Content platforms, funding systems and search engines can go insane with ideological bias, creating an extralegal layer oppressing content creators. Can a completely neutral platform, which stands wholly on legal ground and is detached from moral judgement, even exist?
This is a rambling thought experiment which thinks about a payment processor, crowdfunding or patronage platform..
- 1 Suspension of disbelief
- 2 The dichotomy-monopoly
- 3 The not-internet
- 5 Denying ideological bias
- 7 A platform with a spine
- 8 The heavy hand of the state
- 9 International considerations
- 10 Crowdsourcing legal omniscience
- 11 Platforming "garbage humans"
Suspension of disbelief ∞
There are layers of social, political and technological gatekeepers between producers and consumers, allowing the covert and overt manipulation of content creation, delivery, and discussion. This is a simple fact, and those who are not aware of it lack the "conspiratorial mindset" to have guessed the possibility long ago, aren't in the trenches where this is happening or are blissfully ignorant; luckily living in a bubble and consuming content which is somehow unaffected.
To understand this problem, one has to grant that it is a fact that there are gateways to other people's online content. How they exist, like manipulated search results, gamed recommendation feeds, and biased activity algorithms, are not important. All of this writing will hinge on the readers' assumption that there is a looming possibility that content delivery trust cannot be granted anywhere, from the social media platform, payment processors, search engines, internet service providers, governmental, operating system or computer chip level.
The dichotomy-monopoly ∞
When a producer-enabling platform becomes any form of "monopoly" (as loosely defined by its users), and when it pursues ideological gatekeeping, then their narrative-opponents get suppressed or ostracized. An alternative would arise in a hypothetical free market, but what happens if the barrier to entry for a competing platform is socially high? When "bad people" are banned from one platform and become the majority of the other you end up with a sort of dichotomy-monopoly.
How could a platform exist that stands between these two sides, or bridges the two, or is entirely independent of the problems that created their expulsion-requiring biases in the first place? Can there be a happy medium? Can either side be made to stand down? Can culture itself be made to take a chill pill and calm the fuck down?
The not-internet ∞
There is this not-internet place called "the real world". In it, arguments would be settled with baseball bats if it weren't for the forum moderators. Someone who breaks a forum rule gets a temporary ban in a prison.
None of these things are new concepts; again, the real world has been around a while.
The author(s) of a platform have a kind of virtual-regional-dictatorship which allows them to create an additional layer of law overtop of the existing online ones which are themselves a layer overtop of real-world laws. Those platform-specific laws are ideologically-driven and are the fundamental power behind ostracizing users and forcing the splintering of platforms into those of opposing-alignment.
If platform-alignment (ideological bias) exists, and it can be wielded to oppress opponents, and opponents move to another platform, and this produces two strongly-disagreeing user bases, then halting any of these components will stop a split.
Denying ideological bias ∞
The core root of the problem is "it's a private company which can do anything it wants".
"No, you may not create an extralegal entity" solves a lot of problems. [ 1 ]
This section could probably be left blank; the concept ought to be solid, and if it's not then that says a lot about the description and enforcement of offline laws.
A platform with a spine ∞
The first thing would be that all the oppressed and ostracized would flee to it. Then the platform would immediately become labelled as being "for" those "bad" people. This has already been seen with every alternative platform ever since there has been any market domination by any social media in recent internet-history.
Basically speaking.. a new platform couldn't arise without "drama".
The heavy hand of the state ∞
Empowering the government with the ability to dictate what a private company does is a scary prospect to some, and a necessary good to others. However, enforcing existing laws and denying paralegal expansionism is neither.
There's a big difference between a family having traditions and a town having unique laws separate from the county and country. A group could have its own bullet points of rules which guide its moderators, but all of the platform could be denied that power, disempowering them from an ideological tool of its dictators to a private company which provides a service evenly to all interested parties.
Then the conversation can fall gracefully back to the friend, church or cake-shop arguments, which are problems of a company being selective about who it does business to. These are real-world arguments on real-world laws which already have a history of discourse. There's no need to make the same arguments an additional time by pretending that the online world is a unique context.
International considerations ∞
If local laws govern individual users, but international users all participate in roughly the same forum, then how is it possible for people to interact?
Legal agreements would have to exist at the international governmental level. This is, admittedly, an astonishingly naive suggestion, since that would be difficult to say the least, but shirking responsibilities and dumping them onto the shoulders of platform dictators is a bad idea when those platforms participate in ideological manipulation at the national and international scales.
Platforms enable and manipulate news, opinions, and culture. They absolutely must not be dictatorships. I sincerely hope that people don't have to experience the uncaring boot of a platform to know this at the instinctual, gut, level. "I'm not breaking the rules" means absolutely nothing when the wrong person, idea, or algorithm notices you. People keep saying this over, and over, and over, and all the ideologically-pretty people think they're immune, until they're not, and then the innocent little sheep are wholly shocked at their slaughter. "This dictator is on my side" has two parts. The "side" is someone else's unpredictable opinion, and the "dictator" is by definition uncontrollable.
Crowdsourcing legal omniscience ∞
The main problem of international participants is in recognizing the differences in the local laws of every user.
There would have to be a comprehensive understanding of every participant to find and note the similarities, and then apply laws appropriately to each individual. This is impossibly difficult. The solution would be to crowdsource the problem, offloading it onto the userbase to report possible law breakers. Then the new problem would be dog-piling (activist groups [ 4 ] ), limited resources and selective enforcement. To combat such problem would be an investment concept.
First, in order to submit a complaint one would have to be a user. Second, one would have to match a specific monetary cost, essentially crowdfunding a complaint where the money pays for a moderator. I would tie this directly into the income of every participant. For example, a payment processor or patronage website takes transaction fees, and theirs would be increased. In this manner, obvious problems can be trivially solved.
Next are the more difficult cases. No problem; break out the lawyers.
Money would be directly used to pay for local specialist and international lawyers to review and decide on a case. The result would be to help the world build a better understanding of local and regional laws. There would be an immediate low-cost "acceptable" decision (which will be written on shortly), and a high-cost national and international law proceeding which would do its best but eventually exhaust its budget if it doesn't gain enough traction to reach its goal. This works exactly the same as international law discussions do in the real world right now.
These higher profile cases would leave the legal archaeological remains which can be cited to make it easier (and cheaper) to make rulings on future problems.
Platforming "garbage humans" ∞
There is a middle position rooted firmly in the realm of the social, where the law has not (yet?) caught up with social trends. [ 5 ]
For a platform to be neutral it has to resist the social tension between the ideologically-possessed and the law. One way is in giving an outlet for a moral mob to feel like they are weaponizing the law. [ 6 ] However, there will still be the perception of "a platform profiting off of taking a cut from the activities of disreputable users".
A platform costs money to maintain. A concession would be the denial of all profits gained from any arbitrary user, so long as other users make up for it. This wouldn't be enough the morally-outraged, since the existence of the platform at all is enabling those who they think are morally reprehensible to, say, make a living. This remains the most difficult problem, but it's solved by directing such people out of their chairs and into the voting booths to change their laws.
Every platform should say "I'm a private business, I'm following the law" because it's forced to do so just like every citizen and user.
Last updated 2023-03-18 at 22:12:13
- The other would be "all rules must be applied consistently". There are additional problems where limited enforcement resources (often caused by too many laws) are selectively applied, but that's another discussion.
- "Western law", though perhaps a stronger and probably more ideologically-biased phrase could be used.
- Probably terms like "virtue signalling" or "moralfagging" would work, but researching, understanding, and explaining internet-terms would dilute this writing.
- This lag is a point of contention in the young, where every generation hefts signs and shouts someone else's slogans, who think they are right and want to change the world right now now now like a two year old at the checkout isle who wants candy. The big problem here is the ideological mass manipulation of young NPCs, and so the delay in political, legal, economic and whole-society social change is extremely important.
- "What do we want?" The thing! "When do we want it?" Right now!