Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Mysterious "Dr. Disrespect" takedown by Twitch may foreshadow other similar actions against "gratuitous content"

 

 Richard Hoeg (Virtual Legality) has an analysis of the mysterious banning of “Dr. Disrespect” (Guy Beahm) by (Amazon-owned) Twitch, and the lack of explanation from either side (final moments).  Sean Hollister has a similar analysis on The Verge

The general impression is that there was a contractual issue that would be hard to support with evidence in court, but there is language in the terms of service and community guidelines that allows Twitch to remove an account for any reason at its discretion (rather like YouTube’s “Commercial viability” clause).

I’m reminded of a situation when I was substitute teaching about my own content, back in 2005, where I had to stop and neither “side” could admit to what really was going on.  (Hint: it happened to Hillary Clinton in 2016). 

Platforms have become concerned, partly because of extraordinary pressure from far leftist activists, that edgy content will radicalize people and lead to violence, especially now even from the police against minorities.

They have even been concerned over speculative statements by speakers, about, for example, China’s responsibility for COVID.

I can remember when David Pakman was livestreaming on Twitch that he noted that “strikes” could not be repealed, and he got taken down with false DMCA claims from major networks.

Wikipedia mentions a bathroom incident in Beahm’s career.  I know of a situation where someone took a self-portrait in a bathroom with unusual mirrors of himself.  There was nothing wrong with the picture itself (as to what it “showed”). He could have recreated it in his own home as a physics experiment, probably.  But he did have to remove if from Instagram because of where it had been taken.

There have been several channel removals by YouTube of “hate” channels, the largest being Stefan Molyneux (Variety story). (I had thought these would be banned in June 2019 after YouTube's policy change a year ago; apparently the unprecedented fallout from Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, etc. gives them more practical impulse to do this now.)   I am concerned over removal of any channel over ideology alone, and I am rather agnostic about Molyneux as I have seen very little of his material myself.   But I am concerned that some people see merely questioning the increased identarianism on the Left (as with Black Lives Matter) as itself “white supremacy” and likely to increase radical violence, either by extremist cells or by police. Wikipedia (with the SPLC) seems quick to label speakers as "far-right" or even supremacist when that sometimes doesn't seem factually true with some of them if their writings are interpreted carefully. (Look at how SPLC characterizes Charles Murray). 

A concern could be that speech is “gratuitous” and now followed up by action (“skin in the game”, or some sort of  indirect oppression by “relative silence”) it could be seen as harmful to the reputation of the host or platform, and could lead platforms to non-explained takedowns like Twitch.

For example, Facebook recently asked me if I would run a “birthday fundraiser”.  I don’t run public fundraisers except when I am involved already (and substantially) with the cause or activity to be supported based on what I have already done myself.  The Facebook plea comes across as a “quid pro quo”.



Monday, June 29, 2020

Washington Post calls for moderate revisions of Section 230, calls out both Biden and Trump


The Washington Post has a most welcome editorial Sunday, June 28, “Section 230 does not need a revocation;  it needs a revision”.  The URL text says both Biden and Trump want to repeal this “tech rule” and they’re both wrong.

Trump even tweeted “Revoke 230” last week, as a way to stop the suppression of the speech of conservatives, as in his two-step Executive order conscripting both the FCC and FTC.  The Post says that Biden has a “better handle” on the problems with 230 without being specific (Biden had apparently told the New York Times in March he wanted to scrap it).  Biden says platforms don’t remove enough harmful content. Apparently he means content which intellectually naïve viewers take as calls for radicalization (on the right) or which experience as a kind of community systemic oppression (on the Left).  But that’s compounded by the fact that the far Left sees speech itself as part of the oppressive system.  (As a meme, “Revoke 230” reminds me of “Defund the Police.”)

I’m reading Kosseff’s book (half way through it) and finding that there is a big question as to whether 230 has the equivalent of the DMCA “safe harbor”, especially when it comes to user reviews.  I hadn’t thought about it that way before. 

Update:  Richard Hoeg says that platforms are conducting a political science experiment by canceling politicians, especially with Twitch and Donald Trump, who wants to abolish 230 (along with Biden) (tweet). Also today, several YouTube channels (like Stefan Molyneux) were removed.  We'll get to Dr. Disrepect later (it is a mystery now). 

Sunday, June 28, 2020

David Brooks explains why free speech is now seen as a weapon of oppression by SJW's (among other things)

David Brooks summarizes it all with his June 25 column, “America is facing 5 epoch crises at once.” 

It’s a no brainer that this is maybe the most dangerous period in the past twenty years. 

I wanted to call attention to his characterization of Social Justice as a “quasi-religion”. It seems history as a struggle between tribes or groups, some of which are oppressors, and others are oppressed – so you need a change in power.  Viewpoints or content presentations are not about truth, but about staying in power, so in this view, individualized speech (like mine) is just violence against oppressed classes that must be stopped, so that members of these (intersectional) classes can be better off.  Pretty much standard Marxism.

The end result can be a system where at some point platforms no longer allow individualized self-publishing but require everyone to join someone’s tribe.

But this is a very different way of thinking – limiting people based on which tribe they came from – rather than looking at the social creditworthiness of their own lives as individuals (“pay your dues”).

On the pandemic itself, we have to wonder why a teenager understood what would happen as early as before Christmas than the CDC did.

Or why a 23-year-old screenwriter rushed himself to finish a script on an epidemic in early December based on a dream or insight.

Brooks talks about economic dislocation, which could affect even stable retired people’s accounts.  Again, when you see smart 20-somethings advocating cryptocurrency you now pay attention.

We don’t heed the signs of disaster very well.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

CNBC covers the history of Internet speech regulation

NSF building

CNBC has a new video “Who Regulates What’s Posted Online?

The title sounds provocative and focused on today’s situation with the problems created by COVID.

Actually, it goes back to the early days of Arpanet, and then the monitoring of the National Science Foundation, which used to be located downtown DC, then moved to Ballston in Arlington, and recently moved again to Alexandria. The Internet largely opened up to the public in 1992, and soon services like AOL and Prodigy were born and email became common (I started using AOL in 1994). There had been a variety of bulletin boards and services even in the 80s.

The video then goes on to discuss the Net Neutrality idea, with the changes in 2016 and then with the Trump administration, where at least there has been some paid prioritization but no shutoff or payola for regular websites. A more pressing issue is providing access in rural or underserved areas, now that so much work and education has been forced online by Covid and this may remain so well into 2021.

The video discusses the 1996 Communications Decency Act, with the attempt at censorship, struck down by SCOTUS in 1997, and the part that survived, Section 230.

It is widely believed that Section 230 is necessary for platforms and hosts,  to operate at all without liability from posters, but as a Jeff Kosseff explains in a new book (“The 26 Rules that Created the Internet”) considerable case law involving bookstores, and then early services like CompuServ and Prodigy, had established some liability protection (as in Europe). But Section 230 allows platforms to moderate content or even have a political bias without incurring liability for most content.  A recent controversial Executive Order by Trump attempts to change that and remove the supposed “bias against conservatives” (Wordpress post). Another good question would be, may platforms still "not" moderate content? 

The video did not cover DMCA safe harbor (corresponds to 230 for copyright).

The picture above shows the NSF in Ballston before the Ballston Quarter renovations, which ironically now have to deal with Covid after being completed.

Seriously, I would be concerned if the tech companies will be able to able to keep up completely if everyone has to do all school online next fall, or if there are any more long-lasting complete lockdowsn.  When some people have to work in grocery stories, YouTube can become a frivolous luxury and that point worries me.


Friday, June 26, 2020

Arguments for reparations are not that easily dismissed


I got an email outlining a “prescription” from the National African American Reparations Plan.

Some of the proposals probably don’t have direct effect on others not in minorities.  One of them in particular is interesting, the return of some government lands to descendants of slaves.

We do have a long history of policies based on ancestry with regard to Native Americans.  I became more aware of this when living in Minneapolis 1997-2003, often going to the Mystic Lake casino on Highway 161 south of the city, sometimes for Libertarian Party events.  I’ve also driven through reservations in northern Minnesota.

None of this changes the idea of individual responsibility in personal encounters (like how the media got everything wrong in the Covington Kids incident).

So one cannot dismiss this idea out of hand, as there is a precedent for it.

But it is obviously potentially very arbitrary how to define who would be eligible.  Is it just one ancestor?  Should there be a means test for someone trying to use such a reparative benefit?  Probably yes.

What seems more objectionable is re-dividing people up into groups and apportioning benefits and possibly expropriation on people based on their group or tribal membership.  History does this all the time.  But, outside of the Native American issue, approaching assessment of benefit this way strictly based on racial or ethnic definition is unheard of in this country.

Furthermore, we are noticing people want to make tribal (ethnic or racial or otherwise manufactured) identity more important than who they are as individuals, because they have trouble competing as individuals.

Picture: Georgetown University, 2007

Thursday, June 25, 2020

What if "you" get a jury summons during the COVID pandemic?


So, what if I were to get a jury summons now?  The NYTimes does have an exposition. 

I had in Arlington, before I sold the house and moved across the Fairfax County line by about 1000 feet.

But there are real problems now with social distancing and holding jury trials properly, as Shaila Dawan writes in the New York Times. 

In Texas, when I lived in Dallas in the 80s, I got summoned four times, because they have a one day one trial system. I got picked twice, although one case was settled out of court immediately.

Having people sit in a selection room will be difficult, as would be deliberations.  You could set up plexiglass barriers, but masks for jurors will seem distracting.

It might result in a lot more use of hotel sequestration even in shorter cases, where jurors don’t have to travel and risk more exposure.  Remember that sequestration would be a threat to my keeping my own sites up as I might not be allowed internet access during it and could lose the accounts.  In the past, this has only been viewed as a remote "threat" for very unusual trials (like terrorism).  COVID could change this.  I don't think anyone has thought about this very well yet.  

Virginia apparently allows those over 70 to "get out of" jury duty (Fairfax County rules), which I do not like, but I might have to use that until the end of 2021, due to issues I have explained elsewhere (when there is to be a big change in how I do things). 

Update: June 26 

The Wall Street Journal, in an article June 16 by Daniella Hernandez, Sarah Toy, and Betzy McCay, also discuss the jury duty issue in an article "How exactly do you catch Covid-19?". 


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

I get a "Commie" workers moral lecture from a retail person in a large appliance store; a warning?


In an “as is” condo you take the appliances, and there’s always a chance of going through replacing one (even if you buy the warranty).  There are some issues with the refrigerator (maybe just the light after all), so I went to a Home Depot today to look at what was there that fits into a smaller space.  Well, actually there are smaller “retro” ones (like in a motel room).

The sales person was in a long conservation about paperwork with a customer or other worker, but finally I got her attention.

I asked her about delivery, and I got a lecture about “this virus” and workers.  There were plenty of items in the store, but don’t count on being able to get one in stock.  Then she went of on a spiel about working people and “this virus”, like she resented someone having the money to replace an appliance (a rather common event sometime in one’s life) when necessary.

She did not belong to a minority group.  But I’m rather shocked to go into a major chain store and get a lecture on commie worker comradeship, like ordering something is a sign of anti-Maoist privilege.

The extent to which ideology has affected a lot of working people is shocking.

Yet, there is the issue of empathy, as Tomas Puerto points out in this Tweet sequence

By the way, here’s a scary article about lung damage in asymptomatic people in China shared by Tomas Pueyo, but it seems self-contradictory when reading it. 

Now I will note the fairness aspect of this. People who do have money and work-from-home jobs may prosper by others lower in the economic scale (sometimes because of race) taking risks – like getting drafted and getting infantry in Vietnam – for them. 

Is that sustainable? 

One other thing.  Fauci said today, "if we're going to have a vaccine, we should have it by the end of the year."  I hadn't heard about the "If..." 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Roundtable: "Pandemic, Protests, and a Troubled Economy"


I’ve seen a lot of very angry stuff on Twitter. Someone named Jesse Kelly seems to be making demands of purging “racist history” for example, by attacking ivy-league universities which in the past had connections with slavery.

Plenty of high-minded white (male) college students who have publicly signed on to full support of Black Lives Matter would then have an existential crisis continuing to attend. Maybe their turn to learn to be in the same boat?  Maybe national service?

On the other hand, where does the obsession with statues and names stop?  Thomas Jefferson and Monticello, George Washington (and the University named after him, from which I graduated?) What about the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin?  The Lee House in the Arlington Cemetery,

Dorey Schelmer and Meghna Chakrabarti had an article where Rana Foroohar and Michelle Singletary do a podcast for WBUR, “Economic Roundtable: Pandemic, Protests and a Troubled Economy”.

“Systemic breakdowns are not personal failures.”  Well, they are if you had been inappropriately privileged and then are challenged from beyond the blue. Rana really gets emotional at the end of the 47 minutes.  She rails about people who make policy (that might include opinion writers indirectly) and have no personal contact with the disadvantaged people they make rules for.

The thrust of the discussion was to migrate from accumulated wealth to labor for its own sake.  This does matter more to people of color (which might be many other minorities) than most whites (and she does go through the accumulated affects of redlining and the mortgage crisis in 2008, and then talks about how the pandemic has affected POC disproportionately and their jobs.

My own use of the web for speech becomes an issue, because I can do it with accumulated assets and not as a business that employs people.  In the short run, I have very little to “sell” people or create jobs.  In a longer run, there may be some ideas but it has to be permissible for me to carry them out, despite my “privilege.”

If you really want to address wealth inequality, you have to consider a lot more than race.  Activists are distracted by the statues issue when they really could demand more from (“privileged”) people to account for how they got what they have, and turn this into a personal moral issue. Consider shared risk exposure and proximity (with service expectations).  Consider policies that discourage passing on large inheritances, or even partially surrendering some existing ones, where possible (state laws on trusts would need to change), given the economic crisis.  Particularly if the economic impact continues as long as the speakers say in the podcast, you want to think about “proportional equity” of outcome, where the reward is appropriate for the risk and labor effort made by the person and takes into consideration service.


Friday, June 19, 2020

The social justice warrior demands are bifurcated: wealth inequality involves a lot more than racial or ethnic justice, in a real world


Here are a couple of disturbing stories.  I’ll leave it to the reader to make up mind.

The stepmother of Garrett Rolfe, police officer in Atlanta involved in a back shooting at a Wendy’s recently, has been fired from a mortgage company (Hotair).  Tucker Carlson mentioned it in a recent video for Fox.  The facts are a little bit fuzzy, as the company claims she violated their rules, but frames its statement in an unusual way.

Facebook has taken down a Trump campaign ad for what is purported to be a Nazi triangle symbol (CNN).

I’ll also refer to David Sacks’s piece on Medium “Masks should be the law.”

I want to revisit the question of what others want or expect an individual like “me” to do about it.  I generally don’t circulate in social circles where microagressions or disparate comments are likely to be made (although two or three decades ago I might have).

It seems like there are two intersecting problems (and I am not calling for “intersectionality”).  One is pervasive inequality, which I personally believe has more to do with inherited wealth and environmental advantages than just income inequality. This emphatically covers a lot more than race and even the history of slavery and segregation (and redlining). Some African Americans are indeed well off and have many advantages in their own backgrounds, because enough time has passed for much more opportunity to have developed. So we do have many in politics, public office, and business.  We have had a black president and first lady, which makes this development over the past six years or so very perplexing.

Handling wealth inequality at a personal level involves something like what I used to call “paying your dues” but which is more normally understood as soft “social credit.”  (and expressed by "cancel culture").  It’s possible to imagine a world where privileged people cannot have their own Internet platforms without some community engagement.  I’ve hinted that I think this is coming for a few years now, all the way back to my 2014 DADT III book. Addressing this need could be viewed as part of a person’s public character. An important part of this is stepping up to personal risk-sharing when necessary (“skin in the game”). The aim of a policy like this would not be equity or even equality of opportunity but some sort of "proportional equity" related to what is earned by effort and risk. 

There is controversy here about community engagement, because another question would be, how public should you be expected to make it (like in participating in fund raising for others under your own name or brand), in a world that otherwise gives you your own (potentially asymmetric) soapbox? One argument is that without this public confessional from influencers ("bend the knee") politicians have no incentive to change things (in response to normal solidarity and group activism) -- hence we have this problem with the police now. 

The second part is rectifying America’s own original sin – slavery, etc.  That arguably isn’t limited to blacks, but would encompass the wrongs done to Native Americans.  That background made it so hard for mainstream media to see what had happened in the Covington Kids case, for example.

Some of the rhetoric suggests white Americans have personal past dues bills owed to African Americans – the reparations issue, made personal.  I’ve covered before David Brooks’s ideas about national service to force the idea of social proximity on everyone.  But there could be an idea that people must specifically show they have benefited black Americans as a group with their activities (like say public fundraising) before they can be heard individually.  That would corrupt all speech.

Yet it is common in history for many issues like this to be viewed through the rubric of fixing group or ethnic wrongs and forcing everyone to go along.  Hence, the “silence is violence” oxymoron.

In the 1990s (as we came out of the worst of the AIDS crisis and as the election of Bill Clinton, following the Persian Gulf War and then the unusual cultural battle over “don’t ask don’t tell” developed) we developed a certain moral bias, that your work life and even public life are separate from the very personal aspects of your life.  Whether you marry and have children is your business.  Whether you feel attracted to people outside of your race is your business.

Modern social media changed all that, and made private life part of public life rather than an afterthought. No wonder we see the idea of “anti-racism” as an expectation in everyone’s public and private behavior.  But we also need to remember that many people have a life experience that is mostly tribal, and involves very little independent self-expression – which some cultures (the Amish, for example) explicitly say destroy community solidarity and throw many less competitive persons (who are more likely to be black or native for historical reasons) back in line.

Social media companies and possibly even hosts could become hypersensitive to demands from activists that people perceived as "privileged" (by lack of evidence of social credit) not be allowed to remain on stage.  We've seen evidence of this since especially late 2018 (and even after Charlottesville in 2017) with erratic and unpredictable changes in policy (especially by YouTube suddenly in June 2019).  The enormous disparity of sacrifice (by race) caused by COVID-19 would only add to the popular pressure that they may feel. 

The video above would imply a wealth transfer of about $7000 per white person to black persons, if done literally. Do the math. 


Also, later tonight I found this gratuitous invitation in my Facebook feed. No, I don't run fundraisers under my own name for specific ("identarian") groups of people. FB, given its monopolistic behavior, seems to be using the political pressure from BLM to offer a quid pro quo to users and hint at "compelling" in joining their political cause publicly, 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Covid should raise questions about websites of individuals who get sickened or isolated by disease; but it doesn't seem to have done so yet


I know I’ve talked about estate executors and domains and digital property before.

With a public health crisis, it makes sense to wonder what happens to a website or domain owned by an individual if the individual becomes ill for a long time and then dies or is incapacitated.

The problem has always existed, but the possibility would seem more serious now with the Covid crisis. 

It could be exacerbated when people are suddenly isolated from their lives by quarantines, which may happen overseas more often than here.

Yet I don’t find that much is done about it.  Registrars send annual notices asking of your domain information has changed, but usually these have been registered privately.

GigaLaw gives a rundown (2012) and I don’t see that anything has changed. 

ICANN does have a best practices link on allowing others access to this information.

VCG also has some discussion.



Wednesday, June 17, 2020

DOJ will propose changes to Section 230 today along the lines of "good faith", etc.


The Wall Street Journal (Brent Kindall and John D. McKinnon) that the Department of Justice will propose to Congress limits on platform protections from Section 230, in line with Trump’s XO in late May. .  

The legislation would tighten the exemptions from liability protection in some areas, beyond sex trafficking (FOSTA) to include terrorism and cyberstalking and some other specific law violations.

It would also require “better faith” in content moderation.  There is noting in Section 230 that requires political neutrality now. For example, targeting right wing extremism but not Communism would not compromise the protections of 230.

A good question would be whether a platform is legally allowed a “quid pro quo”, to pressure users to raise money for causes or non-profits in order to get perks from the site. That would compromise the integrity of free speech. (This sounds like a “danger” rising from the recent enormous power over tech from activists like Black Lives Matter.  Yes, Tucker Carlson has talked about it.)

Remember, the need for 230 comes from the attempt to play good Samaritan and do content moderation.

Pelosi wants a bill to allow the US to tighten its own Internet regulation as part of a trade pact.

Another possibility could be to take another look at Internet content and campaign finance reform (related to Citizens United) and earlier concerns back in 2004.


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Anti-racism: OK, what do you really want ME to do about this myself?


This “Think” passage on NBCNews by Daryl Austin does, to its partial credit, take up the question of what "white people" will be expected to do in their own personal lives about systemic racism. 

The question for me is, well, “what do you want me to do about this, personally?”  It’s a binary question.  I either can respond (effectively) to the race-specific aspect of Black Lives Matter (with intentional “anti-racism”), or I can’t. Note the new meme "silence is violence" (a paradox?) 

The article makes a lot of having personal relationships with people of color. Let me add something else, too, right now:  talking about “black and brown people” (or worse, “black and brown bodies”) by people who are not (biologically) part of those groups sounds condescending, as if coming from pity or condescension. We were taught, in the workplace especially, as far back as perhaps the late 1980s, not to refer to this at all in speaking of people.

I have to respond to this inside-out.  First, we have relationships with people in the real world (often through family, and then through associations we build as adults after leaving the nest, which happens later these days).  A lot of this gets into areas like “cognitive empathy” v. “emotional empathy”.  We also have “imaginary friends” that we build online, and that often crosses generations.  

At age 76, the latter  has become more important in recent years.  They tend in many cases to be with younger adults with a rationalist, often libertarian mindset, and they are often content creators.  They are all “intact”.  None are particularly needy or underprivileged.  So they generally don’t lead to the bonds that we consider to constitute “solidarity” (having each other’s backs, like when protesting and risking arrests) except in some more rarified contexts.

These connections are not discriminatory and they include female, a few non-binary, and a few POC. But some POC are other groups (not necessarily black or indigenous American).  Some have been raised in relatively challenging circumstances and done well.  Tim Pool is POC, but not the (chosen) “oppressed minority” in the mind of the far Left; he is part Korean (Asian) but for him it is a big deal, he says.  I have part-Asian friends who run a major grocery-bar market in Arlington VA.  The father is also a novelist. They talk as if race doesn’t matter.

But we know now that for some people it does. Yet, as you see with the following video, a lot of activists are “naïve” in their expectations that most people use social media the same way they do, and would even run into these opportunistic situations.

I would add that some people even want "me" to be open to deliberately including considering POC as intimate partners (I get challenged this way in bars and discos, or did before COVID).  That seems like the ultimate proof of life, or of worthiness, to some people/ 

Let me jump to another topic that seems important.  In my situation, I am sometimes able to influence policy outcomes with my content, while remaining relatively obscure personally and not well known.  But I don’t normally take orders from established non-profits and join up with them.  I work entirely independently (I have more contact with the “free speech” community than the traditional progressive one.)   This approach has been particularly effective with certain issues, many of them related to national security.  For example, it worked well with gays in the military two decades ago, as that was an “unusual” issue that connected to my own personal history in ironic ways which I could leverage to attract public attention. One of these levers was the military draft and the history of student deferments which – guess what-   now could be seen as connected to structural racism in the past (black young men were more likely to wind up in combat in Vietnam).  Now the “draft” issue connects to other areas of state-run constrictions of people, such as now with quarantines and isolation. These problems might affect “black” people disproportionately now, so if I work on these, I am helping them.  But I am not branding my own work to their authority (“Black Lives Matter”) so the activists are not satisfied.

So this is a problem, if there are too many people who work the way I do, conventional activism and solidarity is diluted.  I’ve talked about that before (with the video “Dangerous Thought Experiment” on the home page of my “doaskdotell” site.  It also loops back to the still unresolved issues from campaign finance reform in the early 2000’s (I’ve talked about it a lot before). 

So, when you combine this with all kinds of other threats to user-generated content (loss of net neutrality, FOSTA, other threats to Section 230, concerns over radicalization) and also some issues with trademark (you can compare the use of the marks “Black Lives Matter” and “Do Ask Do Tell” and make some interesting observations), you can imagine that my own operation isn’t sustainable forever, if it doesn’t pay its own way legitimately with public outside support (like a normal business) which I have never asked for.  One issue would occur if I were kept away from being able to maintain the sites (by illness or hospitalization, possibly by isolation in some situations, or even by prolonged jury duty or some other civic obligation) the sites might have to disappear.

I do like functioning as an amateur “journalist” – really, commentator who aggregates and “connects the dots” and warns everybody   That works because of globalization and search engines – still, and informal word-of-mouth networks of the “enlightened”.  But that also implies that I seem “above” shouting in a demonstration like everybody else – I just film and talk about “them”, which gives their causes attention, but then undermines them if I don’t join in solidarity.  In our system, we don’t want to “license” journalists (because Trump-like, or Erdogan-like or Orban-like, politicians would destroy them).  But we could wonder if journalists need “skin in the game” in the sense of doing it for a legitimate living, which I don’t (in retirement)/

David Brooks suggestion to use national service (previous posting, June 11) seems in play here.  It seems like the most effective idea to cause the cross deeper socialization that some think is necessary to heal the specific ancestral problem from slavery and segregation and (individually allocated) “reparations” – apart from the idea that inequality of opportunity, including many other factors besides race per se . His idea would require that you have some personal contact in providing service to people (even coming out of Covid, even if you are more elderly); “raising money” for others for those you have no contact with would never be more than a quid pro quo for staying online at all.  You wind up with a system where people mind their own “social credit” and whether, when privileged, they have, on their own, given back in personalized ways enough.  But this is still about a lot more than race.  Can our individualized society really handle a pandemic (if it hangs around long) or other disruptions from climate change or even enemy threats (like EMP)?  We are indeed terrible when warned of disasters (April 17).


Thursday, June 11, 2020

Social media companies wising up to the fact that you need Action as well as Talk


A few notes. But I’ll do some connecting of dots.

A Facebook friend put up a set up notes about coronavirus-related developments with a special feature, and Facebook suddenly blocked him from updating it for violating community standards.  Yet it still can be accessed.  He also talks about going to MeWe (CNET review). 

By normal standards, there’s nothing wrong with it.  He just gives a series of links to local south Florida news stories in reputable sites.  

Then David Brooks offers an op-ed June 4 on “How to do reparations right  That sounds fine, to do it with the people living in troubled neighborhoods.  (But some variations of proposals like this want some sort of sovereignty comparable to Native American reservations – “Chaz” in Seattle may sound something like that.) He wants National Service participants (as an alternative to military service) in young adulthood to live and work in these areas.

It’s all to easy to imagine expanding that idea – why not invite retirees to do the same thing (maybe if able bodied and still getting social security)?  That could impact “me”.

Social media companies and platforms could invite people to take sabbaticals and do this kind of service for 1-2 year hitches, and disappear.  It’s a kind of “paying your dues”.  Maybe its living wokeness.  Maybe it’s “social creditworthiness.”  But it is still focused on the individual’s own public behavior (or taking it private and offline for periods), not really based on the person’s ancestors.

It strikes me that I do have meaningful contact with outstanding young adults online, the old “imaginary friend” problem.  Some sort of service expectation could break all this up – imaginary globalization, and force people (like me) into social service “where they are,” as people would come down for periods. 

One thing I have noticed that social media has pressured people to do if lift up others online, very publicly (like FB’s urging people to run public fundraisers).  Yet in one case I know of a young man who decided, after honoring the people he had helped with grocery deliveries as chores, to take all his social media private.  There was no point in being a celebrity anymore (although confusion about his name was a problem, too.)

I’ve talked about my own plans before (mandatory “simplification” at the end of 2021), and I would still like to be able to deploy the work I am doing.  I think it is good for people to work alone and for themselves – but maybe there should be finite limits on how long this is allowed until it shows results actually for others.  Yes, we need the critical thinking and I have provided that (and with two or three situations it was a very good thing that I did).  But it may not be enough forever.

I developed my search-engine-driven method for Internet reach because I got in the game early, in th late 90s.  I did not always keep up with the technology.  I did not get around to teaching myself to become a “Youtuber” because I “came of age” when blogging was considered more promising, so my “style” is different from that of other people with similar views. Once you get hooked on doing something a certain way for years or decades, it is hard to change.  But eventually you may have to.  Nothing lasts forever.


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Major article in Ars Technica clarifies how Section 230 really works and why Biden and Trump don't understand it


Timothy B. Lee has a major article in Ars Technica clarifying the significance of Section 230, “The Internet’s most important – and misunderstood – law explained; Section 230 is the legal foundation of social media, and it’s under attack.” I know the writer personally from my days in Minneapolis, when he was an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota;  in 1999 he helped set up a lecture by me on my first book (as a Hamline student also did in 1998 in St. Paul, when I was still on crutches from a fall!) 

Lee discusses some important cases, with AOL, Prodigy, and Compuserv, in the early days, and then later Grindr, that explain why platforms needed a shield if they moderated some content to protect users. 

It is often said that without Section 230 platforms would be liable for all user content.  Not necessarily, ih they never moderated it.  Consider older models of Internet use like conventional website hosting. Hosting companies generally never moderate content, although they will cancel accounts that violate Acceptable Use Policies (like running online pharmacies).  More recently, after Charlottesville, they also removed accounts (as did domain name hosts) that seemed to be affiliated with white supremacy.  But, contrary to what even I had thought, hosting companies might not need Section 230 as it is now written and Biden’s desire to get rid of it is not necessarily a threat.

But major social media platforms need the ability to remove content from users which harasses other users of might be harmful (such as manipulating elections).  FOSTA would give them the requirement to do so if they have reason to believe sex trafficking is happening. (FOSTA has unintentionally hurt some minorities badly, but that’s another discussion.)

Section 230 does not require platforms to be politically neutral. Twitter, for example, prohibits deadnaming and misgendering because it does not want to drive away trans or non-binary users – a perfectly reasonable business priority.

Trump’s recent Executive Order will run into legal problems, as it is based somewhat on a misreading of the law (although the final version wasn’t quite as silly as the leaked rough draft).


Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Amish still provide an example of how collective consciousness works for some people

I thought I would share this little article from “My Daily Magazine”: “These Facts Will Change the Way You Look at the Amish”.  The title of the magazine reminds me of the grade school “My Weekly Reader”.  The Twitter link says, “That’s why the Amish allow their teenagers to share a bed when dating.”

Very noteworthy is that the Amish want to eliminate individual self-expression and even noting individual differences, with their doll toys. For them, their authoritarian lifestyle works.

It seems that their marital heterosexuality is tied into this kind of group-owned consciousness.


Monday, June 08, 2020

"Positive" and "negative" rights (as SJW's see them): the physics of this can lead to "compelled speech" and "bending the knee"


This past weekend, radical SJW activists had “dear white people” washing their feet, in a ritual outdoors in Cary, NC, near UNC and all the tech companies.

Tim Pool, in one of his Timcasts, uses this spectacle to get into a discussion of positive vs. negative rights.  First, let me interrupt myself.  I generally don’t use the same YouTube channel for material on successive posts, but lately it seems like Timcast and HoegLaw have been providing a lot of the material.

At about 5 minutes into his video, Tim points out that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and related laws are mostly about negative rights.  You are not allowed to discriminate against members or protected classes in public accommodations or hiring or housing. Now the SJW’s seem to be demanding “positive rights”, which is seen as a kind of reparation, but some SJW’s are trying to make this very personal.  Positive rights would go beyond familiar affirmative action into quotas (including casting diversity in Hollywood) and replacing white people with black people, and maybe even forcing race consciousness training or activity upon everyone.

I can remember the subject of positive and negative rights coming up in the late 1990s after my first book, but I don’t think I discussed them as such in my 1998 booklet “Our Fundamental Rights”.  I’ll look into this soon on my “do ask do tell notes” blog.  There was also discussion during that time (when I lived in, ironically now, downtown Minneapolis) of what “positive law” means.

Tim notes in one sequence that SJW’s seem to be demanding that others joint their “cult”, since religion in itself is dead (remember Time in 1966). As payback, they want increasing submission (“bend the knee”) to their demands.

That’s why individualized speech like mine on these blogs could be in trouble, with all the threats to user-generated content that I’ve noted in the past few years (essentially since Charlottesville).  It’s easy to imagine SJW’s getting tech companies to go along with an idea like, “you want to have a website or be on our platform.  Please prove you can raise money for oppressed minorities first.” 

And I refuse to identify people first publicly by their membership in a group.  That insults the whole idea of being an individual person.

There is, however, a legitimate issue, which died off (the concern back around 2005 that bloggers could covertly influence politicalcampaigns without being accounted for as affiliated with any party or movement – that sort of but not completely went away with Citizen’s United.)  It was already a cause of one major incident in my own life in 2005 when I was substitute teaching.  Expect to see it come back.  Activists today will claim they need everybody marching for them to get the reforms they need, not "amateur" journalists (not recognized as press) just taking pictures without joining in.  (Nevermind, some "amateurs" do male a living at it;  I don't.) It's the "no spectators" meme ("Burning Man") indeed. 

To be continued, I hope.

Picture: UNC, Chapel Hill, April 2015 


Friday, June 05, 2020

Demonstrators are very determined to get group justice this time (BLM)

OK, here we go, into a morass.

The New York Times is apologizing for a stern op-ed from Senator Tom Cotton (link) on June 3, and the Washington Post is jumping on it (Paul Fahri et al)

There are two sets of problems here.  First, there had already been a lot of loose talk about (Greg Carr) “martial law” (maybe even an Internet shutdown) after the violent riots broke out last weekend.  Since maybe Tuesday, they seem to have calmed down, and it looks like the million or so marching in Washington Saturday will be peaceful (as if we could have had Gay Pride this June after all, as far as health is concerned – as long as everything stayed outdoors – and that may be correct medically).

Wednesday, at age 76, I broke the “safer at home” idea and visited the protests on 16th Street and made some video (as it happens, my best friends in indie media were just getting up from having been up all night covering the crowds the night before, so essentially I felt like I was filling in).

Driving back (I eschewed the Metro) stores were boarded up from 16th St all the way past the GWU campus onto M St, all the way to Key Bridge.  They had even gone into stealth, removing their trademarks outside. Once I got into Arlington (Rosslyn) the damage stopped, although I’ve seen isolated protesters in northern Virginia. 

To say that operators of businesses must be brought low and start over in life (that’s already happened anyway because of coronavirus shutdowns), as a kind of punitive reparation of past institutional racism, is vengeful thinking from the far Left, it’s Marxist, even Maoist.  I don’t have a physical presence, but there are definitely lines of action where this way of thinking can threaten me.  That’s essentially terrorism, a variation of what we were seeing a few years ago from radical Islam, which we seem to have forgotten. 

At the present time, it’s not clear who the outside insurgents are, and how there are so many, and how they are getting into the cities.  Recent news articles have discredited claims that they are Antifa.  There does seem to be credible evidence that white supremacists have posed as radical Leftists to promote false flag violence. So right now, the actual evidence (Tim Pool’s videos notwithstanding) suggests that covert white supremacy might actually being a bigger driver of the unrest than I would have thought possible.  However, there are some individual arrests of people known to be associated with left-wing anarchism, too.  (Wikipedia has more information on the external violence, as does Joan Coaston, explaining "boogaloo" on Vox.) 

So once the looting starts, yes, I favor using force very quickly.

Nevertheless, there is enormous tenacity among the legitimate protesters, steadfast through last night’s thunderstorms.  I wonder how one million people will get here Saturday and even where they will stay.

There are two problems worthy of protest.  One is the economic inequality and unequal risk-taking (skin in the game) resulting from the lockdowns.  The stock market still seems to go up (maybe now on vaccine rumors) even as destruction downtown happens.  Maybe there is rationalization: the retail stuff stolen couldn’t be sold right now anyway.

The inequality is not limited to blacks, but still disproportionately impacts them, as does the medical risk of some jobs and the overall health status leading to much higher death rates in blacks, some Latinos, and some indigenous peoples.  But the financial hardship impacts workers of all backgrounds.

The second problem is, of course, the claims, after decades (and a black president) that police target blacks arbitrarily and this is especially dangerous for black parents.  I have to admit, I heard that once in the mid 1990s from coworkers (and there would be a lawsuit where I worked that I won’t get into now). This is what seems to override the usual economic unfairness arguments (which do affect all groups) and cause demand of attention, even from general interest bloggers (like me) to this specific outrage. Lack of dedicated attention even from someone like me is seen by some as a back door invitation for violence by police (or supremacists) to continue.  But this fits into the arguments about radicalization on social media we have been hearing since Charlottesville.  

I do not form emotional attachments to people in a group as readily as others, but I am seeing that the increase of inequality has made people much more vulnerable to manipulation by others through their own participation in tribal groups, which is something I observe but don’t experience much myself. I do not engage in influencing efforts to get justice only according to group identity.

The media does report that the markets were surprised by the drop in unemployment with some partial reopenings, but blacks did not benefit from reopening nearly as much as whites. 

This video by Martin Goldberg is also interesting.


Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Internet Archive commits "piracy"? (Remember SOPA?)

 

Hoeg Law has an interesting video today exploring the recent complaints that the Internet Archive commits systematic copyright infringement and is actually behaving like “copyright pirates”.  Remember SOPA?

The Archive (and “Wayback Machine”) is like a digital library.  In a real world, library behavior was regulated in practice by “the Principle of Exhaustion” or “The First Sale Doctrine”.  That would mean it would pay for a number of copies and allow only a certain number of them to be opened at the same time.  This sounds like Object-Oriented software:  the site's (or book's) content is the class, the copies are the instances. 


The same concerns could be made of Google's practice of placing book contents online and indexing them. 


I thought of the battles over SOPA at the end of 2011 (the good old days).  Remember, the Internet Archive (as well as Wikipedia) fought the European Union's Copyright Directive. 

Much of my earlier website activity is stored.  As an experiment, I just looked at my old “hppub.com” as it had been in late July 2003, shortly before I moved back from Minneapolis to Virginia.

I have sometimes met criticism for “self-competition”, allowing my books to be browsed free, without ads, and without logon, although they are sold on Amazon. It gives me covert “influence” under the radar that some activists (mostly on the Left) see as inappropriate or unethical favoring those with capital, and that is something that, yes, I am paying attention to. (I’ve covered before how this line of thinking almost blew up in 2005 in connection with campaign finance reform). I certainly don't follow the usual expectations of "selling books" as consumer items (and instances). 

 One other thing to mention:  Barack Obama today say he keeps hearing people talk about "voting v. protest" as if it were an "either-or" rather than "both-and". He also talked about "my brother's keeper". 

 Update: June 9:  The Washington Post weighs in with an editorial on this "piracy" model for an essential public service when the physical world is closed for Clovid.