Tuesday, October 20, 2020


I'm told there's a chilling climate of censorship and "cancel culture" that prevents all messages that aren't left of center from getting a proper hearing in America.

Forgive me if I'm skeptical.
Facebook and Twitter's frantic attempts to stop the spread of the New York Post's Hunter Biden story didn't prevent the article from becoming the top story about the election on those platforms last week, according to data from NewsWhip....

The Post's story generated 2.59m interactions (likes, comments, shares) on Facebook and Twitter last week — more than double the next biggest story about Trump or Biden.

5 of the 10 biggest stories were about the Hunter Biden story, the fallout, or how Facebook and Twitter reacted.

It was the 6th-most engaged article this month....
See also this piece in The Atlantic about QAnon, by Renée DiResta of the Stanford Internet Observatory.
By the time Q’s first post appeared on 4chan in 2017, conspiracy theories of all sorts were multiplying and thriving on social media, as their adherents formed dedicated Facebook groups and YouTube channels. Algorithmic recommendation engines accelerated their growth and cross-pollinated their beliefs. Over time, these engines nudged anti-vaxxers and flat-earthers to join QAnon groups and pushed QAnon videos to far-right political communities.... The recommendations worked: People who followed other conspiracy theories often were receptive to QAnon, primarily because of a shared distrust of government and authority....

Positioned between internet message boards and mass outlets such as Fox News is a kind of demi-media—hyperpartisan outlets, such as Gateway Pundit and One America News, that have a significant following on social platforms, high engagement from audiences, and a history of boosting narratives that bubble up from internet users....

In recent months, Facebook and YouTube have moved aggressively to interrupt the flow of disinformation, in part by banning QAnon groups and channels.... But the moves against QAnon come too late. Even as the platforms have begun to take steps to limit the algorithmic amplification of content tied to QAnon-specific groups, already-converted true believers continue to act as pollinators themselves, pushing the QAnon view of current events into unrelated communities—Star Trek fans, essential-oil moms, the “reopen” groups campaigning against shutdowns imposed during the coronavirus pandemic. And in the right-wing demi-media, any actions by Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube against the QAnon groups are covered as further evidence of tech censorship run amok, and an ominous harbinger of the end of free speech.
When you read a complaint by Ross Douthat, Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss, or Andrew Sullivan about our censorious culture, remember that what they're talking about is what's going on in media outlets favored by the well-educated and urbane. But that's not the media ecosystem in most of America. Right-wing messages have ample opportunity to reach the public via many channels that are ignored or mocked by well-educated coast-dwellers. In addition, complaints about censorship are opportunities for the right to get its messaging into the mix (or further into the mix). So the right's messages spread via media outlets we disregard, then spread again when right-wingers complain about the relatively few outlets that are putting up resistance to the spread. And so the spread increases.

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