Monday, September 25, 2017

States may limit demonstrations with tough new laws


Margaret Sullivan, of the Washington Post, warns in the Style section Monday that 27 states are considering laws that could provide severe felony penalties who disrupt commerce, like by blocking highways.  She reports that the laws are likely to pass in at least 12 states. 

She argues that the dissent that helped end the Vietnam war, or that could perhaps forestall a new Korean war, could be shut down (let alone the protests over racial profiling).

Some of us may think such protests are “beneath us” 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Trump shouldn't interfere with sports teams on players' "free speech" at games


The latest “free speech” flap these days is NFL players leaning during the National Anthem to protest racism.  Trump has been saying the NFL teams should fire players who do this.

Well, the players do have a constitutional right to protest this way as far as US law is concerned. But clubs would be free to discipline or dismiss players for bringing protests on the job. That’s like saying you can’t bring your own political protests to the workplace.  That’s how it generally is.


But the president should not be intervening in what NFL clubs do.

I have not seen this happen in MLB. 

The practice started with Colom Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers.
  
ABC News story is here

Friday, September 22, 2017

Facebook's accidental Russian subversion faces social media with more regulation


Facebook has agreed to turn over information on ads purchased by Russians, in a story wide reported yesterday, as with the NYTimes here.

May Kosoff on Vanity Fair reports that Russia set up multiple Trump rallies in Florida. 
  
Congress talks about regulating social media companies, at least requiring reporting of large ad purchases. In a manner similar to standard industry practice in the past for broadcast television networks.  This is relevant to my own resume:  I worked for NBC in MIS from 1974-1977 after moving to NYC, and important period of my own life.  I remember hearing about the regulations.
   
Facebook says it will overhaul its own political ads system, as in this Reuters story.

The Russian interference played on the idea that the “elites” didn’t pay much attention to what the “deplorables” would believe when fed into their newsfeeds.  The “elites” tended not to care what people whom they looked down on as inferior believed.  A foreign enemy took advantage of this.


It’s touchy for Mark Zuckerberg, who would be 36 during the 2020 political election, and conceivably could run as a Democratic candidate for president.  There could be an irony of a much younger and richer businessman challenging Donald Trump.   Who really wants the job of dealing with Russia, radical Islam, and North Korea?  (Obama gave Zuckerberg a fatherly talk in December in Peru about the fake news, fake users and fake ads, story here.) 
  
The reports recall the flak from 2002-2005 over whether routine blogging about political campaigns could constitute “illegal campaign contributions” given the implementation of campaign finance reform at the time – an issue that indirectly affect my own career (July 27, 2007 post). 

The entire situation comes at a time when there are controversies about Internet regulation, especially pre-screening of content -- especially ads -- in other areas (like Backpage and Section 230, which Congress wants to weaken).  It's not yet clear whether all of this would have much impact on smaller businesses on the web.  

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Conservative site pulls article on "indoctrination" in public schools over implicit content (that is, personal targeting) problem


Here is an interesting non-article (so self-declared) by Devin Foley of the libertarian-to-conservative site “Intellectual Takeout”, “We had to pull an article on indoctrination”.

A middle or high school social studies teacher assigned the task of writing a coherent essay on a major “social justice” (to use the term loosely) issue.  Foley ran an article on it, and pulled it when the family that had pointed out the article contacted him and feared that their child could be targeted – this is the “implicit content” issue I have talked about before. 

The teacher supposedly apologized and pulled the article.  And Devin apparently rewrote the article to say the same things “without the article”.

Now I think that the teacher’s assignment might have aimed at a balanced piece like something you would see today on a mainstream current events site like Vox, which is pretty centrist and moderate in its positions (it’s somewhere between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.)  The teacher could have reasonably expected views closer to Hillary Clinton’s than Donald Trump’s, perhaps. But I really don’t see this as “indoctrination.”
  
The non-piece brings up an incident with an article supporting Trump’s transgender ban.  I do not support the ban (I was one of the people who fought to end “don’t ask don’t tell” years before, and with all these natural disasters we need every reservist and guardsperson we have right now) but I am particularly shocked that “activists” tracked down the tagging of a picture of someone in a photo in the article unrelated to the story.  I’ve mentioned before that since about 2010 some people have become more sensitive about being photographed in bars and discos, and this kind of incident may be one reason.  I am careful about this, and often pick artwork with no people in it for blog postings. 
  
Devin’s earlier article on indoctrination is here

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sociology professor gets students to assess their own level of privilege


Professor Dae Elliott, who teaches sociology at San Diego State University, offers her students credit for taking a quiz analyzing their privilege, as explained here in the New York Post. 

It’s not so clear if non-white students take the quiz.

If the purpose the quiz is to perpetuate identity politics and the emphasis on group oppression, or the pimping of victimization, then it would seem to further the bubble world of speech codes and trigger warnings on some campuses.



But it encourages the student to look at his or her individual karma and perhaps make some amends for it, it could promote justice.  Even so, overemphasizing “right-sizing” can be an invitation to authoritarianism (either on the right or left, with differences on whether there are pretenses of equality).  To remain free, people have to reach out of their personal bubbles out of their own volition (“willingly” as my mother would have said) and lift others up, without having to keep score.  It is hard to practice what you preach.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Brookings study shows that many college students don't find value in free speech that challenges group deferences


Catherine Rampell writes on p. A17 of the Washington Post today, Tuesday, September 19, 2017, “Students need a lesson on free speech.”  Online the title is more blunt “A chilling study shows how hostile college students are to free speech.”
   
The survey was distributed by John Villasenor, a Brookings Institute Senior Fellow, and a UCLA professor.  Brookings publishes the results with detailed analysis.


Some students believe that speech can be construed as violence, especially when it intrudes on "safe spaces",  and therefore can ethically be met by violence.  Many did not understand that “hate speech” is legally protected by the First Amendment.

Many do not value the right to speak for oneself, but see things in terms of participation in groups.  
  
Many seem to believe that historical systematic oppression justifies additional protection from hostile speech today.  And many may believe that (according to the idea of unearned privilege) speakers need to be able to put their own skin in the game, and speech alone is a kind of spectator activity. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Panpsychism might offer clues to "what makes me"


NBC News just carried an article about pan-psychism, or the idea of a “conscious” universe.

Consciousness in humans and advanced animals results from the interaction of quantum fields withint the extremely tiny spaces of “microtubules”.  It also results from the idea that something has to be observed to exist.  The observer fixes uncertainty into specificity.

The article postulates that stars could have rudimentary consciousness, to the point that they can vary their own rotational angular speed or revolutions in their galaxies. 

  
All of this will fit into my plans on my novel “Angel’s Brother” which I have been discussing on Wordpress.

  

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Personal social media posts about Trump causing serious ethical problems in sports, legislatures


Social media posts are getting all the rage right now.  A Missouri state senator faces calls for her resignation for, well calling for a specific crime to be committed, KCMO Star story

Then an ESPN anchor (Jemele Hill) tweeted that Trump is a white supremacist, leading to supposed calls for her firing.  The Chicago Tribune writes that many sports figures don’t feel they can remain silent in view of the constant protests about claims of systematic oppression from BLM.  
  
Sports Illustrated printed and analyzed ESPN’s statement about Hill’s tweet made in her own personal account 
  
Again, the Internet has made double lives impossible for people with direct reports or public impact.  I’ve written about this issue myself before as a “conflict of interest”. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Facebook still gets doxed for its accidental attraction of hate group ads


Facbook continues to get hammered about the way its algorithms attracted ads now normally associated with hate speech, as in this story from a San Diego newspaper. 

What’s disturbing is how the fake news and ad storms targeted people living in their own bubbles of group resentment (especially, it seems, on the alt-right), while people who see themselves as intellectually sophisticated and libertarian or classically liberal didn’t notice what was going on. 
Again, people don’t have a lot of contact outside their own circles of cognition.

Here’s Mark Miller’s article on Antifa in the Washington Post today, where the view that stopping fascism takes precedence over free speech is advanced by some, even if that simply invites more reaction from the right.  For both sides, it’s about powerlessness, being left out, and being ignored personally by the “elites” – the politics of personal resentment.
  
The statute removals continue, the latest from Lee Park in Dallas, where we used to have Easter Sunday concerts in the 80s when I lived there. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Can Block-chain change the business model for social networks?


Brian Fox has a major article on INC about a new evolution (or revolution) in social networking site business models:  New networks that will pay you in digital “tokens” for placing content there.  The title sums it up: “Block chains are about to disrupt social networks in a major way”. 

I don’t know where it is reviewed before being put up.


Right now, Facebook and Twitter own the content you put up on them (although I’ve never heard of a problem with reusing it yourself).  Google does not claim such ownership on Blogger, Youtube or Picasa.

You can check out Steemit.  It sounds a little bit like Second Life.

I might join and consider submitting an article on power grid security.  That would create some value.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Washington Post calls for citizen op-ed contributions, but who will tackle the really big issues?


The Washington Post is calling for op-ed submissions from the general public, target length of 750 words, must be exclusive and not have been posted before on personal blogs.  Here is the link.  

That would imply that the author needs to care enough about the topic or people involved to take the time to polish something that might not get published – the old fashioned idea of trade publishing.
        
I wondered, though, about some of my recent Wordpress posts.  For example, on my recent discussion of the nuances of EMP threats (E1 to E3) on Wordpress,  I think the best way to get the mainstream (not just “conservative”) media to take the EMP and space weather issues seriously is for a recognized expert in power grid engineering and also in solid state electronics to write the op-ed.  I’ve already contacted Resilient Societies and suggested they find a mainstream, politically moderate engineering professional to write the op-ed as factually as possible.

One subject that I might be in the right place to submit a big newspaper op-ed is the whole problem of downstream liability for Internet service providers, the whole Section 230 mechanism, which is getting threatened (now by Backpage).  I could link this to the idea that the prevalence of well-written user-generated content can help break up the hold of the political extremes in their demands to capture people into their “identity politics”.

A lot of other things I have written about on these blogs, like “implicit content”, might seem too speculative a paper like the Post to run yet. 

I don’t feel a lot of emotion personally about the trans military ban issue the wat I did 20 years ago about “don’t ask don’t tell” which was much closer to my own experience track.

I do agree that a lot of people who feel affected by a narrower problem could well take advantage of the Post “offer” and communicate their situations.  It might take guts, but issues like DACA and asylum seeking could be addressed by the immigrants themselves, or perhaps their attorneys (like Jason Dzubow, who writes “The Asylumist” blog).  That could include people who have hosted asylum seekers (which I considered but did not wind up doing).
  

Another example could be someone who does feel affected by the Confederate statues issue.  I don’t feel that way, but I respect that someone else will and could well speak up in that forum. 

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Hurricanes raise the issue of "radical volunteerism"


I’ve talked about “radical hospitality” (and “scruffy hospitality”) on these pages before, but I think you can add the idea of “radical volunteerism”.

The Red Cross has a rather detailed application form for the recent and upcoming hurricane disasters, here.

It appears that some of the gigs involve travel to a disaster location (Texas, Florida, etc) and camping out and working two weeks of 14 10 hour shifts.  So this would be a radical sacrifice for many people.

The Red Cross says right now it anticipates needs as far north as Virginia.  Does this mean shelters will be set up 800+ miles from the damage zones?  When would the people want to return?
No, this is not very easy for me to do; but I can get into more details on my own personal circumstances on a related Wordpress blog.  One problem is that I would need Internet access to keep the blogs going and respond to any issues.  In a disaster area, Internet service or wireless might not always work and hotel rooms with normal privacy would not always be available.  This sounds a little bit like short term military service, or perhaps the National Guard.

Churches tried to set these up after Hurricane Katrina.  Generally, when people got down to the Ninth Ward and similar areas, there was not a lot they could do.  Is Habitat-for-Humanity volunteer labor the solution; or is it better to depend on Walmart and large companies to provide immediate manufactured housing?  Walmart is very good at doing this.  So is the LDS Church.  Church youth groups also tried to help West Virginia flood victims in 2016 but for the most part the mountain people took care of doing their own rebuilding (sort of "Glass Castle" style), much more quickly than expected. 

On the "radical hospitality" side, it's well to mention that Airbnb is encouraging its host to offer free housing in Texas and in southeastern states.  I don't do Airbnb, because of the labor intensiveness, and it looks like I am downsizing into a smaller space (July 5) anyway.  I haven't seen Airbnb ask homewoners outside its system to offer space, and I don't think it would.  I haven't seen "Emergency BNB" answer the hurricanes yet.  

The radical hospitality issue long distance becomes much more relevance if there were an enemy-induced event (nuclear, for example) in one city, making an area permanently uninhabitable.  The US is not ready for that. 


What about moral obligations?  I know the libertarian argument.  Why should we support people deliberately living in danger zones?  But our economy depends on people being willing to live on coastal plains.  I was employed in Dallas for 10 years with no incidents.  What if the same job were in Houston now?  I agree, people can choose where they live carefully. In NYC, for example, Hell’s Kitchen is safer than Greenwich Village, because Hell’s Kitchen is higher (both have gay life).  Lower Queens and Brooklyn are very exposed, as we learned from Sandy.  Generally lower income people don’t have the luxury of living in safer places.

It’s easy to imagine a system of expected volunteerism, that employers could expect to see on resumes.  That might include openness to more radical stints involving sacrifice.. 

I can even imagine how in the future this could affect online reputation and the willingness of others to do business with you.  We’re already seeming examples of people being doxed or marked for engaging in hate speech (postings here Aug. 17 and Aug. 19)   Maybe indeed people could have to “earn” the “privilege of being listened to” to keep their presence  This might apply more to privately owned sites than just to social media accounts – and in fact, until about 2005, that was really what “online reputation” was all about, and what companies (like Cloudflare) could be more sensitive about again. 
  
I’d add one other no-no, besides “hate speech” as we usually see it (and which the Left is trying to expand as mere neglect) – that is “combativeness”, going outside the rule of law. 

Update:  Sept. 11

"The Survival Mom" on Facebook weighs in here.




Update: Sept. 12


Richard Cohen talks about breaking down our social bubbles with national service, also talks about th draft, which he doesn't think can ever come back.  But the problem is national service could be continue intermittently for all age groups if someone wanted o push it. 

Update: Sept. 14

WJLA7 in Washington reports on people doing 3-week volunteer camp-outs in the Caribbean islands but did not have a URL for the story.

Update: Sept. 24

There is an important article and discussion on The Survivor Mom's Facebook thread about the situation in SE Texas, with comments about the supposed ineffectiveness of the Red Cross, link here

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Facebook admits selling ads from probably fraudulent Russian accounts during 2016 election


Several hundred Facebook accounts apparently based in Russia (especially St. Petersburg) spent $100,000 or more on ads aimed at potential Trump voter bases on issues like gun control, race, and even gay rights, during the 2016 election, especially toward the end.  ABCNews has a typical story by Jake Pearson et al from the AP, here.   Facebook made the “admission” Wednesday.
      
The gay rights issue is troubling because of Russia’s 2013 anti-gay propaganda law, and because Trump personally has not been anti-gay (even if some of his appointees are). It’s troubling that a foreign power with an authoritarian government would try to stir up hate and resentment in the U.S.



The recent disclosure fits into the “fake news” debate, and the tendency of social media users to live in their own bubbles, which outside interests can exploit.  
  
The story also reminds me of the furor from 2004-2005 when pundits claimed that campaign finance reform laws could interfere with political blogs that are written for free, a controversy that accidentally caught on to me when I worked as a substitute teacher. 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ars Technica offers major article on Backpage and Section 230


Timothy B Lee of Ars Technica has written a detailed article analyzing the proposals in Congress to weaken Section 230 to make it easier for states to go after websites that host sex trafficking ads.  The link is here. Lee reports that the bills seem to have considerable traction in Congress. Lee also adds the libertarian argument that the laws are not likely to reduce sex trafficking but will drive it underground.  Backpage allegedly developed a way to accept questionable ads with keywords. 

I’ll consider looking at this and probably will expand in detail on Wordpress soon. 

But Lee’s analysis suggests it is mainly a narrow range of websites at most risk.  He doesn’t consider shared web hosting companies (like Blue Host) and whether they could be at more risk.  There are ideas that some websites would be required to add adult-id for sign-in, a debate that we had with COPA a decade ago.  But there have been some advances in this area that could make it more practical, as we see with the video-editing company VidAngel. 
  
This is a changing story,  with lots of wrinkles that can evolve with technology.  Lee’s byline does say that Section 230 is viewed as a legal cornerstone of the Internet economy.

None of my sites require user logon.  One site allows credit card processing which is managed by a third party with encryption and PGP. I suppose it's possible to add adult-id to that but the whole topic needs a close look. 
  
I still like Ashton Kutcher's idea, "Real men don't buy girls."  Kutcher is one of my favorite tech and Hollywood executives. 

Friday, September 01, 2017

OK, let the radical Left tell its side of the story


Here is an interview on Vox by Sean Illing of Vox with Daryle Jenkins, “meet antifa’s self-appointed spokesperson”. 

He says most of his activity is non-physical.  But he does talk about doxing (and about being doxed). He “names names” of White supremacists to employers and to others who would want to know. He talks of himself as a journalist.  The press does identify people charged with crimes;  as a blogger, I generally don’t name obscure people associated with bad behavior to search engines unless there is a court conviction or overwhelming evidence.  


But it seems that some (alt-right) groups have to be stopped, or to be shown they are not credible or deserve to be on the stage, he implied.

Truth-out claims that Antifa organized assistance in Houston  but others claim “left wing activists” are misrepresenting their calls for charitable assistance. 

Mark Karlin on Truth-out interviews Charles Derber on “universalizing politics” along with resistance and revolution (and probably eventual coercive expropriation). 

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Universities set dangerous precedent in cancelling conservative speakers out of fear for causing others to become targets


We’re not willing to risk anyone’s safety”.  Susan Svrluga writes in the Washington Post about the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) recent refusal to allow a “white nationalist” (Richard Spencer) to speak on campus.  That story links to an earlier Metro Section story today about the dilemma universities face when controversial speakers, especially conservatives, want to hold “free speech” rallies. 

Campus Reform reports that Milo Yiannopoulos will spend hundreds of thousands on security for his proposed rally at Berkeley.  Has he made that much from “Dangerous”?  It’s not that easy to do this with self-publishing.  I know because I do this myself with the “Do Ask Do Tell” series.  

All of this highlights an metastasizing problem:  schools and companies fear liability if they allow a “controversial” party a voice on campus and combative elements (like Antifa) harm their customers.  It’s a new kind of liability, for “causing” others to be targeted over a political issue when the property owner knows the speaker has a combative or militant adversary.  It’s a sort of hostage taking, or heckler’s veto.

This concept could spread quickly. Would landlords be liable for letting a controversial figure live in the building?  And what is controversial?  I understand that the KKK is unacceptable to most people (more or less like ISIS).  But, in fact, most of Milo Yiannopoulos’s writings (if you bother to read them) are actually rather reasonable;  he simply attacks individual dependency on “identity politics” and “intersectionality”.  True, Milo goes over the top with some of his antics and hyperbole (his video on hazing), which I personally take as just that but which some minorities don’t find funny. But then protesters turned on libertarian writer Charles Murray, for his willingness to talk about biology and race, in the past.  Where does it stop?

All of this hooks up to the concept of “implicit content” (previous post) and “gratuitous publication” (designed to attract attention or cause emotional provocation without a paying customer to carry its risk).



Then there is the bizarre AP story of Sarah Palin’s lawsuit against the New York Times for defamation for blaming her for “political incitement” before the Virginia baseball field shooting by a left-wing extremist, thrown out of court, but the concept is Milo-dangerous (Bloomberg ).   The New York Times published an excerpt from the Judge’s ruling. 




Update:  Aug 31

Now Ryerson University in Toronto has cancelled a free-speech event out of security concerns, as in this story.   James Turk wrote a guest blog post for Rick Sincere, here.  The left chants "this shit stops now ... either you're with us or against us." 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Violent Leftist groups tend to re-energize the alt-Right; more on implicit content


German Lopez argues on Vox that violent groups on the Left (like “Antifa”) play into the right-wing’s hands. 
  
The more extreme factions on the Left argue that some factions on the right must be stopped cold, with violence if necessary, or else their ideas could gradually gain mainstream legitimacy, as well as justify systematic attacks on various minorities (especially of color).   Trump was probably thinking about Antifa when he “messed up” (Paul Ryan) with his “both sides” remark about Charlottesville.
   
This has led to cancellation of some events (as with Milo Yiannopoulos, who is much less extreme than the Left thinks, if you actually read what he writes, as well as with Charles Murray, who is also much closer to the mainstream right).  It also leads to suppression of certain ideas, such as studying genetics and race (or even sexuality), for fear that it could bring back right wing movements again (like eugenics).  It’s easy to imagine how this speech prohibitionism could lead into other areas, such as discussion of  the history of conscription, for fear that could encourage its return.


Giving in to “heckling” could lead to future targeting of much more moderate (but conservative) speakers, as well as an attempt to bring into the law the obscure idea of “implicit content” (an idea that got mentioned at the COPA trial in 2007)  This idea means that the identity of the speaker is part of the message, and that if a speaker knows that some particular consumers (of his speech) are likely to act in a harmful way because of the speaker’s own identity as the messenger, the speaker could incur legal liability.  This is a very dangerous idea indeed.  But that’s what happened to me as a substitute teacher in 2005 (see 2007/7/27 post). 

Note the clipping from the Berkeley event Aug. 27.  




Update: Aug. 30

Note the Washington Post editorial "'Antifa' groups only help the groups they claim to oppose".  The editorial says that the extremist leftist groups don't pose the same threat to democracy as the extreme alt-right, but the muzzling of speech by heckling would seem to create new legal problems (see tomorrow's post). 

Update: Aug. 31  Victor David Hanson: "When the mob attacks innocent words; Purging references to the past is a sign of totalitarianism".  ESPN and Robert Lee;  ESPN and "guerilla" v. "gorilla".

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Baptist pastor preaches on racism: do citizen journalists have a special duty to single it out?


Today Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC gave an important sermon, “The Gospel and Racism: “Who Do I Say that I Am?” based on Matthew 16:13-20 (sermon link)..

Today, if a Clark Kent-type teen (out of Smallville) showed up with powers as an angel or the future Christ, I doubt he would be going around saying “Follow Me”.  He might resent false praise (like in “The Rich Young Ruler”) or being stared at or followed around.   He probably wouldn’t come out (pun) with a confrontational aphorism like in that Matthew quote.

The pastor summarized early US history, including doctrines like Manifest Destiny and Discovery, as well as the earlier development of the slave trade from Europe with at one time the blessings of the Catholic Church as justified by the Bible and “God’s will”.  Christianity could give us the Crusades, or it can give us the humblest of charities and vows of poverty.

Hymnology could give us “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (which we sung in middle school chorus) and “Onward Christian Soldiers” (which is performed near the end of the WWII British dramedy “A Canterbury Tale”).  But it also gives us “Bless Be the Tie that Binds” which we used to sing in the 1950s and the Sunday night youth program after the Church opened (on Christmas Day 1955).
  
Russell went on to explain the concept of generational advantages as they apply to race.  As a result of these accumulated opportunities, white people are more likely to own their own homes, and white families average 13 times the net worth of black families.  This gets into the moral question of what an individual is supposed to do about his or her own inherited “privilege”.  Russell did not take the sermon into that territory, but returned to the Matthew Text.   


But the sermon logically asks the question:  do citizen journalists have a special responsibility to call out racial injustice (as in the Charlottesville incident and President Trump’s initial refusal to call out white supremacists seeming to promote violence and lynching – Russell seem to be refer to Gode Davis’s “American Lynching”, incomplete film, at one point)?  Trump probably said “both sides” because he was referring to Antifa (and the female counter-protestor who was killed by the car was not part of that group, but peaceful).    

Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Your free speech is more important than my feelings" or being accepted socially; post by female libertarian columnist on FEE


Tricia Beck-Peter has an important op-ed on the FEE (Foundation for Economic Education) site, “Your free speech is more important than my feelings”, link here

“The point of free speech is to rebel when those with power are wrong.”  Well put. 

But, yes, the world is an unequal place.  Yet, she says, “Your right to be awful is more important than my right to feel accepted.” She also says we can’t pick and choose whom free speech applies to.  You will say, terror groups?  KKK?

Actually, social acceptance is always a challenge in a world with more personal freedom. Those with more means must at some point reach out of their comfort bubbles and take risks for those with less.

You can imagine a similar statement about segregation in the distant past.  Back in the 1950s, when I was growing up, most white suburban neighborhoods may well have been “safer”.  Personal risk for those with more privilege means can only be met by building more social capital. 

Rick Sincere has also published his piece as a guest post, here

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

ANITIFA and vigilantism against individuals as well as groups; a very slippery slope endangering free speech. liberalism and law-and -order


Salon has run a disturbing report or cover story by Michelle Goldberg on “The Public Face of Antifa”, link . Goldberg provides the subtext, “Daryle Jenkins has stepped up to explain this group’s violent attacks to a wary world. It’s not easy.”   A Facebook friend messaged this link to me at around 3 AM, Donald Trump's favorite time of the night. 

An important part of the group’s “mission”, she explains, goes beyond physical confrontation and hitting back. The group wants to warn individuals (perhaps through direct intimidation) about the possible direct consequences of becoming personally involved supporting “racist” groups, either in physical rallies (as with Charlottesville) or even online, perhaps. 

I do understand the point that non-white people may feel physically threatened by a gathering of certain groups, include the KKK and neo-Nazis, and get (with some Second Amendment irony) that they may insist on moral justification for the right to fight back. I had not been aware until recently of accounts that most urban Confederate statues had been put up in the early 20th Century specifically to intimidate blacks, so I am rather shocked sometimes at those who demand that others join them. 


But this still sounds like a slippery slope.  It is impossible to say that the KKK is worse than ISIS, for example (the latter may be more dangerous to me).  It is true, it is customary for the US government to label certain groups as terrorist-connected.  But outside that zone, for an independent group to threaten private individuals for their associations or online expressions sounds like something that could spread to many areas, well beyond race or even gender and sexuality issues as we normally see them now.  We could decide that some person is somehow underserving and must be driven into exile.  Personally combative vigilantism, whether from the domestic Left or from radical Islam, has already sometimes forced some people to disappear and live underground, ranging from Darren Wilson (the Michael Brown incident) to Molly Norris (the cartoon controversy).  With very much of this, the whole liberal idea of law and order dissolves, and life becomes a matter of fitting in to other people’s power structures, like in most of the third world today.

I’ve mentioned Cloudflare’s Matthew Prince before, but today he has a column in the Wall Street Journal, “Was I right to pull the plug on a Nazi website? “   He adds a subtext, “A handful of private companies control whether speech can appear online.  That’s reason to worry.”  Prince adds to earlier comments where he says He writes “The reality of today’s Internet is that if you are publishing anything remotely controversial, your side will get cyberattacked”  (Well, maybe.) “Without a massive global network like Cloudflare’s, it is nearly impossible to withstand the barrage.”  What counts as “remotely controversial?”  Something like gender fluidity?   Or sheltering undocumented immigrants?  Or talking about radical Islam or North Korea?   I did have an experience with a discussion about 9/11 and nuclear threats getting hacked way back in early 2002 on an old legacy site. I can imagine how this could go, as I noted in a few postings back in 2013, with attempts to frame people for child pornography or sex trafficking (Section 230 again) for stepping out of line of somebody else's group political goals. 
  
No wonder one-sided non-profits can send out emails begging for money claiming only “they” can speak for you and protect you.  How insulting.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Are Facebook friending accounts really appropriate for news blogging?


It’s well to stop and think about how you use Facebook pages vs. normal Friends’ accounts.
As I explained some time back, I did set an author page, and I do find that  getting traffic to it is slow, unless I pay for promotion campaigns (which are inexpensive). 

I’ve used the regular account as a supplemental blogging platform, often providing links to controversial news stories, trying to use credible (not fake) sources.  It does appear that these posts attract some traffic outside the normal “friends’” list, which is what I expect. 

Some Facebook friends act as if they expect more personal interaction than I normally give.  

Sometimes this gets exploitative or questionable, such as someone who wanted help coming to the US and getting a job. 

Some friends “check in” and let everyone where they are most of the time.  I see this as a bit dangerous.  In fact, as I indicated on my retirement blog yesterday, there can be cases that where if you live in a condo and have an otherwise home-based business, you aren’t supposed to announce in social media where it is located (where you are).  But if you use social media the way it had originally been conceived, as a closed network that starts in the physical world, only for social purposes, you would logically only allow friends to see your normal account posts.  I don’t have enough social capital to make that effective, so I just don’t post PII at all, which could be an issue if, for example, inviting people to a home  for an event  -- dangerous if you don’t know everyone who can see the invitation.


When Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook in early 2004, he imagined it as connecting people within specific campuses.  He didn’t make it public until late 2006, and then all the news feeds and pseudo-blogs (and eventually fake news) with all the presentation algorithms followed. 

It’s also possible to set up groups and communities to be completely private, as the video above shows. 

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.