Google, Apple Called Out For Hosting Saudi Government App That Allows Men To Track Their Spouses' Movements

from the not-a-good-look dept

Seems like this would be something that would go without saying: if you're an American tech company, don't willingly assist oppressive regimes in the oppression of their populace. Twitter is forever helping the Turkish government silence critics and journalists. Facebook has allowed governments to weaponize its moderation tools, quite possibly contributing to government-ordained killings.

Now, Ron Wyden is calling out both Apple and Google for making it easier for Saudi Arabian men to treat their spouses (and employees) like possessions, rather than people.

Apple and Google have been accused of helping to "enforce gender apartheid" in Saudi Arabia, by offering a sinister app which allows men to track women and stop them leaving the country.

Both Google Play and iTunes host Absher, a government web service which allows men to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders, and to get close to real-time SMS updates when they travel.

There's really no reason either company should be hosting this app in their app stores. If Absher's creators want to distribute an app that prevents certain Saudi citizens from being treated as equals, they're free to host it on their own site. It's not like the developers don't have the clout to go it alone. The app is developed and supported by none other than the Saudi government.

This isn't the sort of thing American companies should be giving platform space to, even if it technically meets the inconsistent standards both companies apply to app submissions.

As critics have pointed out, both companies have policies against apps that "facilitate threats and harassment." Absher may have some benign functions built in (like paying parking tickets) but the overall point of the app is to allow Saudi men to dictate when and where their wives can travel, as well as be alerted to any movements suggesting their spouses are trying to escape the horrible abuses allowed by this country's laws. Threats and harassment are all but guaranteed, and that's without even delving into the app's ability to provide employers with 24-hour surveillance of their employees.

Seems like the easy decision would be to pull the app. What's the potential downside? An oppressive regime complaining about a slight dip in oppression?

Filed Under: absher, app stores, ron wyden, saudi arabia, surveillance
Companies: apple, google


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  • icon
    Mark Murphy (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 4:09am

    Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

    If Absher's creators want to distribute an app that prevents certain Saudi citizens from being treated as equals, they're free to host it on their own site.

    That's only an option for Android. iOS does not allow the installation of apps other than through the App Store. Most Android devices shipped in most countries use the Play Store by default, but users can install apps through other channels, albeit through a scary process.

    IOW, Apple has a walled garden. Google has a walled garden with an open gate guarded by a fairly disgruntled dog.

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    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 5:04am

      Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

      Oh darn, self-distribution is hard enough that if saudi men want to be able to track their wives/property as easily as they currently can they'll have to put some actual work into being terrible people, how terrible...

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      • icon
        frank87 (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 5:58am

        Re: Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

        The local government could force it on every phone before it's sold.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:29am

        Re: Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

        The statement that "If Absher's creators want to distribute an app that prevents certain Saudi citizens from being treated as equals, they're free to host it on their own site" isn't true. It's not terrible that it's false—it's actually great for the IOS users who would be victimized—but, nevertheless, the situation is not as Tim described, and it's worth pointing out.

        As for "There's really no reason either company should be hosting this app in their app stores", that depends on whether one considers (dirty) money a good enough reason.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:40am

          Re: Re: Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

          I mean, I can't guarantee that Saudis are able to jailbreak iPhones, but people in nearly every other country are able to. So yes, they are able to host it on their own site, it just requires them to host two things instead of one...

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    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:11am

      Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

      That's only an option for Android. iOS does not allow the installation of apps other than through the App Store. Most Android devices shipped in most countries use the Play Store by default, but users can install apps through other channels, albeit through a scary process.

      Web apps still work. It is only native apps that don't. Not that I'm suggesting the Saudis turn this dumpster fire into a web app... I'm just saying that native apps are not the entire ecosystem of apps.

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    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:54pm

      Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

      However, jailbreaking an iPhone is not illegal for personal use. It only violates the DMCA if done for some kind of financial gain, and jailbreaking your iphone for your own personal use does not rise to that level.

      In order to for it to be a felony, it has to be for commercial or private financial gain, meaning you have to be doing it for the purpose of making money. Congress made it that way, otherwise there would be so many criminals in the country, we would not have enough jails to hold them all.

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      • identicon
        Prinny, 14 Feb 2019 @ 3:44am

        Re: Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

        [citation needed, dood]

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      • identicon
        Anon, 15 Feb 2019 @ 4:18pm

        Re: Re: Self-Distribution: Not As Easy As It Sounds

        It might be hard for an American to understand this but American law does not apply in Saudi Arabia.

        Also, your understanding of DMCA in America itself is woefully inaccurate.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 5:17am

    Time for another rule of thumb

    'If you treat your wives like civilized people treat their pets... you are not a civilized person/society.'

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    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:18am

      Re: Time for another rule of thumb

      Yeah, this is basically to be expected in an illegitimate society founded on barbarism and brutality.

      Look up who Saud was, and the things he did during his horrific conquest of a land that used to simply be called "Arabia" before he literally renamed it after himself, and it puts a lot of what's happened ever since into perspective.

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:27am

      Re: Time for another rule of thumb

      Meaning if they disagree with YOU, they can't be good.

      metoo is turning America into the Middle East with its presumptions about (straight) men and (straight) male sexuality. Gays, it appears, are NOT equal to men because straight men have no presumption about being preyed upon by gay men.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 5:50am

    News alert

    Google called out for tracking everything.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:23am

    While I completely agree with the message behind this article, could someone please elaborate on why in this case it is okay for Google to use the censor button, even if the usual stance on Techdirt is that being a bad person is not a good reason for censorship?

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    • identicon
      TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:37am

      Re:

      Sure: A) the Absher app enables censorship itself. By hosting it, the platforms indicate their support for censorship and abuse of people. By not hosting it, the platforms would be pushing back against censorship.

      B) the Absher app is not exactly what I would define as speech. It's not someone standing up on a podium and saying horrible things that no one should agree with, it's a way to invade privacy, track people, and prevent them escaping abusive situations. That's action.

      Kicking the Absher app from the platform would not be censorship.

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      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:15am

        Re: Re:

        the Absher app is not exactly what I would define as speech.

        However, the Absher app is software, and is squarely in what I call protected speech.

        If you will not defend speech you abhor, you weaken your defense for your own speech.

        This article calls for google (and the apple store) to not carry this particular app ("There's really no reason either company should be hosting this app in their app stores."), which is a call for censorship. It's not First Amendment grade censorship, but it is 'Heckler's veto' censorship: You want the spousal surveillance to stop so you attack the tool.

        I disagree. The app is just a symptom.

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        • icon
          Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:23am

          Re: Re: Re:

          True enough, but the thing that it's a symptom of--the flat-out horrific views that the Saudi regime has on women's rights and human rights in general--is beyond Google's or Apple's power to fix. This is not.

          The phrase "just treating a symptom" has some validity to it, but not always. For example, there are a number of diseases that used to be thought of as an automatic death sentence because the symptoms included lethal levels of dysentery, until someone noticed that the reason the dysentery killed you was from dehydration. Turns out that if you drink lots of water and keep your basic nutrition up, so that your body doesn't waste away, it will buy you the time your immune system needs to kill off the disease, and you end up recovering.

          (Not sure how well that notion translates to the problem of the Saudi regime, but it's worth keeping in mind...)

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Horrific to YOU, not to them.

            You're not the self-appointed ruler of the world.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:41am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Horrific to YOU, not to them.

              Of course; what else would a subjective word like "horrific" mean?

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        • identicon
          TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:10am

          Re: Re: Re:

          We have a fundamental disagreement: I don't consider the app itself to be speech. Someone advocating for the app or advocating for the behavior the app enables is speech. I will defend the right of people to speak things I abhor - I will not defend this app, because I don't consider it to be speech.

          True, it is a symptom of the problem. True, banning it from the app stores doesn't fix the main problem. But leaving it on the app stores enables the behavior. Basically, by leaving it on the app store, not only are you not doing anything to address the root cause, you are enabling the problematic behavior. That is the problem.

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          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:40am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I don't consider [this app] to be speech.

            Why? Programmers often say code is speech, and courts have sometimes agreed. Would your view depend on whether it's in binary or source form, or on some other nuance?

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            • identicon
              TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:58am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I make no bones about my definition being the legal one - to me, the app is actions taken. The makers of Absher are actively doing things to suppress women. The users of Absher are actively doing things to suppress women.

              I see this app as being no different than any of the myriad pieces of malware that exist. Absher app is speech? Then so is WannaCry, in my view.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:43am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Cool man! My new and fantastic key logger is free speech and you have to listen to it - err I mean download and install it - yeah that's the ticket.

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              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:43am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                There are, in fact, entire subgroups of criminals that use nothing other than speech to commit their crimes. It's been that way for centuries.

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 12:04pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Yeah - that town crier on his soapbox is such a criminal.

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                  • icon
                    R.H. (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 12:46am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    I think that other AC is referring to confidence men aka con men. Most of their crimes are performed with only their speech tricking people into parting with their money fraudulently.

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        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:37am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If you will not defend speech you abhor, you weaken your defense for your own speech.

          Should "defending" include "repeating"? Maybe, because the power of Google and Apple to censor could be dangerous, but they are distributing the app and profiting from it. Another option would be to fund human rights groups of that area with every download.

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:28am

        Re: Re:

        It's not Google's job to be political. People who believe in sovereignty should be consistent or just become globalists.

        Google enables massive invasions of privacy by allowing the search of people by name, all with Section 230 immunity.

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        • icon
          Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Really?

          When I first started dating the woman who later became my wife, I Googled her, as any reasonable person would do these days. Between her rather distinctive name and the area where she lived, it was pretty easy to find a bunch of stuff on her... and none of it was any information she didn't freely tell me within the first 3-4 dates at the most.

          People today understand that public means not private. It might have taken a bit for society to come to terms with the ramifications of that, but by and large we're past the tipping point there.

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:13am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            So if someone wanted to derail your relationship, all they'd have to do is flood Google with a bunch of lies. Google is not liable for defamatory content so its search results cannot be trusted. People who ignore this are extremely foolish and really not worth marrying.

            Your wife is stupid (unless she's after something other than love), since she had to settle for you. Then again, she's free to cheat on you or even leave you on a moment's notice, at which point you have no right to even be angry.

            My guess is you're a high-earner, though either way you have to give up half your wealth just to get laid by an idiot female who will age faster than milk.

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            • identicon
              TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:16am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Ah. A troll.

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:20am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Wheeler opened this can of worms. He is now a "limited purpose public figure."

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            • icon
              Thad (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:33am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              an idiot female

              Found the misogynist.

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            • icon
              cattress (profile), 14 Feb 2019 @ 12:40am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. How would one go about"flooding" Google with disinformation and lies about an individual? And then how would one ensure that the intended target would find this disinformation far enough up in the search results, ahead of legitimate results, that they would actually view it. And what would make any of these search results appear to come from valid and reliable sources so that the target believes the stories. And how is Google to blame for the actions of some jerk with too much time on their hands, and not the jerk who is subject to libel/slander laws? I mean, just go straight to the name calling if you want to troll because you look profoundly stupid trying to create a whole narrative to support your insults.

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:15am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Maybe some woman will make a #metoo allegation that your wife finds when she does her Googling.

            Intelligent people don't believe tabloids or gossip (which is what the internet is). Once whatever looks your wife has are gone, you won't be left with much other than a pile of financial responsibility.

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Right. Just like people who go public on social media have NO expectation of privacy.

            Just like free speech says I can comment on that stupid piece of shit who married you without it being anything other than the exercise of my first amendment rights. If this brings out a side of you your stuupid piece of shit of a wife (my OPINION, of course) didn't think existed, and she reconsidered her decision to marry you, that would be your own fault for starting a debate you couldn't control after you started it.

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            • icon
              Thad (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Yes, Blue, we're aware that you don't understand that "you have a legal right to state your opinion" and "you're an asshole for stating that opinion" are consistent, non-contradictory positions, you dumb motherfucker.

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            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:56am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Protip bro. Misspelling stupid when calling someone stupid dosent make THEM look stupid.

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        • icon
          Thad (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:15am

          Re: Re: Re:

          globalists

          Found the antisemite.

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            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:16am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Not at all...maybe you mean one of the attorneys who posts here who has linked to anti-Semitic websites.

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            • identicon
              TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:31am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Oh yeah? Care to name a name and provide some evidence?

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            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:32am

              FYI, “globalists” is a well-known dogwhistle used by anti-Semites when they want to talk about Jewish people but are just smart enough to know that they can’t say anti-Semitic bullshit out loud.

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:44am

                Re:

                Do you mean anti-Jewish or are some really using that term against all Semetic people? (Or, are you saying the term is anti-Jewish but the people who use it also happen to be against all Semites?)

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                • icon
                  Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:48am

                  Re: Re:

                  You can quit playing word games in an attempt to discredit what I said; it will not let you get away with using “globalist” as an anti-Semitic dogwhistle.

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                  • identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:04am

                    Re: Re: Re:

                    Huh? You're explaining a secret secondary meaning of a seemingly harmless word. I'm not trying to discredit anything, I'm trying to understand this underground world.

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                    • identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:09am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Also, where does one find out about these "alternate" meanings? Is there something like a dogwhistlepedia? I believe you, but Wikitionary doesn't list the meaning you described.

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                      • icon
                        Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:00am

                        where does one find out about these "alternate" meanings?

                        RationalWiki has several glossaries for just such an occasion:

                        It also has a page on anti-Semitism for your reading pleasure.

                        And yes, RationalWiki has its own political biases, but it does not hide those biases. I do not recommend it as any sort of academic text or word-of-God reference material, althought I do recommend it if you happen to believe in shit like Flat Eartherism or the MGTOW philosophy.

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                    • identicon
                      TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:15am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalism#History_of_the_concept]

                      "The word itself came into widespread usage, first and foremost in the United States, from the early 1940s.[10] Many of these early uses of the term "globalist" in American English were pejorative uses by marginal political groups like the KKK and neo-nazis and anti-Semites like Henry Ford and are not connected to later academic uses of the term in political science.[11]"

                      Generally speaking, the usage of the term outside of an academic environment (such as the comment sections here) is usually still tied to anti-semitic leanings. While it is true that this usually tends to be anti-jewish in particular, the term anti-semitic includes anti-jewish sentiment in its current understanding, and the term itself is sufficient to impart that meaning.

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                      • identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:51am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Thanks. One has to read quite far down the page to find that usage; I had missed it when I glanced earlier. It's not going to be practical to check every noun that way. It would be interesting to have a browser extension to highlight known code-phrases, to highlight subtexts in other people's messages and avoid accidentally using such terms in my own.

                        It's true that anti-Semetic implies anti-Jewish, but it's inaccurate to use the former term for a person who is only against a certain subset of Semites. By that logic we could just as well call them anti-human. Actually, maybe we should.

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                        • identicon
                          Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:58am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          Ah so you are an ignorant asshole and not an anti Semite. Well that clears that up.

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                        • icon
                          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:03am

                          it's inaccurate to use the former term for a person who is only against a certain subset of Semites

                          It is the accepted and most broadly-used meaning of the term. If you think you can correct everyone who uses it in that particular context, feel free to try, but you should at least prepare for the disappointment that comes with finding out you cannot do so.

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

                        • identicon
                          TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:47am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          It's true that anti-Semetic implies anti-Jewish, but it's inaccurate to use the former term for a person who is only against a certain subset of Semites. By that logic we could just as well call them anti-human. Actually, maybe we should.

                          The problem with this is that now you're arguing semantics - and while speaking accurately is a good thing, arguing the semantics of a statement is a distraction that detracts from the overall debate. If the term used is actively wrong, in that it means something completely unrelated or perhaps opposite to what is intended, then yes, correct it. If the term used is still applicable (in this case anti-semitic includes anti-jewish) but is not perfect then nit-picking doesn't actually help.

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

              • icon
                btr1701 (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:51am

                Re:

                FYI, “globalists” is a well-known dogwhistle used by anti-Semites when they want to talk about Jewish people but are just smart enough to know that they can’t say anti-Semitic bullshit out loud.

                Well, since there factually are globalists that aren't Jewish, what's the new word we can use when we want to talk about them without having someone like you start going on about dog sirens or pig whistles or whatever?

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                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:00am

                  Re: Re:

                  We will let you know when the subject comes up. It haven’t yet so maybe untwirl your panties a notch.

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                • identicon
                  Prinny, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:39am

                  Re: Re:

                  You can't logic your way out of a Kafka trap, dood, because the people employing it are already caught inside so deep that they aren't capable of valid reasoning anymore. The only thing to do is to call them on their BS and hope the audience isn't too far gone to realize what they're doing.

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                  • identicon
                    TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:58am

                    Re: Re: Re:

                    Or you can be aware of what the terms mean in general parlance and clarify accordingly, dood. Effective communication is possible with enough effort, dood.

                    And let's be honest, dood: if someone just randomly throws out the word "globalists" without there being an actual discussion about actual globalism, the needle edges away from rational discussion, dood.

                    Is that clear enough for you, dood, or do you need to be chucked at a succubus so your action bomb property triggers, dood?

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                    • identicon
                      Prinny, 13 Feb 2019 @ 12:17pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      effective communication is possible with enough effort

                      Only when both sides are communicating in good faith, dood. Deciding someone is guilty until proven innocent, with no standard of proof that allows for the possibility that you were wrong and they're innocent afterall, is the exact opposite of that!

                      succubus

                      Hey, that's Laharl's weakness, not mine dood!

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                      • identicon
                        TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 1:17pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Only when both sides are communicating in good faith, dood. Deciding someone is guilty until proven innocent, with no standard of proof that allows for the possibility that you were wrong and they're innocent afterall, is the exact opposite of that!

                        Which would be relevant if the term were used with the appropriate explanation of context, dood. When used on its own, apropos of nothing, then it does serve as a red flag, dood. Communicating in good faith about globalism will require some clarification of what is meant - the necessity for doing lies at the feet of those who have used the term to refer to an anti-semitic conspiracy theory, dood.

                        Assuming that first accusation of racism is false is, itself, a form of bad-faith communication, dood. Not everything is a Kafka trap, regardless of your assertions, dood.

                        Hey, that's Laharl's weakness, not mine dood!

                        Which is why he'd throw you at the succubus, dood.

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                • identicon
                  TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:54am

                  Re: Re:

                  The problem is that, in this context, the term is used in a general sense. If you want to talk about actual globalists, talk about actual globalists. Name names and point to their statements of policy.

                  If you want to talk about actual globalism, don't just use the term globalism - establish the context in which you are talking about it: the idea that there should be no national borders and that there should be a global society as opposed to what we have now.

                  While I understand that the necessity of doing so is frustrating, the blame for the necessity of doing so lies with those who used, and therefore established "Globalist" as short-form for a proposed Jewish conspiracy.

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

                  • identicon
                    Prinny, 13 Feb 2019 @ 12:34pm

                    Re: Re: Re:

                    According to the citation above, the term was used that way in the 1940s, dood! And now it's used in the academic sense without the racist baggage.

                    Pretending that the way people talk hasn't changed in 70 years isn't very groovy, daddy-o!

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

                    • identicon
                      TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 1:20pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      This isn't an academic setting, dood. The term remains alive and well as a short-hand for an anti-semitic conspiracy theory in message boards and comment sections such as this one, dood.

                      It also wasn't particularly relevant to the topic at hand, dood, so someone pulling it out of thin air is kind of suspicious, dood.

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Prinny, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Found the racism-ist idiot.

            What do you call a being who can hear a dog-whistle that's inaudible to everyone else, dood?

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

            • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:29am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              That's your word. I disagree.

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

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:19am

      Re:

      While I completely agree with the message behind this article, could someone please elaborate on why in this case it is okay for Google to use the censor button, even if the usual stance on Techdirt is that being a bad person is not a good reason for censorship?

      We have always made it clear that platforms have every right to remove content from their platforms. We have noted our general concerns about what that means from a societal and infrastructure standpoint, but at no point have we argued that platforms should not have that right, or that people should not advocate for them to use it in certain cases.

      I am a bit more ambivalent about this than Tim is, and if I have the time, I may write a followup thinking through some of the nuances of this, and whether or not this represents a slippery slope situation (it might!). But I don't see how this is inconsistent with things we've said before.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 2:50pm

        Re: Re:

        I am a bit more ambivalent about this than Tim is, and if I have the time, I may write a followup thinking through some of the nuances of this

        Still waiting on your sponsor's marching orders?

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

        • icon
          Mike Masnick (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:16pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Still waiting on your sponsor's marching orders?

          I'm honestly curious: do you actually believe your own bullshit here? Obviously, you're implying Google tells me what to write, which is hilarious if you had any sense of how this really works. This week alone, we've published 3 stories highly critical of Google (including this one, but the others were my criticism of its decision in Russia, and Karl slamming them for the way it has dealt with Google Fiber). The idea that Google has EVER dictated anything we write on this site is laughable.

          Google has sponsored some of our events in the past. So have companies critical of Google. None of that plays into any of our coverage. Are you just so blinded by your personal hatred and your own ethical issues that you cannot fathom that our coverage is not dictated by Google?

          You may think you're making a point, but it certainly appears that you're just making an utter fool of yourself.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:22pm

            'You expect of others what you would do yourself'

            You may think you're making a point, but it certainly appears that you're just making an utter fool of yourself.

            I'd say they're doing both actually, making a public fool of themself, and by insisting that you simply must be paid to write hinting rather strongly that that's their position as well, which of course raises the question of who's paying them?

            Clearly someone is, unless they want to admit that it's possible to write articles about topics that interest you without being paid to do so, so the only question is 'Who'?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:13pm

        Re: Re:

        Thanks for the response.

        at no point have we argued that platforms should not have that right, or that people should not advocate for them to use it in certain cases.

        However, Tim's article presented the situation as an universally bad thing (which I feel it is) and then assumed that it meant that Google and Apple should obviously censor the application without explaining why in this case it wouldn't be on the slippery slope. It appealed to my gut feelings, and I'm not comfortable enough with the argument to be able to identify why in this case I would want to agree with this kind of censorship in this case while not in other cases.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:27am

    Yet Google hid behind Section 230 to allow American men to ensure that the defmation or revenge-porn they upload gets seen by everyone. Why is anyone shocked?

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

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 6:31am

      [citation needed]

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:30am

        Re:

        Would google host searchable, defamatory content without Section 230 protection?

        Is there any proof that Google delisted revenge-porn sites? If not, their search engine would have indexed them like any other.

        It's like the people who complain about how illegals are detained by ICE, yet don't even realize that our own homeless shelters have worse conditions. Country, heal thyself first.

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

        • icon
          Gary (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:38am

          Re: Re: LOL

          So in your world, it's better to have no searchable content than any that might be defamatory (to you)?

          And Google - which doesn't host content is to blame in your fantasy?

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

          • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:26am

            Re: Re: Re: LOL

            Google doesn't host defamation, it merely SPREADS it to every corner of the globe. Absent Section 230, this would make them liable as a distributor of defamation, as it does in any country other than the United States.

            People who believe what they read in Google are vulnerable to being sued for defamation should they repeat the lies in a way that doesn't immunize them. People who MARRY those who believe what they read in Google are just dumb, even if "everyone" is similarly stupid ("if everyone jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge...").

            Some people think Google's more important than individual reputations (including female victims of revenge porn). This is misguided.

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

            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:36am

              People who believe what they read in Google are vulnerable to being sued for defamation should they repeat the lies in a way that doesn't immunize them.

              And the person who made the initial defamatory contents, what, are they off the hook?

              Quit blaming the tool — Google — and instead blame the person who said/wrote defamatory things that just so happened to be scraped by Google’s search engine. Unless you can prove someone at Google personally solicited/published/directly facilitated the publication of defamatory content, Sanford, you and whatever hack lawyer you hired out of the back pages of the Yellow Book will have no case.

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

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:12am

                Re:

                Then why are you happy blaming Google/Apple for the abuses of this app?

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

                • identicon
                  TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:17am

                  Re: Re:

                  Because that isn't what we are doing. We are not blaming Google and Apple for the individual instances of abuse that users of the app perpetrate.

                  Instead, we are blaming them for continuing to carry and profiting from an app that exists for the purpose of enabling abuse of people.

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

            • icon
              Gary (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:03am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: LOL

              Simple - notice and takedown. So in your perfect solution, will there be a judge signing off on the requests? Cause it ain't defamation unless a court says so.
              Or do you need to take your word for it that a posting may be defamatory?

              If the Cheetos says "Mexicans are rapists" is that defamatory? And ABC, NBC, ETC would be liable for "Spreading defamation?"

              What if I post "John Smith is a sexual predator" here. And the story blows up and gets news coverage. Would it be defamation if people report that I said that?

              Your "One simple fix" makes zero sense and completely misses the point - Google didn't say anything at all except, "This was posted." Which is 100% factually accurate. Your extreme censorship of facts is laughable Smith.

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

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:03am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: LOL

              So you spun the wheel of bullshit excuses and it landed on revenge prob today. Can’t wait for you to trot out the “threatening the president” one. I’m sure that quivering mass of offal and bones of what used to be a dead horse could take a few more licks.

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

  • identicon
    Nate P Cilver, 13 Feb 2019 @ 7:59am

    Islamophobes

    Techdirt is overrun with Islamophobes. How dare you not treat their culture as equal to ours. Google and Apple are doing a great thing by giving us this beautiful cultural enrichment.

    Everyone who is criticizing this needs to look at their horrific racism.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 8:05am

    Ron Wyden created the Google monster by authoring Section 230.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:08am

    Why is this Google's problem? They merely created the platform: if there's a problem here, it's the users, not the service.

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:21am

      Re:

      As noted elsewhere, they are, in this instance, carrying and profiting from an app that exists to enable abuse. While they are not blamed for, and should not be blamed for, any individual instances of abuse perpetrated via the app, they can be roundly criticized for carrying a tool that enables abuse.

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

      • identicon
        carlb, 13 Feb 2019 @ 10:48pm

        tools that enable abuse?

        If that's the standard, firearms are also tools that enable abuse and the US really needs to stop exporting the entire contents of the 2nd Amendment hardware store to odious régimes in Arabia.

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

        • identicon
          TFG, 14 Feb 2019 @ 6:32am

          Re: tools that enable abuse?

          They definitely can be. And yes, the US does need to halt that practice. Glad we came to an accord here.

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

  • identicon
    Anonmylous, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:24am

    So... someone makes an app that is basically parental tracking +1. Sure, drop it. They'll go back to parental tracking apps, and go back to requiring proof women are allowed to ravel, holding and delaying them until they can reach and confirm they are allowed to travel. Or simply turning them away if unescorted by their spouse/male family member.

    What? You thought this was new? You thought killing this app somehow made things different? You think "well she can just turn off/uninstall the app!" and not get beaten by her husband/father/uncle?

    I know this will be a very unpopular opinion, but think of things from their perspective. This app just gave women in Saudi Arabia a breath of freedom. Its only a breath, but it makes getting through the airport and onto a plane. or driving through a border crossing, easier for them. Its a tiny step, but its definitely a step forward. Its a chink in the armor of absolute control, and will be vulnerable to hacking, allowing more women to escape terrible lives.

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:26am

      Re:

      I know this will be a very unpopular opinion, but think of things from their perspective. This app just gave women in Saudi Arabia a breath of freedom. Its only a breath, but it makes getting through the airport and onto a plane. or driving through a border crossing, easier for them. Its a tiny step, but its definitely a step forward. Its a chink in the armor of absolute control, and will be vulnerable to hacking, allowing more women to escape terrible lives.

      Can you elaborate on this? I'm not seeing the logical connection between "app allows women to be tracked and denied travel" to "this is a step toward freedom for them."

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 2:42pm

        Re: Re:

        They now have a digital leash to keep them in line, rather than a more physical one. Why, give it a few decades/centuries and the men in that country might grow up enough to escape the cooties phase and realize that women are people too and drop the gorram leashes entirely!

        (Ugh, even sarcastic that left a sour taste in my mouth...)

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

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:33am

      Re:

      This app just gave women in Saudi Arabia a breath of freedom. Its only a breath, but it makes getting through the airport and onto a plane. or driving through a border crossing, easier for them. Its a tiny step, but its definitely a step forward.

      How? Aside from the assertion that it

      will be vulnerable to hacking

      which is probably true to some degree--but who can say how much?--I don't see anything at all to support this conclusion, and certainly not enough to balance the opposing viewpoint, that it allows for more (and more sophisticated) oppression.

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

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:25am

        Re: Re:

        An article linked in the article on which Cushing based his story describes how a lot of women are managing to steal their guardian's phone when he's not looking and open the app, using the 'forgot password' function to have the password reset, then logging in as their guardian and resetting their permissions, along with changing the phone number the SMS alert is sent to so that he won't get them on his phone. Then they reset the password back to what it was.

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

        • icon
          Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Wait, how does that work?

          If they get a password reset, they don't get the old password--at least not if it's developed with any competence at all--but instead a mechanism to change the password. So now they can change the password, but without knowing what it was before, how can they reset it back to what it was before? (And if it was actually developed so incompetently that it sends out the original password, why do they need to change it and then change it back in the first place?)

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

        • identicon
          TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 12:04pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          An article linked in the article on which Cushing based his story describes how a lot of women are managing to steal their guardian's phone when he's not looking and open the app, using the 'forgot password' function to have the password reset, then logging in as their guardian and resetting their permissions, along with changing the phone number the SMS alert is sent to so that he won't get them on his phone. Then they reset the password back to what it was.

          That's a nice workaround, but that appears to an exploit of poor design as opposed to the system working as intended - it does not address that the app was designed to enable abuse. This app is a symptom of systemic oppression, not a "step toward freedom."

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 11:06am

      Re:

      It’s an unpopular opinion because it’s wrong on every level.

      Idiot

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 9:38am

    said before..

    That every nation is going to regulate the internet.. What do you think Our own gov is trying to do?? How many know and understand all the uses of their phone.. Do you need a compass?? FEW even know how to use one.. Driving?? REALLY? keep it on for about 3-4 hours?? How about watching your driving and recording incidents?? You have a Wimp of a device that can do about 1/2 of what you want, and LESS of what you need.. ITS A PHONE that you have to recharge MORE for the use it was created..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 12:59pm

    It's called cultural relativism

    And it's like nobody here has ever studied it. Seriously, you're all sounding like a bunch of high school juniors on their first day of political science.

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

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 1:09pm

      Re: It's called cultural relativism

      Just because a concept exists doesn't mean it's legitimate.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 2:57pm

        Re: Re: It's called cultural relativism

        I didn't say it was legitimate. I said you're all talking as if you've never heard of it. It's a well-discussed basis of conversation and I see zero evidence of anyone in this discussion being aware of it.

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

        • icon
          Mason Wheeler (profile), 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:09pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's called cultural relativism

          I don't see any specific evidence of anyone in this discussion being aware of the existence of cellos, either, but I don't look at that and say "no one here knows what a cello is!" Rather, I interpret the lack of cello-related discussion as a sign that they are not relevant to the discussion at hand.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 12:32pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's called cultural relativism

            If you seriously don't understand that this issue is about cultural relativism, your entire life is spent in an orchestra made up of people who have never heard of a cello.

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 1:30pm

      Re: It's called cultural relativism

      I grew up in a region of a country where the cultural understanding is that a wife must be beaten so that she will learn. If the husband does not beat his wife, he is not a good husband. This country is Cote d'Ivoire, located in West Africa. There are differing cultural views within the country, but this was one of them.

      Cultural relativism can be applied to gain an understanding of why an individual man in a specific culture beat his wife that day, while still considering himself a good husband and still professing to love her. You take the circumstances of the instance, take the context in which they occurred, and you can come to a better understanding of why this occurred.

      However, this does not mean I must agree that that was the correct thing to do. This does not mean that it was not wrong for this man to beat his wife. This does not mean that it is incorrect to propose to people that this course of action is wrong.

      From the Wikipedia article on cultural relativism:

      "Cultural relativism involves specific epistemological and methodological claims. Whether or not these claims necessitate a specific ethical stance is a matter of debate."

      I refuse to believe that just because a culture says it is correct to do things a specific way, that I must accept that it is okay for them to do things a specific way.

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

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:02pm

        Re: Re: It's called cultural relativism

        Oh, a wikipedia link and a definition of the term. You've elevated this conversation so far.

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

        • identicon
          TFG, 13 Feb 2019 @ 4:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's called cultural relativism

          Indeed I have. Thank you for acknowledging that.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 14 Feb 2019 @ 12:28pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's called cultural relativism

            Yes, congratulations on elevating the conversation to the level of a dictionary. You're so close to getting to the thousands of years of philosophical discussion on this issue. So close.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2019 @ 3:21pm

    When are these men finally going to grow up and stop clinging to so called possessions. Not that I'm condoning women or employees being treated as possessions.

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


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