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Sweden, an Orwellian state

Something remarkable happened in Sweden this week: a list of 15,000 people with the wrong political opinions was used to block those people from the @Sweden account, and thereby preventing these people from communicating over Twitter with that part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The government tried defending the block as only concerning neo-nazi right-wing extremists, which was a narrative that held water in legacy media until somebody pointed out that the Ambassador of Israel (!) was among the blocked.

Falkvinge: What do you do when you realize your government has blocked you for Wrongthink? »


»Fake news« overhyped?

Our study of search and politics in seven nations – which surveyed the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain in January 2017 – found these concerns to be overstated, if not wrong. In fact, many internet users trust search to help them find the best information, check other sources and discover new information in ways that can burst filter bubbles and open echo chambers. (…)

We found that the fears surrounding search algorithms and social media are not irrelevant – there are problems for some users some of the time. However, they are exaggerated, creating unwarranted fears that could lead to inappropriate responses by users, regulators and policymakers.

The Conversation » Fake news, echo chambers and filter bubbles: Underresearched and overhyped »


Full circle…

A Spanish court on Wednesday sentenced a young woman to jail for posting jokes on Twitter about the 1973 assassination of a senior figure in the Franco dictatorship.

Even the granddaughter of Carrero Blanco attacked the move by public prosecutors to charge Vera and put her on trial, saying in a letter sent to daily El Pais in January that while the jokes were in poor taste they were not worthy of such legal action. “I’m scared of a society in which freedom of expression, however regrettable it may be, can lead to jail sentences,” Lucia Carrero Blanco wrote.

The Guardian: Spanish woman given jail term for tweeting jokes about Franco-era assassination »


At the US border, your digital footprints will catch up with you

U.S. border control agents want to gather Facebook and Twitter identities from visitors from around the world. But this flawed plan would violate travelers’ privacy, and would have a wide-ranging impact on freedom of expression—all while doing little or nothing to protect Americans from terrorism.

EFF: U.S. Customs and Border Protection Wants to Know Who You Are on Twitter—But It’s a Flawed Plan »


When algorithms become politics

Are Facebook, Google, and Twitter politically biased? The jury seems to be out on that one. But one thing is clear – Facebooks algorithms do have political consequences.

It’s very simple: If enough people flag a Facebook post as offensive, it will automatically disappear. If this happens frequently, a user or a group can be banned from the platform – sometimes forever.

This is often used by various parties to silence others, for the simple reason that they do not agree with the information posted. It can be for e.g. political or religious reasons.

In my world disagreement is something positive. It promotes debate, fosters logical reasoning, widens our views, often adds relevant information and encourages progress.

That might be exactly why some find other people’s opinions offensive. They do not want to have their views questioned. They do not want people to think for themselves. They cannot defend their positions in a free and open debate. So, they try to silence dissent.

And crappy Facebook algorithms makes silencing others extremely easy.

Silencing people will have consequences for society. It will hinder human advancement, thwart enlightenment and make the world a poorer place.

Facebook is a private company, and we all have agreed to (but not read) their terms and conditions. They can do more or less as they like. But they can never escape criticism when acting in an imprudent way.

My recommendation would be for Facebook only to delete posts, users and groups if clearly illegal. And even that would be a slippery slope.