Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Tech companies will act more pro-actively against hate speech and terror recruitment, starting in EU


Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter, and probably other companies, have reached agreement with the EU to implement a new code of conduct regarding hate speech , including recruitment to terrorism. Techcruch has a detailed story by Romain Dillet
 
 The companies agree to remove flagged items within 24 hours.  But it appears that the companies will depend largely on user feedback.

Still, it is logical that the measures would implemented in the US (and Canada and Australia) also.  The companies may fear that Donald Trump, especially, could force their hand into more proactive monitoring, if elected.  It would appear right now that under US law, Section 230 protects them until actual violations are brought to their attention by users.  There may be some tools that could single out some content (like ISIS recruiting) more automatically.



The story was announced on major news feeds midday.

It’s common for book self-publishing platforms to do “content evaluations”, to screen out hate speech (and other material like child pornography, for example).

In the copyright world, YouTube is able to prescreen videos for digital marks for certain kinds of copyright infringement.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Newspaper association files action with FTC on ad blockers


The Newspaper Association of America has filed a complaint with the FTC regarding the deployment of ad blockers, particularly on mobile devices, link here.

The Washington Post carried a story today by Elizabeth Dwoskin, regarding the practice of “paid whitelisting”, which seems to allow ads to get around blockers, or substitute them.  It sounds like a kind of extortion on the ad industry, upon which Internet business models depend.



I rarely look at ads myself, and find that on some sites (even reputable broadcast sites), ads will take over and prevent the viewing of news content.  I find pop-ups and “continue to site” even on regular corporate sites (Forbes) to be cheesy and time-wasting.  But content has to be paid for somehow.



Update: May 31

The New York Times has a story by Mark Scott, about the concerns Internet companies have about ad revenue, especially from mobile devices, and especially from the developing world where blockers are curiously more common.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Thiel's support of litigation against Gawker gets attention as Thiel supports Trump, gay rights, energy power grid security upgrade, and major technology companies (on day that Trump clinches)


Recently, Andrew Ross Sorkin wrote  in the New York Times about investor Peter Thiel’s role in Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker.  It’s hard to fathom this from what I read, whether his being “outed” was the reason.  (Why not say, “I was never in”?)   The NYT emphasized a concern about big money in the courts system. (OK, here is Gawker’s story.).

The Washington Post has weighed in on the matter today.  An op-ed by Eugene Kontorovich notes that Thiel’s assistance with a suit is no different than having the ACLU or EFF do it (as both did for me challenging COPA a decade ago).

Gawker has written an open letter to Peter Thiel.

In all of this, we lose sight of the issues as to the legal standards when public figures bring privacy or defamation litigation (malice, recklessness).

The NYT reports that Thiel is a delegate or Donald Trump.  That may be good news in a sense, for the country at least.  If Trump is elected, Thiel probably would play a vital role in advising an inexperienced Trump on how to handle some complicated legal-business-technical matters (beyond talking tough with China and Saudi Arabia, etc.)  Thiel was born in Germany, but otherwise might have been a better candidate.  (I think Mark Cuban would be a good candidate, but Cuban has actually answered my emails about some issues in the past and may know a little about my work).

 Oh, I think Anderson Cooper would be a great candidate. How about Chris Cuomo?   Note I’m not playing partisan.



Thiel helped found Facebook and Paypal.  Thiel has also helped fund Taylor Wilson’s work  on fission and fusion energy – efforts which should point to making the power grids more resilient from attacks or space weather.  It would seem that Mr. Thiel ought to coach Mr. Trump and what to say about technology, infrastructure, currency, and the like, in his speeches so Trump can become more credible in specific policies.  Why hasn’t Trump mentioned the security of the power grid?  At least Ted Cruz did. (I know, “Lyin’ Ted”.)

Trump clinched the nomination this week by going over 1237 delegates.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Internet addiction started to get treated in the US (as well as South Korea and China)


On Saturday, May 21, the Washington Post featured a front page story by Hayley Tsukayama, “Struggling to look away from the screen: Parents, experts worry about compulsive Web use among young people – but is this addiction?”.  Online, the title is more telling (like the answer to a “My Weekly Reader” test in grade school), “The dark side of the Internet is costing young people their jobs and their social lives”.

 The story relates a treatment center in Washington state – not covered by insurance in the US because it’s not recognized as a mental disorder officially.  It is treated more aggressively in South Korea.


Gamers seem to have the biggest problems.  The treatment centers seem to offer life “off the grid” and a lot of tough love.  Even fantasy material, like comics, isn’t allowed sometimes;  they want people to relate to “real people”.  I wondered if model trains or toys were allowed.  All of this reminds me of what my own mother once called "baby play" one summer in Ohio.  I thought about a couple of intentional communities I have visited.


 
In my own circumstances, staying connected is important, because I need to maintain what I put online and need pretty much continual access to it, even when I travel.  I can see how that could become a policy or legal issue in the future. I can't afford a vacation or overseas service experience "off the grid".


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tribal partisanship dislikes journalistic objectivity: Donald Trump and the "Know-Nothings"


Roger Cohen offers a perspective on “tribal politics” in a column, p. A21 in the New York Times Tuesday May 17, 2016, “To Know Nothing Wins”.  He does start out by talking about the Know-Nothing Party in the 19th Century.

Cohen says this seems to explain how Donald Trump attracts working class white average-Joes and convinced them “ I can take care of you” by keeping “the other” inline.



Cohen points out that a major part of this strategy is to ignore the “other’s” social, political or ethical arguments so that you don’t have to admit that “they” have any.

That has often been the attitude of left-wing based gay activism in the past.  In the 1980s, in Dallas, the right wing mounted an ugly speculative argument about AIDS to try to advance a new sodomy law which thankfully failed anyway.  But the strategy of the Dallas Gay Alliance was to refuse to mention it.

I’m always been a thorn in the side of “partisanships”.  My whole game is to present both sides (like in the “Opposing Viewpoints” book series, Book reviews, Sept 19, 2006) and force the opposing forces to confront each other on substance.  It’s actually about making this idea available and getting the public to demand it.
 
It if doesn’t pay its own way, Donald Trump might try to stop if he gets elected.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New York Magazine columns say Trump will go after media outlets with legal warfare


I’m not how seriously to take a couple blurbs in the New Yorker about Donald Trump’s supposed plans to shut down media companies  ("an unprecedented threat") by yanking broadcast licenses, as appeared today in a piece by Jonathan Chait .   Or look at an earlier story about how Trump could go after the Washington Post for anti-trust in a piece anticipating Trump’s Putin-style authoritarianism.  The GOP limps along and accepts it.  It's hard to say how credible these ideas really are.  These columns got a lot of circulation in social media (and from Breitbart) tonight.

All of this suggests the Trump simply excepts to get everything he wants “to make America great” by manipulation, not by ideas.

Trump had threatened to shut down much of the Internet, as in postings here Dec 8, 16, and Feb. 27, but then that proposal seemed to get forgotten about.

  But back in 2004, there had been dire predictions about "the coming crackdown on blogging" over concerns of indirect violations of campaign finance reform.

Peter Beinart mentioned Trump's "threats" to media companies on CNN AC360 last night.  Back in December, a Facebook friend had joked "Shut down those tubes!"


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Facebook: news trending controversy, and questions about advisability of adding pages


Various media outlets, such as the Guardian, report that Facebook has been using editors, rather than algorithms, to select “trending topics” to show in member news feeds.    Gizmodo has an even more “incriminating” story here.

However Facebook denies this, and advises members that they can mediate their feeds with their use like buttons (from love to hate), and can exclude content from specified “publishers” (that is, pages as opposed to friends’ profiles).

My own experience is that “liking” an item on a page generally causes news from that page to appear.

I do see stories that are “intellectually” conservative (and free-market oriented) but not bigoted.

Right now, I still feed Twitter posts to Facebook.  Most of these appear in my Facebook Timeline. I think the ones that don’t fail when an embedded link does not resolve.  About two-thirds of these show up on my own “news” page.  It does seem that the more sensitive pages with a harder tone sometimes do not.

I would like to add a Page to my Facebook account, while keeping the Profile as it is.  I would then stop the feed from Twitter and enter news items only on the page, and more personal items (like photos from trips) on the Profile.  Some people say they do not like getting or “need to get” their (bad) news (“I told you so”) from “Friends”.

Facebook’s guidelines are here.  Facebook says a Profile can have multiple pages, but implies that a page should represent an organization, business, or brand, or entity larger than the person.  I would like to create a page called “public figure” or “writer” but cannot determine yet from the Help which subcategories I could use.  (I do not want to just “convert” the profile to a page because this apparently can lead to loss of posts and contacts.)  Profiles have to be converted to pages to have more than 5000 "friends" or followers, or if Facebook determines the Profiles are commercial.

I’m still looking into this.  I appears that an add-on page would be allowable once I do commerce myself (that is, sell books myself rather than depending only on third party sites like Amazon or Author Solutions or Bandcamp – if I sell music later – to sell it, and take Paypal and credit cards; I’m not set up for credit cards myself but am looking into it – ecommerce domain, https, and the like). I could set up a page as an "Author" but present the business of selling my books -- not just set up another soapbox.
     
The Facebook page would be part of the effort to migrate most of my blogging to Wordpress and to reconfigure my “presence” in order to facilitate collaboration with others on future projects, as described here May 9.

Friday, May 13, 2016

House passes Email Privacy Act with a "perfect game shutout"; Social media can now be monitored for security clearance vetting


Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed an “Email Privacy Act” with H.R. 699 govtrack reference here. The bill would carve an exceptrion for digital communications from the ECPA of 1986, which regards emails more than 180 days old as “abandoned”.  Now, the government would need a warrant to retrieve them.



The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPCA) has an account of the bill here.

The bill could make future threats to privacy (like cloud searches for illegal content) less likely.



In an at least tangentially related matter, the Obama administration has announced that social media postings can be vetted in security clearance background investigations, probably for both federal employees (or military personnel) and contractors.  It's possible that comments made by others could figure into a clearance getting, and since these can be libelous or misleading (like a recent case where I was repeatedly tagged in Facebook photos in which I actually do not appear, by a prankster), so this could lead security clearance holders to be fussier about whom the "friend" or "follow" or allow to follow them.  It could lead to more sensitivity to photography in places like discos (sensitivity which has increased steadily since about 2010, which sounds ironic given the end of DADT).   Even so, the practical effect on most clearance holders is probably very low if they behave prudently online, The Wall Street Journal story by Damiam Palette uses the characterization "fair game" as if it were talking about what can be asked on the next test by the teacher.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Professional panhandlers the arbiters of personal "rightsizing"?


This evening, as  I returned from a concert and had gotten off the Ballston Metro stop, an elderly man on two crutches with two casts approached me with, “Sir, can you help?”

The same person had approached Tuesday night and I had given him something.

I reminded him of the fact I had seen him before, and he said, “well, have you given yet?” Maybe he meant to say, "given back".
   
Like he was the professional victim, licensed to test me to see if I was “rightsized”.  It was my obligation to give back to somebody, by some due date.

That reminds me of a door-door guy who showed up in 2013 demanding donations and saying I would feel like “what it is to start over”.

In Matthew 5:42, Jesus says “Give to whoever asks”.  It's pretty clear cut as a religious matter, for example.

I think this has a lot to do with individualism and eusociality, and I will come back to this again.



Monday, May 09, 2016

Much of my future blogging moves to Wordpress: here are the details; "The Fifth Estate" is still too much like "The Fifth Dominion"


I want to inform visitors on some changes I am making in my blogs and where I place news items. Let me prepare this announcement by saying I am trying to migrate from the “Fifth Estate”  to the “Fourth” .  So maybe I’m in an “in-ovo” at estate 4.5.  (Fans of Clive Barker’s Imajica will see the metaphor of his “Dominions” – the “Fifth Estate” is still “Earth”.)



On Wednesday, May 4, 2016, I purchased two new Wordpress Domains from Bluehost.

These new blogs are “Bill’s Media Commentary” and “Bill’s News Commentary”.  There is now enough content on each site that I think I should announce this.

Most reviews of films, books, major television series or events, musical compositions and their performances, and “legitimate” stage plays and performances (including, for example, musicals and operas) will be placed on the new Media Reviews blog.  Right now, there are five new reviews:  three films, one play, and one music concert.

In time, most major news commentaries (including those about Donald Trump or even Seth Rogen) will go on the new Wordpress blog, too.  Right now, there are three high-level articles.

I “joined” Blogger in 2006, quickly added Adsense, and have used the free service for over ten years.  The content that is there now is valuable. Right now, here are some counts of postings on the more popular blogs:  Movies, 2712;  TV, 2326; Plays-Music 623; Books, 498; GLBT, 1578; Cautionary (mostly media items on national security threats), 380, and my “main” Tech blog 2293.

The blogs are heavily crossed referenced internally with labels, which is particularly useful on the Movies blog (like all the films of a particular director).

I don’t plan to copy the blogs onto Wordpress right now, as this does not seem to be that easy to do quickly.  I may do so later, within the next twelve months or so.  I am placing tools on the new Wordpress blogs to assist users to cross reference back to label aggregations on the old.

There is also an issue with cross-referencing back to my older legacy site “doaskdotell.com” (and the experimental “billboushka.com, which I believe will be shut down with content moved elsewhere, by the end of June).

I have to be mindful in giving hyperlinks for cross-references that I don’t create the appearance of “link farming”.  But there is an inherent problem in having a multiplicity of platforms, set up over the years as technology and conditions change. There is a desire not to have all of one’s eggs in one basket.  On the other hand, having old sites that don’t get updated or maintained often could become a security hazard, although new services like SiteLock can mitigate that threat.

One practical problem is that visitors, depending on their own circumstances, may encounter my material from different points of entry.  Therefore, I may have to give the cross-reference information at several different common entry points.  The most comprehensive point is still the home page of the legacy “doaskdotell.com”, originally established in 1999.

I am looking at the possibility of adding https to all the Wordpress blogs (and maybe all sites), as well as adding a new ecommerce site that enables me to sell books directly (where https and PGP are mandatory).  I am also looking into https everywhere, which is available free on subdomain blogs from Blogger and Wordpress but more complicated to set up when equated to hosted domains.  I expect to have these issues (including adding advertising) resolved by the end of July.  I’ve talked to Bluehost about https but need to look further.

What about the “gang of 16” blogs?  I do expect to continue placing smaller and more pointed news stories on them, for now.  But there may be very little new material on the “media review” blogs from here on, although changes and corrections can be made to existing posts. Comments can still be monitored and accepted. There is a facility on the new “News Commentary” blog to index quick news story, but it is not working smoothly yet.   Some sequences of television shows (like CNN specials) and film series may be continued to the logical end.

What is the reason for the change?  One primary concern is “sustainability” along with time.  Migrating most blogging to hosted Wordpress sites facilitates inviting guest posting (because I get a lot of emails about this – and will provide guidelines soon).  “Blogtyrant” (Ramsay, who does influence my thinking somewhat) has explained his preferences for Wordpress and BlueHost.  My own impression is that generally Wordpress is superior.  Others, like “Nitecruz”, have argued that it is not a good idea to depend entirely (at least professionally) on “someone else’s free service”.  You can have better support if you pay (rather nominally) for hosted service.  In fact, I think that Google could well consider formal hosting plans (not just custom domain names) for Blogger if it wanted, and could make arrangements with third party companies to manage the hosting if it chose, mirroring how BlueHost handles Wordpress.

However, Blogger has been very stable over the years. There was only one occasion where a few of my blogs were inadvertently removed or made inaccessible for a few hours (in May 2008) and quickly restored, but that was scary.  (Back then, there was a big controversy over spam blogs, and questions why captchas were not sufficient to stop them; a few mistakes happened in the process.)  There was one 18-hour period in May 2011 when Blogger was not available for use.

I also believe that a mostly-Wordpress setup would facilitate my working with established news outlets and sites, something I would like to do.
 
I should also note that I probably will make some changes in how I handle my Facebook and Twitter presence,  to make the distribution of breaking news stories more effective, I believe by early June.  I seem to be in line with Metro’s rebuilding schedule (LOL).  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Blogging guru surprises everyone by advising that most blogs should not carry ads


Australian blogging guru Ramsay Taplin (a little younger than Mark Zuckerberg) shocked everyone this morning on Facebook with an article “Why you might want to reconsider using ads on your blog”  I recirculated it through Twitter immediately.

Although probably not an issue with commercial ad networks (like Adsense, which Rmasay has criticized for other reasons) one possible additional reason could be to evade the malvertising issue of late.

One is left with wondering, if Ramsay is right, what happens to the business models of “free service” platforms like Blogger and Wordpress, which are starting to offer https free now.  What happens to their business models?

In the meantime, I’m waiting to see what Ramsay has to say about the importance (or lack thereof) of https for blogs that don’t directly engage in e-commerce (which can always be placed on a separate domain anyway).



Ramsay’s advice does seem to be appropriate for narrowly focused blogs associated with small business or with hobbies or specific lifestyle pursuits.  I can imagine how his advice would work on a blog about chess openings, which I could be capable of running (and attracting “professional” contributors).  Other examples: triathlon or marathon participation, model railroading, physical fitness in general (the area Ramsay started in – although it’s easy to imagine how some associated topics, like weight loss products, can quickly become trite and cheesy), financial and retirement planning (which, again, can become trite and filled with speculation – look at the entire Porter Stansberry crowd).  Classical music (particularly as it fits into modern popular idioms, possibly even hip-hop) lends itself to his ideas.  Timo Andres (composer and pianist) has an effective blog, but the sites of some of his other contemporaries are less effective.  Sites by book authors and independent film makers are often less effective than they should be.  However, Mary Ruwart (“Healing our World”) has an effective blog.  You can try the blog of “Andrew Jenks Entertainment”.  The most popular specialty area of all has historically been the “mommy blog” (Heather Armstrong’s “Dooce”, which she started after getting fired for talking about her employer in a blog in 2002).

In my case, I'd need to develop "news" partners.  More of that later.

Wordpress offers a missive by Cheri Lucas Rowlands, "Four Tips from Seasoned Bloggers".

Monday, May 02, 2016

FBI given new powers for "hacking searches" out of state by SCOTUS


The Supreme Court has approved a new rule that will allow federal judges to issue warrants to the FBI or DOJ to search or hack computers or other devices outside their own physical jurisdiction, under expanded interpretation of what is called Rule 411.  In the past, the device had to be in some kind of transit.  Now the warrant can consider situations of deliberate concealment.



The Atlantic has a story by Matt Ford, explaining the change, and whimsically suggesting that the order would allow searches of servers “on one of Jupiter’s moons” – Europa – or maybe Titan (Saturn), the location of my screenplay.

Curiously, I have a “server” issue myself right now.  Since April 10, I haven’t been able to see the log files for my “doaskdotell.com” legacy site, on a Windows server (at Verio).  Maybe this is related to a data center migration. But it is not good that theoretically the government could see something relating to my own on the web that I can’t get to right now.