Sen. Joe Lieberman Asks Google For A 'Report Blog As Terrorist' Button

from the clicking-our-way-to-a-safe-and-secure-nation dept

Senator Joe Lieberman, taking a break from his usual schedule of trying to stamp out all things Wikileaks-related, returns to his old anti-terrorism stomping grounds, sending out a letter to Google CEO Larry Page, expressing his concern that not enough stuff is getting labeled “terrorism.”

He bases his request on the old “because someone did something once” argument that has served the DHS and TSA so well. (See also: “See something. Say something.” because that one time a guy reported a vehicle with a bomb. See also: please remove your shoes and step into the Pornoscan because one time that guy tried to light his shoes on fire and that other time a guy had bomb-laced underwear.) Recent “lone wolf” terrorism suspect Jose Pimentel was, like so many other people in the world, a blogger. Lieberman apparently believes that the prevention of future acts of terrorism should be turned over to the blogosphere in the form of an option to “flag” a blog as containing “terrorist” content.

Talking Points Memo has more info:

“Pimentel’s Internet activity – both his spreading of bomb-making instructions links and his hate-filled writings – were hosted by Google,” Lieberman wrote.

“On his site www.trueislam1.com, Pimentel stated, ‘People have to understand that America and its allies are legitimate targets in warfare. This includes facilities such as army bases, police stations, political facilities, embassies, CIA and FBI buildings, private and public airports, and all kinds of buildings where money is being made to help fund the war.’ As demonstrated by this recent case, Google’s webhosting site, Blogger is being used by violent Islamist extremists to broadcast terrorist content,” Lieberman continued.

Lieberman also points out that Youtube already has this option (thanks to Liberman’s tireless complaining), so it would logically follow that Blogger enforce the same limitations. In fact, he pretty much states that the same people that can prevent forest fires can also prevent terrorism (i.e. “You,” meaning “all of us”), only in this case it can be done with a simple click of the mouse.

“The private sector plays an important role in protecting our homeland from the preeminent threat of violent Islamist extremism, and Google’s inconsistent standards are adversely affecting our ability to counter Islamic extremism online.”

Oh, wait. We can’t actually stop terrorism. We can only flag “Islamist extremism,” which for some people could mean the site quotes the Koran. For others, all it might take is a few angry words delivered by certain foreign types. And for others, all they need is the urge to start pushing buttons.

This is another attempt by a politician to shove the culpability for terrorist acts onto the shoulders of hosting platforms. By all means, Google could add a “Report as TERROR” button to its blogging platform, but does anyone not named Lieberman actually believe that this will ever prevent a future act of terrorism? I’d rather potential terrorists bogged themselves down in the minutia of blogging (endlessly checking stats, rescuing legitimate comments from the spam container, arguing with pesky commenters, following incoming links back into malware deathtraps, gaming their Technorati rating, etc.) than actually, you know, doing terrorist stuff.

There’s also the fact that “flagging something as something” has got to be the most ineffective deterrent ever devised, whether you’re trying to stomp out spam or to do something more difficult, like save the world from “Islamist extremism.” Not only will whoever’s policing this new banhammer have to deal with a new set of false positives, this also puts Google in the awkward position of trying to decide if the blogs reported are actually harmful or just some random person spouting a bunch of untargeted nonsense.

And if Google does decide to start doing this, odds are that there will be a bunch of racially-motivated clicking going on, which will only add to the “noise” side of the signal-to-noise ratio. Once you start shutting down a particular religion based on clicks — all because the federal government demanded it — you’re asking for all sorts of trouble in the First Amendment arena. Uglier than this is the fact that asking for a “Report” button is yet another punt by those in charge of keeping this country safe. The implicit statement seems to be “We can’t figure out how to stop terrorists so we’re leaving that to you,” which would make this no different from every previous foiled terrorist attack. It’s not the DHS, TSA or air marshals that stop terrorists. When they’re not being foiled by their own incompetence, they’re being taken down by fellow passengers. A plea for a “Report as Terrorism” button has all the hallmarks of another windmill tilt in the hopes of appearing to be doing “something.”

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Comments on “Sen. Joe Lieberman Asks Google For A 'Report Blog As Terrorist' Button”

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89 Comments
Trails (profile) says:

More than First Amendment

“Once you start shutting down a particular religion based on clicks — all because the federal government demanded it — you’re asking for all sorts of trouble in the First Amendment arena.”
What’s more, false shutdowns will create a divide, make people of a certain religion/group feel [more] marginalized and drive them towards radicalization.

Further, this guy was caught, so what are we trying to prevent here?

out_of_the_blue says:

Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

yet you don’t seem too het up about it, just maunder that won’t be effective.

Google is supposedly a private corporation. Therefore aren’t any First Amendment problems with its “voluntary” censorship. That’s the end run around the Constitution that corporatism allows.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

@Rikuo (profile), Nov 28th, 2011 @ 9:00am

Why are you spending $100 million on a movie?
——————-

Oh, I getcha now. Gave you benefit of doubt before, but you’ve come up with a little fanboy mantra that you think witty and cutting.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

No its not a fanboy mantra. Its an actual question that I want answered. Pretty much every comment you posted in the SOPA articles is about “But but how can I make back the $100 million I spent on making a movie!”
This seems to be the core of your belief. That you want a guaranteed return on a huge amount of money, that quite frankly, doesn’t need to be spent. There have been plenty of successful movies that had much lower budgets. Every time Mike et al do come up with a new business model, you shout it down because it doesn’t guarantee tens of millions of dollars for everyone who’ll try it.
I want to know WHY you must spend $100 million. WHY you don’t want to try lowering your costs. I want a well thought out and logical answer.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

He actually tried to justify it with “because a $100M movie has the highest chance of making any money back”. So yeah, we need to protect $100M movie business because piracy makes it hard for $100M movies which must be made because $100M movies have the best chance of making a profit because of piracy.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

“WHY you don’t want to try lowering your costs”

Because that would be logical and good business sense, like not restricting content to a small proportion of the potential market or delivering a product that’s not deliberately broken. These people don’t actually want to do good business, they just want free money no matter the cost for others.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

Indeed. Marketing is somewhere a lot of savings could be made, especially if the industry started aiming for mid range profits rather than judging every product on opening weekend grosses. But, if you’ve already got a film that’s filled with CGI and runs 45 minutes than it has any business being for the story it’s telling, that’s the least of your problems.

out_of_the_blue says:

Re: Re: Re: Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

@weneedhelp (profile), Nov 28th, 2011 @ 9:12am

Rikuo appears to be responding to all of OOTB’s comments with that.
————–

That’s because “Rikuo” doesn’t have any substance, so thinks to nag me. It’s all he can manage, so applaud his “special” talent.

Look, guys, just contradicting me manifestly isn’t effective. IF you have some view, THEN STATE IT.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

“It’s all he can manage, so applaud his “special” talent.”

If it’s all I can do…then why is it that I only started doing this recently? Seriously, click my profile name and you’ll get a whole history of my comments here, 90% of which aren’t about the whole 100 mil schtick I’ve got going on.
Once you’re able to explain your position and give a decent answer to my question, I’ll be satisfied.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

And when people have a different view and STATE IT, you respond with “but how will I make back my $100 million, that’s why this won’t work blah blah blah no guarantee blah blah blah”.

So perhaps instead of us telling you how you can do things? How about for once, you tell us why you are dead set on that $100 million?

All you have to do is answer the question and people (or Rikuo, and good for him for nagging you about it, the same way you do Mike) will drop the issue?

But when you routinely respond to things Mike writes with “I want a guarantee that I recoup my $100 mil investment”, well… you open yourself up to getting questioned and nagged about that figure. You brought it on yourself. Now either drop the issue entirely (as in never mention that figure again) or simply answer the question. It’s not that hard to do. B*tching about it takes more effort than actually saying “I refuse to answer, I won’t bring it up EVER again” or “I say $100 mil for Reasons A, B, C and E, but not D because I don’t like D”.

Kapeesh?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

Most other businesses will find a way to reduce costs when times get lean.

I know the amount of filling that is in a pop tart isn’t near what it used to be 20 years ago.

PepsiCo attempts to force people to purchase 20 packs of pop instead of 24 packs because people got used to paying $5 for a case a pop.

The size of Little Debbie snack cakes have been reduced. As well as the amount of filling in a Hostess Ding Dong.

The point is, other industries are forced to find ways to reduce costs to make a profit.

I think what Rikuo’s point is why should the Entertainment Industry be allowed to pass laws to preserve an outdated business model, when all other companies must actually innovate, and/or slash costs to stay afloat?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Here's actual censorship, plus the danger of Google,

“Most other businesses will find a way to reduce costs when times get lean.”

Actually, the amusing thing here is that times aren’t lean at all for the movie industry. It looks set to be yet another record-breaking year for Hollywood with 26 movies so far having broken $100 million at the domestic box office (according to boxofficemojo.com), and several having surpassed $1 billion internationally. Many are (or should be if not for Hollywood accounting) in profit before they even leave the cinemas and on to secondary markets with the potential for significant long-term revenue.

Ron Rezendes (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Kettle - this is the pot, "You're black!"

This is so rich coming from ootb…LMFTFY:

That’s because “oob” doesn’t have any substance, so thinks to nag me. It’s all he can manage, so applaud his “special” talent.

Look, guys, just contradicting me manifestly isn’t effective. IF you have some view, THEN STATE IT.

Joe Publius (profile) says:

Please click on this button if the language of this post makes you feel scared.

That’s pretty much the gist, right? I have two points:

1. It’s useless because you can’t really determine the clicker’s intent for clicking on the button. For all we know the reporter is a troll or bigot.
2. It’s redundant because if the site/post is really of concern, you can just call the cops. It’s smarter IMO to truly know who’s reporting, and their reason for doing so.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ok, lets start a countdown to how long it would take if google added this feature for someone to report DHS blogs as terrorism. Oh, and any politician who runs for public office and starts their own website! After all, the damage my political opponent wants to do to the economy amounts to economic terrorism simply because I disagree with them!

fogbugzd (profile) says:

Page o' Buttons concept

If we are going to have a “report terrorism” button then we should probably have a “report child abuse” button and one for “report tax evasion” and “report piracy” and “report pornography” and “report issue du jour.” Eventually Google will have to list one entry per page with the rest of the page devoted to various report buttons that seemed important to one or another politician.

Anonymous Coward says:

This one time, on the Sims2 website forums, they used to have these post ratings buttons, Beneficial and, um, Not so beneficial? And, because people started using the Not so beneficial buttons to harass people, they had to, like, take away the Not so beneficial button? Because it got all abusive and subjective and pointless and not so beneficial and such?

So, like, when does Lieberman retire already?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So rather than have DHS and all those machines reading the wiretaps of everything inside the US find this blog, we need Google to add a button.
We need Google to scan YouTube for copyrighted material.
We need Google to pay for ads pointing out US drug costs are dumb.
We need Google to pay because I heard a Prince song in the background of a baby dancing.
We need Google to turn over all of their money because we shouldn’t have to compete in the market.

Maybe instead of making Google responsible for America’s safety and security maybe the Senator could ask why is it all the terrorist plots that come to light are all shepherded along by FBI agents and informants?
That with the billions being spent to keep us safe the entire safety of the country rests on Google adding a button.
Or maybe it is time to admit that Congress doesn’t understand the internet, is terrified by it, but seeks to exert some sort of control to feel empowered… only to end up looking like a bigger old fool.

Charles (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Or maybe it is time to admit that Congress doesn’t understand the internet, is terrified by it, but seeks to exert some sort of control to feel empowered… only to end up looking like a bigger old fool.”

I agree 100 per cent. You can substitute Congress with RIAA or MPAA or any other AA. The internet is one of the best innovations of all time, yet some just don’t get it.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Umm…didn’t you get what this article is about? How a “report as terrorism” button will not work, because the very concept is flawed?
If I click funny or insightful, that means that the comment I read made me laugh or I think its a good read, that it had some thought behind it. What will it mean if I click “Terrorist!!!111!!!” Does it mean I actually think that the author of the comment is a terrorist? Do I have proof that they are planning a terrorist act? Or will I merely be over-reacting because I got scared? Will others click “Terrorist” for reasons that have nothing to do with terrorism, maybe because they are biased against the author for whatever reason?

Ilfar says:

Re: Re: Re:

I see more clicking because someone lost an argument, or they disagree with the post, than any real chance of it being used as intended.

Come to think on it, I’d love to see some stats behind the ‘report’ button we have here. Do comments in arguments tend to get more reports? Do account holders or ACs make more reports?

Bob says:

Re: Re: Re:

I did read the article and understand that it claims such a button will not work… but there is no good reason given for why it won’t work other than we don’t like the idea. And I am pointing out that we should not underestimate the power of harnessing bored humans to do sophisticated interpretation of patterns of activity. It’s a far better idea than trying to recognize classes of sites automatically based on keywords.

gorehound (profile) says:

This guy is spewing forth some real garbage.And when this Government passes that damn SOPA/PIPA this Country will be a lot closer to China than we would ever want to be.People like Lieberman will love that.
Why not close the whole Internet down ?
Why not add little buttons for every vice imaginable ?
Why not add a “whitehouse.gov” as our Government no longer serves the needs of its people.

RevCharlie (profile) says:

How out of touch?

How completely out of touch, are these people in DC? They are completely out of touch. This article proves it. It is if they are from another planet, and they are. They are so rich and so completely isolated by their politics, ethics, money, and morals that their world does not resemble ours. They see things that we don?t see and know things not worth our knowing. Yet we expect these extraterrestrials to comprehend our lives in the working world. They have no clue and don?t want one. Even if they did, they couldn?t find one with a flashlight and butterfly net.

Almost every utterance from these visitors is nonsensical and irrational to our ears, but makes perfect sense to them. They walk a different walk and dance to a different tune. We have very unrealistic expectation for these visitors from another world.

Sit back and laugh at this foolishness and realize that if they want it, you cannot stop them. Nothing you can change their directions and decisions. If it fits their agenda or program or direction? they get what they want. You and I cannot stop them. So? get some popcorn and a beer and enjoy the show.

Steve R. (profile) says:

McCartyism Revived

We are witnessing the rebirth of McCartyism. In the case today, it is not the threat of Communism as the source of FUD, but other boogeymen such as terrorism, piracy, and drugs.

Won’t be long before we have a new “House Committee on Un-American Activities”. I also suspect, based on Newt Gingrich’s comments that we may soon have a Federal PreCrime police unit authorized to arrest people on the simple belief without evidence that they may commit a crime.

DV Henkel-Wallace (profile) says:

Actually, kinda cool

I think of Liberman as a retrograde anti-technologist, but he is advocating the Semantic Web, a technotopial idea!

Not that he would be persuaded by the obvious reasons it unfortunately can’t work

Nonetheless I continue to be astonished that he wants to make it harder to find bad guys! It’s almost like he supports terrorism (which I don’t believe he does)!

hegemon13 says:

“The implicit statement seems to be ‘We can’t figure out how to stop terrorists so we’re leaving that to you’…”

And the implicit statement in your statement is that the government should somehow be able to stop terrorists. (If I am misinterpreting, I apologize.) Terrorism is a tactic used by desperate people. It cannot be stopped because it is not defined by any specific set of parameters, and it’s definition changes based on the whims in Washington. Today’s heroic freedom fighters are tomorrow’s dangerous terrorists.

The fact is, terrorism will always exist as a tactic, and it exists in direct relation to the breadth and depth of foreign occupation. The stronger the occupying country, the more likely it is for the people of the occupied country to turn to terror instead of war. The more intrusive an occupying country is, the easier it is for terrorist organizations to recruit from those who oppose the occupation.

In short, we can’t stop terrorism. That so-called war is one without end that will ultimately bankrupt our country, along with much of the Western world. However, we can make the right moves to stop terrorism from being focused on us. We can stop doing things that provoke anger and retaliation. The “report terrorism” concept is only another form of oppression: the elimination of free-speech rights based on an accusation of “dangerous” speech. Such oppression will not stop terrorists. Indeed, such an atmosphere of oppression may serve to exacerbate the problem by creating a new terrorist where one did not exist before.

abc gum says:

I think we need a “Report a Witch Button”.

Fraudulent click control would be handled by a short questionnaire / EULA which must be completed before the “Report a Witch” button is enabled.

1) How do you know (s)he is a witch, does (s)he look like one?
2) Did you dress him/her up like that?
3) Provide a description of the nose.
4) Does (s)he have a hat? Any warts?
5) Did (s)he turn you into a newt?
6) Does (s)he weigh the same as a duck?

A Guy (profile) says:

I think Lieberman is thinking of his own political survival. (I know, from a politician, shocking)

He may be afraid of getting caught up in a wave of “throw out the incumbent bums” and needs an issue to hang his hat on. Yelling “TERRORISM” is his thing. It’s been his thing since the Bush administration.

Crowd-sourcing some intelligence gathering could be beneficial. However, this tactic will probably just lead to a bunch of false leads, more radicalization instead of less, and the harassment of innocent people.

Bergman (profile) says:

> ‘People have to understand that America and its allies are
> legitimate targets in warfare. This includes facilities
> such as army bases, police stations, political
> facilities, embassies, CIA and FBI buildings, private and
> public airports, and all kinds of buildings where money
> is being made to help fund the war.’

That target list sounds an awful lot like the targets the U.S. military has been hitting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. Generally the U.S. doesn’t bomb embassies, but everything else on the list is considered to be legitimate by the U.S. military.

So if WE consider those legitimate targets, why would anyone expect our enemies to leave such targets alone? Just because they’re ours?

bshock (profile) says:

it cuts both ways

How do I report Joe Lieberman as a terrorist?

I’m serious. This person terrifies the hell out of me. As a U.S. senator, he has massive amounts of power to take away my freedom, waste public money, destroy property, push for war, and generally use the leviathan of government to work his twisted will.

I didn’t elect him (in fact, only a vanishingly tiny, unrepresentative constituency in the country’s smallest state elected him), and yet he has the ability to screw up my life far worse than any member of Al Qaeda.

Every time this man opens his mouth, I’m scared. Where’s my “terrorist” button to label Joe Lieberman?

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