You Can’t Teach A Cat To Be Vegan: Threads, AI, the Fediverse, and the Bigger Problem

As Meta’s Threads social media platform has made moves to be interoperational with the rest of the Fediverse, I’ve seen a number of people arguing whether or not instances should actively defederate and block Threads.

Many of those reasons — unmoderated hate speech, for one example — are a problem, but are not unique to Threads. Any large enough group of people on any platform, from old-school BBSes to the newest social media trend, can overwhelm moderators, paid or volunteer. {1}

But there is a compelling reason to defederate from Threads.

It’s capitalism.

I don’t mean just the very real threat of "embrace, extend, and extinguish;" that tech company behavior is a symptom, not the problem itself.

In nearly every company — particularly any which has "fiduciary responsibility" {2} towards its shareholders — they have to be able to show that what they are doing is generating income, or some other metric that stands in for income.

Page views. Followers. Likes. Subscribes.

Whether you’re thinking of scummy "SEO optimization" and linkfarms, bot followers on social media, Meta’s promotion of more "controversial" content (which gets more interactions), clickbait headlines, or the newest iteration of AI-generated content being interacted with by sophisticated AI bots, it’s all being driven by the same system.

Corporate interests, driven by the capitalistic requirement to gain clicks and impressions and likes, will create more and more awful content — generated by AI or not — simply because it is a less-costly way of raising those metrics. Remember all the fake eclipse photos recently?

Likewise, as the bots become more sophisticated, they’ll continue to be used for getting clicks and scamming people.

The way that capitalism works leads inexorably to humans trying to game the system in an exploitative way to provide themselves with an advantage. {3}

Threads — as a corporate entity — has that kind of fiduciary responsibility. Arguably, it would be remiss in its fiduciary responsibility if it did not exploit the Fediverse in any and all ways possible. {4}

Trying to get it to behave differently would be trying to preach veganism to an obligate carnivore like a lion. It simply cannot behave differently.

The problem is not the technology.

The problem is people inside a capitalistic system that explicitly rewards those behaviors.

When you find yourself playing a game of Monopoly that forces you to act cruelly — because that’s the rules of the game — then to avoid being cruel, you have to either change the rules or play a different game.

And that is why my instance has blocked Threads, and will do the same for any other instances owned and controlled by corporations. It’s not a solution, but it’s a first step.

Because I want at least my corner of the Fediverse to play by different rules.

{1} Remember that Meta had to pay $52 million to its content moderators due to PTSD from moderating.
{2} If you didn’t catch it from the Fallout series, that’s the responsibility of the company so that it benefits those who have invested in it.
{3} At least enough humans that those who do not run the risk of being either outcompeted entirely, bought and swallowed whole, or with a small enough market share that they cannot survive.
{4} That’s assuming Meta’s corporate leadership did not want to exploit everything already.