Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Why is everyone learning How to Make Gravy today? A FOIA for Facebook: Meaningful Transparency for Online Platforms by Sabrina I. Pacifici on Dec 9, 2021


Why is everyone learning How to Make Gravy today?

U.S. Department of State: “On Friday, December 10, Day 2 sessions and Official Interventions will begin at 6:00 a.m. EST. Visit the Schedule page to learn more about specific sessions.

Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.
We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. February 2021

Since day one, the Biden-Harris Administration has made clear that renewing democracy in the United States and around the world is essential to meeting the unprecedented challenges of our time. As President Biden stated on the International Day of Democracy, “No democracy is perfect, and no democracy is ever final. Every gain made, every barrier broken, is the result of determined, unceasing work.” On December 9-10, 2021, President Biden will host the first of two Summits for Democracy, which will bring together leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector to set forth an affirmative agenda for democratic renewal and to tackle the greatest threats faced by democracies today through collective action…”

Karanicolas, Michael, A FOIA for Facebook: Meaningful Transparency for Online Platforms (November 16, 2021). 66 St. Louis University Law Journal (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3964235 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3964235 

“Transparency has become the watchword solution for a range of social challenges, including related to content moderation and platform power. Obtaining accurate information about how platforms operate is a gatekeeping problem, which is essential to meaningful accountability and engagement with these new power structures. However, different stakeholders have vastly different ideas of what robust transparency should look like, depending on their area of focus. 

The platforms, for their part, have their own understanding of transparency, which is influenced by a natural drive to manage public perceptions. This paper argues for a model of platform transparency based on better practice standards from global freedom of information or right to information systems. The paper argues that moves by platforms to assume responsibility over the truth or falsity of the content they host and amplify justifies a shift in how we understand their obligations of transparency and accountability, away from traditional self-reporting structures and towards a quasi-governmental standard where data is “open by default.” 

This change in posture includes creating a mechanism to process information requests from the public, to accommodate the diverse needs of different stakeholders. The paper also suggests establishing a specialized quasi-independent entity (a “Facebook Transparency Board”) which could play a role analogous to an information commission, including overseeing disclosure decisions and acting as a broader champion of organizational transparency. 

Although these changes represent a significant conceptual shift, they are not entirely unprecedented among private sector entities whose role includes a significant public function, and the paper notes a number of examples, such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, which could serve as a model for the platforms to follow.”

Liberal MP Don Harwin has quit as a NSW government minister and will call time on his political career at the next state election, ahead of a widely tipped cabinet reshuffle this weekend by Premier Dominic Perrottet. Mr Harwin — who is currently Special Minister of State, and Minister for the Public Service and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs, and the Arts — said on Saturday he had informed Mr Perrottet on Friday that he “did not want to be considered for a place in his new ministry”.

  1. At the University of Groningen, philosophy majors are required to take philosophy “outside the walls” — this involves a creative project rather than an academic paper, and interviewing people outside of academia
  2. How “aesthetic ideals have carried over to contemporary experiments in science” — Milena Ivanova (Cambridge) takes up the question, “what does it mean for an experiment to be beautiful?”
  3. “The homogenizing of language won’t homogenize thought… but we may [have] reasons to worry that it will limit intellectual diversity” — Neil Levy (Oxford) on the ethics of the linguistic “affordances” of Grammarly and other AI-based writing tools
  4. “I want to show students a new way into philosophy – through doing ridiculous things” — that’s why Meg Wallace (Kentucky) teaches “Circus and Philosophy”
  5. Want to help your students “steel-man” rather than “straw-man” other people’s arguments? — ThinkerAnalytix & Harvard are offering free workshops for philosophy instructors on how to teach students argument mapping as a way of exercising intellectual charity
  6. How to get something from “nothing” — Aaron Wendland (KCL/Massey) on Heidegger, Carnap, and the analytic-Continental split
  7. “My utterly personal and speculative overall take-away from our data is that women’s emancipation had a paradoxical effect in philosophy” — Katharina Nieswandt (Concordia) interviewed by Adriel Trott (Wabash)