from the week-that-was dept
Here are several stories from this past week which were particularly interesting to me:
UK Prime Minister Calls ask.fm a "Vile Site" critiqued David Cameron's calling out of community Q&A site ask.fm for not just hosting, but being responsible for, the behavior of its users. Tim Cushing files this under "overhype" and suggests that sites such as ask.fm can't be called "vile" because they are at worst "neutral." Blame the people, not the host. I have to say I disagree. Being a "platform" doesn't absolve you from having a point of view, community standard or a moral center. All of these sites - YouTube included - make choices about what content is appropriate and how to handle inappropriate content. Lack of clear content flagging channels, absence of contact information, and non-responsiveness (all of which ask.fm have been accused), are all choices. Proactively or reactively, platforms have the option to push back against certain types of behavior. If they overreach, they will decay but if they take no real voice in the matter, they are not just neutral players.
Oh Microsoft, using the DMCA to block web links to Open Office. While the headline *might* suggest willful misconduct, Mike Masnick notes within the body that it was likely automated takedown requests - like dolphins getting caught in the tuna nets. The DMCA is a powerful tool and I'd hope we see incorrect, abusive removals punished, but that never happens. It was the SOPA/PIPA legislation which revitalized my interest in tech policy. I believe IP protection definitely needs continued evolution to protect all participants, but I'm especially weary of legal frameworks that make it harder for independent creators to survive because they have neither the means or knowledge to properly defend themselves from copyright infringement claims.
SF Chronicle, one of my local papers, removed their paywall after just four months. Growing up in New York City I have an almost irrational love for newspapers. Not just news, but the actual paper. I understand this is an anachronism for most, but I still get the weekend NY Times delivered to our home and if I had more time, would receive it seven days a week. We sometimes confuse the collapse of legacy news reporting cost structures with the loss of news in general. In many ways it's never been a better time for creation and access to information. What does sadden me is that we can end up with the content we deserve. That is to say, click bait, faux aggregation, shoddy fact checking. People need to vote with their wallets and attention - direct it to the sources you think matter and starve the others.
Speaking of content aggregators, the Getty Museum took a positive step forward via its "Open Content" initiative. Ultimately they'll make 4,600 high res images of public domain art work free to use. Public domain and fair use are essential components of a creative society and as generations of students, artists and critics find new ways to utilize, transform and inspire, it's exciting to see an institution embrace, as opposed to reject, the calls for openness.
And I'll close this week with an important editorial from Masnick which demands that the tech industry needs to "suck it up" and start really fighting back against the NSA. The problem is that for most companies, their consumers don't seem to really care because it's a slow boil, a theoretical problem that the government has all this data. What would be our flash point? What causes a data "Arab Spring?" Would personal information on tens of millions of Americans need to be erroneously exposed on a second-hand hard drive? Would we need a tragic story of a government employee who misused data to stalk and attack another citizen? I worry that without an issue that is tangible, immediate and personal, most folks shrug their shoulders.
That's it for this week. Thanks for reading and remember, real time can be a trap. Just because it was published NOW doesn't mean you need to read it. Take a look through archives - there's some great stuff that's older but relevant.