Ban words, at least restrict them. Don’t ban words, don’t even restrict them. Chaos is now created on the net and the different opinions about it have become unusually clear. Recently due to Joe Rogan and his podcasts about COVID on Spotify. But none of the existing opinions will fix the chaos. This is the road we should take instead.
What strange thing she just posted on Instagram. Shouldn’t someone pull her electric plug? What if energy suppliers were responsible for how we use our energy?
What a strange place to park a car at. Should we really let ambassadors skip caring about parking-regulations. What would happen if we all got diplomatic immunity?
Odd scenarios, but they can help us to fix todays chaos on the net, at the same time as protecting freedom of speech.
Most opinions we hear concerning this matter today can be understood like this: they either think newspaper, or telephone company. In the first case, a publisher is in charge. The platform takes responsibility for the words we use. In the second case, the platform is not even allowed to care about the words we use, no publisher in charge.
Thinkers representing these two ideas could gain a lot by grasping the road outlined here.
The chaotic situation we have now ended up in was predicted by historically knowledgeable people. They see a parallell between social media and the old printing press. When the printing press once arrived similar chaos, and strong opinions, as of today emerged.
Shouldn’t we now stop people, once again, from using them?
No, no-one is suggesting that nowadays. Because we have found a way that allow us to live with the printing press, but without total chaos evolving.
The ‘Publisher in charge’ became an important solution to the chaos back then. Well, it is actually an invention, a legal one. It was invented because the existing system for regulating society at that point in time did not work anymore; the king´s system – aka the king just decided the way the king personally felt like.
In my country Sweden, the role of a ‘Publisher in charge’ can today be found within The Freedom of Press Act. It is actually the world’s oldest freedom of expression laws, goes as way back as 1766 – corresponding legal areas in other countries can have a bit different history, but not that seldom with influences from these laws. It is a legal area of big importance for present-day democracy.
This issue is really not a small potayto-potahto-problem.
So, what is debated is really not a new issue. But due to the internet it has come alive, again. And it´s a far bigger issue than being about Rogan, Spotify and COVID-info – he was just the trigger this time. How many times have we now not already heard this debate repeating itself?
An historical learning-point from the printing press-time can be put in this way: in order to let people use the printing press, the platform/newspaper, had to be held to account. The solution became the laws of a publisher in charge.
The king finally gave in, but not without a fight first, and not with pleasure.It was not easy to land the freedom of the press laws.
Cynics could today say; but wasn´t that typical for a king to think in that way? Correct. But how common is it that anyone of us does it? Would you, I, do it freely?
Historical powers didn´t let go that easy, why expect todays powers to do it?
But here is a bit more useful reflection; if we had not introduced these new laws, back then, how much chaos would we not have had up until today? A way to visualize it could be to think about what would happen if today’s ambassadors, who gladly seem to park their cars wherever they feel like, would become directors of today’s major media channels.
One could then also imagine what would have happened to the king in the end, if he finally would not have accepted people using the printing press. A way to visualize that can instead be to think about what would happen if today’s energy suppliers were to decide what we can do, and not do, with the electricity we pay for.
If we want to, we could just let things be. But that obviously leads to big problems. We already know it. Misinformation affecting election outcomes. Terrorists creating tragic things. Big mobs arising, leading to things happening that perhaps should not have happened. Characteristic for these cases is that there is no one in charge, at least no public figure available that we can have a serious discussion with about what just happened.
Do people who defend free speech online enjoy today´s chaos? Most likely not – at least not the majority of them. But do they have a solution? No. They are content to claim that the idea of a responsible publisher is wrong.
It’s easier to claim someone being wrong than trying to figure out what’s right instead.
A lot of those who are currently in favor of a publisher in charge on the other hand just pretend that it would become ‘fair’. From their personal point of view, perhaps it would also be, just in the same way as the king once thought about this issue – a seriously relevant comparison.
It´s easier to sit on the side court and play innocent than trying to help out.
There is an unpleasant, but important, detail in the parallel to the printing press; that movie ended with the 30-year war. It almost became a world war. 4-8 million people died.
What was this war about? It can be traced back to a conflict between protestants and catholics. But what did the printing press have to do with it?
Before the printing press; cost for creating a book was so high that not many books/bibles at all even existed. The printing press fundamentally changed the name of ‘that game’.
This story has strong similarities to the internet.
It just took some years between the printing press was introduced and people like Luther picked it up, then society started to get into chaos. It just took some years between the internet was introduced and people like Zuckerberg picked it up, then society started to get into chaos.
Has the word ever been ’free’? Yes, back home at the kitchen table. It’s at least what the defenders of a possible publisher in charge on the net use as an argument. They claim: what’s the problem with restricting social media just a little bit?
But then they forget, or just ignore, that already during the French Revolution it was possible to say what you wanted back home at the kitchen table. The free speech challenge has never been about kitchen table-talk.
If Joe Rogan hadn’t had million listeners on each pod-episode, his digital megaphone wouldn’t have been debated – he is actually one of the biggest podcasters on the globe at this moment. If he just could have settled with ‘podding-IRL’ at his own kitchen table…
The internet have changed the name of this game, what volume can look like. Who is today not envy on Rogan´s existing, and possibly future, reach?
Let’s test the idea of a publisher in charge on social media of today. What’s the obvious problem? Who should do the editing. Should you, I?
We are getting closer to the third way for the net…
In the case of Facebook, it’s Zuckerberg himself and his team that is the editor, at this moment in time – they have started to build up such function themselves. But it could have been for instance politicians instead, doing it ‘for him’. Different political ideas on how to regulate social media is already in full swing, for instance within EU – perhaps making politicans satisfied, but not necessarily making individuals happy, see ie here or here. Well, the problem is that both Zuckerberg and politians are biased.
All of us are actually biased, which leads to some, but not other, words being strangled by such a function, no matter who runs it.
A publisher in charge should actually strangle some words.Why else have such a function?
But the big problem with a publisher in charge in our present time is actually not these ‘obviously biased editorial consequences’, it´s instead the speed.
A publisher in charge just takes too long time, as the world of today is arranged. I love my cat, right now. Want to tell you about it, right now. Not next week. We might just as well go back to the old printing press if that should be the case.
Some believe the problem can be resolved afterwards. You can today report me if I said something strange on Facebook, maybe Zuckerberg will remove me after a while. But then the possible damage is already done.
It is no coincidence that the editor-in-chief during the old days reviewed the texts before, not after, publication. We all had time, at that time. Printing and delivery of words was a pretty slow process back then, at least that is the way we see it today – at that time we thought it was fast.
Right now, the most absurd things are being removed by Facebook. Even things Zuckerberg himself, guaranteed, not want to remove. He for instance just recently removed a post I myself did, and I only reposted an add he himself actually had put into my feed – note: he willingly got paid for ‘giving it to me’, probably just three milli-seconds earlier. Strange things like these happen because his own algorithms aren’t able to fix the problem.
Algorithms can never become better than what they are built upon.No technology can.
It is going to take us a pretty long time before we can create algorithms that fully understand our words, if it ever will happen that is – not to forget; not even all humans can actually do that. Even to get close to a chance of doing it, algorithms at least have to learn how to understand the context for the words used, not only read us literally.
It´s the context that for instance explain if we are ironic, or instead very serious, when using the same words – don´t now imagine different country/culture-contexts, total confusion.
I myself would actually be seriously surprised if not also Zuckerberg himself already have understood all this – he is not a stupid guy. He only runs his editing-function in order to avoid what is very likely to happen instead, if he doesn´t do it; heavy regulations on the horizon. The pressure on him at this moment is that high. And if he doesn´t; then I suggest we concider to just shut down Facebook right now, at least seriously think about stop using it.
Letting naive, incompetent, people without formal responsibility run important parts of the world; that, if anything, is really not what anyone should suggest us to do.
How much would it then cost Facebook to create a ‘real’ editing function instead? One that actually read all our words, understood all possible contexts for them, and then finally made a ‘fair decision’ (whatever that means) on whether these words could be posted online or not, additionally in real time quickly. Facebook would definitely go bankrupt.
We cannot overload digital services, like ie social media, with costs that cause them to sink. Cost is therefore another important key to take into account while fixing the chaos on the net.
We really must find a solution that can work in our own present time, and one that at the same time takes into account what was the whole point with the internet: for instance speed and low cost.
At the same time the solution must help us avoid at least the worst versions of chaos – easy to forget but the publisher in charge have not taken away exactly all existing chaos in the world.
On top of that; we can not restrict peoples words today in the same way as a publisher in charge do.
One might then think that all the technical possibilities that exist in our world do not need to be used. Of course we can, at least theoretically, turn down technical possibilities. But it is extremely rare in history that humans have managed to do so.
Among the few exceptions were we as humans have accepted a cap on technical possibilities is nuclear weapons development.Not even that have been easy to keep.
Over time, we humans have a tendency of prefering to use new technical possibilities, if we find them of use that is, and people really tend to find the internet useful. We humans, have also always had a tendency of fighting hard, even seriously hard, for getting the chance to utilize what technical conquests provide – it is at least what history so far have shown us.
We could, of course, continue to let Zuckerberg run his very own editing feature. But it only leads to him downsizing. Well, if he wants to do that by himself; I suggest we just let him – instead of only putting all his egs in this single basket he could have been wise enough to support the development of a third road.
Social media for those who don’t like his version of editing is now emerging at the same rate as his own editing function. And no-one should be surprised that this is what is happening.
My guess; Zuckerberg himself also already understands these consequences, but prefers to run his own ‘self-destruction-function’ instead of letting someone else, like politicians, run it. He may think that his own damage control can do the least damage – he want´s Facebook to survive, doesn´t he?
Strangling the advancement of technological possibilities far too much in a society is seldom a good idea in the long run, and seldom even a possible/useful one. And not letting people use their own voice; to a lot of people on the globe that is neraly just as important as breathing.
The historian Niall Fergusson recalls that Zuckerberg probably once only thought like Luther; if people only got the chance, peace on earth would arise (likely a lot of other startup-people also did that about 20 years ago).
But like what Luther missed – that once the printing press could be used to spread his words, Calvin and others could also spread their words – Zuckerberg seem to have missed one thing; exactly the same thing as Luther missed.
It was the chaos that evolved in the footsteps of Luther, Calvin, the Pope, and all others that gradually started to care, that finally led to the 30-year war. It just took some time for it to happen – it´s always a delaytime between a technological invention and the full use of it.
Now, do we really think the internet of today is a weaker tool than the printing press?
Let´s use a different parallel, one that finally can allow us to end up in a solution to all this, the third road…
Imagine you crashed your car right now, but blamed Volvo in court, even if actually you were to blame. Also imagine you won such a case, even though it obviously was your fault.
But hey; such crazy thing is actually what will happen when self-driving cars arrive.
That’s also why Volvo, as the first car manufacturer in the world, just a few years ago, publicly announced that they will take the hit, if you, in a future self-driving-car society, crash.
Well, it was not really you that drove it, because it was a self-driving car, wasn´t it – a pretty different car than the one you use today?
This announcement was wisely made of Volvo. Because; the insurance companies cannot actually do this, even if they wanted to. You are no longer going to own these cars, you will instead use them more like a taxi. So, if the automakers don’t take the hit, who will? And as long as no one does, it will take time before we actually get real self-driving cars on the streets.
We simply cannot get to the self-driving-car society until this issue is solved. So, Volvo, by this announcement, is helping all of us to get closer to a future self-driving car society.
Did we all perhaps just forget to send Volvo a ‘thank-you card’ when they did this announcement?
This case shows that responsibilities sometimes change in a digital world – change of ‘character’ and perhaps also change of ‘ownership’.
It is even very likely that laws and regulations concerning the use of technology also really needs to change, if we want to take advantage of today’s technological opportunities.
We should not expect that old solutions, old laws/regulations, no matter which, will always work in the future.There is always a price to pay for something new.
So even someone at this moment would tell you that it is completely unthinkable to change existing laws and regulations, such kind of change will actually eventually happen. Because; if it does not happen we will not be able to take use of new technical possibilities, and that is something we as humans really want to be able to do.
The thing with humans is that ‘they’ actually prefer a better life, if they can get it that is.
This is just something that well-educated people in the field of law sometimes forget. And why wouldn´t they? The role of a lawyer is to defend an existing system, not to change an existing system – that is for others to do.
So, what should happen, and sooner or later also actually will happen, but hopefully sooner than later, so really tragic things like for instance war can be avoided, is therefore the development of completely new laws and regulations.
And these laws and regulations can neither be built on thought around the publisher in charge nor the free speech debate. Brand, new, laws and regulations is what is needed.
It is innovations in that field we lack.
Today´s chaos will gradually start calming down the day we get these new laws and regulations, but not before then.
Now, today one might somewhat naively assume that it was relatively quick to come up with the invention publisher in charge – the third road we found at that point in time. But it actually took several years, was hard work, even somewhat dangerous, for the ones involved – people still worth honoring today. A lot different kind of competences was also involved.
So, do not now expect that I alone can explain how this whole new legal framework should look like in detail, I can not. I can only articulate some of the important pieces of it – if you have read this far, I think you can see that I have already pointed them out.
Solving this challenge is really not a one man’s job.Why expect it would be?
But it´s still a pretty decent contribution to be able to describe the name of this problem. Because; we can never, ever, solve a problem if we do not know what it looks like.
Let´s now jointly, finally, start fixing the problem with the chaos on the net.
Or; maybe we are just not really ready for this way of thinking, yet?
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