This entirely kills social media

Ministers are talking about redefining the role of social networks to hold them directly liable for the content that gets published on their platforms, in effect enshrining them as publishers in law.

It’s making BT responsible for the content of telephone calls.

Something entirely inconsistent with the basic model. Basically, either they can be publishers or we can have social media. It’s not possible to have both.

46 thoughts on “This entirely kills social media”

  1. Maybe we should start making ministers directly responsible for every single thing that they screw up with their unwanted interference.

  2. Does it not depend on whether the network or platform is agnostic to the content on it? Where your BT analogy fails, I think, is that they were/are a genuine common carrier and didn’t touch the messaging their network was being used for.

    Given the amount of time, money and effort the likes of Facebook and Twitter expend policing (somewhat arbitrarily) what can and can’t be said on their platforms, that looks a lot closer to publishing.

    Not sure where the line *should* be drawn (if you’re employing editors you may well be a publisher?), but do have a feeling the current treatment of social networks as neutral carriers particularly reflects reality either.

  3. The closer analogy is BT currently monitoring all calls and cutting off the people who talk about stuff that BT doesn’t like.

  4. More accurately, it kills providing social media as a business model in it’s present form. Social media existed on the internet before the social media companies. For that matter, it existed before the internet. Usenet boards

  5. I suspect that what should be tried is an abstinence campaign. Giant tombstones, somber music, deep voice over proclaiming “five a week, you know it makes sense”. Throw in some dancing vegetables and a fat kid off children’s telly, and Bob’s your uncle, job done.

  6. Starfish, in what way is social media like the letters page of a newspaper. The newspaper decides whether or not to publish a letter. If it is published, it is available to the whole readership. A post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram can be directed at specific groups or individuals. People or groups can be barred from reading it by a group owner etc. And that is before the shadowy and unacknowledged censorship such as shadowbanning on Twitter or Tumblr. I can still read posts from people who have been shadowbanned but only if I follow them already. I see few analogies with a letters page in a newspaper

  7. Facepalm decides whether to publish a posting, or at least its algorithms do

    Users have no control over how this happens, it just does

    What happens afterwards is irrelevant – newspapers direct their output to various markets or places as well

    The only thing that is different is the immediacy

    Faceache et al have all the control and can choose whether to publish user submissions

    They are publishers

  8. Facepalm decides whether to publish a posting, or at least its algorithms do

    Not really. The algorithms decide whether to publicise a posting. If you go and look at the user’s page, or even search specifically on there, you will see the unpublicised posts.

  9. Facebook have already allowed themselves to become defined as publishers, all their efforts to block unapproved thinking has opened the door for them to become controlled by the state.

  10. @David Moore

    Its karma

    If they weren’t so busy data slurping and firing unwanted advertising and god knows what else at their users they might attract more sympathy

    The end of social media? Bring it on!

  11. SE, you use the word publicise. Wouldn’t publish, meaning make public just the same, fit better and destroy your case?

  12. Perhaps at the same time they should make political parties responsible for actually implementing what it says in their manifestos… Or is that a bit too radical?

  13. ” Wouldn’t publish, meaning make public just the same, fit better and destroy your case?”

    Not really. If I publish 100 books (in that they are edited, and printed, and shipped to my warehouse, and they are in my catalogue, and a bookseller can order them from me) but only spend money on publicity for 10 of them, so the other 90 are maybe never read by anyone, have I published 10 books, or 100?

  14. Starfish, what’s so bad about social media? I love the pictures of cute cats. I like being able to communicate with friends in far-flung places without spending a fortune on postage or comms…. I even like debating on blogs

  15. “For that matter, it existed before the internet. Usenet boards”

    Well, before the WWW. Usenet depends on the internet

    Seriously, though, this is mostly “the government is doing something” that is mostly noise and nothing will happen as a result. Instagram will throw a few million at some awareness campaigns or something and Hancock can pretend he matters.

    Teen suicide is absolutely fucking tragic, but honestly, some kids just have mental health problems. They might have been tipped over by some web content, but we honestly just don’t know.

    You seriously want to stop teen suicides in a very big way? Let kids have the power to change school without any explanation or delay. Far more kids kill themselves because they hate being bullied at school every day, but that institutional disaster is never addressed.

  16. In the United States, platforms are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
    Yet politicians and the public demand they act on whatever the cause of the day is. As David Moore says, they have in fact become publishers.

    The platforms probably believed the politicians would protect them if they did what the politicians asked them to do. Naive Leftards.

    As I have said on these pages for a year, the U.S. Congress should update the Communications Decency Act to state precisely what the platforms MUST act on, like criminal activity and a few other things, and be forbidden from acting on ANYTHING ELSE, else losing their protection as a platform and not a publisher.

    As 230 protects them from LIABILITY for what people put on their websites, a lawsuit is needed to show that they are indeed publishers – controlling content – and subject to liability.

    As Tim says, they can’t have it both ways.

    And Facebook isn’t responsible for Ian Russell’s failure as a parent.

  17. you use the word publicise. Wouldn’t publish, meaning make public just the same, fit better and destroy your case?

    No, I’ve been quite specific. The material is up there, published, on the user’s page. Unless, of course, FB et al take it down (subsequent to it being published). And that user can see it, and so can anybody who goes deliberately looking for it (except, I believe, in the case of Twitter shadow-banning, where only the originator can see it.)

    The point of social media, as I understand it, and it is a limited one, is to direct you at those posts that you would find most interesting, rather than wading through the dozens, or possibly hundreds, of people or organisations you follow. I follow lots of work-related companies and a few work-related people on Twitter, for example, without really generating any material myself on Twitter (or, re-Tweeting or …)

    And it is the algorithms that decide what I “want” to appear in my feed, which I have referred to as “publicising” (because we aren’t bothered here about whether it appears in Tim’s feed but not mine or vice versa but a deliberate decision to ensure it appears in nobody’s feeds). And it is generally, until we get to full-force deplatforming, that they are tinkering with. Generally without any publicity or without any transparency to the affected content generators or other users.

    GDPR content for those who aren’t already bored, from Article 13.2(f) – information to be provided when data is collected from the data subject:

    the existence of automated decision-making, including profiling, referred to in Article 22(1) and (4) and, at least in those cases, meaningful information about the logic involved, as well as the significance and the envisaged consequences of such processing for the data subject.

  18. Hector Drummond, Vile Novelist said:
    “BT don’t listen in to my calls and keep suspending me from their service for the content of what I say.”


  19. I think that the way to stop (the apparent increase in) teen suicides is to stop telling them that mankind is killing itself, flora and fauna, and the planet. Stop telling them that we are doomed.

    Stop telling them that they are part of a privileged group of people, to ‘check their privilege’, to pretend that they are guilty of things they are not.

    Stop telling them to cover up what they really think and only speak in PC language.

    Stop telling them that age-old traditions (family units) are bad and only new (polyamory) is just fine.

    Stop telling them that they are special and amazing when some of them may not be – and then being surprised when they go out into the real world.

    Stop telling them the world will be their oyster if only they go to Uni and get a degree that turns out to be useless and saddling them with debt.

    Stop importing people to do entry-level jobs on the cheap that jobs they MIGHT have otherwise done.

    Stop excusing their parents when they are being useless.

    Stop telling them that the amazing increase in wealth, health and prosperity generated by capitalism over the last century or two is bad, and that spraying money around is good.

    Stop telling them that how things feel is just as important as facts and how things actually are.

    There may also be some other side-effects of doing this too…

  20. So, as usual, there’s a bunch on nuance here, that the politicians will fail to recognise/choose to ignore for personal profit. There’s all sorts of grey from 4chan/usenet free-for-all speech platform and a Guardian post with the comments turned off, and it seems a false dichotomy to look at publisher vs non-publisher. Which/how many of these make up a publisher, or stop a platform from being one?

    – ‘walled garden’ conduct standards – my gaff my rules. Does it matter if it’s algos or admins?
    – in-house content vs comments to such – and what about clickbait listicles?
    – copyright filters, eg youtube Content ID
    – promoted content/interstitial ads/adservers filling page space. Does it matter if they can be ‘liked’?
    – open threads?
    – editorial content vs ‘journalism’
    – ‘we think you might like’ algos for sorting content from your network – when are you ranking by interest and when by profitability?
    – ???

    You could argue that anything that makes a platform money is their responsibility, but even that is fiddly. Facebook’s revenue is tied tightly to encouraging those Likes, but does a Like translate to revenue, and how many likes makes a post publishing?

    I think you’re looking at a four separate things that may or may not be the platform’s responsibility: in-house content, paid-for content, user-generated stuff, and a meta category for how the other three are mixed and presented.

  21. Lockers, excellent.

    If teen suicide is a problem, and it is, let’s do something. I suspect that some unprincipled people are trying to use teen suicide to argue against the internet in general. Bansturbators, MSM, TV, politicians all unscrupulously using an issue as a way to control something they don’t like and which is a threat to them.

  22. All teen suicides (most suicides for that matter) are a personal tragedy. But this weeks headlines about a ‘doubling’ in teen suicides are a result of cherry picking the figures from lowest year in the last decade and comparing them with today. The overall trend continues to be downward.

  23. @BoM4
    Usenet predates Arpanet by 3 years, it originally ran on dial-up (UUCP). There was a lot of porn, even then 🙂

  24. @Rhoda Klapp – thanks and yes, it’s just a Trojan Horse – and extremely cynical it is too.

    I’ve got no stake in this game directly, as I don’t have kids – and don’t want any, grotty, shitty, noisy little things. But my bro has a kid and I want to make sure he has the best chances in life. Bit of guidance from Uncle Lockers and all will be well.

    I twigged a while ago that all that shit we’re heaping upon kids (at school – especially at school) must be having an effect, along with social media crap.

    I could have gone on (and on, and on some more) with that list, but after a perhaps Murphyesque keyboard thumping for 2/3 minutes I thought that was enough!

  25. Having as a parent dealt with teen suicide ideation and some unsuccessful attempts I feel for the parents who are campaigning, but the reality is they just looking for someone to blame, an easy answer to a difficult and complex question
    The idea that a couple of self-harm posts on Instagram explains it all just isn’t reality no matter how much you want it to be
    One of the biggest issues for a parent in this situation is the feeling of helplessness, this is not about you and there isn’t anything you can do to fix the situation. You can help and support and hope that’s enough.

  26. “In the United States, platforms are protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
    Yet politicians and the public demand they act on whatever the cause of the day is. As David Moore says, they have in fact become publishers.”

    Facebook have been defending a case brought by a failed App startup called Six4Three with the interesting defence that they are indeed a publisher and as such its editorial decisions are protected under the First Amendment:

    So it seems that FB are a publisher when it suits them, and a carrier when it doesn’t.

  27. BiS: Before the Internet? What is usenet transmitted over? Even bulletin boards are post-creation-of-the-internet.

  28. jgh: “Internet” generally means TCP/IP. Before then, there was dialup between sites often using the UUCP (Unix-Unix copy) protocol.

    usenet/netnews posts would propagate between sites as they connected to each other and the messages were forwarded on.

  29. It’s entirely correct. The phone system operates purely as communication. If I were to use such to set up a murder that is not the responsibility of BT or whoever.

    Youtube, Twitter, Facebook etc. are taking very obvious political skews (try posting “Trump is a c—” and “Obama is a c—” and see what happens) and is making itself a publisher.

  30. “Even bulletin boards are post-creation-of-the-internet.” – depends on your definition of the internet. It’s predecessors have been around a long time, but the actual internet as useable by the rest of us is post bulletin-board. FIDO dates back to the early 1980s and BBS to the late 1970s ; anyone could access them ; we also had systems like Prestel and Compuserve that some people could access while the Internet was just really an University systems. The Internet became a public thing around 1990.

  31. Non techie people can get confused about computer networks.
    Anything that runs TCP/IP is what is considered to be “the internet”, a communications protocol originally descended from ARPA net with so called RFCs (requests for comments) used to define the relevant standards.
    The World Wide Web (WWW) is another protocol which piggy backs on top of the internet and was developed by our own Tim Berners Lee whilst working at CERN.
    Usenet predates the internet and was often run on other networks and also on dial up.
    It does however mostly use the the internet for communication nowadays.
    Plenty of places online to get a quick outline of how everything is pieced together.

  32. One of the emerging problems with online social networks now is that only a few very large companies control the flow of information to large proportions of the online community.
    They effectively act as gatekeepers to information and can have a very large but subtle influence on people’s behaviour.
    If people fall foul of what is considered acceptable discourse, they can essentially be totally excluded from having any online influence whatsoever, without having any legal recourse or right of appeal.
    That legislators around the world haven’t taken a deeper look at the activities of these internet and media companies speaks either to their incompetence or their complicity.

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