Jordan Peterson’s radical ‘anti-censorship’ platform promises free speech – but can it deliver?
Thinkspot, a subscription-based service, is meant to be a radical alternative to the major social media platforms and, Peterson told podcast host Joe Rogan, it will not ban a user “unless we’re ordered to by a US court of law.”
It describes itself as an “an intellectual playground for censorship-free discourse” and “a collaborative community where individuals can explore and exchange ideas in a thoughtful and respectful manner.” The platform also aims to monetize content-creation, making it a kind of social media version of YouTube or Patreon.
Peterson’s Thinkspot comes as the debate around social media censorship has kicked into high gear, with the banning of swathes of popular conservative commenters and content-creators across platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
The clamoring to censor ‘offensive’ content and to ‘deplatform’ creators to please über-sensitive users was taken to new levels recently when YouTube demonetized hundreds of accounts for posting about controversial topics. The seemingly indiscriminate ban-fest was triggered after Vox journalist Carlos Maza demanded the deplatforming of a conservative host who’d used homophobic slurs against him.
In its rush to ban ‘extremist’ content, YouTube threw the baby out with the bathwater and even history teachers had their videos deleted and demonetized, merely for talking about the history of Nazism, something which suddenly violated arbitrarily applied “hate-speech” rules.
Peterson’s daughter has urged people to sign up to Thinkspot, saying there is a “desperate need for a platform that doesn’t arbitrarily decide to throw people off because of random crowd mentality.”
While some have reacted with delight at the prospect of a less restrictive platform upon which to air their views and debate controversial topics, others have pointed out some flaws with how Thinkspot works, at least for now.
Comment sections on the website will have an ‘upvoting’ and ‘downvoting’ feature. If a comment’s ratio of upvotes to downvotes falls below 50/50, then that comment will be hidden. “People will still be able to see [your comments], if they click, but you’ll disappear,” Peterson told Rogan.
The feature has sparked criticism, with some arguing that hiding comments which aren’t popular with the majority of users is a form of censorship, even comparing it to Twitter’s “shadowbanning” tactic, which makes users with certain opinions harder to find. “Tribalism and groupthink are built into the very bones of the platform,” one tweeter wrote.
Another, somewhat odd feature is the requirement for comments to be a minimum of 50 words. Peterson explained that he wants users to “put a little thought” into what they are saying. “Even if you’re being a troll, you’ll be a quasi-witty troll.”
But who said you can’t be witty or insightful in under 50 words – and should a platform priding itself on not controlling speech be compelling its users to always post lengthy, rather than quick and snappy, comments? (50 words is the entire length of this paragraph, by the way.)
Then there’s the question of whether a well-intentioned anti-censorship mentality could go too far. Is it too extreme to only ban a user after a US court order demands it? Should there be a middle-ground, where users won’t be censored for political content, controversial opinions or ‘offensive’ speech, but where genuinely dangerous extremists and Nazis also don’t run rampant?
In the rush to fix a broken system, it looks like an all-or-nothing approach might be winning out again.
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