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Technology Thoughts

President Trump doesn’t understand the concept of the “Public Square”

A draft of President Trump’s Executive Order “Preventing Online Censorship”

President Trump today signed an Executive Order that threatens Internet based social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc. He says that these platforms are the 21st century equivalent of the public square and that the protections afforded by the First Amendment to the Constitution apply to these companies.

He has it totally wrong. The Internet is the public square and social networking sites are private companies that operate on the public square. If you don’t like what they do you can build your own site to compete with them. It’s important to remember that only the government is restricted from censoring you. Your school, your employer, or any private organization that you don’t control is allowed to control your behavior, to a certain extent, while on their property or using their service.

This is not to say that the big social networking companies aren’t partly to blame for his reaction. They are cow towing to a vocal minority that seeks to silence opposition to the main stream narrative of events of the day.

During this COVID-19 pandemic Twitter and YouTube have suspended accounts and taken down videos of scientists critical of the lockdown. I don’t believe that a person is sitting there at these companies manually taking down accounts and videos but this is done automatically when bunches of trolls flag accounts and videos reporting them as fake or harmful. That’s where the problem lies. It’s easy for humans to game the system of an algorithm that just responds to clicks.

The social media sites should relax their algorithms and just let the users decide for themselves. It’s bad enough that these automated systems create filter bubbles where all people see are views and news that support their own biases. Now we have these same systems shutting down debate.

I miss the early days of the Internet and the World Wide Web. It was such an open place to be where you could learn almost anything. You still can but you have to use a mental machete to chop away all the crap.