Monday, August 29, 2016

If someone writes something illegal on your Facebook timeline and you don't catch it, could you be legally responsible? I wonder


Once again, someone (a Facebook “frined”) posts something on my Facebook timeline that seems pointless, an ad for sunglasses.  I don’t see the point.  Sometime back, I unfriended someone (female) who posted fictitious tags of me in sexually explicit pictures on my timelines, claiming I had been “there”.  Don’t really see the point.

I do wonder if there could be a legal or TOS liability if someone posted something illegal on one’s timeline (c.p. or terror promotion) and the account owner didn’t see it.  I get emails from notifications, but if I were in a remote area off the grid, I could miss it.
 
I presume Section 230 would protect me from defamation claims for someone else’s posts (as it does from comments, although I moderate comments on blogs).  On copyright infringement, technically I have to be an “agent” for safe harbor to apply.  And for some specific illegal items (like terror threats) there is no downstream liability protection.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sponsored content now starting to support conventional news sites


On the Business Day section of the New York Times on Monday, July 25, 2016, John Herrman writes “In media company advertising, sponsored content is King”.  Online, the title is more specific, "How sponsored content is becoming king in the Facebook world".
 
Sponsored comment is becoming common on some news sites (like CNN) and often looked like it is truly “journalistic” in character.


 
And it’s becoming common on Facebook.  I recently set up my author’s page on Facebook and paid for $50 of advertising , and did get quite a bit of exposure and “likes” for about three weeks.

But the growth of sponsored content reflects the difficulty in sustaining Internet business models based on consumer willingness to engage ads, given all the popup blockers and "do not track".

Monday, August 22, 2016

"Noahpinion" shows how to make blogging work and attract good comments


There are some real “Blogspot” blogs that draw lots of visitors and comments.  Such is the case with “Noahpinion” by Bloomberg writer and economist Noah Smith (“Economics, neologisms, and distractions from productive activity”).  I’ll give the direct link to a July 21 post, “Trump happened because conservatism failed

Noahpinion splits his Venn diagram of conservatism into three parts (like “A Film in Three Parts” or “Symphony in Three Movements”): economics, foreign, and social.  The Republican establishment has failed in all three parts, but on the social side, most people today want libertarianism, keep government out of both pocket and bedroom.  Noahpinion parks the social conservatism debate at the door of gay marriage, after giving a slight nod to Charles Murray’s regrets over loss of social cohesion (“Coming Apart”).  He makes no attempt here at a psychological explanation of what people like Rick Santorum want (unconditional love somewhere, “It takes a family”).  I do try explain it, but Noahpinion gets the visitors and comments (of a volume you would see in a regular newspaper column).



Above, will econ blogging hurt an economist’s career?
 
I found Noah from a tweet by Tim Lee of Vox.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Time magazine story about Internet trolls seems a bit questionable, at least to me


Joel Stein has a cover story “Why we’re losing the Internet to the culture of hate”, by Joel Stein, on p. 27 of the print issue of Time Magazine. Aug. 29, 2016, “Tyranny pf the Mob”, link  (also, “How Trolls are running the Internet”), paywall.  There’s a Wordpress commentary by “Austisticwiki”, “The Web is a sociopath with Asperger’s
   .
Some people, not finding that people earn what they get anyway, seem to find fun and gratification in the sport of trolling.  But the most alarming idea is that Twitter would ban someone for encouraging his fans to troll.  Such is what is supposed to have happened to gaycon Brietbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, who was supposed to be banned by Twitter permanently – except that I found multiple accounts for him tonight, just checked.   And there was nothing that obviously boorish about the content that I saw.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Facebook's crack down on Clickbait


The Verge (one of Vox’s publications) has a detailed story on how Facebook is dealing with “clickbait” in its news feeds, here.   Clickbait comprises a headline that you must click on to find out what the story is really about.
 


Publishers who create deliberately misleading or “leading on” headlines (especially for marketing purposes) could find themselves pretty much cut out of trending topics and news feeds, the story says, But it would probably affect only the worst offenders.
 
I get very annoyed at videos that keep nagging on with endless sales pitches, particularly on financial products.  Some of Porter Stansberry’s video material (on the supposed reserve currency crunch) and some videos on “conservative” websites seem to do this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reported tenant blacklists could have far reaching implications, from social media to immigration; NYC has a bill proposed for regulation


Kim Barer and Jessica Silver-Greenberg have a disturbing story today Wednesday August 17, 2016 on p. A16 of the New York Times, “On tenant blacklist, errors and renters who have little recourse” .
   
In addition to credit scores and criminal background checks, landlords also use covert lists from “tenant-screening database companies” to screen out applicants who have been sued in housing court, or who have withheld rent to protest living conditions.  And the databases reportedly have lots of errors.

The New York City Council is considering a bill to regulate the use of these lists.  The net effect is to make it almost impossible for the homeless or certain other people to find apartments in the normal commercially run markets.



I have been concerned that “blacklists” could be developed based on social media use, especially the use of “review sites”.  I actually became more concerned about this after 9/11, as I was particularly visible on search engines then as an amateur relative to others;  that is not the case today as modern social media has taken over.  So social media sites cut both ways.

Legitimate tenant-check companies say that prior evictions is a major concern for landlords, but checks must be FCRA-compliant.
 
Some landlords do work with social service agencies (and DHS) to place arriving refugees into apartments.  Placing asylees already here (but possibly still undocumented or with expired visas) in regular buildings would sound very difficult, especially in conjunction with this story.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Peter Thiel tells his side of the Gawker controversy


Peter Thiel has written an op-ed column in the New York Times, p. A21, “Privacy issues won’t end with Gawker”.  Thiel mentions his own role in providing financial support for the litigation filed by Terry Bollea, in a case whose judgment has bankrupted Gawker.

Thiel considers his own forced outing in 2007 as somewhat traumatic, even though he admits times have changed since then, even in less than one decade.



Note Thiel’s comment in the fifth paragraph from the end, ironically echoing Nick Denton, Gawker’s founder.  It is not enough “for a story ‘simply to be true’.” Then, “a story that violates privacy and serves no public interest should never be published.”

He also talks about the reputation of the profession of journalism, which must resist the temptation to provide click bait (something Facebook is dealing with, CNET story  ).

This whole issue gets more sensitive with “amateur” journalism, where citizen journalists discover litte publicized grass roots efforts whose uncovering could jeopardize some disadvantaged people (imagine a situation with undocumented people deciding to seek asylum).

Should litigation be secretly financed, maybe by hedge funds?  What about the next troll?

I agree with where Thiel was coming from in the RNC, that both the GOP and LGBTQ people have more pressing issues that bathrooms.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Major copyright case involving third party surveillance increases the risk of more trolls (BMG v. Cox and Rightscorp); also, more on Dancing Baby


Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that it has asked the Supreme Court to take the “Dancing Baby” case, in litigation which contemplates whether copyright complainants must consider Fair Use before issuing takedown notices under the DMCA, press release here (see July 6, 2015).

But Brian Fung, in a posting on his “Switch” blog on the Washington Post, “The copyright case that should worry all Internet providers”  Saturday.  This concerns a case brought against Cox Communications by music group BMG (which I think owns RCA Victor records now – the entire Red Seal classical line from the past). Cox had used a third party Rightscorp  to pass along warnings to users. The plaintiffs claimed that the third party activity did not reach consumers.  A federal judge found for the plaintiff ($25 million).  Of course, it will be appealed (text of ruling)



This sounds like a developing story that I will pursue more on a newer Wordpress blog soon.  There is concern that the ruling could tempt new “copyright trolls” (remember Righthaven? -- although this wave would target service providers, not bloggers directly).


Friday, August 12, 2016

Short legal guide for social media for Britain (UK?) would be valuable here


The Guardian has published a short guide on social media law, albeit it Britain and probably Australia ad Canada (outside Quebec), and it looks valuable, link here.

I think generally the guidelines are true in the U.S.  The idea that you would actually be sued for defamation over a retweet sounds remote, but it’s probably possible.  The same would apply to uses pictures in tweets and on Facebook or Instagram.  But some people are getting more sensitive about photos of them showing up in settings like discos (even if legal) – a trend I’ve noticed since about 2011.
 
It leads to another article about life without social media.  I don’t post my whereabouts in advance and get into the business of inviting people to things online, but to some people this seems like a big deal to join in.  Had I become a full time teacher around 2006 or so, I would have closed down my social media and Internet presence entirely for a while.  That’s something to explore again.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

"Blogtyrant" pens op-ed on carbon-negative web services and Internet behavior


Ramsay Taplan, or “Blogtyrant” on Facebook and Twitter, promised a major news story late Monday, and he delivered Monday night with “How to make your website carbon neutral (and BTW it’s really easy”.

There was some hype ahead of time.  He had said I wouldn’t be able to guess the topic (after I had asked about “https everywhere”).  I wondered if it could be about getting through censorship in China (I had an inquiry about this and my domain name in late 2013).

I guess it is about China, in a sense.  Developing countries are even more challenged than the US to get off fossil fuels – as we know from stories about China’s coal industry.


As for the suggestions --  I’m not that convinced that the energy use on home electronics is that much of an issue.  More serious is the idea that the servers that make unbelievable volumes of self-published user-generated content available 24x7 (even apart from the supposed “whitelisted” social networking models) are huge and run 24x7.  A lot of the farms are nearby – in Asburn, Loudoun County, Virginia, or down around Charlotte (or Hickory) and then Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill NC.  (Xfinity has a big farm in Prince Georges County, MD).

I’ve always seen getting transportation off fossil fuels as a bigger challenge than the grid itself.  But behind the scenes, security for the power grids (from large-scale terrorism and extreme solar storms) is a big issue that politicians haven’t paid enough attention to.  Ted Cruz has mentioned it, but not Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, yet.  As I’ve written elsewhere, the ideas of Taylor Wilson (backed by Peter Thiel, who spoke at the RNC) may be quite relevant to making the grid more secure (through decentralization) and ultimately much greener.
 


I tweeted as much to Ramsay, and then a movie recommendation for “Climate Refugees” (on Netflix, movie reviews, March 26, 2016).  Within 15 seconds of sending the tweet, I got back an angry response from “A Human Crirs”, “You might enjoy the indie film "Climate human beings" a place to start .... #HumanCrisis”.   There is no film by that title on imdb.  Why the angry reaction?  A matter of “rightsizing”?

I do wonder about Ramsay’s ideas about effectively keeping older computers and not replacing them.  I find that repeated upgrades and operating system replacements causes stability problems.  It’s less time consuming to replace laptops often.  I do have smaller laptops for travel only.  There is some security in having multiple machines, on both Windows and Mac OS (having Linux could be even better) and not networking them all, and keeping your own backups as well as using the Cloud.


Monday, August 01, 2016

New tools developed to help users who receive takedown notices.


A group called “Manila Principles” has developed a form for service providers to use to inform users when the providers get a takedown request for any reason.  The primary usefulness for the form is apparently related to situations other than just copyright infringement.  The link for the form is here. Notification requirements are defined by law for copyright under the DMCA, but not for other TOS violations or potential "torts".

A group called Online Censorship explains how to appeal here.

Jeremy Malcolm of Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story explaining the use of these facilities here.
 
The main issue is whether users are properly notified when there is a complaint about content they have posted, and whether they can rebut (especially in areas outside of copyright).
 
I’ve been contacted only a very few times over 18 years directly by people.  In two or three cases, the personal circumstances were quite unusual and unlikely to recur with anyone else.  In one case, there was a misleadingly worded statement in a Blogger movie review of a controversial documentary, an assertion which might have been misconstrued in a way harmful to a real person depicted in the film.