Hello fellow independent voters! This is your weekly Independent Thought Alarm: Hashtag Russian Bots Edition. In case this is your first time reading Independent Thought Alarm:
These are thoughtful missives about controversial subjects with some thoughts that are so novel, independent, and outside the mainstream of acceptable opinion, that repeating them might trigger a call to security to have you escorted off the premises!
Now a lot of people are saying a lot of things about Russian “bots” influencing the U.S. presidential election on social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter.
However, high-strung, truth-be-damned partisan fever has left its fingerprints all over the words they’re saying about Russian “bots,” because none of it is making any sense, and no one is asking some obvious questions about this.
Like first of all – and to me this is the weirdest part about all of this – why does “bot” sound so much like a derogatory slur?
Maybe we should be more tolerant and respectful of artificial intelligence, because it’s only going to get smarter and play a greater role in shaping our society and civilization.
Why shouldn’t AI be welcome on social media platforms? They should have the right to speak too. And it enriches the user experience to allow the user the choice to pick any account they want to follow, including one published by AI.
At this point, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google – they are already using powerful AI to help decide what to show you, usually with the primary goal of increasing engagement. So on YouTube, for instance, the algorithms are given orders to show users whatever is determined to increase the amount of time they spend watching videos.
Maybe we should be more tolerant and respectful of artificial intelligence, because it's only going to get smarter and play a greater role in shaping our society and civilization.W.E. Messamore, IVN Independent Author
And here’s the fascinating, if disconcerting part: Ethan Klein of h3h3productions, one of YouTube’s most popular channels, said last year on the h3 podcast, that a YouTube representative told him they give the AI orders to carry out, but don’t really know how it works anymore. That they in fact, are figuring out how it’s doing what it does all the time, and are usually like a month behind it!
So if these platforms are already using powerful AI as gatekeepers to filter content and show you what will keep you engaged with them, what is so horrible or existentially threatening (the alarmist way people are talking about #Russianbots) about a single social media account that is being published to and managed by an AI user?
(By the way, I’m going to suggest “AI user” as the non-bigoted, non-ignorant, inclusive alternative to “bot.”)
Mark Cuban and a ton of Democrats still sore that Hillary Clinton lost are making radical suggestions like this about social media platforms:
It's time for @twitter to confirm a real name and real person behind every account, and for @facebook to to get far more stringent on the same. I don't care what the user name is. But there needs to be a single human behind every individual account .
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) January 28, 2018
This is a horribly despotic idea at the free speech and criticism of repressive governments level of analysis as Glenn Greenwald points out:
Billionaires like this are able to express their political views freely without fear of repercussions. But many people are not. The ability to speak anonymously/ pseudonymously has long been crucial to the safety of many people or important arguments (see the Federalist Papers) https://t.co/YeYbWfpSOI
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 28, 2018
So it can easily go bad for humans looking to exercise their free speech, but it also reflects a prejudiced view against AI users. And if you think I’m trying to be funny, I am really not. I know it does sound funny, but why shouldn’t an AI user be welcome on a social media platform?
Here’s a good summary of what the Russianbot alarmists are worried about:
Bots influence and prop up illegitimate “news” networks and hijack trending algorithms which further influences the populace. And they inflate user numbers which cause valuation issues. Bots are hot garbage.
— Stephen Adams ❄️ (@StephenPAdams) January 29, 2018
But who gets to decide what “legitimate” news is? The entire “legitimate” mainstream media told us all with extremely smug sincerity that there was 95 percent certainty Hillary Clinton was going to win the election.
Only the prevailing open ethos of the internet will keep us free enough to see and decide for ourselves what is real and what is fake.W.E. Messamore, IVN Independent Author
So what do they know? The mainstream “legitimate” news media has spent decades raking in billions of dollars in profits by stoking our fears and sowing discord and making us distrust and even hate each other. There’s one big panic after another on the “legitimate” news. The sky is always falling.
That didn’t happen because of bots. It happened because a few people at the very top were able to control what everyone saw. And that is exactly why we have to speak out against social media giants taking a single step in the direction of censoring their platforms.
Only the prevailing open ethos of the internet will keep us free enough to see and decide for ourselves what is real and what is fake. What we should be worried about and what we should ignore as hype and alarmism and clickbait.
If you think I’m being an alarmist about censorship and centralized control over what we see and don’t, take a look at this tweet about the Hamilton68 project to stir up more animosity and mistrust toward Russianbots and conservatives:
'Hamilton 68' doesn't track propaganda. It is propaganda. Its "Council"? Stuffed with Bill Kristol, Michael Chertoff, Mike Morell, etc. Its funding? Opaque (see its 990s). Its methodology? Unfalsifiable–Twitter users put on ad-hoc secret lists based on political view. Appalling.
— Julian Assange ⌛ (@JulianAssange) January 19, 2018
Individuals should be the ones who decide for themselves what legitimate news is and what accounts they want to follow. Users already have the ability to block and mute accounts on social media platforms that they don’t want to hear from.
Let them police their own feeds instead of policing the whole platform and deciding for everyone what they can and can’t see. I’m an independent because I believe people are smart enough to make that decision for themselves.