Thursday, November 15, 2018

Are more users quitting social media, either for a break, or permanently?; also, another "problem" with Gab (which is back up)



On a day when the New York Times reported in gross detail on the further sims of Facebook (to be covered later), the Washington Post reports on more people quitting or suspending social media, as in this story by Elizabeth Dowskin, link .
   
The user, Bailey, had worked for Instagram at one time and reportedly had helped create the world of user generated content.  But she told people this was her last post.   

She felt that social media had let to people being driven for a need for celebrity, not real interactions with others (which Facebook has been trying to goad recently.

But many adults don’t live with the up-front intimacy that earlier generations did.

Personally, I’ve never experienced the “viciousness” or angry echo chambers you hear about.


But it’s true, the gratuitous of a lot of speech substitutes for a lot of up front interaction and exacerbates a economic climate where many people fall further behind and where there is less social capital, except in well-integrated faith or intentional communities.  Otherwise, you have no community where you “belong”.  This even drives a lot of the angry politics, especially from the Left.
  
Emma Brown et al described the radicalization that has, in practice, led to Gab (which is back up), here

I suppose if you join, you probably would need permission to follow someone to see how "radical" he was.

I’ve only had one Twitter user block me that I know of (at the end of 2015, under bizarre circumstances). But others have sometimes disappeared for no reason. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Haidt and Peterson look at the psychological, religious, and sanctomonious roots of conservatism v. liberalism




Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson have some interesting discussions from December 2017 about the moral and psychological differences between conservatives and liberals.


The conservative brain is wired somewhat to fear, to staying closer to mama cat when going to hunt. 

The liberal mind is more open to new stuff, which is necessary for a society to adapt to change.
But in time humans of either bent get caught in the idea of tribal purity and sanctity.  He doesn’t say this, but the upward affiliation common in the psychology of cis male homosexuality (which doesn’ t welcome fluidity unless associated with eroticism of physical shame) provides the appropriate paradox.

The liberal wants the freedom to try new stuff (like the doctor in the 1982 film “Making Love”) yet relishes in the sanctity of the tribe.  Hence you get the walling off of campuses and the speech codes, and the banning of Charles Murray and Milo Yiannopoulos.
  
The conservative today simply then wants to return to the old, privileged patriarchal order because it worked for him before (as Umair Haque keeps pointing out).

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jim Acosta's lawsuit against Trump -- it may be questionable, but it begs more questions about press credentials





Jim Acosta and CNN are suing President Trump and apparently the White House (not sure of the exact legal entity) to get his press pass back after it was revoked around Nov 7 (the day after the election) when Acosta persisted in interrupting Trump in the East Room briefing and (perhaps accidentally) touched the arm of a female White House intern. Here is CNN's own account, written by Brian Stelter. 
  
  
Tim Pool interviews a lawyer, who, while a Trump supporter, gives a reasonable assessment of the suit. Trump cannot deny him access because of the content of his questions (as long as otherwise lawful). The White House had apparently not set up any procedures for removal of press passes, so a court might require Trump to set up such processes and provide an appeal process.  But Acosta’s conduct might well get him banned anyway.
  
Pool feels that Acosta has been rude in meetings before and acts like he is auditioning for his own commentary show.  (One of my own DADT screenplay drafts starts with a hidden “audition” so the concept is interesting.)
  
The incident is important for another reason.  Press credentials are important to be admitted to some events. I don’t have them and have not really needed them.  But having them establishes your formal legitimacy as a journalist (or “notability” as Wikipedia calls it).  These days of polarized ideas about free speech and perhaps disapproval of gratuitous speech (the “skin in the game” idea) credentials could become more important.

Update: Nov. 16

A federal judge, a Trump appointee, has ordered the White House to restore Acosta's press.  But the WH could set up a procedure to take the pass away (ex post facto). 

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Radical Left attacks on free speech (and even pressure on tech industry) reflects cultural Marxism



Sameul Kronen (“professional human”) has numerous articles on Medium that might answer Umair Haque, but I wanted to focus on “What Is Cultural Marxism: A Liberal’s Critique of the Radical Left.

Kronen focuses particularly on the investment in membership in the group as part of “identity”, and this gets to be elaborated to the idea that all accumulated wealth is theft that is to be expropriated from the oppressors.  He also explains the ideology of “intersectionality” as self-generating, and predicts Tim Pool’s recent distinction between equality and equity.

I see this in my own posts.  I get criticized for “cherry picking” people in social situations that offer a common communitarianism (like the Ninth Street Center in the 1970s) that provides pervasive influence on the impressionable in a way comparable to the global Internet.  But is praising David Hogg for his accomplishments a descent in to “able-ism”, or is my recent review of “Boy Erased” the same because the cis male gay hero (Lucas Hedges) is presented as “better” than almost all other men and only thereby able to show conversion therapy as a scam?  Focusing on them seems to be viewed as an indirect attack on the gender fluid  or PWD’s (or even POC’s) now.  Is a blog post that discusses MGTOW’s or the need for marriage oppressive if it embeds a Prager U video with the banner “Be a man”? 

   
I speak for myself online and work alone (but manage to influence others in my own choir) precisely because I fare poorly in competitive social situations – so my speech outflanks people and reduces solidarity potential.  I can imagine the impulse to expect me to be willing to extend a hand to the less than cis-perfect very publicly before speaking again.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

California passes open-access law for scholarly research; Open-con meets



I don’t seem to have posted this news yet, but AB 2192 is the “law of the land” in California, as Governor Jerry Brown signed the Open Access act.  All peer-reviewed academic publication must be made available to the public within one year.

Elliot Harmon reports on Electronic Frontier Foundation, Oct. 18, 2018 article.  
  

Jack Andraka said to me on Twitter that he always works with Open-con on the open access issue. OpenCon had a conference in early November (around Boston). The conferences seem to be held in different locations around the world. The code of conduct is interesting in as much as it deals with unwanted physical attention in person, as well as campus speech code issues (like microaggressions).  


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Australia's draconian copyright regime; more details on why EU politicians are so dense on Article 13


A disturbing article on Copybuzz by Glyn Moody “Of Hypocrisy and Democracy” explains why European politicians turned a blind eye to opposition from the public to Articles 11 and 13 of the Copyright Directive, only slightly abated in the trilogue discussions.  
  
 There is even a suggestion that established European businesses sense a bit of inherited privilege, and they also interpreted many of the emails and tweets as spam sent from bots – and they even got confused by the US network neutrality debate. 
  
In Australia, there has already been an extreme copyright enforcement regime for at least three years, as Cory Doctorow explains.  It is even possible for copyright owners to get sites de-platformed.  Another part of the argument is copyright owners objecting to posting videos on YouTube and marking them as private, a common but not particularly recommended practice.  Sometimes people post YouTube videos as private and embed them in their own websites to be viewed only that way (if you know the URL on YouTube and go to it, you will get a warning from YouTube that you are “hacking”, possibly illegally.)  There is also discussion of how Australian’s are having to use VPN’s to watch material even legally. 

Electronic Frontier Foundation has shared a New York Times story (by Ariel Bogle and Livia Albeck-Ripka) of a game developer (Christopher Anderson) in Australia who had his home raided and assets seized after developing a "cheat" in the Grand Theft Auto game, in legal action filed by Rockstar Games.  
  
You get the feeling that the entertainment industry really is spooked by the fact that people spend time watching independent low-cost material and no longer buy as much of their guild and union supported product.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Facebook seems determined to stop monetization of independent news; also a misunderstanding of how the First Amendment would protect independent speakers


The concerns over the future of independent media continue.  Facebook, at least, seems to be setting up a Catch-22.

Early this morning, I saw a twitter thread by Ford Fischer from News2Share that his @N2SReports page on Facebook is denied monetization.  The page has 44K likes.

As one can see from the thread, it is impossible to say how News2Share was violating Facebook’s rules for monetization.  But if we go back and consider the recent history, with Facebook’s “Purge 3.0” on Oct. 11, and also with the endless circle that I got caught in when I tried to boost my page on the power grid, it certainly appears that Facebook is concerned with more than just gaming its algorithms (which could be a legitimate issue). It appears that Facebook is concerned with the issue of how potentially polarizing political content, in the context of today’s political climate, could incite further violent incidents.  I admit that many small media outlets will wonder if this development is more about "protectionism" for legacy media, since small outlets have low expenses or are self-funded (will take that up soon) and usually don't need paywalls. 


News2Share often presents in-person filmed video of demonstrations, events, and rallies, and at some of them (including Charlottesville in 2017 – see my cf blog Aug. 25, and Sept 2) violence has occurred.  This is essentially combat and breaking news reporting.  There is no question that combat journalists (Bob Woodruff) in the traditional legacy business have taken risks (“skin in the game”) and paid their dues. And legacy media (whatever the controversy over liberal v. conservative bias) generally has well-established practices as to now controversy and violence should be shown and how sponsors and advertisers pay for it. I worked for NBC myself in the 1970s and have some familiarity with this.




With independent media, things are not so clear. It is true, independent media often witnesses important breaking events that mainstream outlets miss.  Furthermore, columnists and bloggers often add commentary that connect ideas and events in usual ways to provide nuance to the political debate. I have done this for twenty years.

But it is apparent that many in the legacy world, in government (not so much Trump himself – actually, more the Democrat establishment) and now in big tech, are suspicious that independent (“amateur”) content is perceived differently by the public (and easily imitated now by foreign actors and bots, to boot).  Facebook seems to fear that it among most of its “real world” user base it provokes polarizing emotion, not the thought that the filmmakers or commentators want. Users feel that speakers are “showing off” when the speakers could be joining them in some sort of solidarity instead.

There is obviously an ethical question about whether reporting (especially with film or images) violent or graphic content should be rewarded with ad money.  It’s easier for legacy media to rationalize its income than it is for independent media. There is also a fear that some bad actors, if they know that people will come to film them, may feel emboldened to show more public outrage until they finally get arrested by law enforcement.  There really is a “cognitive distance” or “space separation” between many independent media providers and “average” users.  This again reflects the concern over “implicit content” and the concern over the “purpose” that visitors deduce from the content being presented to them by a particular speaker and the speaker’s own life circumstances. That is, the identity and reputation of the speaker matters and is part of the content.

We should remember that the capability of individuals, without formal training or licensure, to become influential speakers and commentators and “citizen journalists” appeared rather suddenly, after Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and included Section 230. AOL suddenly turned loose this capability with Hometown AOL in October 1996, and by 1997 it was pretty easy for anyone to have a domain and FTP-upload political commentary; by 1998 search engines were doing a pretty good job of finding you. For a very long time, this was seen as enhancing debate. Fortunately, the Supreme Court struck down the “Communications Decency” provision in 1997 and courts also eliminated a similar law, COPA, finally by 2007 (I was part of the litigation).  

Other developments, especially P2P, took a lot of heat, such as with copyright infringement (Napster).  On the web, however, copyright infringement downstream liability could be managed with DMCA Safe Harbor (conceptually parallel to Section 230). In fact, some sort of P2P had existed back to 1985, which had given a small minority of activists ways to organize.  P2P will be important now for blockchain (other posts).

Big social media changed the game by aggregating content based on user data, making search engines less important for many people. But during all this time, as a whole generation of young people were raised on the Internet, there was a na├»ve assumption that the “right” to speak to a global audience without gatekeepers was part of the First Amendment.

I don’t think that is correct.  Until the mid or late 1990s, as desktop publishing and then the Internet (especially Amazon) and later POD would make self-publishing of books another way to reach an audience, trade publishers (with their literary agents), newspapers, corporate-owned magazines, and broadcast and cable media companies controlled what could be disseminated to the world, because until 1992 the technology to put this capability in the hands of “you and I” had not yet been enabled.  Similarly, major studios controlled movies.  In books and movies, small press and indie companies could slowly make inroads.  Most interpretations of the First Amendment have developed in a world where gatekeepers (usually private companies) could limit the content, largely to want could pay for itself with revenue.
  
That is, the publishing and broadcast industries could control who could be heard as well as what was said.  Today, the big social media companies and now to some extent web hosts and domain registrars (reacting to activist pressures) are in a position to exercise the same kind of control.  Think how the pre-Y2K dot-com  boom and bust settled out to a few large tech companies ruling the world.
     
No, the First Amendment alone does not protect who can have the floor or even have a megaphone.  It does protect speech (already uttered from someone allowed the megaphone) from content-restrictions outside of what is specifically unlawful (obscenity, child pornography, now trafficking (FOSTA), and direct incitement to violence, but not hate speech as normally understood (as was disproportionately found on Gab).

The Fourteenth Amendment may provide some protection, as would interpretations of federal civil rights laws as to protected classes (from wanton behavior by tech companies),  which, by the way, makes the Trump administration’s “erasure” of trans protections sound particularly chilling.
One way to limit political speech that is more likely to incite violence is to require speech to provide its own financial accounting (rather than being funded by assets earned elsewhere, as in my case).  It has been suggested that low-volume sites (as shown by sitestats or other measures) could expose speakers and others to hidden vulnerabilities (“long tail” as Taleb says) that are not justified by these sites’ traffic or revenues.  But shutting down such sites could simply increase the incentive for clickbait, which Facebook is often mention as a primal sin. Indeed, Facebook (as are many other web-related industries) are much more comfortable working with content providers who actually do have legitimate consumer goods to sell in large transactional volume, and it becomes hard to see news as a legitimately “sellable” consumer product unless it comes from a large legacy source.  I see the same problem in the POD book industry, where authors are constantly quizzed as to why their books as physical copies don’t sell in actual stores – as if authors owe legacy businesses some kind of protectionism.

I don’t think you can reasonably expect to add wording to the First Amendment, and it sounds to me that a president could, by XO, order accounts from certain kinds of users closed for national security (under the Taleb “long tail” theory  - fortunately, Trump seems much more obsessed with legacy media than individual speakers, however).  The idea that it is Trump himself who incites things rather than speakers will be proposed, but the same can be said of the far Left (the baseball practice shooting in 2017); this seems to be more a matter of progressive polarization and the cognitive inability for large numbers of people to grasp the content they see in proper context (propaganda – a favorite word of Putin – matter).
  
Congress could, however, consider regulating company closure of accounts based on the ideological reputation of users, or even based on their financial size.  If Facebook is limiting the eligibility of controversial small news sites to monetize, it is limiting their ability to “pay their own way”.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Gab apparently will head for blockchain rebirth; more concerns about personal branding online



The biggest news on the private censorship front may be that Gab is reported to be considering going ti blockchain to become “indestructible”, Marvel movie style. Michael del Castillo reports for Forbes Oct. 31, here.
   
It’s true that the site is popular with right-wing extremists, and that is not necessarily intended.  But the way US First Amendment law is set up relative to the rest of the free world, and the fact that big tech has to be acceptable around the world and with a politically moderate customer base, means that any site that doesn’t censor legal hate speech will wind up as such a haven. 

The article gives some biography of Andrew Torba, who certainly looks charismatic enough.
  
The Winklevii (the Winklevoss twins from the days of the founding of Facebook) have also been supporting blockchain for absolutist free speech.



And the free speech gurus are on to something when they maintain that President Trump’s vitriolic statements, rather than sites that allow legal and constitutionally protected “hate speech”, are what is driving mentally unstable people toward violence – that seems true with the alt Right;  with radical Islam, it was angry statements from overseas.  But you can also have a discussion about wealth inequality and the hollowing of the middle class, as well as historical animus against certain peoples.  And you can talk about tribalism in a world that demands individually tailored cognition of events (“personal responsibility”).  


Blockchain may be a way to keep one’s content from normal takedowns but it has its own risks.

There is a detailed story by Gideon Lewis-Kraus from June 19, 2018 on Wired (paywall) about Kathleen McCarthy and Andrew Breitman, going back to 2010.  The story shows how the intermediate digital currency tokens can be used to favor or perhaps eliminate participants in their own local part of the chain. There can also be SEC issues with the underlying value of the enterprise.  (It’s not the same risk as a ponzi.) 

But it also strikes me that right now, blockchain doesn’t seem to promise a digital identity or trademark the way the conventional web does.  Maybe that will change.

Back in 2013, the Guardian had an article by Dan Gillmor that proposed that everyone should register at least one personal domain.

That idea could become controversial, since one way to slow down the spread of fake info on the Web is to regulate who can get on it, rather than the content itself.  That sounds like a Milo-Dangerous idea indeed. I mentioned this today on my COPA blog, as I looked at whether the 2007 opinion really extends the First Amendment to freedom from gatekeepers (which we did not have until the late 1990s). It probably does not (although free speech enthusiastic, including LGBTQ, may well be much better off with a conservative SCOTUS now than they had thought). It’s possible to imagine (even at an international level) requiring future registrants to represent “legitimate” businesses that sell (in a transactional manner) to the public, or that do “legitimate” fundraising, to be monitored by some sort of a-political body.  But we could be headed toward an Internet that is much more like China’s  -- even where people are scored as to their community engagement before they are heard. A lot of activists on the collectivist extremes want this Marxist reality to come back.

Update: Nov. 5 

Gab is apparently back up this morning.  The Washington Post has a major editorial Monday Nov. 5 to which I linked today on the "Bill on Major Issues" blog. 

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The EU link tax is still on the table during the trilogue



Cory Doctorow reminds us of the problems with the EU proposed link tax in a recent article
   
Many observers feel that the link tax would not affect content creators outside of the EU unless they have an unusual reason to link to a European (probably foreign language) site, although I can think of subject matter that would justify it. (How about right-wing authoritarianism and populism in some countries?)
  
  
It’s still unclear if smaller sites would be affected, and how many words of text would need to be quoted – or would it be a flat ban on hyperlinking without a license?
   
It’s interesting, and perverse, how Spain, on its own, tried “protectionism” for its traditional publishers by refusing to allow publishers to lowball each other.   Spain is one of the countries more active in the past on “the right to be forgotten”.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

PA attorney general wants to hold Gab (maybe other social media) responsible for attack, but Section 230 would be in his way


Pennsylvania’s Attorney General is reported to have considered legal action against Gab in conjunction with the shootings Saturday at the Temple of Life Synagogue in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh.  Reuters had contributed to this report

But the story totally ignores Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. 

Section 230 would not apply to actual illegal conduct – planning a terror attack online.  Gab says it would take down content that actually breaks the law.


Rather, the circumstances where Gab said it would censor only technically illegal speech created a climate (by default in comparison to other platforms) where some alt-right extreme figures would join, and over time, they would skew the content on the site.  This is a big practical problem for tech companies.  The practicalities were much easier to manage with radical Islam than it is with homegrown extreme right wing extremism (that is, including white supremacy) for which there is more populist domestic support than most of us were aware – even for all the years of Obama’s presidency -- as Trump's behavior made the built-up anti-intellectual resentment (from inequality) crawl out of the woodwork.

Requiring social media platforms to remove "hate speech" is flawed because defining so much of it is subjective.  True, some of it you know when you see it -- with respect to religion and race and sometimes gender or sexuality issues, especially with slurs. But then it gets messy.  Is saying that there are only two basic biological genders hate speech?  Some people think it is.  The problem is the way intersectionality, as an ideology, has taken over much of the Left. 

By way of comparison, the Oklahoma City bombings by Timothy McVeigh (a right wing terrorist) occurred before user generated content on the Internet had become widespread (but at that time Section 230 was not yet passed – after it passed in 1996, America Online quickly, by October 1996, opened up its platform for user content with multiple text files and multiple images, and later videos. )

Section 230 reflects a moral bias in our legal system to localizing guilt for crimes as closely as possible with the perpetrator only (“personal responsibility”). Many, especially on the political Left, disagree with this bias and think things should be more as they are in Europe  -- largely because of systemic inequality with deflects the incentive for many people to play by the rules and within the law.

The US First Amendment, which protects the content of speech, such not be construed as automatically guaranteeing a right to broadcast one's speech without gatekeepers.  The First Amendment explicitly protects assembly, petition, and religion, and the established press -- but not the actual process of or infrastructure for  broadcasting amateur speech.  This is bound to come up before SCOTUS again.  For example, you could imagine requiring a non-partisan community license (or else a legitimate transactional business) to have Internet broadcast privileges, earned by community service.  If you're on the Left and feel this way about shared responsibility, then propose it.  It sounds a bit like "skin in the game". I wonder if it would get anywhere. 

Section 230 was weakened already by FOSTA, the Backpage bill.  It will surely come up again in Congress as the result of this incident. 
  
 Some bloggers are suggesting getting familiar with some blockchain-and-token based platforms (like Civil and Steemit), which I have started looking into. It appears that digital currency is used for audience upvote, which might be used to decide who stays on later. The conventional lobbying so far on issues like net neutrality and FOSTA has not been able to stop deterioration of the Internet's respect for self-broadcast.  



Monday, October 29, 2018

Social media regulation is coming like a runaway train


Tim Pool discussed the inevitability of more social media regulation tonight.


He says that Facebook is more neutral in enforcing its rules than Twitter (despite the confusion of the Purge on Oct. 11). For example, Facebook will suspend for attacking white people as a group just as for attacking black people;  it does not follow the idea of a legally protected class literally.

The Left wants to regulate free speech in order combat oppression at the group level – and the groups keep growing.  The Right wants freedom of speech because it is better for localism and some conservative ideas (and libertarian).  The alt-Right may want a tribal patriarchy (as Umair Haque claims all capitalism wants), but generally the mainstream right is more like Reagan – family values but with a lot more flexibility today than in the past.

Pool made a comment that people could be banned on Twitter for insisting the gender is binary.  The Left regards this as an existential issue for some people, and right simply sees it as a political issue. I have often written about the reason for gender conformity in the past – like when we had a male-only draft.  It would sound like a straw-man argument to ban me for reminding everyone of this history (like it could renew the threat of the draft needlessly) but maybe that is possible.  The most reputable science (as on the LGBT blog Oct 22, in response to the Trump administration’s plan) says that gender in higher mammals (primates and probably even carnivores) is not strictly binary.  (It isn’t in some invertebrate animals, also.)   How you deal with this in the military is then a policy issue.  (By the way, even the Left SJW’s overlook that Selective Service requires registration by birth biological male gender – why doesn’t the Left lobby on that issue? – you may not be able to define birth male gender as precisely as the law assumes).

The other big news of the day continues to be the fallout from the no-platforming of Gab. However, at least one “Christian” site, Life Site News, claims it was kicked off. It seems to have made a temporary arrangement (maybe running its own server).  I found the original story on Breitbart, and went to the site.  I have serious questions about the factual credibility of some of what I saw, so I am trying to have some large media outlets do some fact checking (no major news sites have reported it).

However, it appears that there may be an effort to smear and ban a few “homophobic” sites, such as happened to a site in New Zealand as early as 2011.  Even as a gay man, I do not want to see this happen.  Westboro Baptist Church was still up the last time I looked.  It is not a threat to my safety.  


I’ll keep tabs on this and give links when they are credible enough.

By the way, if a site is de-platformed by a webhost, running its own server may be possible.  People have done this from their own homes, even apartments.  But you can’t have a domain name without the approval of a registrar, which then has to follow the policies of a TLD provider (like Verisign), which can be vulnerable to political pressure given all the online abuses around 

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Gab, an alternative microblogging platform, apparently shut down by hosting provider after Pittsburgh incident



During the afternoon Sunday, news has flowed in that the alternate speech platform Gab is being denied hosting from its main provider Joyent, after Paypal and Stripe had also cut them off.  The actions took place after suspect Robert Bowers had written an inflammatory post on Gab warning that he was going to respond to immigration in a violent way,  The Daily Beast has a brief story here.   Gab says it is working on finding another provider and provided all records of Bowers’s activity to law enforcement.  Gab's Medium page has been suspended (I just checked). 

Off the bat, it’s apparent that no social media provider could prevent a specific post like that.  Other visitors could have called law enforcement.

However Gab has produced cutoff notices that suggest their terms of service required them to monitor for hate speech or threats and had failed to do so.

Gab had also had difficulties with Microsoft in August (Verge story

Some news accounts, like on the UK independent, indeed give graphic accounts of some of Gab's users. 


Various stories portray Gab as a platform favored by the “alt-right”.  That would be because the Austin TX company says it will not suspend users or censor them for speech.  Some high-profile people said to be associated with white supremacy have accounts.  But I know of libertarian speakers who prefer Gab because they fear censorship on Twitter for much more moderate statements for circumstantial or “implicit content” or "strawman" reasons. I do not have an account with Gab. Unlike Twitter, you cannot see public content on Gab without setting up an account. 
    
Tim Pool has a strongly worded video today in which he explains that Gab had tried to create a competitive platform where censorship would be less likely.  But he doesn’t believe that the current political climate, with pressure now on web hosts, allows this to be done.


My comment to this Timcast video is here.  Pool says that analysis of Gab v. Twitter shows that the percentage of posts that would be "hate speech" are pretty close and comparable. 
  
On my own blogs, the only user generated content is comments.  These are monitored automatically for spam.  The remaining volume is quite small so, yes, I can monitor them for content issues. 
  
Let me add, I don’t report content I find online for censorship (unless it is fraudulent and would involve me).  On a few occasions (all before 2006) I have reported emails sent to me to authorities for suspected criminal activity. I do not publish classified information if it arrives (it may have on one or two occasions).

Update: Oct. 29

Kevin Roose of the New York Times also reports that Godaddy pulled domain name registration. But the site does resolve Monday morning to a site that says Gab is under attack. 

The Roose piece also makes the interesting point that tech companies fear that if their platforms allow everything, in time the content will shift to the most outrageous and extreme and become unusable for more civil customers. 

The Washington Post (Ian Shapira et al) has a similar story, calling Gab a de facto "white supremacist sanctuary". 

Vox "explains" Gab pretty well in an article by Jane Coaston.  But the objection to Gab seems to center on what "groups" it attracts, not so much on actual individual user behavior.  We're back to the idea of coordination inside groups and which groups should be allowed to organize -- which because of world history, is very difficult to face. 

Here is Gab's tweet.  I'm a little confused:  it refers to Joyent as the new hosting provider? Was Godaddy the provider before??  Is the NYTimes completely correct on the facts on how it has been hosted?  Gab also has the "share this everywhere" tweet promising to return. 

Saturday, October 27, 2018

EU Copyright Directive could become less extreme as Italy and perhaps other countries want to soften it; also, Facebook's copyright filters now



Danny O’Brien writes for Electronic Frontier Foundation that the EU Copyright Directive is now deep into its “trilogue” phase., where the Parliament in Brussels negotiates with all the member countries on how to implement it in each country. 

A sizable minority had opposed Articles 11 and 13, believing it was driven by facetious, turf-driven ideology and would be harmful in practice. Now Italy has joined the fray, and there is some reasonable hope that the articles could become much weaker when implemented next year.

Spain already had the strongest version of the link tax, and did not allow publishers to opt-out, fearing that some publishers could deliberately lowball others. Despite Google’s pulling its news service out, Spain still has the law.  Spain seems to want all content to come from local publishers, a kind of caricature of Trump’s MAGA thinking.

  
Also, there is more to report on how copyright filters work in the US.  Facebook has been pulling live videos with background music at demonstrations.  Apparently major copyright holders like Sony already have filters installed into Facebook (Article 13 style) to stop uploads now. This seems even more pro-active than Google’s Content-ID.  I’ve previously discussed a situation where a video of mine was flagged for background music at the Smithsonian, but it did not result in a copyright strike.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Mashable uses stories of Milo Yiannopoulos and Alex Jones to justify regular de-platforming


I found a slightly older story on Mashable (from August) with the catchy headline, “Alex Jones’ future will look a lot like Milo Yiannopoulos’ “  and later states that “de-platforming hate-mongering Internet celebrities actually works”. 

It's important to remember that de-platforming on large social media works differently from de-platforming through domain registrars or webhosts.  Most discussions on this topic ignore that fact. 

Milo is still on Facebook and his “Dangerous” site is still up and he seems to ask for subscriptions at $3.95 a month. Obviously he has taken a huge hit, financially and in terms of credible influence, but beyond that any specific guesses as to how much would be speculation.

The Mashable article summary of Milo’s history, while largely correct on the surface, may be a little misleading as to how some details are interpreted.  I read an reviewed his book (and Pam Geller’s, which he helped publish) and found both a lot more reasonable than public rumors admit. Some of his metaphors do go over the line for some people, admittedly.  When I read their work, I don’t find any plan to implement something like “white supremacy”.


What seems to be at issue, in large part, is Milo’s unusually graphic criticism of the far Left’s (and radical Islam's) combativeness, and reducing all debate to stopping oppression of any intersectional group that can be construed as a “people”.  The Left is right in wanting to question the misuse of unearned wealth and in noting that the extreme capitalism in the US in the past two decades has left more people of average means behind. The Left contradicts its own moral sense in over focus on intersectional groups. But it is possible to discuss policy remedies in terms of what out to be expected of individuals who are better off, regardless of what group(s) or tribe(s) they belong to.

But even in terms of these remedies, the idea of having ungated or unregulated access to a world wide megaphone can (in comparison to how the Internet grew, especially with the help of Section 230 in the US) be tied to external behavior of those with more privilege, more proof of giving back, more community engagement.  But that also makes supporting “de-platforming” such as “dangerous” (Milo’s own word) idea indeed.
  
See the Timcast on the TV Blog Sept 5, 2018.  As for the embed above, I make no apologies. But – No, Alex, David Hogg is not an alien from 125 light years away. Nor is Mark Zuckerberg.


Update: Oct. 27

I want to add - I will often link to provocative articles by people like Milo and others to rebut them or even point out the partial truths. Besides myself, a number of other bloggers and vlogger channels (some of them tend to be "conservative") do this; my own audience can tell which other commentators I watch a lot.  Yet, a significant "combative" minority of the public thinks this practice is gratuitous and actually puts others in danger (possibly myself, family, others in oppressed groups) because most visitors will not understand the point of any argument I make, they will feel merely presenting him again validates him,.  Yes, there is an Internet literacy issue here -- that drove many of the problems of Facebook.  But many on the far Left, at least, and maybe some conservatives, think someone like me should take his turn subservient to others in the soup line and have to experience what everyone else experiences -- before being allowed a platform at all.  This Marxist thinking is getting more common and is plain dangerous.  I could say this might follow the line of Umair Haque's columns on Eudaimonia Medium.  Or you could put a "conservative" spin on it and invoke Nassin Nicholas Taleb's "skin in the game".  For someone like me, who doesn't compete very well on social groups or tribes, lowballing or outflanking them online is just irresistible.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Steemit, which uses blockchain and cryptocurrency, could provide an answer to politically-driven deplatforming



I wanted to introduce on this blog the concept of a blogging platform that uses blockchain, specifically Steemit.  At this point, I’ll keep the remarks general.

The basic link for the site is here, but there is a different url for the introduction to the blockchain.

The basic link will take you to various lists of hot topics.  From these, you may sometimes navigate to material that may be very controversial and have been deplatformed somewhere else.  For example, here is a page about Alex Jones and it leads to more material on Bitchute.  (Let me add something personal:  When Alex Jones went after David Hogg, he went after a sharp-witted teenager  who could defend himself and come out stronger.  But that should have become its own deterrent not to try this again.)


The site offers the possibility to earn cryptocurrency from user accolades for posts, or to earn by supporting the posts of others in some circumstances.
    
 Here's a downloadble paper (by Usman W. Chonan) with some constructive criticism of how the site works and of possible unintended vulnerabilities. It would be possible to become concerned about the usual downstream liability questions for the site (like Section 230 being weakened, DMCA Safe Harbor). 
   
The site does appear potentially useful to any party that could fear deplatforming from the Internet if driven by political ideology. Once entered into the blockchain, material would be undeletable. But it does not look particularly easy, at first glance at least, to store a huge number of posts to the site just to protect them.  It sounds feasible to store complete book text there, such anything bad happen in the self-publishing world (the “pay its own way” concept I have been talking about).

The best way to get started may be with a novel, hard-hitting essay to get upvotes.  Maybe it could be a follow-up on my Medium article on power grid security (August 30, 2018 here).  Maybe it could (with some irony) be an article on politically-driven deplatforming. 

I could wonder if somebody could create a splash with a controversial novel (maybe sci-fi, like evacuating Earth to O’Neill cylinders and hand-picking the survivors by meritocracy, something the Left would find objectionable), getting accolades and earning cryptocurrency, maybe getting enough buzz to get an indie movie made. This could become a viable way to make content pay its own way, as I discussed here Oct. 19 as possibly a coming expectation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Combined paywall subscriptions could help users, and reduce the fake news and bot problems; maybe there is a "catch" though



There have long been combined magazine subscriptions by mail.  I remember trying them back in the 1970s as I started my working life as an adult. People even earned commissions by selling them.

And there have been book clubs, and publications like Reader’s Digest, that consolidate the literature widely available in periodicals and sometimes newspapers, the way you learned about them in English class when I was growing up.

And we’ve seen most city (even small town) newspapers put up paywalls, and even many periodicals online have them now.  By and large, only the network and local televisions station news sites are “free” now.


It seems like common sense that one could propose a combined subscription service where the user could pick a certain number of city newspapers and periodical sites for one subscription.  The combined media billing company would collect a small commission and send the rest to each periodical with automated payments and collections systems, familiar to me in my own mainframe IT career (which placed a heavy emphasis on billing systems).

It might become practical to add other sites, like some independent media, to the mix, in time.  One could imagine that such a company, if it monopolized the market, could wind up as being very powerful and become a “gatekeeper” of what got widely read. But the mechanism would encourage people to search in credible sources again and largely solve the problem of foreign bots stilting social media echo chambers, even leading to the recent Facebook and Twitter purges.

Such a system would have to be sophisticated, and would probably require 50-75 technical people to run, and cost something like $15 million a year to operate, so it would need some scale to work and be profitable and attract capital.  Many publications would be either major periodicals (on the East coast), regular news papers, and entertainment and technology pubs, mostly in California.  I sort of like Dallas as a good location.

A Swedish company called Readly already does something like this.  It seems to be aimed at mainly mobile use, but it also offers downloading for offline reading, somewhat like a Kindle. I don’t know how practical it is with a laptop or desktop, like what I use for research.

Business Insider has an article by Tom Turula, and calls it “Spotify for Magazines”.  So it would need to expand tremendously.  It is looking for more investment money now.   Could it do something like all this in the U.S.?
  
Presumably the company is prepared to deal with the legal complications, at least in the EU, that will develop from Articles 11 and 13. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Facebook now removes ads that mention identity groups, possibly hindering legitimate medical material



Now Facebook is reported to have taken down ads mention identity groups, such as “African-American”, “LGBT”, etc. claiming these ads are “political”  Jessica Guyun has a story on USA Today Oct. 17, here

Many legitimate ads, especially medical ones, do identify some groups as more susceptible to certain diseases than others.  African-Americans may have more high blood pressure and certain cancers.  This is particularly true of pancreatic cancer, for which Stanford University senior Jack Andraka (himself white) invented a new diagnostic test for a science fair project. Alyssa Frankin recently died of pancreatic cancer.

It’s also true that gay men are more likely to acquire HIV, although the relative difference has dropped a lot since the 1980s. But African Americans within the gay community seem to have higher incidence today.

Facebook is also having trouble, as I found, with issue ads that are non-partisan but perceived as skewed to one party (my concern over power grid security is definitely non-partisan but is perceived as a “conservative” or Fox-News-like cause).   Monitors understandably would have difficulty proving that an article wasn’t foreign-sponsored. That’s why Facebook is a lot more comfortable with ads that sell products – but some of these products can be more popular with one group than another.
  
I am not a believer in identity politics and am pretty anti-tribalist myself, but this new policy seems even more self-defeating by FB.