Saturday, August 19, 2017

Cloudfare CEO, after kicking off Daily Stormer, admits he set a bad example that could invite Internet vigilantism


Other companies are terminating connections to hate sites (especially Nazi-related).

Cloudflare, which does DNS resolution, terminated Daily Stormer. CEO Matthew Prince said he terminated D.S. after the site falsely claimed secret support from CloudFlare (which would normally be libel).  But then Prince wrote that he acted impetuously and has argued that the Internet needs a “due process” procedure for removing service when bad behavior of users comes to its attention.  Here’s his blog post. Note the wide variety f hidden services and entities that “your” own Internet domain probably uses. 

Prince’s remarks perhaps provide an interesting twist in the evolving problem of Backpage and Section 230.  Prince seems to believe that often the fact that a site is facilitating sex trafficking, child pornography, terrorism recruiting, or gross hate speech will probably find out from the public with no pre-screening necessary (the “knowingly” standard proposed by Bob Portman). 


It’s also important to review what service providers mean by “hate speech”.  Generally, it is speech that attacks a person merely for belonging to a protected group, particularly if the speech advocates violence or coercion against members of the group.  Service providers usually regard sexual orientation and gender identity or fluidity as creating protected classes even if not quite true in US law.

Timothy B. Lee writes on Ars Technica that Prince has regrets on his decision, admitting it sets a dangerous precedent, inviting politically motivated vigilantism.


Ken Schwencke reports on Ars Technica that D.S, actually found a new DNS provider. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Tech companies become aggressive in kicking out hate groups


Many more tech companies are suddenly trying to remove hate groups from their services, as explained tonight on NBC Nightly News.   An important example was Google Play’s banning of Gab from downloading.


Ars  Technica, in an article by David Kravets, explains how private companies can refuse service to certain customers in public accommodations based on the ideology of the consumers or, in tech users.
  
The Wall Street Journal reports that the ACLU now is changing its policy on defending hate groups.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Female blogger loses defamation suit for making accusation of sexual assault when she was in the Army


A recent case in Virginia shows the danger of making accusations against people online if you can’t prove them. Tom Jackman has a detailed story in the Metro Section of the Washington Post Tuesday August 15, 2017 here

A Fairfax County jury awarded a retired Army colonel $8.4 million (which may exceed state limits) in litigation against a female blogger who wrote posts accusing him

National Review, in a story by David French, has jumped on this story as a refutation of “#BelieveAllWomen”, story

The Blogger’s hosting provider, under Section 230, has no liability because the host could not possibly know in advance what is going to be posted or whether it could be problematic. 

One observation could be that links to her blog posts might have made others defendants had the plaintiff gone after them. But secondary liability for defamation by links has been very rare in practice. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Godaddy, then Google take down "Daily Stormer", but is this an open invitation to web vigilantism?


Whether hosting companies should take responsibility for what their customers do has come up as an issue with Backpage and Section 230, but today Godaddy apparently canceled the domain registration of “Daily Stormer” after an activist reported that it had published an article flaming the female who died in the violence in Charlottesville VA Saturday when a car plowed through of counter-demonstrators on a narrow street.  CBS reports here.  
  
As a further development, the site content was reportedly “seized” by Anonymous.  On Domain Tools right now, the site (“the World’s most genocidal Republican website” – a subtitle that might suggest sarcasm) is shown register by Google, but NBC News reports that the site domain registration was taken down by Google also. There is nowhere to hide in the digital age. 
  
Godaddy had said that it was giving 24 hour notice to Daily Stormer for violating “terms of service” for apparently encouraging violence by and on others. 
The site has been sued in April by a woman who claimed the site had caused her to be targeted, another CBS story here. That would probably violate the same TOS, but Godaddy would be protected by Section 230.

All of this suggests a strategy to handle issues like Backpage (August 2):  Limit the exposure to provider liability to situations where the service provider knows of a problem (usually from user input) or is in a position to know with reasonable caution (outside of pre-screening – there may be no way to know in advance that a particular prospective user is a “neo-Nazi” or anything else).  That is pretty much how child pornography is handled now: every hosting company includes a ban on c.p. its terms of service or acceptable use policy (AUP).  Sen. Bob Portman (R-OH) who introduced SESTA says that’s how it would work.   There is a chance, however, that this idea can open up hecklers’ vetoes.  In the Godaddy case, the company took action on a complaint from an activist outside of the company and apparently a non-user. 


That all said, most service providers and hosting companies do “voluntarily” take down users who have been found to be trying to cause violence against others.  This is comparable to Twitter’s closing ISIS-terror recruiting accounts. 
  
One other thing about the left-wing panic over Trump’s “all sides” on Charlottesville (which he “fixed” today).  There are a lot of things that are bad.  Trying to single out one thing as the worst of all is inherently dangerous. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Law professor explains the inability to sue federal employees for defamation on the job; also, a note about Sharia law


Aziz Huq, a law professor at the University of Chicago, has an interesting op-ed Thursday August 10, 2017. “When government defames.”

The article discusses the lack of recourse for individuals in court who are defamed by government employees or agents in the course of doing their jobs. 

There is no constitutional protection of “reputation” (no less “online reputation”) as such. 

I am reminded of how back in the 1950s police could raid gay bars and publish the names of people arrested in the newspapers. 



Back in 2011, Huq had argued against and Oklahoma state constitutional amendment that would ban the use of Sharia law in the state (or any religious law), with logic similar to that concerning support for sanctuary cities today.  He also argues that such a provision could undermine normal civil contracts based on supplying food that meets particular religious requirements.  

Monday, August 07, 2017

Anti-diversity "manifesto" circulated by an engineer at Google raises legitimate questions about freedom of speech and the workplace


The word “manifesto” certainly has a pejorative, and now a document called “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” is circulating in the company, authored by an unidentified male software engineer.
   
Fortune Magazine describes the controversy here in an article by David Morris here.  CNN’s account of the “anti-diversity manifesto” is here

A software engineer in Britain who just left Google “clears up” the controversy, at least for Brits, here.


One very interesting point arises about how I have handled “conflict of interest”. I’ve said that people with direct reports or underwriting responsibilities probably should not put their opinions up about anything in publicly searchable mode because of the indirect risk of hostile workplace or discrimination complaints later. At Google, all work is peer-reviewed before it is implemented, so the speaker seems to be compromising his own ability to participate in the peer review process objectively.

My own first DADT book, affectionately called “The Manifesto” by my friends, was called a “screed” by one reviewer on Amazon (Jan., 4, 2007).

Michael Cook's piece on "idol men" in Intellectual Takeout, a conservative site, seems applicable. 

Wikipedia attribution link for picture from the company’s Mountain View complex, CCSA 3.0, by “Ashstar01”. 

Update: 

Timothy B. Lee of Ars Technica reports that Google has fired the employee, here.   But the NBC Today show said Tuesday morning that it could not confirm the firing. 




Update: Aug. 10

Gizmodo has published Damore's "screed" with its own commentary here, and I have to say I agree with some points in it (the comment on "empathy" is interesting).  I have thought about some of  these things.  Some of his views resemble Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos.  Wired reports that Damore "might have a case", here, 

In Personal Tech on p. B6 of the New York Times, Kevin Roose ("The Shift") writes "The Alt-Right Finds a New Enemy in Silicon Valley". I'd be a little put-off by the reported actions of Paypal annd Airbnb reported here. 

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Are smart phones destroying the ability of teens to build their own social capital?


Here’s an interesting and rather disturbing long article in The  Atlantic by Jean M. Twenge, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” 

The writer makes an interesting point about teen independence.  In the physical world, they don’t learn to do things by themselves as soon.

It’s also interesting that she says they have less sex – that sounds like a good thing at first, reducing teen pregnancy –  and learn to drive later – again that sounds like a safety improvement (back in the 60s some people wanted to hold drivers’ licenses until 21 – and in those days girls had dorm curfews) – but they also date less.  That could feed into the population demographics argument, and the questions about learning to provide for others. 



Here's another provocative pice, by Julia Zauzmer in the Washington Post, "Is poverty due to bad effort, or to circumstances?" with the sub-text, "Christians are more than twice as likely to blame difficulties on laziness".  I remember hearing debates between pre-millennialists and post-millennialists on my car radio when living in Texas in the 1980s.  

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Senate introduces anti-trafficking bill that compromises Section 230; House had done so in April


The Senate has introduced a Bill to reduce the use of Section 230 with respect to sex trafficking.  The bill is the “Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act of 2017”, with text here  (or here).

The Verge has a good analysis of the bill, with links to blog postings by law professor Eric Goldman from UC Santa Clara, that ask plenty of questions about “unintended consequences”.  The Senate bill is not as “bad” as the House bill in April, which did not get as much attention as it should have.  It does not appear that I made a posting about that bill here in April but I did so on Wordpress here

This sounds like a bill that would been drafted even if Hillary Clinton had won the election.
   
I won’t attempt this morning to analyze all the dire possibilities that Goldman does.  I do intend to take up these bills in more detail soon on Wordpress. 


But two questions come to mind right away.

One of these is, how does a service provider (like Blogger, Automattic, any hosting company, or any social media platform like Facebook or Twitter) know ahead of time that a posting promotes sex trafficking?  That’s a question of procedural logic.  It is true that reputable companies, like all of these, remove illegal content when users point it out to them.  Google has become proficient in automatic detection on some content (copyright issues, watermarked child pornography, spam blogs) with automated filters, but we all know they can be fuzzy and lead to false positives.  There has been legal controversy (comparable to child porn) over terrorism promotion, also, and some people have tried to hold social media companies "responsible". 
   
Congress may imagine that this law corresponds to the practice already with child pornography, and perhaps the analogy has some validity.  (Many of sex trafficking victims are underage, so child porn laws might be used now.)  It may imagine also that Backpage (which says it stopped sex ads in January as I recall) is a different kind of site than Blogger, Facebook, or Wordpress.  But the existential problems are the same:  a service company does not know in advance what a post can contain.

A second question: It would be useful to know how this plays out in Europe, where downstream liability protection is much less.

We saw some of these concerns with the litigation against COPA, Child Online Protection Act, to which I was a party.

In the video above, Senator Bob Portman claims that only companies that “knowingly” facilitate sex trafficking would be exposed.  Supporters also link sex trafficking to the opioid crisis. 

I agree that there I a real danger of COPA-like state laws piggybacking onto this bill.

Tom Jackman has a similar story on p. A2 of the Washington Post Aug. 2, "Senate bill spurred by Backpage.com", but the online title is a bit misleading and over the top, "Senate launches bill to remove immunity for websites hosting illegal content, spurred by Backpage.com".  

An individual blogger (if hosting companies can allow him to stay up given the existential logical risk) could conceivably be liable for approving a comment that promotes sex trafficking, it would appear.  Not sure if comments aren't monitored. 
  
I’ll have a lot more material on this one on Wordpress fairly soon.


Update: Aug, 3

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a brief writeup and petition here. If you write Congress about this matter, it's best to make the letter as personalized as possible. 


Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Facebook criticized for hate speech standards, impeding some journalism on personal accounts


Facebook is inconsistent in the way it patrols hate speech, according to a Washington Post story Tuesday August 1, 2017, frontpage, in the Washington Post, by Tracy Jan and Elizabeth Dwoskin, link .

 Facebook seems more likely to remove a post that refers to identity groups as such, rather than criticizes individuals.  It also seems more likely to remove posts from personal accounts than from official accounts of companies and organizations.  There have been instances where posts have been removed (especially from personal accounts) when they quoted another offensive post for journalistic purposes. This gets into "implicit content" territory.  It also fits the idea that personal Friending accounts are really supposed to be for that purpose, not for journalism or blogging per se. 

There have been suspensions of accounts, that get called “Facebook jail”. Maybe it’s like Monopoly jail.
  
One third of the world’s population now logs on to Facebook.  Zuckerberg, 33, is trying to shift from “connection” to “community building”. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Entrepreneurs, paywalls, self-starters, and preppers


Here’s an idea for Shark Tank.  Since more city newspapers want to charge through paywalls for content, why not set up a collective subscription system that newspapers could join, to collect fees from consumers who would join and get various plans, so many articles per month, to unlimited, rather like a utility bill.  This would be a content access mechanism, but I don’t think it would relate to any changes in net neutrality.

Facebook might do this for its own news feeds.  But it seems logical that an entrepreneur could do it for general web use.

So, you ask, why don’t I do it?  I’m am a “journalist”, but I don’t go around asking people for money.  But that’s a good question.

Look at Thomas Friedman’s recent New York Times   “Self-driving people, enabled by Airbnb”.   Given the way I’ve lived my life, in segments and sometimes as a “double life”, I’ve never been much for the sharing economy.  “Collections held him”, so go the lyrics to one of the “art songs” behind the miniature piano pieces that build up this large episodic symphony I worked out for the use.
  
Those who do Airbnb may be better prepared to house others in catastrophic need situations, ranging from refugees and asylum seekers to total national catastrophes.  They could come.  Pay attention to the DPRK. 



Update: July 31

Another idea would be to set up a charity distribution product to connect to banks, and still be able to connect to matching donation efforts, which is very time consuming process right now.  That is, make more direct giving a more streamlined and less time-consuming process for the donor. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Did Senate repeal-only vote justify mass collective grass roots activism?


David Leonhardt offered an op-ed today urging that citizen’s become aggressive in calling their legislators as an emergency to stop the Obamacare repeal, New York Times link here. 

I don’t think these mass actions work reliably when there are too many of them for every issue, so I don’t respond to them.  This one could be different if people are really going to lose coverage altogether. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Incident on a Florida pond brings up moral (and maybe legal) questions about the duty to rescue others in peril, maybe at risk to self. Should everyone be able to swim?


Authorities scrounge around for a misdemeanor charge to levy against up to five teens in Florida (near Cocoa Beach) for failure to report a death they had seen, after they took video of a disabled man who drowned in a pond and did not come to an aid.  Police learned of the incident only when the kids posted the incident on social media a few days later.

The New York Post story is here.  An Orlando television station has a story on the “heartless” behavior here.

And there are calls to pass a state law requiring people to assist those in need.  Sounds moral, but htee libertarian crowd will surely resist this one.



One obvious question: could the two tweens swim?  Could they have done anything (besides call 911)?  Is this a good reason for high schools to require people to be able to swim to graduate? (There was a question on ABC Millionaire Friday on Cornell University’s swimming graduation requirement.)

It’s pretty obvious that trying to require people to assist as a matter of law (which usually does apply to traffic accidents you are involved in) can run into other snags.  It can be dangerous to play good Samaritan.  We don’t expect people to pick up hitchhikers.  What about being able to change a tire for a stranded motorist in the desert?

I recall a Dateline episode where a man on horseback rescued a girl who had crashed a private plane in Wyoming (TV blog, July 6).

Recall the 2002 film “Gerry” (Matt Damon, Casey Affleck) about two men lost in the Mojave Desert?

I’ll come back to this later.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Facebook will pursue charging users to read "paywall" newspaper articles


Facebook is working on a way to allow newspapers to charge readers through Facebook when they read embedded news articles that would normally be behind a paywall.

Currently, major newspaper stories expand automatically as embeds and are free when viewed on Facebook.

When a blogger links to such a story, the newspaper may, on its choosing, invoke the paywall when the user clicks on the link  (newspaper stories don’t normally expand automatically within blog postings). 


That’s why there is some preference in using news stories from broadcast networks rather than newspapers, but often major papers do have major scoops first, or major opinions. 

The Washington Post has the story here
  
Another copy of the story is on WWLP.  Facebook may need permission from Congress to do this.

Facebook could offer users the advantage of consolidated billing, which would enable users to read behind many paywalls much more cheaply than paying for each one separately through the Web. 

Not sure if Twitter can do anything similar. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Privilege of Being Listened to, revisited


I occasionally send people, who have shared their business cards, emails with links to blog posts about critical events in my own life (like the William and Mary Expulsion in 1961, and the “online reputation” fiasco when I was substitute teaching in northern Virginia, particularly at West Potomac High School, in 2005), as well as Amazon links for my books and Facebook and Twitter direct links, and cell phone.

I certainly realize there is a lot of detail buried in a few of these life history incidents that people ordinarily don’t have to time to parse.  To me they seem like mysteries with deception (foreshadowing the 2016 election) and enough nuance to make independent movie plots.  And then I am disappointed that I don’t get more reaction.

Part of the issue is that while these events were bizarre and traumatic  for me at the time and do sound like movie scripts, they don’t seem as “bad” (in the “lifelong process piece” sense) as what has happened to a lot of other people, especially LGBT.  I wasn’t thrown out of home and didn’t wind up in the streets hustling. 

True, I don’t see the world through identity politics, or the filter of some people being marginalized merely for belonging to a maligned group (as in Gode Davis’s unfinished symphony, “American Lynching”). I see history in terms of individual people being challenged in era-specific ways because of external challenges to their families and communities and countries, history that today’s younger generations has often forgotten.  In fact, today’s activists would often prefer that these older points never be brought up again, because they give potential fuel to enemies at a certain existential level.
  
So, I stay on my own path, not joining in other more conventional activism and particularly “resistance”.  So opposition to the current “regime” seems to get all the weaker. You wonder how Putin and company get away with it.  I didn’t see this underground attack on “elitism” coming. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amazon "panics" some bloggers with changes in its affiliate system


The Verge (a Vox site) has a story about Amazon’s affiliate system, which I use to post links for books and movies on my own blogs.  Apparently there has been a reduction in the rate for some links, while giving a premium for some others, like video games and “luxury beauty”.  It seems rather amusing that the story says that some bloggers are “panicking”.  In fact, Blogtyrant doesn’t think a lot of depending on ads in blogs, but would rather see Bloggers provide subscription content or services to customers – but that’s only possible with narrow niche businesses  (like coaching chess players on endgame play).

Amazon has announced it is ending its "aStore" in October and has said, on my account, that my "pending associate invitations" for my "store" have expired.  That's a little odd, as I really don't spend significant time in retail activities because I leave that to them!
 
It’s a little disturbing to see online platforms wanting bloggers to pimp self-indulgent products.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Should independent bloggers need press credentials to ask questions at open, outdoor-ish events?


I did attend a small demonstration today at the Internet-Wide Day of Action, on the north side of the Capitol, toward the Senate Office buildings (leading to Union Station) in Washington DC. 

I’ve covered the speeches elsewhere (see my Network Neutrality Blog from my profile). But there was a small problem at the end.

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), who was leading the event, called for questions from the audience, which was small. True, he did ask for organizational or press affiliation. One woman asked a question (from Politico, I think). Then I raised my hand.  When he called on me and I said I was “independent” he cut me off, and said something like “press only”.  I guess I could have said “doaskdotell.com” and gotten away with it.




I do understand that you need official press credentials to attend some events, like Trump’s notorious White House press briefings.  There’s only so much room inside, and there is security.  But this was outdoors (in the heat) and a small gathering, maybe 50 people in the audience.  There was no barrage of questions, as at a movie screening.  If Markey’s (and other left wing speakers) point is to allow the “little guys” to have the floor (and that is partly what the network neutrality debate could come down to), then he is contradicting his own beliefs with his own actions.  The Left is even more jealous of its own establishment than the Right.

Okay, maybe he feared I was an alt-right or Breitbart-ish provocateur, like a “Milo II”.  I was wearing a Washington Nationals baseball cap, the day after the All Star Game.  Maybe big league sports is “right wing”, but MLB has been quite emphatic about ending discrimination in all policies regarding players, including gay players and employees (or that is the libertarian position, too).  Actually, all I was going to say was that I had noticed some slowdowns that morning, on Facebook and the Washington Blade. 

  

When I got home and opened my email (Okay, I can see it on my smartphone) I saw a whiney email from FTFF which read “we just checked our records and you haven’t spoken out on this yet”.  Well, I have a lot, on blogs and social media. And I attended their event and tried to ask a question of a leading Democratic Senator.  But I just haven’t spoken through “them” or let “them” be my mouthpiece. How rude!  (Truthout does this a lot.) 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Can Backpage really use Section 230 even as applied today?


The Washington Post has a scathing story by Tom Jackman and Jonathan O’Connell, on Tuesday, July 11, 2017, concerning Backpage and its claim of protections under Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, link here.

The story claims that Backpage used a company in the Philippines to come up with content that could take consumers away from competing sites.  The scheme presented in the article was quite complicated. When pressured later, Backpage reportedly stopped running sex ads.


 
Offhand, given the truth of the Post story, Section 230 might not apply as a defense in some of the litigation.  The fact pattern will be important because many people want to gut Section 230, seeing user-generated content as gratuitous and not actually generating any real wealth.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Could Facebook provide 3rd-party charity supervision of contributions among "Friends" (especially overseas)


Just a note on Facebook etiquette or expectations.

Does confirming a Friend request mean that one should be opening to “helping out” anyone in trouble (foreign or domestic)?  Yup, obviously you have to worry about the scams, but some pleas are more credible than others.  There seems to be an expectation that, for example, that people will hire friends looking for work or help them find work, including people overseas.

And on that point, it’s not as easy for people to get work visas and enter legally as it used to be, given the political climate and Trump.  Yet, among some people, there is a culture of doing things under the table or off the books

I’ve used Facebook as a quick publishing platform.  I haven’t gotten the “followers” in place of “Friends” which would clarify things.  But some people think, if you weigh in on things, you need to have your own skin in the game, and be supporting other people.  That was a big topic in my own (mildly Milo-esque) DADT-III book (“being listened to is a privilege”).

I think Facebook could consider doing more to hookup people in need with certain kinds of charities that make cash gifts (particularly overseas) directly (“Give Direct”), that Vox has written about. The third-party charities could provide some sort of supervision to avoid scams.

Again, I’ve talked about going back to work at age 74.  I would help Facebook do this.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

CNN-Reddit-alt-right dox-gate (with Trump acting as WWE)


Here’s a Vox story about how some on the alt-right retaliated against a CNN journalist for his coy handling of withholding the identity of the person who created the WWE gif that Trump used as a phantom metaphorical swat against CNN.  It’s by Garet Williams, here. Of course, you can turn this whole thing around and say that CNN threatened to dox the Reddit user, as Milo Yiannopoulos writes.

It’s all pretty scary.  A news network threatens to dox an ordinary user for creating a image that, by a stretch, could be interpreted as a “threat” against journalists, when it more properly belongs on NBC’s SNL.  Then someone one the political opposition of the network (this time, someone on the alt-right) threatens to dox (or at least reports the doxing and targeting) the news network reporter.



I suppose I could get caught up in something like this.  In fact, as I’ve covered before, I did when I was substitute teaching. 

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Getting my work done; rumors of my relocation


I just want to provide an update on my “work” and “situation”.  You can also look at a correlated post on the “Information Technology Job Market” blog (check Blogger profile).

My goals right now are to have a publishable draft of my novel “Angel’s Brother” by the end of 2017, and to have some of my music in performable format (with some contacts with others who could perform it – and it might be in the bits and pieces, or Schumanesque miniatures), to have a video that communicates the substance of my books, and to start marketing the feature screenplay “Epiphany” on my books.

There are a couple of caveats. There is something to the rumors, but nothing to announce yet.  There is a possibility that I will sell my trust’s “inherited house” later this summer and relocate.  It’s possible that I could consider a lower cost purchase in a city like Dallas, Charlotte, etc.  There are a number of scenarios and I won’t go into them in detail here. During the months of July and August I expect to make a more concentrated due diligence to see if I should do this.  One purpose is to make it easier for others to work with me, and to make some kinds of travel simpler to set up if I should wind up on the road a lot.  (If there is a “Do Ask, Do Tell” feature movie, you can bet my life will play out “on the road”). 

Another is that I have discussed a couple of scenarios where I could go back to work (on the IT blog I mentioned above). 

All of this brings back the deja vu of workplace experience in the weeks immediately preceding a merger announcement.  It's "business as usual" in the meantime.  But it's unsettling.  Well, change is good. 

I’ve made some progress on all the components of my work, with essentially two cycles of self-assigned tasks since the end of 2015 (after a summer and fall that year of a lot of travel).  I have some pieces of a documentary DADT video self-filmed, but I would need to find some professional help with editing and re-shooting to make them effective.

One particular effort will be setting up my screenplay and especially the novel so that they would sell. I have some concerns about both:  people may feel that I am pandering to old-fashioned, cis-gender, white-centric paradigms of virtuous protagonist characters.  Well, so did “Smallville” and “Everwood” less than 15 years ago.  But in the past few years, identity politics seems to have entered art, with the idea that specific groups of people need to be raised up (as in Groban’s song), and that doing so would sell books or movies.  I definitely see this in some feedback.  I certainly have a lot of interesting ideas that could sell a book, including how the next pandemic could creep up on us, or what provable alien contact would be like if it really happened, and even the idea of a novel way to get “proof of heaven”. Normally, these kinds of ideas could sell well.  In very recent times, people seem to want much more reassurance from the characters an author develops;  they want to really find themselves in these fictional people.
  
It's difficult to make concrete progress on unpublished material.  A blog post becomes a "deliverable" and a concrete result, so sometimes I do post discussions or extracts of my progress. 
In the future, I expect to make my postings about my “strategic planning” on my Wordpress blogs:  the Notes blog, when I considered how these different components work together, and the baseline Media Reviews blog, when individual components (like the music compositions or novel plot) are discussed “hands separately”.

There is a write-up of “projects in progress” on the “Media Reviews Executor” page here. 
  
There is a directory to all my sites on the “Notes” blog here

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Proposals to break up big social media companies could jeopardize user-generated content


There are rather interesting modest proposals in Europe to collar American media companies, which could take root here later.

For example, consider the article by Luigi Zingales and Guy Rolnik, “A Way to Own Your Social Media Data”.  One idea is to consider the meta-data behind your Internet use sold to marketeers as your “property right”, transferrable if you move to a different social media company.  This would supposedly encourage more competition with companies like Facebook.  It sounds rather pseudo-libertaian.



Back in April, Jonathan Taplin authored an op-ed “Is it time to break up Google?” and probably Facebook.  Besides some comparison to phone companies (very relevant to discussions of network neutrality abolition going on right now) and their previous past lives as “regulated monopolies” during my own coming of age, Taplin suggests abolishing DMCA “Safe Harbor” (and probably Section 230), which he says would force Google/YouTube and others to “pay” users for content they post.  Guess what?  No more self-publishing for free.  That has been my whole “business model” for 20 years.  I guess I took a real chance.

In the meantime, there are a couple of important WSJ articles about European pressure on big social media companies, such as about Germany’s demands on deleting hate-speech (which can cast a rather larger dragnet)   Fox has a story by Sam Schnechner et al about EU pressure on major social media companies and their supposed free ride to profits.  That’s what makes user-generated content possible.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trump's accusations of fake news become more troubling to mainstream news organizations, not so much to individual bloggers


OK, the press briefings are sometimes shown now, but Sarah Huckabee Sanders caused a huge ruckus by invoking the idea that mainstream media is fake news.

Here is “Heavy’s” video of her encounter with Sentinel (Playboy) reporter Brian Karem.

Today, CNN was obsessed with Trump’s latest Twitter storm, in which he invoked the idea of body fascism (for women) for guests at his Palm Beach resort,  What comes to mind is Milo Yiannopoulos seeming to support fat shaming, which probably upset people a lot more than Milo’s supposed support of underage activity (which is actually a misreading of what he really had said).  And, by the way, I have re-ordered Milo’s now self-published “Dangerous” which should arrive around July 5.



As to Trump’s bullying of the mainstream media, some of this seems to be that Trump simply believes leaders can’t let themselves look bad.  Young OAN reporter Trey Yingst grilled Sean Spicer about all the Russia stuff, phrasing questions in a way that would appeal to a conventionally conservative audience.  You got it, being in bed with Vladimir Putin (who loves so show off his hairless chest in photos of horseback riding) is not part of normal conservative practice.  But the next day, the White House was talking the press briefings off camera, to keep Spicer and Sanders from being made to look bad even by conservative reporters.  CNN mentioned “OAN” the next day as material to the decide to take down the video.

For all this, CNN reported today that Trump and Bannon are beginning to tale the power grid security issue more seriously.  I talked about this on Facebook today (link).



Trump doesn't seem so concerned about independent bloggers.  In the meantime, the New York Times now stirs up protests among its workforce with plans to lay off copy-editors, which amatuers don't usually have (NY Daily News story).

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Zillow and "McMansionHell": a bizarre "copyright" claim indeed, against an unusual website; a lesson in Fair Use?


I’ve seen a variety of bizarre copyright claims over the years, not only of the Righthaven troll variety, but also just from public companies with fundamentalist ideas of their fiduciary duty to protect their intellectual property, particularly from Hollywood and from music or record companies.

Now there’s a bizarre cease-and-desist against the owner of an architectural critique site called “McMansionHell” from Zillow, a site that does mass listings with detailed photos of properties for sale all over the US (and probably worldwide).  In fact, I am considering the possibility of a move later this summer, and just last night I was looking at the comparable prices of condos and homes in a number of cities (Baltimore, Charlotte, Dallas, and Las Vegas – and Vegas, still recovering from 2008, seemed the “cheapest”), all of which are more reasonable than the Washington DC suburbs.  Then, today, surfing on Twitter in the chain-reaction aftermath to some unrelated events, I stumbled across this problem.

The “McMansion” development does make me wonder, who can afford all these houses (or $10 million condos in NYC for that matter).  Call it gentrification.  If you see livable space in a third story attic, well, teenagers will be living there.



There’s something about the whole downsizing thing.  Yes, I’d rather be in a secure building with supervision, and less that can go wrong (outside of another 9/11 or WMD event).  I’m not into being off the grid or into doomsday prepping, even though I follow the topic somewhat.  It even strikes me that more could be done, rather than selling and downsizing alone, to encourage seniors to provide housing to lower-income people as companions and stay where they are.  That might be morally preferable.  (See my “Bill Retires” postings April 21 and June 24, 2017).  The whole ethical and legal network around hosting asylum seekers, which I have explored on Wordpress but which it looks like I will not be doing, comes into play.

I don’t personally have a reason to use photos of houses in my own blogs (and the concept of a housing critique site like this had not occurred to me – I wonder what “Blogtyrant” would think of it), and generally I try not to take or use pictures of people’s private homes and property unless there is a really good reason to do so.  When I’m on the road, looking for a public place to park and photo to report something legitimately interesting can sometimes be a challenge.

Mike Masnick has a legal analysis of the Zillow case in his “censorious thugs” column on Techdirt here.   It does seem to me that a copyright owner cannot, as a matter of law, declare that his/her/its content are off-limits from Fair Use evaluation. The TOS claim might be another matter.  This is another one to watch. Here’s a YouTube story, too.

Monday, June 26, 2017

CNN withdraws story implicating Trump connection to Russia


ABC affiliate WJLA-7 in Washington DC ran a story from Sinclair Broadcasting (the moderately conservative media company in Baltimore owning WJLA) reporting that CNN removed a story linking a news story by Thomas Frank linking the Trump campaign to a Russian adviser.  The WJLA link is here  and gives a link to a Google cache of the story (which worked last night). It is possible for CNN to ask Google to remove the cache if it wants.

Buzzfeed also has an account here.

It is very unusual for a major news network to remove a story like this.

I suppose that it is conceivable, although in practice very unlikely, that other sites that link to cached removed stories can become liable for defamation.  It all sounds pretty silly.  The big boys and grownups have to be accountable for what they do.

Sinclair has sponsored some important stories on national security (especially of the power grid);  it has generally seemed favorable to LGBTQ equality issues.



Update: June 30

The Washington Times offers an op-ed about the "Sullivan Rule" and the CNN incident here.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg says he will focus on building Facebook groups: Eusociality online?


Mark Zuckerberg will be old enough to run for president in 2020, but already he’s talking more about the common good in a new way.  He was always the connector (as in the 2010 Time cover), but now he he says he wants to build specific socially cohesive communities online. CNET has a typical story here.

Mark made his remarks at a Facebook community summit.



I’m not much on joining groups and behaving elders;  I perceive this as tribalism.  And I wonder how well this could work on line.

Groups are private;  you have to be approved to join.  That doesn’t sit well with me.

Already, some Facebook pages behave erratically online.  Today I made a couple comments, and the musician owner replied, as I got an email notification, and when I went to the page, the comments had disappeared.