Saturday, October 22, 2016

What is involved in assisting refugees and asylum seekers: overview of what I have found out so far

I wanted to share a few thoughts today on the whole subject of sponsorship of other people:  that is, possibly housing or hosting an asylum seeker (LGBTQ or not) or of participating in an assistance group for a refugee family, probably from Africa or an Islamic country.  I also wanted to mention “sponsorship” appeals by charities that happen on Facebook.

I’ve discussed the difference between “asylum seeker” and “refugee” on other blog postings.

In the United States, refugees are admitted after considerable screening by the US government (Homeland Security and the State Department), and are assisted by volunteer groups associated with non-profits or churches or faith groups (mosques or synagogues), supervised by large social service agencies approved by the government.  Typically it takes about twenty of so volunteers to assist a refugee family and most are settled in commercially run apartments or townhomes.  Benefits are paid to refugees for a limited time.  Besides commercial apartments, refugees generally are settled in private homes only of relatives or others who knew the person overseas.

In Canada, private agencies have much more responsibility. Private sponsorship groups are smaller.  Placement in private homes (especially of single individuals) seems more likely.  Libertarian organizations like Cato and Niskanen have been advocating that the U.S. allow a private sponsorship model.  It is relevant that in Canada health care expenses for refugees would be covered by the Canadian single payer system, which the U.S. does not have.

Asylum seekers, by contrast, are here legally only because of submitting an asylum request.  There is a variety of circumstances that have happened, including visa expiration, or illegal entry into the country.  For at least six months (maybe longer) or until asylum is approved, asylum seekers are not allowed to work or earn their own living.  Generally, the INS is likely to hold an asylum seeker in detention unless a private agency or individual or family agrees to support him or her.  This could actually be better for the seeker if he or she has health care issues.  The reasoning behind this approach is to prevent frivolous asylum claims after illegal entry; someone will get “freedom” only if private persons or groups are willing to vouch for them and take responsibility for them (with analogy to the Canadian model for refugees).

In some larger metropolitan areas, non-profit groups try to assist asylum seekers, and in some cases ask for people to volunteer to house them.  In a few cities, group homes have been set up.  The INS always prefers to see relatives or people who actually know the person house him or her, if possible, but obviously this isn’t always possible.   In some cities, smaller non-profits are able to assist hosts who live in a relatively small or compact urban area with access to good public transportation (and with other infrastructure, like Internet access).  This seems to work out OK in practice.

However, it appears that someone who lives farther away from convenient assistance could find hosting very challenging.  To the best of my knowledge, it appears that the INS would require the host to provide an I-864 (an Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A) and accept full responsibility for support of the person as a dependent.  I don’t know how the tax code would work, but this obviously sounds risky (for example, health care expenses).  It sounds more analogous to foster care of an adult.  A development like this even brings up the idea that I need a "real job" of sorts, actually selling things to other people rather than offering my "free" journalis,.

Generally, someone who is very consistently active in one or two, or a narrow range of groups (including faith-based) is more likely to be able to assist an asylum seeker directly than someone who remains “independent” and floats among a lot of different places, as I do.  Indeed, I have my reasons for my peripatetic behavior, but they could interfere with being of real assistance with this need.

Even so, I may be looking into this much further soon.

I also wanted to mention the appeals for “sponsorship” of overseas (mostly Africa) kids, which I sometimes find in my message box on Facebook.  Save the Children did this back in the 1970s (I don’t know if it does now), and you would get mail from the child, but then sponsored children would be changed.  I am fine with a reputable charity’s deciding whom to help, but I don’t like the idea of being connected to a specific child unless I really was prepared to spend a lot of time and follow through, perhaps be able to make overseas visits or consider adoption. Otherwise it doesn’t sound real.

There are other models for becoming directly involved with people overseas, like micro lending through Kiva.   Again, you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time and effort on narrow pragmatic interests overseas.  I do think there is said to be something for the “Give Direct” model that Vox likes  But in the end, the biggest need overseas I think is for real infrastructure.

Having a dependent means having your own skin the game, and accepting a certain place or “right size” that can depend on the success of others who need you.  It’s a heavy topic.  But it may confer “the privilege of being listened to.”

Friday, October 21, 2016

Airbnb seems to invoke Section 230 against part of NYC law

A CNN Money story Friday Oct. 22 implies that Airbnb is challenging a NYC law against many short temr rentals saying that holding Airbnb liable for violations by users (renting their condos or homes) violates Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

Airbnb says that even in NYC most users rent their homes infrequently.

I would wonder about sites like "Emergency BNB" which may be of use to people like asylum seekers and domestic violence victims (see Issues blog Oct. 1.

Monday, October 17, 2016

SLAPP lawsuit names a "doomsday prepper" blogger as a defendant for a "mere" hyperlink (and maybe characterization)

I’ve learned through Facebook about an apparent SLAPP lawsuit in which “Survival Blog” (apparently originating in Idaho) is (or its owner or authors) is named as a codefendant in a defamation suit for merely providing a hyperlink (and summary sentence) to a credible site that in turn reports about a particular attorney in Tennessee.  The suit is filed in Ohio.

The two posts by James Wesley Rawles explaining the litigation are here  and here.

It is rare for litigation to arise out of a mere hyperlink, although it has happened.  It might be riskier to characterize someone with your own words before giving the link.  I read the embedded link to the site  (Ross Elder) and simply found it complicated and bizarre.  (I say this invoking “The Opinion Rule”).

But sometimes litigation happens out of “turf” protection – the plaintiff’s “business model” (like with patent trolls) is based on the idea.  The plaintiff may be someone who depends on a very narrow idea for income stream.  We see this as bullying, but the plaintiff (following the behavior of Donald Trump) sees it as gatekeeping or “protecting and providing for his own”.
As for prepping, yes, I respect the view that every able bodied person should be able to defend the self and family and live in a simpler way if something happens.  If enough people “prep”, society becomes more resilient as a whole and is less vulnerable to attract asymmetric enemies.  As for the validity of the various threats – EMP, solar storms – an “amateur” can only dig through the literature, collate it, and try to connect the dots.  At some point, the established media need to do more thorough reporting than they have.  Inventor Taylor Wilson (who invented a fusion reactor as a teenager) may be onto something in saying that power plants could be designed with small fission reactors so they can become completely impervious to solar or man-made attacks on the transformers of the grid.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

FCC will strengthen privacy rules protecting consumers against data collection

The Federal Communications Commission will vote on Oct. 27 on measures that would refine the privacy rules, as to what telecommunications providers can disclose about customer usage as opposed to what publishing platforms (like YouTube or Blogger through Google) can disclose, the latter being stricter. But the narrative is a bit confusing

Telecommunications companies would need explicit consent to disclose browsing history, but not device identifiers.  Brian Fung has the detailed story in the Washington Post Friday here.

Microsoft has attracted controversy because the terms of use for Windows 10 seem to give Microsoft the ability to do what it wants. Preston Gralla writes “How Windows 10 became malware”. 

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

How can "bloggers" (like me) serve others in the real world? What about immigration?

I’ve had a couple of conversations with law firms in Virginia this week (one in person) about my possible future role in assisting with housing of asylum seekers, especially with LGBT concerns.
Some of this content is very sensitive and I can’t go into full detail right now.  But one idea is prevalent: some advocacy organizations will seek hosts who can house asylum seekers in “spare bedrooms”.  People should not host (or be expected by others) immigrants whom they do not know already (family) unless the advocacy organization can also provide some legal oversight (usually with the help of a separate law firm or a major, large social services group that works regularly with DHS and Customs).  Asylum seekers (who may have a huge variety of circumstances) are precluded from working for certain periods and precluded from receiving certain governments that “normal” refugees get, so they are more dependent on private support, possibly even as full dependents.  Libertarianism supports generous private sponsorship of immigrants (as happens in Canada) but it requires considerable support from the population by many groups and individuals.

 One possible organization is Ayuda.  I noticed on their volunteer page the invitation “Become a blogger.”  (That sounds like Blogtyrant!) Always had a hankering for writing? We are always looking for new writers.”

I “normally” cannot be enlisted as a “writer” to spread somebody else’s message, no matter how morally valid.  Yup, I can’t be hired as Donald Trump’s speechwriter, although I could probably cast some of his ideas in a way to make them much more mainstream and acceptable (that makes me dangerous!) I would like to work with established news groups (like Vox, OAN), and at least one of my photos from Chelsea the night of the “bombing” (Sept. 17) was used on televisions station WJLA.  But, I’ll stay ony my high horse (to the chagrin of Dr. Phil) and call myself a journalist.  I would be happy to have a group serving immigrants to contribute a piece to my Wordpress News Blog (or maybe to interview them and do it myself).
I have noticed that some non-profits, especially churches, seem to have difficulty maintaining their web pages.  A few have had security problems, and sometimes churches use packages that wind up taking a lot of time to keep content up, with current sermons and with up-to-date information on various activities, while sometimes keeping out-of-date stuff up (like youth) a long time.  But people (like me) spend more time on our own stuff than with organizations.  We put the effort on what we own.  Such is the free market and capitalism.  

Monday, October 03, 2016

DOJ seems to want to enforce criminal DMCA copyright sanctions on a university cryptography researcher

Apparently the DOJ is threatening to prosecute security researcher Matthew Green under a provision of the DMCA for criminal copyright violation that allegedly occurred in his “research” for his book “Practical Cryptographic Engineering”.  There is an excerpt from the book on this blog.

Green is a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a detailed post September 30, 2016, about the vagueness of provisions in the DMCA about indirect copyright infringement that occurs during security research.   This case is difficult to follow at first and will require more detailed study.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Even generosity sometimes has to be personal (we are not dolphins)

Pastor Julie Pennington-Russell gave a communion message at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, “What about the extra?” (Part 1).  Stan Hastey will deliver Part 2 next Sunday.
There was a youth message before, a “Generosity Story” (a little long, not quite admitting that sometimes generosity has to buck the “mind your own business” world and get personal, as in an earlier youth sermon  -- Drama blog Feb. 26, 2012).  These were based on the “Parable of the Rich Fool” in Luke 12:13-21 , where a farmer “in the dell” keeps storing up what he “doesn’t need” rather than sharing it with others.  Then one day the farmer is told “This night your life will be demanded of you.”  Pastor Julie says that can be interpreted two ways:  he will soon perish, and “you can’t take it with you” (just like you couldn’t when getting drafted into the Army in the 1960s).  Or, in Greek, his possessions, his collections, his attachments (in New Age, Rosicrucian language) held him captive.  He was a cold soul (a “chick pea”), not fully human any more, because he was disconnected from everyone else. He was like the Rich Young Ruler, not ready to step up to real need when necessary.

I cam imagine a third interpretation, more secular and political:  if you didn't really earn what you have, but just inherited it, and hoarded it, and if it's expropriated from you by a revolutionary act, you don't get it back.  It sounds like kids crying when someone takes their toys.

Yet, in the Old Testament, some sort of saving, evening “hoarding” (we hear a lot about that as a psychological illness, sometimes making homes into neightborhood fire traps) was applauded, as in Genesis, when Joseph had people save from seven years of plenty for the seven years of famine.
At Clarendon Presbyterian in Arlington, David Ensign has often talked about how the early Christian community was indeed like an incomes-sharing, currency-free intentional community (like Twin Oaks or Acorn in Virginia, maybe wgar the Ninth Street Center in the East Village in NYC wanted to be in the 1970s).  Dolphin society is like that (because dolphins enjoy access to Reid Ewing’s “Free Fish”) – to the point that our only intellectual equals on this planet have advanced into distributed consciousness.  At Trinity Presbyterian, Judy Fulp-Eickstaedt talks about “radical hospitality” (and then “scruffy hospitality”).

I get the point on being over-attached to possessions we don't "need" and have an "excess" of.  But some are hard to get rid of.  Some of these, others don't need as much as we think.

There’s an underbelly to all this.  We’re used to living in a asymmetric meritocracy.  As Malcolm, Gladwell points out, sometimes what look like disadvantages turn out to become a new source of leverage against others – scoring touchdowns on turnovers with your defense, or fighting with your fingernails.  It’s like winning chess games with Black (no pun on race intended), by letting White overextend himself with an attack.  (In Baseball, though, your offense has to score.)   Sometimes “directly helping people” doesn’t help them that much, as much as it provides learning experience for the giver (like disaster recovery work – with people already resilient, like in West Virginia after the floods).  We have a real controversy in our culture over how much we need to let our sense of personal identity become distributed.  We are not the same as orcas.

Friday, September 30, 2016

AG's in four red states sue to stop US transfer of domain name control to ICANN on Oct. 1

Four state attorneys general, for Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada and Arizona, have filed suit in federal court in Texas to prevent the Department of Commerce from surrendering control to ICANN over domains as of Oct. 1, 2016. Politico has a detailed story here.

There is a concern that ICANN could interfere with domains that don’t honor policies that many other countries see as politically correct, such as “the right to be forgotten”, and more acceptance of downstream liability for user behavior, and even the so called “link tax”.

Update: Oct. 1

The judge apparently denied the motion.  So ICANN takes over.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Note on "social use" of a Facebook page

I wanted to re-iterate a point about how I use Facebook right now.

I still post most of my major “news items” there for public use, and my account is in public mode.  I have a separate page for my books, but most people who know me and read my posts still get it from the regular page (or from these blogs or from Twitter).

 Therefore, I do not usually announce what events I am going to in advance.  For security, I don’t confirm that I will attend certain parties or events in advance, or let people know what plays or movies I will attend in advance.  I don’t have enough purely “social circulation” to justify the risks of such a practice.  I know this is frustrating to some people who find it important to show they can get “solidarity” from others in terms of events they organize.  I would need to use a purely private account with content only to friends or subscribers (whitelisted).

In fact, that was the original intention of Facebook, that had at one time been limited to campuses.  “Whitelisting” – the practice of sending information only to people who already know you – reduces the dissemination of “amateur journalism” and can prevent certain kinds of conflicts and reduce some kinds of personal risks.  Then again, someone can attempt to “friend” you to stalk you.  But you could have a rule that you only “friend” people you first meet in the physical world, and be a privately-acting person who lets the outside world go by (except for “solidarity”).

I don’t have enough social interaction to need Snapchat.  But I do find it helpful when people have private message boxes on Twitter (rather than only “Tweet to” boxes).  

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Should bloggers expect people to read their emails? Here's when.

“Blogtyrant” (Ramsay Taplan, in Australia) has another detailed article on how professional bloggers should maintain email lists.  This means deleting some non-responsive subscribers, sometimes.  It was interesting how much time and attention Ramsay gives to maintaining his interaction with subscribers.

There is a lot of technical discussion in the comments, which seem as important as the original article.

The obvious question to the novice would be, why expect people to engage your emails when there is so much spam around?  (How about using a Facebook page, or Twitter, or Instagram?)  Is this a “do unto others” problem?  I rarely open emails about which I have the slightest suspicion,  Or sometimes I open them on an older computer, and find many of them just plain na├»ve and silly in the business deals that they propose.

The short answer is that a niche blogger, a subject-matter-expert in a narrow field, might have a chance of attracting subscribers who “know” you because they opted in (and it’s important to offer the opt-out).   The narrower the subject and more specific the need being met, the better the chance it works.  Some subjects that actually make blogs money would not appeal to many mainstream writers and bloggers, which is how a market like this works.  I can think of some unusual topics – like doomsday prepping (which sounds ironic).  The needs of refugees and asylum seekers (legally different categories) and the responsibilities and possible liabilities for those assisting them sounds like a good topic for this.  So would something like adoption by same-sex couples or even singles, or transgender issues.  But these are very specialized and narrow and nor always in public debate.

It would seem that most niche blogs that make money are associated with small businesses that themselves have to be successful.  That can mean that the business owner has to hire someone or a company to manage email lists and other services.  That would seem to create an employment market, perhaps especially for college-age people in tech corridors (like Research Triangle Park and the Austin RX area).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

New York Times op-ed addresses "the privilege of being listened to"

Kaitlyn Greenidge (“We Love You, Charlie Freeman”) has an interesting op-ed on p. 3 of the Sunday Review, New York Times, Sunday, September 25, 2016, p. 3, “Who gets to write what story?”   Online, the tile leaves out “story”.

Greenridge poses a fictitious project where screenwriters collaborate on a movie where there is a lynching of a black person.  She asks if a white person gets to write the scene.  (Right now, let me reiterate, Gode Davis’s documentary “American Lynching” is still unfinished, as of his passing in 2010).  A lot of people, say no.

Later she gets into the paradox of the “power of words” – the power that writers have to influence social policy just by putting out there to be found, my paradigm – v. the supposed decline in people willing to pay for words, which she says is an illusion.  That gets into the whole area of barriers to entry, gatekeepers, amateurism, free content, all vs. an establishment.

My own experience is more that the “Privilege of Being Listened” to has something to do with having your skin in the game.  I suppose that for some issues, merely being black increases that chance – that the speaker experiences the heightened risk of being profiles and even shot by police.  I think this gets testy.  People don’t like my speaking out on paid family leave because I don’t experience the bodily commitment of giving birth to (or fathering) a child.  But others simply refuse to consider the possibility that they are demanding my “sacrifice” for their choices.

Of course, my perspective is that of being caught deep within my own narrative.  It's not that it's narcissistic (Trump-like).  I simply haven't walked in a lot of others' shoes, and seem sheltered from the interpersonal (let alone physical) risks others have to take.

There seems to be an idea that a speaker should have “standing” in the area she speaks about – skin in the game, maybe even the willingness to prove it with some ritualistic sacrifice to show that “she” belongs. It sounds intuitively that the speaker should be have shared some of the risks of other members of his or her cohort.  A lot of times this means having other mouths to feed, others dependent on “you”, a willingness to find meaning in that dependency of others, even if that compromises the intellectual objectivity of your ideas.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Whoops? Donald Trump?

I got a US mail ad from Donald Trump that is so hysterical that I thought it was a joke.  I included a bumper sticker.

My even posting this on a blog with ads might technically violate the campaign finance reform law back in early 2002, which created a lot of controversy in 2005 as an existential threat to blogging before it blew over.

Trump thinks he can “sell” his vote with his personalized “Stop Crooked Hillary Pledge” and by using his last name as a brand in such bombastic fashion.

I’m not impressed by aggressive sales tactics (which I see on email all the time, including hysterical emails from the Democratic Party too).

I can remember being asked in a screening interview (when New York Life wanted to consider me to become an agent in 2005), “would you buy products or services from a salesman?”  Not very often  Use Amazon.

I do understand attention-getting.  I had a habit of interrupting people in grade school, that I still remember, and it seems out of character now.  Introversion and extroversion are more nuanced than most psychologists think.
Trump thinks it is a great privilege to ride on his campaign plane and to get your photo with him. What a parody of what George Gilder calls "upward affiliation". 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Washington Post engages debate with "Counter Extremism Project" to counter terror-promoting websites

Recently the Washington Post has covered the Counter Extremism Project” to deploy new technology to combat online extremism. The CEP seems to be predicated on technology that matches other content to items flagged by users as terror propaganda.

The Washington Post published an LTE today from the CTE in response to its Sept. 17 editorial, link.

There’s also a proposal, in the letters, that a non-profit foundation could develop a “seal of approval” for websites.  This seems to extend the concept of rating of websites now for security threats and with peer rating (MyWOT, which had developed back around 2006).  Sound a development could be “bad” for amateurism.

The idea of evaluating content for ideological exploitation reminds me of the reason why some authoritarian leaders (like Vladimir Putin) see media in terms of “propaganda” even today, and do not believe the “masses” can do their own thinking.  Donald Trump talks as if that is what he believes.

But some of the "plots" in the US (as with the NY-NJ plot this weekend) seem to involve offspring of immigrants who have become citizens. Radicalization seems to involve a lack of character, lack of cognition required to "make it" in our kind of world, and then recruitment and travel to the home country where culture is much more group or tribe oriented.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

DOJ enforcement of ADA on UC Berkeley "free" online courses could set a bad precedent for small publishers

I wanted to make a note about the recent decision by the University of California Berkeley to stop access to free online courses because it could not comply with DOJ mandates to provide equal access for the disabled, as part of Civil Rights enforcement.

FEE  (a libertarian-oriented site) has a good story here.  The letter to the school is here.

The idea behind this action worries me as a “small publisher”.  I cannot, in a practical manner, make my books available in large print or audio, for example.  In theory, such a policy could stop self-publishing by content-providers who do not have a large income flow from what they publish.  "Free content" by small speakers certainly does not add revenue to pay for special access.  Of course, browsers can provide tools for access, as can various PC operating system or hardware features, so I wonder why that doesn't enter into the issue.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Berkeley gate by Trisweb (CCSA 2.5).  I stayed in Berkeley for a week on vacation in 1971.

Monday, September 19, 2016

"Adblock Plus" may be setting itself up as a gatekeeper of acceptable website ads

The New York Times has a Business Day article Monday September 19, 2016, “An Ad Blocker, Create to Protect Users from Ads, Instead Opens the Door”, by Sapna Maheshwari in her advertising column (Madison Avenue).
The article is about a company Adblock Plus which appears to be setting itself as a recognized industry gatekeeper for deciding what ads are acceptable enough to be pro-actively whitelisted.  This is a potentially “dangerous” idea.

The user installs the product in her browser, which effectively gives the company the power to decide with ads ought to be “publishable”.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Vox Media welcomes "non press" submissions on critical, undercovered topics (like power grid security)

Vox Media has created a new section on its website called “The Big Idea” and seems to be welcoming submissions from those other than “press establishment” journalists, story by Dylan Matthews here.

There is already an article by astrophysicist Lucianne Walcowicz on the threat to the power grids and particularly the Internet from solar storms (which I’ll cover soon on Wordpress).

Vox seems to be seeking articles with factual information from people doing the work – especially in areas like deep science and medicine.  I can imagine the list of insufficiently (or inaccurately) covered critical topics, ranging from power grid security to population demographics, to artificial intelligence, to revolutionary medicine.  I think legal and political discussion of some of the ideas regarding downstream liability on the Internet go there, too.   Maybe animals “people-like” or even distributed intelligence (like that of the orca), or real evidence of alien life belongs there.
Ten years ago, the debate on “don’t ask don’t tell” would have belonged.  Don’t assume it can never come back (particularly if Trump could win).

Friday, September 02, 2016

Melania Trump sues Maryland blogger and UK site; Donald Trump requires non-disparagement clause from phone bank volunteers

Melania Trump has sued a political blogger in Maryland, Webster G. Tarpley, as well as  for defamation.

Tarpley’s comment is here.

She has also sued the UK’s Daily Mail, according to this NBC story. Trump, as a public figure, would have to show actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth.

The ThinkProgress reports on a nondisclosure statement that even volunteers – just to work on phonebanks (don’t call me) must sign.  There is a gag and lifetime non-disparagement order.  I don’t think it’s enforceable because Trump hasn’t given the volunteers any “consideration” in legal terms.

Why would someone even volunteer under such conditions? What does Donald Trump have to hide?  (Plenty, I guess -- opinion rule.)

For a political presidential candidate, or a family member, to sue an “ordinary” blogger to silence him or her during an election campaign sounds unprecedented and startling (see June 14).

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).