Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Big Tech Won’t Let You Leave. Here’s a Way Out David Mills, the internet's Father Time, dies at 85 -

Creator of the Network Time Protocol that holds the internet together

Characters like David help to keep totalitarians in power and create level playing fields  …

ENCRYPTION: How a 27-year-old busted the myth of Bitcoin’s anonymity.

What part of “distributed ledger” sounds like anonymity?

ExUrbe  : “Was it a government action, or did they do it themselves because of pressure?” This is inevitably among our first questions when news breaks that any expressive work (a book, film, news story, blog post etc.) has been censored or suppressed by the company or group trusted with it (a publisher, a film studio, a newspaper, an awards organization etc.) …

But since I am a scholar in the middle of writing a book about patterns in the history of how censorship operates, I want to put at the service of those thinking about the situation this zoomed-out portrait of a few important features of how censorship tends to work, drawn from my examination of examples from dozens of countries and over many centuries. The conclusions here are helpful for understanding this situation, but equally applicable to thinking about when school libraries bow to book ban pressures, how controversies impact book publishing in the USA and around the world, and historical cases: from the Inquisition, to censorious union-busting in 1950s New Zealand, to the US Comics Code Authority, to universities censoring student newspapers, etc. The first and most important principle is that we cannot and should not draw a line between state censorship and private or civilian censorship.  Many analyses of censorship start by drawing this line and analyzing state action and private action separately.  There are many problems with trying to draw such a line, but the most important is this:

The majority of censorship is self-censorship, but the majority of self-censorship is intentionally cultivated by an outside power…”

9 strategies for removing negative content from the web

Search Engine Land – “The repercussions of negative, false and defamatory content on the web are profound for businesses and individuals, especially when it ranks highly on Google. This article explores nine of the most effective and commonly used strategies for removing negative content from the web. The effectiveness of these methods can vary due to changes in laws, search engine policies and your specific situation.”

A leak-hosting site looks to thaw the chill of censorship

Columbia Journalism Review: “In November, Reuters published a special investigative feature headlined, “How an Indian startup hacked the world.” The story alleged that a hacking-for-hire firm called Appin had stolen secrets from executives, politicians, military officials, and wealthy elites around the globe. (Appin has denied this.) A few weeks later, however, the story was taken down andreplaced by an editor’s note saying that it had been “temporarily removed” following an order issued by a district court in New Delhi. The order, Reuters said, was issued amid a court case that was originally brought against the news agency a year earlier. 

Reuters said that its hacking-for-hire story was based on thousands of documents and interviews with hundreds of people, including cybersecurity firms, adding that it stood by its reporting and planned to appeal. (Reuters did not respond to a request for comment.) According to the Daily Beast and other outlets, the initial lawsuit against Reuters is part of a wider legal battlelaunched by Rajat Khare, a co-founder of Appin, and law firms including Clare Locke LLP, which boasts on its website about its track record of “killing stories” about its clients. 

The Daily Beast reported that references to Khare have been removed from a collaborative investigation between London’s Sunday Times and the nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism; a news story published in Luxembourg; and a report from the Swiss national broadcaster. Semafor reported, meanwhile, that Clare Locke sent legal threats to The New Yorker about a story on India’s hack-for-hire industry. 

(The New Yorker’s story is still online; Khare’s lawyer told Semafor that Khare “does not comment on actual or alleged legal proceedings,” but does “defend himself judicially in all relevant jurisdictions against any attacks that target him and illegitimately damage his reputation.”) Lawfare also edited an article that it had published to remove details taken from the Reuters report. 

And the Internet Archive, which had hosted a backup copy of the Reuters story, has taken it down. (The story has been replaced with the message: “this URL has been excluded from the Wayback Machine.”)”

Big Tech Won’t Let You Leave. Here’s a Way Out

Wired [read free]: “The platform is the canonical form of internet business: a two-sided market that facilitates connections between end-users and business customers. Uber connects drivers with riders; Amazon and eBay connect sellers with buyers; TikTok and YouTube connect performers with audiences; social media connects people with something to say with people who want to hear it. And yet, lax competition law has allowed companies to consolidate, cornering their markets. Consolidated sectors, meanwhile, find it easy to sing with one voice, blocking the passage of unfavorable regulation (there’s still no US national privacy law) or its enforcement (the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation shows that Ireland is even more valuable as a lawless regulation haven than it ever was as a mere tax haven). 

Undisciplined by competition or regulation, platforms are free to slide into “enshittification,” in which the company extracts value from both sides of the two-sided market, relying on lock-in to keep users and business customers from defecting to a rival. The year 2023 was when the platforms soured: Twitch, Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google Search, and Discord all spiraled into terminal enshittification, transferring value from users to shareholders, leaving behind shambling half-dead things that were disagreeable, but un-quittable. 

The secret to that un-quittability is high “switching costs”—the economists’ term for the things you have to give up to leave a service. You hate Facebook, but you love connecting with your communities, friends, and customers. They’re holding you hostage on Facebook’s behalf—and you’re holding them hostage, too. Facebook literally banks on these high switching costs: 

The US Federal Trade Commission’s antitrust case against Facebook revealed internal memos in which a product manager explicitly sets out to design features that “make switching costs very high for users” in order to make it “very tough for a user to switch” to a rival service.”

Google Search Really Has Gotten Worse, Researchers Find

404 – “Google search really has been taken over by low-quality SEO spam, according to a new, year-long study by German researchers. The researchers, from Leipzig University, Bauhaus-University Weimar, and the Center for Scalable Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence, set out to answer the question “Is Google Getting Worse?” by studying search results for 7,392 product-review terms across Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo over the course of a year.  They found that, overall, “higher-ranked pages are on average more optimized, more monetized with affiliate marketing, and they show signs of lower text quality …  we find that only a small portion of product reviews on the web uses affiliate marketing, but the majority of all search results do.”  They also found that spam sites are in a constant war with Google over the rankings, and that spam sites will regularly find ways to game the system, rise to the top of Google’s rankings, and then will be knocked down. “SEO is a constant battle and we see repeated patterns of review spam entering and leaving the results as search engines and SEO engineers take turns adjusting their parameters,” they wrote…”ExUrbe