Tim Pool and Joe Rogan take Twitter to task
Today on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Tim Pool and Joe Rogan unleashed a torrent of research and specific proof that seemed to confirm that Twitter is censorious, has a bias against conservative users and operates with ideological blinders on.
The guests on the podcast were independent journalist Pool, Twitter boss, Jack Dorsey, and Head of Trust and Safety, Vijaya Gadde.
Rogan suggested to Dorsey and Gadde that by choosing to forbid linguistic acts such as “deadnaming” and misgendering” Twitter has, in effect, created a protected class. Rogan pointed out that the gender debate is a legitimate debate within the liberal and progressive communities. And by favoring the ideology of trans people over radical feminists, Twitter was not operating in good faith.
Pool invoked the Ray Bradbury novel Fahrenheit 451, suggesting that Twitter’s terms of service, which skew toward censorship will lead to totalitarianism.
Dorsey countered that Twitter’s mission was that of creating healthy conversations. When Pool asked how they determine what is healthy, Dorsey mentioned four metrics that they are working on while conceding that there is much work yet to be done.
The four metrics are: shared attention (whether participants in the conversation are paying attention), shared reality (whether participants in the conversation understand the same context), receptivity (whether participants in the conversation are open to continuing the conversation), and variety of perspective (whether participants in the conversation have a range of opinion).
Rogan brought up Martina Navratilova, who is currently being harassed for her point of view that biological males should not compete against biological females in athletic competitions.
Both Pool and Rogan brought up deplatforming. While characters such as Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos may not garner much sympathy, a situation like Meghan Murphy’s does. Murphy is the Canadian feminist who was permanently banned for “misgendering.”
Pool compared and contrasted deplatform artist Oliver Darcy, celebrity troll Kathy Griffin, and many other left-wing Twitter users who were guilty of calling for violence against the Covington Catholic school boys, to Murphy, who simply said “men aren’t women though.”
“She (Murphy) was warned multiple times for misgendering an individual,” Gadde said (there is currently a publication ban on the individual in question).
Rogan pressed, claiming that people found Murphy’s perspective easy to understand and sympathize with.
But Gadde eventually conceded that she would like to think of suspensions as temporary and is prioritizing a move toward letting people back on to the platform. She also mentioned that Gavin McInnes may be a good test case for replatforming.
Pool proposed a jury system of random users to adjudicate controversial bans such as Murphy’s.
“Right now we have a system that relies on people to report it to us, which is a huge burden on people” Gadde said, hinting that there would be a move toward algorithm-based adjudication.
It was disclosed that Twitter has 4000 employees. Of whom there is a “small team” that read tweets. Dorsey would not disclose a specific number.
Pool told Dorsey and Vijaya that foreign powers are using Twitter to influence American culture and democracy – pointing to the fact that American citizens who get deplatformed from Twitter are not allowed to participate in a vital component of American democracy, while foreign bad actors are.
Pool pointed out to Dorsey and Gadde that if they are going to restrict American citizens from expressing themselves on what is basically a public utility, Twitter will face regulations, adding that Twitter as a platform is too powerful to not be regulated.
Gadde countered with: “I spend a lot of time in DC. Lawmakers are also in favour of policing harassment and abuse online.”
Pool shot back: “You’ve monopolized public discourse to an extreme degree and you say ‘my way or the highway.’ You should not have the right to tell people are allowed to say. I’m a social liberal. I think you should be regulated – you guys are unelected officials running your platform as you see fit against the will of a democratic republic … I’m frustrated because of the hypocrisy. I see people burning signs that say ‘Free Speech.’”
“I think we have a lot of work to do to explain when we’re taking action and why. And certainly looking into mistakes that we made in those particular situations.” Gadde contritely responded.
Pool and Rogan brought up The Proud Boys, “Learn to code,” Patreon, the continual smearing of Jordan Peterson, the false PewDiePie Nazi narrative, the debunked Data and Society “Alternative Influence Network” report, the Covington boys and other controversies to illustrate how everything is flowing in one direction—meaning that the far left is censoring and smearing centrists and the right on social media.
Pool asked Gadde if Twitter takes the advice of the Southern Poverty Law Centre (a watchdog group notorious for defaming conservatives and centrists as racists). Surprisingly, Gadde responded that Twitter was aware of the flaws of that particular organization’s research, but conceded that they “certainly reached out” to Twitter.
Dorsey said that he wanted to clarify that he was not saying that Twitter was doing the right thing, simply that they were there to describe why.
This particular episode of The Joe Rogan Experience was a fascinating and in-depth look at one of the primary battlefields of the culture wars. One hopeful note was that Dorsey and Gadde seemed to understand that they were susceptible to their own biases, and seemed genuinely open to the possibility of making corrections in the future.
One thing that seems clear to me is that if Gadde and Dorsey were as sincere as they appeared, and if they heeded Joe Rogan’s appeal to be reasonable, then Meghan Murphy should be reinstated by Twitter tonight.
U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience from Moscow Wednesday, and promptly reminded us why we should all be terrified of the “brave new world” that humanity is marching towards now.
Snowden, who was chased out of his home country for disclosing sensitive information, appeared on the show to remind the masses that the neon gods of technology to which we bow and pray each day are doing much more harm than good. And to promote his book about his life.
Specifically, Snowden forces the listener to reassess the role that smartphones have in our lives.
“The big thing that’s changed since 2013 is now it’s mobile-first everything,” explained Snowden, who went on to explain how the mobile tech boom has radically shifted the way that our lives function at an almost metaphysical level.
Snowden’s descriptions of how cell phones collect data and transport information to nearby cell towers, how obscure and ephemeral moments in one’s life no longer exist as a concept. Nothing enters the void, and everything is documented.
The reality that Snowden describes goes as follows: As a person who carries a cell phone around, you are agreeing to a lot of things that may not be obvious to the user.
For one, there is now a record of your presence at any place, at any time (that has a cell phone tower nearby). These records are being stored by companies that do not need to keep this information, as “there is no good argument for it to be kept forever, but these companies see that as valuable information,” something that Snowden calls “The big data problem.”
“This is all information that used to be ephemeral; where were you when you were 8 years old? Where’d you go after you had a bad breakup? Who’d you spend the night with? Who’d you call after? All this information used to be ephemeral—meaning it disappeared like the morning dew, it would be gone, no one would remember it—Now these things are stored.”
Snowden explains that unless the battery is removable from a device, it’s not guaranteed that it’s actually “turned off.” A phone can power down and brick itself until the power button is pressed again, but that’s not an actual indication of it being powered down.
And that’s just what happens when you connect your phone to a network. “That’s not talking about all those apps that are contacting the network even more frequently,” said Snowden.
What Snowden depicts is truly a Pandora’s box. There isn’t a way to undo what we’ve done.
The idea that there are moments in history that I cannot recollect, like who I was with or what I was doing 4 years ago, but observable metadata can find those things, is tremendously sad.
And that’s sticking to what Snowden discussed in about 10 minutes of his nearly three-hour appearance.
The problem is this: We are now less valuable than the data we produce. We’re now nodes, or leaves on a virtual tree, providing information to companies and artificial intelligence systems that seek to predict human behaviour, all in order to sell ads.
The more data collectively we provide, the better an algorithm can tailor advertisements to our needs. With different apps tracking where we are, what we’re doing, and often times what we’re saying to one another, is a grim sign that if the end of individuality is not near, it’s at least barreling towards us.
And no, it’s not just your paranoia. Your smartphone is listening to you in order to better serve ad space. Everyone has a story about saying something to someone and having a Facebook advertisement appear the next day.
This goes beyond “apophenia” or any other type of “pattern recognition.” According to Dr. Peter Henway, the senior security consultant for cybersecurity firm Asterix, and former lecturer and researcher at Edith Cowan University, cell phones are certainly listening to us, but not at all times.
It’s not a big secret, either. Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa has been used in courtrooms to solve murders. We’ve wiretapped ourselves, all in the name of convenience. To discredit what Snowden is saying because he’s a “whistleblower” or traitor is foolish.
Though solutions are few and far between, it does make the idea of dropping everything and moving to a cabin in the woods all the more romantic.
We love dunking on low-information people when they say “video games cause violence” because, of course, they don’t. But nobody expected Joe Rogan to jump on this sinking boomer boat.
Yes. Joe Rogan.
In a video on his show titled, “Video Games Romanticize Wars,” Joe Rogan agrees with his guest Sgt. Dakota Meyer that video games are bad.
I felt as a gamer myself, and someone rather well-versed on political theory, that I had to launch the war-cry, “SILENCE! JOE ROGAN!”
Breaking the video down
The video, an extract of a longer conversation, talks about the helpfulness of the American people.
The conversation, however, quickly flowed to how technology has made us less empathetic and sympathetic to people. Naturally, video games were spotted on the radar for the next attack.
Meyer claimed, “[Video games make people feel like] I just wanna go kick in doors and shoot people in the face.”
He further expressed his views by adding, “Kids talk about ‘did you kill somebody?’ There’s nothing cool about taking someone’s life.”
Of course, there is nothing cool about killing someone in real life. But moving on, Meyer began rambling about how the more graphic violent video games are, the more they desensitize players. “We have pushed ourselves away from being more empathetic.”
Joe Rogan eventually jumps in agreement. “We’ve had more violence in film and video games ever, but yet we’ve never had less ‘violence’ violence.” He added, “people who play these games have never seen a body. To them, it’s empty to shoot people.”
Rogan concludes by saying that people are being numbed by “fake violence” and have no experience with the “real stuff” so they conflate the two.
“What good comes out of shooting hookers in GTA V?”
So. Many. Hot. Takes. To. Take. Down.
The evidence against Rogan
According to Psychology Today, “there is not solid, irrefutable evidence that violent video games lead to aggressive behaviour.”
While reports and studies have, at times, shown mixed results. It turns out that there is no correlation or causation between the two variables.
Research conducted at Oxford University concluded the same. Professor Andre Przybylski says, “the idea that violent video games drive real-world aggression is a popular one, but it hasn’t tested very well over time. Despite interest in the topic by parents and policy-makers, the research has not demonstrated that there is cause for concern.”
“It is a red herring to blame video games,” says Patrick Markey, director of The Interpersonal Research Laboratory and professor of Psychology at Villanova University.
Rogan’s, and Meyer’s, claims are false. In a broader societal aspect, too, do we see a confirmation of the research conducted.
“We live in a society”
Meyer’s claim, that people are becoming eager to “kick doors” and “shoot people in the face” is largely false.
A survey conducted by the RAND corporation found out that most people that join the military do so due to economic reasons, rather than patriotic.
In fact, a third of the soldiers said welfare benefits (healthcare, education, etc) were the main reason they joined the military.
With the power of the military-industrial complex and its connections to sway narrative in the mainstream media and Capitol Hill, it should come as a surprise to nobody that war is a business more than it is a desire to “kill terrorists and spread democracy.”
I am pretty sure that when Rambo came about and openly supported the Mujahideen against the Soviets, no American teenager seriously wanted to immediately go fight in Afghanistan.
This goes on to explain why candidates like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard, and even Libertarians such as Rand Paul, receive huge praise when they call for an end to wars.
As we move away from the dodgy claims of the “romanticization of wars,” we move to another obvious target: gun violence.
Guns have existed for a long time. In America, they have been legal since America has existed.
Yet, we see a spike in gun violence only in recent times. This violence has to do with tribalism and alienation more than it has to do with video games.
As a society, the rise of populism came from a general dissatisfaction with neoliberalism. The “End of History,” as Francis Fukuyama put it, is rubbish, as Fukuyama later corrected himself for.
Karl Marx, in an economic sense, has extensively written about alienation. That people cannot afford the fruit of their own labour. In an America that has seen a humungous rise in income inequality and lack of basic services for the poor, alienation should come as no surprise to anyone.
This alienation leads to anxiety which leads to a desire for change. This culminates in populism which can be championed by both the Left (Bernie Sanders) and the Right (Donald Trump).
This intense division, coupled with anxiety caused due to economic and even social alienation, leads to tribalism and radicalism.
Video games have absolutely no part to play in the culmination of our society to this stage. The US isn’t even the largest consumer of video games, for that matter.
Clearly, Joe Rogan must dig deeper, like he always does, instead of relying on cultural panic.
Gamers will win
There is no scientific evidence that highlights violent video games cause aggressive behaviour. Scaling this up, there is also no evidence that video games romanticize wars or gun violence.
In fact, as Joe Rogan quite rightly said about the video game God of War last year, violent video games are “BADASS!”
A new petition has popped up online requesting that UFC commentator, comedian-podcaster Joe Rogan moderate the 2020 Presidential Debate.
“We are petitioning for the Commission of the Presidential Debates to elect Joe Rogan as one of the moderators for the 2020 Presidential Debate,” reads the fast-growing petition. The change.org page lists three reasons why the world’s largest podcaster would be a worthy host.
The first reason they list is that Joe Rogan is “a widely respected host who has hosted interviews with politicians, economists, scientists, and other popular figures, who come from various walks of life.”
The second reason points to how well-seasoned Rogan is at politician interviews. Rogan has already had Democratic candidates Andrew Yang, Tulsi Gabbard, and Bernie Sanders on the platform, as well as 2016 Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
The third reason points to Joe’s vast audience, and how politically diverse it is. “Joe Rogan is not registered under any political party and is well-known for having civil, productive, and interesting, conversations about political issues without partisan bias.”
Of course, a Joe Rogan hosted Presidential debate is a fever dream that Joe himself would probably be fearful of. Based on how inefficient Rogan believes the “debate” format to be, it seems as though the only way we’re going to get to see Rogan interacting with Democratic candidates is via the multi-hour podcasts which propelled him to the top of the podcasting world.
The petition itself has gained a head of steam. It has grown by nearly 55,000 signatures since its release.
You can sign the petition here.
After having a night to sleep on the Joe Rogan podcast in which Tim Pool and Joe Rogan (from reality) took on Jack Dorsey and Vijaya Gadde (from Twitter), we have some thoughts. This may have been the most important debate in the culture wars so far in 2019.
What we find most interesting about the podcast is the discussion about bias, and the potential for the implementation of an algorithm detection system that would find “offensive” tweets that break the terms of service, and then recommend which consequences or punishments need be meted out.
There is “…a growing concern about bias, discrimination, due process, liability and overall responsibility for harm,” according to the AI Now Report 2018. This algorithm that is most likely in development: will it be subject to some of the industry’s critics calls for transparency? Dorsey and Gadde seemed to suggest as much.
Will they comprehensively log and track the creation of the data and models that are used to drive the machine learning necessary for the algorithm to function properly? If it is not transparent, it is completely useless. If the way it is structured is to continuously adjust for specific ‘fair’ results, then it will not be free from biases at all. Biases need to be questioned, but they are the first step in a judgement and decision making process, and they are based on our own, human-derived ‘machine learning’ algorithms.
There is no turning back from the Twitter model of communication. This is how we communicate now, and we have the ability to interact across the world in a second. The issue with this is that, globally, there is no agreement on how we communicate, or what standards of speech are.
There are many restrictive speech laws internationally, and the way those with free speech protections speak is, by necessity, different from those in countries where freedom of speech is not guaranteed, and is often punishable by repressive regimes that are more interested in controlling populations than uplifting them.
How is a platform, designed in the west, initially intended for those with guaranteed freedoms and a belief in natural rights, supposed to manage the speech of oppressive places in order that it may operate in those places? Dorsey seems to prefer a UN model of freedom of expression over the more robust freedom of speech that the American constitution secures for us.
Do those who believe fully in free speech and individual liberty wish to give over the management of their rights to an organization that cannot, or is not willing to, uphold those freedoms against other, more pressing priorities (customer service satisfaction, profit, interest of shareholders)?
Isn’t it up to us, the Western, free speech-oriented users of this platform, to demand democratization so that all users are able to participate freely, and in line with the natural rights and freedoms that we know and believe them to have even if they are currently being prohibited from expressing them? Is Twitter a free marketplace for the sharing of ideas, or is it subject to shareholders and international ideologies that have no basis in fact? Of course, in some ways, it must be both. But in that it operates with the benefits of a democratic republic, it has a responsibility to uphold those ideals above all others.
Using vague bits of social science data to drive ethical decision making, or using user complaints which always skew toward social justice, is no way to arrive at an ideologically neutral Terms of Service. As Pool would put, right now, “everything is flowing one way.”
Many questions remain. For instance:
Why did Pool have more accurate information about the Proud Boys, Covington, Jacob Wohl, Jonathan Morgan, Meghan Murphy and other high profile Twitter scandals than Gadde or Dorsey? Gadde and Dorsey had access to more information, but were consistently embarrassed by factual corrections from Pool; why might this be?
Pool rightly points out that Twitter basically has a virtual monopoly on political discourse and its use actually affects the results of democratic elections. Pool’s point that Americans with “bad views” are being excised from the platform while foreign “bad actors” are not is a compelling one. Why should an American citizen be deplatformed from an important part of the political process while internationally based bots and trolls have free reign of the service?
Is Twitter a publisher or a public utility? Is it fair to implement a term of service that is based on one particular ideology that is currently engaged with an equally valid ideological opponent? Since Twitter depends on user feedback in its current incarnation, then which users are more likely to head to the virtual complaints department—conservatives or leftists? Those who pride themselves on their thick skin or those who claim grievance as a matter of course?
Twitter has an opportunity to help unite a politically divided nation. To move toward that goal, however, they will have to heed Pool’s and Rogan’s advice to break out of their own ideological bubble. The idea of an ideologically neutral content jury to adjudicate Twitter disputes seems like a good one. So does Pool’s suggestion of moving Twitter operations (at least partially) out of the left-wing echo chamber that is Silicon Valley.
If Dorsey and Gadde genuinely want Twitter to exemplify “healthy conversation” (which we would envision as the kind of ideal conditions in which a Republican and a Democrat could fall in love or forge a meaningful friendship on the platform), then they will need to bridge the ideological gap.
As Dorsey himself noted in the podcast, in the lead up to the 2016 election, left wing journalists were almost exclusively following other left wing accounts whereas right wing journalists were following everybody. If this doesn’t explain the social and political climate that lead to the ongoing and seemingly intractable culture wars, then we don’t know what does.