Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been the subject of content deletions and platform bans by a number of companies over the past two weeks, including Apple, Facebook, Spotify, YouTube, YouPorn, and Pinterest, with company spokespeople citing Jones’ repeat violations of net-abuse policies and failure to abide by platform publishing requirements as the common themes and causes of termination.
Before moving on to my own comments on the situation, I’d like to share two responses which I felt were particularly measured and insightful:
On to the bigger picture, then.
First, can we agree it’s time we backed off and left Alex Jones to his well deserved fate? The man made his bed, now he’s welcome to lie in it and go back to being the pariah he was before Donald Trump put him in the spotlight.
Second, can we please stop calling it censorship? Jones doesn’t lack a platform of his own. He’s been self-publishing through his personal InfoWars website and selling products through his online store for many years. Framing this as de-platforming is missing the point. Not only does Jones have a media company he can use any time he wishes without limits, but it was his own decision to ignore the rules of third-party platforms on which he’d grossly overstayed his welcome.
While some aspects of the situation could have been handled differently (I’ll get to that later), overall there is no sympathy due. Jones has been poking and throwing rocks at this particular bear for years, knowing in the back of his mind that one day it was going to wake up and slap the ever-loving shit out of him. The only unexpected part was how long it took.
To those who cry ‘free speech,’ I note that freedom of speech has never been about freedom from logical consequences or freedom from criticism. Both happen in the real world, and in this case several key businesses have come to the conclusion that they’d rather not let Alex Jones use their networks as a vehicle for disinformation, defamation, and allegeddefamation.
While American defamationlaws and safe harbourprotections insulate from lawsuits caused by user-submitted content, they don’t do anything to stave off the bad PR and bruising to corporate image that come from associating with a person who’s made living off of trolling the public in some of the most base and ugly ways imaginable.
As wiser journalists have pointed out, Jones’ flouting of Acceptable Use Policies, harassment of innocents, othering of minorities, and seeming inability to sustain polite relationships with other human beings online rise to the level of corporate governance, but not the First Amendment.
Similar arguments could be made against numerous impressionable Jones fans who’ve taken him too literally over the years and engaged in harassment, violence, and defamation, some of which rises to the level of criminal behaviour.
Posted on2018 May 01|Comments Off on Quoth the Raven: “It’s a Match!”
Years ago, when I first heard about online DNA match services, my reaction was something to the effect of, “Stuff you put online lives forever, you no longer have control of it, so what happens when privacy breaches happen?”
While many people have a preconceived notion of DNA being unique, decisive, and absolutely airtight, the reality is a touch more humbling, as multiple news outlets and law enforcement officials have warned of the perils, error rates, and numbers of false positives involved in family matching. If anything, it reinforces a need to follow the usual rules of investigation: strive to be more thorough, and always tread carefully.
While this particular legal case has raised a lot of eyebrows, to me it seems to be more about the unmasking of a killer than the means by which the latest set of leads was generated. This isn’t a new technology, it’s been around for quite some time. Police have used these services before, but those instances haven’t grabbed headlines in the same way as the case of the Golden State Killer.
To the officers involved, I salute your creativity and perseverance. Hopefully, once justice has taken its course and the case has been tried, you’ll have been able to give some much-needed closure to the families of the victims.
But that’s not why I’m writing.
What’s problematic about the mainstreaming of genetic sequencing and the subsequent breakdown of taboos surrounding our most sensitive personal possession — the DNA code — is not the risk of false positives or accidental misidentification in a police investigation. It’s the line of opportunists who are eager to acquire that data and bend it to their will for all manner of commercial, insurance, medical, and other misuses as people relax their guard and invite more and more strangers to the party to play gatekeeper to this extremely sensitive information.
If you’ve ever been a victim of identity theft, or if you’ve ever had someone run up a bunch of unauthorized charges on your credit card, you already have a glimpse of how it feels.
Your bank can issue a new credit card number, but you don’t get a mulligan once your DNA code makes it into the wild.
Posted on2018 March 09|Comments Off on Video Platform Go Boom: Perspectives on the Adpocalypse
As it becomes increasingly obvious a sea change is occurring at YouTube with respect to how the company conducts business and governs its user base, it’s time we had a meaningful conversation about the use of third-party content aggregation platforms and the long-term effects of putting too many eggs into the same basket.
Only a few generations have been lucky enough to witness the birth of the World Wide Web (and mass commercialization of the Internet proper) and still have the privilege of living a reasonable number of years on both sides of that flashbulb moment in history. Mine is one of them: together, we’ve grown with it, nurtured it, augmented our lives with it, watched it evolve — and we’ve drawn incredible benefit from the technological revolution that followed. Today all manner of computer systems cross paths with our lives hundreds of times on a daily basis, and most times, it rarely elicits a thought.
We’ve become so intimately tied to our technology that invisibledesign has become an exquisitely refined, and generally expected, norm. Where once the sharing of content on the Web was an intellectually expensive and fairly time-consuming undertaking — often requiring an individual to learn various back-end technologies and programming languages as well as visual design and its attendant software — nowadays, most people rely on a multitude of turn-key solutions that do much of the thinking and heavy lifting for us, offering decent integration with very little downtime.
Posted on2018 February 07|Comments Off on SpaceX: There’s a Starman Waiting in the Sky
Yesterday was the maiden voyage of the Falcon Heavy and true to its nature, SpaceX didn’t disappoint. Whether we’re looking at the technical execution of landing two boosters vertically after flight at the same time on tandem pads (we’ll ignore that pesky central core), or the inspiration of real-life ‘Starman’ entering orbit to the tune of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars,’ there’s a lot to be excited about.
What made this launch so memorable was the gutsy aspiration, the heart, the because-we-can’ ethos. Why launch a boring regular test payload when instead, they can test a new space suit and do it in one of the most endearing ways possible? That creativity is a talent in its own right. It doesn’t merely make news, it captures the love and imagination of generations and reminds us exactly why space travel is fucking awesome.
And yes, there are times when we need exactly this kind of boot to the head to wake us from our earthbound problems and inspire us to dream of what humankind can accomplish next — among the stars.
Keep being awesome, SpaceX.
As for the technical side of things, the drone ship video feed was lost after the central core booster hit the ocean at 300 miles per hour, about 300 feet (100 meters) from the drone ship. The rocket was able to restart only one of its three engines during re-entry before it ran out of the TEA-TEB compound required to ignite the fuel mixture.
Elon Musk’s commentary and attitude on this are interesting: in a world where many CEOs tend not to engage actively with the public, he bucks the trend by being casual and upfront, often discussing a lot of the learning opportunities, successes, and failures his company has had over the years.
And yes, there have been some spectacular fireworks at past launches and landings.
Comments Off on SpaceX: There’s a Starman Waiting in the Sky