Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Europe's privacy rules could affect US users and bloggers; more on FOSTA creeps in

Emily Stewart has a detailed explanation of Europe’s new rules on data privacy, which, yes, will hit Facebook particularly hard.  
Stewart also gives an account of Zuckerberg’s apparent flippancy in Brussels.
But European regulations are forcing all major tech companies to reissue their privacy policies.
One of the most controversial is “the right to be forgotten”, which has long caused Google to honor search engine delete requests in Europe.

Theoretically, even Bloggers (who normally have to publish privacy policies to satisfy advertisers) would have to publish rules for the EU.  Blogger has separate tld’s for European countries, but these won’t separate out for custom domains.
I don’t have very many instances were European citizens would have some reason to have a reference to them removed from a blog post.  But back over ten years ago, I got two or three requests to remove names from the flat website files associated with my books (including at least one book footnote mention, which stays in the POD version).

As I’ve noted before, new concerns about downstream liability exposure (as after the Backpage FOSTA law) could lead web hosts, as well as social media, to want customers to become more transparent about how they are funded and about their intentions, and how their online presence is setup.  Mine has evolved over the years and become complicated.  As a reminder, the master index now is here

The Hill has a recent article on FOSTA, with its defusing of arguments of sex workers and its sloppy use of terminology: “accountability of Internet service providers”.   Go back and reread the Vox article by Ajit Romano linked here April 24.  I was rather shocked to see that Google had actually reviewed Google Drive content for trafficking. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

"New Company Shift Forum" panel looks at First Amendment erosion, and threats posed by Backpage FOSTA law

John Battelle, of the New Company Shift Forum, hosts a forum between Cindy Cohn (EFF), Carol Christ (UC Berkeley), and Nellie Bowles of the New York Times, on the First Amendment, “A Magic Shield that Lets You Be an A’Hole” with the curious byline, “Now that digital platforms drive physical conseqeunces, what does free speech mean anymore?”

The forum explains that the First Amendment controls government, but not private corporate censorship, or how platforms want to monitor users.

Cindy sums it up: “The Internet of the 1990s was about choosing your own adventure.  The Internet right now over the last 10 years is about somebody else choosing that adventure for you.”

Cindy also explains the harm of FOSTA, how it could apply even to a small site that accidentally allows an ad for sex trafficking slip through, even in a comment.  FOSTA, she says, will make it too risky for individuals or small companies to do startsups that allow users to input content, because there is no way to know in advance what might include sex trafficking – and she seems to feel that Congress believes that sacrifice from everyone is OK to protect vulnerable teenagers – except that it won’t work.

I don’t accept comments now with unresolvable or suspicious links that I can’t check.  But the volume of the issue for me is very low.  But what about people hosting me?  How could they know in advance what I (or anyone) could post?

Friday, May 18, 2018

When foreign enemies hack journalism; and could a blogger go to jail for publishing "accidental" classified leaks?

Here’s an important column from the New York Times on Mother’s Day, “When Spies Hack Journalism”.

Foreign enemies can influence public opinion not only through social media but also by flooding legitimate news outlets.
And the pressure to publish a scoop, if credible, is enormous.
But in this age of Internet asymmetry, a good question would be, could a journalist be criminally liable for publishing classified information that he or she stumbles on.  Even an amateur blogger could face the question.  “Accidents” do happen.
NPR takes up that question in a March 2017 story by Mark Folekenflik , “Could the US prosecute reporters for classified scoops?
The article discusses the Pentagon Papers (the Washington Post and New York Times in 1971, and the film “The Post”) as well as the labor case Bartnicki v. Vopper.  Although the Supreme Court may have been skeptical of claims of irreparable harm in these cases, the idea of “prior restraint” has never been legally settled.
Trump, it has been reported, had asked James Comey to prosecute journalists who publish classified information, before he fired Comey.
As a practical matter, there are some situations I can imagine where I would contact authorities and not publish, at least immediately, in the “see something say something” idea.  I have held security clearances (Secret) before, but not since 1972. There is also, of course, the issue of respecting confidentiality (PII, and trade secrets) of information learned in the workplace.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Misuse of social media; the "too much information" problem, along with social stratification and unearned privilege

Today I have a potpourri, and I’ll lead off with Suzanne Field’s editorial (pardon, op-ed) in the Washington Times about “too much information”.    That leads to another bombshell Guardian-msn story about info spam, from Chris Wylie, who now accuses Steve Bannon of trying to “suppress voters.  And I’ll give David Hogg credit for suggesting how I could put my own white privilege to work, for his cause. (Hogg can't be president for seventeen more years.) 
Yes, I made a second career choice of pumping out TMI (“too much information”) largely for free, for two decades, to let people find it. I let the algorithms use it as they liked.

And we’re finding the narrow idea of personal responsibility, that served libertarian arguments so well in the late 90s when I put out my first book, collapse.
Yes, I get pestered and pimped by people who challenge me as to why I did what I did.  But other career choices (like selling anyone else’s product) would have presented its own problems.  But that’s part of the problem.  People-centered employment and career choices have been somewhat compromised by the chain effects of hyperindividualism.  Nobody wants to be tracked or get cold calls or door-to-door now.

I did want to pass a few words to the wise on some specific recent problems. One of these was a stream of sudden Facebook Friend requests late last week, mostly from females.  Facebook has changed its referral algorithms with “friend of friend” logic (remember Saddam Hussein?)  I suspect this was a bot.  I got lots of stupid flirtatious messages.  No, I don’t like superficial flirting or unwelcome approaches.  (They will happen in discos when I am “watching” or “scoping”).  You can see a couple of examples in the pics here. 

There was a case in late 2015 where someone I think I have a legitimate connection to (music) blocked ne on Twitter (nothing like that has happened since, as far as I know). I discussed it on a post here Dec. 4, 2015.  I can see now, by comparison, how one or two tweet replies I sent could have been misconstrued, although there was a bigger context I thought he should have gotten (“lifelong process piece”)’ none of that is there in simple flirting.
There is a bigger question about how I can break away from TMI to help other people.  I can say at the outset that generally, a cause needs to be “mine”, and something my own life had something do with, to be effective;  hit or miss volunteering (as on Thanksgiving, or even once-a-month Community Assistance) is not very effective on its own terms.  I was moderately effective as an AIDS buddy in the mid 1980s in Dallas because this was part of my life, and I had, in my own mind, participated in amplifying the problem.  I can’t say the same thing about, say, Puerto Rico. 

I feel put off by being prodded by Facebook to add non-profit campaigns to my page.  They have to be mine first.  Likewise, I generally don't respond to "Take Action" calls from non-profits to call politicians about narrow issues.  I will write politicians by email for bigger issues and go into detial when something is more than crying wolf about one constituency.  For example, the hype about network neutrality sounded like Chicken Little;  but the damage done to free speech by the FOSTA-Backpage-Section 230 issue seems more serious, as are the implications of foreign manipulation of US social media ("the cretins"). 

Generally, I won't waste "speech capital" on one narrow issue.  I won't be recruited to in turn raise money or bring others into a one-sided campaign if I believe both sides have validity, and it is "somebody else's" problem that I am personally distant from.  I would work in a dedicated manner on the EMP threat issue but not on bathroom bills.  

But there is a difference in incentive to political activism as opposed to directly assisting others. 
The refugee and particularly asylum seeker issue was closer to my court, because I was living in an arguably oversized and inherited (read unearned) house.  That issue broke open (for the LGBT community) in the summer of 2016 (well before the election) partly because of the efforts of “liberal” mainline churches as well as the gay press and community itself.  Yet, outside of the bureaucracy set up for refugees which could not help asylum seekers, it was difficult to get activists to pin down what they were asking for.  It sounds like more sacrifice and risk taking and shoe sharing on my part, with unpredictable outcomes.  So we get back to tribalism, and the need to belong to groups.
So here I am, in a condo, having unloaded the house.  That’s what I did about it so far.
We have an environment where the spontaneous self-published user generated content that I have leveraged for the past two decades cut be, at least partially, shut down in time over downstream liability concerns that have increased with respect especially to sex trafficking and foreign political manipulation of the illiterate.  Indeed, it is partly the idea that some people are not “good enough” to be care about that foreign powers were able to leverage.
So we could find the future environment more coercive, as with the idea of expected community engagement.  Then things become a matter of personal purpose, not just performance.  It’s not wrong to want to politicize addressing privilege.  As above, David Hogg has a point.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Is Palintir (Peter Thiel) an example of surveillance capitalism?

Bloomberg has an article (by Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman and Jordan Robertson) about a company in Jersey City called Palintir, founded in 2004 in large part by PeterThiel, a company that does a lot of ordinary meta data mining of ordinary citizens for national defense purposes, link here
Thiel, openly gay and founder of PayPal, spoke at the Republican Convention in July 2016.
The article documents the incredible pressure from investors on tech companies to monetize data.
The article also notes that people have been arrested merely for being topologically connected to gan members on the database.  

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Calling for more transparency in content moderation by social media and even hosting platforms

FOSTA has left social media and even hosting companies with the “moderator’s dilemma”, which Senator Wyden tried to fix at the last moment.  Then a few weeks later the House holds a hearing on abusive moderation and censorship practices!

Nicholas Suzor has an article exploring how social media posts get moderated.  YouTube is by far the most transparent, as many posts get taken down in the first two weeks, largely for copyright (DMCA) issues, sometimes for obvious hate speech.

Suzor also mentions his group’s publication of the “Santa Clara Principles”, here.

Sometimes posts are removed as “spam” also.  Blogger has had big issues with this, particularly around the time of 2008 (ironically, shortly before the financial crisis).  The appeal process, according to many reports, was not always very transparent.
In contradictions to the value of anonymous speech, platforms might, out of future downstream liability concerns, become much more concerned about the identity and motives or “business model” of the user or speakers. 

Friday, May 11, 2018

Websites with "alt-right" names registered by a company that supported Trump's lawyer; seems to relate to tech company concerns about extremist-connected content-providing customers

A number of websites with “alt-right” included in the domain name, or with bizarre names suggesting spammy content, were registered to a company Columbus Nova, a company that paid a lot of money to Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen, according to a story that broke on CNN Thursday night. 
The story gets notice now because recently some hosting providers and domain registrars have unplugged some sites associated with the “alt-right” as reported here Saturday May 5.

The upcoming ending of network neutrality (right now, on June 11) could conceivably open the doors to some US telecom providers to allow connection to some sites.  Most providers are saying they will not block “lawful” content.  It is possible that some sites associated with illegal foreign operations would be unlawful?
Gradually, there seems to be a developing sense that hosting providers may need to “know their customers”, like in finance.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

A trip to Harper's Ferry and the deja vu of substitute teaching; Trump threatens press credentials

I got a feeling of a retrospect of my substitute teaching history today, as I visited a cafĂ© for lunch im Harper’s Ferry W Va after watching some 8th graders reinvent a Civil War battle outside.

I sat with the history teacher and showed him a blog post about the proposal to repeal the 17th Amendment (direct election of Senators) along with the recent stories about proposals to break up California and Texas – leading to discussion of the electoral college and the election of Trump.

The teachers said he had been a Republican but was disgusted with how today’s crowd just wants to line the pockets of the rich.

I also talked about Nadine Strossen’s recent forums on free speech and the constitutional protections of a lot of “hate speech”, as well as Trump’s threats today to reverse press credentials for stories he doesn’t like. I had a similar day like this at this restaurant in July 2013 on my birthday where a college student seemed to be in charge of the middle schoolers.  

Monday, May 07, 2018

Lawsuit from Parkland shooting against security guard raises troubling implications

The parents of Meadow Pollack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, FL have filed suit specifically against the security guard who apparently did not attempt to go into the building and approach the shooter.  The papers call the guard “pusillanimous” (a good vocabulary word). The Washington Post account is here.  It is true that we don't normally use the word "coward" today the way we used to a half-century ago. 

The Post has an embedded PDF of the lawsuit papers here

The lawsuit also names three mental health services, as well as the Snead couple, who hosted Cruz, for failing to secure his weapons.

The suit is disturbing.  First, if someone is being hosted by a family (let’s say, an immigrant), the family takes on more legal liability risk that it might not understand.

The duty to defend part would sound obvious since he was employed as a guard.  I do wonder what he was paid and how he was trained.  Are we counting on a low-paid employee to lay down his life?  It reminds me of how we used to think about the (male-only) military draft.

I would wonder about a scenario where someone is accosted or a robbery is attempted in a public place, especially somewhat confined like a bus or subway car. The victim resists. The attacked, perhaps because of a political rather than economic motivation, kills someone else on the conveyance to make a statement about the first person’s resistance.  Could the first victim be held liable?  I hope the courts will think about questions like this.  

Here is a related writeup from 2014. 
This is a different kind of downstream liability exposure than what we usually discuss with Internet providers or even gun manufacturers. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

"Alt-Right" domain banned by Godaddy as tech companies become more wary of "hate" content (not necessarily because of FOSTA)

Tech companies, recall, have started pulling a few extremist sites or accounts (especially from the alt-Right) off the Internet.  Remember Daily Stormer was taken down by Cloudflare and others in August.  Now Buzzfeed and the Verge and others reported May 4 that GoDaddy had pulled “Alt-Right” from domain registration and apparently from actual hosting. 

Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute remains online.  There is another forum site called StormFront which is still online (although it has had issues, as the Verge explains in an earlier detailed article.) 

Spencer has had trouble getting representation and keeping donation nodes up, also, according to Buzzfeed.

Last December, Twitter said it would “Purge” members that it found associated with certain extremist organizations, even if not misbehaving on Twitter.  Some alt-right accounts were purged.

Tech companies so far say they are acting only when a site advocates or tries to organize actual violence.

But these incidents show that even web hosting companies are capable of monitoring some content for grossly illegal or objectionable material, such as child pornography, drug trafficking (online pharmacies), terrorist recruiting and apparently can do some watching for sex-trafficking in view of the recent passage of FOSRA/SESTA.  All of these companies outline impressible content in their AUP’s. It's important to remember that in the U.S. companies are not legally required to shut down hate speech (they are in the EU and UK) and for now are still protected by Section 230, although the companies are probably bracing themselves for that to change and believe they have to adhere to international norms of morality. 
I am not defending the alt-right.  But it is troubling to try to say who can organize and who can’t.
Furthermore, the meaning of “hate speech” often is in the eye of the beholder.  For some people, meta-speech about an oppressed group from someone not belonging to the group is hate speech.  The appropriateness of speech could depend on the identity and circumstances of the speaker (my own substitute teaching incident, described here July 27, 2007).  We could be headed toward a social code regarding speech more like China’s (with its social credit score idea).

The banning of one of Specer’s sites was reported May 5 on CNN by the special “The Dark Side of the Internet’ which I will review soon on the TV blog.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Paying for internet publication of peer-reviewed science articles seen as a threat to "good science"

Here’s an article, at first glance seeming to apply to the narrow topic of wildlife management (from the Journal of Wildlife Management), that challenges the whole concept of self-publishing.  The title is “How publishing in open access journals threatens science and what we can do about it”.  The original PDF costs 38$ (sounds like a secret plot to make it expensive to read someone’s argument against you) but you can read the abstract on Wiley here. 

The authors apparently object to the practice of researchers paying for having to have peer-reviewed articles available on the Internet.  They claim that will weaken science with weaker articles and weaken the credibility of the peer-review process. 

Here is a reddit criticism of the article. 

The piece was also shared on Twitter (link  ).

This is 180 degrees counter to the ideas of Aaron Swartz, and to the open-access for science that Jack Andraka has often advocated in Ted Talks. 
The irony of the appearance in a wildlife journal is not lost on me.  The First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, in which I grew up, is next to the “Wildlife Building” in Washington, near Dupont Cirlce.  
While we're on the subject of wildlife, watch this Facebook video maintaining that crows are as intelligent as seven year old children.. 

Thursday, April 26, 2018

"The Filtering Practices of Social Media Platforms": House Judiciary Committee holds hearing today

There is a hearing at the House of Representatives today. With the House Judiciary Committee, “The Filtering Practices of Social Media Platforms” at 10 AM today in the Rayburn building, with the main link here.   I haven’t been able to find live video coverage anywhere yet. 
Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article by Corynne McSherry and India McKinney, “Platform censorship won’t fix the Internet”  where EFF submitted a statement in advance (embedded PDF) here. The statement mentions an instance where some LGBTQ videos were put into restricted mode (age verification by sign in) by YouTube.   I usually won’t embed videos in restricted mode.

The EFF article suggests that it was suddenly disinvited from speaking.  I don’t know why.
Censorship debate certainly has focused on FOSTA and Backpage recently, but also on protecting minors (the COPA case of the 2000’s). But more recently censorship has included terror, violence promotion, weapons, fake news or election manipulation (itself an obscure issue dating back to the early 2000’s – I’ve covered it here before), white supremacy, and even some new trends like Incel (the Toronto incident).  “Gratuitous speech” and “implicit content” could come up as issues, and they are much more subtle.  (See the Facebook guidelines on Monday, April 23 posting).

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Cloudflare, and then Vox, both double-slam FOSTA as a virus likely to destroy Section 230 and Internet user generated content

Recently, Vice reported that Cloudflare – which, remember, in a fit of virtue signaling, had banned Daily Stormer in August after Charlottesville and which pretty much got that alt-right site blackballed – now has banned “switter”, an Australian “dating” site, out of fears of the downstream liability risks from FOSTA. 

Furthermore, after an initial vague statement about TOS, Cloudflare said that the Internet is a little less free than it was because of unintended consequences, and that Congress, under political pressure, was willing to ask for some sacrifice from the elitist know-it-alls to protect the “people”.  Cloudflare especially said that Congress is lazy about understanding Internet “infrastructure.”
It’s notable that Cloudflare took this action against a company that operates out of Australia based on US laws. Imagine the parallels. 

Then Vox came along, April 23, with a double-header on the threat to Section 230.  The “nightcap” was an article by Emily Stewart, “The next big battle over Internet freedom is here”.  The obvious question, which will boil for the next “two to five” years, will be downstream liability over other dangerous issues:  terror recruiting, weapons information, fake news (itself obviously potential libel), revenge porn and cyber stalking, as well as “misuse” of consumer data.  (Targeting group-centric “hate speech” might be harder because of the way the First Amendment is set up, but Europe already does that.) But the “afternoon game” had been a Vox explainer by Aja Romano is titled more stridently, “A new law intended to curb sex trafficking threatens the future of the Internet as we know it.”  Romano notes that some groups want to take this further into areas like pornography addiction and degradation of women.

One aspect of the discussion that seems to be missing:  different providers do different things and have widely varying degrees of downstream risk, at least to sex trafficking promotion.  Websites that cater to personal needs obviously would have the highest risk.  Hosting services (which websites use but which readers don’t directly log on to) would have mathematically much lower risks, as would CDN’s like Cloudflare and SiteLock. Social media would have higher risks, but already have become proactive in screening a lot of content with artificial intelligence (which Facebook and YouTube, despite all their controversy, are getting better at). The same holds for parallel problems in the copyright world (covered by a different set of laws – DMCA Safe Harbor).  

I could back up and restart a discussion of personal moral philosophy, about the “privilege of being listened to”, as I have in my books.  No doubt, user generated content (like mine) can hold big media and politicians honest, but the weakness of this argument seems to be rooted in the obvious history, that until the mid 1990s at the earliest, you generally couldn’t publish yourself “to the world” unless the publication could pay for itself, and we got along and survived Vietnam, Nixon, and got as far as starting to debate gays in the military in old fashioned media, before the Internet suddenly gave us all a new voice.

No doubt, though, asymmetric individual speech can weaken group-based conventional activism, as well as, with some speakers, exacerbate social tensions over inequality – at least through the hypocrisy which others can pick up on.

We’re starting to see why authoritarian societies, even milder ones (like Singapore) believe they have to collar individualized speech to maintain public safety. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Maybe Mark Zuckerberg really did conquer the world the way an alien would!; FB finally publishes new objectional content guidelines and tackles meta-speech

On GMA on ABC this morning, as I had a “free” vegan sausage (party) in hotel bar, I saw Aleksandr Kogan “apologize” for his “misuse” of Facebook consumer data, as in this New York Times story from Matthew Rosenberg.  Kogan’s historical perceptions and his rationalization of them at the time were interesting to me (as they would be to Dr. Phil).  The article reviews why Facebook thought it had taken care of the problem in 2015.

Then Amanda Taub and  Max Fisher explore “Where countries are tinderboxes and Facebook is a match” here, with a flaming gif illustration.

Facebook was designed for western countries with strong institutions to buffer social stability against mobs.  But even in the West, as we saw, tribalism erupted after 2014, as we saw from BLM and then the “alt-right”.   

Brian Resnick’s article on what draws people to extremism (the alt-right) even in the US is rather unsettling.

Update: April 24

Chris Wylie, the "gay vegan" software genius (there are others  -- he reminds me of Danganronpa in Reid Ewing's world) who blew the whistle, will testify before Congress soon and offers this advice on how to fix Facebook. 

Further: April 24 

Facebook has released its objectionable content policy, here.  Look at the "hard questions" regarding meta-speech under the hate speech area.

Chris Farivar of Ars Technica remarks that Facebook is finally "telling its users what's allowed". 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Will Facebook's easing into GDPR be good enough in the U.S. for most users?

Staci Krame chastises Facebook in the Sunday (April 15) Outlook section, “Facebook could easily make privacy the default. It hasn’t.” 

She wants a standard of opt-in rather than making you opt out through several screens.
Emily Stewart of Vox explained on April 18 what you need to know about the new privacy settings. 
This is supposed to comply with Europe’s General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR).  For example, you can tell it if you want target ads.

But others say that Facebook won't fully comply with GDPR in North America, at first at least. 

It’s significant that you can opt out of facial recognition (should that be an opt-in) although I don’t see how that stops false tagging in photos (that has happened to me only once). But the facial recognition problem seems to comport with the skittishness that some people have these days about being photographed in bars, where the etiquette expected is narrower than it was say ten years ago.
The other deeper question is how public people want to be.  I did want to make myself public when I wrote the first DADT book because, according to the standards of the time, the arguments I wanted to make were unique enough that they demanded my own personal narrative become public and searchable to back it up.  That isn’t generally true of most people, and I don't think what I did is a model for others to follow, generally speaking.  However,\indeed, in the past few years we’ve seen a disturbing trend of people being coerced to support other people’s causes (sometimes workplace or reputation related) on their own personal social media accounts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

In LiveJournal case, plaintiff tries to outflank the DMCA Safe Harbor

Here’s a DMCA copyright case to watch: Mavrix Photography v. LiveJournal, as explained by Corynne McSherry at Electronic Frontier Foundation, link.  

The problem is that the plaintiff sued anyway, bypassing waiting for a takedown under DMCA Dafe Harbor, on the “theory” that the site moderated the content but did so inadequately.

And unfortunately the Ninth Circuit, usually favorable to free speech, is letting it go to trial.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Supreme Court takes up expansion of Internet sales tax

On Tuesday,  April 17, 2018, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on litigation brought by the State of South Dakota on whether the a state can collect sales taxes from residents buying online from out of state retailers where retailers don’t have a physical presence in the state.
The NBC News story by Peter Williams is here.

Very much as the case with legislation that has been proposed, the measure could make compliance much more costly for small businesses.

Businesses normally register to collect sales taxes only in the states that they operate. But conceivably a system could be developed to route payments among states, and could be offered by hosting providers along with payment portals to businesses.  Automatic transfer of payments is common;  I worked on mainframe systems that could do that back in the 1990s when I was “working”.

Update: April 17

Here is the transcript of the oral arguments today.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Brass musician explores the copyright and monetization issues on YouTube when making transcriptions

Peter Opaskar plays the tuba and like to make transcriptions of music for the tuba.  He has devised a sophisticated technique of recording separate sessions of himself and superimposing them, and idea I have recently considered for the close of my own third Sonata (to be discussed in more detail later on a Wordpress blog). 

But his article in Ars Technica is important because it shows the tricky problems in trying to monetize on YouTube.  At one time he was not allowed to run ads because his transcriptions were considered copyright infringement.  Later, YouTube changed its mind on the maskup issue, especially after some songwriters indicated they had no objections (sometimes royalties had to be shared).

But then the composer/transcriber/performer found that YouTube had a new rule:  you couldn’t monetize until you had a minimum number of unique visitors and visits.
In classical music, transcriptions are sometimes regarded as legitimate separate compositions (this is most common with variation sets, or with prelude-and-fugue on a theme, often of Bach).  Some composers have said that all composition involves some copying (rather like my statement in a high school chemistry class that all learning is memorizing – in organic chemistry, maybe it is). 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Democrats blame Zuck, Facebook for their own past laziness

Daniel Henninger puts the most convincing spin yet on Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony.  That is to say, it wasn’t Mark’s job to catch Russian bots, it was Obama’s.  Hillary Clinton didn’t lose the election because of Facebook, or because of the Comey letter;  she lost because she ran a complacent campaign and had behaved badly herself, at least in terms of showing the technical competence to run things now. And, of course, there is the Electoral College problem. 
Of course, Trump isn’t competent either;  and both parties now have problems attracting the right kind of talent to run for public office.  That’s a systematic failure.  You can imagine people a lot more capable of actually doing the job of being president:  Chris Cuomo, Anderson Cooper, both journalists and both rather geeky.  David Hogg turned 18 today, and he talks like he really wants to do public service.  17 years too young.  The irony is one wonders how Mark Zuckerberg would function in office.  Asperger’s syndrome in the White House?  You can imagine some business executives a lot more suited than Trump – Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran (both on Shark Tank), and Tim Cook.  Suddenly the idea of LGBT candidates comes up, maybe even trans (who knows national security better than Kristin Beck?)
Seriously, we really do have a problem.  Raising money for candidates seems pimpy and unwelcome.  But that’s part of our own cultural divide, the enemies can exploit.  Maybe we have to get over that. 
Of course we have to take into account Cambridge's claim that the data wasn't used for the election -- and now there is speculation about a possible paid version of Facebook. 
There is a conceptual problem with the way we have leveraged user-generated content, offered by speakers who (like me) want to be noticed and be seen as “influencers” without going through the grime of partisanship.  We sensed some of this back around 2005 when there was a flap over the idea that bloggers could be unintentionally making de facto campaign contributions with free content (not paying its own way the way normally published material did).  Since vanity publishing had not become a practicable vehicle for self-expression until the late 90s, there is a certain gratuitousness to it – apart from its challenge to working with others in a spirit of shared partisanship (or “solidarity”).  That alone sets up the possibility of combining truly hacked information (like from Equifax) on the dark web with provocative speech to target identifiable individuals – taking what the Russians did with groups (pitting them against each other) to a new, more dangerous level.  But a lot of this had been going on before Cambridge made its heist.  This sounds like a profound problem in the way we conduct our “politics” and it relates to our personal morals, our personal stake in other people.  
April 13:   I had a conversation today indicating that Aleksandr Kogan was the main conduit for misuse of Cambridge data, based on one personality survey he had put on Facebook

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Tribal societies expect men to sacrifice themselves for women and children

Suzanne Fields, who has a syndicated column in the conservative paper “The Washington Times”, has a rather old-fashioned column about cis masculinity, “A Good Man Is Still Hard to Find”.   

There is an interesting quote from Sebastian Junger, which may be a little out of context (although Junger’s “The Tribe” says some of these things).

Suzanne lays it on the line when she quotes Joyce Benson’s definition of a man, as someone you can depend on in dealing with an enemy.  Men by definition have to allow themselves to become fungible within the tribe.  She means that four of the men who died in the Aurora shooting died shielding women.

To say the least, some of us have trouble dealing with this being expected when we grow up.  But that’s how it was in the days we had a male-only draft.
George Gilder had indulged in this kind of thinking in his book “Men and Marriage” (1986), which had rewritten “Sexual Suicide” (1973).

Now we see the idea coming back in debates on what we now expect of teachers.  But laying your self on the line has crossed tribal and familial lines in modern society.  Look at the openness to offer organ donations online, something not possible when I was growing up.
 Another good piece to look at is "The Anthropology of Manhood" by Sebastian Junger (March 2018) in National Review. 

Saturday, April 07, 2018

Internet "surveillance capitalism" business models in real trouble; DHS wants to monitor "media influencers" (like me?)

Back in January, HuffPost had already run a big story on why the “surveillance capitalism” business model of both Google and Facebook is in trouble, by Paul Blumenthal.    There are new rules called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, set to go into effect in May.  And we all know the “national security” threat of Russian meddling – and the controversies of the Internet and campaign finance that date back to the early 2000’s and were forgotten.

Pondering what I wrote yesterday – I can counter-ponder:  Hillary Clinton lost the election because she ran the campaign poorly, and because of the Electoral College, not just because of the “Russians”.   And users do know that the content they are fed is based on their past activity, especially likes and commenting activity (“Likenomics”). True, it drove them into bubbles.  But users should know that if they kept on liking birtherism, that’s what they’ll see in their news feeds.
All of this matters as Congress is surely going to consider restricting the use of CDA230 (Section 230) to protect social networking sites that manipulate what users see.

On the other hand, hosting providers don’t do that.  They just serve up what a user goes to (the user has paid for the domain name and hosting service, or could have provided his own).  The same with blogging platforms.

Robert Kuttner weighs in further with a more recent article on How to Regulate Facebook.
There is also a story, by Michelle Fabio of Forbes, that the Department of Homeland Security wants to maintain a database if journalists and “media influencers”.  Maybe that includes me!!   Count me in.  I was willing to allow my likenomics to be sold in order to have influence (and escape having to be loyal to other groups to be heard).   Beyond what has happened already, when this gets matched up with data on the dark web from other hacks, I could imagine how this could lead to new kinds of personal intimidation and terrorism by foreign influences even in the US, not just by the government.   Hasn’t really happened yet.
Look at the Fibbies page on Media Monitoring Services.