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.  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. .