Ban-Happy Al Gore Compares Social Media Algorithms to AR-15s

Townhall Media

The AR-15 is the Left’s go-to bogeyman, no matter what the issue, as Al Gore’s latest screed against social media makes clear.

Maybe Gore was inspired to compare AR-15s to social media algorithms because he was speaking at a Bloomberg-sponsored event at COP 28, the United Nations-sponsored climate change conference being held in the United Arab Emirates, but whatever his motivation, his inapt comparison just doesn’t make a lot of sense.


“If you have social media that is dominated by algorithms that pull people down these rabbit holes that are a bit like pitcher plants, these algorithms, they are the digital equivalent of AR-15s,” he said. “They ought to be banned, they really ought to be banned. It’s an abuse of the public forum.”

He warned that social media users can find themselves in an echo chamber after spending time scrolling through the algorithm.

“And you spend too much time in the echo chamber, what’s weaponized is another form of AI —not artificial intelligence, artificial insanity,” he continued. “I’m serious. I’m serious. Qanon is just the best known version of artificial insanity.”

“And these devices are the enemies of self-government, and they’re the enemies of democracy. We need reforms for both democracy and capitalism,” he added.

Now, I share Gore’s distaste for social media, which is why I don’t really use it anymore, but comparing the algorithms used by companies like Meta or X to AR-15s is simply ridiculous. For starters, AR-15s are lawfully owned by millions of Americans and are used by a handful of violent criminals, while the algorithms that Gore complains about are closely guarded lines of code owned by just a handful of major corporations but used against hundreds of millions of users. AR-15s are rarely used in crimes, while there’s plenty of evidence that the algorithms deployed by social media platforms are regularly feeding their users a steady diet of illicit material produced by thousands of sources, from child pornography to human trafficking.


The biggest commonality for Gore, of course, is that he thinks both should be banned. But instead of AR-15s, I’d say a more apt comparison to the social media algorithms that Gore says are poisoning society would be the flood of fentanyl that’s killing more than 70,000 Americans each year (more than all gun-involved deaths, by the way). Social media companies use algorithms to hook their users and keep them coming back for more, relying on users becoming addicted to the dopamine hit that comes from clicks and likes, just as drug dealers and the criminal networks who supply them depend on the addictive nature of opioids to hook their own users.

Algorithms are a hidden part of social media, with many users completely unaware that they exist and are guiding them through their online travels. Fentanyl, meanwhile, is often hidden and mixed in other drugs like cocaine or fake pills, and many users are also completely clueless to what’s actually in the drugs they’re consuming. Nobody, however, has ever purchased a 9mm handgun only to belatedly discover a modern sporting rifle hidden inside.

Of course, fentanyl is already banned and is still ubiquitous in our society, so I can understand why Gore would rather compare two things he wants to ban instead. But banning AR-15s wouldn’t stop violent crime in general or mass shootings specifically, and banning the algorithms deployed by social media networks wouldn’t stop toxic online subcultures from growing and spreading, even if either prohibition was constitutionally permissible… which is a big “if”.


A few judges have upheld bans on AR-15s in a post-Bruen environment by declaring they’re not protected by the Second Amendment at all because they’re “like” machine guns, but that rationale would also place semi-automatic handguns beyond the scope of the Second Amendment’s protections as well, and the Supreme Court has already ruled in Heller that bans on entire classes of firearms are unconstitutional.

SCOTUS hasn’t weighed in on the First Amendment rights of private corporations to develop algorithms that can be used for purposes both good and bad, but even though the Court has previously ruled that commercial speech can be more tightly regulated than speech by individuals, I doubt the Court would go so far as to say that these corporations don’t have the right to use code that’s designed to give their users more of what they’re looking for; which is, after all, what these algorithms ultimately do.

As much as I despise social media, it’s not the technology that’s to blame for its ills. Just a gun doesn’t pull its trigger, social networks don’t create sex trafficking, child pornography, or even the trolls that populate every platform around. At the heart of every awful act, on the internet or in the physical world we inhabit, there are flesh-and-blood human beings who are responsible, and banning the tech won’t stop them from doing awful things in the future, no matter if we’re talking about ARs, algorithms, or opioids.



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