The Social Media Stranglehold

Suspended

Introduction

Twitter suspended my 10-year, 5,000 follower account, apparently for asking Wil Wheaton a rhetorical question.

I haven’t always been the best behaved on Twitter, but have been for some years now as the platform, and my relationship with it have evolved.

To be suspended for such a silly reason, which doesn’t even breach any of their terms of service, is a bit of a shock but I’m not the only one. Twitter is suspending many people from the platform in a ‘purge’ which is barring people from all across the political spectra from having access to it.

In a horrible irony, many of the people who have been calling for more censorship (and who probably helped cause this to happen) have flounced off Twitter this month. They are demanding that the platform censor Alex Jones (of Info Wars fame) because of his conspiracy theory nonsense and the harassment and problems it has led to – even if not directed by Jones himself. They’re demanding even more censorship.

I consider myself aware of the implications and issues of the online space, I was a (relatively) early adopter of various aspects of the Internet, I have been a critic and have offered analyses of Internet culture and technology, and yet I was still blindsided by just how much of an effect this has had.

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Why this is Serious

Stop for a moment and consider how much you use your social media. The odds are that Facebook, Twitter – or perhaps your Google account – describe the primary method by which you interact with the Internet. You use these things to communicate with your friends and family, to serve up exciting content, to follow celebrities, topics and content you like. Moreso even more than you likely use search engines.

Social Media has also become a tool of convenience for logging into third-party sites, games, comment sections and applications of all kinds. Media interactions – participation in culture, art, news – are all driven by social media.

It is also an essential aspect of a business, cheap marketing, providing support, finding people to do contract work, calling for artists, writers and so forth.
It’s a route to fame, notoriety and success – by going viral.

It’s essential for crowd-funding, Kickstarters, raising money for charities or personal emergencies. To many people and businesses, if you’re not on Social Media, then you don’t exist.

The Internet itself was a transformative technology, social media has been a transformative use of that technology, but our culture, laws and social ‘rules’ are lagging far behind that technology, and this lies at the root of most of our problems when it comes to that technology. The public square is in private hands, but we fail to understand this.

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A Little Internet History (Web Portals)

Does anyone remember web portals?

Back in the earlier history of the Internet, this was how the significant sites of the time, like Yahoo or AOL, tried to provide usability to new users and to make the Internet less ‘scary’ by serving up content and links as a ‘front page’ to the Internet.

It didn’t work, it wasn’t personalised, and most people wanted to move well beyond that walled garden of advertising and the stories of the day that they decided you should know. That older way of doing things died off fairly rapidly.

How were people connecting with content? Mostly via email. Friends and family would send you links to something they thought you might find interesting. Unfortunately, this would also, often, include chain-emails and bloated files full of ‘funny’ images that took ages to download on dial-up but even so, your friends formed an informal Internet curation service of trusted links and material.

When social media finally took off, those companies – especially Facebook – found a way to monetise our trusted networks of friends, as well as to personalise advertising and to insert it into that trusted stream, gaining from second-hand trustworthiness via context.
Social Media is now your ‘frontpage to the internet’ with a great many people only really interacting with the internet via a handful of sites, social media topping the bill.

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A Little Internet Futurity

China’s a bit ahead of the curve than the rest of us when it comes to the likely future of social media. China’s government is bringing in a ‘social credit’ system to identify good citizens and more and more China is integrating anything and everything they can with social media. If you’re in China’s cities and don’t have Aliexpress or WeChat Pay you often can’t even buy anything.

China is using this system to throttle people’s Internet, restrict their travel and to enact numerous other modes of social control. With your neighbours and friends enforcing your compliant behaviour because – in part – their reputation in the systems is interdependent with yours.

This system sounds horrific and dystopian – and it is – but it is just a governmentally formalised version of what is already happening here in the west.

Not a day goes by where we don’t hear about someone being fired for a bad joke, perhaps even made years ago. Businesses are now in the habit of checking applicants’ social media before offering them a job. The line between your personal and professional life is eroding, and it often doesn’t matter if what you’ve done or are doing is legal, a company might still fire someone for exercising fundamental human rights that are supposedly guaranteed.

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Single Point of Failure

Different sites have different rules. Some will value free expression, many were founded with that as a fundamental principle (Youtube, Twitter) but have been beaten into submission by commercial interests and threats to their bottom line. When it comes to Social Media sites, it seems that you can have principles, audience and commercial viability – but you can only pick two.

Alternative sites have begun to spring up, but there’s something that they can’t – yet – overcome.

Money.

Whatever a site’s stance, whether it embraces free speech, political liberty, sexuality or not it just cannot sidestep the payment services.

You would think your money would be yours, that you could spend it on anything (legal) you wanted to, without repercussions. This is not how money in the modern age works, however. It’s a service, not something you own. The banks and payment services sit in judgement, and it’s their rules – not the law – that allows them to block payments, deny payments, charge higher fees, lock accounts and even to steal your money if they judge you’re engaged in ‘high risk’ or ‘immoral’ transactions.

People working in adult industries get hit by this all the time, but it has been spreading to the blockading of other content as well. The most recent case being Mastercard threatening to withdraw services from crowdfunding site Patreon if they did not block certain political commentators and sites from being funded via their service.

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Echo Chambers & Prisons Become Camps

A massive problem with the modern Internet, one made worse by social media and its content algorithms, is the phenomenon of the ‘echo chamber’. We surround ourselves with people we like and trust, people who agree with us. This self-insulating behaviour is only natural, nobody likes to be disagreed with or proven wrong, but it’s vital that different ideas mix and battle and at its best, social media has fostered that kind of discussion. Not so much any more, however.

Increased commercial pressure has increased the demand to serve up what we ‘want’ to see, rather than what we need to see. Political polarisation and social polarisation have fed each other, forming a dangerous positive feedback loop. How often have you seen people post on their social media platforms that if you ‘disagree on X’ then you should unfollow them?

There has also been a proliferation of blocking lists. People are even proud of the fact that they cut off tens of thousands of people on the opposite side of even the pettiest of issues. The effect of this is to force even the people who work hard to expose themselves to other points of view, into ‘echo-prisons’.

We’re now seeing the next stage of this process of dangerous division, the audiences which used to mingle and battle on shared social platforms, are now moving onto their ‘
?6yt;[p’own platforms, some for the ‘left’, some for the ‘right’, segregated and policed to one degree or another (or just by their nature) so that interaction and discussions become even less likely.

As bad as things are now, they’re going to get worse if this goes on.

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Solutions

I’m sorry to say that there are no real solutions. My eyes have been open to all these problems for years, and I’ve done what I can to avoid becoming too reliant on any single platform and not to exist in an echo chamber.

I failed, via a combination of sheer convenience and the adverse actions of others.
We can’t force anyone to do anything; we can’t make anyone do anything. All we can do is – in and of ourselves – to try and act how we wish others did. It’s a cultural change that’s needed, and we can’t legislate or bully that into existence, though many continue to try.

If we want this to change we need to make sure that we, as individuals…

  • Respect the right to free expression of people, even those with whom we disagree.
  • Separate personal and professional lives and stop punishing people professionally for what they do personally.
  • Support people, financially and socially, who foster conversations that reach across the fractures in modern society.
  • Seek out ideas, arguments and sources of news and information that disagree with us.
  • Be forgiving.
  • Take personal and individual responsibility for what media we consume and how we react to it. Control our own feeds, block, mute and unfollow, rather than asking for people to be silenced.
  • Spread these ideas, and hold others to these standards.

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Alternative Tech

Many tout so-called ‘Alternative Tech’ (unfortunate name) as a solution to this. They say that people should move to new social platforms that will respect their free expression and which have this as a founding value.

Twitter and Youtube had free expression as founding values. It’s only a matter of time until commercial pressures or a buy out compromise these new players – if they’re a success.

Another problem is that the first settlers of new media are most often those forcibly excluded from other forms of social media. Unfortunately, even if they were banned illegitimately, that does tend to mean that Alternative Media gets colonised by conspiracy theorists, crazy people and political extremists. Something which gets in the way of site growth by creating bad – undeserved – reputations.

Lastly, the monetisation problem often hits Alt-Tech sites hard, forcing them – almost immediately – to bend the knee to the demands of the payment processors or to move to crypto-currency. The problem there is that crypto is not user-friendly and is overrun with scammers, spammers and incompatibility issues.

Of the alternatives that are available, Minds.com appears to be the most viable for social/micro-blogging and Bitchute for video. There’s still a long way to go for there to be any challengers to the primacy of Facebook, Twitter or Youtube, but the only way to change that is to use the alternatives, even while they’re imperfect.

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Conclusion

We let these things get this powerful and this important, and we didn’t work to guarantee our rights and to make these companies live up to their professed values and obligations at the same time. The only way to create change is to do it ourselves, and that’s hard. Even understanding these things as well as I do, being aware of these problems, I was drawn into it and still managed to be shocked when the rug was yanked out from under me.

Social Media might seem trivial; you might well be able to get by without it – for now – but if you work online, rely on the internet in any significant way it is now critical and is only going to get more so as technology relentlessly marches on.

We need to make a concerted effort to update our social contracts and our laws to match this technological reality, and letting companies off the hook because they’re ‘private enterprises’ cannot be a valid excuse.

Still, it all starts with us.

Let’s begin.

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David Silverman Vs the Mob

In what is becoming something of a pattern, Buzzfeed goes after a leading atheist with various allegations, and people in the atheist/skeptic community are surprisingly unskeptical when it comes to certain claims. There’s a bit more meat on these bones though.

Censorship, Justification, Youtube and Business Vs Individual Rights

6219961958_f51291fba0_oAlright, let’s do this as a blog, rather than a video as the internet is still playing up and it might be better to do this in this format.

Introduction

In the wake of the recent Youtube demonetisation scandal – a surprise to some, not to others – abrupt in its revelation and unexpected in its extent, a lot of my fellow sceptics, atheists and members of that broader community have reacted on two poles. One group, much like me, treats this as another example of creeping online censorship of social media. Another group seems to brush this off and to claim is isn’t censorship, disturbingly echoing many SJW arguments as they do so.

While some people in the first group may be overreacting, people in the second group are just flat out wrong. Some of this is down to not understanding the principle of free expression or the meaning of censorship. Some of it seems to be ideological, where free market, economic libertarianism seems to come into conflict with the principles of individual rights and freedoms and they seem unable to negotiate the clash between the two.

In large part I tend to blame the dominance of the American First Amendment over these kinds of discussions. It turns these arguments into legalistic and governmental ones, when the right to free expression is a universal human right, enshrined in but not deriving from documents like the US constitution, the United Nations declaration on human rights and many, many others.

The discussion and argument is far, far bigger than American law.

What is Censorship?

The Oxford English Dictionary is about as definitive a guide to the meaning of the English language as you can get, and defines censorship thus:

The suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security.

In other words, anything that reduces or eliminates expression, on any basis – legitimate or otherwise – is censorship. Anything. The argument is usually not whether something is censorship, but whether said censorship is justified.

The ACLU has a noteworthy, modern understanding of censorship and describes it thus:

Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. Censorship by the government is unconstitutional. In contrast, when private individuals or groups organize boycotts against stores that sell magazines of which they disapprove, their actions are protected by the First Amendment, although they can become dangerous in the extreme. Private pressure groups, not the government, promulgated and enforced the infamous Hollywood blacklists during the McCarthy period.

Freedom of expression is, meanwhile, perhaps best expressed in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

To reiterate. Your right to free expression is that to hold and impart opinions without interference, through any media, regardless of frontiers. Clearly a great deal interferes with that, some justified, some not, but that’s the ideal. Anything that does interfere with that is censorship. That censorship can come from government but also from private groups, companies, individuals and even from oneself, either through free personal choice or under pressure and duress (it can be hard to disentangle the two).

When the government bans and prosecutes child pornography it is justified on the grounds of protection of children. When the government bans pornography created by and for consenting adults it is, arguably, not justified.

When a pressure group, such as those operated by former campaigner Mary Whitehouse tries to shut down ‘lewdness’ and ‘immoral content’ on television they’re largely unjustified, but are engaged in attempted censorship. When a pressure group has indisputable evidence that certain content can harm the development of children they may justifiably argue for censorship or constriction. Pressure groups on campus no-platforming speakers are engaged in censorship. Again, anything that suppresses or prevents speech is censorship. The threats of violence from Islamic extremists against cartoonists, causing them to self-censor – again, censorship.

All of this is censorship.

The only good justifications for censorship are under the harm principle:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” – JS Mill, On Liberty.

Can we, then, say that what is going on at Youtube is censorship?

That it is a private company makes no difference here. Censorship does not require government involvement to be censorship. Youtube does censor certain content, but this has been deemed reasonable by most of the community (nudity etc is disallowed). I would disagree there too, but that’s a different argument. Youtube has not outright banned any additional content, so it’s not outright censorship, it has ‘merely’ removed monetisation on the basis of some rather opaque and vague criteria.

This loss of monetisation, which is tied to ‘controversial topics’, politics, news and other forms of content may not be outright censorship but it is ‘suppression’, refer back to the definition. Content that can’t make creators money will become less common, the livelihoods of people who produce Youtube content full time will be threatened. Certain forms of commentary and news coverage will be affected as will support organisations, charities, fiction of certain types, tutorials and more. ‘Controversial topics’ is particularly contentious, I’ve had perfectly lucid, explanatory videos on ‘Gamergate’ demonetised.

That people the sceptic/atheist/anti-SJW community have beef with have also been censored doesn’t make the problem less of an issue, it just means it’s affecting more people. That they’ve had their demonetisation reversed (Laci Green) while others have not does lend some weight to this being a political bias, or at least fear on Youtube’s part of bad publicity from some quarters and not others.

Whatever the specifics, yes it’s censorship as it is suppressing certain forms of expression.

Is it Justified?

It’s censorship, but since anything that suppresses or bans speech is censorship the question is whether it’s justified or not. So where’s the harm being done?

Ostensibly this censorship is being made at the behest of the advertisers, but why?

Youtube only benefits from more people using and watching their platform. It costs them very little to host any particular person’s content and the more there is and the more variety the more people are likely to watch. The more creators and the more content they put out and promote, the more to watch. It’s in Youtube’s interest to have the least amount of restriction possible.

Users do not have their experience improved by the censorship, they are harmed by it (less content, less entertainment). Some may say they’re harmed by seeing expression they don’t like, but the solution is simply not to watch it.

Creators are harmed directly by the censorship. Some might say they want it – there was a push against ‘roasting’ and other response videos recently, but again the solution is simply not to watch it.

Advertisers are supposedly the ones asking for this as it is ‘advertiser friendliness’ that is the excuse given. How could an advertiser be harmed here? The kinds of content being targeted are clearly popular and draw a lot of eyes, which is what the advertiser is paying for. This is not sponsorship, there is no direct link between the product and the content and while seeing adverts for Barbie showing next to ‘Uncle Anaconda’s Underage Trouser Power Hour’ might be amusing, nobody except the basest moron would associate the one with the other unless there was sponsorship. Advertisers already advertise around news programmes, edgy comedy shows and more on television. What’s the difference here, if there is any? None.

Nobody appears to gain from this and everybody is harmed – even the advertisers who end up with less exposure.

There’s no justification for it that holds up under scrutiny.

Are we then, those who protest, justified in seeking to exercise control over a privately owned media platform?

Youtube is not like an art gallery. It has – essentially – unlimited space to host content. A gallery could justify turning you away based on limited space or lack of talent or not fitting their remit. The cost/benefit is in favour of them. On Youtube however it costs them virtually nothing (per individual case) to host content and they gain. There’s not much of a defence there on economic or practical grounds.

Moral grounds? This becomes more tricky. If they don’t want certain kinds of content then to an extent that’s their prerogative. However, we live in interesting times. The public square is privately owned and the hard won freedoms we have when it comes to things like free expression, that protect us from the government, do not protect us – at least not in law – from private companies. This becomes an issue in the case of social media giants like Youtube, Twitter and Facebook because they now own the public square and their censorship has a massively deleterious effect.

There’s precedent for the state (acting as the will of the people) stepping in to protect people’s rights form private entities. Some of these are obvious – regulation on dumping waste, not being allowed to make false claims in advertising and so on, others are less obvious or more contentious. Is it right that we step in to protect a homosexual couple’s access to services for their weddings, or should we allow private businesses to be conducted according to their own conscience? What if they want to turn away blacks, or women? Is that OK?

This appears to be the sticking point for many, especially the economic libertarians, anarcho capitalists and so on. The abuse of power that comes in a wholly free market appears to be inevitable and this kind of censorship is an example of that – albeit a mild one. This is especially a problem when the company in question – such as Youtube – has such a de-facto monopoly.

This is where our argument and discussion should be occurring. Where individual and business rights collide, how monopoly status and the cheapness of digital storage interfaces with that.

Some Practical Solutions

1. First I suggest that anyone who runs into advertising on Youtube make a note of who is advertising and then contact them later. Express – politely – the issue with demonetisation and that blame is being placed on the advertisers. Tell them you prefer Youtube as a free speech platform and you do not want to support a company that suppresses free speech. If enough people do this to enough companies (explaining that advertising and content is divorced) then there may be some traction and a shift.

2. Give advertisers the freedom to advertise on ‘edgy’ content if they wish. Flag content as ‘limited monetisation’ if you wish, but let the advertisers choose if they want their adverts to run there or not, rather than simply demonetising. Many advertisers probably don’t care. Many would probably like to advertise next to very popular, controversial and topical content as it may fit their product profile better. Advertisers that don’t want to do so wouldn’t have to, advertisers that did would benefit, creators and viewers would continue to benefit from monetisation.

3. Allow Youtube Red to apply to the content you’re limiting. This would allow ‘edgy’ content to get money as if advertising were present, coming from the Red subscription. It would also encourage creators to encourage their followers to support Youtube Red, with a knock-on benefit for Youtube itself.

Conclusion

It is censorship. It’s not justifiable under the harm principle. Holding Youtube (and similar companies) to uphold free expression is a controversial and arguable point – an interesting discussion to have – but there were other ways to deal with this problem, and better ways than springing it on people.

People need to understand that censorship is more than governmental. That free speech is not limited to the US constitution. That the media landscape has changed and that rights and legislation need to catch up.

Pax.

#Gamergate – Buying a Kluwe on Pakman

I may re-do this as a video Monday, so if there’s anything you want me to expand on or clarifywhen I do that, feel free to ask in the comments or on Twitter. I’ll cover Sargon’s interview later.

Kluwe was a hell of a lot more reasonable with the ability to talk than he is on Twitter. Perhaps the written word isn’t his forte. It’s hard to square the Kluwe in this interview with the unrepentant arsehole and cybersquatter on Twitter. Still, it gives me hope that a debate with Mercedes might actually be a productive exchange, rather than merely him being rhetorically kicked around like the ball he used to play with.

However, this doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerously naive, ignorant of a great number of things, hasn’t mischaracterised his opposition or isn’t riddled with hypocrisy and a desperate lack of self-awareness.

These things are curable.

That both Kluwe and Sargon have raised issues with interviews and titling is important – I think – and raises concerns about the way Pakman titles and presents his interviews, though not necessarily the conduct in them.

I do think Pakman’s first round of interviews were fairly neutral and both Wu and Chu did go off the rails in their reactions to his questioning. I mean that’s not a slant, that is what – unquestionably – happened. Given the enormous slant against Gamergate in most coverage in the past, and going into the future, it’s not surprising that a more neutral approach would read as somehow being pro Gamergate.

It seems somewhat disingenuous to blame Hotwheels for things on his site, not to mention foolish given some of the things hanging over Kluwe as well. It’s also irrelevant to the Gamergate matter and betrays a lack of understanding of how imageboards work. The same is true of the accusations regarding raid boards etc. It is an accurate point that he personally condemned, rather than officially condemned, but that’s perfectly in line with the philosophy behind 8chan and imageboard culture as a whole. Something that an expert on internet culture should know.

The complaint about the Chu interview title has a bit more substance, but like Wu he did, unquestionably, go off the rails under even the slightest resistance or probing. Rather than back things up, offer evidence or talk the reaction is an emotional outburst.

Obviously I am biased against the people in these interviews and also for the people interviewed in the more recent round of interviews (well, the subject, if not necessarily the people). However, that both pro and anti have issues with how things have been presented does suggest this is a broader problem that Pakman needs to be more aware of. I’ll go into this more in examining the Sargon interview, but as a quick point of comparison the Vox Day interview was titled as being about Gamergate, but dwelt on and mentioned his bizarre and extremist viewpoints (not especially accurately either, it must be said however much I disagree with him) and gave the impression that these were also the views of Gamergate itself.

They’re not. To present them in such a way is profoundly dishonest. It would be like presenting the ‘kill off 90% of men’ idea as being part of AGGro.

Regarding ‘sides’. How can there be two sides on the topic of corruption? Censorship perhaps, people have different places that they draw the line and so there’s room for sides, debate and discussion, but when it comes to corruption how is it even that there are two sides? There aren’t. There are substantial and supported accusations, and there’s denial and excuses.

The people who oppose Gamergate are definitely a side and they are a hell of a lot more politically and philosophically homogeneous than Gamergate – despite recent splits and infighting. It is, perhaps paradoxically, much easier to speak of anti-Gamergate collectively than it is pro-gamergate, at least in my experience.

One thing Kluwe said that I take massive exception to is the idea that he – and his side – are ‘intimately familiar with online culture’.

Someone intimately familiar with online culture would understand Brennan’s stance regarding 8chan, would know not to take trolling seriously and have some idea how to separate it from serious and sincere action and would know that internet tough-guys should not be taken seriously. If AGGro are ‘experts in this field’ they should not be making these kinds of rookie mistakes in dealing with internet culture. This means, I’m sorry to say, that they’re either lying about this expert status or wilfully being dishonest in their dealings. Indeed I had pegged this difference and problem in communication to Gamergate being genuine experts on online culture and AGGro being naive and inexperienced with it, prior to this interview.

So far as I am aware, and remain aware, no doxxing or SWATting has actually been linked to GG – though definitions of what these are differ. There’s no question however that doxxing and SWATting has been aimed at Gamergate and some of that has come directly from AGGro. Much of what has been aimed at both sides certainly comes from opportunistic third-party trolls but really, none of this is part of the Gamergate conversation. It’s a separate but important conversation, but nothing to do with Gamergate.

Kluwe complains about the government getting involved, but then you have to ask why is the government getting involved? Who is involving them? The answer there is that it is down to people like Quinn and Wu and the AGGro side, not Gamergate. Indeed Gamergate is remarkably unworried by the potential involvement of law enforcement and government in the short term, because – frankly – we know we’ve done nothing wrong and that we’ll (continue to) be exonerated, as happened with the threats against Sarkeesian. We also don’t think AGGro will come out so well. Personally I suspect – for example – that the threat called in against the DC Gamergate meet did originate from a sincere AGGro, probably in some way related to Chu’s histrionic attempts to get the event cancelled, if not Chu himself.

Kluwe’s worries about government involvement and ignorance are ones I share, so this is one point at least we can agree on. If AGGro didn’t keep trying to involve government however and actually dealt with Gamergate’s real issues rather than trying to make it about gender and harassment, this wouldn’t be an issue. It’s not Gamergate – or even trolls – threatening the free internet, it’s the opposition.

I’m afraid at this point, after 8 months, I find the claim that there is no objection to dealing with corruption in games journalism to be hollow. The steadfast refusal to debate and discuss these issues or to even admit they exist makes a lie of that claim. Off this point, Kluwe hitches standard talking points and attempts to push Gamergate to either disband or to become a less effective group.

To very briefly address these points:
‘Go after the devs’
If journalists stop succumbing to corruption, publishers and distrubutors (who are responsible more than devs) will stop trying to threaten or bribe them.

‘Don’t harass people’
Semantics are involved here, but Gamergate does not harass people. Dishonestly conflating Gamergate with trolls etc is a dishonest tactic by AGGro to try and derail the conversation about problems with ethics and censorship. The refusal to deal honestly with the issues Gamergate raises only contribute to a more and more fervid atmosphere. Frustration will mean people seek alternative lines of recourse for their grievances.

‘Change the hashtag’
No. There is nothing wrong with the hashtag and despite it being smeared so much it has had considerable success. Persistence and defiance in the face of those accusations has contributed to that success. Other hashtags have sprung up and the accusations have followed them. There’s simply no point doing so and it would be a form of admission of guilt. It’s not going to happen. Instead AGGro should just start to deal honestly with Gamergate as it really is, rather than the strawman they’ve created. GG is now having physical meet ups – that people keep trying to disrupt or force to cancel, or even phone in threats to.

Complaining about allowing Gamergate a platform would be part of the kind of problem that would be worth raising. Denial of any platform to present Gamergate’s authentic complaints has been part of the problem so it’s responsible to provide a means by which our side can be presented and, thereby, dealt with honestly. That Kluwe appears to want to make it impossible for that to happen – and thus for discussion and resolution to happen – is also telling.

Any honest and open examination of the facts of the matter utterly debunks the idea that Gamergate is a hate movement. Who does it hate? Can a hatred of corruption and censorship really be considered a hate group in the same manner that a racial hate group can? No, that’s absurd. It’s like calling the justice system as a whole a hate group. Ludicrous.

Kluwe has been dealing with Gamergate long enough that he should know that no, it was not founded on anything to do with Zoe Quinn, past the fact that the Zoe Post revealed undeclared conflicts of interest and wider journalistic and indie corruption when those specific revelations were a) not dealt with and b) obfuscated under the excuse that it was harassment. I refuse to believe Kluwe is genuinely that ignorant, which only leaves malice or wilful dishonesty as possibilities here. Corruption and censorship is a problem no matter who is responsible, expecting women to be treated differently when they engage in such behaviour would be genuinely sexist. For a ‘misogynistic’ group, Gamergate contains a much more female members, and diverse members, than it is given credit for.

Kluwe was wrong. The movement has broadly succeeded in its original goals. However, those goals have expanded as more problems and issues have been uncovered. So there are new goals and a bigger, broader community with a wider remit.

There’s this weird obsession that AGGro has with forcing Gamergate to organise along conventional lines. This would be a mistake. It would render the movement fragile and maladaptive to its purpose. It would make it easier for AGGro to pin bad actions on and even though they would be no more true than they are now, they would find it easier to stick. This strikes me as the real reason they want GG to organise on conventional lines, it would be easier to disarm, dismiss and smear. As to ‘noone to blame but yourselves’, untrue, the people to blame are those wilfully taking trolls seriously and constantly smearing Gamergate. Nobody else is responsible but them.

Kluwe talks about how ‘Gamergate attracts people like Vox Day’ but really you have to consider what it is that is the common thread. Whatever Day’s other, bizarre beliefs about things the common thread he shares with Gamergate is his concern over censorship and the monopolar politicisation of what might broadly be called ‘nerd media’. For him it is the Hugo Awards and Science Fiction, for Gamergate it’s video games. We also share a common enemy in the form of authoritarian social justice warriors. However obnoxious any of us find Vox Day’s beliefs, he has a right to them, to express them and for his work to be considered as work, rather than as him.

Stormfront has nothing to do with Gamergate. Kluwe is being dishonest about this as well. As I recall Stormfront’s involvement with Gamergate constitutes precisely one thread on one of their message boards that was largely met with indifference and derision.

With Breitbart and the rest, again, the common thread is the concern over censorship, monopole politics and the common enemy of the authoritarian social justice warrior extremism.

Now, the involvement of the right does also concern me, but in a slightly different way. I am a left anarchist but I see the abject and total failure of the left media to honestly report on Gamergate pushing what is mostly a left/liberal movement to the right. The depths of the problems with media have become apparent and many people feel betrayed and that is what could push them to the right which has been the only place they’ve really had a fair shake. If the left is genuinely worried about this, they need to give Gamergate a fair shake and stop abusing and lying about it or they’ll continue to drive people to the right. Once again, the only viable solution to Gamergate is to discuss and address its issues honestly.

Of course people and groups see opportunities here as people get disenfranchised. That’s nobody’s fault but AGGro and trying to link things like Vox Day’s non-gamergate related views to Gamergate is part of that issue.

The course of events leading to Gamergate that Kluwe lays out is, of course, factually inaccurate but that has been gone over more than enough so I won’t bother retreading it here. I’ll put it simply though. If I considered GG to be a hate group, I wouldn’t throw myself behind it. I find the accusation absurd.

Describing people like Wu or Chu as experts in this field is… silly, given the way in which they have acted. If that were true it would also be true of the Gamergate people, thereby putting you back to square one. What Kluwe appears to mean is a variation on ‘listen and believe’ which should not be part of any reporter, scientist or legal professional’s vocabularly, or indeed any rational person’s vocabulary. We see what goes wrong with that attitude when we look at the Rolling Stone issue – for example.

Kluwe seems, paradoxically, to be demanding people ignore their own experience and to automatically believe the experiences of others – that simply doesn’t work.

On a side note, I think 90% of solution to these internet social issues is educating people, rather than bringing in laws or forces. Expecting ‘the internet’ to be a safe space as a whole is ridiculous. The idea of self-policing might have been one I would have gone along with in the past, but AGGro has shown this can’t work. Block Bots create more problems than they solve. Monstering groups, unfairly, stifles necessary discussion and creates more issues – again – than it solves. There’s no sufficient due-process, no respect for facts, smearing and emotion-lead nonsense and lies rule the day. As things stand, online vigilantism can’t be trusted to resolve these situations.

Kluwe says Gamergate etc doesn’t understand the consequences of what they’re doing, yet Gamergate is part of the broader cultural counter-movement that is striving to guarantee online free expression while AGGro are the ones threatening it via their false narratives.

I’m frankly not interested at all in E-Sports, so I’ll leave it there.

Kluwe is wrong, misguided, misinformed or wilfully dishonest on a lot of issues but in ‘person’ he sounds like someone who – when confronted – might actually be able to be reasonable. Again, I hope the debate with Mercedes does happen as it may be a step towards some sort of resolution or progress by forcing people like Kluwe to acknowledge Gamergate’s points and sincerity.

Gamergate has nothing to fear from investigation by law enforcement and nothing to fear from an honest examination of the facts that relate to the scandal as a whole. Facts have a Gamergate bias.

Pax.

Muslims up in Arms, Again, Again

This is CL, some sort of K-Pop rap star. Can’t say I much care for it, or that it matters. One of her songs (this one if I’ve got it right) contains a snatch or two of the Koran being recited in the background. Those of you with long memories may remember that Little Big Planet was delayed for much the same reason.

In the wake of successfully bullying Katie Perry into silence and harassing Majid Nawaz, Muslims seem to feel they can now silence absolutely anyone by making threats and kicking up enough of a stink. This time on the #CLIsUsingQuraanInHerSong hashtag on Twitter.

Yes, there are 1.6 billion Muslims, but the entire human population of the Earth – including Muslims – benefit from the right of free expression. It’s a right that allows them to practice and promote their religion. So why would they be against it?

I’m going to go 180 degrees from my normal practice and offer some genuine, sincere and heartfelt advice to Muslims.

If you want your religion to be respected then this is exactly the opposite of what you need to be doing.

If you want your religion to be respected you need to TOLERATE and ACCEPT the beliefs of others. You need to understand that just as with Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ or ‘Life of Brian’ or any number of films and songs that play fast and loose with other religions that this is going to happen.

Every time you start kicking and screaming over what, to the entire rest of the world seems like nothing at all (a brief glimpse of a medallion, a cartoon, a book) you are not gaining respect. You are losing it. You look like primitive morons who are completely unable to understand that anyone else might have a different belief than you.

If you want respect you need to work against this rabid image. If you want respect you need to extend respect to other cultures and beliefs. You need to stop censoring others, intimidating others and looking like berserkers.

This is, absolutely, not the way to go about getting respect.

Free Expression

You guys seem to have immense difficulty with this concept. Free expression means everyone gets to express themselves how they wish. That means people can use the Koran, Bible, Rig Veda or anything else in their artistic works and you’re free to practice your religion and believe what you want. What you don’t get to do is to censor other people. Just because you think your book is the holy word of god doesn’t mean anyone else does and you don’t get to censor people based on being offended.

Personally I find Islam incredibly offensive. Does that mean I should get to censor it and force the Koran to be ‘deleted’ from life? No. Much as I’d love to see Islam die out I believe everyone has the right to free expression. Even Muslims. That’s what respect is, letting people who believe different things express themselves without censorship.

Religious Spam Round-Up 9: Just Watch this Video!

Every day social media users, especially those identifying as agnostics, atheists and skeptics, are subjected to a barrage of religious spam from true believers. This tends to be repeated, day in, day out, several times a day with no attempt to engage or discuss the matter. It’s spam, plain and simple. Some groups even seem to use small botnets, multiple accounts or proxies to spam hundreds of identical or similar messages all in one go.

Let’s look at some, all from one afternoon and evening on Twitter and only a small sample…

Just Watch this Video!

A sort of Gish Gallop by proxy, linking to a video that you’re expected to watch, some of which go on as much as two hours, seems to be a tactic more designed to shut you up than to actually engage. These videos usually contain a torrent of fallacies, lies, half-truths, no-truths and nonsense and it’s impossible to reply to all of them in any sort of short order.

If you don’t watch the whole thing you’ll be whinged at. If you do they’ll have moved on and stopped replying.

My current tactic is to stop watching after the third bit of bullshit or to ask them what they consider the best argument that’s presented. Rarely will anyone take me up on it though.

Using the above, just as an example, here’s all the problems…

0:38: Fallacy of shifting the burden of proof. Believers must provide evidence for god. There’s no onus on non-believers to disprove something for which there’s no evidence.
0:43: But you can get something from nothing – energy and particles (vacuum fluctuations). Regardless, even if we couldn’t we’d simply be saying ‘I don’t know’. If we don’t know something, that doesn’t mean god did it. This is the fallacy of the argument from ignorance.
0:47: It’s not a rational explanation if there’s nothing to support it and no reason to believe it. Appealing to the majority of people as any reason to believe something is another fallacy. Argument from popularity. That lots of people believe something doesn’t make it true.
1:00: Feelings etc, all these aspects of our lives can be explained natrualistically and this would simply be an argument from ignorance again anyway.

That’s four problems within the first minute, so you can see how it’s not worth continuing.