Law in the Internet Society
It is strongly recommended that you include your outline in the body of your essay by using the outline as section titles. The headings below are there to remind you how section and subsection titles are formatted.

Framing What Ails Us and the Doctor's Order

-- By AlexPadilla - 08 Oct 2020

Today’s debate around the ethical and practical implications of big data largely occurs along the fringes of the masses. Some would counter by pointing to recent pieces available on streaming platforms such as Netflix but this argument ignores that availability does not solve the issue of interested self-selection. Such availability is analogous to the viewership of long-established news channels such as Fox, MSNBC, and CNN. The question then becomes how to move the debate from educated circles concerned with the issue to the general public with the increased possibility for legislation and regulation.

You are talking about your subject instead of telling the reader what it is. All of this could be put in a sentence. The idea is that making "the masses" aware of the ethical and practical implications of big data is necessary for the conduct of policy-making in democracy, or something like that, is it not?

Mass Addiction on a Social Scale

The majority of those opposed to the collection and utilization of user data are currently attempting to capture the attention of the very users currently being exploited and manipulated. The folly–and likely outcome–of this method was first identified by the ancient Greeks in Plato’s allegory of the cave. The messengers attempting to bring light to this issue are likely to be ignored, avoided as conspiracist technophobes, or worse condemned, hopefully short of murder.

Is an allegory evidence of that which it symbolizes? Do we need Plato? In my 1L course it is sufficient to state as the very first rule of social psychology for lawyers that you can't make people see an invisible thing by showing it to them. I don't bother to give it a Greek genealogy.

Even more analogous is the good Samaritan who attempts to explain the dangers of opioid drug abuse. The likely result is not that the drug user, for that is what a social media user is, quits as a result of discovering the true horror of such use. The likely outcome is that drug user is either already aware and living with the horrible consequences of their addiction or is too overwhelmed by their addiction to fully appreciate those consequences.

I don't understand this. Isn't careful, continuous, highly personalized exploration of the dangers of being an addict the centerpiece, sociologically, of the twelve step approach? Seems to be effective enough that we heavily rely upon it in this society. "Samaritan" is an oddly complex adjective, and like any other ethnic generalization, probably unreliable.

Once understood from this point of view, the flaw in the current approach to advocacy is obvious, one cannot expect those in the throes of their addiction to immediately change their ways on the insistence of a stranger.

There hasn't been any demonstration yet that there is an addiction. Commensality is not addiction, nor is the unequal form we call parasitism.

Often with addiction, an individual’s actions which result in harm to oneself are less effective motivators for change than actions which cause harm to others. Changes are often especially swift when one’s actions harm a person an individual has a close affinity to. All of this is to say that by viewing a single State, say the United States or the United Kingdom, as an individual, it is easy to understand that a gap exists between the country’s understanding of the ill effects of social media and the desire to actually resolve those effects. Considering that the sheer magnitude of the revelations made over the past four years–from Cambridge Analytica to Russian and Chinese attempts to interfere in a United States election–has elicited little to no response from the public at large, one would hardly be faulted for thinking these populations are in the throes of a terrible addiction.

This reasoning is now fully circular. The assumption of an addiction now explains why social policy is not effective at achieving a goal not yet identified, because society is addicted and addicts don't know what they're doing. I think reframing would be desirable, because all this difficulty isn't the result of the subject, but of the analogies and metaphors used to discuss it. Simplicity would produce clarity.

Moreover, one would naturally be expected to question what exactly it would take for these States to address the habits which threaten the very nature of their existence.

A Jolt of Reality

With the increased expansion of social media’ reach–and its demonstrated effectiveness in disturbing domestic populations–it is no surprise that other actors have utilized proven tactics in other countries. One such example is the hacking of the Qatari News Agency website in order to disseminate false statements attributed to the Emir of Qatar, and the subsequent hacking of the Bahraini foreign minister’s twitter account in order to disseminate misinformation. The result was a diplomatic crisis which saw four middle eastern countries break ties with Qatar resulting in its effective isolation from the rest of the world. The fact that the crisis continues to this day is likely to encourage similar actions by malevolent actors in the future. This incident demonstrates that a well-placed dissemination of misinformation has the capability of souring relations in regions with historically tense relations and quite possibly poses the danger of outright conflict.

But all of this is familiar activity going on in a new venue, rather than among the state-controlled news services and all the free-lance rumor-mongers of the immediate past. Holding "social media" responsible for what used to be done by other media is perfectly accurate, but it doesn't contribute to an argument about big data or public awareness, because it has nothing to do with that topic.

One issue of historical clout in the American zeitgeist is the realm of national security.

What does this sentence mean? I think it says "national security is important to Americans." That's tautological, because national security is important to nations. It's not a good topic sentence for a paragraph, you must agree. So what is the paragraph about?

Any potential for an outbreak of conflict in regions vital to American national security interests have the potential to capture the attention of the masses. The use of internet technologies and social media misinformation in the 2016 election and the Qatari diplomatic crises demonstrates that these platforms are effective at disturbing domestic populations and inter-state relations. One could easily recognize the potential for bad actors–with interests in regions riddled with historic strife–utilizing these technologies to manipulate the domestic populations to the point of no return. For example, a malicious actor could disseminate misinformation in Indian and Pakistan, or any number of middle eastern countries and Israel. The goal would be to radicalize the populations–much as it has tribalized American politics–exacerbating existing hostile positions towards the rival state. With more anti-rival governments, the tension between the rival states increases and slowly begins a precipitous decline in relations resulting in full blown conflict. Such a conflict, in a region of strategic importance to the United States, may be sufficient to finally awaken the domestic population to the need to legislate and regulate these technologies.

All of this is to say that the convenience of these technologies is their strength, just as the convenience of modern energy has overcome the need to address global climate change. As the issue of global climate change has demonstrated, overcoming this country’s addiction to social media will take more than simple awareness of the devastating effects and possible destruction these technologies pose. The previous four years have demonstrated that outrageous effects are simply not enough, that unacceptable effects will need to be experienced before solutions are seriously considered. The question is, how long will it take to experience such an effect, and will such solutions still be viable once they occur.

The original topic gets lost; that's why outlining is important. By the end, where questions should have been answered, "the question is, how long will it take to experience such an [unacceptable] effect, and will such solutions still be viable once they occur," which has nothing to do with the draft's original subject.

The best way to make the draft stronger is to identify the central idea you want to teach. Stated concisely at the beginning of the draft, it tells the reader straight away what can be expected from the essay. You then develop your idea from its origins, how you came by it, and to its implications, that is what the idea leads you to understand differently. That produces a conclusion, which shows your idea fully, and gives the reader a further direction she can follow from it on her own. Outline carefully so that the flow of sentences conforms to the plan you have for the draft, and you will get somewhere even more valuable from where you have here begun.

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r2 - 03 Nov 2020 - 18:05:25 - EbenMoglen
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