The Role of Social Media in The Future

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One of the major complaints on the far-right media bubbles is that Parler was taken down, while Facebook and Twitter continue. These two were not de-platformed. To be fair, the complainers have a small point. While Twitter has been more proactive about doing something about calls for violence and organization on its platform, Facebook been in denial for years. If you are a user and have reported anti-Semitic or racist screeds, you likely share the experience that they do not go against community standards. Until recently Mark Zuckerberg said that Holocaust denial was a-ok on his platform. This is at the core of white supremacy, even when un-ironically some say that six million was not enough.

the stance that Zuckerberg took was that it was a free speech issue. Never mind that genocide denial is in the cycle of genocide and it was a clear opening for far-right groups to happily organize. It also led to actual genocide pushed forwards on the platform.

Facebook never dealt with the issues that allowed the platform to be used in this way. They admitted to the problems, which I guess is a start. But over the last four years, the platform has been central for groups in the global far-right. Facebook tried to silence Black Lives Matter though.

So it should come as no surprise that Defend groups in the summer and Stop the Steal groups used the platform. QAnon groups also used Facebook extensively. Since Facebook is not responsible for user produced content, and the business model relies on user engagement, this makes some sense. That is if all you are interested in is in making money.

The platform continues to be used for the pretty radical far-right content, even as the platform claims it's starting to police QAnon and WG1WGA material. These are true believers who are still waiting for signals from influencers, some still on the platform. They are also waiting for direct instructions from Q. However, he is not using Facebook, but mostly 8Kun and Gab.

These dark corners have radicalized millions of Americans. This subset is large enough to believe in the unified theory of conspiracy. A lot of it is recycled antisemitism in the form of a new version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Incidentally, many Jews, who should know better, have also fallen under the spell. This happened in the open. For those of us who follow these radical groups, none of what occurred on the sixth came as a surprise. The plans to arrest, put on snap trial, and execute national leadership was discussed on social media. Most people thought this was a fantasy. It was not.

For some Q acolytes, this is a new age religion. This is why you see a religious fervor and crusade aspect that muddles the mind. The country was selected by God as a new Jerusalem. This is a repurposing of the national civic religion, part of our belief in American exceptionalism. Others believe that there is a deep state controlling all, that it is cancer. Scratch that itch and you find the global Jew, these days personified by George Soros.

So what should the future of social media be? Because at this point it is home to ideologies of hate, whose members post openly. First off we have a problem. Americans believe in a very expansive view of speech. We like to say that while I do not agree with you, I will defend your right to say it. Well, are we going to allow all speech? This could very well include sedition and eliminationist language that is pushing us ever closer to genocide? Or do we pull back and decide that certain speech is out of bounds? This is not a minor question. Moreover, the first amendment pertains to the government, not social media platforms.

Fringe Platforms

Yes, social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have some responsibility, especially Facebook. It is how they work, and create silos. But we also need to look at fringe places like Godlike Productions, 8Kun, 4Chan, and a panoply of other places. These places are not rife with sophisticated algorithms. However, they are not places where any of these fantasies and hate are hidden.

Some are very old and hardly hide who they are. Stormfront comes to mind. It is an openly white supremacist site. It is old, and it is consistent. You know exactly where they are after two minutes. Godlike Productions are a tad more confusing unless you have followed these sites. They had somewhat fallen off my radar, but when I recently checked on them they have gone from just Crystals, healing and UFOs, to far-right ideology and Trump will remain president, prime minister, or whatever it is this week.

Then there are newer sites. Parler was de-platformed after the events of the 6th. It refused to moderate speech on their site under the delusion (so they say) that all speech is allowed. This includes insurrection, racism, and appeals to genocide. Amazon Web Service finally said enough. Threats on the government continue on other sites, and lawmakers are now taking measures to protect themselves.

The monster has been allowed to fester and grow. The monster went after them and continues to do so. Partly because the threat did not go away after the attack. We find ourselves at a moment where members fear their fellow members of Congress may hurt or kill them, like in the 1850s. Or for a more modern example, the black shirt tactics of Mussolini’s Italy.

We are at this point because the monster was allowed in, and because we have hidden our head in the sand. When we had an assault at the Chabad Temple in Poway, I asked a Police Chief, a United States Congressman, the mayor, and the Sheriff about the connections to local white supremacy groups. Instead of an answer acknowledging the issue, I got glared at. Why? I touched that third rail of American politics. I asked about white supremacy. We admit it exists, but to quote the former mayor, “this is not Poway.”

Asking what were the contacts was the natural thing to do, But most media don’t because even at this late hour, most newsrooms still hide their head from the white supremacy in their midst. Thus it is easy for the authorities to hide their heads. Or at least to avoid going there where there should be some accountability.

These fringe platforms work on the delusion that anything goes on any internet space. And by anything goes, they truly mean the crazy theories of race, antisemitism, deep state, and martial law you want to pursue. These are places where people complain about the woke social justice warriors that are running their world, and invading the country. These places are filled with conspiracies, ranging from aliens, to chemtrails, to GMOs, to blood and soil. There are hints of ethnic cleansing and taking back the country from these nefarious forces that are now in the process of forcing communism on the land.

Yet, all these fringe platforms always come back to YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Partly they are the largest platforms. But mostly, it is the algorithms to maintain engagement which is at the heart of the business model Yes. Godlike Productions goes back to the early years of the internet. The site feels ancient still. 4Chan and 8kun were built on the image boards of the 1990s models, that preceded modern social media. But they link back to the giants.

The giants will now curb the spread of Q but who knows what else will be allowed to fester? This is after many of us warned their platforms were used to radicalize people. I may not be able to link to 4Chan from Facebook, but 4Chan users can link to Facebook. We could have medium and large internet service providers banish these services from their platforms, but they will find a way. So the question remains, what happens now? The Ginnie is well out of the bottle at this point.

If they are truly banned, there is a dark web. The good news is that users who are on Facebook will mostly not go dark. This reduces some of the spread.

My hope is that as QDrops become as accurate as bird droppings. Wait, at least bird droppings are real, followers will realize they were misled. Republicans need to move away from that ledge as well and come back to normalcy. Politicians must adopt a policy of truth-telling and stop lying to their base. This is not unlike the banishment of the John Birch Society in the 1960s. In our personal lives, we may have to isolate these people, even if they are family. This is not easy to do, but our tolerance for Stop the Steal, antisemitic views, and theories of race must be zero. There is no place for these hate ideologies in polite society.

Social Media companies will need to monitor their sites and stop this in the bud. They can start by acting when users alert on clearly antisemitic, racist, or holocaust denial material. None of these is free speech in the sense that it is healthy speech. This is divisive and could lead to genocide. In the case of Facebook, it’s already resulted in at least one genocide.

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

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