• Google, YouTube, Facebook, Others, Now Using Automated Blocking of ‘Extremist’ Content

    June 25, 2016 // 25 Comments »

    GoogleEvil



    The web’s biggest content providers have started using automation to remove “extremist propaganda” videos from their sites.



    Censoring Content

    YouTube (owned by Google) and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, sources said, though no company would confirm the action.

    The technology employed was originally developed to remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for “hashes,” unique digital fingerprints that Internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly. Someone finds an offensive video, tags it, and then searches find other copies across the Internet.

    Newly posted videos would be checked against a database of banned content to identify unauthorized information.

    The system was kicked off in late April, amid pressure from an Obama White House concerned about online radicalization. Internet companies held a conference call to discuss options, including use of a content-blocking system put forward by the private Counter Extremism Project, a nonprofit controlled in part by George W. Bush Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend.



    Get it yet?

    Government and private industry will decide what content you (as well as journalists and academics) may see on the Internet. What is and is not allowable will be decided by a closed process, and will be automated. A database will be drawn upon for decision making.

    Databases and tagging can be hacked/manipulated, perhaps by governmental intelligence organizations, maybe some bad guys, hell, even by advertisers to control what is available to you online.

    Since content removed equals content prohibited, you’ll never know what you can’t see. The obvious slippery slope is in decisions about what is “extremist” and what is legitimate free, political speech that, while offensive, has a right to be heard and a place in the market of ideas.

    So how about blocking all videos of police violence during say a Ferguson/Baltimore scenario, so as not to “inflame” a situation?

    And even if Government A plays nicely, Government B may not, and dictatorships and oligarchies will have a new tool for repression. In the same way Western companies are forced now by China, for example, to adjust content, they will likely be forced to add things to the no-fly database of ideas. Corporations will be in a position to censor things on behalf of governments.

    Via the Edward Snowden documents, we already know that many tech companies cooperate directly with the NSA and others, either voluntarily, or under pressure from secret national security practices and laws. It is not a matter of “it can happen here,” but one of “it is already happening here.”

    But, some will say, Google, et al, are private companies. They can do what they want with their businesses, and you don’t have to use them.

    Certain private businesses, such as power companies and transportation providers, have become clearly so much a part of society that they indeed can’t just do what they want. They become public utilities, and there is no doubt that organizations like Google are squarely in the category.

    Lastly, for those who prefer dictionary things, do check up on the definition of true fascism: a collusion between government and industry.



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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, NSA, Post-Constitution America

    Dear Internet,

    December 20, 2014 // 16 Comments »




    We need to talk.

    Please stop making me hate you. We once had it all. It was fun, no, transcendent.

    You did not blast video ads at me everytime I went to one of your sites. You did not force me to watch a video ad first to see you. You did not make me chase a moving box around the screen to click the damn X so I could see you. Same for surveys and feedback. Maybe it’s different, but annoying me seems a poor sales strategy.

    You didn’t used to treat me as stupid. You didn’t try and trick me into clicking on a link, which only revealed another link, so that you could engage in some sort of weird contest to have “more [pointless] clicks.” You know what? I almost never now read an article that has a number in it, such as “Top Ten Things…” because I know I’ll have to keep banging away to slog through each sliding panel, interspersed with ads. If I forget or am tricked into not opting out of your sneaky attempts to send me email for the rest of my life with no way to unsubscribe, all that just goes to my spam folder as fast as I can assign it. We’re just wasting each other’s time.

    You didn’t used to be creepy. I look at a site connected with some research I have to do, but not something I am so personally otherwise interested in, and I can’t seem to get rid of the related ads that you serve me everywhere. You stalk me, but you are not even very good at that. You seem good at knowing when I am looking into buying something, but not at realizing I bought it and have moved on. That Chromebook? I love it but stop blasting me with ads for Chromebooks weeks later. Also, I am not traveling to Seattle. That was a mistaken detour click. Stop it. No more Seattle ads.

    Also, have you heard that many people look at you on mobile devices with smaller screens? It’s pretty easy to automate a version of your site for mobile use. Many of your pop-ups and all don’t work well on small screens and so I look elsewhere.

    You used to have content and now “long reads” are only a couple of paragraphs. Links used to be the heart of the web, in fact the reason the web came into being, and now many of your sites don’t use them, or only use self-referential internal links, to “keep me on the page.” I often just leave.

    You used to have lots of websites that were created by just people. Now you have nearly only corporate-type websites. Many of those are “aggregators” created by machines that do little more than scoop up other stuff online and repackage it. It is like one or two new things appear for real online each day and the rest is just those two things repurposed on many other sites.

    Does anyone really subscribe to your email newsletters? Does anyone want notifications of “new” articles (see above) blasted across their inboxes? Really, does anyone buy your stuff off of pop-ups and pop-unders and all that kind of thing? Why do you force me to navigate through all that to see you?

    I’m not opposed to paying for some content, but it has to be worth paying for. You can’t just throw up the same garbage and then expect to make any money from me. Also, if I am paying, could you please dial all the pop-ups and such back a notch? Lastly, you know that most of your paywalls are easily bypassed by entering from site from a search engine, right? So basically I’m paying just to skip that step. I am often not so happy paying for just that. Makes me feel like a chump.

    One more thing. I like Twitter as much as the next person. But c’mon, why all the jabber about following some toothpaste company or another pointless commercial, content-free feed? Really, not everything is made for social media, and not all social media should devolve into just more advertising. I promise to buy stuff if you promise to stop shoving into my mouth.

    Anyway Internet, we’re stuck with each other. We need each other. I need you for Internet things and you need me for your money. It can be a fair trade. But please stop trying to make me your customer by annoying me. Thank you.

    Your truly,

    Peter



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    Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved. The views expressed here are solely those of the author(s) in their private capacity.

    Posted in Democracy, NSA, Post-Constitution America