[Citizen journalism! Breaking News! Exclusive! Must credit Seth Finkelstein's Infothought! :-) ]
The Elite Torrents domain name seized by the goverment has now had its registration data altered to have FBI contact information. Details are present in the elitetorrents.org WHOIS info, which I've mirrored in the extended entry below (just in case it changes).
Created On:07-Jul-2004 23:51:37 UTC
Last Updated On:26-May-2005 04:28:03 UTC
Expiration Date:07-Jul-2005 23:51:37 UTC
Sponsoring Registrar:Go Daddy Software, Inc. (R91-LROR)
Registrant Name:ICE FBI
Registrant Organization:Department of Justic
Registrant Street1:1234 Washington Avenue
Registrant City:Washington DC
Registrant State/Province:District of Columbia
Registrant Postal Code:90650
Registrant Phone Ext.:
Registrant FAX Ext.:
Admin Name:First Last
Admin Street1:1234 Washington Avenue
Admin City:Washington DC
Admin Postal Code:90650
Admin Phone Ext.:
Admin FAX Ext.:
Tech Name:First Last
Tech Street1:1234 Washington Avenue
Tech City:Washington DC
Tech Postal Code:90650
Tech Phone Ext.:
Tech FAX Ext.:
"The A-list'ers are different from you and me" - T. Echnorati
"Yes, they have more links" - P. O. Werlaw
Some weekend fodder:
Jon Garfunkel has a follow-up piece to "The New Gatekeepers" series: "Reactions" - "Ultimately, I wonder, will the essay spread because of those gatekeeper-less technologies, or by the grace of the influential gatekeepers?" I also must note his definition elsewhere: Long Tail - The part of the power curve away from the power.
Bob Cox makes some remarks about the success of the "Huffington Post": "I was on Truth Laid Bare earlier today and noticed that is took all of a week for Ariana to jump to #11 on their "link ranking" with 2,472 with links.". Note one of the FAQ's (Frequently Asserted Querulousness) to understanding gatekeepers is that an A-list changes over time. And it does! Anyone who is a rich syndicated columnist, and knows many celebrities, can come out of nowhere and leap right to the top of the charts. When compared before and after celebrities and syndicated columnists took an interest, top rankings would be different, you betcha! (note these last remarks aren't meant to apply to Bob Cox, who knows all about A-list marketing)
Shelley Powers - "Weblogging is for Winners: Backlash": "Getting flack about trips now, when you didn't a couple of years ago? Well, a couple of years ago, we hadn't heard the complaint about airports and no Internet access for the 20th time. Neither had we seen so many photos of so many beautiful people - most of them eerily similar." (though compare - Those Bastards - "Who wants to hear a bunch of white males blogsterbate anyways?")
I will not discuss that abomination to the Web known as "Blogebrity".
As part of "Operation D-Elite":
[On May 25, 2005], agents of the FBI and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed 10 search warrants across the United States against leading members of a technologically sophisticated P2P network known as Elite Torrents. Employing technology known as BitTorrent, the Elite Torrents network attracted more than 133,000 members and, in the last four months, allegedly facilitated the illegal distribution of more than 17,800 titles - including movies and software - which were downloaded 2.1 million times.
In addition to executing 10 warrants, federal agents also took control of the main server that coordinated all file-sharing activity on the Elite Torrents network. Anyone attempting to log on to Elitetorrents.org today will receive the following message: "This Site Has been Permanently Shut Down by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement."
My first reaction, when I heard what had happened to Elitetorrents.org : Talk about domain-hijacking - that's got to leave a mark.
There was some speculation the site had simply been cracked, but the press-release established that it was truly done by the government. The technical method is somewhat confusing. The Elitetorrents.org site now has a frame which points to an IP address (18.104.22.168) of a machine at sdsc.edu (San Diego Supercomputer Center), but that IP reverse-resolves to "www.dhs.gov". And there's a red-text-on-red-background "RTJKJAS" which some people thought was a cracker tag.
After too much time spent investigating this myself, I've concluded that yes, the elitetorrents.org site is indeed now being run off someone's desktop machine at SDSC. In fact, (alert - not an echo here!) I think I have a pretty good guess as to the name of the person doing it. But there's no hard evidence, just a likely candidate. And they're legit, so there's probably nothing for me to do with that information. If I were a organization-backed journalist, I'd try for some sort of exclusive interview. But as a "citizen" journalist (which is an alias for unsupported, unpaid, free-lancer), I don't want to mess around with the Department of Homeland Security. I just don't.
By the way, does anyone in my tiny reader base know the legal authority for the government to domain-hijack a site like this? I'm sure there's some justification, seizure of apparatus in a criminal enterprise or some such. But ... isn't there a First Amendment issue here? Has it been definitely ruled on, in the case of domain names? If someone owned a radio station, and were accused of similar copyright violations, could the government start out as here, by taking control of the radio station, and replacing everything with the continual broadcast of a similar message? It strikes me that the accused are being denied a critical method of putting forth their side of the story, the one place people would most naturally look for it.
Abstract. Three main methods of content blocking are used on the Internet: blocking routes to particular IP addresses, blocking specific URLs in a proxy cache or firewall, and providing invalid data for DNS lookups. The mechanisms have different accuracy/cost trade-offs. This paper examines a hybrid, two-stage system that redirects traffic that might need to be blocked to a proxy cache, which then takes the final decision. This promises an accurate system at a relatively low cost. A British ISP has deployed such a system to prevent access to child pornography. However, circumvention techniques can now be employed at both system stages to reduce effectiveness; there are risks from relying on DNS data supplied by the blocked sites; and the system can be used as an oracle to determine what is being blocked. Experimental results show that it is straightforward to use the system to compile a list of illegal websites.
It'll "be presented at the Workshop on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, Dubrovnik, Croatia, 30 May 2005 -- 1 June 2005", and he say in email he'll also give a luncheon talk on the topic at the Berkman Center on June 7th. (sigh ...).
As a follow-up to my Letter to Consumer Reports about ad violation by SafeEyes censorware, my message to Consumer Reports has been read by a human who acknowledged it personally, though evidently busy. Being overworked is entirely understandable, and I'm just happy that my message was read at any level.
In checking news articles since that Consumer Reports piece came out, I've yet to find any news report which does any more than basically echo it. That's expected, but still disappointing.
Every once in a while, I'm tempted to pull some material out of mothballs (I don't want to be too specific so as not to completely tip off the "opposition research" - it's sort of amusing that there's at least one person who has it as part of his job to check on me). But, as I've written, it's been several turning-points down the road since I did that work. So to deal with temptation, I just remind myself of what got me here ("Get thee behind me, censorware").
iLaw, the Berkman Center's Internet Law Program, is being held again on June 22-24 in Cambridge, MA. Lawrence Lessig says: "The program is great fun, and you even get to live in the dorms! ... But I'm just (one of) the teachers. There are scholarships and group rates, so ask."
Last year, I was generously accepted to attend, and I had a very good time. Not the least because both Lessig and Zittrain praised my work to the entire audience (not every moment of my activism has been unhappy - just the overwhelming majority of them). I also put a lot of effort into the pre-class discussion forums, and that was apparently well-regarded.
But that was then, this is now. A year later, I'm in a much more unfavorable position with regard to the Berkman Center. A short version of the story: I had (very reluctantly!) done an extensive "Greplaw Interview" with a Slashdot-like site they sponsored. I was *asked* about censorware history and I related some of my tales of woe. Mike Godwin, an extremely well-known civil-liberties lawyer, took exception to, well, let's say, my description of his role in the historical account. *Months* later, he applied what he called "moral suasion" to the Berkman people, which I conjecture a non-lawyer would term saber-rattling about a libel lawsuit. In order to appease him, the Berkman Center then changed my interview to editorially feature various vicious smears. Quoth lawyer Peter Junger (thanks!):
It would be interesting to see what would happen if Seth should now threaten to sue the Berkman Center and Harvard for defamation. - --So interesting that I would be willing to donate a thousand dollars towards the legal expenses of such a suit and spend some time working on the briefs and pleadings.
The event deserves a long follow-up someday, which I've never been able to complete because it's so incredibly painful. But it was a major activism turning-point for me, that I had no good future in civil-liberties work. It wasn't the only turning-point, by far. But, e.g. it was pretty much the reason I didn't go to the open Berkman conference on "Votes, Bits and Bytes". In fact, I've never gone to an event there since. And I suspect it sealed my fate against ever becoming a Berkman Fellow (not that my chances were ever all that high, but between slim and none, slim then left the building).
So, regarding iLaw, it's problematic. One the one hand, there's the argument as to why let the poison kill? But on the other hand, the poisoned well can't be wished away. I wonder, do lawyers or A-lister's really get along after such actions? "Sure, you were blowing me off then, violating the pledges made to me about my interview, putting Harvard's name and credibility behind smears against me, simply because it was the least trouble - until some countervailing legal firepower on my side changed the equation. But these things happen. I sue you, you sue me, we're a happy family". Maybe that's another reason why law/policy just isn't for me.
Someone could say writing this post only makes things worse. Call that a further twist of the problem.
I suppose the "head" answer is what's done is done, and as the saying goes: "Remember, no matter how hard you work, no matter how right you are - sometimes the dragon wins." But the "heart" rebuttal is that doesn't make it any easier to bear.
[Comments off for this post, because I don't want to deal with trolls or misguided critics who might as well be trolls - if someone feels they need to reply, send email (I'll turn on comments for extraordinary cases of right-of-reply, but I hope that won't be necessary)]
[Update: I should have noted the back-and-forth was eventually "resolved" by a kind of moral equivalence of removing the editorial defamation AND the material Mike Godwin found objectional from me. Overall, per above, the result of the whole situation was enormously costly to me.]
Given my recent postings on the connections between censorware and religious-right organizations, I'll repost an item from the archives for "amusement". Even though this is old now, I think it's instructive in demonstrating that various support has long been known and is no secret.
["Filtering Facts" was a censorware-advocacy organization, which eventually landed its founder a job as PR flack for the censorware company N2H2.]
Subject: The pro-fams and me
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 1998 18:40:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Filtering Facts <email@example.com>
Jeff Schult wrote:
>I assumed that was a "joke" on David's part. Because most of the
>self-proclaimed "pro-family" crowd wouldn't hang with a goddless heathen.
Actually, that's not true. The people I "hang with" know I'm an atheist and a democrat. It has never been an issue and they have always been very gracious to me and my family. They have never challenged my views or attempted to convert me.
They refer activists and reporters to me, and Enough is Enough, Family Research Council, and American Family Association all link to my site. AFA even knows I still endorse CyberPatrol, and they still link to my site. They even give me money, I got $1000 from the Family Research Council, $750 from Citizens for Community Values, and $500 from Enough is Enough.
David Burt President, Filtering Facts
[Historical, not a report - but 100.0% original content, you will not find this anywhere else in the great bloviating blog mass of echoing and opinionating, I guarantee it]
When I first decrypted N2H2's blacklists, one of the intriguing discoveries I made was the presence of additional blacklists labeled "ABORTION" and "HOMOSEXUALITY". Important - these were not used in the ordinary retail product. They might have been a supplement or add-on used in Religious-Right contexts, it was unclear (as I joke, I can't exactly call up technical support and ask them about these topics). But ... hmm! It certainly meant something. But there wasn't any obvious way to do further investigation.
I'm not counting this as a censored censorware report, because I never could figure out how to put it all together to publishable material. More "one that got away". At a certain level, the mere existence of the categories might be news. But since it was not verifiable by any means other than decryption, and I had NO SUPPORT (but plenty of attacks), there didn't seem to be any way of having it matter.
[Lis Riba made some great constructive suggestions, such as that I write Consumer Reports about a potential violation of their ad policy by the censorware "Safe Eyes" (thanks!). This is what I've now sent to Consumer Reports.]
Date: Thu, 19 May 2005 17:27:42 -0400
From: Seth Finkelstein <sethf[at-sign]sethf.com>
Subject: Report an ad violation - Safe Eyes website
Dear Consumer Reports:
According to your policy:
"Our Ratings, reports, and information are intended solely for the use of our readers. Neither the Ratings nor the reports nor any other information, nor the name of Consumers Union or any of its publications, may be used in advertising or for any other commercial purpose, including any use on the Internet or mention in any press releases or newsletters in print or electronic form."
I would like to bring to your attention that the product Safe Eyes currently advertises on their website (see attached):
"Safe Eyes 2005 Rated The #1 Internet Filter!
Independent and unbiased testing by the leading consumer reporting publication confirms what our customers already knew....Safe Eyes is the best."
In one version of the site (with "Flash"), that passage then refers to the URL:
Which is the "Ratings: Filtering software" report.
Note again that the use of "Flash" animation, may not be
obvious depending on browser configuration (if you see a big blank
white area, the browser is not configured properly). The URL for the
most elaborate version of the site is:
One version of the text above is in an image, see:
Please feel free to contact me if you need further elaboration in enforcing that "Consumers Union will take all steps open to it to prevent commercial use of its materials ...".
Seth Finkelstein Consulting Programmer sethf[at-sign]sethf.com http://sethf.com
"Safe Eyes" / SafeBrowse.com censorware is now touting the Consumer Reports "Filtering software: Better, but still fallible" article:
Safe Eyes 2005 Rated The #1 Internet Filter!
Independent and unbiased testing by the leading consumer reporting publication confirms what our customers already knew....Safe Eyes is the best.
(note the message is a flash animation)
I'm not sure if Consumer Reports really did their testing as extensively as possible. I can see a way in which they took a reasonable course, which would have been the most obvious way to proceed if one is starting out with little knowledge of the internals of censorware (i.e. randomly try some URLs to see which are blacklisted). But there's much more information available, such as censorware blacklisting the Google cache, translation sites, and more. And note since it's a repackaged version of N2H2, all of N2H2's flaws apply.
In an alternate world, I'd do a report on this, with the "newsworthiness" peg about Consumer Reports' pick of censorware. It would then be publicized (remember, I'm talking fantasy here) getting the information out and being an important contribution to the body of knowledge on technology and policy. Which would be a reputation-credit for me which would have helpful implications in, for example establishing DMCA exemptions and discouraging potential censorware lawsuits.
In reality, I'd be marginalized to the same tiny fan audience which has heard it all before. While this audience is of course most excellent and discerning, they're also the choir, the convinced, exactly the people least in need of hearing my spiel. It's well past the point of diminishing returns. I'd again be faced with the temptation to go too far up the legal risk curve. And even if I kept low enough down so as not to have to worry, just in terms of PR I'd likely lose much more than I could gain (in the language of probability, I have a large negative expected value).
Recursively, maybe I shouldn't have written this post in the first place. But I'm inured to the sort of criticism I'll get for it. And I do think there's some value to documenting reports which won't be done because of the lack of support.
Jon Garfunkel concludes with NewGatekeepers Part8: The Future, calling for better technology design:
We shouldn't be surprised if the new gatekeepers start acting, or even looking, like the old gatekeepers. That's one future and we'll have to like it.
Or, if we really want a more flat society, with "power to the edges" and the "grassroots" and the "long tail" and any other marketing term that can be substituted for the citizenry, we ought to do what we set out to do in the first place: we have to design the technology specifically for that purpose.
I'm in fact pessimistic about the prospects. Not because I'm anti-technology. But because of the immense difficulty of the problem. There are business opportunities for people who want to do start-ups in the burgeoning new fields of data-mining or popularity-presentation. I could even see myself doing something along those line someday. So I suppose I shouldn't be too discouraging.
But nobody knows how to do good technology for nonhierarchical organization, and there's an annoying number of evangelists, touts, hucksters, con-men, and similar ilk, all generating lots of self-serving noise.
Ernie Miller had some reactions to the series:
Would you rather have a gatekeeper of production, of distribution, or of audience? It does, ultimately, make a difference. If a law is passed does it matter if it was passed by a democracy or a dictator? It may be the same law, but process matters.
And my initial thought on this was, no offense intended, that it's somewhat like asking if you'd rather be killed by enemy forces or "friendly fire". You're still just as dead for the end result.
To me, it's almost a joke - "So, Seth, your extensive research languished unread, abandoned, not because of gatekeepers of production, but because of gatekeepers of attention - don't you feel that's a crucial difference?". No, sorry, not really, why should I care?
Pure linkage, for blogging!
Jon Garfunkel - NewGatekeepers Part6: Summary (a recapitulation).
Jon Garfunkel - NewGatekeepers Part7: Solutions (about aggregation).
Vision Thing on gender-link statistics and compare subject Shelley Powers' reaction.
Vision Thing on Big Heads and compare Dave Rogers on "conversations" and "authority".
SafeBrowse.com is a censorware program that's mentioned prominently in the just-published Consumer Reports "Filtering software: Better, but still fallible" article. It turns out this product is merely a repackaging of the well-known censorware N2H2:
We are proud to be using the industry's most reliable filtering software, N2H2. N2H2 employs a full-time staff to compile its extensive categorized database of Web content. While others rely solely on technology to detect and harvest Web content, N2H2's proprietary process uses a unique combination of technology and human review.
That part about "unique combination" is total nonsense (but who is listening to what I say?)
And how interesting, it turns out SafeBrowse.com is "a Christian owned and operated company":
As a Christian owned and operated company, these three founders have a common goal of making SafeBrowse.com the leading provider of filtered Internet services to the world!
With this agreement, Safe Eyes will become an integral part of the Setting Captives Free program. All students of their Way of Purity course will be encouraged to install and use Safe Eyes as part of the pornography addiction recovery process. Safe Eyes will also receive exclusive placement on the Setting Captives Free website and at all conferences and workshops.
When asked about this new partnership Shane Kenny, President of SafeBrowse.com, Inc. said, "I am very excited about this new partnership with Setting Captives Free. The combination of the best pornography recovery resource with the best in Internet filtering and monitoring is a win-win situation for everyone involved. It is a pleasure to work with the people over at Settings Captives Free and to know that Safe Eyes is being used to help those that need it and want it so badly."
Setting Captives Free is a non-profit ministry that exists to help those that are held captive by an addiction. Started by Mike Cleveland and his wife in 1999, this ministry has quickly grown to cover the entire United States and several foreign countries. ...
Now, before people jump all over me, let me note I don't know the exact extent of the links here. But I think there's a problematic implication in secret blacklists that are heavily connected with religious censors, if only from a very understandable market-based skewing toward those sensibilities. And given the Federal law regarding censorware and public libraries, this is indeed a matter of public concern.
Consumer Reports has a censorware article, Consumer Reports "Filtering software: Better, but still fallible". (thanks, Ernie, CoCo). Before I say the usual things, to the usual people, for the usual uselessness, I'd like to highlight one sentence of the piece in the vain hope of stirring some unusual interest:
Informative sites are snubbed, too. The best porn blockers were heavy-handed against sites about health issues, sex education, civil rights, and politics. For example, seven products blocked KeepAndBearArms.com, a site advocating gun owners' rights. Most unwarranted blocking occurred with sites featuring sex education or gender-related issues.
That's presumably with standard defaults, since there are many blacklists. But censorware's never been just about sex.
Fred von Lohmann responded on filesharing: (excerpted)
... And I think we need to emphasize the many virtues of fan-driven, wide-open file sharing. We ought not abandon the fans and join the chorus telling them to hang their heads in shame for building the greatest music library in the history of the world.
The problem, of course, was the lack of compensation to artists and owners. On this point, I agree with [Derek Slater] -- file-sharing without compensation is not realistically sustainable, nor good in the long run for those who care about music or the Internet. But recognizing that, and working on a solution for that problem, is not the same thing as saying that file-sharing is wrong. All the instincts that made file sharing so successful are exactly the right instincts for a vibrant creative, cultural and innovation environment."
I suggest there's a further problem in the discussion, regarding target audience. In a policy paper which is pitching the recording industry, it may be important to write at length indicating one's extreme moral disapproval of file-sharing without compensation. That's part of establishing one's credibility with the business audience, of convincing them to trust you at least long enough not to be dismissed out of hand.
But as far as I've ever been able to measure, in a general sense, to a first-order approximation the effectiveness of one's message is determined by one's press-reach divided by the press-reach of opponents (strongly modified by whether the audience wants to believe the message). And sadly, not intellectual rigor or moral fortitude. Those are way down the list of factors (yes, I've grown bitter). Thus, a PR campaign which wants to promote the positive and worthwhile effects of technological advances in methods of content distribution (i.e., cheap copying), won't necessarily benefit from spending large amounts of time being critical of the negative effects of these changes on old business models.
That doesn't automatically imply support of infringement. There can of course be nudge-nudge-wink-wink campaigns. As the lawyers say, it's a "fact-specific" situation. But given that I've seen the context of bad behavior, my view is that this isn't it.
According to Fons Tuinstra at "China Herald" blog:
But a reader of this weblog suggested that in combination with IE Google's new tool would also beat the internet censor. Well, that was enough encouragement for me to have a try. Indeed, the web accelerator helps to beat our internet nanny, at least I got to the BBC news services very easy. I do not think that Google wanted to bring down the firewall (as far as it still is in place with so many proxies around) but they effectively did.
[Note the "obvious" solution is to censorware Google]
I think Seth is right that it's unnecessary and ineffective to try to ensure "moderation in everyone in the cause." I don't expect [Down Hill Battle] or other similarly-thinking groups to change their stances. However, to the extent we jointly try to define "what's at stake in the fight for digital rights" and synthesize into a common cause, that platform should be built on shared values. Maybe it's impossible to do that, as Seth suggests, but if we're going to try, it's important to outline what those shared values are (or aren't).
Seth offers a thoughtful essay on an aspect of copyright that I, for one, find enormously troubling: The tendency of both "sides" to deny the possibility of a balanced middle ground.
In reply to the points, let me just repost something a wrote a while back, which covers the ground:
Copyright Is Broken And Nobody Knows How To Fix It (which I've noted not is not an especially original insight, but let's call it a classic, in the public domain even.)
So I've just listened to the IICA/INDUCE Act hearing, and been participating in the Freedom-To-Tinker discussion. For a while, I've wanted to write something about Walt Crawford's "Cites & Insights" library 'zine (not blog) Copyright special issue, which has extremely extensive discussion of recent copyright matters. After many, many pages of thoughtful (and non-echo-chamber) discussion, he finally concluded:
I believe in balanced copyright. If that sometimes results in coverage that seems to say "a curse on both your houses," that's because sometimes neither extreme makes much sense.
I kept thinking about this. Because, copyright abstractly makes no sense. By this, I don't mean something silly, not property-is-theft. Rather, I mean something deep, that the technological change has completely disrupted the extremely complex set of functional compromises that made copyright work in practice (for example, formerly being almost entirely a restriction on businesses, but now turning into a control on users and technology development).
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."
Let's all assume we want artists to be fairly rewarded, and bad people punished. As well as peace on earth and goodwill to all. Now what?
For me, the most chilling moment of the hearing was when Hatch outright said, "Something has to be done here". The problem is that there may be no equitable solution which both preserves openness and current industry profits. Repeating that these both should be served, doesn't make it so. We have improvement in the ability to exchange information again colliding with a social regime which says information must be controlled. I'm on the openness side, but so what? Who listens to me? (except in extraordinary circumstances).
Nobody has the answer. Sorry, I sure don't :-(.
Derek Slater writes "The Commoners' Common Platform" (echoed Donna, Ernie, my emphasis below):
It gives me an opportunity to talk out some things I've been thinking about lately in regards to what the Commoners'/Free Culture common platform should be - that is, what planks, from the array of diverse interests involved in the copyfight, can we synthesize into one common cause.
My view: To a good approximation, we can't. Or rather, welcome to The Movement, try not to get shot by all the in-fighting.
Whenever there's a problem affecting a system (doesn't even have to be a crisis, just a problem), there's always liberal and radicals giving their perspective. The liberals write policy papers, "How we must balance competing rights to achieve comity in the modern era". The radicals hold demonstrations where they chant "Burn, baby, burn! Up against the wall! The revolution is here!". As a rule, liberals and radicals hate each other. They're often more destructive to each other than the nominal common enemy, in a way ordinarily misattributed to "personal" or "ego" (which means stop thinking about it). Rather, they're competing for the same resources, and attacking a competitor is viewed as a good strategic move.
In specific, no radical will ever change their mind from being criticized by a liberal. There might be some small value to a liberal in terms of positioning, to publicly denounce a radical. The key to doing this maneuver well seems to be to pick some very weak, unsupported, radical, who can't retaliate. That gives the benefits with no cost.
But, overall, I think history shows such denouncing simply doesn't go far to convince the overall public of one's reasonableness. I see this in, for example, the number of times I've had to explain to interested people how, e.g. Larry Lessig is almost painfully moderate. It's an extremely frustrating aspect for an intellectual to wrap one's mind around. But empirically, when lying works in attacks to smear one's view, no matter how hard one works at distancing, the mud just doesn't come off. So I think, counter-intuitively, worrying about being tarred with extremists is not a function of the extremists - if they didn't exist, they'd be invented.
In the few media interactions I've had regarding censorware, whenever I'd get a question about whether or not I agreed with the alleged wild-eyed radicals of Peacefire, (sorry Bennett :-)), I'd decline the invitation to play let's-you-and-him-fight. I would say something along the lines that I thought so-and-so, and I could talk about what I thought, but not anybody else. It worked for me. Maybe it was just that I was sympathetic and at too low a level, while higher-level people would have more pressure. But I actually didn't feel I had to carry any burden of ensuring moderation in everyone in the whole cause (heck, truth be told, I think Peacefire's radicalism eventually worked for them overall, much better than my attempts at a pseudoprofessorial presentation).
Overall, I think the copyright battle is coming down to basically which of two content business models can be made to work overall, both of which are proving very difficult in practice: The lock-down DMCA/DRM/INDUCE maximal model, or the loss-leader model (alternative compensation systems are interesting and worthwhile, but haven't been implemented in the smallest way). In none of these systems is there a desperate need to herd cats.
The "Broadcast Flag", a restrictive technology mandate, has been burned in court.
Much punditry, so I don't have much to add besides cheerleading - Yay! Yay! Yay! (It's problematic for essayists to write posts which just cheer, but such sentiments are also community-builders, so perhaps I can be forgiven this one).
Some numbers for reality-checks:
Around six months ago, I estimated my readership at around 350. Now, many, many pages and even one blog defending freedom of expression award nomination later, I seem to be all the way up to ... a bit more than 500 readers. The breakdown is roughly:
180 Bloglines (all feeds) + 150 aggregators + 100 website + 80 Feedster =~ 510 readers
There's also a few general mirror feeds, I'm not sure how to count them (it's not clear how much the general mirrors are actually read).
I know that number is more than the vast majority of bloggers. I know. But sadly, it still doesn't put me anywhere in much of position to have an effect. It's a lot of work, to move up the exponential curve.
Thursday was a big hit day for my Al Gore page, due to the overall publicity on the topic from his Webby Lifetime Achievement Award. Around 750 hits then. Interestingly, that was still much less than one popular Slashdot comment. I get notable flack for making references to Slashdot, but those are the numbers.
My CNN blog spam theory post post eventually attracted an A-list link in an update, and that generated around 200 hits. I should make clear, for people thinking sour-grapes, that it's not utterly impossible for me to get an A-list mention. But pitching editors to accept my unsolicited submission is not my idea of a good time. Always, Gatekeepers.
Oh, I hear there's another blog conference going on now. Where people who have media positions or related service jobs, will talk among themselves as to how great it is that so many unpaid freelancers will now displace paid employees. And that there's a sucker born every minute who can be data-mined or used as a volunteer stringer. Or something like that.
I feel like a traitor to my sex, but I want to quote Karen Schneider's take on attention-distribution:
As Mena suggests, the women are there; it's that their blogging efforts are not featured as much in the media, largely because women are not the dominant voices in the so-called "political" blogs, which in the peculiar self-referential nature of sexism, are the important blogs because men write them. This morning I was browsing several major technologically oriented websites such O'Reilly Network, XML.com, Perl.com, and so forth. As is always the case, when you look at the conference panel mug shots, you see men. Men. Men. It's much less imbalanced in librarianship (though the loudest voices in our own technology discussions tend to be male); I wonder why we haven't promoted library systems work more to female techies.
But aside from another verse of "there's no one here but men" (very true but also incomplete), there's deeper preceding analysis (my emphasis):
To speak to another kewl tool dominated by a minority voice, Wikipedia will have truly arrived when its "community" begins to express disappointment in the rabble infiltrating its citadel. It's not just a question about content -- ensuring Wikipedia has Gretel Ehrlich as well as John McPhee -- but about the values expressed through design. The "egalitarian" nature of Wikipedia favors the loudest voice over the most authoritative, and as long as that continues to be the case its structure as an institution will be much closer to Lord of the Flies than Britannica. You can only be oblivious to the problems endemic to a system favoring strength over reason when, to quote one of my favorite bumper stickers, you are part of the dominant paradigm.
Which connected with Shelley Power's recent examination:
Certain behaviors are rewarded with links in weblogging; certain behaviors are not. It's just that a certain class of weblogger (white, male, Western, educated, charismatic, pugnacious) has defined the "winning" behavior in weblogging and what must be done to "earn" a link, and this is what we need to change, if change it we can. We have to start valuing the poet, the teenage girl, the middle aged gardner, as much as we value the pundits, whether political or technological.
Bottom line: I want to be respected, I want to be heard, I want to be seen. I want to be visible, but I don't want to be you.
And led to Dave Rogers:
Absent any real responsibility or means of accountability, what the A-List really is is a lot of people with a lot of opinions who get a lot of attention. Yet the fact remains, as a result of that attention, they are regarded in other quarters as "authorities." So we have the situation where some type of authority being exercised without regard to responsibility or accountability, and that's a formula for being an autocrat (lots of "A" words associated with the "A-List" - I won't mention my favorite one), or a fraud; and I regard many on the "A-List" as both. But that's just my opinion.
But, this all comes back to general issues which have bedeviled feminist and progressive thought forever. We should all be good people, valuing each other's humanity, kind and charitable. Now how do we make an economy which reflects that (whether it's dollars or links at stake)? There's of course some value in breaking through the myth of pure meritocracy, and refuting advice trivialities of the general form of "Be the best little Z-lister you can be" or "A billion Chinese couldn't care less", or even "Shut up and write your diary".
However, there's only so many attention slots. It's almost exhausting to get people to even begin to realize that they're not allocated in some sort of bibble-emergent yada-cyber cluelame-paradigm magic method, but very much closer to crony politics.
The implications are disheartening.
[I received this from a PR person, but consider it a mutual interest to post]
New York, NY (May 3, 2005) - The winners of The 9th Annual Webby Awards will be saluted alongside former Vice President Al Gore at the internet honors' ceremony in New York City on June 6th, the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences announced today.
The Webby Lifetime Achievement Award: Former Vice President Al Gore
Setting the record straight on one of recent history's most persistent political myths, The Webby Awards will present Former Vice President Al Gore with The Webby Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the pivotal role he has played in the development of the internet over the past three decades. Vint Cerf, widely credited as one of the "fathers of the internet," will present Vice President Gore with the award.
As my page of Al Gore "invented the Internet" - resources documents, this myth has indeed been persistent. In fact, just very recently, the person who outright invented the story, Declan McCullagh ( "If it's true that Al Gore created the Internet, then I created the "Al Gore created the Internet" story."), was still propagating it in his columns ("... and Al Gore's apparently serious claim to have "created" the Internet.").
This leads to one of my questions to those infatuated with the idea of feedback and blogs fact-checking journalists: What if the "journalist" just doesn't care? What if he knows that what he writes, even if politically appealing fiction (in fact, especially if politically appealing fiction), will be sent to a huge number of people, and any corrections in comments or relatively trivial blogs will reach an insignificant audience? We have here a perfect case study of the phenomena.
There's some interesting nuggets here, and hopefully my commentary is worthwhile.
As the Internet was taking flight in the early 1990s, John Gilmore, one of the co-founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a leading online civil liberties group, is credited with having coined the infamous phrase that "the Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." Gilmore's view has since been regularly invoked whenever there are failed attempts to limit the dissemination of information.
Right. But as I reply - "What if censorship is in the router?"
Beginning with a string of cases dating back to the Paul Bernardo trial in the mid-1990s, the Internet has undermined court-ordered publication bans in Canada with surprising frequency. The latest incident occurred last month when a U.S. website posted evidence from the Gomery inquiry that was subject to a publication ban. The ban was lifted within days, however, as Judge Gomery acknowledged what had become obvious to all - supposedly secret testimony was readily available to anyone with Internet access.
Granted, this is for a newspaper article, but the stories are often oversimplified, to serve the Internet-changes-everything hype. Canada gets overflow from all US Media - newspapers, radio, TV. There is often far more complexity in a story than That Darn Internet. Here, see one Canadian analysis - "... from my cynical viewpoint it looks a lot more like U.S. conservative bloggers were used, via Captain Ed's "Deep Throat," to further the political agenda of the Canadian Conservative Party".
While these events seemingly affirm the notion that the Internet is beyond the reach of governments and courts, my recent trip to China provided a powerful reminder that unfettered Internet access is far more fragile than is commonly perceived.
Agreed! Nothing like seeing an example of an alternate future. The Internet does not necessarily equal freedom, no matter what some bubble-blowers blather.
My frustration increased when I attempted to download my own email. While I was able to access my Canadian-based mail server storing my messages, the download was short-circuited midway as I suddenly lost the connection. Although I initially thought that perhaps the error lay at the Canadian end, when the experience repeated itself, it became clear that the Chinese system was filtering my email messages and cutting off the connection.
Now that's fascinating. I never know how to go about testing these things, in a political sense. Just as a statement of fact, Harvard people can go fooling around with random proxies for investigations, but marginalized activists have to worry more.
Having experienced limits in accessing both news and email, it came as little surprise to find that the search engines were subject to similar restrictions. Searches for articles on circumventing the Chinese filters yielded a long list of results, none of which could be opened. Moreover, inputting politically sensitive words such as the "Falun Gong" cut me off from the search engines completely.
Exactly. Censors are perfectly capable of searching for means of subverting censorship, and censoring them. In extreme cases, they might even pose as freedom-fighters, and inform on their comrades.
Etc. Geist concludes:
The Internet may be accessible from Toronto to Beijing, yet people in these two cities do not access the same Internet. The challenge in the months and years ahead will be to promote Gilmore's vision of online freedom through lobbying for greater access abroad and rejecting unnecessary and potentially dangerous limits at home.
Sometimes, a piece I've written will pop up in the strangest places. It's not a matter of obscureness, but rather a certain kind of incongruity. I just found the following mention:
President Bush signed the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act into law last week. The decision is a victory for the makers of ClearPlay DVD machines and other film-editing devices intended for use in the home. But it could be a setback for companies like CleanFilms and others who edit copyrighted films to make them more "family-friendly"and then market them to that target audience.
What publication had this set of pointers, including me?
Given what I've written on the topic, perhaps I'm being shown the virtue of humility.
Anyway, reading that article, I was led to the author's own perspective:
The writer makes many good arguments against bowlderization, ones which will be familiar to the typical copyfighting reader. I'll paraphrase them as artistic-integrity, forbidden-fruit, unintended consequences (here, where Christian themes might be expurgated), and so on. All concepts which will be well-known to people who follow the debate. But as a bit of cross-cultural distribution, I'll quote the novel (to me) Christian sin-antibody argument:
Censorship does not keep us from doing evil - it just blocks us from seeing it. If we develop a "cover your eyes" response to bad behavior, we are not developing a strength of spirit that resists sin. We are simply ignoring sin, and thus remaining weak and vulnerable. Jesus says it is not what goes into a man that corrupts him, but what proceeds from him that corrupts him. Scripture exhorts us to put on the "full armor of God" so we might resist the schemes of the devil. It does not exhort us to avert our eyes whenever someone's misbehaving.
I recognize in this a form of the argument that we are not helped by being isolated from knowledge, but rather should be instructed on how to recognize and fight evil. But I must admit I've never seen anyone put it quite that way before. And seeing a new argument in these debates happens very rarely.
As is being widely covered, a report detailing the Giuliana Sgrena shooting incident was released in PDF form with "redactions" which could be removed by using common PDF tools to obtain the underlying text.
Again, what happens here is that the creator starts with a text document, then draws an image over the text. So, on the screen, it looks like the text has been blacked-out. But in terms of the PDF, there's the text, and then an image layered on top of it. Any tool which extracts text, such as cut-and-paste, or text driver, will ignore the redacting image. So, instant unredacted document.
While not quite the oldest trick in the book, this has been known for years, having exposed some spies some and confidential memos. I sometimes think curious people try it on every applicable document. My first reaction when hearing of this case was "Wow, that old unredaction trick actually worked on something nowadays?"
I wouldn't normally echo such a extensively reported item. But it gives me an opportunity to tell an extended activism-story about how well-known is the redaction trick (this involves two other people, one of whom I'm fairly certainly doesn't read my blog, the other who might but will be less concerned - so I've changed a detail or two). Let's say there was a certain report which was of intense interest to several people, and was available in a redacted form. So, what do I do the first time I get a copy of it? Look at it microscopically, and try to un-redact it ("Hmm ... `My consulting rates have been $[black bar] a hour' ... is that two figures under the bar, or three? Looks like three ..."). I load it into a PDF viewer, and see the standard black redaction bars which indicate an image layer, and try cutting and pasting around it. And I get text back, but the text is dashes. Whaa??? It's text. Is this some new security feature for redaction? I dig into the raw PDF structure (I can do that). I dump the data which goes into making text, going down into a low level, and it's still dashes. Suddenly, it dawns on me what the writer has done. He's overwritten the redacted words with text dashes, and then put the black image bar on top of them! I toss an unseen salute to the writer, who does know his stuff.
Months later, another activist says to me "Seth, have you seen so-and-so's report? It would be really cool if you could apply the PDF extraction procedure to it." Way ahead of you [name redacted], way ahead of you. Both of us. Now how about you actually read a relevant court case before giving advice about the risk of people getting sued.
I suppose I should end by saying I wouldn't want to be in the shoes of the person who created that Sgrena Report PDF file.