Is Social Media really the problem?

Unfortunately, the failed attempt by Elon Musk to take over Twitter probably means we will never get to see the inner workings of the algorithm and the company that many of us believe is a key factor in undermining the social fabric of our society. Who knows, perhaps the legal proceedings will offer some insights?

In the interim I thought it might be useful to try to speculate how it works and how Elon may have attempted to improve it. Perhaps Elon went through a similar exercise as I now have, and came up with the same conclusion, it cannot be fixed because it is in fact not broken.

The fundamental problem with social media is sheer volume. Type in something as obscure as “Quillette” into your search engine, and one gets over 193 000 hits. It’s obviously far worse if one types in something more controversial like abortion – (692 million hits).

So, try to design an algorithm that selects the top 10 items to reflect in your search, chances are you are not going to look more than 2 or 3 pages deep.

So, the first criteria the engine could use is popularity or frequency that people actually click on the item. At first glance this would seem to a good thing to do. Unfortunately, people are going to click on the most disturbing or unexpected, not the more reasonable and unexciting. So, if you have a stomach-ache the most clicked on will be all sorts of terrible causes, not the mundane and most probable – it was probably something you ate and you will be fine in the morning.

Take the “Quillette” search example, my first hit was the link below, followed by at least two more similar pages which were extremely off putting. The point is there are going to be more folks taking a swing at this forum, than have actually visited it and responded with something as mundane as “it looks interesting”.

Why Racists (and Liberals!) Keep Writing for ‘Quillette’

How do we compensate for this?

One way is to give greater weight to sources that have more credibility, like academic institutions, government departments, and trusted media sources which tend to validate their sources and downplay submissions from lesser-known sources.

Starting to see the problem?

So how about we let the user decide what it is that they are looking for. Here over time this is exactly what most algorithms do. My searches now for “Quillette” returns far more favorable comments.

The problem with this, I end up in an echo chamber and lose all insight into opposing perspectives.

Is it the algorithms fault? I am not talking about direct human intervention into banning or cancelling political opponents or creating bots to artificially create popularity and thus influence the algorithm, that’s an age-old human problem. I’m talking about designing a better algorithm for the platform itself.

If Elon does have an idea how this can be done, I hope the world finds out about it.


You know what else about social media? The laugh react. It gets used ironically to derisively laugh at serious arguments and not just jokes. So it incentivizes people to anticipate this and never make serious arguments, but rather use a joke to convey their same argument, to disarm the laugh react sword style. If they laugh at an argument cloaked as a joke, it looks like support for the argument. But this means the arguments are in basic building block form with little space to flesh out.

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People need a new set of skills to separate the wheat from the chaff. I believe it could be worked up into a course and taught. Once I even started working up an outline myself. Propaganda almost always has certain red flags that mark it as propaganda. Consider this sermon from a once reputable publication:

“As attacks against transgender kids increase in the U.S.”

Note that before the article even begins it has advertised its religion – any effort to make a kid with GD comfortable with their biology is an ‘attack’.

“the acute and chronic distress of living in a body that does not reflect one’s gender”

Religious dogma is presented as plain reality – Gender is some transcendental spirit, detached from physical reality.

… and so on. There is zero science in the article.


The chaff is getting easier and easier to identify as you suggest. The problem is finding the wheat.
The article is clearly trying to push a perspective with little to no backing, facts don’t seem to matter.

The problem is then we counter this with our own dogma, trans would be better off being shown that they need to get comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.

I refute your dogma with my dogma, what is the true answer?

Are trans gender kids better off with affirming the agenda they feel most comfortable with or the one that aligns with their bodies? I think we will find that it depends. Depends on what?

Where is this approach and how do I find it?

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We could, or we might attempt to be reasonable. First, separate facts from beliefs. It is a fact that there are only two sexes, it is a belief that there are many. It is an opinion that trannie’s bodies should be made to conform with their Gender, it is likewise an opinion that their minds should be made to conform with their bodies – neither is a ‘fact’ and neither is ‘scientific’. Do what Ella can’t do, that is, be fair to one’s opponents – they might not be evil, merely mistaken, or merely have different judgements. Be objective as best you can. Now that you can trust a source that steelmans the opposing view. And so on and so forth.

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OK so let’s moderate your assessment of the situation with a little less dogma.

There is overwhelming evidence that we are born into one of two body types, one female and one male.
There is also significant evidence that many people are not comfortable with their bodies and who they are expected to be. They suggest that they may be better off if they were to be classified as the alternative gender, and take steps to alter their bodies to affirm this change.
Other suggest that this is likely to lead to even greater trauma in the long run, why not affirm their biological gender and pump them full of hormones that affirm their biological gender.
Opposing side says this will just make the problem a whole lot worse and force these folks to take their own lives.

A third group then comes along that has no skin in either camp, and suggests that we all should be uncomfortable in our bodies and we therefore should not have any classification at all…

Try this link, which helps to put the opposing position into some form of debatable perspective.

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Sure. @Geary_Johansen2020 has presented the pre transmania numbers on this, a few percent of one percent, as I recall – very rare. Once these people have exhausted all psychological efforts to restore them to mental health, it might be the case that drugs and surgery are the best thing for them – once they have reached their majority of course. As to ‘who they are expected to be’ that is probably most of us at one time or another. But most of us get by and pretending to be the other sex, perhaps with mutilation, is hardly likely to be the best answer in the long run except for a very small number of people.

Thanks for the link, however the first sentence demonstrates that ideological capture has already taken place:

“The term “transgender” refers to a person whose sex assigned at birth (i.e. the sex assigned by a physician at birth, usually based on external genitalia) does not match their gender identity”

Anyone who says: ‘sex assigned at birth’ is already a worshiper in Ella’s church, and we can expect the rest of the article to reflect that religion. As we see:

“Family and societal rejection of gender identity are some of the strongest predictors of mental health difficulties among people who are transgender.”

Even tho the huge majority of people outgrow their difficulties we read in the article that efforts to help them do just that are unethical and harmful. On the contrary, they should be the first effort to help the disturbed person.

So thereyago, we have another article that is really a sermon. It seems the APA was captured some time ago.


Define the term transgender in an objective a manner as possible.

The term “transgender” refers to a person whose sex assigned at birth (i.e. the sex assigned by a physician at birth, usually based on external genitalia) does not match their gender identity (i.e., one’s psychological sense of their gender).

Sounds pretty good to me. You want to have a go at a better one that does not show your particular bias?

I also found this distinction interesting.

It is important to note that gender identity is different from gender expression.

What I found particularly interesting is the diagnosis bit for adolescents and adults.

The ones for children then violate the distinction between gender identity and expression, which is particularly interesting.

99.99% of babies are born male or female as a matter of biological fact. There is no ‘assignment’, there is reality. This is not a bias, this is fact. My saying that 2+2=4 is not a bias either, it is a fact.


That’s not true. We as humans assign male and female, man and woman to babies at birth. This is not a biological fact. These terms are human ones, they do not exists in the natural world. They are not even universal - limited to those of us who speak English. A physician usually anounces when we are dead. He / she also announces that we entered the world too, and assigns us a gender based on external genitalia.
That’s a fact that we might tend to overlook as we have become so accustomed to it, we don’t even recognize it as a critical step in registering our arrival.

If you don’t know that babies are born male or female, as these words are normally used, then there is nothing further to discuss. One can express the same truth in any language and it is equally true in any language. You know this.

Man pacing outside delivery room as nurse approaches: “Do I have a son or a daughter?”

Nurse: “Well, the kid hasn’t picked a sex yet, so I really can’t say, but we who witnessed the delivery have tentatively assigned ‘girl’ to your child, congratulations!”



They are born with a vagina or a penis. They also have XX or XY chromosomes. These are indisputable facts. Based on these criteria, the doctor designates them as a boy or a girl at the time of birth. If you cannot recognize that this is an actual step that occurs, then you will always have a knee jerk reaction to the perfectly simple definition given in the text, and you are the one terminating the discussion based on your bias.

Read the definition again - It is 100% accurate.

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Based on the indisputable facts the doctor recognizes the indisputable facts and applies the label that applies to those indisputable facts. There is a boy or there is a girl. It is not negotiable, it is not tentative, it is not an ‘assignment’. At a construction site I might be assigned to mix concrete or I might be assigned to run wire. The word assignment suggests something arbitrary and changeable. When the doctor says: “It’s a girl.” he is not ‘assigning’, he is recognizing a hard fact. I don’t think you really disagree, this is a very fine point of semantics. Let’s not argue about it.


Assignment definition - the attribution of someone or something as belonging.
It is not random.
Based on the child has a vagina, the doctor attributes this as the child is a girl.

It is fundamental for us to recognize this, failure to do so excludes us from the discussion and reduces us to shouting from the sidelines in the hope that we can drown out the opposition through aggression.

The red flag from your opponents perspective screens at him from your next quote

My concern is that it is the wrong hill to die on. The article gives some clues as to other areas where we might engage. Failure to see part a definition that is in fact correct, means that we never get there.

I will not concede ‘assignment’, that construction was never heard until trans became the official religion. In no age, in no country would one ever hear: ‘the child has been assigned male’, one would hear that ‘you have a son’. Still, it is rather obvious that at some point someone ‘officially’ announces the sex of the kid. I don’t think we really disagree on any point of substance. But your quote above is trans-speak plain and simple, so I reject it for that reason.


It is neutral speak. The doctor declares / attributes / assigns / announces that we have a girl based on the fact that he identified a vagina.

That by definition is a bias and not a neutral position.

Would you at least concede that

The term “transgender” refers to a person whose sex at birth does not match their gender identity.

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These words are not all synonyms.

Define “gender identity” please.

On the contrary, it is the rejection of ideological language. I know what you are saying and as you say it, of course you are correct, but ‘declares’ and ‘assigns’ are very different in the way that it is now being used. When a wokie says ‘assigned male at birth’ that is quite different from simply being declared male at birth. The latter is announcing a hard fact, the former suggests an interim, tentative assumption that might be changed at any time.

Close enough. I’d prefer: a person who is severely unhappy with the fact of their sex and would prefer to pretend they are of the opposite sex – and can force the rest of us to pretend along with them. I’m just saying it in more negative language, we both know whom we are referring to.


I was about to say that you guys, @RayAndrews and @ThePragmatist got sucked down a rabbit hole chasing after the meanings and contradiction of trans. But the rabbit hole is the wrong metaphor. You’re swatting at gnats. No single gnat does much harm – they’re not hornets or vipers. But the cloud of them is a a distraction, and you waste all your energy trying to push them away. It’s a dilemma. If you don’t object to their use of language, then your mind is numbed by Orwellian doubletalk. But if you do object, then you burn yourself out arguing over the language and not getting to the core ideas. But as Prag sez,

Back when Data Mining was a very new science, I learned about the Google Algorithm. This was around 2002, and in those days, the Google page rank algorithm was an honest thing, which tended to produce useful, ‘relevant’ results, and it made the user believe that the search engine was indeed pretty smart. And Google wasn’t taking payments from advertisers to raise their rankings in the search results. (Google was selling ads, and getting pair per click, that’s how theymade their money, by figuring how what sorts of ads to present to you, but the advertisers weren’t paying to get their rankings inflated.)

The way the basic algorithm works is that the search engine, behind the scenes, works all night every night to find every published page on the internet, to index all the words in it, and they also identify every other page that this page refers to. And then they build the summary of all the pages which are referenced by other sites, and that’s how you beging to develop an ‘authority ranking’. How many sites point to some wikipedia article, or some NYT story, or to the Scientific American article. And thenn you see that the NYT pointed to the Scientific American rather than vice versa, and you see the sources that wiki sites, and you do this ad infinitum and you find that for whatever topic this is there might be maybe five important original sources and a couple of good aggregators summarizing them, and that most of the other sources are just ‘reciting’. And so, depending on the keywords you entered in your search, we can find several good original sources relevant to your search, and which other good sites redirect to.

And that, as you say, is finding the wheat. And it should lead fairly directly to the best source material, without you needing to push away all the gnats, all the fluff that the intermediary sources along the way are adding, which you either just don’t care about, because they’re just trying to sell some other product, or the stuff which you really want to avoid because you know it’s wrong.

But now, two decades later, there are at least two big problems with this. The first was the original threat of them tinkering with the rankings and taking a bribe to promote an inferior product. But the far worse problem is if they are actively searching all the original source materials, and identifying ‘threats’ to block them. Deliberately keeping you from certain stuff. Actively censoring. And we knida know they are doing that. Which brings us back to

And I believe that on the one hand, the algorithms are might good, but the algorithms are double-edged swords, and they can be used to keep you away from what you’re looking for just as much as they can help get you to it. The censorship machijne has come a long way.


The linked article refers to it as
(i.e., one’s psychological sense of their gender).