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  • Feb 11th, 2021 @ 10:27am

    Re:

    Nice straw man you have there.

    Blasphemy is orthogonal to hate speech. Merely blaspheming is not promoting hatred, and hatred can be stirred up without blaspheming against any particular religion.

    Mentioning the n-word, or using it in a way that lampoons racism (as in Blazing Saddles) is not attempting to stir up hatred of Black people. OTOH saying that "Black people are all diseased imbeciles who need to be taught a lesson before they rape all the White women" would be stirring up racial hatred, even though it doesn't use the n-word. Try reading the law I quoted to see the distinction, and stop assuming that a hate speech law would just be a list of banned words.

    (BTW I'm using the term "n-word" here to avoid any keyword filters, not because I won't mention the actual word more generally. That is a content moderation issue rather than an issue with the law on hate speech)

    Yes, stopping hate speech has been used as an excuse for censorship in various times and places. That doesn't mean that you can't write carefully targeted laws to ban it without censoring speech that doesn't incite hate. The Supreme Court in Brandenburg v. Ohio decided that the government interest in preventing group hatred was not sufficient to justify an exception to the 1st Amendment, but that was their judgement call, not a universal principle.

  • Feb 11th, 2021 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: "Tactical strategy"

    In military terms (where it comes from), tactics are short-term plans for winning a battle while strategy is the long term plan for how you win the war.

    https://fs.blog/2018/08/strategy-vs-tactics/

    "tactical strategy" means a short-term plan for the long term.

  • Feb 11th, 2021 @ 8:54am

    Re: Handoff

    The terms "hate speech" and "disinformation" are simply speech with which you disagree.

    That is incorrect.

    Many other countries have been able to clearly define and ban "hate speech". For instance, from the UK Public Order Act 1986:

    A person who uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, is guilty of an offence if—

    (a) they intend thereby to stir up racial hatred, or

    (b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby.

    The US Supreme Court decided that this kind of thing is protected by the 1st Amendment, but that is not the same thing.

    "Disinformation" means deliberate lies spread for a malicious ulterior purpose. Examples are lies that dissuade people from getting vaccinated, or which try to trick them into wasting money, or to prevent them from voting. Not permitting such lies to propagate is a Good Thing.

    There may be difficulty in some cases in determining whether a particular statement is true or false, but unless you cling to some lit-crit post-modernist claptrap about the social construction of reality there is a real world out there and it is possible to make statements about it which are objectively true or false. When discussing the roundness of the Earth, the effectiveness of vaccines or the winner of the US election, "that's just your opinion" is a cowards cop-out.

  • Feb 11th, 2021 @ 8:39am

    "Tactical strategy"

    [...] conflating net neutrality and the debate over 230 into one incoherent ball is a tactical strategy, not a real argument.

    What exactly is a "tactical strategy"? Its either a tactic or a strategy.

  • Jan 4th, 2021 @ 9:23am

    Dangerous interference

    I know that pirate radio is a problem for air traffic control in London, and I suspect that the same goes for other US cities. Pilots on approach to London airports have been unable to hear the controller due to interference from pirate radio. Emergency services also suffer from this.

    The problem is that pirate transmitters are often crude and not properly adjusted, so they leak across lots of other frequencies. This isn't just The Man cracking down on some under-dogs: there is a real public safety issue here.

  • Jan 1st, 2021 @ 6:40am

    This is what "taking back control" looks like. (as Paul)

    I'm in the UK, so this is my future.

    The whole Brexit saga started because some people felt it wasn't right that the UK be subject to regulations passed by the EU. Never mind the fact that 99% of these regulations were about fiddly details of stuff like a standardised description of wholesale fruit and veg (which led to the myth of the Bendy Banana Ban), and the rest were things like fishing quotas that genuinely need to be international because fish have no respect for international borders.

    So we voted to Leave. Ever since then we've been trying to negotiate what comes next. Negotiations everywhere always go to the line because the party in the biggest hurry always gets the worst of the deal. This was no exception.

    An agreement like this gets negotiated in general non-legal terms by the people sitting at the table. It then gets handed off to lawyers in the back room to tie down the intent in actual legal language. These lawyers are of course experts in EU law, not anything else. To be experts in everything that this agreement covers would require a brain the size of a planet. There wasn't time to consult with any actual experts because of course the decisions were being taken at the last minute (see above).

    On top of this, a lot of the points of agreement on "unimportant" issues will have been to carry on with the status quo. In that case the obvious thing for the back-room lawyers would be to cut and paste the law describing the status quo into the agreement.

    Hence this section about Netscape Navigator and encryption, which seems to have been cut and pasted in this way at least once before.

    Meantime the UK members of parliament get a couple of days to read 2,000 pages of legalese to decide whether they agree with it. Not that there is much point: this is Must Pass legislation, and because its a negotiated agreement you can't amend anything.

    So yes, parliament is now back in control, for a suitably small value of "control".

  • Sep 5th, 2020 @ 5:03am

    Re: The shape of the "duty of care".

    To moderators: sorry, I got the formatting wrong on the first version I posted, so I posted a second with paragraph breaks. Please delete this and substitute my second attempt.

  • Sep 5th, 2020 @ 5:01am

    The shape of the "duty of care".

    From my experience in other regulated industries, it will play out like this.

    OfCom will hold a consultation exercise in which they talk to the major companies that they plan to regulate (who may well form a lobby organisation for this purpose). Out of that will come an official "guidance" document. I put the term "guidance" in quotes because, while it won't be mandatory to follow this document, the regulator will be on record as saying that, if you do so, you have jumped high enough. "How high?" is the fundamental question that any regulated company wants answered, so in practice following the guidance will become official policy at all the regulated companies.

    Hence the "guidance" is where the rubber actually meets the road. The industry will have two concerns: 1: make sure the guidance clearly specifies exactly how high they must jump, and 2: make sure the height is optimal for their businesses. This is not necessarily "as low as possible" because this height is a barrier to competition, which is always nice for an incumbent to have.

    The civil servants on the other side of the table will want to make the process effective at preventing on-line harms, so it becomes a matter of horse-trading over costs and perceived benefits. The actual end users who will suffer the harms aren't at the table, and neither are other users who will suffer from being over-moderated. Hence the result is likely to reflect industry concerns more than anything else. In theory the civil servants should be protecting the users, but they have to do so through the lens of government policy, and government policy on this issue is primarily aimed at staying out of the news.

    Given the vagueness of the top-level requirement of "prevent on-line harms" the guidance document will probably opt for a set of measurable goals, such as 95% of user flags checked by a human within in 1 hour, defined levels of keyword scanning, use of image signatures etc. What it won't do is require anything impossible like preventing 100% of "harmful" content being posted ever. It probably won't even put accuracy requirements on the review process, because how do you measure accuracy?

    You can expect an appeals process to make an appearance here, but with much lower requirements on its effectiveness and timeliness. Nobody wants to deal with appeals, so in practice its going to be nigh on impossible to get anything reversed.

    There is of course no democracy involved here. Parliament is 2 or 3 levels away from this level of detail. The guidance probably won't even be a government publication: its more likely to be published by that lobby group I mentioned for £200 per copy. That way ordinary members of the public can't get hold of it and start arguing that it wasn't followed in their case.

    A year or so after this system comes into force there will probably be an expose on Panorama about how this regulatory system is failing to prevent some online harms. It will feature silhouettes of frightened or abused women with traumatic stories set against bland official statements about the commitment of government and industry working together to stop this sort of thing.

  • Sep 5th, 2020 @ 5:00am

    The shape of the "duty of care".

    From my experience in other regulated industries, it will play out like this. OfCom will hold a consultation exercise in which they talk to the major companies that they plan to regulate (who may well form a lobby organisation for this purpose). Out of that will come an official "guidance" document. I put the term "guidance" in quotes because, while it won't be mandatory to follow this document, the regulator will be on record as saying that, if you do so, you have jumped high enough. "How high?" is the fundamental question that any regulated company wants answered, so in practice following the guidance will become official policy at all the regulated companies. Hence the "guidance" is where the rubber actually meets the road. The industry will have two concerns: 1: make sure the guidance clearly specifies exactly how high they must jump, and 2: make sure the height is optimal for their businesses. This is not necessarily "as low as possible" because this height is a barrier to competition, which is always nice for an incumbent to have. The civil servants on the other side of the table will want to make the process effective at preventing on-line harms, so it becomes a matter of horse-trading over costs and perceived benefits. The actual end users who will suffer the harms aren't at the table, and neither are other users who will suffer from being over-moderated. Hence the result is likely to reflect industry concerns more than anything else. In theory the civil servants should be protecting the users, but they have to do so through the lens of government policy, and government policy on this issue is primarily aimed at staying out of the news. Given the vagueness of the top-level requirement of "prevent on-line harms" the guidance document will probably opt for a set of measurable goals, such as 95% of user flags checked by a human within in 1 hour, defined levels of keyword scanning, use of image signatures etc. What it won't do is require anything impossible like preventing 100% of "harmful" content being posted ever. It probably won't even put accuracy requirements on the review process, because how do you measure accuracy? You can expect an appeals process to make an appearance here, but with much lower requirements on its effectiveness and timeliness. Nobody wants to deal with appeals, so in practice its going to be nigh on impossible to get anything reversed. There is of course no democracy involved here. Parliament is 2 or 3 levels away from this level of detail. The guidance probably won't even be a government publication: its more likely to be published by that lobby group I mentioned for £200 per copy. That way ordinary members of the public can't get hold of it and start arguing that it wasn't followed in their case. A year or so after this system comes into force there will probably be an expose on Panorama about how this regulatory system is failing to prevent some online harms. It will feature silhouettes of frightened or abused women with traumatic stories set against bland official statements about the commitment of government and industry working together to stop this sort of thing.
  • Oct 19th, 2019 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re: GDPR already has defences against this. (as Paul)

    https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-r egulation-gdpr/individual-rights/right-of-access/

    "wanted to receive a further copy of information they have requested previously. In this situation a controller can charge a reasonable fee for the administrative costs of providing this information again and it is unlikely that this would be an excessive request;"

    There are also rules for requests that are part of a campaign of harrassment.

  • Oct 18th, 2019 @ 2:02pm

    GDPR already has defences against this. (as Paul)

    The GDPR requires that fufiling requests like this is normally free, but if they are unreasonable or vexatious then a reasonable fee can be charged. This kind of campaign is exactly the kind of scenario that they had in mind.

  • May 20th, 2019 @ 11:49am

    Brazil

    Hang on a moment: they shot Tuttle!

    Can it be that this is forgotten?

    In Terry Gilliam's dystopian comedy "Brazil" the plot hinges around the arrest, torture and death of the innocent Archibald Buttle instead of Archibald Tuttle, the infamous renegade air conditioning specialist.

    In "1984" the thing that makes the police terrifying is their efficiency: they can search Winston's flat without leaving a trace. In "Brazil" the thing that makes the police terrifying is their incompetence: they torture the wrong man to death due to a typo.

    We are now living in Brazil.

  • Dec 14th, 2017 @ 7:42am

    Re: Statistics (as Paul)

    I've read in The Hacker Crackdown https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hacker_Crackdown that 10% of the population will steal anything not nailed down and 10% will never steal anything ever. The battle is for the hearts and minds of the other 80%.

    The concern is that when wrongdoing by the worst 10% is ignored or brushed under the carpet, it not only leaves that 10% in place but it also sends a clear signal to the 80% of what kinds of behavior are acceptable, and even expected.
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