Six essays on media, technology and politics from Data & Society

danah boyd writes, "Yesterday, a group of us at Data & Society put out six essays on 'media, technology, politics.' Taken together, these pieces address different facets of the current public conversation surrounding propaganda, hate speech, and the US election. Although we only allude to specifics, we have been witnessing mis/disinformation campaigns for quite some time as different networks seek to manipulate both old and new media, shape political discourse, and undermine trust in institutions and information intermediaries. In short, we are concerned about the rise of a new form of propaganda that is networked, decentralized, and internet-savvy. We are also concerned about the ongoing development of harassment techniques and gaslighting, the vulnerability of old and new media to propagate fear and disinformation, and the various ways in which well-intended interventions get misappropriated. We believe that we're watching a systematic attack on democracy, equality, and freedom. There is no silver bullet to address the issues we're seeing. Instead, a healthy response is going to require engagement by many different constituencies. We see our role in this as to help inform and ground the conversation. These essays are our first attempt to address the interwoven issues we're seeing. Read the rest

Thailand's military-appointed Assembly unanimously passes an internet law combining the world's worst laws

On Dec 15, an amendment to Thailand's 2007 Computer Crime Act passed its National Legislative Assembly -- a body appointed by the country's military after the 2014 coup -- unanimously, and in 180 days, the country will have a new internet law that represents a grab bag of the worst provisions of the worst internet laws in the world, bits of the UK's Snooper's Charter, America's Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the dregs of many other failed laws. Read the rest

Good Comic Book Legal Defense Fund gear for #GivingTuesday

Charles from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund writes, "CBLDF is raising money to prepare for a busy 2017 this #GivingTuesday by offering exclusive Comics Are For Everybody merchandise created by Jordie Bellaire (@woahjordie) and Steven Finch (@fonografiks). Comics should be an art form that welcomes and encourages all voices and viewpoints. CBLDF's efforts to protect the First Amendment are essential in creating a climate ensuring that remains the case." Read the rest

UK regulator rules joke about Queen having sex "breached rules"

British regulators determined that a joke about Queen Elizabeth II having sex "breached" broadcasting rules.

The edition of the show, which aired in April this year, featured a panel of comedians who are given a subject which they have to prove is not funny. If the audience does laugh, the subject passes to the next contestant.

Panellist Russell Kane was asked to explain why there was nothing funny about why the Queen, who has four children, must have had sex at least four times in her life.

“Four times we have to think of republicanism as we imagine four children emerging from Her Majesty’s vulva,” said Kane to audience laughter.

Ofcom ruled that the quips, uttered on BBC Radio 4, were "not justified". Moreover, "the potential for offence was increased by the fact that these remarks were broadcast on the Queen's 90th birthday".

The show, Don't Make Me Laugh, was cancelled in the wake of the controversy, which led to a staggering 12 people writing in to complain.

I can't immediately find a clip of the segment in question, so you'll instead have to make do with some amusing media navelgazing over a previous instance of British lese majeste, wherein the line "I'm so old my pussy is haunted" was repeated in Streisand-esque fashion in a watchdog show.

No sanctions were reported other than Ofcom's stern telling-off. But whatever you do, don't talk about Queen Liz getting into bed with Donald Trump.

UPDATE: I believe this is the episode in question, but haven't got a timestamp for you yet:

Read the rest

Google and Facebook's "fake news" ban is a welcome nail in the coffin of "software objectivity"

In the wake of the Trump election -- a triumph of fake news -- both Google and Facebook have announced that they will take countermeasures to exclude "fake news" from their services, downranking them in the case of Facebook and cutting them off from ad payments in Google's case. Read the rest

The free-speech activist duty of journalists during the coming Trump years

Donald Trump promised to shut down the free press if elected (the fact that the laws he wants to "open up" don't exist makes him an ignoramus, but not a harmless one) and his first official post-election act was to block the press and then to call for politically motivated reprisals against his press critics. Read the rest

Harvey Milk's "Hope" speech is worth a revisit today

This excerpt from Harvey Milk's famous "Hope" speech, given at the start of the last anti-LGBT backlash, is brimming with timeless wisdom and inspiration. Another excerpt from the full speech: Read the rest

Germany investigates Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook over failure to remove hate posts

Prosecutors in Germany have launched a formal investigation of Mark Zuckerberg and other executives at Facebook, the Munich prosecutor's office said Friday, over a complaint that Facebook broke German laws against hate speech and sedition by failing to remove racist hate-posts on the social media service.

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Trump wants America to be like England, "where you can actually sue if someone says something wrong"

Trump wants to end criticism of Trump. But more than that, he wants to silence the women he boasted about groping.Specifically, he wants America to be more like England, where "they actually have a system where you can sue if someone says something wrong."

Read the rest

German prosecutors drop investigation against comedian who insulted Turkish president

German prosecutors have dropped an investigation into comedian Jan Boehmermann over a ribald poem he wrote about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, reports the BBC.

Boehmermann's televised performance quipped that Erdogan fucked goats, among other insults, leading to an official complaint and an investigation.

Boehmermann is a satirist and television presenter well-known for pushing the boundaries of German humour.

The poem was broadcast on ZDF television. The comedian was later given police protection.

Mr Erdogan has drawn much criticism in Turkey and internationally for attacking political opponents, including harassment of journalists. Many accuse him of authoritarian methods, stifling legitimate dissent and promoting an Islamist agenda.

The Turkish government cited an ancient lese-majeste law making it illegal to insult foreign heads of state. Though saying the law should be scrapped, German Chancellor Angela Merkel approved the inquiry and was critical of Boehmermann.

In the resulting uproar over free speech, however, both Merkel and prosecutors came under withering criticism—and stories about Boehmermann and his work only proliferated.

Other people who have quipped about Ergodan's alleged affection for quadrupeds include UK foreign minister Boris Johnson.

Previously: German chancellor allows prosecution of satirist who insulted Turkish president Read the rest

China bans mentions of newly discovered species of beetle from social media

The Rhyzodiastes (Temoana) xii is a newly classified species of beetle, indigenous to China's Hainan Island, whose name is a tribute to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Read the rest

In Madagascar, pineapple jokes are a form of dangerous, soon-to-be-banned dissent

Madagascar, one of the world's poorest nations, is led by president Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who infuriated his people by insisting that the economy was doing well and that naysayers couldn't "provide evidence that the country was getting poorer." Read the rest

Snowden publicly condemns Russia's proposed surveillance law

Edward Snowden has taken to Twitter to condemn Russia's proposed "Yarovaya law," which provides prison sentences of 7 years for writing favorably about "extremism" on the Internet, criminalizes failure to report "reliable" information about planned attacks, and requires online providers to retain at least six months' worth of users' communications, 3 years' worth of "metadata" and to provide backdoors to decrypt this material. Read the rest

Salt Lake City apartment complex threatens tenants with eviction if they don't "Friend" the building

The landlords at City Park Apartments stuck memos on their tenants' doors last week, outlining a "Facebook addendum" requiring tenants to Friend the building on Facebook or lose their lease. Read the rest

Billy Corgan upset that "the wrong racial epithet" could destroy his career

Billy Corgan, of the Smashing Pumpkins, laments the fact he can't say a certain word without becoming unpopular, which is the result of social justice groups shutting down free speech.

"It's pretty remarkable that I could say one word right now that would destroy my career," he said, as the screen displayed images of Michael Richards and Paula Deen, both of whom faced derision after using the N-word. "I could use the wrong racial epithet or say the wrong thing to you or look down at the wrong part of your body and be castigated and it's a meme and I'm a horrible person. Every day through the media, through advertising, we see people being degraded, we see people doing all sorts of things that we should be horrified at as a culture. So we've normalized all sorts of things, but we live in a world where one word could destroy your life but it's OK to, if you're a social-justice warrior, spit in somebody's face."

Yet, he says, such groups "don't have power." The epiphany: always hovering just out of view. Good luck sticking to the right racial epithets, Billy. Read the rest

German politician arrested in Berlin for insulting Turkish president

Bruno Kramm, leader of Berlin's branch of the German Pirate Party, was arrested Saturday for insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kramm was detained while conducting a "literary analysis," in support of comedian Jan Boehmermann, outside the Turkish Embassy in Berlin. As part of the publicity stunt, he read two lines of Boehmermann poem ridiculing Erdogan.

The incident comes after chancellor Angela Merkel allowed prosecutors to file charges against Boehmermann, following Turkish demands that he be punished for broadcasting the poem on local television.

Boehmermann, however, was not physically detained by police.

RT reports that Kramm was "approached by several police officers" after he began citing the lines and taken into custody. Police dispersed the gathering, according to RT.

The arrest will further embarrass the German government, which sees itself as supportive of free speech but has failed to scrap an old law against insulting foreign heads of state. Merkel has promised to do so, but has also been criticized for condemning the poem and cosying up to the Turks to get them to accept more Syrian refugees. Read the rest

Campus cop orders students to scribble over penis on a "free speech ball"

A University of Delaware police officer forced a student to scribble over a drawing of a penis inscribed on a gigantic "free speech" beach ball because it doesn't "open up a conversation." He went on to lecture the students who had the ball on display about what kinds of free speech he would tolerate.

“A campus police officer should never ask students to self-censor their constitutionally protected speech,” said FIRE's Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon in a statement. “As a public university, UD must abide by the First Amendment, which has very few exceptions—and subjectively offensive words or images are not one of them.”

The officer's insistence that he had a duty to be the speech police was quite remarkable.

"If I were to write, 'I think Donald Trump should be the next president, I think that's something we could have a discussion about," he said. "Drawing a penis, or a swastika, or putting the n-word on there, what does that do?"

The YAL student responded that the two of them—the officer, and the student—were having a discussion about it at that very moment.

"I don't know that it really opens up a conversation," said the officer, disagreeing. "I just think it's meant to provoke."

Here's the thing, officer: the police are not in charge of deciding which kind of speech "opens up a conversation" and which kind is just "meant to provoke." Nor is there anything illegal about provocative speech. Sometimes speech should offend.

Hit and Run: U. of Delaware Students Drew a Penis on a Free Speech Ball. Read the rest

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