Where should you fear private internet censorship the most?

Alex already has covered this topic.  I am less worried than he is, and I’ll go through a list, but first here are a few general remarks.

Most of the ban attempts seem directed at versions of alt right ideas.  Whether you like it or not, those ideas have benefited from the internet perhaps more than any other.  I am seeing a small amount of that gain clawed back, but in a manner consistent with principles of liberty and free association and probably Coasean efficiency as well.  The claim “the tech companies are way more open than the previous mainstream gatekeepers, but they have to spend more customer and employee goodwill to be all the more open yet” has some resonance with me, but I can’t say it is in the top 300 list of demands I wish to place on the world.  It might not be in the top 1000.

It remains the case that the most significant voluntary censorship issues occur every day in mainstream non-internet society, including what gets on TV, which books are promoted by major publishers, who can rent out the best physical venues, and what gets taught at Harvard or for that matter in high school.  In all of these areas, universal intellectual service was never a relevant ideal to begin with, and so it seems odd to me to pick on say Facebook.  It’s still not nearly as important an influence as the above-mentioned parts of non-internet society, nor is it anywhere close to being as discriminatory.

That all said, I am happy when I see people complain about voluntary censorship, even when I disagree with the complaints, or think the complainer is being too pessimistic.  Complaining > complacency.  That said, here is my wee dose of complacency, in the form of a list across various parts of the internet:

1. On-line dating services.  No fears here.  Christian, Jewish, and other dating services are already set up to include some groups and exclude others.  If OK Cupid excludes neo-Nazis, or supposed neo-Nazis, this seems entirely in order.

2. Amazon.  You can order Mein Kampf on Amazon, and few seem to complain about that.  Does it make sense to have a world where Hitler is available but Milo is banned?  Well, a lot doesn’t make sense these days, but still I don’t ever expect that to happen.  There are cultural and also business reasons why universal booksellers will be among the last to embrace voluntary censorship.

Can you order a swastika, of the evil kind, on Amazon?  It seems not.  Presumably that has been the case for a while, it doesn’t bug me, and I wouldn’t mind if Amazon selectively stopped carrying other political symbols as well.  I bet Wal-Mart doesn’t carry them either.

3. Facebook.  Here my worry quotient at least potentially rises, if only because Americans spend so much time on Facebook.  Let’s say Facebook bans some neo-Nazi groups and communications, and then goes too far and keeps off some groups that offer valuable intellectual contributions, even if their quality might be too “high variance.”

Yet here’s the thing: given my mixed feelings toward Facebook, I see this as OK either way.  If Facebook gets better, well, how bad can “better” be?  But say the Facebook censors overreact, some groups are booted off, and Facebook gets worse.  I don’t mind if Facebook gets worse!  People will spend more time doing other things.  And the unjustly banned group still have plenty of other outlets on the web.  We know from history that every medium encourages some kinds of ideas and discourages others (TV for instance seems to let people think crime rates are pretty high, because crimes get covered on the evening news).  Not long ago, there was no Facebook and those unjustly banned groups couldn’t get on the evening news either.  Maybe that was bad, but it was hardly the end of the world, and even with an overly aggressive Facebook censor we are still far closer to a kind of neutrality across ideas than was the case twenty years ago.

4. Google.  In China I found it very easy to switch to Bing, because Bing is a second or so quicker in China (that is using Google through VPN, otherwise you can’t).  Now maybe Bing bans the same web sites.  And maybe the lower-tier search engines are too crummy, or people are simply not used to using them.

On this issue I have modest fears.  Still, what I’ve seen so far is a Google (and Bing) that want to be as universal as possible, and the constraints as coming from the regulators, such as the EU “forgetting” policy.  Google covers so much material, I think of them as not wanting to devote many resources to adjudicating content.  At the very least, they still seem quite willing to take me to Amazon selling Mein Kampf.

I do expect news.google.com to become more mainstream over time, and indeed it already has.  They are more careful about what pops up on the page.  This too doesn’t bug me, it probably improves average quality, and furthermore it is still a more open forum than is the news on television.

Here you can read a long list of complaints against Google and affiliated services.  Given how much data the company handles, and how many cases arise, I’m amazed they’ve done so well.  Salil Mehta was just restored, by the way.

5. Twitter.  For many people it might be an advantage to be banned from Twitter.  Still, for some views Twitter is an important means of connecting with the audience, Donald Trump being the most prominent example.  So I have a bit of a worry, but I don’t see Twitter as that powerful in the world of ideas.  And overall I have a pretty fluid view of what is likely to matter.  I do not think it is impossible or even implausible that some really important ideas, twenty years from now, are circulated using fanzines, or perhaps something like the old usenet groups.  More generally, our ability as outsiders to judge the health and quality of an intellectual ecosystem just isn’t that great, so maybe we shouldn’t be so judgmental at each step along the way?

6. YouTube (owned by Google).  Due to copyright law, YouTube is already in the business of making plenty of judgments about content and it has the infrastructure to do so.  And unlike Google the search engine, content is posted directly on YouTube itself.  YouTube is a hosting service, not just a search engine, though it is that too.  YouTube search and recommendation algorithms drive a lot of views.  If YouTube won’t host your videos, that is a problem.

But I am not very worried about “YouTube as we know it.”  The forum seems to work quite well (no need to mention Jordan Peterson in the comments, his account was restored).  I am happy that gangs can’t post videos of their killings, and the biggest problem remains government censorship of YouTube.  If you google “banned from YouTube,” I do not see a long list of outrages, that said I would not have banned the Prager University videos.  Whether you like it or not, it is easy to watch Milo on YouTube, even though the publishing world dropped his book like a stone.  The tech companies still seem so much more open than the older media gatekeepers.

Cloudflare, and other internet choke point services: I worry about them a lot.  They can in essence kick you off the entire internet through a single human decision not to offer the right services.  I focus almost all of my worry on them, noting that so far all they have done is kick off one Nazi group.  Still, I think we should reexamine the overall architecture of the internet with this kind of censorship power in mind as a potential problem.  And note this: the main problem with those choke points probably has more to do with national security and the ease of wrecking social coordination, not censorship.  Still, this whole issue should receive much more attention and I certainly would consider serious changes to the status quo.

A bit more

I hope the tech companies do not go further with voluntary censorship, but I don’t think it is obvious that they will.  It seems they felt the need to do something, and now they are hoping the storm will pass.  I do favor vigilance against further overreach, but let’s not overrate the importance of what are so far largely symbolic disputes.

By the way, what’s the deal with the Left favoring net neutrality but wanting all this voluntary internet censorship?


I agree with your views Tyler - except I'm not even that stressed with Facebook censorship as I have found Facebook doesn't lend itself very well to political discourse - Here's an interesting and directly related podcast interview concerning the issue viz Cloudfare https://www.recode.net/2017/8/25/16199102/tech-companies-shut-down-neo-nazis-censorship-free-speech-charlottesville

Here's a more cogent article explaining why Nazis! is just a set up for the real villains:


Which certainly explains why one of the actual founders of the Federalist Society wrote this - "We should call evil by its name. My brother didn't give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home. -OGH,"

You really need to start talking to some of your fellow citizens - you might be surprised at just how rare it will be to find any of them that agree with or support an explicitly genocidal ideology. Most Americans, regardless of any way you wish to classify them, consider Nazism evil and fundamentally anti-American.

First, the Federalist is not connected to the Federalist Society. Second, even if it were, the argument you are using is similar to the defective one mulp often employs. For example, if an analyst at the Heritage Institute suggested a health mandate at one time in the past, then Obamacare is a Republican plan and the only reason that the right opposes it is because a black man signed it.

I know. But to think that Orrin Hatch is fronting for the real villains shows how absurd it is to believe that it is possible to claim that Americans rejecting Nazi beliefs has anything to do with one's affiliations.

'the argument you are using is similar'

No, my argument is simply that hundreds of millions of Americans reject the genocidal ideology espoused by Nazis, regardless of any way you wish to classify them. And anyone suggesting that the 'real villains' are not the Nazis is an idiot, at best.

"Here’s a more cogent article explaining why Nazis! is just a set up for the real villains:"

With multiple references to their own hyperventilating opinion pieces to make it look legit when in fact all they're doing is begging the question.

Sweet source, brosky!

Censorship will always go too far. For example the quote " If OK Cupid excludes neo-Nazis, or supposed neo-Nazis, this seems entirely in order" Seriously does anyone believe there are more than a few hundred deluded nut cases who claim to be neo-nazis? And do you understand that the only reason these few hundred deluded nut cases do this is because it gets them attention? There is no one who actually wants to be a nazi. BUT there are literally millions of equally delueded nutcases who want to call people nazis and use that as an excuse to commit violence. Do you understand where the real risk is here???? .

Very few people (perhaps none) refer to themselves as "Nazi", "white supremacist", or "KKK", or to their activities as "hate". These terms are only ever used by others to describe them. That suggests that these terms might not be employed with good-faith intentions.

'That suggests that these terms might not be employed with good-faith intentions.'

Well, you can watch this clip, and decide on good-faith intentions - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o6-bi3jlxk

Yeah I was really offended when he said "we don't exploit other groups". The nerve! But listening to him on your link I thought how tame it sounded compared to Farrakhan or BLM who are black nationalists and black supremacists. Can we censor them too?


"Black Lives Matter" != "Only Black Lives Matter"


How dare you mention the phrase 'free association' in this context. Your very first numbered point makes it seem like you don't know that eHarmony was successfully sued for declining to make gay matches. You are contemptible.

Net neutrality is entirely consistent with hosts and servers setting their own house rules, and it is the ultimate safety outlet preventing those house rules from becoming more powerful or universal.

With free speech and net neutrality Nazidate is always an option.

(The demand that infrastructure firms all love and support Nazidate is something else, and silly.)

A search engine or social network can have their own house rules, but an ISP can't? I fail to see the consistent logic there.

is your (or Alex's) discomfort with platform self-censorship not equivalent to arguing that the platform should be a regulated utility? i am amazed at how you both take such contortions to dance around this.

Tyler, you prolly guessed it : the whole point of Net Neutrality for reasonable people is FUTURE services.

For example, here, in France, blablacar or leboncoin became something out of nowhere in mere monthes. Should their growth have been slower than thousands percent y2y, they would just not even exist now and would have been killed by regulation, taxation, or lobbying, like AirBnb, Deliveroo, and other markets are (being killed) at the moment.

The economy as a whole can accomode the current big players with Net Neutrality, BECAUSE startup growth can reach thousands% y2y and they can reach critical size before being killed by the current big players. This is really hot news in economics, isn't it ? But it can easily be lost. With Net-wide regulation (including censorship, net neut., etc.)

However, this is not really important : when we tak about net-wide regulation, we're still talking about local regulation. Innovation will still strive, exist and happen in mostly unregulated counties like Vietnam, etc... : so, the humanity will still get the services innovation and disruption has to offer ; it'll just take a bit longer, and won't happen in our countries : this makes me feel abit sad, but well, it's not that important....

I think you and some other posters here confuse 'net neutrality' with the social censorship TC is talking about; different subject matter.

Bonus trivia: both TC and AlexT have censored me on this blog, in the comments, imagine that! No big deal to me.

Ray Lopez, how have you been censored. AFAIK, none of my comments have been censored here, while sister site Econlog quite aggressively censors even polite articulate comments

Btw, the flip side of "censorship is bad/risky" is that weaponized bots and trolls are now a documented thing. In a net neutral world it may be a host and server's choice whether to fight them, but imo we would all be better off if Twitter and Facebook had better tools to do so.


also, are you really obtuse enough not to see the difference between net neutrality and voluntary platform censorship? one is about regulating monopoly rent extraction in a vertical market, and the other is a protest page straight out of Exit, Voice, and Loyalty. it's consistent with the idea that consumer sovereignty should decide what's on the internet. (ironically not all that "Left" an idea)

The problem is the monopoly to start with. In the rest of the (civilized) world, there are no monopolies in this area. I'm free to choose between about a dozen providers. In this scenario, heavy handed net "neutrality" regulation won't help me as a consumer.

The problem is that in the US, the local monopolies have been taken for granted, for some strange reason. And then more regulation and more unintentional consequences will inevitably follow.

This is mostly true, though in many places aren't the lack of monopolies because of a separation of the ISP business from the business of maintaining the physical connections? (And this may be enforced by regulation, as it seems like there's a natural case for vertical integration.) At least so long as we're talking about wireline and not wireless, I have a difficult time imagining that the natural market size is much larger than a duopoly.

"The problem is that in the US, the local monopolies have been taken for granted, for some strange reason. "

This is fundamentally incorrect. Most of the populace in the US has access to the internet through satellite, phone, cable and cell service. And generally there are multiple carriers for each of these categories.

Sometimes people will call "high speed" internet access a monopoly, because depending on how you define it, they might only be on cable provider. But even in that case it's a moving target, because the bandwidth has been improving in general.

> what’s the deal with the Left favoring net neutrality but wanting all this voluntary internet censorship?

The simplest explanation is to look at who loses? With the pushes censorship so far, it's Nazis and other alt right groups. The common argument against net neutrality is it favors big incumbent tech companies (Netflix, Google etc) who can afford to pay fees to prioritize their traffic, against scrappy startups, who generally can't.

It's not about "scrappy startups" (which almost all incumbents were 10-15 years ago) versus big incumbents. It is about firms outside of the traditional media and telecom universe being able to compete on a level playing field. Comcast owns part of Hulu but not Netflix -- it doesn't take an MBA to figure out what Comcast would be tempted to do in the absence of net neutrality.

'what Comcast would be tempted to do in the absence of net neutrality'

The past tense works just fine in describing what Comcast has already done, as explained in some detail here - http://mattvukas.com/2014/02/10/comcast-definitely-throttling-netflix-infuriating/

Same author, a week later, has some better info and theories.


Where he wrote this - 'Given the high bitrate that Netflix HD requires, and the fact that streaming video is throttled by just about every ISP at some point as part of a quality of service scheme, I think it's totally plausible that Comcast throttles Netflix to some degree.'

Then he writes how Comcast is doing this - 'Given Comcast’s long running fight with Level 3 about peering agreements, and the fact that Level 3 is also a Netflix CDN provider, I believe that Comcast is refusing to pay for the amount of bandwidth needed to handle the amount of Netflix data its customers are streaming from Level 3 CDN nodes.'

And provides a bit more information - 'And the motive can definitely be seen here. First of all, Comcast is saving money by skimping on their peering connection with Level 3. By letting traffic pile up at this bottleneck between Comcast customers and Netflix video being served at a node, they're putting pressure on Level 3 to negotiate a better peering price, while their customers suffer. Additionally, as a vertically integrated monopoly, Comcast has no incentive to fix this problem in a timely fashion, or at all.'

So, take your pick - Comcast is throttling Netflix, or Comcast is refusing to handle Netflix's data in a fashion that can be mistaken for throttling, as the data throughput is reduced.

Well, yeah, what is unexplained by net neutrality supporters is why comcast is in the wrong. They're trying to optimize the overall customer experience for ALL of their subscribers, not just netflix users.

What's so terrible about Comcast charging Netflix for the higher data throughput (or level 3 rather via peering agreements), which ultimately transfer the cost back onto Netflix customers?
Comcast, and by extension non-netflix using comcast subscribers, are essentially being asked to subsidize the data consumption of steaming video users.

'what is unexplained by net neutrality supporters is why comcast is in the wrong'

A number of people have repeatedly tried, so, yet another attempt.

Currently, the Internet as a concept/construct is set up in such a way that every data packet is treated equally - that is, you pay your ISP for bandwidth, and your ISP has no role in deciding what packets receive priority, or are filtered at all.

When an ISP decides that some data packets refer prefential treatment, for any reason at all, they are now in a position to ensure that when you pick between service X and service Y, the service with the preferential deal with the ISP will work flawlessly, while the other service will not.

To put it a bit differently - imagine a phone network was allowed to give priority/improved quality to calls from its own network, while being in a position to handle competitor calls as they chose, to the extent of possibly not even transferring those calls. And to be in a position to blame their competitor for providing inferior service.

First, Comcast isn't prioritizing it's own content.
They're throttling streaming video services because it's a bandwidth hog and it's degrading the overall user experience of other users - who want to do stuff other than stream video.
Second, The people with the preferential deal with the ISP will ultimately have to charge more more for the better quality service, because the preferential deal involves the content provider paying for prioritization, which ultimately flows back to consumers in the form of subscription fees.

So it won't be consumers choosing between two equally priced services, one of which works better. It will be consumers choosing between a cheap low-quality service and a more expensive high-quality service, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Prior, listen to Hazel. You are not going to win this one.

Hazel is wrong. The risk is not uniform video throttling, it is throttling by source. And "charging for throughput" is robbing me, the consumer.

I already paid for my 50mbps, you should not be able to charge me again, indirectly through my NetFlix bill, for the same 50mbps. Because I am not using my ISP's preferred services.

It's like libertarians have a mental block in place. They can't comprehend the architecture because it might imply a policy. Like rightists and climate change. An open mind is a risk to ideological purity.

"Second, The people with the preferential deal with the ISP will ultimately have to charge more more for the better quality service, because the preferential deal involves the content provider paying for prioritization, which ultimately flows back to consumers in the form of subscription fees."

The problem with this argument is that there are already many streaming services that are partly or fully owned by the same companies that own ISPs. For instance, Comcast is in direct competition with Netflix through its XFinity streaming service and popular cable channels such as HBO and Comedy Central operate their own streaming services and are partly or fully owned by cable operators. It is also worth pointing out how young streaming video actually is and there is no reason to think Netflix will necessarily dominate over the next 10 years. Net neutrality allows everyone to compete on a level playing field while doing away with it would pretty much guarantee that cable companies and telecom providers would either directly control the most popular streaming providers or else would essentially turn them into franchisees where a big part of their revenue would simply be extracted by the people who own the wires over which their content is streamed.

In a world of limited resources paying for Qos makes complete sense.

Sure Al, but the puzzle here is that libertarians are not focusing on the primary contract, that between ISP and subscribers.

That contract spells out speeds, bandwidth, and should set quality of service metrics as well.

The puzzle is that pro-market libertarians think that contact should be violated, to make a little money off the back-end. Money ultimately billed back to the subscribers one way or another.

"Currently, the Internet as a concept/construct is set up in such a way that every data packet is treated equally "

That's not true. The internet has always supported "Quality of Service". QoS is specifically about prioritizing data packets. I want my VOIP to have a higher priority than my movies.

The whole Net Neutrality debate is more politics than engineering. ISP should be able to prioritize data packets by type ie movie, Voip, email, software downloads etc. The true debate is over whether they can prioritize among types by provider.

I can see both sides of the argument on the second point.

You are being wilfully obtuse JWatts.

You essentially say that you love net neutrality (what it really is) and then say you hate net neutrality (straw manning what it is not).

A neutral net will prioritize by data type, always has, but may not prioritize by source (esp as competitive disruption).

Everyone ought to know by now that paying for 50 mbps really doesn't mean you have constant dedicated 50 maps available whenever you want. It is generally labelled "up to" 50 mbps , which means it might not reach those speeds during peak hours when everyone on the block is streaming video. The unique quality of video is that any lag at any time is a significant problem for users. So video users are demanding a lot more continuous bandwidth at all times. It makes technical sense tof prioritize video packets in order to make video play smoothly, but that prioritization affects non streaming users, so it makes sense to pay for it. Otherwise Comcast is in the absurd position of having to massively build out local networks so that video users can get the experience they want without prioritization. And that bI'll will fall on all Comcast users. Paying for prioritization is simple optimal allocation of limited resources.

Hazel, there was an argument 5 years ago that video use was unexpected.

That day is gone, and providers have long since posted updated terms of service. They know it, they are just angling for a scam. A scam you are abetting.

Another thing to point out is, as an internet-only customer, I'm not paying for Xfinity video streaming. It's a separate charge. If I wanted Xfinity, I would pay extra for that. Now, it's possible comcast could use some of their internet customer's bandwith to make Xfinity streaming work better, but if they aren't charging them for it, that's going to show up in QoS and I can always switch ISPs to get more reliable internet services, because they're essentially making their internet-only customers subsidize their other customers video streaming (just exactly the same situation as with Netflix, but internal to comcast).

And yes, the local monopoliies and lack of competition is a problem there, but who created the local cable monopolies in the first place?

Do you not get that video demands continuous uninterrupted bandwidth, whereas other services do not? It is qualitatively different than downloading email and webpages.
If comcast was going to provide a continuous uninterrupted 50 mbps to everyone single customer at peak hours, it would have a massive oversupply of bandwidth at non-peak hours.
Supply and demand - rather than overbuild the network so 100 people can simultaneously stream high definition at the same time (oversupply), you increase the price of continuous streaming at peak demand - so you get demand to match supply.

And of course, we see how this whole thing just comes down to a squabble between two giant corporation over who is going to pay for what. It has nothing to do with freedom of speech.
Nobody is trying to control content.

Anyone who says "continuous uninterrupted" does not even know how packet switching works.

Please. I'm not talking about an analog signal here. Everyone knows that you're buffering packets, but sometimes you can't get packets fast enough to play them back at the speed the video is playing. If that happens, you get lag, or the video resolution quality drops (depending on what the CDN decides to do when that happens). It's an inherent problem with watching video packet-by-packet over the network instead of downloading the whole file to your local hard disk. (Oh, the convenience of bootlegging...)

'They’re throttling'
Which considering that I paid for bandwidth is the essential problem. It makes absolutely no difference why they are throttling, assuming that they were honest in what they are selling (I am quite aware that they weren't being honest, but that is an entirely different question separate from net neutrality).

Let me emphasize this point from another commenter - 'They can’t comprehend the architecture.' It really, really seems that way, without any of the other aspects of the comment. A data packet is a data packet, and if I pay for bandwidth, it is not up to my ISP to decide which data packets are treated differently.

'That’s not true.' in terms of a packet of data - yes, sort of. But considering that most people here are probably not aware of the difference between how UDP and TCP/IP handle data packets, I just skipped over it. However, the idea of neutrality applies to how data packets are treated, regardless of the protocol involved. But yes, there are really a lot of details - none of which make any difference to the idea that your ISP is providing a service involving bandwidth, and not a service deciding which data packets of the same protocol type receive preferential treatment.

'The whole Net Neutrality debate is more politics than engineering.'
If I buy bandwidth, I do not expect my ISP to decide which packets are treated differently. It really is that simple.

'ISP should be able to prioritize data packets by type ie movie, Voip, email, software downloads etc.'
No, my ISP should have zero influence on how the packets I request are handled - they provide bandwidth. They should have no ability to decide what is in my best interests - that is for me to decide, not them. Much the same way that it is not for my phone company to decide which external calls are sent to my number, and which aren't.

'Everyone ought to know by now that paying for 50 mbps really doesn’t mean you have constant dedicated 50 maps available whenever you want.'
Germany disagrees with you - selling a 50 mbs connection means that is what they have to sell. Fraud is not allowed.

LOL, Anonymous is such a hack.

I end with: "I can see both sides of the argument on the second point."

He responds with: "You are being wilfully obtuse JWatts."

And then this: "and then say you hate net neutrality (straw manning what it is not). A neutral net will prioritize by data type, always has, but may not prioritize by source"

Yes, well let's look for an actual definition:

"Network neutrality is the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. Internet traffic includes all of the different messages, files and data sent over the Internet, including, for example, emails, digital audio files, digital video files, etc."


I can see how someone could think my post was a straw man post ... if they actually didn't understand the concept.

Cheat much? You quote an into paragraph and then expand that it means something else.


The net is already built out to optimize all sorts of specialized delivery. That is the modern definition of neutral.

Anti-neutral would be blocking or throttling just to be a dick, essentially. That's what non-neutrals want. Man in the middle attacks.

From that:

"They should call it preventing cable company f***ery, because that is what it is.”

I guess some people want to be pro f***ery?


The fact that you might not get your data at the max speed you paid for is written into the contract with the ISP. Actual download speeds vary depending on the level of network congestion. In order to guarentee a reserved bandwidth at any time you wanted it, Comcast would have to massively overbuild their local network. Paid prioritization is essentially just a mechanism to allocate finite bandwidth optimally to customers most willing to pay for high throughput at peak hours. Of course, Netflix would love to force Comcast to install more fiber and pass the cost on to Comcast customers. And Comcast wants to minimize the amount of added capacity it has to build and make Netflix consumers pay more for streaming. They're both self-interested operators fighting over who is going to pay for what, and it has nothing to do with free speech, because nobody is actually throttling based on content.

As if Tyler didn't read Unqualified Reservations back in the day. The parsimonious explanation is as Defoe said, quoted by MM.

"Sir Roger L'Estrange tells us a story in his collection of Fables, of the Cock and the Horses. The Cock was gotten to roost in the stable among the horses; and there being no racks or other conveniences for him, it seems, he was forced to roost upon the ground. The horses jostling about for room, and putting the Cock in danger of his life, he gives them this grave advice, "Pray, Gentlefolks! let us stand still! for fear we should tread upon one another!"

There are some people in the World, who, now they are unperched, and reduced to an equality with other people, and under strong and very just apprehensions of being further treated as they deserve, begin, with Aesop's Cock, to preach up Peace and Union and the Christian duty of Moderation; forgetting that, when they had the Power in their hands, those Graces were strangers in their gates!"

Basically, the left supports censorship when it is wielded by allies to punish political opponents, but otherwise they oppose censorship when others might use it for reasons that they don't favor. This is true, but it's the opposite of supporting a consistent set of rules that apply to everyone.

The argument against net neutrality is that it's burdensome unnecessary regulation and merely and Obama administration power grab:


On Twitter, it may not be a great medium for ideas, but it is great for connecting ideas. Good sources provide a constant stream of "assorted links." I assume that is where most of yours come from, these days.

Whether Facebook and Twitter should help users with "link bogosity" is the hanging question, with merit and as you say, risk.

I think the Cloudflare paragraph shows a misunderstanding of what they do.

They are not a monopoly, and especially cannot be in a neutral net. They are just a provider. They provide distribution and security services that float on top of the neutral net.

For more see https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_as_a_service

'private internet censorship'

Always good to start off with a complete oxymoron.

'Most of the ban attempts'

Have been traditionally directed against child pornography, since the mid 1990s. Like this - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_Pornography_Prevention_Act_of_1996

And has filter software become so common in the U.S. that when talking about 'private censorship,' not a single word is wasted on the content filter industry? 'Content-control software is software designed to restrict or control the content a reader is authorised to access, especially when utilised to restrict material delivered over the Internet via the Web, e-mail, or other means. Content-control software determines what content will be available or be blocked.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content-control_software

'those ideas have benefited from the internet perhaps more than any other'

Daesh begs to differ, and wonders if the alt right has made torch lit processions as splashy as beheadings. Which, strangely, are no longer so easily found on the Internet as in the past. Not that one would expect a member of the GMU econ faculty to actually keep up with such things.

'the most significant voluntary censorship issues'

Yep, editorial control is exactly like censorship. So, who censors more then - NYT, Breitbart, Bloomberg, Fox, MSNBC, WSJ, Daily Mail, Guardian, or CNN? This sudden yet continued concern about something that has actually been going for years (ask the Pirate Bay about censorship) is apparently attempting to conflate several issues into one is starting to become harder to ignore - in reality, hundreds of millions of Americans actually oppose Nazis, up to the point of sacrificing their lives. An American opposition based on having faced and defeated the holders of a genocidal ideology that is implacably opposed to this idea - 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.'

'universal intellectual service was never a relevant ideal to begin with'

Strange how no mention is made of public libraries, who do come close to that ideal. An institution that actually represents a group of people who have been fighting censorship for my entire life.

'It’s still not nearly as important an influence as the above-mentioned parts of non-internet society'

More research, this time concerning what Facebook apparently call 'mood contagion' - https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jun/29/facebook-users-emotions-news-feeds

'There are cultural and also business reasons why universal booksellers will be among the last to embrace voluntary censorship.'

Amazon, remotely deleting 'illegal' copies of 1984 from Kindles, is probably not your best example.

'Can you order a swastika, of the evil kind, on Amazon?'

Well, clicking on your link, the first item offered for sale at $14.99 is this - '1939-B Germany Third Reich 1 Pfennig Swastika Coin'

'and then goes too far and keeps off some groups that offer valuable intellectual contributions'

You mean that the Nazi association with the idea of of racial inferiority remains a road bump?

'If YouTube won’t host your videos, that is a problem'

Vimeo, DailyMotion, or archive.org all come to mind for hosting original video content. (The last one without any realistic chance to earn any advertising revenue, and possibly requiring a bit more effort.)

'even though the publishing world dropped his book like a stone'

This is what happens to people expressing support for pedophilia - that sort of banning/shunning behavior has been going on for decades.

'They can in essence kick you off the entire internet through a single human decision not to offer the right services.'

In a world where magnet protocol torrents and Tor don't exist, that is.

'It seems they felt the need to do something, and now they are hoping the storm will pass'

Yep, describes the 1990's CPPA era in a nutshell.

The post looks like an effort to ignore the common thread behind a vast network of efforts all directed towards a particular kind of social engineering, by focusing instead on individual pieces and using bad analogies (Christian dating sites etc.) to minimize them.

Good variant of "divide and conquer".

Lots of people want to build social trust between racial and ethnic groups. It's not exactly a secret conspiracy that lots of people think racism is bad and socially destructive and wish to promote racial harmony.

The issue is not whether "social trust" or "racial harmony" is good or whether "racism is bad"' many of the banned people believe in all these ideals. Do you want to distort the other side's view so much that your view becomes tautologically true?

If we're talking about people banning neo-Nazis from OKCupid and the like, then I would submit that vast majority of the banned people demonstrably DON'T believe in those ideals. There may be some examples of overreach, like in the case of Twitter banning Milo Yiannopolous, but for the most part, no, were not talking about people who are merely labeled racist because they are misunderstood.

....“social trust” or “racial harmony” is good or whether “racism is bad”... I believe those to be true too, but I don't need to force those beliefs onto others.
There's a huge leap between ignoring and banning the idiots.

We still have freedom of association. People get to chose whom they interact with. If someone prefers not to buy something from me, or sell an item to me for whatever reason, so what? That'll be 2% of the population. Ignore and move on.

then I would submit that vast majority of the banned people demonstrably DON’T believe in those ideals.

I would submit that not only do you not know what the banned people believe in, you don't have any idea who they are.

OKCupid has only loudly announced they are banning white nationalists, but have quietly moved on to banning moderate Trump supporters like Cassandra Fairbanks.

Exactly. As Gezi says the greatest danger is not governments "making a market" for free ideas with "net neutrality."

It is government making a very non neutral and highly managed ideological net, as in China.

Somehow libertarians have gotten wrong-sided on this, so much so that they must stubbornly insist that "neutrality" is not market making, that it is anti-neutral.

" It remains the case that the most significant voluntary censorship issues occur every day in mainstream non-internet society, including what gets on TV, which books are promoted by major publishers, who can rent out the best physical venues, and what gets taught at Harvard or for that matter in high school...." --- TC


yup, forget this internet cr@p --- the real censorship comes from the mainstream media, government, and especially government schools (which 90% of Americans attend in their most formative years).

American government and its allies in the media are the biggest propaganda & censorship vehicles in world history.

The left wants textbooks that normalize LGBT, the right wants books that deny evolution or climate change. Vouchers won't change that, just ease the sorting.

"Vouchers won’t change that, just ease the sorting."

If by ease the sorting, you mean, make both sides happy (or at least less unhappy), then yes.

That's a Win-Win.

Unless you are allied with the various public Teacher's Unions, who would potentially have less future jobs.

There are negative externalities to everyone choosing their own b.s. There may even be quite severe parent-child agency issues in play.

I know adult survivors of home schooling with strong opinions on that.

"I know adult survivors of home schooling with strong opinions on that."

Nice, how you moved the argument's "goal posts" from Vouchers to home schooling.


Same thing. Parents messing with kids for reasons of their own religious or ideological purity.

Right now you need to homeschool for a good whackadoodle education. Soon you can buy it with a voucher. Yay.

There is a difference if Google removes a website from its search engines or from its DNS servers. If a website is remove from Google's search engine it might be found on Bing. If a website is removed from Google's DNS servers, then anyone that depends on Google's DNS service (do you?) will not be able to reach the wibsite even if it is found on Bing.

There is also a difference if Google removes a website from its search engines or Verizon blocks access to a website.

What scenarios does "Net Neutrality" cover?

What are the limits to "Editorial Control"?

It really is not that hard to access a DNS server (which you don't need anyways, if you know the actual IP address).

A seemingly decent explanation - https://computers.tutsplus.com/tutorials/how-to-change-your-dns-for-safer-faster-browsing--mac-61232

To make this discussion more concrete, here's an early example of Youtube's new policy of soft censorship: Journalist Jared Taylor's polemical but sober discussion of "Race Differences in Intelligence:"


Youtube hasn't banned it from being viewed, but has crippled much of the usual functionality of sharing, commenting, and the like.

This move is obviously related to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki winning the power struggle within Google to fire James Damore. From "Recode:"

"What turned the tide, said sources, was when it was noted that if Damore’s dubious contentions about women’s skills were replaced by those about race or religion, there would be no debate.

"In fact, Wojcicki said as much in her essay:

“For instance, what if we replaced the word ‘women’ in the memo with another group? What if the memo said that biological differences amongst Black, Hispanic, or LGBTQ employees explained their underrepresentation in tech and leadership roles? Would some people still be discussing the merit of the memo’s arguments or would there be a universal call for swift action against its author?"

Obviously, blacks and nonwhite Hispanics are extremely under-represented among Google's technical employees, while, say, Hindus, Jews, and m-to-f trans people are over-represented, but that's not the point. The point is you aren't supposed to discuss the science behind why Google does what it does when it comes to hiring.

If bad ideas (like racist pseudoscience) do lead to bad outcomes (a new generation of alt-right losers), maybe the problem is too much complacency, rather than too much censorship.

"If bad ideas (like racist pseudoscience) "

The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond

1) "The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right."

2) "Alongside other evidence, the employee argued, in part, that this research indicates affirmative action policies based on biological sex are misguided. Maybe, maybe not. Let me explain."

3) "For what it’s worth, I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate. "

4) "As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership.

Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at."


I know the science. The parallel between racism and sexism is that in both cases intra group differences dwarf differences between group means.

But then we should know that.


And what do you think that has to do with selecting a group from the top .1%?

Just to be clear, my response to Steve was not so much about the Google memo, more about his role in the foundations of the alt-right. A lot of people were charmed by dangerous (wrong) ideas, and of course people are being hurt.

On the Google memo, it is subtly wrong, for reasons widely discussed. Google's official statements are less subtly wrong, for reasons of legal liability. It is true that even acknowledging subtle sexual differences is going to run afoul of antidiscrimination standards.

"intra group differences dwarf differences between group means."

This applies to anything. Say, half-marathon times by age group: the intra-group time difference among 65 year old runners is much larger than the difference between 20 year olds and 65 year olds. But I wouldn't conclude that the difference between 20 year olds and 65 year olds is small.

Massimo, even when you have nothing but "bell curves" the spans and overlap are not always the same for different groups or problems.

OK, that seems rather obvious. Now, I'm even less sure of the point you are driving at. Unless, you are simply trying to confuse or derail anything said by Steve Sailer.

Interestingly, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki's sister Anna Wojcicki founded, w/ then-hubby Sergey Brin's money, the genetic testing firm 23andMe, which tells you what your racial ancestry is based on your DNA and what your genes portend for you.

A lot of what is going on at the moment is a Crisis of Faith among elites. The ideological dogmas of the system under which families like the Wojcickis have prospered so immensely are being eroded weekly by discoveries in genomic science.

The current system of conventional wisdom, focused as it is on the purported menace posed by the Ku Klux Klan and Nazis, offers virtually no resistance to giant mounds of money being piled up by people who, say, inherited genes for intelligence from their Stanford physics professor dad. But, they worry, what if the common people eventually figure out that the reason Google has hired so many more Asian men than black women is because Google is biased in favor of genes for intelligence, that Google's leaders didn't earn their brains, they inherited them?

A personal genome is exactly opposite of a bias based on gross morphology.

And the real population genetics, that you reject, understands that.


I'm (not) surprised that nobody gave the obvious rejoinder to Ms. Wojcicki:

"Do you think if the memo was about race or religion that the author would be able to support it in the manner that he did in this memo? Do you really believe that the biological and neurological differences between people of different skin color or religion are of the same magnitude and type as the differences between the sexes?"

Google is supposed to be data-driven.

On many relevant traits, differences between racial averages are larger than differences between sex averages.

For example, Google hires a disproportionate number of Asian men for technical jobs, in part because Asian males average high on tests of mathematical ability. But Google hires far more Asian women than black men because Asian women score closer to Asian men on math than do black men.

Of course, there are other traits where sex differences are bigger than racial differences.

Damore's memo spoke to differences in motivation, not differences in ability. That is one of the reasons I included the phrase 'and type' in my question.

From a practical standpoint I think websites are fighting a losing battle trying to ban certain types of speech. There are just too many edge cases to keep everyone happy. A safer and easier approach is to give users better (i.e. finer grained) tools to filter out content they find objectionable. Does it really matter if the neo-Nazis are on Facebook or wherever spouting their hate if the only people who see their posts are other neo-Nazis?

You should think of cloudflare as being a specialty webhosting company, not an actual choke point (those exist, in particular at peering points). As long as people operating the wires don't censor, data can be reached somehow.

Greater accessibility to news outlets is one of the best features of the Internet. I no longer have to accept the drivel from the major networks. Environmental pollution, climate change, privacy issues: Tigerswan, Palantir. Dissent has never been easier or more documented. As I do not participate in Facebook or Twitter, I cannot comment other than to say healthy relationships are important and bully behavior is decidedly destructive.

"By the way, what’s the deal with the many on the"...Right opposing..."net neutrality" but whining about how their free speech is in danger? Could it be that small factions on both sides are simply making a lot of noise? I think too many people are triggered by what they see on the Internet. Grow up. Real life is much more important. If some idiot wants to recite Mein Kampf, let him. In this case, I prefer the companies to self-censor over the government. If the same idiot decides to threaten specific harm or commit violence against a group, then the government should intervene.

Cloudflare's CEO may have something personal against neonazi hackers. Remember when they hacked Cloudflare's CEO Gmail account?


Free-speech for trolls & hackers or safe credit card data? It's easy to raise fingers against the people who make internet work and forget the ones that want to wreck havoc for the lulz.

Well, and Milo is not banned from Amazon:


He simply was dropped from his publisher, so he self-published--self-publishing which has served Milo well as he gets to keep the cut of gross profits that would otherwise have gone to his publisher.

Good catch, but the other side is that Milo loses out on his advance and doesn't get the publisher's help in marketing and promoting the book (people have been predicting the decline of large publishing companies for years but it turns out they are genuinely good at marketing and promotion in a way that very few authors are). He only earns more if he does a good job of promoting the book independently and holds all the risk if the book flops.

This kind of censorship is bad for authors who are less expert at self-promotion than Milo.

I always think less of a website when it assigns views to the Left (holding himself out as a person who can assign views to one "group" or another when in fact you would find many ACLU members in that group), or when yesterday, as an act of hypocritical censorship, it removed my comment criticizing a racist comment, or when it uses the words "politically correct" in its post as a red flag to wave before the audience. I know that wasn't politically correct, but maybe just using that word will draw out a certain type of person who laments how a teacher told him not to use that bad word in the presence of nice people.

I suspect this comment will be taken down, but, no matter, this site is beginning to decline when it uses words like "Left", or "politically correct" or censors comments.

It used to have some thoughtful comments and links to other sources that might be interesting.

Look at yourself when you censor comments and then make a post the next day decrying censorship.

The best defense to a bad idea is free speech and better ideas.

"It used to have some thoughtful comments"

Yes. There are even a few in this thread, above yours.

Tyler basically agrees with the Left's POV, but not strongly enough for Bill.

???What are you saying.

My point of view is that people should be able to speak freely.

That shouldn't be left or right.

Do you think using the word Left means anything? They called social security left or socialist; they called medicare left or socialist; and we have a President claiming he will not touch social security or medicare. People use the word left not to convey information, but to bring back images of their youth. When you have Putin supporting the right in Europe you have to wonder what words mean other than symbolism or images you want people to bring up at an emotional level without thinking.


Hypothetical: Should wearing a Nazi t-shirt in public be considered protected speech, and should that protection include being free of the threat of termination from one's job, or being harassed or insulted in public, or denied service in restaurants?

If your answer is yes, answer the following: How is that different from wearing black skin in public?

'Should wearing a Nazi t-shirt in public be considered protected speech'
Of course it is protected speech, in the public square.

'should that protection include being free of the threat of termination from one’s job, or being harassed or insulted in public, or denied service in restaurants'
Economic freedom means that your employer should be able to terminate you at any time for no reason at all, and the owners of this web site are not about to throw away a generation's worth of hard work in that area. (The 1st Amendment has nothing to say about employment, of course.) 'Harassed' is more than a touch subjective, but just as one has a right to wear a Nazi shirt in the public, your fellow American citizens in the public square have every right to insult you, as creatively and consistently as they wish. Public accomodation is a bit of a mixed bag, but there is no question that a privately owned restaurant, for example, could institute a policy denying service to anyone wearing any symbols of any genocidal ideology. However, this would most likely not apply to a restaurant in the National Gallery of Art, as that restaurant could be considered to be operating under the aegis of the federal government, which is not allowed to make such content based distinctions.

'How is that different from wearing black skin in public?'
You cannot take off your skin? Further, in the public square, American citizens are free to insult each other for any reason at all. Including skin color.

Hazel, are black people banned from public places?


Prior_test3 must be a lawyer because that is the way one would respond if this were a law exam.

I agree with Prior. As for the last item, we have parts of our Constitution which cover that as well as statutes.

As for employment protections, there are protected categories (race, creed), but being obnoxious is not one of them.


Yes. No. Yes for physical harassment / No for insults. No.

Bill: "???What are you saying.

My point of view is that people should be able to speak freely.

That shouldn’t be left or right."

Ok, I misunderstood. After re-reading what you wrote, I see your point. My apologies.

Thank you. Now let's be friends.

Tylew is completely right. Cloudflare is way more worrying that 1. to 6. together. The problem with the recent "consorship" issues related 1. to 6. is not that they are so serious in themselves, but that they are on a slippery slope leading to most serious censorship issue, like a huge exchange site being totally banned of the internet (not of a particular server).

It sounds like you've been listening to secondary sources who themselves do not understand what Cloudflare is.

Your options: Cloudflare or MaxCDN or Amazon CloudFront or Akamai Edge or Fastly.

Those are just the big players.

There are lots of CDNs so I'm not so worried about them. If you started seeing censorship at IXPs I would be a bit more concerned. Such worries seem biggest when there's less competition, so worries about platforms like Apple and Google, or local consumer ISPs (thus related to the concept of net neutrality) make more sense to me than CDNs.

Agreed. Which is why I say that libertarians got "wrong sided" in the net neutrality battle.

"There are lots of CDNs so I’m not so worried about them. "

There's a lot newspapers, too. If a prominent newspaper started publicly banning certain speech from it's pages, I would be concerned.


How would that be different from having an editor who decided what articles (and letters to the editor) to publish?

"How would that be different from having an editor who decided what articles (and letters to the editor) to publish?"

An editor at a major paper whom adopted a public policy of excluding certain view points from his paper would also raise my concern.

Net neutrality rules basically don't apply to consumer ISPs, only to large networks talking with each other.

The Internet treats censorship as an attack and routes around it. The nazis just didn't use a sophisticated enough system. They should dynamically register randomized domain names using an algorithm at a rate of a few hundred per second, and then write another program to route to them, just like any other malware. Then they should make arrangements to spin up and down nodes with cloud providers and map the two. It will be hard to attack, and if they do attack they could end up hitting someone better at retaliating the the nazis are. There are a bunch of other anti-censorship protocols, for example they could mix their text with nazi porn and everyone would download and share a copy.

With dating services, if anything, the risk seems to more be that the government is likely to push them to be "too open." I can somewhat understand the mindset that is skeptical of specialized dating services, and some of this has happened with EHarmony.

By contrast, as noted, it's very easy to set up a specialized service, and if people want that, it will make sense for them to seek it out.

There are also a lot of facebook clones, the problem is that they have a combined total of about 3 users. From a usability perspective, it makes sense to use the one site with everyone on it, and then filter out the people you don't like because of the politics, religion, job, or whatever.

IAC has an effective monopoly on online dating. That is their choice of course, but since they are only acting out on OKC, they might be vulnerable and we should attack the parent. This is strategic mostly because their attack on firefox, which has a better test engine integration framework.

... when in fact you would find many ACLU members in that group.....

What does that prove? The ACLU often prioritizes leftist view over civil rights.

....I suspect this comment will be taken down.... Why would it be? Assuming this is the Bill that often posts her, this isn't even match some of your less ridiculous claims.

Reply to Bill above.

'The ACLU often prioritizes leftist view over civil rights.'

You mean like going to court so that the Nazis could have their demonstration in the place they wished, against the opposition of the local government? As noted by the governor of Virginia - 'I will tell you this, though, David. We asked - the city of Charlottesville asked for that to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away - a lot of open fields. That was the place that it should've been. We were, unfortunately, sued by the ACLU. And the judge ruled against us.' http://www.npr.org/2017/08/14/543358169/incident-in-charlottesville-will-make-us-stronger-gov-mcauliffe-says

Or do you mean that the ACLU is the group that fought for the right to display a swatiska in public, as that is protected expression? 'In 1977 Frank Collin, the leader of National Socialist Party of America, announced the party's intention to march through Skokie, Illinois. In the predominantly Jewish community, one in six residents was a Holocaust survivor or was directly related to one. Originally, the NSPA had planned a political rally in Marquette Park in Chicago; however the Chicago authorities blocked these plans by requiring the NSPA to post a public safety insurance bond and by banning political demonstrations in Marquette Park.

On behalf of the NSPA, the ACLU challenged the injunction issued by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois that prohibited marchers at the proposed Skokie rally from wearing Nazi uniforms or displaying swastikas. The ACLU was represented by civil rights attorneys David Goldberger[6] (later a professor at Ohio State's law school) and Burton Joseph. The challengers argued that the injunction violated the First Amendment rights of the marchers to express themselves.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_Party_of_America_v._Village_of_Skokie

Those 1st Amendment leftists are really sneaky, aren't they?

lol going back 40 years.

"Voluntary internet censorship"? I don't think so. If the tech firms told the powers that be, we do free speech so suck it up, what would happen next? Involuntary internet censorship. You might remember Mozilla and Firefox as an example of what happens when tech firms don't obey.

I wonder if Walmart and Amazon sell merchandise with a hammer and sickle? Or pictures of Chairman Mao?

Kidzs on Kampus can wear a red Che t-shirt and be kool. Could they buy, and wear, a Mussolini t-shirt?

For that matter, Barry O traveled to Cuba and had fun going to a baseball game with Raul Castro. I wonder if Trump could invite Putin to America, where they would go to a baseball game together, maybe do the "wave" like Barry did?

The issue if monopoly. If the world of the internet were perfectly competitive, I wouldn't care about any of this. But the internet is functionally monopolized. Facebook and Google control access. If they are going to abuse their monopoly position, we ought to treat them the same as we treated railroads a century ago. Railroads were the Victorian internet.

Re: For that matter, Barry O traveled to Cuba and had fun going to a baseball game with Raul Castro.

Yes, and Nixon toasted Mao in China. And even St Reagan partied with Soviet leaders at whiles. Your point is?

Net neutrality turned the internet over to the FCC, which has never been known for censoring things, right?

"Most of the ban attempts seem directed at versions of alt right ideas.  Whether you like it or not, those ideas have benefited from the internet perhaps more than any other."

Maybe. I don't know. Perhaps those are the creepy groups that get all the attention while the creepy leftist groups are mostly ignored.

Since you're somewhat libertarian, you can't really view this issue from a perspective of perfect neutrality. A lot of the people crying for aggressive censorship view libertarianism as indistinguishable from Nazism, after all, so "banning Nazis" (or "punching Nazis") is only a short hop from banning/punching you. There's preciously little reason to think they'll stop with people *you* think are bad, because the Leftists pushing this stuff think your ideas are just as evil.

Is Cowen defending the right of someone to communicate her views no matter how repulsive or is Cowen defending the right of someone to communicate propaganda in order to promote a particular movement in which “conspiratorial secrecy is at all times essential” to mask efforts to expose the movement? I would include the communication of white supremacists in the former. Sure, they might wish to provoke their adversaries, but their underlying message (white supremacy) is clear for all to see. On the other hand, the underlying message of those who engage in "conspiratorial secrecy" is hidden, or hidden until the conspirators have achieved whatever their nefarious goal. I came of age when clarity of communication was considered essential to freedom, including freedom to promote all ideas, popular and unpopular, the clarity of the communication truth's antidote to lies and distortions. "Conspiratorial secrecy" is anathema to freedom, and those who engage employ it should be exposed for their lies and distortions. As for the white supremacists, let them communicate on social media and wherever they wish for all to see.

You can see Tyler squirming, trying oh so carefully to not become a target himself.

Tyler's views are likely influenced by having tenure.

People granted tenure are those who play well with others, and being that person is the over-riding feature of all of his commentary.

So basically this boils down to Nazis are bad and it is okay to ban them because the effects on everyone else will be small.

Okay, so how accurate are our "Neo-Nazi" detectors? At best there are 20,000 Neo-Nazis in the country. Our pre-test probability for anyone being a neo Nazi is something like 0.007%. Let us simplify and say that Neo-Nazis will be detected 100% of the time (no false negatives). Well then, a majority of bans will affect more innocent people than Neo-Nazis if, and only if, the specificity is >99.993%. This sort of specificity is exceedingly rare in any cheap test and even in most expensive tests. Are we comfortable making the majority of the burden of such private policy fall on innocent people (e.g. Jains)? We are assuming a degree of accuracy that is very rarely observed in human affairs when we talk only about the impacts on the Neo-Nazis.

Secondly, how much does it cost to de-Nazify these web services? After all if you get blacklisted inaccurately, you can just demonstrate you are not a Nazi. Except for some period of time you have to forgo certain services, and the provider has to dump man hours into these efforts. Say you need to spend $20 per appeal between the person doing the appeal and the adjudicator on the corporate side (e.g. 5 minutes on the phone). For our 20,000 Nazis, that works out to be maybe half or a million dollars per annum. This means we lose a million dollars worth of investment elsewhere. Is it really worth a millions of dollars to purge easy access for Nazis? It will not be the Nazis who pay these costs, but ordinary web users. If it is really worth this sort of investment to society, why not just keep them off the local news which is vastly more effective at popularizing them? Does anyone seriously believe that OKCupid is a major Neo-Nazi recruitment center?

Okay so assume we are okay with harming mostly innocent people and paying millions for these efforts. Are we okay with the fact that a large number of the intended targets are likely just suffering from psychiatric issues? Of all of the Neo-Nazis I have ever met, and covering ER for the jail means I meet more than most anyone else, the majority suffer from easily recognizable psychoses. Many of them literally believe the "Elders of Zion" run the world the way other schizophrenia patients believe that "The Lizard People", "The Illuminati", or "Communist Infiltrators" and they tick off every criterion in the DSM V (right down to stuff like flat affect and abulia). Are we okay with literally persecuting people for mental health disorders? Because my informed guess is the majority of actual Neo-Nazis are in the grip of pretty severe psychoses.

Lastly, does any of this actually WORK? Does removing them from Facebook having any measurable impact? Are people experiencing less distress now that they are gone? Does this decrease their recruitment efforts (literature suggests no)? Is this likely to diminish actual hate crimes rates (in my experience, validating the persecution delusions of paranoid schizophrenics tends to result in increased violence)? Before we open up this can of worms can we actually show some data that it produces positive results?

Germany has had far wider reaching coercive powers brought against this type of speech with not terribly impressive results from bans. Germany has had much more impact from reintegration and engagement strategies. Perhaps we should update our priors to reflect this?

Even if we climbed back up the slippery slope from present practice and hit only Neo-Nazis with voluntary bans, we still are not having an honest conversation about cost and benefits. Companies are of course free to waste money as they see fit, and hey virtue signalling undoubtedly makes people feel better; but I am still waiting for someone to actually show this has positive impacts on the metrics under discussion and is not just a giant private boondoggle.

Maybe there should be a special padded section of the internet for people with mental health problems.
At least, it might improve the user experience to keep them separated from the general population.
(See rayward two posts up for instance).

1. Around 18% of Americans currently have a mental health illness.

2. Over half of Americans will have a mental health illness in their lifetimes.

3. Diagnosing these illness is already several billion dollars more expensive than we are willing to pay for.

4. Contrary to popular belief, individuals suffering from mental health disorders do worse among themselves. With in-patient facilities we have to try to carefully manage patient interaction so that certain patients do not aggravate the conditions of other patients (e.g. self harm and suicide). The best evidence suggests that it is generally better not to segregate those with mental health issues (obvious exceptions exists).

5. What sort of false positive rate are you willing to tolerate before exiling people?

6. How much are you willing to pay for a padded internet?

7. What evidence do we have that this well effect any real change?

Again, this sounds like a costly endeavor that will fall mostly on the innocent and not likely change anything of substance. I remain convinced that adult human beings can endure seeing unpleasant jackassry from time to time; I certainly get to hear more than my fair share of racist comments to my face. All of these private censorship endeavors are expensive and thanks to soft monopoly power we all get to pay for them regardless of their effectiveness.

Around 18% of Americans currently have a mental health illness.

No, around 18% could potentially have a diagnostic code assigned them. The psychiatrist needs to assign the code to get paid.

People who are actually dysfunctional public order problems are < 1% of the population.

Correct, 18% could be diagnosed. Barring some other better definition of having a mental health problem, that is the most salient statistic for what Hazel suggested.

In any event, most paranoid schizophrenics are do not have a dysfunctional public order problem, but then neither do most Neo Nazis. From what I know from law enforcement, the vast majority of actual Nazis do not actually engage in violent behavior nor encourage their comrades to do so. Most often the "respectable" wing actively encourages the "criminal" wing to avoid illegal behavior. Once we start sorting people into bins - like nonviolent, minimally functioning, etc. - it gets very expensive to do anything. If we are not going to use quick and dirty coding, this project once again gets expensive fast while accomplishing jack all.

Again we are talking about soft monopolies imposing costs on the vast majority of consumers for no demonstrated gain beyond virtue signalling. Mostly so we can feel superior to people who exhibit classically deranged patterns of thought consistent with severe mental illness. I am just not seeing the value added here.

People who are actually dysfunctional public order problems are < 1% of the population.

You can be, say, suicidally depressed without being a public order problem. Or have severe OCD. Or bipolar. or etc


These "xx% suffer from Mental Illness" claims are ludicrously fuzzy and say nothing about the severity or duration of symptoms. The vast majority of people included have minor symptoms at some stage or life but are perfectly functional members of society. Many symptoms are now classed as pathological which would not have been 30 years ago.

I can personally assure you that the entire IETF and all of the IP stack kernel programmers for the top 20 operating systems are entirely populated by people with mental health issues. If you tried that, the sane people would be stuck with tin cans and string.

'with not terribly impressive results from bans'

Well, it has been a while since anyone held a torchlit procession saying 'Blut und Boden' in Germany. It is fair to say that Germans consider that a very impressive result of a ban, compared to 1938. Don't confuse banning a genocidal ideology from any reappearance in the public square in Germany with how best to deal with individuals.

If one wishes a thoroughly pragmatic reason that has nothing to do with Prof. Cowen's vice of 'virtue signalling,' it would be bad for German businesses.

Oh please. Let's start with a few things:

1. Neo-Nazis marched in Berlin this month. The theatrics of torches and chanting being worth somewhere between a rat's ass and a fart in in the wind for racist recruitment purposes I suspect that their speech bans are about equally effective as the American free speech approach.

2. In the 1920s Weimer had a multitude of bans. Hundreds of cases were tried for saying banned, antisemitic, things. Seems to have a less than stellar track record.

3. Why would it be bad for German business? According to FT data there appears to be precisely zero dip in the German markets and nothing terribly dissimilar between their performance and those of neighboring countries that did not have Neo-Nazi marches in their capitals.

Speech bans were tried - in Germany - in the 1920s. They did not stop Nazism last time, they will not stop it this time. What data do you have to suggest THESE bans will work better than those bans?

The government in Finland turned the communist movement there into a tiny hunted underground after 1931. It's all a matter of political will.

They actually don't care much about people like James Whatshisname. People like him are fodder for taunts and fodder for propaganda campaigns. And that's it.

Bans and what not are tools to be kept in reserve for use in lawfare campaigns against the real targets, and that's conventional dissidents who work for and with others in their mundane lives, others who have scant interest in public affairs and just do not want trouble.

A very real dissident in our time was the late Alan Medinger. At the time he founded his ministry in Baltimore in 1979, he went through every room in his house to look at what he owned to assure himself he was ready to lose it.

They're banking on the rest of us not having Medinger's presence of mind.

Interesting choice, given that the Finish Communist party had been liquidated with mass imprisonment, exile, and a smattering of executions. Exceedingly expensive to the Finish nation I might add.

More interesting because the Finish Communist Party was posting vote tallies in excess of 10% of the population in the 1940s. Even today it, alone, is an order of magnitude more popular than all the Nazis in the US combined.

The Nazis in the US are a tiny, hounded minority. They are not worth the resources lavished upon them.

#1 They did not hold a torchlit procession shouting Blut und Boden. Here are some of the stipulations concerning their march - 'The rally faces a series of stipulations, meaning that participants will have to worship their idol without naming or showing images of the man who acted as Germany’s deputy between 1933 and 1941.

A ban on Nazi symbols and language codified by allied forces in 1949 outlaws the display of swastikas and SS insignia at far-right rallies, while paragraph 140 of the German penal code prohibits the “glorification” of the National Socialist regime.

Organisers of the march are trying to appeal against a further set of police stipulations, a final version of which will be announced shortly before the event.

According to a report in Berlin newspaper Der Tagesspiegel, they include bans on marching music, the reading aloud of lists of “political enemies”, the display of more than one flag per 50 protesters and the use of more than one drum per 100 people.

On a website created by a neo-Nazi group for Saturday’s march, the organisers also advise their followers to avoid the euphemism “peace flyer”, a reference to Hess’s solo flight to Scotland in an attempt to negotiate peace with the Duke of Hamilton.' https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/18/berlin-neo-nazi-march-security-after-charlottesville-attack

And here is how that march turned out - 'German police arrested 35 neo-Nazis in Berlin as they gathered to commemorate the death of high-ranking Nazi official Rudolf Hess.

Officers detained a total of 39 people on Saturday - four of them counterprotesters.

More than 500 neo-Nazis had attempted to march to the site of the former prison in Berlin's western district of Spandau where Hess died on August 17, 1987, but were blocked by left-wing groups and local residents.

Neo-Nazi protesters were frisked and funnelled through tents where police checked them for weapons, forbidden flags and tattoos showing symbols banned in Germany, such as the Nazi swastika.' http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/08/berlin-police-arrest-35-neo-nazis-rudolf-hess-rally-170820131113302.html

#2 'Seems to have a less than stellar track record.' - still much better than the Nazi's track record.

#3 'Why would it be bad for German business?' If Germany was to give the impression that there was a reawakening of its last phase of aggressive genocidal conquest, you might be surprised at how many other Europeans, for example, would not want to buy a German product. A German businessman would not be surprised, however. It isn't as if Germans are unfamiliar with being called 'Nazis,' after all.

'They did not stop Nazism last time, they will not stop it this time.' - I am not really sure how to put this, but the last time the Nazis got into power, no one actually knew what would happen. This time, they do. It is much more than a speech ban - after seeing how a (flawed) democratic government was ruthlessly undermined by a genocidal ideology, there is no interest in Germany in having that happen again. As notice what happened with the German neo-Nazi march you highlighted.

So again, as noted, German Nazis turned out in numbers stronger than anything seen in the US. Despite coast to coast representation "Unite the Right" turned out fewer people and many of them were not even Nazis (just run-of-the-mill racist pond scum).

The Americans were allowed use tiki torches, shout slogans, and carry signs, and such. This was undoubtedly distressing to those who had to watch it, but thankfully those numbers are limited at the end of the day the numbers seem to show that Nazis are an order of magnitude less prevalent in the US than in Germany. Or take the poll numbers - the number of Americans who support white supremacy in the US is in the margin of error (thanks to sampling artifacts Blacks and Hispanics poll more support for white supremacy than whites in the most recent polling). Germans, in the last poll I could find, supported having "Another Furher" at more than double the rate Americans support white supremacism.

Now Germany is starting from a much larger baseline post WWII, but what has worked in Germany has not been banning symbols, speech, or any of the bells and whistles. That was all made illegal in the 1920s and its illegality was used by the Nazis as propaganda (they literally printed flyers showing Hitler gagged meant that the Jews were afraid of him actually saving Germany). What is different this time is that we know where thus stuff ends and nobody sane wants to go there (not even a lot of Nazis). We do not need internet censorship or state censorship for that to work.

Right now, pretty much everywhere, Nazis and their ilk are abjectly scorned and reviled by everyone. We do not need to institute problematic rules because they are impotent. Our top priority with delusional people like them should be to prevent them from causing violence which intelligence agencies everywhere tend to agree is about arresting lawbreakers, not driving everyone into the arms of the illegal faction.

Nobody gives a rat's ass that 500 Nazis marched in Berlin. Because 500 Nazis are so impotent that they are not even the largest racist group in Germany. Nazis are simply not worth the effort 70 years after they lost war.

It seems like the real slippery slope here is faced by the various internet companies. To the extent they can claim to be neutral carriers of content, they can disclaim responsibility for the content on their site. The more they get into the business of regulating that content, the more they can expect to be held responsible (at least morally/politically, maybe even legally) for the content on their site or carried by their network.

It's weird that Cowan is excluding Jordan Peterson. Sure, his Google accounts were restored. However, given the Damore firing and the declared position of Youtube's CEO, it is likely that lots of people at Google would love to ban him, for what are, in the end, extremely anodyne positions.

The fun one here is one you didn't mention: Online payments. In the physical world, a dispensary can't do anything other than cash payments. Even something like a sex shop, which can, will face far higher fees, because there are many banks that won't touch them for PR reasons. Online is a similar beast: While most online payment companies try to be relatively apolitical (see, how the same company processed donations for both Hillary and Trump campaigns without batting an eye), there's still limits at which someone might as well be banned from commerce, and therefore from the best ways of taking donations.

There's always harder, sillier options, like Bitcoin (Bitcoin boosters and white supremacists deserve each other, as their claims are about equally flimsy), but it's hard not to see the payments ecosystem, which often moves in lockstep, as piece of the puzzle to worry about.

"...or for that matter in high school..."

No "or" about it. Everything we are dealing with right now, flows directly from what kids have been taught in school for the last 35 years. Be complacent, or pleased, or not: but there's no doubt, we've been successful at the promotion of belief in public school.

"I can’t say it is in the top 300 list of demands I wish to place on the world. It might not be in the top 1000."

I've never framed my thoughts in this way, and the idea that I could make a list that goes to 300 is almost unthinkable. This was an interesting post.

"By the way, what’s the deal with the Left favoring net neutrality but wanting all this voluntary internet censorship?"

The Left supports both censorship and anti-censorship, as long as it's leftist government anti-censorship and left-wing censorship of right-wing viewpoints.

Petty partisanship over neutral principles. They defend their own tribe and fight against competing tribes.

Who said you can't fight dirty on the marketplace of ideas?

> The Left supports both censorship and anti-censorship, as long as it’s leftist government anti-censorship and left-wing censorship of right-wing viewpoints.

Kind of true, kind of not. It's more like they don't mind censoring terrible right-wing viewpoints, but don't trust corporations to do the right thing. Especially when doing the wrong thing makes the corporation more money.

That's sort of proving my point (I've seen the clip before). We haven't actually established what a "Nazi" is in the present day. Aside from the handful of NSDAP members who are still alive, does anyone have a worldview that would accurately be described as "Nazi", *and* describes themselves as such? Does snapping a few Bellamy Salutes brand one a "Nazi"? Could it be that they were just engaging in theatrics to troll and provoke the media?

It's the same for "white supremacist"... I have never heard anyone declare *themselves* to be a "white supremacist", ever. "White nationalist", "White identitarian", "pro-White advocate", sure, you hear these terms from the Richard Spencer types all the time. But "white supremacist" is a term used exclusively as a label that nobody applies to themselves. That makes it highly suspect.

'does anyone have a worldview that would accurately be described as “Nazi”, *and* describes themselves as such'

Gary Lauck - see below.

There are no real Nazis in the modern world; Charlottesville was a double-false-flag deception by both the leftist (former OFA and Occupy organizer) who hosted it and the treasonous cops who herded the victims into the hands of Antifa thugs and then "stood down."

Thus Google and any similar companies that say their discrimination is only against Nazis are really saying "We intend to smear everyone to the right of Stalin as Nazis, and use brownshirt tactics to do it, and the police are in on the scam. TRY and defeat us."

Rewrite this article to start with those obvious facts, or don't expect to be taken seriously.

'There are no real Nazis in the modern world'

This American, who learned German out of devotion to his leader, would disagree - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Lauck

You are welcome to check out all the fine materials he offers by searching for NSDAP/AO. Strangely enough, his materials are difficult (not impossible) to find online from Germany, and his website is blocked. Which is consistent, because the German government, who actually does not have your faith that there are no real Nazis in the modern world, jailed him for his tireless work on the behalf of the struggle to have a genocidal ideology again hold the reins of power.

cant be too vigilant when that guy is out there.

Some of the Internet is just a big honeypot to lure in the unsuspecting and to capture data to build up ID lists for future use. Enough cross-checking and data mining will allow pinning down anyone, so beware of which sites you visit.
Scary version, all your medical records, genetics inquiries and financial belong to us.

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