May 31, 2004

More on censorware ("Internet Content Filtering") in India

The folks at OpenNet Initiative kindly wrote back to me, and updated the censorware bulletin "Internet Content Filtering in India: Variations in Compliance and Accuracy" with the new collateral-damage blacklisted domains I had sent them, nicely credited to me.

Since this seemed worthwhile, I replied with some more collateral-damage domains, listed below in the extended entry if interested (I didn't send everything at the start since it wasn't clear that the domains I found, were in fact blocked - I don't have the corresponding testing facilities). I'm not sure if I should write-up some more formal supplement to their bulletin. - "Ascent of Safed" - varients of - Robinson Gallery - ""
(which notably doesn't appear on - parked "new web site for" - variant of

And a bunch of similar domains leading to the same parked site, cheap(city) and the like [exact list omitted here for space].

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on May 31, 2004 07:12 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 29, 2004

Censorware ("Internet Content Filtering") in India

OpenNet Initiative recently issued a bulletin "Internet Content Filtering in India: Variations in Compliance and Accuracy", concerning a report that "the Mumbai Police Commissioner's Office had ordered ISPs in India to block the website because of inflammatory anti-Islamic material contained on the website.". I did a little investigation using tools I'd developed earlier for censorware research (which, remember, I've been forced to quit from lack of support, note the following involved no decryption and hence no risk of being sued).

I sent the following mail - if anyone reading this is in India, can they confirm or deny the results?

Folks, can I ask a question about this part of the report?

> Indeed, our testing shows that at least two other domains,
> and are being
> filtered by the Indian ISPs because they share the same IP address
> as

Am I missing something? I did a quick search, and saw there are several more sites at the same IP as ( Notably: - Welcome to iPractical Computing - The Jewish Writing Institute - Law Offices of Alan M. Greenberg, P.C. - Welcome To PositiveSpace - Welcome To Tziporah Heller's Home Page

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on May 29, 2004 11:55 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
May 26, 2004

Deposition preparation for Nitke v. Ashcroft expert witness appearance

So today went through preparation for being deposed as an expert witness in the case Nitke v. Ashcroft (an Internet censorship challenge). Repeat: I'm serving as an expert witness on the topic of the Internet, anonymity, privacy, as it all relates to net censorship. My expert witness report is now available on-line:

Nitke v. Ashcroft : Seth Finkelstein expert witness report

Courts makes me nervous. I have to keep reminding myself:

"I'm appearing as a witness, not a defendant."

[Update 5/28: Still getting my blog write-up cleared]

[Update 5/29: I guess they're away for the holiday weekend - I'll post about the deposition some time in the future]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on May 26, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
May 25, 2004

Nazi blog spam for Google PageRank

[Really! Shades of "Hitler's Doctor's Dog" again]

It turns out that Gary Lauck (remember, an honest-to-God(win) Nazi) has been posting his phony "Rabbi Jokes" protest message to more than the GrepLaw site. He's put the message on several small news sites and spammed by various blog comments. Just do a Google search for the words:

rabbi jokes removejewwatch

Moreover, for the website field in the comment entries, he's giving , to try to make it seem a legitimate activist protest. There's one phrase in the message that didn't appear in the version I saw yesterday:

Internet activists are urged to cut-and-paste this announcement and insert it into forums.

That is, we have a Nazi, masquerading as an anti-Nazi, going around blog-spamming supposed protests of his own site!

I suppose he thinks he'll win either way - if people get angry at the spamming, they'll blame , and if he can stir-up a protest, he'll get attention and status in the Nazi community.

It's common to use anonymity/pseudonymity to attack other people. I've heard of cases of people pseudonymously promoting themselves. But this is the first time I've ever truly seen someone engage in an extensive series of posts pseudonymously protesting himself!

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on May 25, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
May 24, 2004

"Rabbi Jokes" and Anti-Semitic Google bombing jealousy

"Rabbi Jokes", as a phrase, is now being Google-bombed by Anti-Semites. I've known about this for a while, but didn't want to publicize it in terms of giving the campaign any attention. But it look like it's being promoted now, and in a very strange case of (I used this term literally) Nazi jealousy. Today GrepLaw has the following article, supposedly about "Jew Watch" and more:

posted by mpawlo on Monday May 24, @10:44AM
from the google-hack dept.

Anonymous Coward writes

In April 2004 "jewwatch" incident was widely publicized. When Steve Weinstock entered the search term "Jew" on Google, the world's leading search engine, the openly anti-Jewish web-site appeared as the very first listing!

Mr. Weinstock launched a campaign - at - to remove that site from the top spot. He initially succeeded, but the site soon regained the first position before again losing it. It appears to be an ongoing battle.

Since May 2004 Google's #1 listing for "Rabbi Jokes" shows neo-nazi Gary Lauck's site . The 20-language site has cartoon animations of leading Jewish figures, free nazi computer game downloads, holocaust denial books and the nazi file "The Eternal Jew".

What's wrong with this picture? JewWatch.COM, which was the site, isn't the same as jewwatch.INFO. The site jewwatch.INFO is a mirror run by Gary Lauck. That is, the above description is giving the wrong site. And doesn't the end part sound odd? Like a press release?

It turns out that the poster of this article left his email address. Which is the domain, registered to, drumroll, "Gary Lauck"! That is, the above is a self-promoting article, by one Nazi who is apparently jealous of all the press attention given to another Nazi.

The agendas are becoming farce, if they aren't already.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on May 24, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 23, 2004

Cites & Insights, June 2004 and May 2004

Walt Crawford's library 'zine (not blog) "Cites & Insights" already released the June 2004 issue, and I'm not even caught up on what I wanted to write about the May 2004 issue. The June issue starts out with a piece I find extremely relevant:

Monetizing the Zine?

If you find Cites & Insights worthwhile and would like to see it continue past January 2005, please read this perspective. What you do with it is entirely up to you. ... "How do you manage to do so much?" ... Almost none of the weblogs I check (mostly via Bloglines these days, but not exclusively) are as frequent or intensive as they used to be. ... I'm not the only one raising a very similar set of questions at this point. ... But the issue of long-term continuation is common. ... Feedback? I'm not planning to make major changes in any great hurry. I won't make any decisions until after ALA Annual in late June. Other than a possible PayPal account (if there's enough response and if it seems workable), I probably won't do much about this until the fall. The chances of shutting down Cites & Insights before January 2005 are extremely low. From now through August I'll be thinking about the situation. ... Your feedback is invited. I'm not asking anyone to pledge a donation or say they'd buy a book. I am asking for your comments as to what might work.

My comment: If you ever find something that works, please tell me!

Monetizing writing is the holy grail. I've come to believe that one reason for the free-writing abandonment cycle is a systematic misestimation of how much work it is, how small are the chances of any renumeration, and how draining it can be. Call it the intellectual version of trying to be a rock star. Or multi-level-marketing schemes (i.e., the people who get in at the very start make out like bandits, everyone else nets a pittance if not an outright loss).

Anyway, the bulk of that edition is about open access scientific publishing, excellent coverage of some arguments in that debate.

I really should have noted the May issue earlier, since I was mentioned three times. Once for catching an amusing typo of 2005 for 2004 ("Seth Finkelstein noted an Into the Future item on Page 1 of the March 2004 issue, where I said, "The May 2005 "Crawford Files" in American Libraries offers my own brief description of the future I'd like to see." His comment: "Good trick!"). And two more seriously:

[On Ralph Nader] Seth Finkelstein offers a nice comment on the claim that Gore ran a lousy campaign, the major reason he lost: Each individual straw heaped on a camel's back can say, "Who me? Wasn't me. I'm just one straw! What sort of a big strong camel is this, if he can't deal with one more straw on his back? The solution is to get a better camel!" ...

[On Google and stupid journalism tricks] Seth Finkelstein noted the article and some errors within it. He notes the lack of any indication as to whether searches mentioned were surrounded by quotes. Without them, "many of the number reported are utterly and completely meaningless. They don't even do the silly measure of the phrase the journalist thinks they measure." His example: the words `hot' and `dog' keyed as a two-word Google search would yield pages about hot days on which dogs are unhappy, where "hot dog" is at least more likely to yield frankfurter-related stories (or stories about surfing, or...). He verifies that the Mediabistro article gets it wrong in at least one case, when it passes on a report that the phrase "permanent resident cards CA" yields 92,200 sites on the subject: NO. The phrases return zero or a few hits. The words return that many hits, but having a lot of pages with the four words "permanent" "resident" "cards" "CA" somewhere on them is not "staggering." Sigh, Flash--journalists write nonsense. Not news at 11.

Lot of stuff on censorship, Google, even reviews of cheap-movie DVDs ...

And I do wonder "How do you manage to do so much?"

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on May 23, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 21, 2004

Peter Junger blog launched (Junger v. Daley, law professor, Buddhist)

Peter Junger has launched his new blog:


Blogroll it. I have some of his posting on my website, as he's written the best explanation and analysis I ever saw of the "least restrictive means" censorware politics, one of the most provocative historical insights, as well as the funniest true personal lawyer joke.

More formally, Peter Junger is a (now retired) law professor, who is most well-known for the Junger v. Daley case, which established:

Because computer source code is an expressive means for the exchange of information and ideas about computer programming, we hold that it is protected by the First Amendment.

The Samsara blog looks like it'll cover net legal theory/Buddhism/politics/personal reflection For example, take this recent post:

Expression Has Nothing to Do with It

The fact remains, however, that there is a much simpler reason for holding that the publication of computer programs--and not just source code--is protected by the First Amendment. To publish a computer program is to publish information and it is the publication of information that is protected by the freedom of the press. It's that simple. Expression has nothing to do with it

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on May 21, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 20, 2004

Arnold Schwarzenegger Bobblehead case

Arnold Schwarzenegger Bobblehead has resulted in a legal action, where Schwarzenegger Files Suit Against Bobblehead Maker (echoed everywhere e.g. Copyfight, Lessig, Dan Gillmor)

The key aspect here seems to be a California "Right Of Publicity" law. I'm not a lawyer, but I think I've come up with a good argument for why Arnold Schwarzenegger is wrong.

The above article gives a case

Montana v. San Jose Mercury News, Inc., 34 Cal.App.4th 790, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 639 (Ct.App. 1995).

In Montana, the California Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment against football star Joe Montana's claim that a newspaper's poster reproducing its Super Bowl cover story violated his Section 3344 and common law rights of publicity. Noting that Section 3344(d) does not require consent for use of a "name, voice, signature, photograph, or likeness in connection with any news, public affairs, or sports broadcast or account, or any political campaign," the court held that 1) the posters represented newsworthy events, and 2) a newspaper has a constitutional right to promote itself by reproducing its new stories.

I think that shows how the "public affairs" exemption trumps the publicity right. One could have argued before that Montana still retained right-of-publicity control over a poster made from the event.

Now, a bobblehead doll is a caricature (not really a parody or satire). There's a long tradition of caricatures of political figures. Indeed, looking at the image of the bobble-head doll, it's definitely something that could be imagined as a reproduction of an editorial cartoon. In fact, it's one of the more political images, with the juxtaposition of Arnold Schwarzenegger in a business suit but holding a machine-gun and bullet-belt.

If it could be a newspaper editorial cartoon, and one could sell a poster of that cartoon under the California law, I would say it follows that a sculpture of that political caricature is similarly protected expression.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on May 20, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
May 19, 2004

DMCRA hearing and points of view

Matt Rolls a Hoover has a follow-up assessment of the DMCRA hearings (remember, the confusingly-named "DMCRA", the "Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act", is the anti-DMCA). Matt collects a set of reactions, In particular, my DMCRA hearing impressions, where he summarizes:

Seth Finkelstein has his notes about the hearing at Infothought. He refers to the discussion of the DMCA rulemaking process, saying "I definitely thought I had something to say!" I thought his point of view was well represented by various panelists, including Miriam Nisbet of the American Library Association and Gigi Sohn of Public Knowledge.

Will all due respect to the fine efforts noted above, I'd like to assert it's not the same. My point of view, of how hard it was, of spending hundreds of dollars of my own money while unemployed since I couldn't get any funding support, of having to basically potentially admit liability under standard copyright, trade secret, and reverse-engineering in violation of shrink-wrap license, of making oneself a personal target - these aspects did not seem to be well-represented. And my victory turned out to ultimately be somewhat pyrrhic in its cost.

Moreover, tool-making and distribution is important in this context, so other people can reproduce and do validation, which is the essence of research. The censorware companies will just lie, and for me, there sure won't be any Slashdot story defense of "a lie about the results" (heck, I'd be lucky if there wasn't Slashdot support for attacks on me!). Perhaps that's put a bit raw, but the idea that those interests facing embarrassing exposes will lie and use legal grounds to suppress embarrassing material, should be thoroughly understood (Diebold!)

Maybe all of that is irrelevant to the focus of the hearings. But I think the fair use and technology discussions missed some important nuances.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , copyblight , dmca | on May 19, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
May 18, 2004

Google Ethics Committee

The Google Ethics Committee story has been popular recently (note I'm linked there :-)). Here's something adapted from part of an e-mail I wrote, elaborating on what I think was meant by the phrases used:

"We change PageRank[tm] when we find that spammers are abusing it, but we don't change it often."

By "change PageRank", he's undoubtedly referring to very deep changes to the algorithmic calculations, not specific site censorship. That is, an example of a deep change is what Google did some months ago, during the "Florida Update" spam-fighting upheaval. There was a complicated change to the display scoring system. Roughly, rules were added such that if a site had too many links with just one term, *and* that term was on a spammish terms dictionary, then either (it was unclear, maybe changed) those links wouldn't count for page rank calculation, or the site was marked as a spam site. I believe that's what he's referencing to in the phrase "when we find that spammers are abusing it".

In contrast, the suppression blacklist happens after all the PageRank calculations, and it's just a technically trivial tossing of a URL.

I have no doubt that they've been offered money by some sites to boost those sites' PageRank (and I assume have refused). Similar to the following, revealed last year (oh, tell me again how Big Bloggerdom is a meritocracy).

Adam Curry's Weblog

Taking a stand on rss
Time to come clean on an investment I made a year and a half ago. At the time, UserLand software had released a Mac OSX version of Radio and I was totally digging the built in news aggregator. I came up with a cunning plan: I asked Userland if I could purchase a pre-installed feed on their aggregator, which supports RSS xml feeds. I paid $10,000 for a one year license. To date I've been delighted with my purchase and although I haven't checked recently, I'm pretty sure Userland still has me in the defaults.


So I'm invoking an age olde american tradition of letting my wallet do the talking. I will again invest $10k in aggregator default placements this year, but I will spread it around, to all developers who adhere to RSS2.0. Include (N)echo and you're out of luck."

[(N)echo was a previous name for the rival format now known as "Atom"]

[See also]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on May 18, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 17, 2004

Nitke v. Ashcroft expert witness report of Seth Finkelstein

Nitke v. Ashcroft is a Internet censorship case challenging the obscenity provision of the Communications Decency Act (CDA). I'm serving as an expert witness on the topic of the Internet, anonymity, privacy, as it all relates to net censorship. My expert witness report is now available on-line:

Nitke v. Ashcroft : Seth Finkelstein expert witness report

As stated in the Nitke vs. Ashcroft Expert Witness press release:

The expert witness reports support the plaintiffs' contention that "local community standards" cannot be accurately applied to the Internet and, therefore, cannot be used to determine what is obscene. If the most restrictive communities can control what is placed on the Internet, then everyone will be restricted to that standard. The Internet is a world-wide phenomenon, therefore websites should not be held to standards specific to geo-location because community standards vary significantly from region to region and community to community.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in infothought | on May 17, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 16, 2004

iLaw and movement

[Again, see Frank Field's index for notes and live transcripts]

Jay McCarthy had an interesting summary of my previous iLaw post:

Seth Finkelstein on his free speech work that was largely unfinished and how iLaw represents a movement to continue such ideas.

I raised an eyebrow at the word "movement", since it conjured up to me too many images of "The Movement" (note, I asked Jay about it, and he said he didn't mean it in that sense).

But it connected in my mind with part of the iLaw summary at Furdlog:

The Internet is what we make of it. There is no technological determinism; the Internet is shaped by the way in which we use it. ... If the Internet is not being shaped into the form we observe as being good, maybe we're failing to use it in a way that promotes "healthy" development in this space.

And what I said at the final session in commenting on a broad question about "What can WE do?" (from Furdlog):

Seth: It's not impossible for people to make a difference; it's just hard. The defeat of the state super-DMCA was accomplished by the grassroots just showing up! So, show up!

Whenever I say something like that, I'm acutely conscious to try somehow not be inane. I never want to come across like the vapid politician wannabe "Yes, I'm here to tell you, get involved! You too can be a part of the process, you can be a citizen, it's *yours*" That turns into snake-oil (and one result was far too may people were drinking Kool-Aid in e.g. Howard Dean, Joe Trippi, and Bubble Valuation)

But ... but ... there pathways where there's truth too. As I think of it, (remember, math/physics), it's a high-energy system which is in a state of flux and transition. And sometime you see a part of it whizzing by, and it's possible, relatively, to shove it into another trajectory (of course, that's a very dangerous game, since it's also true that the more energy it's packing, the more likely you are to get badly burned if you put yourself in the path).

iLaw was outlining all the various phase-changes going on in the Internet's materials structure, to be somewhat geekily poetic about it.

Which I suppose all leads to the missing nuance in much of what I try to convey - that the Internet can be shaped, a little, but this shaping is like dealing with explosive shaped charges. Because the arised from the intrinsic nature of the volatile and unstable status (and so can blow up on you!).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on May 16, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 14, 2004

iLaw mood piece

[Notes for what happened at the iLaw sessions can be found indexed at FurdLog, go there if you're interested in that material.]

People sometimes ask me why I did all the free-speech work that I've done. This is often after I mention, usually grouchily these days, that I've never gotten a cent for all my years of speech activism, and in fact it's been an extremely heavy opportunity-cost.

I say, in as wistful a tone as I can muster to try to convey my emotion:

"I wanted to keep the Internet free".

Many years ago, in 1996, when I went to my first "Internet" conference (CFP96 - The Sixth Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy) I talked about being present as the bits are put in place. Today, I was flashing back to that time, to the feeling of shapings and potentialities in a conference room.

It's been a long strange trip since then.

What I try to explain, is that sense of the world in flux, of open possibilities, of seismic shifts in the works, of fundamental changes taking place as the technological advances worked its way through social organization.

Of course, one wave has by now already crested and broken (dot-boom/dot-bust). But the effect is that it means everybody knows what's at stake now.

Censorship! Copyright! Culture! ... what's at stake, where are we going, What Does It All Mean ...

Except now it's getting answered.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on May 14, 2004 11:43 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
May 13, 2004

iLaw and Me

I've been attending iLaw, the "Internet Law Program Produced by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society". I've been a having a tumultuous day.

Thanks go to John Palfrey for my being able to attend. See his iLaw week at HLS post for a listing of people who have done real-time notes and transcriptions.

The big event for me (which I'm still thinking about): Being praised for my censorware work in front of the whole audience in the day's first session. (if I had known my website was going to be on display, I'd have made some edits :-)).

But ... wow.

Donna Wentworth has the best transcript I've seen:

Larry: That's like a list of banned books...can I see the list?

JZ: As Seth Finkelstein -- who is here -- can tell you, no. He tried to find out.

Larry: He spends his life on the phone asking questions?

JZ: No, they don't take his calls anymore. [Laugh.]

[Demos how you can't see Seth's site w/censorware on; Seth has been censored.]

(and more)


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware , copyblight , copyblight | on May 13, 2004 10:57 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 12, 2004

DMCRA hearing impressions

I've been listening to the DMCRA hearing, having it playing in the background like radio, via webcast, as I do other things (some people listen to Howard Stern, some to NPR ... I'm listening to "The Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act" hearing - isn't the Internet great?). Note thus the following is meant to be impressionistic, rather than journalistic. I was not taking notes, nor listening with rapt attention.

It would great if everyone could just take a loyalty oath at the start and thus get beyond the endless querying about whether they believe in some sort of heretical radicalism. Something like:

"I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party. I pledge allegiance to copyright, and to the intellectual property system for which it stands, one compensation, responsible, with property and profit for all."

That is, one deep issue is the conflict between the controls sought by the industry, and the effects those controls have in terms of inhibiting fair use in practice. This is a complicated problem. And it's a waste of time to go around "Are you some sort of Commie?" (paraphrased, not literal) all the time.

Lessig vs. Valenti is like a cage-match :-). Lessig makes a great case to my ears, and I'll join the cheering section here (2-4-6-8, who's net copy-great, Lessig!). I'm not sure how well it goes over with those not already in the choir, though. Quite a few of the hearing audience seemed to me to be willing to grant the industry the benefit of any doubt. Strategically, fighting "pirates" with "fair use" seems unbalanced (hence the search for the "loveable hero")

Robert Moore, of 321 Studios, was surprising strong and good in his testimony. He did an excellent job of fielding many hostile questions well.

The MPAA and RIAA people don't like techs - they complain much about Hacking! Hacking! Hacking!

I'm biased, but I think technologists have something to say here. For example, Jack Valenti (mis)quoted Ed Felten. Even if this hearing was only about consumer issues, a prominent subject was whether it was possible to make usage restriction technology which somehow only permitted fair use. And what wins if that couldn't be done.

I'm really biased, but when they discussed whether or not fair use was being served by the Library of Congress Rulemaking about DMCA Exemptions, I definitely thought I had something to say!

Listening to these hearing is probably bad for me. It's always a tug to do more net-activism. Except that'll likely kill me, at least metaphorically, and probably literally, from stress.

[Update: Recommendation: See Matt Rolls a Hoover for hearing notes, excellent unpaid, I mean "citizen", journalism (thanks Derek)]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , dmca | on May 12, 2004 04:29 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 11, 2004

DMCRA hearing witness list available now

[Breaking news! Citizen journalism! Original reporting! You heard it here first (all dozen readers or so ... see previous DMCRA hearing entry about coverage)]

[Remember, DMCRA, the "Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act", is the anti-DMCA]

The witness list, that is, the people who will be testifying in the hearing, is now available, at

It's an impressive line-up (more than a dozen panelists):

Lawrence Lessig, Jack Valenti (MPAA), Cary Sherman (RIAA), and more.

Witness statements aren't available there yet, but the Lessig DMCRA testimony is posted on his site.

[And if anyone is wondering, I didn't even try to be a witness here. It's above my status level, and there would be no support for me to do it anyway. Though deep down, as a person "primary responsible" for a DMCA exemption, I do think that I would have something to say.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , dmca | on May 11, 2004 08:44 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 10, 2004

Journofeeding on blogger political convention credentials, and numbers

The Boston Globe has an article on the idea of political convention coverage by bloggers, as possibly formally credentialed journalists (see my earlier post, and link credit buzzmachine)

Blogs colliding with traditional media

Same old (tired to me) story, who is a journalist, do these people qualify, aren't they exotic. What caught my eye was the following part:

[Jesse Taylor has] a website called, where his opinions on current events and the press draw 12,000 readers per day. ... Markos Moulitsas Zuniga, 32, who runs the popular liberal blog -- daily readership, 150,000.

Seth Finkelstein's daily readership: 75 - 150.

For obvious reasons, that killed my desire to write much today.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on May 10, 2004 08:54 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 09, 2004

Interviewed for "Blogging of a Thesis About Blogging"

Daniel Kreiss, who is doing "Blogging of a Thesis About Blogging", wrote an interview with me:

Seth Finkelstein interview

In the spirit of blogging, here's my partipatory journalism regarding it:

Crashing Back Down to (a Realistic) Earth

Had a long chat with Seth Finkelstein last night. He has some fascinating insights/arguments into blogging, and why it's a myth that the journalistic gatekeepers are gone. ...

It's quite good, but I'm biased :-)

The discussion ranges over my ideas of gatekeepers of production being replaced with gatekeepers of audience, to power laws to the "complete and utter nonsense to say that blogging will herald a new era of "participatory democracy" or communication where everyone has a voice" (I did indeed say that).

In looking at the evidence, like the theory of power law, Finkelstein (who uses terms like "calculated" when discussing theoretical arguments; ...

Yup. That comes from my Math/Physics background. Many of these discussions strike me as very much like errors one can make in similar calculations. "What's the (electrical) power necessary to run this motor?" isn't too far from "What's the (political) power necessary to run this candidate?". Complete with the contingent that wants to assume a spherical cow.

Now, there's a part of the interview where I disagree or would comment:

I tend to agree that power law is a good description of how users are reading the web, but I also have a sense that this model does not adequately amount to a theory of digital communication. Communication also has a tendency to percolate back up (trickling perhaps, but it is happening none the less) to the gatekeepers of audience, or beyond that into other social relationships.

This where I'd start thinking/asking, "What do you mean by "has a tendency", that is, how much"? Even in the most totalitarian dictatorship, there's some sort of "communication" between the elites and the population at large. Any smart ruler knows you have to listen to the masses to some extent, if only to keep track of who is a potential threat to imprison or kill. Getting too out-of-touch that way is a recipe for overthrow. But the elites and the dissidents sure aren't equal in communication.

For instance, my own newbie gestures at blogging at the time of this post have resulted in a grand total of two citations! Does that mean I am not heard, that I do not have a voice?

Yes. It means you don't have a voice if, say, you're concerned that a "Slashdot editor" with access to 250,000 readers may domain-hijack your website, for example. You couldn't fight back (unless those two readers happen to be very powerful themselves, what I call "The President And The Pope" argument).

Perhaps. But this might not be the end all measure of communication. This is not meant as a grand gesture here, but perhaps my ideas or reporting influenced someone's thinking, which then got passed onto their own blog, with or without the citation, and then around from there both off and online in their dealings with other people. My communication would then implicitly have an audience and power to it, even though I might have no idea or concept of the boundaries of that audience.

Audience (and used here as a proxy for power) is a variable. It can be measured and compared.

First person: "I'm heard by 250,000 people".
Second person: "Well, I'm heard by 250 people, does that mean I have no voice?"

Basic mathematics is that, all other things being equal, as a first approximation, the second person has 1/1000, one one-thousandth, of the voice of the first person, that the first person has ONE THOUSAND times the power of the second.

The amount of noise devoted to denying and obscuring the implications of this very simple little fact is amazing. On and on: Maybe audience isn't everything (right, it isn't, but it's not nothing either), maybe the first approximation isn't accurate (sometimes, but it's still useful overall), maybe the writer is happy to just stand on a streetcorner and rant to whomever passes by (which wasn't the point).

But the vast inequality in power this implies, replicated in Big Bloggerdom as much as other Big Media, is very ideologically unpalatable.

So regardless of the gatekeepers of audience, all communication has the potential to be implicitly powerful in how it is spread; and we do not have a good means for tracking this.

What is "implicitly powerful"? This sounds a lot to me like saying every lottery ticket has the "implicit power" to be a winning ticket. It does. But we also know that the probability is quite measurable.

True, some people are the social entrepreneurs in network theory, but there is always a dialectic at the micro level of communication (and this also does not account for the mere fact that people writing consistently, about anything, has implications in and of itself.)

"True, some people are super-rich, but even poor people have some money, and this does not account for the fact that having some money at all has implications in and of itself". See the problem? That is, saying almost all people have at least a little money, is typically not very useful to examining the divide between wealth and poverty.

There is a danger however, and Finkelstein is right to forcibly point this out. When people blow bubbles there is a distortion that occurs inside the bubble and whether that is traced through the stock market, the Dean campaign, or by ignoring the very real sites of social, economic, and political power, the promise of technology needs to be realistically combined with the cold hard historical reasoning that tells us there will never be a purely technological fix for what ails us.

Thus, we should advocate, and as strongly as ever, for the structural changes (like public subsidies for media outlets) that will create a more responsive, and responsible, media in this country.

I completely agree with the above. The problem, however, is that too many of the bubble-blowers think blogging in itself is that structural change. And I believe in this regard, they are: 1) deluding themselves 2) being cruel to the have-nots 3) aiding to ensconce the exact same gatekeeper hierarchy, by refusing to grapple with its emergent existence.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , infothought | on May 09, 2004 06:13 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
May 08, 2004

Links - 1) DMCRA hearing 2) WIPO Broadcasting Treaty

1) If you're following the DM*C*RA ( "DMCRA", the anti-DMCA) upcoming May 12 hearings, I haven't seen mention of the following important page:

Hearing - H.R. 107, The Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act of 2003

I actually called them up to try to find out more information, for some complicated reasons, and had a very small adventure in "unpaid", I mean "citizen", journalism. (Them: "Who are you with?" Me: "The Infothought blog" - that actually worked, or at least, if they were sneering, they kept it out of their voice). But no info. (it might have worth developing something if I were a "paid", I mean "not citizen", journalist. But I'm not).

2) David Tannenbaum Coordinator of the Union for the Public Domain wrote me:

I am a fan of your work, and am writing in my capacity as coordinator of Union for the Public Domain. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the public domain from threats like the WIPO Broadcasting Treaty which is about to be negotiated. If you think it is worth drawing attention to it, I was hoping that you might give the treaty a mention on your blog. ...

One of the big hurdles we face in trying to change treaties like this one is that we don't actually know where governments stand on the various provisions, until very late in the game. That's been even more true for this treaty because it so much out of the public eye.

We're trying to overcome that this time by distributing a survey that we hope volunteers will administer to their country representatives. We will then post the results on our web site.

Is there any chance you would be able to give this a mention on your blog and maybe even a link to the survey?

Mentioned, linked. And for more links, he supplies:

P.S. For more information on the details of the treaty see Ernest Miller's excellent article at,
and Edward Felten's sharp analysis at

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight , dmca | on May 08, 2004 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 07, 2004

On "Blogging The Convention", or Cargo-Cult Journalism

In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic and Republican Conventions, I keep seeing talk of having bloggers do (usually assumed free) work of covering it (e.g. buzzmachine). [Update: I mean covering it in terms of having formal press credentials and writing from the scene with original reporting]

At the risk of getting myself more A-list revenge for unblogcoming conduct, I'm moved to say: Oh lord in heaven, WHY?. Modern political conventions are anti-news. Almost nothing happens at them. It's not like it's 1968 and there's rioting in the streets. It's not even as if there's a huge contentious party platform argument in the making.

Moreover, anything which does happen, will be picked over by a bunch of reporters who are paid to be there, and so bored and desperate to report anything, anything at all, that they habitually eat their own tails by reporting on each other's reporting (a sure sign of oversupply).

A far as I can figure out, this idea is all about saying "We're as good as them, we're a credit to our race, we can be credentialed". OK. I suppose there's some "morale" value in that. I can even see there'd be personal promotion opportunities arising from the volunteers being noticed by Big Bloggerdom.

But a concept that it would be so nifty-keen to tread the same ground that dozens of others will strip-mine, or to search like a starving dog for some morsel of substance which has been overlooked by the scavenger pack, all for the glory of blogkind - well, that just leaves me cold. It's the classic imitation of form. Because there will be no substance almost by definition (because there's no there there, in a modern political convention).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on May 07, 2004 04:18 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
May 06, 2004

DMCRA (Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act), 321 Studios, and coverage

The "DMCRA", the "Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act", is an opposition bill to the infamous DMCA, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It's a horrible name, since it's so easy to confuse the two. Anyway, there's an upcoming hearing on the good bill (DMCRA) to modify the bad law (DMCA). I was curious as to how coverage of this hearing was being generated. I was, and remain, extremely bitter regarding how my own DMCA efforts were virtually blacked-out of press coverage, in part quite deliberately due to the Censorware Project / Michael Sims / Slashdot grudge-holding.

It turns out all the coverage I've seen can be entirely traced to a 321 Studios press release:

A Congressional Hearing for H.R. 107, the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act (DMCRA), has been set for Wednesday, May 12, at 10:00 AM Eastern. ...

321 Studios Founder and President Robert Moore has been asked to testify at this historic fair use Congressional hearing. 321 Studios is the developer of the award-winning DVDXCOPY series of DVD backup software -- a product now banned in the United States after a group of Hollywood studios sued the company, and two federal judges decided that DVDXCOPY was in violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Now follow the bouncing ball. From appearing at Yahoo News to coverage at USA today.

This didn't just happen emergently, spontaneously, representing a groundswell of opposition to copyright restrictions and support for those who fight them. Rather:


And last April, when I did my DMCA testimony, after spending hundreds of dollars in expenses out of my own pocket while unemployed for a long time, I didn't have more hundreds of dollars to spend additionally on PR. I still don't have hundreds of dollars to throw around on PR.

Oh yeah, I forgot, I do have a blog.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism , dmca | on May 06, 2004 01:55 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 05, 2004 site back at #1 for Google "Jew" search

The site has returned to the #1 spot on Google for a search for "Jew". This is breaking news, I don't see it reported yet elsewhere. Whatever the technical reasons ... It's b-a-c-k. I've updated my report which discusses these issues:

"Jew Watch", Google, and Search Engine Optimization

Abstract: This report examines issues surrounding the high ranking of an anti-semitic website, "" for searches on the word "Jew". The search results present complex issues of unintended consequences and social dilemmas.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on May 05, 2004 12:06 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2) | Followups
May 04, 2004

Open Net Initiative : The IBB's Anonymizer Service in Iran

Interesting reading, which I suppose I should comment on:

Unintended Risks and Consequences of Circumvention Technologies: The IBB's Anonymizer Service in Iran

(thanks to Boing Boing, emailed via Evelyn Rodriguez / Crossroads Dispatches)

[Note, remember, all people giving me advice, don't tell me about the World Censorship Research project. I know of them, they know of me, a lack of awareness of existence is not crying out to be remedied.]

The report discusses that the circumvention service for Iran promoted by the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) is quite flawed. In specific, the service has its own, typically poor, blacklist for sex sites, and doesn't anonymize very well.

I basically can't write what I'd like to say about it all, because I have too much inside information about how it came to be developed, and it's way too political for me to detail it (I'd be writing about people who didn't hire me, just to start :-))

As a general observation, this can be viewed as an faltering attempt at Office Of Left Hand And Right Hand Coordination. The usual knock runs "How can the US be helping to fight censorship abroad while censoring at home!". Well, it can in fact be made very consistent: It's potentially helping to fight censorship of material that the other country wants censorsed, but the US wants available, while maintaining censorship of material the US does not want available. It does make sense.

Original content to this blog, which you will NOT find elsewhere in any echoing, due to my expertise:

Part of what's in the report, about keywords and site whitelist used in the anonymizer, has actually been known for a long long time (from Bennett Haselton / But it wasn't much reported then (not even Peacefire gets PR every time!), so there's no reason they should know that (i.e., this is not pulling a Declan).

Do note that now with the Harvard name and resources behind it, this time around, that information will get out ... (there's a lesson in there ...)

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on May 04, 2004 01:22 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1) | Followups
May 03, 2004


[Googlebay? Hmm, Google has long registered!]

Remember when I recently wrote of Google IPO Auction as Ebay, for what that means when something is bid-up? Compare:

"Googlebay" renews craze
Seven tips before you consider bidding on this hot IPO
By Paul B. Farrell{E70EEA01-C5DF-438B-B428-A7633EFB4B97}&siteid=mktw, also

I don't like to link-and-run, but this one is worth it:

Will you be one of the millions of American investors to cross this line? Will you relapse into the irrational exuberance of the late 1990s? How will you know? You'll know when you bid on Googlebay!

Yes, Googlebay. That's my nickname for the new Web site that will handle bids for the upcoming Google initial public offering. It will launch soon ...

Absurd P/E ratios and silly valuations

Stop, dammit! Listen to yourself! It's happening again! Get a grip!

Not one of America's 94 million long-term buy-and-hold investors with an ounce of self-respect and a brain in their heads should participate in this idiotic bidding process.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on May 03, 2004 10:01 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
May 01, 2004

RSS Renaming : not "webfeed", but ARSE

The RSS renaming contest result ("webfeed") is receiving a surprising amount of blog coverage (e.g. Dan Gillmor, John Battelle).

I'm in favor of the "Peace-In-Our-Time" mythical combined format which should be called:

"Atom / RSS Syndication Enabler" == ARSE

As in, "ARSE feeds".

Need I belabor the utter obvious utility it has (not to mention accuracy :-)), in terms of describing to newcomers what it does?

(inspired by Andrew Orlowski -

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on May 01, 2004 11:48 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups