Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Law journal posts big article on threats to Section 230 while the Senate Commerce Committee approves SESTA.
Cindy Cohn and Jamie Williams wrote a valuable article for “Law.com” about the history of Section 230 over 20 years.Cindy Cohn and Jamie Williams wrote a valuable article for “Law.com” about the history of Section 230 over 20 years. EFF has also shared the article on its own site.
The article goes back to the 90s with the Zeran case (regarding possible defamation related to the Oklahoma City bombing) where someone tried to force AOL to take down harmful speech. Soon it was apparent that the law needed to recognize a difference between “distribution” v. “publication” of speech, even after 230 had been past.
Another wave of attacks came with regard to responsibility for ads for housing that discriminated illegally. We’ve seen something similar recently with Airbnb.
The article goes on to speculate about the burden on platforms. Some of them, like Google, Facebook and Twitter, have considerable resources in dealing with some “dangerous” stuff (terrorism, for instance). I’m more concerned about hosting companies (Bluehost, for example) that are normally mucy more distant from their users.
Note also Eliot Harmon’s report on EFF that SESTA was just approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, with a lot of discussion of automated filters (like we saw with COPA).
(See my COPA blog for related article today.)
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
With respect to open-access, I see I discussed the Sci-Hub (Alexandra Elbakyan) before, on Feb. 22, 2016, in the good old days.
A federal court in Virginia issued an injunction for ACS, a science publisher, a ruling unnameunnthat indirectly holds unnamed associated parties like domain name registrars in violation, more or less trying to circumvent the concept of DMCA Safe Harbor (not sure if it really applies to trademarks or wordmarks). It also got to search engines and potentially web hosting companies.
This sort of protection in the copyright world from downstream liability is comparable logically to Section 230 protection.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story on the matter today by Mitch Stolz.
Monday, November 13, 2017
Roy Moore: gratuitous, politically motivated allegations? could allegations of 4 decades ago trip anyone?
Just look up “Roy Moore” on the Washington Post website. The Post is understandably obsessed with him
Try this story out, about fundamentalist Christian men.
New York (Margaret Hartman) has as good account as any on Moore’s threat to sue the Post.
As a public figure, Moore would have to show “malice” and “reckless disregard of the truth”. Pretty hard for a politician. Trump wanted to change this to the English rule (“open up the libel laws..”)
There are stories that the girls did not come forward after 40 years. The Post learned of some stories and went out and got the stories.
Saturday, November 11, 2017
Here’s a couple pieces for thought, maybe for more expansion later.
One is by Brian Lufkin on BBC News. “There’s a problem with the way we define inequality”.
That is to say, that most of us accept the inevitability of some kind of inequality if there is going to be ego that can drive progress, but in time abuse of unearned “privilege” and particularly “unfairness” will cause life to lose a lot of meaning to some people, and tend to drive the less competitive young adults toward autocratic belief systems (religious or not) and causes they can belong to – or else to nihilism itself. Preoccupation with "unfairness" has its own downside implication, that people are to be ranked on some kind of scale. Authoritarians love that.
Thursday, November 09, 2017
These days when you sign on to Mozilla you get a warning about gatekeepers. You see this text:
“Big corporations want to restrict entry. Fake news and filter bubbles are making it harder for us to find our way. Online bullies are silencing inspired voices. And our desire to explore is hampered by threats to our safety and privacy. It’s time to join Mozilla and do our part as digital citizens. Donate today to support programs that keep the internet healthy, free and open for us all.”
Yup, as I noted in several recent posts and on a short film from Vox today on the Movies blog, ungated speech seems to be coming under pressure.
Here’s a story about gatekeeping, from Variety (by Dave McNary). The Writers Guild of America West has told members (often Hollywood move and television screenwriters) that they may not work on artificial virtual reality projects not already covered by union contacts.
Sunday, November 05, 2017
Billionaire Ricketts insists his local newspapers pay their own way; when they tried to unionize, they got shut down
Billionaire Joe Ricketts, who owns a newspaper company specializing in local news, shut down his papers (DNAInfo, Gothamist) abruptly a few days after his 100+ employees had voted to unionize.
Andy Leland and John Leland have a detailed account in the New York Times here. The Times article embeds a copy of what visitors see when trying to visit one of the sites. Callum Borcher of the Washington Post weighs in here.
Ricketts maintains that his venture had to pay its own way and be profitable. This is unlike the case with me (I have some means but orders of magnitude less than him), or even companies like The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper said to be published for its speech value and not money.
But it’s interesting also that the paper had specialized in local news. I can recall a gay paper that tried to start in Minneapolis shortly after my own layoff from my career that insisted it would remain local. I don’t recall how it did.
Joe Ricketts has an interesting perspective on his refusal to let his own businesses unionize. I guess he has the right to shut them down, it they’re really his.
Friday, November 03, 2017
The increase in sexual harassment claims has resulted in countersuits now, at least one. Brett Ratner has sued Melanie Kohler over a Facebook post accusing him, link to Variety story here.
The Los Angeles Times has a story by contact reporters Amy Kaufman and Richard Winton
The threat of litigation could make it hard for people to pursue sexual harassment charges, as they would need financial resources to defend themselves. Truth is an absolute defense to libel in the US, but you have to pay for the defense (usually) unless you take the risk of being your own attorney.
Wednesday, November 01, 2017
Although pundits on blogging recommend getting your own domains to call up blogs rather than depending on free-service subdomains of Blogger and Twitter, it seems that many workplaces block these kinds of domains but may allow Blogger and Wordpress themselves.
Today, at Koons Ford, in a guest computer, I found my three Blogger domains (including this one) blocked. The Wordpress sites said I needed to login – but you don’t, just to see them.
But my one https domain kept getting http 403 Forbidden in IE or Edge, and “this site can’t be reached” in Chrome.
Also my legacy doaskdotell site (in IE) kept saying the security certificate was revoked when it never had one.
In any case, “free service” blogs may be more easily reached on public computers than regular amateur sites that were paid for. This goes against conventional wisdom.
Update: Nov. 3
I tried all these pages at a UPS store this morning and they all worked.
Update: Nov. 3
I tried all these pages at a UPS store this morning and they all worked.
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Electronic Frontier Foundation has urged the public to support FASTR, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act, advocated by Rand Paul (R-Ky), in an article Oct. 27 by Elliot Harmon, link
The bills at issue are S 1701 and HR 3427. There are provisions to allow open access by the public to documents, typically after six months (NIH normally requires a year).
Would this be the “Jack Andraka Act”?
I have an important Wordpress posting today on Goldman v. Breitbart and a new threat to embeds, here.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Ramsay Taplan (Blogtyrant) discusses the changing role of web designers in a detailed post, shared on social media, here. (I note that Blogtyrant has gone to https everywhere).
Since Wordpress particularly has made “do it yourself” easier, the role of web designers, especially for small businesses, may have become more challenged. Remember when you needed help with things like Dreamweaver?
But web designers may be needed for advanced security consultation, and for advanced plugins and themes.
I think the jury is out on SEO optimization, because rules keep changing. I can remember the days of coding my own metatags, until I found them not needed. I do think adding taglines to wordpress (as opposed to categories) does help sites be found, especially with respect to proper nouns and important concept names.
People using shared hosing can find once in a while that the webhost has created an error 503, service not available. This can happen because of a spike in the application pool managed by IIS, and it may sometimes be due to one customer. Here’s the best link I could find on the problem. It would sound plausible that this could happen with a DDOS attack on one customer on the server, so this could be a sensitive issue.
Saturday, October 21, 2017
The New York Times offers a 6-question quiz on what Facebook considers hate speech, in an article Oct. 13 by Audrey Carlsen and Fahima Haque, link.
The guidelines prohibit slurs against protected classes, which to include classes defined by sexual orientation and gender identity. They do not include speech against subclasses, like poor people within a racial group.
That leads to odd results in what the public views as hate speech. Many people don’t consider the statement “white men are a-holes” hate speech, but Facebook does. But limit it to “cis-male whites are …” then it is not.
Personally, I don’t pay much attention to a person’s membership in a protected class in my own statements about policy. Even personally, I may be attracted to one person and not another for superficial reasons, but the class membership is coincidental (even if probabilistic), not existential, following James Damore’s ideas.
And I don’t favor making policy by categorizing people. (Imagine if the draft had demanded proportional service by race.) Singapore does just that in who lives in various luxury buildings, demanding ethnic balance.
Self-publishing companies do "content evaluation" of submissions for "hate speech".
And, "by the way", Michael Smerconish on CNN says he is locked out of his Facebook page and that the Russians hacked it.
Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Time Magazine’s latest on campus speech codes, by Katy Steinmetz, Oct. 12, link, seems to be well summarized by this one Cornell student.
“many on the left argue that some things are no longer open for discussion, that speech itself can be violence and that trying to question the equality of women or undocumented people or same-sex couples can amount to harassment. “Ignorance is hostility in this political climate,” says Cornell student Treviño. “It’s attacking our mental well-being.”
Would my reviewing the past military draft gratuitously be viewed as harassment because it might tempt a politician into passing it again? Same for filial responsibility laws.
Or what about revisiting the draconian reaction of some conservatives in Texas in the 1980s against gay men and the AIDS epidemic?
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Devin Foley has a piece in Intellectual Takeout that, toward the end, challenges childless men to take responsibility for other people’s children, specifically, boys.
The title is “Men, they took your NFL, now what?” Is this about the kneeling controversy, or about concussion risks.
The article is somewhat vari-focused, as it gets into gender culture wars, where everything can be politicized. Curiously, the black and white picture that appears to come from an Hollywood spectacle of ancient evenings shows all the (white) men without chest hair.
The culture war is in part what happens with those whose gender-related behaviors and capacities don’t conform to the traditional expectations of the group. Is this about granting rights by group according to past oppression and intersectionality, or should it concern individual rights and concomitant personal responsibility? Yes, people with privilege have a better chance to learn how to make good choices. Is getting everybody into the responsibility of family tending (children or not) part of how to balance things out? Any philosophy of individual rights and responsibilities will start out with some irreducible postulates.
Note well, also, this NBC op-ed by Evan McMullin on the dangers of "populism" -- on a day when Trump threaten NBC stations' broadcast licenses on Twitter.
Monday, October 09, 2017
Jemele Hill case: should private companies discipline employees for off-the-job social media speech on their own accounts?
Jemele Hill has been suspended by ESPN for two weeks for a second violation of its social media guidelines. She issued some tweets critical of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones for taking a hard line against his players protesting police profiling by kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games.
ESPN has apparently warned associates about social media speech, even off the job, that could reflect poorly on ESPN or drive away advertisers.
CNN has the story here.
In September ESPN had threatened to discipline or fire Jemele for calling Donald Trump a “white supremacist.” But Sports Illustrated provided an article saying that Connecticut law provides that even private employers may not discipline associates for constitutionally protected speech.
That’s unusual. When I was working for a company that sold life insurance to military officers, I transferred to another division and moved within the company to avoid what was perceived as a conflict of interest when I was intending to publish a book on gays in the military.
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Michelle Goldberg has an important New York Times op-ed, “The Worst Time for the Left to Give Up on Free Speech”, link .
Goldberg writes about the recent disruption of an ACLU speaker at William and Mary for defending free speech rights of alleged white supremacists (Oct. 5).
Goldberg points out that many people believe that some topics should be “beyond the pale” of acceptable conjectures for discussion. She notes that among these ideas are a return to the belief that women and people of color should have an inferior or submissive assigned station in life to white men. You could add, gay people or transgender or gender fluid, to heterosexually married men with children.
I certainly have hit that theme had in the past, as explaining what happened in my own background. Perhaps some people would say that my even rehearsing it gives it potential legitimacy for political enemies to use again in the future.
One could say that about the attention I have given to the history of conscription.
It used to be said that communism should be beyond the pale of discussion. That idea was based on a definition of communism as invoking violence and the use of force to make political change (and force expropriation), whereas socialism alone was to be achieved by the democratic process (Bernie Sanders). But communism as subject matter was different in that it did not normally target one protected class of people. Even so, people in the past were barred, say, from federal employment had they ever been members of the Communist Part (and they could be removed for “sexual perversion” too, until 1973).
White supremacy is obviously very dangerous because it would propose subjugating a class of people (on race or skin color). Neo-Nazism is for similar reasons banned today in modern German, as it also can include people of a certain religion (Judaism) for subjugation. The Left may feel that it barely has less to worry about than the Right on these matters.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled against content-specific restrictions on free speech.
But a much bigger issue, which I must keep coming back to, is the idea that people should speak only through groups.
Friday, October 06, 2017
David Brooks (the columnist who wants to teach us how to be good) has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times, “The Philosophical Assault on Trumpism”, which maybe should read, “How to beat Trumpism”, link here.
Brooks ascribes all the problems that lets Trump bully everyone to tribalism. And he’s probably right.
People have a need to belong, and do belong somewhere whether they want to or not (Martin Fowler’s book in Aug. 2014). People can belong to nuclear and extended families, to communities of faith, to activist groups or newly defined identity groups. On top of all of this the arbitrary idea of nationalism.
I can pause for a moment, a few hours before the Washington Nationals start the playoffs and finally prove that they, no “we”, can win a playoff series, what rooting for a professional sports team means. It’s a kind of tribalism.
I could say there is one individualistic art form that bridges individualism and tribalism – and that’s music. When my brain and soul learns a repertoire, it seems to join something, find a commonality with others that is beyond words. But music also has a way of getting people to join in to things together. It’s interesting to ponder how classical, spiritual (like in church) and rock or hip-hop all work. I’ll come back to all that again.
The only thing that survives “me” is what is beyond myself (as well as the historical meta-fact of my life, which always exists in larger space-time). That’s true for all of us. So, at some point, we all have to “join in” to something for some meaningful existence to transcend us after we are gone.
So some kind of tribalism is necessary. But it takes individual work to solve problems and make innovations. There is always this moral tension between individualism and connectivity, between ego expression and moral equality, between innovation and stability.
But we do have to face the idea that sometimes, one has to take one for the team.
Thursday, October 05, 2017
Today, the Black Lives Matter Facebook page “Built on our Backs” shared a one hour video of its disruption (starting at about 4:10) of a speaker from the ACLU, Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, for what it claims is ACLU support of white supremacy, at William and Mary. The group claims “zero tolerance for white supremacy no matter what form it masquerades in.” This demonstration seems to originate from a W-M chapter of BLM.
Inside Higher Ed wrote a story on the protest (Jeremy Bauer-Wolf), which Rick Sincere from Charlottesville carried today on his “paper.li”.
I have a history with William and Mary, back in 1961, as my own readers know.
Let’s see if Milo Yiannopoulos carries this story as an example of the aggressive, anarchist Left.
Sunday, October 01, 2017
At a church potuck after the Communion service this first Sunday, I had an odd conversation. I sat down at a circular table across from a middle-aged man who looked like he came off the streets.
A conversation started. He rebuked people who had disrespected the flag at football games, but then suddenly went on a rant as to how Washington DC used to be 95% black (it wasn’t) but how richer white people had driven them out with gentrification.
“What if I show up at your house with a gun and take it back. You leave” he said.
“That’s political violence”, I said. Or maybe it’s expropriation by force. (The Bolsheviks did it to people in 1917. But then so did the Nazis. And then so did Stalin. A friend in Minnesota calls this "purification", without fasting, Lama-style). After which there are no victims, only a new normal. People who used to think they were better than others have been reduced to nothing by force. Everyone is brought equally low, by those for whom civilization, with all its built-in inequalities, makes little sense, So far, this is pure existentialism. I understand the Christian message that then there is only Grace. And then, I thought, someone like Clark Kent in Smallville never asks people to drop everything and follow him. Neither does Peter Parker. There are no god-kings.
He criticized me for “just” riding the Metro, not taking the bus (and maybe not volunteering for Food and Friends to deliver in SE DC). The woman next to me then intervened and criticized him, as not showing the love of God. He said something about Joshua being an invader and a dictator. I said something about the idea that conquests, captivities and forced migrations happened a lot in the Bible to the chosen peoples. (Babylonian captivity was a “normal” for two or three decades.) The woman then explained that the two very full plates from the pot-luck would hold her until the next food stamps. I had contributed my share, from the Harris Teeter.
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Cato First Amendment forum occurs just as Russian use of social media to undermine democracy unravels itself
Other important topics covered on the Cato Institute’s “The Future of the First Amendment” on Sept. 28 included commercial speech (Martin Redish) and campaign finance (the Citizen’s United issue, Jeffrey Milyo, and later Jeffrey Herbst). Another important presentation was Emily Ekins and the Cato Institute 2017 Free Speech National Survey (for example). One particularly notable finding was that a majority of people thought that employers should be able to fire people for social media posts even off the job.
Thursday, September 28, 2017
Cato holds a day-long "The Future of the First Amendment" symposium; Some discussion of Section 230 and Backpage
Today, I attended the all-day session at the Cato Institute, “The Future of the First Amendment”.
Cato’s basic link giving the names of all speakers and their sub-topics is here. There were four panels. Eugene Volokh, of UCLA Law School, gave the keynote speech at lunch.
There was so much material that it will take several postings on different blogs and different times to cover everything. College students actually get credit for attending these and writing papers on what is said.
Let’s talk about Eugene Volokh’s speech, “Free Speech, Libel, and Privacy in the Internet Sge”. He first started talking about how defamation works on the Internet. In print, usually a defamatory statement tended to be forgotten, if in a newspaper (in a book was more serious). But on the Internet the damage to reputation may be permanent And the speaker, unlike an established book author or newspaper, may not have deep pockets, since anyone can self-publish easily.
So the tendency Is for states to try to criminalize libel with court injunctions against the speaker, which may be enforceable with contempt sentences. The broadest injunctions could mean never mentioning the subject again on the Internet (even in a non-defamatory manner, such as in a performance review of an artist).
I popped the question on Section 230 being weakened by Backpage. Volokh said that the “knowingly” standard would probably be applied, which would mean that service providers don’t have to pre-screen material, but many fear that other forms of damaging speech will be added, as with state laws. Volokh explained the concepts of "utility provider", "publisher", and the intermediate stage of "distributor" of content.
Volokh also talked about the idea that fake news could be viewed as libel sometimes, but usually governments don’t want to apply defamation law that way.
In the last session, Danielle Keats Citron, from the University of Maryland School of Law, talked about “extremist speech and compelled conformity”, but she also talked about Section 230, as there needing to be a way to balance “Good Samaritan” speakers against “Bad Samaritans”.
Monday, September 25, 2017
Margaret Sullivan, of the Washington Post, warns in the Style section Monday that 27 states are considering laws that could provide severe felony penalties who disrupt commerce, like by blocking highways. She reports that the laws are likely to pass in at least 12 states.
She argues that the dissent that helped end the Vietnam war, or that could perhaps forestall a new Korean war, could be shut down (let alone the protests over racial profiling).
Saturday, September 23, 2017
The latest “free speech” flap these days is NFL players leaning during the National Anthem to protest racism. Trump has been saying the NFL teams should fire players who do this.
Well, the players do have a constitutional right to protest this way as far as US law is concerned. But clubs would be free to discipline or dismiss players for bringing protests on the job. That’s like saying you can’t bring your own political protests to the workplace. That’s how it generally is.
But the president should not be intervening in what NFL clubs do.
I have not seen this happen in MLB.
The practice started with Colom Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers.
ABC News story is here.
Friday, September 22, 2017
Facebook has agreed to turn over information on ads purchased by Russians, in a story wide reported yesterday, as with the NYTimes here.
May Kosoff on Vanity Fair reports that Russia set up multiple Trump rallies in Florida.
Congress talks about regulating social media companies, at least requiring reporting of large ad purchases. In a manner similar to standard industry practice in the past for broadcast television networks. This is relevant to my own resume: I worked for NBC in MIS from 1974-1977 after moving to NYC, and important period of my own life. I remember hearing about the regulations.
Facebook says it will overhaul its own political ads system, as in this Reuters story.
The Russian interference played on the idea that the “elites” didn’t pay much attention to what the “deplorables” would believe when fed into their newsfeeds. The “elites” tended not to care what people whom they looked down on as inferior believed. A foreign enemy took advantage of this.
It’s touchy for Mark Zuckerberg, who would be 36 during the 2020 political election, and conceivably could run as a Democratic candidate for president. There could be an irony of a much younger and richer businessman challenging Donald Trump. Who really wants the job of dealing with Russia, radical Islam, and North Korea? (Obama gave Zuckerberg a fatherly talk in December in Peru about the fake news, fake users and fake ads, story here.)
The reports recall the flak from 2002-2005 over whether routine blogging about political campaigns could constitute “illegal campaign contributions” given the implementation of campaign finance reform at the time – an issue that indirectly affect my own career (July 27, 2007 post).
The entire situation comes at a time when there are controversies about Internet regulation, especially pre-screening of content -- especially ads -- in other areas (like Backpage and Section 230, which Congress wants to weaken). It's not yet clear whether all of this would have much impact on smaller businesses on the web.
Thursday, September 21, 2017
Conservative site pulls article on "indoctrination" in public schools over implicit content (that is, personal targeting) problem
Here is an interesting non-article (so self-declared) by Devin Foley of the libertarian-to-conservative site “Intellectual Takeout”, “We had to pull an article on indoctrination”.
A middle or high school social studies teacher assigned the task of writing a coherent essay on a major “social justice” (to use the term loosely) issue. Foley ran an article on it, and pulled it when the family that had pointed out the article contacted him and feared that their child could be targeted – this is the “implicit content” issue I have talked about before.
The teacher supposedly apologized and pulled the article. And Devin apparently rewrote the article to say the same things “without the article”.
Now I think that the teacher’s assignment might have aimed at a balanced piece like something you would see today on a mainstream current events site like Vox, which is pretty centrist and moderate in its positions (it’s somewhere between the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.) The teacher could have reasonably expected views closer to Hillary Clinton’s than Donald Trump’s, perhaps. But I really don’t see this as “indoctrination.”
The non-piece brings up an incident with an article supporting Trump’s transgender ban. I do not support the ban (I was one of the people who fought to end “don’t ask don’t tell” years before, and with all these natural disasters we need every reservist and guardsperson we have right now) but I am particularly shocked that “activists” tracked down the tagging of a picture of someone in a photo in the article unrelated to the story. I’ve mentioned before that since about 2010 some people have become more sensitive about being photographed in bars and discos, and this kind of incident may be one reason. I am careful about this, and often pick artwork with no people in it for blog postings.
Devin’s earlier article on indoctrination is here.
Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Professor Dae Elliott, who teaches sociology at San Diego State University, offers her students credit for taking a quiz analyzing their privilege, as explained here in the New York Post.
It’s not so clear if non-white students take the quiz.
If the purpose the quiz is to perpetuate identity politics and the emphasis on group oppression, or the pimping of victimization, then it would seem to further the bubble world of speech codes and trigger warnings on some campuses.
But it encourages the student to look at his or her individual karma and perhaps make some amends for it, it could promote justice. Even so, overemphasizing “right-sizing” can be an invitation to authoritarianism (either on the right or left, with differences on whether there are pretenses of equality). To remain free, people have to reach out of their personal bubbles out of their own volition (“willingly” as my mother would have said) and lift others up, without having to keep score. It is hard to practice what you preach.