So what’s your take? Are you concerned?
It’s not great for public safety that neo-Nazis, far-right militias, and other dangerous groups find ways to communicate and organize. Those ways increasingly involve. We’ve seen this happen for , returning to ISIS, making things harder for law enforcement agencies and counterterrorism officials. At the same time, there’s a real benefit to getting these extremists off mainstream platforms, where they can find new sympathizers and take advantage of the broadcast mechanics of those to millions of potential extremists.
I’ve been thinking about this in a kind of epidemiological model. If someone is sick and at risk of infecting others, you ideally want to get them out of the general population and into quarantine, even if it means putting them somewhere like a hospital where there are many other sick people. It’s a pretty lousy metaphor, but you see what I mean. When they’re on big, mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, we know that extremists don’t just talk among themselves. They recruit. They join unrelated groups and try to seedthere. In some ways, I’d rather have 1,000 hardened neo-Nazis doing bad stuff together on an app than have them infiltrating 1,000 different local Dogspotting groups.
When you open, the first thing you see is your timeline, a general feed that includes posts by your friends. But you could also see posts from strangers if your friends reshared or Liked them. When you open , you see a list of conversations with individuals or groups. To get a message from someone you don’t know, that person would your phone number to contact you. So, to complete our analogy, Facebook and Twitter are essentially packed into an enormous auditorium. Encrypted like Signal and Telegram are like significant buildings with millions of people, but each living inside a private room. People must knock on one another’s doors to , so spreading misinformation would take more effort. In contrast, on Facebook and Twitter, a piece of misinformation can go viral in seconds because the people in this auditorium can all hear what everyone else is shouting.