Thad wrote:I feel like it'd be worth starting a new thread to discuss why online discourse sucks so badly now.
I think, as much as anything, it's that the need for skilled, active moderation increases dramatically as the size of the community does, but large platforms (think popular news sites) are unwilling or unable to spare the expense that such moderation requires, while the biggest platforms (Facebook, Twitter) are so big that good moderation is impossible. (Better moderation is possible, but I don't think good moderation is.) And, possibly worst of all, the largest platforms tend to have a financial incentive not to alienate assholes (I think we were talking about that WRT Reddit over on the politics board).
It's a tremendously difficult problem. I think sites like Ars could foster truly fantastic communities if only they had more active, hands-on moderation. And as far as I'm concerned, sites like Twitter and Facebook shouldn't exist. I think the design of Mastodon is a much preferable alternative: an interoperable set of smaller communities, each with its own independent management. But getting people to switch off of Facebook and Twitter is a nigh-intractable problem. I was around to see people switch from the closed networks of Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe to the superior open Internet -- and I was around to see them all go back to proprietary monoliths, by choice.
The reason online discourse is fucked is not that people don't know how to fix it. It's that they don't want to.
Picking up from there:
Between the GDPR, congressional hearings, the Cambridge Analytica and Russian fake news scandals, and the simple market reality that the subscriber base can't continue to grow forever, Facebook is in trouble (as you may have heard, it lost 20% of its value following its second-quarter earnings report). And management is desperate to prove that it's doing something to deal with this stuff.
Ars: Facebook takes on “inauthentic” meddlers ahead of major DC protest next week
Facebook took the unusual step of announcing an ongoing, incomplete investigation into "inauthentic" behavior on Tuesday, complete with implications that Russia's Internet Research Agency (IRA) may have been involved. This week's disclosure comes in part due to Facebook having to reveal its hand a bit prematurely: "32 Pages and accounts" were affiliated with a protest event scheduled for next week in Washington, DC, and Facebook has begun informing its potential attendees.
The 3,000+ users who expressed interest in the "No Unite The Right 2" event between August 10-12 in Washington, DC, will receive the following Facebook message today: "A Page created by fake accounts started the event 'No Unite The Right 2 - DC.' The other event hosts have been notified."
Facebook says the pages in question were opened between March 2017 and May of this year, and they racked up a combined 290,000 followers before being shut down this week. Those accounts had names such as reSisters, Black Elevation, Aztlan Warriors, and Mindful Being; some of those accounts posted inherently violent imagery, including a black man holding a gun in one image and a man in American Indian attire holding a gun in another. (Sample images from these pages are included in the above gallery.)
Except, not so fast.
dcist: D.C. Organizers Are Pissed That Facebook Deleted 'Unite The Right' Counterprotest Page
Among the pages deleted was a popular event page called "No Unite The Right 2 - D.C.," a counterprotest to the looming white supremacist rally taking place in D.C. on August 12.
The only problem? D.C. organizers say the page was legit, and they're angry at Facebook for taking it down.
"This was a legitimate Facebook event that was being organized by Washington, D.C. locals," says Dylan Petrohilos, a former Inauguration rioting case defendant that was involved in organizing the counterprotest.
Motherboard: How Real Activists Learned Facebook Was Deleting Their Protest Page for ‘Inauthentic Behavior’
In a statement, Shut It Down DC said the Facebook event was created by Resisters, a page that ostensibly existed to share feminist memes, and garnered roughly 21,000 followers. (Facebook has since removed it for “inauthentic behavior.”) Facebook caught wind of Resisters because it was managed by a known-IRA account for seven minutes, and it’s unclear but possible that account also created the page.
But [co-organizer Brendan] Orsinger says it’s not so simple—that Resisters seemed real because it parasitized the work of legitimate activist groups. This is a known device of disinformation campaigns, say experts like the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, which Facebook consults on matters of platform abuse.
This is not a new tactic; it was standard operating procedure for the KGB. Organize both pro- and anti-government demonstrations, then reveal that the anti-government demonstrations were organized by the government all along, sowing chaos and mistrust. (Hell, "anti-government activists join a resistance cell, only to discover that it was a trap set by the government" is the plot of 1984.)
Untangling "legitimate" from "illegitimate" political groups is a difficult problem, and Facebook -- surprise! -- isn't up to it.
Techdirt: Facebook's Censorship Of Legit Activists Shows The Policing Of Propaganda Is Going To Be A Fucking Mess
Over at Facebook, one of the justifications for the removal of the page was that an account linked to the Russian IRA disinformation effort had been an administrator for the page for all of seven minutes:"The IRA engaged with many legitimate Pages, so these leads sometimes turn up nothing. However, one of these leads did turn up something. One of the IRA accounts we disabled in 2017 shared a Facebook Event hosted by the “Resisters” Page. This Page also previously had an IRA account as one of its admins for only seven minutes. These discoveries helped us uncover the other inauthentic accounts we disabled today."
Taking down a whole, legitimate website because one IRA-linked account had admin rights for all of seven minutes seems shaky at best, and Facebook isn't clear on what additional evidence they relied on. The other problem is that Facebook notified all of the group's legitimate members about its move, undermining the effort as a whole. Facebook's blog post is also misleading, in that it suggests that these legitimate activists were somehow conned into participating in a counter-protest they would have been engaged with anyway:"The Event – “No Unite the Right 2 – DC” – was scheduled to protest an August “Unite the Right” event in Washington. Inauthentic admins of the “Resisters” Page connected with admins from five legitimate Pages to co-host the event. These legitimate Pages unwittingly helped build interest in “No Unite Right 2 – DC” and posted information about transportation, materials, and locations so people could get to the protests."
The event is still scheduled, but the new Facebook group created in the wake of Facebook's actions has far fewer members, and it's unclear how many people who would have otherwise attended were scared off by what feels like over-reach.
So that's where we are now.