May 16, 2019 10:28AM

A New Tool for Not Thinking

Yesterday the White House created a new tool to solicit information from people who believe they are victims of politically biased content moderation by social media companies. How will this work in practice? 

Some people will adopt a Bayesian approach to the new information coming from the tool. That is, they will critically assess the validity of the new information and update their prior belief about say, bias against conservatives at the tech companies. Let’s say you believe the companies are not biased against conservatives in their content moderation. Do the stories garnered by the new White House tool make your prior belief more or less probable?

Others will adopt a more political approach. That is, if the new information confirms their prior view about bias, they will affirm that prior belief. If it does not support their prior view, they will ignore the information. This approach to new information is sometimes called confirmation bias. It is a very popular approach, especially in the District of Columbia, though it has fans throughout the world.

For my part, I believe the new White House tool will make government regulations of speech on social media slightly more likely. But if the election of 2020 turns out to be more hysterical than I now think it will be, I am willing to update that belief.