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Mar 16Liked by Matt Welch

Full disclosure: I’m working pretty closely with Jon Haidt on the launch of Anxious Generation, his new book about the mental health harm caused by phone-based childhood.

Just to add some context to the argument—there is almost no push towards using government as a tool to undo the harm. And to my recollection nothing at all about content moderation.

It’s much more focused on school policy, pushes for collective action among parents (so your kid doesn’t become the only kid without a smartphone), etc.

The only exception here is calling out the COPA bill which set the age of internet adulthood to just 13—which is a seminal moment in the overall narrative. Basically it created the market for the attention of adolescents. And when you combine developing brains with addictive platforms—it leads to bad outcomes. And it is pretty bizarre you can sign exactly one contract at 13, and it’s to give away all of your data all of the time. There’s a call to raise that age to 16.

The other piece of the argument isn’t tech at all—but the lack of free play, which began with 1980s stranger danger media panic. But it turns out over structured and over supervised childhood results in adults that never had an opportunity to develop social skills and rely on authority to solve conflict / become the people that Moynihan dealt with at Vice. And also all those missing kid milk cartons were mostly just custody disputes.

So the whole argument is much less about control and censorship. It’s actually about more restoring independence to kids, and pointing out the phone as a powerful part of an overall Faustian bargain where we overemphasized physical safety at the cost of mental harm.

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Mar 16Liked by Matt Welch

I heard Haidt speak at UNC just a few weeks ago. It was fantastic!

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Mar 16·edited Mar 16Liked by Matt Welch

Don't forget that Tik Tok was used to identify and trace participants in the Hong Kong protests (https://apnews.com/article/tiktok-china-bytedance-user-data-d257d98125f69ac80f983e6067a84911) while simultaneously censoring protest related activity (https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/don-t-look-for-the-hong-kong-protests-on-tiktok-you-won-t-find-them-on-platform-20190917-p52s08.html).

It is not at all benign.

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Agree. It’s not benign. It’s also about digital access. “In addition to fear of content manipulation on TikTok, the primary concern from U.S. lawmakers comes from a Chinese national security law that forces companies to turn over information when compelled to do so. TikTok says all of its U.S. data is stored in servers in the U.S., and that it has never been asked and would never turn over user data if it were asked by Chinese authorities.”

Well there you have it. They said they would never do such a thing… so no worries. 😂

https://abcnews.go.com/amp/Politics/experts-banning-tiktok-solve-security-concerns-analysis/story?id=108096472

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founding

Perfect timing, I'll listen on my way to go see Shane Gillis in Oakland tomorrow night.

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I gotta chime in on the Tik Tok thing.... You would be an abject idiot to use it. It's going to be exploited. It's a remote access trojan in the making if it isn't already. Stop it. Don't download it. Keep it off your network. Anybody using it seriously in any IT department in America should be warned, and fired immediately if they persist.

"Should you ban it?" Is a different, more complex series of questions.

Where will the data transit, at rest?

Are the personnel involved at bytedance subject to American espionage laws?

Can those same personnel not be moved out of China? Can the company relocate successfully to most other places where we do not have these security concerns? If not, Why not? How long, providing a path out of China, etc.

We have had a lot of hearings, and byte dances answers have never been satisfactory to me. There's 0 reason you can't buy or build data centers elsewhere and relocate your HQ out of China. It's weird in my estimation that a company with a 250 billion dollar valuation has not yet gone public.

Do these things merit a ban? Possibly. But, it's not as simple as a parochial free speech argument. It's not a newspaper. It's a software app, it's code, it's not like Microsoft insomuch that Microsoft has people who are fingerprinted and on our books should their be espionage.

All things to consider.

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Mar 16Liked by Matt Welch

Feeling a bit more secure financially and am re-joining the Never Fly Coach [unless you can’t afford it because you were brave, called bullshit, and had a contract cancelled] tier! I’m back, baby.

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Mar 16·edited Mar 16

Re: Fani Willis:

My dad was a Supreme Court commissioner, and I think it’s entirely possible he never lied in his life.

Anyway, when I was young I asked him why civil servants behaving in little corrupt ways was so terrible. Surely it wasn’t on par with robbery or murder.

He told me that public officials behaving corruptly were “civilization enders”.

And they are! Fuck Fani!

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Y'all didn't mention the "recently resurfaced" incident where Finkelstein tried to get his next-door neighbors deported:

https://twitter.com/BoxLoner/status/1768727695859355664

Moynihan, I expect a full recitation of this letter on the next Member's Only episode.

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Haha that guy is such a miserable shit bag. I’ll admit I didn’t know much about him pre-Oct 7. I listened to Lex’s debate today and it was rough. Norm was such a condescending shit to his opponent. Kept saying “you just look stuff up on Wikipedia”. Finally the other guy (Bortelli) said “you claim to be an Israeli historian and don’t even speak Hebrew” which shut him up for a bit. Lex is an idealist, a sweetheart of a dreamer, so he asks them at the end for something they are optimistic about. Norm couldn’t come up with anything.

So I looked up Finklestein and man, what a sad story: his parents were Holocaust survivors and their prick son ends up being an antisemite Semite. These guys, I just don’t get it. Don’t they realize that if they went to Gaza they’d be the first ones strung up along with the Queers for Palestine?

One last thing I noticed on Norm’s Wikipedia, there is no Personal section. Ie who he’s married to, kids, etc. imagine being at the end of your life and not having anyone to love. No wonder he’s so miserable.

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And the other guy isn't called Bortelli - he's Stephen Bonnell - which Finklestein definitely knew.

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There was a comment on the YouTube video where someone listed all the mispronunciations he made for homie’s last name during the debate

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Please God, I need this!

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That's insane

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The INS doesn't even exist anymore. How old are these letters?

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It also mentions to look him up on YouTube. INS was dissolved before YouTube was created so it's just that he has no idea WTF he's talking about.

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I think I'm in favor of the Tik Tok ban, a position that I didn't arrive at easily. If social media replicated normal human interaction, I'd feel differently, but the algorithm promoting some things and suppressing others is specifically aimed at manipulating the emotio al responses of users. They employ experts and collect data on how to do it more effectively so as to increase engagement. It's the same kind of thing the gambling and tobacco industries have done to make their products harder to put down. I am not a big fan of prohibition. There are obvious drawbacks to it, but now that I've seen what happens in places with open drug markets, I can't say that I favor no regulation, either. Social media engagement manipulates the electrochemical activity in the brain, seemingly to a worse degree in developing brains. I worry a great deal about whether this phenomenon intentionally denies users some degree of their cognitive liberty.

Additionally, the pro-Hamas video amplification that we've seen on TikTok and resulting pro-Hamas activism are concerning. While I agree with the sentiment that young people might be more inclined to identify with the people on one side of a conflict that are more vulnerable, if I consider whether it seems different than other global conflicts or say, 20ish years ago when America was balls deep in the GWoT, I think it seems significantly different. The response on social media to the October 7th massacre seemed overwhelmingly anti-social and to an unnatural degree. I think Tik Tok seems like an excellent tool for gathering data useful for mass psychosocial manipulation and it being in the hands of amoral competitors poses an unacceptable risk to our society and the cognitive freedom of the individuals that make it up. I want people to be free to use things like Tik Tok, but I think the option to do so needs to be predicated on it not leaving us potentially catastrophically exposed.

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My sister works in an inner city high school in the Midwest. She was complaining to me that all the kids do is walk around in the halls all day long with their phones. “Zombie-ing” or make til tok videos. They can’t physically force the kids into the classrooms; there are too many of them and they don’t have enough school resource officers.

Unless you have teenagers in your life you can really grasp how insidious and ruining smart phones are.

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I'm ok with you being wrong. Just don't get elected anywhere.

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Mar 16·edited Mar 16

I'm open to changing my mind if you have a compelling argument.

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The manipulation of electrochemical activity in the brain is bad science. This is the same argument for prohibition of all varieties. Video games! Vulgar music! Unrealistic body images on magazine covers! The list goes on.

The science cited by Haidt is based on very limited and flawed studies. Compare to the actual outcomes in the world right now and it's pretty easy to see it's nothing to panic over.

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I didn't find any part of that argument compelling.

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founding

Now you know how I felt reading yours.

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Maybe it'd be more fun for both of us if you reach out and share your insights with someone different next time.

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How did they not discuss Hughes vs. Balko?

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I get the sense that both personal and professional relationships are being strained due to this whole thing. I'd love to hear everyone's opinion about it, but I get why not everyone is eager to opine.

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I was hoping for something in writing from Coleman. Did I miss that? The thought of listening to a 2-hour debate/podcast between Hughes and Balko makes me go vague with exhaustion for some reason.

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Yeah, I get it. I did see a LOT of criticism of the moderators. Still, I think they could dance around that by only critiquing Coleman and Radley.

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Incidentally to the Tik Tok issue… I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I do have two tin foil hat afflictions:

If my phone is anywhere near me when I’m taking a shower or naked in anyway…I’ll make sure it is buried under at least three layers of bath towels.

AND:

I don’t buy jury duty selection is random.

(Now that I said this, I expect to receive my seventh jury duty notice early next week. Which my wife finds hysterical every time it happens. Once they sent me one on my birthday for ffs. 🤦‍♀️)

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I’ve had one jury duty summons in my life, I think I was 19, and I managed to wriggle out of it. Kinda regretting it now as I’d like to do it. Shame the system doesn’t allow you to nominate someone else.

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In regards to the jury duty, you just have to keep moving around, Kmele style. It’s much harder for them to hit a moving target.

I had exactly one jury duty request in my life, somewhere around age 35. After weaseling out of it by explaining my complicated life situation, I haven’t had another one.

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At one point I had a summons for Superior court and Municipal court in the same year. 😂

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I clerked at a low level court and we had a young prosecutor who wasn’t great at negotiating plea deals and was a little to eager to go to trial (at a low level court this was for misdemeanors only). So I acted as the clerk/bailiff for a lot of trials. I would say the county does the best it can but it can be pretty difficult to get a truly random sample of the population because you already have a lot of people who self filter by not showing up (ie summon 50 people and 12-15 are no shows) and that’s usually younger people and/or lower socioeconomic status. I know that’s anecdotal and I actually never tried to learn more about the process of issuing summons from the court admins but that’s at least what I noticed, the way I could guesstimate socioeconomic status is that when I would help issue bench warrants for no shows they usually had other thing popping up in our system.

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Mar 17·edited Mar 18

I am tired of the 1st amendment argument when it comes to tiktok. Why do you want to extend the constitution to non citizens in this way, and THE CCP NO LESS? Israel and England aren't allowed to own a local newspaper in podunk Arkansas with a circulation of 50 people, but we can let China be in control of a platform that 20% of Americans claim to get their news from? "Cmon man". Like, are you actually a serious person? I cannot fathom how. This is a brainwashing platform. How do we know? Cause tiktok ran ads telling it's users to oppose this and then kids called congress and threatened suicide if it was banned.

Stop letting foreign bad actors use our freedom to end us. There is no good reason for it. How is our country or constitution made harder by letting bad actors tear it apart?

Edit: this has been edited to take some of the heat out

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A few disorganized thoughts on the TikTok discussion, in no particular order:

You spent a lot of time pointing out that many of the supporters of the bill are unprincipled hypocrites. This is true! But it also has zero informational value on whether or not the bill is good. It was worth pointing out, but beyond just mentioning it, it's not that helpful. Inprincipled hypocrites are, by their very nature, often on the right side of a given issue by chance. In fact, I can guarantee you that every single idea you guys like is also supported by at least a few unprincipled hypocrites. They are a lot of them and they support a whole range of stuff. Most congress critters fall into this group. And while I think most of what congress does is generally bad and would prefer that they in general they do less, every once in a while they do a good thing, and every single time, most of the people voting for the "good" thing are unprincipled hypocrites.

An analogy I've heard, that I think it would be interesting to hear your guys' response on is: Would you have been ok with the Soviet Union buying CBS?

While the much larger point was about other problems in Russia, I did find it amusing to hear the the two very differently treated references to informational control via TikTok and in Russia. The first claimed that getting ones news from an extremely controlled propogandist tool like TikTok (btw: the Palestine to Israel stuff is 80:1; yes, the "youths" are pro-palestine....but not even close to that much) isn't that big a deal, etc. but then pointing out the problems with Russian Citizens only having access to State controlled media and how that breaks things. Yes, there is a difference between "one of many" and "the only", but there are lots and lots of people whose only news source is Tiktok.

I think my fundamental disagreement is that A) I think you are wrong on the harms being minor and B) (this one is really important), I actually think this bill is relatively restrained (especially compared to the absolute train-wreck of the first attempt: the Restrict Act). I think I have similar values and am doing similar math, but I think the variables are different magnitudes, so I come to a different result. I'd be open to being convinced that I'm wrong on either of these counts, but I wasn't here. Of course, that's also not really the aim of the podcast.

Still really enjoyed the discussion though!

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Fun phone phreaking fact:

One of the pioneers in the field was this guy who was known as "Whistler," who was born blind and could whistle with perfect pitch, allowing him to trick the phone company and place free calls. My mom went to the University of South Florida at the same time as him, and apparently he was a legend there.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joybubbles

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Dang, first impression is "cool!" But this is not cool: "He was an ordained minister of his own Church of Eternal Childhood, and ran a one-man nonprofit support organization for people rediscovering and re-experiencing childhood, called "We Won't Grow Up"."

Yikes!

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Yeah, apparently his later life became very, very strange

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Aaaaah the lispy Tyson impression sounds exactly like Kyle's cousin on South Park 😂

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Re: tiktok. I think you doth protest not enough. It's pretty straightforward: Having the dominant social media company for the kids owned by one of the world's most repressive regimes is simply insane.

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Mar 17·edited Mar 17

This is why libertarians send me through the roof. We need a name for the verb of the paradox where you let foreign bad actors use your freedom to destroy you and just apply that to you three.

Y'all are like, "look, if the CCP buys the pot of water, who am I to complain if they boil me alive? It's THEIR pot!"

Drives me insane.

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Kinda feel the same. I'm usually with these guys on free speech issues, but I don't know why foreign-owned companies should automatically have the same rights as US-owned ones or US citizens. Maybe this bill is bad, and maybe retaliatory economic action from China would be too high a price to pay, but making DanceByte divest and ensure certain privacy safeguards seems a reasonable thing to ask to me.

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The SCOTUS has extended some constitutional rights to anyone who falls under our system, that's why the 911 terrorists are likely to be let free next year. It's why we can't just expel any person who illegally enters the country. I'm not opposed to all instances of extending the constitution, but I think we can pretty easily say that banning an adversarial country from operating an app for kids seems pretty straightforward. I don't know why people want to extend the CCP rights.

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