Saturday, October 31, 2020

Evidence that natural cellular immunity to the novel coronavirus is long lasting


Dr. John Campbell in the UK produced a video a few days ago showing that people who had recovered from the original SARS virus in 2003 have memory T-cells (and probably memory B-cells) which cross react with SARS-CoV2.

Similarly, in some parts of the world, people who live around certain animals are exposed to beta-coronaviruses.  Their T[cells can recognized SARS-CoV2.

Exposure to the four “common cold” coronaviruses does not produce this cross-reactivity.

It appears that no one who recovered from SARS in 2003 and is alive today has gotten COVID19.

Campbell believes that, despite a few scattered reports of reinfections, most people who have recovered from a SARS-CoV2 infection will have memory T-cells and B cells that will protect them even after antibodies disappear.

He also believes that asymptomatic persons who recover and show low antibody counts recovered with the strength of their T-cell response.

However, sometimes SARS-CoV2 can enter some T-cells (with a 147 receptor, I think) but it does not reproduce inside them (as HIV does).

This information could be important in developing therapeutics and other vaccine strategies. It could mean that most people (at least if they can avoid long lasting complications) will have lasting immunity from natural infection.  Already, there are reports of young adults who repeatedly test negative by swab test despite repeated exposures. Campbell says there are other obscure immunoglobulins in the nasal and throat mucosa which do fight the coronavirus.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Partisanship plays tug of war with tech executives at Section 230 hearing, and severe crackdown on tech sounds likely in 2021


The media is focused on the Republican’s pre-election ploy in the Senate Commerce Committee hearing Wednesday Oct. 28  on Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act. I wrote up the details and provided the link of the entire livestream here.  The title was “Does Section 230’s Sweeping Immunity Enable Big Tech Bad Behavior?”  The tone of the hearing was not good. 

Vox Recode has a story by Sara Morrison to the effect.  

On The Verge, which Vox owns, Casey Newton writes that Senate Republicans want to make the Internet smaller.  The article notes that the FOSTA law of 2018 was not mentioned.

But the Democrats repeatedly said that the platforms need to censor more, because there is a lot of incitement of naïve and unstable people (call it radicalization).  The recent plot against the governor of Michigan (and Virginia) is case in point.

All in all, the future of user-generated content in the next term (whoever wins) does not look good. An underlying problem is that a lot of it is gratuitous, which can really get confounded during a pandemic.

Electronic Frontier Foundation issued a piece (Oct 26) by Corynne McSherry on content moderation yesterday without mentioning the hearing.

Along these lines, I thought I would share a PDF paper on voter suppression from the Center for Democracy and Technology.  CDT talks about “misinformation”, “disinformation” and “malinformation” as different things.  I miss the days when we could go to their all-day events (often in December).

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Will the 2020's produce a "Great Reset" with an "intersectional economy" if Biden wins?


Timcast IRL has a video connecting the concept of “the Great Reset” with “Intersectionality” as if the Left wants to make that the model for the future.

I looked up the article on Weforum and found it rather ambiguous.  But there was a lot of concern over diversity quotas on corporate boards and other places, and this included disability.

Dealing with people based on connection with group identity is not something I am personally cool about.

I think that the idea of personal social credit is significant as a brake against unearned privilege but the Left insists on tying this concept to intersectional group identity and “allyship”.  It’s also interesting that someone in the Trump administration today said (on CNN) that poor people are actually more likely for some of their net worth to be “inherited” than rich people.  I don’t know if that’s true.  I suspect Fox News will start saying that.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Youtube-dl removal from Github; more on copyright trolls, and the limits of Fair Use (even in a law school video)


First, there is some important copyright news, about the forced removal of Youtube-dl from Github, after legal action by the RIAA, as explained by Parker Higgins on here.

The tool is useful for users who want to keep for private use music or videos that they believe could be taken down.  But in a way, that sounds like having owing a digital copy of a film or music recording without paying for it.  Eventually, tools might be developed to scan cloud backups of personal drives for copies like this.

Nevertheless, I often save pdf’s for “private use” on my own computer, as well as various images that I would not normally have the right to republish without permission.  Some gay publications sell photos (non-porn) from events for home use, it’s not clear whether the sale includes a license to republish as in a blog.  Another related issue is that some news channels (like News2Share) allow embedding, but require licenses for reuse when remixed into other film or video projects (like rebroadcast on regular television channels).

Of course, earlier in my life, I collected music the old-fashioned way, vinyl records and then CD’s, and played them privately at home (from the 1970s to the early 2000’s).  Video started replacing this (in my own habits) in the early 2000’s.

I wanted to reiterate a story from Feb 2019, by Shoshana Wodinsky, on the Verge, about scammer threatening creators with third copyright strikes and extorting “ransom”.  This is essential copyright trolling (a la Righthaven). 

But The Verge itself had been involved in copyright takedowns against other video sites on building PC’s, as reported in Feb. 2019  (Kitguru).  The Verge agreed to cancel the strikes but did not admit Fair Use claims, and there some sort of private settlement of the litigation.

In March 2020, just as the pandemic was starting, the Verge also reported (Adi Robertson) on litigation against NYU Law School for an instructional video on music copyright, for its apparently “non Fair Use” of infringing clips to make its point (and releasing to YouTube.

 Update: Oct 27.  YouTube has sued the RIAA and French has a followup video on his channel explaining. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Teens and young adults may lead us out of this coronavirus nightmare


Lena Felton has a major interview with teen scientist, Anika Chebrolu, 14, who developed a compound that can bind to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus and inhibit its ability to cause infection at outset, in this extensive story on.  She won $25000 as the 3M company’s Top Scientist prize. (See also Oct 19 post). 

Her discovery recalls a similar discovery at the University of Pittsburgh of a molecule called AB8 that binds to the spike protein.  It may be chemically related.  Also reported recently is 18-year-old Taft Foley's mobile (rapid) testing lab for Covid19 in Houston (KHou story).  

The objective then should be to develop medications, possibly by mouth or even nasal sprays (like Havoline) to prescribe to people once they test positive, as with Rapid Tests, and stop the infection dead in its tracks before it can cause harm or spread to others. It might reduce the period of quarantine or isolation.  It might be a game-changer.  But you have to do the trials.

The story calls to mind Jack Andraka’s science fair discovery of a simple test for pancreatic cancer, winning him an award at age 15 in 2013.  Jack has been quiet on social media recently, for whatever reason. 

It's also needs to be remembered that in Seattle Avi Schiffmann, barely 17, started his coronavirus data tracker in December 2019 before the rest of the world knew there was a problem.  How did he know that much? (The "daily" changes for today accumulate during the day.) 

 I’ll also share a story from Huntersville NC (north of Charlotte) of the “conservative” “David Hogg” (19, at UNC Charlotte) with his project of kindness, story on Fox46 in Charlotte.  He has more in common with “David Hogg I” than either admit. I wonder if they have met online.  I don’t run these kinds of funraisers myself for personal reasons out of scope today, but you can read the story and ponder it.  There is another teen, Max Reisinger, in Chapel Hill (at UNC I think) with a YT channel for a teen clothing company Perspectopia. “Real David Hogg” makes potholders as a business, so it sounds like there could be some synergy of they worked together (Charlotte + Raleigh-Durham).  My late cousin, who died of ALS at age 73 in early 2018, left behind a quilting business in Ohio that could have some synergy with it.  But David Hogg I may have the last word, "The young people will win". 

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Anti-trust litigation against social media companies


Brian Fung, of CNN Business (he often writes tech for the Washington Post) argues that Google will predicate its defense of DOJ antitrust litigation with “you” the consumer, that “you” aren’t harmed by higher prices.

Microsoft also argued that in the past.

But DOJ can argue that the Sherman Anti-Trust act prevents harm to competing businesses.  Sounds like a good essay question for a virtual AP History test.

There are competing platforms to YouTube (Twitch, which has real problems as we know, and BitChute). There are competing blogging platforms, and Wordpress is generally considered superior to Blogger.  Google did make it in the social networking business (it shut down Google+).

Tim Wu writes in the NYTimes that Google can’t “buy” its way out of anti-trust.

Facebook could face anti-trust litigation after the election.

The harm to consumers might be their concentrated power which makes them responsive to the radical Left (because of the sympathy of advertisers) with disproportionate deplatformings of right-of-center speakers – which sometimes spreads to financial institutions.  There is also a national security aspect to such concentration of users, attracting foreign influence as on elections.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Game manufacturers should have clearer licensing policies for users

 Video streaming and copyright is getting more attention.  Ian Corzine’s comments on the topic were discussed here Sept. 29.  Now Richard Hoeg and Virtual Legality weigh in after some muscle "twitches" (pun intended). 

Now Alex Hutchinson stirs a controversy by maintaining that streamers should pay game creators for licenses just like the pay for other content (the problems with music are much better known, especially after the fight in the EU recently).

Hoeg says that publishers should be offering reasonable licenses as a matter of course, rather than waiting and then issuing punitive takedowns (especially with Twitch)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Can appeal processes for content moderation work with less popular speakers?


The Cato Institute has a valuable article today, “To improve content moderation, formalize the collaborative appeal”.  

One basic problem is that if content moderators make a big mistake on a small channel, it is unlikely that an appeal will work unless the panel had a good following and good analytics.  I see this as part of the “pay its own way” (for ungated Internet content) problem that has become more apparent since around 2017 (when Trump started).  The Santa Clara Principles would demand that all voices have the chance for meaningful appeal.

The example given in “@MENA_Conflict” Twitter handle who was apparently flagged by a band of “Q” hunters.

There is also the mystery banning from Facebook of Bret Weinstein, an “evolutionary biologist” who had opposed the “whites stay off campus” incident at Evergreen college. And the notice from Facebook says it has already been reviewed. There is little information so far. 

Recently home-schooling advocate Julie Borowski’s Facebook page was banned (even her personal account) but restored after an appeal.

Update: Nov. 3: Weinstein explains on "The Unherd" that he has been reinstated on FB after the story went viral on Twitter. There seems to be a really difficult problem at Facebook in moderating heterodoxy.  There is more followup from Rebel Wisdom with Weinstein on my "IT Jobs" blog Nov. 5, 2020).  There is concern over moderates who don't buy "wokeness" being targeted. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Some misconceptions about the DMCA Safe Harbor and the counter notice "rights"


There seems to exist a misconception about the DMCA Safe Harbor that many people overlook, and it came up yesterday.

Look at this tweet thread from Sam Castrie, ACE Attorney.  Richard Hoeg (Virtual Legality) explains at the end of the thread that he has covered this problem in videos concerning the Sony/RLOU2 issue. (Later:  Hoeg has a 22-minute video explaining Twitch's handling of the issue.) 

Apparently Twitch does not normally allow takedown notices to be challenged by counter notices, but simply charges the speaker a copyright strike even for frivolous claims.  David Pakman had noted that about nine months ago when he tried to livestream Democratic debates off major networks and comment on them.  David had said they were public domain.  I have to say that Twitch’s statement (in the tweet) to the consumer is rather rude.

A platform enjoys immunity for transmitting infringing material merely by responding to the takedown notice and removing the material.  Depending on its terms of service or any contractual agreements with users of the platform, it may have liability for a wrongful takedown in some circumstances. But it’s pretty easy to write the terms of service or acceptable use policies so that it really won’t.  By allowing a processing a counter notice, however, the platform would avoid the second level of liability to the user.

YouTube normally does process counter notices.  The general idea is that the user has to be willing to respond to a lawsuit from the copyright holder, which may be a financial risk, especially if it is frivolous. In practice, YouTube finds it is better business to allow counter notices, and has been able in some cases to counterlitigate against really abusive copyright claims (Twitch apparently won’t do this  -- although Leonard French reports some new developments with Twitch in this new video).

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a useful guide to YouTube content removals.  Note that the direct URL sublink I quoted takes you to “deciding to challenge a dispute”.  Right above that, however, there is an important paragraph “Sending a DMCA Counter Notice”, explaining the user’s responsibilities and riks in challenging the claim.

It’s important to remember that content-id claims, which often happen because of incidental background music at events outdoors, do not result in takedowns or strikes.  They merely redirect any ad revenue from that video to the claimant, which may not be a significant matter to the user.  In some cases, some content-id claims prevent a video from being shown in some countries.  I have had a few of these, but I do not monetize.

It’s also well to keep in mind that for users in the EU, the climate is becoming restrictive in many countries because of the gradual implementation of the EU Copyright Directive.

Finally, in the US, it’s possible that the takedown process might be affected by the CASE Act, which has been recently reintroduced by Lindsey Graham in conjunction with a Section 230 reform already discussed here. I wonder if the Copyright Office would directly hear the lawsuit from a counter claim.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Andy Ngo documents the demands of the far Left that others can be compelled to join them (from Portland)

U.S. National Bank Building - Portland, Oregon

 “Revolution is messy”.

That’s the title of a recent tweet by Andy Ngo, and a slogan on one of the pictures you can click to expand.

The signs explain “dress scary” with black faces and masks in protests (most of all in Portland). Protesters don’t want to be identifiable.  In fact, in one protest in Washington DC, they got restaurant owners to ask patrons not to film them.  But, when you are in a public place, anyone has a right to film you (although not “indecently”).  This would comport with various solidarity efforts to raise bail money for then.

In a few cases, protesters have trespassed onto outdoor diners and harassed those who don’t join them with solidarity, and business owners have allowed it.  This has not happened to me, but I have only had a very few sit-down dining experiences (always outdoors) since the pandemic started. (In DC, by the way, they will take your cell number for contact tracing.)

Another sign (in the tweet) explains the “violence”.  They say they won’t target small businesses, except those associated with anti-poor or anti-black causes, like “gentrification”.  It says mistakes might happen, but then, something like, “we will do a GoFundMe for you”.

Imagine how humiliating it would be for someone like me to have a “gofundme”.  Oh, I am supposed to ‘get over that’.

Andy Ngo also reports graffiti signs on a building near the police station calling for his assassination (picture in a tweet).  It is not stated how long they have been there, but they might well have been put up repeatedly for some time. 

I had not been aware of this until yesterday.  But a few weeks ago a friend (on the ground in Portland at the time) asked me to delete immediately a tweet that connected him to Andy gratuitously. (I did so, and this is the only time something like this has happened.)  But at the time of that tweet, I was not aware of any such graffiti signs.  (I have not been to Portland or Seattle myself during the pandemic; in fact, I have not flown since October 2019 and canceled a trip to LA in late February out of COVID fears).

Andy Ngo had been controversial before, and got “milkshaked” and injured, I believe in 2019.  Most of his writings appear merely “conservative” to me.  He is a gay person of color who does not comply with intersectional expectations – and explains his family history of expropriation by Communist Vietnam after 1975.

A Sept. 3, 2019 article (Robby Soave) in Reason explains some of the controversy.  Andy Ngo seems to refute identarian self-concept entirely. 

I am skeptical of journalists and vloggers attributing all the unrest to “Black Lives Matter”, as the violence may be outside of the movement platform (although when you look at the BLM website, for all its recruiting, it doesn’t really have detailed policy proposals, other than maybe reparations.)  Many popular social media personalities promoted their trademark and black blank rectangle, sometimes even bail funds, only later to be embarrassed at the scale of the unrest.  But a major street in Washington DC will get the name.

I also must caution persons, I do not allow people do demand “quid pro quos” from me, that I must support them actively to be allowed to be online for example, which seems like a danger in the coming environment, especially if Biden wins and is not careful.   The idea would have been unheard of a year ago, until the pandemic started. Corporate America’s willingness to go along with this is shocking.  The mainstream does not understand the extralegal indignation of the extreme Left, on the theory it has nothing to lose.

Wikipedia embed of bank building in Portland, click for attribution.

Monday, October 19, 2020

"Herd Immunity" against COVID needs vaccination; "rapid tests" would require personal responsibilty; Teenager in Texas discovers a method to make an anti-SARS therapeutic


The Washington Post has a couple of “moralistic” pieces on herd immunity and “personal responsibility” today, with respect to coronavirus and anticipating the major early winter wave.

Tom Frieden warns “a half-million more people could die if America pursues a ‘herd immunity’ plan”. He does have a foundation, “Resolve to Save Lives”.  A crude form of herd immunity has been proposed by Trump adviser Scott Atlas (and removed from Twitter).

OK, let’s go over a few points.  There is de facto herd immunity to very mild recurring infections like common colds (including those from older coronaviruses) because they have adapted to our immune systems and, although reinfection is common, our (largely cellular) immune systems know how to keep the symptoms very mild.  Even “intestinal flu” (usually norovirus) tends to become mild as you grow older (despite some severe illnesses in childhood and young adulthood) as your immune system (mainly at the cellular level) learns to control it.  Some infections (especially meningitis B) are uncommon enough to be really dangerous if encountered, say by young people, and vaccination is necessary (as in a campus environment).

That’s right, more dangerous (and new, or less common) infections do require vaccination of a large part of the community for herd immunity to work.  The current vaccine trials do sound promising, but we are nervous about what we will hear, probably shortly after the elections, about the Phase 3 trials.  Immunity will not be permanent at first and will require boosters or annual shots, but cellular immunity in most healthy people should gradually become more permanent.

Current reputable journals are estimating that 1 in 50 Americans has had a detected exposure to SARS-CoV2.  It’s likely that the real percentage of Americans with small exposures (which could be detected by expensive T-cell challenge tests) is 5 to 10 times that).  We don’t know from organized data that “variolation” or “immunity by osmosis” really happens;  but the experience with protesters (outdoors, masked, but shouting and around other people all the time) and the journalists who film them seems to be pretty reassuring – they don’t have much COVID (although they do have a little).  But some of Trump’s more intimated gatherings (the Rose Garden) have spread the virus. The large rallies haven’t been shown to spread them as much.  In midwestern states, large student infection (often with very minimal symptoms) seems to be spreading to older people in indoor gatherings now, leading to the current spikes in cases.

It’s a matter of speculation if mask wearing means that exposures, when they happen, are very small and lead to gradual immunity.  It sounds quite likely, though not shown by data yet (Asian countries with a history of mask use had much flatter curves last Spring).  But CNN reports that less than half of all Americans wear masks properly where they are supposed to.  It could be very helpful if there were a concentrated effort to offer N95-style masks to the entire general public (which protects “you”).

John Barry has a similar piece (about "herd immunity") in the New York Times. 

Griff Witte and Tony Room have a parallel piece Monday, “As corornavirus cases rise, red-state governors resist measures to slow the spread, preach ‘personal responsibility’.”  They sound like Americans need a taste of Victoria (Australia)’s “Dictator Dan” and people can’t do the right things on their own unless their tribes do. "Rapid testing", discussed on these blogs as a strategy for almost complete re-opening, would require a lot of "personal responsibility" indeeed. 

This is no time for “pandemic fatigue”.

There is one more sudden item.  A 14-year-old girl Anoka Chebrolu, has a science-fair project (near Dallas, TX) which develops a model for a compound to bind to the SARS_CoV2 spike protein, in a manner known in parallel with influenza and other viruses, CNN story by Alaa Elass (in a CNN column called "The Good Stuff").  This could be big, on the scale of Jack Andraka's pancreatic cancer detection test. 

Picture: Landing at DFW airport in May 2018, my picture.  Frisco (where the science project was) is about 20 miles from here. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

If we use rapid testing and contact tracing to reopen, we have to be very careful about how we treat people who are suddenly quarantined or isolated


Back in the fall of 2014, there were a few cases of Ebola virus in people who came back from Liberia during the outbreak there.  There was one death, Thomas Eric Duncan, after a hospital in Dallas did not recognize that he could have Ebola soon enough (which should have been knowable from his travel history).  His fiancé, Troh, underwent substantial hardship following from her own quarantine, which had to be 21 days.

Afterwards, some landlords would not rent to her, and apparently all of her personal possessions in her original apartment had to be “incinerated” as part of decontamination, according to this news story from an NBC affiliate in DFW.

It is true that some news accounts attribute some of this to racism, and that needs attention. But the main concern is the extreme treatment given to her because of her exposure to a dangerous infectious disease, in this case from a personal (romantic) relationship.

I bring up the story to highlight the need to be very careful in our policies as to how persons into isolation or quarantine for COVID will be handled.

I do recall reading that personal possessions were incinerated in many cases of quarantine or isolation in China.  I’m not sure of other countries.

We all know that individuals and families are having major financial setbacks, even wipeout and bankruptcy, from the business closures due to lockdowns.

However in some cases forced quarantine or isolation could cause separation of the individual from their tools or assets that will enable them to continue their lives after the isolation ends, particularly if they are moved outside of their home and not allowed to bring things (contamination) or if the contents of their home were somehow dangerous. 

If we want to get back to work, we will have to force people to have rapid tests much more often and have them available to businesses (as on smart phones).  Some countries use smart phone tracking as a major part of effective contact tracing and monitoring of quarantined individuals.  We will have to be extremely careful in telling people what to expect if we start getting serious about continuous testing. You could destroy lives completely and force people into the shame of begging.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Example of a defamation case against a blogger reported; Section 230 will have a major hearing before Senate Commerce Committee Oct 28

There was relatively little known case settled in 2017 where a blogger Susan Shannon, herself a former West Point Cadet, had (in 2013 personal blog post) accused a former cadet in the US military of sexual assault in 1986.  The officer was up for promotion, and the Army, having seen her post, investigated and cleared him.  But the officer felt humiliated and retired.  The Army Times story is on the matter is compelling.  The blogger was forced to pat actual and punitive damages by a jury.

It’s interesting that the blog post apparently was widely read.

Scott Leffler posted the story very recently on Facts World.

One moral of the story is that individual content creators (including bloggers) do get sued sometimes for defamation.  There have been problems in the past for false or facetious suits for supposed copyright infringement (Righthaven). 

And platform liability shielding (both Section 230 for torts, and DMCA safe harbor for copyright) is getting weaker, as the political climate becomes more polarized.

Scott Galloway (an NYU Business school professor) appeared on Smerconish Saturday morning (Oct 17) and discussed the upcoming hearings Wed. Oct 28 before the Senate Commerce Committee, as noted here.  The public will be invited to watch the hearing by livestream.

Galloway said on Smerconish that the biggest problem is that algorithms reward sensational content with more ads, until tech companies censor the most inflammatory content (like the recent prohibitions about Qanon). 

 One issue often overlooked is hosting companies, who need only the first part of the shield, because they generally don't monitor content.  Instead they have AUP's that prohibit some specific content (usually patently unlawful content, online pharmacies, terror recruiting, sometimes weapons sales).  

Smerconish’s poll on whether social media companies should be shielded from liability on the way they police their platforms showed that the public wants the liability shield lifted.   The public does not value free speech for its own sake, the public wants more intersectional equity.  I expect to see Electronic Frontier Foundation opine on this upcoming hearing very soon. 

Friday, October 16, 2020

Virologist explains how the world could have been ready for SARS-CoV-2; Pfizer's statement on possible emergency use of vaccine


I came across a post on the Virology Blog by Vincent Racaniello, “The SARS-CoV-2 Pandemic Could Have Been Prevented”.  

Some years ago, after the experience with the original SARS, there would have been the opportunity to develop a molecular drug that neutralizes one particular RNA polymerase that is common to all of these coronaviruses, the writer says.  A similar, if more speculative effort, could have been used for the vaccine (which would be similar to Moderna). 

The writer says the work was not gone because governments and pharma companies could not justify the cost without a more specific threat.  Yet, given the burden on the civilian population of all the lockdowns, this could have been viewed as a national security issue comparable to that of nuclear and perhaps power grid (EMP and solar storm) security.  It could have been viewed as part of DOD or Homeland Security.

With such a treatment, developed internationally, China could have put down the epidemic in December 2019.  It’s ironic that some American teen and young adult computer “nerds” were finding out about the threat (probably by knowing how to navigate China’s web) before our own national security apparatus (Trump) took it seriously.

For civilians affected so horribly, I am still reminded about the moral parallel to the draft during the Vietnam war, if you believe the war was unnecessary.

Here is a statement from Pfizer’s CEO Alfred Bourla on the timing of a possible release of the vaccine. Submission of data to the FDA cannot happen until November 15 or so, and we don’t yet have a trial 3 answer on effectiveness.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

NYPost and Biden email scandal tests social media "political" bias; Also, YouTube and "Q"; Clarence Thomas and Section 230 "originalism"

I lived in New York City 1974-1978 and was used to seeing the New York Post on subway newsstands (along with the leaner New York Daily News) and pretty much understood it to be like a tabloid (although more legitimate than, say, the National Enquirer) and tending toward conservatives (although now protective of China). But it still, like Fox, constitutes “legacy corporate journalism”.   

I’d add that even before the Internet and WWW we had “click bait”, or grocery-store-bait.  Sometimes smaller local papers (especially conservative ones) published important stories not widely known.  This was the case in August 1993 when I was in Colorado in vacation and noticed a significant story on the military gay ban in a Fort Collins paper that had escaped the media.  It would influence my decision to write a book.   Before the AIDS epidemic in 1981, there were smaller papers warning of a major problem to come.

So recently The NY Post published a story with an email purporting to show how Hunter Biden had introduced a questionable Ukrainian businessman to his father, now the Democratic nominee for president (almost by acclamation after the primary season collapsed on March 2 under pressure from coronavirus).

Then (as the NY Post itself reports) Twitter and Facebook began suppressing the story, leading to the obvious accusation that the social media companies are determined to do everything possible to defeat Trump.

As Politico reports, Twitter says that linking to the story (or possibly retweeting a link) violates its policy on showing hacked materials.  But it relevant that the emails apparently were leaked from a repair shop in Delaware (The Hill) -- remember when you leave electronics with a repair shop you sign a form noting that child pornography would be turned over to authorities, so there is always a possible "privacy" problem. 

But it is very unusual for social media companies to punish users “merely” for hyperlinks (unless obviously objectionable, like terrorist promotion or child pornography).  However it has happened.

Last fall, Facebook banned journalist Ford Fischer from hyperlinking for 60 hours after hyperlinking to a conservative site criticizing YouTube’s demonetization of his News2Share video channel after the Maza-Crowder fiasco in June 2019.  This was never explained.  I tried linking to the same site and was not disciplined. 

Also, YouTube has tightened its policy in "conspiracy theory" content intended to target others (and this refers probably to Qanon and pizzagate). The YouTube blog post on this is here

 Also, Viva Frei has discussed a gratuitous statement by Justice Clarence Thomas on Section 230 in denying certiorari in a case MalwareBytes v. Enigma Software (Axios). 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Schiffmann (creator of a major coronavirus tracker) opens a new site on 2020 election issues and voting; YouTube differentiates copyright takedowns from content-id claims


Avi Schiffmann, who created and runs a major coronavirus tracker, has created a new website examining each presidential candidate’s position on major issues, called “WhoTo

The site is broken into various policy areas with questions, and a yes or no response will highlight the supporting candidate’s position and dim the non-supporting.  On most issues, Trump and Biden are opposing.

The issues are limited to those that are open now.  There is a question on transgender people in the military because that is not settled;  there are no panels for gay marriage or the older don’t ask don’t tell because those are regarded as settled. Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s comments yesterday on “settled law” leaves open the idea that some issues are not as settled as we think.  The Affordable Care Act still hasn’t settled severability, and two justices wrote a gratuitous letter on gay marriage after turning down a case from Kim Davis.

I did not see any pandemic related questions (as to lockdowns) because these are seen as temporary.  I didn’t see any Internet and free speech or user-generated content questions, like Section 230.  I had created a pseudo-database very similar in spirit to this back in 1998 on a legacy site, such as here. This site also reminds me of the organization Braver Angels (it used to be "Better Angels") and I have gont to their forums. 

One other topic.

Here is a useful recent video from YouTube explaining the difference between copyright takedowns and content-id claims.  Copyright takedowns result in copyright strikes, whereas content-id claims do not.  I have gotten content-id claims over incidental background music outdoors!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Yelp! will flag businesses with reports of racism, but there are already reports of problems

Yelp! has announced it will post racism alerts on the pages for business’s reviews, with a heightened level when there is credible evidence (from reliable media sources) of racist behavior.

There are two levels, a “Public Information Alert”, and a “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert”, the second of which requires more corroboration. .

Kim Lyons has a fairly detailed story in The Verge, which includes mention of tools that can be used by black-owned businesses to identify as such.  There is some controversy over when behavior is really viewed as racist (microaggressions). 

Louis Rossmann reports a fake Yelp review against his business so obvious because the poster used a picture of George Floyd and claimed to live in Minnesota, when Louis (and his cat) is in NYC.   Yelp wpi;d not take this new account review down.

Monday, October 12, 2020

New bill on Section 230 incorporates the CASE Act, not sure why this was done


Electronic Frontier Foundation reports that the Case Act has been reintroduced in the Senate as part of Online Content Policy Moderation Act, in a story by Elliot Harmon, whose title calls the bill an unconstitutional mess.  

The bill is S. 4632, introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Apparently it (CASE) needs to go through committee again. Once (and if) it passes, it would take some number of months for the Copyright Office to set it up (and hopefully take comments). For what it is worth, I have visited that office in person before.  It is on Independence Ave., very near the LOC and Supreme Court.

EFF notes that Section 230 does protect platforms’ right to moderate content (like remove extremism what a platform believes as attempting to radicalize users or as “harmful”) without incurring extra downstream liability risk for the user content.

It also notes that the CASE Act, if not very carefully implemented, could expose ordinary users to huge administrative fines for lack of due process or careful notification procedures of complaints, inviting copyright trolls (like Righthaven in the past).

The CASE Act had passed the House in 2019 and come out of the Senate Judiciary Committee but apparently been tabled because of the distractions from impeachment, COVID, and the election. Combining it with a bill on Section 230 sounds weird, because Section 230 already has competing bills (the Earn It Act) getting attention.

 I have submitted a stub edit to Wikipedia identifying the combination of the bill into S 4632, Sept 21, 2020, as introduced by Senator Graham (identifying his party and state). Wikipedia normally reformats edits to its standards before publication.  Also, one other little story. 

 Facebook is trying to get out of the moderation business by encouraging users to create their own groups to do the moderation. Ian Corzine has a video short on the process. 

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Assessing "privilege", wokeness, and externally caused disasters (pandemic)


OK, we are hearing authorities and major media describe the extreme right as a possibly grave threat to US nation security and ordinary citizens, possibly on the level of radical Islam of a few years ago.

The same is not being said of the very radical Left.

That’s true in general.  The large attacks (Christchurch, El Paso, even Charlottesville) have come from people who do believe in white supremacy or subscribe to oddly collectivist ideologies like “the great replacement” (population demographics). But authoritarian leaders overseas (even Putin) push these ideas.

But there have been mass attacks from far Leftists (Dayton Ohio) and isolated shootings. 

But generally the radical Left tries to “make it personal” by social harassment (cancel culture), or by vandalizing of businesses or trespassing near homes, or by “forced” recruitment, like in outdoor dining areas.  There is a certain vindictiveness that goes beyond just indignation. This is also reflected in a lot of street crime.

Policy is a mixture of economics and philosophy.  Actually, to have steady capitalism work, you have to have some stability and you do have to provide a decent safety net.  If we had single payer health care (or strong hybrids like Germany or Switzerland) the “ideology” of health care would no longer be controversial (although the market value of hospital holding and maybe pharmaceuticals would be).

Inequality, when excessive, makes a society unstable.  We used to talk about total non-discrimination, equality of opportunity, and personal responsibility.  Those ideas looked promising in the late 90s. 

We’ve seen the resentment of people in underclasses (on both the right and left, and both theological and secular) become more personal precisely because they now feel looked down on, shunned.  Sandel’s ("The Tyranny of Merit") both talked about conditional equality and personal humility at the end;  I have talked about an idea that I would call “proportionate equity”, although Sandel would think it is still too preoccupied with just deserts.  Maybe some would call it just “social equity”.

As Sandel pointed out early, such attitudes drive non-performers back into tribalism, welcoming of authoritarianism and cultist beliefs and anti-science. It also drives them into ordinary crime, or in extreme cases, terrorism.

But it is a big deal when people use inherited assets (which they did not earn) to develop the capacity to influence policy without having proportionate responsibility for others (or “skin in the game”).  The progressive Left really could make a point about going after unearned wealth (although state laws on trusts won’t change easily) or even look more into expectations of community engagement at a personal level as a part of a person’s individualized “social credit”.  This could really change things if pursued. But instead the progressive Left is caught in the rhetorical convenience of “critical theory” (or applied as “critical race theory”) as well as intersectionality, simply a Marxist reduction into oppressors v. oppressed. 

Now, with the pandemic: it may have not have been as easy to prevent the carnage in the US with a total national lockdown early as the Left clams (not even China did that).  But we do have a system where the people with money can protect themselves (and work from home) and depend on the low-wage labor of those who have to take much more risk, as we see with the explosion of deaths and severe cases with PoC.  That can argue for future lockdowns that are much more severe, and make everyone share the loss of standard of living more equitably (and maybe learn to fix things yourself if others can’t come into your apartment because you’re on quarantine).  This could wind up threatening a lot of initiative for self-expression that we have seen on the Internet – partly because of lack of control of harm (the radicalization) but also because it tends to break up solidarity demanded now by progressives.  The world in a couple years may not be as welcoming to the idea that a teenager on his own can develop one of the world’s leading coronavirus trackers without organizing people first.  Indeed, the “quarantine trap” problem could carry with it the idea that when people (like me) set up their own web worlds, they have to recruit proxies to have their backs because they never know when they could be locked away even from their work (in the more dire circumstances). 

There is an aspect to “privilege” that we need to talk about separately, and that is well-roundedness, a topic for a future Wordpress post.

Friday, October 09, 2020

What are the rules on deceptive reporting of news, including use of backgrounds? What about selfies when voting?


Ian Corzine examines the question, is it lawful to report news with a simulated background even though you are at home, as during COVID?

He gives an example of a woman who appears to be reporting outdoors in Washington with crowd and protest noise, but then her cat meows during the video.

He says this is perfectly legal.  But many people believe this is fake news.  Facebook and YouTube could decide to crack down on it.

Later today he will do a video on whether it is legal to make a ballot selfie (check his channel late Friday Oct. 9). NOTE:  The video is done and is here.  Generally it should be OK, but many states forbid it, and Corzine thinks the right to show yourself voting later online may be protected by by the First Amendment (which would overturn those laws).  He also discusses the security issues of possible online voting in the future (2-factor authentication).  Some people are concerned that selfies could encourage paying for votes. 

I am quite concerned about the reports of how (especially right-wing, apparently) terror groups, as with the recent Michigan plot, have used the Internet.  But so far this does not appear to have happened widely in popular social media, which has been cracking down especially on “white nationalism”, etc as well as previously radical Islam;  it appears to be related to encrypted messages and dark web activities. Note: Later Friday morning, this article by Charlies Warzel appeared in the NYTimes on the role of some FB private groups, with an overview of the problem, so this needs a detailed look. 

 I've updated a previous post (March 17, the day the lockdowns started) about influencers, including a statement about identifying your post or video as an "ad". 

 John Fish has a video, dated Sept 19 and made at his new facility in Kitchener Ontario, about how deep fakes are made and spotted. 

Thursday, October 08, 2020

IT service business explains the arbitrary effect of lockdowns on individuals, can threaten a "life's work" if problems can't be fixed


Louis Rossmann describes a situation in Montclair NJ where a restaurant owner refused to obey a governor’s order of staying within 25% capacity.

He does present the libertarian argument that people could make their own decisions as to whether to go into a crowded restaurant.  If course, then, we have the “carrier is a cancer cell” argument.

He also presents a narrative where an elderly lady showed up at his hardware repair business (in New York State) needing to have a computer fixed.  She had written a draft of her book and apparently not backed it up.  (My own practice:  I use Carbonite, and usually have 3 thumb drive backups of my own vital files, including book or screenplay manuscripts and music files, sometimes I will take one backup with me on trips – not as important right now during stay-at-home). 

Louis did not know if he had been following the letter of Cuomo’s stay-at-home and business closure orders, as he fixes hardware and software tech support for ordinary consumers.  In Virginia, Northam’s order did allow computer retail and service businesses to stay open (although Best Buy limited everything to curbside in April and May).  He also knew that the customer’s visit might have violated the governor’s order as inessential.

But she could not take the risk of having lost the only copy of her work.

I would be concerned when involuntary quarantines happen, or lockdowns, that people could be cut off from their work and lose it.  If you are taken to a hotel for quarantine, can you take your laptop and other personal effects?  What happens overseas? 

Esther Davidowitz explains the restaurant matter in the North Jersey times.

Rossmann has a feline companion, a “Mr. Clinton, in his videos.