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Once considered a boon to democracy, social media have started to look like its nemesis - Less Euromaidan, more Gamergate
Years ago Jürgen Habermas, a noted German philosopher, suggested that while the connectivity of social media might destabilise authoritarian countries, it would also erode the public sphere in democracies. James Williams, a doctoral student at Oxford University and a former Google employee, now claims that “digital technologies increasingly inhibit our ability to pursue any politics worth having.” To save democracy, he argues, “we need to reform our attention economy.”

The idea of the attention economy is not new. “What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients,” Herbert Simon, a noted economist, wrote in 1971. A “wealth of information,” he added, “creates a poverty of attention.” In “The Attention Merchants”, published in 2016, Tim Wu of Columbia University explains how 20th-century media companies hoovered up ever more of this scarce resource for sale to advertisers, and how Google and its ilk have continued the process.

Because of the data they collect, social-media companies have a good idea of what sort of things go viral, and how to tweak a message until it does. They are willing to share such insights with clients—including with political campaigns versed in the necessary skills, or willing to buy them. The Leave campaign in Britain’s 2016 Brexit referendum was among the pioneers. It served about 1bn targeted digital advertisements, mostly on Facebook, experimenting with different versions and dropping ineffective ones. The Trump campaign in 2016 did much the same, but on a much larger scale: on an average day it fed Facebook between 50,000 and 60,000 different versions of its advertisements, according to Brad Parscale, its digital director. Some were aimed at just a few dozen voters in a particular district.

The algorithms that Facebook, YouTube and others use to maximise “engagement” ensure users are more likely to see information that they are liable to interact with. This tends to lead them into clusters of like-minded people sharing like-minded things, and can turn moderate views into more extreme ones. “It’s like you start as a vegetarian and end up as a vegan,” says Zeynep Tufekci of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, describing her experience following the recommendations on YouTube.

The best tool, though, is outrage. This is because it feeds on itself; the outrage of others with whom one feels fellowship encourages one’s own.

Going into the enemy camp and posting or tweeting things that cause them outrage—trolling, in other words—is a great way of getting attention.

In 2015 enterprising enemies set up a Twitter bot dedicated to sending him tweets with unattributed quotes from Benito Mussolini, Italy’s fascist dictator. Last year Mr Trump finally retweeted one: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.” Cue Trump-is-a-fascist outrage.
facebook  social-media  democracy  politics  fakenews  doxing 
november 2017 by hellsten
Trump Supporters Quietly Built A Massive List With The Personal Information Of Thousands Of People
The list is a hodgepodge of names and personal information collected over months, but the origins of the list date back to a petition set up in April by the organization Refuse Fascism.’s petition was a list of people who signed a letter condemning the Trump administration and accusing it of spreading fascism.

“We REFUSE to Accept a Fascist America! Drive Out the Trump/Pence Regime,” the petition reads. “The Trump/Pence Regime is a Fascist Regime. Not insult or exaggeration, this is what it is. For the future of humanity and the planet, we, the people, must drive this regime out.”

The petition was linked to on 4chan, with a user writing, "These fucking imbecilic ‘antifa’ have given us a wonderful gift!! They have created a list of names for /pol/ to crawl through and cross check all the hundreds of antifa sympathizers."
4chan  privacy  doxing  fascism 
september 2017 by campylobacter
Is Doxxing Ever Okay? | Dame Magazine
"I 'outed' Neo-Nazis because if your fucking kid is a Neo-Nazi, you need to fucking know it, *Debbie*."
nazis  internetnazis  doxing  doxxing 
september 2017 by maxfenton
The Ethics of Doxing Nazis on Social Media
Because 2017 is a clown car of human misery, the question of the day is whether or not it is ok to name and shame fascists on social media.

The best argument against outing Charlottesville marchers is the possibility—and, already, the actuality—of misidentification. Being misidentified online, for any reason, is always a problem; it strips a person of their ability to consent to what happens to their name and likeness, and can follow an individual through their personal and professional lives long after a controversy has passed. Being misidentified as a Nazi, truly one of the worst things a person can be, is particularly serious.

Also serious is how easily online vigilantism can be hijacked by bad-faith actors looking to sow discord for discord's sake, or even to deliberately frame an opposing party. Say, white nationalists looking to discredit antiracists by deliberately misidentifying march participants. This is the lesson I've taken from nearly ten years of studying these kinds of cases: the more chum is floating in the water, the warier the public should be of strangers taking stands on the internet. And when in doubt, just stop moving.

On the other hand, the best argument for outing marchers is that participants chose, of their own volition, to march in a highly publicized white supremacist rally, faces uncovered, as countless iPhones gleamed in the tiki torch light. They were the ones who outed themselves publicly. Having their personal information publicized further is a natural extension of that choice.

Plus, this argument goes, being a damn Nazi ("Nazi" here used imprecisely and defiantly, as marchers were a far motlier crew than just self-described Nazis; however, by my estimation, giving Nazi salutes and chanting Nazi slogans, or simply choosing to publicly associate oneself with those who do, forfeits one's right not to be called a Nazi) is a qualitatively different thing than saying an offensive joke on Twitter, which has been the source of many a vigilante intervention. It is a qualitatively different thing than having a political outlook that others might disagree with. Being a Nazi, associating with Nazis, or simply hanging around while other Nazis do their thing, is a public health issue. It is an ideology literally predicated on exclusion and violence. It is fundamentally undemocratic, and fundamentally dangerous. Fuck them and the grand dragon they rode in on.

Both arguments are, I think, quite compelling. They are also surface phenomena. Because while the immediate question might be "to dox or not to dox," or at least, "to RT those who have doxed or not to RT," there is a bigger question to consider. Particularly for white people of good will, that question is, am I being a good ally, does any of this help.

This is the moment, for white men in particular, to lower your microphones, let someone speak with theirs, and when it's needed, to give them yours.

In the specific case of naming and shaming Nazis, the first issue to consider is how the media narrative has been framed. In the immediate aftermath of the march, the focus of many of these stories has been the misidentification of participants. Understandably so, as that is the strongest argument against vigilantism more broadly. Other stories have focused on the impact these actions have had on participants, for example firings and other immediate social consequences. Still others have questioned the practice of doxxing under any circumstance, on the grounds that it contributes to mob mentality. Each of these points is absolutely worth discussion, in this case and more generally. That said, they all do the same basic thing in response to Charlottesville: They frame the fascists as the protagonists of the story. They make it about them.

To be clear, we cannot and must not ignore the photos of screaming, dead-eyed white supremacists currently ricocheting across social media. But we also cannot and must not approach these images with a fetishized gaze, in which our sight is restricted to those within the frame. The optics and iconography the protestors employed, from the Nazi salute to the Confederate flag to the various echoes of Klan rallies, have a long, violent, traumatizing history in this country.

Because of this history, literally building on this history, marchers were perpetuating symbolic violence before they raised a single fist, before they swung a single tiki torch. The targets of this violence, the context for this violence, the ways in which this violence has destroyed so many lives for so many generations—that is the true core of the narrative, and is something that is too easily lost when the lede is preoccupied with what happened to one of the screaming, dead-eyed, pasty faces featured in those images. There are other faces—nonwhite faces, women's faces—far more deserving of having their stories told, and futures fretted over.

Railing against specific white supremacists—whether or not you choose to identify them or amplify existing information—certainly isn't mutually exclusive with other forms of protest. We can all do many things at once, our brains are pretty big. That said, to stand up to forces of bigotry, to look these forces straight in the eye and say not a fucking inch, it's not enough just to bellow condemnation, and certainly not enough to keep talking mostly about white people. This is the moment, for white men in particular, to lower your microphones, let someone speak with theirs, and when it's needed, to give them yours.

The other question to consider when deciding whether to name and shame Nazis is whose interests you'll be serving if you do, particularly if you cannot verify with 100 percent certainty that the person you're naming and shaming is, in fact, guilty as charged. If you identify the wrong person, you are doing the white supremacists' work for them. If you identify the right person, you may still be doing the white supremacists' work for them.

Let's be humans for a moment. It is undeniably satisfying to think that the Charlottesville marchers will have to face the consequences of their choices. That they will face judgment and condemnation. It is infuriating to think that they wouldn't, and irresponsible to even propose letting them off the hook.

At the same time, amplification of these kinds of images and videos is good for the fascist cause. It raises their cultural visibility, provides a warped confirmation of their cry-bully martyrdom (this is the entire basis of the "on many sides" argument), and helps cohere an even deeper sense of the collective fascist us.

This certainly doesn't mean we sit back, say nothing, and assure ourselves that this too will pass. It won't if we do. We are in danger if we do. But there are bigger questions to ask, here, and deeper ethical depths to plumb, above and beyond the immediate, understandable impulse to click the RT button. If it wasn't apparent before this weekend, it is now clearly time to start taking that dive.
WhitneyPhillips  Charlottesville  Nazis  Doxing  db 
august 2017 by walt74
Against Signal-Boosting As Doxxing
A recent spat on Twitter, which I won’t link: some guy using his real name tweeted an offensive joke about how women should make sandwiches at a group of women. A feminist columnist with tens of thousands of followers retweeted with the comment “This is a young man who ostensibly wants a job someday, tweeting at professional women in his field under his own name…RT to help ensure [REAL NAME]’s prospective employers know this when they search for [REAL NAME]’s name”.

[EDIT: See here for discussion of various complicating factors; my claim isn’t going to be that a completely innocent person was punished, so much as that this entire paradigm of punishment is dangerous]

What particularly bothered me about this situation was that the columnist involved was a libertarian who writes for Reason, and her supporters were mostly other influential libertarians. And they were all using the old argument that the concept of “free speech” came into existence ex nihilo on December 15, 1791 with the ratification of the First Amendment, and has no meaning or significance outside a purely legal context of delimiting government power.

I have a friend who grew up gay in a small town in Alabama, where “faggot” was the all-purpose insult and the local church preached hellfire as the proper punishment for homosexuality. He unsurprisingly stayed in the closet throughout his childhood and ended up with various awful psychological problems.

If you’re a very stupid libertarian strawman, you might ask whether that town had any anti-gay laws on the book – and, upon hearing they didn’t, say that town was “pro-gay”. If you’re not a very stupid libertarian strawman, you hopefully realize that being pro-gay isn’t about boasting how progressive your law code looks, it’s about having a society where it’s possible to be gay. Not having laws against locking up gay people is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless on its own. You only get good results if good laws are matched by good social norms.

Likewise, the goal of being pro-free-speech isn’t to make a really liberal-sounding law code. It’s to create a society where it’s actually possible to hold dissenting opinions, where ideas really do get judged by merit rather than by who’s powerful enough to shut down whom. Having free speech laws on the books is a necessary precondition, but it’s useless in the absence of social norms that support it. If you win a million First Amendment victories in the Supreme Court, but actively work to undermine the social norms that let people say what they think in real life, you’re anti-free-speech.

But I’ve discussed this before at more length. What I want to get into here is a point specific to this situation: the guy made this joke under his real name. All the Reason columnist did was retweet it and add some commentary about how she hopes he becomes un-hire-able. This isn’t doxxing. It’s not even divulging a secret; the guy said it on his public Twitter. Is it really so wrong to do what’s basically just signal-boosting his comment?

A quick philosophical digression: what are we even doing here? My thought is: we’re trying to hash out a social norm. We expect this social norm to be sometimes in our favor and sometimes against us, so we want it to be universalizable and desirable under a veil of ignorance.

On that note: let him who is without sin throw the first stone. Have any of you ever said or done anything which, if signal-boosted, would be very embarassing and might prevent you from getting a job?

Before you answer, consider this: the person signal-boosting you has much wider reach than you do. There are now tens of thousands of people in the world who know you only as the guy who said that one embarassing thing one time. For that matter, anyone who Googles you will know you only as the guy who said that one embarassing thing one time. All of your triumphs, all of your defeats, all your loves and fears and follies – none of these exist in the public mind. If you cross a blogger, a columnist, or a Twitter celebrity, all that will exist is that you once retweeted a racist joke on the 26th of March, 2014.

Never retweeted a racist joke? Someone will find something. Maybe you’ve been a sex worker once – hope you didn’t put your picture up on the Internet, or else Reason columnists will say it’s not “doxxing” to merely “signal-boost” it so that everyone knows. Heck, even watching porn is enough to get people fired some places. Maybe you were stupid enough to admit you were gay or trans under something traceable to your real identity. Maybe you voted for Trump (a firing offense in some places) or against Trump (a firing offense in others). Maybe you committed a crime someone can find on a public crime database, or maybe you said something perfectly innocent which can be twisted into a sinister “dog whistle” out of context.

My own story – some antipsychiatry crackpot decided to target me, went through a couple of posts I’d written defending the practice of involuntary psych commitment in certain cases, and took a few statements out of context to make it look like I thought we should lock up all mentally ill people and throw away the key. Then he posted it on an antipsychiatry website, asking if anyone could find the address of my workplace so he could send it there to prove that I was unfit to work with the mentally ill. Luckily the moderator contacted me and deleted the post, and it stopped there. And it was never that convincing an effort to begin with. But…

In a world where an average of 250 resumes are received for each corporate position, how convincing does an effort have to be to ruin somebody’s life? Do you think your dream company is going to spend a long time sorting through each claim and counterclaim to determine that the highly-Google-ranked page about you claiming you’re unfit to work in your industry is mostly unfair? No. They’re just going to cut their risks and move on to the other 249 candidates.

Here’s an exercise which I encourage you to try. Suppose there’s a Reason columnist who wants to get you fired. They pore over your public statements – Twitter feed, Facebook timeline, any blogs you might have written, anything you’ve said in mixed company that you don’t know if somebody else wrote down waiting for the time they could use it against you. Imagine the most incriminating dossier of your statements, out of context, that they could put together. Imagine what would happen if they were pretty determined, and sent it to your workplace, your church, your parents, et cetera. How much of your life could they destroy?

And I agree this is weird. It’s bizarre that so many people trust to security by obscurity, when anybody with an axe to grind can destroy their obscurity and reveal them to the world. It’s bizarre that we treat Twitter as a private place, when literally everything that happens there is visible to every human being on Earth. It’s bizarre that we trust to these fragile online identities when any hacker can cut through them, bizarre that we wear such different masks to different friends when they could just talk and compare notes, bizarre that we dare to talk at all when we know every word we say is logged and the future may be less forgiving than the past.

But don’t let the fact that it’s bizarre make you think it isn’t important. How many of us can say, honestly, that we could bear the Panopticon? If every valley were raised up and every mountain pulled down, so there was nowhere to hide, and we were rendered naked to any eye anywhere in the world, how long could we endure? Wouldn’t we retreat into ourselves, turtle-like, afraid to ever speak at all?

And who would enjoy this new flattened landscape more than the biggest and most predatory? In the Panopticon, any celebrity with a platform can destroy the lives of any ordinary person, just by mentioning them. It would be paradise for any petty tyrant with a blog, and hell for anybody too poor to tolerate a risk of losing their livelihood.

I have a pretty big blog. But other people have bigger ones. I’m not confident that the amount of fun I could have destroying the reputations of people I don’t like outweighs the chance of someone else destroying mine. I’m certainly not confident that the aggressive-signal-boosting power would mostly end up in the hands of good people. So I reject the entire tactic. I think it’s morally wrong to try to signal-boost people’s bad behavior – even their semipublic bad behavior – to get them fired. Probably there’s a lot of subtlety here and there have been times in the past I’ve supported cases that seem completely different to me but might seem similar to others. I admit there’s an argument that doxxing is a way of shaming people in order to enforce social norms, and that we need some way to enforce social norms eg the one against offensive jokes – though see my post Be Nice, At Least Until You Can Coordinate Meanness about good and bad ways to do this. But for now I just am very suspicious of the whole enterprise.

Lord Byron wrote of his political philosophy:

I wish men to be free
As much from mobs as kings; from you as me

I stand with Byron. But I worry there’s a big strain of libertarians today who don’t. Who wish men were free from kings, but not from mobs. Who wish men were free from others, but definitely not from them.

All I can say to that is – it’s a package deal, people. Either promote good social norms, or be destroyed by the bad ones when the tide turns against you. That’s the only choice on offer.
Doxing  FreeSpeech  Censorship  SocialNorms  db  ScottAlexander 
august 2017 by walt74

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