Thursday, November 30, 2017

Cell phone metadata may have very little 4th Amendment protection

I’m not sure I agree with all those crying wolf on. Carpenter v. US, where the FBI secured cell phone metadata about the suspects without a warrant.  The Detroit News has a typical story here

Here is the transcript of oral arguments on Nov. 29. 

I’d wonder about analogous cases, such as records where my Metro Smart Card had been used. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Snapchat is social, not media

Evan Spiegel has a piece on Axios, “How Snapchat Is Separating Social from Media”. 

I got his tweet, and retweeted with the comment that I don’t use products that don’t store what I said.  (I can just use the phone or be in person, or maybe Skype).  I have to admit that as I go down my own agenda for my books, screenplays, music I could encounter people who want me to be able to use it to communicate.  I’ll reconsider. (It’s also a little dangerous not to have an account – someone could impersonate you – this almost happened with Instagram).

Spiegel has a good point in that algorithms ought to focus more on what “you” do rather than what “your friends” do.   Maybe that played into the susceptibility of Americans to the Russian fake news attack.

The other thing is that the “ethics” of wanting to create media may lie below relationship building, which puts your skin in the game.  But, “I hate speed-dating”. 

Here is "Business Insider's" account of Speigel's announcement. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Op-ed wants Facebook and other social media to prohibit images of people without permission; also, prior restraint of press

An op-ed on CNN by Amy Adele Hasinoff seems to want Facebook to adopt a policy that before any image of anyone can be posted, the subject must give permission.  The article is “The Policy that the uS Porn Industry Has but that Facebook Needs”. 

Theoretically, all images in any photo would have to be tagged before they could be posted on Facebook (or possibly any online place with user generated content).  This would sound totally impractical: in a public place, you don’t know everyone.  And even in a disco you probably don’t (although some bars prohibit photography). Or does she mean only nude images?

Generally photography of people in totally public places is legal in the US now, for example here.  
In Australia, Facebook is experimenting with a program of automatic comparison with a digital image library (a technique already used to identify child pornography known to the NCMEC).

CNN has an important story today on prior restraint of the press, with the background from Near v. Minnesota (1931) leading to the New York Times and the Pentagon Papers (1971), by Sonja West, here. In the Minnesota case, the muckraking publisher (whose stories were actually true) was actually enjoined from publishing anything until the Supreme Court, with some fortuitous luck, rescued it. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Under Trump, wealth seems to affect access to information and susceptibility to propaganda

I’ve written a lot recently about network neutrality on other blogs, and the concern that both telecom companies and large content companies like Facebook and Google will control inordinately what their customers see, for political and “fiduciary” purposes. 

I make it my own practice to look at news sources myself.  Even though I use Facebook and Twitter (Instagram not so much) I make the effort to go to news sites myself, especially all the major ones (Washington Post, New York Times, Wal Street Journal, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, as well as conservative (OAN. Fox, Intellectual Takeout, Reason, and yes, some Breitbart and some Milo) and “leftist” (Truthout), and some of the LGBT sites (Blade), and tech sites (Wired, CNET).

The major newspapers do have paywalls.  Right now I subscribe to three of them.

I also use what I think is the best source for my own articles.  These often include newspaper sites that have paywalls.  Facebook is reportedly working on a way to have a universal subscription to anything that previews but has a paywall.  But the point that the “Left” makes, especially in the network neutrality debate, is well taken:  less well-off people don’t have the money for paid subscriptions or fast lane service, and will be more vulnerable to believe “propaganda” that the companies encourage them to see.  While fake news should recede as a problem, vulnerability of poorer people to control of what they know and understand could increase in this Trump-like world.
I am concerned about the future of access to individual sites (not so much free-hosted blogs like this one but to hosted sites of small businesses and writers) because the “proles” may have less reason to know that they’re there.

The battle against elitism has only brought it back.

In the meantime, this Thanksgiving day, notice YouTube’s new rules for content that carries ads (story in the Verge) 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

When is it "OK" to write your own memoir? What if it is really a "manifesto"?

Recently I’ve seen a few articles on why you should write your memoir, even if it isn’t going to sell.
This particular article explains the difference between autobiography and memoir. 

The memoir is more about key life periods and feelings about it.  Maybe a distinction without a difference.

Is this an exercise in personal self-indulgence, wanting to be heard if you are to be of service?

That sounds like we need a distinction between a memoir and a "manifesto", which has become a bad word. (Elliot Roger, Kaczynski).  The former's ("My Twisted Life"), particularly, seems to say mixed race kept him from having his own sexual capital, so he went off the deep end.   

I have to say that three DADT books are all part memoir, especially 1 and 3.  And many amateurish novels turn out to be overly autobiographical, although I’m gradually trying to wean myself of that with my own manuscripts. But readers kindly called my DADT-1 book "The Manifesto". 

By the way, I can’t believe he bald tone of the email I just got, “because you have been identified as a supporter of President Trump…”  Sounds like a hit list. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Law journal posts big article on threats to Section 230 while the Senate Commerce Committee approves SESTA.

Cindy Cohn and Jamie Williams wrote a valuable article for “” about the history of Section 230 over 20 years.Cindy Cohn and Jamie Williams wrote a valuable article for “” about the history of Section 230 over 20 years.  EFF has also shared the article on its own site. 

The article goes back to the 90s with the Zeran case (regarding possible defamation related to the Oklahoma City bombing) where someone tried to force AOL to take down harmful speech.  Soon it was apparent that the law needed to recognize a difference between “distribution” v. “publication” of speech, even after 230 had been past.

Another wave of attacks came with regard to responsibility for ads for housing that discriminated illegally.  We’ve seen something similar recently with Airbnb.

The article goes on to speculate about the burden on platforms.  Some of them, like Google, Facebook and Twitter, have considerable resources in dealing with some “dangerous” stuff (terrorism, for instance). I’m more concerned about hosting companies (Bluehost, for example) that are normally mucy more distant from their users.

Note also Eliot Harmon’s report on EFF that SESTA was just approved by the Senate Commerce Committee, with a lot of discussion of automated filters (like we saw with COPA).  

(See my COPA blog for related article today.) 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sci-Hub case is back, as a court ruling could implicate associated third parties for "infringement"

With respect to open-access, I see I discussed the Sci-Hub (Alexandra Elbakyan) before, on Feb. 22, 2016, in the good old days.
A federal court in Virginia issued an injunction for ACS, a science publisher, a ruling unnameunnthat indirectly holds unnamed associated parties like domain name registrars in violation, more or less trying to circumvent the concept of DMCA Safe Harbor (not sure if it really applies to trademarks or wordmarks). It also got to search engines and potentially web hosting companies.

This sort of protection in the copyright world from downstream liability is comparable logically to Section 230 protection.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has a story on the matter today by Mitch Stolz.  

Monday, November 13, 2017

Roy Moore: gratuitous, politically motivated allegations? could allegations of 4 decades ago trip anyone?

Just look up “Roy Moore” on the Washington Post website.  The Post is understandably obsessed with him

 Try this story out, about fundamentalist Christian men. 

New York (Margaret Hartman) has as good account as any on Moore’s threat to sue the Post. 

As a public figure, Moore would have to show “malice” and “reckless disregard of the truth”. Pretty hard for a politician.   Trump wanted to change this to the English rule (“open up the libel laws..”)

There are stories that the girls did not come forward after 40 years. The Post learned of some stories and went out and got the stories.

Are bloggers like me spreading the panic for no gain other than “because we can”?  You wonder if gratuitousness becomes a legal question itself. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Inequality, unfairness, elitism, and "real life"

Here’s a couple pieces for thought, maybe for more expansion later.

One is by Brian Lufkin on BBC News.  “There’s a problem with the way we define inequality”. 
  That is to say, that most of us accept the inevitability of some kind of inequality if there is going to be ego that can drive progress, but in time abuse of unearned “privilege” and particularly “unfairness” will cause life to lose a lot of meaning to some people, and tend to drive the less competitive young adults toward autocratic belief systems (religious or not) and causes they can belong to – or else to nihilism itself.   Preoccupation with "unfairness" has its own downside implication, that people are to be ranked on some kind of scale.  Authoritarians love that.  
Then on Vox, Ezra Klein writes, “For elites, politicsis driven by ideology; for voters it is not”.   He adds the byline, “committed conservatives and liberals don’t realize how weird they are.” Real people tend to be driven by social and trial alliances, not to truth they can really find out on their own. 

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Mozilla (and then Writers Guild West) warns us about gatekeepers

These days when you sign on to Mozilla you get a warning about gatekeepers.  You see this text:

“Big corporations want to restrict entry. Fake news and filter bubbles are making it harder for us to find our way. Online bullies are silencing inspired voices. And our desire to explore is hampered by threats to our safety and privacy. It’s time to join Mozilla and do our part as digital citizens. Donate today to support programs that keep the internet healthy, free and open for us all.”

In mid-November, Mozilla added "Will the future of the Internet be a set of walled gardens with restricted entry? Or an open, productive commons where creativity and innovation flourish."  I thought about the Hanging Gardens of Babylon after the Jews were put into exile. 
Yup, as I noted in several recent posts and on a short film from Vox today on the Movies blog, ungated speech seems to be coming under pressure.

Here’s a story about gatekeeping, from Variety (by Dave McNary).  The Writers Guild of America West has told members (often Hollywood move and television screenwriters) that they may not work on artificial virtual reality projects not already covered by union contacts.

I have one screenplay script (“Baltimore Is Missing”, 2002) filed with WGA West.  I hope that doesn’t hem me in later somehow. 

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Billionaire Ricketts insists his local newspapers pay their own way; when they tried to unionize, they got shut down

Billionaire Joe Ricketts, who owns a newspaper company specializing in local news, shut down his papers (DNAInfo, Gothamist) abruptly a few days after his 100+  employees had voted to unionize. 
Andy Leland and John Leland have a detailed account in the New York Times here. The Times article embeds a copy of what visitors see when trying to visit one of the sites.   Callum Borcher of the Washington Post weighs in here
Ricketts maintains that his venture had to pay its own way and be profitable.  This is unlike the case with me (I have some means but orders of magnitude less than him), or even companies like The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper said to be published for its speech value and not money.

But it’s interesting also that the paper had specialized in local news.  I can recall a gay paper that tried to start in Minneapolis shortly after my own layoff from my career that insisted it would remain local. I don’t recall how it did.
Joe Ricketts has an interesting perspective on his refusal to let his own businesses unionize.  I guess he has the right to shut them down, it they’re really his.  

Friday, November 03, 2017

Sexual harassment complainants face risk of "frivolous" litigation

The increase in sexual harassment claims has resulted in countersuits now, at least one. Brett Ratner has sued Melanie Kohler over a Facebook post accusing him, link to Variety story here
The Los Angeles Times has a story by contact reporters Amy Kaufman and Richard Winton 


The threat of litigation could make it hard for people to pursue sexual harassment charges, as they would need financial resources to defend themselves.  Truth is an absolute defense to libel in the US, but you have to pay for the defense (usually) unless you take the risk of being your own attorney. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Personal domains are more likely to be blocked than "free service" blogging subdomains

Although pundits on blogging recommend getting your own domains to call up blogs rather than depending on free-service subdomains of Blogger and Twitter, it seems that many workplaces block these kinds of domains but may allow Blogger and Wordpress themselves.

Today, at Koons Ford, in a guest computer, I found my three Blogger domains (including this one) blocked.  The Wordpress sites said I needed to login – but you don’t, just to see them.

But my one https domain kept getting http 403 Forbidden in IE or Edge, and “this site can’t be reached” in Chrome. 

Also my legacy doaskdotell site (in IE)  kept saying the security certificate was revoked when it never had one.
In any case, “free service” blogs may be more easily reached on public computers than regular amateur sites that were paid for. This goes against conventional wisdom. 

Update:  Nov. 3

I tried all these pages at a UPS store this morning and they all worked.