"Free speech” for sale

Read to the end for my favorite "Fast And Furious" scene

Freedom Of Speech, Not Freedom Of—*Big Long Never-Ending Fart Sound*

On Friday, Twitter’s Global Government Affairs account (whatever that even means now) tweeted, “In response to legal process and to ensure Twitter remains available to the people of Turkey, we have taken action to restrict access to some content in Turkey today.”

In a followup tweet it explained that Turkish content that was restricted locally would still be available globally.

The censorship was put in place before the country headed to the polls on Sunday to vote in a presidential election between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and main political opponent Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. As of this morning, neither candidate looks like they’ll reach the 50% of the vote necessary to be elected and will go to a second round later in the month.

Many users are upset with Twitter’s decision to buckle under pressure from the Erdoğan administration who asked the app to censor certain content ahead of the vote. “Free speech means trying to help Erdoğan win an election by suppressing his opposition,” Twitch streamer and activist Hasan Piker wrote. I was less eloquent and just called it clown shit.

Still-Twitter-CEO-for-now Elon Musk has not commented publicly on censoring Turkish Twitter yet, but last year he did tweet out something close to a general thesis about what “free speech” means to him.

Eve 6 guy Max Collins actually resurfaced this tweet this weekend in light of the Turkey news, writing, “Yes the Turkish people wanted less free speech so they made appeals to their veritable dictator and he was like sure whatever you guys want.”

Let me just say that I am actually capable of understanding Musk’s logic. Especially if you, as he does, genuinely believe that Twitter is a utility. Even though all of his moves as CEO have been to hobble its utility. Censoring Twitter at the request of Turkey this weekend — or India last month — to keep it running in the country seems to be a fine deal to Musk.

And I suppose if you squint, this all fits into Twitter’s “Freedom of Speech, Not Reach” policy it unveiled last month. In a blog post, Twitter’s Safety team wrote, “Restricting the reach of Tweets, also known as visibility filtering, is one of our existing enforcement actions that allows us to move beyond the binary ‘leave up versus take down’ approach to content moderation.” So I guess this is visibility filtering, but on a national level and almost exclusively at the request of authoritarian governments. Though it’s probably worth mentioning that while I was in Germany last week I noticed that Musk is still blocking Russia Today at the request of the government there.

So let’s pretend that Twitter’s policies actually express a coherent ideology. Let’s pretend that Twitter is still doing “good” moderation, like blocking Russian propaganda in Europe, on purpose and not because no one works there anymore and many of its services and policies just run on autopilot now. And let’s also pretend that Twitter has thought through the implications of censoring content in Turkey and India and isn’t just acting out of cowardice and laziness or because Musk is wants to protect future Tesla business in those countries. What do we make of that? Well, it means that Twitter’s moderation is for sale. And I think it’s naive to pretend that Twitter is alone in doing this kind of moral and ethical arithmetic with our content. As long as we’re using corporate-owned platforms to communicate online, this will always be a possibility. Twitter just doesn’t care about hiding it anymore.

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Twitch Plays Minecraft With GPT-4

A Twitter user named dex3r hooked up GPT-4 to Minecraft and streamed it. The stream is over because GPT-4, with the help of a human live chat, beat the game, but you can check out clips from the channel here.

The way it worked was similar to the groundbreaking Twitch Plays Pokémon. Users would send commands to the chat with ! at the beginning and GPT-4 would organize them into on-screen actions. Here’s a good Reddit thread about how it was done. If you’re wondering why this isn’t more common already it’s because it’s incredibly expensive.

I Went To ETHDenver

I have a piece in this month’s issue of Fast Company about my trip to ETHDenver back in March. You can read an online version here. There’s also an incredibly cool comic version to go along with the feature.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain where the world of crypto is right now. If you follow it through the various scandals and crashes, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s just completely over. But it’s not. There is still a lot of money there. Also, I’m not sure I understood this until I spent a weekend talking to Ethereum developers in Denver, but I think an underreported story about the crypto industry is how tied it is to the rise of remote work and digital nomad-ism.

Pretty much everyone working in crypto I met had the same story: They met people online. Wanted to work together. Pooled or raised some money. Didn’t want to live anywhere specific. And saw crypto as a way to physically and ideologically leave the perceived stuffiness of Silicon Valley. And I think even with a long-term crypto winter, that impulse isn’t going away.

There’s An Open Source Audio AI Now

As I’ve written a few times, the major new trend to watch in the AI space is open source tech. It’s evolving faster than the corporate-owned tools, which is both good and bad. The good is that it’s pretty cool what people are coming up with and it reminds me a lot of the early days of the social web. Just homebrewing stuff and seeing what happens. The bad, of course, is that there’s no oversight and no off switch.

An AI company called Suno has opened the waitlist for an open source alternative to ElevenLabs (the app that makes the fake presidents say funny stuff). It’s called Bark and the samples of what it can do are pretty good. You can give them a listen here.

Some Good Protest Heckling

Click here to see the video (because Twitter embeds are still broken). Thankfully, users found the guy heckling Patriot Front in the video. His name is Joe Flood and he has a delightful thread about his afternoon following Patriot Front around DC.

“Patriot Front: just embarrassing. Mismatched khakis. Sloppy marching. A leader who couldn't remember his speech and kept having to consult his notes,” Flood tweeted. “Protected by an army of police. Fleeing DC once the march was over by public transport.”

A Leaker Admits It’s All Fanfic

Director James Gunn is very active on Twitter. He answers a lot of fan questions and he also regularly pushes back against leakers. And there’s been a hell of a lot of leakers posting unsourced rumors about castings for Gunn’s upcoming Superman movie.

Earlier this month, a small leaker account called @DCULeaks posted that Margot Robbie won’t be reprising the role of Harley Quinn in any future movies. There’s no source, but @DCULeaks claimed it was because Robbie was joining the MCU. There’s a whole other universe of leakers who think Robbie will play Fantastic Four’s Sue Storm.

Yesterday, Gunn replied to @DCULeaks directly, writing, “Maybe you’re having a difficult time in life and lying for attention is how you get solace. But please find a better way.” And then after a bit of back and forth, the person behind @DCULeaks just dropped the bit and admitted the whole account is full of bull shit.

As someone who follows superhero movie stuff really closely, though less and less over time, I do think it’s interesting how an entire industry of leakers have sprung up and some are doing genuinely good journalism and some are just meta-level fanfic writers. And it always reminds me of a Tumblr post I once read, but have sadly lost to time, that argued that men aren’t capable of just writing fanfic and making their own stories, but insist on passing off their fan works as real things that just haven’t happened yet.

Fake Adam Curtis On Corecore

I had the pleasure of seeing this video performed live in Milan last week. It was created by Italian meme researcher Silvia Dal Dosso. It’s a short documentary about “Corecore,” or supercuts of the end of the world. But even cooler, Dal Dosso used an AI deepfake of my favorite documentarian Adam Curtis to narrate it in English. Even when I watched her perform it live in Italian I knew I was seeing something really special. In English, with an eerie AI narration constantly shifting between different celebrity voices, it’s even more impactful.

A Good Tweet? Or, Uh, An Accurate Tweet, At Least

(Click here to view on Twitter because embeds are still broken… because someone bought a thing and killed it…)

Some Stray Links

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***

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