Archive for the ‘Free Speech’ Category

Google Doc Lock – Google As Censor

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Monica Chin reports in Google is locking people out of documents, and you should be worried, Google’s role as censor has taken an ugly turn.

From the post:


“This morning, we made a code push that incorrectly flagged a small percentage of Google docs as abusive, which caused those documents to be automatically blocked,” the company told Mashable. “A fix is in place and all users should have access to their docs.”

Google added, “We apologize for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again.”

Still, the incident raises important questions about the control Google Docs users have over their own content. The potential to lose access to an important document because it hasn’t yet been polished to remove certain references or sensitive material has concrete implications for the way Google Docs is used.

For many who work in media and communications, Google Docs serves as a drafting tool, allowing writers and editors to collaborate. And, of course, it’s necessary and important for writers to retain ownership of documents that are early versions of their final product — no matter how raw — so as to put a complete draft through the editorial process.

Nobody should be writing hate speech or death threats in their Google docs — or anywhere.

But if Google’s flagging system is so glitchy as to incorrectly target other content, a Google Docs user on a deadline needs to be on their toes. Bale tweeted that she no longer plans to write in Google Docs. Until Google fully resolves this issue, perhaps other journalists should follow her lead.

Chin’s suggestion:

Nobody should be writing hate speech or death threats in their Google docs — or anywhere.

Is clearly not the answer to Google censorship.

What if you are a novelist who is unfortunate enough to be using Google Docs to write about white supremacy in the Trump White House? Unlikely I know (sarcasm) but it isn’t hard to think of fictional content that qualifies as “hate speech” or “death threats.” Nor should novelists be required to mark their writings as “fiction” to escape Google censorship.

A Google Docs lock has No Notice, No Opportunity to Be Heard Prior to Lockout, and No Transparent Process.

Three very good reasons to not use Google Docs at all.

Defeating Israeli Predictive Policing Algorithm

Wednesday, October 4th, 2017

The Israeli algorithm criminalizing Palestinians for online dissent by Nadim Nashif and Marwa Fatafta.

From the post:

The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) arrest of West Bank human rights defender Issa Amro for a Facebook post last month is the latest in the the PA’s recent crackdown on online dissent among Palestinians. Yet it’s a tactic long used by Israel, which has been monitoring social media activity and arresting Palestinians for their speech for years – and has recently created a computer algorithm to aid in such oppression.

Since 2015, Israel has detained around 800 Palestinians because of content they wrote or shared online, mainly posts that are critical of Israel’s repressive policies or share the reality of Israeli violence against Palestinians. In the majority of these cases, those detained did not commit any attack; mere suspicion was enough for their arrest.

The poet Dareen Tatour, for instance, was arrested on October 2015 for publishing a poem about resistance to Israel’s 50-year-old military rule on her Facebook page. She spent time in jail and has been under house arrest for over a year and a half. Civil rights groups and individuals in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), and abroad have criticized Israel’s detention of Tatour and other Palestinian internet users as violations of civil and human rights.

Israeli officials have accused social media companies of hosting and facilitating what they claim is Palestinian incitement. The government has pressured these companies, most notably Facebook, to remove such content. Yet the Israeli government is mining this content. Israeli intelligence has developed a predictive policing system – a computer algorithm – that analyzes social media posts to identify Palestinian “suspects.”

One response to Israel’s predictive policing is to issue a joint statement: Predictive Policing Today: A Shared Statement of Civil Rights Concerns.

Another response, undertaken by Nadim Nashif and Marwa Fatafta, is to document the highly discriminatory and oppressive use of Israel’s predictive policing.

Both of those responses depend upon 1) the Israeli government agreeing it has acted wrongfully, and 2) the Israeli government in fact changing its behavior.

No particular reflection on the Israeli government but I don’t trust any government claiming, unverified, to have changed its behavior. How would you ever know for sure? Trusting any unverified answer from any government (read party) is a fool’s choice.

Discovering the Israeli algorithm for social media based arrests

What facts do we have about Israeli monitoring of social media?

  1. Identity of those arrested on basis of social media posts
  2. Content posted prior to their arrests
  3. Content posted by others who were not arrested
  4. Relationships with others, etc.

Think of the problem as being similar to breaking the Engima machine during WWII. We don’t have to duplicate the algorithm in use by Israel, we only have to duplicate it output. We have on hand some of the inputs and the outcomes of those inputs to start our research.

Moreover, as Israel uses social media monitoring, present guesses at the algorithm can be refined on the basis of more arrests.

Knowing Israeli’s social media algorithm is cold comfort to arrested Palestinians, but that knowledge can help prevent future arrests or make the cost of the method too high to be continued.

Social Media Noise Based on Israeli Social Media Algorithm

What makes predictive policing algorithms effective is their narrowing of the field of suspects to a manageable number. If instead of every male between the ages of 16 and 30 you have 20 suspects with scattered geographic locations, you can reduce the number of viable suspects fairly quickly.

But that depends upon being able to distinguish between all the males between the ages of 16 and 30. What if based on the discovered parallel algorithm to the Israeli predictive policing one, a group of 15,000 or 20,000 young men were “normalized” so they present the Israeli algorithm with the same profile?

If instead of 2 or 3 people who seem to be angry enough to commit violence, you have real and fake, 10,000 people right on the edge of extreme violence.

Judicious use of social media noise, informed by a parallel to the Israeli social media algorithm, could make the Israeli algorithm useless in practice. There would be too much noise for it to be effective. Or the resources required to eliminate the noise would be prohibitively expensive.

For predictive policing algorithms based on social media, “noise” is its Achilles heel.

PS: Actually defeating a predictive policing algorithm, to say nothing of generating noise on social media, isn’t a one man band sort of project. Experts in data mining, predictive algorithms, data analysis, social media plus support personnel. Perhaps a multi-university collaboration?

PPS: I don’t dislike the Israeli government any more or less than any other government. It was happenstance Israel was the focus of this particular article. I see the results of such research as applicable to all other governments and private entities (such as Facebook, Twitter).

Facebook Hiring 1,000+ Censors

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

Facebook‘s assault on free speech, translated into physical terms:

That is a scene of violence as Spanish police assault voters on Catalonia independence.

Facebook is using social and mainstream media to cloak its violence in high-minded terms:

  1. “…thwart deceptive ads crafted to knock elections off course.” Facebook knows the true “course” of elections?
  2. “…hot-button issues to turn people against one another ahead of last year’s US election.” You never saw the Willy Horton ad?
  3. “Many appear to amplify racial and social divisions.” Ditto on the Willy Horton ad
  4. “…exacerbating political clashes ahead of and following the 2016 US presidential election.” Such as: 10 Most-Shared 2012 Republican Campaign Ads on YouTube
  5. “…ads that touted fake or misleading news or drove traffic to pages with such messages…” And Facebook is going to judge this? The same Facebook that knows “how” elections are supposed to go?

Quotations from Facebook beefing up team to thwart election manipulation by Glenn Chapman.

Like the Spanish police, Facebook has chosen the side of oppression and censorship, however much it wants to hide that fact.

When you think of Facebook, think of police swinging their batons, beating, kicking protesters.

Choose your response to Facebook and anyone proven to be a Facebook censor accordingly.

Female Journalists Fight Online Harrassment [An Anti-Censorship Response]

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

(Before you tweet, pro or con, I take everything Ricchiari reports as true and harassment of women as an issue that must be addressed.)

Female Journalists Fight Online Harrassment by Sherry Ricchiardi.

From the post:

Online tormentors have called Swedish broadcaster Alexandra Pascalidou a “dirty whore,” a “Greek parasite” (a reference to her ethnic heritage), a “stupid psycho,” “ugly liar” and “biased hater.” They have threatened her with gang rape and sexual torture in hideous detail.

But Pascalidou has chosen to fight back by speaking out publicly, as often as she can, against the online harassment faced by female journalists. In November 2016, she testified before a European commission about the impact of gender-based trolling. “(The perpetrators’) goal is our silence,” she told the commission. “It’s censorship hidden behind the veil of freedom of speech. Their freedom becomes our prison.”

In April 2017, Pascalidou appeared on a panel at the International Journalism Festival in Italy, discussing how to handle sexist attacks online. She described the vitriol and threats as “low-intense, constant warfare.”

“Some say switch it off, it’s just online,” she told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It doesn’t count. But it does count, and it’s having a real impact on our lives. Hate hurts. And it often fuels action IRL (in real life).”

Other media watchdogs have taken notice. International News Safety Institute director Hannah Storm has called online harassment “the scourge of the moment in our profession” and a “major threat to the safety and security of women journalists.”

“When women journalists are the target, online harassment quickly descends into sexualized hate or threats more often than with men,” she added. “Women are more likely to be subjected to graphic sexual and physical violence.”

You will be hard pressed to find a more radical supporter of free speech than myself. I don’t accept the need for censorship of any content, for any reason, by any public or private entity.

Having said that, users should be enabled to robustly filter speech they encounter, so as to avoid harassment, threats, etc. But they are filtering their information streams and not mine. There’s a difference.

Online harassment is consistent with the treatment of women IRL (in real life). Cultural details will vary but the all encompassing abuse described in Woman at point zero by Nawāl Saʻdāwī can be found in any culture.

The big answer is to change the treatment of women in society, which in turn will reduce online harassment. But big answers don’t provide relief to women who are suffering online now. Ricchiardi lists a number of medium answers, the success of which will vary from one newsroom to another.

I have a small answer that isn’t seeking a global, boil-the-ocean answer.

Follow female journalists on Twitter and other social media. Don’t be silent in the face of public harassment.

You can consider one or more of the journalists from Leading women journalists – A public list by Ellie Van Houtte.

Personally I’m looking for local or not-yet-leading female journalists to follow. A different perspective on the news than my usual feed plus an opportunity to be supportive in a hostile environment.

Being supportive requires no censorship and supplies aid where it is needed the most.

Yes?

EU Humps Own Leg – Demands More Censorship From Tech Companies

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

In its mindless pursuit of the marginal and irrelevant, the EU is ramping up pressure on tech companies censor more speech.

Security Union: Commission steps up efforts to tackle illegal content online

Brussels, 28 September 2017

The Commission is presenting today guidelines and principles for online platforms to increase the proactive prevention, detection and removal of illegal content inciting hatred, violence and terrorism online.

As a first step to effectively fight illegal content online, the Commission is proposing common tools to swiftly and proactively detect, remove and prevent the reappearance of such content:

  • Detection and notification: Online platforms should cooperate more closely with competent national authorities, by appointing points of contact to ensure they can be contacted rapidly to remove illegal content. To speed up detection, online platforms are encouraged to work closely with trusted flaggers, i.e. specialised entities with expert knowledge on what constitutes illegal content. Additionally, they should establish easily accessible mechanisms to allow users to flag illegal content and to invest in automatic detection technologies.
  • Effective removal: Illegal content should be removed as fast as possible, and can be subject to specific timeframes, where serious harm is at stake, for instance in cases of incitement to terrorist acts. The issue of fixed timeframes will be further analysed by the Commission. Platforms should clearly explain to their users their content policy and issue transparency reports detailing the number and types of notices received. Internet companies should also introduce safeguards to prevent the risk of over-removal.
  • Prevention of re-appearance: Platforms should take measures to dissuade users from repeatedly uploading illegal content. The Commission strongly encourages the further use and development of automatic tools to prevent the re-appearance of previously removed content.

… (emphasis in original)

Taking Twitter as an example, EU terrorism concerns are generously described as coke-fueled fantasies.

Twitter Terrorism By The Numbers

Don’t take my claims about Twitter as true without evidence! Such as statistics gathered on Twitter and Twitter’s own reports.

Twitter Statistics:

Total Number of Monthly Active Twitter Users: 328 million (as of 8/12/17)

Total Number of Tweets sent per Day: 500 million (as of 1/24/17)

Number of Twitter Daily Active Users: 100 million (as of 1/24/17)

Government terms of service reports Jan – Jun 30, 2017

Reports 338 reports on 1200 accounts suspended for promotion of terrorism.

Got that? From Twitter’s official report, 1200 accounts suspended for promotion of terrorism.

I read that to say 1200 accounts out of 328 million monthly users.

Aren’t you just shaking in your boots?

But it gets better, Twitter has a note on promotion of terrorism:

During the reporting period of January 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017, a total of 299,649 accounts were suspended for violations related to promotion of terrorism, which is down 20% from the volume shared in the previous reporting period. Of those suspensions, 95% consisted of accounts flagged by internal, proprietary spam-fighting tools, while 75% of those accounts were suspended before their first tweet. The Government TOS reports included in the table above represent less than 1% of all suspensions in the reported time period and reflect an 80% reduction in accounts reported compared to the previous reporting period.

We have suspended a total of 935,897 accounts in the period of August 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017.

That’s more than the 1200 reported by governments, but comparing 935,897 accounts total, against 328 million monthly users, assuming all those suspensions were warranted (more on that in a minute), “terrorism” accounts were less than 1/3 of 1% of all Twitter accounts.

The EU is urging more pro-active censorship over less than 1/3 of 1% of all Twitter accounts.

Please help the EU find something more trivial and less dangerous to harp on.

The Dangers of Twitter Censorship

Known Unknowns: An Analysis of Twitter Censorship in Turkey by Rima S. Tanash, et. al, studies Twitter censorship in Turkey:

Twitter, widely used around the world, has a standard interface for government agencies to request that individual tweets or even whole accounts be censored. Twitter, in turn, discloses country-by-country statistics about this censorship in its transparency reports as well as reporting specific incidents of censorship to the Chilling Effects web site. Twitter identifies Turkey as the country issuing the largest number of censorship requests, so we focused our attention there. Collecting over 20 million Turkish tweets from late 2014 to early 2015, we discovered over a quarter million censored tweets—two orders of magnitude larger than what Twitter itself reports. We applied standard machine learning / clustering techniques, and found the vast bulk of censored tweets contained political content, often critical of the Turkish government. Our work establishes that Twitter radically under-reports censored tweets in Turkey, raising the possibility that similar trends hold for censored tweets from other countries as well. We also discuss the relative ease of working around Twitter’s censorship mechanisms, although we can not easily measure how many users take such steps.

Are you surprised that:

  1. Censors lie about the amount of censoring done, or
  2. Censors censor material critical of governments?

It’s not only users in Turkey who have been victimized by Twitter censorship. Alfons López Tena has great examples of unacceptable Twitter censorship in: Twitter has gone from bastion of free speech to global censor.

You won’t notice Twitter censorship if you don’t care about Arab world news or Catalan independence. And, after all, you really weren’t interested in those topics anyway. (sarcasm)

Next Steps

The EU wants an opaque, private party to play censor for content on a worldwide basis. In pursuit of a gnat in the flood of social media content.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, as long as you don’t care about the Arab world, Catalan independence, or well, criticism of government in general. You don’t care about those things, right? Otherwise you might be a terrorist in the eyes of the EU and Twitter.

The EU needs to be distracted from humping its own leg and promoting censorship of social media.

Suggestions?

PS: Other examples of inappropriate Twitter censorship abound but the answer to all forms of censorship is NO. Clear, clean, easy to implement. Don’t want to see content? Filter your own feed, not mine.

571 threats to press freedom in first half of 2017 [Hiding the Perpetrators?]

Tuesday, September 26th, 2017

Mapping Media Freedom verifies 571 threats to press freedom in first half of 2017

First Limit on Coverage

When reading this report, which is excellent coverage of assaults on press freedom, bear in mind the following limitation:

Mapping Media Freedom identifies threats, violations and limitations faced by members of the press throughout European Union member states, candidates for entry and neighbouring countries.

You will not read about US-based and other threats to press freedom that fall outside the purview of Mapping Media Freedom.

From the post:

Index on Censorship’s database tracking violations of press freedom recorded 571 verified threats and limitations to media freedom during the first two quarters of 2017.

During the first six months of the year: three journalists were murdered in Russia; 155 media workers were detained or arrested; 78 journalists were assaulted; 188 incidents of intimidation, which includes psychological abuse, sexual harassment, trolling/cyberbullying and defamation, were documented; 91 criminal charges and civil lawsuits were filed; journalists and media outlets were blocked from reporting 91 times; 55 legal measures were passed that could curtail press freedom; and 43 pieces of content were censored or altered.

“The incidents reported to the Mapping Media Freedom in the first half of 2017 tell us that the task of keeping the public informed is becoming much harder and more dangerous for journalists. Even in countries with a tradition of press freedom journalists have been harassed and targeted by actors from across the political spectrum. Governments and law enforcement must redouble efforts to battle impunity and ensure fair treatment of journalists,” Hannah Machlin, Mapping Media Freedom project manager, said.

This is a study of threats, violations and limitations to media freedom throughout Europe as submitted to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform. It is made up of two reports, one focusing on Q1 2017 and the other on Q2 2017.

You can obtain the report in PDF format.

Second Limit on Coverage

As I read about incident after incident, following the links, I only see “the prosecutor,” “the police,” “traffic police,” “its publisher,” “the publisher of the channel,” and similar opaque prose.

Surely “the prosecutor” and “the publisher” was known to the person reporting the incident. If that is the case, then why hide the perpetrators? What does that gain for freedom of the press?

Am I missing some unwritten rule that requires members of the press to be perpetual victims?

Exposing the perpetrators to the bright light of public scrutiny, enables local and remote defenders of press freedom to join in defense of the press.

Yes?

Torrent Sites: Preserving “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material”

Friday, September 22nd, 2017

I mentioned torrent sites in Responding to Theresa May on Free Speech as a way to help preserve and spread “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material.”

My bad, I forgot to post a list of torrent sites for you to use!

Top 15 Most Popular Torrent Sites 2017 reads in part:

The list of the worlds most popular torrent sites has seen a lot of changes in recent months. While several torrent sites have shut down, some newcomers joined the list. With the shutdown of Torrentz.eu and Kickass Torrents, two of the largest sites in the torrenting scene disappeared. Since then, Torrentz2 became a popular successor of Torrentz.eu and Katcr.co is the community driven version of the former Kickass Torrents.

Finding torrents can be stressful as most of the top torrent sites are blocked in various countries. A torrent proxy let you unblock your favorite site in a few seconds.

While browsing the movies, music or tv torrents sites list you can find some good alternatives to The Pirate Bay, Extratorrent, RARBG and other commonly known sites. This list features the most popular torrent download sites:

The list changes over time so check back at Torrents.me.

As a distributed hash storage system, torrent preserves content across all the computers that downloaded the content.

Working towards the mention of torrent sites making Theresa May‘s sphincter eat her underpants. (HT, Dilbert)

Responding to Theresa May on Free Speech

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

Google and Facebook among tech giants Theresa May will order to remove extremist content by Rob Merrick.

Theresa May and her cadre of censorious thugs pose a clear and present danger to free speech on the Internet. No news there but the danger she poses has increased.

From the post:

The world’s biggest technology firms will be told to take down terrorist propaganda in as little as one hour, as Theresa May seeks to dramatically reduce the danger of it inspiring further atrocities.

The Prime Minister will also challenge them to develop technology to prevent “evil material” ever appearing on the web, as they are forced to defend their efforts in public for the first time.

Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Twitter are among the firms who will face their critics in New York, having agreed to set up a Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism.

At the heart of the plan is a target for terror propaganda to be taken down within one to two hours – the crucial period during which most of it is disseminated.

My response to Theresa May’s latest assault on free speech doesn’t depend on the “details” of her proposal. Proposing to suppress “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material” is a clear violation of free speech. What is “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material” is left free for individuals to judge for themselves, in a free society.

No one should dignify her assault on free speech by debating the details of how much or what kind of free speech will be suppressed. Her request for censoring of any speech, should be rejected unconditionally.

Sadly Merrick reports that censorship by content now takes 36 hours, as opposed to 30 days a year ago. The tech giants mentioned above, have been laboring mightily to censor the Internet and are no less guilty than Theresa May in that regard.

The loss of free speech has been debated and lamented over that same year, when 30 days of freedom shrank to 36 hours. Or in equivalent terms, going from 720 hours of freedom to only 36, a reduction of 95%.

With a loss of 95% of practical freedom for “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material,” I’d say that lamenting the loss of free speech has been largely ineffectual. You?

Practical Responses to Theresa May and Her Cadre of Internet Censors

If lamenting the loss of freedom of speech (and other rights) on Facebook, Twitter, the web isn’t effectual, what is? What follows are my suggestions, feel free to share yours.

1. Upload/Download “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material” to Torrent Sites

As Robert Graham, @ErrataBob reminds us at: Did You Miss The Macron Leak? @ErrataBob To The Rescue!, a “distributed hash network” preserves files even if the original link has been deleted.

If high tech toadies remove “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material,” from a Torrent download site, the content is preserved on the computers of everyone who has downloaded it.

Uploading and downloading using Torrent is a value-add activity for every user. The larger the group that downloads, the greater the preservation of the content. Enlist your followers/users today!

2. Generate and Share “evil material”

I’ve only looked at a small amount of “evil material” on the Internet but what I have seen, well, I’m not impressed. The “bomb making” recipes I have seen pose almost as much danger to their maker as they do to any intended victims. There is a certain romance to making your own ordinance, but there’s a reason professional armies don’t. Yes?

But pointing out the repetitious and dubious nature of bomb making recipes on the Internet won’t stop Theresa May. That being the case, I suggest prodding her to a fever pitch with imaginative and innovative ways to create chaos.

If you think about it for a few minutes, bombs, cars and guns are the simplest of tools. Defending freedom of speech requires imagination.

Anyone up for war gaming a future event in London? (Speech only, no action.)

3. Governments and Tech Giants Who Support Censorship

For governments, tech giants and staffers supporting censorship of “terrorist propaganda” and “evil material,” we should all draw inspiration from this slightly altered lyric:

In their styes with all their backing
They don’t care what goes on around
In their eyes there’s something lacking
What they need’s a damn good hacking

(with apologies to the Beatles, Piggies

Governments and tech giants have chosen to be censors of free speech. They can just as easily choose to be supporters of free speech.

Their choices dictate how they should be seen and treated by others.

PS: For your image recognition software, Theresa May:

Rewarding UK Censorship Demands

Sunday, September 17th, 2017

Image of the Daily Mail from Twitter:

No link to the online version. It’s easy enough to find on your own. Besides, regular reading of the Daily Mail increases your risk of rumored appointment by the accidental president of the United States. As your mother often said, “you are what you read.”

The story claims:


Theresa May will order internet giants to clamp down on extremism following yesterday’s Tube terror attack.

Where “extremism” doesn’t include the daily bombing runs and other atrocities committed by the West.

I don’t expect better from the Daily Mail but the government’s hysteria over online content is clearly misplaced.

The inability of a group to make a successful “fairy light” bomb, speaks volumes about the threat posted by online bomb making plans.

Bomb making plans are great wannabe reading, tough guy talk for cell meetings, evidence for the police when discovered in your possession, but in and of themselves, are hardly worthy of notice. The same can be said for “radical” literature of all stripes.

Still, it seems a shame for the UK’s paranoid delusions to go unrewarded, especially in light of the harm it intends to free speech for all Internet users.

Suggestions?

Google As Censorship Repeat Offender : The Kashmir Hill Story

Friday, September 1st, 2017

That Google is a censorship repeat offender surprises no one. Censorship is part and parcel of its toadyism to governments and its delusional war against “dangerous” ideas.

Kashmir Hill‘s story of Google censorship put a personal spin on censorship too massive to adequately appreciate.

Reporter: Google successfully pressured me to take down critical story by Timothy B. Lee.

From the post:

The recent furor over a Google-funded think tank firing an anti-Google scholar has inspired Gizmodo journalist Kashmir Hill to tell a story about the time Google used its power to squash a story that was embarrassing to the company.

The incident occurred in 2011. Hill was a cub reporter at Forbes, where she covered technology and privacy. At the time, Google was actively promoting Google Plus and was sending representatives to media organizations to encourage them to add “+1” buttons to their sites. Hill was pulled into one of these meetings, where the Google representative suggested that Forbes would be penalized in Google search results if it didn’t add +1 buttons to the site.

Hill thought that seemed like a big story, so she contacted Google’s PR shop for confirmation. Google essentially confirmed the story, and so Hill ran with it under the headline: “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers.”

Hill described what happened next:

No government, practitioners of censorship themselves, will punish Google for this and its continuing acts of censorship.

Some things you can do:

  • Follow and support Kashmir Hill, who is likely to catch a lot of shit over this report.
  • Follow and support Ars Technica, anyone for boosting their search results?
  • Vote with your feet for other search services.
  • Place ads with other search services.
  • Hackers, well, do what you do best.

And to those who respond: “Well, that’s just good business.”

For some sense of “good business,” sure. But users are also free to make their own choices about “good business.”

If Google ad revenue takes a measurable hit between now and December 31, 2017, user choices may be heard.

Confirmation: Google Does Not Support Free Speech

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

Google-Funded Think Tank Fired Google Critics After They Dared Criticize Google by Sam Biddle and David Dayen.

From the post:

THE NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION’S Open Markets group was a rare, loud voice of protest against Google’s ever-growing consolidation of economic and technological power around the world. But New America, like many of its fellow think tanks, received millions in funding from one of the targets of its anti-monopoly work, and according to a New York Times report today, pulled the plug after the company’s chief executive had enough dissent.

After EU regulators fined Google $2.7 billion earlier this summer, Barry Lynn, who ran the Open Markets division, cheered the decision, adding that “U.S. enforcers should apply the traditional American approach to network monopoly, which is to cleanly separate ownership of the network from ownership of the products and services sold on that network, as they did in the original Microsoft case of the late 1990s.” It didn’t take long for Lynn and his colleagues to suffer the consequences, the Times reports:

Google has long suppressed speech as a government toady but its open suppression of criticism portents wider and more active censorship of the marketplace of ideas.

Biddle and Dayen do a great job of identifying those who bowed to “displeasure” and those who were displeased. Something to keep in mind when deciding how to act on your displeasure with this misconduct by Google.

We all know that Google makes invaluable contributions to any number of projects but that isn’t a “bye” for abuse of their economic power or the sycophants they fund.

DOJ Wanted To Hunt Down DisruptJ20.org Visitors

Friday, August 25th, 2017

National Public Radio (NPR) details the Department of Justice (DOJ) request for web records from DisruptJ20.org, which organized protests against the coronation of the current U.S. president, in Government Can Search Inauguration Protest Website Records, With Safeguards and Justice Department Narrows Request For Visitor Logs To Inauguration Protest Website. (The second story has the specifics on the demand.)

The narrowed DOJ request excludes:

f. DreamHost shall not disclose records that constitute HTTP requests and error logs.

A win for casual visitors this time, but no guarantees for next time.

The NPR stories detail this latest governmental over-reaching but the better question is:

How to avoid being scooped up if such a request were granted?

One word answer: Tor!

What is Tor?

Tor is free software and an open network that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security.

Why Anonymity Matters

Tor protects you by bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world: it prevents somebody watching your Internet connection from learning what sites you visit, and it prevents the sites you visit from learning your physical location.

What’s your default browser?

If your answer is anything but Tor, you are putting yourself and others at risk.

Blasphemy and Related Laws (Censorship)

Thursday, August 24th, 2017

Years ago I encountered a description of a statement as being so vile that it made:

…strong men curse and women faint…

The author did not capture the statement and I don’t remember the book with that description. Based on the sexism in the quote, I’m assuming either the work or the time described was late 19th century.

Suggestions?

Blasphemy is a possible subject area for such a statement and the Library of Congress has helpfully compiled:

Blasphemy and Related Laws.

Description:

This report surveys laws criminalizing blasphemy, defaming religion, harming religious feelings, and similar conduct in 77 jurisdictions. In some instances the report also addresses laws criminalizing proselytization. Laws prohibiting incitement to religious hatred and violence are outside the scope of this report, although in some cases such laws are mentioned where they are closely intertwined with blasphemy. The report focuses mostly on laws at the national level, and while it aims to cover the majority of countries with such laws, it does not purport to be comprehensive.

I recognize not blaspheming in the presence of believers as a social courtesy but the only true blasphemy, in my view, is censorship of the speech of others.

Censorship of blasphemy implies a Deity threatened by human speech. That is a slander of any Deity worthy of worship.

Censors To Hate: Alison Saunders, Crown Prosecution Services

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

There is no complete list of censors to hate, but take all the posts marked censorship as a starting point for an incomplete list.

Alison Saunders in Hate is hate. Online abusers must be dealt with harshly announces the bizarre proposition:


the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) today commits to treat online hate crimes as seriously as those committed face to face.

Not distinguishing between face to face versus online hate crimes places the value of a University of Leeds legal education in question.

Unlike a face to face hate crime, all online users have access to an on/off button to immediately terminate any attempt at a hate crime.

Moreover, applications worthy of use offer a variety of filtering mechanisms, by which an intended victim of a hate crime can avoid contact with a would be abuser.

Saunders claims 15,000 hate crime prosecutions in 2015-2016, but fails to point out their conviction rate was 82.9%. More hate crimes prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service than ever before.

If these were all online crimes, Saunders and the CPS would be prosecuting almost 1 in 5 cases where no crime was committed.

Or put differently, there is a four out of five chance if charged with a hate crime, you will be convicted.

Are you more or less likely to make a strong objection or post if there is a four out of five chance you will be convicted of a crime?

Check your local laws before acting on any hatred for Alison Saunders or Crown Prosecution Services.

Citizens of the world must oppose censors and censorship everywhere. If you can’t criticize local censorship, speak out against censors elsewhere.

Rethinking (read abandoning) Free Speech

Saturday, August 19th, 2017

If The A.C.L.U. Needs to Rethink Free Speech by K-Sue Parkaug were an exercise in legal logic, Parkaug would get an F.

These paragraphs capture Pakkaug’s argument:


After the A.C.L.U. was excoriated for its stance, it responded that “preventing the government from controlling speech is absolutely necessary to the promotion of equality.” Of course that’s true. The hope is that by successfully defending hate groups, its legal victories will fortify free-speech rights across the board: A rising tide lifts all boats, as it goes.

While admirable in theory, this approach implies that the country is on a level playing field, that at some point it overcame its history of racial discrimination to achieve a real democracy, the cornerstone of which is freedom of expression.

I volunteered with the A.C.L.U. as a law student in 2011, and I respect much of its work. But it should rethink how it understands free speech. By insisting on a narrow reading of the First Amendment, the organization provides free legal support to hate-based causes. More troubling, the legal gains on which the A.C.L.U. rests its colorblind logic have never secured real freedom or even safety for all.

For marginalized communities, the power of expression is impoverished for reasons that have little to do with the First Amendment. Numerous other factors in the public sphere chill their voices but amplify others.

Without doubt, the government, American society in general and the legal system in particular is not race, gender, class or in any other meaningful sense, blind. Marginalized communities bear the brunt of that lack of blindness.

If the legal system deprives those with privilege and power of free speech, what does logic and experience dictate will be the impact on marginalized communities?

Are you expecting a different free speech result for the marginalized from courts that discriminate against them?

If yes, call your mother to say your failure at legal logic is putting the marginalized in harm’s way. (post her reaction)

Updating “First they came …”

Friday, August 18th, 2017

Ds. Martin Niemöller neemt deel aan oecumenische samenkomst in de Grote Kert te Den Haag. Vlnr [Vrnl in spiegelbeeld!] . Ds M.N. W. Smitvoors (van de Haagse Oecumenische Raad), ds. Niemöller en prof. P. Kaetske, predikant van de Duitse Evangelische gemeente in Den Haag
*27 mei 1952

An updated version of Martin Niemöller‘s First they came … for censors:

First they censored pornographers, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a pornographer.

Then they censored terrorists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a terrorist.

Then they censored “hate speech,” and I did not speak out—
Because I don’t use “hate speech.”

Then they censored Nazis, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Nazi.

Then they censored the KKK, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a member of the KKK.

Then they censored the alt-Right, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a member of the alt-Right.

Then they censored the environmentalists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not an environmentalist.

Then they censored the feminists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a feminist.

Then they censored #BlackLivesMatter, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not Black.

Then they censored me—and no one was able to speak for me.

Feel free to add to or re-order “Then they censored…” lines based on your own priorities and experience.

For a defense of free speech, consider the 1934 ACLU pamphlet entitled: “Shall We Defend Free Speech for Nazis in America?“:


To those who advocate suppressing propaganda they hate, we ask—where do you draw the line? They can answer only in the terms of revoluntionists—at our political enemies. But experience shows that “political enemies” is a broad term, and has covered the breaking up even of working class meetings by rival working class organizations. It illustrates the danger, and the impracticality of making any distinctions in defending rights sought by all.

To those who urge suppression of meetings that may incite riot or violence, the complete answer is that nobody can tell in advance what meetings may do so. Where there is reasonable ground for apprehension, the police can ordinarily prevent disorder.

To those who would suppress meetings where race or religious hatred is likely to be stirred up, the answer is simple,—that there is no general agreement on what constitutes race or religious prejudice. Once the bars are so let down, the field is open for all-comers to charge such prejudice against any propagandists, — Communists, Socialists, atheists,—even Jews attacking the Nazis. On that ground the Union has opposed the anti-Nazi bills introduced in the New York and New Jersey legislatures punishing propaganda which “stirs up race or religious hatred” or “domestic strife”. No laws can be written to outlaw Nazi propaganda without striking at freedom of speech in general.

Further, we point out the inevitable effect of making martyrs by persecution. Persecute the Nazis, drive them underground, imitate their methods in Germany—and attract to them hundreds of sympathizers with the persecuted who would otherwise be indifferent. The best way to combat their propaganda is in the open where it can be fought by counter-propaganda, protest demonstrations, picketing—and all the devices of attack which do not involve denying their rights to meet and speak.

Authored 84 years ago, the ACLU position on free speech is remarkably relevant today.

“[S]tirs up race or religious hatred” sounds a lot like “hate speech.”

Propaganda to suppress equals “political enemies.”

Political enemies today include the alt-right, Nazis, white supremacists, feminists, #Blacklivesmatter, and others, depending upon your personnel perspective.

Three of the world’s largest censors, Google, Facebook and Twitter, pout that freedom of speech doesn’t apply to them as non-governments.

True enough but their censorship spans governments, creating an even greater denial of the basic right to be heard.

If censorship is the question, none is the answer.


I cannot claim credit for finding the 1934 ACLU pamphlet. See: Fee Speech or Hate Speech? Civil Liberties Body ACLU Will No Longer Defend Gun-Carrying Protest Groups by Josh Lowe.

Yes, the ACLU is retreating from a long and honorable history of defending the First Amendment. (I won’t speculate on their motivations.)

Sex Trafficking at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport – Quick, Censor the Internet!

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, GA, is the hub of sex trafficking in the United States.

FBI reports that Atlanta is the center for the sex-trafficking of adolescence and around 200 to 300 youth are prostituted in Atlanta a month. (At world’s busiest airport, sex trafficking abounds)

With an average of 20 to 30 youths prostituted a day in Atlanta, some members of Congress want to address sex trafficking by censoring the Internet.

Elliot Harmon in Internet Censorship Bill Would Spell Disaster for Speech and Innovation, puts it this way:

There’s a new bill in Congress that would threaten your right to free expression online. If that weren’t enough, it could also put small Internet businesses in danger of catastrophic litigation.

Don’t let its name fool you: the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693) wouldn’t help punish sex traffickers. What the bill would do (PDF) is expose any person, organization, platform, or business that hosts third-party content on the Internet to the risk of overwhelming criminal and civil liability if sex traffickers use their services. For small Internet businesses, that could be fatal: with the possibility of devastating litigation costs hanging over their heads, we think that many entrepreneurs and investors will be deterred from building new businesses online.

Make no mistake: sex trafficking is a real, horrible problem. This bill is not the way to address it. Lawmakers should think twice before passing a disastrous law and endangering free expression and innovation.

Rather than focusing on a known location for sex trafficking, Congress is putting “…small Internet businesses…” in harm’s way.

The large content providers, Facebook, Google, Twitter, already have the financial and technical resources to meet the demands of SESTA. So in a very real sense, SESTA isn’t anti-sex trafficking but rather anti-small Internet business, in addition to being a threat to free speech.

Call your member of the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate, asking for their vote against Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA, S. 1693).

SESTA:

  1. Endangers free speech
  2. Favors large content providers over small ones
  3. Ignores known sex trafficking locations
  4. Is a non-solution to a known problem

Sex trafficking is a serious problem that needs a workable solution. Not an ineffectual, cosmetic non-solution that favors large content providers over smaller ones.

#FCensor – Facebook Bleeding Red Ink of Censorship

Thursday, August 10th, 2017

Naked down under: Facebook censors erotic art

From the post:

Facebook has censored Fine Art Bourse’s (FAB) adverts for the online auction house’s relaunch sale of erotic art on the grounds of indecency. In 2015, FAB, then based in London, went into receivership shortly before its first sale after running out of funds due to a delay in building the technology required to run the cloud-based auctions. But the founder, Tim Goodman, formerly owner of Bonhams & Goodman and then Sotheby’s Australia under license, has now relaunched the firm in his native Australia, charging a 5% premium to both buyers and sellers and avoiding VAT, GST and sales tax on service charges by running auctions via a server in Hong Kong.

When Goodman attempted to run a series of adverts for his relaunch sale of Erotic, Fetish, & Queer Art & Objects on 12 September, Facebook barred the adverts citing its policy against “adverts that depict nudity” including “the use of nudity for artistic or educational purposes”.

Remember to use #FCensor for all Facebook censorship. (#GCensor for Google censoring, #TCensor for Twitter censoring.)

Every act of censorship by Facebook and every person employed as a censor, is a splash of red ink on the books at Facebook. Red ink that has no profit center offset.

Facebook can and should erase the red ink of censorship from its books.

Provide users with effective self-help filtering, being able to “follow” filters created by others and empowering advertisers to filter the content in proximity to their ads (for an extra $fee), moves censoring cost (read Facebook red ink) onto users and advertisers, improving Facebook’s bottom line.

What sane investor would argue with that outcome?

Better and “following” filters would enable users to create their own custom echo chambers. Oh, yeah, that’s part of the problem isn’t it? Zuckerberg and his band of would-be messiahs want the power to decide what the public sees.

I’ll pass. How about you?

Investors! Use your stock and dollars to save all of us from a Zuckerberg view of the world. Thanks!

When You Say “Google,” You Mean #GCensor

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Google Blocking Key Search Terms For Left Websites by Andre Damon.

From the post:

Note: In a previous article we reported that Popular Resistance had also seen more than a 60% drop in visits to our website since April when Google changed its search functions. This report goes further into how Google is blocking key search terms. See Google’s New Search Protocol Restricting Access To Leading Leftist Web Sites. KZ

Google blocked every one of the WSWS’s 45 top search terms

An intensive review of Internet data has established that Google has severed links between the World Socialist Web Site and the 45 most popular search terms that previously directed readers to the WSWS. The physical censorship implemented by Google is so extensive that of the top 150 search terms that, as late as April 2017, connected the WSWS with readers, 145 no longer do so.

These findings make clear that the decline in Google search traffic to the WSWS is not the result of some technical issue, but a deliberate policy of censorship. The fall took place in the three months since Google announced on April 25 plans to promote “authoritative web sites” above those containing “offensive” content and “conspiracy theories.”

Because of these measures, the WSWS’s search traffic from Google has fallen by two-thirds since April.

The WSWS has analyzed tens of thousands of search terms, and identified those key phrases and words that had been most likely to place the WSWS on the first or second page of search results. The top 45 search terms previously included “socialism,” “Russian revolution,” “Flint Michigan,” “proletariat,” and “UAW [United Auto Workers].” The top 150 results included the terms “UAW contract,” “rendition” and “Bolshevik revolution.” All of these terms are now blocked.
… (emphasis in original)

In addition to censoring “hate speech” and efforts such as: Google Says It Will Do More to Suppress Terrorist Propaganda, now there is evidence that Google is tampering with search results for simply left-wing websites.

Promote awareness of the censorship by Google, Facebook and Twitter, by using #GCensor, #FCensor, and #TCensor, respectively, for them.

I don’t expect to change the censorship behavior of #GCensor, #FCensor, and #TCensor. The remedy is non-censored alternatives.

All three have proven themselves untrustworthy guardians of free speech.

Twitter – Government Censor’s Friend

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

Governments, democratic, non-democratic, kingships, etc. that keep secrets from the public, share a common enemy in Wikileaks.

Wikileaks self-describes in part as:

WikiLeaks is a multi-national media organization and associated library. It was founded by its publisher Julian Assange in 2006.

WikiLeaks specializes in the analysis and publication of large datasets of censored or otherwise restricted official materials involving war, spying and corruption. It has so far published more than 10 million documents and associated analyses.

“WikiLeaks is a giant library of the world’s most persecuted documents. We give asylum to these documents, we analyze them, we promote them and we obtain more.” – Julian Assange, Der Spiegel Interview.

WikiLeaks has contractual relationships and secure communications paths to more than 100 major media organizations from around the world. This gives WikiLeaks sources negotiating power, impact and technical protections that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to achieve.

Although no organization can hope to have a perfect record forever, thus far WikiLeaks has a perfect in document authentication and resistance to all censorship attempts.

Those same governments, share a common ally in Twitter, which has engaged in systematic actions to diminish the presence/influence of Julian Assange on Twitter.

Caitlin Johnstone documents Twitter’s intentional campaign against Assange in Twitter Is Using Account Verification To Stifle Leaks And Promote War Propaganda.

Catch Johnstone’s post for the details but then:

  1. Follow @JulianAssange on Twitter (watch for minor variations that are not this account.
  2. Tweet to your followers, at least once a week, urging them to follow @JulianAssange
  3. Investigate and support non-censoring alternatives to Twitter.

You can verify Twitter’s dilution of Julian Assange for yourself.

Type “JulianAssange_” in the Twitter search box (my results):

Twitter was a remarkably good idea, but has long since poisoned itself with censorship and pettiness.

Your suggested alternative?

Truth In Terrorism Labeling (TITL) – A Starter Set

Tuesday, July 11th, 2017

Sam Biddle‘s recent post: Facebook’s Tough-On-Terror Talk Overlooks White Extremists, is a timely reminder that “terrorism” and “terrorist” are labels with no agreed upon meaning.

To illustrate, here are some common definitions with suggestions for specifying the definition in use:

Terrorist/terrorism(Biddle): ISIS, Al Qaeda, and US white extremists. But not Tibetans and Uyghurs.

Terrorist/terrorism(China): From: How China Sees ISIS Is Not How It Sees ‘Terrorism’:

… in Chinese discourse, terrorism is employed exclusively in reference to Tibetans and Uyghurs. Official government statements typically avoid identifying acts of violence with a specific ethnic group, preferring more generic descriptors like “Xinjiang terrorists,“ “East Turkestan terror forces and groups,” the “Tibetan Youth Congress,” or the “Dalai clique.” In online Chinese chat-rooms, however, epithets like “Uyghur terrorist” or “Tibetan splittest” are commonplace and sometimes combine with homophonic racial slurs like “dirty Tibetans” or “raghead Uyghurs.”

Limiting “terrorism” to Tibetans and Uyghurs excludes ISIS, Al Qaeda, and US white extremists from that term.

Terrorist/terrorism(Facebook): ISIS, Al Qaeda, but no US white extremists (following US)

Terrorist/terrorism(Russia): Putin’s Flexible Definition of Terrorism

Who, exactly, counts as a terrorist? If you’re Russian President Vladimir Putin, the definition might just depend on how close or far the “terror” is from Moscow. A court in the Nizhniy Novgorod regional center last week gave a suspended two year sentence to Stanislav Dmitriyevsky, Chair of the local Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, and editor of Rights Defense bulletin. Dmitriyevsky was found guilty of fomenting ethnic hatred, simply because in March 2004, he published an appeal by Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov — later killed by Russian security services — and Maskhadov’s envoy in Europe, Akhmet Zakayev.

Maskhadov, you see, is officially a terrorist in the eyes of the Kremlin. Hamas, however, isn’t. Putin said so at his Kremlin press-conference on Thursday, where he extended an invitation — eagerly accepted — to Hamas’s leaders to Moscow for an official visit.

In fairness to Putin, as a practical matter, who is or is not a “terrorist” for the US depends on the state of US support. US supporting, not terrorists, US not supporting, likely to be terrorists.

Terrorist/terrorism(US): Generally ISIS, Al Qaeda, no US white extremists, for details see: Terrorist Organizations.

By appending parentheses and Biddle, China, Facebook, Russia, or US to terrorist or terrorism, the reading public has some chance to understand your usage of “terrorism/terrorist.”

Otherwise they are nodding along using their definitions of “terrorism/terrorist” and not yours.

Or was that vagueness intentional on your part?

Combating YouTube Censorship (Carry Banned Videos Yourself)

Monday, May 29th, 2017

Memorial Day is always a backwards looking holiday, but reading How Terrorists Slip Beheading Videos Past YouTube’s Censors by Rita Katz, felt like time warping to the 1950’s.

Other jihadi propaganda on the video-sharing platform may be visually more low-key, but are just as insidious in their own ways.

There is a grim bit in comedian Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special about clicking “don’t like” on an Islamic State beheading video.

“How is this guy cutting peoples’ heads off on YouTube?” Chappelle asks, noting the absurdity of it.

Don’t like. Click.

In reality, reports of extremist content littering YouTube aren’t new. But when hundreds of major advertisers began suspending contracts with YouTube and Google in recent months, boycotting the massive video-sharing platform over concerns with such explicit content, things got a lot more real.

Google services—namely YouTube—are the most plentiful and important links used by terrorist organizations to disseminate their propaganda. And despite all of YouTube’s efforts to keep them out thus far, such groups still manage to sneak their media onto its servers.
… (emphasis in original)

Whatever label you want to apply to another group, “terrorist,” “al Qaeda,” etc., censorship is and remains censorship.

Censorship and intimidation were practiced during the Red Scare of the 1940’s/50’s, lives/careers were ruined, and we weren’t one whit safer than without it.

Want to combat YouTube censorship?

When videos are censored by YouTube, carry them on your site.

Suggested header: Banned on YouTube to make it easy to find.

It won’t stop YouTube’s censorship but it can defeat its intended outcome.

Introduction: The New Face of Censorship

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Introduction: The New Face of Censorship by Joel Simon.

From the post:

In the days when news was printed on paper, censorship was a crude practice involving government officials with black pens, the seizure of printing presses and raids on newsrooms. The complexity and centralization of broadcasting also made radio and television vulnerable to censorship even when the governments didn’t exercise direct control of the airwaves. After all, frequencies can be withheld; equipment can be confiscated; media owners can be pressured.

New information technologies–the global, interconnected internet; ubiquitous social media platforms; smart phones with cameras–were supposed to make censorship obsolete. Instead, they have just made it more complicated.

Does anyone still believe the utopian mantras that information wants to be free and the internet is impossible to censor or control?

The fact is that while we are awash in information, there are tremendous gaps in our knowledge of the world. The gaps are growing as violent attacks against the media spike, as governments develop new systems of information control, and as the technology that allows information to circulate is co-opted and used to stifle free expression.

The work of Joel Simon and the Committee to Protect Journalists is invaluable. The challenges, dangers and hazards for journalists around the world are constant and unrelenting.

I have no doubt about Simon’s account of suppression of journalists. His essay is a must read for everyone who opposes censorship, at least in its obvious forms.

A more subtle form of censorship is practiced in the United States, self-censorship.

How many stories on this theme have you read in the last couple of weeks? U.S. spy agency abandons controversial surveillance technique

Now, how many of those same stories mentioned that the NSA has a long and storied history of lying to the American public, presidents and congress?

By my count, which wasn’t exhaustive, the total is 0.

Instead of challenging this absurd account, Reuters reports the NSA reports as though it were true and fails to remind the public it is relying on a habitual liar.

Show of hands, how many readers think the Reuters staff forgot that the NSA is a hotbed of liars and cheats?

There is little cause for government censorship of US media outlets. They censor themselves before the government can even ask.

Support the Committee to Protect Journalists and perhaps their support of journalists facing real censorship will shame US media into growing a spine.

3,000 New Censorship Jobs At Facebook

Friday, May 5th, 2017

Quick qualification test for censorship jobs at Facebook:

  • Are you more moral than most people?
  • Are you more religious than most people?
  • Are you more sensitive than most people?
  • Do you want to suppress “harmful” content?
  • Do you enjoy protecting people who are easily mis-lead (unlike you)?
  • Do you support the United States, its agencies, offices and allies?
  • Do you recognize Goldman Sachs, Chase and all other NYSE listed companies as people with rights?

If you answered one or more of these questions with “yes,” congratulations! You have passed a pre-qualification test for one of the 3,000 new censorship positions for Facebook.

(Disclaimer: It is not known if Facebook will recognize this pre-qualification test and may have other tests or questions for actual applicants.)

For further details, see: Will Facebook actually hire 3,000 content moderators, or will they outsource? by Annalee Newitz.

Censorship is the question. The answer is no.

EU Censorship Emboldens Torpid UK Parliament Members

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Social media companies “shamefully far” from tackling illegal and dangerous content

From the webpage:

The Home Affairs Committee has strongly criticised social media companies for failing to take down and take sufficiently seriously illegal content – saying they are “shamefully far” from taking sufficient action to tackle hate and dangerous content on their sites.

The Committee recommends the Government should assess whether failure to remove illegal material is in itself a crime and, if not, how the law should be strengthened. They recommend that the Government also consult on a system of escalating sanctions to include meaningful fines for social media companies which fail to remove illegal content within a strict timeframe.
… (emphasis in original)

I can only guess the recent EU censorship spasm, EU’s Unfunded Hear/See No Evil Policy, has made the UK parliament bold. Or at least bolder than usual.

what leaves me puzzled though, is that “hate crimes,” are by definition crimes. Yes? And even the UK laws against hate crimes, police officials to enforce those laws and courts in which to try those suspected of hate crimes and prisons in the event they are convicted. Yes?

If all that’s true, then for social media, really media in general, you need only one rule:

If what you see, hear and/or read disturbs you, look, listen and/or read something else.

It’s really that simple. No costs to social media companies, no extra personnel to second guess what some number of UK parliament members find to be “hate and dangerous content,” no steady decay of the right to speak without government pre-approval, etc.

As far as what other people prefer to see, hear and/or read, well, that’s really none of your business.

EU’s Unfunded Hear/See No Evil Policy

Friday, April 28th, 2017

EU lawmakers vote to make YouTube fight online hate speech by Julia Floretti.

From the post:

Video-sharing platforms such as Google’s YouTube and Vimeo will have to take measures to protect citizens from content containing hate speech and incitement to violence under measures voted by EU lawmakers on Tuesday.

The proliferation of hate speech and fake news on social media has led to companies coming under increased pressure to take it down quickly, while internet campaigners have warned an excessive crackdown could endanger freedom of speech.

Members of the culture committee in the European Parliament voted on a legislative proposal that covers everything from 30 percent quotas for European works on video streaming websites such as Netflix to advertising times on TV to combating hate speech.

Ironically, the reported vote was by the “CULT” committee. No, I’m not making that up! I can prove that from the documents page:

From the report,


Amendment 18

(28) Some of the content stored on video-sharing platforms is not under the editorial responsibility of the video-sharing platform provider. However, those providers typically determine the organisation of the content, namely programmes or user-generated videos, including by automatic means or algorithms. Therefore, those providers should be required to take appropriate measures to protect minors from content that may impair their physical, mental or moral development and protect all citizens from incitement to violence or hatred directed against a group of persons or a member of such a group defined by reference to sex, race, colour, religion, descent or national or ethnic origin.
… (emphasis in original)

In addition to being censorship, unfunded censorship at that, the EU report runs afoul of the racist reality of the EU.

If you’re up for some difficult reading, consider Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination – A European Report by Forum Berlin, Andreas Zick, Beate Küpper, and Andreas Hövermann.

From page 13 of the report:

  • Group-focused enmity is widespread in Europe. It is weakest in the Netherlands, and strongest in Poland and Hungary. With respect to anti-immigrant attitudes, anti-Muslim attitudes and racism there are only minor differences between the countries, while differences in the extent of anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia are much more marked.
  • About half of all European respondents believe there are too many immigrants in their country. Between 17 percent in the Netherlands and more than 70 percent in Poland believe that Jews seek to benefit from their forebears’ suffering during the Nazi era. About one third of respondents believe there is a natural hierarchy of ethnicity. Half or more condemn Islam as “a religion of intolerance”. A majority in Europe also subscribe to sexist attitudes rooted in traditional gender roles and demand that: “Women should take their role as wives and mothers more seriously.” With a figure of about one third, Dutch respondents are least likely to affirm sexist attitudes. The proportion opposing equal rights for homosexuals ranges between 17 percent in the Netherlands and 88 percent in Poland; they believe it is not good “to allow marriages between two men or two women”.

At the risk of insulting our simian relatives, this new EU policy can be summarized by:

(source: Three Wise Monkeys)

Suppressing hate speech does not result in less hate, only in less evidence of it.

While this legislation is pending, YouTube and Vimeo should occasionally suspend access of EU viewers for an hour. EU voters may decide they need more responsible leadership.

Dissing Facebook’s Reality Hole and Impliedly Censoring Yours

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

Climbing Out Of Facebook’s Reality Hole by Mat Honan.

From the post:

The proliferation of fake news and filter bubbles across the platforms meant to connect us have instead divided us into tribes, skilled in the arts of abuse and harassment. Tools meant for showing the world as it happens have been harnessed to broadcast murders, rapes, suicides, and even torture. Even physics have betrayed us! For the first time in a generation, there is talk that the United States could descend into a nuclear war. And in Silicon Valley, the zeitgeist is one of melancholy, frustration, and even regret — except for Mark Zuckerberg, who appears to be in an absolutely great mood.

The Facebook CEO took the stage at the company’s annual F8 developers conference a little more than an hour after news broke that the so-called Facebook Killer had killed himself. But if you were expecting a somber mood, it wasn’t happening. Instead, he kicked off his keynote with a series of jokes.

It was a stark disconnect with the reality outside, where the story of the hour concerned a man who had used Facebook to publicize a murder, and threaten many more. People used to talk about Steve Jobs and Apple’s reality distortion field. But Facebook, it sometimes feels, exists in a reality hole. The company doesn’t distort reality — but it often seems to lack the ability to recognize it.

I can’t say I’m fond of the Facebook reality hole but unlike Honan:


It can make it harder to use its platforms to harass others, or to spread disinformation, or to glorify acts of violence and destruction.

I have no desire to censor any of the content that anyone cares to make and/or view on it. Bar none.

The “default” reality settings desired by Honan and others are a thumb on the scale for some cause they prefer over others.

Entitled to their preference but I object to their setting the range of preferences enjoyed by others.

You?

Naming German Censors

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Germany gives social networks 24 hours to delete criminal content by Simon Sharwood.

From the post:

Germany has followed through on its proposal to make social networks remove slanderous hate speech and fake news or face massive fines.

The nation’s Bundesministerium der Justiz und für Verbraucherschutz (Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection) has announced that cabinet approved a plan to force social network operators to create a complaints mechanism allowing members of the public to report content that online translate-o-tronic services categorise as “insults, libel, slander, public prosecutions, crimes, and threats.”

The Bill approved by Cabinet proposes that social networks be required to establish complaints officer who is subject to local law and gets the job of removing obviously criminal content 24 hours after receiving a complaint. A seven-day deadline will apply to content that’s not immediately identifiable as infringing. Social networks will also be required to inform complainants of the outcome of their takedown requests and to provide quarterly summaries of their activities.

The ministry’s statement also suggests that those who feel aggrieved by material posted about them should be able to learn the true identity of the poster.

A Faktenpapier (PDF) on the Bill says that if the deadlines mentioned above aren’t met the social network’s designated complaints-handler could be fined up to five million Euros, while the network itself could cop a fine of 50 million Euros. An appeal to Germany’s courts will be possible.

Sharwood’s post is a great summary of this censorship proposal but fails to identify those responsible for it.

“Germany” in the abstract sense isn’t responsible for it. And to say the “Cabinet,” leaves the average reader no more informed than saying “Germany.”

Perhaps this helps: German Cabinet / Censors:

Peter Altmaier Alexander Dobrindt Sigmar Gabriel
Hermann Gröhe Barbara Hendricks Ursula von der Leyen
Heiko Maas Thomas de Maizière Angela Merkel
Gerd Müller Andrea Nahles Wolfgang Schäuble
Christian Schmidt Manuela Schwesig Johanna Wanka
Brigitte Zypries

I don’t have their staff listings, yet, but that’s a start on piercing the veil that “Germany,” and “Cabinet” puts between the reader and wannabe censors.

Other veils that hide/protect censors that need piercing?

UK Proposes to Treat Journalists As Spies (Your Response Here)

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

UK’s proposed Espionage Act will treat journalists like spies by Roy Greenslade.

From the post:

Journalists in Britain are becoming increasingly alarmed by the government’s apparent determination to prevent them from fulfilling their mission to hold power to account. The latest manifestation of this assault on civil liberties is the so-called Espionage Act. If passed by parliament, it could lead to journalists who obtain leaked information, along with the whistle blowers who provide it to them, serving lengthy prison sentences.

In effect, it would equate journalists with spies, and its threat to press freedom could not be more stark. It would not so much chill investigative journalism as freeze it altogether.

The proposal is contained in a consultation paper, “Protection of Official Data,” which was drawn up by the Law Commission. Headed by a senior judge, the commission is ostensibly independent of government. Its function is to review laws and recommend reforms to ensure they are fairer and more modern.

But fairness is hardly evident in the proposed law. Its implications for the press were first highlighted in independent news website The Register by veteran journalist Duncan Campbell, who specializes in investigating the U.K. security services.

Comments on the public consultation document can be registered here.

Greenslade reports criticism of the proposal earned this response from the government:


In response, both Theresa’s May’s government and the Law Commission stressed that it was an early draft of the proposed law change. Then the commission followed up by extending the public consultation period by a further month, setting a deadline of May 3.

Early draft, last draft or the final form from parliament, journalists should treat the proposed Espionage Act as a declaration of war on the press.

Being classified as spies, journalists should start acting as spies. Spies that offer no quarter and who take no prisoners.

Develop allies in other countries who are willing to publish information detrimental to your government.

The government has chosen a side and it’s not yours. What more need be said?

Continuing Management Fail At Twitter

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Twitter management continues to fail.

Consider censoring the account of Lauri Love. (a rumored hacker)

Competent management at Twitter would be licensing the rights to create shareable mutes/filters for all posts from Lauri Love.

The FBI, Breitbart, US State Department, and others would vie for users of their filters, which block “dangerous and/or seditious content.”

Filters licensed in increments, depending on how many shares you want to enable.

Twitter with no censorship at all would drive the market for such filters.

Licensing filters by number of shares provides a steady revenue stream and Twitter could its censorship prone barnacles. More profit, reduced costs, what’s not to like?

PS: I ask nothing for this suggestion. Getting Twitter out of the censorship game on behalf of governments is benefit enough for me.