Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis
Spot on the road with shoes of people gathered around it.
Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Jordan Peterson’s New “Thinkspot” Takes Shape

Analysts ask, can his proposed rules work?

Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson became a controversial public figure for reasons that say much about tolerance today. As a public intellectual, he has become so infamous at the University of Toronto, largely for saying things most people believe, that an academic has told me privately that many fellow academics support him— but none dare speak up.

Recently, a Cambridge Fellowship was rescinded because students and others were offended by his outspoken support for free speech. Meanwhile, Peterson left Patreon, where he made over $30,000/month, over censorship issues, particularly the one-sided censorship of conservative opinion.

Troubled by politically monolithic Big Tech clampdowns, he is founding Thinkspot which, depending on who you believe, will be “another hotbed of extremism” or a “a welcome social media option.”

But the big question is, can a new social platform work at all? Numbers are not as big a problem as we might at first think. His Facebook page already has 544,922 Likes and 596,216 followers, which would be enough to get started.

Here is some publicly available information to date as to how it would work:

  • “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. ” (Newsbusters, June 12, 2019)
  • “The site will be subscription-based, and creators will be compensated directly by other subscribers.” (MercatorNet, July 24, 2019)
  • “Posts will have to be more than 50 words, “If minimum comment length is 50 words, you’re gonna have to put a little thought into it. Even if you’re being a troll, you’ll be a quasi-witty troll.” Peterson said. (June 12, 2019)
  • Users can “upvote” or “downvote” comment, and those that fall below a ratio (perhaps 50/50) will be hidden, so readers must click on it to see it. (MercatorNet, July 24, 2019)

Some analysts find Peterson’s approach “woefully naive.” Apart from the fact that trolls can often be verbose as well as abusive, there is the difficulty that a voting system might result in a mass heckler’s veto:

After all, what’s to stop a right-wing mob from downvoting every comment they see from a progressive? Make no mistake: Thinkspot will almost certainly be predominantly populated by conservatives. As Néstor de Buen persuasively argues, a website designed by Jordan Peterson and backed by other members of the so-called “Intellectual Dark Web” will undoubtedly discourage liberals from joining, while the downvote system “will all but ensure no left-wing ideas are ever discussed on the site.”

Tyler Curtis, “Jordan Peterson’s Thinkspot Is a welcome social media option. Will it work?” at MercatorNet

But Thinkspot may be a viable alternative to One-Way Mass Shoutworld anyway:

As the major social media companies crack down on unprogressive speech, Thinkspot may become a refuge for dissenters. What’s more, an innovative Patreon-YouTube-Twitter hybrid could apply competitive pressure to other platforms, incentivizing them to relax their censorship policies. Once again, the market is doing a better job at encouraging free speech than more regulation ever could.

Tyler Curtis, “Jordan Peterson’s Thinkspot Is a welcome social media option. Will it work?” at MercatorNet

But also, what about the problem of expecting people to pay? Perhaps most people are so used to getting their social media for free for the same reasons as turkeys get their feed for free — because, as tech philosopher George Gilder likes to remind people, they’re the product — that they willingly submit to one-sided censorship?

That said, New Hampshire-based Canadian commentator Mark Steyn has used a pay-to-play model for several years. Anyone can read what is written but only Club members can comment. One difference is that Steyn offers free speech only for intelligent comments. All comments are monitored and it is understood that off-standard ones simply do not appear on the site.

Peterson seems to want a pay-as-you-go model that trusts the user group as a whole to monitor instead. His is doubtless one of many models that will be tried in years to come as users seek freedom from oppressive Big Tech.

See also: Jordan Peterson to found new free speech platform. Thinkspot is being developed as a free speech alternative to Facebook, YouTube, and Patreon.

How did Twitter become a virus of the mind? A libertarian law professor reflects on the poisonous atmosphere and proposed remedies. Using engineering terminology, he makes the point that, whereas the blogosphere has been a loosely coupled system where craziness in one venue had little impact on another, new social media are tightly coupled systems, prone to maximal disruption.


Jordan Peterson — Do the Stitches Hold?

Denyse O'Leary

Denyse O'Leary is a freelance journalist based in Victoria, Canada. Specializing in faith and science issues, she is co-author, with neuroscientist Mario Beauregard, of The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist's Case for the Existence of the Soul; and with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor of the forthcoming The Human Soul: What Neuroscience Shows Us about the Brain, the Mind, and the Difference Between the Two (Worthy, 2025). She received her degree in honors English language and literature.

Jordan Peterson’s New “Thinkspot” Takes Shape