Concentration in the tech sector has left us with just a few gigantic online platforms, and they have turned into playgrounds for some of the worst people on earth: Nazis, misogynists, grifters, ultranationalists, trolls, genocidal mobs and more. The platforms are so big and their moderation policies are so screwed up, and their use of "engagement" algorithms to increase pageviews, that it's making many of us choose between having a social life with the people we care about and being tormented by awful people. Even if you opt out of social media, you can't opt out of being terrorized by psychopathic trolls who have been poisoned by Alex Jones and the like.
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In a pioneering study, scientists have demonstrated that an implanted brain-computer interface (above) coupled with deep-learning algorithms can translate thought into computerized speech. Read the rest
For years, the big social media platforms have used their market dominance to decide who could speak and on what terms: they forced drag queens and trans people to use their "real" names; kicked Black Lives Matter activists off their platforms; and allowed autocratic rulers to force opposition activists to expose themselves to arrest and torture as a condition of using their platforms.
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Farhad Manjoo (previously) writes in the New York Times about his cautious optimism that the big platforms are finally taking some steps to prevent harassment, but he also worries that this is setting the stage for a new era in tech, one in which the rules guarantee that Big Tech never has to worry about being challenged by upstarts.
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Those praising social media for turfing out white supremacists (and those demanding free speech from it), are missing a deeper problem, writes John Herrman: that these commercial simulations of liberal public discourse are broken replicas of it, ultimately ruled by fiat.
But what gave these trolls power on platforms wasn’t just their willingness to act in bad faith and to break the rules and norms of their environment. It was their understanding that the rules and norms of platforms were self-serving and cynical in the first place. After all, these platforms draw arbitrary boundaries constantly and with much less controversy — against spammers, concerning profanity or in response to government demands.
Believing that private companies must embody or guarantee constitutional rights is one of the internet's worst mistakes. It's not about whether they say yes or no; the plain fact is they can't, even if they want to. They are never free of outside pressure or internal cunning. When we yabber at them to do this or that, we're forgetting that we're just speechcropping. The fact a handful of tech companies are becoming the only public square is a growing problem. Read the rest
This never gets old. Read the rest
15 years ago, uptalk was ruining women's speech; five years ago, it was vocal fry (with accompanying, science-free warnings about damage to the larynx and vocal apparatus); in the First Century BC, Romans used the term "Afrania" to refer to unpleasant women: the term was taken from Caia Afrania, the first woman to be allowed to speak before the Roman Senate (Valerius Maximus called it "unnatural yapping," a "bark," and a "constant harassment of the magistrate"). Read the rest
Directed by David Terry Fine and based on the essay "Seeing at the Speed of Sound" by Rachel Kolb, who narrates this short film.
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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
How Stuff Works explains the "Transatlantic Accent," a cultivated accent that people in the United States affected in an attempt to trick others that they were in some way affiliated with the British upper crust. Read the rest
The US Patent and Trademark Office and the Washington Redskins are embroiled in a fight over whether the Redskins name is too offensive to qualify as a trademark. The Redskins have tried various tacks, including invoking the First Amendment, arguing that the Constitution guarantees them the right to be offensive and to then have the government stop other people from copying their offensiveness, but now they've taken a new -- and surprisingly compelling -- direction. Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation always has a huge presence at Las Vegas's DEFCON, but this year, we're hosting our first-ever badge-hack contest! Read the rest
Hodor from Game of Thrones manifests a condition called Broca's aphasia. Here's a real-life example of a man who communicates only using the word "tono." Read the rest
In memory of Mario Cuomo's remarkable legacy, listen to his inspirational speech. American Rhetoric ranks it as one of the 100 greatest speeches in American history. Some background: Read the rest
This video explains the weirdness of the McGurk effect, a perceptual illusion demonstrating that understanding speech is not just about what we hear, but also what we see. You can learn more about the McGurk effect at Yale's Haskins Laboratories dedicated to the science of the spoken and written wordl. (via Imaginary Foundation) Read the rest
Joe Palazzolo, at the WSJ: '“Liking” something on Facebook is a form of speech protected by the First Amendment, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday, reviving a closely watched case over the extent to which the Constitution shields what we say on social media.' Read the rest
Jesse Brown writes, "Boing Boing readers may remember Rehteah Parsons, the Nova Scotia teen who, in news media shorthand, was driven to suicide last April by cyber bullies.
The public's understandable shock and outrage over her death, and the lack of any charges being laid against her abusers* has resulted in Nova Scotia's Bill 61: the Cyber Safety Act.
But pre-existing laws could have brought Rehteah justice while she was alive- they just weren't enforced. Rehteah may have been cyber bullied, but more descriptively, she was (allegedly) gang-raped while severely intoxicated and chronically harassed. But the RCMP closed her case without interviewing the four boys accused, despite the existence of photo evidence."
*The RCMP re-opened Rehteah's case under pressure from the Prime Minister. This morning, they finally laid charges against two individuals, assumedly not under Bill 61, which of course did not exist at the time of the incident. Read the rest