Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Scandal over leaked photos (4chan) at the same time as terrorist recruiting could call for brakes on Internet freedom

The latest in the saga about 4chan and celebrity hacks is that the threat to Emma Watson is reported to be a hoax, in an attempt to get 4chan shuttered, CNN story link here. Tuesday, Amanda Taub had authored a piece on Vox, “The sexual threats on Emma Watson are an attack on every woman”, link here.  Indeed, the article pointed to posts and taunts from heterosexual men who believe they are entitled to “whatever they want” which sounds like the attitude in some of the Middle East.  Females are definitely much more vulnerable to this sort of thing.  Attractive young male celebrities never become targets of this sort of thing because they couldn’t work.
The Wikipedia article on 4chan as an “imageboard” and the activism it encourages makes it appear legitimate, as does the Wiki biography of founder Christopher Poole, here. McAfee, on one of my machines, warns that 4chan is a dangerous site.  

The freedom of people to post things online without the pre-screening of gatekeepers – buttressed by Section 230 and (with respect to copyright) DMCA Safe Harbor, will come under increasing scrutiny in coming days.  Court opinions (like for COPA) that helped support this capacity are getting forgotten.  The Internet has been very good for people (“like me”) who live in a certain cognitive space but don’t like direct social competition or coerced personal interactions (like in families) – and who keep their own personal skin out of the game. But that same freedom invites abuse from those who grow up really rootless in a personal sense.  Weak parenting, absent fathers, and the likelihood of being born into families that had fewer resources (as better-off people have fewer kids and wait longer to have them or avoid the parental experience altogether) lead to young people who don’t do critical thinking and who have no concept of how to fit personally into “democratic capitalism”.  They need to belong to something (Books, Martin Fowler’s work, reviewed Aug. 27), where the future of the group is more important than the individual, and where sacrifice is important.  They live in a world of “us” and “them” (less-than-human “enemies”).  This becomes a world of gangs and tribalism, and sometimes vehement religious violence as with radical Islam. It's a world that invites authoritarian rule.  We’re indeed seeing all this come together in current events in the past few weeks.  The same social media, that gave me Second Life (pun intended, perhaps), the same unsupervised technical facility that enabled the Arab Spring, too, suddenly was turned around and became the easy source for recruiting directionless young men, and as an easy repository for instructions on homemade terror. The same social media has become a tool for eroticizing the most gratuitous, personal violence.  I recall well my own mother’s concern when I was about 10 that some movies (horror and violence) were “bad for you”.  And I process the recommendations to limit the screen time for minors, not just infants but into high school (Sept. 16 posting).  
Now, there are actually brief debates on CNN (as on the Don Lemon show), should you shut something down, or leave it up and monitor it?  Do you jam the signals or just listen in?  All the sudden, the public wants to listen in to what is said on social media because the asymmetric threats could be so dire.  At the same time, Apple and other manufacturers are moving to keep encrypted private communications out of the reach of government forever, even when there are warrants.  Self-broadcast social media is all that is left for warning signs.  I suppose that the NSA could account for inflated pages request totals in my own stuff, when the requests don’t show up in regular reports.  And I’m fine with that.  Maybe they’ll learn something.
Of course, it’s not the service, it’s the user.  It’s not the gun, it’s the person firing it.
But, for me, there is no Third Act.  My own direction is what it is. To quote the teen character in “The Zero Theorem”, “I’m nobody’s tool.”

Update: Later Wednesday

Vox Media disputes the CNN story that the Emma Watson stuff was a hoax, here.  

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