March 31, 2005

Guilt by Blogroll Association, or Google-Abuse

Following up on Google-Newsbombing, where

Juan Cole discussed a "Google Smear" in the News search, the right-wing magazine had a rebuttal. Passing over all the Middle-East politics, which is outside the scope of my own blog, the quality can be inferred from the gem of "Google-Abuse" (emphasis in the original):

Cole clearly regards Raimondo as a legitimate, authoritative source of information, while complaining that his critics rely on dubious sources. We counted 14,400 web pages in which the names Juan Cole and Justin Raimondo appear together.

I can't even figure out where they got the 14,400 number.

But even despite the silliness of deriving much from a count of pages where two name appear together (Google-guilt by association), it's doubly dumb because the count itself will include many, many pages from bloggers who have both names on their individual post blogrolls. As well a duplicate pages, mirrored pages, not to mention the article itself (and now this page!).

Justin Raimondo pointed out that searching his name and "David Horowitz", (the infamous publisher of the right-wing magazine), yield many web pages too.

This inspires me to propose: Celebrity Google-Whack - find a search of just one hit with two quoted celebrity names (the more famous the celebrities, the better the whack).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on March 31, 2005 12:22 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)
March 30, 2005


The MGM v. Grokster (liability standards for Peer-To-Peer technology) case has now been, and will be, chewed-over by all The Usual Suspects, with extensive coverage. This is the sort of situation for the saying: It doesn't matter what I think, it matters what the court thinks.

The reports indicate that judges at least are taking the issues very seriously. Especially the iPod problem. So while I'm still pessimistic, at least things apparently aren't as bad as they could be. And there might actually be a narrow decision that doesn't do sweeping damage. My guess is for a fragmented, divided set of opinions, which is probably the best reasonable outcome possible.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on March 30, 2005 12:41 PM | (Infothought permalink)
March 29, 2005

MGM v. Grokster pessimism

[Reposting my MGM vs. Grokster pessimism post of a while back, since March 29 is the trial of the Grokster case]

I'm going to emerge for a post on copyfighting, putting on my Eeyore suit: eeyorepic

"Write down your worries. And then depress your companions by reading them out loud."

Regarding the upcoming MGM v. Grokster case concerning the legal liability standards for Peer-To-Peer technology, I think the technology/freedom side is going to lose the case, and this is why:

The current law, the "Sony" standard concerning the copyright defense for product-makers of having substantial non-infringing use, was made under too many factors that I don't think auger well for the current outcome:

1) The original "Sony" Betamax decision was a 5-4 split. It doesn't get any closer.

2) The VCR didn't, in practice, threaten the business model of broadcasters. Commercials were viewed no matter what time program was seen.

3) It was a case of one established big corporation vs. another established big corporation. So the plaintiffs were socially equal to defendants.

In legalese, I suspect the geek phrase "disruptive technology" translates into "a basis for distinguishing the current situation from the existing precedent".

The sad thing is, I don't think the P2P freedom battle is intrinsically unwinnable. Only I can't see an ultraconservative Supreme Court ruling against "all the money in the world" and in favor of only a potential. If that potential were developed, maybe five years in the future, the scales might be different. But right now ... there's no (respectable) there there. It could be made, but it hasn't yet.

Oh well, nothing I can do ... "We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is to it.".

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in copyblight | on March 29, 2005 01:01 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1)
March 28, 2005

CyberPatrol censorware violates "Rules of Robotics", says columnist

The columnist said it, not me. In response to a question regarding how to fix a censorware installation gone amuck:

Q. My CyberPatrol Internet filtering software has gone haywire. ... My question is how do I rehabilitate CyberPatrol or uninstall it if it won't allow me to get to the place where you can change/check settings or uninstall the program?


A ... You are going to need to fish out the original software--either downloaded or on a CD--that you used to install this nuclear-powered Internet decency-enforcement software. Then you need to reinstall the software in order to override the robotic feature called Internet Disable.

I mention robots because CyberPatrol pretty much violates the Rules of Robotics as drafted by Isaac Asimov in the novel "I, Robot," by attacking humans who try to protect themselves from robotic damage.

Not that he's against censorware. But the implications of needing absolute control over someone's reading can have extreme effects.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 28, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink)
March 27, 2005

Juan Cole and Google-Newsbombing

Juan Cole discusses what he calls a "Google Smear":

The GoogleSmear as Political Tactic

The Google search has become so popular that prospective couples planning a date will google one another. Mark Levine, a historian at the University of California Irvine, tells the story of how a radio talk show host called him a liar because he referred to an incident that the host could not find on google. That is, if it isn't in google, it didn't happen. (Levine was able to retrieve the incident from Lexis Nexis, a restricted database).

It seems to me that David Horowitz and some far rightwing friends of his have hit upon a new way of discrediting a political opponent, which is the GoogleSmear. It is an easy maneuver for someone like Horowitz, who has extremely wealthy backers, to set up a web magazine that has a high profile and is indexed in google news. Then he just commissions persons to write up lies about people like me (leavened with innuendo and out-of-context quotes). Anyone googling me will likely come upon the smear profiles, and they can be passed around to journalists and politicians as though they were actual information.

The interesting Google aspect here is that what's going on is not the typical Google-bomb, of link-text words. It's a Google-NEWSBOMB. Which isn't primarily affected by link-text words, but rather the general "newsworthiness" of the site.

That is, currently a Juan Cole Google News search, brings up as its first value a right-wing hatchet job. Because, roughly, it's the most powerful "news site" which has the necessary factors (it's not PageRank alone, but PageRank here is the critical relevance factor which is extremely "expensive")

This is really quite interesting in terms of implications. Because, remember, the news sources in Google News are all selected by Google. And their process for selection is very opaque.

Again, the implications for the selection algorithm are different for the news search than for the web search. In the web search, the first item when searching for a person is typically that person's own site, if they have any web presence at all. It'll certainly be in the top ten. But on a news search, their home site will never appear. The top items will be the top "news" sites, roughly by "volume". Imagine if there was a "radio search" and it was ranked by number of stations. Thus, anything said by syndicated talk show hosts would come up on top. The effects would be worrisome. Because it's a lot easier to buy ranking in general that way.

Follow-up: See Guilt by Blogroll Association, or Google-Abuse

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on March 27, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (0)
March 25, 2005

HB260 Utah Censorware Law and Censorware Research

One more note on the Utah state HB 260 censorware law. It has an intriguing provision for state-sponsored censorware research:

(3) (a) There is appropriated for fiscal year 2005-06, $50,000 from the General Fund to the Division of Consumer Protection.

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the Division of Consumer Protection use the monies appropriated for fiscal year 2005-06 in Subsection (3)(a) to research the effectiveness of:

(i) existing and emerging technologies for limiting access to material harmful to minors on the Internet;

(ii) obstacles to consumers limiting access to material harmful to minors on the Internet; and

(iii) methods of educating the public about the dangers of using the Internet.

(c) The Division of Consumer Protection shall report the findings of the research for which monies under Subsection (3)(a) are appropriated to the Utah Technology Commission before December 1, 2005.

Who gets to spend that $50,000, and where? (There are some deserving programmers who would love to get a piece of it ...). What safeguards are in place so that censorware company lies are challenged? Or will this be a rubber-stamp commission which gets its information from marketing material?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 25, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink)
March 24, 2005

Utah Censorware Law (HB 260) - subsidy to Religious Right lobbyists?

Besides amusingly funding a free hardcore pornography site list, the Utah state HB 260 censorware law has a very strange provision for spending tax money. First, they want publicity:

Section 10. Appropriation.

(1) (a) There is appropriated for fiscal year 2005-06 only, $100,000 from the General Fund to the Division of Consumer Protection for public service announcements advising consumers about the dangers of using the Internet.

[$100,000 is not exactly chump change]

(b) It is the intent of the Legislature that the money appropriated in Subsection (1)(a) shall be used to publicize in various forms of media:

(i) the dangers of using the Internet, especially Internet pornography;

[I can just see it - "This is Internet pornography. This is your brain on Internet pornography!"]

(ii) steps a consumer may take to learn more about the dangers of using the Internet;

[as in, buy censorware ...]

(iii) information about how a service provider can help a consumer learn more about the dangers of using the Internet, including the service provider's duties created by this bill; and

[... which this law requires the ISP to market to you at cost]

(iv) how a consumer can monitor the Internet usage of family members.

[and spyware too]

But elsewhere, there's a provision:

(2) Monies appropriated under Subsection (1) shall be paid by the Division of Consumer Protection to a person only if:

(a) the person is a nonprofit organization; and
(b) the person agrees to spend private monies amounting to two times the amount of monies provided by the Division of Consumer Protection during each fiscal year in accordance with Subsection (1).

This seems an odd requirement to me. Does anyone in my vast audience of many dozens of readers, know the significance of that "private monies amounting two times" requirement? (I miss the days when there were good mailing-lists for this sort of query). As I read it, if Utah pays $1, the organization has to spend an additional $2 itself. That apparently makes the number of eligible organizations rather small, and of a particular type. How many nonprofit organizations are there which want to spend a large amount of their own money on "the dangers of using the Internet, especially Internet pornography"? Frankly, I wonder if that's in effect a give-away to Religious Right lobbyists.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 24, 2005 06:53 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)
March 22, 2005

State Of Utah to Provide List Of Free Hardcore Pornography Sites (HB 260)

Utah's HB 260 censorware bill has become law. While other commenters will deal with its almost-certain unConstitutionality, and I've previously noted HB 260 coerces censorware marketing, an under-explored section of the law has the amusing consequence of turning the state of Utah into a purveyor of an interesting porn site list:

67-5-19. Adult content registry.

(2) The attorney general, in consultation with other entities as the attorney general considers appropriate, shall:
(a) create a database, called the adult content registry, consisting of a list of content providers' sites, that shall be based on a Uniform Resource Locator address, domain name, and Internet Protocol address or a similar addressing system, that:
(i) are added to the database under Subsection (2)(b); and
(ii) provide material harmful to minors that is not access restricted;
(b) add a content provider site to the adult content registry only if the attorney general determines that the content provider is providing content that contains material harmful to minors that is not access restricted;

Note "harmful to minors" is a legal standard, which is doubly vague, but basically means obscenity-lite. According to HB 260, the Utah government porn list will consist of such site which have been presumably really human-reviewed (since this is a government determination), and are also not access restricted, i.e. free. And they'll make the list available:

(3) The attorney general shall make the adult content registry available for public dissemination in a readily accessible access restricted electronic format.

Remember, "access restricted" there doesn't mean encrypted, but age-checked:

76-10-1230. Definitions. As used in Sections 76-10-1231 , 76-10-1232 , and 76-10-1233 :

(1) "Access restricted" means that a content provider limits access to material harmful to minors by:
(a) properly rating content;
(b) providing an age verification mechanism designed to prevent a minor's access to material harmful to minors, including requiring use of a credit card, adult access code, or digital certificate verifying age; or
(c) any other reasonable measures feasible under available technology.

But I believe it's not copyrighted information. And I'm sure many people will be happy to mirror the State Of Utah's official list of hard-porn sites which don't restrict access. As well as, err, fact-check it.

I expect the law will be swiftly challenged and overturned. But it would be fascinating in the meantime to see what happens with the above provision. Your tax dollars at ... work?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 22, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3)
March 21, 2005

Launch (OurMedia), Cites (Insights), (A) Lists, (Censorware) Study

A quick round-up post of links that, for one reason or another, should be made:

1. JD Lasica sent:

After nine months of planning, designing, coding, hair-pulling, and more coding, is launching this morning.

Please check us out:

More about our long odyssey, and what it may mean, at my blog:

I'll add my puny contribution to help the launch, with whatever tiny 'rank/'rati/'pop I can provide.

2. Walt Crawford has released Cites & Insights 5:5. Read it for the section on:

Broadcast Flag and Grokster

... If you think about it, the broadcast flag rulemaking is rather extraordinary. It's not about broadcast quality, interference, channel allocation, or any area you'd expect the FCC to regulate. Instead, it's about what happens to digital broadcast material after it's received--an area that would seem well outside FCC's jurisdiction. ...

[Update HTML version "Locking Down Technology"]

3. Jon Garfunkel - "Bloggers from the A-List to the Z-List".
Funny take on the various hierarchies ("The Be-list. Or more precisely, the Wanna-Be list." ... "The H-list is for those members of the A-list who are affiliated with Hahvahd, since one entry in this list isn't enough for them. " ... "The Why-list. Why is the blogosphere so self -focused? "). Many. many, amusing links.

4. Internet Filtering in the United Arab Emirates in 2004-2005: A Country Study".
Sigh. What might have been ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in misc | on March 21, 2005 08:06 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)
March 20, 2005

"Blogging Beyond the Men's Club", or, the Oligarchy Perceived

Please shoot me if I ever join this crowd: White Male Power
(image from Jonathon Delacour)

By now, the Steven Levy/Newsweek article on "Blogging Beyond the Men's Club" has been extensively, err, "discussed". Myself, I'm still fascinated by the way in which the specific example of sex imbalance in power suddenly makes general power dynamics perceptible to many (my emphasis below):

It appears that some clubbiness is involved. [Halley] Suitt puts it more bluntly: "It's white people linking to other white people!" (A link from a popular blog is this medium's equivalent to a Super Bowl ad.) Suitt attributes her own high status in the blogging world to her conscious decision to "promote myself among those on the A list."

Note she said it, not me!.

Compare Shelley Power's hilarious survey of promoting herself, e.g.:

[BigBlogger] used to link to me off and on in the past, and not necessarily always in a critical manner, but won't any longer. I've crossed the line with that boy and would have to do major booty kissing if I want to get back into his favor. Frankly, I'd rather have oral sex with a crocodile.

Of course, as Jon Garfunkel wrote, the issue of women's representation and power has been discussed for a while. I'm happy to see someone with at least a little media presence, such as Juan Cole, do a take-down of the nonsense statistical argument:

... that the bottom 7,999,999 blogs in hits get much more circulation than the top 100 blogs. This statement is true but contains a genuine fallacy of reasoning. Most blogs get only a few hits, and are seen by only a few people, and they are not the same people as see the other small blogs. So to aggregate all these readers is illegitimate. [A-lister's], on the other hand, get tens of thousands of hits a day, especially from other opinion leaders, and circulate widely. So that a million other blogs each get 3 hits a day is completely beside the point.

It's all about barriers. As Chris Nolan put it:

The problem with women writing on-line isn't the barrier to entry: Getting a site, getting it up and running is inexpensive and technically easy. The issue is barrier to popularity, which leads to influence and power. That leads, eventually to advertising revenue, freelance gigs and more influence and power, authority even. ... On-line the entry to influence and authority is controlled by a small group of very popular writers, almost all of whom are men who have been at this for a while - in some cases years.

Or, in a word: GATEKEEPERS.

I keep saying, exchanging one set of gatekeepers for another, is no net gain overall. What's so superultrafantastic about yet another media oligarchy? (and sadly, what's the point of my ineffectual squeaking, having frustratedly gotten sucked into this yet again? - notice, more gloomy posts planned in the future).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on March 20, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink)
March 18, 2005

Reflections on "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace"

I've been trying to come up with a way to concisely express why Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace is such an important book, in my view. Now, likely few people reading this will argue with me. Since almost all blogs are confined to a small self-selected fan audience, I know to the readers here I'm preaching to choir. Yet still, I feel there's something to say. Perhaps just to those few who are contrarian, or lump the book with cyberguru excesses (or maybe if censorware company people are still reading me daily, they'll learn something - I sometimes wonder if the government agents who made investigative files on writers and artists, ever obtained a second-hand education in high culture from their subjects).

To some, Code was an intellectual beacon. To me, the significance of its importance cannot be overstated as a standards-bearer. It's hard to explain this to many people nowadays. Years ago, far too much of the intellectual discussion about the Internet was dominated by a stifling net-libertarianism. There's a reason I developed a habit of writing so harshly about anything related to Libertarianism. That came from years and years of being harangued by what I call "the street-preachers of the Information Superhighway". Just compare Declaration of Independence, real and imaginary.

The book Code was a rallying-point for intellectual opposition to the net.libertarian view. It was someone with prestigious legal, public-intellectual, credentials, making the case for an important way of thinking. No-one (well, almost no-one), was going to listen to me, a no-credential no-status programmer writing on mailing lists, about these issues. But they would hear the arguments being made by a Professor at Harvard Law School and Fellow of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

I can't convey what a tangible, empirical, difference, the book made. Prior to it, when I talked about structural implications and outcomes, and how designs can have effects, I'd mostly just get bafflement. Or worse, Liberbabble. After Code came out, I found the magic phrase was "Like Lessig writes in Code". People may not in fact have understood, may only have thought they did. But soooo much of my typing was saved. Not to mention a great easing of the struggle for intellectual credibility.

This is one of the few times I could sincerely gush the PR phrase "I'm excited to be a part of this project". Though my full thoughts are actually more nuanced. Note I don't consider this free-speech activism (so I don't think I'm being inconsistent), merely volunteering editorial assistance. I had some trepidation, for complex reasons. But having a chance to be heard, to play a serious role in the rewrite of such an important book, won out.

My thinking is that Code truly made a difference, and I'm hoping my participation will make a difference.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on March 18, 2005 08:36 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3)
March 16, 2005

Lessig Code Book Wiki

Lessig Code Book Wiki

Lawrence Lessig and JotSpot Invite the Internet Community to Update 'Code':

SAN DIEGO, Calif., ETECH, March 16 /PRNewswire/ -- JotSpot, the first application wiki company, today announced that it is teaming up with Lawrence Lessig, Stanford law professor and renowned legal author, on an update to his 1999 book "Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace". Professor Lessig is inviting the online community to contribute its collective knowledge to his original work via a JotSpot wiki. Open today at , the project is an unprecedented experiment in group publishing. Contributions to the public wiki will be aggregated and published in a print update of Code later this year.

I am biased. Very biased. I am part of the project team.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in legal | on March 16, 2005 02:43 PM | (Infothought permalink)

Minor website updates

I made some minor content additions on my website, hoping for a little spike in readership today (more on that later, maybe). Mainly updating my press page to have all recent mentions (in theory, I should be better at doing updates, but nobody reads that page anyway ...). Also (just because I had been meaning to do it for some time) finally mirrored my classic debunking a while back of a hyped story concerning supposed mandatory "Klingon Language Interpreter".

Now let's see if the work on the press page was worth it ...

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in website | on March 16, 2005 09:57 AM | (Infothought permalink)
March 14, 2005

Slashdot Prospect

I finally wrote what turned out to be a long message to someone at Slashdot, regarding a possible sea change in the wake of the recent "Editor Upgrade". This isn't really an "open letter", but I figured I should blog it (below) for those interested, for reasons of transparency and self-protection.

Likely nothing will come of it. But I don't think I'll reasonably lose, while there is a very small chance that I could gain. The global significance is again the sheer lunatic absurdity of the idea that an ordinary person's blog compares against the "Short Head" of sites at the top of the attention curve. The chasm between me and Slashdot is around three orders of magnitude. That's about the gulf between a man and a mouse. A small mouse.

[Update: I should clarify that my overall thinking is that if things are OK now, I'd get a reply that they're OK now, and if not, not. That seems sensible to me.]

[The links aren't in the original]

Dear [redacted]

I'm directing the following inquiry to you as [identifying detail omitted]. Please excuse the length, I think context is important.

Now that the dust has settled a bit about Slashdot's recent, err, editorial change, I'd like to inquire as to what is Slashdot's policy about people repeatedly submitting articles, and, frankly, whether my name on a submission is still any sort of risk or not.

Previously, I had a major disincentive to submit anything, (though I'm grateful a handful of items submitted by others were accepted). It should not be debatable that Michael often acted maliciously with his editorial position. I think it's objectively true that he was Slashdot's most abusive editor in its entire history. So, I was in the position that if I submitted an article, I'd have to worry about him using it to flame me on the front page of Slashdot. Moreover, I wouldn't be able to tell if an article rejection was honest, or the product of his personal vendetta (obviously if someone hijacks and destroys a group's whole website, they're clearly entirely capable of lesser maliciousness). And then if I resubmitted a rejected article, for the slender hope at a chance at fairer treatment from someone else, I was risking having that portrayed as trolling or spamming (and again, given that I was accused of many things I simply did not do, this is a well-grounded concern). So I just didn't want to play that game.

There's been a few notable times in my life where, after a long-time attacker of me has done something spectacularly abusive to their associates, those people have stopped applying "moral equivalence" to the attacks on me, and realized I'd in fact been treated quite poorly. Ironically, one of those cases was when Michael proceeded to do unto the rest of CensorwareProject as he had been doing unto me for a long time (note, the final meltdown was not him versus me, for the searing reason that I'd been explicitly sacrificed at that point - it was him vs. everyone else). But, I'm speculating as to if he eventually did unto Slashdot as he did unto CensorwareProject. Not to the same extent, obviously. However, there's a chance that, let us say, there might now be some understanding borne of experience.

On the other hand, there's many more times in my life where people have not reconsidered their position, and mud slung at me has simply stuck. I think there's at least one person involved with Slashdot who is still convinced of some outright lies, because I was never able to get the necessary consideration to show the falsity (and I know if I press it, I'll just be told that condemns me).

Anyway, my question here is not about the details of the "Editor Upgrade". But rather, if there's been a concomitant reflection and re-assessment that would be helpful to me. I can't see myself ever going back to censorware decryption research. That damage is done. But it would be nice, e.g., to be able to try to get recognition related to my being an important expert witness in an Internet censorship law Federal court case.

I think, under the circumstances, this is an extremely reasonable query for me to make. I'm putting forth about as much rapprochement as I can manage (though I'm aware that what I can manage is often not at all the same as what would be required). Let me know, thanks.

[Sigh. This feels like begging. I tried.]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in activism | on March 14, 2005 11:56 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3)
March 09, 2005

"No Child Left Behind" and Censorware Blacklists

"No Child Left Behind" is a particularly controversial Federal education law. It's also the program which was connected to a scandal of conservative commentator Armstrong Williams being paid to promote it.

An opposition site to the law - - finds itself on a censorware blacklist, as "Political/Advocacy Groups", and so it's not readable in certain schools: Big Brother Comes to School: Telling Teachers What to Read and What to Believe (via

It's a tale of a typical "censorware shuffle". The administrators have no idea what blacklists are in place and what's blacklisted (they probably think censorware "filters pornography"). The service reseller (SonicWall), as a hardware manufacturer, just repackages the censorware blacklists (here, "Cerberian"). The censorware company will say the site fits their category, so it's the school policy maker's fault. Everyone's fingers point to someone else. And the eventual effect of it all is that the government has a free hand to propagandize. While critics - who remember, are sometimes told by net-bubble-blowers that The Uncensorable Internet gives them an equal opportunity to be heard, because you can put up a website - are marginalized from important audiences.

There's an excellent accompanying overview by Nancy Willard of Constitutional and Legal Issues:

1. Who is making the decisions about what categories to block and on what basis?

2. Has this decision been left to the tech director, who likely has not had an educational law class so may be unaware of issues related to a student's constitutional right to access information?

3. Have categories been blocked based on a desire to avoid controversy?

4. Or has the school official taken advantage of the grouping done by the company to block categories that are likely to be more controversial.

I really shouldn't read these articles, no point for me.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 09, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink)
March 07, 2005

Shelley Powers' Theory of Google AutoLink as Sexual Dimorphism

Google AutoLink has been prompting various negative reactions. But Shelley Powers has a hilarious satire/explanation, which warrants love for the linklorn:

When we women ask the power-linkers why they don't link to us more, what we're talking about is communication, and wanting a fair shot of being heard; but what the guys hear is a woman asking for a little link love. Hey lady, do you have what it takes? More important, are you willing to give what it takes?

Groupies and blogging babes, only, need apply.

And the phrases, "circle jerk" and "Google juice", take on new depth and sudden meaning in light of this discovery.


Yes, so much is explained now. Where I saw AutoLink as a relatively uninteresting and innocuous innovation, to some guys it was a way of dropping their pants and swinging what they got, while to others, it was a big metal Zipper, just waiting to catch the unwary.

But ... but ... isn't it just the territorial imperative? As men, we are culturally expected to be responsible for the defense of the community against invaders. Which, in cyberspace, then must translate into defending the HTML page against outsiders who might appropriate the link-resources for their own click-"progeny". So, from this perspective, we form into hunting bands to better make use of scarce energy resources. Hence ... both the A-list, and their reaction, is the inevitable neural programming of the sociobiology of blogolution.


By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , google | on March 07, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1)
March 05, 2005

Utah Censorware Law (HB 260)

Out of morbid curiosity, I read through the Utah Censorware law's text. (via LISnews)

As from the perennial topics of what-is-porn, and the-Internet-is-global, the real, err, money quote, in the law may be:

(1) (a) Upon request by a consumer, a service provider shall filter content to prevent the transmission of material harmful to minors to the consumer.

(b) A service provider complies with Subsection (1)(a) if it uses a generally accepted and commercially reasonable method of filtering.

That reads to me as having the effect of essentially decoupling price information about censorware from consumer demand. It artificially inflates the market for censorship.

Sigh. Nothing I can do.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on March 05, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1)
March 04, 2005

Debunking Declan McCullagh's "The Coming Crackdown On Blogging"

Debunking proceeds apace, for whatever effect it may have:

Lincoln Plawg: McCain-Feingold the blog-killer? ("Conclusion of my first cut at this: the threat to the blogosphere is greatly exaggerated.") [via Crooked Timber]

Lots of links at:

Electrolite: More on the FEC, particularly:

Waldo Jaquith - The FEC is not going to regulate blogs ("Suffice it to say, Bradley Smith has every reason to rally the troops in strong opposition to the recently-enacted Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (aka McCain-Feingold) and campaign finance laws on the whole. And it seems that he's found a crew of suckers: bloggers.")

Iron Mouth: There Will Be No Crackdown ... ("Thus, Bradley Smith is pushing the truth a long way when he says that the judge is pushing the FEC to start going after every single link in every blog directing to a candidate's website.")

My contribution, of uncommon links:

Declan McCullagh has a history of hype-filled, yellow, "journalism", Have another, old, example:,1283,32121,00.html

WASHINGTON -- US currency should include tracking devices that let the government tax private possession of dollar bills, a Federal Reserve official says.

When reading one of these articles, a grain of salt isn't enough, you need a whole salt-mine. And it's a stark warning as to what lies on the other end of the idea of "objectivity". This isn't a situation where one has to fiddle around with talk about cultural prejudice or unconscious bias. Declan McCullagh is a dogmatic Libertarian proselytizer.

And how much skepticism was applied, by far too few people, who reflexively echoed his Cato-mouthpiece agenda-driven scare-mongering?

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 04, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (1)
March 03, 2005

"The Coming Crackdown On Blogging" - Declan McCullagh's At It Again

The Coming Crackdown On Blogging is today's hype. I had more material, but I dumped it, as not worth it. I do have something original to add:

Folks, here's a tip. Whenever you see Declan McCullagh flacking one of these "product placements", search against the Cato Institute site for the person's name. Works like a charm. It's like looking at the levers which move the mouth of the ventriloquist's dummy.

In this case, a Bradley Smith search quickly tells us all about campaign-finance reform from the Libertarian perspective, and just a little more searching give various opposition.

This flackery may not reach the height of Declan McCullagh's Al Gore hit-piece, or even the Howard Dean hatchet-job. But it's of similar ilk.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 03, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 02, 2005

"Ethical Spectacle" webzine and blogging

Jonathan Wallace wrote the following mini-essay for the letters page of his webzine Ethical Spectacle. I'm going to echo it, since I do have a blog, and think it's worthwhile and not quite the same bloggy crowd.

[Disclosure: I've had essays published in the Ethical Spectacle, and he's written some nice things about me]

Letters to the Ethical Spectacle

January was the tenth anniversary of The Ethical Spectacle. There are times when it is the most compelling activity in my life, and others when I feel tired and have considered hanging it up, but I just can't stop. In the early days, I frequently wrote several essays per issue, so a rough estimate is that I have written about 200 pieces for the 123 issues of the Spectacle. Some continue to bring me monthly email years after publication (An Auschwitz Alphabet, essays on Kent State, God, pornography, and lying) while others sank like stones (some deservedly). Many email and web publications I followed when I started-- Computer Underground Digest, the Network Observer, the Journal of Mediated Communications-- have all gone away, but I'm still here.

Part of the experience has been watching the successive waves of hype wash over the Internet. The latest is blogs. To put them in perspective: if instead of a monthly publication, I posted text every day or two; if instead of full articles, I put up random factoids and musings, and lots of links elsewhere; then the Spectacle would be a blog. Am I missing something?

So all the talk about the blogosphere is amusing. It is nothing more than fragmentary, frequently updated web pages (which have always existed) plus marketing. On the other hand, anything which increases the visibility and influence of Internet-based journalism is a Good Thing.

Of course, fractured communication, frequent updates, lots of links is a format practically dictated by the medium (which, once again, is the message). I am aware that the Spectacle format, a monthly issue aping print, is an archaic way to use the Web. But I plan to continue doing it that way anyway.

Jonathan jw[at]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on March 02, 2005 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Followups
March 01, 2005

Slashdot "Editor Upgrade" Updates

There's a few items worth noting on the Slashdot "Editor Upgrade" story, and I as seem to be in the position of providing the most investigative facts on the matter, I'll do an update.

Even a month later, nobody who I would consider to be a "reliable source" is willing to talk. At this point, I'd provisionally infer from the silence everywhere that something did happen. But it's still utterly opaque.

The Censorware Project domain-hijack continues, with the renewal yet again of the domain.

[Update May 21 2005: There may have been an autorenewal and nonpayment issue. The domain was at last able to be reclaimed in May 2005]

According to the WHOIS information now (emphasis mine):

Created On:25-Feb-1998 05:00:00 UTC
Last Updated On:25-Feb-2005 05:06:53 UTC
Expiration Date:24-Feb-2006 05:00:00 UTC

Remember, this hijacking basically did not matter in terms of any perceptible consequences for it. Whatever the truth of the reasons behind Slashdot's, err, "personnel change", I sadly doubt abusiveness played much of a part.

People keep telling me about the anonymous posting purportedly giving an insider account. I've been hesitant to give this more prominence. Perhaps I should have debunked it earlier. In my view, it's a "classic" troll posting. That is, not the absurd things about e.g. supposedly possessing an incriminating smuggled phonecam video capture of Satanic sex orgies with goats aboard the Slashdot yacht (that string should lead to some "interesting" Google hits ...). But rather, a well-crafted story which would be superficially credible.

It's reasonably written, However, any account talking about "[he] actually did move from New York to Canada to protest George W. Bush's inauguration in 2001", just can't be taken seriously, because that's fiction. Amusing fiction, maybe. Deserves points for creativity, perhaps. But, sigh, not the real story all the same.

I haven't tested or inquired to see if anything's different in terms of my possibly being un-marginalized in terms of having stories considered for posting at Slashdot. It just feels, well, futile ("Hey guys, now that the infamously abusive domain-hijacker who made confidential legal information available to censorware companies, and gladly worked with them to stop me from investigating censorware, and was even cited by them in formal DMCA testimony against me, is now gone, would a submission from an award-winning free-speech pioneer be treated fairly?"). I suppose I should ask, on pain of being deemed defeatist otherwise. But it's ... humiliating. sad face

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in journo | on March 01, 2005 11:53 PM | (Infothought permalink)