Internet

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Rattling the Cage

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 21/09/2022 - 11:41pm in

Claiming authorship in the age of the internet.

A Safer, More Centralised Australian Internet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 11/09/2022 - 10:00am in

There are many potential criticisms of the Online Safety Act 2021 (Cth)1. While my own concerns are mostly about whether there are appropriate checks and balances on the eSafety Commissioner’s powers, I will give credit where due; the current Commissioner’s implementation of it has – so far – demonstrated nuance and thoughtful balancing of the legislation’s goals with the preservation and enhancement of the unique properties that make the Internet so valuable to society.

So I was interested to see the announcement of the Industry Codes, which are guidelines for handling certain kinds of content (mostly, extreme violence and porn). They weren’t created by Parliament or the Commissioner; instead, representatives of different online industries across the country wrote them. If the Commissioner is satisfied, she will register them, and then they will then be enforceable against those industries.

This is a pretty typical pattern in regulation – rather than a top-down, command-and-control approach, the legislation co-opts the industry participants in their own regulation (sometimes called ‘meta-regulation’) to ensure that the outcome is aligned with the reality of their businesses and can be implemented.

The problem is that the legislation and the proposed codes assume the Internet is only industry – or at least the interesting bits are. It either marginalises or ignores non-commercial providers, so that the resulting regulation will heavily favour a commercialised, ‘big tech’ future for the Australian Internet, further entrenching those interests and increasing tendencies towards centralisation.

On the Internet, Industry is Everyone

Section 136 of the Act states that

if a person is a member of a group that constitutes a section of the online industry, the person is a participant in that section of the online industry.

Note ‘person’ here – even though the legislation calls it an industry code, application of the code isn’t restricted to commercial bodies or those of a certain size – the codes, once registered, apply to all people who provide the relevant services.2

The eSafety Commissioner anticipated this, encouraging risk profiles to be adapted to the situation of different participants. Unfortunately, while the proposed codes do create tiers of risk profiles, they heavily favour big Internet platform providers, to the detriment of small businesses, community groups, and individuals.

For example, the proposed Designated Internet Services Online Safety Code applies to essentially all Web sites as part of that ‘section’. There is a provision for excluding some sites from the requirement to perform a risk assessment:

A provider of a designated internet service is deemed to be a Tier 3 service and not required to conduct a risk assessment where: (i) the designated internet service is a general purpose website or app or a classified DIS.[.]

However, a ‘general purpose website’ is narrowly defined using a closed list:

[G]eneral purpose website or app means a designated internet service that primarily provides information for business, commerce, charitable, professional, health, reporting news, scientific, educational, academic research, government, public service or emergency service purposes and/or enables related transactions.

… while a ‘classified DIS’ adds ‘general entertainment, news, or educational content’ with certain conditions.

The Web does much more than provide those few categories of service. My own personal Web site does clearly fit into that list, so a strict reading is that I’d be providing a Tier 2 service and so will need to undertake risk assessments, create various systems and processes, identify a trust and safety function, and so on.

Of course, that’s ridiculous, and I don’t think that it’s being suggested. What I do think is that the associations making these proposals have tunnel vision about what the Internet is and can be – they’re seemingly focused on technology being a corporate creation, despite the history of the Internet and even though the legislation makes the codes more widely applicable.

Merely adding new categories (like ‘personal web site’) to that list won’t help, because a key architectural feature of the Internet is permissionless innovation. New features and new kinds of services shouldn’t face barriers to entry – especially not ones that favour incumbent commercial concerns. For example, how would an online tool like REDbot be classified here?

Looking at the rest of the proposed codes, similar problems emerge. The Social Media Services Online Safety Code excludes from Tier 3 any online service with messaging, chat services, image sharing, or user profiles and connections (‘friends’). That means that local community discussion forums like Whirlpool will need to undertake expensive compliance efforts, both up front and on an ongoing basis. So will any local community effort that wants to use a message board, online forum, MUD or MOO.

This arrangement suits incumbent social media companies; more risk and cost (or the alternative, extremely limited functionality) for community-led and hosted solutions (often using Open Source) means more traffic will be driven to them, so they can monetise Australian community participation. Why would you go to the trouble of setting up a server when it’s safer (at least legally) to use Facebook?

That isn’t to say that small, non-commercial sites should escape all regulation for online safety – just that they shouldn’t be saddled with a compliance burden designed for commercial targets when the Commissioner has many other effective regulatory tools at her disposal. Also, we should recognise that non-commercial, community efforts are often much better at policing themselves than the free-for-all that is much of commercial social media.

I’ll give one more example of how myopic these proposals are (although there are more): the Equipment Online Safety Code requires a provider of an Operating System to

take part in an annual forum organised and facilitated by one of the industry associations responsible for the development of this Code […] to discuss and share relevant issues, advances and best practice in online safety with other industry participants.

and:

An OS provider must take reasonable steps to develop and implement tools within operating systems that allow Australian end-users to help reduce the risk of harm to children when using interactive (Tier 1) devices.

So, what does that mean for Linux and Linux distros? Do Australian kernel hackers need to be nervous now?

What Should Happen?

As written, these proposals create a significant compliance burden on non-commercial Web sites and Internet services. Beyond the obvious effects on freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, this is also a competition issue; by making it more risky and costly to use self-hosted community fora, big tech companies can be seen to be consolidating the market to their favour. These effects may not have been intentional, but when an industry forum that’s effectively writing regulation for the Internet is convened by groups of large Internet companies, rather than a broader community, it’s not a surprising result.

It’s also far from proportional. One analogy that comes to mind is food safety regulation that puts family get-togethers and dinners at scout camp under the same rules as an industrial catering kitchen.

While many individuals and non-commercial groups might simply ignore the regulatory busy-work that these proposals would create, trusting that the eSafety Commissioner would use appropriate discretion, the implied risks of relying on that are significant; 500 penalty units is currently AUD$111,000. The mere possibility of the large penalties that the legislation allows in combination with the high costs that compliance entails will discourage many from trying, especially when big tech platforms offer services for free (at least financially).

So what should happen? I would hope that the eSafety Commissioner would refuse to register these codes as written, and direct the authors to engage with the community more transparently, since ‘industry’ is really everyone. As the position paper explained:

Representation may be a matter of both breadth (representing different types of participants) and depth (representing a reasonable number of participants). This does not mean that every participant, or every type of participant, must necessarily be accounted for, but that there is sufficient representation of participants, such that the industry association could be said, broadly, to be speaking on behalf of the section as a whole.

Furthermore, the risk profiles should be substantially revamped, with an eye towards excluding non-commercial concerns from the Industry Codes, and assuring that they aren’t being used to create unreasonable regulatory burdens on startups and small competitors. In particular, automatically exclusion from the least risky tier based solely on what features are used (e.g., user profiles) fails to recognise other important factors like the nature of the service, its community and its size.

I’d also like to see the excellent folks at the ACCC engage with eSafety regarding the issues above. They have valuable experience balancing competition issues against other concerns, and competition is relevant here.

Finally, the Commissioner’s position paper also states that

larger and more mature services should be encouraged to assist in capacity-building of smaller and newer services.

These proposals utterly fail to do so. Surprised?

  1. See, eg, ‘Explainer: The Online Safety Bill’, Digital Rights Watch

  2. Arguably, the ‘member of a group’ clause might exclude a service run by one person on their own, but that’s not been tested, and still leaves churches, clubs, sporting groups, interest groups, social groups, and civil society groups squarely covered by this ‘industry’ code. Notably, the proposed codes’ smallest tiers start at zero members. 

Digital Deconversion

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 11:31pm in

Becoming an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, online.

Excavating the Internet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/08/2022 - 2:03am in

Studying the internet’s pre-history is interesting—but can it help us in the present?

New Media Are As Intertwined With Imperial Power As Old Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 05/08/2022 - 1:13pm in

Listen to a reading of this article:

https://medium.com/media/fe749ec4db12794fec21d524b42f08ad/href

Alan MacLeod has a new article out with Mintpress News showing how most of the supposedly independent “fact-checking” organizations which Facebook has partnered with to police the information people are allowed to see on the platform about the war in Ukraine are, in fact, funded by the United States government.

“Most of the fact-checking organizations Facebook has partnered with to monitor and regulate information about Ukraine are directly funded by the U.S. government, either through the U.S. Embassy or via the notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED),” MacLeod writes.

NED is indeed notorious because, as MacLeod explains, it was set up to do overtly many of the operations which the CIA used to perform covertly, like circulating propaganda in empire-targeted nations, funding foreign uprisings, and facilitating the 2014 coup in Ukraine which set in motion the events that would eventually lead to Russia’s invasion of the nation this past February.

Macleod shows how US government money is funneled into Facebook’s “fact-checking organizations” through NED and other channels, the result being a US government-funded narrative management operation in a social media platform which has almost three billion active users.

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This article is just the latest installment in a series of pieces MacLeod has been putting out with Mintpress over the past few months documenting the many strings you can see between major Silicon Valley platforms and the US-centralized empire, which are becoming clearer and more numerous by the year.

Last month MacLeod released a report on the many veterans of the CIA and other branches of the US intelligence cartel who are being hired to high-level positions within Facebook’s parent company Meta which help determine what kinds of information get visibility on the company’s social media platforms. Meta’s “senior product policy manager for misinformation” was hired straight out of the Central Intelligence Agency in 2019 and now helps Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp sort out information from misinformation.

Last month MacLeod also put out an article on the many CIA veterans who have been hired to help Google decide what information gets seen in its searches and on Google-owned platforms like YouTube. Google is easily the single most influential corporation on earth when it comes to public access to information.

In June MacLeod penned an article titled “The Federal Bureau of Tweets: Twitter is Hiring an Alarming Number of FBI Agents,” reporting that “the social media giant has, in recent years, recruited dozens of individuals from the national security state to work in the fields of security, trust, safety and content.”

Even TikTok, MacLeod documents, has begun hiring a bizarre number of former NATO employees to police its content at the same time it has begun aligning with other Silicon Valley platforms in its censorious policies toward content from Russia.

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MacLeod’s important work adds to that of other reporters like Yasha Levine, whose book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet describes the way humanity’s unprecedented access to information has been intertwined with US imperial power from its very inception.

Silicon Valley is at least as fundamental a component of US imperial narrative control as the legacy media and Hollywood, and is becoming even more so. Together they comprise the empire’s narrative control apparatus, which is just as essential to the functioning of the empire as its military or economic might.

The expansion of human consciousness on issues of political and social justice has brought with it a growing public intolerance for tyranny and oppression, which has made it necessary for the world’s current empire to rule over us by providing us with the illusion of freedom. We are told that we live in a democracy where the people control their own fate, but in reality we are inundated with propaganda from the moment we are born that is designed to psychologically manipulate the way we think, act and vote. As Noam Chomsky said, “Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”

Silicon Valley is filled with spooks and liars for the same reason the mainstream news media support every US war and continually normalize the freakish injustices of our society: because whoever controls the narrative controls the world. Perception is reality, and if you can control how people perceive reality then, as far as their behavior is concerned, you control reality itself.

We will remain trapped with the abuses of the status quo oppression machine until we awaken to this fact.

__________________

My work is entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, following me on Facebook, Twitter, Soundcloud or YouTube, buying an issue of my monthly zine, or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi, Patreon or Paypal. If you want to read more you can buy my books. The best way to make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at my website or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. Everyone, racist platforms excluded, has my permission to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, click here. All works co-authored with my American husband Tim Foley.

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Featured image via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0), formatted for size.

Questions from DN Readers and/or for DN Readers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/06/2022 - 10:33pm in

In lieu of a guest post today, I’m sharing a few questions from from Daily Nous readers. Perhaps you can help with answers…

Four of them were emailed in, and one I saw on Twitter this morning and thought would be worth asking. Answers and discussion welcome. (Questions are numbered to make it easy to indicate which question you’re responding to.)

  1. A friend of mine has a physical condition which makes it impossible for her to attend actual classes. She has been trying to find an online graduate program in philosophy. I was wondering if you have a list of such programs or, if not, would you be able to ask your weblog readers if they know of such programs?
  2. I’d love to see some a post on Daily Nous offering or soliciting philosophers’ perspectives on cannabis use. There’s a ton of buzz about the use of psychedelics or casual drinking, but not much discussion on how philosopher’s use cannibas for medicinal, creative, or spiritual purposes—anywhere. I think seeing discussion of it on this platform would help break some of the stigma that is still associated with cannabis use.
  3. In your appearance on an episode of Hotel Bar Sessions, you and one of the hosts, Leigh Johnson, disagree over the extent to which philosophers have to be online in order to succeed in the profession. I think this is a subject worth getting input on from a broader range of philosophers. Would you consider a post asking about it at Daily Nous?
  4. Fellow academic philosophers, do you leverage your education and training in philosophy to supplement your income as a faculty member? If so, how? What do you do? [asked by Moti Mizrahi on Twitter; shared with permission]
  5. I’ve found in my teaching that sharing clips of or borrowing/adapting jokes from comedians can help in getting students interested in and understanding certain philosophical ideas, and I’d like to increase my store of material. Could you ask DN readers to share clips of comedians doing particularly philosophical bits? [Please include a line about what you take the philosophical content to be.]

Philosophers on the Internet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 28/05/2022 - 12:12am in

In today’s irony report, Daily Nous editor Justin Weinberg, who mere days ago announced he would be taking a break from the website, has returned to it to post about, of all things, philosophers on the internet.

Hi folks. I had a great time earlier this month discussing philosophy and philosophers on the internet with Leigh Johnson, Richard Lee, and Charles Peterson on their podcast, Hotel Bar Sessions (Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Audible, and everywhere else). This team knows how to put together a well-produced show and structure a group conversation that makes for a good listen, and I think a lot of you will enjoy the episode I was on, which was released today.

In it, we talk about the various ways philosophy is online and how philosophers use the internet, what’s good and bad about the internet in regards to philosophy, how philosophers act—and should act—on social media, the extent to which philosophers need to be online for professional advancement, who is doing good work online, and more. Check it out! (And feel free to comment here about it).

Escape from Dimes Square

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 10:59pm in

Surveying the grim carnival of Dimes Square.

The Metaverse and the Future of the Internet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 03/03/2022 - 6:27am in

Tags 

Internet

Broadly defined, the metaverse is the realm of computer-generated, networked extended-reality spaces (XR, which includes VR, AR and/or MR) in which interactions take place among humans and automated entities, some in gaming or fantasy worlds and some in “mirror worlds” that duplicate real-life environments.

Extended-reality gaming and social spaces have been in existence for decades, and recent technological advances have pushed the development of the metaverse to the forefront. This has inspired tens of billions of dollars in investments and predictions that this is “the future of the internet.”

On one hand, this could create opportunities for advanced, immersive, 3D, online spaces that could benefit all aspects of society. There are also concerns about the health, safety, security, privacy and economic implications of these new spaces. The ramifications will impact education, healthcare, gaming, entertainment, the arts, as well as most of our social and civic lives.

As part of the new conversations about what the maturing of the metaverse will look like and what that means for society, the Pew Research Center released a recent survey of experts in the field to better understand the possibilities and consequences as the metaverse evolves from now until 2040. They asked by 2040, WILL or WILL NOT the metaverse be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half-billion or more people globally.

My full response is shared below.

I think the term “metaverse” is currently a catch-all term for anything that will change with the Internet as it evolves over the next decade. We see the same thing happening in the use of terms like Web3 and changes to the current ecosystem.

What is exciting about these changes and the maturation of digital spaces is that it appears that a general decentralization of places, practices, and policies is underway. That is to suggest that the first iteration of the web (Web 1.0) was mostly read-only and included many more content consumers than content producers. Web 2.0, or the next evolution of digital spaces provided opportunities for more user-generated content, usability, and interoperability. Web 2.0 was far more social and participative. The challenge with Web 2.0 is that networks began to provide spaces for users to connect, communicate, and collaborate. The challenge is that this gave all power and control of data over to these companies and corporations.

Web 3.0 indicates an arbitrary evolution of digital spaces in which connections between users can take multiple paths. This includes a future that is hopefully more focused on data that is portable and personal. As evidenced and influenced by the blockchain, digital spaces will be more distributed and hopefully, users will have more control over their data, information, and identity. As an example, If I share and use Instagram, I’m giving them my content, data, and information. They can use this information as they see fit, and if I have a problem with that arrangement I have little recourse. If they sell the company or data, I may never know, and once again I have little that I can do about this. With a distributed system, I can relatively easily join other federated systems and identify how, when, and where my data and information is used.

Once again, I think when we discuss the “metaverse” it is just an indication that “everything is going to change.” Because the Internet is the common space for most individuals globally, this will impact the tools we use to build future digital environments, the places we’ll frequent, and what we’ll value and share in these spaces.

Up to this point, it seems like all of this is a relatively good idea…and it is.

The problem I have with the metaverse, and “everything changing” is a concern about trust and third parties in a distributed system. Up to this point, it seems like most of the solutions we’re seeing in terms of blockchain, distributed ledges, the metaverse, NFTS, and crypto are trying to solve current problems using newer solutions. For now, I don’t see the solution to the problem and the introduction of blockchain and “what comes next” as being better than the current solution.

What is exciting is decentralizing power and decision-making as we think about the possibilities. Add a dash of transparency in the model…and count me in.

Photo by and machines on Unsplash

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Knowledge Exchange Showcase - Understanding Visitor Engagement of Free Heritage Sites Using Social Media

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/07/2019 - 9:13pm in

Kathryn Eccles (Oxford Internet Institute), gives a talk on her Knowledge Exchange research project on using social media data to understand visitor engagement at heritage sites. Kathryn Eccles, Oxford Internet Institute

Dr Kathryn Eccles has been a Research Fellow in Digital Humanities at the Oxford Internet Institute since 2008. Kathryn is currently the PI of the Cabinet project, which has developed an interactive, mobile-optimised digital platform to support and encourage object-based learning.

Kathryn’s research interests lie primarily in the Digital Humanities, ranging from the re-organisation of cultural heritage and higher education in the digital world and the impact of new technologies on Humanities scholarship and scholarly communication, to broader debates surrounding the human and social aspects of innovation and technological change. In 2014, Kathryn was appointed as the University of Oxford’s first Digital Humanities Champion, in which capacity she played a leading role in developing the cross-University Digital Humanities strategy, advocating for Digital Humanities within the University and externally. Building on the University’s strengths in Digital Humanities, Kathryn continues to develop and contribute to training provision for all career stages and facilitates the embedding of digital practices and methodologies into Humanities teaching and research.

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