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Published: Mon, 24 Jul 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2017 00:51:40 -0400

 



Want to Look at Online Porn? The U.K. Gov't Wants to Strip You of Your Privacy

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 16:45:00 -0400

(image) Prime Minister Theresa May's administration wants to demolish British citizens' privacy if they look at pornography online.

That's not what the government saying, but that's exactly what's going to happen. The United Kingdom is tightening its controls on internet porn in an efforit to keep children away. They're doing this by mandating that porn companies collect proof that anybody attempting to visit a site is a legal adult before letting him see so much as a nipple. This could potentially force people to surrender private information—a credit card number, for example—just to get access, let alone download anything.

The authorities plan to get this system in place by next spring. The enforcement looks pretty severe, according to Ars Technica:

Sites that refuse to cooperate face the wrath of earmarked regulator the British Board of Film Classifications (BBFC). It will have the power to dish out fines of up to £250,000 [about $325,000] for non-compliance, cut loose misbehaving porn operators from their payment providers, advertisers, and other ancillary services that they use in the UK, or they could be blocked by ISPs—a method that the government's DCMS parliamentary under-secretary Lord Ashton previously insisted" would be used sparingly."

Ars Technica notes that many of these porn sites are not based in the United Kingdom, and that it's going to be hard to implement a policy that people can't work around. But more importantly: For the sites that are forced into compliance, what could potentially happen to that data if it's breached? This isn't just porn purchases being tracked now. It's porn site visits attached to an identifiable person's name:

"Age verification could lead to porn companies building databases of the UK's porn habits, which could be vulnerable to Ashley Madison style hacks," argued Open Rights Group director Jim Killock.

"The government has repeatedly refused to ensure that there is a legal duty for age verification providers to protect the privacy of Web users," he said, adding: "There is also nothing to ensure a free and fair market for age verification."

Let us not forget that May's government has implemented the Investigatory Powers Act, which requires internet providers store users' online histories for access by various government agencies in crime-fighting efforts.

Let us also not forget that even when granting that adults have the right to look at pornography, the U.K. government demands the authority to decide what sort of sexual practices you are allowed to enjoy. The government nanny is not fond of kinksters who get their jollies off naughty fetishes where people do mean things to each other.

Last year Ars Technica documented just how difficult it will actually be for the U.K. to keep people—even those under the age of 18—from accessing internet porn. Read more about it here.




Net Neutrality Supporters Should Actually Hate the Regulations They're Endorsing

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 08:00:00 -0400

If you went on the internet at all last week, you could not help but miss some of the web's most popular websites publicizing their campaigns that defend the Obama-era telecommunications regulation known as the Open Internet Order (OIO). Last Wednesday, tech heavyweights like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and even Pornhub held a "Day of Action" to support the controversial FCC rules. The websites bombarded users with blog posts encouraging folks to contact their representatives and popup messages bemoaning the future of a slow and tiered internet. But ironically, these websites' stated goals are in direct contradiction of the regulations that they ostensibly support. Simply stated, the OIO does not in fact secure the principles of "net neutrality" like so many of these websites implied to their users. In fact, the OIO may have the adverse effect of actively discouraging the principles of net neutrality through a loophole that would exempt motivated Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from OIO regulations. This cannot be emphasized enough: The OIO allows and encourages ISP filtering, a huge no-no in the world of net neutrality. This is a point that my Mercatus Center colleague Brent Skorup has made since shortly after the OIO rules were first introduced in February of 2015. It's a bit of a nuanced argument, and one that would not be immediately obvious to anyone who does not closely read all FCC reports and related court cases as a profession. But as the general public is whipped into a veritable frenzy to defend the OIO rules or risk Internet catastrophe, it's a critical fact to hammer home in the debate. To understand just how muddled the discussion surrounding "net neutrality" and the OIO has become, we need to know a bit about: 1) how the concept of net neutrality developed and what it means; and 2) the political pressures and compromises that were made in the run-up to the introduction of the OIO. First, the definition of "net neutrality" is incredibly hazy. You could almost say that more people agree that net neutrality is a good thing than can agree on any particular definition. The concept was first laid out by law professor Tim Wu in his seminal 2002 article, "A Proposal for Network Neutrality." Wu lays out hypothetical scenarios where ISPs block or throttle access to content for reasons ranging from cost to anti-competitive activities. His article attempts to distinguish content differentiation that he finds reasonable and should be allowed from those that he finds unjustifiable and should be prohibited. The article generated a fair bit of controversy even under this more limited framework—critics responded by pointing out some benefits of non-neutral Internet arrangements—but it was at least a relatively narrow and understood topic. From there, the concept of "net neutrality" morphed into something that was both utopian and unworkable. If you type the phrase into Google, the top definition provided is the "principle that Internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites." Yet this definition stands in sharp contradiction to the vision outlined by Wu, who noted that "a total ban on network discrimination, of course, would be counterproductive." This kind of extreme understanding of net neutrality has been dismissed by early Internet pioneer and MIT computer scientist David Clark as a "happy little bunny rabbit dream" that would be both impossible and undesirable to implement. Unfortunately, the unhinged understanding of "net neutrality" has since won the day. And it has fueled average people's nightmares about what the future of the Internet holds—even though it looks a lot like what we've always enjoyed. (After all, the OIO regulations were only proposed in 2015.) The core of these fears is a future where consumers are forced to purchase tiered package for Internet access of specific websites, or face slow service or even a complete blackout. Consider this[...]



Men as Likely To Be Harassed Online as Women

Tue, 18 Jul 2017 05:00:00 -0400

A new study released by the Pew Research Center supports what some of us have argued all along about online harassment: that it affects men as much as women and that the problem should not be framed as a gender issue—or defined so broadly as to chill legitimate criticism. If anything, the study says, men tend to get more online abuse than women, including serious abuse such as physical threats (though women are, predictably, more likely to be sexually harassed). However, when people are asked about free speech vs. safety on the internet, women are more likely to come down on the side of the latter. Thus, it is very likely future efforts at speech regulation will continue to be cast as "feminist" initiatives. Online harassment has become something of a cause célèbre in the last three years. It has been explored (and deplored) in numerous media reports; it has attracted the attention of politicians and even of the United Nations. A basic premise of these discussions has been that women, especially outspoken women, are specifically and maliciously targeted for hate, abuse, and threats; many feminists have claimed internet misogyny is the civil rights issue of our time. The Pew survey of over 4,000 American internet users over 18 conducted in January challenges those contentions. Forty four percent of the men and 37 percent of the women said that at some point, they had experienced at least one of the behaviors the study classified as harassment. Most of this abuse involved offensive name-calling and being embarrassed on purpose. However, 12 percent of men and 8 percent of women said they'd been the target of a physical threat; 6 percent of men and 8 percent of women said they had been stalked; 8 percent of men and 7 percent of women they had experienced "sustained harassment"; and 4 percent of men and 8 percent of women said they had been sexually harassed. Men and women under 30, who are the most likely to spend a lot of time online, are, unsurprisingly, the most likely to experience all kinds of online abuse, including its more severe forms. It's true that women who been targets of online abuse were more than twice as likely as men to describe their last such experience as extremely or very upsetting (35 percent vs. 16 percent). But, interestingly, there was no gender gap in actual negative effects of online harassment, be it mental stress, problems with friends and family, romantic problems, reputational damage, or trouble at work. Twelve percent of both male and female victims—or about 5 percent of all respondents—said that online harassment had made them fear for their or their loved ones' safety. One percent, with no gender difference, had been victims of doxing—the unwanted disclosure of their personal data online, ranging from real names for those who post under pseudonyms to place of work or home address. Few will be surprised to learn that women under 30 were substantially more likely than their male peers—53 percent vs. 37 percent—to report receiving unsolicited sexually explicit images. But in a more counterintuitive finding, men in that age group were more likely than women—14 percent vs. 10 percent—to say that explicit images of them had been shared online without their consent. (For those 30 and older, the figure was 5 percent for both sexes.) This differs sharply from feminist scholars' claims that 90 percent of so-called "revenge porn" targets women, a figure based on a self-selected and mostly female sample. But it supports a 2013 study by McAfee Security in which men were more likely to report both being threatened with having intimate photos of them posted online and actually having such photos posted. More women than men in the Pew Study, 11 percent vs. 5 percent, said they had experienced gender-based abuse online. But this gap may be partly due to differences in what men and women perceive as gender-based. A woman who is called fat and ugly on Twitter is likely to see the insult as sexist; a man who has a similar comment slung at[...]



Social Media Users Encounter More, Not Less, Political Diversity

Tue, 11 Jul 2017 16:15:00 -0400

If you use social media, you're more likely to get your news from more than one political perspective, according to a study by the Oxford-based researchers Richard Fletcher and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. This flies in the face of the accepted wisdom that says the internet segregates society into ever more cloistered communities of like-minded people. Ideological bubbles are real, but ideological bubbles have always been real; they may well be more permeable now than in the past. If you regularly read this website, you're probably a "news user"—one of the three groups Fletcher and Nielsen identify in a YouGov survey of internet users around the globe. News users go online for the express purpose of reading about current events. The second group is the "non-users." These are the people who avoid social media altogether. And somewhere in the middle there are the "incidentally exposed": people who use social media for nonpolitical purposes, but could conceivably come across a news story anyway. Think of someone who visits Facebook to stay in touch with friends but might click on a news story that comes up in the feed. Fletcher and Nielsen zero in on data from the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany in a write-up of their findings at the Nieman Journalism Lab. As you might expect, news users drew on more media sources than anyone else. In America, for example, they reported reading or viewing stories from an average of 5.16 different sources in the previous week. The incidentally exposed group, in turn, drew on more sources (an average of 3.29) than the people who didn't use social media at all (an average of just 1.8). "These differences remain statistically significant after controlling for a range of demographic and news attitude variables," the authors note. Needless to say, not everyone who looks at more than one news site is looking at sites from more than one point of view. But if you use social media, you're much more likely to take in sources from multiple perspectives. This chart shows the percentage of each group that used both at least one source from the left and at least one source from the right: As you can see, most Americans don't look at stories from more than one political perspective. But people who are on social media clearly tend to have a more diverse news diet than people who aren't. Bonus link: For more on this theme, check out my review of Eli Pariser's book The Filter Bubble. Here's an excerpt: Yes, our media consumption is increasingly personalized. But personalized does not mean isolated. Pariser imagines the Internet becoming a stagnant "city of ghettoes" where "connections and overlap between communities" disappear. But how many people belong to just one online community? A personalized Internet is an Internet geared toward your particular combination of interests, and therefore to your particular combination of human networks. If you're a Methodist Democrat in South Baltimore who watches birds, follows basketball, and loves Elvis, you might be in touch online with people who share your faith but not your politics, and vice versa; your neighborhood but not your hobby, and vice versa; your taste in sports but not in music, and vice versa. That isn't a city of ghettoes. It's a city of crossroads. And while there may be many good reasons to hate Facebook, an insufficient diversity of views isn't one of them. One of the chief effects of using the site, after all, is to discover your friends' horrifying opinions.[...]



What CNN's Threat to Dox a Redditor Tells Us About the State of Journalism

Fri, 07 Jul 2017 00:15:00 -0400

If you're going to create nasty memes to get attention, demand people give you credit for those memes and celebrate when the president of the United States shares one with his roughly 33 million followers, I have no sympathy for you. You're not a martyr for the cause of free expression. There was a time when anonymity allowed Americans with unpopular or unconventional beliefs to make their arguments without fear of retribution. Today, the internet has created an environment that incentivizes people to create detestable messages meant to troll and harass. Then again, this story isn't really about online harassment or the Reddit user "HanA**holeSolo," who has taken credit for the creation a GIF of President Trump body-slamming a wrestler—which I feel the need to reiterate is fake violence—with a CNN logo imposed on his face. The story itself means little. This is about how places like CNN function these days: how it overreacts to everything the president does, how many of today's newsrooms give some people a pass and destroy others. The search for HanA**holeSolo began before anyone knew he was responsible for anti-Semitic or bigoted posts. CNN tracked down his identity because he had committed thought crimes, the worst of which was mocking CNN. The story was meant to tie a Trump tweet mocking CNN to a hateful meme maker and blow up. That's because news organizations have become obsessed with fighting Trump rather than covering him. For all the sanctimonious self-championing of the importance of journalism in the Trump era, stories like these have no real purpose. This piece didn't educate viewers on the underbelly of social media, or the habits of the president, or anything else. It wasn't an argument over ideas or policy. It wasn't entertainment. It was a story birthed from the hysterics that erupted over a silly meme Trump retweeted. What CNN has done is induce some random troll to grovel and apologize for his wrongthink. Even if we concede that there's a good reason to track down a meme maker on Reddit, why doesn't the network run the name? Without the name, in fact, there is no real story. CNN claims it kept the poster's anonymity to protect his safety. Is it saying that anti-Trump activists will hurt the man? Is it saying that there should be no repercussion for things we say? Is this protection afforded all Americans? Moreover, the piece itself (and the on-air personalities at CNN) disputes the idea that his name was withheld to protect safety. It is clear that if HanA**holeSolo had responded to CNN by saying, "No, I'm not sorry, losers," he would have been outed. "CNN is not publishing 'HanA**holeSolo's' name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again," said a CNN piece. Should HanA**holeSolo ever revert to his nefarious meme-making ways, "CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change." This is a threat. There is simply no other way for an open-minded person to comprehend the meaning of the line. I've read thousands of news stories and written a bunch of them, and I can't think of a single instance of a similar disclaimer. CNN has absolved the man of his sins—for now. I guess if HanA**holeSolo does anything it deems ugly, the network reserves the right to put him in "danger"? In a now-deleted tweet, CNN's oft-confused Chris Cuomo asked: "Should CNN reveal name of Reddit user who made trump wrestling video? Had a lot of bigoted and hateful material on page and website." Let's chew on this question and assertion for a moment. For one thing, although Cuomo happens to be correct in this case, I don't trust his definition of hate or bigotry. Moreover, are journalistic standards contingent upon the target's political views? If HanA**holeSolo were to have the wrong opinion on same-sex mar[...]



Canada Claims Authority to Censor Your Internet Searches

Wed, 28 Jun 2017 16:15:00 -0400

The Canadian Supreme Court today ruled the country has the authority to demand Google censor and remove links to certain web pages or online content. The idea that governments can force Google to deindex links to pages is unfortunately not new (see the European Union's "right to be forgotten"). What matters internationally in this case is the government is forcing Google to remove links from searches regardless of where the Internet user is. That is to say: Canada is demanding the authority to censor the internet outside of its physical borders and control what people who are not Canadian citizens can find online. Today's court ruling declares that because the Internet doesn't have any borders, when Canada decides Google has to censor content it should be a global order: "The Internet has no borders — its natural habitat is global. The only way to ensure that the interlocutory injunction attained its objective was to have it apply where Google operates — globally." The case involves copyright and intellectual property claims. A tech firm was accusing another firm of stealing and duplicating one of its products and selling it online. Google was asked to deindex the links to the firm accused of stealing so that it wouldn't show up in search results. Google complied with court orders, but only for searches from within Canada. Canada's Supreme Court sees geographical limits (even virtual ones) on its ability to censor speech as "facilitating" illegal commerce rather than a speech issue. Here's a paragraph from the ruling that should give folks pause: This is not an order to remove speech that, on its face, engages freedom of expression values, it is an order to de-index websites that are in violation of several court orders. We have not, to date, accepted that freedom of expression requires the facilitation of the unlawful sale of goods. Canada has hate speech laws. Does it follow that Canada should require Google to deindex pages containing what it deems "hate speech" in the United States? If Canada does not because it acknowledges limits to its reach as a nation is it "facilitating" something unlawful? The court notes Google removes links due to court orders based on content and still doesn't seem to see an issue in a country's boundary of authority: [Google] acknowledges, fairly, that it can, and often does, exactly what is being asked of it in this case, that is, alter search results. It does so to avoid generating links to child pornography and websites containing "hate speech". It also complies with notices it receives under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Pub. L. No. 105-304, 112 Stat. 2680 (1998) to de-index content from its search results that allegedly infringes copyright, and removes websites that are subject to court orders. The court, in justifying its ruling, is unwittingly bringing up problems with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA is intended as a tool for fight online piracy and intellectual property theft by making it easier to remove copyrighted material through an ownership claim process. It is also prone to abuse. People abuse the DMCA's "take down" process in order to try to censor speech, critiques or commentary, they find objectionable. It can be as minor as trying to censor critical video game reviews, or extend as far as criticizing another country's leaders. Ecuadorian officials once attempted to use the DMCA to censor criticism of government actions. Google itself has stepped in to try to help users fend off abusive DMCA take-down requests. Invoking other forms of legally recognized internet censorship is not, perhaps, the defense Canada's Supreme Court is looking for. A closer examination highlights the potential for abuses. And claiming the authority to censor Google links everywhere in the world is a decision begging to be abused. Read the court's ruling here. France has attempted similar international censorship methods.[...]



Princeton-Trained Computer Scientists Are Building a New Internet That Brings Privacy and Property Rights to Cyberspace

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 13:13:00 -0400

Muneeb Ali and Ryan Shea are the co-founders of Blockstack, a project to rebuild the internet using blockchain technology so that individuals can reclaim direct control over their own identities, contacts, and data. The goal is to bring the property rights we enjoy in the physical world to cyberspace. These two Princeton-trained computer scientists—Ali completed his Ph.D. last month with a speciality in distributed systems—believe that today's internet is fundamentally broken. Users are forced to trust companies like Google, Amazon, and Facebook to maintain our online identities and personal information. They store our files in giant data centers that are increasingly vulnerable to hackers. And the Snowden leaks revealed that the National Security Agency has strong armed these tech giants into handing over users' personal data without bothering to obtain court-issued warrants. "Google has this saying, 'don't be evil,'" says Ali. "Maybe a company shouldn't be powerful enough that they're sitting there thinking, 'should I be evil or not?'" So how does Blockstack propose to alter cloud computing, which has bought enormous efficiencies to the tech sector? Ali and Shea say they've worked out a way to break up internet data centers into virtual storage lockers that are fully encrypted, so individual users are the only ones who hold the keys to their own data. "If you're a Dropbox engineer, you can go through my files today," says Ali. "But if I use Dropbox through Blockstack, they have no visibility into the data at all." This new decentralized architecture is possible thanks to the invention of a new type of distributed database called a "blockchain," which was introduced to the world in 2008 as a component of the peer-to-peer digital currency bitcoin. The blockchain was designed as a decentralized system for keeping track of who owns what bitcoin, but in the last nine years an entire industry has emerged that all about integrating the blockchain into everything from real estate markets to driverless car technology. Shea describes the blockchain as a virtual "whitepages the community maintains together," which "anyone can add to" but "nobody controls"—a record that doesn't require a central entity to guarantee its veracity. This shared white pages lists the location of each users' encrypted data lockers. Essential online functions that can be moved to the blockchain include registering unique identities and keeping track of each users' personal contacts. On this new internet, applications like Facebook and Twitter will still exist, but they'll have far less power and responsibility. "At Blockstack, we're enabling small, open-source groups to grow and compete with the large players," says Shea. What will the Blockstack internet mean for Silicon Valley? Shea predicts a new wave of tech firms will emerge. "I believe this will create a much larger economy and a lot more prosperity for everyone." --- Written, shot, produced, and edited by Jim Epstein. Hosted by Nick Gillespie. Additional camera by Kevin Alexander. Common Consensus by The Franks, Creative Commons Attribution license. Mario Bava Sleeps In a Little Later Than He Expected To by Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons Attribution license. Talvihorros by the Blue Cathedral, Creative Commons Attribution license. What True Self, Feels Bogus, Let's Watch Jason X by Chris Zabriskie, Creative Commons Attribution license. Canon in D Major by Kevin MacLeod, Creative Commons Attribution license. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.[...]



SCOTUS Unanimously Rejects Law Banning Sex Offenders From Social Media

Mon, 19 Jun 2017 12:00:00 -0400

Today the Supreme Court unanimously overturned a North Carolina law that bans registered sex offenders from any "commercial social networking Web site" that is open to minors. With the exception of Neil Gorsuch, who did not participate in the case because he was not on the Court when it was argued, every justice agreed that the law's broad scope cannot be reconciled with the First Amendment. The case was brought by Lester Packingham, who at the age of 21 had sex with a 13-year-old girl and was convicted of taking indecent liberties with a minor. Eight years later, Packingham beat a traffic ticket and expressed his pleasure on Facebook: "Man God is Good! How about I got so much favor they dismiss the ticket before court even started. No fine, No court costs, no nothing spent….Praise be to GOD, WOW! Thanks JESUS!" That burst of online exultation violated North Carolina's ban on social media use, which covers all registered sex offenders, regardless of whether their crimes involved minors or the internet. Packingham argued that his conviction violated the First Amendment, and a state appeals court agreed. The North Carolina Supreme Court did not. Siding with Packingham today, the U.S. Supreme Court concludes that the law "burden[s] substantially more speech than is necessary to further the government's legitimate interests." Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy emphasizes the internet's vital importance to freedom of speech. "This case is one of the first this Court has taken to address the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet," he says. "As a result, the Court must exercise extreme caution before suggesting that the First Amendment provides scant protection for access to vast networks in that medium." Kennedy says North Carolina's law "enacts a prohibition unprecedented in the scope of First Amendment speech it burdens," applying indiscriminately to many kinds of online activity, even when it has nothing to do with contacting minors. "By prohibiting sex offenders from using those websites, North Carolina with one broad stroke bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge," he writes. "These websites can provide perhaps the most powerful mechanisms available to a private citizen to make his or her voice heard....To foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights." In a concurring opinion joined by John Roberts and Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito notes that the law's broad definition of "commercial social networking Web site" covers not only widely used social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter but also shopping sites such as Amazon and news sites such as The Washington Post. Alito says the law's "staggering reach...makes it a felony for a registered sex offender simply to visit a vast array of websites, including many that appear to provide no realistic opportunity for communications that could facilitate the abuse of children." The Court's decision in Packingham v. North Carolina not only vindicates the First Amendment but provides a welcome dose of skepticism about sweeping, indiscriminate laws that are supposedly justified by the need to protect children from sexual predators. In this case, as in many others, the law went far beyond that goal, criminalizing a wide range of innocent actions by people classified as sex offenders, most of whom pose no real threat to children.[...]



Theresa May’s Call for Internet Censorship Isn't Limited to Fighting Terrorism

Mon, 05 Jun 2017 15:25:00 -0400

You'd think Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg himself was the driver of the van that plowed into pedestrians on London Bridge Saturday, the way U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is talking about the attack. He isn't, but everybody across the world, not just in the United Kingdom, needs to pay close attention to how May wants to respond to the assault. May believes the problem is you and your silly insistence that you be permitted to speak your mind and to look at whatever you want on the internet. And she means to stop you. And her attitude toward government control of internet speech is shared by President Donald Trump (and Hillary Clinton), so what she's trying to sell isn't isolated to her own citizenry. In a speech in the wake of this weekend's attack, May called flat-out for government authority to censor and control what people can see and access on the internet: We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed—yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide. We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning. Note that May appears to be trying to narrowly pitch a regulatory regime that focuses entirely on censoring speech by terrorists. One might argue that even America's First Amendment would not protect such speech, since such communications involve planning violence against others. But May and the Tories really want to propose much broader censorship of the internet, and they know it. May is using fear of terrorism to sell government control over private online speech. The Tories' manifesto for the upcoming election makes it pretty clear they're looking to control communication on the internet in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with fighting terrorism. BuzzFeed took note: The proposals—dotted around the manifesto document—are varied. There are many measures designed to make it easier to do business online but it's a different, more social conservative approach when it comes to social networks. Legislation would be introduced to protect the public from abuse and offensive material online, while everyone would have the right to wipe material that was posted when they were under 18. Internet companies would also be asked to help promote counter-extremism narratives—potentially echoing the government's Prevent programme. There would be new rules requiring companies to make it ever harder for people to access pornography and violent images, with all content creators forced to justify their policies to the government. The manifesto doesn't seem to acknowledge a difference between speech and activity, Buzzfeed adds: "It should be as unacceptable to bully online as it is in the playground, as difficult to groom a young child on the internet as it is in a community, as hard for children to access violent and degrading pornography online as it is in the high street, and as difficult to commit a crime digitally as it is physically." New laws will be introduced to implement these rules, forcing internet companies such as Facebook to abide by the rulings of a regulator or face sanctions: "We will introduce a sanctions regime to ensure compliance, giving regulators the ability to fine or prosecute those companies that fail in their legal duties, and to order the removal of content where it clearly breaches UK law." The United Kingdom already has some very heavy content-based censorship of pornography that presumes to police what sorts of sexual fantasies are acceptable among its populace. Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown has written repeatedly about the British government's nannying tendencies in trying suppress pornography. In a manner similar to this censorship push, May and the British government sold the[...]



Everyone Should Be Getting Wikipedia for Free

Sun, 04 Jun 2017 07:00:00 -0400

Internet providers should be able to experiment with giving subscribers free stuff, such as access to Wikipedia and other public information and services on their smartphones. Unfortunately, confusion about whether today's net neutrality regulations allow U.S. providers to make content available without it counting against your data plan—a practice called "zero-rating"—has discouraged many companies from doing so, even though zero-rating experiments are presumptively legal under today's net neutrality regulations. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already taken steps to clear away the discouragement of such experiments. After Ajit Pai took over as FCC chairman in January, he moved to end the investigations, begun under his predecessor, into companies that have tried to go down that path. And of course Chairman Pai also opened a rulemaking proceeding in April aimed at rolling back those rules, which invited and allowed the FCC's Wireline Bureau to start those investigations. But these steps alone haven't sent the kind of staunch, affirmative encouragement that's really needed. The lack of clarity about zero-rating could change overnight, however, and it wouldn't require any new laws, any new regulations, any new quasi-formal inquiries from the commissioners—or even Pai's proposed rollback of the 2015 regulatory order. All it would take would be for Pai to call openly (in speeches or interviews, say, or other public appearances) and frequently for internet providers to experiment with adding zero-rated public information to their offerings. Zero-rating experiments can be a win-win-win: Customers get access to more useful content for the same price; companies have more options for attracting users and expanding their business; and society at large benefits when greater numbers of people are exposed to valuable resources such as Wikipedia, public-health information, and other non-commercial apps and websites. But the big fear among some net neutrality activists is that commercial zero-rating will favor well-heeled incumbents over lean new innovators. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) put it in 2016, "The most dangerous of these plans, such as the AT&T and Verizon offerings, only offer their users zero-rated data from content providers who pay the carriers money to do so. Such 'pay for play' arrangements favor big content providers who can afford to pay for access to users' eyeballs, and marginalize those who can't, such as nonprofits, startups, and fellow users." Even non-commercial zero-rated offerings may a problem, EFF argued. These include the risk of "distorting" content consumption in favor of already-popular non-subscription services (think Google's search engine or Facebook) or the "walled garden effect"—i.e., that some price-sensitive customers may choose never to venture outside of the zero-rated services sponsored by the internet provider. But what evidence we do have suggests that zero rating enables net new traffic, because people visit destinations that they would not otherwise. Roslyn Layton of Aalborg University has shown that at least 10 million people in developing countries use free data to access pregnancy and AIDS information. The fact is, information sources like Wikipedia regularly drive traffic to the larger internet. A zero-rated, stripped-down, low-bandwidth version of the free online encyclopedia, called Wikipedia Zero, is already offered in dozens of developing countries around the world, which actually makes it easier to find relevant information and services on the non-zero-rated web. For instance, the Wikipedia entry for "Wikipedia Zero" includes links pointing users to both nonprofit sites and for-profit, advertising-supported sites—including many sources that are themselves critical of the Wikipedia Zero platform for [...]



House Overwhelmingly Supports Bill Subjecting Teen Sexters to 15 Years in Federal Prison

Wed, 31 May 2017 11:08:00 -0400

Teens who text each other explicit images could be subject to 15 years in federal prison under a new bill that just passed the House of Representatives. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, has called the measure "deadly and counterproductive." "While the bill is well intended, it is overbroad in scope and will punish the very people it indicates it is designed to protect: our children," Lee said during a House floor debate over the bill. The bill would also raise "new constitutional concerns" and "exacerbate overwhelming concerns with the unfair and unjust mandatory minimum sentencing that contributes to the overcriminalization of juveniles and mass incarceration generally." Introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) in March, the "Protecting Against Child Exploitation Act of 2017" passed the House by an overwhelming majority last week. Only two Republicans—Reps. Justin Amash of Michigan and Thomas Massie of Kentucky—voted against the bill, along with 53 Democrats. "The bill prohibits some conduct that the Constitution does not allow Congress to regulate, and Rep. Amash opposes the expansion of mandatory minimums and crimes that are already prosecuted at the state level," a spokesperson from Amash's office explained of his opposition. Most of the opposition centered on the bill's effective expansion of mandatory-minimum prison sentences. One vocal critic was Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), who called the legislation "particularly appalling" because it would "apply to people who I think we should all agree should not be subject" to long mandatory minimums. "Under this law, teenagers who engage in consensual conduct and send photos of a sexual nature to their friends or even to each other may be prosecuted and the judge must sentence them to at least 15 years in prison," said Scott on the House floor. What's more, "the law explicitly states that the mandatory minimums will apply equally to an attempt or a conspiracy," Scott noted: That means if a teenager attempts to obtain a photo of sexually explicit conduct by requesting it from his teenage girlfriend, the judge must sentence that teenager to prison for at least 15 years for making such an attempt. If a teenager goads a friend to ask a teenager to take a sexually explicit image of herself, just by asking, he could be guilty of conspiracy or attempt, and the judge must sentence that teenager to at least 15 years in prison. But Johnson, a freshman congressman (and vocal Trump supporter), dismissed opponents' concern that the measure would be used in ways he didn't intend it to be used. "In Scripture, Romans 13 refers to the governing authorities as 'God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer,'" he said in response to their floor concerns. "I, for one, believe we have a moral obligation, as any just government should, to defend the defenseless." Johnson has repeatedly claimed that his bill will close "loopholes" that allow child pornographers to go free. But in the only "loophole" case he has pinpointed, it's overreaching federal prosecutors who bungled bringing a bad guy to justice, not some fundamental flaw in our criminal code. In that case, 19-year-old Anthony Palomino-Coronado was accused of molesting his 7-year-old neighbor repeatedly over the course of several months. In investigating the case, police discovered one photo of the abuse that had been taken and subsequently deleted from Palomino-Coronado's phone. Combined with the victim's testimony, the photo should have guaranteed state police little trouble in trying to prosecute Palomino-Coronado for sexual abuse of a child. But federal prosecutors preempted such a prosecution by deciding to instead try Palomino-Coronado in federal court for producing ch[...]



Are You Ready for the "Intimacy Economy"?

Fri, 26 May 2017 10:00:00 -0400

We've all heard of the "sharing economy" and the "gig economy," app-driven services such as Uber and Airbnb that have radically altered transportation, travel, and an infinite number of other business sectors. But are you ready for the "intimacy economy"? That's economist and media-studies professor Glenn Platt's term for the ways in which the internet and connectivity are shrinking the distance between performer and audience, producer and consumer, and celebrity and fan. "When I talk about the intimacy economy, I'm talking about this growing category of successful business models that are built on one-to-one relationships and experiences that are personal, authentic, and unscripted," explains Platt, the founder and director of the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies (AIMS) at Miami University of Ohio. He points to an example involving Craig Finn, best-known as the frontman for the indie rock band The Hold Steady. As a way to raise money for his latest album and tour, Finn set up a crowd-funded pledge drive through which fans could sign up to download the album or have it shipped early. The really interesting thing, though, were the higher-level offerings for funders, says Platt. These included paying a couple of hundred dollars to go record shopping with him in New York. "Here you are, a music fan," he says, "and [Finn] is willing to go record-shopping with you. You're getting to do the equivalent of going to church with one of your rock-and-roll heroes....It's different than saying, If you pay extra, you're going to get an autographed picture." In a wide-ranging conversation about technology and disruption, Platt tells Reason's Nick Gillespie how the intimacy economy will revolutionize not only business but also political and cultural practices. In a world where mass personalization and individualization is the new normal, the intimacy economy provides a bold new way of thinking about the future of interactive media. Produced by Ian Keyser. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/324529279%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-QZ6Aa&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true" width="100%" height="450" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: Hi, this is Nick Gillespie and this is the Reason podcast. Please Subscribe to us at iTunes and rate and review us while you're there. Today we're talking with Glenn Platt. He's the C. Michael Armstrong professor of interactive media studies and the founding director of the Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies at Miami University. Glenn thanks for joining us. Glenn Platt: Hey Nick. Nick Gillespie: Let's talk about this concept of the intimacy economy that you've talked about. I've actually used it in a couple of articles that I've written at Reason and elsewhere. What do you mean when you talk about the intimacy economy and why is it so important? Glenn Platt: Sure, when I talk about the intimacy economy what I'm talking about is this is a growing category of successful business models that are built on one to one relationships and experiences, that are personal. authentic and unscripted. And so we're starting to see more and more of the non stylized relationships and I say "brands" here because I come from a business perspective. But, really, when I say "brands" we're talking about celebrities, we're talking about if any ... I don't know, institution of the third kind th[...]



How Deregulation Gave Us FM Radio, HBO, and the iPhone

Mon, 22 May 2017 14:14:00 -0400

"We've gone to a modern [broadcast] system that has a lot of places where stuff can happen without permission," says Thomas W. Hazlett, who's the FCC's former chief economist, a professor at Clemson University, and author of the new book The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone. "And we have seen that the smartphone revolution and some other great stuff in the wireless space has really burgeoned...That comes from deregulation." So-called net neutrality rules are designed to solve a non-existent problem and threaten to restrict consumer choice, Hazlett tells Reason's Nick Gillespie. "The travesty is there's already a regulatory scheme [to address anti-competitive behavior]—it's called antitrust law." Greater autonomy and consumer freedom led to the development of cable television, the smartphone revolution, and the modern internet. While we've come a long way from the old days of mother-may-I pleading with the FCC to grant licenses for new technology, Hazlett says, "there's a lot farther to go and there's a lot of stuff out there that's being suppressed." He points to the history of radio and television. Herbert Hoover and Lyndon Johnson exercised extraordinary control over spectrum allocation, which they used for their own political and financial gain. With liberalization, we now have hundreds of hours of varied television programming as compared to the big three broadcast networks of the '60s, an abundance of choices in smartphone providers and networks as compared to the Ma Bell monopoly, and more to come. Hazlett also discusses his views on current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, how the FCC delayed the arrival of cable television to protect incumbent broadcasters, and "the most infamous statement ever made by an FCC regulator" in a 1981 Q&A with Reason magazine. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Justin Monticello. Cameras by Todd Krainin and Mark McDaniel. Music by RW Smith. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript—check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: HI. I'm Nick Gillespie for Reason. Today, we're talking with Thomas Winslow Hazlett, an economics professor at Clemson, a long-time Reason contributor, former chief economist at the Federal Communications Commission, and author most recently of the epic new book, The Political Spectrum: The Tumultuous Liberation of Wireless Technology, from Herbert Hoover to the Smartphone. Tom, thanks for talking to us. Thomas Hazlett: Thanks for having me, Nick. Nick Gillespie: Your book is a masterful counterblast, I think, to the intellectual status quo when it comes to broadcasting, cable, Internet, especially related to things like spectrum auctions and net neutrality and whatnot. Your large argument is that government inhibits innovation rather than encourages it. Is that accurate? Thomas Hazlett: Yeah, that's the starting point, but I certainly go farther, a lot farther in this book, because there has been significant liberalization, and we learn a lot from the directions we've gone. We see the suppression through administrative allocations of spectrum, which just means that we have this Mother-may-I system where the government's in charge of who does what in wireless and has to give explicit permission. We've gone from a system like that to a modern system that has a lot of places where stuff can happen without permission. Nick Gillespie: Right. Thomas Hazlett: We have seen that what we call perhaps the smartphone revolution and some other great stuff in the wireless space has really burgeoned. We have these emerging networks and these ecosystems. That comes from [...]



Government Is the Cause of—Not the Solution to—the Latest Hacking Outbreak

Mon, 15 May 2017 13:20:00 -0400

Privacy and cybersecurity experts and activists have been warning for ages that governments have their priorities all wrong. National security interests (not just in America but other countries as well) comparatively spend much more time and money attempting to breach the security systems of other countries and potential enemies than they do bolstering their own defenses. Reuters determined, with the information from intelligence officials, that the United States spends $9 on cybersurveillance and government hacking for every $1 it sends on defending its network systems. The "WannaCry" Malware attack that spooled out over the end of last week and into the weekend, implicates both sides of this problem. The ransomware, first of all, allegedly originated from vulnerabilities and infiltration tools developed by the National Security Agency (NSA) they had been hoarding and keeping secret from technology companies whose defenses they were breaching. All of this secrecy was to facilitate the NSA's ability to engage in cyberespionage and to prevent technology companies from building defenses that would have inhibited government surveillance. The NSA lost control of these infiltration tools and they were publicly exposed by the hacker group known as the "Shadow Brokers" last month. So this WannaCry attack or something like it (and probably many more) was incoming, and attentive information technology specialists were aware and hopefully prepared. Microsoft had already released a patch to address the vulnerabilities. Except not everybody downloaded it. The non-downloaders included parts of the United Kingdom's National Health Service (NHS), the socialized, taxpayer-funded healthcare system that covers the entire population there. The NHS had been warned that computers using old Microsoft operating systems were vulnerable, but several hundreds of thousands of computers had not been upgraded, according to the BBC. So on the one hand, we have a government agency refusing to disclose cybersecurity vulnerabilities it had discovered in order to take advantage of them, potentially leaving everybody's computers open to attacks. And then, on the other hand, we have a government agency refusing to properly prioritize cybersecurity to protect the data and privacy of its citizens (they blamed it on not having enough money, of course). This poll from Pew from last year shouldn't be a surprise, then. Consumers have less confidence in the federal government to protect their data than cellphone companies, email service providers, and credit card companies: That the government has been terrible on both ends of this problem makes this op-ed response at The New York Times by Zeynep Tufekci all the more confusing: She blames Microsoft and tech companies for apparently wanting to be paid to continue fixing and updating old, outdated operating systems. While she acknowledges that there are costs involved in such behavior, she seems to think that Microsoft should just suck it up and shell out. This is a rather remarkable hot take (and she's most certainly not alone in it): [C]ompanies like Microsoft should discard the idea that they can abandon people using older software. The money they made from these customers hasn't expired; neither has their responsibility to fix defects. Besides, Microsoft is sitting on a cash hoard estimated at more than $100 billion (the result of how little tax modern corporations pay and how profitable it is to sell a dominant operating system under monopolistic dynamics with no liability for defects). Has anybody seen a demand for free goods and services couched in an argument as fundamentally dumb as "The money hasn't expired!" before? Why does The New York Times continue [...]



How Washington Lost the War on Muscle

Sun, 14 May 2017 06:00:00 -0400

When Ned decided to try anabolic steroids for the first time, his goal was to "be bigger and look better." He had friends who used, and they seemed no worse for wear. The college sophomore was already training smart and eating right. "I felt like the pieces were in place to accelerate the process," he says looking back. That left the question of acquisition: He knew he could use the internet to illegally buy drugs from overseas, or he could invest some social capital in befriending a muscle-bound gym regular who might be able to hook him up. Still, he hesitated, until a fellow lifter revealed that he could obtain the same drug—testosterone, the paterfamilias of anabolic steroids—legally. If Ned could convince an M.D. that he had low testosterone, he could walk away with script in hand. Then he would be able to pick up clean, accurately labeled "test" from his local pharmacy in broad daylight, instead of braving the black market. He'd avoid the risks of drugs passed hand-to-hand, which might be under-dosed, mislabeled, or dirty. And buying directly from an Indian or Chinese lab (which probably supplied the American gym vendor anyway) poses all those risks plus the additional possibility of criminal charges—including prison time—if U.S. Customs intercepts your package and conducts a "controlled delivery." "I'd estimate the majority of controlled deliveries I've seen have involved quantities that are consistent with personal use," criminal defense attorney Rick Collins writes in Legal Muscle, his 2002 doorstopper on U.S. anabolic steroid laws. "A band of government agents will lie in wait until you make the horrific mistake of accepting your mail. Then, like a plague of locusts, they'll descend upon the sanctity of your home, ransacking it from roof to basement." User surveys say that more than half of men who buy drugs for physique and performance enhancement do so on the internet black market, despite the fact that buying steroids without a prescription is a crime in every state and a federal offense. Yet those same surveys also suggest that the number of recreational steroid users who acquire their drugs legally may have tripled in the last 10 years. What, exactly, are these people chasing? Some men want to look in the mirror and be blown away by their own sheer mass. Other men want to feel as virile and physically capable at 50 as they did at 18. Strength athletes—powerlifters and strongmen, professional and amateur alike—want to amplify their natural abilities. But contrary to popular media, the vast majority of steroid-using men are are not athletes, but regular working stiffs who like how they look and feel on "gear." Ned, who asked me not to share his real name, is one of those people. He's happily married, employed in academia, and as conscientious about his health as he is about his appearance. He represents a growing demographic of people who are using internet message boards, publicly available research data, and licensed doctors to tweak their bodies, take control of their decisions, and build forbidden muscle in a post-prohibition world. EXPERIMENTATION The use of anabolic steroids to build strength and muscle goes back to the middle of the 20th century and a company called Ciba Pharmaceuticals. Ciba conducted much of the early research into testosterone-based drugs, giving its compounds to American doctors and encouraging them to perform informal studies on their patients. The company published these findings in books such as 1948's Refresher Course on Male Hormone Therapy, which contains testosterone case studies for every condition then under the sun, from congenital eunuchoidism to same-sex attraction. (The eunuchs dev[...]