America won the internet, and now makes us all speak its language.
London—Sharing the internet with America is like sharing your living room with a rhinoceros. It’s huge, it’s right there, and whatever it’s doing now, you sure as hell know about it.
This month, Twitter announced that it would restrict retweets for a few weeks, and prompt its users to reconsider sharing content which has been flagged as misinformation. The reason for this change, of course, is the U.S. presidential election. The restricted features will be restored when its result is clear.
Anything that makes Twitter fractionally less hellish is welcome, as is the recent crackdown by Facebook and YouTube on QAnon conspiracy groups and Holocaust denial. But from anywhere outside the borders of the U.S., it is hard not to feel faintly aggrieved when reading this news. Hey guys! We have elections too!
After all, according to an anguished 6,000-word memo by Sophie Zhang, a departing Facebook data scientist, the political situations in Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Ukraine, and elsewhere have all been negatively influenced by online manipulation. “In the three years I’ve spent at Facebook, I’ve found multiple blatant attempts by foreign national governments to abuse our platform on vast scales to mislead their own citizenry,” she wrote, adding that interference in Western Europe and the U.S. was taken more seriously than that in smaller, non-Western countries. (In a statement, Facebook told BuzzFeed: “We investigate each issue carefully, including those that Ms. Zhang raises, before we take action or go out and make claims publicly as a company.”)