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A social network banned support for Trump. Will others follow?

A social network banned support for Trump. Will others follow?

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Ravelry’s move to eliminate white supremacist content might put pressure on its peers

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2018 Women’s March In Berlin
An activist with a “pink pussy hat” participates in front of the Brandenburg Gate in a demonstration for women’s rights on January 21st in Berlin, Germany.
Photo by Adam Berry/Getty Images

Two quick self-promotional items: I went on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” on Sunday with one of my sources for last week’s piece on Facebook moderators, and I encourage you to check it out. I’ll also be doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything on Tuesday at 9A PT / 12P ET; I’ll tweet the link when it’s available from my Twitter account.

Last week, freshman Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley — who is actively cultivating a reputation for being a hard-ass when it comes to regulating tech companies — unveiled a deeply misguided idea for promoting free speech on large tech platforms. Makena Kelly reported the details for The Verge:

Under Hawley’s “Ending Support for Internet Censorship Act,” companies could be stripped of that immunity if they exhibit political bias, or moderate in a way that disadvantages a certain political candidate or viewpoint. [...]

Hawley’s bill would task the Federal Trade Commission with certifying that tech companies are approaching moderation in a neutral way, a requirement for any company with over 30 million monthly active users in the US, 300 million monthly active users globally, or $500 million in global revenue. Certification would require a supermajority vote, including at least one minority member, and would occur every two years. If a company over that threshold could not be certified, it would lose 230 protections and be subject to intermediary liability litigation.

The bill seems to be dead on arrival. As Mike Masnick notes in TechDirt, it would seemingly require platforms to put Nazis on an equal footing with mainstream political parties. Moreover, he notes, it’s likely unconstitutional on its face. And that’s before you consider the fact that there is no systematic evidence of bias on social networks toward anything but the extremes.

But say there was a social network willing to discriminate on the basis of politics. What would that look like? And what would it tell us about the state of political discourse on social networks?

On Monday, a popular knitting community named Ravelry offered us an answer. Edith Zimmerman reports in The Cut:

The popular knitting site Ravelry — which has more than 8 million users and is something like a combination Facebook, Google, Amazon, and public library for knitting and other textile crafts — announced on Sunday that it was “banning support of Donald Trump and his administration.” In its words, “We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy.” Support of the Trump administration, the site writes, “is undeniably support for white supremacy.”

It’s not about Democrats versus Republicans, per the blog post, and it’s “definitely not banning conservative politics.” It’s that “hate groups and intolerance are different from other types of political positions.”

On a platform the size of Facebook or even Twitter, a ban like this would feel draconian, and might well be unenforceable. (It would also give fuel to lawmakers sympathetic to Josh Hawley, of which there are more than a few.) We have come to rely on large social networks to host our political discourse in a way that makes a level playing field for all political parties feel necessary. And that desire happily aligns with those platforms’ business models, which benefit from hosting as many people as possible.

Ravelry is much smaller, and therefore less consequential. And yet I find something deliciously provocative about its decision.

The reason is that our biggest platforms’ policy positions are already closer to the knitting network’s than you might expect. In March, Facebook explicitly banned white nationalist and separatist content, bringing them within a few rhetorical feet of Ravelry’s Trump ban. In a world where white nationalists are banned, what should a social network make of content that explicitly praises (for example) concentration camps established after a lengthy, xenophobic campaign in which Trump repeatedly expressed support for white nationalist ideas?

In practice, I expect Facebook will have as little to say about this as humanly possible. But the fact that Ravelry took such a bold stand highlights why competition among social networks is such a good thing. The more social networks we have, the more chances founders have to express their values through policy. It’s notable that Ravelry’s founders say they got their idea from another miniature social network — the role-playing game forum RPG.net.

It’s enough to make you wonder what might happen if we split the big tech companies up, and the new companies that emerged fought for users on the basis of their principles.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Two hours ago Better on the inside

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Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
The sincerest form of flattery.

I had little interest in Apple’s Dynamic Island, but once a developer built their spin on the idea for Android, I had to give it a try.

Surprisingly, I’ve found I actually like it, and while dynamicSpot isn’t as well-integrated as Apple’s version, it makes up for it with customization. Nilay’s iPhone 14 Pro review asked Apple to reverse the long-press to expand vs. tap to enter an app setup. In dynamicSpot, you can do that with a toggle (if you pay $5).


DynamicSpot app on Android shown expanding music player, in the style of Apple’s Dynamic Island in iOS 16.
DynamicSpot in action on a Google Pixel 6
Image: Richard Lawler
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TikTok
Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
TikTok politics.

Ahead of the midterm elections, TikTok made big changes to its rules for politicians and political fundraising on the platform, as Makena Kelly explains... on TikTok.


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Richard LawlerSep 22
The Twitter employee who testified about Trump and the January 6th attack has come forward.

This summer, a former Twitter employee who worked on platform and content moderation policies testified anonymously before the congressional committee investigating the violence at the US Capitol on January 6th.

While she remains under NDA and much of her testimony is still sealed,  Anika Collier Navaroli has identified herself, explaining a little about why she’s telling Congress her story of what happened inside Twitter — both before the attack, and after, when it banned Donald Trump.


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Richard LawlerSep 22
But how does it sound?

Our review of Apple’s new AirPods Pro can tell you everything about the second-generation buds. To find out how you’ll sound talking to other people through them, just listen to Verge senior video producer Becca Farsace.


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The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 22
Our list of the best entertainment of 2022 keeps getting bigger.

We just added some notable entries to our running list highlighting the best games, movies, and TV shows of the year, including Return to Monkey Island, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Sorry in advance for your free time.


The best entertainment of 2022

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The Bootleg Ratio.

Policy Editor Russell Brandom digs into a phenomenon we’ve all seen on social media before:

I call it the Bootleg Ratio: the delicate balance between A) content created by users specifically for the platform and B) semi-anonymous clout-chasing accounts drafting off the audience. Any platform will have both, but as B starts to overtake A, users will have less and less reason to visit and creators will have less and less reason to post.

And now it’s coming for TikTok.


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Russell BrandomSep 22
The latest Alex Jones defamation hearing is not going well for Alex Jones.

The Infowars host has already been hit with millions of dollars in damages for spreading lies about Sandy Hook — but today’s hearing suggests he could be on the hook for even more.


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Youtube
Dan SeifertSep 22
Here’s a look at a few Pixel Watch watchfaces.

Google is ramping up the marketing machine ahead of next month’s Pixel 7 and Pixel Watch event and has released a short video (via 9to5Google) highlighting the design and showcasing some of the watchfaces it will have. Most of them are quite simple, with just the time being displayed.

These videos always look great from a marketing perspective, but I think they poorly reflect how I actually use a smartwatch. I want the computer on my wrist to show me useful information like weather, calendar appointments, timers, etc, which means it’s never as sparse or simple looking as it is in these ads.


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Please stop trying to order the Hummer EV.

GMC is closing the order books for the Hummer EV truck and SUV after receiving 90,000 reservations for the controversial electric vehicle, according to the Detroit Free Press. It just can’t seem to keep up with demand, so the GM-owned company has decided to stop taking orders until production picks up. Maybe if the Hummer’s battery wasn’t the same weight as a whole-ass Honda Civic, it would be easier to manufacture, but I digress.

GMC is the latest automaker to run into the problem of EV demand far outstripping supply. Ford also is having difficulty making enough F-150 Lightnings and Mustang Mach-Es to fill all its orders. Waitlists for most available EVs are longer than my arm. Things are going to be tight until the auto industry is able to bring more battery factories and assembly plants online, and unfortunately that could take a while.


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Tesla recalls 1.1 million vehicles to prevent drivers from getting pinched by the windows.

The issue is that the windows would not recognize certain objects while closing, which could result in “a pinching injury to the occupant.” It’s a pretty enormous recall, covering some 2017-2022 Model 3, 2020-2021 Model Y, and 2021-2022 Model S and Model X vehicles.

Tesla said it would issue a fix via an over-the-air software update. Notably, nobody has been been injured or killed by Tesla’s ravenous windows, but I wouldn’t recommend sticking your fingers in there just to see what happens.


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External Link
Adi RobertsonSep 22
Congress is trying to make Google pay news outlets for links again.

The controversial Journalism Competition and Preservation Act — which would let news publishers negotiate payments for being linked by sites like Google — suffered a setback earlier this month thanks to a surprise Ted Cruz amendment trying to limit the platforms’ moderation options. After some negotiations between Cruz and sponsor Amy Klobuchar, it’s back for markup today, and it’s got critics even more worried than before.


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External Link
Adi RobertsonSep 22
Twitter asks a court to make its whistleblower reveal if he contacted Elon Musk.

The Delaware Court of Chancery has issued another couple decisions in the fast-upcoming Twitter v. Musk trial. It’s letting Musk add allegations that Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko received a $7.75 million payout from the company. Meanwhile, it punted on a Twitter request for details about whether Musk or his associates knew about Zatko’s whistleblower claims before he took them public — Twitter and Musk’s lawyers will fight that out in a September 27th hearing.