Friday, June 23, 2017

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


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

Mark made his remarks at a Facebook community summit.



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

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

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

Thursday, June 22, 2017

How far does the sharing economy go before it jeopardizes personal security? Hitchhiking is really OK? ; also, resistance plans "Day of Dinners" June 25


Here’s an interesting article by Michael Munger on FEE about the sharing economy.  Thus is real sharing, real free market communism, real sustainability, maybe.

But, really, are you willing to pick up hitchhikers just because they “need” rides?  What about personal security?  (But you can watch the little "Train" film "Bulletproof Picasso", which I have reviewed before. Mean what you say and say what you mean, like Chris Christie.)

There are other stories around that Airbnb is pressuring homesharers to behave more like commercial hotels.  Consumers need reliability and certainty, and don’t want to have to be “approved” or have online reputations as consumers (an issue I have with Uber, too).

And the potential liability to homesharers for guest use of wireless internet connections deserves more attention than it has gotten. Is OpenDNS the right idea?  Not all telecom companies offer it (and that gets back even to the net neutrality debate).

There's also a "radical hospitality" movement event "A Day of Dinners" June 25, 2017 sponsored by the Women's March.  News story here, link here. If you visit it, you'll see it is rather coercive in tone.

I haven't put any time in being able to host events at home (I go to events in public spaces) but I used to do this when I lived in Manhattan in the 1970s, ironically, like an Understanding meeting (Dan Fry's group) in May 1976.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

A group called "Better Angels" tries to replace tribalism with community dialogues


Today, David Blankenhorn appeared on the Fareed Zakaria GPS show on CNN and mentioned his “Better Angels” organization, which tries to set up community gatherings where people from opposing political parties or different cultural and ethnic identity groups meet and discuss contentious issues.  The link is here and I “joined” this evening.

The idea is to breakdown the tribalism that is haunting American politics and which Donald Trump exploited to get elected.



The concept reminds me of the “Area of Mutual Agreement” at Understanding, Dam Fry’s group in Arizona in the 1970s, which I discuss in Chapter 3 in my DADT-1 book  I’ll review this again soon on my “DADT Notes” blog on Wordpress.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Do bloggers need to have skin (their own, personally) in the game?


Here's an odd version of how free speech should work, from a "conservative" on Twitter.


This is a little surprising,   I would have thought that "paid speech" is more likely to come from a professional at something, from someone who does it to support a family, who has skin in the game.

This blog is practically for free (you just have to see the ads).

I don't need to make a living from it.

But Australian blogging guru Ramsay Taplin takes up whether blogging itself can support a family (it does on some mommy blogs, like Heather Armstrong's). Typically with niche blogging it's the product or service itself that earns the revenue.  But there could be some hybrid areas, like gaming or cgi code consultants.  

Friday, June 16, 2017

New York State about to expand its right of publicity law


Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that New York State is on the verge of a dangerous expansion of “right of publicity” by state law, on this post by Daniel Nazer June 12.
 
The bill would make the right of publicity inheritable, as part of an estate.
Think about it.  That makes no sense.  My father was probably a minor public figure in his own right, but my own life has taken a totally different turn, partly because of the effect of decades of history passing.. I would have no reason to “need” his.



The bill could enable litigation for Internet postings that obvious reach other states.
 
Even so, I doubt that the bill would present a practical threat in political commentary.  It might make it more dangerous to advertise certain products or services in a way that implies connection to a past public person.

I believe right of publicity is covered by Section 230.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Visit EFF's rebuilt page on Section 230; new threat regarding fake news liability in CA


Electronic Frontier Foundation has recently reorganized its own website, so it isn’t always possible to tell right away which stories are the most urgent.

But EFF still has an instructive page on CDA230, Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (popularly known as the Communications Decency Act, the censorship sections of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997), which shields social media companies from most downstream liability for what their users do, and precludes the necessity for pre-screening.  Section 230 gets discussed in the new handbook “The Permissions Guide Through the Legal Jungle”, which I will review soon on Wordpress.

Note particularly the essay by Aaron Mackey on attempts to hold Twitter responsible for the recruiting activities of terrorists.
 

 
I’ve included a video today about efforts to undermine Section 230 in California with regard to fake news, a more recent concern.  Fake news could be related, of course, to defamation.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

There is no double life


Here’s a piece on basic ethics by Mike Monteiro, on “Dear Design Student”, “Ethics can’t be a side hustle”, link.  Blogtyrant Ramsay Raplan recently referred to it, saying every blog should help someone, and I’ll take this up on Wordpress soon.

Here Monteiro is saying it matters how you make a living and earn your reputation;  occasional volunteer work doesn’t repair bad karma. There is no double life anymore.

Charles Murray’s interview for Intellectual Takeout, by John Mitimore, on Trump, the Middlebury unrest, and America’s greatest threat.  Murray does say that social media has inadvertently contributed to the polarization of less-educated voters by aggregation (and fake news), and that critical thinking is lacking.

Yet critical thinking (or its self-dissemination) doesn’t directly help someone in need or make others matter more.  Murray’s advice somewhat is paradoxical given his call for more eusociality in his 2012 book “Coming Apart”.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

UK wants worldwide Internet regulation to combat terror, maybe even some shutdowns; ironically Trump's "America First" would contradict her


Although I’ve been covering this on the International Issues blog and on Wordpress, I wanted to note here British Prime Minister Theresa May’s call for “wordwide Internet regulation to fight terrorism”,as Brian Fung explains in a link here.

The text of May’s speech was carried on Time’s website, as here.

One silver lining in Trump’s attitude is that Trump does not believe that the US needs to fully cooperate with other countries in making Americans share the same regulatory control of their freedoms (“America First”), ironically (if unfortunately) as we saw in Trump’s pulling out of the Paris accords.



Fung also refers to an earlier chilling speech in December 2015 when a candidate Trump essentially wanted the ability to "turn off those tubes" if we were in a wartime situation with terrorists.  This is a particularly troubling idea because radical Islam in particular looks at ordinary non-believer or “apostate”  citizens as combatants.

The biggest issues may have started with social media recruiting (especially Twitter), but the biggest draws seem to be slickly produced offshore ("Dark Web") propaganda sites, not indexed by major search engines anyway, and lots of encrypted communications (Whats App,Telegram, etc).

I like the essay by Theodore Dalrymple "Terror and the Teddy Bear Society" in the Wall Street Journal, June 6m 2017, p. A17.   Nihilists will attack us if we're "weak" and not resilient, just because they can.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Harvard rescinded admissions of at least ten students after learning of offensive memes


Harvard rescinded admissions of at least ten students after learning of offensive posts they had made on Facebook.  The posts appeared in a “private group” created under members of the class of 2021.  Some of the offensive material included making fun of the Holocaust, of crimes against children and ethnic cleansing.



NBC News has a video report here.

The fact that the group was private shows a counterexample – using privacy settings as recommended doesn’t necessarily protect you satisfactorily from otherwise dangerous exposure to posts as others spread them.  How often has Dr, Phil warned against this?  ("Internet mistakes").

CNN has a similar story here .

The Harvard Crimson has an article here.

Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in February 2004 while a sophomore at Harvard and living in a communal dorm. I think Zuckerberg would have known about the controversy over “don’t ask don’t tell” because of the issue of military recruiters on campus during his freshman year.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Popularity and health; is openness to more range in interpersonal relationships a real moral question?


In the New York Times Sunday Review, Mitch Prinstein, who has urged full transgender acceptance in other columns, writes (p. 10), “Popular people live longer”. He has an interesting theory, sounding speculative, that humans without reciprocal social interdependence are more prone to inflammatory diseases as a survival mechanism.  This view may not recognize the physiology of true introverts, who don’t experience the same need for popularity or group ratification. This may be like comparing the socialization of dogs to that of cats – both very successful animals.
 
This manga (Danganronpa?) may quarrel with the article.



Then Sheyll Cashin writes “Interracial love is saving America”, invoking the 2016 film “Loving”.  Is openness to a personal relationship with a person of a different race (“hetero-race-uality”) something that can become a moral expectation of individuals?  Or does this stay in the abstract, political area.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Local Denver station offers dire advice about social media and insurance companies


A Denver television station carried a story in March reporting on insurance companies’ looking up consumers on social media.  This has been written about before, especially with respect to possible suspected fraud on claims. But this video, toward the end, takes it further.



Toward the end, the video takes the position that no one should post pictures from vacation except to private lists.  But the broadcast was motivated by spring break for college students, who likely have some roommates back on campus or who may be in dorms anyway.  Furthermore, many people have so many Facebook friends of Twitter or Instagram followers that “private mode” would hardly guarantee security.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Federal law now prohibits non-disparagement clauses on consumers


NBC Washington brought us up to date at the 11 PM report last night (May 30) on the bad reviews problem, with this report by Susan Hogan and Meredith Royster.

The newscast reports that a new federal law prohibits businesses from requiring consumers to sign “non-disparagement” clauses, prohibiting giving negative reviews.

Techdirt had reported on the law in December 2016, here.  The anecdote about DC United trying to prohibit people from writing about them and trying control social media presence entirely is very disturbing.  I had been to one DC United at RF Kennedy Stadium game in July 2014 and had not heard of this.  However, video of big league sporting events might run into copyright issues.

The Fort Worth, TX Star Telegram has a similar story here.



But consumers can still be liable for legal defamation or libel, for giving false information.  In the U.S., the burden of proof of a statement’s falsity falls on the plaintiff (Trump wants to change that).

There was a case in Utah where a consumer was "fined" $3500 for disparagement.  A court ruled that the bill could not be collected, but it stayed on the consumer's credit report, although it would sound to me that the consumer could have the credit reporting agencies remove it.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Why this generation of young adults shies away from free speech


Jay Fayza of Rebel Media has a nice video explaining “Two Big Reasons My Generation Hates Free Speech”


Note how Jay explains postmodernism and connects it to Marxism and nihilism, and a tendency to deny reality out of convenience.  He notes that in the 60s it was young people who led the way with free speech and demonstrations not only about race but about the Vietnam era. Today, young people build “subjective identities” not based on facts (such as, you could say, gender fluidity).  Campuses have tended to believe that people need to sheltered from hostility based on these identities, rather than dealing with challenges (as I had to).

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Reported bodyslammed by political candidate; alt-right leader has gym membership cancelled over his public reputation


An attack on a reporter by a GOP candidate in Missoula, Montana who body-slammed him is getting the rage today, as in this story by David Wegit.  The candidate said he was sick of journalists from liberal sources (the Guardian) challenging him.  After all, journalists don’t have to ask for money or win elections. Here is the Guardian's own story.



Here's a LTE about Sport-and-Health’s suspension (cancellation) of Richard Spencer’s membership for his public notoriety as an alt-right leader, but not for his conduct in the club. Imagine if apartment landlords, for example, behaved this way, say out of fear of targeting.  It’s an issue I have wondered about and heard people speculate about ad hoc in the past.

Wikipedia attribution link for Missoula picture, by Mloken 406, under CCSA 4.0.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Russia's stunning leveraging of social media on US voters


Time Magazine on May 29, 2017 has a feature story by Massismo Calabresi, “The New Propaganda” or alternatively “Hacking Democracy: Inside Russia’s Social Media War on America”, link.
 
The details are quite startling.  Russians directed tweets to users in DOD, encouraging them to like to malware infected sites that would enable them ultimately to spy on US defense and political operations. It’s a little unclear how government and major party operation computers were so poorly protected.  Likewise, reporters were contacted in a way to lead them to “fake news” sites that would distort the picture of the refugee issue in particular.  Russians also used algorithms to manipulate news feeds through Facebook to ordinary Americans to convey a distorted picture of what was happening.

Russians seem to have exploited the cultural gap in US society, where “average Joe’s” don’t believe the intellectual elites of the Hillary Clinton types and can be prodded to believe fake news and conspiracy theories. Part of the problem is that the “elites” don’t interact personally much with the “average Joe’s” and tend to regard them latter with a bit of not so hidden personal contempt.  The Russians on the Internet promulgated a new kind of class warfare.  Incidents like Comet Ping Pong were bound to result.

Russians seemed to have targeted attitudes toward migrants and undocumented immigrants, sometimes trying to create sympathy (like the debate over sponsorship and hosting) and then suddenly uncertainty, playing the "you take somebody else's bullet" or "trojan horse" card.

And a president who seems manipulative, thin-skinned, and intellectually inconsistent on what he believes – Donald Trump – got elected by hucksterizing to a mentally vulnerable base.

All pretty incredible.

And on Saturday, touring around central Pennsylvania and its decimated coal country (like around Centralia) I found people still supported Trump.  It wasn’t just because of Obamacare.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Ivanka Trump host dad's Twitter forum on countering extremism; alt-right leader kicked out of gym for conduct of other members


President Donald Trump promised to host a Twitter forum while in Saudi Arabia on how to combat terrorism or terror recruiting specially among young adults.

CBS News reports that this forum was conducted largely by daughter Ivanka and was rather ligh level and general.

This is certainly a cry from calls at the end of 2015 that much of the social media world should be shut down to stop terror recruiting, which was out of control then, an abrupt turnaround form the Arab Spring a few years before.



Also alt-right figure Richard Spencer had a membership canceled at Sport and Health in Old Town Alexandria after a female Georgetown University professor confronted him.  Although the gym is a private organization, it seems that it terminated the membership because of complaints of other members just about his presence, story.

BuzzFeed has the juicier links on this incident.
 
Would Milo encounter the same fate?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trump makes good-faith journalists uneasy about the possibility of jail; "Life is not fair"


Columnists, especially at the Washington Post (“Democracy dies in darkness”) are warning that Donald Trump could become an increasing threat to journalists, as in this Style column Thursday May 18 by Margaret Sullivan   These comments appear as Trump receives Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, after ugly events near the residence of the Turkish ambassador.



The article does focus somewhat on the prison sentence and Obama’s release of Chelsea Manning, although that seems to be a stretch to say that Bradley-Cheslea’s behavior was journalism comparable to reporting.  After all, she was (and still is) in the Army.

I note that CNN and other networks have said they would not publish specific intelligence they had become aware of concerning the source leading to the overseas “electronics ban”.  Responsible papers are careful about publishing information that they know could compromise sources.

There does seem to be a legal gray areas between “The Pentagon Papers”, and publishing specific classified information when it is learned.

It is possible for independent, non-press-credentialed bloggers to have classified information (often unsolicited) sent to them.  This happened a few times with me after 9/11, and I did share it with authorities.  One comminque led to a 20-minute phone chat with an FBI agent in Philadelphia in summer 2005 about Osama bin Laden.

The AP reports that Vermont has become the latest state to provide a journalist shield law.



Jenna Johnson and David Nakamura at the Post report that Donald Trump told a graduating class art the Coast Guard Academy in New London, CT, "Over the course of your life, you will find that things are not always fair."  Trump used to say "Life is not fair" in the Boardroom scenes on "The Apprentice".  He tends to look at people as "winners" and "losers" in an absolute, existential and overly individualized sense.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Meet Washington D.C.'s "civic agent" Chris Otten, who believes in legal activism, not just journalism, to protect poor people


I am sometimes criticized for physical inertia and leaving the resistance and activism (and protests) to others, claiming to be a “citizen journalist”.

No so with “civic agent” Chris Otten, who files appeals and litigation to halt the gentrification of poorer sections of Washington, DC.

The Washington Post has a story by Paul Schwartzman today, here.  The story was shared by a Facebook friend, Dave Edmondson, who had been the editor of “The Quill” in the early 1990s, for Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty (GLIL), a group among whom Rick Sincere (now in Charlottesville) may be the best known today.  I’m going to interrupt my own post right here and share a guest post on Rick’s blog by a US Congressman. Anyway, I became the editor of Quill and then went on to my books and bogs.

Otten, who looks fairly youthful but scruffy in the picture (white), has tutored poor children (compare that to my own substitute teaching experience in the middle 2000’s) and run for office under the Green Party.  The article says he drives a 20-year-old car (the maintenance would be more expensive than a new one, maybe) and lives in subsidized housing in Adams Morgan.
   
I see gentrification all over Washington, now on U Street, and in Northeast.  Where do the poor people, driven out by the high rents (unless there are enough subsidized units) go?  PG County? 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Journalist, engineer both arrested or fined for speaking out of turn


Here are a couple of stories about the risks that journalists sometimes take, with exercising their first amendment rights, even more for members of the Fourth Estate, the formal credentialed press (which I am not, yet).



In Charleston, W Va, reporter Dan Heyman was arrested for tailgating Trump’s HHS secretary Tom Price, as explained in this New York Times story by Christophere Mele on May 10.  The reporter was specifically asking whether (usually female) victims of domestic violence were considered to have “pre-existing conditions”.  It is true, that in some public buildings there are security rules about behavior (like at the airport) that can get someone arrested whatever the speech.

Even more disturbing is a story in FEE (a libertarian site) about the summons and fine in Oregon of Mats Jarlstrom for criticizing traffic light patterns “without a license”, apparently for identifying himself publicly as an engineer to back up his statements.

I contact local governments about the need for “no turn on red signs” and once got out of a photo red light ticket in DC after explaining how a particular pattern on New York Ave. NE was confusing (it was fixed).

This may be a good place to note that Donald Trump is considering stopping the daily press briefings, or heading more infrequent briefings himself, after Spicer and Sanders got roughed up by reporters questioning about Comey's dismissal timeline.



Update: June 8, 2017

George Will talks about the case of Mats Jarlstrom in Oregon on the stop-light case p A21 of the Washington Post, here.   I once got out of a ticket on NY Avenue in NE DC by complaining that hte lane markings were wrong with respect to the light, and the problem was actually fixed. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Popular social media users can sometimes make big money for posts from advertisers


A quick story – how some people become popular enough that they can make a lot of money from advertisers from single social media posts if they have enough followers.

This works for some niche consumer areas, and rather grows out of the advice on the “Blogtyrant” site, for blogs (supplementing social media posts). I wonder if it works as well for “Mommy bloggers” as well as it used to (Heather Armstrong).
 
The problem is, telling the truth, after digging it out, is much harder.  It doesn’t make money easily.  It is perceived as a luxury for people without their own skin in the game.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

What if users could not post content that can be viewed for free?


Back on April 23, the New York Times ran a piece by Jonathan Tarplay that essentially would imply that it should no longer be possible for users to post their own unsupervised content online for free if they could not otherwise get people to pay for it.

I discovered this piece  this morning before a meeting in DC why looking an LTE in a printed New York Times.  “’Safe Harbor’ Online, here.

The original article is titled “It is time to break up Google?”.  While we can reasonably talk about monopolies on the Internet and the “Big 5” who survived the dot-com bust of 2000 (there is a tweet running around about which one you could live without) the article really talks about all of them.
But the writer takes particular aim at the Safe Harbor Provision of the DMCA, without noting the even more powerful sister it has, Section 230, which is even more important in preventing service providers having to preview what gets published. 

And the writer suggests that service companies should pay users for the posts, because they make money off them.  That would mean that most posts would not get published because readers won’t pay for them.  No more could people publish anything that doesn’t “sell”.  Think of the implications for the POD book publishing industry.

But I can see that may be what some observers want  ("It would be a good thing" as my piano teacher would have said in the early 1950s about banning television.).  Let’s bring back the physical world (especially book stores) so people can have low-pay retail jobs again.  Let’s force people (like me) to shut up and actually pay personal attention to others, especially the less gifted in the world, and even things out.  I can see how the reasoning would go, countering our “mind your own business” individualistic world.
  

We need Reid Ewing’s little film “it’s Free!” back online. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Facebook limits pages of two "ex-religious" groups, reasons unclear


Patheos reports that Facebook has placed temporary restrictions on the “broadcast” rights of two pages run by “anti-religious” groups.  The story is here.   One of the groups is “Ex Muslims of North America” and the other is Atheist Republic.

The groups are allowed to post to their pages, but for at least one week the pages cannot be aggregated into followers news feeds.

It’s not apparent how their content could have violated Facebook standards, either against hate speech or particularly, perhaps, “fake news”.  But the action was based on user complaints, which could have been practicing Muslims or evangelical Christians.
 
Would an ex-gay page be treated the same way?  Would a “health” page that does “fat shaming” be treated this way?  A good question for Milo.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Yelp tries to defend the rights of its reviewers to anonymous speech in California state court


In state court in California, Electronic Frontier Foundation has supported an appeal by Yelp that it can argue that its users have a right to anonymity in giving consumer reviews.
 
This happened after Yelp as subpoenaed to identify a user in a “bad review” litigation case against the user.  Yelp would still be immune to litigation itself based on the user’s content under Section 230.

It’s significant that if libel laws were changed to be more like what Trump wants, Yelp defendants could be compelled to “prove” their claims are actually true.
 
Some companies involved in bad review litigation still advertise vigorously in Washington DC newspapers.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Actor quits social media over death threats based on character he plays


Some actors who play controversial characters in films or fantasy TV series get lots of harassment on social media for the characters they play, from fans who don’t honor the difference between a character and the character who plays him.

Josh McDermitt said he was quitting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram after receiving death threats for the actions of his character Eugene on the AMC Show “The Walking Dead”.  (Maybe that’s “The Walkin’ Dude” from Stephen King’s “The Stand”).

He put one video on Facebook Live (which, ironically, is now adding 3000 screeners to take down violent content) to make his point and say he would call police about threats, before signing off.



The Refinery29 story is here.   MSN carried the story today on its home page.

Actors and other celebrities (as in music) vary widely in how they deal with fans and followers in social media.  But some will answer tweets or Facebook posts that they believe are constructive and stand out in the crowd.  The trend for some not to want to be replied to unless they follow you seems to be abating.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trump still wants to pursue making US libel laws (especially with regard to public figures) match Englands (whoops? Brexit?)



Reince Prebius (who sounds like actor Tobey Maguire) said this morning that Trump is considering how to make it easier to sue the media.



The subject came up in an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC News.  The Washington Post has a story by  Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. here.

Trump wants English law standards to apply to suits brought by public figures, which are here.  That is, public figures would not have to prove actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth.  And the defendant would have to prove truth with evidence from outside the plaintiff’s complaint, which might make it easier to bring frivolous suits.

Trump, however, now (despite earlier fears, including my own) doesn’t seem to have anything against independent bloggers and smaller news outlets.  It’s the big media companies whom he sees as enemies and accuses of spreading “fake news”.  There are some indications that he actually reads some smaller blogs and pays attention to individual tweets sent to him that stand out in some constructive way. He also watches a lot of television in the White House (more than in his own Mar a Lago or NYC towers, it seems).

NPR has an interesting article on the differences in libel laws, which have held up releasing a book and film about scientology in the UK, and which resulted in a suit in the UK against Rachel Ehrenfeld concerning her book about funding terrorism, which was not even published in the UK.  The US responded to the judgment against her with the “Speech Act” which Obama signed in 2010, preventing UK libel judgments from being pursued in the US, trying to stop "libel tourism", patterned after New York States “Libel Terrorism Protection Act”  (Why not "Tourism" in the name?)   Kitty Kelly has often discussed the issue with reference to her own writing about the Royal Family.