Thursday, January 23, 2020

Visitor questions in comments whether my content is simply gratuitous; fairness in advertising; non-profits want joiners, not speakers



I have a couple of topics today.

In mid December, I went to a screening of a film “Freelancers: Mexico” from Journeyman Pictures, directed by a journalism professor, Bill Gentile, at American University, shown  at the Newseum before it closed.  As is my custom, I filmed brief clips of the QA.  This is usually allowed at most independent films screenings (I think there has been only one time it wasn’t).  I often will ask one question as I did here but I usually don’t record by own question, just because of time constraints in uploading stuff at home later.

I got a bizarre sequence of comments to this one video of a film producer speaking, and her (the speaker’s) content was innocuous politically (despite the sensitivity of the topic of the film – journalists’ safety in Mexico given the current political climate with Trump).

The commenter keeps insisting on my explaining why I recorded and reported on this, unless someone else asked me about his home country, Mexico.  What is his point?  I looked up his playlist on YouTube and the name on Google, and there are many people with that name, including one relatively high profile popular musician.

Now, the video does not have ads, so at first there does not seem to be any conceivable disclosure issue.  It is true, however, that bloggers and vloggers are expected by the FTC to disclose if anyone paid them for the content (sponsored them), or if anyone provided them a free copy or rental or ticket for a film or copy of a book to review. 

This seems to be more a “skin in the game” problem, where the commenter doesn’t believe people should not write or film online (in their own channels) about things that will not directly affect them, unless they are credentialed as “professional” journalists.  That has been part of the culture war online the last two years.
  
But Virtual Legality today published a video on a bigger problem about Google ads, and the possibility of deception with regard to FTC rules.  He refers to a recent Verge article by Jon Porter, link.
  
  
Much of the discussion has to do with Google’s arguably making sponsored ads (specifically for Google Search) “look like” search results.  Hoeg is concerned that advertisers, especially professionals, could get into trouble if they advertise on platforms that aren’t following FTC disclosure rules.

“Your company is responsible for what others do on your behalf”, Hoeg says, paraphrasing the FTC.

It seems odd that in one post I run into something that affects both very tiny channels and very large corporate operators.



  
There’s one other thing today “as part of this little ordeal” (to quote a favorite video). Recently, I visited an exurban community independent bookstore (in an old house) some distance away in rural Maryland. There had been a news story about the owner who has Parkinson’s.  I wrote up the visit on my Books blog (see Profile), but I gave him my information.  Tuesday, I got two personalized mailings from Parkinson’s Foundation.  I get a lot of non-profit mailings, although I do most of my donations in automated fashion at a bank – and that does not work out well for many of them.  I had a cousin die of ALS (which I give to regularly through the bank) and have met people with MS.  These are all different diseases, perhaps autoimmune.  But non-profits are desperately trying to recruit activists who will focus specifically on them, not bloggers who just mention them.  This loops back to the first part of this post.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

COPPA classification controversies start to happen; channel owners learn to be careful whom they accept linkage offers from; More on patronage and self-sufficiency


Leo Laporte of Twot TV reports misidentifications of YouTube channels as made for kids.


It also reports a case where a channel was suspended after it had accepted a link invitation to another channel that then got three copyright strikes.  But this is how the rules work.  One should be careful about accepting such an invitation, essentially giving up some independence and sharing the risk of a larger business, in order to gain more potentially paying customers or advertisers. 
    
An entertainer (“Badbunny”) on Twitch (Pakman likes this service) is complaining that viewers don’t donate to her (Reclaimthenet story).  This could be a significant point even though it sounds silly, as over time tech may not want to host speakers whose content doesn’t pay for itself – that’s a concern I’ve talked about before

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Regulation of facial regulation software: would this stop with governments?; Twitter tells a startup not to harvest images


The media has been warning the public about the dangers of new AI and facial recognition software and its use in public places.


Buzzfeed says it should be banned.  The Washington Post points out that false positives are a real risk especially for African Americans.  This could even happen at airports even for people carrying lawful passports, the Post warns.   The New York Times wants to allow very limited use by law enforcement.

Other observers suggest that their should be maximum retention periods.

Many observers rightfully worry that western governments could become as invasive in public places as China and use the data in calculating social credit scores on persons that go beyond due process. 
   
That might be a particular risk for access to air travel.
   
It would seem logical to ask what happens if individual private interests get ahold of the software. 
   
For example, I have a library over maybe 20,000 personal photos.  Many of them are outdoors with no identifiable people, but some do have people, like in discos.  People have generally become more sensitive about being photographed by people they don’t know (as in discos) than they used to be, since about 2010.  But relatively few bars have no photography policies.  I’ve discussed the issue (with a couple of incidents) on my GLBT blog in the past.



Update: Jan. 23 

The New York Times reports, in a Business sections story by Kashmir Hill, that Twitter has sent a cease-and-desist to a company called Clearview not to scrape images from Twitter for a facial recognition database.  That is obviously because the company wants to deploy the images commercially for security customers.  But theoretically that could mean that a social media company or newspaper would object to people keeping images on their hard-drives even for private use (never published online).  It still might be picked up in the Cloud if someone developed the tools to do this to go after individual users.  You could imagine combining this idea with the Case Act (not yet passed) and the Copyright Office, if you wanted to. 

Monday, January 20, 2020

Biden threatens to eliminate Section 230 if he can; SCOTUS may look at an unusual 230 case involving Facebook and Hamas


Hoeg Law analyzes some statements by presidential candidate Joe Biden that suggest that Biden wants to do away with Section 230. "Joe Biden Wants to Break the Internet (and Video Games). 

  
The video is based on a New York Times Editorial Interview of Joe Biden a few days ago. 

Hoeg Law explains well the reasons for Section 230 and the “good Samaritan clause” which addresses the “moderator’s paradox”, even though there have been many problems with content moderation (and demonetization).

Biden seems unaware of how the Internet really works.  He wants to be the Luddite who enforces localism as a way to bring stability. 
    
But there are ways in which gratuitous self-publishing can skew the economy and in some cases exacerbate inequality.  I’ll come back to all of that soon.




Update:  Jan 22

The Supreme Court will look at an unusual challenge regarding a Facebook account and a soldier killed by Hamas to Section 230, regarding apparently the way the Seventh Circuit interpreted some justification clause wording in the statute, story by Mike Swift in Marketing Insight.  This story will need more attention soon. (Not sure if SCOTUS has accepted it yet.) 

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A new approach to "bundling" news access online? Do "amateur" bloggers "threaten" establishment journalism livelihoods merely by aggregating links? Protectionism?


I noticed this morning in an email from Blendle Daily Digest that when it sends links to various interesting news stories, it now charges a microamount (usually less than $0.50) to read the story. Forbes has an article on the company (Parul Guliani, March 2016). 
  
Obviously, the news aggregation company has set up license agreements with the various publishers to do so. The company would have to operate email subscription lists and find people willing to stay on the list (in a world where people want to eliminate mass emails as potential “spam” – I often disagreed with “Blogtyrant’ on this point in the past). One question would be, is this an effective way to “consolidate” or “bundle” paywalls? 
I suppose for a consumer willing to get “their” daily news from one filter that’s possible. I don’t like that because then I am dependent on any political bias of the provider (although I don’t really see evidence of any in the email from this company -- which apparently has to handpick the articles).
    
Another problem is that blogs (like mine) often offer links to articles.  When a visitor goes to such a link, the visitor may find a paywall.  The publication may allow a few free articles a month, but some do not – partly because they can be spread among devices and different IP addresses.  In my operation and view, my visitor is responsible for their own paywall arrangements – and I’d like this to be easier than it is.  I have digital subscriptions to the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and a few periodicals. I generally will get the print subscription if I subscribe at all, but in a couple of cases the subscriptions have not connected to the digital part easily.  It is all rather clumsy. I’d rather have bulk subscription bundles like magazines used to have in the past.

There is at least one publisher, Fox News, that has thrown HTTP-403-forbiddens when I try to link to their main site from Blogger (can do indirectly through Twitter).  

Generally broadcast network site articles are free to browse and don’t have paywalls (which may related to the idea that Fox doesn’t want amateur sites linking to it?)

Then you have the idea that the EU, for European members, wants publishers to collect a link tax – although according to a Google article that applies only to quotes now.

But clearly some media companies are sensitive to the idea that not only search engines but individual commentators or “citizen journalists” aggregate the news with links to provide their own perspective, often for free (or with ads). I don’t know how this plays out when a YouTube channel presents the article text and scrolls through it in a video to comment on the story.  Some local news stations will have disclaimers like “this news story may not be rewritten or redistributed” on their sites.

Well, since 2000, as I recall, the courts have defended mere hyperlinks as fair use, as essentially the same as term paper footnotes. But Electronic Frontier Foundation as recently as 2018 had to write an amicus letter noting that in a hyperlink suit against BoingBoing.  And there is still a case in New York State regarding embeds, which are a kind of hyperlink (Goldman and Breitbart, see Feb. 17, 2018 here).


The video above discusses the problem in the EU (as of 2017, before the link tax became controversial with the EU Copyright Directive). 

What’s more at issue seems to be a kind of herd health for the whole publishing world.  Companies like Blendle could feel that bloggers who offer links and footnotes for free are undermining things, when these companies need to make money to employ people – there is a degree of familiar protectionism in this argument. In time, social media platforms or even hosting companies may not want their customers to do this because it is seen as bad for other people’s jobs – this sounds like could become a “philosophical” rather than legal threat in the future in the next couple of years.  We’ve lost a lot of ground on free speech and citizen journalism in the past few years as the world is becoming more populist and collectivist on both sides.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Virginia will reconsider strengthening its anti-SLAPP law in 2020 (as well as gun control)


Electronic Frontier Foundation, in a deeplinks article by Joe Mullin, reports that Virginia is now considering an anti-SLAPP statue, HB 759 compared to the current law.

EFF reports several egregious SLAPP suits that have occurred in Virginia, particularly in some Yelp review cases, as well as reporting domestic violence and setting up parody accounts.


Virginia has typically been slower than bigger states (esp. New York and California) to protect both consumers and speakers. 

There will be major demonstrations regarding the Second Amendment near the State Capitol on Richmond on MLK day, Monday, January 20, when the weather will have (finally) turned to seasonably cold again.
  
The video above refers to a similar attempt in Virginia in 2017.

Monday, January 13, 2020

New "PROTECT Kids" Act HR 5573 would make COPPA-like compliance even more problematic for YouTubers


Hoeg Law has offered a video explaining a new bill in Congress, HR 5573, “Protect Kids” or “Protect real online threats endangering children today”, introduced by Tim Walberg (R-MI) or Bob Rush (D-IL).


Engadget has a preliminary summary of the bill by Igor Bonifacic, here.

Several points come into play. One is that the COPPA age increases from 13 to 16, which would obviously make it much harder to protect certain content (especially related to games) as “not made for kids”.  I think that were this to happen, Hoeg’s idea of invisible age-gates would become absolutely necessary, and I think (as I have said before) they could be built into routers (so families can have different levels of access with different accounts).

The Engadget article argues that they would apply to mobile apps, but really they already did, as Hoeg explains.

More significant, as Hoeg explains toward the end of his video, is the “catch 22” or feedback circularity in the law, that would require websites or apps that are predicated on collecting kids’ information to remove that info if requested to do so by parents later, without denying the kids’ ability to at least access the website or app.  He gave certain Pokemon Go apps (which I have seen teenagers play outside, like near the Angelika theater in Fairfax Va) as an application that could no longer exist.
  
Hoeg reports that there was a Tech Freedom conference today in the Capitol visitors’ center today (Washington DC) on COPPA, which may not have covered this new legislation, link.  I’ll check to see if there is a video of it later. I may not have as much time as I used to for going to these events because of changes I have had to announce in my own priorities recently (as here on Jan. 9).

Friday, January 10, 2020

YouTube apparently promises to allow some monetization of political and "yellow coded" content, reinstates Ford Fischer's channel for partner program; some improvement in EU Article 17 situation


Ironically, at almost the same time I was announced my own plans to scale back starting especially in 2022 (yesterday), there was a significant positive development in free speech yesterday.  Ford Fischer (News2share) announced his channel had been re-monetized, in good faith, by YouTube.

Still the history of all this is very troubling. If you want to review the history, for example, here are three good articles on Gizmodo, The Verge, and the Washington Examiner from last summer on the facts, with some theories.  Human Events has a more psychological explanation that this is Silicon Valley’s establishment wanting to remain its hold on cultural power.   A major theme in most news accounts is that YouTube is unable, with algorithms or workforce, to properly identify meta-speech: that is, distinguish between actual hate speech and journalism that talks about hate speech. 

  
In summary, YouTube handled the Crowder-Maza-gate fiasco inconsistently (“VoxAdpocalypse), and then very suddenly announced a draconian policy in hate speech June 5; it’s not clear if this was coincidental or directly related to Maza’s manipulations, but it certainly looks like YouTube acted in bad faith.

Moreover, David Pakman has noted that recommendation algorithms no longer choose him, put pick corporate news instead;  several times, Pakman has lost revenue to intentionally bogus DMCA takedowns from major media outlets for live-streaming public domain material.

You see a bigger pattern.  Corporate media’s own protectionism, spread to advertisers on YouTube.

You can make up arguments that as a private platform, YouTube was entitled, at least legally, to exclude content that shows political polarization or hateful behavior by protesters, on the theory that lest sophisticated visitors would never understand the context and get radicalized anyway. It’s rather speculative, although some marginalized groups’ members (especially when congregated) are more endangered by and vulnerable to hate just because of tribal emotion, when stoked, than us elites and individualists want to admit.  (“This may be not be good news but we want to keep you safe….”)   

It sounded to a lot of us that YouTube could have set up a separate playpen for political content (comparable logically to “not made for kids”) and pitched it to advertisers who were more interested in that material. But they have faced resistance, and fielded the idea that raw news gathering is for professionals.  Non-journalists (by profession) were supposed to sell things (like life insurance) and march in protests or give money to candidates and organize rather than just film them and show them up.

YouTube’s chaos wound up, however, hurting minorities’ ability to organize as well as hurting individual speakers.

Ford Fischer has probably frightened mainstream media by showing how he can lead what appears to be a loose association of other journalists and contractors and produce more raw footage content (except in actual war zones) in many areas and showing it than even mainstream media does, at much lower cost. This is called, well, innovation.  Finding more efficient ways to get the work done.  Yes it can slip into the gig economy.  On the other hand, it can upscale and merge with corporate media.  Ford’s original business partner Trey Yingst, from American University (Washington DC) now is a leading foreign correspondent for Fox (at age 26), often in Israel and in conflict areas (like Gaza sometimes), and recently in Baghdad. At a certain point, it becomes impossible to report on large conflict (especially in non-democratic countries) without the resources of major media corporations  (Philadelphia Inquirer story).  

All this suggests that at some point major media outlets will need to employ the content produced by independent providers (which happen’s now with Ford’s material, both as news footage and documentary film material).  Ford also has some material that he may produce or direct himself as film in the usual industry (I’ve suggested he look at film direction, and pointed some places like Bryant Lake Bowl in Minneapolis where indie film creators often meet – a resource I recall from living there before. It’s all too easy to imagine a documentary series called “Protesters” winding up on cable.)

You could say that the “larger” independent news and commentary content creators (David Pakman is a good example, as is Tim Pool, and many others, although many of these do mostly interviews and analysis or commentary as opposed to Ford’s emphasis on raw footage with extensive and long length filming of protest events as is) are creating companies themselves that are likely to become sizable enough to have regular employees, benefits, etc., and become “mid-sized” providers like Vox, Buzzfeed, Vice (or on the conservative side, Breitbart).  They may become corporatized.  An important part of this process will be the ability to get customers to pay for content in a normal commercial sense, outside of donations (patronage) or behavioral advertising (persistent identifiers or cookies and the problems they create for visitor privacy, that are getting even more serious).  

The Human Events link above proposes that platform use be set up legally as a “civil right” to prevent more Maza-Crowder-gates, or to downgrade the false sense of power that Silicon Valley has.  
   
 I have noted in previous posts that this sort of belief (that you have a right to no gatekeeping) is na├»ve, especially if you consider how the world worked until the late 1990s.   It is likely that eventually platforms like YouTube and even the “free speech” replacements today will windup background-checking (and even “social-credit”) persons who want to broadcast themselves on platforms.  Legitimate commercial viability (in the normal consumer sense) will matter.  However, the larger independent creators (who have built the technical skills and new efficiencies and have some ability to organize or hire others) will probably be OK in this environment, and that would include many of the major “independent” news and commentary channels today.
  
But, alas, wait, in the midst of COPPA and everything else, in late November, Susan Wojcicki sent a letter to creators saying there will be more effort to match “yellow” rated videos with more narrowly focused advertisers after all, which may “finally” explain YouTube’s finally agreeing to allow News2share (and probably other affected channels) some monetization  “again”. (See the embedded video above.)  Note that the letter, toward the end, notes some recent improvements with behind-the-scenes negotiations with the EU in the interpretation of Article 17 of the Copyright Directive. This is important and I will come back to this in a subsequent post with more details (concerning a platform's downstream liability.)    Somehow, this whole narrative reminds me of my own ninth grade. 

Thursday, January 09, 2020

My future plans, as recently announced on another site: more comments (major scale-back at the end of 2021)



OK, folks, it is time for a little candor.  Some visitors may know that I posted some details about my future plans on a sister Wordpress site Tuesday (Jan 7).

My content, since 1997, has comprised three books under the “Do Ask Do Tell” wordmark, a smaller booklet (“Our Fundamental Rights”, 1998), a large legacy web site (at one time there were two of them), and about twenty blogs (one hibernating blog was discontinued in 2016 but the content was backed up). Aside from some book sales royalty and for some small advertising revenue (Amazon and Adsense) most of the content has largely been free for visitors.  I have generally been very stable in keeping the sites up and have, especially since about spring 2008, posted almost every day.   In the meantime, over the past eight years or so, a large video blogging industry of independent creators has evolved, many of whom depend on it for a living, especially ad revenue, and we all know that in the past two years especially, there have been many controversies.  My way of working is legacy and older and was dependent on search engine results, even without optimizing, and was quite effective with some issues (like gays in the military at first) for a number of years, especially under Web 1.0, even as my own techniques were primitive and simple and mostly text.

I am exploring some opportunities for activity that would bring actual revenue.  There is evidence now of some interest in the motion picture world (more of that later), as well as (finally) a novel that I have planned, and some music (two or three works in particular) that have lay fallow since the early 1960s (my youth) that I think have some genuine promise for performance if developed with modern software (like Sibelius).  All of these I am working on. 

However, I am 76 now (birthday in the summer) and I have to be concerned about support were anything to “happen to me” or cause me to be unable to work on the sites for an extended time.  I have to get to the point that others could integrate and work with my material. 

Moreover the political and social climate, with the multiple problems in the past few years (especially since Charlottesville) are making the sustainability of highly individualized speech, outside of organizations, questionable unless the speech pays its own way.  This is tangential to the better known problems with click-baiting, cookies, privacy, and supposed radicalization that results from channeling audiences into echo chambers;  that I don’t do. 


My own effectiveness is dependent on my self-branding, though my legal and nicknames, and through the “doaskdotell” mark.  I discussed these in the Wordpress blog post.  Essentially, I need to find a larger entity that can make legitimate commercial use of the mark by late 2021 (expiration is in early December 2021).  “Commercial” means that users pay for content either directly or subscription or contextual advertising, but not through patronage (or behavioral advertising). The deal of forming companies to offer bundled paywall packages (like magazine subscription packages of the past) would be desirable.  In my situation, I have custody of an inherited (now) grantor trust, not blind; so this would prohibit my “asking for money” as such (unless I somehow made the trust blind and a third party controlled disbursements from assets not in my name).  A desirable partner would be in the media business, possibly documentary film production and distribution.

All of this means that in the coming months, especially by early spring at the latest (say April) I will have to be spending much more time on the projects I mentioned above and posts will be less frequent.  I probably won’t do much filming of events not directly resulted to these efforts, unless I do find a business partner who could address these concerns.  Until that point, I must remain “the master of my ship” with my own work plan.

By the beginning of 2022, as I described in the Wordpress posting (and absent any definitive business partner), most of my blogs will go off line, although the text of the books will remain.  My online presence will have to be much smaller and be focused on matters that get genuine user or customer response that can be measured and reported. Social media participation may be much smaller.  It’s worthy of note that in 2018 Facebook actually tried to prod me to “sell stuff’ on my Facebook page (like Faraday bags, if I wanted to boost a post on power grid security, or maybe more activity with independent bookstores) so that advertisers would recognize me – again, a “skin in the game” argument, and I may take up this advice by early Spring this year.

Absent sudden external pressures and forces, even foreign, which I have some concern about, it is better for me (and a better reflection on me) to make this transition gradually and announce it well in advance.  I’ve seen numerous examples in the past where people have quit suddenly and “disappeared” from social media without explanation – maybe the “cesspool” effect, maybe the concern about being taken for granted personally or the “imaginary friend” problem.  These I’ve talked about recently.

Along the lines of this “imaginary friend” issue, I do get criticism, personally or in emails, not so much from articles or YouTube channels, that there is something wrong with weighing in on things publicly when you don’t have personal skin in the game, people who depend on you personally, or don’t belong to an already vulnerable group or won’t admit to such.  You guessed it, this largely comes from the far Left right now.  But it has come from the “family values” world of the evangelical right in the past.  (Twenty years ago, I really did have “skin in the game” with the “don’t ask don’t tell” issue, in a paradoxical, retrograde way; that’s a long narrative I have already presented.)  But there is something disquieting about claiming “influence” over things and yet not caring personally about the people who could be affected.  This is all part of a nebulous problem characterized by various slogans or memes: cherry-picking, “you can do better than that”, “I told you so”, “we can’t do this without you”, or, yes, imaginary friends.

True, I get asked, why don’t I volunteer for a progressive group and meet the people and learn to interact with them personally (and cross the class divide).  Why don’t I “raise money” for established groups first?  Well, with the trust situation, I have no right to ask for money for anybody (except in very limited ways from Facebook drives.)  Why don’t I take my turn staying with the homeless?  This is all heading in a Marxist direction but I get the point.  I’ll have more to say soon about the inheritances issue on the Retirement blog (since I have it for a while).  I do think we are headed for a world where individual speakers will have to demonstrate some kind of  personal "social credit" by international norms set up by the tech industry, which should not be tied to the idea of intersectiona; group oppression or status. Maybe the crytocurrency industry will provide some sort of partial escape hatch, but right now it is very clumsy to use. 
          
I did make some speculations on what I would do from 2022 and beyond on the other post.  One very important point:  No organization can speak for me, so I don’t donate to publications (Truthout is one of the most aggressive) that claim only they can provide me the news I need and protect me from politicians. Likewise, I can’t really speak for someone else.  I do welcome the opportunity to contribute specific material, whether about arts and music (I know a lot about the issue of performing the completed Bruckner Ninth Symphony, etc.), or some national security topics (I could help a lot with the legitimacy of the EMP and prepper issues).  No, I can’t get anywhere with the idea of having been a member of an “oppressed group” and needing special protections from the big bad world because of that (although I do get where some of the “safe space” crowd is really coming from). 
  
I will work as an election “judge” three times this year in Fairfax county (that is community service in effect—very long hours) but I will not contribute to political candidates.  I won’t work on political campaigns.  I never have (directly). There is something off-putting about saying you need a particular politician in office to protect yourself.

But we have a real dilemma about how political participation should work.  We have partisanship, and I hate the aggression of calling people and knocking on doors (and it could be physically dangerous now to do the latter).  But part of the reason for not only the extremism but also the corruption and lobbying, is that the center has left and let politics be hollowed out and left to the more polarized tribes.  Then individuals themselves become vulnerable, stuck “Under the Dome”.



Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Facebook executive admits that Facebook's tools, even if used legally and properly, tend to help Trump



Craig Timberg and Nitasha Tiku report that Facebook executive Andrew Bosworth report that Trump won in 2016 not because of Russians but because Trump’s team mastered Facebook’s advertising system to microtarget voters in swing states, leveraging the electoral vote power of rural voters.  
  
This doesn’t seem to be about misinformation.  It’s more about skilled use of persistent identifiers, now a big controversy with laws like COPPA (CCPA has similar effects with regular websites).
  
The article went into bizarre references to the Lord of the Rings, where Frodo wants to keep the ring at the end, as it is the key to the knowledge of good and evil.
  
The article reports that Bosworth concedes we could have the same result in 2020. The irony is this is a logical result from a world of user-generated content with a rather non-elite readership. 
    
It was less clear how much difference illegally exported data to Cambridge Analytica made.

 I'm heeding thoughtfully the situation with Iran's "retaliation" it is too hard to say yet what it will mean. 

Monday, January 06, 2020

More talk that YouTube wants to ban all "political" content from independent creators (??)


Will YouTube eventually “ban” all political content?

Tim Pool explained his plans for YouTube in a long thread Sunday, and at one point that is what he predicts.  He says he will support his political posts (a lot of them on “Timcast”) with general cultural news, sciences, art, etc.  But by “political” does he mean, dealing with elections and candidates and parties, or does he refer to issues (inequality) too? 


But that is what I do with my twenty blogs.  Very little of my content is candidate-related or election-related;  there is a lot of issue-related content, but these are mostly things that should be related to principles (like paid family leave, Social Security sustainability, climate change, national security, power grid, Internet safety, filial responsibility, LGBTQ equality – and that is a very loaded and variable area right now.

I’ve seen a few takes on what YouTube intends for political coverage.  One is what Tim says – shadow-banning and demonetization will lead to complete bans.  Ford Fischer and David Pakman have both suggested (with plenty of evidence) that YouTube will monetize political content from large corporate legacy providers but not independent journalists. 

Another Twitter user suggested that YouTube set up a separate site for political content and court a different set of advertisers, and then court some bigger independent channels (Pool and Fischer would fit nicely into that).  But the problem is not as many users would go to it.  A lot of users really want only games, music, toys, entertainment, and even soft core stuff.

Large social media sites, mainly Facebook and YouTube (to a lesser extent Twitter) have to deal with the notion that impressionable visitors are unduly influenced by bots and algorithmic viewing recommendations based on cookies, which fund the behavioral ads that essentially pay for the content. This is not too healthy.  They could set up preferred, vetted providers whom they interview, as the larger of these (most of whom are entrepreneurs running companies with employees and contractors) provide live content that major media miss, and provide a check on the objectivity of establishment media companies (remember Covington).
   
But companies are finding that it getting, in a practical sense, riskier to allow amateurs to post what they think without supervision or gatekeeping and without some sort of business purpose.  Attracting security threats could also be an issue.

Friday, January 03, 2020

Professors censured for not enforcing very draconian speech codes in student discussions


Iowa State University is now in controversy over its “campus climate reporting system”, according to a WSJ editorial today, link

In one case a professor written up for not challenging a student who asserted that abortion and birth control are women’s issues.  The problem?  The statement “erases” trans and fluid people who need either of these.  Maybe textually this could be construed as literally true, but it defies common sense. 
  
I would say, it’s a men’s issue too, because men normally have to be responsible when they become fathers.

   
Sexologist Ray Blanchard (National Review interview, May 2019) is certainly controversial (even today on Twitter) weighs in on terminology, medicine, political correctness.  The actual need for surgery or treatment (and paying for it) belongs in the discussion, but his definition of paraphilia is interesting. 

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Could "gift subscriptions" tied to social capital improve reading habits?



Here’s an interesting, if indirect, approach to the challenge of making paywalls by publishers less of a problem.  While I’ve suggested that companies set up consolidated or bundled paywalls (the way magazine subscriptions could be bundled a half century ago), many publishers are pressing gift subscriptions.



I got such an email from the Washington Post today, inviting me to post it on Facebook or Twitter to friends or followers or else to give the code to a specific friend. The trouble is, I went in to my own account and I found the ability to redeem a gift code sent to me, but not the ability to create a “free “ one to send to someone else  (the email said it was free from premium digital subscribers but from the website it would have to be purchased).  So I can’t tell for sure if it is valid.


There have been fraud concerns with some Amazon gift cards (see Internet safety blog Dec 17, 2019).

However, pushing the idea of “free gift subscriptions” makes a point.  It implies that someone should have enough personal traction with “their” own social capital to amplify the reading habits of others, so it could be seen as a kind of “legitimate” corporate activism.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

The CCPA goes into effect New Years Day


Aaron Mak has a rather sensational story on Slate, “The big change coming to just about every website on New Year’s Day: Thanks, California”.I had linked to Ian Corzine’s video on this with a Dec. 4 post.
  
Well, it’s probably overhyped to say every website.  It’s those that earn more than $25 million gross, collect data for more than 50000 people, or earn more than 50% of their revenue from selling data they collect. This appears to be an annual threshold (not all time, which would seem to be unenforceable it it were.)


The article maintains that US businesses may spend up to $55 billion to comply.

Sara Morrison of Vox Recode has an article Dec. 30 that explains  the law from the viewpoint of the consumer.  Vox doesn't require login to view articles and doesn't have a paywall, so I would wonder where their exposure comes from (they have a detailed privacy policy), presumably mostly from large scale sponsoring advertisers. (My browser sometimes tells me that it is waiting on "outbrain", which could be a clue.) 
   
Vice (Alex Bode, Jan. 2) suggests that enforcement won't start until summer 2020. 
      
Corzine had said that you have to be concerned if you collect, even through hidden cookies, more than 137 items of personal info a day in a year, but the law (when read) seems to refer to number of households or persons unduplicated.
  
I wrote an “official post” on my notes blog about the issue today, link.  
  
YouTube channels are apparently regarded as “sites” in the law (in a manner similar to COPPA). But YouTube would normally supply visitors with the necessary option buttons.   
  
As pf now, Blogger has not yet said anything new on the work platforms for users, as it had done for the similar EU GDPR.
  
Some commentators say this legislation was mostly inspired by Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, but it is fairly easy for a company the size of Facebook to comply technically now.
    
YouTube channels and particularly hosted websites that have individual corporate advertisers as sponsors will have to be careful how they comply if the advertisers provide them material.  
Websites should be careful with third party widgets that generate dynamic url’s on their own domains.  I will investigate this problem with services often used (like PR Newswire).  I suspect there are programmers (some of whom I probably know) who have thought of this. A lot of them may be making big $$$ this winter between COPPA and CCPA solving all these problems and connecting the dots.  Good for college tech major kids on gap years. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

More storm clouds on the horizon for individual speakers (and "whistlegate" is part of it, as are the "free radicals")


Talk of ugly channels in the future continue.

Today, on CNN, a rabbi, apparently from Money NY, talking about the stabbing, suggested that social media companies (and maybe hosting platforms?) be expected to do background checks on people before letting them have accounts, and suggested they should be responsible when hate speech leads to violence.  Part of the tone of the remarks comes from the volume of threats against segments of his community especially in and around NYC.   

But the idea had been floated in Europe as a result of passing the Copyright Directive earlier this year and the “upload filter” Article 17 which would start going into effect in many EU countries now.  YouTube even admitted this possibility in the fall of 2018.

Some the rabbi's remarks sounded incorrect:  large social media platforms do automatically screen for hate speech and catch a lot of it.  Some other sites so not (or do much less).  

CNN reports that some people in Orthodox communities are concealing their identities in public (today, interview around 3:05 PM) and that president Trump could do more about this, by XO if necessary. 
   
Then today there was more blowback on Trump’s “retweetgate” regarding the whistleblower’s name (See BuzzfeedNews story by Ryan Broderick). YouTube told Tim Pool that the name cannot be repeated on its platform under any circumstances. And Bloomberg news (however conveniently) offers the opinion that Trump broke the law (the whistleblower protection act) doing this and that YouTube’s and Facebook’s policies are motivated by valid legal concern (how do you define “coordinated harm” anyway?).  Of course, other journalists maintain they are free to report whatever is public knowledge already and true.  The last part might be called into question as to the name.  But YT’s policy would mean that another person with the same name could not use his own name on their account (or in the case of FB, have an account at all). It is also worthy of note that apparently Facebook has banned linking to (conservative usually) news stories that purport to name the person (although the link that got Ford Fischer suspended did not contain the name.)  


William Feuer has a detailed article on CNBC examining how YouTube has changed its algorithm to direct content away from radical politics (especially on the right).  The article skims across the question as to whether YouTube still has moral responsibility for allowing the content to be there, or whether moral responsibility exists only with perpetrators of violence themselves.

The other angle, of concern to me, is that independent speech tends to run counter to traditional organizing and solidarity. It becomes a moral problem if it is propped up by a business model that radicalizes disadvantaged people into instability and violence, but the CNBC story would seem to quash the idea that YouTube’s existence depends on stochastic radicalization.
  
In another new BuzzfeedNews story by Kate Notopoulos, “How we killed the old Internet”, the writer characterizes Blogger (this platform) is on “life support” as owned by Google and mentions a 2018 tweet suggesting that not many people work there.  We’ll watch this one.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Could solo-owned websites some day be required to have backup persons or companies for support?



Even though I recently did a videotaping session to explain my concerns for the future of online speech with the assistance of a friend, generally I do almost all my blogging myself and I am the only person in detail with how my setup works in detail.
  
I have been pondering this more lately, and there are plans for changes that apparently must happen at the end of 2021 (two more years) that I’ll go into in more detail soon.

It does make sense to me that at some point, hosting companies and domain registrars could require backup resources.  Right now, my domain registrations are “private” but merely specify me as a technical contact and give personal information only available through the registrar (on WHOIS) going through the proper security procedures.  The largest contract for the four Wordpress blogs specify only me as the contact through mid June 2022.
  
YouTube channels are not registered as domains, although we know from COPPA that the FTC seems to think they should be. However, as I’ve indicated in the talk Dec 26, it make sense that YouTube will in due time be pickier as to who has earned the “privilege of being listened to” and having a channel. That could reasonably include specification of alternative technical contacts. 

It will be more important to work with third parties in the future than it has been.
  
There was some talk about media perils insurance for amateur bloggers in 2001 (with the National Writers Union) and again in 2008, but the idea seemed to die with the financial crisis that year.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

YouTube seems to be checking up on low-volume non-monetized channels, accidental incident with me


Is YouTube starting to look at its low-volume accounts or at least individual videos.  After finishing a blog post today of a large video recording session,  I looked at another one from June where I speak on another person’s channel (look at my tag “major video recording sessions”). 
  

Then YouTube, in a few minutes, as “help us build a better YouTube” and asks me a survey question on that video. They don’t even realize I speak in it. I gave myself a 4 out of 5 and called my own video "informative".  

Are they looking at low-volume accounts to decide later whether to get rid of them and allow only people on who “sell”?  Ironically, I had talked about that in the video recording session Thursday.
Maybe the “commercial viability” clause isn’t as innocuous as it has been interpreted to be? 

Or are they simply looking at when people look at specific videos outside of their algorithms? (generally I do that a lot). 
  
I notice a lot of people more in the sciences and some artists are getting away from YouTube and social media altogether in the past few months, given all the scandals and bad raps. And now COPPA, CCPA, and persistent identifiers.  
 
Hoeg Law's Virtual Legality video above is from Nov. 18.