some *very intense* thoughts about this stuff have been vibrating inside my skull for a while and I'm so glad to have gotten something down even if the explanation of the technical part isn't quite what I wanted

@maya Good article! What are some of the implications of thinking of the web in this way (as "requests for documents" as opposed to "going to places and seeing what's there")? How do you think it would change how we interact with the web or how we legislate about it?

@jrc03c well, "freedom of speech" in my mind has to be tied to what you can host mostly yourself, not what you can make twitter publicize for you, in the same way you can't really free speech your way to the NYT opinion page. at the same time, it's very clear that people's access to different aspects of the internet need to be protected as utilities, just like landline phones. (maybe free speech protections for DNS registration, too? not sure about that one)

@jrc03c when you think of the web as "space", you think of the rights associated with being a person in public space, or with the rights associated with public accommodations. but everything about the web is far closer to pamphlets, the 18th century gadfly's medium of choice

@jrc03c also, "cyberspace" is infinite and transportation through it is pretty much free. a lot of the logic of physical space has to do with that... not being the case. (e.g., Parler can be kicked off one hosting company and find servers in Russia because the market is global; if a forum has a schism, its members can run exactly the same software two or three times over without having to divide up territory)

@jrc03c the idea of being forced to tolerate undesired speech in a place for the sake of freedoms is pretty anodyne in American thought. but on the web, it seems closer to being forced to print and publish someone else's speech, which is... not a thing. and on the third hand, people should be able to host their own speech on the internet even if ISPs don't like it, because they ought to be thought of as utilities, maybe? that kind of thing.

@maya @jrc03c I read your article. It's a good explanation for people who aren't in tech and may not fully understand how all the things they use fit together.

Freedom of speech is interesting when it comes to any medium. At one time every small town had a newspaper. They would cost ~$10k in today's money to start up and it's how information slowly spread across the US. By the 1930s, it would take over a million to break into the newspaper market. Radio was free too, but there was a scarcity of spectrum, and every country started regulating their spectrum.

The Internet has a lot of capacity, but you still need to buy or rent powerful hardware to server text to millions; and convince people to use your service with a network effect .. and then AWS, ClowdFlair, Azure, Stripe, PayPal, Patreon, Twillio .. every company you may build your tools on may pull their services. At some point you can't find a replacement for all of them.

I wrote a post about some meaningful legislation that could address some of these issues, but I'm not sure it's very practical:

@djsumdog See, I think you and I disagree fundamentally on the significance of the platforms. You're saying they have become like public squares. I'm saying that no matter how many people read or contribute to the NYT opinion page, the NYT doesn't have to publish my letter. You're saying that Twitter taking content down is censorship. I'm saying that *not hosting* something isn't the same as suppressing it.

@maya Well just to be clear, Twitter taking down something is censorship. It’s not government censorship, but it is corporate censorship; which is a legal form on censorship in the US et. al, but it’s still censorship.

Part of it is the fault of society as a whole for letting these centralized platforms become so invasive to peoples’ lives. People are starting to walk away from them more, but there’s the other problem: you can’t just start up another platform. If it starts to draw a network effect, we saw what happened to Parler. AWS broke their contract, and they also lost contracts with Twillio and tons of other companies.

There are a limited set of companies who can provide services needed in this environment. It’s like if there were only 4~6 shops in the US that sold printing presses and every single one of them refused to sell you one! This has happened before and it will happen again:


@djsumdog "Public accommodations" has a particular definition in the Civil Rights Act, but you're using it as if it applies to every business, and just doesn't protect speech. Services "needed" for a "platform" -- these aren't fundamental concepts to protecting speech, and I think they're red herrings. Before broadcast or digital media, I could shout my opinions to the masses. But to expand my reach, I would have to get *some* publisher/distributor to work with me, and they could refuse.

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@djsumdog I believe individuals' rights to host their own content and access the internet need to be protected in the same way as shouting on a sidewalk is. But not every arbitrary digital service is like a utility.

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Conventicle of the Lesser Occult Institute

The Conventicle of the Lesser Occult Institute