Welcome to [cybernetic prison] – part trie
Substantiating the view that Elon’s purchase is less ‘liberation’ and more ‘under new management’.
This is my bone to pick with social media, and I’m going to pick it with what is, in my opinion, the least doomed social media platform: Twitter. It’s not really much of a distinction though, because they’re all doomed, so let’s say it’s more of a best case example for them. Facebook, Google, and Amazon can be broadly presumed to be worse on the demerits of the criticisms I am about to levy against Elon Musk’s purchase in this article.
I think the man himself said it best when he had to give the public his official doctrine on the matter of wrongthink: he prescribed “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach.” This was pretty funny, because it’s the same position the old management had already for years – a distinction without a difference. In fact, such a maxim was arguably their innovation – you can shout into the void all you want, but if you are a bad person, or if you are saying things we don’t want people to hear, or if you aren’t super popular with engaging other brain-addled users with no attention spans who are mindlessly scrolling for the cheapest texts known to man, then no one’s gonna see it. Enjoying your freedom of speech much?
To the site’s credit, I think my own account falls victim to the latter, more benign crime of being uncompelling en masse. People follow me because they realise how perceptive I am, but they never engage, because people are lazy, and so my numbers go down and my content gets hidden from them because it’s not as salivating as some groupthink bunk. It’s the same rat race imposed on YouTubers, but for Tweeting. Pretty sickening thing to subject one’s self to, so I don’t, and the result is a mediocre mostly dead following.
But when you get down to it, the innocent deboosting is actually the mortal shot here. Even if bad words or bad people are algorithmically banned, the Western public understands how to overcome that with new actors and new language to describe their stake and perpetuate it into the medium. It’s a game of cat-and-mouse that all top-down censorship establishments will eventually lose. That doesn’t matter though, because they don’t really suffer from the outcome of that game. No, you can simulate all of those conflicts all you want, and they don’t even need to censor you, because they ensured that stuff that doesn’t light your fire in a jiffy will simply be buried. This is why social media is where nuance goes to die; it’s not because of character limits, it’s because the psychology of the sites is deliberately broken to keep the people using it unable to socialise in a threatening way to whatever the current order is.
It’s not hard to prove that the game is rigged. I did it in the space of five minutes a little while ago, scrolling until I found a timestamp gap and then finding a negative that proves posts were made in that time gap and not shown on my timeline. No, this is not the algorithmic ‘for you’ timeline, it’s the ‘following’ tab that supposedly shows you the posts in the order that they were made. Gee, there sure is a lot of misdirection about all of this stuff. I bet that’s intentional. Gotta keep people in the rat race, right? They know something’s wrong, but since you reduced their symbol capacity, you can actually get away with systematically lying to their faces all day and they won’t even notice it.
Sometimes, the site will even give you subtle hints that your posts are having the shit kicked out of them by the censorship algorithm:
Posting on social media has become an affair where, for many, it’s akin to opening a bank account and getting constantly fined for not having enough money.
Are your posts doing great? Awesome! Here’s a bunch more free engagement! And we’re not even gonna care who’s engaging or why. It’s just a gift on us because you’re so special and important to us all.
Are your posts doing poorly in garnering likes and follows? Fuck you. We’re gonna make sure your shitty posts never see the light of day. You’re only gonna have a few chances each week to make a good impression on our senescent masses from here on out. If you don’t start slogging shit soon, you can consider your account dead.
Is this a normal way to socialise with people? No. Yet people subject themselves to this every day, variously unaware of how absolutely controlled the whole ordeal is, and how it is tilted against any structure that would give the public an information parity with the people who own these platforms. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds a lot like a weapon. I have often likened this to a cybernetic prison.
I think that for the sanest amogus, sites like Twitter garner interest middlemanning current events and live culture. If all Twitter did was serve as an RSS feed for content, there would be no issue, but instead people are incentivised to ‘participate’ in a live-action roleplay where they are led to think they have this privilege of interactivity with media minds. They bait you in with quality content that is more accurate and informative than you can get anywhere else, and fuck you by convincing you that somehow, you can have any kind of participatory part in this. This is a setup to hijack your social graph and actively mould it according to the preeminent political needs of whoever has the most influence.
The silver lining with Elon’s Twitter is that he is not actively using this power to shape people’s political preferences, as far as we can tell. But the machinery to do it is still very much in place and working, and I don’t believe that is an accident. Even Tucker Carlson hints at this in a slightly veiled way in his new videos published in the wake of his firing from Fox, ironically juxtaposed against his candid praise of Twitter:
And yet for the most part the news that you see analyzed on Twitter comes from media organizations that are themselves thinly disguised propaganda outlets.
The outcome of this is very simple: if you are already a large account, you have enough gravity in the eyes of the algorithm to be permitted leeways of engagement that would pummel the rating of any other account into the ground. The door is still wide open for intelligence communities and bad actors of the general public to illicitly purchase followings and engagement to overcome this hurdle and propagate whatever malicious information they want. I’m sure we can all count on Elon to be completely honest and transparent about that too, regarding his private company, especially since he has had such a wonderful track record of corporate honesty at Tesla. And did I even mention his thing with doge coin? Haha, funny joke!
Do you think an honest person is buying Twitter followers? No, and that’s why honest people lose on social media. It’s why people with ulterior motives will win, because they’re the only ones willing to act immorally as is necessary to break the mould. The only alternative is a stagnant malaise where the same accounts you were seeing five years ago are somehow still around despite long since hitting their expiration date. The algorithm insists that these large accounts are more important than small ones who might be overflowing with nuance that people crave, because it uses crude metrics to enforce a crude regime of status at the behest of its incumbents who already have all of the influence to start with. It’s bad on purpose, because fuck you, you don’t get to have an opinion about who’s really in charge here.
As a parting gift, I leave you with a nice little rallying slogan, a rhetorical gotcha that would be perfect for all the Occupy-style social media reformists that will never be: Algorithm for what? Whenever people talk about ‘the algorithm’ in the context of social media, beg the question! Algorithm for what? The answer is always the same: the algorithm is for censorship. It accomplishes that very well, and does little else. And as long as you have an ‘algorithm’, your platform is fucked.