Good OpEd piece by Charlie Warzel:
Focusing only on moderation means that Facebook, YouTube and other platforms, such as Reddit, don’t have to answer for the ways in which their platforms are meticulously engineered to encourage the creation of incendiary content, rewarding it with eyeballs, likes and, in some cases, ad dollars. Or how that reward system creates a feedback loop that slowly pushes unsuspecting users further down a rabbit hole toward extremist ideas and communities.
On Facebook or Reddit this might mean the ways in which people are encouraged to share propaganda, divisive misinformation or violent images in order to amass likes and shares. It might mean the creation of private communities in which toxic ideologies are allowed to foment, unchecked. On YouTube, the same incentives have created cottage industries of shock jocks and livestreaming communities dedicated to bigotry cloaked in amateur philosophy.
The YouTube personalities and the communities that spring up around the videos become important recruiting tools for the far-right fringes. In some cases, new features like “Super Chat,” which allows viewers to donate to YouTube personalities during livestreams, have become major fund-raising tools for the platform’s worst users — essentially acting as online telethons for white nationalists.
“If platform companies are going to provide the broadcast tools for sharing hateful ideologies, they are going to share the blame for normalizing them.”
Joan Donovan, Director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard.
Marvellous exegesis of one of the most memorable photographs taken by August Sander.
Lovely acerbic Irish Times column by Fintan O’Toole:
Let’s just say that if Theresa May were the head of a newly liberated African colony in the 1950s, British conservatives would have been pointing, half-ruefully, half-gleefully, in her direction and saying “See? Told you so – they just weren’t ready to rule themselves. Needed at least another generation of tutelage by the Mother Country.”
There is a surreal kind of logic to this. If, as the Brexiteers do, you imagine yourself to be an oppressed colony breaking away from the German Reich aka the European Union, perhaps you do end up with a pantomime version of the travails of newly independent colonies, including the civil wars that often follow national liberation.
What lies behind all this Brexit mania is basically English nationalism. And, as O’Toole points out,
As every former colony knows, nationalism is a great beast for carrying you to the point of independence – and then it becomes a dead horse. [George Bernard] Shaw wrote to his friend Mabel FitzGerald (mother of the future taoiseach Garret) in December 1914: “Even the subject nations like Ireland must never forget that the moment they gain home rule, the horse will drop down under them, and reveal, by a sudden and horrible decomposition, that he has been dead for years.”
Brexit is a dead horse, a form of nationalist energy that started to decompose rapidly on June 24th, 2016, as soon as it entered the field of political reality. It can’t go anywhere. It can’t carry the British state to any promised land. It can only leave it where it has arrived, in a no-man’s land between vague patriotic fantasies and irritatingly persistent facts. But equally, because of the referendum result, the British state can’t get down off the dead horse and has to keep flogging it.
I love this last image. It’s the best description of where we’re at just now.
Rafael Behr, writing in today’s Guardian on Commons Speaker John Bercow’s ruling that Theresa May cannot bring her Brexit proposal back to the House for a third time without significant changes to it.
That doesn’t mean his decision is capricious or unconstitutional. The relevant procedural scriptures seem pretty clear on the matter, so the Speaker is well within his rights to interpret them as he has done. But it is still a matter of interpretation, and so unavoidably a heavily political action. It blasts the prime minister’s plans for the week off course. It transforms the calculations that MPs make about what should happen next. It also retrospectively casts a darker, more terminal shadow over the decision a majority of them made to reject the deal last Tuesday. Might some Tories or members of the DUP have acted differently had they known it was May’s last shot at getting her deal through?
Certainly the prime minister’s strategy has depended on eliminating options, so that eventually MPs would conclude that the only feasible Brexit on the table was hers. For that to work, she needed to keep bluffing and keep raising the stakes. She didn’t realise that ultimately, in parliament, it’s the Speaker who runs the game. And now all bets are off.
Footnote: In cricket, a googly is a type of deceptive delivery bowled by a right-arm leg spin bowler.