Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fair Use and Internet culture

Kit Walsh has an important perspective on Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Copyright Law vs. Internet Culture”. This essay is part of “Fair Use Week”.

The essay mentions the practice of mixing music and other media, creating derivative works.  It also mentions that amateurs often don’t have the resources to defend themselves in court for cases that they could probably win.  This applies to copyright as well as defamation (SLAPP) and remember a few years ago we had to deal with copyright trolls like Righthaven.

There is a culture in music and film industries to extract every drop of profit from some works.  That’s partly because larger businesses in media and film are in someway funded by investors or sometimes donors who may believe owners have a fiduciary responsibility.  That’s also because the more “popular” parts of the media generally claim that they employ more people, and can credibly argue that (union and guild) jobs are at stake.  20th Century Fox, particularly, states how many people it employed in the copyright notices on every studio financed film, often claiming it sponsored more than 10000 jobs.

I see a lot of people recording dancing at discos.  Even that has gotten a little more problematic in recent years given privacy concerns, but I almost never post homemade video with disco music on YouTube out of copyright concerns.  It’s a little silly, as the practice wouldn’t reduce owners’ incomes or threaten jobs. It would be difficult in practice to request and get permission for every such video.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Report on my own circumstances with respect to hosting issue; Trump blasts "fake news media" and bans mainstream news outlets at gaggle

Given my own recent investigations and blogging about the (gay) asylum seeker issue, I took a “personal integrity” check of sorts and had a 1:1 with a pastor in Washington DC yesterday.

She, along with a number of church members, had returned recently from a few days in Cuba.  She noted that people in Cuba are very smart and well educated but have a uniformly low standard of living because of past Communism.  Most poor countries, people don’t show book smarts.  But in the interest of “egalitarianism”, Cuba has suppressed individual initiative and kept everyone equally poor.  So did Maoist China in the 1960s.  Generally, there is no Internet, no wide dissemination of personal news (or “fake news” for that matter).

I left a copy of my DADT-III (2014) book (they already have DADT-1).

Let me try to summarize one particular train of thought:  We are born “unequal” in circumstance and biological capability.  I think inequality (most of all, from accumulated and inherited wealth, not just income) is a serious, destabilizing problem (DADT-III) even though it must naturally accompany freedom and innovation at first.  But inequality is addressed first when those who are “luckier” give back and enhance value in the lives of “real people as people”, not just in abstractions.  It is not addressed well simply by joining mass movements or demonstrations, or automatically giving exaggerated support to people who claim to be members of marginalized groups, with no critical thinking about “what actually works” intervening.

The “giving back” issue is particularly testy with citizen journalists, who may be perceived as “spectators” or “kibitzers” or as “iv-critics”, who are unwilling to place their own skin in the game (maybe literally ), yet who may have a disproportionate influence on the lives of those who take on more responsibility than they (the gratuitous speakers or provocateurs) do.  This, if you think about it, fits the traditionalist conservative idea of family values, where it is presumed that everyone has a responsibility to care for other generations locally.

So, I have been looking at this asylum seeker issue since last summer.  The “need” arises from the fact that there is a population that does have the temporary and contingent legal right to stay in the United States  despite lack of normal documentation (based on accepted asylum applications) but that is legally preceded from gaining government benefits (for some number of months) and from working.  Legally, the only way those without accumulated savings can remain here is if someone supports them as a dependent.  But the law (outside of the end-stage idea of actual marriage) does not provide any such recognition to the host and exposes the host to many uncertain risks.  (In Canada it is much clearer.)

The current Trump administration takes on a mentality of “take care of your own” (that is, Americans) first.  But Americans (citizens, and most permanent legal residents) are normally entitled to benefits and to work, to function as normal individuals.  The class of asylum seekers, whose numbers (especially including Central America) are considerable but whose situation is narrow and whose needs may take on a life-death urgency, seems pointed and to present specific moral challenges to individuals in my circumstances, with an inherited house.

Generally, our “society” does not expect individuals to house homeless persons whom they do not already know  (earlier commentary).  And in the LGBT community, allowing people to “stay” or “crash” is common and informal and often accompanies the start of personal relationships, but it is “under the table” and not a policy matter.  (It still can become a safety issue for neighbors.)   Yesterday’s meeting did not result in any change in that perception.

Judging from news reports, it appear that some organizations of faith feel that it is morally imperative to house undocumented immigrants even when flouting the law, out of compassion or humanitarian concerns.  Usually these are housed in churches or public buildings.  Sometimes people are hidden in private homes (under the Fourth Amendment) but this does not seem all that common.  There are tremendous volunteer activities to help illegal immigrants at southern borders, but most of this happens inside actual church property (with feeding, clothing, tents) or may especially involve conducting known relatives of the immigrants and buying them bus tickets.

I do not consider it my moral obligation to flout the law to “give back”, at least in these circumstances.  Housing of someone without documentation and without a legitimate and credible asylum application cannot become my personal concern.  In general, though, I recognize that there can be times with faith can demand civil disobedience, but I don’t think that point is reached here.

And even today, most faith-based organizations helping immigrants do not openly ask for housing assistance in private homes, although sometimes this occurs (as with adult immigrants traveling alone).

So, at this point, I perceive myself approaching a critical decision point, with a sense of neutral equilibrium, and a risk of rolling over.  Right now, the bias in the system seems to say that people should not be expected to house others whom they do not already know personally, unless, perhaps, there are some reference or background checks.  There needs to be some supervision, from a church or social service agency.  The social service agencies right now generally (away from border areas) handle only refugees because that’s where the government assistance is (even if pre-screened foreign refugee admissions are temporarily banned by Trump). However a host’s own church could help supervise a housed asylum seeker, and this idea was discussed.

I have spent a lot of time investigating this on my own.  Some of the issues (like liability for Internet router use) could be mitigated with some techniques like guest accounts or possibly OpenDNS (the latter of limited use).  I have not heard much specific about the local situation since Trump was inaugurated by I may next week, after Trump issues another EO and addresses Congress, so that we have more idea of the contingencies that could happen with hosting asylum seekers.

The hosting need (covered on my LGBT issues, international issues, and Wordpress news commentary blogs) is likely to be low volume (because of tightened credibility practices regarding fear and “particular social group”) but extreme need (nearly certain persecution, maybe death, if the person is deported).  This could put someone in a “know nothing” position – once one knows about a particular case that is presented, one must “step up” and take the risk (as in Chapter 6 of my DADT-III book).  That would mean some time-consuming due diligence steps (with attorneys) before accepting someone who could become a dependent.  So I don’t know how this will turn out, but I think it’s likely to be resolved before “The Ides of March”.

One ethical or credible solution could be to downsize and sell (the family Drogheda).  That means I go back to an apartment, which I chose, which takes less time and risk to manage, and frees up time for my own priorities.  That eliminates the “political liability” of having inherited space that you don’t really need. It could become a tear-down.  As an only child, the final legacy of my parents’ 1940 marriage dissolves, there is no lineage.    If this is my decision, I’ll outline the remaining “homework” that I must finish before starting the process of a sale and relocation, which itself would probably take 60-90 days from the get-go.

In terms of Biblical references, this somewhat like the “give to whoever asks” (Matthew 5:42) idea in the Beatitudes, more than “turn the other cheek.”  It is about the connection of faith and works.  If is more about duty than taking responsibility for choices in the usual libertarian sense.  Because duty, by definition, involves stepping up to risk and “costs you something” (and can mean “bullet taking” or sacrifice relative to the former self in the more extreme cases) it is connected indeed to “right-sizing” (the Wordpress news commentary blog) even though that concept is easily abused by authoritarian leaders and tends to disguise the need to have more real “heart” and organic spontaneity.

We talked about whether the heavily bureaucratized volunteer groups  (food banks and delivery, community assistance, help lines, etc) really do much good.  She said that they do, but communication with clients is gradual and very difficult.  But sometimes risk-sharing forces you to walk in others’ shoes for a while, maybe a long time;  to walk away from that sometimes amounts to cowardice.  Remember, the "Rich Young Ruler's" problem was that he had too much to lose, when the poor or "average Joe" people don't (and can do more "off the books").  And the Parable of the Talents promises a world of inequality on its face, until people circulate themselves back in.

The idea of "radical hospitality", however, could become important social resilience factors after a major regional catastrophe (even a WMD incident).

One other thing right now:

This morning (speaking at CPAC at the Gaylord in National Harbor, MD), Donald Trump said that “fake news” comes from media elements that are enemies of “the people” and he called for an end to allowing journalists to cite anonymous sources.  ("The fake news media are he enemy of the people")  I could extend this by reinforcing how authoritarian leaders think that the "people" should be individually "right-sized" in a queue.

CNN is reporting (as of 2 PM) that it, the New York Times, Politco and other mainstream to liberal sites were shut out of attending a White House "gaggle" where the FBI leak may be discussed.  But OANN and the Washington Times may attend.

The Washington Post reported on its own experience with the gaggle later today here.  The New York Times reported on it here.  CNN has a video here.  The Los Angeles Times is especially strident.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

EFF supports Safe Harbor, moderately, as better than nothing

Rebecca Jeschke has a brief article on Electronic Frontier Foundation offering modest support to the way that Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act works – that is, the Safe Harbor.
EFF also mentions Section 1201, which apparently makes it illegal even to publicly discuss materials covered by DRM, or digital rights management, under the DMCA.  The case is Green v. US Department of Justice.   There is more info about the case here.

It seems scary that it could be illegal to "discuss" or report something.  But the original Communications Decency Act tried to do that with some aspects of abortion back in 1996.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Catastrophic President's Day for Milo Yiannopoulos; was this a "hit"?

The Milo Yiannopoulos saga exploded today – while I was on the road like Jack Kerouac.  When I sat down for a burger lunch (not vegan), my phone was filled with stories about Milo.  It started with CPAC’s disinvite.  That alone was enough. It was all from a podcast from “The Drunken Peasants”  whom I have never heard of., leaked by “The Reagan Battalion.”  Sounds like the old “released thru United Artists”.

The New York Times (Jeremy Peters, Alexandra Alter, Michael M. Grynbaum)  analyzes Milo’s rationalizations unfavorably here. I do have my own feelings about his handling of the age of consent issue, and of the idea that some men mature faster than others and that younger men often want to use sex for power and money from older men.  It’s come up in my own writing (when I worked as a sub – July 27, 2007) but it’s too much to analyzes right now.

Yiannopoulos has lost his book deal with Simon & Shuster / Threshold.  I suppose he will self-publish “Dangerours”, or at least I hope so.  I encouraged him to do so with a Facebook comment.
But he might not be able to stay at Breitbart.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Facebook's Journalism Project, and its increased efforts against terror propaganda

Fidji Simo has introduced The Facebook Journalism Project on the company’s own corporate blog, here.

Along these lines, Facebook says it has training courses for journalists.  Perhaps these echo Poynter.

 In general they would seem to focus particularly on reporting local news.

I can see how a Facebook page can be an effective blog with followers and comments, but I would prefer getting more statistics on visitors (you get them if you buy a marketing campaign, $50 per event when I did it).

Facebook also says it is working harder on exposing hoaxes and fake news.

And Steve Overly reports that Facebook plans to use artificial intelligence to identify terrorist recruiting propaganda.  Earlier CNN had reported expanded use of digital watermarks to look for specific images associated with terror (and child pornography) by Facebook and Twitter.

Excerpts from Mark Zuckerberg’s recent “missive” on his plans for Facebook are presented by the AP and Washington Post here.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Milo Yiannopoulos, "le beau provocateur" In French, everything is either masculine or feminine, nothing is neuter (or neutral)

I’ve blogged about the controversy created by Bartbreit procovateur Milo Yiannopoulos.

I collected a few references and tried to get at the bottom of what he really says.

Here’s a recent interview on “The Nation” with “the most hated man on the Internet”. I find Milo’s criticism of libertarianism out of character.  He wants personal freedom, but admits that the collective whole of culture and country matters, too, so that could possibly put his own personal lifestyle into question.

After the Bill Maher episode controversy   (airs on HBO Friday 10 PM) , Mashable published an analysis, describing how Milo deliberately “normalizes” extreme positions so that conservatives (especially the US GOP) will regard them as mainstream. (The gif photo makes him look angelic while characterized as a "monster".)

So I browsed through some sites reporting his quotes.  The Inquisitor had the most constructive article.   But “YourTango” repeated some of the same quotes but with less generous interpretations.   “Azquotes” has a larger volume.

Milo makes statements about members of various groups that reflect how a lot of the “right wing” feels.  But he really makes them in subjunctive mood (which in English is less clear than it would be in French or a romance language).  He makes statements that characterizes some members of marginalized groups who overplay their victimhood, knowing they will inflame a certain segment of the radical Left and set up a chain reaction that keeps him famous .  But the statements are generally not factually true of most people in the groups.

His comment on “fat shaming” is especially indicative.  Yes, there is some element of “personal responsibility” or “moral hazard” here.  But the comment reflects a personal bias, expressed by a gay man, that to be important, another person should be an remain a perfect cis male for eternity (like an angel, perhaps).  It’s interesting that a computer-aged face of Milo circulates on the Internet.

Let's play some language games:  "Le beau provocateur.  La belle provocateuse."  Try the same idea with "arbitrageur".

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How generating fake news (for Donald Trump) on line generates eastern European teenagers plenty of spending money

Here’s another fake news operation to ponder, a Wired story, heavily illustrated with industrial Balkan scenery, “Inside the Macedonian Fake-News Complex,” by Samanth Subramanian 
Before getting into the aggregated fake news business, the teenager played around with consumer-fad items like health foods.  I guess I,m na├»ve;  I don’t engage Facebook ads (except by accident), but many consumers are much more eager to, especially the kind to Trump’s mass movement manipulation.  I do have a problem with accidental clicks on mobile devices because it’s hard to avoid them when browsing. Particularly annoying are sites (“the 20 lowest cost of living cities…”) that make you load fresh pages of ads on your phone to see the next item (and I get a lot of emails asking to put these up on my own blogs). 
The Liam Stack writes in Business Day about how 20th Century Fox created fake news sites to promote “A Cure for Wellness”, which I have not seen yet. 


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Academic publishers try to stop universities from invoking "fair use" to reduce their need to buy expensive subscriptions or force students to do same

There’s another wrinkle now in the open access issue.  Corynne McSherry of Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article about litigation against Georgia State University for placing excerpts from some academic journals on its servers to save students the enormous expense of buying entire books or subscriptions (this fits in with Jack Andraka’s argument that students trying to get into medical research face a “Catch 22”).  Georgia State had been sued by three academic publishers as well as athe AAP trade group, for its interpretation of fair use.
McSherry’s story and subsidiary links and court briefs are here.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Writers Resist" hold protests against Trump

There is a group called “Writers Resist Trump” (a public group on Facebook ). You have to join the group (which requires approval) to get their posts.

There is also a Writers Resist or Write Our Democracy group.

The groups held a protest in Lafayette Park outside the White House early Saturday night.  I did not hear about the protest until this morning.  The group seems to be a bit tightly knit.  Here is the story on WJLA.
It’s significant that writers as a group see Trump’s authoritarianism as a long term existential threat.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Healthy Domains Initiative could compromise use of common words in domain names

Electronic Frontier Foundation has an important piece by Jeremy Malcolm and Mitch Stoltz “Healthy Domains Initiative Isn’t Healthy for the Internet”  with reference to the Domain Names Association’s Healthy Domains Initiative.  There is a document of “Registry/Registrar Health Practices” which could border on what EFF calls “Shadow Regulation”.

One idea drawing criticism is that domain name owners must sign agreements accepting arbitration in case of disputes (I think that’s often the case now with ICANN).  There is concern that content lobbying groups, especially representing large legacy corporate interests in Hollywood and perhaps news organizations and trade publishing, could bring action even against the domain names for various claims of copyright infringement (over and above the DMCA).
Another idea is clamping down on the use of common English words in domain names (as I have done since 1999 with my “Do Ask Do Tell”, corresponding to my book titles).  This would apparently extend a practice of the UDRP.  Possibly it could be used to save these names for large corporate interests that could make more money (e.g. employ more people as in Trump-land).

Monday, February 06, 2017

Automation bots help Twitter pundits; in Germany there is no Section 230

Craig Timberg has an important story in the Washington Post Monday, February 6, 2017, front page, “Online pundits use ‘bots’ to turn tweets into roars”, link here.

 The article discusses retiree and conservative blogger Daniel John Sobieski in Chicago, and his use of “bots” to broadcast well-assembled tweets to many audiences.  Trump supporters have been particularly aggressive with this approach.

Twitter has its rules against overuse of automation, but they don’t seem to be consistently enforced.  I often get followers who offer “sales” of other followers and of automation tools.  I never return-follow them.  I do enter all my tweets myself manually.

The continued heavy use of Twitter by Trump and his supporters argues against a feared crackdown on user-generated content (as a national security problem).  Trump behaves right now as if he is OK with amateur content, as an antidote to the big media.  He doesn’t seem bothered by fake news that promotes him.

It’s interesting that I haven’t had time to get much into Instagram, despite invitations.  It’s harder to manipulate complicated content on a phone than on a computer, for me at least.

The post also has a big story (by Stephanie Kirchner and Anthony Faiola) about a suit against Facebook in Germany by 2015 Syrian refugee Anas Modanami  starting with a selfie that went viral.  Apparently Europe does not have downstream liability protections like the US Section 230 protections (or at least protections that are as strong), and the plaintiffs maintain that social media companies are (by tautology) media companies that must take responsibility for what users do.  The plaintiffs want Facebook to remove references to removed content as well as the original items.  But I thought that if a post is removed, it would also be removed from any user timelines where it has been shared.
Defenders of Section 230 in the US could well be expected to ask how social media companies live in Europe without it.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Cato holds update forum on Trump's presidency and free speech

Today. Friday, February 3, 2017, the Cato Institute in Washington DC held a forum “Will President Trump Threaten Free Speech?”  There is a link (and full video) here.  A similar event (attended by Mr. Rose) had been held Dec. 6, 2016. But this forum followed the inauguration ("America first").

The discussion was led by John Samples;  participating were Flemming Rose (“The Tyranny of Silence”, Feb, 3, 2015: , Robert Corn-Revere and Francis H. Buckley.

Several points came out.

One early point was that Trump’s “threat” to expand libel laws was overblown. These are controlled by states. Canada already has libel laws following the British model (the defense has to prove truth) but newspapers in Toronto are doing well, and Canada seems like a freer society than ours to many people.  (Canada keeps on turning out outstanding talent in the movie industry.)  Canada also has better procedural law which makes it less likely plaintiffs can file frivolous SLAPP suits to harass speakers.

Another point was a comment by moderator Mr. Samples that the idea of “more speech” (so often touted by libertarians like John Stossel) isn’t always working now  Because social media like Facebook can aggregate news stories according to user “Likenomics”, people tend to stay in their own political and cultural bubbles and not become aware of other points of view.  That is one reason why Hillary Clinton lost unexpectedly in several “Blue Wall” states.

Another point was that anonymity of speech, so widely defended by Electronic Frontier Foundation, is often misused by “trolls”.

The discussion returned to the fake news problem, a revisiting of the Comet Ping Pong incident, and Rise mentioned that some European countries were now considering laws to criminalize fake news propagation.  Rose thought this was ironic, because European countries are being heavily influenced by populist movements that benefit from fake news.

There was a question from the audience about inciting violence.  The panel was emphatic that speakers like Milo Yiannopoulos do not incite violence merely by their social roles as "provocateurs".  Someone mentioned past violet protests at American University.  There was concern about President Trump’s threat to withdraw funds from Berkeley.

But another audience member reinforce the question by mentioning trolling on social media, especially Twitter, and the encouragement of harassment.  The speaker may have been thinking about Milo’s feud with Leslie Jones (“Ghostbusters”) that got him banned from Twitter.

The panel was critical of campus speech codes and safe zones, and maintained that “there is no right not to be offended.”

I asked about the likelihood of challenges to Section 230.  The reply said that it had not been yet mentioned by the Trump administration.  The panelist felt that even given the provocations of incidents like Backpage, the Courts would defend service providers with the First Amendment.   That notion may be supported by previous rulings (like with COPA).  But the right to “publish” (in a narrow legal sense) information to one person who understands it (making defamation possible) does not necessarily extend to create a right to self-broadcast without gatekeepers.

Since this was on Cspan and carried by live video, probably someone in the White House watched it.  Maybe I spilled the beans.  A question here is like an indirect question to Sean Spicer.  You just don’t need White House press access of to go through Secret Service security.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Nationalism Trumps individualism

Here’s a good discussion on FEE for Groundhog Day, “When ‘the Nation’ Trumps the individual”

Economic nationalism, it is argued, pits the country above the individual (or family), the region or community, or international order.  Economic nationalism does not care if individuals are forced to make inequitable sacrifices at the whim of nationalist government.

That sounds like the theories of Vladimir Putin, who, after all, doesn’t like gays because he thinks homosexuals deprive him of babies and future Russian lineages.

It reminds me of the 1960s world of the military draft and of student deferments.  The lives of women were more worthy of protection than those of men, and those of intellectually smart men were more worthy than those of the humdrum.

Nationalism is often associated with exaggeration of the external threats from “the others”.  If autarky doesn’t work out, well, then, go take some more land from your neighbors.  That’s what the Nazis did.

Nationalism of course is associated with protectionism, with exaggerated pressure on employers to use only native labor. It is just one more step to resistance to automation, or the idea that some people become productive on their own without employing other people.  Yes, I get the flak.  I’m supposed to feel responsible for whether people at book publishers or in physical bookstores have jobs.  I'm supposed to worry about whether I am popular, and on whether others can expect me to fight for them and have their backs.