Monday, August 29, 2016

If someone writes something illegal on your Facebook timeline and you don't catch it, could you be legally responsible? I wonder

Once again, someone (a Facebook “frined”) posts something on my Facebook timeline that seems pointless, an ad for sunglasses.  I don’t see the point.  Sometime back, I unfriended someone (female) who posted fictitious tags of me in sexually explicit pictures on my timelines, claiming I had been “there”.  Don’t really see the point.

I do wonder if there could be a legal or TOS liability if someone posted something illegal on one’s timeline (c.p. or terror promotion) and the account owner didn’t see it.  I get emails from notifications, but if I were in a remote area off the grid, I could miss it.
I presume Section 230 would protect me from defamation claims for someone else’s posts (as it does from comments, although I moderate comments on blogs).  On copyright infringement, technically I have to be an “agent” for safe harbor to apply.  And for some specific illegal items (like terror threats) there is no downstream liability protection.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sponsored content now starting to support conventional news sites

On the Business Day section of the New York Times on Monday, July 25, 2016, John Herrman writes “In media company advertising, sponsored content is King”.  Online, the title is more specific, "How sponsored content is becoming king in the Facebook world".
Sponsored comment is becoming common on some news sites (like CNN) and often looked like it is truly “journalistic” in character.

And it’s becoming common on Facebook.  I recently set up my author’s page on Facebook and paid for $50 of advertising , and did get quite a bit of exposure and “likes” for about three weeks.

But the growth of sponsored content reflects the difficulty in sustaining Internet business models based on consumer willingness to engage ads, given all the popup blockers and "do not track".

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Noahpinion" shows how to make blogging work and attract good comments

There are some real “Blogspot” blogs that draw lots of visitors and comments.  Such is the case with “Noahpinion” by Bloomberg writer and economist Noah Smith (“Economics, neologisms, and distractions from productive activity”).  I’ll give the direct link to a July 21 post, “Trump happened because conservatism failed

Noahpinion splits his Venn diagram of conservatism into three parts (like “A Film in Three Parts” or “Symphony in Three Movements”): economics, foreign, and social.  The Republican establishment has failed in all three parts, but on the social side, most people today want libertarianism, keep government out of both pocket and bedroom.  Noahpinion parks the social conservatism debate at the door of gay marriage, after giving a slight nod to Charles Murray’s regrets over loss of social cohesion (“Coming Apart”).  He makes no attempt here at a psychological explanation of what people like Rick Santorum want (unconditional love somewhere, “It takes a family”).  I do try explain it, but Noahpinion gets the visitors and comments (of a volume you would see in a regular newspaper column).

Above, will econ blogging hurt an economist’s career?
I found Noah from a tweet by Tim Lee of Vox.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Time magazine story about Internet trolls seems a bit questionable, at least to me

Joel Stein has a cover story “Why we’re losing the Internet to the culture of hate”, by Joel Stein, on p. 27 of the print issue of Time Magazine. Aug. 29, 2016, “Tyranny pf the Mob”, link  (also, “How Trolls are running the Internet”), paywall.  There’s a Wordpress commentary by “Austisticwiki”, “The Web is a sociopath with Asperger’s
Some people, not finding that people earn what they get anyway, seem to find fun and gratification in the sport of trolling.  But the most alarming idea is that Twitter would ban someone for encouraging his fans to troll.  Such is what is supposed to have happened to gaycon Brietbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who was supposed to be banned by Twitter permanently – except that I found multiple accounts for him tonight, just checked.   And there was nothing that obviously boorish about the content that I saw.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Facebook's crack down on Clickbait

The Verge (one of Vox’s publications) has a detailed story on how Facebook is dealing with “clickbait” in its news feeds, here.   Clickbait comprises a headline that you must click on to find out what the story is really about.

Publishers who create deliberately misleading or “leading on” headlines (especially for marketing purposes) could find themselves pretty much cut out of trending topics and news feeds, the story says, But it would probably affect only the worst offenders.
I get very annoyed at videos that keep nagging on with endless sales pitches, particularly on financial products.  Some of Porter Stansberry’s video material (on the supposed reserve currency crunch) and some videos on “conservative” websites seem to do this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reported tenant blacklists could have far reaching implications, from social media to immigration; NYC has a bill proposed for regulation

Kim Barer and Jessica Silver-Greenberg have a disturbing story today Wednesday August 17, 2016 on p. A16 of the New York Times, “On tenant blacklist, errors and renters who have little recourse” .
In addition to credit scores and criminal background checks, landlords also use covert lists from “tenant-screening database companies” to screen out applicants who have been sued in housing court, or who have withheld rent to protest living conditions.  And the databases reportedly have lots of errors.

The New York City Council is considering a bill to regulate the use of these lists.  The net effect is to make it almost impossible for the homeless or certain other people to find apartments in the normal commercially run markets.

I have been concerned that “blacklists” could be developed based on social media use, especially the use of “review sites”.  I actually became more concerned about this after 9/11, as I was particularly visible on search engines then as an amateur relative to others;  that is not the case today as modern social media has taken over.  So social media sites cut both ways.

Legitimate tenant-check companies say that prior evictions is a major concern for landlords, but checks must be FCRA-compliant.
Some landlords do work with social service agencies (and DHS) to place arriving refugees into apartments.  Placing asylees already here (but possibly still undocumented or with expired visas) in regular buildings would sound very difficult, especially in conjunction with this story.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Peter Thiel tells his side of the Gawker controversy

Peter Thiel has written an op-ed column in the New York Times, p. A21, “Privacy issues won’t end with Gawker”.  Thiel mentions his own role in providing financial support for the litigation filed by Terry Bollea, in a case whose judgment has bankrupted Gawker.

Thiel considers his own forced outing in 2007 as somewhat traumatic, even though he admits times have changed since then, even in less than one decade.

Note Thiel’s comment in the fifth paragraph from the end, ironically echoing Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder.  It is not enough “for a story ‘simply to be true’.” Then, “a story that violates privacy and serves no public interest should never be published.”

He also talks about the reputation of the profession of journalism, which must resist the temptation to provide click bait (something Facebook is dealing with, CNET story  ).

This whole issue gets more sensitive with “amateur” journalism, where citizen journalists discover litte publicized grass roots efforts whose uncovering could jeopardize some disadvantaged people (imagine a situation with undocumented people deciding to seek asylum).

Should litigation be secretly financed, maybe by hedge funds?  What about the next troll?

I agree with where Thiel was coming from in the RNC, that both the GOP and LGBTQ people have more pressing issues that bathrooms.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Major copyright case involving third party surveillance increases the risk of more trolls (BMG v. Cox and Rightscorp); also, more on Dancing Baby

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that it has asked the Supreme Court to take the “Dancing Baby” case, in litigation which contemplates whether copyright complainants must consider Fair Use before issuing takedown notices under the DMCA, press release here (see July 6, 2015).

But Brian Fung, in a posting on his “Switch” blog on the Washington Post, “The copyright case that should worry all Internet providers”  Saturday.  This concerns a case brought against Cox Communications by music group BMG (which I think owns RCA Victor records now – the entire Red Seal classical line from the past). Cox had used a third party Rightscorp  to pass along warnings to users. The plaintiffs claimed that the third party activity did not reach consumers.  A federal judge found for the plaintiff ($25 million).  Of course, it will be appealed (text of ruling)

This sounds like a developing story that I will pursue more on a newer Wordpress blog soon.  There is concern that the ruling could tempt new “copyright trolls” (remember Righthaven? -- although this wave would target service providers, not bloggers directly).

Friday, August 12, 2016

Short legal guide for social media for Britain (UK?) would be valuable here

The Guardian has published a short guide on social media law, albeit it Britain and probably Australia ad Canada (outside Quebec), and it looks valuable, link here.

I think generally the guidelines are true in the U.S.  The idea that you would actually be sued for defamation over a retweet sounds remote, but it’s probably possible.  The same would apply to uses pictures in tweets and on Facebook or Instagram.  But some people are getting more sensitive about photos of them showing up in settings like discos (even if legal) – a trend I’ve noticed since about 2011.
It leads to another article about life without social media.  I don’t post my whereabouts in advance and get into the business of inviting people to things online, but to some people this seems like a big deal to join in.  Had I become a full time teacher around 2006 or so, I would have closed down my social media and Internet presence entirely for a while.  That’s something to explore again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

"Blogtyrant" pens op-ed on carbon-negative web services and Internet behavior

Ramsay Taplan, or “Blogtyrant” on Facebook and Twitter, promised a major news story late Monday, and he delivered Monday night with “How to make your website carbon neutral (and BTW it’s really easy”.

There was some hype ahead of time.  He had said I wouldn’t be able to guess the topic (after I had asked about “https everywhere”).  I wondered if it could be about getting through censorship in China (I had an inquiry about this and my domain name in late 2013).

I guess it is about China, in a sense.  Developing countries are even more challenged than the US to get off fossil fuels – as we know from stories about China’s coal industry.

As for the suggestions --  I’m not that convinced that the energy use on home electronics is that much of an issue.  More serious is the idea that the servers that make unbelievable volumes of self-published user-generated content available 24x7 (even apart from the supposed “whitelisted” social networking models) are huge and run 24x7.  A lot of the farms are nearby – in Asburn, Loudoun County, Virginia, or down around Charlotte (or Hickory) and then Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill NC.  (Xfinity has a big farm in Prince Georges County, MD).

I’ve always seen getting transportation off fossil fuels as a bigger challenge than the grid itself.  But behind the scenes, security for the power grids (from large-scale terrorism and extreme solar storms) is a big issue that politicians haven’t paid enough attention to.  Ted Cruz has mentioned it, but not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, yet.  As I’ve written elsewhere, the ideas of Taylor Wilson (backed by Peter Thiel, who spoke at the RNC) may be quite relevant to making the grid more secure (through decentralization) and ultimately much greener.

I tweeted as much to Ramsay, and then a movie recommendation for “Climate Refugees” (on Netflix, movie reviews, March 26, 2016).  Within 15 seconds of sending the tweet, I got back an angry response from “A Human Crirs”, “You might enjoy the indie film "Climate human beings" a place to start .... #HumanCrisis”.   There is no film by that title on imdb.  Why the angry reaction?  A matter of “rightsizing”?

I do wonder about Ramsay’s ideas about effectively keeping older computers and not replacing them.  I find that repeated upgrades and operating system replacements causes stability problems.  It’s less time consuming to replace laptops often.  I do have smaller laptops for travel only.  There is some security in having multiple machines, on both Windows and Mac OS (having Linux could be even better) and not networking them all, and keeping your own backups as well as using the Cloud.

Monday, August 01, 2016

New tools developed to help users who receive takedown notices.

A group called “Manila Principles” has developed a form for service providers to use to inform users when the providers get a takedown request for any reason.  The primary usefulness for the form is apparently related to situations other than just copyright infringement.  The link for the form is here. Notification requirements are defined by law for copyright under the DMCA, but not for other TOS violations or potential "torts".

A group called Online Censorship explains how to appeal here.

Jeremy Malcolm of Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story explaining the use of these facilities here.
The main issue is whether users are properly notified when there is a complaint about content they have posted, and whether they can rebut (especially in areas outside of copyright).
I’ve been contacted only a very few times over 18 years directly by people.  In two or three cases, the personal circumstances were quite unusual and unlikely to recur with anyone else.  In one case, there was a misleadingly worded statement in a Blogger movie review of a controversial documentary, an assertion which might have been misconstrued in a way harmful to a real person depicted in the film.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Are US conflict journalists guaranteed non-combatant status? Pentagon narrows Law of War manual

Missy Ryan has an important “checkpoint” story on P A17 of the Washington Post on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, “Language on journalists is revised in Law of War”.  Online, the title is more specific, “Pentagon alters Law of War manual to remove suggestion journalists are combatants”

The Pentagon reinforces the idea that the services may have their own war correspondents, and that journalists could jeopardize their status by reporting classified information, like the positions of artillery forward observers.  Oh, that memory of Army Basic comes back.

Journalists who break the rules have sometimes been detained without charge.

There’s a mentality that journalists should “pay their dues” with conflict reporting.  But it's always been interesting to me that Clark Kent becomes a journalist.
(See related post June 19.)

Friday, July 15, 2016

To take care of "others", you have to learn to "take care of your own", first (David Brooks, Johathan Haidt essays)

David Brooks gives us a critical essay today in the New York Times, “We Take Care of Our Own”   Much of what he says is related to a credited long essay by NYU sociology professor Jonathan Haidt in the American Interest, "Whey and Why Nationalism Beats Globalism", link here  There is a substantial paywall, and given the booklet-length of the article (four chapters) the user may want to pick up (“purchase”) a hardcopy of the periodical at a local Barnes and Noble or similar bookstore.

I’ve pretty much nurtured the same line of thought.  I have become a self-expressive “globalist” myself and sometimes been heavily “criticized” for my lack of psychological loyalty to “groups” that have “nurtured” me, ranging from original family to activist or communal groups later in my life.

I think there is another point here, about socialization.  It’s important that people (“me”) learn to take care of others, with some intimacy when necessary.  This goes way beyond narrow ideas of personal responsibility, as modern libertarians see the idea, as people can become responsible for others besides their own voluntarily conceived kids.  The process is integral to making the lives of everyone, of varying quantitative abilities, in a family chain valued, so it’s important to democracy (and for “democratic capitalism” as we know it, a bit ironically).  This capacity usually has to be learned at home, in the family, before it can be exported to caring for the situations in other parts of the world.
That said, some churches I attend send youth groups to Belize, Nicaragua, and even El Savador and Kenya.  One has a ministry in South Sudan.  But it has to start at home.

Monday, July 04, 2016

A new Facebook profile picture, and "Ephram's inability to change"

I got pestered repeatedly by Facebook to update my profile picture, and so finally I did, with a photo taken on me at an AGLA social on July 1, and got four likes for the new profile.

The old profile has a picture of me at a candlelight service.

Some other remarks:  I understand that some people see organizing others as their mission, their form of activism.  It may be circumscribed by what they do at work, that is also publicly visible.  I generally don’t announce all my activities in advance (security is one reason). I generally don’t go to the same event repeatedly unless something new would happen at a particular occasion (like a meal, or being held in a new venue).
I can remember that in the WB show “Everwood”, starting back in 2002 and running a few years, the piano prodify Ephram (Gregory Smith) wrote an essay that was published for a while on WB’s site for the show, “Ephram’s Fatal Flaw.”  Ephram said that his fatal flaw was his inability to “change”.

So it is with me.  I feel much more pressure to become connected socially, maybe in volunteer activities, to others, in situations where I might have been unwelcome in the past.  I did the kind of work for a living that is often best done individually, and that was very demanding of detail and attention, sometimes putting personal relationships (dating and marriage) on a backburner as a lower priority.  Not everyone would tolerate this.   And I don’t like to be the one to make someone else “all right” if that someone isn’t so, but this remark takes me into a troubling area that will be explored another time.
Section picture  Event with Gregory Smith and Chris Pratt at King of Prussia Mall, PA, August 2005. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

News anchor fired for personal Facebook post, supposedly "racist"; she fights back with reverse discrimination lawsuit

An award winning television journalist (WTAE-TV ) from Pittsburgh has been fired for comments on her personal Facebook account deemed by some as racist.  Wendy Bell commented on a brutal crime in Pittsburgh, extending her opinion to the subject of black-on-black crime in inner cities, which is certainly true (in Chicago, Washington DC, and many other cities), as a major security threat to everyone, much more probable to affect average citizens that lone wolf jihadist terrorism – and related, of course, to the gun and assault weapons debate.

Nevertheless, she was fired for what she said on her own page (coming to her own conclusions), as not living up to the standards of journalistic objectivity.  Remember, in the era of Facebook, there are no double lives.

Bell has filed a reverse discrimination lawsuit, seeing employment reinstatement, claiming she was fired because she is white. A Washington Post story by Katie Mettler explains, as does her interview on CNN with “conservative” anchor Smerconish.  The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has an account here

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Greenwald: FBI did not have cause to arrest Orlando shooter before event

Glenn Greenwald, who helped Laura Poitras interview Edward Snowden for “Citizenfour” and who authored “No Place to Hide”, argues that the FBI was right to leave Omar Mateen alone, based on the limited evidence it had, in  June 17 op-ed in the Washington Post.    “No minimally free society can prevent all violence.”  We do not arrest people for crimes they have not committed, although we do arrest for conspiracy and plots or attempts.  But we do not follow the script of “Minority Report” and prosecute pre-crime.

True, we make “calculated risks” in our activities all the time.  I was almost hit by a car passing illegally on a two-lane road last weekend.  But enemies can target the softest spots.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

If "there are no civilians" then maybe "there are no victims". just "casualties"; expectations in a world of fourth generation warfare

I found a long historical essay on a site called “USS Clueless: Voyages of the Restless Mind”, titled “There is no such thing as ‘civilian’”.

It gives a long European history as to how civilians are an asset for the military. It’s also true that the U.S. has, at least until 9/11, had the “luxury” of believing that it could do all its fighting “on the road”, in other people’s ballparks, even if there is a history of using male-only conscription – an issue that has come back into debate recently.  The biggest episode in my own life was the war in Vietnam and my own being drafted in 1968 (I was “sheltered” and did not go to Vietnam or see combat).

But modern asymmetry implies that political conflict can again lead to hostility and violence in one’s own back yard, almost.  The ways terrorism could affect us (EMP, dirty bombs, and other WMD’s as well as shooters and crude IUD’s) are numerous.  Wikipedia has a term for all this, “Fourth Generation Warfare”.

So I get the idea that people want to be able to defend themselves, and draw lines in the sand.  For all the lifetime of focus on “personal responsibility” as we normally understand it in the West, there is something shameful about being targeted by an “enemy” who would hold “me” responsible for what my “country”, or my “whatever”, upon which I depend, did to provide me like life.  This is difficult, and attention to victims as such is not enough.  If there are no civilians, then maybe there are no victims. just casualties.   Almost any social or political ideology can be rationalized, and only collective strength can prove it right to the rest of the world -- at least that seems to be what Donald Trump really thinks. And true, while it was LGBT this time (and it was horrible and record-setting), it has been school kids, or moviegoers, or, overseas, Christians and Jews and other people practicing other religions, facing persecution for “who they are.”  Promoting victimhood only goes so far. There is something to the right's "watch your back" and "watch your own karma" mentality. It's burdensome.

So, I am temperate in my ability to respond to individual victims, unless I know them already or have some other separate connection to them.  I don’t like to respond to individual pleas of “gofundme’s” at individual level, generally, just like I don’t respond to superficial calls to “sponsor” individual kids in Africa.  I don’t think it is valid unless I can follow through with a major, life changing commitment, starting with travel. (At least, when I was growing up in the 1950s, such individually placed generosity wasn’t part of the visible culture, maybe because it was less possible.)   I also know that if something happens to me, I can’t expect that kind of attention, either.  I will bear part of my own karma, because that is a fact of logic.

I have seen this sort of thing before, as with the buddy programs in the AIDS crisis in the 1980s (when I lived in Dallas).  Should a calamity happen geographically closer to home, and somehow a similar program were in place, maybe I would join.  But I remember how it was in the 80s, I joined in “on my terms”.  I was a “baby buddy”.  It seems like I never would throw myself into the emotions of the group.

Update:  Aug. 2

Chase Madar has an article in the American Conservative, July 30, "Vietnam: A War on Civilians".

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trump revokes press credentials for Washington Post, other news orgs he doesn't like

Monday night, Donald Trump reportedly revoked the Washington Post’s press credentials to attend his campaign events.  Trump complained about some headline or article characterizing the way Trump had reacted to the Orlando attacks.  The Post is saying this doesn’t matter to the paper the way you’d think, here.

So Trump is reducing the Post’s stature to that of the amateur blogger, me.  (Same for some other banned publications, like Huffington).  It certainly sounds like he doesn’t respect a free press, and believes “leaders” have a right to control what the media says about them.  Russia and China, maybe?

That even gives me more reason to be concerned he could invent a reason to shut down most user-generated content on the web as creating risk and not paying its own freight.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

No, my life cannot become someone else's bargaining chip

I am in the middle of “restructuring” my websites and activities – with much more of it going to Wordpress – and I am pretty much self-driven.

I have to react for a moment to the reaction of everyone to horrific events around them, including two major tragedies in Orlando, FL this weekend, one of them at a Club (the Pulse) which I had visited last July.  I’ve covered that on the GLBT blog today.

I need to tell myself, and “to whom it may concern”, that it is never OK for anyone to think my own life should become a bargaining chip, whatever the cause or reason or emotional, familial, or political circumstances.  I had to deal with this during the last years before my own mother’s passing at 97 at the end of 2010 (of natural medical causes).  I’ve had to deal with it earlier in my life, with the whole business of the William and Mary expulsion (1961), NIH (1962), the draft and my military service (starting in 1968), and in various ways at other times as I have documented, in personal encounters that in a very few occurrences turned ugly.

I also need to finish my own homework, my own goals, in my own way, before I can really help others effectively, by belonging to "someone else's" effort.  Yes, I would like to “earn” the opportunity to work with an established news service, but that can only happen if I “do the work” first.  So I can’t become sidetracked by circumstances, hardships, threats, or anything else.  I can’t drop what I’m doing for other people’s emergencies.  There are so many pleas that I actually look at very few of them.

True, I seem insular and aloof.  If I fail, even if it is someone else’s “fault” or the result of forceful expropriation, I still fail; and “belonging” to a group on some emotional level isn’t going to save me.  It’s pretty much a right-or-wrong thing, not much part credit.  I can’t get involved in emotional ventures to make victims of anything “all right”, and I don’t expect others to do that for me.  This may sound like an alarming statement, but there is no honor in victimhood. No reward.  Socially, and politically, I think this has a lot to do with deep inequality (not just religion) to the point that western life seems meaningless to some people.   I do understand the Grace aspect of this in Christianity, and won’t get into it here (for, for that matter, comparable ideas in Judaism, Islam, or other faiths);  I have my own idea about the afterlife, which I am sure exists, but I can’t get into that right now.

That brings me to another idea I’ve mentioned before, personal “rightsizing” and its relation to social resilience.  That idea comes up in some volunteer contexts.  Colbert King mentioned it in conjunction with Donald Trump in a column Saturday here. She talks about Trump’s alleged pandering to ideas about keeping people “in their place” and that even includes gender roles, in some context of socialization.  It’s pretty alarming stuff.

Donald Trump’s own press release starts out right – we have to be strong and resilient – but then misses everything when he just categorizes migrants as “the other”.   It seems awfully shallow.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Publishers in Europe want "creeping copyright" protection from "unauthorized" hyperlinks

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article by Jeremy Malcolm, reporting that publishers are asking regulators of a European Union commission to allow them to require other publishers to request permission and pay even to link to their articles, story here.

Publishers seem most concerned about “news aggregation sites” that they claim deprive them of traffic and ad revenue.  That could include Google’s own aggregation and display of some content with search results.

But in theory that could mean an issue even for a blogger that links to an ordinary news story.  It’s not clear whether this could affect sites outside of the EU, such as here in the US.

It would also seem that it could affect embeds, which normally don’t lead to copyright claims because they are merely “links”.

A sinister aspect of this development could be that established newspapers (especially smaller ones) feel upended by smaller blogs and sites – a development that led to a copyright troll like Righthaven in the past.

Around 1999 or 2000, a few companies in the U.S. tried to claim that they had the right to require permission to them before deep hyperlinks, which they claimed could deny them traffic and ads.  That was settled in 2000, as I recall.
I’ll keep a close eye on this story (including looking for any other legally related cases for the US) and develop it further on my new Wordpress news commentary soon.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Is Adam Grant a backup for David Brooks? The folly of "being yourself"

Take a look at Adam Grant’s column, p. 6 of the New York Times Review section June 5, “Be yourself’ is terrible advice.”  This sounds akin to David Brooks.
Grant talks about “low self-monitors” (like me) who tend to “say what they mean and mean what they say” (like in the little film “Bulletproof Picasso”), but are more likely to be female. “High self-monitors: are the “always be closing” types.  Actually, Donald Trump is a bit of both.  But the extroverts, so to speak, are more likely to be tuned to what people “need”, even if the temptation is to oversell.  Yup, people thought they needed subprime mortgages.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Apartment complex in Utah required tenants to give them Facebook "likes", a shocking interference with personal speech

Karen Turner, in the Washington Post, reports a particularly shocking story about a landlord’s interference with tenants’ personal social media use, p A12, “Landlord demands ‘likes’ on Facebook, Addendum threatened Utah apartment tenants with breach of contract”.   Online the title is “The landlord said ‘Like me’ on Facebook, or get evicted.”  The complex involved was the City Park Apartments in Salt Lake City, Utah. The complex has since dropped the policy and removed its own Facebook page over the controversy.

This is sort of the logical inverse of a non-disparagement clause for medical providers or contractors. Reportedly, this Salt Lake apartment also had a non-disparagement clause.
I have been concerned that landlords would check social media to see if a potential tenant is likely to disparage the landlord, or thinking of more sinister potentialities, indirect attraction of targeted security threats that could affect other residents.  I have not heard many (or really any) direct news reports of this happening. (I have to modify this: An apartment complex in Florida tried to implement a non-disparagement clause with a $10K fine, actually adding an addendum that social media reviews can destroy a business and cause other tenants to have to heave, Arstechnica story.)  Social media could loop back to older time when sites were often flat and could include blogs, Reddit, and the like.

It is unethical for any provider to demand positive reviews or “likes” from customers, that is to “buy” favorable online reputation.  The practice should be illegal.  But it is also unethical to pay for favorable reviews of anything, even an authored book.  Angie’s List says you can’t pay for a review on the site.

Facebook has pretty much eliminated the “double life” that was possible in the 1990s when I wrote my first book.  One problem with this policy is that it actually required a personal Facebook account. I was in a situation myself where, had I really started a teaching career, around 2005 or so, I had contemplated going completely dark during the employment out of my own view of "conflict of interest".

A local Salt Lake station has a story here. The Verge (Vox) talks about some business's lack of empathy and awareness of modern values here.  CNET has a story with detailed comments from an attorney, and has some other comments claiming a hoax. Huffigton has a story here.  Comments that the policy discriminates against the disabled and elderly seem to miss a deeper point about the integrity of personal speech.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Salt Lake public library, where “It’s free”.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Veteran's lost book manuscript raises questions about helping others write books; Mommy blogger quits, saying she had to make stuff up to make money

As a writer and author, I have indeed been focused mainly on my own “unusual” narrative (like an “unusual candidate”).  I have wondered if I should have tried to get hired to write other people’s stories in retirement.  I was approached once by another person in the battle over gays in the military, but it didn’t happen.  A lot of people can make notes of their lives but don’t know how to write a book.

There’s a story on WJLA-7 in Washington about a USAF veteran, and owner of a catering business, whose backpack was taken in a quick robbery recently.  Inside were life-saving anti-rejection medications for organ transplants, and notes and writings for an autobiographical book about his transplant experience (and maybe military life before).

The individual apparently had not backed up the writings (on a computer, and preferably USB drives or in the Cloud).  It wasn’t clear if he had the knowledge or resources for how to do this.  Could another writer help him?  Maybe with recreating the prose, but not the raw data, which might include PII and medical histories of organ donors (the story didn’t say  if any were living).

There is a lot more public interest in transplantation, and in organ donation, even when alive, than when I was being raised (apart from blood donation).  All of this became a no-no within the gay male community over the HIV donation ban, which has only recently been partially rescinded.  Today, generosity with one’s own body is becoming a social expectation.

There’s another variation of the life narrative idea.  Josi Denise has given up her “American Mama” blog, which made a lot of money, but which said she had to make a lot of stuff up and misrepresent her real family life, story on ABC here.  The domain no longer resolves (the name is for sale).
But Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce” is still alive, as she talks about “The Revenant” and her training for the Boston Marathon.  "To Dooce" is now a real verb.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tech companies will act more pro-actively against hate speech and terror recruitment, starting in EU

Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter, and probably other companies, have reached agreement with the EU to implement a new code of conduct regarding hate speech , including recruitment to terrorism. Techcruch has a detailed story by Romain Dillet
 The companies agree to remove flagged items within 24 hours.  But it appears that the companies will depend largely on user feedback.

Still, it is logical that the measures would implemented in the US (and Canada and Australia) also.  The companies may fear that Donald Trump, especially, could force their hand into more proactive monitoring, if elected.  It would appear right now that under US law, Section 230 protects them until actual violations are brought to their attention by users.  There may be some tools that could single out some content (like ISIS recruiting) more automatically.

The story was announced on major news feeds midday.

It’s common for book self-publishing platforms to do “content evaluations”, to screen out hate speech (and other material like child pornography, for example).

In the copyright world, YouTube is able to prescreen videos for digital marks for certain kinds of copyright infringement.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Newspaper association files action with FTC on ad blockers

The Newspaper Association of America has filed a complaint with the FTC regarding the deployment of ad blockers, particularly on mobile devices, link here.

The Washington Post carried a story today by Elizabeth Dwoskin, regarding the practice of “paid whitelisting”, which seems to allow ads to get around blockers, or substitute them.  It sounds like a kind of extortion on the ad industry, upon which Internet business models depend.

I rarely look at ads myself, and find that on some sites (even reputable broadcast sites), ads will take over and prevent the viewing of news content.  I find pop-ups and “continue to site” even on regular corporate sites (Forbes) to be cheesy and time-wasting.  But content has to be paid for somehow.

Update: May 31

The New York Times has a story by Mark Scott, about the concerns Internet companies have about ad revenue, especially from mobile devices, and especially from the developing world where blockers are curiously more common.