Friday, March 31, 2017

CNN report suggests laptop bans in aircraft cabins could expand and strain business and some personal travel

CNN is claiming an exclusive scoop on FBI reports that terrorists in Yemen may have developed a way to place a manually operable bomb in a laptop component with a laptop that will still power up long enough to escape airport security detection.  The story by Evan Perez Jodi Enda and Barbara Starr is here.  Terrorists seem to have gotten hands on some detection equipment to test their devices.

The tone of the story suggests that the current ban on in-cabin laptops and tablets from certain Islamic country airports may not be enough. On Friday night, CNN AC360 suggested bluntly suggested that the question of a complete laptop ban is begged. but modern airports have layers of security beyond actual detection.

But an NBC story today (by Pete Williams and Ken Delanian) denies that such a policy for domestic US airlines is likely any time soon.
Travelers, for work or often for those like me with closely held small businesses, need secure connectivity all the time when we travel.  Hotel business centers are generally not adequate, and the capacity of FedEx and UPS stores is maybe somewhat limited.  But industry has, since the mid 2000s (even given 9/11) assumed that most travelers carry their own electronics and laptops and have not developed a “car rental” model for electronics.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Large corporate advertisers now appear on fewer sites, hurting "amateur" Internet self-publishers needing the income

Many advertisers, especially larger corporations, may reduce the number of websites their ads appear on, according to a Business Day story in the New York Times Thursday May 30, 2017 by Sapna Maheshwari.  The title is “A Bank had ads on 400,000 sites. Then just 5,000. Same results”.  The bank is J. P. Morgan Chase.

The cutbacks were first motivated by a desire that ads not appear on “fake news” sites or near hate speech.  This resistance from advertisers has grown as testimony before Congress has indicate that Russia appears to have engineering manipulating social media news streams with fake news in order to influence the 2016 presidential election.  The deliberate nature of this manipulation with various bots has been more significant than previously believed.

But now companies are realizing that they do not need to appear on amateur sites, which may either be fake or have lower volumes, in order to get product sales from ads.  This discovery could indeed endanger what the article calls the “long tail” of the “comet” of Internet advertising business models, eventually endangering free service platforms for user generated content.

I never buy products personally from online ads directly.  If I see something interesting (especially a movie or book) I will usually visit the appropriate site (usually amazon or imdb) myself shortly.  I am more likely to look for a product I “need” (such as a chess clock with 5-second delay, something I need to get soon) myself on Amazon directly.  That’s not good for everybody else, or for the business model my own Internet presence depends on.
Likewise I am very careful about opening emails because of the security issues.  Sometimes I visit the site of the company sending the email myself.  It is very difficult to “recruit” me to join causes or petitions or specific funding needs on the spot.  No fair?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Conservative magazine notes U.S. men are less physically strong than a generation ago

David French has a rather blunt article in National Review, “Young American males are losing touch with a critical element of true masculinity”, link here.

That is to say, physical strength, along with, obviously, aerobic fitness.  He makes comparisons to earlier generations, which were more used to changing their own oil, so to speak.

The gender fluidity crowd won’t like this.  Although, as French says, some women are stronger than many men, so definitely some transgender people will be, too.

But what’s also interesting in this article is the acknowledgement of a fundamental male duty to protect women and children in the tribe, which goes way beyond the narrower modern libertarian idea of personal responsibility, for one’s own choices.   That used to be the way it was, and it also had an effect on the “meaning” of marriage.
Filmmaker Nev Schulman (“Catflish”) posted this on Facebook this morning and asked. “Do you think that being strong and working with your hands makes you masculine”?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

CBS 60 Minutes gives a report on fake news, which itself is almost salacious

Scott Pelley, on CBS 60 Minutes this Sunday evening, produced a most disturbing report on the reliance of so many Americans on “fake news” sites and their willingness to believe their contents.

And the episode clarifies is this is not about politicians (Donald Trump) claiming an inconvenient truth is fake news, but actual made-up salacious falsehoods believed by millions.

And some of the purveyors, including a southern California lawyer who provides some of the stories on a site named but not hyperlinked in the story, claim they believe the stories.

The episode also explained how bots provide false “likes” of social media, making the stories appear more popular than they are, to increase advertising war.  Some of the bots are software created in Russia.

My own stories and blog posts use credible news outlets as much as possible, rather than any sites like those claimed to be fake.  I do consider Breitbart and Milo to be valid.

The broadcast did review the Comet Ping Pong incident (“Pizzagate”) in Washington DC.   The owner suddenly started getting threats in social media, after bizarre connections to Clintons’ campaign were rumored (details ).  It’s curious that people don’t believe these when in print in supermarket tabloids (which were targeted, remember, in the 2001 anthrax attacks), but do when they go viral online.  Petual Dvorak has a perspective comparing fake news writers to real reporters here.

In the video above, Ashton Kutcher compares real stories about trafficking to the fake news conspiracy theories.

I do cover stories that I think are legitimate and not sufficiently covered by mainstream media – like about the fragility of the power grids to solar storms or physical terror or EMP as well as cyberterror.  One can “connect the dots” from totally credible sources.

I am constantly bombarded with invitations to increase my Twitter followers.

The plea deal for Edgar Welch in the Comet Ping Pong case was recently announced, here.

Update: March 29

Electronic Frontier Foundation reports on a California bill, AB 1104, that would criminalize the posting of fake news that could influence an election or referendum vote (imagine how that could affect gay issues).  The latest is that the bill has been pulled.

The Washington Post has an op-ed by Margaret Sullivan (Style section) about the possibility of libel suits over fake news, especially Comet Ping Pong, and whether an apology (as from the Alex Jones Channel) can matter.  The business owners still face consequences from the fact that a gullible portion of the public still believes the stories.

Paul Fahri has a story in the same page about whether readers can distinguish news from opinion, which I will probably take up soon in more detail on Wordpress/

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Advertisers finding themselves displayed near what they perceive as hate speech on the Web; tech companies wonder about more pre-screening for ads

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg have a detailed article on the front page o the Washington Post today, “Advertisers find it hard to avoid sites spewing hate”.  Online, the title is more specific, “For advertisers, algorithms can lead to unexpected exposure on sites spewing hate”.
The long story explains how mainstream tech companies like ATT won’t use Adsense or similar services because of incidental placement near hate speech.  The story gives many examples of ads near racial , misogynist or homophobic slurs.

Some advertisers complain that their ads appear near comments that are hateful even though the main articles are not.

However, some advertisers don’t won’t any connection to sites thought to be hateful or white supremacist (like Spencer), or even perceived as so conservative that they are unempathetic to ordinary people (like Breitbart, or perhaps Milo).  When I look at Breitbart (or Milo) right now, I see plenty of ads (but more of the sportsman, hunter type) but I don’t see any stories that are “hateful” in the narrower sense of the word I am used to.  I do see a preoccupation with the Trojan horse problem, which is what terrorists want to exploit   And I do see a resentment of gender-related “political correctness” and safe zones.

But many advertisers say they want the big tech companies to scan content more carefully.  This issue remains very critical to the Internet business model that feeds ungated user generated content.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Senate undoes FCC oversight of consumer privacy v. ISP's; border searches

The Senate voted 50-48 to take away the online privacy rules that limit data collection by ISP’s from consumers, presumably to sell to advertisers, rules that had been promulgated by the FCC.  Further, the Senate wants to prevent the FCC from regulating carrier privacy invasions in the future.  The whole idea is to be friendly to communications carrier profits.

My concern is not so much being sent ads per se, but maybe an increase in "malvertising" (malware in ads) or unwanted solicitations and disruptions from sellers, which I don't have time for.  The "sales culture" out there gets more desperate to make a living all the time.

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story and petition by Kate Tummarello here.

Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post, “The Senate just voted to undo landmark rules covering your Internet privacy”  on p A16 of Friday’s Washington Post.

The change would roll back Obama's requirement that ISP's have explicit permission to access and sell consumer date.

EFF also has a detailed article by Stephanie Lacambra on the inspection of travelers’ electronics, possibly social media accounts browsing caches (even Finder or Windows Explorer activity), here   The article focuses on anonymous speech, but looking at browsing history could attract suspicion over cultural or religious perceptions.

Update: March 30

So did the House. The Verge has a tattle-tale list of the House vote.  Ezra Klein has a video on Vox explaining why ISP's. compared to social media companies, don't have the same legitimate claim on the right to sell your data.  Monopoly is one of them.

The other issue is that odd browsing habits, even if not illegal, could attract suspicion in connection with putative connection to terror, or maybe ephebophilia.

Update:  April 1

CNN;s Smerkonish is questioning the Chicken Little claims and the fact that the FCC used to have indirect control of some privacy rules under Net Neutrality.  Jon Leibowitz appeared. The status quo contiunes. "Internet privacy is an oxymoron."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trump's presidency shows particular disdain for "losers", just like I have sometimes

Philip Kennicott has a provocative column in the Washington Post Style section Sunday, “Budget is not an attack on the arts”, link.

Kennicott, art and architecture critic, maintains that it is symbolic of Trump’s disdain for “losers”, to want to satisfy the urge in some people for upward affiliation, to play on a first-place team, or to have a lover that is “the best anyone could do.”  You used to hear that in the gay male community, and among straight college men.  It’s part of body fascism.
It’s this desire to make it on your own, to turn away from having to join goals that actually help peopke who are less intact and need more personal attention.

By the way, Trump just demonstrated his "winner take all" attitude by giving his own "party" an ultimatum on doing the AHCA vocte tomorrow in the House.

Trump called the Democrats losers after the Ryancare American Health Care Act went down in flames Friday March 24, .here

Monday, March 20, 2017

Volunteerism, updated

I “volunteered” Saturday afternoon at Mount Olive Methodist Church (“Community Assistance”) in Arlington, and this time I worked the food distribution line (canned and “dry measure” items).  You had to remain standing for about 80 minutes, the time it took the line to move.

There was a suggestion to be “friendly” and to “sell” some of the items (black beans) that there was plenty of, and ration some protein (tuna) that there was less of.   I’m not particularly cut out to perform as a “greeter”, or to integrate myself into “other people’s” social capital.

We got fed – and maybe I let the rest of the established team clean up, but practically all the canned items did get given away.

Again, I think it’s hard to make occasional volunteer shifts meaningful without some minimum amount of time regularly and some continual contact with the group.  The group’s goals need to merge more with mine.

I need to repair a bridge with Food and Friends – I had turned down a driving assignment for Thanksgiving because of the neighborhood (physical cowardice?) .  But I probably won’t consider volunteer driving until doing another eye examination (a floater for about a year, not progressive).
And I don’t yet have an answer on how asylum seeker hosting will turn out.  I am outside the “social capital” of the group that does it, so my participation could raise challenging questions both me and any organization that I could help (Feb. 24).  . I would need to bring my own form of “social capital” to any such effort, as well as make sure we could stay within the law.

I probably will announce more detail "changes" in my own setup on my DADT Footnotes blog on Wordpress/Blue Host, when they happen.  A move down the road is still possible.  But I'll need to go into a "sneak preview" mode soon.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Blogger claims Facebook suspended him for 24 hours for defending Milo Yiannopoulos in a post

James Delingpole writes (on Breitbart )  that he was suspended from Facebook for 24 hours for posting a piece that defends Milo Yiannopoulos.

It’s not clear if he linked to that page or included it inline.  The latter sounds more likely.  But he did not provide a link to a page showing what had written to defend his claims.   This is the first I have heard of 24 hours suspensions on Facebook.

Nevertheless, the story of the suspension is disturbing, as is this story about the permanent removal of Polandball.

And then there is a blog called “Zelo Street” with more to say about this, which I can’t make sense of.

Milo's account on Facebook still appears to work normally.   But he had been banned from Twitter in 2016 over his behavior with respect to actress Leslie Jones.  Milo linked to Delingpole's Breitbart story on the suspension today on Facebook himself. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Online reputation can affect immigrants and asylum seekers (DHS is your "Facebook Friend" like it or not)

A blog called “The Asylumist” by Jason Dzubow, Esq. has a posting today on online reputation for migrants, especially people entering the country for the first time, or re-entering.  It would sound logical that this could affect US citizens at the border, and that it could affect whether asylum requests are accepted.

The titled of the post is “DHS is your Friend on Facebook, whether you ‘Like’ it or not”, link.

I wrote the following comment:

"Could an asylum seeker's social media posts once in the U.S. have a bearing on his/her "credible fear" or "particular social group" status?  Suppose someone overstayed a visa but had applied for asylum status out of fear of LGBTQ persecution for certain countries (Russia, many countries in Africa, and Islamic countries) within the one year limit, but had "outed" himself or herself on social media while in the U.S., easily discoverable in the home country. "   (Note online: I meant to say “overstayed”, not “overstated”).

Dzubow talks about “degrees of separation” of a person from a known terrorist.  In some countries, for most people this might be a low number like 3 or 4.  Actually, I am just two degrees of separation from President Trump, and only one from a number of celebrities.

See also related post March 13.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

New efforts to prevent search engines from unduly affecting elections, small businesses

Craig Timberg describes an effort by Robert Epstein and his Sunlight Society to monitor the results of search engines and the possibility that they can affect elections and probably many businesses, p/ A14, Economy and Business today, link.

Note the Post's new online little caption (or aphorism, or inevitable epigram), "Democracy dies in darkness".

The behavior of search engines early in the history of the Internet helped amateurs, as sites with simpler technology and direct or hard-coded links tended to score higher that results generated by internal database searches.  In more recent years, search engines have tended to rank results from more “professional” or “institutional” sources higher than in the past.  This does help people defend their online reputations from possible attacks from rivals.

Oddly, I couldn’t get a site for Sunlight Society to come up in a Google search just now.

Monday, March 13, 2017

American citizens have electronics seized and searched at airports, Canadian border, without probable cause.

NBC News reports that American citizens are now occasionally being held at borders and electronics searched for some time, as in this story.  Most of these citizens were Muslim but were native born.  

 The video told the story of a young couple held when re-entering New York State from Canada.

This is not considered a violation of the Fourth Amendment if it happens at a border.  But the misuse of data later without court supervision would be a constitutional issue.
These incidents did increase after Trump’s inauguration.

In May 1997, I drove across the border from Montana into Saskatchewan along dirt  farm roads because I had forgotten my passport (they could ask for a birth certificate then -- but this was before 9/11).   I don't think you can do that now.  (Or maybe migrants do.)

None of this would apply to routine security screening of electronics items before getting onto domestic planes.  Ability to travel without damaging laptops especially would always remain a critical issue.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

ADA requirements could compromise "free content" libraries (even on YouTube) and open access

FEE, Foundation for Economic Education, a libertarian site, has another cautionary tale about UC Berkeley.  No, it’s not just about Milo Yiannopoulos, although he has indeed found a real iceberg. The piece, by Brittany Hunter, titles itself “When equal access means zero access for all”.

The university has a digital library of lectures and videos, over 20000 items, that it was trying to offer for free.  (Yup, it’s the “It’s free” thing in Reid Ewing’s short film – we really need this film back in circulation.)  It seems that associates at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, a school for the deaf, filed suit under the ADA complaining that the materials were not readily accessible for the deaf (the videos that is, without close captioning.)

The facts seem confusing.  Many of the videos at issue were on a YouTube channel, and some had manually generated, and others had automatically generated (by YouTube) close captioning.
Apparently the complaint is about a small number of YouTube videos with no captioning. In any case, UC wound up removing the entire library from free access thru YouTube or similar platforms. I suppose the same could have happened with Vimeo.  (What about movie companies that provide private review screeners through Vimeo?)

I could ramble here.  I could say that’s like complaining about a foreign language movie without English subtitles.  In fact, I’ve managed a couple times with French or German subtitles for rare Asian movies (“Mermaid in a Manhole”).  But that’s off the subject.

More seriously, I could wonder if any amateur provider on YouTube could be approached or served with the same complaint.  Even me.

I wondered about related questions when self-publishing my books.  I don’t have the scale for audiobooks, or large print, or other accommodations.  POD can confound this question.  I may well take this question up later on my Book review blog, and come back to this question soon on a Wordpress blog that looks at these things as  bigger pictures.  But this problem would also relate quickly to open access.

Wikipedia documentary on first picture: By brainchildvn on Flickr - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link

Friday, March 10, 2017

Marine Corps photo sharing scandal looks bad for social media services

The recent scandal of unauthorized photo-sharing in the Marine Corps of indecent images of female Marines certainly draws attention to how social media can be disruptive on the job and particularly in the military. 

Business Insider has a detailed account of the potentialities here.  Servicemen attempted to circumvent the closing of a Facebook group by going to a message board site called AnonIB.  I tried to go to the “.co” domain and instant got a (heterosexual) pornographic message and nude female image.

In the backdrop, of course, is the cultural change over women in combat, and, more distantly, gays in the military.  But it’s unlikely that gay photosharing would get very far in the military even given the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask don’t tell”. 


This could add to Trump’s distrust of computers and Internet culture, with serious consequences for free speech in other areas later. 

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Facebook Live presents new issues of "pro-actively" screening out violence, even given Section 230

Deepa Seetharaman (with Stu Wood) has a disturbing story In the Wall Street Journal March 7, front page. “Facebook wasn’t ready for video’s dark side: After rushed rollout, company wrestles with how to censor violence”, link. Online it gets updated as “Facebook under fire over policing of questionable content; BBC says social networking service didn’t remove child photos reported to it”.

I’ve watched plenty of wholesome Facebook Live videos.  I watched Bryce Harper have a Super Bowl party at his huge home (is that near Las Vegas?) before coming to MLB Spring Training.  I watched young OAN correspondent Trey Yingst, 23, talk about Aleppo.  I watched Milo Yiaannopoulos host a Christmas Party (in West Hollywood?) without ranting about feminism or BLM.  But the story reports Diamond Reynolds’s video of her husband’s shooting by police in (normally civil) Minneapolis – where I had lived some of the best years of my life, 1997-2003.

I would even say this is a good thing, to keep possibly abusive law enforcement in check.

Facebook may not have grasped the implications – but in a nation of 300 million-plus and in a world beset by polarization and hateful sectarian conflict, there will be parties who want to show off their brutality, regardless of later consequences for them (getting caught, or attracting military response).

No doubt, this problem is sure to add pressure on the Section 230 debate.

Update: March 14

Wired (Emma Grey Lewis) argues that Facebook must do a lot more pre-emptively against revenge porn, which it compares to terror propaganda and child porn, here.  Note how she works in the theme of amateurism.

Elizabeth Dwoskin of the Washington Post reports that Facebook is implementing measures to ban the use of its data by police to monitor protesters and activists (or "resisters") here

Saturday, March 04, 2017

Bizarre email "spam" threat incident against a conservative pressure group in northern Virginia

There was a bizarre incident involving the organizing of a political watchdog group, in Winchester VA this week.  It’s worthy of note.

The group (called “Indivisible Winchester”)  reportedly comprises Republicans and conservatives who object to some of Donald Trump’s behavior, policies, or both.  (Today, Trump made things worse with a tweet about the unsubstantiated idea that Obama had him wiretapped before the election).

The organizer of the group got a long, quasi-threatening email challenging the very idea that the group was meeting, according to this story on ABC7 station WJLA here.

One wonders why the recipient wasn't suspicious and didn't mark the email as spam. One could always have gotten a threatening email and never opened it and remain unaware of any "threat".

The story mentions the sheriff departments in both Frederick (containing Winchester) and Clarke (containing Berryville, 10 miles to the East).

There aren’t many news accounts online.  The Winchester Star link cannot be read without a subscription (no free trial for the paywall).  And it is not practical for a blogger like me to subscribe to small town newspapers.

I made a field trip to the area today.  No one seemed to know much.  I purchased a hardcopy of the weekend paper in a Sheetz store and there was no mention of it.

On Facebook, the group closed its page and requires a friend request (link).  I’ve never seen a group do this on Facebook before.

Again, it seems surprising and disturbing that someone would object to the mere existence of a local political pressure group.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Snapchat's IPO: this social media company really designs itself for socializing

Snapchat has gone public, although the number of detailed stories is surprisingly low.  Here’s Fortune’s account.
  26-year-old founder Evan Spiegel gave the Los Angeles Times an interview here.   His wealth will be more than Donald Trump’s and start getting into the ballpark od Zuckerberg.

I don’t use the service.  Other than talking by voice on the phone (I don’t record), I want a record of all my communications to stay.  But it’s possible that in the future, depending on what I get into, others could convince me to use it.

Snapchat is set up to encourage people to have fewer followers that they know better, and are willing to be silly with.  It presumes some natural openness to intimacy.

The New York Times has provided a way for users to submit tips in an encrypted fashion, story in Digital Insider here today.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

How I use my blogs to report news -- my current "best practices"

I wanted to open the month with a note about my own blogging strategy.

I have an inventory (or "the sum") of all my blogs here (along with a Privacy Policy that applies to all blogs carrying Adsense  -- 16 on Blogger and 4 on Wordpress (20 total).

There was an older Technology blog on this mini-site  which I had set up in 2006.  That blog was “lost” when the ISP was sold and the site migrated to a new platform.  Some of the entries are here.   I did save all of the content (all of it written before 2010) and I will eventually repost it on the free Wordpress site   which I am not using much otherwise right now.

 The legacy site “doaskdotell” was set up in December 1999 (name reserved until 2021) as supplementary support for my book series.  An old site “” was migrated to “” in the summer of 2005.  This site has many older-formatted (pre-blog) movie, book and music reviews, as well as the (“it’s free”) text of my books.  Recently, there was a problem at the ISP where the visitor was shown a Windows Server page (lasted about 18 hours). This site was also moved by an ISP purchase and migration last autumn.

I had added the most two recent Wordpress blogs (media commentary and news commentary) in May 2016.  Most major media (movie and book) reviews are on this new blog.  The news commentary has interpretative commentary on many issues (such as immigration).

That generally means there are fewer postings on the 16 legacy Blogger blogs.  However, especially given the election of Trump, I have found that the details of many policy issues are shifting constantly, making it difficult to write many large interpretive pieces.  So I have been using the legacy blogs more again, especially the LGBT issues blog, the International Issues blog (to cover immigration, refugees and political asylum seekers)  and this one, with smaller, more factual stories with more outside links.

The Wordpress blogs have also been a little harder to use recently, because of server caching.  Many postings don’t show up on the actual blog until the next day, even though you can get to the blog individually if you know the page number.  Usually it will show up immediately with some of the Wordpress categories.

As a practical matter, I post many news links on both Facebook and Twitter.  Both streams are public.  Typically I post there first, and then write a posting on one of the legacy blogs if the news item is important enough.

I may do another book marketing campaign on Facebook soon ($50) the last one brought many visitors.