Project Include -- a "group effort to accelerate diversity and inclusion solutions in the tech industry" -- has announced that it will no longer work with the Y Combinator accelerator because of its ties to Peter Thiel, the billionaire Facebook investor who has backed Donald Trump and donated $1.25M to his campaign. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong continues her excellent series of critical perspectives on technology with a piece on the way that technology is being used to let computers control their users, on behalf of the corporations who make and sell these tools. Read the rest
On Wednesday, former Reuters.com social media editor Matthew Keys received a two year prison sentence for computer hacking. That's a sentence of 24 months, for a website defacement that lasted only 40 minutes, which Keys himself didn't even execute.
Earlier today in an unrelated high-profile case, the "affluenza teen" who actually murdered people also got two years in jail. Read the rest
The Atlantic had the excellent idea of commissioning Sarah Jeong, one of the most astute technology commentators on the Internet (previously), to write a series of articles about the social implications of technological change: first up is an excellent, thoughtful, thorough story on the ways that the "cashless society" is being designed to force all transactions through a small number of bottlenecks that states can use to control behavior and censor unpopular political views. Read the rest
Microsoft Research deployed a tween-simulating chatbot this week, only to recall it a few hours later because it had turned into a neo-Nazi, and the next day, they published a bewildered apology that expressed shock that it had been so easy for trolls to corrupt their creation. Read the rest
The House Judiciary committee hearing today titled, “The Encryption Tightrope: Balancing Americans’ Security and Privacy” ended up being full of drama, and riveting moments of confrontation--along with a cavalcade of inept analogies for encryption and hardware security.
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Lawyer and journalist Sarah Jeong is one of the net's best writers, and her new ebook, The Internet Of Garbage, grapples with misogynist harassment and threats online. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong reports on how Twitter has begun to take control of the hatred, harassment and general horseshit posted on its site.
Twitter talked some big talk, but it has buckled under both lawsuits and media outrage, tweaking and changing the Rules around speech whenever something threatened its bottom line. For a business, free speech can only be a meaningful value if it doesn’t really cost anything. … The Twitter of today strikes an uneasy balance between its old self and the unapologetic, ideologically-unburdened censoriousness of Facebook and Instagram. It remains yet to be seen whether the company has the vision and creativity to live out its new identity.
The "free speech wing of the free speech party" couldn't have done this but two years ago. They had to wait until the issues at hand were understood (at least by and large) not as abstractions to be dealt with on principle, but as practical issues of everyday human suffering. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong had me standing up and cheering with her comparison of kudurrus -- the ancient Mesopotamian boundary stones used to mark out territorial land-grants -- and the way that laws like the US DMCA protect digital rights management systems. Read the rest
In South Korea, where the rate of suicide is on the rise, a former funeral director has established a "death experience" therapy center to help people understand the benefits of not killing yourself.
From Oddity Central:
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Participants at the centre come from all walks of life, including teenagers who struggle with pressure at school, older parents experiencing isolation, and the elderly who are afraid of becoming a financial burden on their families. They all don white robes and get into coffins arranged in rows. Beside each coffin is a small desk with pens and paper. Students sit inside the coffins and listen to a short talk by Jeong Yong-mun, a former funeral worker who is now the head of the healing centre. He explains to them that they should accept their problems as a part of life and try to find joy in the most difficult situations.
The students then lie down in the coffin and close their eyes to have a ‘funeral portrait’ taken. Afterwards, they write down their will or compose a farewell letter to their loved ones, and read their last words aloud to the group. When the ‘hour of death’ approaches, they are told that it is now time to ‘go to the other side’. Candles are lit and the ‘Korean Angel of Death’ enters the room. The students lie down in their coffins once more, and the angel closes the lid on each one of them.
Sarah Jeong led an absolutely brilliant Twitter seminar this morning on the subject of DCFAPITM and how it relates to copyright (if at all). Read the rest
The Washington Post editorial board lost its mind and called on the National Academy of Sciences to examine "the conflict" over whether crypto backdoors can be made safe: the problem is, there's no conflict. Read the rest
Sarah Jeong reports on the bizarre and public wrangling over Reddit, whose free-for-all atmosphere blew up just in time to singe new investors expecting rapid growth. A labor problem, hidden in free speech posturing…
To outsiders, it looks like a form of collective insanity, a sign that Reddit itself is overrun with the denizens of r/CoonTown, utterly broken beyond repair. Yet Reddit still drives much of the Internet’s traffic. How can such a mainstream site appear to be so fringe? … Reddit appears to be overrun by a racist, sexist fringe. It’s not. … Reddit has driven itself into the ground by the same cost-efficient model that made it rise to the top. The site has a content problem because it has a moderation problem, a terrible labor problem that it has long hidden behind proclamations of “free speech.”
The hostiles there are expected to get a haircut today, following the installation of co-founder Steve Huffman as CEO and hints at more moderation. But who gets paid? Read the rest
The embattled interim CEO of Reddit, who became all the more embattled after the sacking of a popular admin left unpaid mods outraged, is leaving the company. Read the rest