Checks, Balances, and Freedom: Censorship vs The Internetby@podcast
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Checks, Balances, and Freedom: Censorship vs The Internet

by PodcastSeptember 17th, 2021
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Amy Tom, Ellen Stevens, and Zaeem Shoaib chat about censorship and the internet. Who wins in the battle of the internet and freedom of speech? We all know that fake news = bad, but how do we stop it from being spread without limiting free speech? Amy Tom and Ellen Stevens: Who wins the battle between internet censorship and free speech in this week's chat. We also talk about how to stop fake news spreading without limiting speech rights in the digital age of free speech.

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Who wins in the battle of the internet and freedom of speech? 🥊 Amy Tom, Ellen Stevens, and Zaeem Shoaib chat about censorship and the internet. We all know that fake news = bad, but how do we stop it from being spread without limiting freedom of speech?

Listen to The HackerNoon Podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.


  • The ensuing battle between freedom of speech and protecting people (01:07) ⚔️
  • What is the dealio with freedom of speech on the other side of the world? (05:39) 😼
  • Wait, what even is Litecoin? (08:55) 😂
  • What does Zaeem, resident journalist, say about fake news & fact-checking? (14:20) 😵
  • Uh oh marky mark, Facebook is under fire AGAIN this week (19:42) 🔥
  • Who gets to decide what is okay and not okay? (27:47) 👀
  • Republican leaders in Texas sign off on a new bill about social media content moderation (33:22) 🤯



[00:00:00] Amy: This week on planet internet, we are talking about fake news versus centric. Where are we falling in the scale of crazies, Oregon to find out on this episode of the hacker noon podcast? I am joined by Ellen Stephens, who is our lovely editorial assistant, and Zieg who is one of our editors, junior editors.

Welcome guys. Thank you for joining the pod today. 

[00:00:30] Zaeem: Hello. Hey, thanks for having 

[00:00:32] Amy: us. Yay. So to start off, I wanted to throw back to a beautiful little hacker noon article. I don't know if you guys read it. It's a little bit of an older one. We are throwing back to you around February, 2020. One when we were more so in the internet age of Trump and the election and the storming of the wall kind of thing.

So that's where we're starting off today. One of the pieces of this article that I really liked, which by the way, is on hacker noon and is titled fake news versus censorship in the battle for the internet by Charlotte. And I wanted to read out one of the quotes from this article because I thought it was really interesting.

It is here we go. Most legal systems around the world sets limits for the freedom of speech. Especially in cases when it conflicts with the rights and protections such as slander pornography, intellectual property, therefore when companies talk about coordinating terrorist attacks, that's a no go.

That's not a direct quote that part. Okay. Yeah, I just wanted to chat about this because essentially what we're talking about is the battle between the. Speech versus protecting people against these things that are not so good, such as slender pornography and stealing intellectual property. Ellen, what are your thoughts around the censorship verse is freedom of speech movement and issue that we're.

[00:02:21] Ellen: Oh, sure. Yeah. So I think frequently people don't really understand that freedom of speech actually does have certain restrictions in a sense, you want it to have these restrictions? If you're, within the sort of average scope of functioning people so you probably don't want to see various torture videos.

You probably don't want to see various, inappropriate images of different different humans. So if there is a certain level of restriction that I just, I think in general, people would agree it needs to happen. Absolutely. I think what really what really becomes a problem is when.

Governments try to really significantly limit creative expression what people it can think in terms of critical analysis of the government and very biased perspectives because ultimately that leads to. That's a very easy way to control people. And on, on the one hand, maybe it could have the result of a very compliant population but it also could be used by other nations to destabilize a particular nation.

So I think a system where you have checks and balances, which actually includes this idea of. In order to be able to criticize various policies in order to hopefully achieve something that is the most closest to the truth I think is worth fighting for sure. So that's that's something that I think on the topic.

[00:04:05] Amy: Yeah, for sure. And we will try and get down to like more specifics on what we think those Bounds should be that are put in place that should limit freedom of speech versus censorship. And another thing that you said is yes, it can influence a country. And so one of the things that this article talks about what was parlor, which it was now infamously known.

To be one of the platforms that helped coordinate the capital attack. Back in 2020, and following the capital attack parlor was taken offline by AWS. So a lot of people were saying that was a blanket, a blatant attack on free speech. And that parlor should have been left up because it was a.

Telling P it was not allowing people to speak their mind, but ZIMS someone who is on the other side of the world over in Pakistan. What are your thoughts on freedom of speech and how it's being controlled? 

[00:05:10] Zaeem: Yeah. So in Pakistan basically we do have a lot more checks and balances like the government has repeatedly banned tech doc, for example because of some of the things mentioned like inappropriate images and stuff like that.

We actually had a huge band on YouTube for quite a while a few years back. And I think it remained banned for two or three years you do in Pakistan because of. Some blasphemous content that was posted on there and you do refuse to remove it. So I think both farms have their place.

Like Ellen was saying there's there's a place for checks and balances, but sometimes it can go overboard. Like implement, too many restrictions that not that, not just for the sake of, stopping harmful content, but actually that's just stops people from, expressing themselves.

And then there's a form of free speech and moderation that's implemented on. By the companies these days. And they just social media, like parlor for instance, had basically no no censorship or moderation, and that basically allowed for that attack on Capitol hill to happen and be coordinated on the platform while Facebook, for instance has more more iteration.

You can say our Twitter has more duration. You could say to stop these. Yeah, I think it's a balance that needs to be in 

[00:06:51] Amy: place. And so where do you fall on the scale between a country like America, for example, where, we have the YouTubes and the Gmails and the Facebooks versus China, for example, where Facebook is.

Accessible. Where do you fall on the scale of letting people access technology? 

[00:07:14] Zaeem: I definitely fall on the us side. China is one of those like egregious forms of century, censorship and moderation that basically curb everything. The propaganda that's being put out by the government. So 

[00:07:33] Amy: yeah,

[00:07:37] Zaeem: there should be checks and balances, but not that extreme to the extent of China. 

[00:07:43] Amy: Cool. So let's take a little hop over to the next story that I have, which is about. Light coin. So this was in the news recently. This is a Mashable article that I check it out as well, no, Walmart will not be accepting light coin.

Here's how people were duped. Excellent. Excellent set up for that. The, a little while ago on Monday morning, I think it was this week. Maybe it was last week. They light. Twitter account tweeted that Walmart was going to now be accepting light coin as a payment. And the, as it turns out that Twitter account is actually being run by fans of light coin, or just people who are invested in it and not the actual creators.

And it was fake news. But it was picked up by major. But articles. And there was a press release that was distributed and everything. So the fake news got way out of control and a bunch of people started buying light coin and the price went up like crazy. CNBC was tweeting about it. And then all of a sudden and justice quick as it came up.

People discovered that the press release was fake and that light coin Twitter account was not registered by the actual. People behind light coin. So the price where went up and then it went away down. So a lot of people lost some money on light coin this week. So maybe if there's. Had been some more checks and balances in place.

Something like this would not have a quartered, but Ellen, where are your thoughts at around light coin and how the fake news of this piece just took off? 

[00:09:41] Ellen: Yeah. So this is concerning because it came from what is deemed to be a reputable press wire service. Apparently they created whomever, this was created an account to look like.

I think one of the officials of Walmart. And so unfortunately they didn't. Check it properly. And sometimes in news that definitely can happen. But it is it does make me think of, when we hear about things like cryptocurrency and we hear about this, decentralization this, no authority kind of figure.

And then you hear stories like this. Okay. Here you have a situation where. Coin right there, organizers allegedly did not do this. It was people who are fans of light coin who decided to do this. So it's w when you don't have an authority, essentially, that is verifying information or verifying what is real and what isn't then you can have some serious consequences as here yes, people lost money and.

But it was almost quickly dealt with, I think. But if you think about this, on a much larger scale that is quite frightening. And I think it would be wonderful if more news organizations actually. Had it in their budget for people to do a proper research instead of just going with it, like whatever the trending topic.

Yeah. Just. But that's, it's very this is a huge issue actually. And you see it happen on major news sources constantly. There's a blurred line between what is actual news and what is editorializing. So historically in journalism you're supposed to present a balanced side of a story and you're supposed to fact check.

You're not supposed to just go on air and state your opinion. If you're trying to do. Diligence and that, seems to be happening less and less. So this is this is yet I think another symptom of a culture where, you know, per click revenue is more important than actual fact 

[00:12:11] Amy: So it says the price of light coin spiked from around 170, before the press release was distributed to more than 230 within a matter of minutes.

So yeah, quite a big jump now Xi'an your other job aside from being a beautiful junior editor at hacker news is a journalist. So I would love to hear your thoughts on fact checking and journal. 

[00:12:41] Zaeem: Yeah, I agree with Ellen in the sense that, in today fact-checking has.

They can a back seat for some news organizations that just want immediate views, or just want the tweet out there as fast as possible, or the news out there as fast as possible without looking looking at, the actual content that is being presented. And that definitely.

Gives bad actors like the people here a chance to do this stuff basically. This was a very well orchestra. Plan so to speak they went, whoever did this, they went through the effort of creating a separate domain, email addresses under that domain under Wal-Mart's executive's names.

And then went through the effort of putting out oppressively. And sending it to an attentive Newswire service. So it was a very well part out. 

[00:13:48] Amy: But that, that, 

[00:13:51] Zaeem: and that sort of the legitimacy of that Newswire I think that through a lot of news organizations, As well because it's coming from a very authentic Newswire that always gets press releases from actual companies.

So in this sense, it just 

[00:14:10] Amy: the perfect storm. Yeah. Yeah. Is that common in journalism though, like that you would get so many bogus press releases. 

[00:14:19] Zaeem: No, definitely not. Like I said this was definitely a one-off instance that. Rarely if ever happens. So this was one of just those things.

And that I think the people behind the Twitter account and the ones who press sent the press release, they're separate people. I think the Twitter account just tweeted out the press release data in They weren't behind they weren't behind sending the Presley's, but a lot of news organizations follow that as well.

And, re reducing that to it from the light coin account. Yeah I think yeah, it definitely. But the fake news being promoted so much these days definitely it's definitely in the interest of news organizations to do more fact checking. 

[00:15:09] Amy: But now that we know the outcome of what happened and how it happened, what kind of checks and balances do you think should have been put in place?

[00:15:19] Zaeem: What sort of checks and balances? Yeah. Seeing if in this case, the press release was obviously coming from a legitimate source, but that's one of the first things to see if the press release is coming from a legitimate source. And then in this case that the domain name was the actual red flag that, That's not the actual Walmart domain name or not the actual email address of the executive.

Who's sending out the press release. So that was the major red flag. And the second major red flag. Why Lite coin, light coin, and it's gone up in price, like every Crick cryptocurrency but why not Bitcoin? Why not going pitcher like more popular these days, but not Ethereum.

Yeah. A light coin has been a very benign sort of on the sidelines sort of currency for the most 

[00:16:14] Amy: part.

[00:16:18] Zaeem: Yeah. Yeah. I mean that, that was the second red flag. Why would such a huge corporation like Walmart? Choose such a, not as popular cryptocurrency to accept. 

[00:16:34] Amy: Yeah, definitely. Okay. Yeah. Just more, more thinking in the no more. I thought I needed to go into this, basically.

Okay. Yeah. Cool. All right, let's move over to the next article that I have for you, which is an insider article about Facebook. So Facebook is under buyer this week because their algorithm is being questioned. A report was released that said that Facebook quietly, it lets 5.8 million and politicians and celebrities get special enforcement of its.

Ooh, are we surprised? No, but the company companies, X check system has protected people like Donald Trump, Doug, the pug, and other influential people and figures in the industry. For the algorithm so that if they discuss anything that is quote unquote PR risky, then the fact that they're still influential means that it doesn't matter.

So even though they're posting content that other people would not necessarily be able to post or slash that other people's content would not be as popular with the same kind of wording. Because they are exempted from this part of the algorithm. So Ellen does this piece of news surprise you with.

[00:18:07] Ellen: Actually a little bit, it does because I've seen a lot of what, people who would be deemed influential have their work actually taken off of the platform. It, it is interesting to me that there is such a system in place because if you think about yeah, I know.

I just I'm surprised because I was under the impression that there were quite a number of different types of sort of influential people. Would get their content removed on a regular basis. And they frequently have to appeal and they actually end up winning a lot of the time because they present factual information.

I guess maybe you have to be. Of some sort of next level for this to happen. But it is unfortunate because the story that the shared here was an, I didn't know who this was, but apparently this name, mayor Neymar, I don't know. Apparently he's a football player or maybe 

[00:19:19] Amy: some people are probably screaming right now.

[00:19:22] Ellen: Yeah, no, I'm glad, And I welcome regular exercise, but no. So anyways, this person decided to post something and I think that it's a former partners 

[00:19:35] Amy: texts or something. But 

[00:19:37] Ellen: it also showed her name and nude images of her. And so they couldn't do anything from from removing it for a while there.

And it was seen by about 56 million users. So that's. Extraordinarily inappropriate on so many different levels, that just surpasses there's one thing. If you said something, maybe that's not politically correct, you're speaking about it in an intelligent way and you're presenting.

Actual statistics. And not only statistics, but, research from proper academic sources. That's one thing, but then you have something like this, which should be like an obvious span. It's, I don't, if Facebook, I think is supposed to be more targeted towards family.

And this idea that something like this could go through is just profoundly questionable to me. Whereas, the ban other people left right. And center. So yeah. Yeah. I was a little bit surprised. I guess I shouldn't be because Facebook has come under fire for a lot of different things.

But yeah. 

[00:20:49] Amy: And Instagram algorithm is also under fire, but not as much as Facebook is like in this way, this week, because of this report that was released this week is I am wearing or thoughts thought around having different rules for speech, for different. 

[00:21:04] Zaeem: Yeah, that doesn't really surprise me when it comes to Facebook.

Facebook hasn't been really a trustworthy social network for quite a long time. Now, ever since that Cambridge Analytica thing happened where they basically sold. Actual user data personalized user data to a company, which then just use it for political ads and stuff. Yeah, that, it's not really surprising and Facebook also has been, I think phase Facebook's moderation has been all over the place when it comes to geography as well.

In where there's basically like a genocide going on. They, they allow people from Myanmar to post anything on Facebook, including graphic images, including, incitement to violence and stuff like that. And that isn't moderated at all. While if you're in the us and if you post something like that, They come down almost immediately.

So it's it's surprising in the sense that they would allow a bunch of people, special permissions, a lot of. I wouldn't want to name names. A lot of whom have, don't have a history, a very good history or track record of putting out wholesome content.

Yeah, it's 

[00:22:30] Amy: I feel like it's even troubling that anyone can have a. Different rules for different speech. Like this article obviously was written, or maybe not, I don't know. It was written by someone on the left because they mentioned that Donald Trump has access to this special privilege or whatever, but There's gotta be people on the left that also have the special privilege that are maybe saying things that are not true and, or just the fact that they even have it is like not okay.

The algorithm should be fair for everyone. And yeah, you're totally right. I went to Myanmar in 2019 and I made some friends there and we have each other on Facebook. And when I was there, they were like showing me pictures of. Bodies and stuff and like war stuff. I was like, what the hell? And they're just like, yeah, we just use it.

It's like their tea shop, but digitally. And they just put all of their pictures off there and it's wild. I was shocked that they were sharing that stuff on Facebook. It was very interesting to me. But yeah, I think it's really interesting. I don't think that it's surprising.

E-learning. These different people have different rules just based on what the algorithm is showing us. And I think. It's challenging because it, then again comes back down to the question of fake news versus censorship and what we should be allowing people to say versus not say and.

What is okay and what is not okay. And the fact that Facebook has to decide that and govern that in their own rules must be very challenging, but having different rules of speech for different people is not ideal for. 

[00:24:14] Ellen: So I just, yeah I do agree that, it is really strange to have different rules in terms of freedom of speech for different people.

So the thing though that I like to think of things of, like why. That happened. And I do think it's very likely I don't know if it's necessarily, because they believe that persons should be able to share whatever as opposed to person that can't it's just, when you think of like celebrities and people who are well-known the amount of targeting that they experience on a regular basis is quite profound.

So if you're a celebrity and you have an account, there's going to be constantly, people are just like going to be flagging your stuff for absolutely no reason sometimes because they don't like you or they're jealous or they, they think it's funny. The way our culture actually treats celebrities yeah, sure.

Some of them may quite a bit of money. They also have to handle quite a very toxic and just insane response to things. People often forget these people are people. And so I think it's very possible that it was just maybe strictly from that perspective that, like they just probably can deal with the amount of feedback that comes from those accounts.

But that's. Theory, it could be totally wrong. Yeah, 

[00:25:41] Amy: and I definitely think that could be the case. And I think that as we progress into 2020 into 2021, and as things like the black lives matter movement and things like that come up Facebook and other companies will put more and more emphasis on making free speech fair for everyone.

And maybe this wasn't as big of. Issue or as prevalent in today's society or as important to people as it was before. But as this becomes more and more important to people, Facebook, theoretically, you should care more and work harder and harder to solve this problem. So hopefully we're just like in this weird in-between time of trying to tell Facebook that we care about this kind of thing of free speech and equal rights across the platform.

While. They develop in the backend and trying to work towards a more fair platform. So if you want to read that article or that report, it's on the wall street journal behind a paywall. So I linked to the insider article instead because we hate pay wall. 

[00:26:50] Zaeem: And it was like Google food you can do to actually access it for 

[00:26:54] Amy: free.


[00:26:56] Ellen: Yes. We have a plugin 

[00:26:57] Amy: or can find it. Yes. The free the internet plugin. Thank you. Happy. 

[00:27:05] Zaeem: Yeah, but I think Alice's theory that might be because celebrities get a lot of pushback. I think that's interesting, but I stand on the other side of. Other side of things on this, because if this is actually true it would have been a very conscious decision to implement such and such an algorithm to, exclude a and X amount of people.

And that might basically just stem from. Basically because celebrities market, a lot of stuff through Facebook as well. And Facebook gets a significant part of its earnings from ad revenue. So that might be one of the One of the reasons behind them implementing such a thing.

But again who's to say if it's true but who's to say if it's true, because the wall street journal cited documents reviewed by them and that's a trick actually they do to avoid getting sued because when they get sued, they can say, oh, we just reviewed the documents. We don't have them. Yeah.

[00:28:15] Amy: Yeah. I also want to say that I love that the business insider chose this, like strangely teary-eyed podia photo of mark Zuckerberg for their cover. I 

[00:28:26] Zaeem: love it. 

[00:28:27] Amy: And mark Zuckerberg all about that triple bottom line, let's go.

The final piece that I want to chat about today is this Texas governor piece. So this week, the Texas governor Greg Abbott signed a social media censorship bill into law. And this bill essentially requires social media companies with more than 50 million monthly users. So think your Facebooks and Instagrams Twitters of the world and forces them to disclose their content moderation policies.

So that the con the platform is more fair for everyone. I thought this was really interesting because. Where this is coming from is from the right. So Republicans are actually taking to the social media giants to question the social, the social media algorithms, because they are questioning that.

It's a more catered towards the left. Rose really interesting to read the article from this perspective. Ellen, were you familiar with this article prior to this new bill prior to reading this.

[00:29:40] Ellen: It's possible. I've heard something about this prior to reading the article, but I'm aware of the situation. So I understand why they would do this. It's true. I, I listened to voices on. Sides of the spectrum. And it does seem like conservative voices are frequently Just taken off the air.

And they frequently do have to provide evidence for everything that they're saying. Whereas people on the left frequently say whatever. And you want and they are not fact checked properly as often as at least that's what it seems like. But since, you have actual legislators trying to address this and you have to, if you think about it, if you want an actual, honest discussion, you need to be able to handle multiple perspectives.

That's just the way. And this. Trend and it's happening actually on both sides make me, a little frustrated because I would like if people would break down a particular policy and then the research associated with the policy, just because you want to prove to the world that you're a good person and you want.

Virtue signal or what have you doesn't mean that your policy is actually going to do the things you do, and in order to create effective policies that are actually going to bring change that are actually going to help the groups that you want to help, then you need to be willing to hear proper criticism about this and both sides.

When you listen to the left it's oh, the right. Yada, when you're listening to the right. Oh, the left, yada, it's so divisive and it's not any one side. That's really push it's really painful to listen to because sometimes you'll have these great voices. They'll break stuff down for you.

They'll go into the research and then it's oh, the left this and it's stop, if we could just maybe alter the culture to be a little bit. Yeah. We want 

[00:31:51] Amy: them to do. All while making sure that it's not fake news and making sure that the content is actually legitimate and those facts are real.

The onus falls onto so many people to make sure that all of this stuff is real. Zyme do you think that this bill will be a good thing for people and for a more clear. 

[00:32:13] Zaeem: I think it can like with all all the legislations, it can go both ways. It does have the potential to allow more conservative Weiss's onto the platform, but at the same time it can also have the potential.

Do like again, have some bad actors posting, ad propagating, fake news as well. And social media now because of the legislation would have to do more in order to ban those users or, take them off the platform. So it can go both ways. Definitely. 

[00:32:53] Amy: All right. We will have to see how this unfolds, but it will be very exciting to hear about.

That was it for this week on planet internet. Thank you so much for listening. I very much appreciated the discussion that we had of censorship versus fake news. Hopefully as the world progresses, we fall into a happy medium or a happier medium than when we are wherever we're at right now. And. Free speech is possible while also enforcing the general safety of everyone.

But yes. Thank you so much for listening to this plant this week on planet internet. If you like this episode, don't forget to like share and subscribe to it. You listen to me as your podcast hosts, Amy, Tom, Ellen Stevens, and Daiichi as guests. This episode, or. Hosted by me produced by a hacker noon and edited by our lovely audio wizard.

Alex, stay weird. I'll see on the internet. Bye-bye 

[00:33:58] Zaeem: I.