FIRST AMENDMENT TRASH TALKING

Trump Propaganda Machine Diversion

Today we see all the hypocritical politicians complaining about how Facebook, Twitter, Google, Amazon and Apple have slammed the door on those who flame insurrection, post false claims and threaten violence. Their true fear is that the tech CEOs and presidents of social media have more power than they do. Previously, Congress complained that the social media platforms allowed Russians to corrupt our elections with propaganda. Now they are whining about these same platforms taking steps to protect America from domestic terrorist flamers, including soon-to-be-ex-President and certified loser Donald John Trump.

When Twitter threw me off their platform for life, I signed up on Parler, and can now confirm that it’s GONE. Their founder says the shuttering of the service will put them out of business. It’s not hard to get an ISP to serve a website or service. All you must do is pay them. The truth is these billionaire public bulletin board runners are worried about one major thing, liability. If someone were to sue them as a victim of violence or harassment, it could open the whole can of worms surrounding their current protections embodied in what’s known as Section 230.  Let’s take a look.

United States Code Section 230 states that providers or users of “interactive computer services,” which include internet service providers as well as platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Craigslist, cannot be treated as publishers of — and thus held liable for — content produced by others.” It’s like your inability to sue a phone company for something said about you over their phone lines.

The end user license agreements of the social media platforms state they can prevent anyone who violates their policies from using their services. I was banned for life from Twitter for violating two policies, using multiple accounts to promote this very blog site and “interrupting conversations.” Some of my posts to top administration officials were not at all polite, but Twitter has no due process for appeal and they never respond to my letters to delve further into the matter. It’s just how they are.

The executives of these firms testified at public hearings on Capitol Hill, but the main result of those one-sided media circuses was a rise in their stock values. Many of the stodgy members of Congress have no clue how the basic internet works, let alone the operation of the complex and manipulative social media sites.

Section 230 has absolutely nothing to do with the First Amendment, and anyone going down that alley will soon hit a dead end. Section 230 exists to prevent frivolous lawsuits from gumming up the works of the courts. Without Section 230, there would be little incentive for social platforms to even exist. I am sure the CEO of Parler, John Matze, Jr., will be laying off his thirty employees today, but what about the other companies? Google has 100,000 employees, Facebook provides work for more than 45,000 people and Twitter has about 5,000 workers, so which service has the greatest impact on our economy?

Let me take a diversion here. One of the Parler investors is Rebekah Mercer, heiress, foundation director and major Republican political donor. She is the daughter of Robert Mercer, a hedge fund manager billionaire and oversees the day-to-day operations of philanthropic and political projects for the Mercer family. Rebekah has a master’s degree from Stanford and an internet cookie company named Ruby et Violette. Just placing the words “internet” and “cookie” in the same sentence is funny to me.

Mercer and Bannon

Mercer, along with her father, contributed $25 million to the 2016 presidential campaign of Donald Trump, and they have pumped millions into conservative campaigns through their many Political Action Committees. Mercer and her father were key financial benefactors for Breitbart News, and for a long while they thought Steve Bannon walked on water.

Parler was created to create chaos. Without critical review and management of posted material, a social media website can become a venue for insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists from ANYWHERE! This isn’t funny. My entries on this blog are reviewed before they are posted, not by the government but by a journalist and editor. We all need an angel on one shoulder to counteract that devil on the other. It’s too easy to type dangerous sentiments so a watchdog is needed.

I don’t like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Dorsey of Twitter because they don’t know what they are doing. Their platforms have become so big and vast with squillions of members, that no algorithm or mass of humans can adequately stop the spread of hate and misinformation. On the other hand, those platforms also transmit important safety information, disclose scams, assist with Amber Alerts, help fight crime and enable all of us to reconnect with people we’ve misplaced. There’s a huge upside along with the downside.

Zuckerberg and Dorsey certainly know how to make tons of money. I will leave out Google because they are less a social media platform and more a software development company. Sure, their search results can be manipulated, but spend a week on another search engine and you be will less than satisfied with the results. Has Google also caused harm? Sure, but we’re way too far up the river and without the time to head back to the mouth of the stream to fix things.

I am sure Parler will find some internet provider in Costa Rica or Isle of Man to help them return to the internet, perhaps then the matter of government intervention will become tricky. The US does not block any internet sites, but Trump was close to shutting down his dissenters on social media. Meanwhile, the platforms are just biding time until Joe Biden becomes president, holding onto the naïve belief that all their problems will then go away. They won’t.

Trump’s Possible Ending

Donald Trump doesn’t care about the First Amendment; he just wants an outlet for his pungent propaganda, baseless beliefs and crazy conspiracies. Trump is a drug addict, and he misses his fix of Twitter. He liked slinging his shit and watching the numbers tick up right in front of his eyeballs. Then, he switched on the TV to bask in the glory of everyone talking about him and what he just wrote. That is his high.

We need to have a debate about stabilizing the government and solidifying our security. We must refine the pardon process and power of the executive. It’s time to examine our laws and traditions to see how they stand up in our modern world. Most importantly, we need more accountability and background disclosures of our elected officials. Money is a primary driver, and we have a right to understand how it motivates each of those who serve us. Think about this. We know more about the finances of Rebekah Mercer than we do about those of Donald Trump. Transparency is the only way we can remain free. Hey, that’s good, I should post that on Twitter. Oh, sorry, I can’t.

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LET’S TALK ABOUT TWITTER

Separate Policies & Rules for Donald Trump

Back in the good old pre-internet days, we had this thing called a “chain letter.” The concept was simple. One person would write a letter and send it to a group of others. Every recipient was requested to send a copy of the letter to a specific number of other people. This was an early exercise in “going viral.” The “chain” theoretically could have created an exponentially growing pyramid, and the concept was exploited by get-rich-quick scams. Chain letters were used by low-tech social groups that the internet eventually killed.

In the early 1970s, we had a lot of social media starts and stops from Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), but the biggest leap came when AOL introduced millions to ICQ in 1997. They bought the patent from an Israeli company named Mirabilis, which had Yair Goldfinger as a founder. Yes, true. The name ICQ was a sound-play on the phrase, “I Seek You.” This revolutionary app allowed young users to instantly communicate via typing with their friends online. Those teenagers are now in their mid-thirties and ICQ was their introduction to social media, which they never stopped using.

I studied and deployed social media to promote my comedy web site, books and blog. I have also advertised on Google, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes very successfully, other times, “Meh!” The power of targeting people by their interests, posts or political viewpoints has made social media companies billions of dollars. For example, last year Facebook made $70.7 billion, YouTube clocked in with $15.1 billion, and records show that Twitter earned $3.46 billion in 2019. So, they are more than social; they are rich.

That brings us to Donald Trump. In 2009, Trump created @realDonaldTrump on Twitter to promote his brand and TV show, and he has been tweeting ever since. According to the blog, TweetBinder, since 2009 Donald Trump has shared over 42,000 original tweets. With an estimated 80 million followers now, Trump uses his personal twitter account as the official mouthpiece of his presidential administration, along with various personal thoughts, complaints, bitch fests and brain farts. Not all of his 80 million followers love him. News media, political operatives and members of Congress track his tweets just to keep up with the man’s outrageous and questionable words. I won’t miss him when he’s gone from all social media. I truly believe Trump is addicted to Twitter.

Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone, and Evan Williams created Twitter in 2006. The service grew rapidly, and by 2012 they had more than 100 million users. The original name was “twttr,” and when the service began each tweet was limited to 140 characters. Later, the limit was expanded to 280 characters. Their bird logo and the spelling out of the name Twitter can be seen everywhere, which was one of the main reasons I signed up. The service has 262 million international users with 42% of their users living in the US.

When I jumped on the bird, I was the VP of Marketing for an international software company, which had more than fifty web sites and services and a full complement of social media pages to promote our products and services. Sure, I asked our lawyers to read all the EULA’s (End User License Agreements), but, like most of us I clicked the [Accept] button without reading the rules. My company utilized multiple sites, accounts and pages for each social media platform. Not only were these sites in different languages, but we needed to research which approaches worked best in the various world markets where we operated. This is not uncommon, but I guess it’s more important to the providers than I thought.

In the early social media days, we got away with many things because the platforms didn’t catch us. They were too busy counting their money. Like many of us, I  have been on edge during the global pandemic. I’ve lashed out online at people who were making ridiculous statements, presenting lies and aiding Donald Trump in his supreme stupidity. I have been angrier than ever because people I knew were dying from this terrible coronavirus and some of the things I posted were demented, derogatory and dangerous.

Yes, I said some terrible things to and about the new White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, after she went on Fox News and said the virus was a hoax created by Democrats to hurt Donald Trump. While people were dying, she was creating a false narrative to protect fat boy. My tweets screamed at her as she was working in her new job for the President. Right after that, I was suspended from Twitter, and I appealed.

Twitter denied my appeal and banned me for life. They sent me a letter that outlined what they described as “severe violations of their polices and platform manipulation rules.” They claimed I was “artificially amplifying or disrupting conversations using multiple accounts.” Guilty! They claimed I was operating “multiple accounts that interacted with one another in order to inflate or manipulate the prominence of specific Tweets or accounts.” Guilty! Then, they closed the coffin with this sentence, “Please do not reply to this message as this email address is not monitored.” They closed all my accounts and deleted all my content. WTF?

You might be asking, why do I care? Well, I just want to be treated the same as the President of the United States. He employs many accounts, @realDonaldTrump and @POTUS being two examples, and he uses many press room accounts to promote his maniacal messaging on the platform. Of course, he’s also in violation of posting messages that promote violent actions — like threatening an entire country with nuclear annihilation — but they look the other way and, under the law, they cannot delete his posts and he cannot block any user from seeing his tweets. They have officially said they will not take down Trump’s tweets accusing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murder, even though they know it’s a lie. Trump cannot be censored, but I can.

I openly admit I have also said some bad things about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and some of the ridiculous policies implemented at his company. Their selective censorship seemed to change right after Mr. Dorsey met with Trump in the Oval Office, but I cannot say that on Twitter, only Facebook. Dorsey is not a worthy gatekeeper and he cannot justify his actions.

If I had a big money pouch I would sue Twitter and make this an issue, but any solution would mean Twitter would have to stop their censorship regarding what can be posted and what is verboten. Pure freedom of speech would also protect neo-Nazis and anarchists. Not a good solution. Twitter claim they are not a publisher; they are only a service or platform, yet I was not in control of my account. They claim they aren’t the writer, just the printer, yet they decide what the ink can print. Doublespeak at its finest!

Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook have the same problem. When protesters in Michigan were waving Nazi flags and holding signs with terrible World War II death camp slogans, I went ballistic and wrote a blog post to condemn them. My post and link to the story were taken off Facebook because I attached a photo of the protestor’s appalling sign to my post. They claimed this was offensive and in violation of their polices on spreading hate. I wasn’t promoting hate; I was pointing out the hate so people could see it for themselves.

So, here is just another failure of algorithms that hold too much power over people. Software code cannot comprehend subtle nuances and meanings and that makes it exceedingly difficult to resolve disputers or ask for clarification.

This is not Donald Trump’s fault, but he is certainly part of the problem, a large, unmovable part. I do believe that when Trump is no longer President, all those official Twitter accounts will remain at the White House. And when Trump reverts to being a private citizen, we can complain about how he uses his account. Maybe then, he will be held to the standards. Until then, I am shooting the bird.

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