Friday, March 29, 2019

Congress Homeland Security committee warns about extending platform liability for terror content

Jason Kelly and Aaron Mackey have an important warning essay today (March 29, 2019) on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site, “Don’t Repeat FOSTA’s Mistakes”, here

House Homeland Security Chair Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS) wrote a constituent letter warning platforms that he might press for further weakening of Section 230 protections regarding terrorist content. 

The EFF article points out that filters don’t know how to distinguish advocacy from meta-speech:  urging a destructive behavior is not the same thing as discussion about the behavior.  It might be easier in some foreign languages (than in English) were verb conjugation endings for subjunctive mood makes context clearer than is possible in English.

There is also a problem with literacy of human readers, who don’t understand that mention of something by an amateur speaker (when not representing an established non-profit) is not the same thing as advocacy.
There are those who urge, “why not just raise money for an organization to be your voice”.  Yes, really.  The Left is not ashamed to do this, conservatives (non-identarian) generally are more susceptbile to seeing the need for forced solidarity as personally shameful 
We’ll have to watch for Homeland Security hearings on this problem.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Facebook bans some forms of nationalism and separatism as essentially racist (FB's explanation)

Although I added a link to a previous blog post (March 20) on this, I think it’s useful to link to Facebook’s own blog post on its policy change, to regard (essentially ban) content advocating “white separatism” or “white nationalism” as indistinguishable from “white supremacy”.  

The title of the post is “Standing Against Hate” (leading) and it links back to well known prohibitions against certain hate (or terror) groups using the platform.  Twitter had announced a similar “purge” on Dec. 18, 2017.

Vox has a long article by P.R. Lockhart here. As an anti-tribal non-identarian myself, I personally have no interest in supporting the identarian group aims of anyone; but I am concerned about the principles underneath this regarding the credibility and objectivity of public speech. 
It is true that federal law (as administered by the DOJ) prohibits organizing for the purposes of criminal activity (whether drug or sex trafficking, money laundering, or actual terror or other violent crime, or even overthrowing the government).
So up to a point, banning “groups” or certain organizing by platforms (or even their hosting   as banned by most host AUP’s) does make sense. 
The problem, however, is that typically social justice issues (even ones we now see as legitimate) tend to lead non-profits to try to organize and enlist everyone.  The First Amendment guarantees both free speech and free assembly, and sometimes in practical situations assembly and individual speech can come into conflict.  Individuals often turn to group organizing when they fall behind economically as individuals or families (e.g,. Prager U on “Why Trump Won”).  Others who are better off will resent the pressure from others to join up.

So it seems very objectionable to say that PoC can organize and sometimes go to the edge with some objectionable goals, but “whites” may not – even understanding the historical context in the US specifically (slavery and segregation), as it might be compared with that in other countries (Germany, Israel, South Africa, etc).

Facebook says it had wanted to consider ideas like patriotism and nationalism as legitimate; but given US history, it could not do that with “white” issues specifically, given partly the history of privilege in the past, and the constant connection to probably unlawful “groups” (and incidents like OKC, Atlanta (1996), Charleston SC, and Christchurch). That position would seem to apply to Europe, where in some countries the problem (with respect to separatism) sounds similar (consider Poland, Hungary, “soft fascism”).  It is also a big controversy in Russia among the former republics.  The comparison to Zionism in Israel is said to be a canard.

There’s another particularly sensitive issue: population demographics.  For a number of years, right-wing publications have complained that white families (in Europe and in North America) don’t have enough children, with ties into the migrant issue. But there is a larger context.  In the United States, immigrants (even non-white from Mexico) often lower their birth rates and, when faced with economic pressures of middle class life, often delay having children in the same way.  The low birth rate issue can be seen in terms of increasing eldercare burdens for everyone (not just whites), as with Social Security and Medicare, and even the ability to find and hire caregivers. Low (native ethnic) birth rates also feel anti-gay sentiments in some countries, especially Russia (even now with the politicization of “Eugene Onegin”).  This was a particular issue for me back in 1961 because I am an only child (the importance of lineage to parents). Some people will see the birth rate issue as racist, but it is not;  it is more about basic economics.

So at a certain level, Facebook’s action, while understandable and probably not having much effect on most users, is still disturbing from a free speech perspective. It's a little concerning that it manipulates and redirects search results rather than even simply banning them. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Will Europe's radical Copyright "Directive" eventually affect speakers in the US, too?

I thought I would share ThioJoe’s video “Europe Just Ruined the Internet”, that is, politicians who have no idea how it really works.

The Verge (Vox) offers some analysis by Casey Newton, as it predicts the Web will be trisected into Europe, authoritarian countries (like China) and the western hemisphere. This requires each country's mapping the directive into its own laws, one sovereign state at a time.  Hopefully it will take a few years. 
Thojoe pretty much predicts the same thing toward the end of his video.   Especially galling is the idea that politicians think they are doing individual users a favor by transferring liability to platforms, which means on the face of it that platforms can no longer risk letting "ordinary paeans" speak for themselves. (Maybe the politicians really do want to keep the right-wing separatists who would break up the EU offline.) 
One observation strikes me:  most platforms are expected to make their best efforts to prevent copyrighted material from being uploaded through their services.  Theoretically this applies to text as well as music, images and video.
“Best efforts” might include (rather than impossible filters) prescreening who is allowed to post at all.  That could start in the countries most affected (France could be one of the worst, and the UK or “Whoops, England” might not even escape).  In the worst case, it would be only established organizations or companies. Or individuals might have to be screened – maybe with some kind of social credit system, which would invite political bias (especially from the Left). Or they might have to show that their web sites support themselves – no more free content.  Companies could be set up to offer paywall subscription bundles, and the bundles could screen and indemnify individuals who wanted to publish. But then consumers would have to know to look for them, so you'd have to set up free trials to be found, or some way for newbies to announce themselves. We're back into a loop that Axel Voss wants, that most ordinary people don't speak to the whole world anymore, unless you can figure out some real entry points. 

The problem then becomes, if this becomes widespread in Europe, platforms have every incentive to apply the same system in the US and Canada, etc.   Sites with poor performance would simply be shut down because of the unknown risk they create.

This also has political consequences (in the US for example),  which the Left wants, to curtail individual speech (which tends to be meritocratic and conservative – although the claims that this leads to white extremism are simply false) because it incorrectly thinks that will force more solidarity and give non-profits more control over what is said.  We’re already seeing some evidence of this, as Facebook boldly inserts requests in user’s timelines to run fundraisers for non-profits (which would destroy the integrity of their own speech).

And we don’t know how normal webhosting platforms (the old Web 1.0 stuff) where people pay to be hosted, would be affected.  Maybe their stuff would be blocked from the EU.  (Curiously, all my sites are available in China despite their political subversiveness and libertarian, anti-communist and anti-identarian content.  Blogger is not available, but I seem to get traffic on Blogger from China anyway.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

New Zealand's law jailing people for possessing even "the Manifesto" follows the debate on gun control; the idea of a paper trigger "weapon"

The dark news keeps coming.

Today, the EU passed its copyright directive.  I’ve explored the possible consequences on another blog, link here.  

New Zealand, as widely reported now already, has made it a crime to possess a copy of the “manifesto” of the perpetrator of the attack March 15 in Christchurch.  On Monday, I wrote a post on my COPA blop comparing this kind of “possession” offence comparable in concept to normal laws putting people ein prison for possessing child pornography.

But a more apt comparison might be for illegal possession of weapons, and in some sense in the US the first two amendments are logically linked.

New Zealand (as in a link on the COPA blog) claims that the “manifesto” included precise directions and locations for the attack.  Now, when the attack was reported on the US East Coast late March 14, I didn’t pay a lot of attention at first as I was preparing for a weekend trip.  By the time I got to Union Station March 15 I realized, from various text messages, the magnitude of what had happened and I read the manifesto on my phone and then on my laptop, and, yes, I saved a PDF of it, which is now in my cloud.  The Document Cloud link now gives a 403 forbidden, which means that you have to be a registered user and approved to see it (which is allowed in the New Zealand law) from anywhere in the world.  For example, you can be an actual academic or journalism professional, employed itself. You can’t see it as a self-declared blogger.   I plan to travel to Canada in May, and it is conceivable I could get into trouble if I don’t remove the copy from the a laptop (and its cloud backup) because there has been a legal case in Ontario already.   One reason I read it and wanted a copy was to ensure there was no covert reference to me or my own work in the document.

This idea (of requiring press credentials) itself is troubling (it reminds me of a series of tweets by Ford Fischer establishing that you don’t need official press credentials to photograph the police). 
I take the NZ’ “censor’s” word for it on the claim that there were specific directions. (I don’t recall reading that specifically.)  So I can see how NZ could see this as like a specific threat or blueprint for an intended event – even though it now has happened, there could be another one intended. 

It is illegal in any democratic country to transmit a threat or even a hyperlink to one (although in the past it has been unusual for people to get into trouble over “mere” hyperlinks). So there is at least the theoretical possibility that linking to it now would be illegal even here.
But NZ’s point is that the document is somewhat like a paper weapon, or (by curious analogy) 3-D printed weapon (or, even as a more bizarre metaphor, a cryptocurrency paper wallet). If transmitted, it could lead to another incident. So possession of a copy of one is like possessing a weapon illegally.

After 9/11, there was talk that even ordinary websites could be targets for terrorist hackers wanting to transmit “steganographic” information to other possible attackers.  The NZ situation reminds me of that talk. 

There is also a question that if a reporter or even amateur blogger receives classified information without asking for it (it simply arrives unsolicited), and the recipient publishes it, is he/she committing a crime (in the US)?    Anders Corr discussed this in May 2017 with respect to Trump here.

In April 2002 an old site of mine (material later moved) had a hack at a sensitive spot (talking about nuclear terror) and the overlaying material might have been classified.  I have republished that in the past.  I did contact the FBI.  On at least three other occasions (the most recent was 2005) I have contacted and given information that was probably classified, and called the FBI each time and not published.  In 2008 I received information about a threatening situation in Africa but decided to publish it.

The freedom of self-defense is very important to a sense of personal identity for many people.  

Confiscation of weapons after an incident caused by “somebody else’s grievances” is a horrible experience. I certainly support closing of all loopholes (David Hogg has constantly battled the NRA on trying to hide these loopholes). In most cases (except for some unusual ones in rural areas) there is no legitimate reason for civilians to have military-style high firepower weapons (or bump stocks – which have now been outlawed suddenly in the US).

But by analogy, NZ is claiming that words alone can sometimes amount to a weapon, or at least a trigger. So it makes some logical sense to control possession of these keys or triggers.  But that can have serious ramifications for freedom of users to post their own content eventually, as platforms have to be so wary of the unpredictable possibility that another violent video or trigger manifesto will suddenly appear.

We have a world where the freedom we are allowed to express ourselves in certain individually tailored ways and even to defend ourselves, can be misused by others with catastrophic effects.  David Hogg certainly has expressed that idea with respect to weapons possession; but Hogg has used social media to advance his own agenda (as I have done with mine) and essentially used a medium that could be largely shutdown for public safety if the threat were compelling enough. The parallel should be noticed. This observation makes the need for social solidarity and even participation in tribalism a practical necessity, something the far Left preaches and that conservatives find shameful. Yet, at some point, we’re left with the possibility, if something bad happens “to you”, well, it was just your karma.  We have no other answer that works.
(Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at 4 PM EDT)

Update: Wednesday, March 27

Matt Christiansen weighs in on this.  Evil exists. The Chief Censor is following the terrorist's script. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Pressure on platforms to censor content and deplatform some speakers drives everyone toward identarianism

James Langford, business editor of the Washington Examiner, writes “Social media companies under pressure to censor violent content,”  p 42 of the March 26, 2019 issue. 

He quoted New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern as saying about that (social media) platforms, “they are the publisher, not just the postman.”

But that goes against all the provisions in US law, like Section 230 and DMCA Safe Harbor, that enable user-generated content as we are used to it today to exist at all.  This statement is an existential threat to all individual speakers, confronting them with the need to be willing to let others peak for them through groups. It does play into identarianism and challenges (Ayn Rand style) individualism.
The same battle happens now in Europe, especially with Article 13 (in yesterday’s post) because the EU is about to make platforms legally the publishers of the posts.  In the US, the users are legally the publishers.

Facebook and YouTube were overwhelmed in stopping the spread of the smush (or "snuff") videos of the killings. Some measures, like one minute delays for all live-streams, might help the algorithms stop the worst incidents.

But the Langford article reports that Congress will be looking at more regulation soon.
Little discussed with all this is the major difference in how social media platforms work compared to shared hosting, which users pay for, and for which there is much less censorship, although that has been changing since Charlottesville.

But if all platforms were truly publishers, no one could self-publish.  Everything posted for the whole world to see on an index would have to pass suitability for publication just as in the past with most books and magazines.  It could be expanded, but individuals would have to show social credit before being allowed to be heard as individuals.  Which is what a lot of activists want – to force everyone to take sides and fight.
New Zealand has even made “possession” of a private copy of the “Manifesto” a crime, as if it were child pornography. The analogy is not logical however; a text document with no images did not require a victim to be created. Speakers may need to have private copies to know if they were mentioned, in order to anticipate any legal problems themselves.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Protests in Germany over Article 13; YouTube CEO predicted most YouTubers could be shut down by liability risk

The turmoil over the EU Copyright Directive goes on. Matt Reynolds, of Wired, gives an overview, published recently, March 12, 2019, here

On the previous post, I did link a breaking story about a block in Poland which opposes Article 13 (and probably 11) and which could prevent the directive from passing in the EU Parliament on Wednesday, March 27.  People in the US will know what happened when they get up Wednesday AM because of the time difference.

Reynolds indicates that there probably would not be another vote before the May elections, and that EU member countries would have about two years to implement the directive into their local laws.  It would appear that individual companies (especially the large platforms) would have to set themselves up with each individual country.

That would be like a company’s having to do that in the U.S. with a state with unusual laws, which gives New York and California tremendous power.  In practice, this hasn’t usually been a problem (although there have been questions in how Section 230 is applied in some states, and other concepts, like defamation in fiction, can vary among states).

It’s also obvious that the wording in the law is so vague and open to interpretation, that in some countries somewhat opposed to the law (like Italy), there might be little change in practice.  The countries vary a lot;  Spain was quite strict on the link tax, not allowing publishers to opt out of requiring payment out of protectionism, and not concerned that Google news would pull out. France is said to be one of the worst enemies of amateur speech, but it is so distracted by yellow vest uprisings that it is hard to say what will happen. It’s unclear now whether the UK will be affected or whether it will leave the EU “in time”, which, ironically (compared to 2016), seems like a turnabout for free speech.

The obvious question will be, if the measure passes Wednesday morning US time (and given the Poland issue the outcome is really unpredictable now), what will US companies say to US users about it? 

The US media has hardly discussed it;  will it be shocked on Wednesday?

The Wired article links to several sources on YouTube including posts by YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, like this one on Oct 22, 2018 .   She bluntly states that Article 13 threatens to force platforms like YouTube to limit publishers to a handful of larger, trusted companies.  Does she mean only within Europe, or everywhere?  Would most vloggers in the US get shut down too?  Would my own videos embedded in my blogs go blank?  She then says that European users would lose access to most user generated content, so I guess she really meant her first sentence to mean, “within Europe”.  She should write carefully.

I can think of solutions.  You could imagine intermediary companies, which might set up paywall bundles and actually manage the link taxes.  But they could also screen potential publishers before they are allowed to post.  You could require a user to pass a quiz on copyright.  (Youtube already has a “copyright school”.)  You could screen for social acceptability – but then you’re having the new Internet publishing gatekeeper as able to give people “social credit scores” like China.  Imagine how free speech could be corrupted, by requiring evidence of volunteer service or the ability to raise money for nonprofits.  Yes, this could happen.  Some people would think this was OK.  It would have to be thought out very carefully, and it would create a new fight.  The very idea that I can suggest it with a straight face makes me Milo-dangerous. 
 Note that protests are starting in Europe, today in Cologne, Germany. They will spread.  How will this mix with the Yellow Jacket riots in Paris?  What about other Brexit-like separation movements from the Right?  Most of the support for Article 13 seems to come from the corporatized mainstream moderate Left (Macron).  

Friday, March 22, 2019

EU set to vote on Copyright Directive and Articles 11, 13, and American tech companies won't talk about it yet

The European Union will have a vote on the entire copyright directive the week of May 25, probably early May 27.

Cory Doctorow reiterates all the problems with Articles 11 and 13, and especially how they could affect new platforms and even individual bloggers.
Glyn Moody, a UK journalist, gave further warnings in his blog post on March 3, 2019 here

And Mike Masnick of Tech Dirt now writes that Axel Voss says “maybe that kind of business” (YouTube) shouldn’t exist”. Of course, no one should express themselves online without permission from the authoritarian gatekeepers who tell you your place in life.  That’s China.

The “Save Your Internet” action button in Europe is here

Glyn Moody has an earlier article on the “copyright ratchet”.
What’s most remarkable is that American social media companies and shared hosting platforms haven’t given American (and Canadian. Etc) users a hint as to what to expect if this goes through. 
And it seems that the EU politicians are very determined to test the rest of the world om this, even if this is suicidal for them.  Indeed, the EU might be driving more countries into Brexit-like movements – but the Internet to get them going would be much weaker, so maybe that is their intention.


The Polish vote block is resisting Article 13 and this may be important; Cory Doctorow explains

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Twitter sued by Republican Congressman over shadowbanning of conservative politicians in races; Florida wants to stop Twitter from censoring otherwise lawful speech

Tim Pool is reporting a lawsuit by Devin Nunes against Twitter for bias against conservatives, and reports on a Florida bill to prohibit Twitter from banning people for most legal speech (including what a lot of reactionary Leftists call “hate speech”.

The lawsuit tackles shadowbanning of candidates, which it is claimed gives “The Church of Jack Dorsey” the ability and power to decide elections, toward the Left.

The CNN story is on Nunes here.

The Florida bill would seem likely to contradict federally mandated immunity for Twitter under Section 230.

Miami New Times discusses the bill here.

It’s not so clear that slurs would be protected.

There is another case, in Connecticut, where a lawsuit by families of Sandy Hook victims was revived, but it raises questions over whether states can supersede federal laws or First Amendment considerations (story), and also raises questions about how advertising and other speech are legally connected.  Lior Leser explains here

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

No, platforms should not ban particular ideologies from being discussed

Should discussion of or at least promotion of certain political ideologies be off-limits?  Particularly, should social media or even hosting platforms ban them even though theoretically as private companies they have the legal right to do so? 

We seem to be heading toward a space where some people with any recognizable connection, however indirect, to the “alt-right” are supposed to be banned.  OK, this is part of the backlash against Trump.  

OK, some people think that if you talk about conservative principles with any objectivity, you’re “supporting” white nationalism at least indirectly (You aren’t).  More seriously, if you talk openly online and then personally distance yourself from people whom you see as “second-handers” (Ayn Rand’s term – later it was “moochers” and “looters”) your speech automatically gets regarded as hate speech.  

You could say that this debate whittles down to the idea that Hitler has to be considered worse than Stalin (or than Pol Pot, Mao, or Kim Jong Un). 

The most extreme factions of the alt-right (as shown in the documentary “White Right”, reviewed last night on my “cf” blog) do favor the establishment of ethno-states and the deportation or persons not belonging to the “correct” race or ethnicity.  Short of that, there is this “blood and soil” populism.  Is this a genuine political threat to minorities?  This cannot happen in the United States because of various constitutional amendments (including 14th especially). But I do understand that in other parts of the world, where rights are in “laws” but not constitutionally guaranteed, it could be more of a threat (take Hungary, for example) – and these companies are global platforms. 

It’s generally been acceptable to present “communism” as a discussable ideology – even though by definition, communism properly justifies the use of violence for expropriation. There is one difference: in theory, there is no preferred race or religion to start.   The threat to people is forced expropriation of unearned (especially inherited) capital.  In practice, extreme leftist states turn out as badly, often worse, than extreme right states, and generally wind up attacking unfavored groups anyway – particularly (when it comes to Russia) with regard to nationality.  (For the debate on Hitler v. Stalin, Stanford has the most objective piece that I can find ) 

Indeed, remember after Charlottesville, Trump was called out for not condemning the violence from the right more than that from the far left  -- as if the most violent elements of Antifa can stay in circulation. 

Today, the extreme right is more likely to become an existential threat to LGBT persons than the extreme left, but historically that has not generally been true in the past. 
One argument against “free speech” online is that the practical context today is that “speech” tends to become the “dark money” of power over historically maligned groups – especially by race.

But if you stop free individual speech, you force people to take sides and join up in opposing groups to be heard at all.  That indeed sounds like what the far Left today wants. 
The far Left argues, for example, that free speech facilitates police profiling by race, or keeping PoC from getting to a level playing field. I’ve been asked if I’ve ever been targeted or beaten up for who I was – if I were, I’d want the legal system to give me some reparative protection.  Well, it’s complicated – yes, I was treated “unfairly” with the William and Mary expulsion of 1961, but I was privileged enough economically (as white) that I managed to outflank the whole thing and lead a fairly productive life as an individual,  But not everyone has the chance to get that far as a “spectator”.  

So, I noticed that Westboro Baptist Church is still allowed to have its domain (by Cloudflare), and there is a marginal chance that sometime in my life, my life could be taken (or “sacrificed”) because that site incites someone. I had visited Pulse a year before the shooting there.  But I could have been there that night in 2016. 

But I could have been at the Boston Marathon in 2013, or in Paris in November 2015.  Or in the WTC on 9/11.  Or in the Murrah building in OKC on 4/19/1995.  You get the point.  
I did one time cancel a volunteer assignment because it would have entailed driving my car into a particularly dangerous are in Washington DC.  I have less exposure to unpredictable risk than less well off people – and this gets back to the skin-in-the-game idea. 
It’s also true that allowing homophobic speech could increase the political threat to my rights.  In practice that isn’t likely (even under Trump and Pence) because constitutional protections have gotten much stronger.  Even so, I am reminded of comparable discussion about women’s rights and Kavanaugh. 
So it’s a little mixed.  But my own speech is worthless if I can’t be objective and talk about anything in the news if it comes up – even the staging of Christchurch.  I can't stay online if I have to yield to the idea that covering the ideology of someone who commits a horrific act only entices others to do the same in the future to get others to pay attention to them.  Yet, that real-world potentiality does create a marginal, although very low probability risk, to my own safety, and of those connected to me -- an asymmetry or Black Swan that Taleb associates with his "skin in the game" moral theory.  If it simply an inescapble consequence of mathematical logic. So, in the past, was the possibility that I could be drafted into combat.  
(In the video, note what progression at 4:50). 

On one other matter, Facebook has agreed not to show certain demographic indicators to advertisers, to reduce discrimination.  This is said to be bad for some small businesses (Tracy Kan, Elizabeth Dwoskin, link

Update:  Wednesday, March 27, 2019 

Vice Motherboard (Joseph Cox and Jason Koebler) reports that Facebook now treats "white nationalism" and "white separatism" the same as "white supremacy".  Perhaps an "ethno-state" would be, by definition, exclusionary and therefore supremacist (as a matter of intellectual logic).  But Facebook was driven by influence from civil rights groups and probably left-leaning Academics.  But as an intellectually principled matter, that would mean that pro-Israel support would be banned (although Israel is not "exclusionary" so it's hard to say). 

Monday, March 18, 2019

Poor people seem to demand personal attention, just not group protests and conventional activism

A couple of personal incidents point to a subtle personal problem, and I wanted to mention them for the record.

On Monday, Feb. 11, I happened to be at Union Station having lunch at a Pot Belly restaurant out on the main concourse.  You could sit in an area cordoned off but outside the main area of the sandwich shop. 

A scruffy man, PoC, came up and asked for money.  I was surprised that panhandling would be permitted adjacent to the store premises. I gave him a dollar bill but he would not go away.  He put his arm around me.  He seemed to demand personal attention and that I “love” him. 

Then last Sunday night (as I recall), I had returned by Metro from the City and was walking along Stuart street toward the Ballston Quarter to get to my car.  I spotted a very tall young man who was familiar from TownDC and gay events in DC in the past. A man, again in poor condition, PoC, approached him to panhandle. I kept walking quickly.  After I got 50 feet or so beyond and approached Wilson Blvd, I glanced back to see if the tall man had responded to him.  He had not and was well beyond that point, probably approaching the Metro in the opposite direction. Suddenly, the panhandler started running toward me and chased me into the street, where fortunately there was no traffic, having noticed I had glanced back. 

I can judge from these two little incidents some profound resentment of many people who are “left behind”.  They demand to be noticed personally. That’s interesting.  Ocasio-Cortez has talked about their being “left to die”, disposable.  Umair Haque has talked about this kind of thing on Medium.

There’s another man, white, who sometimes sits near the Metro, and who has a sign saying he was a burn victim, although that isn’t obvious at sight. Another person whom I remember from Town DC (which has closed) has twice been there talking to him.  Interesting.  I have a takeway from these encounters, two of them. 

One, I don't like someone's capturing attention from me and replacing the persons I would actually want (even if that means "upward affiliation"). Two, if we want to preserve our freedoms and stave off authoritarianism, we need to be more open to extending ourselves.  Umair Haque has an interesting take on this. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"DuckDuckGo" search engine explains its business model

I saw an ad for the search engine “DuckDuckGo” this evening and looked into again. 

The company explains its business model as based on keywords in this Quora post

So it doesn’t track what you search for, it tracks search arguments themselves. 

I tried my own “do ask do tell” and “Bills media commentary”.  DuckDuckGo finds them, and on the BMC it adds results from evaluation sites that are not necessarily so good.  One of these is social.easycounter which says it has a “poor description”.  Alexa (keyword research) describes its audience, but there is little information. This is the kind of info BlogTyrant wanted bloggers to learn to tinker with. 

The video discusses “organic searches” and the compendium of outside services that evaluate how visitors react to your site.  It walks through how Google and DuckDyckGo compare with “Is climate change a hoax?” (It is not.) 
Google is said to interfere with results based on social judgment of various content. It is said to eliminate disparaging results (playing gatekeeper) which might interfere with information voters need before an election – and it might be biased against conservatives, so the rumor goes.

Friday, March 15, 2019

New Zealand attack seems deliberately contrived to attack individualized political and cultural expression online

The attacks on two mosques in southern New Zealand by someone who should not be named, possibly with two accomplices, apparently took place late Thursday PM EDT and the political repercussions blew up on Twitter this morning as I headed to Union Station and got on a train. I think users can find the “Manifesto” in the Document Cloud if they want to read it;  right now I won’t link to it (I did on Twitter).

Although loosely described as alt-right white racism with its focus on European ethno-states with some more obscure issues (was he referring to the Knights Templar) and “Christian” culture, it seemed to be all over the place, attacking individualism in a way that is more like Maoism than Nazism. 

He also claimed being influenced by Donald Trump, and by at least two other major Internet personalities whom for now I won’t rename.  I wondered, what would happen if my name or brand got mentioned, or that of any number of YouTube personalities I follow? 
Timcast this morning did an 18-minute video “We Are at the Gates of Civil War – and Nothing Can Stop It”.

Very early, he gets into the key point: the assault and provocative manifesto are intended to encourage governments, platforms, and other entities to force individual speakers to join teams and “take sides”.

There are some other op-eds that make this point, like the New York Times  and Vox/Recode (Peter Kafka). 
CNN, particularly, has talked about the livestreaming, and the impossibility of taking it down before it is in the dark web. A New Zealand cop said, if you share the content you are part of the problem (it may be against the law to even share a terror link there – which would make it illegal to share the manifesto link, too.)  CNN suggests that Facebook implement a 30-second delay on all live-streaming starting immediately to give its algorithms time to catch terrorist content. (Washington Post story on why it took so long to notice what had happened; Matt Christiansen weights in.)

For me, this has both a political and personal impact.

Since I became involved with posting my own personalized assembly of issue-oriented content online (it had started with “DADT” back in 1997) without gatekeepers, I have found that people will contact me and invite me to sell their causes as if they were mine or even join their fundraisers (their speech, often more partisan than mine) or even become involved with persons personally (even dating or personal mentoring) that I would not have wanted to be connected to and who reciprocally would not have wanted to connect me. I have usually declined, and sometimes that in turn leads to resentment! 

That is, if I am going to perturb the debate with free content of my own, I should earn the right social credit first. I do have my own personal theory about "assimilation", which means that if you don't want to compete in a capitalist and individualistic mainstream because you feel you are at a group disadvantage, you can certainly join a resistance or "mass movement" if you choose, but you will likely find yourself just taking orders from revolutionary governance of you, which may be much harder.  In the end, you will inherit the karma of the team you played for. 
That leads to the political consequence.  When you consider all the other dampers on Internet speech (FOSTA, EU’s Articles 11 and 13, to name a couple) it seems to me that the corporate infrastructure cannot be counted on to be willing to host my kind of individual speech (where it depends on wealth from another source and doesn’t pay for itself from operations) forever, so I’ve set my own sunset as the end of 2021 (when I will be 78). (I am looking at Blockchain activity as a limited continuation method.) That’s almost three more years, and that may sound “optimistic”.  I can imagine business models that could work with a simpler presence, more connected to manifest consumer needs (independent bookstore, or disco/performance stage/indie film space facility as another, or possibly paywall bundling to make quality news content more affordable for most people.  (I understand that I haven't answered the "clickbait"  incentive problem here; that has to be for another time.)
I must “warn” everyone, however, that if I “relinquish” my own issue-oriented speech, I won’t let someone else speak for me or join their fundraising (where frankly my presence wouldn’t have been so welcome in the pre-Internet past because even then I wouldn’t take sides or sell group victimization). I won’t be recruited to “take sides”;  I won’t (as one employer wanted to do in 2002) let someone else say to me “we give you the words.”  That’s personally insulting.  I could possibly focus on climate change or power grid vulnerability or Internet security, but it might be difficult to do this and stay away from “somebody else’s” politics.  It could mean a personal lifetime ban from any political activity at all (outside of voting).

It’s hard to put this into a clear syllogism in a small amount of space, but I need to do that.

Update: March 16, 2019

Elliot Harmon from Electronic Frontier Foundation has this article today. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

More controversy on how politicians and ordinary citizens interact with "journalism"

A ThinkProgress story this morning about an interchange of tweets involving Trump’s reaction to a straightforward Fox News video by foreign correspondent Trey Yingst about foreign investigations of the Ethiopian Airlines investigation, illustrates the layered problems in journalism today and the way the public processes it .

One of Trey’s tweets states that he is reporting only simple facts.  Yet, Trump seemed to blow this up in his mind to a distrust of technology that was noted in the media (correctly) in late 2016 after he won the election.  That distrust may also be related to the supposed needs of his political base, whose jobs have been eroded by technology developed by intellectual elites. 

As we remember from how he conducted “The Apprentice” Trump can be very impressionable with respect to the personalities of people who work with him for him; and has an unusually exaggerated tendency to jump to the conclusions he wants after interacting with certain people in his world. That’s a natural human tendency, but with Trump it is exaggerated and is normally seen as immaturity in an adult.  Trump, in picking his winners on the program, was inconsistent; but he tended to favor street smarts  (and “team players”) over book smarts and individualists. 

The notice at the bottom of the Think Progress page, asking for donations, needs notice too.  The website notes it has been targeted by advertisers for covering controversial and emotion-generating topics, like “white racism”.  On YouTube, conservatives have said the same thing (“Adpocalypse”). Truthout, which seems similar, has been particularly aggressive in repeatedly begging for donations.

I get pretty offended when a publication claims that only it can speak for me – or when any non-profit does that.  Yet Trump told his base the same thing during the campaign “I am your voice”.  I wonder if I am a loser who needs “them” and is supposed to join up in bragging about collective victimization.  This gets me running around in circles – I can’t take the space to analyze Jordan Peterson’s response to this sort of thing (“Clean your room”, which Martin Goldberg dissected sometime back in one of his “Economic Invincibility” videos).  

 I don’t ask for anything on my blogs and I don’t call people to sell them things – and yet I get criticized for not playing ball with others and undermining their jobs!  This really gets to be a ring-around-the-rosey, where tigers turn to butter.  I’ve noted before that Facebook prods people, after posting controversial news links in their timelines, to run fundraisers for “your” non-profit on their own pages under their own names (as a contest), as if “you” need a non-profit to speak for you.

I have contributed thru Paypal (and previously Patreon, before it blew up) to a few podcasters and do so monthly;  so far I only contribute to “magazine” websites if I link to four or more articles in a year.  This one counts. (My own version of “Article 11”). 

Lior Leser concluded his podcast last night with some reference to this (in response to my question at 1:08:05) and his response is quite interesting.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Complaint to FTC on the Patreon cases gets to the heart of anti-competitive behavior to butress political power

I wanted to share Lior Leser’s website (“YouTuberLaw”) and particularly his formal complaint to the Federal Trade Commission regarding anti-competitive behavior by payment processors with regard to speakers who use patronage sites, specifically Patreon and Subscribestar.  Lior gives a concise description of why the action by PayPal and Stripes seems motivated not by normal legitimate business interests but by political protectionism from the Left. 

Some of the sessions have suggested that payment processors and large platforms need to be treated as utilities or public accommodations with respect to political vides as well as the traditional discrimination classes. 

On the other hand, the far Left has insisted that gratuitous speech from those with money is intrinsically part of political power and affects socialization and solidarity and community resilience. This tracks back to the long debate that has followed campaign finance reform back in 2002 and that Citizens United does not completely resolve. 
Tonight the possibility that trust money could be misappropriated for political purposes was mentioned, and that could be another sleeping dog. There are ways this can happen for channels that ask people for money (the patronage model) and it might even raise questions about Facebook's prompting people to do fundraising contests for "their non-profits". 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How do you monitor the moderators of social media?; union-compelled speech; a possible explanation for some payment processor bans?

“Full Measure” with Sharyl Atkissonn (on Sinclair stations) examined two particular problems today that seem to bear on free speech concerns for conservatives. 
One was a look at Project Censored and a survey of the problems social media sites have in monitoring content especially for fake news (Tim Pool’s interviews on Joe Rogan and Rubin Report focused on censorship of views seen as extremist right-wing). There was a general consensus among the people whom Sharyl interviewed that there is no objective way to determine who is biased. 

Instead you need to teach literacy and critical thinking in schools going back to an earlier age, maybe even in middle school, in both social studies and English, and science classes. If is very difficult to imagine how even a separate non-profit or agency could monitor for “fake news” without being biased.  It is a recursive problem. 

The program also discussed the problem of mandatory teachers union membership in California, going back to 2009.  Teachers who objected to their union dues being spent on leftist political causes they disagreed with were called bigots in meetings, according to the report. 

The far Left seems to want to compel people to join them and rebroadcast their speech, as a price for having a voice at all.  

I have recently wondered if one or more of the cases of people (“conservative” Internet vloggers) denied normal bank accounts could have had trusts which had been mishandled.   There might be a problem with having a grantor trust and then running campaigns asking for money or patronage (even running fundraisers through Facebook, which Facebook asks members to do after making political posts).  Maybe I’ll check with the “Legal Dissent” live stream on Tuesday nights.  I wonder if thispossibility has been looked at. 
Otherwise, the idea that someone would lose access to a normal bank account from SJW underground pressure on financial companies is unconscionable.

Friday, March 08, 2019

YouTube and other social media companies appear to be heading to only allowing pre-approved quasi-professionals to post content (Pool); the attention v. transaction economy conflict

There’s a lot of talk today about how the “attention economy” (or “dark energy economy”) has replaced the transaction economy familiar to followers of Nicholas Taleb’s “Skin in the Game”. 

The Verge has a piece about this, and then purports that a video game “Fortnite” seems to have figured out how to expand the imaginary universe of the attention economy.  I even suggested this for a game night item to a FB friend – until I looked at some of the videos, and the “Battle Royale” of most of the scenes – with the emphasis on weapons – would put down a lot of people.  The game has a geography with it – but that made Global Pursuit popular in the pre-Internet age. 

Timcast put out a particularly disturbing video today “Youtube, Facebook will censor and ban alternative media eventually”. 

He gives the argument in economic terms and self-perpetuation – the same thrust of Martin Goldberg (Economic Invincibility) offered in November 2018, even before the latest Adpocalypse started – and then demonetization for comments, or even (of Lior Leser) for criticizing the comments policy. 

 Connected to all this is the bizarre influence on the SJW’s in modern corporate America and the advertising world, as a vengeful reaction to Trump. 

I think what Pool says better explains the impulse in the European Union to force platforms to take full responsibility for content and make them publishers – which will in time prevent average people from uploading content without the supervision of gatekeepers.  Indeed Axel Voss seems to believe the amateur Internet content intended for global reach is useless and should not be protected or even allowed – whereas “citizen content” is exactly what keeps the establishment in check and keeps it honest. 

In Europe the obsession is with copyright;  in the US it’s allowing fake news and a sudden turn in direction that consumers of news cannot become literate enough to recognize fake news  on their own.  The establishment media hasn’t done a very good job recently of avoiding the fakery of clickbait, as we saw from the Covington scandal. 
I want to refer to one of Umair Haque’s pieces, effectivley about "skin in the game" under socialism, now, which I will come back to soon.  Here’s the sneak preview.