Handling Free Expression with Neutrality

Penned on the 23rd day of July, 2019. It was Tuesday.

These times could be described as many things, but online there are few themes as universal as polarisation. Large rifts have formed in the existing societal fabric, and ever so slowly a new, youthful global culture begins to emerge and find its voice on the internet. Such strong forces have stressed our mediums beyond belief, leading to a norm where the keepers of the forum are held in popular contempt, thrown into dictatorial positions they never asked for and can’t handle, yet can’t be ousted from by political means. Many people feel backed into a corner where drawing lines in the sand, taking sides, is the only sensible choice left.

On the subject of Twitter, one thing my partner told me several months back had me aghast: “Jack is doing a decent job for who he is.” We understood the context quite well: a new precedent of censorship had been deployed, and lots of accounts were finding themselves shadowbanned. He elaborated, “you have to understand something about the leaders who aren’t Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. They were relatively normal people, and they never expected their apps to become this unfathomably huge. But because of that, they’re (also rightly) held to a standard that’s literally impossible for them to meet.” In the bigger picture, I find this applies to much more than just tech billionaires who didn’t have the ‘it factor’ or whathaveyou – I find it impossible for Twitter to make the correct decision about much of anything, and I mean that quite objectively. The sheer scale has damned them from the beginning.

As you may know, neutrality is a very powerful construct in the context of conflict management, and on a macro scale with political science. This isn’t a new concept, and the people at Twitter weren’t born yesterday: they know this. Unfortunately, the universal context in which their decisions apply means that this is virtually never a good strategy, because for many the stakes are much higher than Twitter can recognise, and so when the strategy fails it can only be filled in by a default indecisiveness, leaving an impression of cowardice and incompetence in its fall. These are the reasons why a single world government can’t stably exist. There’s too much diversity to even comprehend.

All said, the times are as turbulent as ever. Lots of people, swept away in a social media cyclone, can’t find their way out. There is a struggle for an alternative, and this environment presents serious challenges that go far beyond correcting for the social or technical mistakes of a few companies in Silicon Valley. Most of them have not broken the mould.

In our aspiration to change that trend, and even create some stability on the internet, we hope to apply the timeless wisdom of concerted neutrality to levee ourselves from the waves. The storm has made all of our fields of view quite limited – one idea or faction that seems right today may be rotting meat a month from now, and there’s no way to tell until the time passes. Even as many opt out for apathy or humour, it leaves them starving for words of meaning, which only come at a polarising price. So, we can achieve this stability for two reasons. First, the HALO software provides us with the technical means. Second, our implementations are meant to be one of many. The world will continue to change and evolve from this innovation long after our jobs are done, and we look forward to that.

Until next time,
Alexander Nicholi