Leigh Beadon’s Techdirt Profile

leigh

About Leigh BeadonTechdirt Insider

Leigh Beadon, formerly Marcus Carab, now a full-time member of the Techdirt team.

Located in Toronto, Ontario.

http://twitter.com/MarcusCarab
http://soundcloud.com/marcus-carab

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/leigh-beadon/18/23a/5a2



Posted on Techdirt - 29 September 2016 @ 12:52pm

Let These Picturesque Stock Models Explain Techdirt Gear To You

from the listen-up dept

Have you hit up our super-early holiday gear sale yet? Because you've only got until Monday, and then it's all going away for the rest of the year! Of course, there has been some debate about what exactly our designs mean. Since Teespring lets us superimpose our gear onto a parade of photogenic models, I figure we'll let force them to do the talking, with speech bubbles! So if you're confused, prepare to be enlightened:

Nerd Harder is available on T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and stickers »

Takedown is available on T-shirts and hoodies »

Home Cooking Is Killing Restaurants is available on T-shirts, mugs and stickers »

Math Is Not A Crime is available on T-shirts, hoodies, mugs and stickers »

Vote2016() is available on T-shirts, hoodies and stickers »

The sale ends on Monday! Hurry up and order your gear today! »

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 27 September 2016 @ 1:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 92: Passwords Suck; What's Next?

from the correct-horse-battery-staple dept

Data breaches that expose passwords are pretty much a fact of life at this point -- and the effects are multiplied by the fact that many, many people reuse passwords no matter how much they know they shouldn't. As such, there's a big push to move to password managers, two-factor authentication, and even biometrics -- because the simple fact is that the password sucks. This week, we're discussing what if anything will succeed in replacing it.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 September 2016 @ 12:20pm

We QA Tested Vote2016() Against Last Night's Debate; No Code Changes Required

from the sigh dept

Last chance to get Vote2016() T-shirts, hoodies & stickers! »

Did you come out of last night's debate feeling thrilled about your choices for president? No? What a surprise. Though there are fans on both sides declaring victory, most of the thinking/awake public saw what we expected: an intolerable buffoon babbling on one side, and the resultant lack of scrutiny for the hard-to-like career politician making worrying statements on the other. Perhaps nowhere was this clearer than on an issue of importance here at Techdirt: would you prefer Trump's directionless ramblings about "the cyber", or Clinton's coherent but terrifying overtures of war with Russia? Take your pick, America. And when you do, we've got a shirt for you.

There's less than a week left to order your Vote2016() gear. The campaign ends on Oct. 3rd so you can get it just in time for election day — and then it's gone for good!

And don't forget to check out our new Math Is Not A Crime shirt, and other designs available for the last time this year in our super-early holiday gear sale.

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Posted on Techdirt - 26 September 2016 @ 9:36am

Traffic Is Fake, Audience Numbers Are Garbage, And Nobody Knows How Many People See Anything

from the stabs-in-the-dark dept

How many living, breathing human beings really read Techdirt? The truth — the most basic, rarely-spoken truth — is that we have no earthly idea. With very few exceptions, no media property big or small, new or old, online or off, can truly tell you how big its audience is. They may have never thought about it that way — after all, we all get as close as we can to what we think is a reasonably accurate estimation, though we have no way of confirming that — but all these numbers are actually good for (maybe) is relative comparisons. What does it really mean when someone says "a million people" saw something? Or ten or a hundred million? I don't know, and neither do you. (Netflix might, but we'll get to that later.)

Where should we start? How about this: internet traffic is half-fake and everyone's known it for years, but there's no incentive to actually acknowledge it. The situation is technically improving: 2015 was hailed (quietly, among people who aren't in charge of selling advertising) as a banner year because humans took back the majority with a stunning 51.5% share of online traffic, so hurray for that I guess. All the analytics suites, the ad networks and the tracking pixels can try as they might to filter the rest out, and there's plenty of advice on the endless Sisyphean task of helping them do so, but considering at least half of all that bot traffic comes from bots that fall into the "malicious" or at least "unauthorized" category, and thus have every incentive to subvert the mostly-voluntary systems that are our first line of defence against bots... Well, good luck. We already know that Alexa rankings are garbage, but what does this say about even the internal numbers that sites use to sell ad space? Could they even be off by a factor of 10? I don't know, and neither do you. Hell, we don't even know how accurate the 51.5% figure is — it could be way off... in either direction.

Okay, so what about TV ratings? Well, there's a reason they've been made fun of on the shows themselves for as long as our culture has been able to handle "meta" jokes without getting a headache. Nielsen ratings in their classic form are built on monitoring such a tiny sample of households that the whole country's viewing profile can probably be swayed because someone forgot to turn off the TV before going on vacation. They sucked before DVRs and digital distribution began transforming the single household television into a quaint anachronism, and now it's just chaos. Nielsen was slow to catch up with DVRs, and now the TV industry juggles scattered measurements including three or seven days of viewing beyond live air, and constantly complains that the ratings are off — specifically, that they're too low. And they might be right, in the sense that they are too low by comparison to the garbage ratings from the pre-digital age that everyone eventually embraced as a standard for relative rankings. How big are these audiences really, in terms of real living breathing human beings? I don't know, and neither do you.

YouTube view counts? Subject to all the same fake internet traffic problems, plus the fact that there's an opaque system for supposedly ignoring too-short incomplete views according to the genre and nature of the video, but good luck finding out how accurate that is. Channel operators know their length-of-view statistics, but you don't see them bandying them about much. Plus, how often have you heard public view counts casually referred to as the number of "people" who watched something, even though (especially when it comes to short-and-cute viral animal hits and their ilk) the bulk of them probably come from obsessive re-watching? Yeah.

So what about Facebook stats? Everything from impressions to simultaneous live video viewers is padded out by the most transient of idly-scrolling-through-the-newsfeed interactions. Twitter followings and tweet stats? Dig into the bowels of any list of followers, or any trending link, and see how much of it is mindless bots. Print readerships? Don't even get me started. Did you know it's common practice for newspapers to calculate their readership by applying a multiplier to their actual circulation, to account for an imaginary surplus of "readers per copy"? Yes, that soggy "local" paper that's been sitting out in the rain on your porch for two days, and that only exists to give them an excuse to deliver flyers to your door, is not only being counted — it's probably being counted five times. So are all the free/cheap copies that big national papers give to hotels. Oh, and when these companies distribute multiple publications in different channels — with newspapers, magazines and paywalled websites all being given away with each other as free cross-subscriptions, in order to pad out all three subscriber numbers — they add them all up and then try to determine the actual number of individual people they are reaching. How? By applying an opaque "deduplication" formula. I once pressed a newspaper's stats person about what this formula could possibly entail, but details were not forthcoming — because I suspect they just knock off 20% and call it a day, despite the fact that the magazine is distributed inside the newspaper whose audience they are supposedly "deduplicating" it from, and half the website subscriptions were free add-ons with print delivery. That's awfully generous when the truth is they don't know, and neither do I, and neither do you.

So who does know how big of an audience they really have? Well, maybe Netflix, Amazon and other digital subscription services. Their paywalls insulate them from the bulk of random bot traffic, and their proprietary ecosystems give them the ability to closely monitor all activity. Netflix, of course, is famously secretive about viewer numbers and insists on the inaccuracy of those who claim to have worked them out. The most common assumption is that they do this to avoid giving content creators too much leverage, and because the data can be seen as a valuable commodity — but I propose another reason: Netflix's likely-more-accurate statistics, if made public, would have zero context in the topsy-turvy world of nonsense TV ratings. They would probably look exceptionally low, giving the legacy bosses who would like nothing more than to downplay the importance of digital distribution (and there are as many of those as there are record execs who can't spell mp3) a chance to project whatever narrative they wanted onto the numbers.

So why does any of this matter? Because advertising is a multibillion dollar industry, and whenever an industry is worth that much, you have to ask: is that because there are billions of dollars of worthwhile transactions happening, or because every bloodsucker in a ten-industry radius wanted in on the action? So, so much of the advertising industry is pure waste. How much exactly is as impossible to determine as the audience sizes themselves. This is hardly a new idea (in fact it's a century-old quote) but it's probably more true now than ever, despite the fact that in theory technology could have delivered us from uncertainty.

Finally, what can be done about this? There's no simple answer, and maybe no answer at all. Here at Techdirt, we've been working to come up with good advertising solutions by focusing almost entirely on what we know our community likes and might be interested in (as in, our real community of people who talk in our comments and we can say, with confidence, exist) and paying less attention to raw numbers — both a luxury and a necessity for a smaller publication, depending on how you look at it. That's not always easy though, as we face an advertising industry ruled by metrics, where there are often ten spreadsheet-wielding interns between us and someone who might actually care about our creativity. In our experiments with more traditional algorithmic display advertising to monetize the raw traffic numbers we do have, we keep running up against what appears to be a universal truth: the bulk of the global internet ad ecosystem runs on trash. Gigantic prestigious online media brands can sell display campaigns straight to the same people who buy Superbowl ads — everyone else receives a hundred pitches a week from new ad networks that claim to deliver great, relevant content but in fact litter your site with ads for fad diets and ambulance-chasers (at best). And this lowest-common-denominator filler appears to be the only reliably successful form of internet advertising! At least, it never goes away when the good stuff does, and the proud quality networks eventually embrace their roles as crap-peddlers. "Good" internet advertising is a rickety ship navigating an endless roiling ocean of spam, clickbait and outright fraud — but it couldn't float at all without it.

I realize I've painted a grim picture, but these are (more or less) the facts. I'm surely wrong in some of my guesses, but like everything discussed here, nobody knows how wrong or in which direction. We'll never even really know how many people read this — we'll just have a vague estimate that can be compared to other posts on Techdirt. But for now that's the reality, so maybe more people should stop worrying about the supposed size of their audience, and focus on making the content they want to make.

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the insight-harder! dept

This week, Hillary Clinton more or less told Silicon Valley to, once again, "nerd harder!" to find ways to stop terrorists from radicalizing people online. Norahc won first place for insightful with some fair play turnabout:

Perhaps if in her role as Secretary of State, she had "diplomat harder" we might have found a way to prevent the radicalization of people. Then again, that would entail people like her (including the other candidate) having to do real work instead of demanding other people work harder.

Our second place comment also comes in response to that post, and this one racked up so many votes that it also took first place on the funny side (it's been a while since we had a double winner!) Machin Sin took a closer look at the notion of blocking radicalizing speech:

Under this logic all speech coming from either Hillary or Trump should instantly be blocked. For that matter they should both just be locked up.

I can't think of anything that could cause more radicalization than the steady stream of stupidity that flows from those two. Some of the bombers are probably just happy knowing that by blowing themselves up they wont have to listen to any more news clips about those two bozos.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Dave Cortright responding to the parade of false statements used by the intelligence community to smear Edward Snowden:

Ad Hominem, AD HOMINEM, AD FUCKING HOMINEM!

Look, it's great that Snowden turned out to be a nearly impeccable character that his opponents have to resort to lies and serious distortions to discredit him. But even if the guy were a drug addict with a penchant for young boys, THAT DOES NOT IN ANY WAY CHANGE THE *FACTS* OF THE MATTER AT HAND.

This whole report is just a pathetic attempt at redirection, focusing on the messenger rather than the message. And more to the point (which Greenwald astutely pointed out in his piece), Snowden was not the one who made this information public. If anyone should be scrutinized by the government it is the JOURNALISTS and their institutions who analyzed the information he provided and independently determined it to be newsworthy.

Fuck the oxymorons on the House Intelligence Committee. I hope the next leak FUBARs each and every one of their personal and professional lives commensurate with the bullshit our government has put all of the previous intelligence whistleblowers combined.

Next, we've got a small but important anonymous observation about HP disabling third-party ink cartridges with a firmware update:

There is a serious and long-term unintended consequence that MS, HP, et al are not considering here: they are teaching users that *installing security updates is bad.*

Over on the funny side, we've already had our first place winner above, so we head straight to second place where That One Guy noticed a fun detail in our story about the downfall of game studio Digital Homicide:

You just can't make this stuff up

"Games like Wyatt Derp, Temper Tantrum, and The Slaughtering Grounds (the first game Sterling reviewed)"

There is just something so very fitting for a company like that to make a game and call it 'Temper Tantrum', given their typical responses to criticism. What next, a game called 'Vexatious Bully'? Or how about 'Victim Complex'?

For editor's choice, we start out on the bizarre story of Macedonia's copyright licensing collective actually banning Macedonian music from the air in protest of having to face competition. One comment stood out as especially appropriate:

Do they also claim ownership of the word Pyrrhic

(I don't know if this was the intention of the commenter, but I found it amusing since Macedonia is in fact only about a hundred miles from the historical region of Epirus, home of King Pyrrhus himself. So... maybe!)

Finally, for the sake of symmetry, we've got another response to HP's ink cartridge debacle. Roger Strong cut short those with plans of doing their own re-inking:

HOME RIBBON RE-INKING IS KILLING THE PRINTER INDUSTRY!

(I'm not sure how well that one would work on a t-shirt, but you never know...)

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History - September 18th - 24th

from the followups dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, the Pirate Party scored another big victory when it took 9% of the vote and a bunch of seats in parliament in Berlin. Their influence was badly needed across Europe, what with Italy proposing a one-strike law to ban people from the internet based on a single accusation of infringement (prompting questions about whether that was even legal in Europe), and the EU Commissioner straight-up asking big entertainment companies to step up their lobbying for more draconian copyright law.

Also this week in 2011: the now-tiresomely-ubiquitous "Keep Calm And Carry On" poster was at the height of its popularity, and the trademark battles were heating up.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, HP was still grappling with the massive spying scandal that hit it last week. First, more details came out that exposed even more elaborate spying and made the company look even worse, although it still wasn't clear whether or not California law actually made any of the activities illegal. Chairperson Patricia Dunn's pleas of ignorance began to fall apart when more documents suggested she was closely involved, and by the end of the week she resigned from the company only to be replaced by CEO Mark Hurd. But... additional leaked memos implicated him in the scandal too.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, Techdirt (and the world) was still reeling from the events of September 11th. The FBI was already moving to expand its wiretapping abilities, companies with poor taste were already moving to capitalize on the tragedy, scammers with even fewer morals were doing the same in their own way and, of course, the conspiracy theories were already flowing. Publishers of violent video games were delaying their launches, and after every store sold out of American flags it turned out they were pretty hard to find online in 2001.

Seventy Years Ago

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in the world of film, and generally seen as a bastion of movie artistry and creativity in a Hollywood-dominated world. The first ever festival was supposed to happen in 1939, until a pesky global conflict got in the way — but the dream survived the war, and the long-delayed Cannes Film Festival debuted on September 20th, 1946.

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 September 2016 @ 9:00am

Hurry Up: We're Taking Down Our Takedown Gear In A Week

from the clock-is-ticking dept

Support Techdirt and get Takedown gear! Last chance this year! »

Of all the T-shirts and other gear available in our super-early holiday sale, the popular Takedown design has the longest history: it was one of the first T-shirts we produced years ago as part of an early "reason to buy" project, it was later revamped with an improved graphical design for our Insider Shop, and then this year it was revamped once again with a slightly modified look for our sales via Teespring.

And now it's your last chance to get one in 2016! The current run ends on Monday, October 3rd -- and after that we won't be taking reservations and can't promise when it will return, but it won't be until next year at the earliest.

So don't miss out and order yours today! Plus, consider picking it up now for the holidays and getting an early start on your gift-buying list -- the reason we're holding this sale so early is to give lots and lots of time before Christmas for Teespring's sometimes-slow fulfillment. And don't forget to check out the other gear in our super-early holiday sale.

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Posted on Techdirt - 23 September 2016 @ 11:51am

The Good, The Bad And The Misunderstood Of 'YouTube Heroes'

from the heroes-villains-and-fools dept

As you may have heard, YouTube has announced a new program called YouTube Heroes that offers the community incentives to help "create the best possible YouTube experience for everyone." There's one part of the system that set off alarm bells for every content creator on the site — see if you can guess which one:

Yes, one of the main pillars of the incentive system is moderation as both an activity and a reward: users can gain points by "reporting inappropriate videos accurately", and can then unlock the ability to mass-flag videos with a special moderation interface. Naturally, this freaked out creators who deal with abuse of the reporting system on a daily basis, and the response has been almost unanimously negative. But as with any incentive system, the details matter, and a video by Folding Ideas digs in to how the points and levels work and offers what I think is the most nuanced and accurate perspective:

Whether or not you watched the video, let's discuss its points. Firstly, though my initial instinct was that moderation was the primary goal of YouTube Heroes, the rewards make it clear this isn't the case: adding closed captioning or translated subtitles to videos is by far the most efficient way to rack up points. Internationalizing its huge library of videos, and making them accessible, is a big deal for YouTube and it makes sense that this is the main thrust of the program. In this sense (and perhaps this sense alone) it's a great idea.

There are still three main complaints, each of a different nature: one is based on a complete misunderstanding, one is legitimate but likely to never come to fruition, and one (yes, the moderation) represents a genuine concern, at least in part.

First, the misunderstanding: the graphics and vague language in YouTube's promotional video give the distinct impression that in addition to mass-flagging videos, 'Heroes' will gain the ability to moderate comments. Not only does this sound ripe for abuse (the YouTube commenting community is frequently toxic and hardly above gaming the system), it also irritated content creators who (unlike on many similar platforms) are unable to even designate their own community moderators for their YouTube channels. But: it isn't true. Heroes only gain the ability to moderate posts on a YouTube creators forum that is barely-known and comically hard to find (watch the video to see what I mean). So let's put that one aside.

Second, creators were similarly irritated to learn that high-level Heroes would gain the ability to talk to YouTube staff. If you've ever tried to speak to a human at YouTube or anything else connected to Google, you understand why. If even top content creators and channel operators still can't get in touch with anyone at YouTube, why should community busybodies get to? This represents an utter failure of YouTube on the creator-relations and communications front, but the reason it's so frustrating is the same reason it's likely not to matter, because who really believes these Heroes will get any kind of meaningful access? Many of you have been laughing non-stop ever since I wrote the words "talk to YouTube staff". So let's file this one away with the broader nightmare of Google customer service.

Finally, there's the real source of ire: incentives for the reporting of videos, and the potential ability to do so on a mass scale. The latter half has drawn the most fire, but it's actually the first half that's likely to matter more: mass-flagging videos is a slight bump in efficiency, but getting points for flagging them is a small incentive that could potentially balloon into an entire army of wanton community police. In theory there's still the safeguard that all flagged videos will be reviewed by YouTube staff (I know, there's that joke again) but, if the purpose here is to increase the quantity of flagged videos and identify "trusted" moderators, how effective will that screening really be? Besides, we've seen how easily that stuff can go wrong, such as with Facebook's removal of a famous war photo that we discussed in this week's podcast.

Will YouTube Heroes lead to a combination of widespread abuse (or wider-spread abuse) of the reporting system by angry trolls, and a general watering down of YouTube's content by zealous morality police? Possibly. But it's not clear that the incentives are meaningful enough compared to the ones that already exist (dickishness and righteousness, respectively) to really boost those activities. Then again, sometimes gamification like this has a deep psychological impact. It seems like the possible outcomes only range from "bad" to "nothing much".

Why did YouTube include moderation activities that it surely knew were unpopular, and at least have the potential to go awry, in the Heroes program? Why did it fail to explain the role of a forum that it surely knew was underexposed and underutilized, and use a graphic that strongly suggested comment moderation? Why did it promise to Heroes rewards that it probably can't deliver and already consistently fails to deliver to its top content creators? And why did it wrap all these things up with the one really positive idea — which also appears to be the main idea — of encouraging more subtitles and captions? I'm not sure — you'd really think they could have done a better job of designing and launching this program. But the truth is it's probably not going to be a disaster, and it might even do some good.

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 September 2016 @ 4:24pm

Those Terrible Takedowns Aren't Mistakes, They're Intentional Fakes

from the surprise-surprise dept

Usually, when we see stupid and dangerous DMCA errors like Warner Bros. taking down its own website and Paramount taking down legitimate Linux torrents, it's the studios we call out first for their wanton abuse of the system. But of course that's only part of the story — there is a system of broken incentives both inside and outside the studios that has created an entire "anti-piracy" ecosystem. It started with the third parties that many studios and other rightsholders hire: self-styled copyright enforcement experts who charge a fee to piss an endless stream of DMCA notices into the wind of piracy. Some studios, like NBCUniversal (who we'll be talking about in a moment) choose instead to build this function into their internal structure with anti-piracy divisions staffed by the same kind of folks. Thanks to the willingness of copyright holders to pay out for this pointless service, it's grown into a whole industry — and it's an industry for which the never-ending, whac-a-mole nature of the takedown game is a plus, since it means the job will never be done. While there's plenty of blame to go around among media companies and lawmakers, it's these takedown "experts" who are the most directly responsible for the epidemic of botched and fraudulent takedown notices.

And it's easy to see why: they need to pad the numbers. If we accept that the whole exercise is pointless (it is) and there's no actual end goal (there isn't) then what makes one anti-piracy outfit better than another? Why, sheer volume of pointlessness, of course! The executive who hired the firm that takes down two-million links can brag about his competence compared to the executive who only got one-million for the same price, and the executive who designed the internal division that hit three-million for even less is a damn hero — even though they're all just futilely pecking away at "infinity". And so, since there's no real penalty for abusing the DMCA, these groups have zero incentive to fret about only sending fair and accurate takedowns. But that's not all — they also have every incentive to actively pad their numbers with takedowns they know are bullshit, and as TorrentFreak discovered last month and recently demonstrated again in pretty undeniable terms, that's exactly what they're doing:

... this may look like a proper notice. However, upon closer inspection it’s clear that the URL structure of the links is different from the format Torrentz2 uses. The notice in question lists this URL:

http://torrentz2.eu/dv/2012+dvdrip+battleship+mp4-q

On Torrentz2, however, the search “2012 dvdrip battleship mp4” generates the following URL, which is clearly different.

https://torrentz2.eu/search?f=2012+dvdrip+battleship+mp4

The link NBC Universal reports has never existed and simply returns a blank page. TorrentFreak reached out to the operator of the site who confirmed that they have never used this URL format.

This ‘mistake’ can be explained though. The URL structure NBCUniversal uses comes from the original Torrentz site, meaning that NBC simply did a search and replaced the old domain with a new one, without checking if the URLs exist.

In other words, they fabricated these links.

And this isn't some isolated incident. TorrentFreak found plenty of new notices targeting URLs where the whole site had been taken down last year, and the URL didn't even exist when it was up. It's clear what's happening: they're just subbing out various known torrent domains into big lists of URLs that maybe, once, sorta, in a similar format on a different site, actually pointed to infringing material — and then billing their masters per URL targeted, regardless of whether it turned out to actually exist or not. Counting up all the fraudulent notices is next to impossible, but TF estimates there were tens if not hundreds of thousands of such URLs included in notices in the past few months alone.

Now, these takedowns of fake URLs might not seem as worrying or embarrassing as the notices that target legal material or a copyright holder's own website, but they are further evidence of just how stupid the whole system is, and how badly it needs to be fixed. In a world where takedown notices are automatically generated by the millions without concern for whether or not the URLs are even valid, can we ever expect them to stop targeting legitimate speech and legal distribution? No. The DMCA needs teeth when it comes to punishing abusers, but giving it those teeth means dismantling this entire automated, slapdash anti-piracy industry — and don't expect them to go without a fight.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 20 September 2016 @ 1:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 91: Is Facebook Moderation A Necessary Evil?

from the damned-if-you-do dept

Facebook's efforts to moderate content that appears on the social network have run into numerous problems, most recently with a famous war photo and a bunch of blog posts. Some have made absurd demands in response, such as giving old-school media editors special posting privileges, while others have objected to the idea of Facebook censoring any content whatsoever. But is that objection realistic? This week, we discuss the complicated question of Facebook moderation, and what the company's role can and should be.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 18 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the laugh-and-think dept

This week, we noticed that despite Hollywood's constant insistence that it should be easy to use technology to block infringement, they couldn't even manage to secure their own screener copies of movies. Our first place winner for insightful was an anonymous commenter who summed it up pretty simply:

You'd be amazed at what feels easy if you're not the guy doing it.

Meanwhile, it appears Univision wasted no time in going full-corporate with its new Gawker property, by deleting six stories from the site over legal threats. Nate won second place for insightful by hatching an evil plan:

So basically I could silence all Gawker sites simply by writing a bot which threatened a lawsuit over each and every post?

That's scary.

P.S. It occurs to me that I wouldn't even need to code a bot; I think I could pull this off using only IFTTT.

Relatedly, our first editor's choice on the insightful side goes to IP Lawyer for pointing out something important about Gizmodo's bizarre attempt to declare cord-cutting over:

Gizmodo, now owned by television giant Univision.

Next, we've got a harsh-but-true anonymous response to the campaign to get the president to pardon Snowden:

If Snowden was a bankster, a torturer or a war criminal then he might have a chance. Obama hunts down whistleblowers. He doesn't pardon them.

Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about the latest DMCA takedown misfire, which this time saw Paramount shutting down a totally legitimate Ubuntu torrent as part of a bunch of takedowns for Transformers: Age of Extinction. Another anonymous commenter won first place for funny by musing on a possible explanation:

Maybe there's a lesser known Transformer by the name of "Ubuntu" that's made from open source car materials?

In second place, we've got Dheneb expanding on the notion that mandating encryption backdoors is like mandating holes in body armor:

That's OK. All you have to do is label those holes on the outside with something like "HOLE FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT USE ONLY" so that the bad guys will know not to aim there.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a response from Roger Strong to John McCain's shaming of Twitter at a Senate cybersecurity hearing:

Old Man Yells At Cloud (Services)

And finally, after a commenter suggested that lawyers should be outlawed, TechDescartes served up a classic rejoinder:

Yes, but then only outlaws will have lawyers.

That's all for this week, folks!

18 Comments | Leave a Comment..

Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 13 September 2016 @ 1:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 90: Is Capitalism Over?

from the not-exactly... dept

As technology ushers more and more things towards the realm of "post-scarcity", an inevitable conversation has arisen around the very roots of capitalism and what this rapid change means for our economic systems at the most fundamental levels. But the answer is far from simple — is capitalism dying? Can it evolve? Is the whole question being framed incorrectly? This week, we discuss the notion of a post-capitalist world, what it might look like, and how close it actually is.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 11 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the fraud-etc. dept

The FBI has been having a real tough time recruiting young tech savants to its cause, and this week our first place winner for insightful is an anonymous comment with some clear and simple thoughts on why that is:

He's hoping to attract patriots, except the real patriots are the ones unwilling to help the FBI violate the Constitution and civil liberties at every opportunity.

But the agency might not need that expertise — after all, Hillary Clinton thinks the military might be the best response to hacking attacks like the one that targeted the DNC — which gave Wargazm a thought that won second most insightful comment of the week:

Are we just going to gloss over the idea that she thinks a *hack of the DNC* is grounds for introducing a new doctrine for dealing with cyber attacks?! Last I heard the DNC is NOT a government agency.

What exactly does she propose we defend here? If Russian hackers go after a grandmother's bank account, are we going to put boots on the ground? Or is the goal just to prevent Democrats from being embarrassed during an election year?

One more thing: How the hell does she look at the DNC hack and not immediately change her position on encryption? If we had strong, encrypted email services readily available and easily used by anyone...bam, no DNC hack. Instead, she talks about using the military to respond. Christ.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of responses to the astonishing scandal in which Wells Fargo has fired 5,300 employees for fraudulent billing practices. First, That One Guy questioned the idea that this could be any kind of 'mistake' or accidental product of bad incentives:

Which might make sense if we were talking about a few, or even a few dozen people doing it across the entire company, but when we're talking about literally thousands of employees the idea that no-one in management had so much as a hunch that something fishy might be going on before the investigation pointed it out to them goes right out the window.

As the article and the first AC noted, either upper management knew and looked the other way or they were so grossly incompetent that they never caught on, either way they need to be fired at best given the idea that they really had no clue is minuscule when you consider how many people we're talking about here.

Next, we've got a response to that comment from MadAsASnake, who explained how it could be both — a broken incentive system coupled with managerial negligence:

This happened a lot in the UK as well. The incentives given to floor staff are usually in terms of "conversion rates". The targets are based on the "best" staff calculated on those conversion rates. The "best" are invariably those that are cheating.

In one case I am aware of, one staff member "upgraded" the accounts of all 13 customers she saw that day. In return, she was:
- rewarded with a commission for each sale
- rewarded with a bonus for being a top op
- given recognition throughout the company

When her manager reviewed those upgrades, it was plain that the customers had not agreed to them. So what happened? The manager had to contact all 13, explain the "mistake" and put it right. This member of staff:
- kept the commission, bonus and recognition
- was not reprimanded (how could you having so publicly congratulated her)

The new targets the following week were increased in proportion to this record achievement. The reason this gets really out of hand is that those staff not making the targets face criticism and sometimes even dismissal for poor performance.

My wife was a co-worker in this branch. As she said, you could do you job with integrity, or you could hit your targets which were spectacularly unattainable. My guess is that stupid incentives structures combined with a refusal to reprimand dishonest behaviour is behind this too. The management need to be sacked whether they knew or not.

Over on the funny side, our top comment is one that pops up frequently whenever we level criticisms at Google (this time, over the Feedburner/Goo.gl link shortening fiasco). JD offered up the classic ironic-faux-troll:

Clearly this is just more proof that Mike Masnick is a Google shill.

Next, we have a quip on a thread about Comcast's broken broadband meters which seemed to be vastly overcharging people. One commenter asked if it would be called fraud to sell 10,000 tickets for a show with a 3,000 seat capacity — and Michael had an answer:

No. That would be called an airline.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we follow up on that with a good ol' crossover comment from DannyB in response to Trump's lack of a cyber policy against ISIS:

Dear Mr. Trump,

Here is a simple cyber policy for ISIS.

Make them have to use Comcast.

Finally, we've got one more response to our problems with Google's link shortener — an anonymous commenter who found the silver lining:

And the good news is that you probably won't be charged with a CFAA violation!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: September 4th - 10th

from the where-canadians-have-gone-before dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2011, copyright was going crazy in Europe. Even though a smart review of the copyright system there suggested that its purpose was to send as much money as possible to US companies, Europe announced plans to extend copyright terms retroactively and wasted no time making them official. Meanwhile, the leaked State Dept. cables were revealing just how big a role US diplomats play in copyright around the world: guiding the dismantling of online civil rights in Sweden, pressuring Canada to enact draconian copyright law (sometimes even at the behest of Canadian politicians, and acting as Microsoft sales staff in Bosnia.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, HP was embroiled in a massive scandal when it was revealed that Patricia Dunn, the chairperson of the board, was spying on other board members and, it soon turned out, members of the media as well, all over some leaked information a few years earlier. Eventually she spoke out publicly, admitting only that it was embarrassing (though really that's just the getting caught part, I suspect). Before that, HP's spokesperson addressed the whole mess by claiming the fraud and identity theft had something to do with "personal integrity".

Fifteen Years Ago

Five years before that in 2001, HP was in the news for the rosier reason of its purchase of Compaq in a $25-billion deal. Meanwhile, there was lots of speculation over who might buy Yahoo! (and as we recently found out, that speculation would have to wait another fifteen years to be resolved), and some back-and-forth on the question of whether Apple should buy Palm, or try to make its own way into the handheld market (and I think we all know how that worked out).

Also this week in 2001: the Justice Department backed down from seeking a breakup of Microsoft, a critical ruling found eBay not liable for pirated goods sold on the site, and despite the death of Napster more people were trading music online than ever before.

Fifty Years Ago

I'm sure I'm not the first to tell you that this week was the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, one of the greatest television franchises of all time. But as a Canadian I might be the first to tell you/brag about one lesser-known fact: though September 8th is when the first episode first aired on NBC, up here north of the border we actually got it before you — the very first airing of The Man Trap was two days earlier on CTV.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 6 September 2016 @ 1:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 89: Inside A Really Good Kickstarter Campaign

from the kickass-kickstarter dept

Not all Kickstarter campaigns are created equal. Even the mostly-good ones that eventually satisfy their backers are often plagued with delays and poor communication. But once in a while, there's a campaign that runs smoothly, communicates openly, and delivers a great product on time as promised — and Minaal is one company that pulled off such a campaign to launch its line of travel bags. This week, we're joined by co-founder Jimmy Hayes to discuss how they pulled it off and what their experience can teach us about other campaigns and the broader crowdfunding ecosystem.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 4 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the gear-reactions dept

This week, almost all of the top comments came in response to the various posts about our Copying Is Not Theft gear. First, it's an anonymous commenter who won the top spot on the insightful side by examining the root of the rage that came in response to the shirt:

The problem is...

People assume the statement "Copying is not theft" is akin to saying: "Copying is not wrong".

What they refuse to see or admit is that theft and copyright infringement are different things - the copyright-maximalist propaganda has done its job well.

It's all rather sad, really... that people have come to assume that copying is somehow as bad (or worse?) than stealing. It's almost incomprehensible that we've reached this point.

In second place, we've got Go5 with a creator's perspective:

I'm a creator. And I collaborate closely with other creators. Our stuff gets copied all the time.

There's even one guy who word-for-word, shot-for-shot, copies lots of our content, in Chinese, within hours of release. I appreciate his perseverance. Our stats prove we get more traffic with him than without.

Thanks to the internet, the whole English-speaking world is our market. Copying is what happens when you create in a public arena.

Sometimes it's flattering, usually it's just someone trying to cash in. Occasionally there's a useful insight into our product or process.

Altogether, copying might account for a few bucks of revenue we'd otherwise receive. Is this "stealing?" Nope. First, the copy doesn't stop anyone from seeing our original, in fact it often drives them to us so we get the revenue (plus SEO) anyway. Second, copies increase the appetite for our work and the venues to promote it, both vastly more valuable than a few extra views.

Creators' jobs are to be unique and relevant. I'd be worried if we weren't being copied.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, just for a change of pace and because it fits so well with the last comment, we're going to grab a comment from our Facebook page, where Dariusz G. Jagielski shared another creator's perspective:

I am a game developer. Working on my first indie game under nickname of "Darkhog". I won't tell you what it is as I don't want to spam Techdirt. Use google if you want to get to it. It's on TigForums.

Anyway, the thing is that even though I intend to sell this game, I don't care about people copying it if they can't afford it or their stupid government banned it (happened before to totally innocent games such as Pokemon). I don't intend even to try to "protect" it (as in, putting expensive, invasive, broken already anyway and potentially damaging DRM, a.k.a. Denuvo or any other kind of DRM).

Because DRM is bullshit and copying is not theft. Filesharers who will like it, will buy it, jerks wouldn't buy it anyway just to spite me and people who can't buy it because of their financial situation and like it will spread the word about game which will lead to more legitimate sales. Let the games begin.

(If you want to check out his game, you can find it here here.)

Next, we pivot away from the Copying Is Not Theft gear briefly, for a response from Anon E. Mous to AT&T's attacks on Google Fiber, supposed beneficiary of "government favoritism":

Gotta love the irony here. We have a AT&T VP criticizing Google for it's short comings when AT&T's own failure have been going on for years with failure to deploy and even bring better broadband services to various states.

Meanwhile this AT&T VP is forgetting is they and other providers teamed up to deny Google access to their poles, and have gone to great lengths to get cities, and state governments to pass stautes that would thwart competitiors and limit what municipalities could do on their own to bring a company like Google into build out in their town/city.

So it's more than a little rich that the AT&T VP is knocking Google when AT&T history isnt exactly a beacon of light. All it shows is how much of an irritant Google was to them in the cities and states where AT&T had to actual do something to compete with another provider.

Not to worry though I am sure AT&T will continue to pillage the consumers pockets while doing the least possible in the way of improvements and satisfying the customer

Over on the funny side, the first place winner is another anonymous commenter, this time with an excellent quip in response to James Comey's request for an "adult conversation" about encryption:

So, Comey wants an adult conversation. What adult will he choose to represent him in this conversation?

For second place, we return one last time to the Copying Is Not Theft campaign, where aethercowboy zeroed in on the irony of the anger:

I wonder where all these people got the idea that copying was theft. Do you think they came up with that idea on their own?

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with an election debate where the assertion was made that Bush, Obama and both Clintons are "cancers". Regardless of how you feel about any/all of those politicians, you've got to tip your hat to this anonymous response:

That is plainly not true.

Yes, Bush was a Cancer.

But Bill Clinton and Obama were both Leos, and Hillary is a Scorpio.

Finally, after always-on PDF DRM was found screwing over consumers, Underprepared Hiker composed a piece of short fiction:

There I was stranded in the Alaskan wilderness freezing, I managed to gather up some sticks to make a fire but I had no idea how to make a fire.

No big deal I thought and grabbed my smartphone and opened up my copy of "Wilderness Survival Guide" only to be presented with some stupid message about how I had to be on the Internet to read it! I mean WTF, the time I need this e-book the most and it will not open!?!?!?!K!@#

So I yelled as loud as I could "F$*# you DRM!" fortunately some mountain man heard me and guided me to safety.

Thank god my e-book had DRM, without it I'd still be sitting there next to my fire following the books directions of "when lost, stay put, help will come"

Thank you DRM, you saved my life!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 September 2016 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: August 28th - September 3rd

from the relevant dept

Five Years Ago

Today, we're just going to focus on one thing that happened this week in 2011, since it bears relation to the discussion raging around our Copying Is Not Theft t-shirt and, specifically, the "threats" we regularly receive that people are going to copy it or other Techdirt content to teach us some kind of lesson. As we've always stated in response, we're totally fine with people copying our material as we consider it all to be public domain — and there are really only two caveats. The first is that we don't approve of copiers claiming to be affiliated with us when they're not, and the second is even more serious: we definitely don't approve of other people trying to exert control over our public domain content by claiming their own copyright on it. And that's exactly what happened this week in 2011 when Gregory Evans of LIGATT Security copied a Techdirt post in one of his "books" that was actually just a compilation of articles. As we said at the time, we (unlike almost everyone else he copied) are fine with our articles being used in a book without permission — but we were not fine with the fact that he also included a prominent copyright notice for all content in the book. Copying is one thing; copyfraud is another.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2006, as the iPod-loving world was still coming to terms with the horrors of the Foxconn factory, the company was busy trying to destroy the lives of the bloggers who exposed conditions there — only to back down when faced with a global storm of terrible publicity. The RIAA, meanwhile, was following the MPAA's lead and trying to fill schools with pro-copyright propaganda "education" (not to mention continuing to insist that it should be allowed to rifle through people's hard drives). And when you can't get the people to agree with you, just fake it — like the recording industry did in Canada with a questionable survey showing that apparently Canadians were desperate to pay bigger copyright levies on blank CDs.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2001, music companies were still struggling to get consumers interested in buying downloadable music, and the real insight and projections came from looking at how college kids were reacting to new digital entertainment offerings. But at least the industry got happy news when the Copyright Office declared that there's pretty much nothing wrong with the DMCA (uh, sure...). Ebooks were also failing to take off, and at least part of the cause was onerous anti-piracy techniques that rendered them less appealing. Of course, while the copyright industries were still struggling with the internet as some sort of new and confusing phenomenon, to the public it was already becoming just another mundane part of life.

One-Hundred And Seventy-One Years Ago

The oldest continually published monthly magazine in the US, and a long-time source for coverage on technology and innovation, is Scientific American — and it was on August 28th, 1845 that it published its very first issue:

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 September 2016 @ 9:00am

Two Great Ways To Support Techdirt

from the cwf+rtb dept

Happy long weekend, Techdirters! We've got two big offers on the go — one that, like the summertime, is coming to an end, and one that just got started. As long-time readers know, we have a philosophy here called CwF+RtB: we connect with fans and then try to give them a reason to buy, and we owe a big thanks to all the fans who keep proving that it's a damn good philosophy indeed. We've actually been experimenting with some expansions to our traditional on-site advertising recently, but we've never much liked that world (thus our failure to follow most of the media's lead in getting angry about ad blockers, instead offering the ability to turn off ads on Techdirt if you so choose) and, unsurprisingly, we ran into plenty of problems right away: deceptive and clickbait-ish ads, technical problems that interfered with the site for some people, and the fact that both we and our readers have the well-trained ad-blindness of any internet native. So we quickly shut down those new programs, because we'd much rather focus on direct offers like these that give our readers a chance to support Techdirt and get something good in return.

First, I'm sure you've seen our latest line of t-shirts, hoodies and other gear: Copying Is Not Theft. It's the one that's been riling people up way more than we expected on Twitter and our Facebook page. Their ire over the message is matched only by the desire to buy the gear that said ire seems to inspire in others — which is a fancy way of saying that a lot of you snatched up a t-shirt after realizing just how controversial it was.

But, if you haven't gotten yours yet, time is running out! The Copying Is Not Theft campaign closes on Monday at 8:00pm PDT, and we won't be taking reservations after it ends (the shirt will come back some day, but we aren't setting a date and it might be a while). So hurry up and place your order before it's too late!

Next, we've got a brand new deal for Techdirt readers. I probably don't need to tell anyone reading this how important a VPN is if you're concerned about your privacy and security online, and that's why we've teamed up with Private Internet Access (one of the most popular and highest rated VPN providers out there) to offer a one-year subscription to the Techdirt Crystal Ball for free when you sign up for a VPN account.

The Techdirt Crystal Ball is a special members-only feature that lets you read, share and comment on upcoming Techdirt posts before they go public on the front page of the blog, giving you a glimpse into our internal editorial queue and letting you get the jump on the conversation:

Normally Crystal Ball access costs $15/year via our Insider Shop, but you can get a full year for free: just use our special affiliate link to sign up with Private Internet Access. We won't auto-renew the Crystal Ball subscription or force you to cancel to avoid being charged — after the year is up, it will expire automatically.

Once again, happy long weekend everyone! Thanks for checking out these offers and helping us grow our CwF+RtB philosophy instead of tangling with crappy ad networks. All the profit from these and everything we sell goes to supporting (and expanding!) our ongoing reporting — we couldn't do it without you.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 30 August 2016 @ 1:00pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 88: The Gawker Debate

from the free-speech dept

Gawker's gone, and that's that. And yet, whenever we've expressed concerns over the billionaire vendetta that brought it down, we've faced a huge amount of pushback from people who had problems with the site and its reporting practices. This week, we're joined by Parker Thompson aka Startup L. Jackson for a friendly debate about whether the Gawker shutdown really is a big deal.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt.

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Posted on Techdirt - 28 August 2016 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the quotables dept

This week, officials in Nice reacted in the worst way possible by threatening to sue people sharing photos of the fashion police doing their anti-burka duty. Some of the conversation turned to refugees, and Uriel-238 won most insightful comment of the week by getting serious about things:

We decided that proper and reasonable treatment of refugees was important after the Napoleonic wars, and the standards for such treatment remain enshrined as a testament to humanity in the Geneva and Hague conventions.

Hospitality and fair treatment of refugees is not a duty that one nation owes to another nation, it's a duty that each of us, as individuals who benefit from national laws and identity, owe to all other individuals, considering that but for the grace of God (or your luck and fortune) you could also be outlawed by your own state and pushed out of its borders... or just executed and cremated in a mass oven.

Of course, thanks to George W. Bush's administration the Geneva Convention doesn't mean as much as it once did, and we will have to relearn why we created and ratified it in the first place.

So you can choose to vote against allowing refugees into your borders. You can choose to deny others sanctuary when their own have turned against them and the trains are getting packed and the ovens are on day and night.

But when fortune turns around, and it happens to you, or your grandchildren or your descendants down the line, when they become the persecuted, when the death camps are cooking once again, you had best hope that the people controlling those borders are kinder, more empathetic or more honorable than you are.

In second place, we've got an anonymous response to the airport stampede caused by applause mistaken for gunshots:

I guess this proves that despite 15 years of focus and nearly unlimited funding, the war on terror has not achieved its goal: the public in general is still terrified.

Arguably more so today than 15 years ago.

I'm aware that terrorists are still active, and yes, unfortunately they do at times succeed in attacking airports and other public areas. But I think too much (if not all) effort in that war on terror was focused on making a show of trying to find and stop the next terrorist (mission impossible), and not enough in reassuring the public.

When I'm scared, I don't want you to tear apart my bedroom and try to find the monster! I want you to acknowledge my fear, reassure me, and help me put things into context and perspective. I want to be informed in an open and rational way about the danger, without exaggerations or hidden agendas, so I can cope with it in my own way.

Instead, what the 'security theater' has done is actually reinforce the fears of the public beyond reason: Lots of noise. No perspective. No context. No open and transparent communication.

And I'm worried there may very well be a hidden agenda...

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Derek Kerton calling the Copyright Alliance out on its at-best incomplete explanation of the purpose of copyright:

Incorrect

"copyright law is predicated on the theory that creators are incentivized to create new works by the prospect of reaping the economic fruits of their creative labor, which in turn benefits the public by increasing the number of creative works available for their enjoyment"

The objective is not so that the works are "available for our enjoyment", but rather that such works will eventually be fully ours, aka, Public Domain.

They act like the mid-state is the end game. It is not.

Next, after the EFF criticized Microsoft's lack of meaningful response to Windows 10 privacy concerns and one commenter accused them of relying on "second-hand knowledge", JMT wondered what other sort of knowledge they'd be able to have:

Which is kinda the whole point, since the first hand knowledge is being jealously guarded. When you mess with people's privacy but won't be up front about exactly what you're doing, expect to be called on it.

Over on the funny side, we start out on our post about Slate's really bad advice about running your own e-mail server, where we also pointed out that the comments were full of IT experts saying it was a bad idea. That One Guy won first place for funny by suggesting Slate solve this problem by jumping on a hot blogging trend:

Well, only one way to respond to that: Shut down the comments and claim that they're doing so because they care so much about their readers that they want to dump them elsewhere.

For second place, we return to the refugee debate, where sorrykb delivered a smackdown to any argument that boils down to everything being the refugees' fault:

Yeah. Stupid refugees should have been born into a wealthy stable country. What were they thinking.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with a comment from Mark Wing discussing self-driving car fears that go beyond the trolley problem:

The real danger of automated cars is that they'll get hacked by Russians and drive you straight to a GOP rally.

And finally, after one anonymous commenter recently asked what happens to a lawyer who is found guilty of fraud perpetrated upon the court, another offered a perfect response:

He gets a job in Congress.

That's all for this week, folks!

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