Nikki Haley Hates Privacy

in #news14 days ago


The above image was made by @amberjyang using Midjourney with the prompt 'social media crowd of transparent people.'

Former South Carolina governor and presidential hopeful Nikki Haley recently made the news for suggesting a ban on social media anonymity. Here's a quote from a New York Post article about it:

"When I get into office, the first thing we have to do, social media accounts, social media companies, they have to show America their algorithms," Haley said. "Let us see why they're pushing what they're pushing. The second thing is, every person on social media should be verified, by their name. That's, first of all, it's a national security threat. When you do that, all of a sudden, people have to stand by what they say. And it gets rid of the Russian bots, the Iranian bots and the Chinese bots. And then you're going to get some civility when people know their name is next to what they say, and they know their pastor and their family members are going to see it."

From my perspective, the assumption that social media giants don't already know our identities and many other things about us is unfounded. And I suspect that the national security impact of social media bots is minimal. Big Tech already works closely with intelligence and law enforcement, so it isn't clear what exactly Haley hopes to accomplish beyond provoking privacy and free speech advocates.

In any case, it didn't take Haley long to walk back her comments, amending her position to make it more appealing to GOP influencers. From an AP piece about that:

Asked on CNBC if she was advocating a ban on all anonymous social media posts, Haley said that, while she believed "life would be more civil if we were able to do that," she was focused on foreign-based actors, not U.S. citizens. "I don't mind anonymous American people having free speech; what I don't like is anonymous Russians and Chinese and Iranians having free speech," Haley said, not explaining how she would recommend that social media companies parse those users.

Considering Haley's position in broad terms, what comes immediately to mind is surveillance cameras. Thirty years ago, the American public was generally led to believe that people would refrain from misbehaving in front of a camera. Today, there are cameras everywhere and people just do crimes in front of them without worrying about it. In this light, Haley's assertion that social media users would behave more congenially if forced to act under their real names seems mistaken.

Of course, regardless of this conversation, the future is radically transparent. The control regime already has access to all of our our personal data. Criminals, too, have access to this data, and they sell it on the black market to facilitate identity theft. At some point, we may wake up and take control of our personal data. This is technically possible now, but only a handful of people seem to understand the need for it.

On the issue of social media bots in general, we're at a crossroads. The emergence of LLMs could easily translate into bots that effectively evade common bot countermeasures, including our psychological filters. Even now, I don't know if half the stuff I see on Twitter is human or bot in origin. While this uncertainty is mildly uncomfortable, government intervention would probably make things worse.

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