Podcast: False Flag

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.

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.

Read the rest

The DoJ's corporate "diversion" program is supposed to change bad corporate culture, but really, it enables repeat offenders

When a corporation is investigated for malfeasance -- cheating or hurting customers or workers, say -- the DoJ sometimes allows it to enter in a deferred prosecution agreement (DPAs) or a non-prosecution agreement (NPAs): the company admits wrongdoing, pays a fine, and promises not to do it again; after 2-3 years of good conduct, the charges are dropped. Read the rest

How "meritocracy" went from a joke to a dogma, and destroyed the lives of everyone it touched

The term "meritocracy" was coined in Michael Young's satirical 1958 novel, "The Rise of Meritocracy," where it described a kind of self-delusion in which rich people convinced themselves that their wealth was evidence of their moral superiority; it's well-documented that a belief in meritocracy makes you act like an asshole, and also makes you incapable of considering how much of your good fortune is attributable to luck; now, in a new book, The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite, Yale Law professor Daniel Markovits documents how a belief in meritocracy also makes rich people totally miserable. Read the rest

Wisconsin commissioned an independent report on how to fix the Foxconn deal. Result: it can't be done.

In 2017, Trump and then-Wisconsin Governor (and Koch darling) Scott Walker announced that they would give Chinese manufacturing giant $3B in taxpayer subsidies to open the only flat panel display factory in the western hemisphere (the figure quickly grew to $4.1B), despite the company's long, documented history of lying to governments, sucking up subsidies, and never delivering the promised facilities or jobs. Read the rest

Self-insurer Walmart flies its sick employees to out-of-state specialists to avoid local price-gougers

Walmart self-insures its workforce, rather than relying on an outside insurer like Cigna or Blue Cross; this means that it gets to make judgment calls that other firms cannot, and that has led the retail giant to a pretty weird place: for certain procedures that it believes to be overused by local hospitals, it flies its employees (even front-line, low-waged employees) to see the nation's top specialists in out-of-state facilities where they receive "concierge, white-glove care that was reserved at other companies only for highly paid executives." Read the rest

All the economists who told the FTC we shouldn't break up Big Tech are paid by Big Tech

From the Open Markets Institute's Mat Stoller and Austin Frederick, who analyzed the FTC's panel, "The Current Economic Understanding of Multi-Sided Platforms," in which economic experts told the regulator that Big Tech's monopoly power just isn't a problem: "every single economist testifying on the issue of corporate concentration derived income, directly or indirectly, from large corporations. Beyond that, the hearing itself was held at the Antonin Scalia Law School, which is financed by Google and Amazon." Read the rest

Research shows that patent examiners are more likely to grant patents to companies they later work for

In their National Bureau of Economic Research working paper From Revolving Doors to Regulatory Capture? Evidence from Patent Examiners (Sci-Hub Mirror), Business School profs Haris Tabakovic (Harvard) and Thomas Wollmann (Chicago) show that patent examiners are more likely to grant patents for companies that they subequently go to work for; they also go easier on patents applied for by companies associated with their alma maters (where they have more connections and will find it easier to get a job after their turn in government service). Read the rest

Cryptojacking malware discovered running on critical infrastructure control systems

Radiflow reports that they discovered cryptojacking software -- malware that mines cryptocurrency -- running in the monitoring and control network of an unnamed European water utility, the first such discovery, and a point of serious concern about the security and integrity of critical infrastructure to both targeted and untargeted attacks. Read the rest

Home Depot might pay up to $0.34 in compensation for each of the 53 million credit cards it leaked

In 2014, Home Depot disclosed a security breach of 53 million customer credit cards and 56 million email addresses. This week the company settled a class action lawsuit and agreed to pay as much as $19.5 million in damages and compensation. Read the rest

Harvard Business Review: Stop paying executives for performance

Two business-school researchers have published a literature survey in the Harvard Business Review that makes the case against using performance-pay to motivate senior managers. Read the rest

Lessig on how the economics of data-retention will drive privacy tech

In an interview with the WSJ's CIO blog, Lawrence Lessig proposes that the existence of cryptographic tools that allow for "zero-knowledge" data-querying, combined with the potential liability from leaks, will drive companies to retain less data on their customers. Read the rest