Digital Fire hoses: Destructive and Must Be Controlled by Gatekeepers

July 16, 2020

Let’s see how many individualistic thinkers I have offended with my headline. I apologize, but I am thinking about the blast of stories about the most recent Twitter “glitch”: “Apple, Biden, Musk and Other High-Profile Twitter Accounts Hacked in Crypto Scam.”

Are you among the individuals whom I am offending in this essay?

First, we have the individuals who did not believe my observations made in my ASIS Eagleton Lecture 40 years ago. Flows of digital information are destructive. The flows erode structures like societal norms, logical constructs, and organizational systems. Yep, these are things. Unfettered flows of information cut them down, efficiently and steadily. In some cases, the datum can set up something like this:


Those nuclear reactions are energetic in some cases.

Second, individuals who want to do any darn thing they want. These individuals form a cohort—either real or virtual—and have at it. I have characterized this behavior in my metaphor of the high school science club. The idea is that anyone “smart” thinks that his or her approach to a problem is an intelligent one. Sufficiently intelligent individuals will recognize the wisdom of the idea and jump aboard. High school science clubs can be a useful metaphor for understanding the cute and orthogonal behavior of some high technology firms. It also describes the behavior of a group of high school students who use social media to poke fun or “frame” a target. Some nation states direct their energies at buttons which will ignite social unrest or create confusion. Thus, successful small science clubs can grow larger and be governed — if that’s the right word — by high school science club management methods. That’s why students at MIT put weird objects on buildings or perform cool pranks. Really cool, right?

Third, individuals who do not want gatekeepers. I use the phrase “adulting” to refer to individuals able to act in an informed, responsible, and ethical manner when deciding what content becomes widely available and what does not. I used to work for an outfit which published newspapers, ran TV stations, and built commercial databases. The company at that time had the “adulting” approach well in hand. Individuals who decry informed human controls. It is time to put thumbs in digital dikes.

Why am I digging up observations I made 30 years ago? Easy. I was correct in my statements.

How do I know? I read this tweet stream. Click here.

The time for action by the SEC and Congress is here. Since US government agencies take some time to build up their RPMs, immediate steps should be taken by enforcement authorities.

The issues are stake are:

  • Security
  • Responsible control of a mechanism which can destabilize social behavior
  • A smart control system on a high velocity drone operated by lousy software and human wetware.

I don’t need this type of talk AFTER the cancer erupted again:

We also limited functionality for a much larger group of accounts, like all verified accounts (even those with no evidence of being compromised), while we continue to fully investigate this.

Love that language in the past tense, the use of the word “like”, and the use of the fine, fine categorical affirmative “all.” Who’s fooled? Definitely not me.


Gentle reader, this high school science club management method is no longer working to the advantage of others. The companies in the digital fire hose business need more than HSSCMM decisions.

Let me introduce into this essay another of my favorite concepts: Adulting. It may be too late, but let’s give adulting a try. Responsibility, judgment, and informed decision making which considers hijacking of internal administrative controls. What do you think? Responsibility too? Sure, add that to the pile of adulting to dos.

Obviously the status quo is what might be characterized by a management wizard who holds two full time jobs while technical professionals seek a “fix.”

The here and now cannot be ignored. Regulators, elected officials, and enforcement professionals, let’s roll on a mission I would flag as critical.

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2020


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