February 26, 2008

libertus.net: Censorware Report on ISP "Voluntary" / Mandatory Filtering

Echo: Irene Graham - ISP "Voluntary" / Mandatory Filtering

[Description sent to a mailing list below]

Contains information about ISP-level filtering systems implemented, by various ISPs in various countries, to prevent *accidental* access to child sexual abuse material on web pages/sites. Page has sections about:

Europe (EU) Overview | Norway | Sweden | Denmark | Finland | Netherlands | Switzerland | Britain | Italy | Canada

The most notable thing about all of the Scandinavian and other European systems (except Britain and possibly Italy) is that they are using DNS blacklisting, which as some people on this list would already know, can only be used to block an *entire* domain/site, not a particular page, and is *trivially* easy to bypass. It's much less expensive to implement (than e.g. BT's hybrid URL-based system) which might well be why some of the ISPs in those countries were willing to voluntarily prevent *accidental* access to child sexual abuse material sites. However in, at least, the Netherlands and Switzerland there are a number of ISPs declining to voluntarily do so for a range of reasons.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in censorware | on February 26, 2008 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink)
February 21, 2008

"Draft Lessig" reasons

With "Draft Lessig" in full swing, to advocate for Larry Lessig running for Congress, I find myself in the uncommon position of being on the side of the crowd, yet for rather distinct reasons. Note there's no ambition on my part, as since I live on the other side of the country, I'm not ever going to be something like, e.g., special legislative aide in charge of DMCA-fighting. I'm not going to ask people to idealistically believe that I would be immune from being bought. But rather, in full cynicism, observe that there's nothing at realistic price levels which could even reach the status of an attractive offer.

That being said, consider: For many months, I've been commenting and even writing a column to Lawrence Lessig on "corruption", in sum, stay away from the data-miners and digital-sharecroppers, the conference-clubbers, the whole collection of hypsters and hucksters and marketers who operate via exploitative bubble-blowing. Instead, reality-check, subject theories to rigorous testing, and talk to people who deal with problems on ground level. So now Lessig considers a run for Congress. THIS IS GOOD (for him). It's the ultimate real-world test.

I've seen both Richard Bennett and Gabe Wachob" make cogent arguments that Lessig wouldn't be the best possible choice for elective office, not being especially suited for politics, and his opponent is a better choice for the district on the merits. But I think there's merit in Lessig making his case in a campaign, even if the other side proves correct.

Which bring me to Shelley Powers point:

Which then leads us back to the whole Change Congress platform. Here we're talking about an organization populated by neophytes who got a hankering to "change Congress", without once considering that some of most important changes must occur at the local and state level, and in the executive branch, as well as Congress. Populated by people who seem to think that all one needs is a weblog, the right social network (and associated tools), and a leader who is wired.

And nothing puts that to the test that like an actual election. Which is why I think it's a good idea to try and see what happens.

[Update - All academic now (pun unintended), since Lessig has decided not to run]

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on February 21, 2008 09:53 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3)
February 16, 2008

I endorse "Lessig For Congress"

"Lessig For Congress" exploratory efforts are kicking off and I'm going to support them. (from a blog post by Jonathan Zittrain: "I don't think he's fully decided, but the special election is very soon: April 8, with a runoff on June 3, which is the regular California primary election day" - this for the House of Representative seat made vacant by the recent death of Tom Lantos)

I've earlier written a cautionary column about Lessig and corruption and have been worried on several levels about how it'll all turn out. But after thinking for a while about this possible Congressional run, it actually seemed like a good idea all around. If successful, it would raise the average intelligence level of Congress. And also raise Lessig's intelligence level on politics and corruption. Getting deep inside the sausage factory strikes me as very helpful, if someone wants to spend years writing about how sausages are made, and how to make them better (even a loss would be educational here).

Plus there's the local factor of a particular special election, which looks like a great opportunity in terms of the timing. And Lessig's already something like a quasi-political campaigner in effect, so why not take it to the next level? Of course "Great internet campaigns don't guarantee success in politics". Internet celebrity doesn't necessary mean someone definitely will be elected. But there's free media to be had, lots of potential campaign contributors small and big (money matters in politics!) and I can't see much downside from the risk.

Go for it.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on February 16, 2008 09:09 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (4)
February 14, 2008

My _Guardian_ column on Internet and political campaign counter-examples

Great internet campaigns don't guarantee success in politics

Internet evangelism shares a marketing technique with sellers of quack medicine, in that the promoters are eager to emphasise any successes and ignore any failures.

Internet President Howard Dean, meet Internet President John Edwards (not to mention Internet President RuPaul).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather , politics , press | on February 14, 2008 04:15 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3)
February 13, 2008

The Cognitive Algorithm of When-Is-Google-Evil?

Shelley Powers on the spurious story claiming Google hijacks errors page

What really surprised me about this story, though, is that if people are so quick to accuse Google of 'evil' behavior in an innocuous situations like this, why was the idea of Google helping to bail out Yahoo to keep the latter out of the hands of Microsoft seen as a "good" thing? I would think a search engine monopoly in the hands of Google would be potentially more evil than Google providing useful features for default 404 error handling.

This environment is confusingly inconsistent at times.

It's a bit like how Libertarians will argue that the government is intrinsically incompetent and corrupt, but can be trusted with nuclear weapons which might literally destroy civilization as we know it. Or perhaps in general it's little things that people can see make for far better attention-getting articles than big abstract problems which are hard to conceptualize.

Also, connecting back to the "AutoLink" incident a while ago, I think there's a theme of "Don't Touch My Stuff!". You can take over the world, but don't touch the stuff. Which is actually a pretty common reaction.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on February 13, 2008 06:49 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (2)
February 10, 2008

Wikimedia head: Wikipedia "policy "verifiability, not truth" is stupid"

She said it, not me (about Wikipedia's policy):

I will not edit the article any more. My concern has been stated: the policy "verifiability, not truth" is stupid.

Florence Devouard (handle: "Anthere"), Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation 11:08, 10 February 2008 (UTC) (the Wikimedia Foundation is the parent organization of Wikipedia).

This was regarding an editing dispute over references concerning the topic of the relationship between the commercial venture-backed startup Wikia, and the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation.

To elaborate:

I'll drop the matter for now, but I feel greatly the frustration of all those who have biographies in Wikipedia about them, when the biography states something hugely false about them, and they can not get the error to be corrected, because the burden of proof relies on them to prove that the editors are wrong. If something kills Wikipedia one day, it will be precisely this. The inability to admit that something is wrong, unless the contrary is mentioned in the mainpress. The press does not care about stating something correct. ...

For the record, I strongly agree with her. But then, I have a reputation as an enemy of the state, err, one of the "negative people and FUD mongers".

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on February 10, 2008 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (3)
February 08, 2008

Wikipedia Roundup - Audit, Cult, dysfunctional dynamics

Accumulated linkage:

The Wikimedia foundation (the nonprofit which owns Wikipedia) Financial Report is finally released. Well, that was anticlimatic. It certainly took a very long time, for apparently very little. No scandals (that can be seen ...).

Literal Wikipedia cult (influence)! (in fairness: subject's reply).

And then the dysfunctional dynamics of Wikipedia get really strange, as a source for that cult-influence article posts regrets, and elsewhere goes off on a rant alleging a scandal on Wikipedia finances, retracts the charges gets indefinitely blocked, unblocked, reblocked for a week ... all in about a day. I can barely follow it.

I have barely scratched the surface of the weirdness that is the daily Wikipedia goings-on. Why bother even noting Jimmy Wales's flame-type lashing out at editors who've annoyed him, or the flare-ups over conflicts of interest? But this is the wisdom of crowds, so stand up and cheer the glorious collective farm (remember, digital sharecropping start-ups need IPO-exits).

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in wikipedia | on February 08, 2008 09:53 AM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (8)
February 05, 2008

I Am Not Impressed By Barack Obama

In honor of the major political primary day in the US. I'm going to do a somewhat "meta" political post again, since this is for the teeny-tiny echo chamberish audience rather than any delusion of world-changing significance. That is, I'm going to disclaim A-lister's Disease (a subclass of Grand Pundititous) in that I will make no pretension of Knowing It All. I'm not the Common Man, I have no special expertise on how the average voter reacts, I'm often wrong when I make political predictions and I'm aware of that.

But ... I am not impressed by Barack Obama.

Yes, he makes nice speeches. Yes, he's anti-war. That's great. I don't hate him. He's a good guy for a Presidential candidate. However, I feel no great inspiration, and there's a lot of ways he seems to me to be an inferior candidate to Hillary Clinton. He's a lightweight in terms of track record, with no experience in dealing with all the mud that can be thrown at a Democrat by the Republican campaign apparatus.

These days, when someone makes an emotionally appealing speech to me, my guard goes up and I start considering how they might be trying to take advantage of me. Maybe the conference-club doesn't have that reaction since they're generally treated as symbiote peers rather than as potential prey. But the mania which seems to have gripped many of the bloggers I read, just leaves me cold. Instead, I have the same reaction I often have these days when dealing with an ambitious holder of political power: This person talks a good line and is professionally pleasant - but never ever forget they'd sell me out in a minute if they saw it as advantageous to them. I don't "believe" (and I don't want to).

I had some detailed thoughts on factual refutation of Lessig's Obama promotion video. But I've already written a public plea on Lessig's "corruption" studies, so it's not worth risking getting him mad at me over this (so much for the great ability of the Internet to enable political discourse, more like political marketing :-().

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in politics | on February 05, 2008 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (15)
February 01, 2008

This Post Is Not About Microsoft Buying Yahoo (sort of, meta)

It feel likes there's an obligation for every tech/media/SEO related blogger to opine on this event, and it's not wrong - but wow, is this a classic case where the number of people trying to say something far outweighs the number of useful things there are to be said. Thus I will say that.

Sometimes I muse that news-gathering sites really need the opposite of a "find similar" function. As in, "DON'T show me any more items similar to this one, I've already seen it and I'm tired of it".

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in misc | on February 01, 2008 11:59 PM | (Infothought permalink) | Comments (4)