Surprises

by Karl Bode


Filed Under:
congress, cra, net neutrality

Companies:
tumblr, verizon



Verizon-Owned Tumblr Joins The Latest Effort To Restore Net Neutrality

from the fight-the-good-fight dept

Given Verizon's long-standing animosity to net neutrality (and openness and healthy competition in general), the company's acquisition of Tumblr created some understandable tension. Tumblr has been on the front lines of net neutrality support since around 2014 or so, with CEO David Karp stating in 2015 that the service wouldn't exist without net neutrality:

"(Undermining net neutrality) would congeal the Internet into something stagnant, something where new players wouldn’t be able to join the game without having the funds to do so. I’m proud to have been able to turn a little side project into an engine of creativity for so many people. I don’t want to be among the last people able to do that."

Karp resigned from the company last year, and numerous reports have indicated that while net neutrality advocacy remains strong among employees, the company itself has unsurprisingly lowered the volume of its support for net neutrality under new ownership by Verizon. That has resulted in a slow but steady departure of employees not thrilled to be under the "leadership" of one of the most anti-competitive (and occasionally comically delusional) companies on the tech policy front (former in-house counsel Ari Shahdadi being of particular note).

Despite Verizon's ownership the company's net neutrality advocacy doesn't appear to be dead just yet. This week, the company joined net neutrality advocates' "Operation: OneMoreVote" campaign. As we've noted, activists are trying to use the Congressional Review Act to reverse the FCC net neutrality repeal. Under the CRA, Congress can reverse a regulatory decision within 60 days of it hitting the Federal Register with a majority vote. The GOP and Trump administration used this exact trick to kill consumer broadband privacy protections early last year.

According to net neutrality advocacy group Fight for the Future, Tumblr will join Etsy, Reddit, Vimeo, Medium and other smaller companies in a February 27 effort to pressure lawmakers to support the effort in the Senate:

"50 Senators have already come out in support of the CRA, which would completely overturn the FCC’s December 14 decision and restore net neutrality protections. Several Senators have indicated that they are considering becoming the 51st vote we need to win, but they’re under huge pressure from telecom lobbyists. Only a massive burst of energy from the Internet will get them to move."

As noted previously, even if this effort passes the Senate it has an uphill climb in the House, where AT&T, Verizon and Comcast loyal politicians are in even greater supply. And even if the plan nabs the 218 House votes needed, it would still need to be signed by President Trump. And while activists believe Trump might bow to public pressure as part of his purported dedication to his special brand of "populism," that remains a bit of a pipe dream. That's not to suggest the effort is useless; it could go a long way toward forcing politicians to clearly document their disdain for the will of the public ahead of the looming midterms.

All of that said, it's good to see the remaining folks at Tumblr still fighting the good fight, despite the fact that they're now owned by a company with a historically-miserable track record on consumer privacy, state rights, competition, honesty, transparency and the quest for a relatively healthy and open internet.


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:09am

    "steady departure of employees"

    I predict that more will soon be "departing" after this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:12am

    Yeah!

    We're on heroin!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 7:57am

    Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    " [...] it's good to see the remaining folks at Tumblr still fighting the good fight [...]"

    However, they failed (and are still failing) miserably at abuse control:

    Russian Trolls Ran Wild On Tumblr And The Company Refuses To Say Anything About It, see https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/russian-trolls-ran-wild-on-tumblr-and-the-company-refuses

    So while their support for net neutrality is laudable, their failure to exercise rudimentary control over their platform is not, and their unwillingness to publicly address this massive failure is unacceptable.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:18am

    Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    Except this just came to light a few days ago, the evidence presented has not been verified, and it appears that Tumblr was completely unaware this was happening on their platform AS WERE FACEBOOK AND TWITTER until an analysis was done after the fact.

    Geez man, give them some time to analyze the data and confirm whether it's true or not. I'd rather companies took time to analyze the data and respond accurately than just shoot their mouths off and make changes that would make things worse for everyone because they didn't properly analyze the data and situation.

    Also, as has been said before, none of these companies are actually required to do anything about any of this. There is no law holding them accountable for the actions of their users (*cough* section 230 *cough*). So if they don't care that Russian trolls are running rampant, what are you going to do about it? That's not to say that would be the best way to handle it but it is a perfectly legitimate and legal one.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    PaulT (profile), 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:25am

    "Despite Verizon's ownership the company's net neutrality advocacy doesn't appear to be dead just yet."

    The career of whoever organised this probably will be, however.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 8:42am

    What in the hell is verizon doing owning tumblr? No wonder tumblr's all FUCKED UP.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 10:54am

    Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    Nice try, Ivan, but this particular line of bullshit isn't going to work.

    First, they did in fact know -- because plenty of people, including me -- told them in no uncertain terms. It was obvious. (Well, obvious to us, as it is to anyone equipped with sufficient experience with bots of all descriptions.)

    Second, other people have already analyzed the data for them. At no charge. These analyses are all over the Internet for anyone who wants to read them. Some of them are ongoing in real time.

    Third, the appropriate reaction time to a large-scale attack against your own infrastructure is measured in minutes. Any competent operation has in place monitoring and procedures sufficient to detect and react to such things. It's not hard and it's not new: we were doing this stuff 30 years ago.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    Speaking of BS...

    First: Oh I see, you are a bigshot important dude with widely respected credentials that companies like Tumblr and Facebook would instantly take to heart? No? Well there's why they didn't listen to you. No company is going to take action on the word of a few people they've never heard of before making unverified claims. It takes a lot more than that. If it didn't, they'd be taking action because a few crazies keep saying the world is round and things like "oh my gosh it's a conspiracy! You can't let them say that, it's obviously flat!".

    Second: These other people have full access to all of the data stored on Tumblr's servers then? Because an outside analysis of publicly available data is all fine and well to see if there is evidence of something that should be investigated further, but you're never going to be able to 100% confirm it unless you get a look at all the private data and logs that aren't publicly available. So how about we wait for analysis of that data and then make some judgement calls. Hmm?

    Third: This wasn't an attack on their infrastructure, if it was an attack on their infrastructure it would have had the goal of taking the service down or gaining unauthorized access to the backend systems in some way. That didn't happen. The 'monitoring and procedures' you talk about to detect and react to such things (like Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems) don't monitor whether a bunch of trolls are engaging in a smear campaign. They aren't trying to gain illicit access, they are just trying to sway people's minds and opinions. There is no system that can detect this stuff, which is why all social media platforms were caught flat-footed when it happened. I doubt there ever will be a system to detect that kind of thing.

    It WAS an attack on the American people, to try to sow disinformation and propaganda, but that has nothing to do with Tumblr other than it happened to be one of several platforms they used to do it from. Last time I checked, it's not against the law to post your version of the truth on what essentially amounts to an open forum.

    Obviously we don't want foreign nations trying to interfere in our elections but with a free and open internet, that's going to be hard to stop. Anyone, at anytime, can post pretty much whatever they want on the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 3:03pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    You're either a very good troll or charmingly naive about Internet operations. Sit down, kid, shut up, and learn from one of the masters who was doing this stuff while you were still shitting in your diapers.

    First, the identify of the person doing the reporting is irrelevant: what matters is whether or not it's accurate. In this case, highly accurate reports were issued by people whose reputation ranges from who? to stellar. Now I realize that this is tough for a mere ignorant newbie like you to grasp, but when a bunch of unrelated people using unrelated methodologies reach the same conclusion: that's noteworthy. That's when it's time to pay attention.

    Second, yes, an uninformed dolt like you would clumsily attack the infrastructure itself and take it down, gaining very little. A more sophisticated attacker -- which in your case wouldn't take much -- would leave the infrastructure intact and repurpose it for their own uses. Which is exactly what happened and what IS happening.

    Third, if you trust Facebook, Twitter, etc., to perform their own rigorous internal analysis and report the results accurately to the public, You. Are. A. Moron.

    Fourth, analytics is now a well-understood field -- although clearly one beyond your feeble comprehension -- and one of the things that we know how to do is to use partial data to reach conclusions about a larger corpus, with of course varying degrees of confidence in the results. If you had bothered to actually read the research on this topic you would know that, and you would know that the confidence factors are quite high.

    Finally, and I'm sure this will go well over your head, all of these companies are BUILT to do analytics. That's their whole reason for existing: to harvest data about their users and turn it into a marketable commodity. They have acres of servers and legions of people who do nothing but that. They have invested enormous amounts of money into algorithmic research, into databases, into programming, into everything that they possibly can in order to wring the every last drop of value out of the data they possess.

    And despite all that we're supposed to believe that they completely missed this.

    Now I'm sure that an imbecile like you WOULD believe that. But please don't expect those of us equipped with superior minds to fall for the same obvious bullshit that you do.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2018 @ 4:23pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    >Finally, and I'm sure this will go well over your head, all of these companies are BUILT to do analytics.

    Analytics can only answer the questions you ask of the system, if the relevant data has been collected. Why would the platforms look for a propaganda campaigns until after at least one major one has happened?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    nasch (profile), 14 Feb 2018 @ 8:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    You're either a very good troll or charmingly naive about Internet operations. Sit down, kid, shut up, and learn from one of the masters who was doing this stuff while you were still shitting in your diapers.

    I was going to read your response but the ad hominem attacks just got too tiresome. Try sticking to facts next time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2018 @ 6:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    When someone shows up who is out of diapers themselves, maybe I'll take them seriously. That is not you.

    Part of my job is analytics, yours is apparently conspiracy theories.

    1. Identity is completely relevant for reasons I stated previously. Would you trust a random hobo off the street to tell you your house isn't secure? Or would you trust a security company who says your house isn't secure?

    2. I never said that's what I would do. I'm saying that's not what happened here. Nothing was attacked. All they did was create a bunch of accounts and post crap to try and sway peoples' opinion. That's not an attack on Tumblr, that's using it within the confines of its TOS. It is an attack on people.

    3. I trust that they know their own house better than any outsiders do. Whether I trust them to act morally on that information is another matter. However, in this case, it is in their best interests to accurately report if there was a Russian campaign to spread misinformation via their platform. I suspect you are correct and that their analysis will prove that. What I'm not going to do is take any one person's word for it, which is what you are asking me to do.

    4. "Confidence factors that are quite high" is not the same as "it absolutely happened and has been proven". So until it has been proven, let's definitely investigate but not jump to any conclusions and take actions before we're absolutely positive. Making rash judgement calls on incomplete and unverified information is always a bad idea and almost always leads to bad results.

    5. What does that have to do with anything? Sure they may be built to do analytics but that doesn't mean they're built to analyze this particular pattern. Analytics only looks at things you program it to look for. No one was looking for this, as is evidenced by the fact that NOT EVEN FACEBOOK, YOUTUBE, OR TWITTER knew about it until after it happened and they had to reconfigure to look for it and catch it.

    Believe what you want with your tin foil hat. Me? I'll stick to reality and the facts. Not assumptions from an internet nobody.

    If someone claims they are superior, they usually aren't in my experience. History agrees with me and says hi by the way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2018 @ 10:28am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    I'm not the original Anon you were talking to, but on point #1...

    Actually yes, I'm MUCH more inclined to trust a random hobo off the street telling me my house is insecure. Look at the motivation: the hobo has nothing to gain by telling me this, and in fact, everything to lose by not exploiting that information for his own gain.

    The security company wants to sell me something. It's in their best interest to tell me whatever separates me from my money, whether or not it's true.

    So yes, I'd trust a nobody security researcher in a heartbeat IF they had the data to back their claims.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Feb 2018 @ 11:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Perhaps THIS fight, but not others

    Except that in this case, the hobo is not a security researcher, nor does he have data to back up his claims.

    Note, I'm not talking about the guy in the Buzzfeed article and his research, that should be investigated. What I'm addressing is the AC's claims that he and a bunch of other people told Tumblr this long before this other actual security researcher ever got involved.

    And security researchers are different from security companies. So perhaps I should amend my statement to be a security researcher, such as Brian Krebs, etc..., rather than a security company that sells security systems. That way he has nothing to gain, other than the satisfaction of knowing he helped make the world a more secure place.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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