Monday, September 30, 2013

A quick note on technical errors from Blogger

After all these philosophical and serious ruminations, I wanted to make a note about a recurring technical issue, the “Error” that can occur from Blogger when typing, saying it was trying to publish the posting, along with “Ignore Warning”.  It can happen with autosave, even when typing.  It may happen when publishing.  In my experience, it goes away if you save the posting manually first. 

It used to give an error if you didn’t put in a subject title.  I prefer that it require a subject title.  If you make a typo in a subject title and fix it, the URL will always have the typo, which might look strange to a user who finds the original posting on a search engine.  And it’s hard to avoid some typos, like with names in foreign languages.  I had found that I get the error if the title is too long, but it does allow me to post the entire title in the heading.  It seems to use the first 25 characters (not counting articles) to make the URL title for the individual post.

I’ve also found that I get this error when the Internet connection is erratic or too slow.  But connection problems also seem to cause the mysterious Bx errors, which tend to go away after a while, and often occur when Blogger can’t display the normal stats chart when going to the Blog, but the error goes away if you close it and click on the stats chart manually (again, the server is too slow).
There’s a link on these problems here.

I don’t see it catching grammatical or spelling errors and generating errors myself.  If I go into HTML mode, it does catch errors on tags balancing, and will not post until they are fixed manually.  It helps to know HTML programming.  It has a little trouble keeping fonts consistent when importing from Word (it doesn’t seem to have a medium size for Times New Roman), and sometimes changes fonts unpredictably when cutting and pasting from other sources, or even when adding more material at the end of a post.  It helps to understand XML and Microsoft XSL styling if you copy into Blogger from Word. I once took a course in it in 2002; there’s a lot to know. 
How to typos and errors happen?  My own brain works faster than I can type.  I sometimes don’t spot obvious errors because my brain fills in the blanks first. 

It's useful to pass on information without making specific social connections public; law enforcement, intelligence expand ability to dig deeper into social media posts, to solve old cases and intervene before terror attacks

One advantage (to me) of public blogs and flat websites is that others can check what is “going on” in “my world” without having to be formally recorded (and identified to the public) as my “friend” or “follower”.   People of my generation are not as apt to want to publish the natures of our connections with specific other persons, as younger people seem to be.  We don’t think that information sharing or other interaction always needs to be recorded in the world of “Likeonomics”.

The media has just reported that the NSA has been watching social networking sites of US citizens.  That shouldn’t be a surprise, as the social graph itself is public information. The link is here. It may be more of an issue when the NSA looks at posts whitelisted to specific users (like listserver posts), but a lot of the time the most interesting stuff is in plain sight, for everyone to see by for no one to understand. 

There’s been a lot of reporting on how law enforcement can sift social media for evidence of crimes.  That is no surprise.  But what may be at issue is whether law enforcement, that is, police departments, the FBI, and even the intelligence community, know how to read between the lines in social media posts the way some users (even me) would.  There is a case in point.  In August 2008, there was a murder of a defense worker in Kanika Powell in Maryland between Baltimore and Washington.   It remains unsolved as far as I know.  I mentioned this case and a few others on a movie review yesterday (on my Movies blog) of “Blue Caprice”.   But I sleuthed around and in early September 2008 and found some very bizarre materials regarding the person and the case on both MySpace and Blogger.  I won’t go into details, but I wonder if law enforcement at the time really understood the significance of various issues with web services and social media at the time, in relation to content that it might find with forensics available then.   This happened before Facebook, Google+, and Twitter became as important as they are today, and “public mode” blog posting was a larger portion of what gets put up.  Technology for cyberinvestigation has improved substantially since 2008 and some of these old cases should be studied again.  It is possible that clues to a future major terror incident will show up in social media.  Even as this is so, we have to bear in mind possible overreaction, as with the Justin Carter case in Texas (my Internet Safety blog, July 3, 2013).   

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sometimes helping or saving someone else needs to cost you something, and it gets personal (from a Sunday sermon)

Today, Sunday, September 29, 2013, at the Trinity Presbyterian Church of Arlington, VA, Rev. Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt spoke about “What is salvation? What is eternal life?”   I’m not noting this to proselytize, but to record something startling, and maybe appropriate given all the political rancor right now across the Potomac.   “You will never know how much life means until you save another’s life and it costs you something.”  She went on to mention the idea of befriending or supporting unpopular people.

I had actually seen a short film Saturday (“Premier Neige”) about a family squabbling over who would give a dying dad a needed kidney when all were matched (see Movies Blog, Sept. 28).  That’s one area, physical courage and sacrifice, and there is more opportunity for that today than there used to be because of medical advances.  But the comment seemed to have a more general meaning.  “Saving a life” might include giving support or meaning to another’s life, when the engagement with that person is not exactly a consequence of “The Axiom of Choice.”  In an individualistic society, we learn about “personal responsibility”, the right to consent or not to consent, and “minding your own business”.  It seems as though “eternal life”, in the context of her message, means transcending all of these normal guidelines and precepts, because, after, life can never be exactly “fair”.  And it all can get very personal. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Federal judge's preliminary ruling on gmail and privacy may tale potential legal liabilities for service providers too far

Should it be regarded as illegal wiretapping for a service provider to look at the contents of email in order to target advertising to subscribers?
Timothy B. Lee has an analysis on the Washington Post Switch Blog about a decision by California federal Judge Lucy Koh regarding the way Google “reads” gmail, and as to whether it is properly asked consumers for permission.  It’s a preliminary ruling  (on a Motion to Dismiss) which will go to trial and probably appeals process. But there is a possibility of imposing more potential downstream liability exposure to service providers for artificial privacy law violations.  Lee’s article is here.  Wired has a copy of the ruling PDF here. There seems to be a concern over whether comprehensive "privacy policies" that companies have implemented meet legal consumer notification requirements.   

Microsoft Outlook has been "exploiting" the stories about users being "scroogled" in its own commercials for Outlook email on CNN.  I've never gotten around to using Outlook much, largely because it used to be a major target of malware, but not recently/ 
I don’t have any problems myself with the privacy practices of any providers (Google, Facebook, Twitter), but that may be a reflection of my own social insularity.  At lot of people have more sensitive circumstances than I do.  I also don’t share personal material on “differentiated lists”.  I guess I live in Dr. Phil’s world.

It's worthy of note that these blogs have "privacy policies" on their pages. Possibly the requirements for these policies could eventually be affected by rulings like this.  These policies became required of bloggers with ads in 2009.   

This ruling seems to be separate from "do not track". 
I don’t see any news that suggests a coming government shutdown will affect any social media or publishing in any visible way – the government is supposed to “protect” the power grid, although that ought to be the result of much more proactive stance by utilities.  But shutdowns (and that doesn’t even mention the debt ceiling, which I have discussed elsewhere a lot) could seem tantalizing to enemies and increase the risk of catastrophic attacks, which do destroy individual lives.  Is it required of us to change our lives because of other people’s agendas?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

California passes law forcing social media sites to enable minors to delete "foolish" content; unclear how it affects other sites (Blogger, Wordpress, YouTube, etc)

Reuters (in a story by Ronnie Cohen) is reporting that California has passed a law, signed by Democratic governor Jerry Brown, which gives minors the legal right to erase “digital mistakes”, such as inappropriate pictures of them. The law is supposed to give minors the ability to remove what Dr. Phil used to call "Internet mistakes" (in the days of Myspace) -- see TV blog, Jan. 15, 2008.  
Facebook and Twitter allow people to delete content, but the law would seem to require all social media sites to post delete buttons for minors. 
NBC has a copy of the story here.

It was not immediately clear how this would affect sites hosted outside California, or if it matters where the ISP servers are located.

Does this affect blogs like mine?  The only way a user posts right now is through comments, which are moderated.  Right now, Blogger doesn’t seem to offer a user a way to delete a comment that has been approved.  My flat sites don’t allow users to post; content has to be sent to me by email.  Future changes, however, may involve using comment-management software which presumably will be able to comply with California and other similar laws.  However, "knowledge" sites like mine typically don't offer the concept of followers or friends or "likes", so it's not clear if the law is even applicable then. 
In mid 2008, I started using comment moderation.  I did go through and delete inappropriate or possibly malicious (in terms of link) comments at that time. For example, I removed one or two comments that tried to offer links to fake anti-virus software.  Technically, under Section 230, I may not have been required to do this, and the California law could conceivably contradict Section 230 in some circumstances. Let me add that comments that merely criticize me or my views are NOT inappropriate.
I have, on three occasions that I can recall (in 2001, 2003, and 2006) modified or removed small amounts of content on requests from individuals, from the old “hppub” and the current “doaskdotell” sites.  In one case (2003) an entire file was removed.   In 2006, I changed the name of an individual in the on-line version of my first DADT book to initials so it would not be found by search engines;  the individual was concerned that my “free content” practice with digital copies of my work could make it too easy for relatively obscure things to be unearthed.  In all of these cases, there were unusual circumstances that justified the requests, and these sorts of incidents are generally infrequent. 

However, I remember a comment from one person as early as late 2001 (but after 9/11) who was concerned that employers and customers (and prospective dates) were already “Googling” their names.  Notice how often names are not used in some of my postings!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Senate Bill on journalist shield would probably not protect bloggers; a note on comments monitoring

There is a report on the Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, in the Senate, as offering source confidentiality protection to “professional” journalists (paid to do it for a living) but not to amateur bloggers, and with an exception when there is a real threat of violent crime or terrorism. The Tennessean has an article “Who in the Wiki-age is a journalist” here.   (paywall may be present).  The law is worded so to as exclude someone who intends to leak classified material illegally.  Diane Feinstein (D-CA) said she can’t consider every blogger a professional journalist getting anonymity protection.  Police, for example, would have discretion in going after gang leaders or drug dealers mentioned in amateur blogs and expecting bloggers to disclose them.  
Govtrack has a page for S. 987 for the Free Flow of Informaiton Act, here. 

I have received a few “tips” over the years and on a few occasions have called authorities and not published them.  One tip may have been related to a possible overseas terrorist attack on a bar or club in a southeast Asian country. It did not happen, and a major arrest occurred a few days after I passed on the email.  I don’t know if my information was used or not.
On another matter, let me note that many “anonymous” comments get marked as potential spam before they come to me.  Although I can publish anonymous comments, I strongly prefer a real ID (preferably from a Google account) even if it is a pseudonym.  Use of some sort of ID greatly improves the chances that the comment will be seen as legitimate and be published.  I do welcome criticism and do welcome comments that disagree with what I say.  Just, as with anything online, use common sense.  Don’t send “true” (or false) confessions.  

Monday, September 23, 2013

"User review" companies work to expose "opinion fraud"; Stik offers validated reviewer identity

Yelp has, in recent months, taken to alerts to “shame” businesses that try to game their reputations by paying for reviews or attacking competitors.  The Techhive story by Ian Paul in October 2012 is here. In past years, there have been a variety of misbehaviors:  gag orders by doctors against patients, lawsuits, and accusations that rating sites “extort” money from small businesses.  Angie’s List always advertises that no one can pay for a review on it. 
Consumer reviews on Yelp and Angies and other sites really can affect small businesses. 
There is a new site called Stik which is taking the “fake review” problem by requiring a legitimate social media profile (preferably Facebook, which always requires real names) as a gateway to signing in.  The PCWorld story is here. and Stik is here
Ordinary blogs and videos probably don’t have a big effect on products from large companies, unless the blogger says something unusual enough to “go viral”.  Companies are finding that they can counter the review issue by creating a Facebook presence, getting “likes” to cause their news to show up in Timelines, which causes Facebook users to write comments that are more likely to be specific to aspects of the company and more valuable as customer feedback.  Motion picture studios and media stars may find out what impresses viewers more readily from targeted social media presence.
There were nebulous reports on new FTC concerns about review "opinion fraud" on ABC tonight, but no major news story yet.  But companies and individuals participating in it may face fines and prosecution at some point in the future.  There is a story on an ABC "sting" of Yelp here in Nov. 2012/ 

Update: Sept. 24, 2013

ABC Good Morning America is reporting that the New York State attorney general is going after nineteen companies, some of whom hire fake reviewers from eastern Europe. Companies that pay people to write online reviews could get into trouble. There is a story on Business Insider Sept. 23, here

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Parents want to sue ex-football player Holloway for republishing kids' social media showing them trashing his home; on what grounds?

There’s a lot of hoopla in the media over ex-pro-football player Brian Holloway, over the way he turned some teens’ social media back on itself in a “teachable moment”. 
While Holloway was in Florida, a number of “friends” of his son partied at his upstate New York house, and apparently trashed it, resulting in the police coming with arrests.  Kids made videos and tweeted their behavior.  To “teach them a lesson”, Holloway republished some of the kids’ own videos on his site “Help Me Save 300”, here.

Parents of the teens were angry at Holloway for republishing the crimes against his property, when the teens had already bragged about the crimes on Twitter and other social media.  What, he’s supposed to “protect” minors who have committed crimes against him and bragged about it?  The New York Daily News reports that the parents may actually sue him (link here).  On what grounds?  Is there a copyright issue here? Therre is no libel because the material is true, and there is no invasion of privacy. Would this be an example of SLAPP?  Would that even be legal in New York State?
There is more about Holloway on TMZ, here

Really, parents, do you expect Holloway just to “take” this vandalism because he is “rich”?  This is hardly “Revolution”.  (There was revolutionary language out of the 70s, calling the police “pigs” when they arrived.)   Once the kids posted this on social media, it would live forever. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Copyright lobby wants to pressure search engines into blacklisting; "Likes" are protected speech, like yard signs

Electronic Frontier Foundation is reporting that the MPAA and copyright lobby are pressuring search engine companies (Bing, Yahoo! And Google) to enter into “voluntary agreements” to blacklist sites that the copyright owners say are infringers, story by Parker Higgins here
It’s obvious that this could cause some sites to essentially go out of business without any sort of due process based on false accusation. 
Along these lines, visitors should check an LTE today, “The Internet’s Broadcasting Power” in the Washington Post, by Jesse Webber, link here. Webber writes, “The Internet is the best tool the common person has for communicating with a large number of people.”  The letter is in response to an article by Alexandra Petri, discussed here Saturday Sept. 14.

Also important, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond ruled Wednesday that “Liking” an item on a social network site is protected speech, equivalent to a yard sign, and that a public employee cannot be fired for “liking” a particular political opponent of his or her boss, Fox news story here.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

It really matters how we see one another, and how we see ourselves

“You don’t see people as people,” my father said, one early evening in mid December, 1961, in the den, as he reclined on a 1940’s-era aqua love seat.  “You see people as idols.  You don’t see someone as a living soul.” This conversation occurred just after I had started “individual therapy” a couple weeks after my November expulsion from William and Mary.  We were already planning for me to go to GWU and “live at home”, but relations with my father were certainly strained over what had happened.
I’ll come back to this later.  Today, I want to run through one more overview of my “DADT III” book, as I prepare a final edit of the manuscript. 
So, what makes me tick?  What am I all about?  Why (at age 70) do I write and broadcast my sometimes controversial opinions, when I could (as sometimes asked) keep a low(er) profile and help people personally?

Self-expression was important to me early in life.  An eighth grade math teacher wrote a comment on a report card that I didn’t know when to stop expressing my views, even though they had proved valuable in class discussions.  By age 13 or so, I was composing some music.  Yes, I did relish the idea of recognition some day (and I did get some accolades for playing piano in recitals and festivals).  But the desire for attention was balanced by the subject matter itself.  The music mattered, even when experienced privately by listening to records (pre-CD days by two decades) alone in the family basement. 

I tended to move somewhat from music to writing – and I note that composer Arnold Schoenberg once wrote that in music you could say whatever you wanted – particularly about erotic matters – without getting caught.  I felt motivated to write – and get published – because there were so many logical flaw and ethical inconsistencies among the things people expected me to do or, particularly with the team loyalties they expected me to profess.  “Your” needs were not necessarily more pressing or deserving than someone else’s.  Everybody needed things.  The world seemed to have no intellectual honesty.  The events that had unfolded at William and Mary that fall had been shocking, and a bit mysterious.

Of course, my “latent homosexuality” had grabbed attention, and once that topic came up, it monopolized the way everything else (which was much broader) could be perceived.  In a companion essay posting on my GLBT blog yesterday (September 17), I discussed these concerns from the artificially narrower perspective of “homophobia”.  Over the decades to follow, the gay community often depended on the argument of “immutability” (or “born this way”).  I’ve always resisted, and said so very publicly, depending on these arguments. That’s partly because it doesn’t work with other biologically-influenced traits that can affect behavior (like alcohol abuse).  But the bigger reason is that it lets “the enemy” off the hook. “It” doesn’t have to explain why our largely adult and consensual private choice are other people’s business.

In the GLBT essay yesterday, I went into some of the esoteric psychological aspects of my early therapy.  I could have added a review of “the polarities”.   There was something of a loop apparent in my thinking.  I seemed to treasure virtue for its own sake, and wanted to be associated with young men who exhibited “masculine virtue”, especially according to some of the superficial, sometimes race-associated norms of the period in which I had grown up.  I refused to feel affection for anyone who didn’t “measure up” (partly explaining my father’s remarks).  The world I had grown up in was not particularly welcoming to people with any disabilities (compared to today); they had remained the responsibility of “families” so I had not been exposed to emotions that can occur in families that do have to deal with it.  That has certainly changed in the decades since.  But it is not that easy for me to take heart and make my own internal attitude more welcoming.

I also noted the way I became motivated when the opportunity to lift the ban on gays in the military was raised by President Clinton in 1993.  This issue seemed to embrace everything:  privacy, freedom of speech, personal identity, and balanced by the “real world” need for people to work together and share risks in intimate situations not of their choosing – leading to the “unit cohesion” idea which could apply ultimately to many other ideas of society – as in discussions of “social capital”.

My basic idea then (with the 1997 book) was that government get out of the business of regulating people’s lives (libertarianism), while, at the same time, the markets need to learn to recognize that people really do have to share obligations for the “common good” that aren’t always under their control.   Many of the concerns were presented in economic terms, such as the loss of disposable income to people once they “commit” to having families.  The challenge of eldercare and filial responsibility (and maybe even “demographic winter”)  wasn’t as clear in the mid 1990’s as it is now.
But the needs of people would become a much more personal problem for me after 2000 with my mother’s eldercare and with various jobs I held after “retirement”, especially substitute teaching.   Sometimes I found I was “ambushed” and getting dragged into personal situations in which I would not have imagined myself even welcome a decade before.

In my mind, I see a large collection of expectations that others think they should have from me, all the way from my teen years to now in retirement.  There are certain patterns, but also certain inconsistencies.  Some expectations become contradictory and don’t add up.  This is the “would’a-should’a-could’a” problem.  (It’s more than just opening all the mail.)  It leads to the generic question, what should be expected of someone like me who is “different”?  Oh, maybe we are all different.  But some of us are in a gray zone (or “transition zone”, or what astronomers call the “termination zone” on a tidally locked planet) where we have the ability to conceive of the long term effects of our actions and especially self-expression when we may not have the personal stake in real human future that others have.  Okay, one could say that about the founder of Facebook.

I’ve sometimes called this the “Pay your bills, pay your dues” problem.  Maybe it’s “giving back” or “paying it forward”. The good side is fairness, solidarity, social capital, and an easing of indignation and social tensions that today are getting out of control and becoming brazen. The down side is less innovation, which must usually start with self-interested and self-promoting (frankly) individuals. But when someone who is "special" doesn't "pay his dues", then someone who is "normal" winds up taking more of the risk and hidden hardship.  That's that how it came across to me as I grew up.

In the Internet age, there are indeed a couple of trends that apply here.  I’ve written about “the privilege of being listened to” before.  It is a privilege, not a right.  The free entry system for self-publishing on the Internet seems very linked to legal downstream liability protections, like DMCA Safe Harbor and Section 230, the latter of which is suddenly under fire again form state attorneys general.  The system gave me a “second career” and essentially made returning to mainframe unnecessary, and made hucksterism unnecessary, too.  It probably precluded my becoming a math teacher, which would have sounded like a desirable result. But what gives me freedom comes at the “expense” of putting less “fortunate” families – minor children of less prosperous, less educated or less attentive parents – at risk, especially from cyberbullying and identity theft. Again, because (seemingly) of my lack of heterosexual passion, I don’t have children and share the responsibility – although that picture is starting to change (gay marriage and parenting, eldercare). 

Another problem is a little more subtle.  It has indeed to do with the erosion of “social capital” in some areas of our society and economy.   Even some libertarians (like Charles Murray) have noted that the reduced interest in organized civic activities is not a good thing in the long run.  With an Internet that appears to give insular people “like me” some power, there is less incentive to join organizations, or to buy from salesmen, or to even respond to marketing calls (phone, house) that used to be accepted in past generations.  This development is certainly making it harder for some people to make a living and can deepen the indignation that has a lot to do with today’s brazen crime and attacks.   As someone who doesn’t compete well socially, why should I “take orders” from the bureaucracy of an organization when I can run my own show and draw attention?  Every organization is “partisan” and “non-objective” in that it must meet preferentially the needs of its own constituency, right?  But the deeper point is that this “atomization” or being “alone together” on the Internet is something that is relatively new.  Until about a decade ago, perhaps a little more, people really didn’t have much choice but to join up and serve “special interests”.  K-Street had its real place.  Is it better now?  It’s a very double-edged question, like an unclear chess position.  Some controversial piece sacrifices in opening theory really work.

What does all this add up to?  The best “chess” sense I can make of it is, “Step Up” when you have to.  I talked about the baseball analogy, the “three strikes”, here Sept. 1 (put negatively as “don’t be a coward”).  That’s much easier to deal with if you have developed “normally”.  But it takes on the aspect of a moral principle, although it implies the troubling conclusion that the “less able” should stay in their place and not challenge the family structures or “providers” who look after them (a common belief as I grew up in the 50’s).  Conservative social theory suggests that once people master this, they’ll be able to form permanent marital relationships upon which all other stable social structures depend.   Maybe that’s just a nice theory, but it has a certain smoothness and consistency.
The “requirement” does tend to communicate the idea that everyone shares some of the common burdens.  It’s true that totalitarian systems make a lot of this (from both the Left and Right).  But it’s also true that some people, when they see others getting out of what they have to deal with (even if it’s the top 1% on Wall Street), come to believe there are no rules, no laws, that life is about what you can get away with, to survive.  It’s an unpleasant truth, authoritarian cultures usually have less personal crime.

One thing that is different about this, in a liberal democratic culture, is that it gets more “personal”.  Societies can be stable and sometimes reasonably progressive technologically without a lot of compassion (and openness to forgiveness) in the culture, but they cannot be free.  Perhaps China provides a pertinent lesson today.  The idea of “radical hospitality”, as presented at a local church here (Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington VA) fits in here.  The openness to personal interaction to “people as people” as my father said in 1961 seems relevant. But, on the dark side, this is more feasible to face, especially when confronted with loss or sacrifice for others, if one knows that others will also do it. 
The social conservatives stumble around when they have to reconcile “family values” with horrible practices in the past, like racism – slavery and segregation.  “Conservatives” have this idea that socialization comes from taking care of your own first.  That may be true to an extent – parents often expect older kids to learn to take care of siblings.  But then “they” take this further, and say that marriage is the one institution that can socialize people into taking care of others.  (They tried to use this argument against gay marriage a few years ago.)  It seems to me that it’s the other way around. Marriage (long term intimate commitment with the structure to raise children and take care of others, like the elderly) is a result of a process that needs to take place anyway.  So lack of “marriage” can mean that needed character development didn’t happen.  But this observation can have profound implications for just how we want to recognize “marriage” – and the Supreme Court may well have implicitly agreed this past June.  In practice, young adults, even high school students, today often do go out into the undeveloped world and serve in ways that are more personal than one would expect (see drama blog, Nov. 4, 2012).
We’re used to a rather narrow idea of personal responsibility, particularly in libertarian circles.  Our legal culture is tied to it more than ever.  It is certainly true that how well one does in life, and how one is perceived by others, is very much affected by how well one does “his own job”.  That was certainly true for me as an individual contributor in the IT workplace for thirty-plus years.  One gets very defensive, developing failsafe CYA systems.   It is certainly true that people eventually tune out of “productivity” because of medical or behavioral problems.  Every one of us comes to an end somehow (unless there really exist “angels”) and most of the time, it’s “medical”.  But we also are seriously affected by circumstances, and particularly by the deeds of others.  It can be “worse” to “go down” because one is targeted, either as an individual or as a member of a group or even a country or religion, for violence at the hands of others who have become indignant.  In my circumstances, it could simply make me into a fool.  Without more social engagement again, there is no legitimate way for me to become a “victim”. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Do service providers have to consider Fair Use before honoring a takedown notice? Some controversy

When a service provider processes a takedown notice under the DMCA, does it need to consider the likelihood of Fair Use first before honoring the request, or does this come into play only later as an “affirmative defense” for the supposedly infringing publisher? Corynne McSherry of Electronic Frontier Foundation weighs in on this in analyzing the complicated if silly litigation in Massachusetts, Gina Crosley-Corcoran v. D.r Amy Tutuer.  There are questions as to whether using a photo taken by someone else is “fair use” if published to make an ironic or humorous point.  The EFF story is here
The practical danger is that “the establishment” can quell troublesome speech by making frivolous claims to ISP’s.   It’s not clear to me how YouTube would process these, since it does have some automated screening for copyright.  YouTube also closes accounts for repeated copyright claims, but some of these could be frivolous.  I run into this when embedding videos.  I generally try to pick videos that appear to have legitimate sources (preferably with the original content owner, like a movie studio), But sometimes I can’t find one, and then some months later the embed doesn’t work because the poster of the video had his or her account closed.  So far, bloggers who have embedded these videos haven’t been penalized in anyway; how could they know whether a poster of a video will get taken down later?  

The Carter Law Firm tells a story (in Feb. 2013, “DMCA Takedown Notice for Your Original Content”) of an intentionally fraudulent DMCA takedown notice.  Here the lawyer says that isn’t the service provider’s place to question a notice, so there is some disagreement here (EFF says the law's wording says otherwise.). The case involves “Retraction Watch”, and a site that duplicated some of it and then intentionally claimed that it had been the original owner.  The lawyer explains the “counter takedown notice” procedure.   

Saturday, September 14, 2013

More online reputation controversies: Whom you recommend on LinkedIn can affect you; CA school district monitors student social media activity with a consulting firm

Continuing the discussion of online reputation, I encountered two catchy stories today on my iPad while having dinner on a day trip to Charlottesville, VA.  When you go on the road, the mice will play.
One of them considers the effect of one’s LinkedIn recommendations or endorsements on one’s own online reputation, particularly in the workplace.  Jose Pagliery has the story on CNN (url) here ,particularly about the resignation of Pax Dickinson from Business Insider for his “personal life” tweets, glaringly reproduced here (warning – disturbing). But Bob Pearson, of the W2O group, is reported as having warned that online reputation, as to merging personal and professional life, is more seamless than ever.  Facebook (and its policy of “no double lives”, an apparent belief of Mr. Zuckerberg) has seen to that.  (By the way, that’s why I give Mark Zuckerberg some credit for helping end “don’t ask don’t tell”.)

Another story today reported that a Glendale CA school district has hired a private company  (Geo Listening, link) to monitor the off-campus social media activity of its middle and high school students (if over 13), as WPTV reports here. There’s apparent controversy about the “Fourth Amendment” and the First – but not so much so, because it’s only scanning public posts.  But would you follow people around in the real world?  Here, public posts are more likely to become widely known, so it seems as there is some justification for the practice, in intercepting harmful behavior (ranging from cyberbullying to suicide threats).   Is this “Minority Report”?   Would Geo Listening be contracted to monitor teachers and even subs?

Like it or not, we all have online reputations; and do you really have to "take care of your own" first?

So, to have a job and have reasonable life, you will live part of the time on Facebook and Twitter whether you like it or not.  Alexandra Petri weighs in on this point in the Washington Post Saturday morning on p. A13, "Real you vs. online you? What is the difference?", link

I don’t run into anything malicious online with social media sites.   I guess I hang around with “reputable” people and parties. You know who you are!  But I got flamed really “good” a couple times in the old Web 1.0 world, especially in 2000 for a movie review about “The Perfect Storm” that I wrote on AOL’s “Moviegrill”.  Some people seem to think that restating an artist’s view for discussion is the same as endorsing it.  I also got conked for a review of “Brick” because I didn’t know my street drugs well enough.  (Does it really matter whether the “brick” was heroin or cocaine?  They’re both “bad for you” – I say that knowing full well the libertarian position on what you put into your own bod.)

Seriously, in the Web 1.0 world, there was a danger that public postings of opinions by people in management or positions of authority could lead to the impression of prejudice, or possibly a “hostile work environment”.   When I was substitute teaching, there was (underneath other stuff) a concern that wisecracks in my movie reviews about certain attributes of various actors (as displayed) could show prejudice; there was also some concern about a 2005 online essay on “”  titled “Mathematics, Merit, and FICO: Are Some People “Better” than Other People?”.  Search for it – it shows up in first place by that title.  Well, this is an intellectual notion, mathematically inescapable.  Still, my mother would always have said, “Don’t say that”.  It does seem that the way we form our own individual judgments about others is turning into the penultimate modern moral question.

 In the Web 2.0 world, it’s true that there is the possibility of limiting likely reception by “whitelisting”, but nasty stuff about individual people gets out very quickly anyway.  We’ve seen plenty of examples of that on Dr. Phil.   So kids now grow up thinking they have to be popular online, thinking about Likeonomics as a Wall Street number cruncher, counting “friends” and “likes”.  That’s too bad.  Teenagers need to succeed in the physical world first, be it school, sports, art, music, drama, hobbies, debate, scouting, any or all of these things.  I don’t push any particular religion, but teens who go to a church of religious observance of some kind with their families regularly tend to do better at these things and get a head start.   And then, there is, as the president says, “service”.  That’s a good one.  One thing that amazes me is to see film reports of high schoolers (old enough, say, at least 16) who go to a third world country for a summer stint and actually learn to interact with the people.  You don’t need to learn to “take care of your own” first to do that, contrary to conventional wisdom.  But you do need to be mindful of what you have already done online.  

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Facebook's new privacy policy (as proposed), and "sponsored story" mechanism, draws attention from FTC; parents explain how kids' anonymity can be lost forever

Today (Thursday, September 12, 2013) the New York Times, in Business Day, reported on an FTC inquiry on Facebook’s recently proposed privacy changes, in an article by Vindu Goel and Edward Wyatt, link here. The controversy seems to deal with Facebook’s practice of “sponsored story” advertising, where a user’s (favorable) comments about some particular company’s product or service is given more prominence in the display before “friends” that it would otherwise normally get as with the Timeline.  There is a possibility that it could annoy friends, or convey a misleading impression of the subject’s activity.  However, it is not quite the same thing as an underground endorsement, because it does not make a public broadcast of the user’s comments outside of the Facebook whitelist.  It’s not hard to imagine, however, how this could present touchy incidents with employers, or among teachers and students. 

Tech Crunch has an analysis and direct link to the proposed Facebook changes, Aug. 29, here
Slate has a more revealing article, dated Sept. 4, by Amy Webb, “We post nothing about our daughter online” (except maybe one baby picture), which shows the insidious danger to children and young people as digital technology for tagging and automated facial recognition grows in the future. Anonymity, privacy, and separation as I knew it (as a gay man) for much of my adult life, until I made myself very public in 1997, would be impossible. 

I do, as a matter of my own practice, have a real problem with the idea of being expected to “endorse” anything because that compromises my objectivity as a journalist, and amounts to a possible ethical conflict of interest.  (I had to deal with this big time in 1997 when I published my first book, as I have explained before with my own dealings with the military.)   Facebook’s practice probably would not cause me a real problem in the way I conduct my own web and real world presence, but it could for other people.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bizarre twists in BitTorrent copyright troll case; more on "whitelisting" paradigm shift

Electronic Frontier Foundation has passed along the link to a court document in copyright litigation from Media Malibu (with attorney Mary Schulz), where the plaintiff listed other “embarrassing” downloads made by unnamed defendants in trying to pressure for settlements. The link for the document is here (the Embed didn't work, for me at least). 
The Pietz Law Firm has a link about this “copyright troll” case, here

The Malibu Media litigation seems to involve BitTorrent and porn downloads, as in this detailed Wordpress account, link

The Fight Copyright Trolls has another major link here    I will follow this more later for more detail.

I also wanted to make another note today on the way my content reaches users.  Over time, as I have noted,  I have tended to attract fewer visitors and legitimate comments on Blogger, but more attention on Facebook and Twitter.   My traffic on “” and “” (which has one more law and technology blog) has remained pretty steady.   I may be “consolidating” some of this content in the future after my “DADT III” book is available (Aug. 22).  I wanted to reiterate that blogs, flat sites and books generally are available for everyone, and typically the author does not know who accessed the material and does not have a right to know (although the advertising environment is changing that idea).  Social media is predicated on a totally different precept, that you know who your friends and followers are, and who is most likely to see your content and be interested in it.  That "whitelisting" idea means you need some sort of outreach (outside of just “speech”) to find and befriend them first.  This is a profound paradigm change.  

Monday, September 09, 2013

Barrett Brown cases raises possibility of prosecution for "merely" hyperlinking to classified or otherwise illegal materials

Generally, bloggers have come to feel safe with hyperlinks, certainly in the copyright area.  It is true that it is possible to get sued for hyperlinking to libelous content, but those incidents seem to be very rare in practice.

But a somewhat rogue journalist, Barrett Brown, faces federal prosecution in Texas and conceivably decades in prison over a hyperlink in his chatroom for “Project PM”, concerning Wikileaks materials.  One problem is that the material he linked to gives away personal information (credit card info), so the fibbies are adding identity theft to the prosecution, although Brown had no interest in the personal information released.  He was trying to expose unseemly links between federal intelligence agencies and defense contractors and certain lobbyists.   David Carr has the details in the New York Times Business Day Monday here. Trevor Timm and Hanni Fakhoury had written about this for Electronic Frontier Foundation in July, here. There is a site for Barrett Brown supporters here
There are other complications in Brown’s story, all of which could have made him a target for federal prosecutors.  But it is frightening that a federal prosecutor makes up a theory that a hyperlink, by “sharing information”, amounts to a kind of illegal possession.  Still, one can imagine scenarios involving “intentional” linking to child pornography without actually “possessing” it on one’s own hardware, or to sites that traffic underage women, or pushing illegal pharmaceuticals.   It’s obvious this is a very slippery slope legally, ripe with potential overbreadth.

The Times points out that journalists and newspapers link to classified information “all the time” and make their own judgments on what to publish.  I have linked to Wikileaks before (when it was up).  I still have am embed of Bradley Manning’s 40-minute leaked video (sorry, Chelsea Manning) in April 2010 on my “cf” blog with many page requests over the years.  No one has knocked on my door.  Am I breaking the law by linking to a YouTube video seen by millions (outside of my own blog) but surely illegal when uploaded?

Let me add, again.  I have received tips before that I thought were classified and that I thought should not be released, and I have contacted authorities on these.  But I use my own judgment.  In my business, that’s all I can do. 

Outfielders have to keep their eye on the baseball and not play too shallow; so do free speech activists; Section 230 proposal will come up soon

Right now, it’s important for free speech advocates to keep their eyes on the ball.  Baseball provides a good analogy.  Outfielders sometimes move in, with weaker hitters (or in the bottom of the ninth with less than two outs and the winning run on third).  But they can’t afford to let the balls get over their heads.  They can’t afford to lose a ball in the sun or lights while they chase it.
Congress is very distracted right now with the Syria issue, as it officially returns to work today, Monday, September 9, 2013.  But it still faces the possibility of an intractable budget and debt ceiling fight in October.  None of this makes much sense, and it could leave persons and small businesses in this country vulnerable to destruction by terrorism carried out as blowback from an attack.  The whole NSA thing is double-edged, because if there really is a plot, to explode a dirty bomb or EMP flux device, “we” need to know about it.
There’s also the issue of the proposal by state attorneys general to remove Section 230 downstream liability protections to service providers with respect to state criminal laws (not civil).  I haven’t yet heard that this has yet been introduced, but I suspect it will be submitted at any time in each house.  Is the concern overblown?  After all, it would only come into play when a state law specifically said that a service provider (or its officers or employees) could be prosecuted.  That sounds unlikely, but New Jersey recently tried to implement such a law (I’m not sure if a similar law in Washington state went as far).  Generally, most state and federal laws on matters like this say that a party faces liability when it “knowingly” does or possesses something illegal (child pornography possession laws generally work this way, but not absolutely always).  States may try to criminalize setting up websites for the “purpose” of facilitating sex (or illegal pharmaceuticals) trafficking, or for attracting revenge porn or malicious accusations (such as with the STD carriers site discussed here March 12, 2012).  It could quickly become a serious challenge to stop these from becoming overbroad.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Las Vegas Sun, which had reported on Righthaven copyright troll, may close, an irony

A newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun, which had been the main competitor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal when the latter paper became involved with copyright troll Righthaven and had reported on a lot of the detail, may close.  The New York Times has a story by Timothy Pratt on the front page today, link here.  Curiously, the Sun had an arrangement with Stephens Media and at one time had almost become a separate section of the Review-Journal, according to the Times story.  Wikipedia has a history of the LVRJ and Righthaven relationship here.
In May, 2013 this blog reported on a 9th Circuit ruling that Righthaven had no standing as a plaintiff in its cases, with the Righthaven Victims blog account here

This story about the Sun certainly creates a curious irony, and has hardly been noticed given the attention to the sale of the Washington Post.  

Thursday, September 05, 2013

"Auteurs" and "artists" who know me should network online; Post staffers disagree on "news customer" trends as Bezos takes over

Here are a couple “random” remarks, like in a mathematics textbook.
A number of artists, musicians, writers, journalists, filmmakers, technology bloggers and the like may find themselves frequently mentioned in some of my blogs.  In some but not all cases I may be linked to them on Facebook or Twitter (not always both) or LinkedIn.  I encourage people whom I know (or whose work I know and follow) to meet one another online.  Usually, the easiest place to check is Twitter, first the professional feed if there is more than one account for a particular person.  Many but not all people link their Twitter feeds into Facebook.  I do that. 
I can remember that maybe six years ago, many people kept blogs on Myspace.  By then, some celebrities had both Facebook and Myspace blogs, but until maybe 2009 or so, the Myspace blogs were often much more complete, as Facebook had much smaller character limits (I think it’s 450, but not 140 like Twitter).  For example,  I can recall a few years ago that Ashton Kutcher had a lot more material on Myspace than Facebook.
There has been a lot of talk about the acquisition of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, and what kind of tinkering or experimentation he may try.  Bezos seems to express skepticism about the development of paywalls, because users can always go to other sites that summarize the news “for free”.  There’s also a lot going on right now on Twitter among Post staffers, to the effect that people under 35 or so don’t read anything on printed paper at all, and that almost everyone over 50 does.  I think that’s an overstatement.  Some papers and magazines (including scientific and medical journals) like to set things up so that the most cost-effective subscription gives both print copies and digital access.   I think social media has an effect on how people receive news, with the Facebook Timeline concept, personalizing it, so that not only conventional print media but older Web 1.0 information sites blogs and have trouble competing for audience.  I have to think about this, and I think that the business models of service providers, if not even shared web hosts, can eventually be affected, as they will be affected by “do not track.”

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

CA bill (SB255) against "revenge" libel could interact with states' proposals to weaken Section 230

NBC News is reporting that the California “revenge porn” bill (website url SB255) is likely to attract attention in other states, with link here.  Note that the CA bill is an extension of an already existing law. 

I was aware that people sometimes go after others on Facebook or other well-known platforms.  People have been damaged, of course;  and major providers like Facebook and YouTube will remove materials a TOS violations despite technical Section 230 protection.   Typically, most discussion forum moderators will remove personal attacks also, and generally can do so without being viewed as “editing” and weakening Section 230 immunity.

Another issue, according to the NBC story, is the presence of “revenge” sites like “Is Anyone Up?”.  Anderson Cooper had looked at this sort of problem with the discussion of an “STD Carriers” website as I discussed here March 12, 2012. 

One can connect the dots and suppose that a state criminalizes a service provider who knowingly abets “revenge libel” – to shut down sites specifically set up for revenge, cyberbullying, to disclose private medical information, to traffic in underage prostitutes, to sell illegal drugs, and a variety of other normally objectionable purposes.  State attorneys general will say that they need the Section 230 “exception” (to allow prosecution of service providers under state criminal codes) to enforce these.  It will provoke a troubling argument, as to whether there is a slippery slope or chilling effect. 
It certainly sounds as though the self-distribution of free speech on the Web is put in jeopardy if there is an overriding public purpose in protecting the vulnerable from the worst actions of the few, when “free speech” of many doesn’t seem to carry compelling standard unless there is “responsibility for others” to go with the speech.