In the end, all the threads came together and it turned out GameStop was a story about platforms and moderation after all. By the end of what Bloomberg called “11 hours of pure mania” yesterday, the White House and the SEC were officially “monitoring the situation” and the grotesques of Wall Street were starting to go on TV and say things like this:
Nilay reminded us that Section 230 has roots in a lawsuit over stock message boards to begin with, and then r/wallstreetbets went private, and Discord booted the board’s chat server “for continuing to allow hateful and discriminatory content after repeated warnings.” About an hour after the subreddit went private, it came back with a thoughtful post from moderator zjz, which begins with:
We have grown to the kind of size we only dreamed of in the time it takes to get a bad nights sleep. We've got so many comments and submissions that we can't possibly even read them all, let alone act on them as moderators. We wrote software to do most of the moderation for us but that software isn't allowed to read the Reddit new feed fast enough and submit responses, and the admins haven't given us special access despite asking for it.
And similarly, about the Discord ban:
Discord did us dirty and I am not impressed with them destroying our community instead of stepping in with the wrench we may have needed to fix things…
This morning the Wall Street Journal posted a profile of wallstreetbets founder, Jaime Rogozinski, and it turns out he “wound up deleting the private chat room hosted on Discord where… offensive messages were exchanged” back in the Spring, and was kicked out of the community himself as a result.
And then Robinhood nerfed the meme stonks. The company implied the change was to protect its customers from volatility. The posters on wallstreetbets were not especially happy. As I write this, Gamestop is down about 30% from yesterday, and at least one class action lawsuit has been filed against Robinhood.
So perhaps what we have is a cascade of platform moderation stories. The stock market (a software platform), struggled to find moderation tools against what it experienced as an attack. Maybe the “wrong” people were winning, maybe traders had the ”wrong” motivations, or maybe Robinhood is anticipating the bad press when a lot of its users get wiped out in the inevitable crash and is trying to force them out at the top of the market instead. Either way, Citadel Securities is making a lot of money on the volatility. And, one layer down, wallstreetbets struggled to find moderation tools against exponential growth on Reddit and Discord, which often presents as an attack as well.
Meanwhile, after four years of deep investment in the Trump-era griftocracy, Mark Zuckerberg is looking increasingly sweaty and desperate in the face of a new national mood. Yesterday he said Facebook will cut “political” content from users newsfeeds, now that political content is less “Democrats harvest adrenochrome from babies they bought on Wayfair” and more “perhaps we should claw back some money from billionaires and break up the social media platforms.” But the Oversight Board has handed down the first proclamations from its orbital deliberation platform, and the news isn’t great for Mark. Facebook will be forced to reinstate Brazilian nipples, a Joseph Goebbels quote, COVID-19 disinformation, and most awkwardly, hate speech against Muslims from Myanmar, where Facebook has already admitted that hate speech against Muslims was instrumental in fomenting a genocide. All signs are that the Board’s well-compensated thinkfluencers are committed to making decisions from the comfortable void of their context-deprivation tanks, so we’ll likely see Donald Trump reinstated before too long.
Former Atlantic managing editor Jennifer Barnett wrote a scorching tale of how awful it was to work with James Bennet. She was forced out of the media business entirely while he went on to run the New York Times opinion page into universal disrepute and has now landed a cushy job at The Economist. Barnett is unconstrained by NDA and eager to go on the record, so let’s hope someone takes her up on that.
Gabriel Snyder talked to Lauren Wolfe about chills-ghazi. Wirecutter responds to Honeywell-gate. Fox is a third place news channel now. Inside the Congressional flophouse. Proud Boys’ Enrique Tarrio is a “prolific” rat. This horrific Valentines Kraft Dinner is god’s latest mistake. The Guardian, long nicknamed The Grauniad for its legendarily poor copyediting, is now being style-checked by 13,000 regular expressions.
Finally: it’s almost the freakin’ weekend baby, so here’s a 7500-word New Republic story by William Hogeland about authority in Revolutionary American history, and who gets to decide what the “facts” are. It’s very good.
Speaking of Moderation: Tomorrow, I’m going to try an experiment in moderation, and have a subscribers’ open thread. Substack has commenting tools that I haven’t enabled yet because I know the work involved in building healthy online community. But let’s chat? If you want to participate, make sure you’re a paid subscriber before tomorrow, and keep an eye on your email.
Today’s Song: “Stolen Dance” by Milky Chance. I heard this song as hold music on a customer support call and it was such a jam that I listened to the whole thing and then hung up to find out what song it was, completely forgetting what I had called for in the first place.
~ Your smile is like a breath of spring, your tabs are soft like summer rain, and I cannot compete with you Jolene ~