As mentioned in an earlier post, many conservatives (including yours truly) are increasingly concerned by Twitter's lack of respect for viewpoint diversity and silencing of center-right and right of center voices. Of course, as a private company, Twitter is free to engage in any sort of non-invidious discrimination it chooses. As consumers, however, we are free to fight back.
So I took a look at Twitter's most recent SEC Form 10-K. Such reports have to identify "risk factors," which are defined as items that could have a material adverse effect on the company or its securities.
Twitter's risk factors analysis includes a number of items that could represent useful pressure points:
If we fail to grow our user base, or if user engagement or ad engagement on our platform decline, our revenue, business and operating results may be harmed.
Idea 1: Don't engage with ads on Twitter. Ever.
We generate a substantial majority of our revenue based upon engagement by our users with the ads that we display. If people do not perceive our products and services to be useful, reliable and trustworthy, we may not be able to attract users or increase the frequency of their engagement with our platform and the ads that we display.
Idea 2: Complain to companies that advertise on Twitter (nicely). Remember, a reasoned argument will be heard more than ranting and raving. Make clear that your willingness to buy their goods and services is adversely affected by their presence on Twitter.
Idea 3: Don't quit Twitter. They make no money off you unless you engage with their advertisers. Use the service but not the advertisers. Use ad blockers. (But see idea # 6 below.)
A number of factors could potentially negatively affect user growth and engagement, including if: ... we are unable to present users with content that is interesting, useful and relevant to them;
Idea 4: Let Twitter AND its advertisers know that you value strong conservative voices.
A number of factors could potentially negatively affect user growth and engagement, including if: ... we do not maintain our brand image or our reputation is damaged.
Idea 5: Let Twitter AND its advertisers know that Twitter's ideological biases have substantially damaged its brand image.
If our users do not continue to contribute content or their contributions are not valuable to other users, we may experience a decline in the number of users accessing our products and services and user engagement, which could result in the loss of advertisers, platform partners and revenue. ... If we experience a decline in the number of users, user growth rate, or user engagement, including as a result of the loss of world leaders, government officials, celebrities, athletes, journalists, sports teams, media outlets and brands who generate content on Twitter, advertisers may not view our products and services as attractive for their marketing expenditures, and may reduce their spending with us which would harm our business and operating results.
Idea 6: Individual conservative users quitting Twitter does it little harm and deprives you of a soapbox for criticizing the company and its advertisers. But if a critical mass of conservatives, including GOP politicians, opinion leaders, commentary outlets and so on all quite at once, that would do something. Sadly, there is a collective action problem here. It is in all of our interests for all conservatives to quit Twitter, but it's not in any of our individual interest to do so. This needs thought.
Negative publicity about our company, including about our product quality and reliability, changes to our products and services, privacy and security practices, litigation, regulatory activity, the actions of our users or user experience with our products and services, even if inaccurate, could adversely affect our reputation and the confidence in and the use of our products and services.
Idea 7: Spread the word that Twitter is hostile to viewpoint diversity.
One of my favorite actors, Adam Baldwin, recently quit Twitter in protest over the increasing extent to which Twitter is shutting down and silencing conservative voices:
Baldwin, who currently stars in the TNT hit show ‘The Last Ship,’ tells Independent Journal Review that Twitter’s new policy of punishing users for speech it finds “offensive” is the reason for his departure from the social platform:
“It’s really a shame that so-called ‘liberal thinkers’ and the so called ‘tolerant crowd’ is intolerant of varying viewpoints. They’re so afraid to hear people disagree with them. Instead of ignoring it or providing their own arguments in return, they say “shut up!”
“I’ve had enough. Twitter is dead to me,” Baldwin tells us, “I’m going to find greener pastures elsewhere and I’m not coming back.”
Twitter has been removing verified status from prominent conservatives, banned some outright, and shadow banning others. On top of which, of course, Twitter has created a "trust and safety" council (vaguely reminiscent of the Committee of Public Safety), entirely staffed by left-of-center activists.
Twitter is a public company, which raises an issue that has often puzzled me: Why don't conservative activists use SEC Rule 14a-8 (the so-called shareholder proposal rule) to put proposals on corporate proxy statements?
SEC Rule 14a-8 allows shareholders to put proposals on their company's proxy statement and thereby force a shareholder vote on the proposal. As the SEC explains:
Rule 14a-8 provides an opportunity for a shareholder owning a relatively small amount of a company's securities to have his or her proposal placed alongside management's proposals in that company's proxy materials for presentation to a vote at an annual or special meeting of shareholders. It has become increasingly popular because it provides an avenue for communication between shareholders and companies, as well as among shareholders themselves. The rule generally requires the company to include the proposal unless the shareholder has not complied with the rule's procedural requirements or the proposal falls within one of the 13 substantive bases for exclusion described in the table below. ...
To be eligible to submit a proposal, rule 14a-8(b) requires the shareholder to have continuously held at least $2,000 in market value, or 1%, of the company's securities entitled to be voted on the proposal at the meeting for at least one year by the date of submitting the proposal. Also, the shareholder must continue to hold those securities through the date of the meeting.
What I propose is that a conservative shareholder who has held at least $2,000 worth of Twitter stock for at least one year submit a shareholder proposal for inclusion in Twitter's 2017 proxy statement (it's probably too late to get it into the 2016 proxy statement) that would recite the ways in which Twitter is engaged in viewpoint discrimination and ask the board to take appropriate action.
Do NOT try this at home without legal advice. There is an exception to the rule that allows companies to exclude matters relating to ordinary business. The SEC staff has routinely allowed media companies to exclude shareholder proposals relating to liberal bias in programming and news reporting as relating to the company's ordinary business. You will need counsel to draft the proposal carefully to avoid the ordinary business exception.
The odds are that the SEC staff will allow Twitter to exclude the proposal regardless of its merits, of course. The staff leans left and the current Commission has a Democrat majority.
So we'd need a shareholder with deep pockets to hire a good legal team to sue in federal district court to compel Twitter to include the proposal (or maybe a good legal team willing to do it pro bono--maybe some conservative legal foundation?). Or maybe crowdfund it?
If you are now or ever wish to be a coauthor of mine, please -- pretty please -- switch to a Mac so we can use pages. Microsoft Word for Macs has crashed on me twice this am when trying to save a document for the first time.
Put bluntly, Microsoft Word for Mac is an unstable, fickle, evil tool of the devil. I hate it and all those responsible for foisting this POS on an unsuspecting public.
Also, law reviews and book editors that want to work with me should be prepared to receive manuscripts in Pages format.
Grump, grump, grump ....
We're talking about work and labor in tonight's Catholic Social Thought and the Law seminar. One of the questions I posed to the students about the reading was:
Laborem Exercens suggests that it is through work that we realize our humanity. Laborem Exercens sees technology as an ally when it assists and augments work and improves its quality. Technology can become almost an enemy when the mechanization of work takes away all personal satisfaction and the incentive to creativity and responsibility. Discuss these two views of technology.
Several of the students had really interesting takes on the problem, but I was especially interested this observation from one of the students:
From a professional work point of view, the benefits of technology are even clearer. Doctors rely on ever-evolving technologies to improve their performance. A doctor is better able to provide accurate diagnoses with the aid of MRIs and biopsies, and certainly their patients are better off with improved technology.
Even lawyers are indisputably better off with technology. Research via Westlaw and Lexis is orders of magnitude faster and more comprehensive than paper research. Typing up briefs and memos on a PC (or even using speech recognition software) is much faster than writing by hand or using a typewriter. Without a doubt, technology increases a lawyer’s productivity. ...
We don’t really see technology taking away jobs in white-collar professions. To my knowledge, doctors were not laid off after the rise of MRI machines, nor was there a trend of lawyers losing their jobs when legal research moved online. Whatever costs imposed by technology in those fields are easily outweighed by the benefits to the workers and their customers – better medical treatment and presumably better legal representation.
I'm going to tackle that claim in the seminar tonight, because I think technology has played a major role in the legal profession's problems in recent years. John McGinnis has a very good analysis of this issue in a recent post:
The most important cause of the decline in demand for legal services is technological shock. Technological change has reduced the demand for lawyers, at least at the price point law schools were delivering it. The technological shock has been of two kinds. First, machine intelligence is beginning to substitute for lawyers, particularly at the low end of the legal profession. Document discovery is moving from human to machines. Legalzoom and similar services are encroaching on the production of simple documents, like many wills and trusts. And once machines get into an area, they dominate over time.
Second, machine intelligence is reducing the agency costs from which lawyers have benefited, General counsel, for instance, can keep better track of exactly what their outside counsel are doing, cutting down on slack. The information age reduces the information asymmetry between lawyers and many of their clients.
This technological shock has been good for the economy by reducing the transaction costs constituted by lawyers. But it raises a grave challenge to law schools. Since the cause of the decline in applications is structural, the applicants are not likely to come back in anything like previous numbers. Because the structural change is technological, it also may intensify as computation becomes ever more powerful. In a subsequent post, I will discuss how law schools can respond to these challenges.
My bottom line is that all of us who work are subject to technological shocks and that Catholic Social Thought provides a relevant framework from which to analyze appropriate societal responses.
The idea of corporate versus nation-state Suppose the CEO and board of directors of Sony decided that North Korea is responsible for the hacking to which they've been subjected and decided to hit back. So they hire the best cyber warriors available to create internet viruses and so on to take out as much of North Korea's infrastructure as possible (such as it is). It'd make a great science fiction story (has it been written?), but it also raises some legal questions:
Plus, I'm sure I'm missing a lot of other issues. Mainly I'm wondering of anybody has thought about this stuff?
When I look out at my classes these days I see a sea of laptops, with a growing number of tablets, but nary a pad of paper. I'm far too much a "live and let live" guy to seriously consider banning laptops as some of my purportedly "liberal" colleagues have done, but I do wonder whether my students are doing themselves a disservice, as Jonathan Adler explains:
Scientific American reports on new research showing how the use of laptops in the classroom results in less memory and comprehension of covered materials. (This research was also covered in The Atlantic last month.) Here’s the abstract of the new study:
Taking notes on laptops rather than in longhand is increasingly common. Many researchers have suggested that laptop note taking is less effective than longhand note taking for learning. Prior studies have primarily focused on students’ capacity for multitasking and distraction when using laptops. The present research suggests that even when laptops are used solely to take notes, they may still be impairing learning because their use results in shallower processing. In three studies, we found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand. We show that whereas taking more notes can be beneficial, laptop note takers’ tendency to transcribe lectures verbatim rather than processing information and reframing it in their own words is detrimental to learning.
It’s worth stressing that in this research the laptops were not connected to the Internet. This means the results are not due to students spending time checking e-mail or surfing the Web. In most settings, such distractions will only impair performance even more. Indeed, prior research has found that laptop multitasking impairs learning and can even have negative effects on non-laptop users sitting nearby. In other words, laptop users may not be only hurting themselves.
Hmmm. Externalities? Maybe I should rethink a ban.
For the benefit those of you who are not avid players of 4X turn-based strategy computer games, Sid Meier is the evil genius behind the Civilization game series--quite possibly the most addictive set of games in history. I have wasted untold hours I should have spent on professional development playing one version of Civ after another. I've been up hours past my bedtime more nights than I can count playing "just one more turn."
Civilization is going to space. The next game in Sid Meier's iconic turn-based strategy series will take place on an alien planet, where you'll explore, colonize, and fight other factions as you attempt to navigate uncharted sci-fi territory. ...
"This is, for the whole team, just an amazing thrill to be able to cast off the shackles of historic context and work on something amazing like this," Shirk said. "Because it's been a while since Firaxis has gone into space, outside of XCOM. So just to go through the whole process, watch the designers go through the whole process, has been amazing."'
Science fiction and Civilization. Boy, it's a good thing I've got tenure.
Back when blogs were young the phrase "take the Boeing" was coined (at Instapundit, of course) to describe blogs that sold out affiliated with major media. As in "The Volokh Conspiracy took the Boeing," to describe their affiliation with WaPo. Given that jeff Bexos now owns the WaPo, however, I suggest that we should uopdate the phrase. As in "Mr. Bezos, I am prepated to take the Prime Air."
Jeff Bezos is nothing if not a showman. Amazon's CEO loves a good reveal, and took the opportunity afforded by a 60 Minutes segment to show off his company's latest creation: drones that can deliver packages up to 5 pounds to your house in less than half an hour. They're technically octocopters, as part of a program called "Amazon Prime Air."
Since it's not April Fools and the source isn't the Onion, I'm assuming its true. Which raises the question of what the drones will do if you're not home when they arrive. I'm not responsible for this answer, and don't know who to credit for it, but I like it a lot:
The one that started it all
We’ve confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale.— Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2013
Twitter has begun a process that should ultimately lead to an initial public offering (IPO) of shares in the company http://t.co/kqdb2u1dZd— The Economist (@TheEconomist) September 13, 2013
Here's why Twitter filed for a secret IPO http://t.co/dQeQgfjHtd— HuffPostBiz (@HuffPostBiz) September 13, 2013