Psychologist Jordan Peterson, author of 12 Rules for Life (3 million copies sold), is one of the best-known public intellectuals. He is also embattled; a Cambridge Fellowship was rescinded because students and others were offended by his outspoken support for free speech. He is currently trying to create a safe place on the internet for free speech — free, that is, from trolls and Big Tech censorship.
His proposal coincides with several recent Big Social Media decisions that have raised eyebrows. For example, Pinterest classified a pro-life site as a porn site, presumably to hamper its cause, as an engineer has revealed:
Recent problems have included confirmed search engine bias (Google Search) deleting controversial historical footage that teachers use (YouTube), and bans on non-conforming expert opinion (Twitter). Peterson was motivated by Patreon’s recent turn to censorship of creators raising funds on its site.
Thinkspot is currently being marketed as a free speech alternative to Patreon, Facebook, and YouTube, which implies that the details remain to be worked out:
Peterson discussed Thinkspot with podcaster Joe Rogan on June 9, emphasizing a radically pro-free speech Terms of Service. He described that freedom as the “central” aspect saying, “once you’re on our platform we won’t take you down unless we’re ordered to by a US court of law.”
That will be a profound contrast to platforms that ban users for “misgendering” people who identify as trans, or for tweeting “learn to code” at fired journalists.Alexander Hall, “Jordan Peterson Announces Free Speech Platform ‘Thinkspot’” at Newsbusters
Here’s the interview with Rogan.
Here’s where the platform is incubating:
Ideas live here
Thinkspot is a collaborative community where individuals can explore and exchange ideas in a thoughtful and respectful manner. The platform is an intellectual playground for censorship-free discourse.
Peterson already has detractors:
The grand idea of Thinkspot, as far as I can tell, is that it’s a place for people who know how to be racist and sexist in a more dog-whistle-y way, not in the more direct way you might see on Twitter — or on Gab, the platform for people who are somehow too racist for Twitter.Brian Feldman, “Jordan Peterson’s Online Platform Will Shadowban Unpopular Opinions” at NY Mag
More than ever, we have needed a space to be able to share and exchange ideas without fear of reprisal, browbeating, and clampdowns. For the sake of the West’s cultural and political future, we need to inject enthusiasm for healthy Socratic debate and intellectual exploration.Shane Miller, “Jordan Peterson starts new content-sharing, free speech platform “Thinkspot” at Post Millennial
Straw in the wind: A couple of months ago, I was conversing at a social gathering with a professor associated with the University of Toronto where Jordan Peterson remains on faculty, despite much opposition. The professor told me that academics who support Peterson’s fight for free speech on campus are terrified to say so, due to the hostility of well-placed opponents.
Another straw in the wind: Currently, Canada is seeking to reimpose Section 13 of the Human Rights Act. It was repealed in 2013, after a series of controversial cases in which public figures such as commentator Mark Steyn were targeted, often for expressions of conventional opinion of which some disapproved. Canada’s governing Liberal Party is facing a tough election this fall due to recent scandals. It hopes to impose stricter controls on social media to prevent “disinformation and distortion”.
An underlying issue is that the new social media have never really been systematically defined in society. Are they the telephone company (a communications platform), the newspaper (a publisher), or a virtual coffee room for private social gatherings? Or something else altogether?
Their responsibility depends mainly on what we expect them to be. With much capital at stake, Big Tech may encourage stakeholders to aggress against ideas they can then just deplatform. That would make the social media companies’ jobs much easier. It would also create a bigger role for non-profit free speech media such as Peterson is proposing.
See also: Facebook’s secret censorship rules expose a key problem Most moderators are not skilled and have only a few seconds to decide on a post
No, Twitter is not the New Awful It’s the Old Awful back for more. It’s the Town Without Pity we all tried to get away from
Jordan Peterson — Do the Stitches Hold? A review of Twelve Rules at Evolution News and Science Today: