Friday Night Owls: The left must vie to control the algorithms that shape our lives

Friday Night Owls: The left must vie to control the algorithms that shape our lives

Night Owls is a themed open thread appearing at Daily Kos seven days a week.

These Machines Won’t Kill Fascism, by Nantina Vgontzas and Meredith Whittaker. Toward a Militant Progressive Vision for Tech The left must vie for control over the algorithms, data, and infrastructure that shape our lives:

The modern fascist movement relies on Big Tech to reproduce—and it knows it.

Before Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest banned Donald Trump, the then-president was taking aim at a wonkish target: Section 230, a 1996 provision of the Communications Decency Act that shields tech companies from being sued for the content they host. As he told his base in the lead-up to the fumbled coup attempt on January 6, “We have to get rid of Section 230, or you’re not going to have a country.” Around the same time, Trump vetoed the annual defense spending bill because it didn’t repeal 230, and pressured Republican then–Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to make it a bargaining chip in the stimulus negotiations.

In pursuing their campaign against 230 at the same time that they’re seeking to protect corporations from worker lawsuits related to Covid-19, conservatives have made their agenda painfully clear: Corporate liability is permissible in the tech industry only  if it helps them dominate the platforms and capture a sector that has long been the darling of liberals.

It was the so-called Atari Democrats who, deeming tech a source of growth during the economically stagnant 1980s, grew the industry through tax breaks, regulatory loopholes, and the privatization of the formerly public Internet. Today, computational infrastructure has crept into nearly every corner of our lives, enabling media curation, labor control, means testing, resource distribution, and much more. These systems generally employ AI—powerful algorithms that require surveillance and other data to train and inform them. The result is an unprecedented scale and granularity of tracking and control.</b>
This ascent was part of an implicit bargain: Democrats relied on Big Tech for campaign contributions and the partisanship of its elite workforce; in exchange, they gave companies control over the infrastructure on which our civic institutions relied. Then came 2016. The industry that Democrats had spent decades boosting wasn’t living up to its unspoken agreement to use its power responsibly. Rebuking tech executives for disseminating misinformation through engagement-driven algorithms, Democrats revisited the terms of their deal. “The same Federal law that allowed your companies to grow and thrive,” said Democratic Senator and Section 230 author Ron Wyden, “gives you absolute legal protection to take action against those who abuse your platforms to damage our democracy.” For some, the time had come to break them up. […]




Congresswoman @CoriBush is a powerhouse leader in the progressive movement whose experience organizing to protect Black lives makes her the future of the Democratic Party and Congress. I am very proud to partner with her to combat white supremacy and dismantle systemic racism.

— Ed Markey (@EdMarkey) January 29, 2021


“They [Republicans] didn’t start thinking of the old common fellow till just as they started out on the election tour. The money was all appropriated for the top in the hopes that it would trickle down to the needy. Mr. Hoover was an engineer. He knew that water trickles down. Put it uphill and let it go and it will reach the driest little spot. But he didn’t know that money trickled up. Give it to the people at the bottom and the people at the top will have it before night, anyhow. But it will at least have passed through the poor fellows hands. They saved the big banks, but the little ones went up the flue.”  ~~Will Rogers, And Here’s How It All Happened” (Nov. 26, 1932)


On this date at Daily Kos in 2006—Shifting Focus on Domestic Spying:

In just about a week, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the legality of President Bush’s domestic spying program.  While we’ve (rightfully) been focused on the Supreme Court debate, the media has already begun to sweep this scandal as well under the rug. Bust this excerpt from an ABC News poll article:

NSA — A better result for Bush, noted above, is the apparent lack of traction for critics of the warrantless NSA wiretaps. A clear majority now says such wiretaps are acceptable, 56 percent, compared with 43 percent who call them unacceptable. That compares with a closer 51 to 47 percent split earlier this month.

Most polls have approval of the program hovering around 50%-55%. FISA and FISA courts and warrants and probable cause are complicated subjects, so it’s understandable that many Americans view this issue as a simple false dichotomy between civil liberties and security. Karl Rove and the Republicans have already planted the seed in the media and the talking points have taken firm root: this may or may not be outside the law, but don’t we want to spy on terrorists?

Monday through Friday you can catch the Kagro in the Morning Show 9 AM ET by dropping in here, or you can download the Stitcher app (found in the app stores or at, and find a live stream there, by searching for “Netroots Radio.”

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