Blake C. Stacey’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Mar 24th, 2021 @ 2:42pm

    (untitled comment)

    This bit at the end of the Axios story linked in the post caught my eye:

    Smaller tech companies and online sites will balk at any Section 230 changes, even if considered narrow. The biggest companies have the greatest ability to respond and adapt to legislation.

    This manages to be absolutely true and yet gallingly phrased. It still puts the emphasis on "tech companies", rather than people. The mindset at work is that the Internet is a medium for commerce, not communication.

  • Mar 18th, 2021 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, bipartisan bad ideas make me even more worried then Democratic bad ideas. I'm drafting a letter to my senators (Warren and Markey) about all this, because I'm an academic and writing is my thing. Going to try making the pitch that the rush to legislate without careful study first is off-brand. We need to be hearing from activists who have used the Internet to organize in support of marginalized groups, software developers who know what's technically feasible and what isn't, journalists who have learned to see through corporate and political spin, even (gasp) lawyers who have actually argued Section 230 cases. Instead, the conversation has been shaped by pundits out to make a buck, politicians arguing in the worst faith ("Big Tech is censoring conservatives, a noun a verb Critical Race Theory"), and the CEOs of corporations that ought to be broken up anyway. Passing laws that will further entrench the current major players while simultaneously going after them on antitrust grounds is, as Mr. Spock would say, not logical.

  • Mar 18th, 2021 @ 10:46am

    (untitled comment)

    Archive Of Our Own.

  • Mar 17th, 2021 @ 6:47pm


    And even if it can be measured in a semi-robust way, it's such a ... bizarrely nonindicative number to put so much weight upon. Not every reader of a news website hangs out in their comment section --- very probably, most don't. Most people who read Wikipedia don't edit it. The challenges of content moderation, and the potential risk to the public of any given bit of user-contributed content, scale at best vaguely and imprecisely with "monthly unique visitors".

    My hackles go up a bit whenever it sounds like a law would make a particular technology mandatory, or effectively so. Let's say that I run a nonprofit with a substantial website. I'm not beholden to any advertisers; my donors care about the importance of our mission, not click rates and page impressions. We provide longreads of lasting relevance, so we're not really concerned with most performance metrics. Accordingly, our "analytics" needs are modest, mostly geared to predicting what our upkeep costs will be. We have no need to track "unique" views --- but suddenly, we're legally liable if we don't!

    (I know of a community website for higher mathematics research that gets ~300,000 page views per month. All it would take is Tucker Carlson going on a rant about the moral degeneracy of math teachers, and they could break a million, I'm sure.)

    Again, this is only one problem among many that have been pointed out.

  • Mar 17th, 2021 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Re:

    It is a comparatively small point among the galaxy of bad points that is this proposed law. But to me it seems indicative of the lack of thought or care that apparently went into the drafting process. It's a "wait, why?" moment.

  • Mar 17th, 2021 @ 12:43pm

    (untitled comment)

    But, the terms say that you're a small business if you "received fewer than 1,000,000 unique monthly visitors" and that's "during the most recent 12-month period." How do they define "unique visitors"? The bill does not say, and that's just ridiculous, as there is no widely accepted definition of a unique monthly visitor, and every tracking system I've seen counts it differently.

    As far as I know, nobody in a quarter-century of trying has invented a meaningful way to quantify website traffic, and every method for putting a supposedly precise number to it is an advertising gimmick. Why on Earth would we write a reliance upon an ad gimmick into federal law? It's like changing the penalties for a crime based on the quantity of bad vibes that it generated.

    Here's a wild idea: Why don't we have a National Commission on Internet Regulation before we try to write legislation?

  • Feb 23rd, 2021 @ 6:37am

    (untitled comment)

    "Red roses mean human trafficking" has the same energy as '90s urban legends about kids and drugs, the urban legends that my school administrators naturally believed. Watch out! Teens are getting high on "Pluto", the hot new party drug made from roasted banana peels. It's all fun and games, until they wake up in Mexico in a bathtub full of ice with sea salt on the rim....

  • Feb 10th, 2021 @ 6:31am

    (untitled comment)

    Just goes to show that you should never stick your dick in the Internet.

  • Feb 8th, 2021 @ 1:13pm

    (untitled comment)

    I love using GIFs and memes to express myself. Especially ones referencing Star Wars and Star Trek

    Memes can be genuinely good things in ways that don't get enough sincere celebration. For example, I think it's nice that we have ways to appreciate movies and TV shows that are fair-to-poor overall, because they give us little moments that run off and have lives of their own. And there are some kinds of pseudointellectual "argument" to which a detailed textual reply with footnotes (and circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back...) just isn't worthwhile. That kind of reply might even legitimize a grift, in a way that a GIF of a Muppet being embarrassed on your behalf wouldn't.

  • Feb 5th, 2021 @ 11:55am

    More from Wyden

    Reported by Dell Cameron in Gizmodo:

    “This legislation has some admirable goals,” Wyden said. “Unfortunately, as written, it would devastate every part of the open internet, and cause massive collateral damage to online speech.” [...] “Creating liability for all commercial relationships would cause web hosts, cloud storage providers and even paid email services to purge their networks of any controversial speech,” Wyden added. “This bill would have the same effect as a full repeal of 230, but cause vastly more uncertainty and confusion, thanks to the tangle of new exceptions.”

  • Feb 5th, 2021 @ 11:28am

    (untitled comment)

    If, as many people have been demanding, social media offers up paid options (say, to remove ads), doing so would remove their 230 protections. Incredibly, this bill is coming from the same people who have been saying that Facebook and Twitter should offer a "paid version" without ads or tracking -- but, under this bill, if they do that, they'd lose 230!

    The example that immediately sprang to my mind was someone running a Mastodon instance and taking Patreon subscriptions to pay for hosting. Bye bye, fediverse!

    Some of us have been working for years to create alternatives to Big Social Media. The last thing we need is a regulatory regime that Big Social Media can survive but we can't. Facebook and Twitter aren't the whole of the Internet today, but with the wrong law, they sure will be.

  • Feb 5th, 2021 @ 11:21am

    (untitled comment)

    From Cristiano Lima, tech reporter for Politico:

    [Senator Ron] Wyden opposes Warner-led bill to revamp Section 230, which he says would effectively repeal the law

  • Feb 5th, 2021 @ 6:44am

    Re: Re:

    Nice find. Thanks!

  • Feb 4th, 2021 @ 5:51pm

    (untitled comment)

    Wikipedia has a policy of "NPOV" --- Neutral Point of View. That's not neutral in the sense that Republicans would want, i.e. false balance, but rather an ethos of sticking to what the sources say. They've also developed a lengthy guideline for what can qualify as a "reliable source". And there's a more specific guideline just for writing about fringe theories, and a guideline for the extra-careful standards for writing about medicine. The acronyms are thick on the ground, because Wikipedia editors are the sort of people who think that all the problems of education and epistemology can be solved by applying more acronyms. Mind you, this is just a slice through the rulebook --- we haven't even gotten to the guidelines for "notability", which say what topics deserve to have articles about them. Or the Manual of Style, or the rules for Conflict-of-Interest editing. In short, it ain't simple.

    The question raised by Birdwatch is, if you're trying to do community moderation to build a site that is fact-based and isn't a complete garbage fire, could the rules actually be any simpler? How do you write simple guidelines for a problem that is, itself, necessarily complicated?

  • Feb 1st, 2021 @ 12:43pm

    (untitled comment)

    Very Serious People: "Everyone would behave if we had to use our real names online!"

    Marjorie Taylor Greene: (exists)

  • Jan 26th, 2021 @ 10:00am

    (untitled comment)

    The plan seems to have taken another half-lurch forwards, sadly.

    Eine einst für terroristische Inhalte ins Leben gerufene Datenbank mit digitalen Fingerabdrücken soll künftig auch Darstellungen von Kindesmissbrauch aus dem Netz filtern. Das gab gestern die EU-Innenkommissarin Ylva Johansson auf einer Sitzung des EU Internet Forum bekannt. Zudem bereite sie ein neues Gesetz vor, das auf verschlüsselte Messenger-Nachrichten abziele, kündigte die schwedische Kommissarin an, ohne weitere Details zu nennen.

    Machine translation:

    A database with digital fingerprints that was once created for terrorist content will in future also filter depictions of child abuse from the Internet. This was announced yesterday by EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson at a meeting of the EU Internet Forum. In addition, she is preparing a new law targeting encrypted messenger messages , the Swedish commissioner announced, without giving any further details.

  • Jan 25th, 2021 @ 9:43am

    (untitled comment)

    I was thinking the other day about "milkshake duck" and "sealioning", and how maybe we need a cute animal-themed word for "whining about being 'silenced' on a national media platform to which most of us have no access". Fox-crowing, perhaps?

  • Dec 29th, 2020 @ 11:09am

    (untitled comment)

    And now we live in dread that anti-Facebook sentiment will be strong enough for Democrats to swallow that poison pill....

  • Dec 21st, 2020 @ 6:19pm

    (untitled comment)

    CD Projekt Red: we're going to show the whole world what a disaster developing by crunch can be

    United States Congress: hold our beer

  • Dec 16th, 2020 @ 10:32am

    (untitled comment)

    “This coalition brings new voices and diverse perspectives to Washington’s current Section 230 debate, which too often focuses on the largest internet platforms,” [Ackil] said in a statement. The group plans to explain to policymakers how the companies see the core Section 230 protections as essential to the way they do business.

    Not as bad as it could be, I suppose?

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