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Antitrust, censorship, misinformation, and the 2020 election

Antitrust, censorship, misinformation, and the 2020 election

Update: 2020-11-166


I’ve been fascinated by the sharp change in how the tech platforms — particularly the big social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and to some degree, YouTube — are acting since the 2020 election. It’s become routine to see President Donald Trump’s posts tagged as misinformation or worse. Facebook is limiting the reach of hyper-viral stories it can’t verify, Twitter is trying to guard against becoming a dumping ground for foreign actors trying to launder stolen secrets, and conservatives are abandoning both platforms en masse, hoping to find more congenial terrain on newcomers like Parler. 

So is Big Tech finally doing its job, and taking some responsibility for its role in our democracy? Are they overreaching, and becoming the biased censors so many feared? Are they simply so big that anything they do is in some way the wrong choice, and antitrust is the only solution?

Casey Newton has spent the past decade covering Silicon Valley for The Verge, CNET, and the San Francisco Chronicle. Today, he writes Platformer, a daily blog and newsletter focused primarily on the relationship between the big tech platforms and democracy. He’s my go-to for questions like these, and so I went to him. We discuss: 

  • The lessons the platforms learned the hard way in 2016 

  • What Facebook and Twitter got right -- and wrong -- this election cycle

  • The dissonance between Facebook and Twitter’s progressive employees and broader user base 

  • The problem of trying to be neutral when both sides really aren’t the same

  • Whether Facebook and Twitter handled the Hunter Biden New York Post story correctly

  • Whether major tech platforms are biased against conservatives

  • Why YouTube has been so much less aggressive than Facebook and Twitter on moderation

  • The recent rise of Parler, the Twitter alternative that conservatives are flocking to by the hundreds of thousands 

  • What Biden administration’s tech agenda could look like 

  • The Section 230 provision at the heart of the debate over content moderation 

  • How the big tech CEOs differ from each other ideologically 

  • The problems that antitrust enforcement against tech platforms will solve -- and the problems it won’t solve 

And much more

Book recommendations:

Facebook: The Inside Story by Steven Levy

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram by Sarah Frier

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson 


Producer/Audio engineer - Jeff Geld

Researcher - Roge Karma

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Antitrust, censorship, misinformation, and the 2020 election

Antitrust, censorship, misinformation, and the 2020 election