Yes, let's "slow down" social media


Just not like Sacha Baron Cohen says.

Yes, let's "slow down" social media /img/baron-cohen-against-facebook.jpg

Sacha Baron Cohen recently attacked Facebook and other social media platforms for “enabling the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation”.

Among other things, Baron Cohen asked Facebook, to “start factchecking political ads before you run them, stop micro-targeted lies immediately, and when the ads are false, give back the money and don’t publish them.”.

I have already signalled that others have convincingly explained that such a fact checking is totally unfeasible, and that much simpler solutions are available. This post, however, is only to comment one specific proposal by Baron Cohen, and an attack it recceived.

“Here’s another good practice: SLOW DOWN”

Every single post doesn’t need to be published immediately. Oscar Wilde once said that “we live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” But is having every thought or video posted instantly online, even if it is racist or criminal or murderous, really a necessity? Of course not!

The shooter who massacred Muslims in New Zealand live-streamed his atrocity on Facebook where it then spread across the internet and was viewed likely millions of times. It was a snuff film, brought to you by social media. Why can’t we have more of a delay so this trauma-inducing filth can be caught and stopped before it’s posted in the first place?

M. Masnick on Techdirt attacked this specific proposal by Baron Cohen with these words:

“[this] would turn it into TV. In which you’d have a small number of gatekeepers handpicking what shows were allowed, and everything else would be blocked. This… would destroy nearly everything good and powerful about the internet today and its fundamental nature as a communications medium”.

Slow down. Always. Everything

Default pre-filtering so that “trauma-inducing filth can be caught and stopped before it’s posted in the first place” is simply impossible. For exactly the same reasons why it is not possible to fact check political ads. Too big, too prone to false positives, too easy to transform into censorship. On that level, Masnick is right, of course.

But there is a very, very, very simple way to achieve something very close to what Baron Cohen asks when he says to “slow down”. A way that, in my opinion, brings none of the destruction that Masnick rightly denounces.

That way consists of not doing any preventive, automatic censorship, never, but just outlawing “instantness” of sharing and commenting content posted online. Imagine a world in which sharing and commenting is really real-time only between two individuals. Imagine a world like that, and let’s discuss how it would work.

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