Read Harmful speech as the new porn by Jeff Jarvis (BuzzMachine)
In 1968, Lyndon Johnson appointed a National Commission on Obscenity and Pornography to investigate the supposed sexual scourge corrupting America’s youth...
I kept getting interrupted while reading this. I started around 8:30 or so… Fascinating look and thoughts which Jeff writes here.

📑 Highlights and Annotations

For the parallels between the fight against harmful and hateful speech online today and the crusade against sexual speech 50 years ago are stunning: the paternalistic belief that the powerless masses (but never the powerful) are vulnerable to corruption and evil with mere exposure to content; the presumption of harm without evidence and data; cries calling for government to stamp out the threat; confusion about the definitions of what’s to be forbidden; arguments about who should be responsible; the belief that by censoring content other worries can also be erased.

Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 08:29AM

One of the essays comes from Charles Keating, Jr., a conservative whom Nixon added to the body after having created a vacancy by dispatching another commissioner to be ambassador to India. Keating was founder of Citizens for Decent Literature and a frequent filer of amicus curiae briefs to the Supreme Court in the Ginzberg, Mishkin, and Fanny Hill obscenity cases. Later, Keating was at the center of the 1989 savings and loan scandal — a foretelling of the 2008 financial crisis — which landed him in prison. Funny how our supposed moral guardians — Nixon or Keating, Pence or Graham — end up disgracing themselves; but I digress.

Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 08:40AM

The fear then was the corruption of the masses; the fear now is microtargeting drilling directly into the heads of a strategic few.

Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 08:42AM

McCarthy next asks: “Who selects what is to be recorded or transmitted to others, since not everything can be recorded?” But now, everything can be recorded and transmitted. That is the new fear: too much speech.

Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 08:42AM

Many of the book’s essayists defend freedom of expression over freedom from obscenity. Says Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld (father of Joseph, who would become executive editor of The New York Times): “Freedom of expression, if it is to be meaningful at all, must include freedom for ‘that which we loathe,’ for it is obvious that it is no great virtue and presents no great difficulty for one to accord freedom to what we approve or to that to which we are indifferent.” I hear too few voices today defending speech of which they disapprove.

I might take issue with this statement and possibly a piece of Jarvis’ argument here. I agree that it’s moral panic that there could be such a thing as “too much speech” because humans have a hard limit for how much they can individually consume.

The issue I see is that while anyone can say almost anything, the problem becomes when a handful of monopolistic players like Facebook or YouTube can use algorithms to programattically entice people to click on and consume fringe content in mass quantities and that subtly, but assuredly nudges the populace and electorate in an unnatural direction. Most of the history of human society and interaction has long tended toward a centralizing consensus in which we can manage to cohere. The large scale effects of algorithmic-based companies putting a heavy hand on the scales are sure to create unintended consequences and they’re able to do it at scales that the Johnson and Nixon administrations only wish they had access to.

If we look at as an analogy to the evolution of weaponry, I might suggest we’ve just passed the border of single shot handguns and into the era of machine guns. What is society to do when the next evolution occurs into the era of social media atomic weapons?
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 10:42AM

Truth is hard.

Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 10:42AM

As an American and a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I’m allergic to the notion of forbidden speech. But if government is going to forbid it, it damned well better clearly define what is forbidden or else the penumbra of prohibition will cast a shadow and chill on much more speech.

Perhaps it’s not what people are saying so much as platforms are accelerating it algorithmically? It’s one thing for someone to foment sedition, praise Hitler, or yell their religious screed on the public street corner. The problem comes when powerful interests in the form of governments, corporations, or others provide them with megaphones and tacitly force audiences to listen to it.

When Facebook or Youtube optimize for clicks keyed on social and psychological constructs using fringe content, we’re essentially saying that machines, bots, and extreme fringe elements are not only people, but that they’ve got free speech rights, and they can be prioritized with the reach and exposure of major national newspapers and national television in the media model of the 80’s.

I highly suspect that if real people’s social media reach were linear and unaccelerated by algorithms we wouldn’t be in the morass we’re generally seeing on many platforms.
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 11:08AM

“Privacy in law means various things,” he writes; “and one of the things it means is protection from intrusion.” He argues that in advertising, open performance, and public-address systems, “these may validly be regulated” to prevent porn from being thrust upon the unsuspecting and unwilling. It is an extension of broadcast regulation.
And that is something we grapple with still: What is shown to us, whether we want it shown to us, and how it gets there: by way of algorithm or editor or bot. What is our right not to see?

Privacy as freedom from is an important thing. I like this idea.
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 11:20AM

The Twenty-Six Words that Created the Internet is Jeff Kosseff’s definitive history and analysis of the current fight over Section 230, the fight over who will be held responsible to forbid speech. In it, Kosseff explains how debate over intermediary liability, as this issue is called, stretches back to a 1950s court fight, Smith v. California, about whether an L.A. bookseller should have been responsible for knowing the content of every volume on his shelves.

For me this is the probably the key idea. Facebook doesn’t need to be responsible for everything that their users post, but when they cross the line into actively algorithmically promoting and pushing that content into their users’ feeds for active consumption, then they **do** have a responsibility for that content.

By analogy image the trusted local bookstore mentioned. If there are millions of books there and the user has choice when they walk in to make their selection in some logical manner. But if the bookseller has the secret ability to consistently walk up to children and put porn into their hands or actively herding them into the adult sections to force that exposure on them (and they have the ability to do it without anyone else realizing it), then that is the problem. Society at large would further think that this is even more reprehensible if they realized that local governments or political parties had the ability to pay the bookseller to do this activity.

In case the reader isn’t following the analogy, this is exactly what some social platforms like Facebook are allowing our politicans to do. They’re taking payment from politicans to actively lie, tell untruths, and create fear in a highly targeted manner without the rest of society to see or hear those messages. Some of these sorts of messages are of the type that if they were picked up on an open microphone and broadcast outside of the private group they were intended for would have been a career ending event.

Without this, then we’re actively stifling conversation in the public sphere and actively empowering the fringes. This sort of active targeted fringecasting is preventing social cohesion, consensus, and comprimise and instead pulling us apart.

Perhaps the answer for Facebook is to allow them to take the political ad money for these niche ads and then not just cast to the small niche audience, but to force them to broadcast them to everyone on the platform instead? Then we could all see who our politicians really are?
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 11:50AM

Of course, it’s even more absurd to expect Facebook or Twitter or Youtube to know and act on every word or image on their services than it was to expect bookseller Eleazer Smith to know the naughty bits in every book on his shelves.

Here’s the point! We shouldn’t expect them to know, but similarly if they don’t know, then they should not be allowed to randomly privilege some messages over others for how those messages are distributed on the platform. Why is YouTube accelerating messages about Nazis instead of videos of my ham sandwich at lunch? It’s because they’re making money on the Nazis.
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 12:07PM

there must be other factors that got us Trump

Primarily people not really knowing how racisit and horrible he really was in addition to his inability to think clearly, logically, or linearly. He espoused a dozen or so simple aphorisms like “Build the wall,” but was absolutely unable to indicate a plan that went beyond the aphorism. How will it be implemented, funded, what will the short and long term issues that result. He had none of those things that many others presumed would be worked out as details by smart and intelligent people rather than the “just do it” managerial style he has been shown to espouse.

Too many republicans, particularly at the end said, “he’s not really that bad” and now that he’s in power and more authoritarian than they expected are too weak to admit their mistake.
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 12:28PM

Axel Bruns’ dismantling of the filter bubble.

research to read
Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 12:45PM

“To affirm freedom is not to applaud that which is done under its sign,” Lelyveld writes.

Annotated on January 18, 2020 at 12:51PM

👓 The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s slide deck for newspapers has gotten even a wee bit scarier | Nieman Lab

Read The scariest chart in Mary Meeker’s slide deck for newspapers has gotten even a wee bit scarier (Nieman Lab)
Comparing 2010 and 2018 side by side makes it clear what a changed media universe we now live in.

🎧 Solving the Facebook Problem at Home and Abroad | On the Media | WNYC Studios

Listened to Solving the Facebook Problem at Home and Abroad by Bob Garfield from On the Media | WNYC Studios

When former Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes penned a New York Times op-ed calling for the breakup of the platform, he was lauded by anti-corporate politicians and the press. Then came a series of hard questions: how exactly would breaking up Facebook, which owns WhatsApp and Instagram, address free speech concerns? Or help stifle the spread of propaganda on the platform? And how would American regulations affect the majority of Facebook users, who live in the global south? According to Michael Lwin, an American-born antitrust lawyer living in Yangon, Myanmar, US regulators should tread lightly. He and Bob speak about how calls to break up Facebook could have wide ranging unintended consequences, especially outside of the US.

As bad as Facebook is, there are some potential second and multiple-order effects to be careful of when considering breaking them up or heavily regulating them.

🎧 The Gillmor Gang: Smart Speakers | TechCrunch

Listened to The Gillmor Gang: Smart Speakers from TechCrunch

Doc Searls, Frank Radice, Denis Pombriant, Keith Teare, and Steve Gillmor. Recorded live Friday, January 12, 2018

I remember a bit why I haven’t listened to any episodes in over a year… While Gillmor presents himself as a liberal, it seems like he’s a bit too pro-Trump and gives him too much credit. He might often be playing devil’s advocate, but…

There’s some vaguely interesting information in here on blockchain and where it may be going, but it’s still too “tech-y” even for the tech crowd. There aren’t enough people on the show who are knee deep in the topic to make their pontifications on the topic worthwhile.

I want to start to catch back up on back episodes, but we’ll see how far we get.

👓 The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine critical of Trump, to shutter after 23 years | CNN

Read The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine critical of Trump, to shutter after 23 years (CNN)
The Weekly Standard, the magazine that espouses traditional conservatism and which has remained deeply critical of President Donald Trump, will shutter after 23 years, its owner Clarity Media Group announced Friday morning. The magazine will publish its final issue on December 17.
Alas there goes the last bit of logic to the center of the old party. Trump’s transformation of the Republican Party is almost complete.

Reply to It’s time for a new branch of public media by Ben Werdmüller

Replied to It's time for a new branch of public media by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Previously, an independent public broadcaster had been established through grants by the Ford Foundation, but Ford began to withdraw its support. Here's what he said: "It...
I’ve been thinking very similarly along these lines for six months or more, but with a particular slant at journalistic enterprises. I’ve specifically been considering what would happen if small local newspapers and other journalistic outlets were running IndieWeb-esque platforms for their local communities. This would potentially help to moderate and encourage local conversations and consumption of local grown content and journalism and potentially improve the toxicity of general social media or massive issues like those that Facebook is facing with genocidal effects of their platform in Myanmar where they didn’t have any local presence or moderation much less people in-house who had language capabilities to even begin to deal with these issues. This type of mission could better empower entities to improve both local journalism by binding it to a different substrate as a financial model  and fix many of the issues we see with social media simultaneously.

This general idea also isn’t too dissimilar from Greg McVerry’s idea of having local libraries allow patrons to “check out” (aka set up) their own domains and social presences/identities using their library cards.

The difficulty I see is that as the world moves toward increased specialization, that looking for newspapers or even municipalities to oversee and maintain such infrastructure may be difficult. I already see issues with smaller outlets building and maintaining their own publishing platforms with simple out-of-the-box CMS solutions that are relatively easy-to-use and modify with simple plugins. (In a recent inventory of my local news sources, I’ll note here that nearly 100% of the local online news sources for my community are running on WordPress, but not all of them have a huge amount of technical knowledge about what and how they’re doing it in those spaces). The growth of content management systems like Ghost, which has a journalistic bent, also indicates that there isn’t a “perfect solution” to the CMS problem, much less the issues of running IndieWeb-like platforms/clusters based on simpler platforms like WordPress or even Known. There’s certainly a lot of space out there for third party companies to help grow and expand in both of these areas (community-based social platforms as well as journalism platforms and admixtures thereof.)

If local institutions or even governments did move in this direction, then their users are at the potential mercy of third-party businesses which may not necessarily be aligned with local values.  An example of something akin to this was covered recently in The Daily on their episode Taking Over Local News. I’m also reminded about of my poor experiences  with un-moderated third party platforms like Nextdoor.com can be.

Another microcosm to look at is how hundreds of thousands of public libraries are interfacing with the four or more media suppliers of e-books and what that financial model looks like as, if taken, I would suspect a similar trajectory for local social public media. Similarly looking at how municipalities interface with cable franchising can reveal some pitfalls to avoid moving forward with respect to monopolies and competition.

Certainly some additional thought about how to solve these issues at the smaller local and personal levels is welcome. Thanks for dipping into and expanding my surface area of thinking Ben.

👓 It’s time for a new branch of public media | Ben Werdmüller

Read It's time for a new branch of public media by Ben WerdmüllerBen Werdmüller (Ben Werdmüller)
President Lyndon B Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Previously, an independent public broadcaster had been established through grants by the Ford Foundation, but Ford began to withdraw its support. Here's what he said: "It...

👓 Reviewing “The Social Network” – Constructing Grand Narrative | Edge Perspectives with John Hagel

Read Reviewing "The Social Network" - Constructing Grand Narrative by John HagelJohn Hagel (Edge Perspectives with John Hagel)
The debate has begun. Many who know Mark Zuckerberg and his company are upset about the inaccuracies in The Social Network. Movie critics on the other hand love the movie. Few, though, are reflecting on what these two sets of reactions tell us about the moment we are living in. We live in the midst of a social revolution and this movie represents the effort of mass media to make sense of the changes going on around them. Facts are not important. It is about symbols, metaphors and mythologies. It is about constructing grand narratives to shape our understanding of why things are happening.
h/t Kevin Marks:

🔖 Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan

Bookmarked Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man by Marshall McLuhan (The MIT Press; Reprint edition)
Terms and phrases such as "the global village" and "the medium is the message" are now part of the lexicon, and McLuhan's theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate.This reissue of Understanding Media marks the thirtieth anniversary (1964-1994) of Marshall McLuhan's classic expose on the state of the then emerging phenomenon of mass media. Terms and phrases such as "the global village" and "the medium is the message" are now part of the lexicon, and McLuhan's theories continue to challenge our sensibilities and our assumptions about how and what we communicate.There has been a notable resurgence of interest in McLuhan's work in the last few years, fueled by the recent and continuing conjunctions between the cable companies and the regional phone companies, the appearance of magazines such as WiRed, and the development of new media models and information ecologies, many of which were spawned from MIT's Media Lab. In effect, media now begs to be redefined. In a new introduction to this edition of Understanding Media, Harper's editor Lewis Lapham reevaluates McLuhan's work in the light of the technological as well as the political and social changes that have occurred in the last part of this century.
I’m sure this has been on my “list” at one time or another, but giving it a bump.

hat tip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lelmXaSibrc& from EDU522 course.

👓 Vice Media Was Built on a Bluff. What Happens When It Gets Called? | Daily Intelligencer | New York Magazine

Read Vice Media Was Built on a Bluff. What Happens When It Gets Called? by Reeves Wiedeman (Daily Intelligencer)
For almost 25 years, Shane Smith’s plan was that, by the time the suckers caught on, he’d never be stuck owning the company he co-founded.
A fantastic article.

This reminds me a lot of the recent Theranos stories and book. It’s sad how companies don’t do enough due diligence on potential investments like this. When I think about how much basic work and discussion Marcus Lemonis does for $100,000 investments, I’m appalled to hear what people are doing for multi-millions. It’s stunning that a company can get to this size and be worth nearly nothing. Using the relative size (ie number of employees) of business units like human resources and legal within a particular industry could be a reasonable guide for the internal management of a company.

This is also a good example that while investments may give a company a particular valuation, it can rarely be the actual potential present value of the company. As a result, workers who are working for near free plus stock should be paying closer attention to company internals to know that their stock portion is going to be completely worthless.

Worse, I’m always pained to hear that young people (rich or otherwise) are essentially giving away their work and sweat equity away for free to big companies that could easily pay them. Eventually the pendulum is going to swing back the other way and companies are going to need to pay more.

One of my favorite quotes from the piece:

“Shane would always say that young people are the No. 1 bullshit detector, which was annoying once you realized that the thing he mastered is getting young people to buy shit,” says a recently departed senior employee.

🎧 Gillmor Gang 05.13.17: Doc Soup | Tech Crunch

Listened to Gillmor Gang: Doc Soup by Steve Gillmor, Doc Searls, Keith Teare, Frank Radice from TechCrunch

Recorded live Saturday, May 13, 2017. The Gang takes nothing off the table as Doc describes a near future of personal APIs and CustomerTech.

Keith outlines an excellent thesis about media moving from “one to many” to increasingly becoming “one to one”. It points out the issue for areas like journalism, which can become so individualized, and democracy which often rely on being able to see the messages that are given out to the masses being consistent. One of the issues with Facebook and the Cambridge Analytica problem is that many people were getting algrorithmic customized messages (true or not) that had the ability to nudge them in certain directions. This creates a lot more control on the part of major corporations which would have been far less likely when broadcasting the exact same message to millions. In the latter case, the message for the masses can be discussed, analyzed, picked apart, and dealt with because it is known. In the former case, no one knows what the message was except for the person who received it and it’s far less likely that they analyzed and discussed it in the same way that it would have been previously.

In the last portion of the show, Doc leads with some discussion about identity and privacy from the buyer’s perspective. Companies selling widgets don’t necessarily need to collect massive amounts of data about us to sell widgets. It’s the seller’s perspective and the over-reliance on advertising which has created the capitalism surveillance state we’re sadly living within now.

In the closing minutes of the show Steve re-iterated that the show was a podcast, but that it’s now all about streaming and as such, there is no longer an audio podcast version of the show. I’ll have something to say about this shortly for those looking for alternatives, because this just drives me crazy…

👓 Congrats, Jeff Goldberg. You Just Martyred Kevin Williamson | POLITICO

Read Congrats, Jeff Goldberg. You Just Martyred Kevin Williamson. by Jack Shafer (POLITICO Magazine)
The <i>Atlantic</i> climbed out on a limb by adding Williamson to its staff. Then they proceeded to saw off the branch.
I noted the hire of Williamson with curiosity when it happened, but I expected it might last a tad longer than this. At least he managed longer than Quinn Norton did at the New York Times, but both seemingly gone for relatively similar reasons.

👓 Access Denied | The Awl

Read Access Denied by John Herrman (The Awl)
Photos are a major feature of celebrity magazines, online or off. They’re worth paying for. They’re worth arranging at great cost. They’re worth concessions and compromises. They’re it, for a certain kind of publication. But the sudden glut of Instagram photos of celebrities and by celebrities, often with newsworthy text attached, destroys a set of common arrangements. Let’s say a celebrity couple is having a child (congratulations). A few years ago, they might have given this news to the tabloid willing to pay top dollar, or to the only celeb magazine that had refused to print a previous divorce rumor. The celebrity had power, but the magazine did as well. Aside from cash, they offered access to a large and distinct audience. Publication in one magazine might result in coverage on TV, in interview requests, etc. It would result, less visibly, in people thinking and talking about Celeb Couple. This was, in the abstract, powerful parties trading power and making money. With Instagram, the power shifts dramatically.
Jay Rosen recommended this article two years ago, and it’s just as solid today as it was then. It’s definitely got some intriguing thoughts about the state of journalism.

Contained in every worried story about a celebrity publication losing access to celebrities, or a sports channel losing access to athletes, or a political press losing access to candidates, is the insinuation that something is lost; likewise, these stories tend to lack any information about what happens now. This is not a coincidence! The sports magazine losing an exclusive career announcement may signal the end of that particular kind of media object, which will be replaced with an Instagram post and a Facebook update. The competitor taking this away doesn’t look anything like the publication it’s replacing; it doesn’t think of itself as a publication at all.

The opposite of this seems to be cable news that will take a miniscule event and attempt to inject a dramatic story upon it until something else actually happens.
Most stories are very simple things, like the celebrity having a baby. Most of the coverage around it is just adding some additional context. This is fine for things that aren’t very complicated like celebrity gossip, games, and sporting events that don’t matter too much. However on more complex things like government and international relations or perhaps even ramifications of business moves, they can be far more complicated and require more thought and analysis than the casual observer of a singly released raw fact would require. For example, in the case of Trump, his tweets may provide one narrative to those blindly following him, but in aggregate, particularly when most of them are not true or highly biased, what story do they embody? Which direction is he really going in and what are those long term consequences that the casual observer of his tweets is not going to spend the time thinking about?

You don’t need access to celebrate things, or to join and amplify fandoms. You don’t need to interview a famous person to say how great they are. You don’t need to talk to a politician to celebrate something they’ve done. You also don’t need access to reflexively declare, “that’s garbage.” In a feed, where every story is shared in the context of the poster’s performed identity, stories that simply articulate support or disdain go far.

The superfans and the haters gradually crowd toward some sort of middle, bumping up against the subjects that have colonized it: corporations, brands, leagues, celebrities, politicians, movements, causes, and endless forms of entertainment with their attendant publicity machines (if this seems like a weird or disparate set of things to compare, they kind of are: but such is the unifying effect of a platform).

aka regression toward the mean…