Re: Why has CredWeb been silent when it is now needed more than ever?

Responses to both Sandro and Christopher below:

During my ~50 years of writing code, I've been subjected to far too
many architecture
(and occasionally been accused of being one!). They tend to either increase
complexity beyond what can be reasonably implemented or generalize to the
point of irrelevance. But, I've also found that seeking innovation can be
daunting when too much reliance is placed on those responsible for current
implementations. The problem there is that developers naturally tend to
prefer only the most minimal incremental changes to what they have already
built. In any case, existing developers can be very hard to recruit in the
absence of a well thought out and presented story that describes the
benefits of doing something more, new, or different. Given that the
existing implementations appear not to be providing what at least some of
us need, I think we should attempt to fill the void between the often too
radical architecture astronauts and the often too conservative product
maintainers. I'd like to contribute to a discussion in this group, or
perhaps another, which is intended to develop "a story that would get, say,
20 of those 59 [existing product developers] to be interested in
interoperating" and innovating.

My personal belief is that such a discussion should be informed by current
implementations, but not limited by or to them. Thus, I would counsel
against Christopher Guess' suggestion that it might be useful to "focus on
just getting the Mastodon system on board." In my opinion, such a focus
would likely result in thinking and solutions that would be too heavily
influenced by the specifics of Mastodon's implementation and the various
ethics or sensibilities that are implied by that implementation. It would
be great to have Mastodon folk involved, but not if that meant that results
would be hard to translate to Facebook, Twitter, or other not-yet-named

You wrote:

> "what’s being proposed, to my ears, actually sounds exactly like the
> system that Parler had implemented. In their system any flagged post would
> have five random accounts assigned to vote on if it was appropriate. This,
> as we’ve seen, did not work out in the long run for them.

I think you've misunderstood at least what I was proposing. The
Parler system relies on the platform (Parler) assigning the moderation task
to a set of users selected according to a process chosen by the platform
(random selection).  What I have proposed is that users should be provided
with a means to choose how content will be assessed and to participate in
the process of making discoverable judgements. My desire to move control
from the platform to the user is why I emphasized the "Protocols Not
Platform" idea. Parler's system is, for me, very much a "platform" based
solution. I may or may not be one to which users would or should delegate
content moderation.

I'm also not sure if one can confidently say, as you suggested, that
Parler's approach "did not work out ... for them." Certainly, they've had a
great deal of trouble maintaining their service recently... However, those
troubles aren't necessarily because their system didn't do a good job of
ensuring that Parler's content met the standards and expectations of the
Parler community. The real problem for Parler, and for the community that
it served, is that there are many others who wish to have nothing to do
with any content that does, in fact, meet the standards and expectations of
the Parler community.

The Parler example is useful in that it reminds us of what should be the
proper aim of any system for content moderation or credibility rating.
Given that the best algorithms and even human judges are incapable of
determining what is true in any but the most limited conditions, and given
that credibility is similarly difficult to judge, the best one can hope for
is to assist in helping to ensure that content conforms to the standards
and expectations of some community of one of more people. Each community
will have its own idea of what it means to be true. Each community will
have its own idea of what constitutes a credible source. Also, most
communities will have a diversity of members who, although they might agree
on some general principles, will tend to differ in ways that are important
to them. Ideally, even within an encompassing community with many commonly
held ideas, such as those typically ascribed to the full membership of
Parler, those users who shared different ideas would be able to use
protocols and tools to create a conversation and information space better
suited to their own specific views.

The need to be able to create and maintain "islands" within a larger
community becomes particularly important when we have large, general
providers such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. There is no one system that can
properly address the needs of all the members of such massive spaces. Any
content moderation or credibility system chosen by these large providers
will restrain some minority of users in ways that at least some
will consider unacceptable. (I remember a story about Prodigy, back in the
late 1980's, trying to improve discussion quality by banning the use of the
world "bitch" in any of their discussion forums. They rapidly discovered
that members of a dog-breeding discussion group felt that use of that word
was essential.)

Anyway, I'd like to see further discussion of potential solutions to this
problem -- even if maintainers of existing systems are slow to commit. My
hope is that further discussion could lead to the kind of story that would
either compel developers to sign on or that might encourage users to
support developers of new systems that would implement the story.

bob wyman

Received on Saturday, 23 January 2021 22:31:27 UTC