Post-Brexit, Google plans to move UK user accounts out of the control of European Union privacy regulators, and will place them under U.S. jurisdiction instead, where privacy protections are weaker, reports Joseph Menn at Reuters. Read the rest
Last year, the EU adopted the incredibly controversial Copyright Directive (it passed by only five votes, and afterwards 10 MEPs said they'd got confused and pushed the wrong buttons!): now, EU member states have to create rules that require online platforms to filter all user-generated content and block it if it matches a secret, unaccountable blacklist of supposedly copyrighted works; and to allow news sites to veto or charge for links to their articles. Read the rest
Cum-ex (previously) is a technical, boring financial engineering technique that lets fraudsters file multiple tax-refund claims for the same stock transactions (they called it "dividend arbitrage"); from 2006-2011, the EU's largest, most respectable banks, law firms, and investors used the scam to steal $60,000,000,000. Read the rest
Warner subsidiary Otter Media has a division called Fullscreen ("a social content company for talent and brands") that has been demonetizing Youtubers' videos that use the numbers 36 and 50 (and possibly other numbers, for all we know), claiming that their use of these integers is a copyright violation. Doing so allows Warner to steal the money that these Youtubers' videos would otherwise earn. Read the rest
Last year's EU Copyright Directive will require online services to install upload filters similar to Youtube's Content ID system, a $100m, voluntary tool that allows rightsholders to claim video and audio and either censor or earn money from any user videos that matches their claims. Read the rest
The passage -- through MEPs erroneously pushing the wrong buttons! -- of the new EU Copyright Directive last March means that online platforms operating in the EU will have to implement filters that allow anyone, anywhere, to claim anything as their copyright, whereupon the platforms will have to detect any attempt by anyone else to upload those claimed works and block them. Read the rest
The cause of Catalan independence surged in October 2017, when voters defied Madrid and voted in a banned independence referendum despite indiscriminate violence and rubber-bullet fire from police, who had earlier seized the ballot boxes (the independence movement had wisely procured a backup set of boxes just in case. The referendum led to a declaration of independence, and the central government responded by imposing direct rule and arresting the movement's leaders (the ruling coalition was trounced at the polls a few months later). Read the rest
Cambodia's long-serving dictator Hun Sen nearly lost power in 2013 when an opposition party mobilized over Facebook (Hun Sen recovered by mastering Facebook and using it to crush the opposition, whose leaders are now exiled. Read the rest
In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my Green European Journal short story about the terrible European Copyright Directive which passed last March, False Flag. Published in December 2018, the story highlights the ways in which this badly considered law creates unlimited opportunities for abuse, especially censorship by corporations who've been embarassed by whistleblowers and activists.
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The crew couldn’t even supply their videos to friendly journalists to rebut the claims from the big corporate papers. Just *linking* to a major newspaper required a paid license, and while the newspapers licensed to one another so they could reference articles in rival publications, the kinds of dissident, independent news outlets that had once provided commentary and analysis of what went into the news and what didn’t had all disappeared once the news corporations had refused to license the right to link to them.
Agata spoke with a lawyer she knew, obliquely, in guarded hypotheticals, and the lawyer confirmed what she’d already intuited.
“Your imaginary friend has no hope. They’d have to out themselves in order to file a counterclaim, tell everyone their true identity and reveal that they were behind the video. Even so, it would take six months to get the platforms to hear their case, and by then the whole story would have faded from the public eye. And if they *did* miraculously get people to pay attention again? Well, the fakers would just get the video taken offline again. It takes an instant for a bot to file a fake copyright claim.
Last year in the USA, a corporate coalition led by Apple killed 20 state Right to Repair bills (Massachusetts subsequently passed a ballot initiative that accomplished the same rules without having to pass the corruptible legislature), but in the EU, Right to Repair advocates have made enormous strides, and now the European Commission has adopted rules (coming into effect in 2021) that require manufacturers of lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges to make parts available for a minimum of 10 years after the item is manufactured, and to design appliances so that parts can be easily replaced with standard tools. Read the rest
Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU competition commissioner who handed out a bouquet of multibillion-dollar fines to US-based Big Tech companies; she had resigned herself to being ousted after her previous term but in a last-minute surprise she has been granted another turn in office, with a new mandate to create a "Europe fit for the digital age." Vestager's heart is definitely in the right place, even if she has effectively taken forced breakups off the table, judging that the ensuing legal wrangle will do more harm than good, even if it might put Big Tech's execs on notice that bad behaviour has real consequences. Read the rest
After the EU Copyright Directive passed with a slim majority that only carried because some MEPs got confused and pressed the wrong button, the government of Poland filed a legal challenge with the European Court of Justice, arguing that the Directive -- and its rule requiring that all online discourse be filtered by black-box algorithms that will block anything that might be infringing -- violated both Polish and European law. Read the rest
In my latest podcast (MP3), I read my May Locus column: Steering with the Windshield Wipers. It makes the argument that much of the dysfunction of tech regulation -- from botched anti-sex-trafficking laws to the EU's plan to impose mass surveillance and censorship to root out copyright infringement -- are the result of trying to jury-rig tools to fix the problems of monopolies, without using anti-monopoly laws, because they have been systematically gutted for 40 years.
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A lack of competition rewards bullies, and bullies have insatiable appetites. If your kid is starving because they keep getting beaten up for their lunch money, you can’t solve the problem by giving them more lunch money – the bullies will take that money too. Likewise: in the wildly unequal Borkean inferno we all inhabit, giving artists more copyright will just enrich the companies that control the markets we sell our works into – the media companies, who will demand that we sign over those rights as a condition of their patronage. Of course, these companies will be subsequently menaced and expropriated by the internet distribution companies. And while the media companies are reluctant to share their bounties with us artists, they reliably expect us to share their pain – a bad quarter often means canceled projects, late payments, and lower advances.
And yet, when a lack of competition creates inequities, we do not, by and large, reach for pro-competitive answers. We are the fallen descendants of a lost civilization, destroyed by Robert Bork in the 1970s, and we have forgotten that once we had a mighty tool for correcting our problems in the form of pro-competitive, antitrust enforcement: the power to block mergers, to break up conglomerates, to regulate anticompetitive conduct in the marketplace.
The EU Commission's High-Level Expert Group on AI (AI HLEG) has tabled its Policy and investment recommendations for trustworthy Artificial Intelligence, recommending a ban on the use of machine learning technologies to generate Chinese-style Citizen Scores and limits on the use of the technology in monitoring and analyzing mass surveillance data. Read the rest