example, what if I am selling absurd nutrition supplements to insecure men, claiming they will boost “virility”? Under your scheme, is that protected?

    You’ll note, by the way, that this forum intends to be a kind of public “common,” but certain specific opinions and behaviors are banned here. Should the operators of this site be forced to change? Should they be required to host, for example, open Nazis? Advocates of pedophilia? Because the moment a forum becomes inviting to such people, they flock to that place. The process is somewhat random, but once it gets going, the feedback effect ensures it will continue, then it’s wall-to-wall Nazi dipshits. Do not want.

    “But Twitter is different because it’s bigger.”

    It is indeed bigger. However, Gab exists, if you want that sort of thing. (Although a number of outspoken Nazi-nationalist types have even managed to get banned from Gab. I suspect, however, that has to do more with right-wing cliquishness and infighting than ideology. It might surprise some people, but those attracted to fascism tend to be a bit unhinged, even to other fascists. Funny that.)Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

      it’s really cool how going to another baker for your wedding cake is a unconscionable burden that nobody should be expected to bear but creating your own credit-card processing company is just something you should expect if you want to exercise your rightsReport

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to veronica d says:

      With all due respect, you’re implying that I’ve made demands that I never actually made. I never said that any private companies should be forced to do anything. In fact, I specifically stated that their rights should be respected, and that they are free to enforce their terms of service however they see fit.

      What I have suggested is that the internet needs a separate space that is essentially governed by the first amendment exclusively, a place from which the likes of Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan can never been banned simply for expressing offensive or hateful speech. It should also be a place where anyone can listen to that speech without interference.Report

      • pillsy in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

        And if I, as an ISP owner, think that idea sucks, should I be compelled to provide access to it anyway?Report

        • D.A. Kirk in reply to pillsy says:

          Perfectly good question. Perhaps we need a publicly-owned ISP that is prohibited from engaging in viewpoint censorship. Or perhaps there’s a free-market solution that could get the job done. Not really sure.

          I myself am not sure how to implement this plan. And truthfully, I’m not even sure it’s possible. That’s one of the reasons I wrote this. I wanted to read through all the feedback to see where it leads, even if I can’t respond to all of it.Report

          • veronica d in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

            It already exists. It’s called “the dark web.” They take bitcoin.

            If you want a space that feels “respectable,” and free of spam and weird old men chatting up your kids (but who are very careful not to “cross lines”), then no, you can’t have that.

            Well, you can, sort of, a proximity. They’re called “Gab” or “Voat.”

            My point, it exists now, but the only people who want to use it are terrible.Report

            • Mr.Joe in reply to veronica d says:

              Maybe you go to parts of the dark web that I haven’t been to. Every bit I have seen is things that people have an extreme need to assure confidentiality. Usually due to what they are doing being illegal or have severe consequences if they are found to be doing it. There is little tolerance for folks spouting off, it is a very business oriented place in the same was the mafia is business oriented. Even then the old TOR based dark web seems to be emptying out for other better offerings. OpSec is hard, TOR and BitCoin have failed to provide the safety and security needed.Report

          • dragonfrog in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

            Net Neutrality is the thing that would prohibit ISPs from engaging in viewpoint censorship, as well as preferential bandwidth caps for established business partners over their upstart competitors.

            As far as an unmet need for hosting platforms that will carry any viewpoints that are broadly objectionable but do not cross the line into actual banned content, I will simply note that NAMBLA has a website.Report

            • DensityDuck in reply to dragonfrog says:

              “Net Neutrality is the thing that would prohibit ISPs from engaging in viewpoint censorship”

              no it would not, that is not what net neutrality is about

              nothing about net neutrality stops the ISP saying “user Bob is banned from our service on account of we don’t like him”Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Ah, I see what you mean.

                I was talking about viewpoint censorship in the sense of “all our users are prohibited from visiting on account of we don’t like what Bob (who may or may not be our customer) publishes there”Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to dragonfrog says:

                As far as I know there’s nothing that stops an ISP saying that. I don’t even mind it, so long as there’s other ISPs in the area that can provide service. Maybe they even make that a feature. “Nasty Weasel ISP, we let you go to ANY site!”

                If the upstream provider decides that nobody can visit, that’s a bigger problem, because it’s not like it’s easy (or, in many way, legal) to set up a competing backbone service.Report

              • dragonfrog in reply to DensityDuck says:

                We must have very different understandings of what net neutrality is about. As I understand it, that’s the whole point – the ISP must act as a neutral carrier, allowing equal access to all destinations on the internet.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to dragonfrog says:

                the ISP doesn’t have to accept the packets you try to send it, but if they do accept them they have to send them on at the same speed as any other user in your service tier. Net Neutrality says that the ISP can’t intentionally slow down Netflix’s packets. The ISP can refuse to accept them but an ISP that doesn’t let its users see Netflix won’t be around very long.Report

              • Mr.Joe in reply to DensityDuck says:

                @Density Duck On the contrary, the “ISPs are common carriers” implementation of net neutrality stops exactly the ISP saying “user Bob is banned from our service on account of we don’t like him”Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Mr.Joe says:

                The ISP can still ban user Bob. Or, rather, it can Choose Not To Provide Service to user Bob.

                I was wrong in my other statement about Netflix, though. Common Carrier does say that they have to accept legitimate traffic.Report

      • And with no gatekeepers, it will be 99% ads for ED products and MAKE MONEY FAST.Report

      • Mr.Joe in reply to D.A. Kirk says:

        4chan checks all of those boxes. Never banned for offensive or hateful speech – Check. Anyone can listen without interference – Check.

        Sadly, the net result of such a place is a cesspool that few care to wade into.Report

  8. It’s always the same argument: conservatives are owed more than anybody else, and must never be expected to moderate in any meaningful, substantive way.

    Everybody else, however and as always, is to endure the consequences of their beliefs and is to be extended no similar charity.Report

    • D.A. Kirk in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

      I never stated, or even implied, that this only applies to conservatives.Report

      • All of your examples are of conservatives though. And the current cultural fight is focused on the denial of platforms for bigots of all sorts, precisely the folks whose support the conservative movement relies upon and encourages.Report

        • veronica d in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          The million dollar question is, as always: is conservatism (whatever that means) essentially bigoted?

          If it is not, then these people have not been banned for being “conservative” (whatever that means). They’ve been banned for being bigots. Let us call it what it is.

          If conservatism is essentially bigoted, well then conservatives should own that they are bigots and take the consequences — because there should be consequences for being a bigot. Being a bigot is a terrible thing. Furthermore, being a bigot is not symmetrical with being the target of bigots. Those are opposite things.Report

          • George Turner in reply to veronica d says:

            If you suggest that maybe Muslim women shouldn’t be forced to wear burkas, you will probably be banned for being a bigot.

            This happens frequently.Report

            • veronica d in reply to George Turner says:

              Of course Muslim women shouldn’t be forced to wear burkas.

              In other words, [Citation needed].Report

              • George Turner in reply to veronica d says:

                Well, Laura Loomer’s lifetime ban was for a Tweet that had said that under sharia, Muslim women are forced to wear the hijab, not specifically the burka, so you have me there.

                James Woods got banned for Tweeting “If you try to kill the king, you’d best not miss.”

                The bans of very prominent people happen almost daily, including one for radical feminist Canadian journalist Meghan Murphy, who won an award for “best feminist blog”. She was too right-wing for Twitter.

                Jamal Kashogi, the journalist who was murdered by Saudi intelligence agents in their Turkish embassy, was also banned by Twitter.Report

              • veronica d in reply to George Turner says:

                Those weren’t the only comments from those people, however. They each had a pattern of bigoted comments, along with various wackadoodle conspiracy theories. Furthermore, did Twitter confirm that those tweets in isolation were the reasons for the ban, or are these claims made by the targets of the bans? Those are different things, and it is intellectually irresponsible not to notice.

                Put bluntly, Laura Loomer is a deranged narcissist. If you believe anything she says, you deserve what you get.

                All I could find about Woods (that wasn’t on sites like Brietbart) was this:

                Evidently he wasn’t banned. Instead, his account was hidden and he was asked to remove his tweet.

                Then there is this:

                It seems you left out some details. Or did the news sources you follow leave out those details, and you didn’t bother to look deeper?

                Let me add, I have a number of friends who have been suspended from Twitter over dumb shit, where I thought Twitter jumped the gun. I’ve even had a few innocuous images delete by Facebook, for reasons that were never very clear. Social media moderation is generally poor, but in the case of loud, outspoken bigots, I’m glad they are being banned. In cases such as Infowars or Laura Loomer, they really are a detriment to any civilized community. They are terrible people with hateful views. Let them collect on Gab, where they can all hate each other.Report

              • pillsy in reply to George Turner says:

                People get banned from Twitter all the fucking time for any reason and no reason. The vast majority of these people, since they aren’t conservative celebrities (or, in the case of Loomer, “celebrities”), or for that matter any kind of conservative at all, nobody much notices.

                And while I’m sure some of them take advantage of being kicked off Twitter to maybe take a walk outside or spend time with their family or some other sort of loser nonsense, most of them just get a new Twitter account, changing their handle from @BongForce420 to @BongForce421.

                Life goes on. But that’s not enough for Loomer et al. because it’s not enough to get their views out onto Twitter, they also want to be famous for it and use it to get Patreon subscribers or hawk “brain supplements”.

                Because for the likes of Loomer, Jones, and PJW, it’s all about the grift.Report

        • D.A. Kirk in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:

          I don’t consider Farrakhan a conservative. Frankly, I don’t consider Jones much of a conservative, either. They both have expressed some views that are very right-wing, but they don’t fit neatly into the conservative camp (or liberal or libertarian camps, either).

          In any case, when I talk about free speech, I talk about free speech for everyone. Whether you choose to believe that is up to you.Report

          • Free speech for some necessarily limits free speech for others though. The tidal waves of abuse that roll in for some speakers – those challenging conservative status quos, generally, with that abuse being encouraged by many/all of the names that you listed – have be accounted for. That private companies would choose to account for that is not surprising.Report

            • Mr.Joe in reply to Sam Wilkinson says:


              Equal speech for all ends up just being the tyranny of the majority. The key is to find ways to include minority viewpoints. One of the best ways is to, counterintuitively, exclude speech that excludes others. To be inclusive you must exclude those that would exclude. This principal is at the heart of the “Intolerant Left” critique.Report

  9. Maribou says:

    It amazes me how few of the comments on this piece appear to be responding to the piece itself rather than to their assumptions about what the piece will be about. Or is “really” about. Or etc.

    (It really does amaze me. Y’all are usually less hair-trigger than this.)Report

    • Maribou in reply to Maribou says:


      As long as we’re all (nah, just most of us) talking sideways at you rather than directly, I will say that this piece made me think you’d find this series, led by Ada Palmer, often featuring Cory Doctorow, really interesting and fruitful as you ponder this particular issue further:

    • DensityDuck in reply to Maribou says:

      Well, this piece is another example of how this place coddles conservatives, so of course there’d be pushback, right?Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to DensityDuck says:

        less flippantly I will say that it came as rather a surprise that someone would openly advocate applying the same “contemporary meaning” analysis to the First Amendment that we’ve gotten used to seeing for the Second.Report

      • Maribou in reply to DensityDuck says:

        *eyeroll* It’s not like 90 percent of what you’ve said in these comments was any more substantive than what you’re snarking about.

        The USEnet point was good, if underbaked.

        But ‘good albeit underbaked’ is great, discussion-wise.Report

  10. Michael Cain says:

    Let’s start with the basics. “The internet” is a packet-switched data communications network. You build a packet with a destination address, your own return address, some data content, some bits to ensure data integrity, and a time-to-live value to avoid infinite loops. You dump the packet into the network and hope it comes out at the right place*. The network doesn’t look at the data content or record your packet. Every service beyond that is provided by machines attached to, but not part of, the internet.

    DNS? Edge servers. Mail? Edge servers. Storage? Edge servers. All of them require the machines on both ends to agree about how to handle the data part of the packet. You’re asking for a free, public storage and retrieval system. It’s not part of the network — it can’t be part of the network — it’s an edge service that someone offers. Maybe it’s your local government, which makes it sort of equivalent to a public park. But public parks have maintenance costs and behavior is rather tightly constrained: leave the kiddies alone, pick up your dog’s poop, don’t be obnoxious when you’re handing out flyers, etc, etc, etc. Local government could provide the kind of service you describe, but few would find it worth the costs of doing so.

    There are hundreds of companies that will provide you with the means to build your own virtual park. Many of them are priced as low as $10/month if you can take care of the machine yourself. The resources are often large enough to support many people’s efforts — band together and the monthly cost is insignificant. Many of them will never look at your content. Many of them will guarantee that they won’t look at your content unless there’s a criminal complaint.

    * The service promise that every IP router makes is “I will make an effort to send your packet to someplace that is not farther away from the target address.” No guarantees that the packets will get through. No guarantees that the packets that do arrive will arrive in the same order that they were sent. At the time, this was a remarkable innovation in building a functional network.Report

    • veronica d in reply to Michael Cain says:

      ^^^ This.

      So many of these analogies are nonsense, because the internet is not like those other things.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain says:

      I’m not worried about the edge.

      I’m worried about the core, because if Private Entities Can Choose Not To Do Business With You, well, the core is also run by private entities. What stops them saying “I choose not to do business with you”?

      You suggest a park analogy, but I think that’s limiting. Instead let’s go with something that’s already been proposed and talk about distribution of paper mail; like, I print out newsletters. Let’s say further that FedEx and UPS both decide I’m a kook and refuse to pick up anything I try to give them. That leaves the USPS–and they have a government-defined requirement to provide services to me.

      My ability to communicate with others — to utilize my First Amendment rights — is already dependent on government regulation of a backbone service provider. Clearly this is not something beyond the countenance of modern society.

      I mean, it’s also been proposed that the government ought to take over backbone service from private industry, and maybe that is how it should be. It would certainly address my concern.Report

      • Jesse in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Speaking as the resident crazy partisan left-wing asshole, no, I think even white supremacists should have access to the Internet, just like I think they should have access to electricity, water, etc. OTOH, I don’t think having access to the Internet includes a guarnatee to access other privately owned services on the Internet.

        So, yes, you should be able to check your email and pay your rent or look at the news no matter how terrible a human being you are. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean you get to keep a Facebook, Twitter, or a random forum account no matter what you do.Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Jesse says:

          “Speaking as the resident crazy partisan left-wing asshole”

          I thought that was my gig. Gonna have to up my game.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Jesse says:

          Then how do all the white supremacist’s high school classmates keep tabs on him?

          My housemate’s entire high school class stays connected on Facebook, at least until they die (which happens too frequently because they went to high school in the 1960’s).

          Why do we let Zuckerberg’s latest hires step in and cut off those contacts, seemingly at random? They didn’t go to the high school. They don’t know anyone who did. But they’re picking and choosing who is allowed to stay in that class’s group of contacts, all of whom might know that the person being banned for white supremacism is nothing of the sort. There’s no evidence that he is, just the opinion of some idiot who just graduated from Gonzaga who doesn’t know anything about anything, other than that everything triggers him, including apparently a running joke about a prank played in gym class in 1968, which sailed right over his head.

          There is no appeal, just a societal death penalty.Report

          • pillsy in reply to George Turner says:

            Then how do all the white supremacist’s high school classmates keep tabs on him?


            Phone calls?

            Post cards?

            Smoke signals?Report

            • George Turner in reply to pillsy says:

              None of them do that. It’s too much trouble. They converse as a group, just like in high school, and that conversation happens in only one place.

              Some would term it “the public square”, but a better term might be “society”.

              The American colonies went through a similar period during our founding. Everyone who came over was under a corporate charter. A company owned everything, and then allowed people who’d signed contracts to live in the new settlement. This went on for some time, where the control of the public sphere wasn’t public, it was corporate.

              But the settlers children weren’t under the contract, and as they grew up, everyone insisted that they had rights as free individuals, and what had been companies became regular towns, government by the people, which is what we are now.

              Space settlement will have to go through a similar phase.

              Well, a company built Facebook and Twitter, but eventually people who signed a contract will wrest freedom from corporate control, corporate rules, and corporate goons, and run things the same way we run the real world.Report

              • pillsy in reply to George Turner says:

                Facebook bans a high school buddy who’s a white supremacist and suddenly conservatives are all like,

                All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

                Maybe I’ll stop thinking this is funny some day.

                But definitely not today.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to pillsy says:

                I’ll be around, in the dark web. Wherever a guy wants to shitpost a Pepe meme, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a fight over race and IQ, I’ll be there.

                I’ll be in the look guys get when they post “Tits or GTFO”. When guys mansplain with “well, actually”, well, actually, I’ll be there too.Report

      • I’m worried about the core, because if Private Entities Can Choose Not To Do Business With You, well, the core is also run by private entities. What stops them saying “I choose not to do business with you”?

        My local provider is a cable company with a franchise agreement that forbids them filtering out my packets. The backbone providers don’t do business with me personally, they do business with that local ISP and packet filtering almost certainly violates their service agreement. Also, I may be overly trusting, but I just don’t worry about a company like Level 3 trying to keep track of what IP address my local provider has assigned me today and filtering those packets out of the trillions they handle every day. Or tracking down my DNS name and trying to block the packets to and from the service that sells me hosting, who has a strong interest in Level 3 not doing traffic filtering.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Michael Cain says:

          “My local provider is a cable company with a franchise agreement that forbids them filtering out my packets. ”

          That’s a good start. It’s also an explicit protection and not just “well they kinda wouldn’t do that and stuff”.Report

      • Mr.Joe in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I’m worried about the core, because if Private Entities Can Choose Not To Do Business With You, well, the core is also run by private entities. What stops them saying “I choose not to do business with you”?

        Ohhh Ohhh Ohhh… I got this one. It is actually really interesting and probably by accident. There is almost never an incentive to choose not to business with someone over things like political viewpoint. Since the Internet ends up being effectively self organizing, as you will see, the metaphor is not perfect. BUT…. When it comes to moving internet packets there are essentially 3 tiers of ISPs. Internet Service Providers (Tier 3), Intermediate Service Providers (Tier 2), and Backbone Service Providers (Tier 1). They connect to each other via a process of peering.

        All of these folks want to make a buck. As @Michal Cain pointed out, no intermediate device knows exactly how to get to the destination. The best they have is a really good guess which direction it is in. To get the best money you offer the best service, which is essentially you have access to the quickest possible path. This means the more connections with available bandwidth you have the more money you can make. The more downstream (towards the edge) customers you have the more money you can make. When it comes to peering various providers negotiate on pricing for the connection between them. Peering is almost always functionally: you take the packets I send you and I will take the packets you send me. All that is left is price. The relative value of the providers network in terms of value in being able to send traffic into their network and get traffic back sets the price. The tier 1 providers generally do not pay each other any money directly. They are getting access equivalent to what they are offering. They make their money by selling to Tier 2 ISPs and gigantic companies. Tier 2s generally pay Tier 1s to peer, peer for free or very low cost to each other, and charge Tier 1s. Tier 1s charge the unwashed masses such as you or I and pay to peer with Tier 2s. This system is highly competitive and values getting as much as possible closely connected to you. As soon as you start refusing traffic, you start cutting the value of your network. Incentives are directed solely at being as connected as possible with the fastest speed.

        I would also add that the more data you have to look at in a packet, the more work and time it is going to take to get it across your network towards your destination. Doing work costs money in hardware/software and adding time hurts the value of your network. Also, from a regulatory standpoint designing your network in such a way that it can’t look beyond the bare minimum in a packet has proven a pretty effective shield.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Mr.Joe says:

          “There is almost never an incentive to choose not to business with someone over things like political viewpoint. ”

          Unless there is, of course.

          “[N]o intermediate device knows exactly how to get to the destination.”

          But I’m certainly able to see where the packet originated, and if it originated at some Horrible Bad Person’s server, well, that packet gets refused and someone else can carry it.Report

  11. Aaron David says:

    Overall, I agree with you. There needs to be a common internet free speech ideal and not just a corner where the icky’s are allowed to hang out.

    And, as we took the concept of freedom of association out back and gave it a 9mm lobotomy, I think we already have the infrastructure. Normally, I would be arguing in the other direction, but the Overton window has been flung open to such a degree that there is no going back. At least not at this point.Report

    • dragonfrog in reply to Aaron David says:

      There are several such places, I think. [int]chan, Gab, surely various others.

      But they are “corners where the icky’s are allowed to hang out.”

      Well sure. When a place has no code of conduct, no speech so vile it gets you mind out, that’s what it turns into. Because nobody else wants to hang out there.

      The only way to remedy that, I think, is to ban the rest of us from leaving places we find distasteful because they’re crawling with Nazis and rape threateners. At which point you’re not arguing for a public square, you’re arguing for mandatory attendance at Fidel Castro’s speeches.Report

      • Aaron David in reply to dragonfrog says:

        Not really what I am talking about. I am saying that outside of going to a privately owned website (like Twitter, the NYT, etc) there should be zero cause for removal. IE, I have a Yahoo account for my business, and that it should be treated just the same as a common carrier. A Nazi, NRA, local Democrat group, what have you, simply signs up, pays their bill, gets the tiered service of their choice.

        So, no mandatory attendance for anyone. Just the ability to be there.Report

        • dragonfrog in reply to Aaron David says:

          Ah, yes, if the “there” in question is at the level of IP, email, etc. No problem. Also this is not a thing that people are losing just because they’re Nazis or Islamists or whatever. I mean, maybe some of them are losing email accounts because they use those email accounts to send threats or something. But that’s as it should be.Report

        • Mr.Joe in reply to Aaron David says:

          @Aaron David – I think I get where you are going. There is a really big wrinkle though. Once you have a police that can police some data, you can police any data. We get into the world of content or platform providers, as opposed to Internet Service Providers. A Yahoo has to have a “police force” of their own. They have comply with various laws regarding content and accounts. There is no question that Yahoo can take down child porn and is legally obligated to do so. Their customers are aware of this. Customers then start demanding things like no neo-nazis. If the supplier does not make them happy, they just take their money elsewhere or worse get the government to put neo-nazis in the same catagory as child pornogrophers. We can’t call them common carriers without giving them a pass on the child porn. Either they don’t police content, or they are stuck walking lines on how/what they police.

          At the end of the day the practical realities win out. When having Alex Jones and Louis Farrakhan as customers loses Twitter more customers than they bring in, they get cut. If Donald Trump were not POTUS, he probably would have been banned already. The gross violations of ToS are well documented. BUT banning him would almost certainly cost them customers, on net.Report

          • Aaron David in reply to Mr.Joe says:

            Yahoo was just an example, and as I don’t work in technology I will admit I am unsure of what the proper name of the backbone type service I am thinking of would be. But, much like when you place a call, or text someone, you have no control over or need to know about everyone who uses that system.

            What I am looking at and thinking of, is a system where no one can be disenfranchised from said system, unless they do something specific. Those specific things would be analogous to not paying taxes, assault, conspiracy to commit murder, etc. Things that are analogous to current felonies and crimes. And this should be handled in much the same way we handle physical, non-virtual crimes.

            As I said above, Twitter can and should police their own product, enforcing the norms they believe in, but being held to the terms of service they provide when the customer signed up. But this isn’t about Twitter or Facebook or Google, and that is where many people are getting caught up. Those entities sit on top of the backbone I am talking about, and they should only have the same rights as anyone else.

            Having wrongthink is not illegal. And that needs to be preserved in the internet age. The possibility of one person not liking someone else’s thoughts on whatever and then pulling the plug on that person’s soapbox is, in my eyes, unacceptable.Report

            • As I’ve said elsewhere in the thread, the basic service is, “Here’s your cable/DSL/fiber modem and a dynamic IP address.” Most ISPs will toss in a few e-mail addresses and access to a mail server. Depending on how much you pay, the terms of service are more or less restrictive. Eg, residential service generally forbids operating a server — there are sound technical reasons for that. Buy higher-grade business service and that restriction goes away because different technology.

              Some of the companies operating the backbone router networks have reserved the right to do some traffic shaping (but not complete blocking). The FCC and Congress have put the fear of God into them on the subject, so no one does shaping unless they can show a quality-of-service related need.

              TTBOMK, and I still follow the business superficially, no one has ever been denied that basic service for anything other than not paying their bill or violating the minimal terms of service*. In most places, there are already regulations that forbid denial of the basic service (although if you live somewhere sufficiently isolated, it may cost you a small fortune up front to get the wires strung — same as phone or electric service).

              You’re making a mountain out of non-existent molehill.

              * The most common “server” that gets people in trouble is leaving a carelessly configured peer-to-peer client running. The user unintentionally winds up making a bunch of copyright-violating material publicly available, and draws take-down orders from the copyright owners. ISPs hate dealing with take-down orders and have been known to cut repeat violaters off.Report

  12. Jaybird says:

    I find myself suspecting that banning people whose voices we don’t want to hear will lead to people saying “wait, can’t we discuss this?”

    But that’s probably just survivorship bias. We never hear about the people we never hear about.Report

    • Mr.Joe in reply to Jaybird says:

      Nahh… there are three significant reactions. #1 – Fish that guy. #2 – This is unacceptable tyranny. #3 – Meh. Everything else is a rounding error. I enjoy the hashing over ideas here, but mainstream discussion and mainstream thought, this place is not.

      I understand the survivorship bias thought, but who? Seriously, who got deplatformed, permabanned, k-lined, whatever and was never heard from again? All these folks crying over being removed from the largest platforms still have orders of magnitudes more people still following them than JoeM shmoe does.Report

  13. Mr.Joe says:

    I haven’t waded through the comments yet, but I will say you walked right past your answer. 4chan/8chan is your hypothetical Internet Speaker’s corner. It is where all the speech that has no place else to go can go. All the speech that lacks a constituency to build a platform, or at least cultivate a community on an existing one, goes to places like *chan and Chatroulette. Just like the Real Speaker’s corner, there is lots of crackpottery and many folks actively avoid those spaces. There are now far more spaces for far more ideas on the internet than existed when it was all in meatspace. Not even close.

    This censorious attitude is not something new. Just something new to certain sets of folks. Long before the Internet just about every space had rules, norms, and some version of the Overton Window when it came to speech.Yes, some of the biggest platforms are excluding some people and ideas. But a few decades ago, tons of ideas never made the TV, Radio, or even letters to the editor in the local newspaper. Talk to anyone in a “marginalized community” of any significant age, I guarantee you they can easily draw real life parallels to anything that resembles censorship on the internet.

    This is not to say we shouldn’t continue to have discussions about how to arrange our tools, platforms, and online communities to enable the most broad, inclusive, and effective communication. We absolutely should. But contrary to your thesis, I believe this is golden age for unpopular speakers and ideas.Report

  14. Victor says:

    It needs a space where the only restrictions on speech are those enshrined in the law, restrictions that do not interfere with the expressions of opinions and ideas deemed unsuitable for the likes of Twitter and Facebook.Report