10 Comments

Interesting development.

Unchecked misinformation on WhatsApp is a major driver of new migrant waves at the US-MEX border, most recently with Haitians and Del Rio.

1. Biden issues temporary protected status for certain foreign nationals already in the country

2. Those actions are misrepresented in the social media communities of those countries to imply open borders

3. Smugglers make lots of money

4. Social strains throughout Latin America continue to intensify, US ability to communicate its own policies to those people is severely diminished

This should be a clear example of how Zuck n Co are threats to global stability and national security.

This happened earlier this year with TPS for Venezuelans. Thinking the borders were open, many of the country’s middle and upper class flew to Mexico and then went to the US border.

It was happening so frequently that Mexico has been refusing to allow planes from Venezuela to land and are immediately deporting Venezuelan passport holders who arrive from other countries. Maduro does not issue corrections or clarifications because it benefits him politically, independent publishers there are very scarce, outside information cannot be accessed because of government limitations, and social media famously does not prioritize nuance.

If Facebook/WhatsApp were staffed and structured like a publisher, they would have bureaus to deal with these things as they arise globally.

And yet Facebook does not have any official non-English language oversight of its platforms.

https://apnews.com/article/immigration-technology-united-states-del-rio-haiti-872d4b59f5f68f0a63b32704aa961021

Expand full comment

"And yet Facebook does not have any official non-English language oversight of its platforms."

Unbelievable.

Expand full comment

you wouldn’t cross Lina Khan and Gary Gensler unless your a member of congress selling stock amidst the covid crisis, or Zuckerberg for whatever his slew of reasons are. we’ve entered into the age of unaccountability for anyone with vast wealth and the power to sway public opinion or laws.

Expand full comment

One of the things I find quite amusing about the Candace Owens red-pilling event was the nerve her suggestion touched in terms of generating software which would unmask anonymous users. Depending on the software it could have variously unmasked either sock puppet accounts, bots or fictitious likes and shares. Channel 4 News in the UK had even run a story about how some tech firms added fictitious user purchases to people's accounts as a means to market goods to their friends. Candace Owens was right to be paranoid, just not for the right reasons.

Big Tech should have staid out of politics, they really should. And its not just the Right that suffers, but anyone with an opinion which happens to dissent from the corrupt corporate duopoly run by cosmopolitan neoliberals at the centre. Progressives are just as likely to be censored and smeared as those on the Right- anyone who challenges the prevailing establishment power.

The problem for Facebook is they are becoming victims of the very partisan forces and societal friction that they themselves stirred up. Outrage porn generates engagement in the attention economy like no other force, other than perhaps catastrophe porn. Both of them make people feel unwell, anxious and depressed.

As a heterodox, I see both sides. The people who exist on the other side of the political divide are nothing like you would expect- with the odd exception. The gross caricatures which both media and social media presents are just as unfavourable to them as they are to you.

Most political and social movements have their time, they lose energy and die out. Don't get me wrong- neoliberalism had a huge positive impact on the developing world, raising over a billion people up from living on below $1.90 per day between 2000 and 2012. But it came at a huge cost to anyone in the Western world in the lower middle or middle class. It was perhaps the greatest inter-societal sacrifice of all time, and would have been laudable had anyone been asked about it, instead of the 0.1% making the decision for us, without our consent. You should read Mark Blythe on the subject- I don't always agree with his policy solutions, but diagnostically he is gang on the money.

Your right, Matt, about the SEC- and I'm there are all manner of dubious billing practices which should be investigated. I opened a Twitter account in 2011 and swiftly forget about it, until a couple of years back when I started exploring quotes in articles for greater context. In the meantime, I found that I was mysteriously following several thousand other users- many of them commercial. Every so often, I have a check through the companies which appear on my feed and click to unfollow.

The bigger problem is that we need to get under the bonnet of the algorithm. Quite apart from the mental issues, it's tearing our Western societies apart. Recently Jonathan Haidt stated that the worst number of political parties was one, closely followed by two- or words to that effect. He seems somewhat glum about the prospects for our future.

I recently begun to think about productive ways the Left and Right can come together. One way might be a libertarian open source software platform which allowed users to search by cost centre for medical procedures and drugs. It will come as no surprise that Americans are overcharged for their medical care, but few understand how it happens. You actually spend more money per person on public healthcare than we do here in the UK.

We have NICE and various other means of reducing price. If there is a drug which is just as effective or only marginally less so, then we will generally prescribe it if it ten times cheaper than the expensive new variety with fewer side effects. The money can be used elsewhere to save more people. At the same time, we don't perform needless back operations because there are no incentives to do so. Most problems can be fixed with a visit to a fairly competent physio and a few regular exercises.

Medicare for all won't fix it though- you need something more drastic. Currently, your hospitals employ a practice called cost-shifting- which overcharges the privately insured to treat medicare patients. They then get the overhead reductions which come from operating at peak capacity, increasing their profit margins. A libertarian open source system in which companies could only offer procedures or treatments through the cost-centred system by statute, would fix a lot of problems- not least the opacity of obtaining a fair cost for a procedure.

Expand full comment

Hear hear. I agree with a lot of what you have written. However...

"A libertarian open source system in which companies could only offer procedures or treatments through the cost-centred system by statute"

A mandated system with its own mandates is contrary to libertarianism. Fortunately medical supply and cost issues are a problem that can be solved through a variety of isms, not just libertarianism.

I wonder if people could be incentivized to take the less expensive medical option by getting points through their insurance for elective procedures, or other 'upgrades'? Of course this requires, as you say, a system that shows alternatives by real cost.

-----

"Big Tech should have staid out of politics, they really should."

Would this have been possible? Especially for the social media companies whose product is innately political because of its socialness.

-----

"The people who exist on the other side of the political divide are nothing like you would expect- with the odd exception. The gross caricatures which both media and social media presents are just as unfavourable to them as they are to you."

Yep. Living in a very liberal part of the US it's hard to find more than a very small minority of people who fit the Fox News liberal stereotypes (nonbinary/transgender, communist, etcetera).

And having gone to college at (now) seven schools as a student, I can count on the fingers of one hand the amount of instances that I recall which could be considered liberal indoctrination (other than non-discrimination / non-harassment trainings which are basically legally required cover-their-ass things). And those instances are one-off diatribes from a professor, not ongoing indoctrination schemes. I've also heard at least one political diatribe that can't be placed in a liberal or conservative bucket. Yes, I've read the articles about genuine indoctrination campaigns by a teacher, but not yet in my experience. Unless ones counts the pro-environment stance taken by an Ecology teacher, which frankly is supported by the very science he's teaching.

Expand full comment

You should read the Honest Broker right here on Substack- his two-part explanation of the most recent climate reports gives cause for cautious optimism. The other thing is that many have been fed the line that 1.5C and 2.0C are important milestones- when they were purely political inventions meant to convey a sense of urgency- which to be fair was initially needed, given that the global economy is the most massive tanker ever conceived of, and takes decades to turn.

Even a 2.6C world by 2100 wouldn't be particularly bad- about a 3% loss in annual GDP, against a general rise of between 300% and 1000%, mostly in the developing world. NASA used to have really good resource which showed impacts by temperature increase. They took it down because too many people were using it as a lukewarmer resource.

The main thing is nuclear, because wind and solar can only get us to about 40% to 60% depending on geography- because of seasonality, energy density and intermittency. Sweden and France are leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else (although conservatives wouldn't like the standardisation and non-free market approach which would be necessary to make it cheap). But there are all manner of positive projects on YouTube which should be cause for optimism: like the German Sahara-bordering solar project, or the Saudi desalination changes envisaged with NOEM made with the help of a far more climate and environment friendly method of desalination pioneered by Cranfield Uni here in the UK.

Expand full comment

We'll see. I'm hopeful about the power situation, but there are other insults than climate change. We've got animal and plant diseases and destructive invasive species passing from one location to another by container ships and nature lovers. While strides are being made to combat these diseases and control the invasive species it's so far a reactionary battle.

I'm much less concerned about the economy than I am about animals and plants which are already incredibly stressed by human action. I enjoy nature. I feel responsible for protecting those weaker than us.

Even among liberals there are those who don't do nature beyond a ski vacation and trip to a lake. I'm worried that these people won't care enough to do enough. That instead they'll create micro-parks that give them enough of nature to not do what's necessary to protect the rest.

Taking a look at COVID responses about 20 - 30 percent of the population doesn't care enough about others to mask up and distance even when mandated. They value their personal freedom to not adapt to what should have been a temporary ask more than they value the safety and freedoms of others. We'll see if the other 70 - 80% of the population can be convinced, and is enough if they are convinced, to stop regional catastrophes.

Expand full comment

The biggest issue with the invasives, other than loss of environmental diversity which I also value highly, is that we greatly increase vulnerability to single disease/pest/fungus undermining ecosystems on a worldwide scale. The Irish potato famine comes to mind. If we accept that certain species will become dominant in a particular link of ecological chains everywhere in the world, we have little resilience to stop it from shutting down all ecological systems at once. It could be a catastrophic event.

Expand full comment

'The gross caricatures which both media and social media presents are just as unfavourable to them as they are to you.' -by you I meant the audience- people- not you personally!

Expand full comment

Politicians performance art doesn't mean Facebook is going to face any consequences. Perhaps you are reading too much into it.

Expand full comment