The coming reckoning of social media

Starting with MySpace 20+ years ago, now facebook and twitter, social media is facing a reckoning.

The legal framework for social media to exist and thrive has been based on the limited immunity that each organization has through actions of various governments. This means that users can post whatever they want, but social media operators are required to maintain a version of a community standards policy that forbids the most vile content (overt racism, violent content, sexually exploitative content, etc).

Big corporate (and little corporate) advertisers generate most of the revenue flow to social media orgs – which maintain the free basis that average users enjoy. Advertisers in turn may target their advertising dollars to get their product or message in front of you based on your browsing habits and demographic information you’ve volunteered as part of your application to join.

This was the deal. It was a cost free way to join a large club for users; reach out to your community and family and for others to make money. So long as bad actors didn’t exploit the system for their own gain.

The limited immunity granted by government against social media orgs gave folks a place where free speech thrived. But like anything, there are extremes…and freedom of speech doesn’t equal freedom from consequences.

We have learned that the new measure of power is influence itself. The more people you can influence, the more powerful you are. If your social media circles amount to around 100 people – that is your reach. But if you’re a powerful ideologue with 250 million followers, your words carry powerful influence.

That’s a lot of power given to one person; to reach millions with a message. What if the message is lies? Who gets to vet what is truth and a lie? Is lying contrary to social media community standards? Maybe; but who gets to determine this?

Lies that told to millions of followers where election integrity is undermined; dog-whistle racism promoted; basically any narrative that might get you fired from a job or potentially charged with mischief – is that free speech?

For the same reason that you cannot yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre and claim free speech, other words can have dire consequences too. Inciting violence (re: January 6, 2021) isn’t free speech. Yet, free speech puritans argue that it is; that literally anything is fair game…all of it. One problem.

Advertisers do not want their brands anywhere near racist, xenophobic, sexist rhetoric. They don’t want their brands anywhere misinformation on election integrity, antivaxxer garbage – and there is not a law in the land which will force advertisers to do so.

With a loss of substantial sums of money (used to prop up social media orgs), they’ll have little choice but to charge membership fees for what used to be free. In itself, this is a partial solution; but won’t replace the lost cash flow of big advertisers.

What Elon Musk, proud new owner of Twitter has elected to do is double the premium service fee – and add the vaunted blue check ‘validation’ marking to any subscriber who pays $8 per month US.

Anyone.

The blue check was a symbol, and it was granted to important account holders; political leaders, influential business leaders, some corporate accounts, big named media personalities, religious leaders, etc. Now anyone could buy their own blue check – making it meaningless across the system.

What Twitter could have done, is bolster their real-person authentication system. Only bonafide people or legitimate businesses with verifiable account users to wipe out the menace of trolls and bots that are largely responsible for the spread of misinformation. No – instead, those fake accounts can easily get the blue check and portray themselves as trustworthy.

As an advertiser, why would you want your brand to be mired in this ever worsening cesspool of misinformation and hate?

They’re fleeing…if not outright, they’re setting up shop on alternative social media places such as Mastodon. At best, for twitter’s sake, they’ve paused their ad spending, and Elon Musk is pretty upset about it…as if his corporation is entitled to money from another business.

What lays ahead I believe is a reckoning of the social media industry. What began as an experiment in online community building and commerce has become the testing ground for anti-democratic zealots bent on undermining freedoms around the world.

Nobody is interested in undermining free expression, but we are all interested in letting such freedoms thrive as we promote democracy and choice – not attempting to pull the rug out from underneath it.

You can bet you last assets that there are folks uninterested in democracy and freedom and wish to install themselves in positions of absolute power; corporate, religious, and extremists of the hard right and left would ban elections if they could. Social media has given their agents just enough room to spread misinformation and doubt on voting, elections, personal freedoms – to the extent that some ask – why even bother with these troublesome things.

That is what they want.

I don’t pretend to have the answers either, but I know that we cannot keep going the way we are going.

Life and freedom wasn’t bad before social media; but the anonymity of such platforms has given rise to very bad actors where they couldn’t have their soapbox before – out of the shameful embarrassment of their ideas.

The hidden keyboard warriors gather their troops; led by ‘generals’ who gain more and more authority as a result of the increasing absurdity of the level of hateful and false rhetoric that they post. They brag about being outside the mainstream as something to be proud of and gather a following of others who get to be part of this incoherent cabal of others who won’t follow the masses.

Clearly they must know something and big media/corporations, MSM and the political elite must be lying – withholding the truth, I guess.

Admittedly, its empowering to be part of a cause larger than the self; to put efforts into making society better for all. But to what extent do election integrity doubters help society? Covid deniers, antivaxxers, etc. They don’t help. They are menacing to society.

Previously, these circus side show freaks got little attention; now thanks to algorithms of the social media empires – they get promoted. Its the modern equivalent of bombarding people with lies – and demonizing efforts to fact check dangerous mistruths.

We have seen this before.

This is ultimately what their goal is.

My two bits.

The role of elected leaders in collective bargaining is to let the parties negotiate without interference.

Generally speaking, voters outside the anti-union right wing tend to support pro-labour parties.

That said, we don’t expect or demand that a government ‘from our side’ to deal out the best terms and big cash settlements (in public sector bargaining) or unduly pressure corporations in the private sector, but that the bargaining teams finally sit across from each other as equals to hammer out terms of a new contract.

In fact, I offer praise and respect when political leaders and elected officials get FAR away from the stage in these contract talks – despite the lure of getting involved.

Its too easy to meddle and put ones finger on the scale when you’re in a position of power. When the BC Liberals were in office, they ran advertising (as taxpayer supported gov’t ads) demonizing the BCTF as demanding items outside of the “affordability zone” as then Education Minister Peter Fassbender often said.

What incentive do employer-negotiators have to move off an entrenched position when their political master underwrites their argument in public like that.

Bad faith.

That is why I appreciate this current government and its effective radio silence in the various public sector negotiations now underway. This respectful tone has allowed the potential of an HEU tentative agreement (with 60k healthcare sector employees).

It doesn’t mean that either side won’t trot out some talking points to pressure the other side by means of public opinion, but there’s well documented risks of negotiating in public – especially if both sides pledge not to do that.

I will say that activists on one side or another can complicate matters for their respective bargaining teams. They don’t act as official spokespersons for the union or employer group, and most often are not even members of said organizations. Free expression is a funny thing, ain’t it?

Having political leaders butt out of negotiations and leaving the parties to settle their own terms isn’t a guarantee of a perfect deal. There’s a 100% guarantee that even if the HEU deal goes through, some folks in the union will argue that they could have got more. Likewise, anti-unionists and rightwingers alike will argue that the deal goes to far.

Pay no attention to those voices.

What matters most is that both sides were free to settle matters free from government interference or coercion and that the members get to decide how this plays out.

my2bits

Neo-liberalism will not save us

This may come as a surprise to many, but the economic upheavals we’re experiencing today were destined to happen long ago. They’ve just been made more profound and extreme by the pandemic.

But we came so close to getting it. So close. The inherent weaknesses in capitalism’s true form, neoliberalism, were laid bare for all to see.

Civic planners and emergency protocols forced the hand of governments to place mobility restrictions and interrupted the economy at the outset of the pandemic. Government responded with some short term assistance, but has largely pulled back everything.

What has happened is that the biggest corporations and wealthiest among us made off with the trillions of assistance dollars made available while housing is pushed even further out of reach for most people.

Workers are just awakening to their actual power just at a time that the inflationary bubble is about to be popped by Wall street and impoverish millions of us.

Mark my words, in the coming weeks and months, neoliberals in their pet parties (federal Liberal and Conservatives) will push the talking point that “we’re living beyond our means” and shift to austerity mode.

Again.

We didn’t cause this financial mess. They did.

This was the opportunity to correct some historic wrongs. We could have created a basic income – at the very least for folks living with disabilities. We could have imposed significant wealth taxes. We could have expanded the social safety net to include dental care. We could have made billions of dollars in investments to public transportation, shifting away from fossil fuels. We could have done so much.

Instead, we’re having arguments whether women should have the right to make independent medical decisions for themselves. (of course they should, this shouldn’t even be a thing).

We’re back to a culture war that divides folks along emotional/religious boundaries while the bandits run off with our national wealth and power.

To be clear, there is no ‘both sides’ of human rights. You are either for the protection of human rights or you’re in favour of taking them away from folks. This isn’t a ‘difference of opinion’ matter. Expanding and protecting human rights is right, taking them away is simply wrong.

The disgusting part of this social culture war is that conservatives have seen fit to include pandemic politics into this madhouse. Once upon a time, conservatives were rational leaders too, while many had different social views than the rest of us – they didn’t question vaccine science.

By crass opportunism or calculation, they’ve moved their big tent posts to grab some of those vaccine skeptical voters along with conspiracy theorists to push narratives that defy logic. Narratives that paint their opposition as fascist, etc.

To any educated mind, this is absolutely bonkers. Conservatives for a long time have positioned themselves as a party of ‘law and order’; only to now embrace defiance of (since repealed) health and safety measures. They do this as part of their recasting of ‘freedom’ vs ‘fascist’ (read: Liberal/NDP arrangement).

It doesn’t matter that every law, regulation, rule that has been imposed on a temporary measure has met a constitutional test and validated by every court where its been challenged. To the Conservatives, its a culture war that draws in votes for their side. To most rational people, it a party headed for the same crazy-ville that the GOP finds itself stuck in thanks to Trump.

It doesn’t matter that the science behind the various Covid19 vaccines is sound and verified. Its true that they’re not perfect, but the overwhelming use of said vaccines, upholding safe practices is how we navigate our way out of this pandemic. But it doesn’t matter to Conservatives.

They’ve latched on to an explosive, emotionally charged, traumatizing issue for which they’re pretending to be on the side of the ‘little guy’ on.

They’re not. They’ve capitalized on this issue because its so explosive and divisive; pandemic fatigue is real. They do this because it blinds voters to all else that moves…including the machinations of the actual corporate elite who just want to get even wealthier at our expense.

Conservatives are ok with this.

Also, so are the Liberals.

The Liberals are complicit in this culture war, not because some might agree with conservative held views, but that it serves them just as well to distract voters from all else that moves.

Liberals agenda is to permanently paint themselves as the only salvation from conservative social dinosaurs, and its largely been successful. The Federal Liberal Party has governed Canada far more often than the PC or CPC party have; and for longer stretches of time too.

But there is a hunger for substantial change; one that re-formats the system. A redistribution of power (not just wealth). That’s not something that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives are prepared to give up on.

This is because they are both supporters of the neoliberal economic philosophy. A philosophy that has driven a wedge between rich and poor like no other. Their wealthy benefactors in corporate Canada fund parties that maintain the status quo.

If team red and blue can keep folks angry about social issues, then there’s no need to worry about changing the system.

Got it now?

my2bits

Calling all good men. Wanna help? Sit down please.

As you know by now, the Supreme Court in the USA has revoked ‘Roe V Wade’, the constitutionally significant court ruling from the 1970’s which paved the way for legal access to abortion services in America.

Everyone and their pet rock wants to chime in; not all of it is helpful. Those on the right-wing are hailing this as a victory from their long campaign against abortion. Those left of that position are blown away at the human rights roll back that women in America have known for almost 50 years – gone.

Every ounce of my activist heart wants to beat the drum in opposition to this ‘ruling’ and raise the warning flags that conservatives in Canada wish the very same…because they do; they freely admit that.

Make no mistake: my position is that whatever health decision a woman is contemplating is nobody else’s business but hers to make, and she should do so without government interference but sound, scientifically grounded medical advice from her doctor. Period.

But, I too, need to take a breather here. This is been an attack against women; an attack that is threatening to spread to various other protected groups too. But in standing in solidarity with women as they face this grotesque attack, we, men, need not crowd out women from a platform that is rightly theirs.

You will hear stories from women and how this war against them is so incredibly personal. Some stories will break your heart, others will drive you to rage. But these are their stories to tell.

Women of this nation and America are perfectly capable of telling these stories and capable of conveying the anger/sadness which so many feel. They most certainly do not need us to speak for them.

We should be standing with them.

Lifting them up.

That is what an ally does.

My2bits

Go Left. To save us. All of us.

In uncertain times, folks can reach for more bold solutions when the same-old no longer works.

These are some of those times. The Neoliberal economic philosophy hasn’t worked for large swathes of society, and those for whom it works are already the wealthiest and most powerful among us.

Through no fault of our own, the economic pillars have been knocked out from the ‘if you work hard and save your money, you can get ahead’. Unless you are part of a 1% elite out there, you’re not going to get ahead. Staying afloat is hard enough.

The powerful and elite know this and will do their best to retain the system that keeps them powerful and rich. There is a war by the 1% against everyone else. Both left and right however, present potential solutions to get us out from under that control paradigm.

But they are not the same.

The left demands wealth taxes, programs to supplement the poorest among us, assistance to those living with disabilities, tax fairness among working peoples and housing for the masses seemingly out-priced for even the very basics of shelter needs.

The right points to groups that require blame and that if only they were outlawed or restricted, the great prosperity would return. The right campaigns for harsher controls over immigration, crackdowns on unions, and engage in social culture wars to divide people among religious and ethnic lines as a source to gain power.

The problem is, the powerful elite tolerate one of these idealisms more than the other. Neoliberal elite do not necessarily care about religious conflicts or divisions, nor do they participate in culture war debates, their interest is in maintaining social status, wealth and power. The rules for you and I do not apply to those at the very top.

The elite however, will bitterly oppose wealth taxes; they’ll oppose low cost housing for folks barely hanging on, and they most certainly oppose any measures to share decision making power. You know this to be true.

While the far right pretend to have a populist message that is to get us out of the rut, in the end, they share philosophical common ground with the neoliberals who sit at the helm of power and wealth.

They are natural allies.


The answers, as they always have been, are on the left.

My2bits

Conservatives are determined to re-elect Trudeau – this time with a majority. This is awful.

There was a series of social media posts circulated by various prominent conservative political leaders and thinkers in Canada which elevated the angry rants of some white-nationalist, covid-truther EU politicians as evidence that the world hates Trudeau and is harming Canada’s reputation around the world.

Bunk.

I am no Trudeau fan whatsoever, but I don’t hate him. My opposition is policy based and there are substantial gaps between him and I on environment, poverty, disability assistance and others. The gaps are significant enough that I will never vote Liberal; not under their current policy direction at least.

But Conservatives hate him.

No. Completely false. But from this 2016 tweet from Conservative insider Steven Taylor – which goes without any explanation or context – you are MEANT to make that connection.

They do so with a visceral hatred usually reserved for Nazi’s or Stalin’s regime. In fact; some of his conservative opponents in the deeper interwebs share memes and conspiracy theories that compare Trudeau TO Hitler…and Stalin. One of the more famous ones is connecting Justin to Fidel Casto; which has repeatedly been debunked.

Its not that conservatives actually believe that Trudeau is a family relative of Castro (they likely know that he isn’t), the point is to make you hate Trudeau as well.

Its the same tactic republicans used against President Barack Obama. He was falsely accused of being born in Kenya (which would have made him ineligible to run for president at all), then that he was Muslim. Of course there is no rule that excludes a Muslim from seeking the nomination of a party to run for President, in fact – there’s a rule that outlaws a religious test for holding public office).

Why? Because you cannot use certain language (or words that start with “N”) to identify black folks. That would be nakedly racist; but if you mask it around some (false) ineligibility narratives (Kenya) and paint Obama with being Islamic; the racist voter gets to vote against the black guy without saying that as the reason. Keeping in mind that the post-2001 world was pretty hostile to Muslims; especially in America.

Hitler? C’mon.

The same campaign baggage is being attached to Justin Trudeau, but in a country who would have elected Obama by an 80% margin if we could, this hate-standard is risky at best.

There are many reasons to oppose Trudeau (and Obama) – on based policy and performance. Both are objectively centrist who borrow more from the conservative economic theories than an actual liberal or left – where bolder, more decisive solutions lay.

But the conservatives are making it easy for Justin.

The deeply personal, character attacks launched towards Justin by several conservatives, and their proxies are quickly swept aside with “we might not be perfect, but we’re not crazy like them”.

In the context of the outcast EU politico’s that went after Trudeau with lines not much different than the worst rhetoric of the #KarenConvoy bunch, Conservatives should have dismissed them on the spot. Imagine if any one of the current crop of CPC leadership candidates, sitting MP’s, fanbase online had remarked, “while we have little in common with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we will not share any moral ground or political space with unabashedly racist, xenophobic political figures who even the EU assembly keeps at a distance.”

They did not. Nobody did. But the internet is forever, and those who gave space to the crazy right wing in the EU here will also feature in Liberal Party campaign ads.

Justin Trudeau probably cannot believe his luck; and if he gets re-elected – its your fault.

My2bits

American Right Wing desperate to cast Ukraine as satanic or occult-ish to bolster Trump.

It actually makes sense…not the talking point, but the effort to cast Ukraine in terms of America’s culture war. That makes it especially nuts given that Ukraine is probably as socially conservative as many right wingers thanks to the deep Orthodox Church influence in Ukraine society. But, Republicans need to find room to the opposite of Biden – so why not cast Ukraine as a hotbed of ‘occult’ or satanic cult worship to make it easy to hate them and rally to Putin’s side. Totally unhinged, but this is today’s Trump/Republican party.

Fox Nation Host Unloads ‘Bonkers’ Pro-Kremlin Rant Claiming Ukrainian Forces Have ‘Occult’ Ties

The epic failure of the #TruckersForFreedom will be a sight to behold

Oh, they’re loud, and they’ll muster a gathering of supporters at the nations’ capitol as promised, but not likely in the numbers they’ve been promoting. Numbers – like half a million people, 50,000 trucks from across the country. Now I could be wrong with the numbers too, but it doesn’t invalidate the next point I’m about to make.

They’re about to step into the stupid-trap…and we’ve been warning them all this time that its going to suck.

They’re protesting a federal Transport Canada vaccine mandate rule for truck drivers entering Canada from the USA that they must prove their vaccine status or face up to 14 days quarantine.

Read it again.

The federal mandate speaks to drivers entering Canada. It does not regulate the vaccine status of a truck driver heading to the United States. They have their own mandate.

If the Transport Canada (“Justin Trudeau”) mandate disappears tomorrow, unvaccinated truckers from Canada will still be denied entry to the USA because of their right to set border rules.

So every truck with banners saying all sorts of profanity towards the federal liberals and Trudeau are again missing the mark.

This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the political people in high places too. There is a reason why the federal liberals are slow walking any sort of pushback – the clowns who have organized and fundraised off this effort are making themselves look like total idiots at a scale unseen in Canada before.

It will be worse than antivaxxers spitting at nurses, throwing rocks at the Prime Minister. Imagine driving your rig 3000km to Ottawa to protest the actions of the wrong government.

Of course, this all links back to the garbage arguments made by a tiny handful of folks that the vaccine(s) aren’t safe, or that covid is fake. Well shut the fuck up about that. Unless you’re sporting the qualifications of a medical doctor or virologist, this ain’t your ballpark to render ‘professional’ opinions on the matter.

The fact that its brought out the kooks on the far right is political gravy for Justin. As a result of this convoy-of-stupid, Justin will score a majority government if we had an election any time soon.

Well done. Idiots.

my2bits

The things I wanted to say.

What I could have said – and was surely going to, were not helpful.

I am upset as the year rolls around to its end, that we’re still battling with covid19…but we’re also contending with a significant mindset who have rejected modern medicine and coherent medical advice in favour of misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Words have power. Words spoken by people of influence have power. The more outrageous things you say it seems, draw more and more people. It doesn’t have to be true (and clearly, in many cases it is not at all true). But spoken with passion and conviction, some will be convinced of the words and ideas over medical advice.

This is beyond frustrating…but predictable.

The rhetorical power of a demagogue was learned well in America in the lead up to 2016 and beyond, and we’re not immune here in Canada to the sway either.

The things I wanted to say to these folks who have seemingly drank this potion was equally as venomous as what their side spews outwards.

I have since decided that I am not spending any more energy on this. While I am still upset at antivaxxers (whom I consider a menace to society), its to those on the fence that I want to reach.

I see you and I hear you. Your apprehension and anxiety are real and shared by a lot of people…myself included.

The world’s best and brightest minds in science and virology have been working on covid19 since the start; the vaccines are safe – even if they’re not perfect. This is true of every single medicine created in science.

The best way out of this pandemic is widespread vaccine coverage to all corners of our globe so that covid19 has no where left to bloom; and its effects can be mitigated into oblivion.

To those seeking room to be critical of governments’ perceived shortcomings (in the eyes of the beholder, of course); save your energy too – encourage those reachable to obtain their vaccines and maintain social distancing/mask wearing where needed. If you’re going to take a swipe at policy makers for what you feel is inadequate regarding the govt responses so far, I sure hope you have the professional qualifications to back it up.

There will be plenty of time to consider shortcomings of the various governments and adjust policies so that we don’t have to re-invent the wheel again.

We’re on the right side of this. The science backs up vaccines without a doubt; the measures (masking, etc) have proven to lower risks of transmission; nearly every policy and/or mandate is legal and constitutional – and should not be controversial.

The last hurdle is hesitation. This is a personal choice I know, but its one with profound consequences.

Choosing to turn your back on science and medicine will prolong the pandemic (with newer, deadlier variants).

Choosing to join the overwhelming majority of us who play by the rules (which are temporary), obtaining vaccines when available are the steps needed to return to the normal life we all say we want.

So that we can be us again.

my2bits

Antivaxxer’s trying to appropriate NB labour board decision as evidence that mandates are illegal. Promptly get embarrassed.

An antivaxxer group known as “BrightEyesOnBrant” with a social media presence on FB, Instagram and Telegram is pushing a video that seemingly tells a story that CUPE local 2745 won a federal labour board decision halting CN rail’s vaccine mandate for its employees.

Except that none of this is true.

What is true is this:

  • CUPE won a labour tribunal decision against the New Brunswick for being an asshole.
  • A group of CN workers, independent of their union hired a legal team to fight the mandate and has filed its own ‘cease and desist’ order against their employer.
  • The federal labour board has not made any decision in this regard.

This is making some traction online in the antivax community as evidence that vaccine mandates ‘are illegal’, when no such ruling has taken place. While its true that *some* jurisdictions south of us in America have had state level courts block some mandates, far more are being validated as legal and justifiable. I have yet to find any such ruling in Canada.

This is such a misfire that even Rebel Media had to fact check itself as they initially attempted to run with this false narrative. Here, I include screenshots of the before/after.

While I will be careful here not to throw my own opinions in as ‘legal advice’ which would cause problems for me, I will suggest that government has an obligation to protect society from unhealthy choices of some of its citizens. This is why smoking laws exist and you cannot bark out ‘fire’ in a crowded theatre; freedom itself isn’t unlimited, and some choices have consequences.

As for any legal adjudication of vaccine mandates, I’ll respect our judiciary’s jurisdiction to decide this.

my2bits