All Things in Moderation
Facebook's precogs, Birdwatch, and a special visit from the Take Tree.
Last year Facebook, in an effort to distract everyone who noticed that its relentless cash-grab is wrecking democracy, created “The Oversight Board,” a useless pile of woo-woo nonsense that everyone involved should be deeply ashamed of. Ben Smith reported this weekend that the gig pays “six figures annually to each board member for what has become a commitment of roughly 15 hours a week.” Understandably content to stretch this grift out as long as it’ll last, the group has been very gradually organizing itself since last May, started taking “cases” in October, and like alien archaeologists puzzling over the potsherds of a dead civilization long since buried in ash, this week will issue its first irrelevant rulings on a grab bag of hate speech and nipples from a thousand internet years ago. None of these will matter. But the next thing it’s going to do is decide whether Donald Trump is banned forever, which matters a great deal. The issue was handed off by Facebook’s VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg, a former British politician who has leveled up from merely selling out the Liberal Democrats to selling out liberal democracy itself.
Yes, it’s a cynical puppet show, but at least Facebook respects you enough to put “$130 million into a legally independent trust,” again according to Ben Smith. Microscopic compared to the company’s $55 billion in cash reserves, but it sounds impressive to us “dumb fucks.” Twitter, poorer, cheaper, and less devious than Mark Zuckerberg, announced its own fake moderation organization yesterday, and it is: you. For the attractive salary of nothing Twitter will allow you to make notes on Tweets. That’s it. It’s called “Birdwatch,” because when has birdwatching ever gone wrong? I was alive and conscious when Slashdot invented “metamoderation” so take my word for it, this won’t work as a system for combating hate speech, harassment, abuse or brigading. But that’s ok, because its function is to convince you that Twitter really cares about safety and quality, a function it will also not accomplish.
Katie Notopoulos wrote an excellent post yesterday about the social platforms being overruled by the likes of AWS, and she goes back to the moderation lesson that Something Awful and earlier forums learned, which is that you can only keep a community healthy by banning bad actors early and often. She concludes that the social networks “have worked their heads so far up their asses that they’ve forgotten they can just smash that ‘ban’ button.” But even that is too generous. Mark Zuckerberg knows that Facebook can ban anyone. It does so every day. Twitter does as well. Despite promising that the Oversight Board’s decisions are “binding,” Facebook also knows it can ignore them with complete impunity, if it feels like it. The purpose of things like the Oversight Board and Birdwatch is to push difficult moderation decisions onto someone else, and create a cloud of vapid legal-techical chaff to cover up the abdication.
Whom Canceled? Following up on yesterday, Lauren Wolfe did not appreciate the New York Times insinuating that she was bad at her job, and spoke to The Erik Wemple Blog about it. Idaho Statesman editor Christina Lords was fired for encouraging people to subscribe to the paper so she could afford to buy Excel for a reporter. The Idaho News Guild protested. And Colorado Community Media reporter Nick Puckett was fired for, according to him, what looks a lot like… reporting? In the studio with me today is The Take Tree, who has a statement for us on cancel culture run amok:
Robin Rendle wonders if we’ve lost something by abandoning the web for newsletters (via Edith Zimmerman). Matt Levine can tell you what’s going on with GameStop (also, yesterday). I will read anything that involves 20,000 bees. Werner Herzog on skateboarding. Spotify on a 2004 iPod Classic. Does Janet Yellen need a “Hamilton” musical? Absolutely not, jail for everyone involved in this. Twitter is buying second-tier newsletter company Revue which, ok, I guess. Generated sadness.
Today’s Song: “Ooh La La (Mexican Institute of Sound Remix feat. Santa Fe Klan)” by RTJ
~ asdfdsfddfdsastabsasgsfgdfd ~
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The Take Tree is by Tabs Senior Graphics Intern Alison Headley. I tweet @fka_tabs as a person and @TodayinTabs as a brand. I’m way behind subscription goals for the week, so really, please subscribe thank you so much.