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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 19 January 2021 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 266: In Defense Of Section 230 & A Decentralized Internet

from the we're-back dept

The podcast went on pause over the holidays and amidst the deluge of... events — but now we're back! And to kick things off, we've got a cross-post from Nick Gillespie's Reason podcast. Mike recently joined Nick for an interview about Section 230 and why a decentralized internet is better than a heavily-restricted one, and you can listen to the whole thing on this week's episode of the Techdirt Podcast.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, 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 January 2021 @ 11:00am

Gaming Like It's 1925: Less Than Two Weeks Left To Join The Public Domain Game Jam!

from the not-too-late dept

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

The clock is ticking — we're past the halfway point of January, and you've got just under two weeks to submit something for Gaming Like It's 1925! We're looking for analog and digital games that are inspired by and/or make direct use of materials from works published in 1925, which have now entered the public domain, and giving away prizes for the best ones in multiple categories.

Check out the game jam page for the full rules and some links to public domain works you could draw on, as well as game design tools for designers of all experience levels. The jam runs until January 31st and then our judges will begin playing the entries to select winners in six categories. The winners will be able to choose one of or great prizes:

Check out the winners of the 2019 and 2020 jams (which used works from 1923 and 1924 respectively) then sign up for the jam and get designing. We've already got a few entries this year, and we can't wait to see more and play everyone's games!

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

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Posted on Techdirt - 17 January 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the it's-been-said dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Bloof with a response to a silly comment on one of our posts about Parler:

Ever ask yourself why nobody takes you seriously? Read that post back to yourself out loud, that's why. Serious people don't toss around terms like SJW.

The big tech platforms don't give a damn about who says what, they want to make money. If they host hate speech, they will make less money because advertisers and most of their userbase don't want to be associated with it. They don't care about the political leanings of anyone but their board members, Facebook has a Roger Stone associate who served in the Bush II admin overseeing their political content for ***ks sake, put in place and kept there against the will of the rest of their employees. He's actively sabotaging attempts at neutrality, damaging outlets like Mother Jones while promoting the likes of Dan Bongino and Ben Shapiro and preventing any moves to stop them gaming the system, hell, the site even put The Daily Caller in place as a fact checker... But in spite of everything Facebook hass done to the detriment of society over the past decade, all the propagandists, fr right conspiracy theorists they've promoted, all the targeted adverts that enabled the election of people who are unfit for office all over the world, they're just so goshdarn biased against the right because the right won't be happy until legitimate journalism is de-listed entirely and the N-words can fly free.

The right only care about free speech when it benefits them, they've shown they will silence dissenting voices every time they think they can get away with it, and the screeching victimhood is just a way for them to achieve that so they can get laws changed to make it harder for platforms to ban them for their rampant abuses of the terms of service they agree to when they sign up... Funny how the people who are most silenced are the ones who get to go all over the media telling that to the world.

In second place, it's Stephen T. Stone with a response to Sheryl Sandberg's attempt to argue that only Facebook has the power to stop bad people online:

Dear Sheryl:

If Facebook is our last line of defense between democracy and fascism, we’re all really fucked.

Society in general

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of short, simple anonymous comments from our post about the ridiculous argument that Twitter is a state actor because some government officials call for more content moderation. First, it's a reply to someone claiming that applying First Amendment restrictions to social media would be a "decrease of government control":

It would be the government forcing a company to do something. How is that a decrease in control?

Next, it's a response to someone claiming that "leftists" have found "a way to circumvent the First Amendment" and "have the corporations implement the censorship on their behalf":

It much more a case that racists and bigots cannot accept that many people want nothing to do with them.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Bobvious with a comment on last week's winners post:

a plan so cunning you can put a tail on it and call it a weasel

You think COVID is about a virus?

COVID - Change Of Votes, Installing Democrats

What do you think all those 5G towers are REALLY doing near voting booths?

In second place, it's DannyB with a comment about the ongoing security issues with internet-connected chastity devices:

Another problem with chastity cages . . .

Vendor Lock In

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with Thad and another response to Sheryl Sandberg — this time regarding her assertion that the Capitol Hill riots were not organized on Facebook:

Narrator: They were.

Finally, it's Pixelation with a comment about how the rioters made it incredibly easy for law enforcement to track them down:

I guess that's why they aren't called the Smart Boys.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 16 January 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: January 10th - 16th

from the new-years dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2016, the world was responding to the death of David Bowie, and we looked back on his innovation in music business models, and then noted how copyright limited the ability to pay tribute to Bowie on the radio. Obama used his final state of the union address to both praise and complain about the open internet, while New York's District Attorney was calling for a ban on the sale of encrypted smartphones. The movie industry was once again reporting record box office numbers despite their complaints about piracy, with even leaked films raking in record-breaking cash, and Netflix was still in its don't-try-to-stop-password-sharing phase while NBC was still in its Netflix is not a threat phase. Plus, lest we forget battles over content moderation have been going on for a long time and can touch all kinds of industries, Lego backed down after blocking people from buying blocks for political projects.

Ten Years Ago

Five years before that in 2011, other content moderation and liability debates were raging — especially in the lawsuit against Backpage. We also saw the beginning of a major fight between Sony and George Hotz, who jailbroke PS3s to restore their ability to run different operating systems. Meanwhile, we were learning more about the government's attempts to get info from Twitter for the Wikileaks investigation (and were pleased to see the social network fighting back, while wondering who else the government might have targeted). Customs officers were trying to intimidate Wikileaks volunteers, Rep. Peter King tried to have Wikileaks put on the Treasury Department's terrorist list (the Treasury thankfully refused), and the EFF debunked the myth that the leaked cables weren't important. Meanwhile, Congress was continuing its annual traditions of promising patent reform that would never come and promising a Patriot Act renewal that very much would.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2006 we saw the appearance of the first Apple computers with Intel chips, and the launch of the much-hyped Google Video offering that turned out to be completely underwhelming (and not just because of its embrace of copy protection). Sony was still trying to downplay its rootkit scandal while we talked about whether DRM will always introduce security problems, and while the use of copy protection continued to screw over actual creators.

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Posted on Techdirt - 10 January 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the threaded-thoughts dept

We've got a double winner this week, with a comment from Bloof taking the first place spot for insightful and the second place spot for funny. It's a pretty comprehensive response to the allegations of fraud in the 2020 election:

Voter fraud that only happened in the parts of the ballots and the states that went against Trump, not the house and senate races where an unassailable democratic majority would be incredibly useful, only the top ticket featuring a massively unpopular republican candidate. Voter fraud so cunning that it only happened in cities filled with minorities among whom Trump is about as beloved as porcupine skin toilet paper. Voter fraud so cunning it somehow managed to happen in places where republicans controlled the elections. Voter fraud so cunning the Trump team have been unable to present any evidence of it whatsoever and had their legal teams back down the moment any judged asked them for actual proof because they don't fancy parroting the same lies they vomit on TV in a place where there'll be consequences for lying. Voter fraud so cunning that republican donors are suing the groups they funded that claimed they're able to prove it happened, for not being, in fact, able to prove anything. Voter fraud so cunning even the most hyper partisan right wing 'news' outlets like Fox and Newsmax issued on multiple on air retractions the moment the election machine companies got the lawyers involved because their stories were based on 4chan posts and the say so of the son of the guy who runs notorious pedophile and Qanon hangout, 8kun.

They have no evidence, there is no evidence, it did not happen and screaming and committing acts of terrorism will not make your far right fever dreams of fraud and persecution into a reality. They had ample opportunity to present evidence in front of friendly TV hosts like Tucker Carlson, as well as judge after judge after judge, some of which were appointed by Trump himself and they showed nothing and their cases were rejected every single time.

It is clear to everyone with even a lick of common sense that the people parroting these lies are so full of sh*t even the Trump gutted EPA would consider them for a potential superfund site.

In second place on the insightful side, it's Stephen T. Stone with a response to Josh Hawley freaking out about his publisher dropping his book:

A reminder for those who need it

Ah, I get to break this out for the first time in 2021:

Moderation is a platform/service owner or operator saying “we don’t do that here”. Personal discretion is an individual telling themselves “I won’t do that here”. Editorial discretion is an editor saying “we won’t print that here”, either to themselves or to a writer. Censorship is someone saying “you won’t do that anywhere” alongside threats or actions meant to suppress speech.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of comments from That One Guy. First, it's a response to tiresome attempts to equate this week's events with the summer's protests:

GIve me a minute, I'm sure it'll come to me

Let's see, protests against police brutality and a legal system that treats certain people as second class citizens, versus a 'protest' against the fact that the 'wrong' person won an election that involved an attempted insurrection to overthrow the democratic process, there's something different between these two but I just can't place my finger on it...

Next, it's a comment expanding on the point that Section 230 protects both big and small sites:

'Their pocket-change is your entire site's budget'

Not just protects big and small, it protects small businesses way more than it protects big ones. Gut 230 and Facebook will have some extra expenses to deal with but they've got the resources to do so, whereas smaller companies that might compete with them, either now or in the future are going to be screwed as they lack the needed resources and are forced into the position of either crippling themselves if not shutting down entirely.

It's the ultimate irony that when dealing with the people attacking 230 the companies they like to hold up as boogiemen and justifications to gut the law are the very ones that stand to gain the most by it's removal.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Thad with a comment on our post about how easy it will be to identify insurrectionists thanks to them posting all their activities on social media. The comment comes in the form of a link to a frame from The Simpsons, so I'll replace it with the image itself:

We've already had our second place winner above, so it's on to the editor's choice and a comment from Crafty Coyote about a circuit diagram being spread with claims that it's a 5G chip inserted in the COVID vaccine, but which turned out to be schematics for a guitar pedal:

So if the implanting chip really is just the schematics for a guitar pedal, does that mean we'll be getting The Cure when we get the cure?

Next, it's an anonymous comment about CERN's new open data policy:

This is a disaster! How will scientists be motivated to collect data if their great-grandchildren can't cash in on the copyrights? How will they pay for their supercolliders, supercomputers, and vacation homes? How can they keep individuals from inferior races from doing science also?

And just imagine, some of the data might be chanted by a rapper without attribution. Or used to remote-control a John Deere tractor.

Stand up and stop the madness! Send your anti-proton to CERN now!

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 9 January 2021 @ 12:00pm

Gaming Like It's 1925: There's Still Plenty Of Time To Join Our Public Domain Game Jam!

from the mine-that-domain dept

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

We're just over a week into our third annual public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925, and it runs until the end of the month so there's still plenty of time to sign up and start working on an entry! We're looking for analog and digital games that are inspired by and/or make direct use of materials from works published in 1925, which have now entered the public domain, and giving away prizes for the best ones in multiple categories.

It doesn't matter if you're an experienced game designer or someone who's never tried it before — the beauty of the public domain is that it supplies a growing wealth of inspiration and assets for you to use, and the beauty of modern game design tools is that you can dip your toe in without any particular expertise or technical knowledge (and we've got links to several tools that can help over on the game jam page). Entries can be as simple as a one-page set of rules for a game to be played in person (or perhaps over Zoom, given our current circumstances) or as complex as a full-fledged video game, and anything in between. There are six categories to compete in (the winners of the 2020 jam are linked below, and you can read our judges' thoughts on them here):

Sign up for the game jam on itch.io where you can also read the full rules and find links to lists of 1925 books, plays, films, art and music, including stuff from many notable 20th century creators like Aldous Huxley, Gertrude Stein, Zora Neale Hurston, Pablo Picasso, Charlie Chaplin, Irving Berlin, and Louis Armstrong. You've got until January 31st to submit your entries after which they will be played by our amazing panel of judges from both the game design and copyright worlds.

Check out the winners of the 2019 and 2020 jams (which used works from 1923 and 1924 respectively) then sign up for the jam and get designing. We've already got a few entries this year, and we can't wait to see more and play everyone's games!

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

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Posted on Techdirt - 3 January 2021 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Year At Techdirt

from the 2020-edition dept

It's that time again! This challenging year has come to a close, and now it's time to look back at the top comments from 2020 based on user votes for Insightful or Funny. As usual, we'll be covering the top three in each category, plus a couple of outliers — and if you want to see this week's winners, here's first and second place for insightful, and first and second place for funny.

The Most Insightful Comments Of 2020

For our first place winner, we go back to July and our post about a woman who complained about a Starbucks barista who refused to serve her because she wasn't wearing a mask, and then demanded half of the money that came flooding in to a GoFundMe for said barista. She claimed that medical conditions exempted her from mask requirements, and Grey racked up the votes to be the most insightful comment of the year by sharing some personal experience that underlines why this kind of thing is so infuriating:

As an actual disabled person....

Every person playing this fake "I'm disabled" game should spend one day in my body. If you are so medically fragile that a mask is a risk, you shouldn't be exposing yourself to the public for your own safety.

I can understand the need to feel normal. Those of us who already have their ability to interact with the world limited by circumstance usually don't enjoy additional restrictions.

I've been disabled for almost 30 years now.

I'm up to 7 shoulder procedures. Plate, 6 screws, Suprascapular nerve nearly severed on the right side due to bone regrowth. Left side anterior Bankart, right hand crushed in a press, both feet spiral fractured through the arches, jawbone dislocations, hip dislocations.

"You're so big, you can't be disabled." (6'5") I look "normal", and my life has been a string of random people trying to fight me for using disabled parking, I've had a Vet go after my (at the time ) 17 year old daughter for inheriting my genetically bad connective tissue.

I walk with a cane, sometimes 2. Can't lift them much past my hips.

I can't even wear glasses that hook down at the back, otherwise the frames cut through the tops of my ears. Straight-arm glasses are a pain to find.

I can go on. Look up Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, rest is bad luck/manager took safety off the press that would have saved my hand.

My circulation draws my blood out of my limbs, concentrating it in my torso, I get heat exhaustion anywhere over the mid 70's. A mask is sheer torture. I still wear one when I go out.

My mask ties at the base, and crown of my skull. If I can manage it, with my shoulders, anyone healthy enough to walk around can do it.

People who pull this fake disabled crap just make my life even harder.

Next, we head even further back to May, when someone sued Amazon for describing movies on Prime as "purchased" when in fact it can still remove them from your library whenever it wants — something that most people don't even think about enough to object to, and a sign of how much copyright is chipping away at concepts of real property. Thad got the second most insightful votes of the year with a perennial response to these kinds of shenanigans by content providers:

Pirates, as always, are unaffected.

Finally, we go back once more to January, and one of our early 2020 warnings about Joe Biden's worrying and often largely incoherent stance on technology issues and, especially, Section 230. In response to one commenter who asserted a bizarre techno-panic meaning to Biden's confusing words, another anonymous commenter delivered our third most insightful comment of the year — and while in some ways it may not have aged well as Biden performed better in general at the presidential debates than many people feared, when it comes to Section 230 and free speech online, there hasn't been much improvement:

In the abstract, he's talking about whatever point someone wants to make, because you can turn this nonsense into anything.

He's basically as incoherent as the current president. Can you imagine a Trump-Biden debate? 2 hours of your great-uncles who hate each other trying to out ramble the other. Can we get a constitutional amendment that you have to pass a senility test before you can be elected president?

And that's all for the insightful side! Now on to...

The Funniest Comments Of 2020

Well, I can't believe this worked so well! In September, we wrote about students that gamed the AI their school was using to grade exams, and justok offered up a meta-joke in the comments that aimed to hit the top of both comment leaderboards. Though it didn't rise quite so high up the Insightful ranks, it did manage to get voted the funniest comment of the year:

Funniest and Most Insightful Comment

This is both the funniest and most insightful comment. This comment is both the most insightful and funniest. Joke. Laugh. Post. Comment. Keyword. Funny. Funniest. Insightful.Laugh. Side-splitter. Blow. Your. Mine. Mind.

For our next comment we only need to go back to early December, when Trump made good on his threat to veto the NDAA because it didn't include a Section 230 repeal. An anonymous commenter swooped in and rode the wave of frustration to the second place spot on the funny list this year:

PETA has really dropped the ball. Please, for the love of what little sanity remains in this country, spay and neuter your Republicans!

For the third funniest comment of 2020, we head to June and our post wondering why politicians weren't up in arms about GOOGLE THREATINING TO DEFUND TECHDIRT with its crappy AdSense automated moderation system. There's lots to say about that story and the silly things that AdSense flagged for various reasons, but BentFranklin spotted the most amusing one in our post about a certain piece of less-lethal weaponry:

Sorry, I giggled when I saw that talking about tasers is "shocking content". I will go sit in the corner now.

And that's it for funny, but before we go...

The Double-Winner & The Outliers

There's an additional fun fact I didn't mention about one of the comments above: justok's keyword-laden comment that hit the top spot for funny also racked up the most votes across the two categories combined, even though its insightful votes weren't quite enough to crack that leaderboard on their own (that's just how funny people found it!)

Apart from that, there wasn't any overlap between the top ten lists for funny and insightful individually and the list for combined votes, much like last year. So we might as well go ahead and include the other two winners from the combined list — starting with second place, an anonymous comment about the famous "disagree with what you say/write..." quotation regarding free speech:

'Voltaire' only by popular attribution...

The Voltaire quote has its origins in one of Voltaire's biographers, one Beatrice Hall.

Remember that other famous quote:

The problem with quotes on the Internet is that it is hard to verify their authenticity. -- Abraham Lincoln

And, last but not least, a comment that came in third on the combined list with almost exactly equal numbers of funny and insightful votes — once again from an anonymous commenter, this time responding to George Gershwin's nephew expressing concerns that the now-public domain Rhapsody in Blue might get turned into (gasp) hip-hop:

If that Jonny S. Bach dude's reputation can survive being Moog-synthesized, whistled, Jazzed-and-drummed-up (not to mention being sung by musical illiterates in churches every Sunday), then Georgio will just have to take his chances with the punk-rappers. In any case, G. G. is just another corpse, and his feelings are beyond our ability to offend.

But I think Wilde's aphorism still applies: the only thing worse that being rapped-about is ... not being rapped-about.

And that's a wrap on 2020 comments, folks! Thanks for keeping the conversation on Techdirt going and making these posts fun to write — I look forward to seeing what you come up with in 2021.

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Posted on Techdirt - 2 January 2021 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: December 27th - January 2nd

from the old-year's-eve dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2015, China was doing exactly what many warned they would do and pointing to the US to defend its own anti-encryption stance, while Mark Zuckerberg was desperately defending Facebook's "Free Basics" power grab. It was revealed that the NSA never stopped spying on foreign leaders and even swept up the US congress in the process, leading to some amusing backlash from former congressional defenders of the agency. Meanwhile, Harvard Law Review was freaking out about a public domain citation guide, 50 Cent was hypocritically suing over a mixtape, and CBS filed a lawsuit over the Star Trek fan film it had previously seemed to be supporting.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2010, a Dutch court threw out criminal charges against a P2P index site for relying too much on information from a private anti-piracy group, while leaked cables revealed that Swedish officials had complained to the US about the impact of a Hollywood-pushed copryight law, and a Canadian music collection society was demanding payment for 30-second song previews and France was trying to extend its private copying levy to tablets... unless they run Windows. We talked about permission culture and the automated diminishing of fair use, while NBC Universal and the MPAA were getting New York City to run anti-piracy propaganda and Gibson got an injunction over PaperJamz.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2005, there was a dust-up online over the question of blog piracy, while one Chinese blogging firm with big dreams was collapsing before it got started. The movie industry was pointing fingers over its poor box office returns, the RIAA was accused of coaching a 15-year-old witness in a file sharing lawsuit, and Australia was considering expanding fair use. We talked about how the Sony rootkit scandal had woken more people up to copy protection and the war on modifying your devices, while Sony was giving away a whole lot of free downloads in a settlement over the infected CDs.

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Posted on Techdirt - 1 January 2021 @ 8:00am

Gaming Like It's 1925: The Public Domain Game Jam Has Begun!

from the get-going dept

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

Today's the day:works published in 1925 have run out of copyright protection and the public domain has gotten bigger, and our game jam celebrating it has begun! Gaming Like It's 1925 runs from now until the end of the month, and it's the perfect chance to start digging into of all the amazing material that's finally free for everyone to use.

The premise of the jam is simple: build a digital or analog game that incorporates, in some way or another, one or more works from 1925. You don't need to be an experienced game designer to participate — entries can be as simple as a few instructions in a PDF, or as robust as an entire board or video game, and you can make use of all sorts of easy development tools (a few of which are listed on the jam page). And there are so, so many great works to choose from, a few of which are listed on Duke University's annual round-up, which is a great place to start looking.

As in the past two public domain game jams, we'll be awarding prizes in six categories (the winners of the 2020 jam are linked below, and you can read our judges' thoughts on them here):

We've also got another great panel of new and returning judges this year:

You can sign up to participate and find all the remaining details, the full rules, the list of prizes, and lots of helpful links over on itch.io. Don't delay — a month might seem like a long time, but it goes by fast, especially when faced with the immense and finally-growing public domain!

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

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Posted on Techdirt - 27 December 2020 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the creatures-stirring dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is BentFranklin passing along a useful link on our post about the people helping Trump consider martial law:

Here are all their names;


In second place, it's That One Guy with a response to our post about Congress once again selling out to Hollywood with the CASE Act:

Nothing cheaper to buy than a politician's integrity

The only question at this point is exactly how much it took to buy those involved, whether it took five digits on a check, four digits, or merely a pinky-promise that if they did this they'd see a little 'bonus' next time 'donation' time comes around.

Still, nice of them to admit that the bills are complete garbage that can't stand up their own, that's probably the most honest they've ever been in their lives.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with a comment from Stephen T. Stone in response to the idea that opposing Trump holding military funding hostage to demand a Section 230 repeal is a pro-overfunded-military stance:

Child, you don’t even know how I feel about the U.S. military or the spending on said military. (Spoilers: I’m not a big fan of either.) I can dislike both the excessive funding of the military and the push to “reform”/repeal Section 230; the two positions are not mutually exclusive.

Next, it's a comment from MathFox calmly summing up why Section 230 is good:

I like section 230 because it provides a "get out of this lawsuit quickly" card for every website owner that allows posting of comments, so that people from different countries and political orientation can discuss all kind of issues. It also protects me when I as a moderator try to keep the discussion civil.

I know that different people have different opinions on what they find objectionable. That's why there is be a variety of forums on the web.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous quip in response to someone "applauding" Techdirt for "highlighting how irrelevant and ineffective we are":

Don't sell yourself short though. You're doing a fine job of highlighting your own irrelevance!

In second place, it's kallethen responding to a comment asking the (sarcastic) question of just where the cause of crime spikes mid-pandemic could possibly be found:

Probably sitting in the corner with Thoughts and Prayers.

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with That One Guy responding to someone who takes issue with those of us who speak about Republicans with unmasked contempt:

Let me fetch the world's smallest violin for you

That's okay, he's just 'saying it like it is' or perhaps that's just 'locker-room talk', I understand that Trump cultists love that sort of thing when their side does it so they should have no issue not being raging hypocritical losers when someone does it to them.

And finally, it's an anonymous commenter making a pointed complaint about all that darn big tech censorship:

I demand that articles instructing me to drink bleach not be censored or amended to add the fact checking propaganda saying that it will result in serious medical problems because this is Merica damn it and you will not outlaw mah cheese burgers!


That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 25 December 2020 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: December 20th - 26th

from the ghost-of-christmas-past dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2015, while newly-leaked documents were exposing the US government's surveillance options, Hillary Clinton was nonsensically calling for an encryption "Manhattan Project" but not to produce a back door. Tom Cotton was also attacking Tim Cook and demonstrating profound ignorance, and was joined by Manhattan's Disctrict Attorney. Blackberry, apparently hoping to hasten its own demise, started arguing for greater cooperation with law enforcement. And yet, amidst all this, the government apparently didn't notice the irony in freaking out about an unauthorized backdoor discovered in Juniper firewall software.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2010, we wondered if journalists would face the same treatment as Julian Assange and why US publications were downplaying the significance of major leaks, while, in apparent anticipation of a leak, Bank of America started trying to block payments to Wikileaks, soon followed by Apple blocking the Wikileaks app. Meanwhile, we got a closer look and Homeland Security's terrible evidence for its recent domain seizures, and its affidavit that was riddled with errors that just got worse and worse.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2005, Senators were apparently undeterred by multiple court rulings on the unconstitutionality of video game bans, the FTC was cautiously optimistic about spam trends although the clock was ticking on Bill Gates's prediction that the problem of spam would be solved by early 2006, and Eliot Spitzer began an investigation into digital music price fixing. Sony's woes continued as Texas expanded its lawsuit to include MediaMax CDs and some of the parent company's own stores were failing to pull the rootkit CDs from shelves. And, as three men were facing charges for selling modified Xboxes, we wanted to know why modifying your own hardware is a federal crime.

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Posted on Techdirt - 24 December 2020 @ 9:00am

Gaming Like It's 1925: The Third Annual Public Domain Game Jam Starts January 1st

from the new-year,-new-games dept

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

Lots of people will be exchanging gifts tomorrow, but we all get one on January 1st when new material enters the public domain in the US for the third year in a row — and, also for the third year in a row, we're hosting our public domain game jam, Gaming Like It's 1925. We're looking for designers of all stripes to create games using some of the works from 1925 that are running out of copyright protection in the new year, and offering prizes in a bunch of categories. We announced this one a bit early to give people time to make plans, and you can sign up on the jam page on itch.io before it officially launches on New Year's Day!

You may have heard about The Great Gatsby entering the public domain, but while it's one of the highest-profile 1925 works, it's not alone: works by Agatha Christie, Aldous Huxley, Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Noël Coward, Zora Neale Hurston and more are joining it, along with films like Harold Lloyd's The Freshman and Charlie Chaplin's The Gold Rush — and that's not even mentioning the artworks and musical compositions. Our jam page has links to several lists of 1925 works including Duke University's always-excellent roundup.

We're long-time believers in the value of a robust public domain and this game jam is all about showing the kinds of amazing new things that are created when old works are opened up. Get all the details on itch.io including complete rules, categories and prizes, and the list of judges — and get ready for January 1st when it's time to start gaming like it's 1925!

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

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Posted on Techdirt - 20 December 2020 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the so-you-say dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is That One Guy with our response to the latest bogus op-ed about Section 230:

When your job requires you to be a liar, that's not a good look

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” ― Upton Sinclair

And the streak remains unbroken, the only way to attack 230 is to lie about it.

I wish the liars in question would come up with some new material already though rather than the same long-debunks garbage, I mean when your arguments don't have to be based upon reality then spice things up, go wild, not like it'll make your arguments worse or anything.

'230 causes cancer in babies!'

'230 makes puppies bonk their noses on hard objects!'

'230 is the reason you sometimes feel the need to sneeze but it refuses to come out and you just end up feeling uncomfortable and making a weird face!'

In second place, it's an anonymous response to questions about whether it's better when Trump appoints someone terrible to an important job, or when he appoints nobody at all:

That's why Candeub was previously an acting director, which is another method favored by Trump. Appoint an acting-something, and no confirmations! All the win.

But appointing no one at all is less bad than appointing these utter fuckwits.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start with a response from sumgai to that same post about Trump's appointment of a Section 230-hater to a top DOJ role:

Actually, since Senate confirmation is not necessary, Biden can replace him at will. The basic reason would be lack of desired qualifications, and the underlying threat would be "gross abuse of power in attempting to subvert a news media outlet's 1A rights", something that might carry a penalty heavier than simply no longer working in a government position. This threat should be enough to assure a quiet resignation, but sadly, at this point no one can be sure about such things.

Next, it's :Lobo Santo summing up one of the key goals at play among those trying to change online content rules:

Let us think for a moment on last century's media paradigm:

A first-class lane for content "streamed" in full-color to the home--cable tv
and a second-class lane for people to use to contact their equals and "betters"--telephone.

Now, contrast with the internet: Everybody has a voice.

Any citizen can speak out on any available platform and be seen by very nearly the entirely world. Or at least, a majority of our countrymen.

In this context, let us ask again, why would politicians (or those behind them) want to put an end to Section 230 for the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?

To quote Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality: "To understand the object of an obscure plot, observe its consequences and ask who might have intended them."

In my opinion, somebody is playing a long game in an attempt to return to the status quo of the few having the power to broadcast, and the many having only what little they are allowed.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is an anonymous response to complaints about Silicon Valley censorship in the aforementioned anti-230 op-ed in USA Today:

I have just one question...

How did this screed get through the "independent thought" gatekeeping? The Lords of Silicon Valley have some explaining to do!

In second place, it's Pixelation with a response to Trump's "maga2020" password on his Twitter account:

He'll change it to...


For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with Eric wondering why the government is worried about another dumb password that compromised the security of Solarwinds:

I mean its just a "backdoor", what's the big deal?

Finally, it's David with a response to another commenter telling the story of how they got a copyright claim on YouTube over a recording of insects outside their window:

Well, what do you expect when uploading a soundtrack from the beetles?

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 19 December 2020 @ 12:00pm

This Week In Techdirt History: December 13th - 19th

from the then-and-now dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2015, the clueless press was still letting itself get played and suggesting that encryption played a role in the San Bernardino attacks, while congress was dropping all pretense and turning CISA into a full-on surveillance bill, which they then crammed into the must-pass government funding bill (which also included some other nonsense). It got support of confused congressmen and a promise-breaking White House then — despite being terrible for privacy — it predictably passed.

Ten Years Ago

This week in 2010, the clueless press was playing the mark for a different scam and continuing to rely on bogus research about file sharing, but the main source of panic and confusion on the scene was still Wikileaks, and we argued America's reaction was doing far more harm than the leaks themselves and was probably just about overhyping online threats to pass new laws. The Congressional Research Service was pointing out the obstacles to criminally charging Assange and complaining about being blocked from accessing Wikileaks itself by the panicked government (and the Air Force went further the same week, blocking access to news sites reporting on Wikileaks as well), and the staff of Columbia Jounralism School was warning the president that prosecuting Wikileaks would set a dangerous precedent. But the government decided to look into the possibility of CFAA charges anyway. There was a slight bit of uplifting and surprising news though, when congressional hearings on Wikileaks turned out to be not entirely stupid.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2005, an emerging conversation about traffic shaping was paving the way for a net neutrality fight, with the most worrying aspect being that FCC chairman Kevin Martin was apparently prepared to give the telcos everything they wanted. Congress was doing its own kowtowing, this time to Hollywood, and serving up exactly the legislation the entertainment industry wanted, while the music business was getting mad at Apple for the DRM it had a huge hand in pushing for — and we talked about how copy protection stalls innovation. HarperCollins was spending a lot of money to scan its own books for no obvious reason beyond spiting Google, the MPAA was suing someone for sharing movies it couldn't actually find on his computer, and one band was dealing with Sony's DRM failure by sending their fans burned replacement CDs with no copy protection.

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Posted on Techdirt - 15 December 2020 @ 1:30pm

Gaming Like It's 1925: Get Ready For The Next Public Domain Game Jam

from the it's-jam-time dept

Sign up for the Public Domain Game Jam on itch.io »

In a couple weeks, the public domain in the US will expand for the third year in a row, as works published in 1925 finally run out of copyright protection — and just like we have for the past two years, we're celebrating and showing off the benefits of a robust public domain with a game jam: Gaming Like It's 1925.

We're inviting everyone to try their hand at using newly public domain material from 1925 to create a digital or analog game this January. Whether you're an experienced game designer or just someone trying their hand at it, the public domain is an excellent source of all kinds of game material from story inspiration to art and music assets, so sign up for the jam at itch.io. The jam page has full details on the rules, links to some lists of material entering the public domain, and information on easy game-building tools that can help newbies and veterans alike with the challenge of creating a game in a month.

As usual, we'll be awarding prizes in six categories (the winners of the last jam are linked below, and you can read our judges' thoughts on them here):

We've also got another great panel of new and returning judges this year:

Gaming Like It's 1925 officially kicks off on January 1st, the same day that the new material enters the public domain, and runs until the end of the month — but you can sign up now and start making plans. Both of the past jams have resulted in some really cool, creative games that demonstrate why a growing public domain is so valuable, and we're all excited to see what our participants come up with this time around!

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Posted on Techdirt - 13 December 2020 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the the-word-is dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is an anonymous comment on our post about Florida State Police raiding the home of COVID whistleblower Rebekah Jones:

Huh. Interesting that this comes right after a major Florida newspaper published a scathing report, using numerous insider sources, on how Desantis covered up a lot of COVID information.

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/coronavirus/fl-ne-coronavirus-florida-desantis-spin-ss-prem-20201203-t yjmgkos6bd7vo7vnripqliany-htmlstory.html

I wonder if this is him trying to track down who talked to the paper.

In second place, it's another comment on that post, this time from our own Karl Bode adding an important point to a thread of pushback against an idiot downplaying the virus based on its mortality rate:

also, for whatever reason, people really like to fixate exclusively on deaths, and ignore the fact that this disease is going to cause disability (perhaps permanent) for millions of people.


For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of responses to the dangerous ideas about Section 230 reform being touted by Joe Biden's top tech advisor. First, it's That One Guy aptly summing up one way to spot a bad argument about 230:

... we'll just leave that part out

The best part of using Facebook of all platforms as the Big Bad here is that Facebook is on their side. Facebook has made clear that it's fine with gutting 230 because it understands that unlike the vast majority of other sites that allow user submitted content it will be able to survive that.

Bringing up Cox and Wyden adds an extra dash of 'I really hope no-one fact-checks us on this' as well, since unlike what that cherry-picked quote would seem to suggest they have made clear that 230 is working as intended.

I get at this point that anyone attacking 230 has to lie to make their arguments, since there's no honest arguments to be made, but even knowing that this argument is laughably bad and banking really hard on ignorance and emotional manipulation, which tells you all you need to know about the one making it, none of it good.

Next, it's Blake C. Stacey coining a slogan for the damage bad Section 230 reform would do:

Free slogan: "You say you want to kill Facebook, but you're going to miss and kill Wikipedia."

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is again an anonymous comment, this time on our post about Trump promising to pull military funding over the lack of a Section 230 repeal:

PETA has really dropped the ball. Please, for the love of what little sanity remains in this country, spay and neuter your Republicans!

In second place, it's You're a Gazelle! responding to the Supreme Court allowing Muslims to sue the FBI for placing them on the no-fly list when they refused to become informants:

Could Be a Slippery Slope

If this continues blackmail might become illegal!

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with an anonymous commenter offering up another all-purpose response to many people who insist they are being censored:

I love seeing posts stating "this post is being blocked!"

Finally, it's one more anonymous commenter, responding to our case study about the time Facebook blocked a photo of some onions for nudity (with a typo corrected):

Well, there is a lot of skin to skin contact in the photo.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 12 December 2020 @ 12:05pm

This Week In Techdirt History: December 6th - 12th

from the times-past dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2015, the confluence of the Paris attack, the San Bernardino attack, and the rise of ISIS created a perfect storm for the anti-encryption, pro-surveillance crowd. President Obama was hinting at asking Silicon Valley to magically block terrorists from using tech products, while Hillary Clinton was doubling down on her attacks on the tech industry and mocking free speech online in the exact same way Donald Trump was — while Mitch McConnell was promising to offer up whatever bill the president wanted to ban encryption, Dianne Feinstein was bringing back a bill that would force internet providers to report on "suspicious" behavior by customers and teaming up with James Comey to mislead people about encryption, and Michael McCaul was proposing a commission to "force" encryption backdoors. Even a former FCC commissioner was getting in the game, idiotically claiming that net neutrality helps ISIS. In France, law enforcement released a "wish list" of draconian measures including banning open WiFi, which got at least a tiny bit of pushback from the Prime Minister — while Spain brought in a new law allowing widespread surveillance, and Kazakhstan was breaking the internet with an all-out war on encryption.

Ten Years Ago

Today there's a lot of controversy around Visa and MasterCard blocking Pornhub, but this same week in 2010 the exact same conversation was going on around Wikileaks. The week kicked off with PayPal cutting off payments, a Swiss bank found a technicality that allowed it to freeze the site's bank account, then Mastercard blocked any payment systems that work with Wikileaks, and were soon joined by Visa (I wonder if that had anything to do with its most recent leak). But attempts to kill Wikileaks were just contributing to its spread, and the government was contradicting itself in its panicked attempts to internally block the site, or just doing really dumb things like blocking any site with Wikileaks in the title, and making extremely silly requests like the State Department asking Wikileaks to "return" the leaked cables (ironically around the same time it was hosting World Press Freedom Day).

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2005, big telcos were doing their usual thing and freaking out about competition, even going so far as to punish New Orleans for offering free wifi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, or just completely contradicting themselves on fiber optic broadband, which they hate when municipalities try to offer it but which they are happy to sell themselves. Sony's DRM woes were far from over, with yet another security vulnerability found in one of their products, as well as a vulnerability in the patch the company issued to fix it. The recording industry was showing it would never be happy no matter what Kazaa did, and really going hard on its new obsession — unauthorized song lyrics — by attacking an app that displays them and even calling for people who host them to be thrown in jail.

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Posted on Techdirt Podcast - 8 December 2020 @ 1:30pm

Techdirt Podcast Episode 265: The Future Of US Broadband

from the needed-now-more-than-ever dept

The pandemic and associated lockdowns have underlined the incredible importance of broadband, and the many problems with it in America. This week, we're joined by Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic — Mike's ISP, and one with a reputation for treating its customers well and speaking out against bad broadband policy and regulation — for an insider perspective on what's happening with US broadband in 2020, and where it might be going next.

Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, 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 - 6 December 2020 @ 12:00pm

Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

from the some-speech dept

This week, our first place winner on the insightful side is Thad with a sentiment I think we all share:

A time will come -- not right away, not all at once, but hopefully within the next year -- when each of us manages to go a full day without thinking about Donald Trump.

That's a happy thought to hold onto.

In second place, it's Uriel-238 responding to the very late statement by a lawmaker that, when it comes to Trump's nonsense, "Republicans are sick of this shit":

The rest of us were sick of it in 2017.

For editor's choice on the insightful side, we start out with an anonymous comment about Trump's renewed calls for repealing Section 230:

Twitter could hold a lottery with 1st prize the honour of pressing the ban key on @realdonaldtrump
They could make enough money from that to cover the loss of Trump associated advertising!

Next, it's JMT with an all-purpose response for people moaning about free speech on social media:

Start your own damn website and say whatever the hell you want. That's "Free Speech" on The Internet. Just don't think you can do that on my website, Mike's website, or Twitter's website.

Over on the funny side, our first place winner is David chiming in on a thread about the Tennessee state representative who wants congress to ignore the Supreme Court ruling on flag burning, and specifically in regard to the suggestion that, given his past attempt to amend the Constitution to cite the will of "Almighty God", he probably thinks he's doing God's bidding:

No upright fundamental Christian would admit to letting himself get bossed around by a Jew.

In second place, it's Thad again, this time passing along a link regarding that same rep's constitutional nonsense:

Area Man Passionate Defender Of What He Imagines Constitution To Be

For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with Pixelation responding to our post about 5G paranoia getting dumber:

That's because 5G causes brain damage!*

*I suppose I should add.../s

Finally, it's David with a complaint on last week's comment post:

Know what's worst about the "funniest, most insightful" weekly?

I clearly see that some people voted for me. And at the end of the race, their votes don't count. But nobody even bothers to ask me whether I'll be conceding gracefully and leave my keyboard at the end of the week.

That's all for this week, folks!

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Posted on Techdirt - 5 December 2020 @ 12:45pm

This Week In Techdirt History: November 29th - December 5th

from the take-and-give dept

Five Years Ago

This week in 2015, details were continuing to emerge that showed the Paris attackers made very little effort to hide themselves while the French government was using the state of emergency as an excuse to round up climate change activists, and some in the US were using the San Bernadino shooting to push for more domestic surveillance. New problems were being discovered with the UK's snooper's charter, while documents were showing that the country's intelligence agencies were hacking computers with minimal oversight. And there was a fresh attack on encryption from a different direction, as a patent troll started suing all kinds of encrypted websites.

Also this week in 2015, Homeland Security finally returned two domains they had seized for bogus reasons five years earlier, but we'll talk more about that in our next section...

Ten Years Ago

Yes, it was the very same week in 2010 that we first reported on ICE seizing a bunch of domain names supposedly for intellectual property violations. It immediately looked like a censorship campaign that was stretching the law to its breaking point, and inspection of the targeted websites revealed that many appeared legitimate and some were even embraced by big-name music artists — until Homeland Security eventually admitted that it was taking cues straight from the entertainment industry, further undermining any ability of the US to take a stance against internet censorship worldwide.

Fifteen Years Ago

This week in 2005, we learned more about how the Sony rootkit came to be, and weren't that surprised to discover that other Sony copy protection tech also had big issues — plus, the rootkit had caught the attention of Eliot Spitzer, and new information revealed that Sony knew about it before it went public. The FCC suddenly changed its tune on a la carte cable programming, with plenty of people weighing in from televangelists (opposed) and Cablevision and AT&T in favor. Meanwhile, ratings giant Nielsen was finally acknowledging the existence of DVRs and introducing its now ubiquitous live-plus-x-days ratings for TV shows.

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