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EW YORK — Once a year everybody decides the Internet needs to be monitored and policed and brought under control. And then everybody starts pointing fingers — at Facebook, at Twitter, at Russia, at China, at Google, at Silicon Valley algorithms — looking for somebody to blame for all this vile bullstuff that’s destroying the world.

As my grandma would say, “It oughta be a crime to be that nasty.”

And then we have a debate about privacy, usually revolving around the topic of “I don’t give a flying frijole about your privacy when we could have been spying on this maniac who went ballistic with an AK-47. How many people have to die? People get really exercised about the postmortem Facebook screeds of murderers, which leads me to my first digression:

If the Facebook screeds of murderers are soooooo important, why do we take them down as soon as we know about them? Why not leave them up so we can a) understand what just happened, b) figure out why nobody alerted police, c) give the average person on the street an idea of what to look for, and d) give us a text to work with next year when the debate starts about monitoring and policing and bringing under control all these whack jobs?

Because that’s what all these debates are really about, right? How do we deal with the whack jobs? How do we deal with mental illness on the Web?

And there are basically two ways that we deal with it, and both ways are insane. I will now show how we invent insane policies run by insane people to deal with insanity.

The first way is the Twitter Way. Twitter believes that all opinions and creeds and beliefs should have equal standing on the Internet, and if you don’t agree with any of them, you should just invent your own opinion or creed or belief that marches onto Twitter and fights with the offending opinion, creed, or belief. They call this “counter-speech.” Counter-speech, in the Twitter view of the universe, will solve all problems and bring us ever closer to absolute Internet nirvana.

I call this the free-enterprise Ayn Rand theory of how life works. It was first enunciated in 2012 by Tony Wang, General Manager of Twitter UK, when he said in a speech, “We are the free speech wing of the free speech party.”

But it was further elaborated by Vijay Gadde, whose title is — you’re not gonna believe this — "Head of Trust and Safety, Legal and Public Policy” at Twitter.

Important red-flag warning here: Any job description with the words “trust,” “safety,” “legal” and “policy” in the name . . . is designed to mess with us. That’s some kind of Human Resources professional armed with nuclear weapons.

Anyway, here’s what Twitter’s Vijay Gadde said: “I think there’s a fundamental mission that we’re serving, our purpose of the company, which is to serve the public conversation. And in order to really be able to do that, we need to permit as many people in the world as possible for engaging on a public platform, and it means that we need to be open to as many viewpoints as possible.”

As an example, Twitter decided to take a political movement that most people regard as vile — white supremacy — and see whether it could be weakened by more exposure. In other words, they decided to leave the most extreme white supremacy accounts online and trust that “counter-speech” would take care of it. Because, “Is it the right approach to deplatform these individuals? Is the right approach to try and engage with these individuals? How should we be thinking about this? What actually works?”

I don’t know what actually works but here’s how they think it works:

Twitter account @SanQuentinLifer says, “My race is better than your race.”

Twitter account @UnitedNationsIntern says, “No it’s not and you’re a racist.”

Twitter account @TerrorismIsNotAllBad says, “Actually you’re both wrong. My race is clearly superior.”

Twitter account @SortOfLiberal says, “We shouldn’t be tossing the term ‘racist’ around. Can we please discuss this without name calling?”

Twitter account @HistoryBuff says, “This discussion reminds me of Nazi Germany in 1933.”

Twitter account @SternSchoolmarm says, “Calling people Nazis is just as bad as calling people racists.”

Twitter account @RidiculousACLUFinancialSupporter says, “Let the racist speak.”

Twitter account @HarvardSnowflake says, “No, his words are toxic and damaging to me.”

. . . and this goes on for, say, 200,000 tweets over a period of about eight weeks, and at some point a professor at Boise State University holds a seminar and says, “Okay, what have we learned from this frank exchange of different viewpoints? We have learned that all points of view have a right to be heard and, even when we disagree, we do so with respect.”

Ignoring the fact that: The original post that started the whole thing was a deranged rant by a whack job!

What we have here is 12,000 pages of footnotes annotating somebody’s brain fart.

But Twitter is satisfied, and that, as we’ll shortly see, is all that matters.

The second way to deal with whack jobs on the Internet is the Facebook Way.

Facebook tries to identify “harmful content” and remove it. (They don’t care about mental derangement in general, unless it has some kind of “hate speech” element.) Of course, what one man calls “harmful” another calls “tough love,” but that’s a discussion for another time. Facebook does these supposedly massive content studies and they come up with rules about what they, as a corporation, think is harmful content.

For example, they do ban white supremacy. But they don’t want to actually read anything — they want their top-secret deep-diving internal search engine to do all the work — and so they decide what they’re against is “supremacy,” any kind of supremacy, like people who think men are smarter than women, or people who think straight people have more rights than gay people — you can imagine how long this list gets.

But here’s what’s strange. In the places in the world where “supremacy” has life-and-death consequences — Buddhists feeling superior to Muslims in Myanmar, ethnic Chinese feeling superior to Muslims in western China, Russians feeling superior to the people in the Caucasus — Facebook doesn’t care. In fact, once you start searching through Facebook accounts, looking for supremacy, you find Turks claiming supremacy over Armenians, Armenians claiming supremacy over Kurds, Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes claiming supremacy over the lowly Finns, not to mention all the non-white supremacy organizations like the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, Marcus Garveyism, and those strange guys called the Black Hebrew Israelites who started all the chaos at the Lincoln Memorial. You find, in fact, thousands of groups claiming supremacy for their race, nationality, or creed, usually stated in the form of “pride” instead of the S-word. If you keep refining that algorithm to search out every claim of supremacy everywhere in the world, you’re eventually gonna have some Facebook Cop saying, “Hey, these Jews say they’re the Chosen People — I don’t think so!”

Because that’s what it’s all about: accumulating “attaboys.”

Another category they ban is “Denialism” (denying the Holocaust, denying 9/11, denying the moon landing, denying Sandy Hook), which raises the question, “What if someone is denying something that might be deniable? Like the aliens who landed at Roswell in 1947.” Doesn’t matter. That Denialism algorithm goes merrily on its way, hammering deniers of genocide and deniers of the Virgin Birth with equal glee — in effect, assuming that any physical event anyone writes about on the Internet actually exists.

But that’s still not good enough for Facebook. They also have a broad category that would fall under the rubric of Harmful Lifestyle Choices. “Branded content,” which is where an advertiser supports an influencer by paying Facebook or Instagram — a fairly sophisticated form of advertising — can no longer include tobacco products, vaping products, weapons, diet supplements, or alcohol. I’m not sure exactly what news event happened to cause Mark Zuckerberg to wanna go before Congress and say, “Hey, look at us, we’re cracking down on these diet pills!” but apparently you get brownie points for that.

Because that’s what it’s all about: accumulating “attaboys.”

Attaboy, Mark, you’re cleaning up the Internet!

Attaboy, Jack, Twitter is attacking these hate groups by aggressive counter-speech!

And if you say to Facebook, “Well, look, these people in Myanmar are still being driven into refugee camps and starved to death and you have all these accounts that preach Buddhist supremacy,” Facebook will mumble something about an initiative to hire more moderators.

And if you say to Twitter, “These people in the boonies don’t really have a chance to counter-speech the colossus of the Chinese media, which uses brigading, bots and sock puppets to overwhelm anything they might try to say,” Twitter will mumble something about how they’re becoming more vigilant about weeding out fake accounts and banning “meddlers” like the Russian intelligence services.

In fact, Twitter discovered hundreds of accounts criticizing the Hong Kong protesters that all turned out to be run by a single Chinese media organization, leading to a new Twitter policy: “state-funded media” is prohibited from advertising or receiving advertising revenue. Someone pointed out that the policy would restrict the BBC, National Public Radio, and PBS, all of which are pretty obviously state-funded media, not to mention Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, which are specifically set up to spread a pro-United-States message around the world. Twitter then changed the policy with a series of “qualifiers” that are too complicated for me to figure out so that government-funded western media gets a pass but news organizations like Russia Today and Sputnik are still banned from advertising.

In other words, the only people Facebook and Twitter care about are Americans and, to a slightly lesser extent, Europeans. And they care about it because they don’t want bad press in the two regions where they make most of their money.

They don’t care about Supremacy.

They don’t care about Vaping.

They don’t care about Denialism.

They don’t care about the Hong Kong protesters or the Rohingya refugees.

What both organizations have become is a version of the Motion Picture Association of America. The MPAA was created by the Hollywood studios to censor their own product. Why would they do such a thing?

What Facebook really wants is for everyone to stop complaining so that the computer-obsessed can rule the world.

To avoid regulation. To avoid being branded as corrupters of children. Before they started policing film content in the 1920s, there were more than 100 ratings boards in the country — at the city, county and state level — and by saying “Look at us, we’re cracking down on the sex and violence!”, they were able to get rid of most of that regulation. The ratings system was created in the 1960s by political genius Jack Valenti, MPAA czar, who used it to head off congressional oversight.

And, by the way, the FBI is not helping. The FBI keeps trying to get permission to pull data from Facebook and Twitter to “monitor threats to the United States.” This doesn’t mean a bunch of agents with eyeshades sitting in cubicles trolling through social-media accounts — it means data-mining software that would build detailed profiles of all the users and their social lives. It’s about the biggest Big Brother thing you can imagine, and it’s exactly what Cambridge Analytica did, resulting in Facebook having to pay a $5 billion lawsuit settlement. In fact, part of that settlement was an agreement by Facebook that they wouldn’t allow anybody else to do that kind of data-mining, so cooperation with the FBI would put them in legal jeopardy.

What Facebook really wants is for everyone to stop complaining so that the computer-obsessed can rule the world.

Twitter will never admit that the reason “counter-speech” doesn’t work is that the powerless have no computers and no education. Counter-speech is the equivalent of cutting their tongues out with hot fire pokers. You shouldn’t have to sign up for Twitter to avoid incoming missiles. (In fact, Twitter is apparently modifying its “all speech is permitted” policy — European Twitter exec Sinead McSweeney cratered after a three-hour grilling by British parliamentarians and admitted that the company has started deleting and banning accounts deemed “beyond the pale.”)

Facebook will never admit that policing “harmful content” would require the hiring and training of 145 million people — roughly the population of Russia — and that’s figuring that each Content Cop would be responsible for 20 accounts at a time.

Twitter and Facebook are both playing Whack-a-Mole. If this year’s topic is White Supremacy, and next year’s topic is Online Bullying, and the year after that the hot issue is Date Rape, these will all be dealt with as they ebb and flow through the American media. A single user reporting bullying, hate speech or harassment from rural Kazakhstan? Not so much.

These companies are dedicated to the never-ending task of making themselves look like Good Guys to the public. They’re not good guys. They’re shape-shifters. They have insane systems for monitoring insanity in order to make insane legislators believe that insanity can be extinguished from public discourse. They love their insanity-cancelling algorithms and they hate this messy thing called the human brain, especially when it becomes unhinged. My advice would be to assume that whenever they announce their latest “clean up the Web” plan, they’re lying not just to us but to themselves, and so you should do what you do with any deranged person on the Internet: change your password.

Since 1982, Joe Bob Briggs has been the drive-in movie critic of Grapevine, Texas.