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Roku Bans Alex Jones, InfoWars from Streaming Platform

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Roku's digital media players let users stream all sorts of channels and sites on their TVs. Amazon Video, Netflix, Hulu, and thousands of other channels flow through it in households all over the country.

Now Roku is getting into the deplatforming game:

It should go without saying that Roku, as a private business, has the right to bounce whomever they want. But as with similar actions at places such as Twitter, Facebook, and Patreon, I think this sort of decision is a troubling sign of a crackdown taking place throughout online media. Nobody would assume that Roku's owners, employees, or shareholders were supporting InfoWars' most infamous host, Alex Jones, as he spins wild conspiracy theories and screams at a pile of dog shit. And the way Roku works, you never have to see anything you don't want—it's a strong "pull" platform, meaning the user has to seek channels out. Assuming you do somehow run into content you find offensive, you can make sure you never see it again.

That's part of the magic of most new media, and it's a benefit that should be talked about more. You really can ignore that which you find awful, for whatever reason. Across various platforms, I don't think I've ever encountered anything by Alex Jones or his pals unless I purposefully searched for it. When it comes to producing and consuming content online, the rule is from each according to his psychosis, to each according to his taste.

A better policy for the big social media platforms, I think, is to ban only stuff that is clearly illegal, such as true threats. This sort of censorious behavior starts with the Alex Joneses of the world, but mission creep inevitably sets in and more scalps get taken. New media platforms give us access to virtually whatever we want, but they also give us near-complete control of our user experience. It's a shame to start winnowing down options just because some content makers are sad sacks of shit.

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StatsGuru
2 days ago
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A good take on the situation.
freeAgent
2 days ago
I agree. I think Alex Jones is a crackpot, but if you put a platform out there where content creators and consumers have an expectation that they will be able to connect in a relatively unmolested fashion, kicking certain producers off the platform because you don't like or agree with them sets a dangerous precedent and hurts the credibility of the platform itself.

Shaming

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I don’t use twitter, but I occasionally come across news stories discussing tweets that shame someone for not being politically correct.  How should we think about those tweets?  In principle, shaming should serve a valuable public function—discouraging offensive comments and behavior.  But shaming non-PC speech does not seem to be effective.  Why?

The straightforward interpretation of shaming is that the tweets are punishment for various racist and misogynist comments.  That might be true, but it doesn’t seem to fit the facts very well.  The actual racists and sexists among us are not damaged by the shaming tweets intended to punish them.  In contrast, the people who are damaged are generally not racist or sexist.  Shaming doesn’t hurt Donald Trump or Steve Bannon at all; indeed Bannon insists on wearing the “racist” label as a badge of honor in front of his adoring crowds.  Instead, these sorts of attacks tend to adversely affect people who are not bigoted, someone like Larry Summers.  Those who intentionally make racist or misogynist statements do so precisely because the public shaming will not hurt them.

Now consider the high school model of twitter shaming.  Recall that the cool kids in high school would create a set of rules that were impossible for the uncool kids to adhere to.  When the uncool kids fell short, they were ridiculed.  Isn’t that today’s twitterverse?

Suppose that you want to make sure your group is composed of only those with a high level of political correctness.  One method is to create rules that are so extreme that most people will not be able to keep up.  Thus Katy Perry did not know that dressing up like a geisha is insulting to the Japanese.  Why not?  Well, because Katy Perry dressing up like a geisha is not in fact insulting to the Japanese.  Indeed the Japanese were honored by her performance.  How could it be otherwise, as “cosplay” is a big part of Japanese culture?  If you make political correctness this detached from reality, it’s hard for anyone but the most committed to keep up.

The same dynamic occurred during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, where the Red Guards made increasingly extreme demands for ideological purity.  In fact, this technique goes far back in history.  A new book by Kevin Simler and Robin Hanson has this anecdote from ancient China:

Zhao Gao was a powerful man hungry for more power.  One day he brought a deer to a meeting with the emperor and many top officials, calling the deer a “great horse”. The emperor, who regarded Zhao Gao as a teacher and therefore trusted him completely, agreed that it was a horse—and many officials agreed as well.  Others, however, remained silent or objected.  This was how Zhao Gao flushed out his enemies.  Soon after, he murdered all the officials who refused to call the deer a horse.

[At least Jeff Flake wasn’t murdered!]

Even people far to the left of Larry Summers can be ensnared in the web.  During the 2016 campaign, Bernie Sanders got into trouble for saying that “all lives matter”.  For someone of his (1960s) generation, it’s not obvious why this statement is offensive.  After all, don’t all lives matter?  The whole point of PCism is to make things so confusing that only the insiders, the cool kids, avoid shaming. Sanders didn’t realize that saying all lives matter would be seen as an implied criticism of the Black Lives Matter movement (as it sometimes is, but not in Sander’s case). Bernie Sanders was once considered cool, but I predict his age, gender and race will eventually catch up with him, and he’ll be exchanged for someone who is not an old white male.  In 2019, being cool is no longer about standing up for blue collar workers that largely vote for Trump.

Suppose I’m wrong, and that twitter shaming really is about punishing offensive statements.  Let’s consider the most offensive statement in the mainstream media during the past year.  Here’s my vote, from Bloomberg:

A figure of 15 million births would be the third-lowest total since the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, He Yafu, one of the demographers cited by China Times, told Bloomberg News. It would only exceed 1960 and 1961, when the country was hit by natural disasters and famine.

As Bob Dole might have said, “Where’s the outrage.”  The Great Leap Forward of 1959-61 was one of the two or three worst crimes in human history.  And unlike the others, it occurred during my lifetime.  Perhaps 30 million died from the cruel policies imposed by Mao, and countless others enduring unspeakable pain, even as Mao was warned that his actions were having disastrous consequences.   Is there anything more offensive than implying this crime was a “natural disaster”?

The problem here is that shaming for ignorance of the Great Leap Forward is nowhere near as effective as shaming for saying that “all lives matter”, or for dressing up like a geisha, if your goal is to ostracize people who have insufficiently extreme views on race, sex and gender.

One popular form of shaming is to criticize statements that are not directly offensive, in a logical sense, but seem tone deaf.  The people likely to make these sorts of statements are often the exact same types who were viewed as “nerdy” in high school. Ironically, some of their oppressors are also former nerds, finally getting their chance to retaliate for all the misery they suffered in school.

PS.  I should say that the ideas in this post were partly inspired by the Simler/Hanson book on hidden motives.  But they should not be blamed (or shamed) if I’ve misused their theories.

PPS.  Please don’t tell me that the Bloomberg quote said natural disasters and famine.  I know that, but what does that phrase clearly imply to most readers?  A natural disaster that led to famine.

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StatsGuru
10 days ago
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Excellent post.

A year after net neutrality's demise, the Internet is faster

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By Philip Wegmann of The Washington Examiner. Excerpts:
"It has been remarkably unremarkable without net neutrality, one year after Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai killed the Obama-era Internet rule that required service providers to treat each piece of content identically.

“No big changes,” reads a Wired headline atop an article explaining that “broadband providers didn't make any drastic new moves to block or cripple the delivery of content after the FCC's order revoking its Obama-era net neutrality protections took effect.”

"Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., warned that losing net neutrality would threaten representative government."

"GLAAD feared gays and lesbians would be targeted."

"The Internet is actually faster in the United States. A new report by Ookla, a sister company to PC Magazine, shows that download speeds have increased 35.8 percent across the country. The fastest Internet is actually in Kansas City, Mo., where Google Fiber burns through the wires."
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PARTY OF YOUTH UPDATE: John Kerry Offers Sharp Rebuke of Trump at Harvard IOP — And Says He Isn’t …

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PARTY OF YOUTH UPDATE: John Kerry Offers Sharp Rebuke of Trump at Harvard IOP — And Says He Isn’t Ruling Out a Presidential Run.

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StatsGuru
54 days ago
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I read it as IHOP, and there actually is one near the Kennedy School.

All Hail Dalton Conley

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Conley describes his early academic work as “lefty sociology.” His Ph.D. thesis was on the black-white wealth gap and he dedicated his early career to studying the transmission of health and wealth between parents and children.

At N.Y.U., Conley kept getting into disagreements with geneticists, arguing that their methods were dangerously naïve. It seemed to him implausible that studying only twins — the gold standard of genetics research — was enough to teach us the difference between nature and nurture. But over time, he decided that it wasn’t enough to just argue. Conley is an academic, and even within that tortured group he is something of a masochist. At that time he was a tenured professor, the kind of gig most people see as the endgame of an academic career, and yet he decided to go back and grind out another Ph.D., this time in genetics. He went into his program believing that our social environment is largely the cause of our outcomes, and that biology is usually the dependent variable. By the end of his time, he says, the causal arrow in his mind had pretty much flipped the other way: “I tried to show for a range of outcomes that the genetic models were overstating the impact of genetics because of their crazy assumptions.” He sighs. “But I ended up showing that they’re right.”

From the New York Times piece on Geno-Economics (Tyler linked to it yesterday also).

The post All Hail Dalton Conley appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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StatsGuru
65 days ago
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It's all genetics. Luckily, once we realize that, we can fight against the traits we didn't like in our parents.

[INSERT OBVIOUS PUNS HERE]: A Real Pick-Me-Up: Viagra Could Become The Next Cancer Drug. Related…

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[INSERT OBVIOUS PUNS HERE]: A Real Pick-Me-Up: Viagra Could Become The Next Cancer Drug.

Related: Will Viagra and Cialis Extend Lifespans?

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StatsGuru
71 days ago
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My female dog takes a viagra type drug to help with her heart problems.
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