Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trump still wants to pursue making US libel laws (especially with regard to public figures) match Englands (whoops? Brexit?)

Reince Prebius (who sounds like actor Tobey Maguire) said this morning that Trump is considering how to make it easier to sue the media.

The subject came up in an interview with Jonathan Karl on ABC News.  The Washington Post has a story by  Cleve R. Wootson, Jr. here.

Trump wants English law standards to apply to suits brought by public figures, which are here.  That is, public figures would not have to prove actual malice or reckless disregard for the truth.  And the defendant would have to prove truth with evidence from outside the plaintiff’s complaint, which might make it easier to bring frivolous suits.

Trump, however, now (despite earlier fears, including my own) doesn’t seem to have anything against independent bloggers and smaller news outlets.  It’s the big media companies whom he sees as enemies and accuses of spreading “fake news”.  There are some indications that he actually reads some smaller blogs and pays attention to individual tweets sent to him that stand out in some constructive way. He also watches a lot of television in the White House (more than in his own Mar a Lago or NYC towers, it seems).

NPR has an interesting article on the differences in libel laws, which have held up releasing a book and film about scientology in the UK, and which resulted in a suit in the UK against Rachel Ehrenfeld concerning her book about funding terrorism, which was not even published in the UK.  The US responded to the judgment against her with the “Speech Act” which Obama signed in 2010, preventing UK libel judgments from being pursued in the US, trying to stop "libel tourism", patterned after New York States “Libel Terrorism Protection Act”  (Why not "Tourism" in the name?)   Kitty Kelly has often discussed the issue with reference to her own writing about the Royal Family.

Friday, April 28, 2017

"Hubpages" offers some 3rd party supervision to Bloggers, and yes I need to address this

I learned this morning about another blogging platform, really a community publishing center, called Hubpages.

The site was founded in the Bay Area back in 2006, and apparently has caused some controversy among writers by requiring all posts to be subject to mandatory editing – professional editing is preferred, a policy that has been growing since 2011.  The site also has some very specific policies and rules about intellectual property violations, including copyright.

I learned about it from Phil Chandler, whose inventory of posts is here.  His latest post is a critical discussion of Donald Trump’s First 100 Days.  I have some posts by Chandler on my legacy “doaskdotell” site, for example this piece about sodomy laws before Lawrence v. Texas (2003).

I have two blogging platforms of my own, this one (16 blogs on Blogger), and four on Wordpress, which are more “polished” and take more time to do.  (I had another one called “Technical-Legal Confluence” which I allowed to expire with a major server change, but I had save the posts back from 2006-2010 and may put them up on a flat Wordpress blog later “when I have time”.  There is some good legal history in this old blog; some of them dealt with the 2007 COPA trial.)

What is apparent, is that if I were to contribute to Hubpages, I would need to start out with a much narrower, fact-based focus.  That contrasts with many of my posts today, where I speculate on what could go wrong in the future with some policy direction (network neutrality is a good example).  Articles would take more time to write to a professional standard, so they could not be nearly as numerous as on my own blogs.

There are some subject areas that come to mind.  In the past, “don’t ask don’t tell” would have been the right fit, and if real problems start to develop in the Trump-Mattis Pentagon again, I could certainly contribute on this area.  Another area, with which I had great personal indoctrination in the 2003-2010 period, is filial responsibility.  In fact, I did pen a Wikipedia article on the topic (and I did contribute some materials to Wikipedia on DADT).  One particularly troubling area would be the likelihood that Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act will be weakened, particularly as a Congressional knee-jerk to the Backpage “scandal”.  Or I could take up security of the power grids.  Yes, I could write a factual piece about that.

Still another issue would be how (in the U,S.) we can and should help asylum seekers (as compared to refugees).  This gets into a lot of areas, like the big differences between the United States and Canada on private sponsorship.  I have been looking into the possibility of hosting someone myself, since last sumner.  As of now, the issue is still unsettled.  There is a group in Washington DC (Center Global) that facilitates hosting.  It appears in general that the hosting that happens is rather informal and requires a host with a lot of social capital, which I don’t share in the LGBT community in some activist or more specific sub-communities.  There is a Catch-22, a sort of “Rich Young Ruler” problem here, in that to participate, I would need to offer to host my inherited house without asking so many (security-related) questions first.

So it is also possible that, at 73, I will downsize, sell the house to a developer for tear-down, get rid of all the family heirlooms (which disappear because I am an only child who did not procreate), and move itno an urban apartment, where the logistics of the things I really want to do become simpler.  That is more like the life I had in downtown Minneapolis 1997-2003 in the Churchill Apartments on the Skyway. This would make volunteering in areas that require more specific and personalized commitments from me (and indirectly, more focus in writing) possible because of simpler logistics and fewer distractions from maintaining old real estate.

Maybe working with this group could be a step toward getting to work with a real news organization, and having somebody else provide the infrastructure. 

Thursday, April 27, 2017

US drops to 43rd place in press freedom under Trump

Trump’s attacks on major news outlets (other than conservative ones) has resulted in the United States dropping to 43rd in press freedom, according to a Washington Post Style section article today by Paul Fahri, link.

Trump has called journalists “dishonest” and parasitic, people who act as watchers and don’t play ball or compete.  But he’s wrong in thinking that journalists don’t put their skin in the game.  Look at Bob Woodruff.  And Anderson Cooper started out by paying his dues overseas as a young man and literally waded in the flood waters of Hurricane Rita as the 2008 fiscal crisis suddenly exploded in his home team city.

To the surprise of some of us, Trump seems more hospitable to amateur journalists and bloggers (maybe even me) and to younger journalists in smaller networks like OAN. He actually has read a couple of my tweets to “Real Donald Trump” (like about North Korea).

Sunday, April 23, 2017

YouTube account holders should become familiar with the "Three Strikes" rules for Copyright and Community Guidelines

I stumbled across the information on a couple of “3 Strikes” rules for YouTube posting.

If you go to your own YouTube account to subdirectory “features” you can see if you have any Copyright Strikes or Community Guidelines Strikes.

The link for Copyright Strikes is here.  A strike is called when a video is removed after a complaint from a copyright owner that the video violates an existing copyright, and has been removed under Digital Millennium Copyright Safe Harbor.

Merely deleting an offending video does not remove the strike (as it has already been removed).  But the user can challenge the claim (under Fair Use) or sometimes get the owner to retract the claim if the user agrees to keep it removed (under the table).  It appears that a strike remains active for90 days, and removal requires going to “Copyright school”.

A user who accumulates three strikes at one time has his or her account removed and all videos removed (including non-infringing and unrelated videos) and appears permanently banned.  That could be a weakness:  a litigious or “authoritarian” copyright owner could try to silence someone this way.

It’s common to see embedded videos disappear because owner’s accounts have been terminated for "multiple copyright complaints", usually under three strikes.  But the disappearance of an embedded video created by someone else does not constitute a strike. Many infringing videos appear to be illegal copies of films or television episodes (sometimes of musical performances). My experience is that most QA sessions don't object to recording and posting.  Most plays and (classical) concerts prohibit recording and would submit claims if posted. I'm not sure what happens with music recorded at rock concerts or in (DJ-serviced) discos (unless the venue has explicitly prohibited recording, but in my own experience most bars don't).  Rebroadcast of sports events is usually prohibited but I haven't seen MLB prohibit incidental video excerpts of baseball games or of pre-game shows by fans actually at the games. (MLB offers its own embeds of critical game plays, which bloggers can use as free.)
Someone who wants a “future” or “career” creating his or her own videos should be careful about allowing copyright strikes.

Wikipedia has an explanation here.

A related idea is a “Content ID Claim", which seems more complicated and which does not by itself create a strike, link.

Community Guidelines Strikes” follow a similar idea (link ).  But in some cases, takedowns (as related to safety of someone or to unusual law enforcement concerns) don’t result in strikes.   The recent controversy over Facebook Live could result in more pressure on YouTube regarding these “Strikes”.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Change is good, and you can sense when it is coming

I wanted to recapitulate what is going on with some of my content projects now.

The biggest effort soon will be a series of videos called ‘Connecting the Dots” where in ahome movie format I communicated what these “Do Ask Do Tell” books are all about. They will roughly follow the Introduction and first three chapters of my 2014 “Do Ask Do Tell III” book  There will be some editing in Final Cut.  Finally, I’ve got to move closer to my own filmmaking.

I will also ramp up the finishing of my own edit of the novel “Angel’s Brother” and to sell the idea behind my screenplay “Epiphany”, a science-fiction setting that uses the material in my books.

Yes, I have become “addicted” to my own narrative.  They keep me busy.  I might have had opportunities to be paid to write other people’s stories (especially regarding gays in the military) had I tried harder.   And I am still very interesting in a few very specific projects of some people I know, where there is a legitimate connection to me.

But I’ve put myself beyond reach to be hired to pimp “other people’s causes”.  Which I might have to do had I been less fortunate when it comes to inheritance.  I do see this as a moral problem.
Selling my own story—not just being found by search—is going to require a lot more mobility from me – and a lot more travel.  This would be a lot easier if I “downsize”.

Houses really ought to provide space for more than one person.  Even though I use it for the “trains studio” prop, there are risks of disruption for one retired person in a house that are removed by living in a sufficient apartment.  In the life I built for myself (before 2003), about 750 square feet (like my last apartment in downtown Minneapolis) was about right.  I need to be close to public transportation or walking and to urban life.  It will be good to have on-site supervision to keep out unwanted or potentially dangerous cold-call solicitations (which go with the territory when in a ungated detached house -- that's part of "playing ball").  I’m not well suited for social activities planned by others, as in more traditional senior living.  I outlined a lot of this in a correlated post today on my “Bill Retires” blog.

This will be a long process.  I still have not resolved the question of hosting (asylum seeker) completely.  That could mean that I do not downsize for a while.  If I do move, I will need to set up some financial arrangements first (as the other post explains) and determine exactly what location will work out best.  There is also some more travel (mainly in the SW) that I should complete first.  I would expect to have a “preview” of what may happen completed by the end of June.

I also want to say that I can never allow any party to bargain with my own plans and purposes “extra-legally”.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

European countries try to tax search engine results and news aggregation

European publishing groups, especially in Germany, have been suing news aggregators for copyright infringement, leading Google and other companies to reduce the content they copy in search engine or summary results, as described here in a story from 2016 (story).

Germany and Spain have also passed “search engine taxes” as “anti-piracy laws” which may remind one of the SOPA battle in the US in late 2011.  The result is that some smaller publishers that do “news aggregation” left Spain completely.  These laws were passed apparently under pressure from legacy print newspapers that could not survive Internet competition.
Theoretically, this sounds like a “hyperlink tax”.  In the US, back around 2000, a few companies tried to ban others sites (even amateur sites) from deep hyperlinks without permission (on the theory that this denied them front page ad revenue) until courts told them that this was no different from footnotes on a term paper.  It even seems potentially connected to the European idea of “moral rights” which is now up for comment with the US Copyright office.

There would be an interesting question whether blogs like mine (with their heavy use of labels) to :"connect the dots" really amount to "news aggregation" under European (and eventually US) law.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Bloggers face judgment for "hostile environment harassment" in condo case for criticizing dog ownership of other residents

A disturbing ruling from the Third Circuit (Philadelphia) about a case in the Virgin Islands territory established a dangerous precedent, perhaps, saying that a blogger(s) could be liable for creating a “hostile environment” for apartment or condo residents.  The specific case concerns a blog post(s) that complained about residents maintaining emotional support dogs despite a "no dogs" rule.

Intellectual Takeout has a detailed story here by Hans Bade  and provides the opinion, referring to the Fair Housing Act (which sounds bizarre, to hold this up to another “peer” resident speaking out).
I would watch this development carefully, especially if I downsize in the future and move into a highrise myself.

It had occurred to me before thought that this sort of problem could arise.  I’m more familiar myself with this possibility in the workplace, especially for people with direct reports.

There was criticism that the First Amendment defense wasn’t used well, as in this Cato Institute post by Walter Olson 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

DMCA SafeHarbor undermined by moderation; two disturbing proposals over human trafficking

Three disturbing stories suddenly popped up like toadstools.

Electronic Frontier Foundation (Corynne McSherry) has pointed out a dangerous irony in a (normally liberal) Ninth Circuit ruling in the case of Mavrix Photo v. LiveJournal.  Mavrix specializes in celebrity images.  In a recent DMCA takedown case, Mavrix sued for copyright infringement even after LiveJournal took down some photos under supposed DMCA Safe Harbor.  Mavrix’s rationale was that LivrJournal used moderators who had a say in the content that stays up.

 The Ninth Circuit overturned a district court and said that the case can go to trial.

But the irony is that some copyright owners want platforms to be more pro-active, which YouTube has become by screening videos for watermarks of known infringing videos

The Findlaw reference is here.

It’s interesting that a LiveJournal user writes that the LJ TOS forces users to comply with “Russian law”, link.

EFF also reports on a “Human  Trafficking and Child Exploitation Prevention Act”.  This is a model bill proposed in at least twelve states requiring perhaps technologically obscenity filters on cell phones, tablets and computers.  h  The Daily Beast has a story about the man behind the legislation.
These all appear to be state bills right now, which would require a $20 charge to remove the filter from any device sold in the state.  The EFF article by Dave Maass calls this “ransoming the Internet” and points out it does nothing directly about trafficking, rather seems to interrupt "pornography addiction".

Proponents of the bill say it will not create a “black book” registry for consumers to disable the filter.
I’m surprised not to see EFF yet take up the proposal by MO congresswoman Ann Wagner  to modify Section 230 to combat human trafficking, partly in reaction to the BackPage case, link here.  The most obvious weakness of the bill is provision (4), what “reckless disregard” would mean.  This can become an existential threat to service providers and we will surely hear more about this soon.

Pictures: from new Harriet Tubman State Park near Cambridge. MD

Friday, April 07, 2017

Fake bad Yelp review by a competitor leads to successful litigation by a jeweler in Massachusetts

Here is another story of a bad reviews lawsuit on Yelp. In this case, a jeweler sued a worker or relative of an owner of a rival shop in Massachusetts for a fake “bad review” that seems to have been posted maliciously.

The Patriot Ledger has a story,as does WCVB.   Part of the review included compensation for emotional distress.

Section 230 would still protect Yelp, but it could come under increased pressure.

The story was located on local stations around the country, like WJLA in Washington. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Social media companies are replacing traditional media companies, so they have the responsibility to pre-screen??; more on revenge trolling and "privilege"

Today, Emily Bell in the Guardian argues that social media companies are publishers, in this article.    She notes that there is not enough advertising money (or subscription or paywall) in “legitimate” traditional journalism.

She asks, who pays reporters for Facebook feeds, and draws a parallel in social media with the fake news crisis of 2016 with the financial crisis of 2008.

There’s a bit of irony.  Facebook (and Myspace) were originally envisioned for “true” social networking.  Facebook especially has morphed into a news distribution tool run by users.  It may have wanted to build social capital online, and maybe depending on GoFundMe rather than paid family leave sometimes does that.

Today Milo Yiannopoulos reported a story and video about a working class man in Britain who confronted an upper class kid who had trolled him on Twitter for  criticizing Islam.  The kid thought he was stirring up “hate”.  There was a rather profound conversation at the end of the video of the encounter about growing up with privilege (which can be overdone, given Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s book)/

Monday, April 03, 2017

Post title generation (it sounds silly); more tips on fact-checking by readers; grain of salt on Russian bots

Today I got a rather silly email offering a “blog post title generator” that would also presumably help with SEO optimization (for example ). The email also mentioned needing something to blog about, which sounds rather circular.

I usually think of my own titles by using quirky observations from my own experience.  I had never even thought of the idea of an automated title generator.  I wonder what “Blog Tyrant” would think.
In the fake news world, Margaret Sullivan has a front page article in the Washington Post Style section, “learning how to find news, not bunkum”, or, online, “Don’t get fooled by the bogus links, bots, and pure bunk; here’s how”.   That comports with “International Fact Checking Day” on Sunday April 2, as explained on Politifact by Angie Dronic Holan.

 The points are well taken, especially varying your news diet, and cross checking the other posts on a news site for context.  (I have to say, however, that both Breitbart and now Milo seem usually credible factually.)
I take with a grain of salt the idea that Russian hackers actually threw the 2016 presidential election with fantastic conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, using bots to throw them into social media algorithms and depending on the stupidity of very polarized voters to believe them.  Her whole email “scandal” really was a matter of unwise workplace practices, something I have had thirty-plus years of experience with in my own IT career and could relate to.  Some of it also related to the “sex offender” label, which again came up with a “fake impression” incident during my own substitute teaching.  I guess I had never heard the end of that 2005 incident. .