social media

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Red state red tape.

As someone who generally like regulation and generally dislikes mass social media, conservatives constantly tripping over their own dicks in their endless quest to make the worst social media laws possible will never not be amusing to me . . .

(I mean . . . it shouldn’t be, to be clear. These things are Bad, for a variety of reasons, not the least being that they actively harm efforts to introduce good legislation. But. Still.)

2022-08-06T07:29:45+10:006th August, 2022|Tags: , , |


It might be tempting for the rest of us to leave the hyperbolic partisans sparring on Twitter to their diversions and move on with our lives. The problem with this platform at the moment, though, is that too many people in positions of power remain hypnotized by its stylized violence. Academic and business leaders will enact wild shifts in policy or practices at the slightest hint that these digital combatants are aiming weapons of virality in their direction. Politicians, for their part, seem to increasingly craft their behavior, and sometimes even legislation, to please not their constituents but the platform’s radicalized tastemakers. During the recent Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, for example, a photographer for the Los Angeles Times claimed to have seen Ted Cruz check his Twitter mentions following his heated questioning of the nominee. Journalists also feel the impact of these pressures. For those who spend so much of their lives gathering and sharing news online, it’s simply human nature to begin considering stories through the lens of what celebrations or condemnations they might generate on the Internet. The journalist Bari Weiss thought Twitter had so much influence on the Times that, in her 2020 resignation letter, she quipped that it had become the paper’s “ultimate editor.”

This shift in our perception of Twitter as a digital town square to our understanding of it as an élite spectacle demands a different response. To argue about the details of how Musk might tweak the platform’s rules ignores the larger outrage. Our problem is not how these games are played but the fact that so many people in positions of power keep taking them seriously.

On elite spectacle.

2022-07-21T07:30:22+10:0021st July, 2022|Tags: , , , |

The internet operates on its own logic. In the world of Twitter, Twitch and Tiktok, fame is the aim and exposure the goal. The influence of an influencer is measured in retweets, reblogs, and runaway memes. The internet-addled man glories in the hashtag that takes on its own life; he revels in the image that entire subcultures make their own. His battleground is “the discourse.” In this ethereal realm of images and threads, prestige comes from being clever, being funny, and being first. One’s internet enemies are to be cancelled where possible, and lampooned when not. The social media addict knows victory when the right words are used by the right sorts.

But not all enemies can be cancelled. Not all fights can be won through clever retweets. The world of flesh and blood does not always work like the world of memes and tweets. Those given responsibility in the world of physical things court disaster when they confuse internet politics with the real thing.

Tanner Greer on spitpost diplomacy.

2022-05-21T02:53:08+10:0021st May, 2022|Tags: , , |

Dead dove, didn’t read.

There are a lot of people who use social media that become violently enraged if they view content that somehow doesn’t completely and totally align with their worldview. I’m also talking about a specific kind of internet toxicity here. I’m not talking about racist trolls or violent extremists, I’m talking about essentially online manspreaders. People who seem to compulsively need to assert their own point of view in the comments and replies of other people’s content. These people tend to show up most prominently in fandoms, but they can show up anywhere.

Ryan Broderick on Our Lady of the Eternal September.

2022-05-17T02:22:17+10:0017th May, 2022|Tags: , |

Manufactured blandness.

Sometimes I go back and read my blog posts from 2014 and marvel at how freewheeling, irreverent, and downright joyful my writing was. I don’t really write like that anymore, because social media (and the internet in general) have conditioned me to constantly fret over negative attention. So I act as my own PR firm, carefully focus-testing and bowdlerizing my prose until it’s as dry as a slice of burnt toast. Sometimes I can escape from this trap a little bit (like I’m trying to do right now), but overall I worry that my writing has gotten worse, not better, over time.

Nolan Lawson on the burnt toast mean.

My current blog only goes back to 2014 or so, but I’ve been blogging fairly consistently since 19991 and still have an archive of all the posts . . . somewhere. And while it’s definitely Old Woman Yells At Cloud2 territory, you can absolutely trace trends in how my writing has changed over the years as various forms of online  social interaction — webrings and cliques, LiveJournal, “review” sites, social media — have waxed and waned. Admittedly some of this is age-related — in 1999 I was fifteen and writing about getting to stay home from the school swimming carnival in exchange for promising Mum I’d vacuum the house3 — but . . . probably not as much as I’d like, in retrospect.

  1. Yes, really.
  2. lol
  3. Spoiler alert: I did not.
2022-04-14T02:51:54+10:0014th April, 2022|Tags: , , |

Miss Artist and Mr. Editor.

Every new social platform for young people, whether it’s Myspace, Tumblr, or TikTok, seems to create these moments of random viral excitement, which attract weird manipulative adults, who push young users into wildly overhyped projects, which eventually crash and burn. And I think it’s important to make sure we aren’t making the same mistakes we made 10 years ago when we write about these things.

Reading back this week through some of what was written about the “Miss Officer And Mr. Truffles” drama was, honestly, kind of upsetting. There was a meanness and a deeply ingrained feeling of spite surrounding internet culture a decade ago that I think is a lot better now, but I think the blogs covering these “scandals” made things so much worse for the very young internet users who were involved. Tumblr’s pseudonymity is partly to blame for this. Nowadays, it’s very rare that you don’t know exactly who is behind something happening online, while in 2014, it was totally possible to be unknowingly leading a hate campaign against a random Mexican teenager who drew fan art of a bear. But also I know that some of my own reporting from back then was meaner than it needed to be. Part of that, I think, came from trying to explain internet culture to older editors who were looking for clear and concise ways to cover what the heck was going on online. But I, honestly, think there was also just a real anger and distrust towards people who were going viral. There was some feeling that what was happening wasn’t natural and these kids were actually exploiting us by forcing us to be aware of them, when in reality, it was usually them who were being exploited and then thrown to the digital masses to be torn apart.

Ryan Broderick on Tumblr drama.

Also the fact that this was a whole-ass decade ago is blowing my goddamn mind . . .

2022-03-31T09:07:51+11:0031st March, 2022|Tags: , , |

The new cyber colonialism.

Like water to fish, [Facebook’s] Meta wants to become the imperceptible medium that permeates our entire existence. It will no longer be a choice you make but rather the space within which choices are made available to you. In other words, it’s not the company sponsoring the event, it’s the stadium in which it’s held. The idea is that Meta will be a holding company in charge of a thriving ecosystem of interconnected products and services, all seamlessly integrated into a hybrid world able to effortlessly extract profit at every point in the system.

The metaverse is bad, actually.

2021-12-20T07:27:35+11:0021st December, 2021|Tags: , |

Concentrated, centralized, regulated.

Yet the concentration of power in the hands of a small group is the fundamental political and economic problem with Facebook. We have never allowed one man to set rules for communication networks that structure the information ecosystem of billions of people. But that is the situation we’re in. We have to radically decentralize this power. But a regulatory overlay in some ways would worsen the problem, because it would explicitly fuse political control with market power over speech and it would legitimize the dominant monopoly position of Facebook. (Common carriers, for instance, have an antitrust exemption from FTC rules). The right is suspicious of such a regulator because they are afraid of what Biden and the left would do with it. But I suspect that suspicion isn’t out of place on the left either. If you are a Democrat, imagine, for instance, if Trump were able to pick a regulator for social media, to negotiate with Zuckerberg on how to run global discourse. Better not to have such concentrated power in the first place! [ . . .]

On a practical level, it’s important to recognize that Facebook exists today because of the failure of regulators to take action on privacy, on market power, and on basic rule of law problems such as advertising fraud. We already have agencies like the Federal Trade Commission, which is supposed to police and research unfair practices and work on privacy questions, and the Federal Communication Commission, which does the same in the telecom space. Why would a new regulatory agency be any better? [ . . .]

In other words, we have to eliminate Facebook’s toxic business model, not regulate it, because regulating something serves to legitimize it. It’s not about stopping the collection of data and manipulation, it’s about stopping the practices that make that collection of data and manipulation profitable in the first place. Get it at the source. Monopoly and market structure are upstream from the data, misinformation, censorship and privacy problems.

Matt Stoller on regulating Facebook.

2021-12-14T08:00:11+11:0015th December, 2021|Tags: , , |


There are now databases containing the personal details of about a third of the world’s population which, at least for a span of eighteen months, an average of one engineer was fired every two weeks for improperly accessing users’ profiles, targeted advertising categories, or location data. This excerpt implies they were caught because they had used company-provided computers, and that they only represent a fraction of the “thousands” of engineers spying on Facebook users. This is an extraordinary abuse of power, akin to real-world stalking with fewer risks to the perpetrator.

Nick Heer on Little Brother.

Tl;dr if you want to stalk someone, anyone, just get a job as a Facebook engineer and go nuts, basically.

2021-10-20T07:13:56+11:0026th October, 2021|Tags: , , , |
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