Last week, a national debate erupted over whether Twitter was right to ban political advertising — with a few exceptions — or whether fellow social media giant Facebook made the right call in resisting such a ban.
Twitter’s decision is a direct response to overwhelming criticism over how it ensures that false advertising is not posted on its platform. Rather than try to create the necessary verification systems, Twitter officials decided to ban political speech entirely.
But this is hardly the only concern with how powerful social networks police themselves.
Facing pending bipartisan regulation, Facebook officials are trying to diversify and shield themselves, rolling out a new news service for select users. The scary thing is that Facebook has more control over freedom of speech then we’ve ever realized.
Facebook sets arbitrary rules for what we can see and has the ability to hide certain messages by not promoting posts the site disagrees with through their algorithms. Facebook has far more ability to silence us than the government.
Since Facebook — and to an extent other social media sites — do not take free speech rights seriously, it is time for all Americans, not just as conservatives or liberals, to look for other platforms to find and express their thoughts and opinions.
New platforms have been launched, and new ones will launch over the next few years, promising to protect free speech or better shield user data from abuse.
Smart folks in the tech world will adapt to the market’s new demands and create outlets where free thought is valued. One interesting concept is a platform called “Thinkspot,” backed by a diverse group of thinkers including noted author and professor Jordan Peterson.
Thinkspot couldn’t be more different from traditional social media platforms, which rely on users to create the site’s content. Thinkspot has a top-down approach, where contributors create and share their content, and the community reacts and engages with it. This is not a site where commenters create and post memes and videos. Instead, users engage through written comments, allowing expression without diluting the opinions expressed. While it is still in a testing phase, all users will have the opportunity to become contributors down the road. The site will also continue to build out its list of contributors.
The hope is that Thinkspot won’t be the cesspool that other sites have become, where hateful comments, tasteless jokes and one-liner insults are rampant. What Thinkspot’s backers are trying to do is create a place where users can discover new topics and engage in conversations on topics they already care about.
Crucially, Thinkspot doesn’t impose arbitrary standards or subjective rules over what content can be shared. Unlike Facebook, the site doesn’t make up rules for what ideas can be shared. Contributors are established professionals who have a history of producing content related to their fields, be it through published works, a large online following or podcasts.
You may be wondering how content on Thinkspot is moderated.
Thinkspot is a platform for diverse thinkers to share their opinions without having to comply with fuzzy guidelines that are arbitrarily devised and subjectively enforced. The goal is to encourage discussion, not suppress it.
It is impossible to entirely prevent nastiness on the internet. But instead of trying to regulate it out of existence, Thinkspot’s founders have created a unique process to avoid it, including a minimum character count to encourage longer, more thoughtful posts and a voting system where other users can downvote a comment into a hidden section where it can only be viewed if users click on it.
The goal: fostering an environment where users will police each other, negating the need for an outside moderator to decide what is “appropriate” and what is not.
The internet remains a free market, where sites and platforms compete for visitors. If you prize free speech and user privacy, Facebook and Twitter are not meeting market demand. That alone creates a valuable opportunity for new platforms.
⦁ Matt Mackowiak is president of Austin, Texas, and Washington, D.C.-based Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney reelection campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.
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