Friday, May 31, 2019

Does social media interfere with teens' intellectual development and brain pruning? Well, not for the best performers, but then there are "average people"



Tim Pool is always tweeting that Twitter is a clickbait-driven cesspool.  EFF’s Elliot Harmon is a little kinder, but says that Facebook is nothing.

Now there is a study reporting that Twitter use has a negative effect on learning and the ability to develop abstract thinking in teens. The Hill (Rachel Frazin) and The Washington Post (Isaac Stanley-Becker) report here.  By the way, the studies don't even like blogging (or reading blogs) or, I guess, watching YouTube. 
    
I personally think that teens who succeed in “real life” activities in school don’t run into this, and teens typically succeed because they learn abstract thinking skills earlier in life.  Overuse of technology earlier in life can definitely be bad, as pediatricians report.


Jack Andraka invented a new pancreatic cancer test in high school and how has Stanford University behind him promoting his career, quite publicly.  He doesn’t need his own video channel.  But he says he has been an avid social media user in the past, although recently his Tweets became less frequent. That probably means something. Taylor Wilson (scientist, not protester) invented a fusion reactor as a teen and now has the career he wants at the University of Nevada in Reno.  Some teens have learned that they can make a living on social media “the right way” (and maybe avoid Logan Paul’s mistakes).  Harvard undergraduate John Fish gets more views at his educational YouTube channel than Tim Pool.  The clue to all of this is learning abstract thinking early in life.  David Hogg (however you feel about his political positions) has accomplished a lot with his activism.  Despite the hype, not all social media is identarian rage bait.

Again, people have to learn layered thinking.  They can get this from positive experiences in the real world.  So too much social media can get in the way.
  
We have a problem in that our competitive society is leaving a lot of “average people” behind, and driving them into identarianism and making them susceptible to manipulation by propaganda in social media and echo chambers. Ironically, the intellectual elites hardly see that this is going on, as the rage bait never shows up in their feeds because of the algorithms.
  
Is David Pakman really going to give up social media, forever? 

Picture: a library in a museum at Stanford (my visit 2018). 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Facebook removes video of a "Proud Boys" press conference based on its "Dangerous" ban, raising questions as to whether journalists can use the platform with integrity




Wednesday, Ford Fischer, owner of News2Share in Washington DC, reported that Facebook had removed a livestream that he had filmed near the Lincoln Memorial on Monday May 20, 2019, of the Proud Boys announcing a lawsuit against the Southern Poverty Law Center.
  
I will provide the link from YouTube for this News2Share video, this time without embedding it.  The visitor should form her own conclusions after watching it. 

The SBS in Australia has a brief “Dateline” excerpt where Gavin McInnes explains what he sees as society’s war on masculinity and manhood.  This seems more like just a challenge to radical feminism.

  
I recall a news report where some Proud Boys members were arrested in NYC after a brawl with Antifa.  It didn’t sound like a terribly earthshattering incident.

Milo Yiannopolous had appeared at one of their events and then Patreon bluntly told him he could not use their service because he had been associated with the group at all.
  
Wikipedia, which is generally pretty balanced, does characterize them as Neo-fascist, and yet I hear very little in the way of factual reporting that backs up such a damaging assertion.

Ford Fischer describes his issue in a long tweet and also on Facebook, which did allow his report on the removal of the video to stay. He says he was the only journalist covering the press conference.  Yet the public should know about this.

I answered this with a tweet storm of my own.

The reason for the takedown seems to be, bluntly, that Facebook had named Gavin McInnes as a “dangerous individual” and has an explicit policy regarding “dangerous individuals and organizations” here.  Yet McInnes apparently has quit the group
  
The policy seeks not only to ban them from using Facebook, but also to prohibit others from covering them with news stories or discussing them except to condemn them – effectively “quarantine” them.
This is particularly objectionable because of Facebook’s monopoly on social media – Chris Hughes is right, Facebook has too much political power.  It is hard, based on the facts, for me to believe that a few of them “deserve” such a public condemnation.
  
But it is true that a large portion of the Far Left perceives a “Nazi-like” threat to previously oppressed groups and believes, maybe from the example set by Germany in the 1930s, “quarantine” and forced solidarity is the only way to counter the threat – a combative approach. 
  
It is pretty easy to see the threat from radical Islam (ISIS and Al Qaeda) and single it out, and it is fairly easy to recognized dangerous states like North Korea and Iran and isolate them from US or western social media.  It is much harder to separate out fascism, or even separate it from communism at the extremes.  Anti-Semitism or overt racism is much harder to separate from passivity or indifference to intersectional claims.  Facebook calls “white nationalism” to be equivalent to “white supremacy”.  Yet does this means that governments like those of Hungary now in Europe (ethno-identity on the right) to be considered as “dangerous”?  Furthermore, the gay community is split over the more radical demands of the trans community and the idea of personal “body fascism”, as a few YouTube videos recently have shown.

The Verge and Engadget both report that Twitter (“The Church of Jack Dorsey” as Tim Pool calls it) is now relooking at how it should handle what the left calls neo-fascism, when some of it is probably just closer to mainstream conservatism and sometimes even to libertarianism.

In the meantime, I have to say that if a social media company (especially Facebook) wants to “quarantine” certain individuals and groups based on a “no fly list”, it is very difficult for journalists to use the service with integrity.  The mere continued use of the platform might imply a liberal bias and undermine objectivity.  There could even be problems with "mainstream media" continuing to use the platform for news if that implies omissions and lack of objectivity now.  

On the other hand, Facebook has said it is pulling back from welcoming journalism or pretending it can replace major “professional” media with amateurs and maintain objectivity. (And the “professional” media did not prove trustworthy on the Covington Boys case;  it was independent journalists like Tim Pool who busted the original story, resulting in defamation lawsuits against several major media companies.)   It wants communities to use it for personal matters, fund raising, charities, art projects, and even emotional support. 
  
I may need this indeed when I have my music and novel ready later, but right now, it’s a problem when I use it for “reporting” because now I can’t be objective if I have to exclude certain groups or persons.





Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Self-publishing coaching site discusses personal memoirs, and guest posting on blogs



I found a good site on self-publishing that is well to pass on.  It is called “Just Publishing Advice”.

I’ll point out two particular links right now.

One is a discussion of the difficulties in selling self-published non-fiction, particularly memoirs, which are to be distinguished from factual biographies usually written by a contributing author. (Yes, “biography” was a specific genre in eleventh grade English class when we did “literature”.)
  
The latter part of this article is pretty frank and I certainly agree with the “who cares?” part of this. (That was a meme at a book author’s conference in Denton, TX back in January 1988 that I still remember well.)


In my case, with the first “Do Ask Do Tell” book, there was a controversial issue (gays in the military, and my connection to it, and particularly the novelty of the issue just a few years after the peak of the AIDS crisis) that attracted attention and did result in reasonable sales in the first eighteen months or so (with three speaking engagements in the Twin Cities area, at campuses and at a Unitarian church).  The third book, with the eldercare and workplace chapters, seems more personal, and the “gay rights” chapter may seem stale now because gay marriage has since become the law of the land and is no longer controversial as it might have been.




I also want to point out their discussion on “The right and wrong way to guest post”.  When Ramsay Taplin had Blogtyrant (until June 2018), he was big on recommending guest posts.  Rick Sincere (a libertarian video and podcast host in Charlottesville Virginia, who used to be associated with Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty, GLIL, back in the 1990s in Washington DC) often offers guest posts on his blog.  But they take a lot of time. 

  
I do accept guest posts on two of my Wordpress blogs.  Many submissions to me seem to serve tribal interests and are one-sided, but I try to encourage contributions where some sort of moral or ethical principle can be extracted.  For example, I did publish a guest post about the border wall between Israel and the West Bank merely to reinforce the idea that border security by itself is not inherently the result of racism.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

CNN reports on worker falsely smeared for "racism" on the job by a misleading viral video


John Blake on CNN reports on a young woman who was smeared online with contrived posts after she, working for a Chipotle on St. Paul MN, refused service to misbehaving African-American men in the store she worked at before the end of a shift.  She was called “racist” when she is PoC herself (which is not obvious).  The men apparently conspired to make up a story about her on social media.

She was fired, and offered her job back when the company found out about the libel.

The article discusses three problems: confirmation bias, mob vengeance mentality, and the lack of inclination of individuals to question the tribe.


A similar problem occurred with the Covington Boys in January when the mainstream media misinterpreted a video fragment.

I am not sure how the mob knew her name or identity but the article reports that it is a common setup to make a viral video of someone behaving in a way that appears racist at first glance.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Could the indictment of Julian Assange endanger future citizen journalism?


Vox has an earlier story (April 12) explaining what the indictment of Julian Assange means for freedom or the press, link

David Greene and Kurt Opsahl of Electronic Frontier Foundation warn of the gravity of the newer indictments (which require extradition).
  
If is common and acceptable for national security journalists to probe whistleblowers.  What may not be acceptable is to encourage hacking. 


Yet journalists have gone undercover always, even posing as hourly workers at Food Lion (which was a “breach of loyalty” or “conflict of interest”).

A Guardian article points out that there is no statutory definition of journalism, which maybe a good thing, which makes the permissive attitude toward civilian journalism possible.

Here's an article by Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Pennsylvania on journalist's publishing classified information.  But how far may they go in seeking it>  
  
This case could, in theory, matter for how hosting companies write terms of service.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Yes, even Minds.com needs moderation, but it has due process and a jury system



Minds.com, which intends to remove itself from partisan censorship and become dependable for free speech, still has its own moderation system, but with a jury and appeal due process explained here.
   
There are categories like Not suitable for work, and spam.  These do have a "three strike" system.  (In high school PE softball, we had a one-strike rule.)  There are still some immediate ban categories (mostly illegal content), which should be obvious. This could get difficult in Europe where hate speech is actually illegal.


Minds is based on block chain and crypto currency payments, and uses open source rather than proprietary software.
   
I’ve been a bit distracted by other issues, but I need to get some ether in my wallet (had some trouble getting it to work).   

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley proposes eradicating social media sites, especially Facebook


A story in the Verge by Casey Newton (“The Interface”) notes that Facebook’s bias is not, as Ted Cruz tried to establish with April hearings, against conservatives, but toward the extremes. 

That’s partly because of clickbait and algorithms.  But it’s also true that the far Left is more likely to pressure for the removal of people who are relatively centrist and less conservative but who somehow behave with some sort of personal antipathy to some minorities (like Milo).


But Thursday Missouri Senator Josh Hawley that social media companies should be eradicated entirely because of their attention addiction economy. Jason Koebler of Vice Motherboard reports

USA Today published his op-ed here.  He called the sites "parasites" like a true Marxist revolutionary from 1917. 
  
  He talks about other things that could have been done with this talent “for the common good”.  That sounds like China.  I don’t need pundits telling me that I should spend time with personal relationships with people my own age, rather than distant admiration.  That gets into Cal Newport’s book on digital minimalism (and his interview with David Pakman) which I’ll look at soon.  Pakman has himself suggested that he may give up social media “forever”.

I thought Timcast would have a video about this by now.  Harvard undergraduate John Fish is writing a book about the “attention economy” and this idea would get his attention.

There were proposals in the past that Myspace should be banned.  My book review blog has a relevant article May 25, 2008, or an Opposing Viewpoints book from Greenhaven (Roman Espejo), June 5, 2008, “Should Social Networking Sites Be Banned?

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Is changing a blog post after the fact unethical because someone who had linked to it on social media is fooled and looks bad?




Tim Pool makes an interesting point about “stealth edits” by newspaper stories and probably bloggers.


Someone writes a reasonably factual blog post and others link to it. Later, after the links, the blogger changes it and adds controversial political opinions. Then people who linked to the post suddenly look bad because of after-the-fact changes.
  
I often make later additions to blog posts, although usually not to change the tone of the article. But sometimes a disturbing interpretation of a fact occurs to me later and I add it.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Can bloggers be sued for revealing movie spoilers? Is this copyright infringement?


I offer a lot of movie reviews on my blogs (and book reviews, but most of them are non-fiction).
  
In May 2016 I added a new Wordpress blog to my offerings, and started the practice of putting most feature film reviews on this new blog, and then used the Blogger entry for short films, particularly those on specialty topics like science fiction, basic physics and math enigmas, LGBT topics and shorts, and sometimes other policy short films. A few of the most sensitive films (like the emerging concerns over the threats of white supremacy) go on the “cf” or “Films on Major Threats to Freedom” (on the Blogger Profile).  There is also a television series reviews, which includes reviews of miniseries (I generally have not put those on Wordpress).

There has been some recent controversy over whether bloggers and video channels could be sued for copyright infringement for reviewing spoilers.   The copyright claims would sound to me more like trademark issues, because typically big comics-based movie franchises have trademarked their characters.  


Jose Senaris discusses the problem in a video on this Newsy story shared on Twitter today (motivated by the finale of "Game of Thrones".)
  
Some films, and some television series ratings, are particularly sensitive to viewer suspense about the ending.  Most of the material I review tends to be documentary, non-fiction, or dramatizations of history where this would not likely to be a problem.  But it is possible for this to be a problem in a fiction story where there is some ritual that becomes the climax and where the ritual makes moral or social points about something.

In fact, I have a novel manuscript (“Angel’s Brother”) and sci-fi (“O’Neill cylinder”) screenplay setting for my three DADT books (called “Epiphany”) where there is a ritual climax in each. Were either of these to be a feature film, I doubt that audience pre-knowledge of the ending would matter. 

However, “Angel’s Brother” is set up in such a way that it is possible to imagine sci-fi channel serialization. Audience speculation as to “what is going on” could matter.  But when books become movies or television series, typically audiences know the endings and are not deterred. The problem is much bigger with commercial serializations.

Bloggers are also likely to speculate on what is going on behind the scenes with, say, “Manifest”.  A blogger could guess and get it right.  NBC’s “The Event” had a plot device where the hero, a game developer played by Jason Ritter, doesn’t know that he is an alien (but the same is true of the young Clark Kent on "Smallville").  Oh, yes, this is the “Mark Zuckerberg is an alien” problem.
  
There is also a practical problem with screeners (often sent to me).  I generally review them immediately after watching them.
     
Likewise, if a blogger sees a film very early in its run and it gets a lot of views and it the review contains a spoiler (maybe to make a point on a public policy issue), it seems conceivable that this could cause a real problem for a film’s performance with certain kinds of audiences.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Far Left says that silence about enemies is not enough; you must make them into pariahs


The Huffington Post runs a bizarre piece by Andy Campbell, “Conservatives Upset ‘The Good Fight’ Wants You to Punch Nazis.”

Emily Elkins of the Cato Institute reports a late 2017 study “The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America”.

Tim Pool does one of his longer pieces, 20 minutes, on the way the radical Left is coming to see the use of force as appropriate to get a “tribal win” and to force the Overton window way from individualism.  Even silence about enemies is not enough.  You must denounce them.  I'm taken aback by how persons like Milo or Laura Loomer have become untouchables. 
  


Individual speech is seen as a grab for power because oppressed groups are verily threatened and need the solidarity of everyone to protect their most vulnerable members.  

I haven't even looked at the milkshake issue. 
  
"They" (the far Left) have no principles of “liberty” or conventional liberalism.  They want to see everyone put in their right place, where there own tribe is caught right now.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Trump seems surprisingly supportive of individual free speech; Tim Pool invites others to join his news revolution



Makena Kelly reports in The Verge (Vox) that the Trump administration has uploaded a form for web content creators to report unfair censorship by platforms.   The form is here.  It is expected that it would be mostly “conservatives” who would need it.
  
This in some ways is encouraging. When Trump won the election in 2016, he seemed hostile to the Internet and some feared he would actually tramp down on amateur speech. Instead, he has demonstrated antipathy to mainstream media (and look at their blunders recently, like the Covington Kids).
   
Furthermore, last winter some writers (like in the Atlantic) had speculated that Trump’s threats of “national emergency” declarations, despite limited application with multiple instances in the past with other presidents (like after 9/11) could lead to social media crackdowns (as happens in other countries).  Yesterday Trump declared one regarding using China’s technology companies (Huawei and ZTE), but there seem to be no other implications (International Issues blog).

Then, as Emily Stewart of Vox reported yesterday, Trump won’t sign an international pledge (related to Christchurch) to combat violent extremism.  Last night, Chris Cuomo argued on CNN that the Christchurch video in itself as an incitement to act. He did not mention the "manifesto", possession of which is banned in New Zealand. In the past few weeks, there has been discussion of "quarantining" certain ideas or ideology, as Carlos Maza supported on Twitter recently. 

In the past few days, CNN has produced several stories of alarming increases especially of anti-Semitism online and domestic US (and EU) right wing hate speech in the US, as compared to past concerns over radical Islamist recruiting which had, in practice, been much easier for tech companies to identify and remove.

All of this happens about the same time that Tim Pool announces intended expansion of his Subverse independent journalism network and encourages others to contact him with pitches.  He made his announcement around 4 PM on Tuesday, Mary 14.  There were some jokes that he waited so as not to move markets! (Pool is too young to run for president by about six weeks;  I rather like Chris Hughes now.) 


It is titled, “I’m starting a news revolution, I need you to come work with us”.
   
He filmed it from a workspace in Connecticut.  It will send a reply myself, I expect later today, to “pitch at subverse dot net”.  That is the only correct place to respond, given the volume expected.
  
I may have more details about this in the next few weeks or so.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Can Georgia copyright its own annotations to its state laws? Is this public domain?



Adam Liptak has an important piece on p A14 of the New York Times, “Is it legal to post state laws online?”

Carl Malamud published the official code of Georgia online, along with annotations.

The state sued for copyright infringement, and the case seems on the way to the US Supreme Court.

The start actually argued that publishing the law could be a step toward “terrorism”.


To be fair to the state, it is possible that some of the annotations are supposed to be paid for, as the state has no problem with republishing the law itself.

But wouldn’t a government analysis be public domain? 
  
There is discussion in the article of “privatization of the law”.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Russia Today said to be trying to turn Americans against the safety of 5G with social media campaigns, for foreign strategic purposes; concerns about adjacent weather prediction frequencies by NOAA



I’ve sometimes linked to Russia Today ("RT") articles, especially YouTube videos.

Now the New York Times, in a large story by William Broad, says that RT has been spreading disinformation, or at least misleading and leading stories, trying to turn the US public against 5G technology, as dangerous and likely to cause cancer. 

The intention is to discourage the US from keeping up while Russia (and China) get ahead with this.
The “propaganda” campaign may remind us somewhat of the anti-vaxxer movement.

If it really affected policy, it could have serious economic and national security consequences.
   
Yet it would seem simple enough for telecom to counter the propaganda with normal lobbying and advertising.  But industry credibility has been ransacked by the network neutrality issue.
5G will use shorter wavelengths but this is not harmful to humans with normal use.


But the story certainly shows the “danger” of massive injection of amateur speech, funneled by algorithms and clickbait on social media, when less educated Americans don’t learn to question what they hear.  This helps one understand why authoritarian leaders do care about propaganda and clamp down on resistance speech.

Venture Beat has a similar story by Jeremy Horowitz. 

J.D. Tuccille has an important piece in Reason, "Fake News Is Really a Dangerous Excuse for Censorship", and links at the bottom to another story on Section 230 and the moderator's paradox (and conservatives). 



Update: May 25

But there are newer concerns that the 5G frequencies are very close to those used by weather satellites modeling hurricanes, and some debate as to whether an elegant solution exists.  There is also some disagreement as to which sensors have been used already.  The Verge reports in a story by Sean Hollister here. Ron Wyden also has a letter to Ajit Pai, link

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Chris Hughes slams Zuck as too powerful; Facebook wants you to be more social again; Pool announces changes


OK, Chris Hughes calls out Mark Zuckerberg as “too powerful”.  My reaction on Twitter is to challenge Chris to run for president himself and enter the crowd of Dem’s.  He’s 35 now.  OK, he might be the ultimate elitist and perfectionist, and want to get everything right in a workplace sent. Obama tried.

Here is Chris’s NYTimes piece 

Here is CNN’s account 

Zuckerberg, in his desire to make Facebook truly “social” now suggests a secret crush feature.
   
OK, at 75, I have a problem with being expected to interact with people online on “their terms”. I hope that even being considered for “secret crush” is an opt-in, only.
  
Likewise, I have a problem with being prodded to run public fundraisers for true organizations, as if they had the power to exact tribute for my speech.

  
Tim Pool today talked about his own changes and gives as thorough an account of what’s wrong with social media as anyone.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Carlos Maza explains why he thinks some ideas and speakers should be "quarantined" by journalists


Carlos Maza, who makes the “Strikethrough” videos for Vox (one of his best was an interview with David Hogg) gave a Ted Talk at CUNY in New York City April 5, 2019, “How ‘neutrality’ is making us dumber”.


He seems to be challenging the idea that journalists must always be objective and present all sides and be neutral about them.

He discusses explicitly the challenges to accepted science on vaccines and on climate change. He maintains that constantly giving deniers a platform enables many people in the general public to excuse themselves from doing what they need.  He mentions the use of the word “autism”.

He really does not get into the more controversial social issues about race, gun control, gender roles and fluidity, in the talk, however. 

Yet, he has said on Twitter that sometimes some speakers should be “quarantined”. 

In an article about why some parents don’t vaccinate, Jennifer Reich reports that hyperindividualism is a problem.  Parents really do think only about their own lineage.  But by vaccinating your child unless he/she has a well-documented medical issue (rare), you are protecting the child of another parent where there is an issue.

But this kind of thinking extends.  Should people without kids be expected to be prepared to take care of or raises other relative’s children after tragedies or unforeseen problems?   Is it mandatory to have someone’s back?
   
You could have given examples of this kind of thinking in the early days of the AIDS epidemic when it was “amplified” so rapidly within the gay male community.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Are tech companies playing "guilt by association" to wall-off right-wing speakers?



On May 6, Laura Chen of Blaze TV channel made a video about “Big Tech censorship” that explains particularly well the greasy, oily slope of big tech’s censorship and de-platformings, most of all the Facebook Purge 4.0 on May 2.


She does not regard any of the persons banned as extremists in the traditional sense. She makes particular note of the idea that the reasons mentioned for banning several of the people included association with other extremists, and that very little had to do with TOS violations on Facebook itself.

She also reviewed the history of the Patreon problems (“manifest observable benavior”) last winter.
She seems to believe that the intention of the platforms is to weaken conservative presence on the platforms so as to guarantee that Trump cannot win in 2020, and that right wing and EU separatist candidates cannot win in Europe.

This is a sign of increasing political combativeness of the far Left.

This does not seem to be racist or sexist (or even religious) so much as it is anti-individualist or anti-meritocratic or anti-objectivist, and wants to re-impose the control of the group, but the alt-right wants to do that, too.

Tim Pool and David Pakman did a combined livestream tonight, which I’ll get into tomorrow on Wordpress.  There was a lot of discussion of whether Section 230 excuses platforms from civil rights laws – it does not directly, but it would free them from disparate impact concerns.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

Should platform access become a civil right?



Given Facebook’s massive deplatforming of at least seven “conservatives” Thursday in its Purge 4.0, some, such as Will Chamberlain, are arguing now that platform access should be viewed as a civil right, link

He argues that this could be enforced now through the courts with “private action”.  I’m not sure I concur yet.

He wants the courts to enforce the right to private action for all lawful speech on platforms that would be protected under the First Amendment, even though they are hosted by private companies.
Section 230, while it enables the companies to offer the users opportunities to generate content with moderation, still does not prevent platforms from enforcing their own political judgments in monitoring content.


One obvious problem is that Facebook is an international company and operates globally in countries where free speech is less absolute than in the U.S., and where tribal (and often religious or sometimes racial) ideologies have much more sway on less individualistic persons than they do in the U.S., just as these ideologies (often related to populism) matter a lot more generally among people who feel left behind economically. It has to be concerned that posts even originating from Americans under American ideas of individualized free speech may in some cases trigger incidents in other parts of the world, even unintentionally.  Somewhat as a counterweight to that idea, it is true that in most of the world, private weapons ownership is indeed less common than in the U.S.;  First and Second Amendment ideas work together. 

Around the world, many countries or observers want to treat social media companies as "publishers" rather than utilities, which by definition means they choose the content providers which reinforce their brands;  the only public remedy then is to have enough competition among the big platforms.  
     
As I noted Thursday, companies do have a right to protect their brands according to the political biases of their clients (advertisers), but they don’t have a right to collude or form monopolies.
  
I’ve talked about “conflict of interest” in the workplace where a manager’s public speech could cause tensions with subordinates or consumers.  It would be a good question, for example, to look at the “speech rights” of someone who acts as an insurance agent and who makes a living on commissions but whose activity could affect company reputation. Is a “commission” for a salesman comparable to advertising income for a content creator?  Not exactly, because a sales person or financial planner, for example, represents his company’s values, not his own (“we give you the words”).  But that should not be true when a content creator speaks on a social media platform.

Yet Facebook seems to be interpreting harmful speech very broadly in terms of groups of people and minorities as such rather than as an individual rights issue. Milo’s speech is silly, perhaps, but only harmful to minorities if you assume they need to become combative as groups to protect themselves.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Covington litigation reminds us of a lesser discusses aspect of privacy law, perhaps



There’s at least a third lawsuit now regarding the Covington Kids matter from January from the Sandmann family, this time against NBC (which I used to work for).


The video above is remarkable because it states the idea that journalists (and presumably) don’t have the legal right to write about previously non-public persons, especially minors. There are torts involving invasion of privacy as well as defamation.

I often report on local musical events or church concerts or plays, as well as those staged by more obviously commercial and public interests.  I don’t usually name minors, but I will, for example, name soloists, pianists, organists, etc.  This has never been an issue, but it could result in someone getting more attention “globally” than the person had ever imagined.
  
This comports with a trend I have noticed since about 2012, that people are much more sensitive about being photographed in discos than they had been before.



Thursday, May 02, 2019

Facebook Purge 4.0: Milo, Laura, Paul Watson, Louis Farrakan, and all of Info Wars


Today, around 2 PM EDT, Facebook banned several “controversial” users:  Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, Paul Joseph Watson,  Paul Nehlen, Louis Farrakhan (“Million Man March” in DC in October 1995) and Alex Jones. The ban also applies to Facebook subsidiary Instagram. 

For Alex Jones, all sites related to him were removed as users, and Facebook users are even forbidden from linking to them unless they condemn them – which sounds like para-compelled speech.

Facebook says it bans “dangerous individuals or groups” even when the said users haven’t explicitly broken their rules. FB has its own explanation of its latest policy from mid April here


That says, a monopolistic digital state can declare who is “dangerous”, which is ironically the name of Milo’s book and publishing company.

The story broke on several generally liberal sites when the news should have been embargoed, and an hour or so before the ban went into effect. Wired, (Paris Martineau)  for example, and The Verge (Casey Newton) give details.  The Verge, as updated, refers to praise or support of Tommy Robinson and Gavin McKinnes as the reason for some of the bannings and links to another story of a massive Facebook purge of specific British extremist groups. But this is disturbing because Facebook (or any other company that would follow their example) is declaring people "dangerous" based on statements they have made about other (supposed) extremists.  It would be very hard for any online speaker to know objectively which "extremists" have already been seen as to be excluded and "contagious" to anyone who talks about them -- this sounds like an attempt to wall off all right wing content way beyond the past accepted meanings of right wing extremism or racist.   The identarian Left often calls "ordinary conservatives" racist or homophobic when they are not by normal usage of these ideas. 

On May 3 the Wall Street Journal offered a story by Georgia Wells that characterized the reason for the bannings as their views being too "inflammatory".  Toward the end, the article says that Facebook normally forbids support or "praise" of persons it has banned, even for activities off site.  It removes events from Facebook if it knows these events are going.  (Loomer says she is banned from Uber and Lyft, Paypal, etc, following earlier reports of banning of some people by payment processors).  This sounds like a very dangerous precedent. 

Jones, Watson and Loomer seem to be nixed over conspiracy theories – which used to be popular and taken with a grain of salt after 9/11.

The New York Times has a story by Mike Isaac and Kevin Rose in which Watson denies he violated any terms of service. Indy100 reports that Watson had supported a "parachute journalism" exercise in Sweden by Tim Pool in 2017 where Tim's experience did not confirm Trump's claims on European migration. 

As if this writing, Milo is still on YouTube, his “Dangerous” (ironic domain name) was working, and Amazon’s ad for his book works.  I realize he has said some “stupid things” and some subpopulations of the LGBTQ world may feel hurt or offended by his characterizations of some persons.  But I find nothing resembling political “neo-Nazism” in his content when I read it.  Maybe I just haven’t encountered it (I don't read 8chan, etc). He calls himself “dangerous” to the collectivist or identarian Left, and Facebook takes him at his word, it seems.  One video conspicuous on his channel simply professes that he believes in "meritocracy" and believes that "affirmative action" is essentially reverse racism.  Is this view inflammatory? It's been standard in the US GOP for decades. 
  
You can be conservative, and gay, and cis-male online and be nice.  Just don’t attack people, especially those who are not quite perfect enough. 

One issue I would wonder about is past posts about any of these persons, such as a review of Milo's book (which is not really very extreme at all) or Pam Geller's, which he helped publish.  Could, under SJW pressure to remove the extreme right (or abusers) from society, Bloggers be compelled to remove reviews or mentions?  How far would that go?  Why not remove all reviews of Weinstein Company films from the past because of Harvey Weinstein's scandal?  

There is one other concept -- the "conflict of interest" concern with regard to the workplace and blogging policies of the past (in the old Web 1.0 world) which I have written about in the past and which I to deal with personally in 1997 when I did a corporate transfer over the gays in the military issue.  I do agree with the general idea that Facebook, as a private company, has every right to protect its reputation and "brand" as generally understood, although not as a monopoly.  When someone makes a living from ads or patronage off a social media platform out of sheer volume of visitors or subscribers, there are legitimate questions that parallel my own problem in the past -- if you look at speakers on these platforms as "contractors" rather than as their own publishers.  I will have to look at this issue for platforms in the future, compared to what I had said about (management or "actuarial" worker) in the past.
  
Later May 3:  Tim Pool gives his detailed take on what is really going on here


Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Facebook reinforces the idea that most Internet activity should be whitelisted or circumscribed by groups with their own little tribal hierachies


As Mike Isaac wrote in the Business page of the New York Times today, Mark Zuckerberg has announced that Facebook will shift from a public town hall to a platform that emphasizes group activities and relatively closed circles of friends, rather like the email listservers and forums of the Web 1.0 world, perhaps. The detailed story is here
  
An immediate reaction of mine would be, Google+ tried to sell even more concentricity than Facebook and it exists no longer for individuals.

Facebook wants to encourage ephemeral posts, which disappear in a day or two, like Snapchat.
  
It’s unclear if the “town hall” mode will continue work for those who want to use it that way. It sounds sensible that the “pages” might work that way still, even if the friending timelines don’t.

Right now, I’m able to purchase views of ads for my books on my page and they are getting respectable traffic. But I cannot post issue-oriented posts unless I have third party advertisers authenticate me. Facebook has suggested allowing third party advertisers access to create content and sell on my page. That is to say, for example, that the September 2018 post on power grid security should be selling Faraday cage bags,  To me, that seems pushy and tacky.

But Facebook has a point.  People should not resent being asked to “sell” more aggressively or recruit others, despite the cultural resistance now to spam and robocalls and political candidates knocking doors, because that is the way they world needs to work, to have everybody play ball rather than watch and comment from the distance on a one-way Town Square.


Facebook imagines that people who belong to “groups” could raise money for causes and non-profits by virtue of their social sway within the groups.  I don’t like to do things that way, in public.  That undermines the objectivity of speech and emphasizes social position in a group, where others take gor granted they can count on you.

That’s how the Left wants everything to work – everybody belongs to groups and faces their own potential vulnerability (or privilege) from group prejudices and owns up to them, because that kind of paradigm, however combative, tends to work out better for people in marginalized groups. There may be some practical merit to this worldview. 
     
My own intention is to join groups only related to work I am doing on my own.  Right now these might include music composition and performance, finishing and publishing a novel (finally) and networking on independent film because I do have a screenplay (based on the three DADT books).  I do most of my giving privately through a process with a bank,  I would not normally go along with the “solidarity” of a group on a social media site and support all their causes only because of an online social structure. Public giving would normally require I already have a personal connection to the problem outside of social media.  Likewise, I would not join groups to raise money for political candidates, at least not now.