Business, as usual (OpEd)

8:17am PST – I’m sitting here listening to a government official grilling a corporate representative on hate speech and how/when/if it is removed.

As much as I detest the type of content currently at centerpiece of the discussion, it remains that the notion of the government in any way instructing corporations on how/when/if they must remove content IS, literally, censorship.

I find that I am torn. On the one hand, it is very clear that these are free speech, first amendment, and a corporate ethical/responsibility/accountability issues, it remains that the context in which these discussions are occurring is decidedly disturbing to me.

I watch as Twitter attempts to steer the issue to “authenticity”, while it seems Facebook is more concerned with not saying anything that brings them further legal focus.

It occurs to me that “We The People” aren’t allowed to tap dance like this when we stand before an authority.

It also occurs to me that this entire conversation is, itself, tap dancing around the profound conflict of interest between consumer protection, congressional responsibility, and corporate profit.

As if corporate lobby and congressional campaigning acting consistently in the best interest of themselves and actively engaging and using the appearance of “attempting” to carry out their responsibility as elected officials to, instead, posture and present themselves (in this way, they’re not really unlike the companies they are currently questioning… I am constantly astonished it seems to be accepted).

Mr. King sitting here, at 8:20am PST, complimenting the corporations they’re supposed to be interrogating. I watched this same dance some years ago, during anti-trust hearings with Google.

I find the overt patina of almost collegiate conversation insulting. I see as well how he introduces the concept of “user education” and then, the sweet waltz, as both bow and scrape to one another’s “intentions”.

My opinion is that intentions are not helping this conversation; rather, distracting from it. I do not care what a particular employee of a particular company thinks about what the intentions of “the company” are – the reality that is easily revealed by even the simplest inquiry is that the goal of “revenue” and the goal of “responsibility” are in profound conflict here.

As Dorsey says shortly thereafter, “Follow the money.” Indeed.

This is no less than the same conflict between “corporation” and “consumer”, or “congress” and “corporations” (and, of course, “congress” and “consumer”).

Do people understand we stand at a pivotal moment in both our nation and our collective, human experience?

Sadly, I do not think many do. Most are over-loaded by the complexity of these competing dichotomies. Others long ago resigned themselves to the sheer impasse of inertia in world culture. Activists are polarized and ill-inclined toward discourse, let alone empathy and active will to understand.

All of this congressional banter continues and I cannot help but see it as another, softer step toward shaping public opinion in favor of national identity to further the convenience that, clearly, rewards them with control – of people, thus of power.

The issue is far greater, complex, and troublesome than either “side” I’m watching seem to be interested in addressing. They argue details and administrivia as if “more rules” or “better rules” can possibly resolve the issues when the issues have nothing to do with either.

This is the karma of not insisting upon advancing our thinking before permitting advancement of our science and technology.

At this point, we are playing catchup with the emergent behaviors explicitly because we insist upon acting before considering the consequences beyond our immediate view. Human nature? Hardly. Animal nature. Do the research, it’s easier to trace today than ever.

Indeed, one might summarize this as little more than a repetition of a pattern that has haunted humanity since we first stood – short-sightedness, meglo-myopia, and an insistence upon the dynamic of dominance… an easy choice when one considers very little beyond their immediate proximity.

I am weary of political theater, particularly when it seems the only time our government is willing to act is when it may, in the doing, increase their own power base.

The macro reflects the micro, which is why “be the change” is so much more than a platitude; it is a plea.

Here, at 8:47am PST, Mr. Manchin asks something along the lines of “Do you feel any responsibility?” It made me chuckle. Someone needs to remember that these companies have been meeting and planning via the NTSIC for years… “proactive enforcement” is the new code; the goal hasn’t changed.

Watching Mr. Cotton have a tantrum over Google not deigning to appear is amusing. Google is starting to realize and react to maintaining their own viability in the face of congressional movement to constrain them (timestamp roughly 8:50am PST) is interesting to me.

The congress is busy trying to look like they didn’t know all this stuff, when the preceding links clearly evidence it’s been on their tables for some time.

The companies are busy trying to look like they were at the mercy of consumers and congress as well as other countries. But the preceding links clearly evidence they not only aren’t at the mercy of anyone, but actively collaborating to be part of the control structure (i.e., revenue contracts).

Plausible deniability in these situations is the target, for all of them.

As a consumer, I really hope you’re considering how ridiculous this is; consider your own embrace of technology and ask yourself, “How is it that the conversation is focused now (8:56am PST) on direct censorship?”

I suppose one could note that if both companies terms of service fail so significantly to protect anyone other than themselves, and Mr. Cotton, in asking, seemed to already know the answer – precisely how is this seemingly selective ‘plausible denial’ still possible?

8:59am PST – Mr. Dorsey recommends “more close partnership” and “more meetings” in which information sharing may occur. Seems to me this was the same argument made for the establishment of Homeland Security and, of course, the explosion of both the surveillance state and hyper-militarized law enforcement, as well how it is both corporations and congress remain “on narrative” about having our support when, demonstrably, they do not.

For clarity’s sake – cooperation and collaboration would look, sound, and act much differently – more agreement, less congressional couples-dance.

Collusion, in this context, is the manner in which these congressional and corporate agents are carefully advancing the narrative that, since users “can’t” or “won’t” educate themselves, THEY will have to do it FOR US. 

I suppose that’s not too shabby an outcome for them; consolidation of the collective power bases, closer (but still combative/competitive) planning for mutual benefit (kindly note, consumers/constituents are still left hanging, hoisted upon the petard of their own ignorance and inability to keep up with the information overload).

Oh, and this allows the United States Commerce Department a seat at the discussion table (NTSIC) that is wholly inappropriate.

9:05am PST – More mutual admiration between congress and the corporations, and the introduction of “price transparency” – consumer protection and privacy isn’t even in the sentence anymore.

9:07am PST – Commentary from Mr. Burr on how congress needs to make it easier for companies to collaborate and share data. Sounds a lot like the same conversation around making it easier for federal agencies to share data (see above).

Sounds like corporations and congress are in agreement that my personal history as represented online is and should remain a “viable product”.

While, at the same time, claiming to be focused on protecting people.

Seems I’m the only one that sees that as a conflict of interest that serves and protects no one so much as themselves.

TL;DR: Business, as usual.