Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Washington Post reports Youtube as a "vortex of hate" on day Google CEO testifies to House Judiciary Committee



In a long front page article in the Washington Post by Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Tony Room, and Andrew Ba Tran, four major tech reporters claim “Despite YouTube’s efforts, it’s still a vortex of hate”.  Online the title is “Two years after #Pizzagate showed the dangers of hateful conspiracies, they’re stillrampant on YouTube”.  The story caught my eye in a 7-11 this morning on a routine coffee run.
  
The story appears on the day that Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified for over three hours before the House Judiciary Committee, on CSPAN-3.  I’ll have a more detailed post on that tomorrow on Wordpress.  Toward the end of the session, two Republican congressmen (from Texas and Iowa) threatened to pull Section 230 protections on Google completely over the supposed bias against conservatism.


The article, however, notes the plentiful content from users of 4Chan and Gab.

It also documents a case of the spreading of a particular conspiracy theory in France (applicable today, given the protests against Macron) with repeated videos, simply because the algorithms show people videos similar to what they have watched before, which YouTube does for me.  (It does not include sexually explicit videos in this preview, in my case.)  

You get out of a platform like this what you want. 
  
YouTube could face more pressures regarding sexually explicit content following the examples of Tumblr and Facebook, given even newer concerns over the possible downstream risks from FOSTA.

And I wonder if a lot of classical music content could disappear next year if EU's "Article 13" goes into effect.  
  


I wanted to note that I sometimes get inquiries on publishing particularly leftist (“intersectional”) material, and then get quizzed in followup emails on why I won’t pay attention to their groups and some how play fair with victims of oppression (according to “them”).  True, I often write about things that have not directly affected me (although they could in the future, indirectly) with a detached, aloof, neutral tone, with no special consideration for the idea of (group) victimization (the group aspect makes it sound less personal at the get-go).  Am I being goaded to stumble and be set up for a complaint based on “manifest observable behavior”?   Something reported to a platform by a troll is hardly “manifest”.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Patreon's "purges" of sexually explicit content and some "right wing" content explode in controversy



It seems when I go out for an evening my cell phone fills with messages about the latest outrageous social media purge.  Even on a Saturday night, when I went to hear the Washington DC Gay Men’s Chorus Holiday Concert. Review of that tomorrow on another blog.

There was a lot of material about Patreon cancelling accounts that have sexual content. That is partly due to payment processors and party due to FOSTA, at least according to the explanation in this Reddit. Patreon fears that if a user leverages her "patronage" into paid hookups that violates FOSTA and leaves the platform liable under weakened Section 230.  Read the entire thread, and the linked Vox article from last spring.  This comports with the recent problems at Tumblr.

Then there is the issue of rapid banning of “conservative” vloggers.  I won’t get into the issue of Sargon (whether too “extreme”) right here but here is Tim Pool’s lengthy explanation (embedded video below).  There does seem to be a “blacklisting” going on in tech (what about anti-trust?) about off-platform content and conduct, and “asymmetric enforcement” (a term that will please Nicholas Taleb).  "Sargon of Akkad" is the pseudonym of British blogger Carl Benjamin connected to Gamergate. 
  

Pool said Patreon actually called him to explain its action on Sargon (weird!).   Pool sent out an email saying he is using Subscriber but not (now) closing Patreon. (Yup, the email showed up during the Intermission of the concert, when I was “window shopping”, even in December.  Remember, when I was at Lake Tahoe in September there was another controversy exploding on my iPhone; Verizon, however unfortunately, worked perfectly there.)  As for his further decisions, just check his Twitter feed @timcast.

Several people (on Twitter or Reddit – it’s hard to remember which is which) pointed out that Patreon’s cancelling of “conservative” and “adult” accounts is hurting the revenues of other people who use the platform to manage subscriptions with more “acceptable” (in this politically divisive age) content.

I don’t have Patreon or any subscription for any of my work – and that creates another controversy that I’ve talked about before (for openers, Facebook couldn’t “identify” me with advertisers and prove that I am not one of Vladimir Putin’s trolls when I wanted Facebook to boost a non-partisan and non-commercial post on the security of the power grid, back in September, again while I was in California; they wanted me to be selling something first!)

How does my work get paid for?  It doesn’t cost much to maintain it, and I am “retired”.  Yet I feel that what I do now is a lot more important than my 32 years of I.T., which taught me how to recognize a lot of problems I see today.  But whether a site can support itself could become a big issue in the future. I’ll also mention the “Center for Democracy and Technology” forum on “The Future of Internet Speech” (which I attended Dec. 7) which I will be reviewing soon, but the idea that the right of an individual to speak in a “permissionless” mode is in jeopardy – essentially because of ideological (maybe even Frankfurt-Marxist), reactive, strawman arguments from the far Left – which wants everybody to be forced to take sides before being heard.

Let me mention also, I do review work (movies and books and TV shows or videos) of other content providers.  I generally judge the intent of content from what I read or see.  I am aware of people who claim that the alt-right is using code words to instigate hate with speech that “appears” acceptable (Nov. 24 post and video here).  But I don’t judge a content provider as unacceptable to review or discuss based on rumor or smears.  However, the behavior of some high profile individuals can become more objectionable over time, making others wonder retrospectively why I discussed their work “at all”.  Suddenly, in the tech world, it seems you can be in jeopardy just for whom you allowed others to perceive you as associated with (remember Twitter’s purge in Dec. 2017?)  Pure tribalism.
  
One other thing. Outside the Lincoln Theater, I walked past an attractively decorated Juul and tobacco shop.  I wanted to make a picture, but I wondered if using it could be viewed as promoting tobacco!  I don’t smoke (I never have, and if I had I probably wouldn’t be alive) or use nicotine at all. I don’t encourage others to.  But is there something wrong with showing a picture?  I took one form a distance, across the street, including Lincoln in the shot, so it isn’t too provocative. Very safe.

Update: Dec. 9  early AM

Pool has a longer 91 minute emergency live streamed video here. He stayed up all night over this!! 

Sargon gives his own account here.  Patreon will ban someone for "manifest observable behavior" online.  (Should say "observed", past tense.) This actually resembles my own issue of "conflict of interest" in the 1990s which I have described earlier.  There's too much to get into here for details -- another post.  But you wonder if this is purely ideological:  maybe "we" require documented community service before someone has an account.  Would that be "manifest"?  It would certainly be ideological.  Sargon refers to the "religion" of progressivism and the idea of "sin" in their values.  

Check my International Issues blog Dec 9 for discussion of Lauren Southern's case. 

Proud Boys "founder" Gavin McInnes seems to have been erased from all major platforms, CNET story (Dec. 10). 

Friday, December 07, 2018

Facebook seems to be influenced by FOSTA as it, likes Tumblr, expands bans on some sexually explicit content



Eliot Harmon at Electronic Frontier Foundation explains that Facebook’s new policy banning “implicit sexual solicitation” only makes some users honeypots for trolls. 

Like Tumblr’s recently announced ban on nudity, it seems inspired in large part by FOSTA.
   
Today, at a symposium, “The Future of Speech Online”, at the Newseum in Washington DC, one of the speakers explained the indirect harm still being caused by FOSTA as shutting down much indirect match making online.
  
  
Facebook’s actual rule is pretty explicit, here. It does not mention FOSTA, but instead explains the policy in terms of vulnerable user intimidation. 
  
YouTube (Google) has plenty of soft-core videos that could be reasonably viewed as violating these standards if Google wanted to apply them.
  
In the past, I’ve seen posts by third parties (female) on my Facebook timeline that would have violated these rules. I had tried to ignore them.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Tumblr adult-content ban relates to FOSTA; two big events this week on the rapid deterioration of free speech within user generated content



Tumblr’s recent ban on explicit nudity (to take effect Dec. 17) has a connection to FOSTA, according to the latter part of a Wired story by Paris Martineau.

People in the sex industry had reportedly ventured to Tumblr after various other opportunities were closed down (including some personals on Craigslist, and subreddits) .  However Tumbr’s new policy (related possibly to an “illegal content” filter failure as discussed on my COPA blog Dec. 4, which led to a ban from Apple’s iOS app store)  removes one more resource.  Large companies (like Verizon with Tumblr) are taking over smaller one’s and instituting stricter policies, partly because downstream liability protections are getting weaker (esp. Section 230 weakening due to FOSTA), and because advertisers fear political pressure, especially from the Left, on hate speech or content degrading to women. 
   
Out has a particularly detailed account  (by Alexander Cheeves) of how some LGBTQ content (especially trans) has been censored because of FOSTA-generated fears; gay content may be disproportionately affected by FOSTA-generated downstream liability fears. 



(On the video, go to 9:45)

One wonders if Blogger (this platform) and Wordpress will have to review their policies with respect to this issue.  

Business models in the Internet simply are not as robust for monetizing user generated content as they used to be, for a variety of reasons, including maturation of user behavior. 

The First Amendment Coalition is conducting a forum “What Happened to the Golden Age of Free Speech?” in San Francisco today (link). I hope there will be a video of it available soon.

And on Friday December 7, 2018 the Charles Koch Foundation sponsors “The Future of Free Speech Online”, a day long event at the Newseum in Washington DC.  I am registered for it. , 
  
I suspect that business models, in wake of threats of regulation, and investor concerns – as well as the reported bias against conservative values on some platforms, will be fully addressed.  There are plenty of verbal rumors around about things that haven’t been written up, so I wonder what will get said at these two sessions, especially considering who is sponsoring it.  Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Will Maoism soon govern what speech is acceptable online?



Computing Forever is parsing Tim Cook’s own virtue signaling about banning hate speech trolls from tech platforms.  Yup, it started with attacks on Milo Yiannopoulos (his “Ghostbusters” banning from Twitter).  After Charlottesville, it became a way of life.


NBC News weighed in on this with a brief story by Alyssa Newcomb.

Now Colin Wright in Quillette talks about the denial of science and evolutionary biology on the far Left, because that requires binary gender, most of the time.  While gender may drive sexual fulfillment (and family and procreation) for many, it is an inconvenient truth for the new identarian Left.

The Tim Pool, a few days ago, analyzed an article (from Feb. 2018) from Atheism and the City (likw rhw 60’s song “Summer in the City”) that “social justice” had become the new religion of the far Left.

A couple of points are really dangerous.  One is the idea that no one has a right to talk about someone in another intersectional group unless the speaker belongs to the group too.  Anything else would be defined as “hate speech”.  That’s the ultimate “skin in the game” idea (when Taleb himself is a conservative).  That would cause practically all individual political speech to be banned online unless it belongs to an organization – solidarity and taking sides becomes required.
  
The other is that it is forbidden to say you won’t date a trans person (or an old person or a fat person or a person from another race – etc).  One’s own personal life is a kind of speech now (which was a problem when I was at NIH back in 1962). Milo Yiannopoulos has repeatedly warned about this idea on his “Dangerous” site.    Maybe the Left could demand that only people in relationships are online, or maybe only people with registered community service are allowed to have accounts.  Could Maoism take over the Internet?
  
 As for Carlos Maza's (Vox) tweet that "deplatforming works", I wrote a response today

Monday, December 03, 2018

Can blogging for its own sake still make money? (Well, did it ever?)



In a large post Nov. 18 I did refer to the Blogging advocacy company “Blogtyrant” and former owner Ramsay Taplin’s explanation of why he sold it after nine years.
  
Here’s a new iTunes preview of “The Blogging Millionaire”, going after which niches can really pay their won way in today’s “skin in the game” environment.  
  
I don’t think this idea lends itself to weekend hotel seminars (somehow I’m reminded of cash flow management seminars fifteen years ago).
  
  
Normally, a blog makes money if the underlying transactional business succeeds, and it’s very unlikely many people can earn a living as amateur “journalists”.  Most successful blogs are successful niches.  You have to be good at the niche.  If you are a chess grandmaster who wins tournaments, yes, you could do an endgame coaching blog and get subscribers. (For my money, Magnus Carlsen could help a baseball team manage its winter trades;  building a pro sports team is a form of playing chess.) 
  
Of course, Timcast and News2Share, I hope, are the exceptions.  (Pool says he wants to build a fully mobile studio now.)  Maybe I can be if I hang in there, but the political climate is getting more hostile.  “Why don’t you raise money for the poor?” Is the rebuttal I get.  It becomes ideological, even Marxist.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Facebook blocks journalist Hawes Spencer for reporting image of Charlottesville defendant's violent meme, already admitted into court



Andrew Boujon writes for Washingtonian Magazine about Facebook’s suspension of reporter Hawes Spencer for sharing an image of an Instagram meme where Charlottesville defendant James Alex Fields had hinted that he might attack protestors with his car. 

The trial judge in the (Commonwealth of) Virginia state court allowed the meme to be admitted into evidence, as possible pre-meditation supporting a first degree murder charge. Journalist Hawes Spencer wrote a brief story for Community Idea Stations including the image, which he posted to Facebook and showed the embedded image when it expanded aiutomatically.  The wording in the meme is particularly chilling, “But I’m late for work.”

Nevertheless, this meme was included as a factual news attachment, not as enticement. As things stand now, the public has a right to know about evidence regarding possible premeditation. (I do wonder about the jurors – are they sequestered?)

I suppose, however, you could not, claiming “journalism”, include an embeddable image showing an image of child pornography introduced into a court trial.  But a legitimate news outlet would not have included it, so it would not have been possible for it to expand into a visible Facebook posting.  Still, a personally owned blog posting might be able to do this, and raise an issue (although the blog itself then would raise a TOS or AUP issue with the hosting provider).
  
I’m not sure of the legal status of all images introduced into evidence.  I thought they were normally public domain, unless sealed or hidden by security clearance.  I do wonder what happens if the image itself is unlawful.

Ford Fischer (News2share) has a tweet about this matter here. 

The idea that Facebook can do what it wants with its own free service is somewhat met by Facebook's nearly monopolistic power on who smaller news publishers reach audiences and pay their own ways. 
     
I can imagine what the Timcast will be like.  

Update: later today.
  
Andrew Beaujon reports that the post has been restored and that Facebook will allow embedded violent memes for journalistic purposes in some cases. But not all. 

Friday, November 30, 2018

EU concerns over downstream liability erasure (with Article 13) increase; Congress could give Trump power to appoint copyright czar; my allergy to identarianism



Cory Doctorow ends the month of November with a more detailed discussion on how the EU #Article13 indirectly requires filters, which Voss and the Parliament deny. 

 He also re-explains the concept of downstream liability protection, which is in the US is well known from DMCA safe harbor and Section 230 (for different problems).
  
And EFF sent an email (with no URL yet) advising on an outstanding proposal that would take copyright management away from the Library of Congress and give it to the president, subject to political influence from big media (think what is happening in Europe, just above). QZ has an old post from March 2017 here.  I’ll follow up on this.  Is this a danger during the lame duck session of Congress before the Democrats take over the House on Jan. 3? 
  
I wanted to note that I get a lot of requests to review books, movies, interview people, and so on.  I have guidelines posted in Wordpress.  Yesterday I rather impulsively responded to one of these about some obviously very Leftist material that I don’t do “identarian” materials, or those that promote dealing with problems just on claims of group oppression.  I didn’t realize that “identarian” and “identitarian” are different concepts (with the extra syllable it refers to an extreme right-wing movement).  I do welcome individualized stories about people who overcame something as long as the narrative isn’t simply based on overcoming discrimination only on a perceived group membership.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

"SmartNews" for mobile devices aims to help reduce polarization in user news feeds


OK, here’s my own little contribution to stopping polarization and echo chambers.

I downloaded the SmartNews app on my iPhone.  I had to gumshoe my own notes to find my Apple account password because I don’t use it that much.  There is also a product for Android. 
  
It doesn’t seem to work on a PC (not sure about a MacBook).  There are five rainbow banners: Top (red), Entertainment (orange), lifestyle (green), U.S. (Facebook-blue) and Politics (purple, of course). Where is yellow? 
  
The news stories they cite tend to come from larger, well-known newspapers and sites. Many but not all are sites with their own paywalls.  Some stories are reformatted. Both conservative (Fox) and more left-leaning (CNN) sites are referenced.


This idea could comport with my suggestion of developing a business for consolidated paywalls to be run from social media sites like Facebook (Oct. 24).

The trend toward delivery content in apps (at least to mobile devices) rather than in browsers still needs to be noted.  It could be looking forward to a day when, without network neutrality, some telecoms could throttle some content, even if they haven’t done this (very much) so far.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Incels, "camgirls", and whistleblowing; are FOSTA and maybe Chris Hansen in the background waiting?



I hadn’t reported this story because it sounded so silly.

But “right wing incels” have been encouraged to report sex workers (as “whistleblowers”) to the IRS under the hashtag “#ThotAudit, which started on more than one social media platform.  It may have started on Facebook with David Wu.  

Newsweek has a typical story with many tweets. 


In the video above, gamer Ft. Sargon of Akkad discusses the problem with Tim Pool. Toward the end of the video, Pool and Sargon get into discussing the relative social value of women v. men -- Pool sounds like George Gilder from "Men and Marriage" (1986) here. Women have high social value early in adulthood, and men are supposed to labor from a low station in life to provide for them. As men get older, the men who succeed in the competition tend to take on more social value than women, which hurts women who didn't "settle down" during childbearing years -- and having kids really does affect women's station in life more than men (obviously) once women got to work.  I've covered these ideas in my books (esp. DADT I, Chapters 1, 3, and 5) a lot and said pretty much the same things. "Economic Invincibility" has said similar things when talking about MGTOWS (also this). 
   
Curiously none of the stories mention the passage of FOSTA last spring, which may expose the sex workers to more penalties and in some cases (because of weakening of Section 230) the platforms that had hosted them.  But of course there would be questions as to whether trading photos (by “camgirls”) is “sex work”.
  
Trading photos could invite police decoys trying to entrap people who want to contact minors (Chris Hansen’s series.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Sudden ban by Twitter of Jesse Kelly without due process raises questions about real political intent of social media companies? (Is the Civil War suddenly unmentionable?)



The Internet world is perplexed by the sudden banning from Twitter of conservative pundit (Marine Veteran and former GOP senatorial candidate from Arizona, and Federalist contributor) Jesse Kelly Sunday night, Nov. 25.  “Heavy” gives a factual account and shows the sudden final notice he got from Twitter.  This all happened shortly after Twitter had banned another high-profile user (Meghan Murphy) over violating some rules intended to protect transgender people.


Although Twitter rules say it normally explains violations that result in suspensions (temporary and permanent) so far it has not explained this one.  When I checked further, it seemed as though the Facebook page did not work either. And a “vote for Kelly” website had been hacked and overlaid with a page from a Japanese home builder.

There has been some speculation that some of Kelly’s tweets or other writings were viewed as urging for a second Civil War, but from what I see or can find out that sounds like a real stretch.  (This reported tweet is literally true and does not imply in any way that the slavery in the South had been morally justifiable -- just read Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind".) Very recently, Mediate pointed to a hard-hitting Federalist piece from last June where Kelly wrote that “America is going down”.  Maybe this piece could be viewed as hostile to native Americans, but I think the post is just interpreting history with some relatively normal hyperbole.

The Washington Examiner argues that Twitter is behaving like a publisher and risks its Section 230 protection as it seems to cross the line into banning some political ideas it doesn’t like.  But remember that Washington Post columnist David Ignatius already has proposed abolishing Section 230, at least for large social networks ("My four-word wish for Thanksgiving"). 
  
If monopolistic platforms like Facebook and Twitter could de-platform controversial political candidates, these platforms could possibly heavily influence the results of national elections to an unprecedented extent.  This would seem to bring back the campaign finance reforms I’ve discussed here before (like July 27, 2007, an incident that happened when I worked as a substitute teacher).
  
The political Left wants to ban neo-Nazism and white supremacy as legitimate “political subject matter” because accepting that idea would theoretically mean that the return of segregation or possibly even slavery must always be guarded against (politically) – even though there are constitutional amendments to the contrary (especially 13 and 14). On the other hand, since blacks were always a minority, BLM and even Antifa cannot constitute a comparable equivalent political threat. But imagine is such an idea were extended, say, to defend gender fluidity.
  
However the ContraPoints video that I embedded Nov. 24 also may shed some light – the “alt-right” can “masquerade” as making legitimate arguments, when a group like Antifa could not.  All of this also comports with a particularly combative tribal-centered political strategy that has evolved quickly (with both the far Left and alt-right) since 2016, where the group matters much more than the individual (as was the thinking toward the end of the Vietnam war). 
  
That sort of thinking is one reason for the demands to take down Confederate statues.  If a blogger makes pictures of the statues on Monument Ave in Richmond, is he/she guilty of indirect hate speech?  This is getting ridiculous. (What about Lee’s mansion above Arlington Cemetery?)
  
By the way, a substantial number of residents in Richmond want the statues removed (story). Why not, instead, erect some more statues of prominent African Americans today and from the past and add them to the avenue?
  
There is always difficulty in predicting what sorts of situations or images some will consider threatening.  Why a lot of the symbolic  battles (as over monuments, or over pronouns) sound ridiculous to me, I have sometimes pulled the plug on some situations that I considered particularly threatening. (For example, in 2003 I quit a telemarketing job after someone I called threatened to have callers arrested.)  The bar of what some people view as a threat or harassment can be quite variable indeed.




Update: Nov. 27

Ed Morrissey discusses the banning of Kelly on Hot Air, and suggests people go back to using their own websites -- but hosting companies have deplatformed extremists already, and there is some reason to think domain ownership should require more accounting transparency in the future than it ever has so far. 

TheWrap has a story about the banning of Laura Loomer after she criticized a Muslim elected to the House from Minnesota, somewhat tasteslessly.


 Update: Nov 28
  
 Jesse Kelly has been reinstated -- a story in National Review by Mairead McCardle here

Saturday, November 24, 2018

ContraPoints makes important video on the dangers of debating normally with the "alt-right"



Here is a particularly disturbing but important video from “ContraPoints” (whose videos I have sometimes presented on my Movie Reviews blog). It is “Decrypting the Alt-Right”.


A transgender woman Roxanne narrates with illustration.  One point is that fascism, as described here, does aim for a (white) ethno-state or “homeland”.  This is an idea that has never had any particular meaning for me, but which we see all around the world (like Israel and Palestine).

What Roxanne points out is that “centrists” can be fooled by alt-right code euphemistic words (and gaslighting) and downplaying.  Seemingly moderate and sensible immigration policies might be a step toward fascism, she argues.  Speech with dangerous ultimate intentions can be hidden with socially acceptable metaphors. That could make normal debate on issues by amateurs impossible.

This makes centrist criticism of the far Left or social justice warriors more problematic.

Some of her comments to seem extreme. I would not have considered Lee Atwater a pre-fascist (he collapsed giving a speech in 1989 and died of a brain tumor after a period of penitence forced by the illness). 

Her discussion of the adoption of new memes is disturbing.
  
She is very determined that the alt-right not be allowed to have platforms and seems to be pointing to the particular problems for continued open free speech online, as covered here with the stories about purges and de-platformings.  Her video seems hyperbolic, and suggests that normally acceptable individual content could be subversion from foreign agents or hidden right wing extremism and white supremacy.

Friday, November 23, 2018

A Facebook court? That just nicks the surface of the "due process" problem for social media and even web hosts



So how will due process for users of social media companies develop?
  
Major media sources have overlooked a major case, Manhattan Community Access v. Halleck, No. 17-702, concerning the question as to whether a public access cable television network is indirectly a “state actor”.  If so, legal experts say, this could open social media companies to more “First Amendment” litigation when they remove content or users (probably not when they refuse to monetize). The Supreme Court accepted the case Oct. 12.  The CNBC story by Tucker Higgins is here

I do wonder, however, how the reasoning really connects, that this could somehow make Facebook a “state actor”.
  
But heading in a different direction, on Black Friday the Washington Post offered an editorial on “What Facebook’s High Court Should Look Like”. 

The obvious question in my mind is, should a social media court exist just for Facebook?  Should all the companies form some sort of consortium so the same body could handle appeals from all of them?  That seems to make more sense. Consider a recent paper, "The Santa Clara Principles", circulated by EFF, on content moderation. 


But this leads to another issue – such a body would be international and handle cases from all “western” countries.  That leads to the next question – how to handle appeals regarding copyright infringement (or even trademark or patent), as well as objectionable content. And, you guessed it, that slams right into the controversy over Articles 11 and 13 in Europe, which will probably come to a head, in a way that affects both social media companies and web hosting, later in 2019. It is likely that standards would be much more internationalized and depend less on US law.  Already, companies are wondering if they could have to set up a separate Web for the EU, or deny EU users to content from outside their borders that didn’t go through their filters, which could affect Americans when traveling to the EU, to say the least. (Cory Doctorow's latest paper on Article 13 came out Nov. 21, here.) 

And in considering these questions we need to remember that social media companies and web hosting (along with domain registration) operate very differently. But web hosts have come under pressure especially since Charlottesville (really it may have started with Paris in 2015), and the calls for regulation from the far Left get more strident.

In libertarian circles, there are other concerns:  independent media (often run by sole owners) could face shutdowns if they don’t show enough financial self-sufficiency or “popularity”, largely out of new “straw man” fears over security and the idea that sole owners could be foreign agents (an idea that seems to have filtered West from Putin himself). 
  
So case before SCOTUS about an obscure public access channel, or a Washington Post editorial about Facebook court, hardly covers the discussion.  Mark Zuckerberg, however, comes as close as any person to “ruling the world” with his digital state.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Over-use of "protected groups" can seriously damage free discussion of ideas and backfire against the Left; another threat to 230?



Here’s one problem with going overboard with intersectionality, defining more groups merely based on the experience of competitive personal disadvantage.

It gives, particularly, the radical Left more leverage against tech companies in trying to get them to remove more “hate speech” or even remove more “enemies” from platforms.

There is not much to argue with about race and religion being the basis of groups (look at the shocking underbelly of anti-Semitism, as well as pockets of white supremacy as documented in the recent PBS Frontline series, “Documenting Hate”, discussed yesterday on my “cf” blog.

The status of various LGBTQ groups under federal civil rights law is more uncertain under the Trump administration, especially for transgender.  There may be no objection to singling out medically legitimate transgender persons for civil rights protection, and these are relatively less common (than cis gay people). There is a problem, however, in trying to frame discussion in terms of every conceivable insult to sense of self as regard to gender, fluidity, and sexuality.  This has gotten to the point of demanding new pronouns and even denying the structure of correct English grammar.

My own narratives talk a lot about the ability of a young male to live up to social expectations, especially in the past, as in my own history, dealing with a college expulsion and later the draft and deferments. There is also sometimes discussion (as in my books) in my exclusive attraction only to certain cis males.  This has sometimes resulted in objection.  More radical members of the Left claim that my bringing up these matters keeps them in circulation and invites more “oppression”, especially since my speech, much about earlier generations and history, seems “gratuitous”.  For example, embedding a Prager University video that says “Be a Man, get married” could be interpreted as oppressive.  One of the points of past social gender conservatism (as I experienced it) was that people who did not perform according to their biological genders were leaving more of the risk taking (like being drafted for war) to others in the community.

But it is true, as long as making more demands on some people, to take seriously what society expects of them, remains viewed as an acceptable position in public debate, some non conforming people will have a harder time.

There is a piece that resembles David Brooks, but is actually by David Yudkin, the Psychology of Political Polarization, offered by Better Angels, in the New York Times, link. I am in the middle of most of these measures, but they deserve a close look. 
   
I have an important piece today on Bill’s News Commentary today on new calls to possibly abolish Section 230, based on recent op-eds by David Ignatius (Washington Post) and Justin Kosslyn (Voce Motherboard).


Monday, November 19, 2018

EU not making progress in trimming Article 13; Facebook's responsibilities become even murkier



Cory Doctorow has a new piece on Electronic Frontier Foundation, dated Nov. 16, showing little progress in narrowing the language of Article 13 especially in the EU trilogue. In fact, the idea that a filter need not be mandatory seems to be taken out. 
      
Cory has a similar article on Medium (see International Issues, Tuesday, Nov. 13).  In theory, if the EU proposals were adopted today in all 28 countries, hosting platforms would have to set up a separate Internet for the EU (as for China) or not allow EU users, to avoid having the rules apply in the US.

The Washington Post has an alarming editorial today on Facebook   in which the Post notes that FB shows possible bad faith in hiring a public relations firm, but also notes that tech regulation of speech (especially the “variable” hate speech issue) and of fake news begs for the government to regulate such speech, which would contradict the First Amendment (well, not completely, as “distribution” of speech is not necessarily protected the way content of speech is – a point that becomes clear if you realize that user generated content, for the most part, became possible in the 1990s).
  
  
Then Alex Stamos (Facebook chief security officer until August and professor at Stanford) writes an op-ed  today about Facebook, and his last paragraph, about the responsibilities of citizens, is the most important. 

What we have is a commons ecosystem problem.  An individual liberty (speech distribution, or self-defense – or in the 1980s, sex) that seems sacrosanct at a personal level becomes problematic when many people in a community engage in it and many are not literate or skilled or mentally stable enough to avoid harming others.  Are we looking at “licenses” for Internet use the way we do for driving cars?
   
In the near future, I hope to cover another growing problem: the dangerous intersection of “gratuitous speech” that others perceive as targeting “protected classes”. 


Sunday, November 18, 2018

Who gets to organize? What makes assembly unlawful? When are platforms likely to boot people belonging to these groups?



Part of the big picture of how an individual should behave concerns, does he (she, etc) act on his own, or join a group, or movement? 

When I say, “act”, I generally mean “speak” – and I know Nassim Nicholas Taleb disapproves.

In the past two years, with Trump and his non-denial of white supremacy, we’ve gotten into discussion who gets to have a group?  Does the First Amendment guarantee that any group can organize?

Well, not for an illegal purpose, to commit violence, or overthrow “the government”.


There are claims that white supremacists should not be allowed to even assemble as a group.  Let alone that they get booted from mainstream social media and hosting platforms (leaving them with places like Gab). That’s because racial minorities (POC) and religious are protected classes.  That’s less clear with groups formed on gender and sexuality issues (especially after some of the Trump administration’s recent announcements on “erasing” non-binary biological genders).  But it’s clear (as with a recent NBCNews story on my LGBT blog today) that hate groups targeting LGBTQ are still around.

On the other hand, can Antifa or similar groups on the far radical group be stopped from organizing?  It would seem that as long as they don’t state violence as their purpose, the answer is no.  White males are not a protected class that can be extinguished (despite alt-right claims).

I can remember, however, that in the 1950s and early 1960s it was almost impossible for Communists (with a capital C) to organize legally, presumably because at the time Communism by definition subsumed the use of violence or revolution to achieve its political and social goals.

On the other hand, if it is permissible for white supremacists to organize, then POC groups, in theory, have to remain wary that all their gains of past decades (even centuries) have to carefully guard themselves from future political reversal.  There is no settled law (which is what a lot of the fear over Kavanaugh was about). Theoretically, not only segregation but slavery could return.  That always has to be stopped politically (although you hope the more recent amendments, especially the 13th and 14th  , are a sufficient political firewall).  Similar lines of thought occur with systemic anti-Semitism (and, of course, radical Islam, which we seem to be quickly forgetting about). This line of thinking gets really murky on gender issues.

Also, this gets to be elaborated (a favorite phrase of therapists) into group think, that individualized speech should be suppressed unless the speaker has earned the privilege of the floor, and that people need to be organized, and accept leadership that speaks for them. There seems to be some na├»ve group think on the Left (like the long series of daily moral lectures by Umair Haque on Eudaimonia), with critiques of capitalism as predatory in nature, without any guidance as to how individuals are to behave in order to provide themselves a living.  Presumably consciousness is to become more communitarian (the “New Man” stuff) but it is not so clear what the “community” comprises, but that gets off topic now.

I wanted to link to  a perspective by Ramsay Taplan, who sold his “Blogtyrant” business last June, and gives a perspective on why he sold it.

Well, I don’t like selling things either – but, given the influence of “skin in the game” thinking, the idea is going around that sites need to pay their own way (even if owned by people with significant assets from other places) with, in some sense, transactions from users (they might be upvotes converted to digital currency, but they need to be something that can be measured by an accountant). Otherwise, they seem gratuitous, which means they, through asymmetries (a favorite concept of Taleb) attract needless security burdens and create targets – at least for Russian bots.   It’s rather shocking how quickly this style of thinking has evolved since 2016, although there were warning signs before.
  
And I think we may see an elaboration of the idea that what matters is not only content itself, but the identity of and circumstances of the speaker, and the contextual social implications from the derivation of the speech from that particular speaker  – the union of which constitutes “implicit content”.   Indeed, we may seeing a bit of cultural Marxism (Frankfurt School, perhaps) in the way some people even in the tech industry now think about it. We may well see more emphasis in the next two years. Already, it seems social media and platform companies trade lists of forbidden people (or groups they are members of).

Friday, November 16, 2018

NYTimes story discusses trafficking by shady landlords but doesn't mention FOSTA, which could be used to prosecute them



Alan Feuer, Ashley Southalt, and Ali Winston offer a detailed story on p. A23 of the New York Times Thursday, November 13, 2018, “Landlords’ key role in the new brothels”.


One of the operations was discovered by a musician living in one of the buildings.

Landlords, paid by the city to house the homeless but without much incentive to keep buildings up, often knowingly house prostitution operations.

This was also common in the 1970s (when I lived in NYC) but toned down during Giuliani’s law and order. 

It has gotten “worse” as gentrification drives the sex trade indoors.

In one case, a man was kidnapped so that his wife could be taken into sex trade.

What I thought was odd about the story is that it did not mention the recent FOSTA ("Backpage") law, which has been controversial because it can potentially undermine all user generated content online.  Maybe the buildings aren’t online, but if they were, federal prosecutors would have new ways to get at them. Put another way, the story shows that FOSTA is not likely to add to a deterrence to sex trafficking. The prosecutors had plenty of tools for the online portions of these crimes even before FOSTA. 
   
Some properties with sex trade exist in counties to the north, also, according to the story.