Monday, January 16, 2017

Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, while disturbing and "fake", also pose free speech issues


The New York Times is reporting several disturbing incidents regarding “conspiracy theories” or fake news and the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012.  The article, by Frances Robles, is here.

A woman has been charged with making threats while “trolling” one of the parents.

And a blogger had a Wordpress blog about it taken down by Automattic, and then claims that Bluehost (after he apparently put is up on hosted space) has removed images of one of the child victims based on copyright claims of one of the parents, when the blogger claimed Fair Use, and the hosting company probably acted under a conservative use of DMCA Safe Harbor.  In my experience (as with this platform), it is unusual for blogs to be removed for offensive content, but will be removed for flagrant "terms of service" violations (or if "spam", which was a big issue back in 2008).  Nitecruz has talked about this on "The Real Blogger Status".

The parent is Lenny Pozner, who wrote a book about the conspiracy theories.  The blogger is James E, Tracy, a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University who claims he was also fired.  I can’t find the book on Amazon, but there is discussion in this article by Rieves Wiedeman in New York Magazine, here.



His blog seems to be “memoryholeblog.com” which the visitor can visit if she likes.

While I don’t like the behavior of some of the parties described in the story, the free speech implciations are still serious.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Trump, authoritarianism, propaganda, and controlling rumor mongering; more on the limits of individualism


Margaret Sullivan has a strong column on the Washington Post this morning, in the Style section, “How BuzzFeed crossed the line in publishing ‘salacious’ dossier on Trump”.   She notes that Slate went on with even more materials   Then mentality is “when in doubt, publish”.

Then the bloggers like me pick it up, because we gain visibility (and ad clicks) if we do so,

Trump, recall, wants to change libel laws.  He says that publishing of even linking to or pointing to defamatory information deliberately for personal satisfaction is, on its face, harmful, and that we should have a system like in Britain where the defendant has to prove truth.

It is possible to get sued for hyperlinks to defamatory material (and there is a suit against some doomsday prepper bloggers in this regard) although so far that’s been uncommon in practice.  This could change.  Defamatory material tends to attract readers “in their own bubbles” on both the far Left and far Right (particularly).

But the Wall Street Journal this morning, in a story by Bradley Hope et al,  says that former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele (pay attention to the name) is reported, by reputable third parties, to have prepared the dossier on Russian spying on Trump.   There could very well be spies in other countries, not just Russia (Trump is right about that).

I also wanted to pass along David Brooks’s NYT column “Bannon v. Trump”  where Brooks explains the psychology of cultural nationalism and populism, as a reaction to hyperindividualism, and Ayn Rand-like ideas that leave a lot of people out. I don’t buy a lot of this, but why is for another time.  But Bannon has a point that nationalism and statecraft is an answer to the dangers of asymmetry.

Picture: Yes, the Nationals need to get busy and find a closer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

BuzzFeed's release of unverified Russian-hacks (compared to CNN's story) raises amateurism issue


Donald Trump talked about the intelligence briefing and the supposed Russian dirt on him at the press conference this morning.

CNN has already said that it did not publish the actual unverified or un-fact-checked detailed contents of the memos, but BuzzFeed had done so.

CNN just reiterated that right now, but it had said this twelve hours ago in an article by Dylan Byers, as well as a video, here.

The schism here seems to draw a question in amateurism on the web.  Less established by provocative sites gain more attention, with material (often YouTube videos) that goes viral, and now influences voters.  But the “amateurism” effect could affect election propaganda as much as a foreign adversary (like Russia).



The BuzzFeed story is here. The Document Cloud copy of the memos is here. Trump’s tweet, “FAKE NEWS. A total political witchhunt” follows.  So, here I go, spreading rumors myself (like with an incident in 9th grade).  Call me into the principal’s office and send me to an alternative school for making bad choices.

The New York Times has some "revelatory" analysis, however, in a piece by Sydney Ember and Michael Grynbaum
 
Yet, Trump tends to blame the large news outlets for the smears, not small sites of individual bloggers.  In Turkey, for example, it can be much worse for the small fry.



Update: later 1/11

AOL reports that 4chan users might have planted the salacious documents, story.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Libel lawsuit over "credit" for inventing email; note on important Section 230 cases (right of publicity, Backpage)


There is a lawsuit against TechDirt founder Mike Masnick for a blog post in which he apparently challenged a claim by Shiva Ayyadurai, that the latter person had “invented” email in 1978.

Ars Technica has the story by David Kravits here.

The same attorney who brought down Gawker is representing the plaintiff in what purports to be a libel case.

Yet, the narrative does suggest that there were messaging systems in place in the 1960s, particularly in universities and the federal government.  Were military orders a kind of email?  Mine (from 1968) are still in my bedroom drawers.  .  ‘

Many data centers had CICS-based messaging systems on their mainframe computer systems in the 1980s, like SYSM, which amounted to inter-office email.  I believe that this existed at Bradford when I started working there in New York City in 1977.

But what really “counts” as “email”?  This whole dispute sounds relatively frivolous, and may well involve "The Opinion Rule" as a defense.  Is claiming karma credit such a big deal?

No, Al Gore didn't invent the Internet.



Update: 

Later today I wrote a Wordpress blog post about Section 230 and right of publicity, Jason Cross v. Facebook, here.  Could become important in 2017.  Also, the Backpage controversy exploded this week at the Senate hearings.  Details on wordpress here.



Update:  Jan 13

Techdirt says legal costs in defending a frivolous suit could cause it to close.  And Tim Lee of Vox says he started his career there in a tweet this morning.



Sunday, January 08, 2017

NY Times story recalls the moral lessons of Vietnam


The New York Times ran a column on p. 6 Sunday January 8, 2017 by former Marine Corps Lieutenant Karl Marlentes, “Vietnam ’67: The War That Killed Trust”.  He provides a caption, very relevant to my own books (especially the first “Do Ask Do Tell”), “Vietnam still shapes America, even if most of us are too young to remember it.”  I thought, that’s like saying, the world ended, but we were too sinful to notice.

Marlentes even admits that America was “great” in the 50s and 60s, finishing a great interstate highwat system, building public schools and universities, going into space, putting a man on the Moon, and making progress on civil rights, and passing Medicare, and trying to create a “Great Society”.

Marlentes points out that the military was where men of different races learned how to get along despite different cultures and the bad karma of segregation and slavery.



Marlentes, toward the end, talks about the male-only conscription system, and the college deferment system, admitting they were both “unfair” by today’s standards.  He notes that the current “volunteer” system exploits the poor, who supply a disproportionate portion of the casualties.  He also makes a case for national service.  I can see, for example, that you could set up service as a graduation requirement, and also use it to pare back on student debt.  The draft provides a historical lesson in how we shared existential personal risk. and the resilience we need to deal with it.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

I had a meeting today on possibly becoming an asylum host; here is where things stand


Today, after a long series of intermittent contact, I had a meeting at DC Center Global concerning the possibility of my hosting an LGBT asylum seeker, in the U Street area of Washington DC.

The details would be very sensitive, so I’ll just make some summary notes.  At the moment, the prospect of my doing so is inconclusive.

There is a small number of asylum seekers (male and female) hosted in Washington DC and nearby Maryland and Virginia.  Some are hosted by couples (which can include female couples and straight couples).  Sometimes more than one asylum seeker is hosted in a household.   Asylum seekers can come from Russia, sub-Saharan African, the Middle East, Central America, and less often Asia.
  They may be female and in rarer cases transgender.

Asylum seekers often have expired visas, and are required to have applied within a year of arrival.

During first nine months or so they generally are not allowed to work or receive government benefits and are dependent on private sources.  Once their asylum applications are approved (which takes a very long time usually) they have the same access to benefits as pre-screened refugees.  In the LGBTQ need area, most asylum seekers faced arrest or physical threats before they arrived in the US, even though they arrived legally with visas.  Asylum seekers must be cautious with the timing of requests for asylum, after arrival and need legal assistance with this (it gets variable and complicated).  Some asylum seekers with no resources to wind up in homeless shelters but they don't usually return home if they face prosecution, so potential hosts don't have "life and death" powers if confronted by pleads.

Generally, many asylum seekers have some savings, and get private (not government) benefits in the way of metro cards and coupons or vouchers for good and groceries.  In Washington, HIV services are usually available from Whitman Walker and health plans for general purposes are possible.  In other jurisdiction, it sounds like it is possible for some health care expenses not to be covered.  A provider might pursue a host, and it is unclear (depending on the state) what could happen.  But in some cases (outside of the District of Columbia or of some other major cities) hosts are taking on some “risk” of responsibility for asylees as partial dependents, probably without tax benefits.

Obviously, sociability of the host can matter.  Hosts have considerable discretion in setting ground rules on their property, like with respect to issues such as smoking.

Asylum seekers need Internet access.  Normally they already own their own laptops and smartphones.  I raised the issue that there are ambiguous concerns over host liability for misuse of an Internet WiFi connection, including copyright infringement (for illegal downloads) or viewing illegal content (child pornography), where law enforcement and content owners have increasingly effective and automated ways to detect violations.  Some of these concerns could be faced by AirBNB hosts, or hotels offering WiFi (as most do).  There are some possible solutions (such as guest router settings) that I have started to look into.  Possibly the asylum seeker could use the hot spot on his own smart phone or iPad, if possible, or a separate hot spot could be purchased.   I’ll report later in detail on how some of these solutions could work on a Wordpress blog. This is an evolving issue.  It does need to be resolved.  Another complication could be that an asylum seeker wants to use TOR to communicate to relatives back home in a secure way for completely legitimate reasons.

It would be highly desirable if social service agencies working with refugees could work with asylum seekers.  Generally they cannot, because they don’t get any government reimbursement for supervising the assistance process.  So asylum assistance is almost entirely private.

Housing hosts or “sponsors” of asylum seekers can be taking some personal risk, which some people would see as matters of “faith”, or as fair sharing of risks, which I have presented before as a fundamental moral issue (even going back to the arguments I have made about conscription, deferments, and DADT).  A host’s own employment, retirement, financial resources, and possible inheritance (along with any other family issues or “dead hand”) can be relevant.  It is helpful to be familiar with some of the parties involved for a while before agreeing to host, if this is possible (just as one is usually more prepared to offer hospitality to someone one already knows).  The Internet liability problem needs more attention for risk mitigation.

I can understand that I could sound incredulous.  If I'm willing to allow someone to have a key to the house, isn't that a bigger risk than what could happen on a computer?  Is this simply an issue of trust, or of belonging and having access to enough social capital?



As a matter of record, I did stumble on an unusual plea in a non-immigrant situation Friday;  this hasn't happened since 1980.  I have also heard the legal opinion expressed that no one should ever give his keys to his home to a person without resources because the risk is all "yours" -- but isn't that part of the moral debate over inequality?

Monday, January 02, 2017

Mobile blogging with AMP will help some small businesses


I haven’t yet paid much attention to this, but Google has sponsored and introduced a mobile blogging facility called Accelerate Mobile Pages, or AMP, which it describes here as the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project .  The point of the facility is to encourage much faster loading of websites on mobile devices

Wired has a good story by Kent Flinley from Feb. 25, 2016, explaining how the stripped down HTML works  Only limited javascript is allowed, but some special javascript features are used to place ads.

The article indicates that AMP pages generally rank higher in Google search results, although that diverts from the idea that Google is indexing the rest of the world (and maybe the universe), not just itself.

There is a plugin for Wordpress, and it is possible to convert Wordpress (and presumably Blogger) sites to this format.   But Wired reports that the appearance would be somewhat drab.



But what I don’t see is a tool that enables easy blogging on a mobile device or tablet itself.  It’s much easier to do with a traditional keyboard and touchpad or mouse.  Furthermore, earlier versions of mobile Blogger, at least, allowed only one such site and it would not have mixed with an account’s other conventional blogs.  I don’t know if this has changed.

A New York Times article by Daisuke Wakabayashi in the Business Day section Monday January 2 discusses the product, here.

My experience is that Wordpress content loads faster on a modern MacBook with Yosemite or later, than it does on a modern PC or laptop with Windows 10.   Speeds on my iPhone are reasonable in a 4G LTE environment. But this sort of product probably works better for relatively simple sites, for meeting quick “niche” commercial needs that consumers are likely to encounter when away from home or office.  It probably wouldn’t help me.

On "Billsmediareviews.com" I got a 98/100 on Mobile friendliness (as from Wordpress), 51/100 on mobile speed, and 56/100 on desktop speed.  The points criticized included browser caching, image optimization, server response time (under control of BlueHost and Automattic, not me), and "render-blocking CSS and Javascript in above-the-fold".

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Trump's reported dislike on people's dependence on computers (instead of each other?)


A worrisome report for New Year’s Day is that President-elect Trump doesn’t like computers.  CNN has a typical story here.

He said they speed things up, but expose us to a lot of danger he can’t control.  He suggested that secure messages be sent be courier.  That may not be so radical:  we still have certified mail and even registered mail with the USPS, and you can’t serve somebody a subpoena (that is, sue somebody or even request a cease-and-desist) or summons by email or smart phone – you have to do it physically – at least by mail, or by hand delivered letter or process server.

I’ve even been skeptical of email advertising and building up email fan lists (something encouraged by “Blogtyrant), partly because of all the malware.  I feel much safer with texts or social media messages (even by Twitter of Facebook).  In fact, on Twitter I prefer to communicate sometimes by private message than a public tweet (although the evidence stays – I don’t like the idea of Snapchat).



I’m use Paypal rarely, as I am used to credit cards, debit cards, and electronic check.  But a few sites (mainly non-profits) insist on stakeholders using Paypal, because it is somehow better for unbanked people, as if to make a political statement of sympathy.

Trump had been reported during the campaign in October as having said he thought people were over-dependent on computers and electronics.  Melania Trump said she wanted to start a new campaign against cyberbullying.

Slate has reported that Trump knows almost nothing about computers, used to having secretaries do his correspondence.  He does tweet by smartphone, but staff does everything else. l   Gizmodo asks if Trump has “ever” used a computer.

Aversion to computer dependence comports with “doomsday prepper” mentality, which I don’t think Trump shares.  But Trump seems to believe people should get their information from chains of social authority than on their own by electronic investigations.  Trump seems to believe in “relational” morality more than pure individualism.

Would this lead to some sort of crackdown on user generated content?  I wonder.

CNN was reporting New Year's Day on Trump's claim to have private information on the Russian hacks (or the election? of the Vermont utility?) that the press doesn't have, and would reveal it Tuesday or Wednesday.  Trump seems to believe that you can't accuse a country of hacking until you could "prove it in court".  (So your need a real-life process server first?)

The Verge (a Vox site), in a paper by Vlad Saviv, gave a discouraging report on the pretentious meeting that Trump had with Silicon Valley executives.
 
 One sentence caught my eye;  even without net neutrality, why would a telecom provider block Google services?  They didn’t before.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Moving on to the next big steps, in 2017: five tasks to complete, and then maybe a relocation


I wanted to lay out my “content” priorities for 2017.

First, I’ve been looking at ways I can indeed “give back” more than I have.  One issue I’ve looked at is (LGBTQ) asylum seekers.  It’s all very inconclusive.  In a number of areas volunteer agencies to communicate a sense of “duty” but are not very transparent about it.  You have to “belong” to the “group” and experience some relationism – a willingness to let people into your life who could become dependent, and give up some unencumbered-ness. .  (I won’t get into a speculative distinction between “relationism” and “relationalism” right now.)

I also want to make a move toward selling my screenplay “Epiphany” based on the three DADT books, and the novel “Angel’s Brother”.  To be able to do this, travel (long distances, by air and even internationally) has to get a lot easier.  Some of that means better mastery of some technology do deal with security issues, but it would also help if my residential circumstances were simpler.  An old house can take a lot of time and present unpredictable disruptions, especially just before travel.  A modern high rise apartment could simplify a lot of things for me.  So that could mean sale (for a teardown probably) and moving.  I have some interest in living in New York again (but most of Manhattan is unaffordable), but the practicality could mean staging things and being in a modern place near Dulles airport to simplify travel (for one year, then move again).  That’s one idea.  It (the first phase) could happen by the middle of 2017.  The entire process would take about three months from the time I committed myself. But once I started, I would not have time for much else until done. In the past, when I have anticipated moves to happen in the next year, they have tended to happen within 6-9 months.  One possible scenario could mean eventual relocation west (like Austin, or maybe Las Vegas, for access to California.  It sounds like free agent time.


But there are five “content-oriented” tasks that I need to put to bed first.

(1) Finish a series of (Wordpress) postings on the “right-sizing” issue (at least three more). These will be substantial.

(2) Complete some more analysis of the “loose ends” in my novel plot, and especially how the novel relates to two older manuscripts that I have.  These older manuscripts are “Tribunal and Rapture”, an “Armageddon” story told from the viewpoint of an aging retired FBI agent, who encounters “Bill” and his cohorts on a nationwide odyssey. “Angel’s Brothers”, on the other hand, is told from the viewpoint of a middle-aged gay CIA agent with a straight family, and his gifted college student boyfriend, who has stumbled into the real secrets.  “Tribunal and Rapture” was apparently started in mid 1999, and a first draft completed by early 2001. But “Tribunal and Rapture” has it’s own prequel, “Rain on the Snow”, apparently written in 2000. That novel is centered on “Bill’s” experienced being trained as a civilian reservist after losing his regular job, at a secret facility in West Texas.  He discovers the “plot” and winds up in jail after a false accusation.  That novel was expanded with an extended prequel of its own with other characters in 2003-2004.  The entire set up could be used to build a movie “franchise” and I will set up some new materials on Wordpress to show how his could be done, even after I am “gone”.

(3) Complete some more drafts of my music, especially the Sonatas 2 and 3.  (The miniatures are essentially done now.) But I need to do more work on the “last pivot” on the coda of the Sonata 3 (about 8 more measures, but critical), and some of the repetitious harmonic patterns in certain developmental passages (one in particular that is repeated twice) in Sonata 2, which I may do with a cut and past on a hand original from 1960 (after making a good photocopy). PDF’s of this sheet music exist now.

(4) Tie loose ends in the screenplays, especially “Epiphany”, “Titanium”, and maybe “69 Minutes to Titan”.
 
(5) Make and edit videos of my explaining my take on (a) why homophobia was the way it was in the past, and (b) what I would say as the “State of the Union” were I in Trump’s shoes.  I want do beef up my skills with FinalCut Pro, and do a better job of the photo (even selfie) mixing it with location photos and some other videos.  I have a GoPro for this, but it isn’t working out that well, may need a different kind of videocam.



Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fake news avoidance by major advertisers creates a business model problem for user-generated content


Sapna Maheshwari writes in the New York Times, “In Fake News, Ads Are Costly to Conscience, “, or, online, titled “Advertising’s moral struggle: Is Online Reach Worth the Hurt?
 
Some larger companies are now only placing ads in verified whitelisted sites that they check out.

 While established ad networks can scan with robots for obviously offensive material (hate speech, and sometimes pornography, especially c.p.) generally they have no way of ascertaining the validity of stories.  And up until the election of Trump, fake news sold ads well.



The whole business model for advertising on user-generated content may have been based on misleading material.  Facebook and Google, as reported before, are trying to weed it out, at least “voluntarily”, from their ad networks.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Obama sings Consumer Review Fairness Act, going after non-disparagement or non-review clauses


Congress has passed and President Obama has signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act (HR 5111 ) Electronic Frontier Foundation, link.  (Oops, my post headline says "sings" when I meant to type "signs".  But I guess he did "sing" it after all.)

The law takes aim at two kinds of tactics:  one is non-disparagement clauses, and the other (which I had not heard of before) is clauses that try to take copyright ownership of a user review.  That idea itself sounds in contradiction to existing copyright law.



Let us hope the incoming GOP Congress will have the same respect for consumers.  After all, Trump’s statements supposedly supporting his own constituency are quite troubling.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Orlando Pulse victims' families sue social media companies for indirectly aiding ISIS on their platforms; novel argument concerning Section 230


The families of at least three victims of the Pulse terror attack in Orlando on June 12, 2016 have filed lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook and Google (owner of Blogger, the platform on which this post appears) for “aiding and abetting” terrorists by knowingly or at least recklessly and negligently allowing terrorists to recruit on their platforms.


The story has been discussed on CNN this morning. CNN does not seem to have a detailed story online yet.  The suit was apparently filed in Florida, but it was not clear if this is in state or federal court.  Dana Bash interviewed plaintiff's attorney Keith Altman, who described the social media companies' efforts so far as like "weed whacking", and not pulling out the roots.  It sounds like the analogy between shaving and laser epilation.

Media reports are showing up now, such as this account on Gannett USA Today and this one in the Huffington Post here.  Fox has a story here.

All three companies have become more aggressive in rooting out content they know to be promoting radical Islamic terrorism (to use Ted Cruz’s term).  I just randomly checked the link for the Haqqu Media Center on Facebook a few minutes ago and found it removed.

The most obvious defense is, of course, Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  Services providers are not normally legally liable for defamation or privacy torts committed by their users.

 There could be an analogy to child pornography, because service provider do have to remove and report child pornography when they find it, but again, they don’t have to check for it beforehand (although Google apparently does check email attachments for known images on the NCMEC database).

Plaintiffs claim (especially this morning on an interview on CNN with Dana Bash) that service providers are “creating content” by matching up users, content, and ads to show to them (especially for users who do not turn on “do not track”).  This is like saying a “logical relationship” or “intersection data” on a database (like IMS) is data itself (which used to be a popular view among database technology developers).  Socially, it’s like saying that the bonds among people are as important as the people themselves.



The litigation will obviously take a long time and generate appeals, but it will certainly prompt Trump to question Section 230 in conjunction with what he particularly views as a grave national security threat: the targeting of ordinary American civilians by foreign elements as “combatants”, which social media allegedly facilitates.

There have been other lawsuits against the social media companies, as over the Paris attacks, as reported by the AP and The Verge in June.

But this can develop into an existential threat to user-generated content “as we know it”.  Ordinary web hosts (Bluehost, for example) could also be exposed, but they are not directly involved in ad matching, normally.  I will follow this story closely and follow up with more details on my Wordpress News Commentary blog. I’ll try to find a PDF copy of the complaint online.

We seem to become a "Manchurian candidate" society.  Somebody else made me do it.

Picture:  I was in the Pulse in July 2015, almost one year before the attack.  It could have happened to me.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Facebook takes on fake news again, (Yes, but ... )


Facebook is announcing a strategy to “put fake news out of business, with your help”, according to a story Thursday night on NBC Nightly news, with video, here.

Users can mark a post, which can allow Facebook to mark it as disputed and ban the publisher from its ad networks, when enough visitors have reported the post as possibly “fake news” .  In some cases Facebook will show stories as disputed.  “We cannot become arbiter of truth itself”, and “we aim at the worst of the worst.”



I do have a problem that satire will get edited out.  For example, most of the postings of Milo (Breitbart) have a great deal of satire, but no hatred and no actual fake stories.  Somehow I’m reminded of the “Fact or Fiction” controversy about the Jersey Devil as well laid out in the 1998 sci-fi indie film :The Last Broadcast” which came out about the same time as the better known “The Blair Witch Project”.
 
And I have an issue of wondering, are we “ungated speakers” morally responsible for taking advantage of a permissive climate where so many “deplorables” among the user base don’t have the IQ or sense to avoid the gullibility to what amounts to a kind of information or knowledge spam?

However, someone whom I consider quite reputable has said recently that Silicon Valley has destroyed the profession of reporting, on a Facebook post himself.  In theory, that would maintain that my own model of “It’s free” (like in Reid Ewing’s 2012 video), allowing my perspectives to be found and get into the debate passively (something that worked very well with the “gays in the military” debate some years back) could destroy journalistic or media professionalism.  Amateur speech has a role in keeping established politicians accountable, and especially reining in on the reparative claims of “identity politics”.  But amateur speech can become gratuitous, and make others wonder about the speaker’s real motivations.

Along these lines, one can digest Charles Sykes and “Where the right went wrong” in New York Times.   This is pure tribalism:  you belong on one side or another, and either your side wins or loses.  We can’t all play for the Chicago Cubs in 2016 (Jimmy Kimmel notwithstanding).

Tim Toles writes, in the Washington Post, “The 2016 election was stolen.  Got a nicer way to say that?

Note Catherine Rampbell’s column Friday morning, also in the Post, “The right shuts down free speech, too”.

You might want to watch Vox journalist Tim Lee (whom I know from my days in Minneapolis) take on Tucker Carlson over the fake news issue on Fox, here. Lee is generally libertarian himself but does think private social media companies need to take this seriously.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trump gets to know the stakes for Silicon Valley


Donald Trump met with more than a dozen Silicon Valley executives in his “Rump Tower”, in a 25th floor “Board room” right out of “The Apprentice”, although with some nice views.  They even put on formal suits.  Elizabeth Dwoskin and Brian Fung have the story in the Washington Post on p. A14,   with a list of attendees.

The meeting had been organized by Peter Thiel.

Trump seems to be easing up a bit on immigration, going along with the idea of allowing highly skilled engineers (often from Asia or India) to come, and less concerned that companies like Apple and Tesla buy parts from overseas.  Apple has been criticized because so many of its parts come from China, where workers reportedly live in dorm factories.  This creates a “karma” problem for tech users.

Trump seems vigorous on pursuing the business tax cuts they want.
 

 
And he seems less concerned about weighing in on the vulnerabilities created by a lax attitude toward user-generated content (including “fake news”), which makes recruitment of unstable people by ISIS and other potential enemies easier.  But you still wonder how sustainable the business models of many of the major companies will be, as the public become skittish about ads and excessive consumerism.   There’s still an ethical question as to whether UGC should pay its own freight.
Twitter, oddly, was not at the meeting, or even invited – given Trump’s own Twitter storms.
Still, Tech is globalistic and "elitist" and anti-tribal (although Facebook didn't take into account a lot of people's tribal tendencies in picking news to share and believe).  Simon Shsuter, describing "people power" on p. 82 of the Time "Person of the Year: issue ((T)rump), views globalism as an antidote to prevent war and struggle.  But populist Farage is quoted as saying that globalism shows Europe's "'complete lack of understanding of human beings operate.' In a world of Farage and his allies, people gravitate more toward tribal notions of identity than to lofty principles of integration."  That  helps predict homophobia;  gay people (especially men) have less reason for "loyalty to blood" - even as promoted by "Jake 2.0" in one episode. FEE has a related article on how tribalism relates to Bannon's economic nationalism, keeping the world in conflict, and speakers in their proper place, here.


Thursday, December 08, 2016

CNN ponders election and journalism under Trump at local bookstore; more on fake news; EFF speaksasy


Today, I had three events.

It started with a visit to Politics and Prose in Washington DC, where at 4 PM a CNN panel headed by Brian Stetler (with Christmas socks) and Dana Bash presented the book “Unprecedented” to a very full audience.

The answer to my question on Trump, Section 230 and social media appears in this video.


I also visited the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria, and saw the ping pong tables inside, which is rare for a restaurant.

Today, Timothy B. Lee of Vox published an essay “Facebook should crush fake news the way Google crushed spammy content farms,”  I would add that Google misclassified  some“legitimate blogs” as spam blogs during the summer of 2008 when Google really took on link farms.  They used to offer captchas also.  Tim O’Reilly has recommended that Facebook implement the methods of Matt Cutts from that eras at Google.  “Nitecruzr” has discussed this problem on his own “Real Blogger Status” blog, here.

I then took a bus (surface) to Adams Morgan to get to the “Rebellion” bar on 18th St. where Electronic Frontier Foundation held a speakeasy.  There was little discussion of Trump, but I talked to a GWU anthropology graduate student who was going to do a dissertation on civilian control of the military, which is the subject of James Mattis’s recent book (which I reviewed on Wordpress Dec. 8).

 We also talked about the “old chestnut” debate over unit cohesion in the early days of Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Cato holds forum on "Free Speech in the Age of Trump"


Tonight, the Cato Institute held a forum at 6 PM regarding Digital Rights under a Trump Administration, or “Free Speech in the Age of Trump”, link here.
 
One of the two main speakers was Flemming Rose, author of the “The Tyranny of Silence” (book reviews, Feb. 3, 2015).  Rose was the editor of Jyllands Posten in September 2005 when he decided to publish the cartoons of Muhammad.  That led to a huge uproar and eventual threats against Rose, as explained in the wiki article  or Atlantic.  There was a time later when as a condition of employment he was not allowed to speak or write publicly about religion or the controversy.

Rose insists that the only right you don’t have in a democracy is the purported right not to be offended.

Nick Gillespie, of Reason Magazine, told a story  of a subpoena his magazine got after a comment to an article was taken to threaten a federal judge, who had sentenced Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht to life imprisonment.   Section 230 should have protected Reason for liability for the comment.

Later, as the video shows, I asked whether could use the idea of “war against civilians” by ISIS as justification for shutting down a lot of user generated content.



Gillespie also mentioned that partisanship and gerrymandering, along with weak parties, make those favoring  moderate positions (fiscal conservative, socially liberal) impossible to elect, and tend to lead to various forms of identity and victimization politics.  He spoke badly of Bernie Sanders.


Gillespie noted that Facebook is a "platform", Breitbart is an "opinion" site and should not be regarded as a news site, whereas the New York Times is a true news site.   "Citizen journalists" do report news when they photograph videos themselves as they see it;  but by and large most "citizen" commentary is opinion (based on personal values or philosophy) and not true news. But readers have trouble understanding that.

After the session, I did mention to him that I had intended to include Section 230 in my question.  It’s easy to see how Section 230 could come under fire after “PizzaGate” since the many claims on certain forum sites were libelous and it would be very difficult in practice (for the restaurant) to go after everyone who had posted fake news.

Kat Murti moderated.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Fake news addict attacks a "target" pizza shop in DC; tech companies further explain how they will deal with terror promotion online; short film "Unhackable"


A (white) gunman (from Salisbury, North Carolina) stormed into the Comet Ping Pong Pizza Parlor in far Northwest Washington, fired one shot causing property damage but no injuries, and was arrested – but now the place is closed a couple days as police and the FBI investigate.  He seems to have been inspired by fake news stories that claimed that Hillary Clinton and others had been connected to a sex slave ring associated with the place.

The perp, Edgar Welch, now arrested, claimed he was doing a citizen investigation (and vigilante action perhaps) on the supposed ring.

In fact, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was amplified by Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to Congress, where the email scandal was connected to allegations of Anthony Weiner’s supposed communications with an underage girl.

But even Trump was in a civil case, later dropped, with those kinds of allegations in the 1990s.

Billy Bush’s taping of the Days of our Lives NBC set, at least, only involved legal adults.

CBS News has the master story of Pizza shop incident here.  But it looks back to a local news story at WUSA about the viciousness and incredible nature of the fake news problem (and “#Pizzagate”).

NBCWashington has a detailed story here.

But NBCNews has an even more detailed story, about how the fake news blew up on 4chan, here. This fact pattern would seem to argue that Section 230 is giving some sites too much cover (although Reddit banned the thread).
 
So, we find a lot of Hillary's “deplorables” are easily duped by what they want to believe.

Other neighboring businesses in that area say they have been harrassed based on these fake news allegations.

Then, Facebook, Google-Youtube and Microsoft all say they will remove hate speech or terror materials in 24 hours when reported.  Microsoft says it will use a United Nations definition of what constitutes a terror group.  CNN has a detailed story on this, previewed by a video short film titled “Unhackable” (about sextortion involving Facebook and Skype)   .  The article emphasizes Europe.

Microsoft’s blog post is pretty indicative of how Silicon Valley will handle terror content online, here.  Trump could make “wartime” arguments to shut down a lot of user-generated content when ordinary civilians are put at risk.



Update: December 7

A detailed story by Marc Fisher et al on Pizzagate, front page of the Washington Post, here. Again, you wonder about Section 230 when the comments about the restaurant were so libelous, and difficult to pursue in practice.

Update: December 8

German Lopez of Vox has a detailed story that mentions a NYPD arrest rumor that I had heard verbally.



Saturday, December 03, 2016

Postwaves: a crowd-controlled social network, where people vote on whether your post stays


I found a new limited social networking site called Postwaves today.

It apparently allows posts to stay on its site if other users vote to keep them there, as a way of controlling spam, gratuitousness and fake news.

I found there was an account in my email name.  I don't remember setting it up, but it let me reset the password.

I then looked up one article, from Space, about life in a research station in Utah preparing people to live on Mars, here. That site presented an annoying popup (about Trump and infrastructure, good enough) that wouldn't go away until I went into the article again.

I saw another article with a basic biology lesson on genetics.  Another article, about concussions among high school football players, had disappeared.  

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Major academic book publisher offers a collection of scientific papers to open access


Taylor and Francis , a legacy book publisher that tends to emphasize non-fiction, texts, academic books and commentary, has accumulated a list of “open-source” articles on critical academic and technical subjects, such as medicine, energy, environment, and climate change. Any connection to Baker and Taylor?

The main link is here.

There is quite a collection of impressive and important research listed here.

Jack Andraka had retweeted this link earlier today.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Blogger makes change that seems to benefit mobile blogging, but confuses users with more than one blog on an account


Last week (Tuesday, Nov. 22), Google Blogger suddenly made a change where on signon, Blogger takes the self-publisher to the detailed posting listing of only the most recent blog to which the publisher had already added a new post.

The dashboard, listing all blogs, doesn’t seem to have a savable URL (as in Chrome history), but the individual blog posting-lists do have their own.  I found I could get to another blog by doing View, going to my Blogger Profile, then to the blog I want to update, then to Design, then to Posts.  Then you can get the specific URL for your account and that other blog and save it for later reference in a Word dataset on your local hard-drive if you like. But it’s rather inconvenient.

It appears that this change was made mainly to help mobile bloggers (and as far as I know you can do only one blog on mobile). Blogger seems to allow one account to have 100 blogs (source ). I have 16 (the same number as since 2006).

But if someone has more than one, that blogger needs easy access to the master account dasbboard to be restored.

Many bloggers are asking why https is not enabled for custom domains.  The reason seems to be that each custom domain would need its own SSL certificate, which is much more complicated to set up.

On BlueHost, I have four Wordpress domains, and one of these is allowed to have a security certificate.  So all user processing (credit cards or paypal) or any sensitive material needs to be on that one blog.  But there is a newer technique, where blogs become subdomains of one account, so that one SSL certificate can be applied to all of them.  You need separate installs of Wordpress on each subdomain.  I have not tried to do this yet, and I think it’s pretty recent. It may be complicated.

Bloggers with heavy overseas readership in non-democratic countries (and this applies to me) really would benefit from making it easier to do https everywhere for all domain-connected blogs.  But this will take more work on the past of Google, Wordpress, and hosting companies.

I’ve made similar concepts on the Blogger Help Forum today and also said so in th
 e Blogger feedback button.

I still see a cultural trend away from the idea of separate multiple blogs for publishing purposes, to more integrated presence that includes more end-user social interaction with just one site (per publisher).  What makes business sense to service provides like Blogger may well be changing, with or without Trump or network neutrality.



Update: Dec. 3

Another post on the Blogger forum gives a solution. Click on the blog name on the upper left corner (not highlighted, so not apparent), and your other blogs appear.  That worked!

One other problem is that you can't easily see if you have outstanding unmonitored comments on any of your blogs.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Houston Fox anchor fired after her own personal conservative Facebook post


A news presenter in Houston, Scarlett Fakhar, has been fired from Fox 26 in Houston for expressing her own opinions on her own Facebook page, which are said to contradict her responsibility for being objective in public as a journalist.  Here's the NY Daily News story,

The comments apparently had blamed Obama’s presidency for allowing racial tensions to increase (as with Ferguson and BLM).
 


Here comments on her Fox fan page seem out of touch.  Would Fox delete the conservative comments?  This is Fox, after all.

Her personal page seems now to have been removed. "Heavy" has some more detailed news.
 
This does sound like the “conflict of interest” page I have often written about.  There can indeed be situations where work precludes expression of personal views even on personal web pages in public mode.  This issue started to surface around 2001 with “employee blogging policies” in some places (even before modern social media had been invented, a development which would take the spotlight off older blogging sites).  Mommy blogger Heather Armstrong became famous after being fired (“dooced”) over her blog in 2002.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"KYAnonymous" hacker could get more prison time that the rape victims of the crime he exposed (from "conservative" media sources)


Some more conservative members of my Facebook community are reporting on a justice anomaly reported by Russia Today.
  
Am (Anonymous) "hacker", Deric Lostutter, who plead guilty in federal court in Kentucky to one count conspiracy and one count of making false statements for hacking into a student fan website to expose a rape of an unconscious girl may face more prison time than the rapists, who were apparently sentences as juveniles.  The link is here.   RT has been criticized during the recent “fake news” flap, but I have often used their YouTube videos and most of their stories seem pretty credible.   The IBTimes carries the same story.
  
The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper site considered credible in the mainstream, has details here.

But a Lexington KY television station covers the story about the very recent guilty plea (originally NG) by "KYAnonynous" for the hacking incident here
  
There is a “dericlostutter.org” site which he did not set up but which seems to be set up to expose him.  The naming of a site after him, by a third party, sounds like trademark infringement to me. It's a kind of anti-fan site. 
  

Rolling Stone, which edged near the fake news area with the UVa rape fiasco, has a story about the defendant here
  
Just a little exposure to this story makes the “fake news” whining from the Left about the election seem strident.  It’s not as fake as the Left thinks. 


Note the 2013 interview with Lostutter by CNN above, where there is a claim of a Fourth Amendment violation, and where Lostutter talks about “weaponizing the media”.  Indeed. 

Wikipedia attribution link for downtown Lexington picture under CCSA 3,0   I was last there in late 1975. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Facebook's plan on fake news attracts criticism and even "fear"; Buzzfeed shows how to report fake news now; a job for me?


Facebook’s plan to clamp down on fake news is already attracting criticism, as in this Bloomberg article.

The company could hire third party contractors or even independent contractors to fact check some items.  It’s even believable that something like that could become a job opportunity for me.

But the big problem will be the “gray areas” with kernels of truth.  Or maybe postings where the user editorializes into gray areas.  Another issue would be how links to amateur blogs would be checked.

 Some of mine expand automatically, and some don’t.  Still another is YouTube video expansions that make questionable claims, or that are from sources considered extremist or biased or “doomsday”.



Buzzfeed has a helpful post on how users can “report” suspicious stories even now.

USA Today's story mentions "third party verification".  I wonder how that would work for posting.

Mark Zuckerberg's own post on Nov. 19 is here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trump's election makes the political scientists look at political correctness and identity politics as an area for technical study


Here are a couple more articles on the problems of “political correctness” and “identity politics”.

Scientific American, in a piece, “The Personality of Political Correctness”, by Scott Barry Kaufman, gives the reader a couple of quizzes to identify “egalitarian political correctness” vs. “authoritarian political correctness”.   Egalitarians believe that discourse has to be adjusted to fairly manipulate the perception of suspect classes (hence the world of “trigger warnings” on campuses). Authoritarians need ratification of “how things were meant to be”, as my own mother used to say.

Mark Lilla describes “The End of Identity Liberarlism” for the New York Times.  Call it the end of identity politics, being asked to view people differently based on the groups they belong to,

Monday, November 21, 2016

Could organizing a protest be prosecuted as "economic terrorism"? Trump signals awareness of power grid security issues


A Washington State senator is proposing a law to make it a felony to plan a demonstration that causes “economic disruption” or “jeopardizes lives and property”.  The legislator is Doug Ericksen, a Trump supporter, and apparently he wants a similar federal law, story on “The Hill” here.

The news story considered this to be a bill against “economic terrorism”.

Electronic Frontier Foundation today tweeted that the bill could jail people as felons merely for protesting. Petitions are being developed.

The protests under consideration seem to have to do with the oil and gas pipelines (about which there were major protests in North Dakota last night, with ice water hoses used against protestors), and probably the sovereign citizen’s movements.



For the record, I’ll link to a Wall Street Journal story about what Trump said today he would do on Day 1.  Obamacare and the Wall were not on the list. Trump mentioned cybersecurity and “other threats” to infrastructure, which seem to be a veiled reference to solar storms and EMP, and proposals to decentralize electric grids (Taylor Wilson) foe security and resilience.  I have tweeted this concern to Trump’s team.  Maybe they actually listened.

Picture: Wikipediam by JGkatz|Jeffrey G. Katz - Own work, CC BY 3.0, Link