Technology is an accelerator that helps people share ideas and connect. But last week, people in power used that same accelerator to harm others. Likely too little too late — but banning Trump from social platforms hugely impacts the spread of misinformation. This week, Paul and Rich break down the four hacks that contributed to dangerous conspiracy theories and discuss the laws that need to be put into place to protect the future.
Rich Ziade Happy New Year Paul!
Paul Ford Ah, Rich, how you doing? Look, before we do any chit chat—
RZ How was your—
PF No, no.
RZ Oh, okay.
PF Nobody cares. Nobody cares about our holidays right now, in America.
RZ Okay, fine, fine. Go on. [music fades in, plays alone for 15 seconds, ramps down]
PF Last week, were yet more mental health days that we put into Slack at Postlight. Like, how many times? Look—what just happened?
RZ We were in a meeting, it’s the like “where were you” stories that kick in. We were in a meeting and I did the terrible thing where you sneak away and open another browser window while I was in the meeting.
PF Ah, never happens.
RZ Never happens. And I saw what looked like a US Capitol tour that had kind of gone off the rails.
PF Ah, it’s bad to laugh because people died, but it really did look like that first. They’re kind of milling around in the Capitol, one guys wearing a Viking hat. You’re like, “That’s weird”.
RZ Yeah, and it was a deeply, deeply weird at first, eventually it sort of turned into embarrassing and disturbing and sad and—
PF And tragic really. You’ve got the elected representatives of the country being shepherd into secure locations. It just—truly, truly—you know, America like any country, image is who we are. And the Capitol is part of our image. It was just hideous, right? So it was a hideous day. And it brings us to our podcast, because normally we don’t go too far on current events, but in this case the consequences of the riot by Trump extremists—that’s how most of the papers are referring to it—really came into the world in a way we’ve been talking about for a while. So, first of all, about three years ago, little more, three and a half, we went and did a live event podcast recording and we decided to keep it interesting and make the discussion be “Should Trump’s Twitter account be taken away?” and we talked a lot about the process. But ultimately, both you and I agreed, yes, like the net damage that is being done by him being on that platform, it is within Twitter’s legal rights, and they should take it away. I went back and listened to look at that. It’s one of our arguments where it was just like, that’s an interesting kind of chaos, right? Like taking that account away would be good. It would be kind of a good kind of chaos. And this is something that we talk about, in different ways a lot of the time, which is kind of there’s good chaos and bad chaos. Taking Trump’s Twitter account away three years ago would have been really good chaos in retrospect. What we we just saw was what really bad chaos looks like.
RZ We did, we did, and I want to get into how we got here because I think it’s worth digging into it. Because it’s interesting to me because I think it’s part technology, part legal part like the law right.
PF Technology wise, flipping this switch was not a big deal. They went “Okay.” Yeah, they were ready to go.
RZ This was easier to do. Right. In fact, Twitter was actually slow to the punch. I think Facebook banned him first. And then this snowball effect occurred and I want to talk about—
PF Let’s list it really quickly. Right? So Donald Trump, 12 hour time out because of incitement, followed by his account being permanently disabled. He’s banned from Twitter. He can’t post from other accounts, he’s banned. It’s like any bad shit poster. He’s gone. Facebook, not clear if he’ll be allowed back on but definitely banned.
RZ Indefinitely, I think is the word, yeah.
PF That’s right. And you’re correct. Zuckerberg did that before Twitter did. Also, connected to this is a variety of other tech platform deplatforming is happening around the Trump world. So Twitter is locking down a lot of accounts. The website Parler, which was the kind of right wing MAGA friendly version of Twitter, they’ve had their authentication, their SMS functionality, and ultimately, their hosting at AWS has been turned off.
RZ It’s gone. And I don’t know who who’s gonna pick them up, right, like it’s not like Google Cloud is gonna show up. And even if Google Cloud would love the business. They are not going to pick it up and say, “Yeah, sure. Come on over here.” It’s not happening.
PF No, they’re poison right, they’re box office poison and actually about 70 terabytes of their records because as they got shut down, their authentication processes became very vulnerable. So they got it all. I don’t know how, but they got a lot of Parler.
RZ And by the way, Paul, you can get a like 10 terabyte Western Digital for $7 now, so. [Rich laughs]
PF I am sitting on like, 60 terabytes right now as I’m recording this.
RZ If you don’t mind mirroring it, that would be helpful. I want to step back. And I want to talk about how we got here, right? And the reason this is a topic on on the Postlight Podcast is that there is no doubt that without technology, this would not have happened last week. Right?
PF No, none of this could have happened in the same way. I think there’s a lot you can do with TV. There were a lot of people there who were just like human chaos and didn’t, you know, they’re talking about, you know, space aliens. But, there were also and there were a lot of people there who are like angry veterans. And then there were some people with like zip ties and tactical gear, who had a plan, and they were able to execute their plan, that is all organized because it was enabled. Those people were enabled to find each other, say really violent things, and then go into private chats and figure out what they were gonna do. Occam’s razor.
RZ Let’s go back before they decided to use it for logistics, technology. Before they use it for logistics, right? Technology proved to be an accelerant in terms of its ability to amplify lies and conspiracy theories, and see them in a very powerful way. The truth is conspiracy theories have been around and crackpot ideas have been around forever. They usually stop at the social club or the barber shop, or the diner, right?
PF This is real. How many times has your barber started telling you about the Trilateral Commission?
RZ Barber shops, I mean, if barber shops were able to mobilize just barber shops, that would be the end of everything, essentially.
PF I just feel like the barber is the vector to write because they’re sitting in that chair and somebody starts telling them and they’re like, “Well, you know, there is a group of 14 people who control the world” and the barbers like, “You know, that’s interesting.” And then they tell it to the next person.
RZ So I mean, look, it’s ingredient one, accelerants were put in place because of social media, right? It used to be this—
PF This is a human dynamic, totally understood, like you used to walk down the street, and people would hand you mimeograph about about aliens, right?
RZ Or bulletin boards! I mean, it got better, got better. Like you had these weird fringe bulletin boards, you had Compuserve, you had all this weird stuff, early days.
PF Even Usenet! Usenet. There were lots of places to go talk.
RZ There were Usenet, there were lots of places to go talk. But what you had was essentially three to four private companies that had become laser focused on accelerating information spread, right, in a very, very powerful way, right?
PF Yeah, give them what they want. Literally, just give them what they want.
RZ Okay, so that’s ingredient one.
PF Or it’s not even give them what they want. It’s, they’ll tell you what they want, and then make sure they have access to it.
RZ That’s right.
That’s the weird thing. And I think this is why the tech companies, this is just an important point. It’s a subtle thing, that shift. But it’s why the tech companies have been able to say kind of like, “We’re just the victims of our own popularity” because it’s a passive process whereby they’re like, “Well, the database says they want more QAnon on content.” I mean, I don’t know, am I gonna tell people what to think?
RZ Yeah, exactly.
PF Oh, and actually, wait, let’s be clear, the government tells people what to think all the time, it has public schools, it has press conferences. I mean, it’s like this idea of like—
RZ There’s something special here, Paul. And here’s the special thing, which goes on to my next point about how conspiracy theories are great UX. They’re short. They’re brief.
PF Oh, boy, are they? Well they make sense.
RZ Not only that, they tap emotions. They tap, they reinforce ideas. They’re incredibly powerful, right?
PF Look at the campaign we just had, you have a guy saying, “If you don’t vote for me, literally everyone will die.” And another guy going, you know what, “Let’s all just relax and sit down and have a cup of tea decaffeinated tea,” right? And so what message—it actually turns out that America—first of all, 70 million people were good with the first message, but it actually turns out that America overall was like, I need that decaf tea. I want that sleepy time bear to come on home, and sit here, I’m not even gonna watch TV.
RZ That’s right. I mean, and that the election prove that out. But what you had with, with Trump, and this is not about the election, you know, when you looked at the 2016 election, and the way they were like generating images that perfectly tailored to whatever profile they had around you. So if you were a veteran, it was spinning up an ad to be used once, right? It was incredibly, highly, highly tailored marketing that was really powerful, right?
PF Well this is how internet marketing works overall, it’s just that then they went, they took it the next three to four steps really fast.
RZ That’s right. That’s right.
PF You know, what you’re talking about, think about social media as as an engine, right? Like, and it is, it’s a jet engine, and the Trump campaign strategy was to just fill it with with like, actual jet fuel. It’s just it was the purest form of fuel to get the most sort of value and the highest performance out of social media as an engine.
RZ That’s right. That’s right. And that the risk with that is it can get away from you, right? Because eventually, the marketing promise, which is the big poster about that exciting WWE event has to culminate in the WWE event.
PF You gotta go, you gotta go, yeah, you have to go to Madison Square Garden and see the Smashinator hit the, you know, yeah.
RZ I’ve been thinking a lot about the WWE for the last week. And I don’t think a lot about the WWE,
PF But it’s not bananas, like Trump was incredibly close to the WWE for decades, right?
RZ Exactly! And there’s sort of a tacit understanding that it is nonsense, but boy, is it fun. Right?
PF It’s release. It’s catharsis. It’s actually like, it’s Greek drama with really sweaty dudes.
RZ And the beers are $9 and the T shirts are 30. Right? Just like the Trump store which was removed from Shopify. Right, like so.
PF Boy, everybody got real brave the last week as the Democrats took the Senate. I could have, could have gone with just a little more bravery out of our industry before the democrats took the Senate. Just a smidgen.
RZ Yeah. I mean, and, and so have conspiracy theories been around? Yes. Social media accelerates them, even with social media, accelerating them. I mean, social media has been around a really long time. It’s not like it’s a year old, or three years old or four years old. Right? It’s been around a while, I think there’s this third ingredient. And the third ingredient is that you actually had leadership, real leaders who represent some reflection of what is supposed to be truth, and some set of norms. Right, took hold of these tools. I think that’s the—Alex jones is Alex Jones. And Alex Jones is Alex Jones. And he’s been around forever.
PF There was Art Bell on the radio, there’s been Rush Limbaugh, like there is a you know, and look, here’s the tricky thing about Fox News, right? For the most part, a lot of Fox News, recently, it’s a little trickier, but followed its own version of journalistic ethics in which things aligned with the facts, but there was a different emphasis focused on its audience. So there’s a killing by a migrant to the United States, someone gets killed, US citizen gets killed, that gets coverage on national news. And it gets like two weeks of nonstop analysis on Fox.
RZ And it’s loud and it’s kind of incendiary. It’s, it’s, yeah.
PF But ultimately, there was some hook to actual reality. And then you would get to like the Alex Jones of the world where he would be like, I’m going to talk to Billy Corgan, and I’m going to talk to this person, that person, and are aliens real, was okay. That was an okay question. And, you know, and then it just like, I’m not going to both sides this because but I mean, and truly entertaining.
RZ There’s always been there’s I mean, there’s been the intellectual right, and the intellectual left and the less intellectual right. And kind of the more crass stuff. I think the difference was—
PF There are people on Twitter right now who are advocating, you know, Maoism, and Stalinism as great, great, effective policies.
RZ There’s probably more people on Twitter advocating for that 10 years ago, Paul, I think the difference here is you had the President in place, right?
PF Well, that’s the hack, right? Because they couldn’t, they couldn’t, the mods couldn’t kept thinking they can’t step in.
RZ Well they can’t! They didn’t! They didn’t. They did it like last week, right. But you had someone that was willing to use these tools, was raised with a mindset around splashy marketing and was the President, right, and but on top of that—
PF I’m going to give you—I got a fourth but keep—finish the thought and then I have a fourth.
RZ I mean that the third is really not just about the President. It’s about, like, I want to use my law degree, which I paid for, like 25 years ago, but I really want to show off now. A good lawyer can manipulate the law mechanically and rhetorically in very powerful ways to say whatever the hell you want, right? And the truth is, the president actually doesn’t even bother with that because he was the president. So you can bypass all these like “I don’t care about that. I just want to sign my signature.” You know, that big goofy signature, it’s you know—
PF It’s so bad, with a sharpie
RZ With a sharpie, it’s like kind of thick. Yeah, and so he doesn’t bother but there were a lot of people around him and frankly in Congress and in other places where they use the law and made it subservient to whether whatever interest they had and for throughout the norms, laws without norms are nothing. And you know, you want me to tell you a quote, I can’t stand and then I want to hear your thoughts. I can’t stand people tell me you have to speak truth to power. Everybody, here’s here’s what needs to actually happen. What needs to happen more than anything else, otherwise it all melts down, is power has to speak truthfully. If isn’t happening, everything crumbles, all of it crumbles. Of course, we should speak truth to power, there’s always going to be someone speaking truthfully, everywhere all the time. But if it is not processed in such a way such that we’re holding power accountable to speak truthfully, even if we don’t believe in what they’re saying and not support a position, but are asking to speak truthfully, it all melts down. Right?
PF Well, and when we’re saying truthfully here, right, like, we’re not even at the philosophical definition of truth, we’re at the like, based on facts and documentary evidence, like not, not like, is their interpretation correct. But are they at least based on facts? Because once you believe that, you know, pedophiles and pizza restaurants are running the Democratic Party—so that’s another hack, right? The hack of fake documentary evidence and the way that people are—not a lot of the people who are investigators in this world are not skilled at differentiating between what’s real and what isn’t.
RZ It left me with a feeling of look, I gotta be honest with you, there was 10% of my emotion was was actually kind of pity, I saw a lot of people that were like, these are people who’ve worked their whole lives, who are pretty marginalized, who are actually deeply deeply manipulated in a very ugly way.
PF And they got it, you know, when you get the stories, like, I think that the news kind of tends to try to figure them out more than it needs to. But it’s always like, like the woman who got shot, like, it’s like, and then her failed pool business. And she started to go on the internet and like—it’s the same damn story. And it’s, at the same time, like, I also get a little tired. Like, there is an animating element of just pure, flat out rage and racism that shouldn’t be under counted here. Like there is a kind of, like, fundamental brokenness in society that these people tap into, and that they get played, they get played by others, right. So now you have people—the fourth thing to me, the fourth hack here, right? It wasn’t just that the President was doing this, it’s that you had a vulnerable population in the term in executives and people who run social media companies, not that they are like, we should have tremendous empathy for them, but rather, their ideology of free speech that was an absolutely unmitigated good as far as anyone could tell in the early days of the internet, because it was allowing disenfranchised voices to be heard. That ideology was tested repeatedly. We started, like I said, we started really hitting on this about four years ago, now three and a half, four years ago, that ideology utterly failed under the pressures of the moment. When a powerful person who had enormous authority started to test the limits of what could be safely said in public. Instead of adjusting and figuring out what the framework needed to be in order to keep their users and the larger population safe. They instead fell back on the ideology and kind of said, well, we’re a better government than the government. And that, like, it turns out that that set of beliefs about like more communication is always better. And God, there were 8 million warnings, like we’ve had Jason Goldman on the podcast. Jason was a VP of Twitter. He is very much on the record. He was on the record with us, he worked in the Obama administration like he saw what was happening. There was a lot of evidence.
RZ And you know, there’s no doubt that inside of Twitter there there was a recurring you know, we talked about recurring meetings, recurring meetings get dangerous, because you forget why they were recurring, but there was no doubt that a recurring like, “Should we cancel Trump account?” meeting, recurring meeting.
PF No, and what they did is they kept adjusting policy. Here is what is tricky, though. And it’s not as simple as like—okay, first of all, I think it is a net positive that they finally took down his account. That was, it took violence in in the most photo driven way possible. It took lunatics with zip ties chasing after Nancy Pelosi, screaming horrible racist statements as they ran through the Capitol to do it. But okay, if that’s what it takes to get—God help you if you need to get like Jack Dorsey to go to a medical appointment or something. I think that’s what it takes to get his attention.
RZ I think a more cynical perspective on this is like, “Oh, now we have the cover to do it.” Right. Like we can, no one’s gonna debate it now. Like we have the chance to do it now.
PF Yeah no, I think they finally were like, “Okay, let’s shut it down.”
RZ After the fact, it’s not brave. Let’s just say that out loud.
PF It’s not, no, no, it was time. Yeah, it was way beyond time. It was, I don’t want to say too little too late. Because it’s just like, this is the world we’re in and you have to kind of take the facts as they come. But for God’s sake. Now, the second thing here though, for me is, this is not an equivalency, okay, but there’s an app called Signal and Signal allows for encrypted communication between individuals and group chats. Great, that’s good. We need the ability for people to have privacy and where large companies can’t just observe every interaction and put advertising on top of it. That’s an important kind of pseudo right in, in the modern world, but what we have just discovered, collectively as a culture, what the government has just seen in a way that they’ve never seen before, is that Apple and Google can turn things off. So can Amazon, they can turn things off it when the pressure is at a certain point. And they’ll do it themselves. Or you could regulate it. And so the framework that we’re under right now, the collective framework that we’re under at this moment, is that the government can say turn it off, and Apple and Google are highly incentivized to turn it off. Whatever it is. It could be a desktop tower defense game. In this case, a vast number of Americans think it’s a really good idea, including me, right? Like, I’m like, just shut that shit down. Man. I’ve been saying it for years.
RZ That’s right. And and look, I think first off, to bring up free speech is like all you’re stifling free speech, and they are stifling free speech. It’s true. Free speech is not absolute. There are exceptions to free speech, even for government, you can’t incite, there are laws, there are Supreme Court cases, child pornography, there are there’s a list, you can actually look up exceptions to free speech, there’s a good Wikipedia page that lists them out. In fact, you could argue that what happened here clearly falls in the line of some of the widely held exceptions to free speech. So the argument is like, “Oh, Twitter is a private company. AWS is a private company, they don’t have any obligations. They’re not the government.” That’s a shaky argument.
PF Because this is tricky, right? Cuz Can you deny someone who has beliefs that you find abhorrent, let’s say racism, like a racist person? Can you say they can’t have a phone? Right? And that’s right now the way we’ve built our society, we we never deny them that we did, we’d never deny anyone the right to communicate with their peers, the only time we do this when they’re in prison, and we say it’s gonna cost you a certain amount of money. And you have to use only the system.
RZ Yeah, I mean, look, I think, I think to say that our forefathers when they were thinking about healthy debate and agree to disagree, and all that, that’s, that’s normal, that’s, that’s fine. If somebody wants to be on the fringe, I think and there that’s going to be out there, there’s going to be discussion out there like I have, I have a swirl of different views about different issues that probably don’t peg me in one place or the other. The thing I don’t do, though, is gather people with zip ties to handcuff them, because I don’t like what you’re saying. Like there are lines and those lines, I think what’s happened is the these tech companies have been left out in the cold because the government, as is usually the case has moved too slowly to tell them if you don’t take care of insight, you know, people that are inciting violence on your platform, we’re gonna hold you accountable by the law. So what happened is they have to step forward and kind of eyeball it and which is what Twitter has been doing. Like I couldn’t stand seeing the stupid warning labels. You stopped seeing them after a while.
PF They’re so ridiculous. And they also—they didn’t—they should have designed them, like they should have been blinking bright red drudge siren. They should really pixelate it. Like, instead, it was like, “Hey, guys, I don’t know if you know this, but the presidency is held by an absolute goon.”
RZ Correct. There they had other mechanisms that are wise to think about, things like can’t retweet, can’t reply to.
PF Those were good. Those I liked a lot more. Actually changing the nature of the platform, like okay.
RZ Well, it’s far more, it’s far less flammable. Signal, you mentioned Signal earlier. Signal, isn’t an accelerant. Signal is private chat. You can’t somehow have something catch fire and be in front of 30,000 people, 300,000 people on Signal, you could do it on Parler.
PF You know, you got a guy, you got a guy with 88 million followers here, right? Like this is, this is unprecedented. It’s also unprecedented that that’s the President of the United States and not like some state Assemblyman in Tennessee, right? Like, it’s just that just like this kind of banana cakes tends not to come out of that office. But we actually had four years to figure that out. And most people had figured it out. You know, I think you’re, you’re seeing a fundamental thing, which is that the capitalism moves really fast, you know, it’s very efficient. And then the tech industry is the most sort of like, it’s a tremendous accelerant of capitalism to the point that we like to make up our own kinds of money like Bitcoin. And now you got the government, which was not, which is designed to have like two to four year intervals, where the body politic can sort of change things to respond to current events.
RZ Yeah, you want capitalism to activate itself, threaten the house, if you threatened my house. Let me tell you, if you want to see capitalism really kick in fast. I’m going to take a more cynical view, they can say, “Well, this is just wrong, and people can get hurt.” I think what you were really seeing was, holy moly. We better get ahead of this. Otherwise, we’re in the gunsights. Right. And so without government coming after Apple, coming after Google.
PF Imagine if they didn’t shut him down. And also I mean, let’s be as cynical as possible, the Democrats have now taken all three houses. It is, you know, despite the absolute comic book, ridiculous thing we’ve just seen, there is no chance that they won’t. It’s been a long couple of years. And you’ve all already had to go before Congress. So what are you going to do? Because otherwise, you’d better get a really nice apartment in DC and expect to be living there.
RZ Yeah, that’s right. That’s right.
PF That’s in there. Look, I mean, let’s be clear that thinking that thinking is in there. I’m actually not that cynical. But I’m also that cynical, like, people have the cynical framing and honest framing and the ethical framing, but but my God, I mean, it just, thanks, I guess?
RZ Look, this is brand damage writ large. You see, like when someone does something terrible, and they’re like, “We’re no longer gonna advertise on their polo shirt when they golf” like they get upset after the fact. This is that writ large to some extent, which is like, we don’t want to be associated with this. Look, I’m gonna say it and people can read it however they like. It was a disgusting, ugly cesspool, Parler. I mean, it was just just horrible, horrible, horrible things being said.
PF It was a garbage fire and the CEO did an interview with Kara Swisher. And you’re just like this, you know, what Parler was, is like a right wing, like far right wing, extremist co-opting of internet ethos from like, 1997 grafted on to the power structure with with like Trump, and it’s just—you’re just like, everybody knew what that was, right? There was no, everybody was like, everybody knew what that was.
RZ That’s right. That’s right. That’s right. And so I’m optimistic, Paul. You know, sometimes, you know, you know, like, if you have a house that hasn’t had the water run through the pipes, you got to run the water if you wait too long. Sometimes you got to test the system. It feels good. I mean, it’s sad that this happened. But you know, sometimes you test the system to make sure it’s still durable, and it can still withstand a lot. And I feel like we did in a way.
PF Well, I mean, this is, you make it sound, the thing I would clarify there is it’s not, you don’t go test the system, sometimes the system is tested, and then you get to decide what you’re going to be.
RZ That’s right. That’s right. That’s right.
PF I actually like like that there’s there is a crisis. It was a predictable crisis. But at some, but there are some moments here that I’ve seen where I’m like, the rule of law, policy, long term thinking, concern for American citizens is still the priority of our government, for the most part.
RZ Yes, yes, yes, for the most part. And look, the people also voted.
PF People are disgusted. This has I mean, there’s an element of disgust.
PF So now we are headed for busy congressional hearings around technology.
RZ That’s inevitable, because it is an enabler. The word I like to use is accelerant. What I mean by that is, these are mechanisms that have been in place, but but but flame out quickly, whether it be outside the door of a barber shop, or on a bulletin board or in a chat or in a large group chat in WhatsApp, but Facebook is an accelerant. Like you have that and it’s danger is real, right? Like and that has to be, we can’t hope for the best and hope that the management team at Facebook are the ones that are going to make sure that this doesn’t get out of hand.
PF I think what we have to imagine in the next four years, I imagine that the era of pseudo policy has ended, we’ve been living in a world of pseudo policy. There’s CDMA, there’s Section 230. There’s like a lot of legal frameworks, and there’s Free Speech. And there’s the First Amendment. And so there’s a lot of legal frameworks that have been applied and glued on to the internet. And then now social media in particular. And I think that that ad hoc set of regulation like that is going to change. Legislation will be introduced, that regulates things in a very specific way. And what I really wonder about, we’ve talked about this before your terms of service are the Constitution, as far as developers and software developers are considered that is, if Apple says it can go, it can go, if Google says it can go, it can go and if you don’t agree with that you’re basically cut out from the ecosystem. Yeah, the web is a little bit different. But then you have to, you’re probably hosting on a major cloud provider and they can shut those off too. So a very clear signal has been sent that one of the things that policy can accomplish is to turn off the big switch. And the big switch is a very dangerous thing. That is a you know, the big switch got turned off in Turkey. They tried to turn it off in Egypt.
RZ Yeah, let’s get ahead of it and temper it and contain it like that. There’s an opportunity now, we’ve seen firsthand where it can go, how it can get out of hand. And so let’s figure out let’s figure out how to contain it. I mean, I think that’s the message here.
PF And look, it’s gonna this is the thing, it’s going to be hideous, right? Because you’re going to have people who are more politically aligned with where you are, are going to be and they’re they’re going to say something And that’s gonna get interpreted as violence even though you’re going to know that they don’t mean it that way. And then someone on the on the other side, you know is going to call for shutting it all down and it’s going to be absolutely hideous. That’s American government.
RZ That’s how it’s, it’s always been hideous though, we are hideous. Humans are hideous. The truth is you got it, I want to actually say something nice about like the Twitter legal team, they actually tried, they essentially wrote laws effectively, trying to somehow find the right balance of how to judge.
PF Talk about a group of human beings with no fans.
RZ Just dark room, a lot of Thai food getting ordered in, the holiday party, the just sort of stay in their own area at the holiday part at Twitter.
PF Not a single person has said, “Let’s hear it for the Twitter legal team” [Rich laughs]
RZ Oh, that’s great.
PF You know, the thing that I just want to say, because it came into my head, the fantasy is that there is a technical solution for the world that we’ve built. That we’re going to kind of find something that feels almost as algorithmic and structured. Without the arbitrary like Terms of Service and rules and codes of conduct that are as as enforceable as like code could allow. And now that we are in the realm of lawmaking, and it’s going to be some pretty big lawmaking, I can’t imagine it won’t be, it’s not going to be a technical solution, it’s going to be a legal and cultural solution. And people will say things and do things online, and then the FBI will visit them just as it always has, but under the new set of laws, and it’s gonna be bigger and weirder.
RZ There are laws today that reach into social media, that reach to technology, like you can’t child pornography, for example. They will seek you out and find you, wherever, wherever you are. And so what happens is, these organizations are incented to take care of it not just because of the law, but also because they don’t want to be associated with it, right? And the truth is here, what you had was leadership, the leader of the free world, just went buck wild with the system.
PF Well then the leaders of these companies said “I just don’t want to sell my conscience anymore. I don’t want it. Our employees hate it. I can’t do it anymore.”
RZ Well, and also it’s bad business. It’s okay to say that too. It’s also bad business.
PF Yeah. Oh, no, no, I mean, that’s, that’s part of the job is you have to factor all of that in.
RZ You know who makes a great business leader, Paul? When you can somehow solder your conscience into your business instinct.
PF And that’s why people should get in touch with Postlight. [Rich laughs]
RZ Alright, well, I’m optimistic, Paul, I think I think I’m looking forward to like our April podcast episode, where we talk about something that is so boring.
PF Imagine, we’re gonna be back in the office eventually. The podcast I look forward to is back in the office and we’re talking about—
PF Yeah, the visual grammar of icons, and how that’s changed over the last five years.
RZ That sounds like a fun topic, to the designers at Postlight, if you’re listening.
PF Oh, absolutely. You know what it is, we’re gonna do, here’s what I want everybody hang in with this podcast until we get to this point, tabs, just tabs, just like not just browser tabs, but the tabs as UX, and we’re gonna do a podcast on tabs, and it’s gonna be the most relaxing thing and we’re gonna actually have a, we’re gonna have a big fight. We’re gonna have the most entertaining fight.
RZ Sponsored by Headspace. [Rich & Paul laugh]
PF Exactly. And you and I, somehow, we’re gonna get we’re gonna get really angry with something. Because I’m gonna just come in there and say, you know, horizontal isn’t tabs. [Paul laughs]
RZ I haven’t been upset over nonsense in a long time, because I’ve been upset over legitimate things, I need to be upset over nonsense.
PF There have been some lessons learned. And I’m going to continue to be more concerned and civically engaged with certain subjects than I might have been before. Because we’ve learned that things can really spiral and I’m going to make sure my voice counts there. But at the same time, let’s just, God, just some silliness again, and also just, yeah, a little less, every we can figure this out. We’re gonna figure this out. Let’s just keep going.
RZ On that note, Paul. Hope y’all found this useful. If you dig back through our archives, though, that we’ve talked about a lot of these topics.
PF We’ll put a few links in the shownotes.
RZ Were pretty brilliant. We’ve seen a lot of this coming. Just going to say that at least as far as Paul Ford is concerned.
PF Yeah well, we couldn’t stop it. So we’re not that brilliant.
RZ Exactly. Alright everyone, be safe, be well, keep your chin up. And have a lovely week.
PF Have a great week, everybody. We’ll talk to you soon. [music ramps up, plays alone for three seconds, ends]