Math Professor Alleges Google Has Disappeared His Equations

August 21, 2017

I read “One Statistics Professor Was Just Banned By Google: Here Is His Story.” The Beyond Search goose is baffled. We learned that Salil Mehta’s email and blog are no longer online. I did not that the blog was “ads free.” Hmmm. Even the Beyond Search goose does the Google ads things. We noted this statement:

Now instead of mathematics, reporters have turned to this latest circus nightmare from Google as an example of how they are compounding bad decisions on good people anywhere and at any time. Can they not differentiate me from an evil person?  Can they not see the large and reputable people and institutions that have relied on my work?  Do they have better people who can coach them on how to make decisions with much better taste and finesse?  What’s next, all CEOs and professors and politicians are going to be shut down from social media whenever it is least expected?  Overnight hi-tech lynching squads are a thing of the past.  We can’t have kangaroo courts and hope to lead with moral authority.

Image result for behave

Keep Calm Studio will sell those stressed this excellent poster. Its message is germane to the allegations.

Oh, oh. This passage suggests to me that Google is a circus. But not any circus. A circus that invokes nightmares. Yikes. Google?

The passage does call attention to one of the very tiny issues some people have with smart software. Obviously the algorithm may have a bit of a drift because it is possible for smart software to learn that sites like the Daily Stormer are 0.000001 on the Google Quality Index and quite possible have misconstrued a discussion of statistical methods as problematic. Google is doing its best to stamp out hate speech, but statistical procedures, even when informed by Big Data, can deliver off point results.

The passage suggests that Google management needs a coach. Hey, that was Eric Schmidt’s job, and he did it well. Perhaps the author is unnecessarily critical of a company which makes an engineer into the technical equivalent of Lady Gaga.

The passage also raises the question of Google’s future endeavors. I don’t like to predict what Google will do, and I have mocked those who want to tell Google what to do. If Google asks, I output. If Google does not act, I just note the activity and go back to the pond filled with mine drainage. (It looked nice in the ecliptic gloaming.

I also note the phrase “hi-tech lynching squads.” This word choice will probably cause some types of analytic software to spit out an alert. (Maybe misspelling “high” will slip through the filter. Software, even Google’s, may have some idiosyncrasies.

As the write up moved to its conclusion, I circled in anguished ocher this paragraph:

We are going to be looking back on this time in Google’s history and those of other social media and know that they have done some very immoral and confusing things, and it has hurt their public reputation with decent people who wanted to grow into the next future with them.

I am not too keen on saying that the GOOG has done “immoral and confusing actions.” Here in Harrod’s Creek we are eagerly awaiting our Google Fiber T shirt with the message “Make the Internet More Googley.”

We don’t have any suggestions for rectifying the issue. If the author were a member of law enforcement or an intelligence professional, we can provide a “clean,” “untraceable” identity. But the person whose content disappeared is a professor, and I don’t provide untraceable identities to individuals who are disappeared.

May I suggest a new career? Microsoft Bing / LinkedIn may welcome the posts and the résumé?

Oh, the Daily Stormer is available on the Dark Web. My hunch is that not too many statisticians with disappeared content are into the Dot Onion thing.

Remember. The Beyond Search team is on board with the Google. We also try to stay on the search train if you get my drift because we don’t write articles that make Google look like the people from my high school’s machine shop class.

Stephen E Arnold, August 21, 2017

Google: Recycling and Me Too-ing

July 20, 2017

Quite a week for the Google. The company’s Glass product is now positioned as a tool for the world of the enterprise, not the world of the low cost Snap glasses. Snap glasses are available on Amazon for $129.

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Google informs me that “We’ve all been busy.” Nah, I have not been busy no matter what Google asserts.

Someday I will recount some of the information I collected when Google Glass was a fashion thing, a home wrecker, and a mechanism for destabilizing a Silicon Valley whiz kid. But not now, not in this post about recycling and me too-ing.

The recycle part is wrapped, is it not? Google Glass is back as an non-fashion statement. Recycling is good. Newspapers, plastic bottles, and heads up displays which work until the battery dies or the online connection is lost.

Now the me too-ing.

I read “Google Formally Announces Hire, Its LinkedIn Competitor.” That pretty much tells the story. LinkedIn, the job hunting and self promoting engine loved by many folks who want to be in the top one percent, is part of Microsoft. Google wants to be the 21st century Microsoft in order to do something other than sell online ads, finds the job hunting and self promotion sector promising. Well, maybe it will annoy Microsoft and take a bite out of that company’s efforts to be more than a vendor of apps and laptops covered in synthetic fabric.

The idea, as I understand the write up’s version, is:

Google has formally introduced Hire, a recruiting app for small- and medium-sized businesses, which also integrates seamlessly with G Suite…Google has announced Hire, an app that provides a recruiting platform aimed towards US businesses with under 1,000 employees. Hire makes it easier for companies to find suitable candidates for jobs, and manage the interview process efficiently. The app is further aided by seamless integration with Google’s G Suite, which over three million businesses use.

The service looks like “LinkedIn Light” from my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek. But what’s interesting to me is that Google has a dossier invention which creates profiles of people from disparate sources of information. If my memory is working this morning, the example I learned about takes items from multiple databases and assembles a profile. The case example was a snapshot of Michael Jackson. The report was a dossier which included aliases like “Jocko”, pop culture effluvia, and some substantive stuff like location. The presentation seemed quite similar to what is called a bubble gum card in certain circles.

If Google keeps wood behind this project, perhaps the dossier type function will become available. That would be more useful to me than a self promotion profile on LinkedIn. For now, Google seems content to do the me too thing in order to nibble away at Microsoft’s multi billion bet on a social media platform for “professionals,” whatever that term means. Is it possible Google wants to remind the Microsofties that the GOOG wishes to see the company fade into the sunset or buy ads on Google to promote its fabric covered laptop?

I am okay with “LinkedIn Light” because it has a bit of a kick unlike low cal me too alternatives. Google’s innovation balloons may not be able to take off.

Stephen E Arnold, July 20, 2017

Stephen E Arnold,

Google: Making Search Better. But What Does Better Mean?

July 17, 2017

I read a darned interesting (no, not remarkable, just interesting) article called “The Google Exec in Charge of Designing Search: ‘There’s Always This Internal Debate about How Much Functionality Should We Add‘”. At first, I thought this was an Onion write up, but I was wrong. The article is a serious expression of the “real” Google. Now the “old” and now “unreal” Google is not applicable. That’s why I thought the write up was like the content I present in HonkinNews.

Here are the points I noted:

First, the write up points out that Google’s core business is its search engine. This surprised me because I thought the firm’s core business was selling ads. I know the “search” system is the honey which attracts the bees (95 percent or so in Europe, for example), but the “search” system is not about finding relevant and objective information. Sure, that happens for some queries, but for most queries, the searches are easy to cache and deliver with matching ads. Examples range from the weather to the latest in the dust ups and make ups between pop stars and starlets.

Second, the source of the write up is an “expert” in “design for search.” I am not sure what “design” means. I am old fashioned and prefer the trusty calculations of precision and recall, the stale bread of Boolean queries, and unfiltered content.

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I prefer to do my own censoring, thank you. I noted this statement:

The whole goal is to try to organize information and deliver it to you. That’s the problem we’re trying to solve. The design has to accommodate multiple people, multiple expectations, and multiple situations. When you’re looking for whatever answer you want, how do we give you the right answer in a way that you’re like ‘oh yeah, that thing?

No, the “whole goal” consists of sub goals designed to deliver the following, based on my research for the three books in my Google Trilogy (alas, no longer in print but I can provide pre publication copies for those who want to buy a set):

  1. Minimize computational demands on the query matching system via caching frequent queries, partitioning indexes to get around the federation of disparate content like Google Scholar, videos indexed in Google Video, and the gusher of stuff emanating from Google Blogs
  2. With clicks on traditional desktops falling and small screen video queries from smart software or humans (imagine!), Google has to find a way to make ads out of everything. Thus, the need to keep revenue ticking upwards while driving costs down becomes a fairly significant sub goal. Some, like myself, say, “Hey, that’s the actual goal.” Others who enjoy watching billions flood into solving death, keeping Glass alive, and building a new puffy office part would disagree. That’s okay. I think I am right.
  3. Maintain the PR and marketing offensive that makes Google the innovation leader in finding information. The methods involve generating mumbo jumbo that disconnects precision and recall from what Google generates: Results that are often off point or some type of content marketing. (I know content marketing works because the Wall Street Journal told me it does. I assume that’s why Google pays some people to write really rah rah articles about Google. As I said in this week’s HonkinNews, “One must be able to tell the difference between a saint who helps people and a billionaire who rides flying car things.)

The write up identifies the experience “things” which Google is incorporating into its search results. Some of these are content objects like tweets. Others are pages which look like mini reports which cobble together “facts” to make it easy for a person to “know” the answer to the question he, she, or a software module had not yet asked. (Predictive results are part of the pervasive search movement in which Google wants to be a player who gets the biggest payday and the most media love.)

I noted this statement which is worthy of one of the New Age types I bumped into when I lived in Berkeley:

When asked if there are any similarities between the design for Search and the design for Google’s new offices in Mountain View and London, Ouilhet pointed to the fact that both are becoming “more open and more flexible.” He said they were also both becoming more “inclusive between people that belong to Google and people that don’t belong to Google.”

Net net: Google has yet to find Act 2 to its Yahoo/Overture/GoTo inspired business model. Setting up more VC operations, incubators, and buying companies in easy to reach places like Bengaluru, Karnataka, and smart software offices in cheery Edmonton, Alberta are not yet delivering on Act 2. If the European Union has anything to say about Google’s search business, we will have to wait for more action from that Google watcher Margrethe Vestager.

Stephen E Arnold, July 17, 2017

PS. For information about the Google Trilogy, write benkent2020 at yahoo dot com and put Google Trilogy in the Subject field.

Bros Say They Are Sorry: Search Bros Exempted, Of Course

July 5, 2017

The bro-haha over Silicon Valley type males getting frisky are everywhere. Quite a surprise. Who would have thought that testosterone charged MBAs would take a proprietary approach to their interactions with people?

But where are the entrepreneurs who created the wild and wonderful world of search-and-retrieval thrills and chills. The only company which I recall as slightly frisky are the late and much missed outfits. Will I name them? No, gentle reader, alas. I am retired, and I am happy with my present status in life; to wit, a wooden shack in rural Kentucky.

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The right shoes help make the “right” impression and allow a quick sprint if warranted.

I am happy to read blog posts from Uber expatriates, the revelations of the New York Times (an outfit which managed to overlook this “story” for decades), and the me culpa from former venture capitalists. Want sources? you ask. Well, here are a few to peruse:

  1. I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry.
  2. Reflecting On One Very, Very Strange Year At Uber
  3. Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment

Are there other signs of “bro” culture? Sure, I have a handful in my memory bank. Some examples:

  1. The idea that one does not ask for permission. One just apologizes and moves on. Guess which company uses this method: [a] Amazon, [b] Facebook, [c] Google. [d] Palantir Technologies
  2. The idea that one can do end runs around established procurement procedures: [a] Amazon, [b] Facebook, [c] Google. [d] Palantir Technologies
  3. The idea that one can take a database management system and pitch it as a slicing and dicing machine which can “create” content from old information: [a] Hadoop, [b] IBM. [c] MarkLogic. [d] Oracle,  [e] two of the previous choices
  4. The idea that customers and licensees are stupid: [a] Every company located between San Francisco and Fremont, [b] anyone not working at a company in Silicon Valley, [c] anyone not working for one of the big name companies located in Mountain View, [d] anyone older than 25
  5. The idea that laws and ethical behavior are for “other people”: [a] Anyone with a degree from Stanford, CMU, or MIT with an MBA, [b] Anyone with a degree from Stanford, CMU, or MIT with a law degree, [c] A person referred by a senior executive who has passed the “unwritten test” for certified, organic brain power, [d] your roommate.

Harrod’s Creek is also a hot bed of corruption, but our deals usually involve moonshine, questionable real estate deals, and the provision of lap dancers for athletes. I am encouraged. Silicon Valley has much to teach us here in rural Kentucky.

Stephen E Arnold, July 5, 2017

Palantir Technologies: The Buzzfeed Beat

July 3, 2017

I read “There’s a Fight Brewing between the NYPD and Silicon Valley’s Palantir.” Two points about this story. Palantir Technologies, a vendor profiled in my CyberOSINT and Dark Web Notebook reports is probably going to keep its eye on the real journalistic outfit Buzzfeed. I don’t know much about “real” journalism, but my hunch is that if Palantir’s stakeholders find the Buzzfeed write up coverage interesting, some of those folks might spill their Philz coffee.

The other point is that the New York Police Department may find questions about its contractual dealings a bit of distraction from the quotidian tasks the force faces each day. I would not characterize “real” journalists asking questions “annoying,” but I would hazard the phrase “time consuming” or the word “distracting.”

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“You want me to believe that?” asks Max, a skeptical show dog who knows that some owners will do anything to win.

The point of the “Fight Brewing” write up strikes me as a story designed to suggest that Palantir Technologies may be showing some signs of stress. When I read the story, I thought of the news which swirled around some of the defunct enterprise search companies when one of their client engagements went south. Vendors hit with these situations can do little but ride out the storm.

Hey, enterprise search was routinely oversold. When a system was up and running, the results were usually similar to the results generated by the previous “solution to all your information problems.” The search engineers who coded the systems knew that overpromising and under delivering were highly probable once the on switch was flipped. But the sales professional were going to say what was necessary to close the deal. In fact, most of the fancy promises about an enterprise search system set the company up for failure.

Is that what’s going on in the NYPD-Palantir “showdown”? To wit:

Palantir explained the system’s functions and outputs. The NYPD signed on. Then when the system was installed, additional work was needed to make the Palantir system meet the expectations set by the Palantir sales engineers.

The “Fight Brewing” story says:

The NYPD quietly began work last summer on its replacement data system, and in February it announced internally that it would cancel its Palantir contract and switch to the new system by the beginning of July, according to three people familiar with the matter. The new system, named Cobalt, is a group of IBM products tied together with NYPD-created software. The police department believes Cobalt is cheaper and more intuitive than Palantir, and prizes the greater degree of control it has over this system.

Keep in mind that I, before I retired in 2013, had been an adviser to the original i2 Group Ltd., the company which created in my opinion the analytic and visualization method which defines modern cyber eDiscovery in the 1990s.

The notion that IBM, which now owns i2’s Analyst’s Notebook, is working hard to close deals in key Palantir accounts from what I have heard in the general store in Harrod’s Creek.

I don’t have to go much farther than my own experience to get a sense that the “fight” may be a manifestation of how the world works when it comes to making sales for systems like Palantir’s Gotham or IBM’s i2. In my work career I have seen some interesting jabs and punches thrown to close a deal.

The NYPD, like any organization, wants systems which work and represent good value. Incumbent vendors have to find a way to retain a customer. Competitors have to find a way to get a licensee of one product to switch to a different product.

I noted this statement in the “Fight Brewing” story:

Palantir has struggled to expand its work with the police force, the emails show. As of March and April 2015, Palantir had had “little exposure to the top brass,” and although it wanted to add more business, “the door there clearly still remains closed given the larger political environment,” staffers wrote in emails. A staffer at one point invoked a phrase popularized by Thiel, author of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, saying that Palantir still needed to get “from 0->1 at NYPD.”

Now how many police forces in the US can afford a comprehensive cyber eDiscovery system like Palantir Gotham or IBM Analyst’s Notebook? This is an important point because the number of potential customers is quite small. For example, after NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, and maybe three or four other cities, the sales professional runs out of viable prospects. How many counties can foot the bill for the software, the consultants, and the people required to tag and analyze the data? The number is modest. How many US states can afford the investment in high end cyber eDiscovery software? Again, the number is small, and you can count out Illinois because getting bills paid is an interesting challenge. The same market size problem exists for US government entities.

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Bitext and MarkLogic Join in a Strategic Partnership

June 13, 2017

Strategic partnerships are one of the best ways for companies to grow and diamond in the rough company Bitext has formed a brilliant one. According to a recent press release, “Bitext Announces Technology Partnership With MarkLogic, Bringing Leading-Edge Text Analysis To The Database Industry.” Bitext has enjoyed a number of key license deals. The company’s ability to process multi-lingual content with its deep linguistics analysis platform reduces costs and increases the speed with which machine learning systems can deliver more accurate results.

bitext logo

Both Bitext and MarkLogic are helping enterprise companies drive better outcomes and create better customer experiences. By combining their respectful technologies, the pair hopes to reduce data’s text ambiguity and produce high quality data assets for semantic search, chatbots, and machine learning systems. Bitext’s CEO and founder said:

““With Bitext’s breakthrough technology built-in, MarkLogic 9 can index and search massive volumes of multi-language data accurately and efficiently while maintaining the highest level of data availability and security. Our leading-edge text analysis technology helps MarkLogic 9 customers to reveal business-critical relationships between data,” said Dr. Antonio Valderrabanos.

Bitext is capable of conquering the most difficult language problems and creating solutions for consumer engagement, training, and sentiment analysis. Bitext’s flagship product is its Deep Linguistics Analysis Platform and Kantar, GFK, Intel, and Accenture favor it. MarkLogic used to be one of Bitext’s clients, but now they are partners and are bound to invent even more breakthrough technology. Bitext takes another step to cement its role as the operating system for machine intelligence.

Whitney Grace, June 13, 2017

Verizon: The Spirit of Yahoot

June 9, 2017

I surmised from “Confirmed: Verizon Will Cut ~15% of AOL-Yahoo Staff after Merger Closes” that the spirit of Yahoot will live. At least for a while.

Here’s the passage I highlighted in Yahoot purple:

The proportion of jobs being made redundant across AOL and Yahoo is around 15 percent globally, we have confirmed with our sources. This shakes out to as many as 2,100 jobs being lost as part of the corporate merger.

With a price tag close to $5 billion, the new top dogs for Yahoot will have to shake a leg to:

  • Get their money back
  • Generate new, sustainable revenues as mobile search grows beyond 60 percent of search traffic
  • Innovate in ways that open new revenue streams which are themselves profitable.

Yahoot is Oath with a colon.

How does one search for “Oath with a color”? Wonky names can pose some challenges for the New Age search and retrieval systems.

My query for Oath with a colon on Yandex.ru returned these results:

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I then tried the same query on that popular service Izito and got these results:

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My conclusion: When creating a name, it is a good idea to consider how that name is processed by online search systems.

Oath with a colon is likely to generate some results which will leave Yahoot customers wondering what’s where.

Yep, one Yandex.ru link points to a dictionary and the definition does not mention Verizon. Why would it? And the Izito number one hit reminds me that Oath is the acronym for the State of New York’s Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings.

Yahoot! I suppose I should think of Yahoot as Oath with a colon. Love those cute names I do.

Stephen E Arnold, June 9, 2017

The WSJ Click Crater

June 7, 2017

Big name, old school publishers share a trait. These folks perceive themselves as a traffic magnets. I have been in meetings in which the shared understanding was that a publisher’s “brand” would sustain a flow of a digital revenue.

Again and again the “brand” fallacy proves itself. Examples range from the original New York Times’ online service (hello, Jeff Pemberton) to the Wall Street Journal’s early attempt to make its content available in a sort of wonky online interface decades ago (hello, Richard Levine?).

I just read “WSJ Ends Google Users’ Free Ride, Then Fades in Search Results.” The main point: The brand magnet is weak. Without the Google attracting eye balls and routing traffic to the Murdoch “blue chip”, the WSJ has found itself in a click crater.

What’s the fix?

Well, dear WSJ, the answer is to buy Adwords. Yep, the WSJ has to fork over big money per month to get the traffic up. Then the WSJ has to figure out how to monetize that traffic.

That’s not easy.

I subscribe to the dead tree edition of the newspaper. The digital version is allegedly available to me as part of my subscription. I don’t bother. The WSJ is not able to provide me with an email and a temporary password so i can enter data from the newspaper’s mailing label into the WSJ online system. Nah, I have to phone the WSJ. Go through a crazy process and I don’t want to do this. I am okay with a magic marker and a pair of scissors.

I learned from the Bloomberg write up:

Executives at the Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., argue that Google’s policy is unfairly punishing them for trying to attract more digital subscribers. They want Google to treat their articles equally in search rankings, despite being behind a paywall.

Right, click crater.

Bad Google. Baloney.

Publishers fumbled their digits. Don’t believe me? Chase down someone involved in the early versions of the Times Online or the Dow Jones News Service.

These did not work.

Why?

A newspaper is one thing. Online information is another.

Bad Google. Wrong. Publishers with horse blinders can find their way to the stable. Anything else is tough.

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2017

Antidot: Fluid Topics

June 5, 2017

I find French innovators creative. Over the years I have found the visualizations of DATOPS, the architecture of Exalead, the wonkiness of Kartoo, the intriguing Semio, and the numerous attempts to federate data and work flow like digital librarians and subject matter experts. The Descartes- and Femat-inspired engineers created software and systems which try to trim the pointy end off many information thorns.

I read “Antidot Enables ‘Interactive’ Tech Docs That Are Easier To Publish, More Relevant To Users – and Actually Get Read.” Antidot, for those not familiar with the company, was founded in 1999. Today the company bills itself as a specialist in semantic search and content classification. The search system is named Taruqa, and the classification component is called “Classifier.”

The Fluid Topics product combines a number of content processing functions in a workflow designed to provide authorized users with the right information at the right time.

According to the write up:

Antidot has updated its document delivery platform with new features aimed at making it easier to create user-friendly interactive docs.  Docs are created and consumed thanks to a combination of semantic search, content enrichment, automatic content tagging and more.

The phrase “content enrichment” suggests to me that multiple indexing and metadata identification subroutines crunch on text. The idea is that a query can be expanded, tap into entity extraction, and make use of text analytics to identify documents which keyword matching would overlook.

The Fluid Topic angle is that documentation and other types of enterprise information can be indexed and matched to a user’s profile or to a user’s query. The result is that the needed document is findable.

The slicing and dicing of processed content makes it possible for the system to assemble snippets or complete documents into an “interactive document.” The idea is that most workers today are not too thrilled to get a results list and the job of opening, scanning, extracting, and closing links. The Easter egg hunt approach to finding business information is less entertaining than looking at Snapchat images or checking what’s new with pals on Facebook.

The write up states:

Users can read, search, navigate, annotate, create alerts, send feedback to writers, with a rich and intuitive user experience.

I noted this list of benefits fro the Fluid Topics’ approach:

  • Quick, easy access to the right information at the right time, making searching for technical product knowledge really efficient.
  • Combine and transform technical content into relevant, useful information by slicing and dicing data from virtually any source to create a unified knowledge hub.
  • Freedom for any user to tailor documentation and provide useful feedback to writers.
  • Knowledge of how documentation is actually used.

Applications include:

  • Casual publishing which means a user can create a “personal” book of content and share them.
  • Content organization which organizes the often chaotic and scattered source information
  • Markdown which means formatting information in a consistent way.

Fluid Topics is a hybrid which combines automatic indexing and metadata extraction, search, and publishing.

More information about Fluid Topics is available at a separate Antidot Web site called “Fluid Topics.” The company provides a video which explains how you can transform your world when you tackle search, customer support, and content federation and repurposing. Fluid Topics also performs text analytics for the “age of limitless technical content delivery.”

Hewlett Packard invested significantly in workflow based content management technology. MarkLogic’s XML data management system can be tweaked to perform similar functions. Dozens of other companies offer content workflow solutions. The sector is active, but sales cycles are lengthy. Crafty millennials can make Slack perform some content tricks as well. Those on a tight budget might find that Google’s hit and miss services are good enough for many content operations. For those in love with SharePoint, even that remarkable collection of fragmented services, APIs, and software can deliver good enough solutions.

I think it is worth watching how Antidot’s Fluid Topics performs in what strikes me as a crowded, volatile market for content federation and information workflow.

Stephen E Arnold, June 5, 2017

About That Freedom of Speech Thing

May 26, 2017

I read “G7 Summit: Theresa May to Ask World Leaders to Launch Internet Crackdown after Manchester Attack.” The Internet means online to me. Crackdowns trigger thoughts of filtering, graph analysis, and the interesting challenge of explaining why someone looked up an item of information.

The write up interpreted “online” as social media, which is interesting. Here’s a passage I highlighted:

The prime minister will ask governments to unite to regulate what tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter allow to be posted on their networks. By doing so, she will force them to remove “harmful” extremist content, she will suggest to G7 members at a meeting in Italy.

The named companies have been struggling to filter inappropriate content. On a practical level, certain inappropriate content may generate ad revenue. Losing ad revenue is not a popular notion in some of these identified companies.

The companies have also been doing some thinking about their role. Are these outfits supposed to be “responsible” for what their users and advertisers post? If the identified companies are indeed “responsible,” how will the mantle of responsibility hang on the frames of Wild West outfits in Silicon Valley. The phrase “It is easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission” is a pithy way of summing up some Silicon Valley action plans.

The write up enumerates the general types of digital information available on “the Internet.” I noted this statement:

She [Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister] will also call for industry guidelines to be revised by the tech companies to make absolutely clear what constitutes harmful material, with those that fail to do so being held to account.

The impact of Ms. May’s suggestion may create some interesting challenges for the companies facilitating the flow of real time information. Will Silicon Valley companies which often perceive themselves as more important than nation states will respond in a manner congruent with Ms. May’s ideas?

My thought is that “responsibility” will be a moving target. What’s more important? Advertising revenue or getting bogged down in figuring out which item of information is okay and which is not?

At this moment, it looks to me as if revenue and self interest might be more important than broader political considerations. That Maslow’s hierarchy of need takes on a special significance when Silicon Valley constructs consider prioritize their behaviors.

What happens if I run an online query for “Silicon Valley” and “content filtering”? Bing wants me to personalize my results based on my interests and for me to save “things for later.” I decline and get this output:

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I particularly liked the reference to Silicon Valley sending “its ambassador” to Appalachia. Sorry, Ms. May, my query does not encourage my thinking about your idea for responsible censorship.

Google displays an ad for social media monitoring performed by GFI Software in Malta. I am also directed to hits which do not relate to Ms. May’s ideas.

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Google interprets the query as one related to third party software which blocks content. That’s closer to what Ms. May is suggesting.

Neither search giant points to itself as involved in this content filtering activity.

That tells me that Ms. May’s idea may be easy to articulate but a bit more difficult to insert into the Wild West of capitalistic constructs.

Digital information is a slippery beastie composed of zeros and ones, used by billions of people who don’t agree about what’s okay and what’s not okay, and operated by folks who may see themselves as knowing better than elected officials.

Interesting stuff.

Stephen E Arnold, May 26, 2017

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