Monday, December 31, 2018

Why news could go back to becoming hyper-partisan



Derek Thompson has a provocative piece in The Atlantic, “The Media’s Post-Advertising Future Is also its Past”, with the byline “Why the news is going back to the 19th Century”.

Thompson goes through a variety of experiments that media keeps trying to stay afloat. He then notes that newspapers got started in the nineteenth century as a way to advance partisan political views.


The notion of journalistic objectivity didn’t come along until advertising drove away the “party press”. That comment is relevant personally today. As a “citizen journalist” (as I call myself in retirement) I resist people begging me to support their narrow political interests, like I want to be above that. But that attitude on my part causes further resentment, especially among identarian fringes on the Left and sometimes alt-right.

At a recent conference sponsored by Citizens for Democracy and Technology, Ethan Zuckerman had noted how newspapers had gotten started in the US as a way to send “letters” because the US Post Office was so restrictive and expensive.

The idea of patronage itself is “controversial” and tends to complicate the issue of content moderation for crowdfunding sites like Patreon (although there are other issues like payment processors).
  
This article would bring up my idea of consolidated paywalls (Oct. 24).  It’s also useful to talk about the EU idea of a link tax.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

A weekend trip and dinner with troubling conversation; YouTuberLaw weighs in on payment processor censorship; Timcast notes how major parties are hollowed out by identarianis,



Some potpourri for Beggar’s Night, one day before New Years Eve and the Nutcracker Ballet.
I was away this weekend in the Williamsburg area. 

There is a Facebook page called “Dining With Strangers”, and a couple times on road trips I’ve accidentally done that (as in September in California).

At a big club on Henry Street in Williamsburg, about six blocks from the College, I was seated outdoors in 50 degree air near a gas-lit fire.  It was warm enough. Across the table there was a young (straight) couple.

Conversation ensued.  The woman worked in a medical office, and I got her interested in looking up Jack Andraka’s Science Fair work. The young man said he was apolitical but tended to libertarianism.  But then it got interesting.  He said he doesn’t bother to vote because he is so appalled at essentially the identarianism of both major parties right now.  It was acceptable at this dinner table to mention the president as long as you said “Baby” in front of his last name.

He also said he had no use for social media anymore.  He didn’t need it.  It has just become silly and a place for ranting or flirting.

Facebook had better pay attention.

I introduced him to Economic Invincibility on YouTube, and he was somewhat impressed.

Well, had Tim Pool been at this dinner, he would have posted about it.  As it is, Pool published a 12-step tweet storm today about how the Left is becoming identarian, and leaving a big hole in the middle for “left-libertarians” to join the Right and try to restore a little bit of Reaganesque individualism. OK, more like Ronnie the son with social liberalism (gay marriage) but not carried too far (don’t overdo the trans and fluid thing because gender really matters to most relationships). Pool also noted that much of the far Left is specifically race conscious above all else – post-racism, post Obama.  Here is the tweet storm

It’s a bit like a typical Wordrpess blog post by me.



I haven’t reported here that YouTuberLaw has filed a complaint against Paypal and Patreon with the FTC (which is slowed down for now by the government shutdown) for possible anti-trust.

  
It really appears that payment processors are pressuring other tech platforms against an enlarging body of content which they believe should not be posted.  Why are payment processors so receptive to the ideas of the Far Left?  One reason is that these companies operate in other countries which simply don’t value our concept of free speech and have to do deal with cultures that are much more group-oriented.  I have looked at a few other videos of Sargon and a few others.  Some of their content is normally all right in normal speech or has been in past yeas (such as on how less attractive straight men can find dates, for example), but groups complain that the mere fact that this speech is allowed so readily when it could not have been twenty years ago leads to more oppression of members of their groups (to more aggression against women) from less stable people or more aggressive people. There is an ironic backside to this argument on the gay side that I’ll go into in more detail later.

Along the lines of payment platforms, YouTuber law reports that bots are more likely to file community guidelines strikes than in the past, and there are more “false flag” complaints, which YouTuberLaw shows there are very good reasons for care in the appeal process.  Community guidelines strikes may occur for pretty much the same reasons as Patreon bans (but for on-platform behavior only). Some of them seem to be triggered merely by political ideology alone. 

Update: Jan. 1

Electronic Frontier Foundation has numerous articles, including one picked up by Breitbart, noting apparent "brand collusion" (so it looks) in the payment processing world with no transparency. One of the most important is by Rainey Reitman June 5, 2108.  These seem valuable in YouTuberLaw's action.  I'll come back to this. 

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Blogging v. Vlogging; payment processors rule the world




I must admit that I had not been aware of how vlogging (as opposed to blogging) had created a good income stream for many pundits and entertainers.  Yes, I had heard of Logan Paul and his redemption.

The recent fiasco with Patreon, Subscribestrar, Paypal and the like has brought to the fore the way some independent journalists depend on patronage and advertising income for a complete living (some sell books and goods).  But many successful vloggers were or are successful in a real world field first (especially gaming, it seems).

I remember that Blogtyrant sold his business in June after years of giving tips on how to earn money blogging.  For the most part, this works well only for niche blogging behind a well-established small business which it supports. Of course, a few of the biggest mommy blogs, like dooce, had done spectacularly well as far as I know.


I got into blogging as a natural followup on the footnote files and other flat text essay files on the legacy site (doaskdotell.com) that supports my three books. I started using Blogger in early 2006 and found it could make content “look good”.  It also could group content by label, making it convenient for a visitor to track the progress of an issue (like Section 230) over time. It takes less time to read a post than to watch a video.

The most money I made from adsense was in 2008 after the financial crisis.  In time it went down because of competition from Facebook.

There’s another wrinkle. Conventional wisdom holds that it is better to attach a blog to a domain you own and pay for, and Wordpress works better for that. It’s unreliable to depend on someone else’s free service, which could be yanked away at any time.  But YouTube is “free” too. (You can host videos on a domain, like News2share.)   The proper thinking is more nuanced. The business model of the hosting platform matters a lot, and this whole subject is changing with volatile politics.

Note in the video above (by PSA Sitch), that almost any patronage system, even new ones, will have to deal with the rules of global payment processors.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Facebook's global digital state, through content moderation, can topple regimes




Should a journalist become president?  Tim Pool is three years too young, but he seems to know more than just about anyone, and is self-taught.  I can predict his videos by the time I look at the New York Times in my afternoon break visit to Starbucks. (Predicting what "Economic Invincibility" will talk about is a lot harder.  OK, he is smart enough to be president, too.  Guess who is not.) 


I usually find his arguments as to what is going on persuasive.  He also says he is building a new mobile studio, and wants to have his own media company.
   
Journalists can’t run for Congress, or could they?  What about YouTube or Blogger/Wordpress pundits?  (Would somebody try to figure out who my own "base" is?) 
     
Today he presented Max Fisher’s New York Times piece “Inside Facebook’s Secret Rulebook for Global Political Speech”.   Moderators work from varying rules and depend on Google translate, which doesn't do to well with idiomatic expressions and slang. 
   
Note right off, Facebook has to pay attention to media laws in every country it is available, and in some developing countries, Facebook is the Internet.
  
So it’s moderators have tremendous power to change the political spin that residents of a country (like Myanmar) can see, and determine who gets to stay in power.

If Mark Zuckerberg really did come from another planet in a Ridley Scott movie, I can’t think of a more eerie plan for global conquest, without a drop of blood.

Seriously, the “cognition gap” among users of the Internet is what drives so much controversy.
I have stated that I think I can help Facebook with its moderation issues, but it needs to contact me first.  My background is really that unusual.

But then does that give “Me” the power to rule the world?
  
Maybe I’m the alien and don’t know it yet.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Facebook keeps prodding me to "play ball" and ask for money; the potential for compelled speech


It seems a day can’t pass, even during the “holidays”, without another platform crisis.  This Patreon-etc stuff has taken up a lot of time.  I have worked on the book and even music a bit, but I’m falling behind where I should be.

Yesterday, after much prodding by Facebook, I updated my Page with a reminder about an early page from September where I had discussed an article I had written and where Facebook had not been willing to boost it without my selling things (essentially).

And I pointed to it from my account with another post with no links, and once I again, I get a rude box “ordering” me to add a donate button.  I do get annoyed by Facebook's unnecessarily trying to get me to change my profile picture, or to ask for "likes" (which sounds rude). 
   
I commented on my own post indicating that I don’t raise money on for causes under my own name under my own pages (normally), and a friend even commented with a flush face. (I do give links and encourage others to visit the non-profit site on their own first.) 

😳
   
I’ll add here that there have been some bizarre problems with raising money for non-profits.  David Pakman points out a problem he has had with residual Amazon Pay:


I get that Facebook is uncomfortable with people (like me) who use the platform’s friend’s accounts (as opposed to pages) for adjunctive publishing.  They want to see action, not talk (the “skin in the game” thing).  And their business model, for all the controversies over privacy and echo chambers recently, depends on people selling things and raising money and “socializing”.  I do much less of this online than most people, partly because I am much older.

So in a sense I am a bit of a problem because I spectate and don’t “play ball”.

But there is a dark matter implication also.  You could demand that to have an account and self-publish at all, you first establish you will raise money for other people’s causes – a conditionally compelled speech problem.  As I explained, most of my donations are private and automated through a bank and a trust.  But that doesn’t serve the interests of the non-profit world, with its matching donors and drives, and businesses (like Facebook) whom the non-profit world depend on. 

You could also, at some point in the future, demand some kind of community engagement – voluntarism.  Maybe that could be kept private, but it tends to lead to wearing T-shirts and demonstrating and raising money.

I can see that the Facebook social media culture that Mark wants now makes it OK to ask for things.  I do get the point of that.

By the way, there is criticism that donating through Facebook undermines some non-profit's strategies 
     
I'll add that many of my posts with pictures are based on things happening locally, like the completin of Ballston Quarter in Arlington VA.  These get lots of positive reactions; they are on-the-scene live coverage of what I walk in on. These usually don't get onto my blogs, only the social media platforms. 
     
There are more articles about “emperor Mark”, such as Brian Phillips on The Ringer, “The Cost of Living in Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet Empire”, that reminds us what it was like to move into this second life of the Internet in the 90s, before modern social media took over.

There’s a new social network, MeWe, that appears to be much simpler.  Shelby Brown of Cnet describes it as the “anti-Facebook”.  It seems to encourage posts to disappear faster (quasi-Snapchat). 

Right now I don’t have time to build audiences on new platforms, unless they really become necessary.  I haven’t invested much time in Instagram, because it is clumsy to base everything on photo. I have no real use for Snapchat.
  
But I do have to think about what will help me sell the novel next summer. 
  
I want also to note that some good friends seem to be posting a lot less on Facebook and Twitter in the past few months than they used to, given all the scandals. It's not just conservatives who are worried. As Tim Pool says, if you just ban everybody, you have no business. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Paywalls and the EU Article 11 concept: another coming trap for American independent journalists?



I wanted to make a note about paywall creep, as more mainstream periodicals install them for digital access.  Likewise, most local newspapers now require them.  Paywalls, for professional media publications (as opposed to indie) have turned out well.

And I had proposed the idea of consolidated paywalls here on Oct. 24.

Most publications seem to allow a few free articles (sometimes per month) before blocking access with a paywall.  In the past, you could look at the article on another browser or another laptop or smartphone in the home. Other vloggers say you can open another browser session in incognito mode. 

Let me say at first, I do have digital subscriptions to the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. I ditched home delivery because of the security problems but I do often buy copies at Starbucks.  I also have physical and digital for Economist, Time, Foreign Affairs, and Scientific American.


If Facebook doesn’t expand an article with a tiny url, you can resolve it, look at the title, search for it in Google, and then open it, often.

But these tricks (whether legal or not), may not work a lot longer. Now, they seem to be picking up that the same IP address is being used and will block it.

This raises another question, that seems to be an offshoot of the proposed EU link tax (Article 11).   It’s also related for the recent tendency for some platforms (mostly Twitter and Patreon so far, but I suspect it will spread) to ban user accounts based on “off platform manifest observable behavior”.  It sounds credible that if you gave a link to a site behind a paywall, the rights holder could check to see if you have a valid subscription and could complain to the platform about copyright infringement (if the platform conforms to Jack Conte’s theories). 

This may sound silly and self-defeating, and it’s probably a greater risk in Europe (remember that in Spain, out of a hyper protectionist attitude, small publishers weren’t allowed to opt out of charging for links).  Still, we've seen copyright trolls in the US in the past (like Righthaven) and the idea could come back with respect to this setup. 

I can imagine other problems too.  If you had bought a paper copy, then you had the legal right to view the content.  I often buy one copy of a local newspaper in a convenience store when on the road to see what is going on, and sometimes will use a link.  It’s up to the reader of my blog, in my theory, to get a subscription to view the content once getting the link (although it’s likely in practice to fall within a monthly max).  Paywall consolidations would help solve this problem.  I recall that back in the 1970s, as a young working adult alone in apartments, I would get visits from people selling consolidated magazine subscriptions (The film “American Honey”, media commentaries, Oct. 12, 2016).  This idea used to exist;  it needs to come back in the digital world.   

I’ll add that I do buy periodicals in supermarkets, but it’s not convenient to get to bookstores as often as I would like to look at all of them.  (That’s another issue, my publisher wants to see me engage local independent bookstores, and that is very time consuming and takes away time from developing content). When I worked on my “DADT 1” book in the mid 90s in a northern VA apartment, a lot of space got taken by the periodical copies I had bought for research. 

It’s interesting that the newspapers who install paywalls seem to have an attitude that they can monopolize many readers’ viewing habits, which may seem necessary to their business models. Some Internet users are then driven to fake news (which is free, and often from Russia) in their political echo chambers.  Others may go to Youtube or to amateur blogs and sites (like mine) and find the same news.

This brings us back to Tim Pool’s disturbing point that legacy publishers believe that independent journalists are seriously eroding their businesses with much lower overhead, whereas legacy publications have to worry about unions, guilds or the like so would like to see more protectionism from independents.  This is what seems to be going on in Europe with the Article 11.  Likewise, the battle over Internet movie and music piracy (SOPA in 2011-2012) really wasn’t about piracy per se (how many of us really want to watch low quality pirated DVD’s – although people do so in poor countries); it was really about low-cost or no-cost competition.  Mark Cuban even said that to me in an email (in response to Blogmaverick) about ten years ago.

Fragmenting the user experience by trying to monopolize attention and limit competition could harm user awareness of critical, often non-partisan, issues.  For example, the national security threat from solar storms or possible enemy electromagnetic pulse does not get much attention from mainstream media because most of the literature on these problems is behind expensive paywalls.  I see this as a problem of seriousness comparable to bots and fake news.  Furthermore, many engineering or scientific subjects have critical information in academic or professional journals behind expensive paywalls, which brings up the "open access" issue presented before. 

In time, automated procedures might be able to detect infringing content (videos, images, Mpg’s and pdf’s at least) stored in the Cloud, as well as other illegalities (child pornography, by digital watermark with NCMEC). This could further complicate this scenario.
  
Readers should also note that there are more questions now about embeds and copyright infringement, after a decision in New York State (see Feb. 17, 2018).


Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Patreon explains its hate-speech policy in a "patronage" environment, while vloggers talk about financial (and even political) sustainability of independent journalism, on Christmas Day; cryptocurrencies?



The mainstream media has caught up with the Patreon problem, with the New York Times reporting by Nellie Bowles on Christmas Eve here. The Times seems sympathetic to platforms that want to disconnect themselves from any appearance of what is thought of as the “alt-right” because the extreme right can use reasonable, libertarian-sounding ideas as stealth.

Benjamin Goggin has two Medium-Business Insider articles (linked) about the Patreon issue where he summarizes some of the bannings (and attempts to start new platforms) as related not only to using slurs (even off platform) but suspicious (if occasional or discontinued) associations with more extreme groups or persons. These articles characterize an "Intellectual Dark Web" of pundits whose policy ideas are relatively centrist (sometimes OK, for example, with gay marriage) but who seem to lack empathy for people who claim group oppression -- which is really closer to mainstream secular  conservatism than either libertarianism or religious fundametanlism but increasingly unacceptable in some of Silicon Valley. But these "centrist" content creators insist that Patreon and other tech companies (including Paypal with the Subscribestar ban) are making up rules as they go along, in reaction to leftist complaints, and that Patreon cannot be trusted by content creators who need the income. 
  
Perhaps a bit to her credit Jacqueline Hart of Patreon offered this explanation of why they will remove content providers for off-platform behavior. She also seems to offer a somewhat specific view of hate speech, as involving protected classes (extended somewhat to groups like trans) based on past history.

Again, I personally don’t believe in making policy based on grouping people into classes or ethnicities. (I am more of a "due process" person.)  But I understand it has become perceived as a cornerstorne of liberal public policy and sometimes law (the 14th Amendment).

Tim Pool has a very long and extensive analysis of this latest article.

  
All this said, I wanted to note that several videos from Patreon creators note the very considerable incomes they make from patrons, perhaps even compared to commercial YouTube ads.  This observation raises in my mind how one develops the public standing to get contributions as an independent journalist and make it a credible career choice (which, as my DADT III book and later Nicholas Taleb's "skin in the game" book) should be seen as a privilege. 
   
That is easier to see in Pool’s case, as Wikipedia, for example, notes his long history of entrepreneurial journalism.  And some Patreon creators had well established reputations before getting onto Patreon (an obvious example, Jordan Peterson).  This also brings up the issue of notability, and Wikipedia’s willingness or lack thereof) to recognize an independent creator (like me) as potentially noteworthy.  (I am working on two potential Wikipedia articles myself now.) 
   
Tim Pool today advocated bloggers’ or podcasters’ learning to use cryptocurrency (as has Ford Fischer).  I’m still looking at Civil and Steemit – but that takes time!!  Maybe Pool is also referring to the recent flak about the Fed from Trump.

But some creators have said that they will drop not only Patreon but the whole patronage idea as a result of the problems unearthed in this latest “scandal”. Some have said that, like me, they have income or assets from other sources.  These might be undermined by the recent volatility in equity markets and instability in government, for example (even Mnunchin’s unnecessary calling into question of the entire financial system Sunday).  I will later (on a Wordpress blog) give more details on my own stability.  But there are also troubling questions about whether free content is “stealthy” and invites foreign intervention into American platforms.  We may well see more questions about this problem. I did want to note that recently I found an answer on EFF about the 2005 controversy over inadvertent “contributions” to campaigns by bloggers here. 
  
This is indeed Christmas day, and it’s interesting that an introvert like me, with most of the old family deceased, finds himself busy with his own global activity, and not people next door.  Cards and gifts seem to mean less every year.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Review of "controversial" patronized accounts show anti-tribal or anti-intersectional material, but little or no hate speech as commonly understood in the past


Just a note tonight about what creates the impression that someone is associated with extremism, especially right wing or white supremacy.
  
I’ve watched a few more videos of people who seem controversial to the extreme Left.
  
Generally, Carl Benjamin (Sargon of Akkad) and Jordan Peterson, and similar people, argue against intersectionality and making policy on the basis of individualized equality of opportunity, but not equity in outcomes.  They generally dismiss the notion of group marginalization and tend to believe individuals should overcome their issues on the way.  Their views might be seen as part of objectivism, maybe along the lines of Ayn Rand sometimes.  
  
Milo Yiannopoulos is a little testier.  His book is reasonable (although I wouldn’t organize a book on why one group after another hates me) but sometimes in other public utterances he will denigrate persons for their appearance as not conforming to society’s notions of what used to be “desirable” with respect to gender.  I know what Milo is getting at, but I can see that sometimes he is over the line.
  
  
Note Tim Pool’s comments about how Nate Silver was treated, and Twitter argument he presents with renowned gay journalist Glenn Greenwald, who helped Laura Poitras make a film about Edward Snowden.
  
This does seem to be deteriorating into pure tribalism, as to who is the “enemy” when they are becoming enemies of one another.  Sorry, I just don’t perceive Milo and James Damore as “enemies”.  But I am an elderly gay white male myself – but I did deal with McCarthyism early in my adulthood.  OK, maybe I don’t respect “fluidity” enough, or maybe I do admit to  seeing it as a threat to my own deepest personal intimate values, about what would matter to me personally in another person in a private relationship – except that social media would never allow it to be private.  (I could get into the idea of how physical shame used to be part of gay erotica, but that’s a whole different discussion.)
  
There was also a bizarre twist on “Economic Invincibility” and his YouTube account.  On Dec 19, I believe, he made a Jonathan Swift-like post on the idea of repealing the 19th Amendment (the right of women to vote).  The comments were awful (extremely “right wing”).  He deleted it, and added nothing more for a day or so.  Tonight, be put it up again, without the original comments.  OK, I get the idea that some people want only those who “produce” (work for a living) to vote, and don’t want those on welfare to.  It isn’t going to happen (although merely mentioning the idea seems like an existential threat to “oppressed peoples” as viewed by the Left).  I whimsically commented on Dec 19 that you could base the number of votes on the number of legitimate financial dependents, giving larger families more votes.  I meant that as a “Jonathan Swift” comment, and added “be careful what you wish for.”  But the old comments are gone.
  
As Milo says, some ideas are “dangerous” if they get talked about long enough.

Here is Sargon’s own account of the Vid incident in 2017 in Los Angeles. 

Update: Dec. 12

Here is a piece by John Timmer on Ars Technica on why political radicals are so vulnerable to propaganda and less capable of critical thinking.  It may actually be partly genetic or biological. Humans vary individually on their needs for tribal validation. So do many animals (like cats). 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Young adult professionals seem to be dropping out of social media platforms in view of scandals, making "global" social contacts harder to make



This is getting too complicated.  Today various media outlets report on another Facebook sin, allowing various tech partners access to private messages and friends’ data, which the companies all say they didn’t share.  The Verge has as good a summary as any (Casey Newton). 

The problem is that people might have set full privacy as a requirement for work (something I have talked about as conflict of interest) as these settings were not observed.  

Many people, with more responsibilities for family or direct reports at work, could feel more vulnerable to privacy lapses by social media companies than I have been (although when my mother was alive there could have been doxing risks for me living with her).  


Third parties had the ability to read and even delete chat messages, although they all deny doing so.
  
Washington DC has sued Facebook over the Cambridge Analytica scandal (CNBC). 

I’ve noticed various well-regarded individuals in entertainment and science posting much less than before on Twitter and Facebook, and sometimes deleting social media entirely, very recently, as the reports on breaches get worse – probably on the advice of their agents.  That could make them harder for “proles” like me to network with them personally.   The Guardian had weighed in during August. 
  
Does social media make people less interested in “realism-based” relationships with locally available people?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Pool confronts Patreon CEO Jack Conte; then notes how activist attack on Tucker Carlson shows that conservatives may value their personal dignity too much





There’s more to report today about Patreon and its policy of removing content providers who engage in what they consider hate speech even on platforms other than theirs.  They take the position that they are funding off platform behavior and that affects their brand. 

Tim Pool reports on his conversation with Jack Conte, and this shows that Patreon’s rules are still inconsistent and unclear.


A subsequent video post by Pool, concerning Tucker Carlson, mentions that the left is much more vigorous in combative activism than the traditional right (outside evangelicals perhaps) which it sees beneath its dignity.  This strategy makes advertisers unwilling to sponsor the presentation of conservative political ideas, so they fade from discussion.  Of course, free content can provide another wrinkle to the discussion.
    
 Pool had a spate with Sarah Jeong who accuses him of "surveillance" on protestors, as if he had no empathy for group plight. 
  
I wanted to return for a moment to the “skin in the game” idea, and recall the unwillingness of Facebook to boost a non-partisan issue post about national security when the post didn’t attempt to sell anything. Given the Russian situation, that makes Facebook suspicious, despite proving normal identity with a driver’s license photo. I could have tried to let a company sell faraday bags on my page, they hinted. 

Well, imagine you are trying to boost a post supporting the Second Amendment (as interpreted now). 
  The logic of the policy on issue ads (since June) would mean you would need to be selling weapons, which of course is not allowed. So you really can’t even boost the “conservative” position on their platform.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Post Patreon debacle: should platforms opening push a political agenda and only be open to certain publishers, if they tell everybody first?



Okay, I’m having to spend a lot of time on this festering issue, who gets to have a brand on the Internet. 

First, a little good news.  Jordan Peterson and Dave Rubin say they will work on creating another patron system and even another payment processor (to supplement Paypal) if they need to.  Not to support a political viewpoint, simply to restore free speech.


And now, let me just mention a worldview that seems to be gaining traction among “populists”, especially on the Left.  It’s a version of  (Nicholas Taleb’s) “skin in the game”.  Speech for its own sake, even open intellectual inquiry, is no longer OK.  The world is so unequal that everyone must get on board to prove they can live within groups and actively court connections with those less well off.   Speech must always generate local action.  
  
But of course, in a modern society with “democratic capitalism” you need the rule of law and you can’t force psychological socialism or (Frankfurt) cultural Marxism (egoless “New Man”) on everyone.  Separate communities, even tribes, can enforce this on their own members.  That’s even one reason that tribes, to some extent, as conservative writers from Carlson or Mero to Senator Ben Sasse point out, are good.  They provide a localized environment where real needs can be met when people are otherwise literally unequal.

But on the Internet, individual platforms could try to enforce this idea if they wanted, and if they were open and consistent about the rules that go along with their own “brand”.

That isn’t very practical when (as a result of the tech consolidation in the 2000s after the Dot Com bust, leaving us with a handful of powerful companies) most platforms set themselves up as public utilities (using Section 230 protection) and then start culling their users with algorithms to make money – and we all know the trouble that has led to, most of all for Facebook.  And even in the “patronage” industry Patreon, for example, was getting powerful;  likewise in the payment processing world, Paypal, Master Card and Visa don’t leave a lot of room for competition.  When you don’t have very many companies and they talk to each other, activists with a “social justice warrior” agenda can try to influence them.

In the case particularly of extremist Leftist activism (reaction formation to Trump) they do have a point. Some communities have been, as groups, marginalized and oppressed in the past. Some groups, on the other hand, want to recover the power and prestige that they thought they had in the past.  So people in some groups arguably are in more danger.  Slopes get slippery pretty quickly.  Slurs may be perceived as triggering unstable people into violent attacks and endangering people in the groups.  But it’s more than slurs.  It’s getting to the point that even being seen as associated with people in (more extreme right wing groups) means that speech coming from your own mouth could be perceived as a threat to others. 

Platforms have been banning people not just on content they post on the same platforms, but in some cases on associational behavior.  (It’s almost like how the military gay ban worked, in the gays before Bill Clinton, ironically.)   The far Left feels that to protect its base, it must get the tech industry to purge anyone with even a hint of connection to the far Right, as an indirect matter to protect its own security.  This is “Milo-dangerous”.  But it is not very different from the attitude of authoritarian dictators who claim they cannot permit any dissent because the dissent can be dangerous for someone.

Now, I can imagine, as a thought experiment, a world where many platforms are community and brand specific. We talked about the idea in workshops at the Future of Online Speech forum at the Newseum on Dec. 7.

So, you might have a payment platform open only to “socially responsible publishers”.  Let’s say you make some requirements.  You have to demonstrate community service.  You have to have to prove that you really have something to sell and have a minimum support base in a certain time.  Maybe you can’t discuss politics at all; only consumer goods.  Or maybe you can’t discuss an issue unless you have something to sell to address it (that is the way Facebook acted when it wouldn’t boost my post on EMP – they wondered why I wasn’t selling Faraday bags).  That idea creates a real problem, though, if you want to talk about self-defense or the Second Amendment.

But it is true that groups have limited platforms all the time.  Political parties can have them for their own activists.  There is at least one self-publishing company that invites only “Christian” books.  But that is fine with me;  they tell you up front, and there are plenty of other companies who don’t.  (Think Masterpiece Cakeshop.)  I’m fine with all this, although you could get into issues with public accommodations.

It would be interesting to see someone try to expand on this idea, however, to see how far it would get with the public.

I’ll supplement all this with Tim Pool’s video on the Patreon mess, today. 

One other thing. It’s been very important to me to control my own message, not to be hired to transmit someone else’s views (although I once might have helped someone else with another book on gays in the military) and not to let any partisan publication become “my voice”.  Michael Nedelman. Roni Selig and Arman Azid explain how Juul contracted a blogger, Christina Zayas, to promote e-cigarettes.   No, I wouldn’t want to do this, but the idea is even deeper, being hired to promote someone else’s ideas.
  
Let me also mention Alice B. Lloyd’s “last lines” in the last issue of The Weekly Standard, right out of the mouth of Scarlet O’Hara. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

New report for Senate obtained by Washington Post make social media companies look like easy marks for organized enemy propaganda



Craig Timberg and Tony Room have a detailed Washington Post article Sunday about a report for the Senate intelligence committee on Russian manipulation of American political views with social media disinformation on many platforms, starting around 2014 (about the time ISIS caught public attention).

The campaigns consistently targeted various identarian groups. At the same time, more individualistic users were unaware that some of their more distant friends and followers were easily influenced by people posing as Americans with more extreme views.

Occasionally they created fake accounts impersonating real American users, but were often caught quickly.


A few would try to manipulate users into illegal activity, like assisting people to come into the country illegally.  Sometimes they would friend less impressionable users and try to see if they could swindle them, and then often give up and disappear.

Many tried to appeal to emotion.
  
It is shocking how the large social media platforms became a “computational tool” for authoritarians.
The Post maintains they were very determined to get Donald Trump elected.




Update: Dec. 18

The company that provided the report seems to be New Knowledge. If you "like" a message from a bot, you'll see more of it.  From the CNN deport it's pretty obvious that the presentation from the bots is very biased and extreme.  Another report comes from the Computational Propaganda Project at Oxford University. 

But there is also some evidence that Russians trolled more intellectual speakers and concluded that they didn't "care" about people whom elites considered as anti-intellectual and impressionable, and would not pay attention to what was happening.  They exploited "cultural Marxism" techniques from the past.  They are exploiting the idea that many "elites" feel "air-gap" protection from paying much attention to the feelings of those "beneath them" and having much to do with them. It's the "basket of deplorables" issue. 


Saturday, December 15, 2018

How I "hack" the attention economy; more outrage over Patreon, Subscribestar and Paypal



Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd (Zephoria) has an important piece on Medium from March 2017 that is worth reading now. “Google and Facebook can’t just make fake news disappear” with the tagline “Fake news is goo big and messy to solve with algorithms or editors, because the problem is … us”.

I wanted to present the top highlight from her piece, about “insidious content” as opposed to fake news. She writes “It’s subtle content that is factually accurate, biased in presentation and framing, and encouraging folks to make dangerous conclusions that are not explicitly spelled out in the content itself.”  It is content that encourages people to “connect the dots” (as if to anticipate the next 9/11, or maybe EMP event). It amounts to “hacking the attention economy.”

OK, I guess I do that. And largely for free, as I said yesterday.
  
But I thought about this in terms of all the recent de-platformings and de-monetizations. First, let me pick up the discussion of Paypal and SubscribeStar (post Patreon). If in fact SubscribeStar is based in Russia (that’s not 100% verified), then I suppose that could be a valid reason for Paypal to ditch it. But the practical appearance is that Paypal believes the service will attract mostly vloggers who feel they may have broken the rules (“manifest observable behavior”) and will be taken down as soon as a SJW tattles on them. Now this is about deplatforming or censoring because of who the speakers are, not for what their content actually says.  Paypal believes that they represent the supposed “alt-right”. 
  
 The Financial Times has an explanation that is not particularly flattering of the users.  Bitchute has a video explaining this. 
  
Yes (as with the Twitter purge of a year ago), people get taken down because of who they are associated with.  That’s supposed to be, blacklisted organizations?  I won’t get into specifics here, but if an organization is named as a terror group by the FBI or state department, I suppose this makes sense.  I don’t think this is OK just because the group is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hitlist, because it has been wrong sometimes.
  
And one of the problems with these groups is that perhaps a few members try to commit violent acts, but others have no knowledge or intention to be involved.  It’s Milo-dangerous to be seen (
“observed”) in their company.  It is presumed group by the company you keep -- reminding me of the days before "don't ask don't tell" when some people were booted from the military merely for associating with homosexuals (Randy Shilts's 1993 book).  Another is that there is no correspondent hit-list on the alt-Left, although we used to have this with the McCarthyism of the 1950s and the fear of Communism.  So Patreon, Paypal, etc. have decided, out of fear of the SJW, to implement a new McCarthyism.
  
I do understand the concerns of the SJW.  I was asked by a friend recently if I had ever been called “queer” on the street.  Maybe once or twice.  I’ve experienced “discrimination” in my early adulthood, but not bodily threats on the street (very often). But some people (like some trans people today) have. So I can understand how the SJW world looks at an gratuitous speech from those without “skin in the game” and a willingness to join up, as implicit hate speech (as part of the legal idea of “implicit content”).

I could propose a thought experiment, and it’s dangerous because it might wind up being done in a few months.  Make a “skin in the game” requirement.  If you talk about politics, make a rule that you have to be willing to take sides and run an ad for a charity on your site.  I have refused to do this under my own “brand” because it sounds manipulative and pimpy, but I can see a point.  There is an ideology, more like China’s (and sometimes like Taleb’s) that speech alone is worthless until one is willing to do something immediately about a problem one has mentioned.
  
We’re facing a world where individualized speech, as Danah Boyd, tends to “vaccinate” people against radical ideas later, which is good.  But it also makes it easy for the middle to drop out of normal participation in politics, leaving it to the extremes.  Yet, as of now, if I lost my right to speak for myself, it would be just too shameful to put on some other group’s uniform and let them speak for me.  But I realize that even this statement has “dangerous” logical implications.  

Friday, December 14, 2018

Tim Pool shows the Patreon "virus" as spreading to other platforms, and indicative of vengeful media companies being lowballed by independent media with little overhead





Tim Pool has made a particularly important video today about the way independent media producers finance their work. It’s longer than usual, about 24 minutes.

Some Patreon content producers have moved to SubscribeStar because of Patreon’s inflexible “manifest observable behavior” hashtag, but Subscribestar reportedly was cut off by PayPal for some sort of TOS issue.  Read, says Pool, that as fear of harassment from the far Left.

Pool paints a dire picture where tech companies fear violent behavior from the extreme Left (the Marxist side) who imagine strawman objections to some figures rumored to be on the alt-right but often rather centrist if you read their stuff (it’s just supporting normal capitalism). 


He described the Vox article(s) about Pewdiepie as “panic bate”.  Somehow, to me the entire controversy about him is just silly. 
  
Pool mentions the animated superhero film "The Incredibles", where "when a door closes a window opens" and if everyone is a superhero, then no one is. 
     
Pool discusses independent creators (that includes me) who have income or resources from other areas.  People create content, sometimes without asking for anything, “because they want to” (become influential) or show that they are not willing to be viewed as victims or “losers”.  But that could be attacked too, because, ironically, election laws (2014 post by me).  You could make rules that content creation has to pay for itself.  In fact, CNN this morning mentioned, as an aside in talking about Donald Trump’s troubles during the last 24 hours (the Ronan Farrow bombshells)  the little known fact that theoretically, a blogger who offers issue-oriented political content “for free” is conceivably acting as “non-connected PAC” (because his labor should have a monetary value, which in some legal scenarios requires accounting – but nobody talks about it and everyone assumes Citizen’s United and McCutcheon took care of it).

More to the point, Pool makes the point that independent journalists (outside of conflict journalists) have little overhead, and it is becoming very difficult for even the smaller but “legitimate” media outlets to continue making money and pay their employees, which reduces the journalistic quality of the commentary on their sites.  I really wish Reid Ewing’s 2012 short film “It’s Free” were available now, because Reid’s little skit has turned out to be so prescient.

Pool distinguishes between the “libertarian Left” and the “authoritarian Left”, the latter getting more power through bullying tactics on the tech industry and on campuses.  He predicts some day that the government will take away smartphones from people who are too politically incorrect (Alex Jones gets named).  Is Pool hinting that he fears we will have our own version of China’s “social credit score”?

I do notice the tone of some emails I get that seem a bit threatening.  Don’t think of yourself as being above needing us, they imply.  I got a couple from one person questioning why I don’t want to do more for POC, trans, etc as specific “vulnerable groups”.  Yup, it’s a sin to question intersectionality, as if a “fairness doctrine” could be applied to bloggers.  It’s possible to construct a “skin in the game” (or “clean your room”) argument that interprets gratuitous free content from people not belonging to the groups they talk about, as “hate speech”.  Likewise, speech that comes across as a gratuitous "moral lecture", saying, "I am (born) better than you" really angers the far Left. 
    
I wanted to note also recent arguments (presented here Nov 24 in a video from ContraPoints) that many supposedly centrist or moderately conservative pundits are actually associated with the alt-right (even intentional white supremacy) because of the use of code words. That may be one reason for the accusations about Sargon, Milo, Pewdiepie, etc. --“Dangerous” (Milo’s term) indeed -- which I personally do not believe based on what I see myself of their content.  A lot of stuff I see seems increasingly Marxist, dismissive of individual identity outside the group (tribalist) and willing to blame "capitalism" as predatory by definition, as if we were approaching 1917 again. 

 I'd also note that the battle in the European Union over copyright filters and "link taxes" reflects a policy of protectionism for established media, and its effects could spread to the US.
   
 Subsribestar has a statement on its situation on its site now,