Saturday, December 31, 2016

Moving on to the next big steps, in 2017: five tasks to complete, and then maybe a relocation

I wanted to lay out my “content” priorities for 2017.

First, I’ve been looking at ways I can indeed “give back” more than I have.  One issue I’ve looked at is (LGBTQ) asylum seekers.  It’s all very inconclusive.  In a number of areas volunteer agencies to communicate a sense of “duty” but are not very transparent about it.  You have to “belong” to the “group” and experience some relationism – a willingness to let people into your life who could become dependent, and give up some unencumbered-ness. .  (I won’t get into a speculative distinction between “relationism” and “relationalism” right now.)

I also want to make a move toward selling my screenplay “Epiphany” based on the three DADT books, and the novel “Angel’s Brother”.  To be able to do this, travel (long distances, by air and even internationally) has to get a lot easier.  Some of that means better mastery of some technology do deal with security issues, but it would also help if my residential circumstances were simpler.  An old house can take a lot of time and present unpredictable disruptions, especially just before travel.  A modern high rise apartment could simplify a lot of things for me.  So that could mean sale (for a teardown probably) and moving.  I have some interest in living in New York again (but most of Manhattan is unaffordable), but the practicality could mean staging things and being in a modern place near Dulles airport to simplify travel (for one year, then move again).  That’s one idea.  It (the first phase) could happen by the middle of 2017.  The entire process would take about three months from the time I committed myself. But once I started, I would not have time for much else until done. In the past, when I have anticipated moves to happen in the next year, they have tended to happen within 6-9 months.  One possible scenario could mean eventual relocation west (like Austin, or maybe Las Vegas, for access to California.  It sounds like free agent time.

But there are five “content-oriented” tasks that I need to put to bed first.

(1) Finish a series of (Wordpress) postings on the “right-sizing” issue (at least three more). These will be substantial.

(2) Complete some more analysis of the “loose ends” in my novel plot, and especially how the novel relates to two older manuscripts that I have.  These older manuscripts are “Tribunal and Rapture”, an “Armageddon” story told from the viewpoint of an aging retired FBI agent, who encounters “Bill” and his cohorts on a nationwide odyssey. “Angel’s Brothers”, on the other hand, is told from the viewpoint of a middle-aged gay CIA agent with a straight family, and his gifted college student boyfriend, who has stumbled into the real secrets.  “Tribunal and Rapture” was apparently started in mid 1999, and a first draft completed by early 2001. But “Tribunal and Rapture” has it’s own prequel, “Rain on the Snow”, apparently written in 2000. That novel is centered on “Bill’s” experienced being trained as a civilian reservist after losing his regular job, at a secret facility in West Texas.  He discovers the “plot” and winds up in jail after a false accusation.  That novel was expanded with an extended prequel of its own with other characters in 2003-2004.  The entire set up could be used to build a movie “franchise” and I will set up some new materials on Wordpress to show how his could be done, even after I am “gone”.

(3) Complete some more drafts of my music, especially the Sonatas 2 and 3.  (The miniatures are essentially done now.) But I need to do more work on the “last pivot” on the coda of the Sonata 3 (about 8 more measures, but critical), and some of the repetitious harmonic patterns in certain developmental passages (one in particular that is repeated twice) in Sonata 2, which I may do with a cut and past on a hand original from 1960 (after making a good photocopy). PDF’s of this sheet music exist now.

(4) Tie loose ends in the screenplays, especially “Epiphany”, “Titanium”, and maybe “69 Minutes to Titan”.
(5) Make and edit videos of my explaining my take on (a) why homophobia was the way it was in the past, and (b) what I would say as the “State of the Union” were I in Trump’s shoes.  I want do beef up my skills with FinalCut Pro, and do a better job of the photo (even selfie) mixing it with location photos and some other videos.  I have a GoPro for this, but it isn’t working out that well, may need a different kind of videocam.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fake news avoidance by major advertisers creates a business model problem for user-generated content

Sapna Maheshwari writes in the New York Times, “In Fake News, Ads Are Costly to Conscience, “, or, online, titled “Advertising’s moral struggle: Is Online Reach Worth the Hurt?
Some larger companies are now only placing ads in verified whitelisted sites that they check out.

 While established ad networks can scan with robots for obviously offensive material (hate speech, and sometimes pornography, especially c.p.) generally they have no way of ascertaining the validity of stories.  And up until the election of Trump, fake news sold ads well.

The whole business model for advertising on user-generated content may have been based on misleading material.  Facebook and Google, as reported before, are trying to weed it out, at least “voluntarily”, from their ad networks.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Obama sings Consumer Review Fairness Act, going after non-disparagement or non-review clauses

Congress has passed and President Obama has signed the Consumer Review Fairness Act (HR 5111 ) Electronic Frontier Foundation, link.  (Oops, my post headline says "sings" when I meant to type "signs".  But I guess he did "sing" it after all.)

The law takes aim at two kinds of tactics:  one is non-disparagement clauses, and the other (which I had not heard of before) is clauses that try to take copyright ownership of a user review.  That idea itself sounds in contradiction to existing copyright law.

Let us hope the incoming GOP Congress will have the same respect for consumers.  After all, Trump’s statements supposedly supporting his own constituency are quite troubling.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Orlando Pulse victims' families sue social media companies for indirectly aiding ISIS on their platforms; novel argument concerning Section 230

The families of at least three victims of the Pulse terror attack in Orlando on June 12, 2016 have filed lawsuits against Twitter, Facebook and Google (owner of Blogger, the platform on which this post appears) for “aiding and abetting” terrorists by knowingly or at least recklessly and negligently allowing terrorists to recruit on their platforms.

The story has been discussed on CNN this morning. CNN does not seem to have a detailed story online yet.  The suit was apparently filed in Florida, but it was not clear if this is in state or federal court.  Dana Bash interviewed plaintiff's attorney Keith Altman, who described the social media companies' efforts so far as like "weed whacking", and not pulling out the roots.  It sounds like the analogy between shaving and laser epilation.

Media reports are showing up now, such as this account on Gannett USA Today and this one in the Huffington Post here.  Fox has a story here.

All three companies have become more aggressive in rooting out content they know to be promoting radical Islamic terrorism (to use Ted Cruz’s term).  I just randomly checked the link for the Haqqu Media Center on Facebook a few minutes ago and found it removed.

The most obvious defense is, of course, Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  Services providers are not normally legally liable for defamation or privacy torts committed by their users.

 There could be an analogy to child pornography, because service provider do have to remove and report child pornography when they find it, but again, they don’t have to check for it beforehand (although Google apparently does check email attachments for known images on the NCMEC database).

Plaintiffs claim (especially this morning on an interview on CNN with Dana Bash) that service providers are “creating content” by matching up users, content, and ads to show to them (especially for users who do not turn on “do not track”).  This is like saying a “logical relationship” or “intersection data” on a database (like IMS) is data itself (which used to be a popular view among database technology developers).  Socially, it’s like saying that the bonds among people are as important as the people themselves.

The litigation will obviously take a long time and generate appeals, but it will certainly prompt Trump to question Section 230 in conjunction with what he particularly views as a grave national security threat: the targeting of ordinary American civilians by foreign elements as “combatants”, which social media allegedly facilitates.

There have been other lawsuits against the social media companies, as over the Paris attacks, as reported by the AP and The Verge in June.

But this can develop into an existential threat to user-generated content “as we know it”.  Ordinary web hosts (Bluehost, for example) could also be exposed, but they are not directly involved in ad matching, normally.  I will follow this story closely and follow up with more details on my Wordpress News Commentary blog. I’ll try to find a PDF copy of the complaint online.

We seem to become a "Manchurian candidate" society.  Somebody else made me do it.

Picture:  I was in the Pulse in July 2015, almost one year before the attack.  It could have happened to me.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Facebook takes on fake news again, (Yes, but ... )

Facebook is announcing a strategy to “put fake news out of business, with your help”, according to a story Thursday night on NBC Nightly news, with video, here.

Users can mark a post, which can allow Facebook to mark it as disputed and ban the publisher from its ad networks, when enough visitors have reported the post as possibly “fake news” .  In some cases Facebook will show stories as disputed.  “We cannot become arbiter of truth itself”, and “we aim at the worst of the worst.”

I do have a problem that satire will get edited out.  For example, most of the postings of Milo (Breitbart) have a great deal of satire, but no hatred and no actual fake stories.  Somehow I’m reminded of the “Fact or Fiction” controversy about the Jersey Devil as well laid out in the 1998 sci-fi indie film :The Last Broadcast” which came out about the same time as the better known “The Blair Witch Project”.
And I have an issue of wondering, are we “ungated speakers” morally responsible for taking advantage of a permissive climate where so many “deplorables” among the user base don’t have the IQ or sense to avoid the gullibility to what amounts to a kind of information or knowledge spam?

However, someone whom I consider quite reputable has said recently that Silicon Valley has destroyed the profession of reporting, on a Facebook post himself.  In theory, that would maintain that my own model of “It’s free” (like in Reid Ewing’s 2012 video), allowing my perspectives to be found and get into the debate passively (something that worked very well with the “gays in the military” debate some years back) could destroy journalistic or media professionalism.  Amateur speech has a role in keeping established politicians accountable, and especially reining in on the reparative claims of “identity politics”.  But amateur speech can become gratuitous, and make others wonder about the speaker’s real motivations.

Along these lines, one can digest Charles Sykes and “Where the right went wrong” in New York Times.   This is pure tribalism:  you belong on one side or another, and either your side wins or loses.  We can’t all play for the Chicago Cubs in 2016 (Jimmy Kimmel notwithstanding).

Tim Toles writes, in the Washington Post, “The 2016 election was stolen.  Got a nicer way to say that?

Note Catherine Rampbell’s column Friday morning, also in the Post, “The right shuts down free speech, too”.

You might want to watch Vox journalist Tim Lee (whom I know from my days in Minneapolis) take on Tucker Carlson over the fake news issue on Fox, here. Lee is generally libertarian himself but does think private social media companies need to take this seriously.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trump gets to know the stakes for Silicon Valley

Donald Trump met with more than a dozen Silicon Valley executives in his “Rump Tower”, in a 25th floor “Board room” right out of “The Apprentice”, although with some nice views.  They even put on formal suits.  Elizabeth Dwoskin and Brian Fung have the story in the Washington Post on p. A14,   with a list of attendees.

The meeting had been organized by Peter Thiel.

Trump seems to be easing up a bit on immigration, going along with the idea of allowing highly skilled engineers (often from Asia or India) to come, and less concerned that companies like Apple and Tesla buy parts from overseas.  Apple has been criticized because so many of its parts come from China, where workers reportedly live in dorm factories.  This creates a “karma” problem for tech users.

Trump seems vigorous on pursuing the business tax cuts they want.

And he seems less concerned about weighing in on the vulnerabilities created by a lax attitude toward user-generated content (including “fake news”), which makes recruitment of unstable people by ISIS and other potential enemies easier.  But you still wonder how sustainable the business models of many of the major companies will be, as the public become skittish about ads and excessive consumerism.   There’s still an ethical question as to whether UGC should pay its own freight.
Twitter, oddly, was not at the meeting, or even invited – given Trump’s own Twitter storms.
Still, Tech is globalistic and "elitist" and anti-tribal (although Facebook didn't take into account a lot of people's tribal tendencies in picking news to share and believe).  Simon Shsuter, describing "people power" on p. 82 of the Time "Person of the Year: issue ((T)rump), views globalism as an antidote to prevent war and struggle.  But populist Farage is quoted as saying that globalism shows Europe's "'complete lack of understanding of human beings operate.' In a world of Farage and his allies, people gravitate more toward tribal notions of identity than to lofty principles of integration."  That  helps predict homophobia;  gay people (especially men) have less reason for "loyalty to blood" - even as promoted by "Jake 2.0" in one episode. FEE has a related article on how tribalism relates to Bannon's economic nationalism, keeping the world in conflict, and speakers in their proper place, here.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

CNN ponders election and journalism under Trump at local bookstore; more on fake news; EFF speaksasy

Today, I had three events.

It started with a visit to Politics and Prose in Washington DC, where at 4 PM a CNN panel headed by Brian Stetler (with Christmas socks) and Dana Bash presented the book “Unprecedented” to a very full audience.

The answer to my question on Trump, Section 230 and social media appears in this video.

I also visited the Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria, and saw the ping pong tables inside, which is rare for a restaurant.

Today, Timothy B. Lee of Vox published an essay “Facebook should crush fake news the way Google crushed spammy content farms,”  I would add that Google misclassified  some“legitimate blogs” as spam blogs during the summer of 2008 when Google really took on link farms.  They used to offer captchas also.  Tim O’Reilly has recommended that Facebook implement the methods of Matt Cutts from that eras at Google.  “Nitecruzr” has discussed this problem on his own “Real Blogger Status” blog, here.

I then took a bus (surface) to Adams Morgan to get to the “Rebellion” bar on 18th St. where Electronic Frontier Foundation held a speakeasy.  There was little discussion of Trump, but I talked to a GWU anthropology graduate student who was going to do a dissertation on civilian control of the military, which is the subject of James Mattis’s recent book (which I reviewed on Wordpress Dec. 8).

 We also talked about the “old chestnut” debate over unit cohesion in the early days of Bill Clinton’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy for gays in the military.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Cato holds forum on "Free Speech in the Age of Trump"

Tonight, the Cato Institute held a forum at 6 PM regarding Digital Rights under a Trump Administration, or “Free Speech in the Age of Trump”, link here.
One of the two main speakers was Flemming Rose, author of the “The Tyranny of Silence” (book reviews, Feb. 3, 2015).  Rose was the editor of Jyllands Posten in September 2005 when he decided to publish the cartoons of Muhammad.  That led to a huge uproar and eventual threats against Rose, as explained in the wiki article  or Atlantic.  There was a time later when as a condition of employment he was not allowed to speak or write publicly about religion or the controversy.

Rose insists that the only right you don’t have in a democracy is the purported right not to be offended.

Nick Gillespie, of Reason Magazine, told a story  of a subpoena his magazine got after a comment to an article was taken to threaten a federal judge, who had sentenced Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht to life imprisonment.   Section 230 should have protected Reason for liability for the comment.

Later, as the video shows, I asked whether could use the idea of “war against civilians” by ISIS as justification for shutting down a lot of user generated content.

Gillespie also mentioned that partisanship and gerrymandering, along with weak parties, make those favoring  moderate positions (fiscal conservative, socially liberal) impossible to elect, and tend to lead to various forms of identity and victimization politics.  He spoke badly of Bernie Sanders.

Gillespie noted that Facebook is a "platform", Breitbart is an "opinion" site and should not be regarded as a news site, whereas the New York Times is a true news site.   "Citizen journalists" do report news when they photograph videos themselves as they see it;  but by and large most "citizen" commentary is opinion (based on personal values or philosophy) and not true news. But readers have trouble understanding that.

After the session, I did mention to him that I had intended to include Section 230 in my question.  It’s easy to see how Section 230 could come under fire after “PizzaGate” since the many claims on certain forum sites were libelous and it would be very difficult in practice (for the restaurant) to go after everyone who had posted fake news.

Kat Murti moderated.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Fake news addict attacks a "target" pizza shop in DC; tech companies further explain how they will deal with terror promotion online; short film "Unhackable"

A (white) gunman (from Salisbury, North Carolina) stormed into the Comet Ping Pong Pizza Parlor in far Northwest Washington, fired one shot causing property damage but no injuries, and was arrested – but now the place is closed a couple days as police and the FBI investigate.  He seems to have been inspired by fake news stories that claimed that Hillary Clinton and others had been connected to a sex slave ring associated with the place.

The perp, Edgar Welch, now arrested, claimed he was doing a citizen investigation (and vigilante action perhaps) on the supposed ring.

In fact, Hillary Clinton’s email scandal was amplified by Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to Congress, where the email scandal was connected to allegations of Anthony Weiner’s supposed communications with an underage girl.

But even Trump was in a civil case, later dropped, with those kinds of allegations in the 1990s.

Billy Bush’s taping of the Days of our Lives NBC set, at least, only involved legal adults.

CBS News has the master story of Pizza shop incident here.  But it looks back to a local news story at WUSA about the viciousness and incredible nature of the fake news problem (and “#Pizzagate”).

NBCWashington has a detailed story here.

But NBCNews has an even more detailed story, about how the fake news blew up on 4chan, here. This fact pattern would seem to argue that Section 230 is giving some sites too much cover (although Reddit banned the thread).
So, we find a lot of Hillary's “deplorables” are easily duped by what they want to believe.

Other neighboring businesses in that area say they have been harrassed based on these fake news allegations.

Then, Facebook, Google-Youtube and Microsoft all say they will remove hate speech or terror materials in 24 hours when reported.  Microsoft says it will use a United Nations definition of what constitutes a terror group.  CNN has a detailed story on this, previewed by a video short film titled “Unhackable” (about sextortion involving Facebook and Skype)   .  The article emphasizes Europe.

Microsoft’s blog post is pretty indicative of how Silicon Valley will handle terror content online, here.  Trump could make “wartime” arguments to shut down a lot of user-generated content when ordinary civilians are put at risk.

Update: December 7

A detailed story by Marc Fisher et al on Pizzagate, front page of the Washington Post, here. Again, you wonder about Section 230 when the comments about the restaurant were so libelous, and difficult to pursue in practice.

Update: December 8

German Lopez of Vox has a detailed story that mentions a NYPD arrest rumor that I had heard verbally.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Postwaves: a crowd-controlled social network, where people vote on whether your post stays

I found a new limited social networking site called Postwaves today.

It apparently allows posts to stay on its site if other users vote to keep them there, as a way of controlling spam, gratuitousness and fake news.

I found there was an account in my email name.  I don't remember setting it up, but it let me reset the password.

I then looked up one article, from Space, about life in a research station in Utah preparing people to live on Mars, here. That site presented an annoying popup (about Trump and infrastructure, good enough) that wouldn't go away until I went into the article again.

I saw another article with a basic biology lesson on genetics.  Another article, about concussions among high school football players, had disappeared.  

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Major academic book publisher offers a collection of scientific papers to open access

Taylor and Francis , a legacy book publisher that tends to emphasize non-fiction, texts, academic books and commentary, has accumulated a list of “open-source” articles on critical academic and technical subjects, such as medicine, energy, environment, and climate change. Any connection to Baker and Taylor?

The main link is here.

There is quite a collection of impressive and important research listed here.

Jack Andraka had retweeted this link earlier today.