Twitter Co-Founder Evan Williams Says Free Speech Was a Mistake

Twitter Co-Founder Evan Williams Says Free Speech Was a Mistake

Guest Editorial by Maintenance Renegade

I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.

– Twitter Co-Founder Evan Williams

I recently came across an interview Evan Williams did with The New York Times in which both he and the sympathetic author whinge and moan at great length about how other people choose to use social media to express opinions they find objectionable. I enjoyed this piece quite a lot because of the way it unintentionally showcases many of the reasons why the Silicon Valley mindset is so insufferable and why these billionaire Utopian idealists are such cancerous jackasses.

I highly recommend you all read the original article, but I’m going to go through what I think are the highlights.

The problem with the Internet, contends Williams, is that it rewards extremes. He likens the process to the way everyone will stop to look at a car crash, complaining that the internet’s market of ideas and content subsequently takes this as a sign that people want more car crashes. To bring his metaphor a step further, however, I must point out that demolition derbies and monster truck rallies are a beloved and much celebrated form of entertainment in some circles. What exactly is his point? The internet is reflecting natural human behavior.

Williams goes on…

“If I learn that every time I drive down this road I’m going to see more and more car crashes,” he says, “I’m going to take a different road.”

Hey, whatever floats your boat! If you don’t like something, OK. Don’t partake in it. But it’s clear that Williams feels a need to rain on other people’s fun. Of course this is something we’ve seen from the Silicon Set constantly. It not only reveals what a bunch of finger wagging buzzkills they are but also illuminates their megalomania.

From there both the NYT article and Williams contradict whatever point they were trying to make as it shifts over into shilling for his newer project, Medium, a blogging site that I’ve used more than a few times myself. Unfortunately for Evan, Medium is nowhere near as popular as the arenas full of “car crashes” he had just gotten through lamenting. The article even admits it, pointing out that it really is just an 85 employee vanity project.

Earlier this year, Medium laid off 50 employees. The reason given was that the content on Medium was unable to grab eyeballs, which meant it couldn’t bring in enough ad-revenue to become profitable, either to it’s operators or it’s contributors.

Williams himself slammed the current model, which he said drives clickbait to serve the goals of corporations. “It simply doesn’t serve the people,” he said. “In fact, it’s not designed to.”

Williams is mad because people disagree with him and like things other than the things he likes, and he really wants to have a whine about it, but chooses to do so from behind the pretense of appearing deeply concerned and thoughtful. A strange tangent then follows where the writer shits on small town rural America and Williams complains about the dastardly football jocks he contended with in his Nebraska high school (of course he does) before the piece gets back on topic.

Williams proposes his chosen solution to Medium’s ills:

Ad-driven systems can only reward attention. They can’t reward the right answer. Consumer-paid systems can. They can reward value. The inevitable solution: People will have to pay for quality content.

Yes, that’s right. The man believes that the solution to making money off of content that people aren’t even looking at when it’s free is to put it behind a paywall. Moreover, really think and consider for a moment what he’s saying here. He’s saying that the consumer is wrong, and that the market is wrong because he’s the one with “the right answer” and that it’s everyone else’s fault for not seeing it that way.

The attitudes and tendencies Williams displays in the NYT interview are hardly uncommon among the Silicon Set. We’ve seen it time and again on this very blog. I selected this piece precisely because of how typical Williams is, and how typical it also is for a sympathetic prog media to fawn over insufferable pieces of crap like him. I’ve rarely seen it all summed up so perfectly in one place in the form of such an effective and epic self-own.

These people also tend to have messianic complexes. At a college commencement speech Williams likened himself and Silicon Valley as a whole to the titan Prometheus and said the following:

What we tend to forget is that Zeus was so pissed at Prometheus that he chained him to a rock so eagles could peck out his guts for eternity. Some would say that’s what we deserve for giving the power of tweets to Donald Trump.

It’s more than obvious after reading the NYT interview that Williams is no businessman. A businessman who created an online platform where the major discourse surrounding national elections played out would be pleased people were using the service and would simply work to cash in on it from there. That’s the entire point of a business, to create something the market wants and to make money off providing it. It’s really no wonder that with this man on it’s board that Twitter has never once made a profit in all it’s years of operation. It can’t all be laid at his feet alone, but they’re ALL basically like this over there.

They say they want to host a forum but all they really want to do is shout at you through a megaphone.

Despite likening his journey to that of Prometheus it’s clear from reading the interview that Williams hasn’t learned a single thing from it, because he’s still on some sort of crusade to save humanity. Social media companies have been getting alot more restrictive lately, downright Orwellian, and it‘s in very large part due to these Utopian idealists in Silicon Valley.

“I think we will fix these things, twenty years isn’t very long to change how society works.”

-Evan Williams regarding the push to censor wrongthink in social media

It’s amazing how the people smart enough to build the technological wonders that reshaped the entire world right in front of us are such complete and utter idiots, but given what they’ve built and the wealth and prestige it’s brought them, we shouldn’t be surprised that they’re such a bunch of creepy little authoritarian control freaks.

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

– H. L. Mencken

Ethan Ralph

Founder, Owner, & Editor-in-Chief of TheRalphRetort.com. Political fiend, gamer, & anti-bullshit.

  • Mr0303

    Twitter was a mistake.

    • So is Disqus it seems.

      • JasonC5

        Disqus said it a while ago that they will indeed filter posts and in my case actually handed over “problematic” yet legal posts of mine to the police because I mentioned the mayor’s name.

        • Christopher Kelley

          Sweet. You should calmly reply that they’ll lose your business as a result, in favor of a less totalitarian control-freak service provider.

  • Silence Dogood

    I like that last quote.

  • Maintenance Renegade

    Good job hashing the mess I sent you into something halfway readable Ralph, I really should have put some more time into it but I ran out of time and needed to go to bed.

  • Marcus Lawshe’

    I happen to like Monster Truck rallies. But I’m not going to pay someone to read about it later. Especially someone so egotistical that it sounds like they’re trying to ‘talk down’ to me. I have better and more fulfilling ways to spend both my time and money.

    Like buying alllllllllllll the Mercedes Carrera porn I can get my hands on.

    God bless dat sweet ass.

  • Grust

    I’ve hated Marge and Lisa Simpson ever since I was a kid.

    • Loopy Loon

      I don’t really hate Marge as much as Lisa, “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” was a great episode, but everything Lisa’s in just pisses me off.

      • Maintenance Renegade

        She was insufferable even in most classic episodes but one of the many reasons the double-digit seasons were so insufferable as to make me finally quit watching out of habit was that she became a blatant mouthpiece the writers used for their prog bullshit.

      • Grust

        Good point, there are times when Marge is tolerable but Lisa, holy crap, she is just extremely unlikable.

      • JasonC5

        Lisa is extremely insufferable in the newer episodes especially in that future episode where Bart is 25 and owns a bike/ paint shop.

  • Blake Donohoo

    This is basically people who hate something to the point of wanting it to go away. Almost understandable, except that unlike everyone else, they have the power to do it.

    • Maintenance Renegade

      These guys are like those psycho post-partem chicks who murder their own babies, we need to keep the tech they invented but not only do we not need THEM anymore but they’ve become a total liability. Kill the god and save the creation.

  • It’s natural to want to fix problems and improve society (which is what motivates many MRAs, including myself) and, unfortunately, cognitive bias (prioritising personal preference) is also natural, as is the desire to control things and other people.

    Put together, that’s a very bad and dangerous combination, one with a very nasty history dating back millennia (eg nearly all religions ever).

    I don’t think Williams is remotely unusual but, as @blakedonohoo:disqus says, Williams unusually has the potential power to effect his vision without accountability.

    IMO, this speaks to a larger problem. There are five general classes of entity with the power to shape people’s lives whether they want it or not: government (carrot), judiciary (stick), religion (carrot and stick), cultural mores (also carrot and stick) and big business (carrot with stick hidden inside).

    Of those, government is answerable at the ballot box as is the judiciary in some places (and in any case, it is guided by the legislature; it can’t originate policy), religion has been rendered toothless over the past 30 or 40 years (at least in the West) and society and culture is a product of organic development rather than centrally controlled — but big business remains potent and utterly a law unto itself.

    In theory, big business should be subject to the laws of supply and demand but, in practice, businesses over a certain size are so tightly integrated by common standards of living and command such market share that people have very little choice to opt out without drastic consequences to their ability to lead a normal life. The vast majority simply are not willing to make the sacrifices required to have any meaningful impact upon what these big corporations do.

    Don’t mistake that for a criticism of capitalism, it’s not. Capitalism is still the single best/least worst vehicle for doing stuff, but between private capital and public government there are some cracks or loopholes by which perversion of both is inevitable.

    Those loopholes could be closed via public regulation, but that’s a dirty word for many and plus, too many vested interests are arrayed against regulation of big business.

    It boils down to this: would you rather be controlled by big business who tells you what you can do where and with whom, even with stuff you’ve paid for, and over whom you have absolutely no control whatever — or would you rather be controlled by government regulation over which you have at least some measure of influence.

    Because sure as death and taxes, you can’t escape control by something.

  • ExiledV2

    I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that.

    Oh sweet summer child, you were wrong. So wrong.
    A stint on Usenet back in the 1990s would have taught you so much.

    The internet is reflecting natural human behavior.

    The problem is that it does not so much reflect as amplifies. Natural human behavior is actually detrimental to technological, industrialized civilization. In order for us to have such civilization, we have to suppress our natural behavior in favor of logic and rationality. The internet does not encourage us to that.

    It’s more than obvious after reading the NYT interview that Williams is no businessman. A businessman who created an online platform where the major discourse surrounding national elections played out would be pleased people were using the service and would simply work to cash in on it from there. That’s the entire point of a business, to create something the market wants and to make money off providing it.

    You’re right. He’s not a businessman. But you are very much missing the point of what he is.

    He is an idealist. He wants to make the world into a better place. His motive is not the profit motive; his motive is a better world. Profit is not necessary to that motive.

    Of course, he’s up against maximum capitalists like you and me and Ralph. We’ll make the world into an utter hellhole for blog clicks and ad cash. That’s human nature at it’s finest. He’s repressing his; we’re indulging ours.

    Despite likening his journey to that of Prometheus it’s clear from reading the interview that Williams hasn’t learned a single thing from it, because he’s still on some sort of crusade to save humanity.

    Well, yes, that’s what idealists do.

    “The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.”

    Mencken was wrong about that one. No, the majority of idealists are quite firm and believe in their ideals. It’s what makes them what they are.

  • Danlantic

    My favorite part of the article is this:

    At a moment when buzz can appear to be everything, Medium is not afraid to be dull. (“How to Expand Your Vocabulary” was featured on the “Popular on Medium” page.)

  • Christopher Kelley

    I take umbrage only with your use of the portmanteau “wrongthink”, though admittedly you aren’t using it any worse than plenty of others. What it should be labeled, though, is the original Newspeak word: “thoughtcrime”.

  • social media might have been our only way of expressing ourselves or change things, but again, it’s now under severe control and is no différent from the other media.
    SJWs, politicians, Soros shills and the “good guys” can post all the stupid shit they want, or can, while others, identitarians, dissidents. people who are fed up by this system, whistleblowers, leakers, hackers will be censored. all the interesting thing is meant to be silenced, giving speech priorities to TV’s stars and people, a 1% of the population who dictate how to live, who dictate people how to think and behave, tell people to check their privileges from a luxurious residence, tell people to hate trump and the alt right. that being liberal is good and thinking differently makes you dangerous. to not have hate against muslims when they shoot you – that would be racism and racism is worse than islamism. all of that shit.
    ( and if you think 4chan is still an alternative media, you’re wrong.)
    there’s a lot of things our constitutions have in common, and the free speech part is one of them. same for the right to defend ourselves.

  • Hell And A Hand Basket

    Free-speech, used strictly for profit, will always spin-itself into a controlled platform.
    Really, it’s fairly simple – big-bucks backing/sponsoring anything, will ALWAYS overlay the backer’s agenda ontop of the product they’re backing = controlled messaging.
    Do we not believe the news, especially at a local level, doesn’t throttle stories to protect their sponsors? It’s all about the advertisers, it’s NOT about the news stories – those are secondary, considered “filler”, a “vehicle” for advertisers – it’s a spoon to get the food into the mouth.
    Would PEPSI for instance, slap advertising all over a news story which tells its viewers blacks are murdering each other in Chicago – that would mean PEPSI is inline with murders. So, the media throttles-back those stories, turns them into a humanitarian or educational crisis, instead of cold-blooded murder, so we can still associate PEPSI with Chicago. I guarantee if the news were reported accurately, ALL sponsors would remove themselves from local news programs.
    Advertising is a very strange animal, and until you’re able to see EVERYTHING through the eyes/brain of advertising, and how they connect themselves with what’s going on in the world, none of this will make any sense.
    We all unconsciously connect products with events, and when the news is unable to control the narrative for a natural-disaster perhaps, I can assure you, the ad department at the news agency received a phone call from their sponsors, demanding their ads removed from that story’s reporting. But, rescue workers helping victims of that disaster, is a much better story, thereby securing the advertisers are happy, and won’t demand removal from the story – and we see the narrative switch to a feel-good story, so the advertisers continue the sponsorship dollars.
    I don’t think I explained this phenomenon clearly enough, but I think you can see what this is describing, and how it is a routine thing, but we don’t even notice it.

    In the end, watch as GAB takes the same fatal route as did FBook, Twit-Twat, YouTube, and frankly, ALL of mainstream media. Remove the for-profit bucks, and it’s free-speech once again.
    #MAGA …one exposed Leftist/Feminist-Cult member at a time.