Saturday, July 14, 2018

Russians had exploited shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota, before the 2016 elections



CNN is reporting Saturday morning that a Russian troll group deliberately exploited the shooting of Philando Castile in St. Paul, MN, and a Minnesota newspaper seems to confirm the story, here. But, worse, this collusion story had been reported in October 2017.

In that July 2016 incident, streamed on Facebook, the police officer himself was a POC.
   
More investigation has supported the idea that the “organization” in Illinois was a shadow set up in St. Petersburg.   The story raises the question of whether "organizations" are a weaker point of subversion than "individuals" on the web. 


CNN is reporting the story today because of the indictment announced against twelve Russians Firdya, just before Donald Trump is supposed to meet Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Russians seem to be aware that Americans are divided on actually marching and shouting in demonstrations.  Some will show up and film and post on blogs but not participate (the “no spectators” and “skin in the game” problems).
  
The Russian meddling occurred in early July 2016, even before the Republican convention which nominated Donald Trump, under Obama’s watch.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Workplace, public computer blocking of "amateur" sites becoming more common; a template for telecom behavior post net neutrality?; more on paywalls



Today, after a small problem with my car this morning, I spent a little time at a Ford dealership and tried their free computer connection.

All thirteen of my blogs that still use the original blogspot address connected OK with https (under Chrome in an old Windows 7 environment).


The computer appeared to have Norton security with probably some workplace level security settings.

All my custom domain names (doaskdotell.com, the four Wordpress blogs equated to domains, and the three Blogger blogs for which I have linked custom domains) seemed to be blocked.  In one case (a Wordpress site “billsmediareviews.com”) the computer first failed to find the SSL certificate but was blocked the second time.


I’ve written about this observation on my network neutrality blog (Dec 7, 2017) and IT Jobs blog (Oct. 10, 2017).

It certainly appears that these days, workplace filters will block any “amateur” site that isn’t from a well known company or organization.  I believe they would block many non-profits with political biases.
  

I’m somewhat concerned that this behavior could provide a template for telecom behavior post net neutrality, especially if the telecom purchased an anti-virus or security company. It would not be a problem if a service with whitelisted sites was offered as a low-end, inexpensive service to families that want to protect young minors (this idea had been discussed during the COPA litigation of a decade ago). But any telecom should offer everything unfiltered to an adult that wants it (the regular Internet).  So far they seem to be doing that, even post net neutrality repeal.
  
Note also the CNN warning on ad blockers, advising visitors that they could eventually lead to the use of paywalls. 



Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh seems to be good on First Amendment issues (net neutrality seems to be a problem)



Ken White, on a site called Popehat, has some detailed analysis of the views of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on free speech and first amendment issues. 

  The writer warns, “you’re going to hate this post”.  Rick Sincere of Charlottesville VA and Bearing Drift shared the post today.

In short, Kavanaugh is pretty good about free speech, for business or political purposes.  He tends to disfavor SLAPP suits based on facetious defamation claims, although there are procedural issues in the way in the case of various state laws when reviewed by the federal circuit, where he serves.  It should seem expected that he would in general favor corporate and political speech, since he has served in a circuit that specializes in technology, patent and trademark.  He also doesn't object to the political "weaponizing" of speech against intersectional groups. 


There is a lot of concern, however, in that he has said that the Obama net neutrality rules violated the First Amendment, except in cases where carriers don’t have competition. So he probably would not be supportive of legal challenges to Ajit Pai’s removing the rules from the FCC; the details about this go on another blog. He does seem to regard telecoms as content providers rather than utilities, and that view seems vulnerable.

Kavanaugh would not find any legal basis for interfering with platforms’ (whether social media or conventional hosting and domain name registration) own terms of service or acceptable use policies. That has gotten more attention after some extreme right-wing websites were cut off after Charlottesville. This could become more important if hosts come under more pressure especially from the Left to regulate even “indirect” hate speech.

Monday, July 09, 2018

California data privacy bill could prove a boondoggle for most business websites in 2020


California has apparently passed an initiative privacy bill, to go into effect 1/1/2020, which Mike Masnick on Techdirt calls “a disaster in the making”.  

The article even suggests that most business websites would have to develop a separate version for California, but won’t other states join in?

  
I don’t know if this could affect Adsense, or Amazon associate ads, for example.  These companies could probably put their privacy controls inside their images as methods dependent on the location of the IP address receiving the content. I haven’t seen them make any changes for the EU GDPR, which has been overtaken by the controversies over the Copyright Directive (put off until September for now).
  
Also, here’s an article on how to deal with “information clutter” in your own Internet experience.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Wisconsin university ordered to reinstate a professor in a freedom of speech case



The Wisconsin supreme court has ordered the Jesuit school Marquette University to reinstate a professor John McAdams after he wrote, on a personal blog outside of the university, a post critical of a student professor who had asked another student to drop her philosophy class when the student disagreed with her on allowing gay marriage.  This all happened four years ago.  The lead story of the recent opinion is here.

  
The opinion is here.  

The original blogpost is here. There is a long thread of posts about the court case, including issues like whether the other professor should have been named. 
  
This all seems fairly complicated and would take some time for me, at least, to unscramble.  But I wanted to note my own past history with “conflict of interest” over speech in the workplace, for example here and the complicated case that occurred when I worked as a substitute teacher, described July 27, 2007 on this blog, or here.  I also have a legacy essay on the problem dating back to 2000 here
  

Before the advent of modern social media (especially Facebook, once open to everyone) I had said that persons who have direct reports in the workplace or underwriting or discretionary authority over others in the workplace should not self-publish on their own without supervision or gatekeeping, because this could unintentionally lead to hostile workplace risks.  I’ve also described the “conflict of interest” in the 1990s when I was developing a book on gays in the military but working for an insurance company that focused on selling to military officers.  We resolved that with a corporate transfer and relocation in 1997, after merger.
   
 But an important part of McAdams's case seems to be the fact that academic freedom of speech outside of work was guaranteed by contract, which would not always be the case in the situations I take up in my essays. My own situations have never been litigated, but if they had been, they would have gotten complicated. 



Saturday, July 07, 2018

Trump wants Twitter to remove major newspaper accounts; dangerous implications


Emily Stewart of Vox has a story about Trump’s “demands” of Twitter that might have alarming implications.

Trump supposedly asked Twitter to disable New York Times and Washington Post accounts for what he calls “fake news”.  Yet, as Stewart reports, Trump has sometimes interacted with what Twitter has flagged as automated bots and then disabled.

It’s dangerous for a president to make an order like this in jest on a Tweet, because we don’t know for sure that he couldn’t make a real one with an Executive Order.  And with his own Supreme Court appointments, maybe SCOTUS would have his back for purely political reasons.


Although Trump has been gratuitous in his early morning use of Twitter, before his inauguration there was plenty of speculation that he could try to shut down a lot of Internet functionality on national security grounds, as I covered.  That died away. Back in December 2015 he had called for shutting down most of the Internet altogether.  Before his election, he hadn’t used computers much and didn’t like them,  Manipulation of the loyalty of people was the only thing that mattered to him.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Should bloggers avoid reviewing work of "dangerous" people (to "protect" vulnerable minorities)?



Here’s a little word to the wise. 
  
When I review books, music, films or other content by various authors, filmmakers, musicians or other artists, on any of my sites, I generally review what I see.  I don’t guarantee the readers (or any platform servicing me) that I personally know about any misconduct about the person whose work I review, or about various remarks the person could have made in public venues that indicate extremist sentiments or possibly organizational connections.  There are examples of writings and books by individuals (especially “conservative”) which seem reasonable enough when read, when their authors are later reported in the media (perhaps falsely) to have extremist connections or even sexual misconduct.
  
With books, especially, I will generally try to present opposing views on something when I can find them, and the opposition’s work is reasonably well stated.
  
There will be some parties who believe that giving certain writers visibility, or even certain positions credibility, is contributing to their group oppression, and should be banned.  If I’m over leveraging my privilege, so be it; but I see how reviewing content by others with extremist connections could cause complaints about me.  I ponder this as I recall that last December Twitter, for example, announced that it would close accounts to members of certain white supremacist groups, as if it were in a position to know about any person’s associations.  
  
There is also a “bias” in my content toward content that somehow relates ultimately to what individuals should do on their own about a certain immigration, rather than simply about defending people in any group or caught in any situation (as at the border). For example, on the border crisis, I would be more concerned about asking what could be asked from Americans with resources (like inheritances or estates) to assist actual kids who are displaced, than with the idea that no mother should ever be separated from her children. 
  
But the unprecedented incident in Charlottesville last August opened a new dimension in the pressure on service platforms to crackdown on speech that is somehow perceived as harmful to various minorities. (This continues a similar discussion posted June 22.)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

EU Parliament votes down draconian Copyright Directive articles 11 and 13, sending them back for revision before another vote in September


European Members of Parliament in Brussels have rejected the two most controversial provisions of the proposed Copyright Directive.  They will go back to negotiation for another possible vote in September.

The BBC has a news story now . I expect to see an article on Ars Technica today (keep checking). The vote was 318-278 (EFF twtter).
  
Article 13 might have required Content-ID style checking of all uploads, even text. Article 11 would have imposed a link tax, or at least allowed countries to set up a licensing mechanism to even quote snippets of news stories for newspapers in their countries.  This did not work out very well for Spain.


The link tax was motivated by the supposed unfairness of the way social media sites link news before sending it to users.  But blogs like this one (through labels and tags) also aggregate news.  Some observers in the publishing industry see this as unfair to newspapers and contributing to revenue loss and job loss.  But newspapers can easily put up paywalls, which many do.
  
In fact, I’ve advocated consolidated paywalls, where newspapers get together and offer deals to consumers.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Maryland law on website Internet ads raises question for sites: do you have to prove a negative?



Maryland is one of the first states to regulate online political advertising, according to a Washington Post Metro story on July 4, by Ovetta Wiggins and Tony Romm, “Md. Law on online political ads takes effect”.

The law apparently went into effect without (Republican) governor Larry Hogan’s signature, although the article is a bit unclear about this.
  
The law requires sites (or companies or persons owning the sites) with more than 100,000 unduplicated visitors per month to maintain a database of Maryland political ads.

Google stopped accepting Maryland state political ads June 29, so presumably they cannot appear on Adsense.

But remember, back in 2005, there was a lot of concern that even ordinary blogging (without ads) about political candidates could be viewed as untracked political contributions, according to McCain-Feingold. This concern died down.
  
Other states are considering similar laws, and Congress seems to backpedal, since the Supreme Court has reinforced the idea that paid political ads are protected speech, and a more conservative Court with Trump appointees will only reinforce that idea.
  
But it is a little disturbing that states could make record keeping laws for any website that can be visited from their states.  How can a blogger like me prove a negative, that I don’t take such ads?  Only because you have never seen them on any of my sites.  Is that good enough?

Monday, July 02, 2018

YouTube ContentID flags one video of mine


Recently, in view of all the debate about EU’s Copyright Declaration and Article 13, I looked at my own YouTube account.

The instructions are here.

The directions will take this to this link relative to your own logon to Google.  That link shows any videos on your account flagged by ContentID, which could increase greatly with European content soon.  But in Europe, the video would have been blocked from loading or removed; in the US, usually that won't be true as many rights holders will allow small excerpts of their content to remain up when notified. 


I found one two-minute video taken outdoors a year ago in July 2017 at a Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington. The video is of a trapeze act.  There is about a minute of Scott Bradlee’s Postmortem Jutebox. The copyright owner allowed the use of the video but laid claim to any ad revenue (which the owner could insert into the video), which is of no practical monetary consequence for me.

  
This situation does not lead to a “copyright strike”. A, actual DMCA Safe Harbor takedown will result in a strike, which lasts for 90 days unless successfully challenged as Fair Use or a misidentification. But three strikes in a 90 day period do result in YouTube account termination.

Update: July 9, 2018

EFF verified in an email to me that there are many reports of ContentID flagging or even blocking videos because of outdoor background music.   This is not a good situation.  It should be Fair Use. 

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Twitter purges continue, and seem based on ideology sometimes: Miranda X Yardley's story




I came across a bizarre case of a person’s being banned from Twitter for life.  This seems to be the narrative of MirandaXYardley, who had owned the Twitter handle of “@TerrorizerMir”.  Miranda claims she was banned for a tweet in which she wrote merely “Aimee Challenor is a man”.

That tweet refers to a transgender (male-female) young adult who is conspicuous in Britain’s Green Party and has also been (probably appropriately) critical of Brexit.

Miranda claims she is stating a biological fact (I don’t know what Aimee’s situation is with respect to physical or medical transition). 

I suppose that one could say, however, that the statement “Bill Boushka is a girl” would show the same kind of unacceptable hate or animus if someone wrote that.  When I was a boy, sometimes people said that.  The scope of all this gets beyond this blog, but I did not experience the same emotions of a transgender child, as in the short film “Pink”, for example.


So then, this sounds like a political position on whether a person has a right to be known only by the gender “he/she/they” choose, regardless of any medical situation.  I’ve been for moderation on this sort of question, and pretty much not taken too much interest in, for example, “bathroom bills”.  I do think that, with professional supervision, minors should be able to change birth certificates (in school systems, too) in some circumstances (Gavin Grimm) but these are infrequent in proportion to other things.

Miranda goes on and argues that Twitter’s behavior is a threat to women (I somewhat agree), ironically if Twitter is coming from “the politically correct Left”.   BBC writes that Twitter bans anyone who threatens “trans ideology”, which seems to be in a zero-sum game battle with feminism. Would misuse of pronouns (refusal to use "they" in a grammatically incorrect singular) qualify as abuse?
  
Owen Benjamin talks about why he got banned from Twitter – including something he said about David Hogg.  Well, David is mature enough not to be bothered by what Owen allegedly said (however crass and so obviously untrue that it has to be a crude joke, or “satire”), and David is not a threat to take away your guns if you bought them and use them properly.
  
Milo Yiannopoulos had given a reasonable defense of his Twitter altercation with Leslie Jones in his book – but he got banned.
  
The Purge in December seems to be just getting started.  But the whole story shows how combative identity politics is getting. 



Update: Tues. July 3

Ian Shapira describes in the Washington Post an incident with attorney Elmer Woodward, now defending the Charlottesville white supremacists on free speech grounds, where he called a plaintiff's client person (Emily Gorcenski) a man (by birth) when she ("they") was a male-female transgender person. 

Personally, I use the pronoun the person desires. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

Litigation to stop FOSTA with an injunction filed in DC federal court, by EFF


Electronic Frontier Foundation has announced today it is assisting two human rights organizations, an activist for sex workers, and a massage therapist in litigation to get an injunction against FOSTA, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Sex Trafficking Act, main link here. The case is Woodhull Freedom Foundation vs. United States.  The PDF for the filing in Washington DC is here.  Woodhull's link is here
  
David Greene has an explanation of the litigation in a separate article here. 

The article discusses the erosion of Section 230, and the ambiguity of the law in what constitutes “participation in a venture”, with the terms “assisting, supporting, or facilitating.”  The broadening of a base law automatically reduces Section 230 downstream liability exclusion. The article also notes the enlargement of the law to facilitate online prostitution.

  
Facilitation of trafficking was already a violation of most platforms’ AUP’s or TOS, but a site or user would be shut down only when reported, not caught pro-actively. Even hosting companies have added trafficking to AUP’s, as well as forbidding activity like online pharmacies, or private weapons sales or sometimes instructions in weapons.  Social media companies and hosting companies are bracing for future erosion of Section 230 (and, correspondingly, copyright liability protections, as now in the EU with Article 13, etc) because of global pushback on free speech by tribalistic politics, with polarization of extremes on the right and left. 

Update: July 1

Jon Brodkin has a story in Ars Technica about the lawsuit. 

A site called "Erotic Review" blocked all access from the U.S. because of uncertainties created by the law (Brodkin story). 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Dancing Baby settlement protects Fair Use in the US, even as the EU waits on Article 13


Corynne McSherry of Electronic Frontier Foundation reports settlement of the 2007 “Dancing Baby” case, Lenz v. Universal, where Universal had made what seems like a frivolous claim based on the background music.
  
One of the points was whether Universal should have considered Fair Use before making the takedown notice demand.
  
  
The article notes how critical the Safe Harbor provision is for the Internet as we know it today. The piece doesn’t mention how Article 13 of the Copyright Directive in the proposed EU Single Digital Market would negate protection of downstream liability for copyright in Europe.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Facebook publishes Community Standards, examines the Hard Questions on hate speech or "dangerous speech"



Today Facebook issued a post on its Community Standards, which is quite long and segmented and shows that nuanced response to complaints is a work in progress, that often has to be sensitive to situations around the world. 

Like Twitter, Facebook now says it will ban people clearly connected to terror organizations or certain other groups grossly objectionable (presumably white supremacy).

Facebook says it does not allow “hate speech” even when legal, but refers to a post on its “Hard Questions Blog” by Richard Allan, link. It points out that Germany has a very short fuse on hate speech and has been known to raid homes for speech that would be acceptable in the U.S. 
  
Facebook recommends a page by Timothy Barton Ash on the “free speech debate”, with emphasis on Turkey (I like the term “hyperreality”). And it also points to the Dangerous Speech Project, by Susan Benesch.  The concept is broader that hate speech and deals with conditions in particular countries or regions or special circumstances.  The site considers Donald Trump's calling migrants "invaders" as dangerous.   For example, my own speech, in that incident when I was a substitute teacher (July 27, 2007) might have been viewed as “dangerous” but was not “hate”.
  
But Milo Yiannopoulos has used the term “Dangerous” in a different context, to call out what he sees as hypocrisy and hyper identity politics (or intersectionality) on the political left. It is also the name of his book and publishing company (Miami), and site.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

On Medium, Haque warns Americans that we are slouching into fascism because of our own personal values


Umair Haque issues a real tongue lashing to self-confident, libertarian and individualistic (and complacently so) Americans in a Medium essay, “Is America Undergoing a Fascist Collapse?” Then, “What Americans still haven’t learned from how democracies implode”, link.

Haque believes that this is very personal, and comes from a common belief that some people are “born better” than others, and is particularly validated by American history, starting with slavery, of course.

He also claims that in the 1920s and early 1930s, pro-fascists look to Americans to support their ideology.  His comments seems to imply Trump is now complicit with North Korea in order, as Trump says, simply to prevent future nuclear attack on the US homeland – “America first”.
It’s particularly troubling because at a personal level, men, in particular, as Leonard Sax points out in his reissued book “Why Gender Matters”, naturally  like to be affiliated with other men who are stronger than them – everybody wants to play for the Yankees. Winner takes all, indeed.
It is possible than a legacy online essay supporting this idea,  I had written in 2004 actually contributed to the blowup when I was working as a substitute teacher (July 27, 2007 here).  I saw it as just a mathematical tautology, in totally impersonal terms.  But people were “offended” by it when they found it.  Oddly, China seems to be bringing the idea back by proposing its social credit score to be implemented by 2020.  Communism and fascism can look so much alike.
  

On the “drama” blog, Feb. 26, 2012, I recount a sermon by a precocious teenager that all giving should be personalized, not simply done from a distance with money.  Now we see Facebook desperately trying to get people to run others’ gofundme and action campaigns from their own personal accounts rather than at a distance. I do my giving privately and impersonally through an automated process set up at a bank, in conjunction with a trust.  I just talked about this last Friday here.  But Facebook is trying to push the idea that other people who are “different” from you can be personally important (with all kinds of reminders about birthdays and the like) and some friends seek confirmation with chain letter messages.  And in the gay community Rayceen Pendarvis is known for conducting mandatory, personalized “hug-ins” (LGBT blog June 18).   Another trend, some people will present someone with disabilities as their “best friend’ on FB or social media, something I just won’t do.  But given what Haque says, I see where this silent, internalized clinging to upward affiliation and “meritocracy” is headed.
  
Picture: a random ("alt-right"??) demonstrator at Lafayette Park in front of the White House on June 23

Sunday, June 24, 2018

How to get published and get lots of clicks (warning: satire)


Well, here is an ultimate blogging story, that either Blogtyrant would find amazing.

It’s a  narrative now on a blog belonging to an upstate New York native (pun) named Chris Spies, now on his site “Discordant Years” which seems to invent alternate personas, rather like the characters in my own “Angel’s Brother” manuscript, where the plot is predicated on a 20-year old ethical hacker finding the parallels between a friend’s private manuscripts and a threat to the real world (and the two have to meet in a physical confrontation, I know) -- and you don't know who is real and who is a fantasy.  (Heaven help us if Russia really invades Finland, which starts to happen in my novel.) 

Spies explains how he crafted a short article now on his Wordpress blog, originally titled “Sorry Not Sorry, My Parents Paid for My Coachella Trip”. with a fictitious female persona.  But the piece was originally invented for what he calls a "clickbait factory" (as Chris characterizes it), The Odyssey Online, as Chris explained above (the long story is also on Medium, which has a relatively inexpensive paywall along interaction with other writers). Buzzfeed also ran this postmortem, and called Chris's activity "catfishing", as if to interest filmmaker Nev Shulman. 

There’s a lot of commentary about on “The Odyssey Online” about the whole thing and Internet morality, starting here. (Chris's piece was removed.)  The site has little to do with Homer's poem. 

There were a lot of rules you had to follow to “get published” on this site, as he explains in his long piece. 
  
What’s worrisome to me is that the current political climate may become ever more hostile to bloggers, like me, who want to stay totally independent, as I’ve explained ad nauseum here before. But the idea of invented personas and viral clicks seems to invite a screenplay and maybe some sort of project at the Sundance workshop.  Chris's narrative sounds like the treatment of a film that an indie distributor like A24 or The Orchard would relish. He should get Final Draft right now. What if Barry Keoghan plays him? 




Saturday, June 23, 2018

"Blogtyrant" site acquired by Wordpress guru, while proposals around the world keep threatening Internet freedom as we have gotten to know it



Australian blogging guru Ramsay Taplan has informed readers that he has sold his “Blogtyrant” domain to Syed Balkhi, a well-known WordPress guru.  

Ramsay operated the coaching site to motivate bloggers for over eight years. He says that he wants to work directly on environmental and climate change issues, even by buying land and planting trees.  Back to the real world!

Ramsay had tweeted at the end of May that he was becoming increasingly concerned over the efforts of big business to control the online world.  I have discussed all of these in my own blogs, including net neutrality repeal, the undermining of Section 230 (the Backpage-FOSTA mess), the outrage over “surveillance capitalism” and "information clutter" in social media,  and recent alarming proposed changes to European copyright law.

Taplan had advocated that bloggers become aggressive in getting subscribers and then in offering promotions, rather than using conventional ad platforms (like Adsense) for revenue. Some of his ideas may have sounded controversial as to the risk-taking involved.  I think his ideas worked best for narrowly focused small businesses with very specific products and services to sell, to very well informed consumers. He once worked out an example for a chess blog on either openings or endgames, and recently world champion Magnus Carlsen has formed a company offering an app that will do just what Ramsay suggested.

However, some of the spectacularly successful early mommy blogs (like Heather Amrstrong’s “dooce”) had developed his ideas.  But that sort of success with a larger content pool is hard to maintain today, and getting harder given the political climate.

We don’t know how Syed will handle the site, but it might venture even more into technical topics like the best ways to do backups, more on how to do https, more on TOS issues with hosts, and how to improve security for Wordpress sites, and possibly some material on how to meet the various legal exposures that are shaping up around the world. He would do well go get to know the work of Electronic Frontier Foundation (in the U.S., in San Francisco). 

Ramsay, now in his early 30s, shows an engaging cat and dog on his Twitter page.

Friday, June 22, 2018

A note on responding to "calls for action" with your own social media accounts, and for demands to "join us, or else"


I feel I need to interrupt the news stream and remind readers of my own skin in the game, or lack of it (given the recent interest in Taleb’s book).


I get requests (phrased as demands, almost as threats) all the time to join protests, and to raise money for people or causes through action buttons on my own sites and especially social media pages.  I’ve also seen a lot of unwelcome female flirting, extending a problem I took up her with respect to Twitter at the end of 2015.

Indeed, this trend has increased recently as Facebook has taken steps to try to get users to interact more personally, and to de-emphasize amateur news propagation.  Just today, ProPublica weighed in on this with respect to distinguishing ads from articles, and Tim Lee from Ars Technica replied on Twitter.
  
I generally don’t run other people’s campaigns under my own name, or “join in”, unless I am really prepared to make a real (and immediate) commitment addressing the specific problem.  Otherwise, the activism gets pretty meaningless. 

There are constant protests over very narrow issues often interpreted in polarized way. I don’t waste my energy on taking extreme or uncompromising positions (either online or by shouting in demonstrations), most of all based on combativeness predicted on tribalism and intersectionality. I don't respond to overhyped emotional outbursts or manipulations online. (OK, if I wind up going to the gallows for being on the wrong side, so be it;  sometimes you do have to join the resistance and drop everything else, but not now.) 

Rather than reacting to narrow political (or "tribal" or "intersectional") "emergencies", I try to emphasize connecting the dots, and dealing with an issue like free speech from the view of many threats to it acting in combination, so you can't afford to waste all your political capital on just one of the sub-threats.  (Like Backpage-FOSTA may be more critical than network neutrality, for example.) 
    
I do have a lot of work to finish, to make my work pay for itself, which could become a critical issue itself soon.  I am making headway on the music, novel and screenplay (all interconnected behind the scenes).  But I have to keep up my own momentum. I am more interested in "connecting the dots" than in anal retentive focus on just one problem at a time. 

That’s why I’ve also stopped volunteer activities where I am just a “prole” and have no real commitment to the cause or connection to the people.

There are projects that I am aware of that could change this for me.  I have to be discrete about them right now.  But in time, there could be changes in my strategy.

I don’t feel obligated to answer flirts just because someone Friended me on Facebook.  But it seems that some people feel that Facebook is trying to get everyone to “play ball (with 'us')” and not just “watch” (like in the movie “Rebirth”) and that somehow they are entitled to unwelcome contact with me or others. I would add that, given the way I work, I have little need for Snapchat and the idea of sharing images that will disappear. 

I also want to remind everyone that the whole system of user-generated content that we count on for public participation is in trouble, from a lot of sources:  FOSTA, copyright developments in Europe, and (less so) the erosion of net neutrality, and most of all the desire to cut down on “surveillance capitalism” and information clutter.  So I have to remain even more focused on my own work.  And, yes, I see personal ability to assimilate and adapt to inevitable social change as itself a moral issue.

One aspect that I have noticed particularly in left-wing sites:  aggressive demands for donations on the theory that soon you will be silenced as an individual and that you must join “us” to protect you.  Well organized tribal activists would love to see user generated content shut down, to force independent speakers to join up,  because UGC tends to dilute group solidarity especially on intersectional issues. There is indeed some cultural Marxism being promulgated. 

We’ve seen things disappear before become of ecological impacts – look at how the gay community lost he baths in the 1980s.  The same sort of thing can happen with this.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

GDPR makes browser fingerprinting "illegal"; CA proposes bill to get rid of bots



Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning webmasters that browser fingerprinting will be illegal in the EU under the GDPR, as in this story by Katarzyna Szymielewicz and Bill Buddington, link

Browser fingerprinting can look at browser settings of a visitor and distinguish from all other visitors, for ad tracking.

This would be illegal under the GDPR with notifying users and allowed opt-in.

From what I can see, a site using Blogger and adsense, or using Wordpress and the most common plugins, would not create a problem. But some plugins for adware probably do.



There is also concern about a bill in California, SB1001, which would make it illegal to use an automated account or bot to connect with citizens in the state without notifying them (story).

There are concerns that hackers could cause legitimate sites to be marked as bots.

You can see Yahoo! 's story in the "Bots and Ballets" series about concerns over the fake news propaganda bots and the 2018 midterms here. Tribalized voters need to become more literate. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hosting providers and tech companies set a dangerous precedent in banning customers associated with white supremacy, even out of public pressure




It’s good idea to review the sudden eagerness of many private web services to ban right-wing extremism (or neo-Nazi’s) shortly after the Charlottesville incident, starting with Daily Stormer when it publishing an article belittling a car ramming murder victim (Verge article).  Receiving complaints, a domain-registrar gave the site 24 hours notice before Cloudflare also banned it (over an accusatory statement), and pretty much everyone else blackballed the site.

This has happened to a few others sites, also.

It is a slippery slope to single out one ideology for special banishment.  You could try to say the same about radical Islam. Of course, if the ideology calls directly for violence, there might be more justification.


The Southern Poverty Law Center has prodded the web services into strict TOS and into seizure of names to prevent reregistration.
  
While these private companies are within their legal rights, to do what they believe the public wants, their actions are deeply troubling and could spread into other areas, EFF argues. In past decades, association with communism provoked the same reaction. 
   
Play the embedded video on YouTube and read the filmmaker’s comments on the issue.

Update: June 20

Yahoo reports that Twitter users have had accounts temporarily disabled even for hyperlinking to mainstream stories that contain a public figure's (Stephen Miller) personal information (cell number).  If you visit this story on Yahoo, be advised that the cell number in the picture is no longer valid.  But it is particularly disturbing that a blind (non-embedding) hyperlink got a user in trouble.  This trend seems to be increasing.
  Update: June 24

Some hosting companies and services mention the idea of harm to their "goodwill" by unusual customer behavior in their AUP's.  "Goodwill" isn't a real dictionary word, but generally means reputation for acting in the best interests of most customers (it's a common term in the life insurance business).  This sounds more problematic given these times of "resentment politics", demands for "radical solidarity" and "skin in the game".  

Monday, June 18, 2018

Startups use blockchain technology to fund new small newspapers




After layoffs from the cost-cutting hedge fund that owned the Denver Post, some journalists and editors are forming their own newspaper, the Colorado Sun.  Jaclyn Peiser reports in the New York Times Monday here.

They are assisted by Civil Media Company, which will use blockchain technology and its own crypto currency to start over 1000 publications, the story reports. People who purchase their currency tokens gain voting interests in the media companies. 

Civil’s site, “the decentralized marketplace for sustainable journalism”, is here.  The Kickstarter site for the Denver operation is here.


It will take some more study to see how this works and whether it could apply to what I do.
  
Wikipedia attribution link for Denver skyline by Hogs555, CCSA 3.0  My own last visit was in 1994.  There is actually a Quebec street near the airport.