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38

Censor Child Porn, Not Citizen Speech

PLUS: Armenians vs. Antifa :: Forever Culture War :: Liar, Liar AI For Hire!
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The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Meta’s Instagram had allowed a vast child pornography ring to spread without restraint and connect producers and users. Most shocking of all was the revelation that Instagram’s AI warned people of sensitive content but allowed them to see it anyway.

Meta, the owner of Instagram and Facebook, was apparently too distracted with its censorship of “often-true” content, including testimonies of vaccine side effects, under direct orders from the White House, to focus on the truly bad stuff.

Stanford Internet Observatory, which we have criticized in the past for its leadership of the Censorship Industrial Complex, conducted the research. It thus deserves credit for having turned its powers toward a good cause.

Still, it’s hard not to be annoyed that so much effort by the US government and contractors like SIO over the last six years went into the illegal censorship of legitimate speech instead of the legal censorship of abhorrent material.

And Stanford keeps cranking out new censorship centers. Yesterday, Stanford announced a new initiative to "govern" how we get information in order to save democracy. They're calling their new censorship initiative "Project Liberty."

As reported last week, we emailed Stanford's CyberPolicy Center, Stanford Internet Observatory, Barack Obama, and 50 other groups involved in censorship efforts, requesting an interview. Only ten responded, and just one agreed to be interviewed. Their lack of transparency speaks volumes.

Let’s hope our work, and that of many others, encourages a shift away from censoring speech viewed as a “threat to democracy” toward censoring content that is direct harm to children.

— MS

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Deep Fake of the Week

Deep fake through AI of “Succession” character, Siobhan Roy. (Credit: Artsy Algorithm)

Forever Culture War

Pride Month is upon us. Once upon a time, that meant celebrating the struggle of an oppressed minority group whose civil rights the government was arbitrarily violating. Then, eight years ago, the Supreme Court upheld marriage equality, and gays and lesbians became legally equal — a momentous advance for American democracy.

So what does Pride Month stand for now that equality of sexual orientation has been achieved? The obvious answer is that it stands for the ongoing struggle for the equality of trans people, whose rights have yet to be won.

But that answer only begs the question. What exactly are these unfulfilled rights? Trans people are already legally equal. It’s against the law to discriminate against trans people in employment, housing, marriage, or anything else other people are entitled to.

So what is it, precisely, that the LGBTQIA2S+ movement is fighting for?

Judging by its rhetoric, that movement today demands much more than equal rights for people who identify as transgender — rights they already possess. It insists on privileges that other groups don’t necessarily enjoy. These are, in fact, not “rights” at all but demands on other people. They include the demand that everyone else adjust their everyday speech to adopt new words and grammar, sometimes on pain of material penalties, like job loss or fines. They include changes to long-standing rules governing public spaces — changes that infringe on what were hitherto perceived as the rights, sometimes hard-won, of women. And they include forfeiting profound parental authority and responsibilities over our own children.

No other civil rights movement has ever even asked for changes such as these, let alone won them. And there’s a reason for that: they are not the entitlements of a democratic society. They are the opposite.

Naturally, many people are resistant to these demands. Even people who are open to being persuaded, as they were over gay marriage, are resentful at being told not just how to act but what to believe. In a normal democratic context, we would bargain over these competing prerogatives through the prosaic mechanisms of elections and legislation. But today’s LGBT movement has ceased relying on persuasion as the means to achieve its goals, as it so brilliantly did in the fight for marriage equality. It has replaced persuasion with moral bullying.

The LGBT movement today makes demands, and you’re called upon to comply. If you don’t, you’re called a bigot, loudly and publicly. It’s really as crude and simple as that. Anyone who doesn’t enthusiastically comply with whatever the movement demands at any given moment, we’re told, must be motivated by hate. Social ostracism is the just dessert for these moral heretics.

Like most blunt instruments of authoritarianism, to a point, it works. People tend to obey, if only out of fear.

But there will always be those who refuse to bend the knee, and when activists smear them publicly as bigots, extremists and MAGA white supremacists, they fight back harder. That’s what’s happening in places like Glendale, California, and Montgomery County, Maryland. People are questioning the demands of this movement, particularly when it comes to their children. And they’re being met with force. Those clashes are now erupting in violence.

There was a time when one would have expected politicians to play a de-escalatory role when these conflicts broke out, especially when the vying camps were among their own constituents. But today, political leaders are instead rushing to take sides.

The change represents an erosion that has occurred in American politics. Politicians now govern through division because conflict yields political dividends that consensus does not. Moral grandstanding has become a new status marker for the educated and affluent, supplanting luxury European cars and Stanford alumni bumper stickers. Thirsty to appeal to these high-propensity voters of the donor class, elected officials, most of whom belong to the same social tier themselves, pander to their sensibilities. Thus, instead of acting to reconcile these ruptures, they pounce on them, eager to showcase their leadership of the moral elite.

The politicians, the NGOs, the activists, the corporations, the media — the incentives align for all of them to stoke these flames and amass the moral capital that comes with being perceived as being on the right side. With this grandstanding comes votes, donations, brand loyalty, and subscriptions. Social conflict, like war, is big business.

So that’s what Pride Month means today: endless Culture War. Don’t mistake it for what it once was. The moral posturing, the victimization, the radical chic — it’s all part of the marketing.

—LW

Liar, Liar, AI for Hire!

EU Commission Vice President, Vera Jourova, raised concerns this week regarding generative AI and disinformation online. Arguing that the technology fosters disinformation propagation, she’s urged tech companies to label synthetic content on their platforms. Google, Meta, TikTok, and others have all voluntarily agreed to address the issue in accordance with the EU disinformation code.

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Authors
Michael Shellenberger
Beige Luciano-Adams
Leighton Woodhouse