Why private regulation of internet speech doesn’t make many people happy

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg article, here is one excerpt:

I’d like to suggest a simple trilemma. When it comes to private platforms and speech regulation, you can choose two of three: scalability, effectiveness and consistency. You cannot have all three. Furthermore, this trilemma suggests that we — whether as users, citizens or indeed managers of the platforms themselves — won’t ever be happy with how speech is regulated on the internet.

There is much more at the link.


Well yeah, but the essay is abstract rather than concrete or practical. What are specific ways in which speech is or might be regulated, and what are the pros and cons?

Are Marginal Revolution's comments small enough in number that scalability is not an issue?

Tyler also didn't touch upon the issue of anonymity, or even just requiring commenters to register. Under what sort of circumstances, and for what sort of audience or set of participants, is a given set of regulations or moderation optimal or as close as we can get in 2019?

'is a given set of regulations or moderation optimal'

You might really want to check out Mastodon to see why such questions are actually irrelevant with a modern Internet software framework which is basically controlled by the users themselves.

However, this is not to say that regulation of speech is not a relevant concern in general terms - treating fraud as a crime, depending on one's attachment to reality, can certainly be seen as regulating speech in a way that is considered useful, and independent of how fraudulent communication is performed - in person, using the mail, using telecommunications, etc.

Bravo for bringing up Mastodon, clockwork_prior. It's as if people are discussing the trilemma of a postal system -- universal, affordable, private-sector: pick two -- and then you point out the existence of Federal Express.

That is, there is an existing, increasingly popular way of dealing with the online regulation of speech, by using decentralisation to handle scalability. But neither TC nor the other commenters seem to be aware of it.

Do you have an account on Mastodon, yourself?

The only possible way to prevent regulating free speech from becoming a political tool is to outlaw any and all censorship. We would be better off with foul language than censorship

So are you saying it should be a crime when the moderators here (I don't know who they are, I presume Tyler and Alex) should be arrested when they remove a comment from this site?

The topic here is private regulation of internet speech. Are Tyler and Alex not permitted to control the content on their own website?

Yes! Censorship should be against the law.

Would this not violate the free association clause of 1A? Association cannot be free if you cannot choose not to associate, just as compelled speech is a violation of free speech because one must also be free to not speak.

If the proper response to bad speech is not censorship, but more speech, and censorship is the opposite of more speech, does it not follow that the proper response to bad censorship is not speech, but more censorship? #philosoraptor

Its a bit more than foul language. What about the real consequences of "improper" speech that the internet magnifies like death threats, kiddie porn, cyber-bullying, harassment, ISIS propaganda, foreign influence on elections, personally identifying information, racist crap, etc? Yes, there is such a thing as improper even in a free society with all too real consequences.

I also noted the lack of mention of anonymity. I'd say it's of equal (or greater) weight to the other factors in the trilemma. Interesting take nevertheless. Would love to hear Tyler's thoughts on anonymity. IMO, it's mostly a bad thing on the web. I would guess that the % of cases in which people truly need anonymity to safely speak important truths is very small.

:You cannot have all three.'

A couple of centuries experience when it comes to newspapers notwithstanding, of course. Recognizing that 'scalability' before the digital age was not a major concern of any media platform of any variety. Broadcasting is clearly an example of scalability and a major advantage of something like radio and TV, yet this sort of scalability is being abandoned with the rise of data networks tuned to individual devices and users.

'won’t ever be happy with how speech is regulated on the internet'

Um, speech on the Internet remains as unregulated as ever (leaving aside the Chinese totalitarian approach to the Internet). It also remains mystifying why so many people think the Internet is facebook, twitter, google, et al. Or why something like this is completely ignored in such discussions - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mastodon_%28software%29 And Mastodon, like the Bittorrent protocol, seems much more scalable than even Facebook or google, from a technical perspective - and yet, with considerably more user control of what data is accessed, which is by far the best way to 'regulate' speech.

'There is much more at the link.'

Which starts out with precisely the sort of confused perspective one expects - 'Regulating speech is difficult even under the best of conditions....' People have always been able to 'regulate' speech in places like their homes, for example, and it is not difficult at all. By extension, the same applies to someone running a web site on the Internet with a comments section. Yet we never say that a person in their own personal space is 'regulating' speech.

And really, a public choice economist, among others, would recognize the inherent flaw in this statement - 'will distract Patreon from its core function of helping people raise money over the internet.' Patreon's core function is to make a profit, as anyone who bothers to look at wikipedia can easily find out - 'In return for the service, Patreon charges a commission of 5% for each donation and 5% in transaction fees, thus allowing the creator to get 90% of the donations.'

"Patreon's core function is to make a profit"

Nope, that is Patreon's goal, not its function. Oddly, Prof Cowen apparently understands this distinction, but not yourself, seemingly. Your comment does not reach of the rank of "excellent."

'Nope, that is Patreon's goal, not its function.'

Matter of perspective and word choice, particularly for those providing the financing. Let us know when everybody associated with Patreon keeps working and delivering goods and services when it becomes clear that Patreon is unable to pay, regardless of whether that is Patreon's goal or function.

'Your comment does not reach of the rank of "excellent."'

Thankfully. It is also not self-recommending, not is it Straussian.

Looks like you borrowed from a model I was toying with, although mine is more about the dilemma of international expansion:


oh by borrowed I wasn't implying plagiarism or that anyone had seen it, loose choice of words :)

Last evening I watched the 2016 film The Comedian, which includes Robert De Niro in the starring role of Jackie Burke. Burke's comedy is blue comedy, the kind of comedy that is funny only if you like watching other people being belittled or offended. What's especially intriguing about De Niro's performance is that he never lets up, offending anyone and everyone he meets, even a room full of seniors and family and friends attending a wedding reception. With social media, everybody can be Jackie Burke. Should I resent the Jackie Burkes of the world? Should their offensive "humor" be regulated? In his column today, David Brooks uses sarcasm to make the point that it is the Jackie Burkes of the world that are brave individuals and the prudes who would try to modify the behavior of the Jackie Burkes that are weak and selfish members of a mob.

His audience is self-selected and paying customers. People flocked to Ed Debevics to be insulted. But that schtick only works for so long.

like being comfy in your safe space mr millennial? i got a box for you six feet underground, pretty safe down there

Libertarians, including the less declared but functional libertarians in Silicon Valley, have a problem. Their hammer is individual choice. But individual choice can't solve all problems. Indeed it produces some, like an internet funding platform seeking an ideal social positioning for maximized profit.

To stick with the libertarian model, this is not a problem, because monopolies don't matter, and always fall over time. Right?

I mean, to really push it back at you, why would you not worry about Microsoft owning the desktop, but suddenly worry about Facebook owning the social? If you were confident that Microsoft would fall, you should be confident in the same way that Facebook will fall. And perhaps social innovation will become tied to corporate life cycle.

Assuming of course that you only have a hammer, and laws balancing privacy and speech are still locked in someone else's toolbox.

Silicon Valley culture has no love of individual choice on any level. Including them in your comment detracts from an otherwise interesting point.

As usual, there's an important psychological factor that people don't want to consider. The reason private speech regulation on social media platforms bothers people is not because they think they have a right to speak, but rather because because they think they have a right to be heard. Big difference.

But freedom of speech has never been about the right to be heard; it's always been a simple concept about having the right to think, speak and discuss things as you please without being arrested or legally punished. No other private entity is legally obligated to hear you out. Freedom of speech is not a positive right; it's a negative right.

I think the whole "move fast and break things" ethos is intrinsically libertarian. As is the focus on gaining (free) users to your platform.

And in this context "freedom of speech" is freedom to be on a platform, which obviously does not exist in US law.

Well, that's a very idiosyncratic way of looking at all sorts of things.

Thank you :-), my goal after one cup of coffee.

"And in this context "freedom of speech" is freedom to be on a platform, which obviously does not exist in US law."

No. Freedom of speech CANNOT mean "freedom to post on a specific platform". Such a contortion of the concept would create an obligation on the part of the provider to provide the service. That's inherently NOT a Libertarian viewpoint (in fact it's specifically against Libertarian principles), and would be completely impractical to enact. It would mean that not having your service available to everyone is in fact a violation of their rights. Which means that anyone living in areas with sketchy internet service would have cause to press charges--every time the internet goes down, their First Amendment rights are being taken away!

I think I agree. My original topic was about platforms, and when I replied to RPLong I scare-quoted "freedom of speech" for a reason. People incorrectly cry "freedom" when they are only denied access to a (virtual) place of business.

There's also a concern about the right to hear the stuff you want to hear, and to take part in discussions you want to take part in. I don't want Twitter, Facebook, Google, etc.,. to be in the business of deciding what ideas I'm allowed to read or hear or discuss.

If Twitter bans a set of people I'd like to hear from, then they're preventing those people from speaking on their platform, but also preventing me from hearing those people.

Personally I am less worried about people cut off the big media sites, but rather the internet itself. It would be very bad if someone could become black-listed, as a person, by a government or a private service, and then just be blocked everywhere. That would certainly limit social and platform change.

The US Supreme Court has already upheld a right to be on the internet for a convicted felon. It may be the first case to break private censorship.

That is excellent, but note that it does not guarantee him a place on every platform.

The analogy would be that being on the Internet is like having the freedom to walk down the street, which does not give you the right to enter every place of business. Those businesses may still regulate their space.

"but note that it does not guarantee him a place on every platform."

Or, for that matter, a place on *any* platform.

One of the more disturbing acts was the recent strikes against gab.ai at the network (DNS) level and via payment processors.

You need pretty big collection of dicks for DNS to notice you. And that was gab's problem. They weren't just "right wing" they were "here we are, the worst of the worst."

(If you want to be a right wing philosopher, and you are afraid of being lumped in like that, go start a blog on your own domain.)

"They weren't just "right wing" they were "here we are, the worst of the worst."

I don't see where you get that; gab's branding is "free-speech absolutist," not "right wing."

Well, it depends on what you mean by "absolutist" free speech, doesn't it?

Gab is drawing attention because Robert Bowers, the man who opened fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue this weekend, killing 11 people, was reportedly an active member. Now, GoDaddy is apparently threatening to suspend their domain...

Think about the motivation for banning someone from Twitter.

One reason would be that they're spamming people with unwanted messages, using the platform for harassing their ex-wife, etc. That's an easy ban, no real free-speech issues there.

The controversy comes up when Alice is saying things in public that Bob and Carol and Dave want to hear, but those things offend the hell out of Eve, so she asks Twitter to ban Alice.

Now, Twitter is a private business, and they are not obliged to carry any particular messages. But it's hard to imagine that the world is made a better place if Twitter ends up in the business of deciding what ideas and beliefs may be expressed on their platform. There are probably lines they're going to want to draw, both for legal and moral reasons--stuff like credible threats of violence, child pornography, etc., are pretty obvious things to ban. But there's also a pretty big visible movement in the US that holds that some not-all-that-rare ideas and beliefs and facts ought not to be permitted to be spoken in public. If Twitter bans content based on that movement's ideas, then conversations that lots of people want to have will be shut down. That's probably going to make both Twitter and the world a poorer place, so we should discourage it if we can.

'But it's hard to imagine that the world is made a better place if Twitter ends up in the business of deciding what ideas and beliefs may be expressed on their platform'

I think the world would be a better place if twitter and facebook disappeared right now, regardless of what twitter or facebook (or their users, for that matter) think about it.

'pretty big visible movement in the US that holds that some not-all-that-rare ideas and beliefs and facts ought not to be permitted to be spoken in public'

Amazing how much foresight the Founders had concerning the 1st Amendment, as you are of course welcome to set up your own business to provide exactly what twitter or facebook are unwilling to do in the pursuit of profit. And those people who would attempt to stifle your speech will not be able to use the power of government to enforce their perspective.

'If Twitter bans content based on that movement's ideas'

That is twitters absolute right, of course.

'then conversations that lots of people want to have will be shut down'

No, they just need to use another platform - see Mastodon above, for example.

"Amazing how much foresight the Founders had concerning the 1st Amendment, as you are of course welcome to set up your own business to provide exactly what twitter or facebook are unwilling to do in the pursuit of profit. And those people who would attempt to stifle your speech will not be able to use the power of government to enforce their perspective."

I would love to agree with you on the libertarian remedy, Prior, but I'm really worried that barriers to entry, network effects, and payment supplier collusion in the social media market make this impossible now.

I was uneasy when Microsoft was at it's Windows peak. This situation seems structurally worse, and the practical effects much worse. I mean, Microsoft only abused its windows quasi-monopoly to make money. I'm wondering how I would have felt at the time had MS used Windows to suppress political viewpoints it disapproved of.

'in the social media market'

But the title of this post is 'Why private regulation of internet speech doesn’t make many people happy.' The social media market is not the Internet.

'This situation seems structurally worse'

And Mastodon, to give one concrete alternative, shows that the Internet as a community, if not precisely a social media market, is capable of responding to a situation in a similar fashion to how it responded to Microsoft at its peak. Turns out that cutting off the Internet's air supply isn't that easy, unless you are willing to go to Chinese totalitarian lengths.

'I'm wondering how I would have felt at the time had MS used Windows to suppress political viewpoints it disapproved of.'

Well, there is no question that Microsoft has used a number of tools to disagree with the politics behind the GPL, the most recent example being UEFI. Admittedly, these days, Microsoft seems to feel that the GPL is a cancer it can live with.

'to be in the business of deciding what ideas I'm allowed to read or hear or discuss'

Then don't use them.

'If Twitter bans a set of people I'd like to hear from'

Who cares? Twitter is not in business to satisfy your desires after all. Again, do not confuse twitter or facebook with the Internet.

'but also preventing me from hearing those people'

Really? Than what happens to someone that does not use twitter ever - they have no chance to discover such ideas on their own outside of twitter?

The courts have already ruled that there is some space for government intervention in the interest of 1st amendment speech when it was ruled that neither Trump nor any government official was allowed to block Twitter users from using the response thread as a personal platform. There is room for government intervention in the interest of 1st amendment rights now to address the cartel which control internet speech. The fact that the first issue benefits the left and the later issue hurts them should be irrelevant to anyone with integrity.

The answer to your question lies in a question.

Why is it legal for *you* to block on Twitter, but not the President?

'ruled that neither Trump nor any government official was allowed to block Twitter users'

Somewhat true - President Trump cannot block users from information that the White House has claimed is official. If President Trump were to set up an account that simply talked about his opinions of various fashion models, which had no explicitly stated connection to his official duties it is likely that he could block whoever he wanted without any problem.

The 1st Amendment aspect was in Trump deleting what he wanted based on content, which the U.S. government and its officials are not allowed to do when the communication involves the activities of government officials. Of course President Trump can completely turn off any interaction, as such a blanket action is not based on content.

'in the interest of 1st amendment rights now to address the cartel which control internet speech'

There is no cartel controlling Internet speech, and the 1st Amendment explicitly forbids the government from making any law that abridges the freedom of speech, or of the press.

Companies will choose scability and hostility to bad actors, not conisistency.

While I love intellectual thinking, this article thinks too deeply about a simple matter. The social media networks arent concerned with censorship in general but censoring a particular type of speech: anything opposed by the Left. They rely not only on algorithms but reports. These reporters consist not only of casual users but moles seeking things to report. There is no due process. No notice or opportunity to respond. No appeal or rebuttal. No warnings. It is mechanistic and cheap with little human reasoning. This kind of censorship is all three of scalable, effective, and consistent albeit obviously not perfect. Illicit speech sometimes goes undetected and unreported. But like speeding tickets, it is only a matter of time before you get caught, and the penalties stack up. And like speeding tickets, there is a fair amount of tolerance to violations within certain limits as a tradeoff to the costs of enforcement. But when violations need not be proven to a fair and objective third party (a judge, for example) with evidence and a standard of proof, the costs of enforcement go way down.

What you mean by "consistent" is a sense of fairness that is not part of the objective function of these platforms. One could say that this proves your trilemma, but it doesnt. There is consistency in how it is applied to a particular group, albeit with some errors or lack of detection. This censorship is similar to racial prejudice: the color of your skin and bringing yourself to our attention is all the evidence we need.

But what I'm saying is this is a natural libertarian result.

The internet skews young, therefore liberal, therefore the internet market skews the same way.

You are demanding that social media companies harm their own bottom line for your ideology.

"The social media networks arent concerned with censorship in general but censoring a particular type of speech: anything opposed by the Left. "

Even if it is the case, it will have a problem of consistency (because of the left-wing tendency to split in a zillions of faction, each one with its particular set of taboos - look for the positions about prostitution, for example, where both the more radical prohibitionists and anti-prohibitionists are on the left).

There are also many cases of censorship against the left (or some factions of the left):


Non-algorithmic regulation of internet speech inevitably devolves into empowering legions of low-level employees to do the regulating. With predictable results: the regulation is biased and inconsistent.

As far as I know, these low-level employees are mostly unaccountable: that is, they're unlikely to be fired for bad moderation, regardless of whether what's "bad" about it is excessive censorship, insufficient moderation, or, systemic bias.

And if there were to be negative consequences for bad moderation the likely effect would be excessive censorship, as regulation invariably tends toward excess safety, as it will almost always be safer to just ban something (or someone) because it/they "might" be offensive (to someone for some reason at some time) rather than take a chance on permitting it.

Perhaps a better solution would be to use the regulation to filter content rather than control content, and leave it up to users to choose whether they wanted the squeaky-clean version, the heavily moderated version, the lightly moderated version or the anything-goes-that's-lawful version.

Speaking of individual choice, there is an interesting emergent behavior here. Some women on Twitter share block lists to combat the misogynists. This sounds good at first sight, but it has a cumulative effect. Anyone can add anyone they think might be a misogynist and "bloop" disappeared without record. Disappeared for the group.

So it really doesn't even matter what Twitter decides, all these same discussions can be had where free people just share free block lists.

I think a bigger issue here is that we as a culture have allowed ourselves to be limited to a small handful of platforms. Google, Facebook, and Twitter have come up numerous times in this thread, as "If Twitter bans these people I don't get to hear what they have to say".

The issue isn't really with these companies--the companies are doing what every company in history has done, and what they have a right to do. The issue is with our culture accepting them as the natural and only way to handle certain types of communication. Their marketing departments should all get hefty bonuses; they've done their job better than nearly any company in history has!

As long as that situation holds true--as long as we accept that these companies are the only options, or even just the default options--no sort of policy governing communications will be acceptable. Since we accept them as the only option, we accept that their policies dictate public discourse. And whoever dictates public discourse is going to be politically motivated (there is an entire industry, lobbying, devoted to ensuring that).

I remember back when forums were popular. Some were run exceedingly well, with fair moderation; some were basically not run at all, and folks got away with anything short of murder; some allowed those who toed the party line to get away with anything, while banning anyone who opposed it; and there were a host of other managerial styles. No one could object to "private censorship" under such conditions, because one could always find another platform.

Alternative platforms that have started up have been targeted by the online left wing mob (see @slpng_giants) and have been no-platformed from payment processors. "Make your own twitter", has become "make your own international payment processing system", which if it happened might well become "make your own world order". The people who've shown so much concern in the past over monopolies are showing us that their concern was valid but also projection.

This is still an example of people treating Twitter as the only, or at least the default, option. They're trying to compete with Twitter by making "Twitter but with a different name". I could give a lot of examples of this just from your post alone, but to give one to illustrate my point: Why on Earth would they want to "make your own Twitter"? Why not make something else--some radically different platform? The reason is that we have accepted that Twitter is How Things Should Be, and are limiting ourselves to that model.

As I said, the marketing departments did an unbelievably good job. These platforms are so ingrained that we cannot imagine alternatives. And that's the heart of the issue.

'make your own international payment processing system'

Why do I need to care about someone's business model when it comes to free speech? Assuming I had any interest in doing so, my laptop can become accessible for anyone to read whatever information I make public, such as a magnet link. And torrents, to give one extremely relevant and long running example, have proven impossible to stop from people from sharing. That I am extremely unlikely to make money in this fashion has nothing to do with free speech.

'The people who've shown so much concern in the past over monopolies'

There are no monopolies concerning Internet speech. As noted by James when talking about how people think that twitter or facebook control the Internet

'I think a bigger issue here is that we as a culture have allowed ourselves to be limited to a small handful of platforms.'

Yep, and how so many people think that this is the 'Internet.' Much like 20 years ago when so many people thought AOL was the Internet. Oddly, the Internet still exists, even if AOL has become something of a distant memory dimly associated with obsolete formats like floppy discs.

I'd say it's particularly egregious in the case of Google, Facebook, and Twitter, because anyone with a brain knows at this point that we aren't the customers. It's bad enough to say "I'm paying for this and demand it work to suit my tastes"; that's the sort of thing a particularly idiotic college student (likely soon to be drop-out) says. To do so while not paying for goes beyond reason.

On an unrelated note: I don't know anyone who thought AOL was the internet. We always laughed at the floppy disks they sent, and used the CDs as target practice. I had an AIM account (everyone in my dorm did, it was how we shared MP3s), but that was the extent of my exposure to it. Not saying you're wrong; rather, it's just different experiences. The area I lived in is generally a late adopter of technology and social change, which means we missed out on some good things but also didn't get burned by some really horrible ones.

'I don't know anyone who thought AOL was the internet.'

Well AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, and GEnie were all offering their own online services before the introduction of the Mosaic browser. And when the Internet first became something that people could access, generally it was AOL (in part due to truly massive marketing efforts) that became their access point to the important things - like AOL's chat rooms and AOL mail, for example. This changed over time, but in the mid-90s, there was a lot of confusion between networks like AOL and the Internet.

Where I grew up, local ISPs gave you an email address when you signed up. Chat rooms were something you saw on futuristic shows, or were hosted by individual websites (I was on a forum that had one, but I don't recall ever using it).

Again, I'm not saying you're wrong--my experience, living in a village of less than 2k people, is hardly representative!--I'm just surprised at how weird my experience was.

Today's Friday Assorted Links #5, that links to Arnold Kling's blog, is helpful here. Kling starts out with a description of how the internet was used around 1995, and his description is right in line with Prior's (and my) experience: AOL was an extremely popular way to access the web, as long as phone lines were the main hardware connection being used.

I say this as a person who never used AOL. But I was well aware of it because it was so ubiquitous.


I thought this was something everyone knew .. but I guess I'm getting old ;-)

AOL was at first a better dial-up service with a private universe of data, competing with and better than Compuserve, etc. Its competitive advantage was that it used graphics (gasp!). And audio, as everyone with "you've got mail" stuck in their skull knows.

As the internet was opened to the general public AOL provided a bridge. People joining in that moment would think of AOL as their internet. And people joining later wouldn't need it, just going internet direct.

Lots of people (parents of people now old, lol) kept their AOL even after they had "internet" because that's what they were used to. Most were gradually brought over to gmail, etc.

Aside: A project in the old days caused me to have parallel accounts on Compuserve, AOL, and Apple's eWorld. The latter was even better in some senses, but very much a "shaped" universe for Mac users.


I needed parallel accounts because in the old pre-internet days messages and files could not be shared from say Compuserve to eWorld. They were walled gardens.

Yeah, I remember having an email signature with three or four different versions of my email address, some with explanation points not just @ signs, because a plain old "[email protected]" didn't alway work for people depending on what system they were using.

That should have said "exclamation" points, not explanation points.

If Hegel is making the comeback that Rebecca Kukla might claim or prefer, then what "inherent antitheses" to internet idiocy might begin to help undermine the judicial pretensions of algorithms and internet serf moderators that wind up becoming dedicated to censorship and new impositions of social marginalization ("social marginalization" as practiced by "social media platforms": how's THAT for institutional irony!).

Internet firms are no better at "managing public discourse without a license" than legacy media companies, and because legacy media companies ARE the corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment womb that internet forms were conceived in and issued from, internet-mediated public discourse itself is becoming corrupt and corrupting.

Something at least as ingenious as "noise abatement" tech here might be called for, mutatis mutandis: how might citizens begin to abate the pernicious influences wrought by numerous competing companies all dedicated to disrupting political, social, cultural, and historical norms?

Patient reliance on a possible or eventual episode of solar flares and mass coronal ejections seems an undue deference to fatalism. Surely, a small handful of mass movements dedicated to "internet exodus" or "internet defection" would be at least as entertaining as any drivel that Netflix elects to stream.

(P. S. in terms of current events--Yours truly is NOT a long-serving Chicago alderman.)

"Surely, a small handful of mass movements dedicated to "internet exodus" or "internet defection" would be at least as entertaining as any drivel that Netflix elects to stream."

Not really.

See "Decoding Patterns of Success" for an example of such a movement. "The Art of Manliness" (not as Red-Pill as it sounds!) is another. Both are....pretty mundane, actually. There's also a known trend for millenials (however defined) bringing back old tech--vinyl records, typewriters, washboards (as musical instruments, but still), that sort of thing.

I recently ran across a group dedicated to hand-writing letters. And the crochet and woodworking worlds are doing fairly well. In other words, hands-on crafts are coming back in vogue. Again, though, it's pretty mundane. People are taking up crafts. Hardly the stuff of dramadies.

I think ultimately we can't tell what's going to happen next. No one could have expected Facebook or Google, and I don't think we can predict the cultural response against them.

Good to hear that arts-and-crafts survive--there is and must be more: internet- and tech-mediated existence is NOT superior to wholly- or largely-unmediated existence, in spite of all tech and media propaganda to the contrary.

"Turn on, tune in, drop out" enjoyed only limited appeal in its day (aesthetic claims that vivid LSD experience is vastly superior to VR-mediated wizardry remain to be investigated): but other opportunities to abandon uncritical tech appropriation can be found as well, e. g., in the apolitical, self-marginalizing thought of Zhuang-zi, in the practices of other mystical traditions (monastic or no), in sheer poetry independent of the performance-posing imperium imposed by internet platforms and internet impresarios, in long-lived local folk traditions that do not require internet advertisement with which to conceal their authenticity or the limits of their appeal, et cetera et cetera et cetera.

Corrupt and corrupting commercial tech interest in valorizing social categories and conditions to the exclusion of comparable interest in the plight of tech-disaffected individuals (even of tech-enamored individuals) is the contest that human beings are LOSING in this global Potemkin village that the internet and the world-wide web are.

The internet can be safely abandoned for minutes, hours, days, weeks. months, years, decades (lifetimes), centuries, millennia at a time. It may well be a tool very much worth breaking into tiny little pieces.

"Human commitments" versus "tech commitments", anyone?

I condone none of this. I find the phrasing "Corrupt and corrupting commercial tech" to be particularly vile.

I myself find our corrupt and corrupting Media Establishment to be particularly vile and have enduring memories of its conspicuous vileness courtesy of three years' experience as a television news producer.

My views only get worse, arguably: media corruption now afflicts post-secondary, graduate, and doctoral/professional training programs just as surely as NCAA corruption afflicts college sports programs.

The real issue is not just plain speech regulation, but amplification. We've had plenty of systems that allowed all kinds of speech in them with no problem whatsoever. What freaks people out, and with good reason, is when platforms push speech on us, often with algorithms, which are at best trash, or downright lies, messing with our social proof circuits.

Tyler, you wrote a long time ago about how Netflix streaming weakens out culture. But what happens when YouTube or Facebook decide to recommend to people videos defending racism? It's not a matter of availability, but promotion.

Allowing the exchange of goods and services with minimal moral oversight is something a society will not have all that much trouble surviving: It has far more pros than cons. But the jump between having a set of media sources with curated content that a family can subscribe to or not, and a Wild West of media that tells pre-teens that slavery was a great idea when they don't even go looking for it, not so much.

Trouble is, under any system that disallows certain speech someone, somewhere, needs to decide what ideas are and aren't allowed. Currently the site owners decide (with some hefty pushes in various directions by various parties). This allows people who find something offensive to ignore it.

If we institute a top-down approach, which you seem to be advocating, you quickly run into issues--generally about the time of the next election cycle. I mean, do you REALLY want Trump deciding what is and isn't allowed? The whole reason Trump is viewed as such a threat to the Left (and why Obama was viewed as such a threat to the Right) is that he is taking the tools given to his predecessor and using them to advance an opposing agenda. Imagine that happening with the free exchange of ideas.

“this trilemma suggests that we [..] won’t ever be happy with how speech is regulated on the internet.”

No trilemma needed. Also no restriction to speech regulation on the internet. ‘We’ seem unable to be happy. Happily I’m not part of ‘we’.

A.I. has the potential to solve the trilemma by offering effectiveness, consistency and scalability, as soon as it is trained to a standard that everyone can agree is "effective".

The problem is getting people to agree what 'limits' count as effective, when there's a vast swaths of people who think any limits at all are intolerable and vast swaths which would seek to censor anything they find insensitive.

But Patreon isn't Facebook. Pretty easy to avoid something you don't like from Patreon.

As Patreon has telegraphed, this is ultimately about the banks behind Visa and Mastercard getting into the business of regulating speech. Seems like a sensible path to follow. What could go wrong?

...and not just speech, of course, but speech people want to pay for. Person A wants to give Person B money to hear what Person B has to say. But society, as represented by the payment processing system, decides if this is an appropriate use of the payment processing system.

Puritans of all stripes salivate.

"jUsT mAkE yOuR oWn InTeRnAtIoNaL fInAnCiAl SyStEm"

Uh, guys? I kinda did this already.

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