Monday, May 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 08, 2017

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

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

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

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

Saturday, May 06, 2017

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

"Hubpages" offers some 3rd party supervision to Bloggers, and yes I need to address this

I learned this morning about another blogging platform, really a community publishing center, called Hubpages.

The site was founded in the Bay Area back in 2006, and apparently has caused some controversy among writers by requiring all posts to be subject to mandatory editing – professional editing is preferred, a policy that has been growing since 2011.  The site also has some very specific policies and rules about intellectual property violations, including copyright.

I learned about it from Phil Chandler, whose inventory of posts is here.  His latest post is a critical discussion of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days.  I have some posts by Chandler on my legacy “doaskdotell” site, for example this piece about sodomy laws before Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

I have two blogging platforms of my own, this one (16 blogs on Blogger), and four on Wordpress, which are more “polished” and take more time to do.  (I had another one called “Technical-Legal Confluence” which I allowed to expire with a major server change, but I had save the posts back from 2006-2010 and may put them up on a flat Wordpress blog later “when I have time”.  There is some good legal history in this old blog; some of them dealt with the 2007 COPA trial.)

What is apparent, is that if I were to contribute to Hubpages, I would need to start out with a much narrower, fact-based focus.  That contrasts with many of my posts today, where I speculate on what could go wrong in the future with some policy direction (network neutrality is a good example).  Articles would take more time to write to a professional standard, so they could not be nearly as numerous as on my own blogs.

There are some subject areas that come to mind.  In the past, “don’t ask don’t tell” would have been the right fit, and if real problems start to develop in the Trump-Mattis Pentagon again, I could certainly contribute on this area.  Another area, with which I had great personal indoctrination in the 2003-2010 period, is filial responsibility.  In fact, I did pen a Wikipedia article on the topic (and I did contribute some materials to Wikipedia on DADT).  One particularly troubling area would be the likelihood that Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act will be weakened, particularly as a Congressional knee-jerk to the Backpage “scandal”.  Or I could take up security of the power grids.  Yes, I could write a factual piece about that.

Still another issue would be how (in the U,S.) we can and should help asylum seekers (as compared to refugees).  This gets into a lot of areas, like the big differences between the United States and Canada on private sponsorship.  I have been looking into the possibility of hosting someone myself, since last sumner.  As of now, the issue is still unsettled.  There is a group in Washington DC (Center Global) that facilitates hosting.  It appears in general that the hosting that happens is rather informal and requires a host with a lot of social capital, which I don’t share in the LGBT community in some activist or more specific sub-communities.  There is a Catch-22, a sort of “Rich Young Ruler” problem here, in that to participate, I would need to offer to host my inherited house without asking so many (security-related) questions first.

So it is also possible that, at 73, I will downsize, sell the house to a developer for tear-down, get rid of all the family heirlooms (which disappear because I am an only child who did not procreate), and move itno an urban apartment, where the logistics of the things I really want to do become simpler.  That is more like the life I had in downtown Minneapolis 1997-2003 in the Churchill Apartments on the Skyway. This would make volunteering in areas that require more specific and personalized commitments from me (and indirectly, more focus in writing) possible because of simpler logistics and fewer distractions from maintaining old real estate.

Maybe working with this group could be a step toward getting to work with a real news organization, and having somebody else provide the infrastructure. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

US drops to 43rd place in press freedom under Trump

Trump’s attacks on major news outlets (other than conservative ones) has resulted in the United States dropping to 43rd in press freedom, according to a Washington Post Style section article today by Paul Fahri, link.

Trump has called journalists “dishonest” and parasitic, people who act as watchers and don’t play ball or compete.  But he’s wrong in thinking that journalists don’t put their skin in the game.  Look at Bob Woodruff.  And Anderson Cooper started out by paying his dues overseas as a young man and literally waded in the flood waters of Hurricane Rita as the 2008 fiscal crisis suddenly exploded in his home team city.

To the surprise of some of us, Trump seems more hospitable to amateur journalists and bloggers (maybe even me) and to younger journalists in smaller networks like OAN. He actually has read a couple of my tweets to “Real Donald Trump” (like about North Korea).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

YouTube account holders should become familiar with the "Three Strikes" rules for Copyright and Community Guidelines

I stumbled across the information on a couple of “3 Strikes” rules for YouTube posting.

If you go to your own YouTube account to subdirectory “features” you can see if you have any Copyright Strikes or Community Guidelines Strikes.

The link for Copyright Strikes is here.  A strike is called when a video is removed after a complaint from a copyright owner that the video violates an existing copyright, and has been removed under Digital Millennium Copyright Safe Harbor.

Merely deleting an offending video does not remove the strike (as it has already been removed).  But the user can challenge the claim (under Fair Use) or sometimes get the owner to retract the claim if the user agrees to keep it removed (under the table).  It appears that a strike remains active for90 days, and removal requires going to “Copyright school”.

A user who accumulates three strikes at one time has his or her account removed and all videos removed (including non-infringing and unrelated videos) and appears permanently banned.  That could be a weakness:  a litigious or “authoritarian” copyright owner could try to silence someone this way.

It’s common to see embedded videos disappear because owner’s accounts have been terminated for "multiple copyright complaints", usually under three strikes.  But the disappearance of an embedded video created by someone else does not constitute a strike. Many infringing videos appear to be illegal copies of films or television episodes (sometimes of musical performances). My experience is that most QA sessions don't object to recording and posting.  Most plays and (classical) concerts prohibit recording and would submit claims if posted. I'm not sure what happens with music recorded at rock concerts or in (DJ-serviced) discos (unless the venue has explicitly prohibited recording, but in my own experience most bars don't).  Rebroadcast of sports events is usually prohibited but I haven't seen MLB prohibit incidental video excerpts of baseball games or of pre-game shows by fans actually at the games. (MLB offers its own embeds of critical game plays, which bloggers can use as free.)
Someone who wants a “future” or “career” creating his or her own videos should be careful about allowing copyright strikes.

Wikipedia has an explanation here.

A related idea is a “Content ID Claim", which seems more complicated and which does not by itself create a strike, link.

Community Guidelines Strikes” follow a similar idea (link ).  But in some cases, takedowns (as related to safety of someone or to unusual law enforcement concerns) don’t result in strikes.   The recent controversy over Facebook Live could result in more pressure on YouTube regarding these “Strikes”.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Change is good, and you can sense when it is coming

I wanted to recapitulate what is going on with some of my content projects now.

The biggest effort soon will be a series of videos called ‘Connecting the Dots” where in ahome movie format I communicated what these “Do Ask Do Tell” books are all about. They will roughly follow the Introduction and first three chapters of my 2014 “Do Ask Do Tell III” book  There will be some editing in Final Cut.  Finally, I’ve got to move closer to my own filmmaking.

I will also ramp up the finishing of my own edit of the novel “Angel’s Brother” and to sell the idea behind my screenplay “Epiphany”, a science-fiction setting that uses the material in my books.

Yes, I have become “addicted” to my own narrative.  They keep me busy.  I might have had opportunities to be paid to write other people’s stories (especially regarding gays in the military) had I tried harder.   And I am still very interesting in a few very specific projects of some people I know, where there is a legitimate connection to me.

But I’ve put myself beyond reach to be hired to pimp “other people’s causes”.  Which I might have to do had I been less fortunate when it comes to inheritance.  I do see this as a moral problem.
Selling my own story—not just being found by search—is going to require a lot more mobility from me – and a lot more travel.  This would be a lot easier if I “downsize”.

Houses really ought to provide space for more than one person.  Even though I use it for the “trains studio” prop, there are risks of disruption for one retired person in a house that are removed by living in a sufficient apartment.  In the life I built for myself (before 2003), about 750 square feet (like my last apartment in downtown Minneapolis) was about right.  I need to be close to public transportation or walking and to urban life.  It will be good to have on-site supervision to keep out unwanted or potentially dangerous cold-call solicitations (which go with the territory when in a ungated detached house -- that's part of "playing ball").  I’m not well suited for social activities planned by others, as in more traditional senior living.  I outlined a lot of this in a correlated post today on my “Bill Retires” blog.

This will be a long process.  I still have not resolved the question of hosting (asylum seeker) completely.  That could mean that I do not downsize for a while.  If I do move, I will need to set up some financial arrangements first (as the other post explains) and determine exactly what location will work out best.  There is also some more travel (mainly in the SW) that I should complete first.  I would expect to have a “preview” of what may happen completed by the end of June.

I also want to say that I can never allow any party to bargain with my own plans and purposes “extra-legally”.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

European countries try to tax search engine results and news aggregation

European publishing groups, especially in Germany, have been suing news aggregators for copyright infringement, leading Google and other companies to reduce the content they copy in search engine or summary results, as described here in a story from 2016 (story).

Germany and Spain have also passed “search engine taxes” as “anti-piracy laws” which may remind one of the SOPA battle in the US in late 2011.  The result is that some smaller publishers that do “news aggregation” left Spain completely.  These laws were passed apparently under pressure from legacy print newspapers that could not survive Internet competition.
Theoretically, this sounds like a “hyperlink tax”.  In the US, back around 2000, a few companies tried to ban others sites (even amateur sites) from deep hyperlinks without permission (on the theory that this denied them front page ad revenue) until courts told them that this was no different from footnotes on a term paper.  It even seems potentially connected to the European idea of “moral rights” which is now up for comment with the US Copyright office.

There would be an interesting question whether blogs like mine (with their heavy use of labels) to :"connect the dots" really amount to "news aggregation" under European (and eventually US) law.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bloggers face judgment for "hostile environment harassment" in condo case for criticizing dog ownership of other residents

A disturbing ruling from the Third Circuit (Philadelphia) about a case in the Virgin Islands territory established a dangerous precedent, perhaps, saying that a blogger(s) could be liable for creating a “hostile environment” for apartment or condo residents.  The specific case concerns a blog post(s) that complained about residents maintaining emotional support dogs despite a "no dogs" rule.

Intellectual Takeout has a detailed story here by Hans Bade  and provides the opinion, referring to the Fair Housing Act (which sounds bizarre, to hold this up to another “peer” resident speaking out).
I would watch this development carefully, especially if I downsize in the future and move into a highrise myself.

It had occurred to me before thought that this sort of problem could arise.  I’m more familiar myself with this possibility in the workplace, especially for people with direct reports.

There was criticism that the First Amendment defense wasn’t used well, as in this Cato Institute post by Walter Olson 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

DMCA SafeHarbor undermined by moderation; two disturbing proposals over human trafficking

Three disturbing stories suddenly popped up like toadstools.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (Corynne McSherry) has pointed out a dangerous irony in a (normally liberal) Ninth Circuit ruling in the case of Mavrix Photo v. LiveJournal.  Mavrix specializes in celebrity images.  In a recent DMCA takedown case, Mavrix sued for copyright infringement even after LiveJournal took down some photos under supposed DMCA Safe Harbor.  Mavrix’s rationale was that LivrJournal used moderators who had a say in the content that stays up.

 The Ninth Circuit overturned a district court and said that the case can go to trial.

But the irony is that some copyright owners want platforms to be more pro-active, which YouTube has become by screening videos for watermarks of known infringing videos

The Findlaw reference is here.

It’s interesting that a LiveJournal user writes that the LJ TOS forces users to comply with “Russian law”, link.

EFF also reports on a “Human  Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act”.  This is a model bill proposed in at least twelve states requiring perhaps technologically obscenity filters on cell phones, tablets and computers.  h  The Daily Beast has a story about the man behind the legislation.
These all appear to be state bills right now, which would require a $20 charge to remove the filter from any device sold in the state.  The EFF article by Dave Maass calls this “ransoming the Internet” and points out it does nothing directly about trafficking, rather seems to interrupt "pornography addiction".

Proponents of the bill say it will not create a “black book” registry for consumers to disable the filter.
I’m surprised not to see EFF yet take up the proposal by MO congresswoman Ann Wagner  to modify Section 230 to combat human trafficking, partly in reaction to the BackPage case, link here.  The most obvious weakness of the bill is provision (4), what “reckless disregard” would mean.  This can become an existential threat to service providers and we will surely hear more about this soon.

Pictures: from new Harriet Tubman State Park near Cambridge. MD

Friday, April 07, 2017

Fake bad Yelp review by a competitor leads to successful litigation by a jeweler in Massachusetts

Here is another story of a bad reviews lawsuit on Yelp. In this case, a jeweler sued a worker or relative of an owner of a rival shop in Massachusetts for a fake “bad review” that seems to have been posted maliciously.

The Patriot Ledger has a story,as does WCVB.   Part of the review included compensation for emotional distress.

Section 230 would still protect Yelp, but it could come under increased pressure.

The story was located on local stations around the country, like WJLA in Washington. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Social media companies are replacing traditional media companies, so they have the responsibility to pre-screen??; more on revenge trolling and "privilege"

Today, Emily Bell in the Guardian argues that social media companies are publishers, in this article.    She notes that there is not enough advertising money (or subscription or paywall) in “legitimate” traditional journalism.

She asks, who pays reporters for Facebook feeds, and draws a parallel in social media with the fake news crisis of 2016 with the financial crisis of 2008.

There’s a bit of irony.  Facebook (and Myspace) were originally envisioned for “true” social networking.  Facebook especially has morphed into a news distribution tool run by users.  It may have wanted to build social capital online, and maybe depending on GoFundMe rather than paid family leave sometimes does that.

Today Milo Yiannopoulos reported a story and video about a working class man in Britain who confronted an upper class kid who had trolled him on Twitter for  criticizing Islam.  The kid thought he was stirring up “hate”.  There was a rather profound conversation at the end of the video of the encounter about growing up with privilege (which can be overdone, given Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s book)/

Monday, April 03, 2017

Post title generation (it sounds silly); more tips on fact-checking by readers; grain of salt on Russian bots

Today I got a rather silly email offering a “blog post title generator” that would also presumably help with SEO optimization (for example ). The email also mentioned needing something to blog about, which sounds rather circular.

I usually think of my own titles by using quirky observations from my own experience.  I had never even thought of the idea of an automated title generator.  I wonder what “Blog Tyrant” would think.
In the fake news world, Margaret Sullivan has a front page article in the Washington Post Style section, “learning how to find news, not bunkum”, or, online, “Don’t get fooled by the bogus links, bots, and pure bunk; here’s how”.   That comports with “International Fact Checking Day” on Sunday April 2, as explained on Politifact by Angie Dronic Holan.

 The points are well taken, especially varying your news diet, and cross checking the other posts on a news site for context.  (I have to say, however, that both Breitbart and now Milo seem usually credible factually.)
I take with a grain of salt the idea that Russian hackers actually threw the 2016 presidential election with fantastic conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, using bots to throw them into social media algorithms and depending on the stupidity of very polarized voters to believe them.  Her whole email “scandal” really was a matter of unwise workplace practices, something I have had thirty-plus years of experience with in my own IT career and could relate to.  Some of it also related to the “sex offender” label, which again came up with a “fake impression” incident during my own substitute teaching.  I guess I had never heard the end of that 2005 incident. .

Friday, March 31, 2017

CNN report suggests laptop bans in aircraft cabins could expand and strain business and some personal travel

CNN is claiming an exclusive scoop on FBI reports that terrorists in Yemen may have developed a way to place a manually operable bomb in a laptop component with a laptop that will still power up long enough to escape airport security detection.  The story by Evan Perez Jodi Enda and Barbara Starr is here.  Terrorists seem to have gotten hands on some detection equipment to test their devices.

The tone of the story suggests that the current ban on in-cabin laptops and tablets from certain Islamic country airports may not be enough. On Friday night, CNN AC360 suggested bluntly suggested that the question of a complete laptop ban is begged. but modern airports have layers of security beyond actual detection.

But an NBC story today (by Pete Williams and Ken Delanian) denies that such a policy for domestic US airlines is likely any time soon.
Travelers, for work or often for those like me with closely held small businesses, need secure connectivity all the time when we travel.  Hotel business centers are generally not adequate, and the capacity of FedEx and UPS stores is maybe somewhat limited.  But industry has, since the mid 2000s (even given 9/11) assumed that most travelers carry their own electronics and laptops and have not developed a “car rental” model for electronics.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Large corporate advertisers now appear on fewer sites, hurting "amateur" Internet self-publishers needing the income

Many advertisers, especially larger corporations, may reduce the number of websites their ads appear on, according to a Business Day story in the New York Times Thursday May 30, 2017 by Sapna Maheshwari.  The title is “A Bank had ads on 400,000 sites. Then just 5,000. Same results”.  The bank is J. P. Morgan Chase.

The cutbacks were first motivated by a desire that ads not appear on “fake news” sites or near hate speech.  This resistance from advertisers has grown as testimony before Congress has indicate that Russia appears to have engineering manipulating social media news streams with fake news in order to influence the 2016 presidential election.  The deliberate nature of this manipulation with various bots has been more significant than previously believed.

But now companies are realizing that they do not need to appear on amateur sites, which may either be fake or have lower volumes, in order to get product sales from ads.  This discovery could indeed endanger what the article calls the “long tail” of the “comet” of Internet advertising business models, eventually endangering free service platforms for user generated content.

I never buy products personally from online ads directly.  If I see something interesting (especially a movie or book) I will usually visit the appropriate site (usually amazon or imdb) myself shortly.  I am more likely to look for a product I “need” (such as a chess clock with 5-second delay, something I need to get soon) myself on Amazon directly.  That’s not good for everybody else, or for the business model my own Internet presence depends on.
Likewise I am very careful about opening emails because of the security issues.  Sometimes I visit the site of the company sending the email myself.  It is very difficult to “recruit” me to join causes or petitions or specific funding needs on the spot.  No fair?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Conservative magazine notes U.S. men are less physically strong than a generation ago

David French has a rather blunt article in National Review, “Young American males are losing touch with a critical element of true masculinity”, link here.

That is to say, physical strength, along with, obviously, aerobic fitness.  He makes comparisons to earlier generations, which were more used to changing their own oil, so to speak.

The gender fluidity crowd won’t like this.  Although, as French says, some women are stronger than many men, so definitely some transgender people will be, too.

But what’s also interesting in this article is the acknowledgement of a fundamental male duty to protect women and children in the tribe, which goes way beyond the narrower modern libertarian idea of personal responsibility, for one’s own choices.   That used to be the way it was, and it also had an effect on the “meaning” of marriage.
Filmmaker Nev Schulman (“Catflish”) posted this on Facebook this morning and asked. “Do you think that being strong and working with your hands makes you masculine”?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

CBS 60 Minutes gives a report on fake news, which itself is almost salacious

Scott Pelley, on CBS 60 Minutes this Sunday evening, produced a most disturbing report on the reliance of so many Americans on “fake news” sites and their willingness to believe their contents.

And the episode clarifies is this is not about politicians (Donald Trump) claiming an inconvenient truth is fake news, but actual made-up salacious falsehoods believed by millions.

And some of the purveyors, including a southern California lawyer who provides some of the stories on a site named but not hyperlinked in the story, claim they believe the stories.

The episode also explained how bots provide false “likes” of social media, making the stories appear more popular than they are, to increase advertising war.  Some of the bots are software created in Russia.

My own stories and blog posts use credible news outlets as much as possible, rather than any sites like those claimed to be fake.  I do consider Breitbart and Milo to be valid.

The broadcast did review the Comet Ping Pong incident (“Pizzagate”) in Washington DC.   The owner suddenly started getting threats in social media, after bizarre connections to Clintons’ campaign were rumored (details ).  It’s curious that people don’t believe these when in print in supermarket tabloids (which were targeted, remember, in the 2001 anthrax attacks), but do when they go viral online.  Petual Dvorak has a perspective comparing fake news writers to real reporters here.

In the video above, Ashton Kutcher compares real stories about trafficking to the fake news conspiracy theories.

I do cover stories that I think are legitimate and not sufficiently covered by mainstream media – like about the fragility of the power grids to solar storms or physical terror or EMP as well as cyberterror.  One can “connect the dots” from totally credible sources.

I am constantly bombarded with invitations to increase my Twitter followers.

The plea deal for Edgar Welch in the Comet Ping Pong case was recently announced, here.

Update: March 29

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports on a California bill, AB 1104, that would criminalize the posting of fake news that could influence an election or referendum vote (imagine how that could affect gay issues).  The latest is that the bill has been pulled.

The Washington Post has an op-ed by Margaret Sullivan (Style section) about the possibility of libel suits over fake news, especially Comet Ping Pong, and whether an apology (as from the Alex Jones Channel) can matter.  The business owners still face consequences from the fact that a gullible portion of the public still believes the stories.

Paul Fahri has a story in the same page about whether readers can distinguish news from opinion, which I will probably take up soon in more detail on Wordpress/

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Advertisers finding themselves displayed near what they perceive as hate speech on the Web; tech companies wonder about more pre-screening for ads

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg have a detailed article on the front page o the Washington Post today, “Advertisers find it hard to avoid sites spewing hate”.  Online, the title is more specific, “For advertisers, algorithms can lead to unexpected exposure on sites spewing hate”.
The long story explains how mainstream tech companies like ATT won’t use Adsense or similar services because of incidental placement near hate speech.  The story gives many examples of ads near racial , misogynist or homophobic slurs.

Some advertisers complain that their ads appear near comments that are hateful even though the main articles are not.

However, some advertisers don’t won’t any connection to sites thought to be hateful or white supremacist (like Spencer), or even perceived as so conservative that they are unempathetic to ordinary people (like Breitbart, or perhaps Milo).  When I look at Breitbart (or Milo) right now, I see plenty of ads (but more of the sportsman, hunter type) but I don’t see any stories that are “hateful” in the narrower sense of the word I am used to.  I do see a preoccupation with the Trojan horse problem, which is what terrorists want to exploit   And I do see a resentment of gender-related “political correctness” and safe zones.

But many advertisers say they want the big tech companies to scan content more carefully.  This issue remains very critical to the Internet business model that feeds ungated user generated content.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Senate undoes FCC oversight of consumer privacy v. ISP's; border searches

The Senate voted 50-48 to take away the online privacy rules that limit data collection by ISP’s from consumers, presumably to sell to advertisers, rules that had been promulgated by the FCC.  Further, the Senate wants to prevent the FCC from regulating carrier privacy invasions in the future.  The whole idea is to be friendly to communications carrier profits.

My concern is not so much being sent ads per se, but maybe an increase in "malvertising" (malware in ads) or unwanted solicitations and disruptions from sellers, which I don't have time for.  The "sales culture" out there gets more desperate to make a living all the time.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story and petition by Kate Tummarello here.

Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post, “The Senate just voted to undo landmark rules covering your Internet privacy”  on p A16 of Friday’s Washington Post.

The change would roll back Obama's requirement that ISP's have explicit permission to access and sell consumer date.

EFF also has a detailed article by Stephanie Lacambra on the inspection of travelers’ electronics, possibly social media accounts browsing caches (even Finder or Windows Explorer activity), here   The article focuses on anonymous speech, but looking at browsing history could attract suspicion over cultural or religious perceptions.

Update: March 30

So did the House. The Verge has a tattle-tale list of the House vote.  Ezra Klein has a video on Vox explaining why ISP's. compared to social media companies, don't have the same legitimate claim on the right to sell your data.  Monopoly is one of them.

The other issue is that odd browsing habits, even if not illegal, could attract suspicion in connection with putative connection to terror, or maybe ephebophilia.

Update:  April 1

CNN;s Smerkonish is questioning the Chicken Little claims and the fact that the FCC used to have indirect control of some privacy rules under Net Neutrality.  Jon Leibowitz appeared. The status quo contiunes. "Internet privacy is an oxymoron."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump's presidency shows particular disdain for "losers", just like I have sometimes

Philip Kennicott has a provocative column in the Washington Post Style section Sunday, “Budget is not an attack on the arts”, link.

Kennicott, art and architecture critic, maintains that it is symbolic of Trump’s disdain for “losers”, to want to satisfy the urge in some people for upward affiliation, to play on a first-place team, or to have a lover that is “the best anyone could do.”  You used to hear that in the gay male community, and among straight college men.  It’s part of body fascism.
It’s this desire to make it on your own, to turn away from having to join goals that actually help peopke who are less intact and need more personal attention.

By the way, Trump just demonstrated his "winner take all" attitude by giving his own "party" an ultimatum on doing the AHCA vocte tomorrow in the House.

Trump called the Democrats losers after the Ryancare American Health Care Act went down in flames Friday March 24, .here

Monday, March 20, 2017

Volunteerism, updated

I “volunteered” Saturday afternoon at Mount Olive Methodist Church (“Community Assistance”) in Arlington, and this time I worked the food distribution line (canned and “dry measure” items).  You had to remain standing for about 80 minutes, the time it took the line to move.

There was a suggestion to be “friendly” and to “sell” some of the items (black beans) that there was plenty of, and ration some protein (tuna) that there was less of.   I’m not particularly cut out to perform as a “greeter”, or to integrate myself into “other people’s” social capital.

We got fed – and maybe I let the rest of the established team clean up, but practically all the canned items did get given away.

Again, I think it’s hard to make occasional volunteer shifts meaningful without some minimum amount of time regularly and some continual contact with the group.  The group’s goals need to merge more with mine.

I need to repair a bridge with Food and Friends – I had turned down a driving assignment for Thanksgiving because of the neighborhood (physical cowardice?) .  But I probably won’t consider volunteer driving until doing another eye examination (a floater for about a year, not progressive).
And I don’t yet have an answer on how asylum seeker hosting will turn out.  I am outside the “social capital” of the group that does it, so my participation could raise challenging questions both me and any organization that I could help (Feb. 24).  . I would need to bring my own form of “social capital” to any such effort, as well as make sure we could stay within the law.

I probably will announce more detail "changes" in my own setup on my DADT Footnotes blog on Wordpress/Blue Host, when they happen.  A move down the road is still possible.  But I'll need to go into a "sneak preview" mode soon.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Blogger claims Facebook suspended him for 24 hours for defending Milo Yiannopoulos in a post

James Delingpole writes (on Breitbart )  that he was suspended from Facebook for 24 hours for posting a piece that defends Milo Yiannopoulos.

It’s not clear if he linked to that page or included it inline.  The latter sounds more likely.  But he did not provide a link to a page showing what had written to defend his claims.   This is the first I have heard of 24 hours suspensions on Facebook.

Nevertheless, the story of the suspension is disturbing, as is this story about the permanent removal of Polandball.

And then there is a blog called “Zelo Street” with more to say about this, which I can’t make sense of.

Milo's account on Facebook still appears to work normally.   But he had been banned from Twitter in 2016 over his behavior with respect to actress Leslie Jones.  Milo linked to Delingpole's Breitbart story on the suspension today on Facebook himself. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Online reputation can affect immigrants and asylum seekers (DHS is your "Facebook Friend" like it or not)

A blog called “The Asylumist” by Jason Dzubow, Esq. has a posting today on online reputation for migrants, especially people entering the country for the first time, or re-entering.  It would sound logical that this could affect US citizens at the border, and that it could affect whether asylum requests are accepted.

The titled of the post is “DHS is your Friend on Facebook, whether you ‘Like’ it or not”, link.

I wrote the following comment:

"Could an asylum seeker's social media posts once in the U.S. have a bearing on his/her "credible fear" or "particular social group" status?  Suppose someone overstayed a visa but had applied for asylum status out of fear of LGBTQ persecution for certain countries (Russia, many countries in Africa, and Islamic countries) within the one year limit, but had "outed" himself or herself on social media while in the U.S., easily discoverable in the home country. "   (Note online: I meant to say “overstayed”, not “overstated”).

Dzubow talks about “degrees of separation” of a person from a known terrorist.  In some countries, for most people this might be a low number like 3 or 4.  Actually, I am just two degrees of separation from President Trump, and only one from a number of celebrities.

See also related post March 13.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New efforts to prevent search engines from unduly affecting elections, small businesses

Craig Timberg describes an effort by Robert Epstein and his Sunlight Society to monitor the results of search engines and the possibility that they can affect elections and probably many businesses, p/ A14, Economy and Business today, link.

Note the Post's new online little caption (or aphorism, or inevitable epigram), "Democracy dies in darkness".

The behavior of search engines early in the history of the Internet helped amateurs, as sites with simpler technology and direct or hard-coded links tended to score higher that results generated by internal database searches.  In more recent years, search engines have tended to rank results from more “professional” or “institutional” sources higher than in the past.  This does help people defend their online reputations from possible attacks from rivals.

Oddly, I couldn’t get a site for Sunlight Society to come up in a Google search just now.

Monday, March 13, 2017

American citizens have electronics seized and searched at airports, Canadian border, without probable cause.

NBC News reports that American citizens are now occasionally being held at borders and electronics searched for some time, as in this story.  Most of these citizens were Muslim but were native born.  

 The video told the story of a young couple held when re-entering New York State from Canada.

This is not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment if it happens at a border.  But the misuse of data later without court supervision would be a constitutional issue.
These incidents did increase after Trump’s inauguration.

In May 1997, I drove across the border from Montana into Saskatchewan along dirt  farm roads because I had forgotten my passport (they could ask for a birth certificate then -- but this was before 9/11).   I don't think you can do that now.  (Or maybe migrants do.)

None of this would apply to routine security screening of electronics items before getting onto domestic planes.  Ability to travel without damaging laptops especially would always remain a critical issue.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

ADA requirements could compromise "free content" libraries (even on YouTube) and open access

FEE, Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian site, has another cautionary tale about UC Berkeley.  No, it’s not just about Milo Yiannopoulos, although he has indeed found a real iceberg. The piece, by Brittany Hunter, titles itself “When equal access means zero access for all”.

The university has a digital library of lectures and videos, over 20000 items, that it was trying to offer for free.  (Yup, it’s the “It’s free” thing in Reid Ewing’s short film – we really need this film back in circulation.)  It seems that associates at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, a school for the deaf, filed suit under the ADA complaining that the materials were not readily accessible for the deaf (the videos that is, without close captioning.)

The facts seem confusing.  Many of the videos at issue were on a YouTube channel, and some had manually generated, and others had automatically generated (by YouTube) close captioning.
Apparently the complaint is about a small number of YouTube videos with no captioning. In any case, UC wound up removing the entire library from free access thru YouTube or similar platforms. I suppose the same could have happened with Vimeo.  (What about movie companies that provide private review screeners through Vimeo?)

I could ramble here.  I could say that’s like complaining about a foreign language movie without English subtitles.  In fact, I’ve managed a couple times with French or German subtitles for rare Asian movies (“Mermaid in a Manhole”).  But that’s off the subject.

More seriously, I could wonder if any amateur provider on YouTube could be approached or served with the same complaint.  Even me.

I wondered about related questions when self-publishing my books.  I don’t have the scale for audiobooks, or large print, or other accommodations.  POD can confound this question.  I may well take this question up later on my Book review blog, and come back to this question soon on a Wordpress blog that looks at these things as  bigger pictures.  But this problem would also relate quickly to open access.

Wikipedia documentary on first picture: By brainchildvn on Flickr - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

Friday, March 10, 2017

Marine Corps photo sharing scandal looks bad for social media services

The recent scandal of unauthorized photo-sharing in the Marine Corps of indecent images of female Marines certainly draws attention to how social media can be disruptive on the job and particularly in the military. 

Business Insider has a detailed account of the potentialities here.  Servicemen attempted to circumvent the closing of a Facebook group by going to a message board site called AnonIB.  I tried to go to the “.co” domain and instant got a (heterosexual) pornographic message and nude female image.

In the backdrop, of course, is the cultural change over women in combat, and, more distantly, gays in the military.  But it’s unlikely that gay photosharing would get very far in the military even given the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”. 


This could add to Trump’s distrust of computers and Internet culture, with serious consequences for free speech in other areas later. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Facebook Live presents new issues of "pro-actively" screening out violence, even given Section 230

Deepa Seetharaman (with Stu Wood) has a disturbing story In the Wall Street Journal March 7, front page. “Facebook wasn’t ready for video’s dark side: After rushed rollout, company wrestles with how to censor violence”, link. Online it gets updated as “Facebook under fire over policing of questionable content; BBC says social networking service didn’t remove child photos reported to it”.

I’ve watched plenty of wholesome Facebook Live videos.  I watched Bryce Harper have a Super Bowl party at his huge home (is that near Las Vegas?) before coming to MLB Spring Training.  I watched young OAN correspondent Trey Yingst, 23, talk about Aleppo.  I watched Milo Yiaannopoulos host a Christmas Party (in West Hollywood?) without ranting about feminism or BLM.  But the story reports Diamond Reynolds’s video of her husband’s shooting by police in (normally civil) Minneapolis – where I had lived some of the best years of my life, 1997-2003.

I would even say this is a good thing, to keep possibly abusive law enforcement in check.

Facebook may not have grasped the implications – but in a nation of 300 million-plus and in a world beset by polarization and hateful sectarian conflict, there will be parties who want to show off their brutality, regardless of later consequences for them (getting caught, or attracting military response).

No doubt, this problem is sure to add pressure on the Section 230 debate.

Update: March 14

Wired (Emma Grey Lewis) argues that Facebook must do a lot more pre-emptively against revenge porn, which it compares to terror propaganda and child porn, here.  Note how she works in the theme of amateurism.

Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Washington Post reports that Facebook is implementing measures to ban the use of its data by police to monitor protesters and activists (or "resisters") here