Since this topic came up else where:
Many still think of paywalls as a blockade to read content.
But maybe we need to think about this differently. Paywalls, not to permit reading, but to permit posting.
If you want to write a comment on the German newspaper of record welt.de, you are greeted with this:
You have to signup and pay if you want to comment. And people pay for it, because they want to actively participate in the public opinion making process. This barrier to entry gives their opinion more weight. Even though it is small, it is certainly bigger than the random opinion posted with a possibly fake account on facebook.
Just a year ago the cost to interfere in elections and spread fake news with the help of bots and fake accounts was between 6 to 15 million Euro. Smaller campaigns would cost on the order of hundreds of thousands. Here is an example for a company that would offer these services: Team Jorge - Wikipedia
The cost to create such a campaign now is drastically lower. All that is needed to push an agenda is an LLM and residential proxies.
And residential proxies are super cheap and easy to acquire. All that is needed are simcards and a set of 4g modems in a major city:
Mobile IP addresses (4G, 5G, LTE) are practically un-bannable, because they are shared by up to hundred thousands of legitimate users in major cities. Instagram will never dare to ban 200.000 people in LA just because of some pesky spammers use the same IP! When Carrier Grade NATs were designed, the designers knew about this issue
So how can we decide what is real and what is fake?
How can we create a barrier to entry that is not easily gamed?
This is a very fundamental question that does not just affect countries and cities, but also crypto currency communities. Really any kind of community.
In the crypto currency world the pay off from pushing an agenda is very immediate. So much of the recent spam accounts are somehow related to it.
But there is also a payoff to manipulate the wider public discourse. To create fear in the population and guide the average person to specific solutions. It is a more subtle game that is hard to detect.
We are not in the same situation we were in when twitter and facebook started. The landscape is different now. I personally don’t find much joy anymore in chat groups that don’t have a paywall. Even a small amount like 25 dollars per year makes people behave so much more friendly and constructive.
In my mind there a two parts to this solution:
- Smaller communities
Currently the newspapers of record take up too much space and authority in the public discourse. The quality of the resulting conversations often decreases with their size. The question is: How can we give discourse communities more legitimacy?
How can we convince users that it is better to pay for a forum than for twitter blue or similar big platforms?
Would be glad to hear your thoughts on this!