Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Facebook suspends some more quasi-Russian accounts; we really need consolidated paywalls

Facebook reports suspending at least 32 accounts with pages that behaved in a suspicious manner, trying to spread fake or divisive news to certain populations, link .

  Facebook believes the sites are overseas and may be Russian, but the IP tracing seems to be much more laundered than before.  Facebook believed that the meddling was aimed at the 2018 midterms as well as increasing tribal and social divisiveness. 
Some of the accounts tried to push material on upcoming rallies in Washington. Some had names like “Blac Elevation” and “Eliminate ICE”. 
However, it is disturbing that so many Facebook users are illiterate and gullible when it comes to receiving news.

I have noticed that not only do most local newspapers have paywalls now (as well as big city papers), but also so do many periodical commentary sites – the trend among the latter has increased sharply in recent months.  Many links I give require paywall subscription to view more than a few articles a month.   
As I have noted before, I think Facebook could help by organizing consolidated paywall accounts, by which users could pick up to maybe 10 reputable publications for a much lower annual price than the sum of them individually, and could invite reputable newspapers and editorial sites to join.

We really need to get users into the habit of visiting legitimate newspaper sites (including local) and more professional commentary.  Of course, I appreciate your visiting me, but I try to refer you to legitimate stories.  
Using “private windows”, or multiple browsers and multiple laptops or phones or tablets could help with the free allowance.

Monday, July 30, 2018

"Legality" of 3-D-printed plastic weapons and their supporting literature will surely lead to private platform censorship online

The State Department reportedly reached an agreement with Defense Distributed in Texas, and on Wednesday August 1anyone will be able to download instructions and materials from the company and print  a weapon at home.  The CNN story is here

It’s pretty obvious that there is a serious public safety issue at stake, as the CNN article points out big time.

But there will also be a speech and “first amendment” issue.  While lawful, social media companies (and YouTube) will certainly feel pressured by the public to ban these from their platforms (as YouTube does now with most other weapons-related directive material).  This pressure will even extend to hosting companies, who right now sometimes make operating private gun sale stores on their servers a violation of their AUP’s.  (That generally means most weapons companies would have to host their own servers.)  It could also extend to domain name registrars, as we saw after Charlottesville with extreme right wing sites.

Defense Distributed, however, has a fully active channel in YouTube with a substantial number of subscribers. I’m not sure how this fits into the YouTube TOS issue now.

Wired has a YouTube video on the issue.

David Hogg has tweeted about the issue (after I emailed him the first CNN story) and become quite vocal about the public safety dangers.  How will the TSA deal with this?

It probably is harder to make a weapon at home than the critics say, hopefully. I’m reminded of the downstream liability of PaladinPress in the 1990s.

Update: July 31

Federal Judge Robert Lasnik has at least temporarily blocked DD from releasing the blueprints online at midnight tonight, ABC11 story here. The plaintiffs included eight states and D.C.  

The company is run by Cody Wilson  (Arkansas).  Vox discussed Trump's ambiguous tweet here. Trump has conceded the NRA position that homemade weapons are illegal even if the plans to make them are not.  You get to a logical situation that could even parallel child pornography -- in trying to defend the plans with the First Amendment. 

So right now the link on this posting can not lead to these instructions. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Major social media companies' business models come under even more fire, making them more demanding of quality user engagement

As I climbed on, I just saw an ad for Jaron Lanier’s “10 Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Now”, by Jaron Lanier. 

I won’t speculate on the reasons now.  I know of Lanier partly through the classical music world (even all the modern composers now in NYC), but this leads up to another story in the “Sunday” Wall Street Journal, about the sudden crash in some social media companies at the end of last week: specifically Facebook and Twitter.  At the moment, Google (Alphabet, including YouTube and Blogger and G+) seems less affected.
Lanier seems to be noting that social media companies can make money only by manipulating what you see to feed you ads, that is, by manipulating you.  I don’t feel that way – my Internet experience evolved in the late 1990s when you searched for news yourself, and I still do. I came of tech-age during the first dot-com boom and bubble, before the crash (and before 9/11).  But I don’t play ball with these companies.  I rarely click on the ads or buy directly from them.
But of course modern social media comprise “Web 2.0” where the users make the content rather than the site owner.  This blog is still closer to a 1.0 site in the way it is reached and reacted to.

And because of the ease with which less literate users are manipulated (for political purposes), and because of the privacy problems for users, and also because of the increasing liability concerns for platforms (like FOSTA), the business models for these companies have to be coming under increasing pressure.  It seems as though they can only make profits by getting people do potentially self-destructive things.

I’m not sure I buy all this negative hype (it's easy enough to come up with 10 reasons not to do as Lanier says, at least out of a temper tantrum).  But I am getting more concerned about the “skin in the game” idea, where at some point the Pharisee-idea of being noticed for speech leads to real action.  And like it or not, that requires social engagement with many people whom you may not have wanted to include in your life in the past.
I can imagine various ways companies could factor user real-world engagement into their business models.  “Pay your own way” might become a slogan. I won’t elaborate now.  (That might come to apply to book self-publishing too, but that's another discussion.) But fantasy is endless. In the meantime, I note well how Facebook keeps irritating users, me at least, trying to run "my non-profit's" fundraisers under my own name, as if I didn't have my own brand any more.  There is still a mentality with some users that "friendship" on social media entitles them to attention they couldn't get in the physical world.  But that's a problem for me, too. 

Saturday, July 28, 2018

To move to partially selective platforms, you need content that is fact-based: the power grid issue could be a good place to start

The gradual pressure on user-generated content is indeed nudging me to consider publishing key articles on other platforms. Two examples might be Medium (guidelines) and Hubpages.

Some of these platforms may offer a self-publishing option, with some oversight or right to edit, and some have options that are selective (like Medium’s Mission).  It would be a good question as to whether the changes in Section 230 and the “moderator’s paradox” will affect these platforms.

The best way to introduce oneself to a platform like this would be with an article on an issue of public importance and where the author has much more factual knowledge than the readers.

The article would generally suggest a direction for public policy or personal action on the basis of evidence from lesser-known facts, as documented in reputable sources (and maybe some personal experience) and less on speculation about what could happen.
I’ve outlined some topics for this sort of activity before.  For example, a discussion of the downstream liability problem for Internet platforms could be largely fact-driven (with some emphasis on the idea that there are different business models for different platforms).  So could the history of how platforms have reacted to the threat of increased liability exposure (as from FOSTA). What sounds more speculative, however, is trying to predict how platforms may react to political and social pressures in the future and censor content or weed out customers and users based on, say, community engagement (Charlottesville broke through a barrier with hosting and domain name companies).

I think that a good topic that is reasonably factual and in need of this sort of exposition is the threats to the power grid, both EMP and (as has gotten attention recently, especially from David Sanger’s book), cyber.  Americans seem divided on the issue of civil preparedness, with a “conservative” and “gun-owning” crowd insisting on personal doomsday preparation. My own position has always been that such a calamity must be prevented.
A number of topics that are fact-oriented come into play: how EMP works (E1 v E3), comparison to solar storms, and how cyber hackers get past the “air gap” to get into utilities.  The best approach for an article on one of these platforms would be an “annotated bibliography”; that is, following a model for a preview of a term paper in undergraduate English back in 1963.  (By the way, I remember then – professors wouldn’t let you keep your own paper after grading, out of fear of “fraternity files” – what happened to intellectual property rights then?)   That is, present the findings on the topic from well-respected publications and authors as much as possible.  The EMP issue especially has been a favorite topic of some of the extreme right, and that fact tends to downplay its credibility in the general public. However, there is slowly accumulating a body of literature from more mainstream sources, including science organizations (like Oak Ridge) that this (along with solar storms) could be a very serious problem, and preventable.   Unfortunately, as we have seem with a much better known issue (climate change), the public has become so resentful and polarized that it has no perception of fact v. fiction.

The topic is particularly critical because of the unprecedented dependence of our modern civilization on technology. 
But right now, this seems like my next assignment.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

When publishing regulations itself is copyright infringement

Imagine if copyright law prevented the public from having access to rules set up by industry groups that can affect users, like terms of service or acceptable use policies.

Public.Resource makes some of the standards documents available.  I do wonder why one would need to pay (Lulu) for a copy of “10 Rules for Radicals” if it is p.d.

Nevertheless standards development organizations accused PR of copyright infringement and got the DC circuit court to agree with them.  Bu the DC Circuit Court of Appeals just overruled them and sent it back to the lower court and ordered it to consider fair use.
Electronic Frontier Foundation has an article July 17 as a press release.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

California state supreme court boosts Section 230 protections in "bad review" cases

Here’s an interesting application of Section 230.  The California state supreme court has invoked the federal Section 230 and ruled that Yelp cannot be compelled to take down a bad review of a business that is suing the author of the post for defamation.
The case is Hassell v. Bird and secondarily Hassell v.Yelp 

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a lead story by Sophia Cope and Miranda Rutherford. 

Hassell seems to have tried to involve a “safe harbor” (like with copyright and DMCA) process for defamation.
The video above (two years old) applies to the trial court opinion which had originally ordered that Yelp take the material down.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Are radical activists really serious about banning speech on "settled issues"?

I had a conversation with a friend Friday night over the problem of whether activists have any moral leverage in claiming that some subjects are settled and should be off the table. The "settled issue" claim runs parallel to the "settled precedent" in litigated (even Supreme Court) cases. 

We started hearing this more often after Charlottesville, specifically about white supremacy;  but there are all kinds of other possible issues.  We used to say that about communism.

Other countries are much more specific about certain subject matter.  Neo-Nazi speech and Holocaust denial is illegal in Germany, out of a fear that political pressure could grow to bring it back if the speech were tolerated.

Now sometimes on the far Left, especially, you see claims that only the victims of oppression have a right to address it in public spaces. This is a variation of the "skin in the game" idea, as in Nassim Taleb's recent book. 

Yes, I have been criticized for bringing up the military draft gratuitously, when I am no longer personally exposed to it;  and making it more likely politicians would take it seriously again, by gratuitously "reminding them".  (Of course, politicians have brought up making women register for Selective Service!) Also drawing more serious potential objection is the idea of discussing the “sissy boy” syndrome, and even “demographic winter”. These ideas are supposed to be forgotten forever in this world of political correctness, 

The friend said, “What people say this?”  Not many, but Silicon Valley is getting spooked by these more extreme claims of potential group oppression, seen as hate speech or bullying because of its gratuitousness.
The friend agreed, however, that my working alone, and my setting this example, tends to weaken group-based activism in general.  The impulse to limit speech in some areas as inappropriate for continued public discussion really is politically motivated as a way to protect "oppressed minorities". 

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Is court litigation or criminal prosecution open to the public as it progresses? Normally, yes (unless a judge says otherwise)

Thursday, I posted my comments about the court hearing for the complaint filed by Woodhull Freedom Foundation et al vs. United States, regarding trying to get an injunction against FOSTA-SESTA (see July 19 for link).

I still have yet to find a major media account of the hearing, or anything on EFF or Woodhull’s site on the outcome of the hearing. 

It strikes me a curious, given the potential importance of the case.  As I noted, the judge sounded very skeptical of the claims, to me at least – although not in a political way, more in simply taking words literally in a statute and applying legal civil and criminal procedure law.

Perhaps it is “rude” for amateurs to comment on “activist” litigation before a judge does, as if it could spook or slant the outcome if a judge found it online.

But I can find nothing in the law that says that the course of any court hearing is confidential, unless there is a very specific instruction from a judge (as about classified information).  It is true that actual photography or videotaping is normally prohibited in court, but there is nothing that I know of that makes what was said secret, in so far as someone remembers what happened or took manual handwritten notes (old school style).

Here is the main source;  here also is the federal courts link on it.

There are, of course, some things that happen in secret for a while (grand juries, usually). 

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Doctors still go after patients who post bad reviews; sometimes there have even been criminal charges; more on FOSTA

USA Today offers an unusually detailed story on Thursday, July 19, 2018 on the issue of negative online reviews on “review sites” like Yelp, on social media (Facebook) and even on personal blogs, by Jayne O’Donnell and Ken Alltucker, link here.  (There may be a paywall, but this paper is one of the easiest to find in hardcopy in convenience stores, as I did this morning on a “doughnut run” before working.)

The article focuses on several cases:  A retired military general David Antoon settled criminal and civil charges regarding his campaign against a Cleveland Clinic urologist  The Clinic is considered litigious, which can matter because many medical centers around the country have ties to the Clinic.

A jazz singer in Arizona was sued by a local clinic after her reviews concerning some cosmetic surgery (but it’s understandable that cosmetic fields could indeed invite negative reviews).

A Michigan hospital sued family members of an elderly patient for “tortious interference” (as in the 1999 movie “The Insider”) among other things.
The article explains that review site (like Yelp) don’t fact check but they do take down reviews that violate “terms of service” such as hate speech, or bot generation of reviews or comments. Review stes are (still) protected by Section 230.

Update: Later July 19

I attended the FOSTA hearing today.  No injunction was issued.  Here is my best report so far.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Zuckerberg stirs controversy as he rationalizes some hate-motivated fake news on Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg has created a lot of controversy today by suggesting that he does not take down content just because it denies an accepted fact and tends to promote group hatred. He gave a discussion of why he allows Holocaust denial to stay on the site, as explained in Fast Company here, by Cale Guthrie Weissman.

Zuckerberg said he only takes down material that is directly threatening.  I believe that Facebook doesn’t allow certain materials (like private weapons sales, online pharmacies) that are at best legally gray and that are perceived as public safety hazards.

However, remember that recently Facebook published Community Guidelines (June 27) where it gave a staged explanation of how it handles hate speech, which it says is very much in the eyes of the beholder.

Material believed to be factually wrong and provocative does get treated in such a way that fewer people will see it.

The article also goes into why InfoWars might be allowed (the denial of the Sandy Hook gun attack), although pushed down.

These explanations comport with what was said Tuesday in a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee,  as discussed in the Washington Post as staging a right-wing threat to Section 230. 

But in general, the public seems to believe, much more today than a decade ago, that speakers allowed to publish on online platforms should be expected to take some responsibility for the literacy (or lack thereof) of their likely audiences, and should not be permitted to stir dissent by aiming stories they know are almost certainly historically false at readers whom they know are excitable and unable to process what they see cognitively.  This gets back to collective, authoritarian theories on propaganda.
Furthermore, many on the Left insist that bringing up “settled issues” just to look smart and objective is only a snarky way to further “bully” (uneducated) people in already “oppressed groups

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Should journalists (and even bloggers) need licenses? It's not as easy to refute as we would like

Recently, there has been a lot of rhetoric from some politicians that we need to crack down on fake news in some formal way.
So one idea that naturally comes up would be the licensing of journalists. It looks like I covered this problem once in 2012 with regard to an issue in North Carolina.  Now the issue surfaces in Indiana (which doesn't want "me").  So here goes. 
It’s obvious that “freedom of the press” in the First Amendment would be jeopardized (and would mean that licensing could meet almost immediate court challenge). But one can imagine setting up a licensing agency that is somehow separated legally from partisan politics the way the Fed is, or the way the FBI is supposed to be.  But Donald Trump has shown so little regard for these separations that one would have little confidence that he (or other authoritarians) would respect the independence of such an agency. If Trump wanted to do this, he would be smarter to behave better with respect to the independence of his FBI, intelligence services (especially Monday in Helsinki) and financial markets.

In fact, licensing means different things according to context. Typically, an individual needs some sort of business license with the state (although for a proprietorship this is very minimal), and usually a sales tax certificate (which could get more complicated with interstate taxing as allowed by the Supreme Court). To mail a newsletter, apparently you have to prove to the USPS that at least 50% comes from paid subscribers (to avoid junk mail problems).
Broadcast television is heavily regulated (as I learned myself when I worked for NBC in the 1970s – no complaints, I’d do it again) Cable is much less regulated, as it morphs into Internet TV (and the network neutrality debate). But video channels like YouTube and Vimeo essentially are not (although there are issues like DMCA Safe Harbor, Section 230, and FOSTA). They are perceived as for amateurs, although major media companies create free content for them.

In some countries overseas, like Portugal, journalists really do need formal licenses. 

But then there is the obvious question as to whether independent individual blogging would then have to be licensed, if in fact it reported news at all or offered factual commentary (or maybe legal advice). The link here gives many examples where citizen journalism reported things (like pipeline demonstrations in the Dakotas) largely missed my newspapers and television stations.

One possibility is that, without net neutrality, telecoms could some day insist on some sort of certification license (for safety, SSL certificate, and supportability) before any domain is allowed to connect.

President Trump would seem to want this, based on his pre-election comments (like shutting down the Internet back in December 2015, and for his professed dislike of computers); but then he took to Twitter. and seems to hate the established corporate media, anything to the left of Fox.  But individual bloggers (like Milo) seem to be OK for him. 
This gets into nebulous issues I’ve covered before, such as whether speech pays its own way (similar to the newsletter issue above), has backup people, or whether the speaker has a good “social credit” reputation (as we look toward Beijing’s plans for “social credit scores” in 2020).  It also invokes the left wing idea that most individualized political speech exists only to bully the oppressed, and that everybody needs to belong to a tribe first.  Indeed, without the right to speak individually as we have now, people would be forced more into group activism to be heard at all, which is what a lot of people on the far Left want.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Russians had exploited shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota, before the 2016 elections

CNN is reporting Saturday morning that a Russian troll group deliberately exploited the shooting of Philando Castile in St. Paul, MN, and a Minnesota newspaper seems to confirm the story, here. But, worse, this collusion story had been reported in October 2017.

In that July 2016 incident, streamed on Facebook, the police officer himself was a POC.
More investigation has supported the idea that the “organization” in Illinois was a shadow set up in St. Petersburg.   The story raises the question of whether "organizations" are a weaker point of subversion than "individuals" on the web. 

CNN is reporting the story today because of the indictment announced against twelve Russians Firdya, just before Donald Trump is supposed to meet Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.

Russians seem to be aware that Americans are divided on actually marching and shouting in demonstrations.  Some will show up and film and post on blogs but not participate (the “no spectators” and “skin in the game” problems).
The Russian meddling occurred in early July 2016, even before the Republican convention which nominated Donald Trump, under Obama’s watch.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Workplace, public computer blocking of "amateur" sites becoming more common; a template for telecom behavior post net neutrality?; more on paywalls

Today, after a small problem with my car this morning, I spent a little time at a Ford dealership and tried their free computer connection.

All thirteen of my blogs that still use the original blogspot address connected OK with https (under Chrome in an old Windows 7 environment).

The computer appeared to have Norton security with probably some workplace level security settings.

All my custom domain names (doaskdotell.com, the four Wordpress blogs equated to domains, and the three Blogger blogs for which I have linked custom domains) seemed to be blocked.  In one case (a Wordpress site “billsmediareviews.com”) the computer first failed to find the SSL certificate but was blocked the second time.

I’ve written about this observation on my network neutrality blog (Dec 7, 2017) and IT Jobs blog (Oct. 10, 2017).

It certainly appears that these days, workplace filters will block any “amateur” site that isn’t from a well known company or organization.  I believe they would block many non-profits with political biases.

I’m somewhat concerned that this behavior could provide a template for telecom behavior post net neutrality, especially if the telecom purchased an anti-virus or security company. It would not be a problem if a service with whitelisted sites was offered as a low-end, inexpensive service to families that want to protect young minors (this idea had been discussed during the COPA litigation of a decade ago). But any telecom should offer everything unfiltered to an adult that wants it (the regular Internet).  So far they seem to be doing that, even post net neutrality repeal.
Note also the CNN warning on ad blockers, advising visitors that they could eventually lead to the use of paywalls. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

SCOTUS nominee Kavanaugh seems to be good on First Amendment issues (net neutrality seems to be a problem)

Ken White, on a site called Popehat, has some detailed analysis of the views of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on free speech and first amendment issues. 

  The writer warns, “you’re going to hate this post”.  Rick Sincere of Charlottesville VA and Bearing Drift shared the post today.

In short, Kavanaugh is pretty good about free speech, for business or political purposes.  He tends to disfavor SLAPP suits based on facetious defamation claims, although there are procedural issues in the way in the case of various state laws when reviewed by the federal circuit, where he serves.  It should seem expected that he would in general favor corporate and political speech, since he has served in a circuit that specializes in technology, patent and trademark.  He also doesn't object to the political "weaponizing" of speech against intersectional groups. 

There is a lot of concern, however, in that he has said that the Obama net neutrality rules violated the First Amendment, except in cases where carriers don’t have competition. So he probably would not be supportive of legal challenges to Ajit Pai’s removing the rules from the FCC; the details about this go on another blog. He does seem to regard telecoms as content providers rather than utilities, and that view seems vulnerable.

Kavanaugh would not find any legal basis for interfering with platforms’ (whether social media or conventional hosting and domain name registration) own terms of service or acceptable use policies. That has gotten more attention after some extreme right-wing websites were cut off after Charlottesville. This could become more important if hosts come under more pressure especially from the Left to regulate even “indirect” hate speech.

Monday, July 09, 2018

California data privacy bill could prove a boondoggle for most business websites in 2020

California has apparently passed an initiative privacy bill, to go into effect 1/1/2020, which Mike Masnick on Techdirt calls “a disaster in the making”.  

The article even suggests that most business websites would have to develop a separate version for California, but won’t other states join in?

I don’t know if this could affect Adsense, or Amazon associate ads, for example.  These companies could probably put their privacy controls inside their images as methods dependent on the location of the IP address receiving the content. I haven’t seen them make any changes for the EU GDPR, which has been overtaken by the controversies over the Copyright Directive (put off until September for now).
Also, here’s an article on how to deal with “information clutter” in your own Internet experience.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Wisconsin university ordered to reinstate a professor in a freedom of speech case

The Wisconsin supreme court has ordered the Jesuit school Marquette University to reinstate a professor John McAdams after he wrote, on a personal blog outside of the university, a post critical of a student professor who had asked another student to drop her philosophy class when the student disagreed with her on allowing gay marriage.  This all happened four years ago.  The lead story of the recent opinion is here.

The opinion is here.  

The original blogpost is here. There is a long thread of posts about the court case, including issues like whether the other professor should have been named. 
This all seems fairly complicated and would take some time for me, at least, to unscramble.  But I wanted to note my own past history with “conflict of interest” over speech in the workplace, for example here and the complicated case that occurred when I worked as a substitute teacher, described July 27, 2007 on this blog, or here.  I also have a legacy essay on the problem dating back to 2000 here

Before the advent of modern social media (especially Facebook, once open to everyone) I had said that persons who have direct reports in the workplace or underwriting or discretionary authority over others in the workplace should not self-publish on their own without supervision or gatekeeping, because this could unintentionally lead to hostile workplace risks.  I’ve also described the “conflict of interest” in the 1990s when I was developing a book on gays in the military but working for an insurance company that focused on selling to military officers.  We resolved that with a corporate transfer and relocation in 1997, after merger.
 But an important part of McAdams's case seems to be the fact that academic freedom of speech outside of work was guaranteed by contract, which would not always be the case in the situations I take up in my essays. My own situations have never been litigated, but if they had been, they would have gotten complicated. 

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Trump wants Twitter to remove major newspaper accounts; dangerous implications

Emily Stewart of Vox has a story about Trump’s “demands” of Twitter that might have alarming implications.

Trump supposedly asked Twitter to disable New York Times and Washington Post accounts for what he calls “fake news”.  Yet, as Stewart reports, Trump has sometimes interacted with what Twitter has flagged as automated bots and then disabled.

It’s dangerous for a president to make an order like this in jest on a Tweet, because we don’t know for sure that he couldn’t make a real one with an Executive Order.  And with his own Supreme Court appointments, maybe SCOTUS would have his back for purely political reasons.

Although Trump has been gratuitous in his early morning use of Twitter, before his inauguration there was plenty of speculation that he could try to shut down a lot of Internet functionality on national security grounds, as I covered.  That died away. Back in December 2015 he had called for shutting down most of the Internet altogether.  Before his election, he hadn’t used computers much and didn’t like them,  Manipulation of the loyalty of people was the only thing that mattered to him.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Should bloggers avoid reviewing work of "dangerous" people (to "protect" vulnerable minorities)?

Here’s a little word to the wise. 
When I review books, music, films or other content by various authors, filmmakers, musicians or other artists, on any of my sites, I generally review what I see.  I don’t guarantee the readers (or any platform servicing me) that I personally know about any misconduct about the person whose work I review, or about various remarks the person could have made in public venues that indicate extremist sentiments or possibly organizational connections.  There are examples of writings and books by individuals (especially “conservative”) which seem reasonable enough when read, when their authors are later reported in the media (perhaps falsely) to have extremist connections or even sexual misconduct.
With books, especially, I will generally try to present opposing views on something when I can find them, and the opposition’s work is reasonably well stated.
There will be some parties who believe that giving certain writers visibility, or even certain positions credibility, is contributing to their group oppression, and should be banned.  If I’m over leveraging my privilege, so be it; but I see how reviewing content by others with extremist connections could cause complaints about me.  I ponder this as I recall that last December Twitter, for example, announced that it would close accounts to members of certain white supremacist groups, as if it were in a position to know about any person’s associations.  
There is also a “bias” in my content toward content that somehow relates ultimately to what individuals should do on their own about a certain immigration, rather than simply about defending people in any group or caught in any situation (as at the border). For example, on the border crisis, I would be more concerned about asking what could be asked from Americans with resources (like inheritances or estates) to assist actual kids who are displaced, than with the idea that no mother should ever be separated from her children. 
But the unprecedented incident in Charlottesville last August opened a new dimension in the pressure on service platforms to crackdown on speech that is somehow perceived as harmful to various minorities. (This continues a similar discussion posted June 22.)

Thursday, July 05, 2018

EU Parliament votes down draconian Copyright Directive articles 11 and 13, sending them back for revision before another vote in September

European Members of Parliament in Brussels have rejected the two most controversial provisions of the proposed Copyright Directive.  They will go back to negotiation for another possible vote in September.

The BBC has a news story now . I expect to see an article on Ars Technica today (keep checking). The vote was 318-278 (EFF twtter).
Article 13 might have required Content-ID style checking of all uploads, even text. Article 11 would have imposed a link tax, or at least allowed countries to set up a licensing mechanism to even quote snippets of news stories for newspapers in their countries.  This did not work out very well for Spain.

The link tax was motivated by the supposed unfairness of the way social media sites link news before sending it to users.  But blogs like this one (through labels and tags) also aggregate news.  Some observers in the publishing industry see this as unfair to newspapers and contributing to revenue loss and job loss.  But newspapers can easily put up paywalls, which many do.
In fact, I’ve advocated consolidated paywalls, where newspapers get together and offer deals to consumers.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Maryland law on website Internet ads raises question for sites: do you have to prove a negative?

Maryland is one of the first states to regulate online political advertising, according to a Washington Post Metro story on July 4, by Ovetta Wiggins and Tony Romm, “Md. Law on online political ads takes effect”.

The law apparently went into effect without (Republican) governor Larry Hogan’s signature, although the article is a bit unclear about this.
The law requires sites (or companies or persons owning the sites) with more than 100,000 unduplicated visitors per month to maintain a database of Maryland political ads.

Google stopped accepting Maryland state political ads June 29, so presumably they cannot appear on Adsense.

But remember, back in 2005, there was a lot of concern that even ordinary blogging (without ads) about political candidates could be viewed as untracked political contributions, according to McCain-Feingold. This concern died down.
Other states are considering similar laws, and Congress seems to backpedal, since the Supreme Court has reinforced the idea that paid political ads are protected speech, and a more conservative Court with Trump appointees will only reinforce that idea.
But it is a little disturbing that states could make record keeping laws for any website that can be visited from their states.  How can a blogger like me prove a negative, that I don’t take such ads?  Only because you have never seen them on any of my sites.  Is that good enough?

Monday, July 02, 2018

YouTube ContentID flags one video of mine

Recently, in view of all the debate about EU’s Copyright Declaration and Article 13, I looked at my own YouTube account.

The instructions are here.

The directions will take this to this link relative to your own logon to Google.  That link shows any videos on your account flagged by ContentID, which could increase greatly with European content soon.  But in Europe, the video would have been blocked from loading or removed; in the US, usually that won't be true as many rights holders will allow small excerpts of their content to remain up when notified. 

I found one two-minute video taken outdoors a year ago in July 2017 at a Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington. The video is of a trapeze act.  There is about a minute of Scott Bradlee’s Postmortem Jutebox. The copyright owner allowed the use of the video but laid claim to any ad revenue (which the owner could insert into the video), which is of no practical monetary consequence for me.

This situation does not lead to a “copyright strike”. A, actual DMCA Safe Harbor takedown will result in a strike, which lasts for 90 days unless successfully challenged as Fair Use or a misidentification. But three strikes in a 90 day period do result in YouTube account termination.

Update: July 9, 2018

EFF verified in an email to me that there are many reports of ContentID flagging or even blocking videos because of outdoor background music.   This is not a good situation.  It should be Fair Use. 

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Twitter purges continue, and seem based on ideology sometimes: Miranda X Yardley's story

I came across a bizarre case of a person’s being banned from Twitter for life.  This seems to be the narrative of MirandaXYardley, who had owned the Twitter handle of “@TerrorizerMir”.  Miranda claims she was banned for a tweet in which she wrote merely “Aimee Challenor is a man”.

That tweet refers to a transgender (male-female) young adult who is conspicuous in Britain’s Green Party and has also been (probably appropriately) critical of Brexit.

Miranda claims she is stating a biological fact (I don’t know what Aimee’s situation is with respect to physical or medical transition). 

I suppose that one could say, however, that the statement “Bill Boushka is a girl” would show the same kind of unacceptable hate or animus if someone wrote that.  When I was a boy, sometimes people said that.  The scope of all this gets beyond this blog, but I did not experience the same emotions of a transgender child, as in the short film “Pink”, for example.

So then, this sounds like a political position on whether a person has a right to be known only by the gender “he/she/they” choose, regardless of any medical situation.  I’ve been for moderation on this sort of question, and pretty much not taken too much interest in, for example, “bathroom bills”.  I do think that, with professional supervision, minors should be able to change birth certificates (in school systems, too) in some circumstances (Gavin Grimm) but these are infrequent in proportion to other things.

Miranda goes on and argues that Twitter’s behavior is a threat to women (I somewhat agree), ironically if Twitter is coming from “the politically correct Left”.   BBC writes that Twitter bans anyone who threatens “trans ideology”, which seems to be in a zero-sum game battle with feminism. Would misuse of pronouns (refusal to use "they" in a grammatically incorrect singular) qualify as abuse?
Owen Benjamin talks about why he got banned from Twitter – including something he said about David Hogg.  Well, David is mature enough not to be bothered by what Owen allegedly said (however crass and so obviously untrue that it has to be a crude joke, or “satire”), and David is not a threat to take away your guns if you bought them and use them properly.
Milo Yiannopoulos had given a reasonable defense of his Twitter altercation with Leslie Jones in his book – but he got banned.
The Purge in December seems to be just getting started.  But the whole story shows how combative identity politics is getting. 

Update: Tues. July 3

Ian Shapira describes in the Washington Post an incident with attorney Elmer Woodward, now defending the Charlottesville white supremacists on free speech grounds, where he called a plaintiff's client person (Emily Gorcenski) a man (by birth) when she ("they") was a male-female transgender person. 

Personally, I use the pronoun the person desires.