Dumpster Fire Has Been Replaced

February 20, 2022

Hats off to jkhendrickson for creating a useful way to describe an intentionally flawed system. The phrase lurks within one of case examples of an interesting Google YouTube enforcement action.

Here’s the phrase:

the byzantine garbage fire

The phrase begs for an acronym, which are loved by millennials, GenXers, and the military; therefore, we have:


What caused the BGF. Nothing much. Google YouTube unilaterally decided to delete videos.

Hey, free means outfits can do what they want when they want.



The “b” means byzantine garbage fire.

Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2022

Who Is the Bigger Disruptor: A Twitch Streamer or a Ring Announcer?

February 17, 2022

People can agree on is that there is a lot of misinformation surrounding COVID-19. What is considered “misinformation” depends on an individuals’ beliefs. The facts remains, however, that COVID-19 is real, vaccines do not contain GPS chips, and the pandemic has been one big pain. Whenever it is declared we are in a post-pandemic world, misinformation will be regarded as one of the biggest fallouts with an on-going ripple effect.

The Verge explores how one controversial misinformation spreader will be discussed about for years to come: “The Joe Rogan Controversy Is What Happens When You Put Podcasts Behind A Wall.” Misinformation supporters, among them conspiracy theorists, used to be self-contained in their own corner of the globe, but they erupted out of their crazy zone like Vesuvius engulfing Pompeii. Rogan’s faux pas caused Spotify podcast show to remove over seventy episodes of his show or deplatform him.

Other podcast platforms celebrated the demise of a popular Spotify show and attempted to sell more subscriptions for their own content. These platforms should not be celebrating, though. Spotify owned Rogan’s show and his controversy has effectively ruined the platform, but it could happen at any time to Spotify’s rivals. Rogan is not the only loose cannon with a podcast and it does not take much for anything to be considered offensive, then canceled. The rival platforms might be raking in more dollars right now, but:

“We’re moving away from a world in which a podcast player functions as a search engine and toward one in which they act as creators and publishers of that content. This means more backlash and room for questions like: why are you paying Rogan $100 million to distribute what many consider to be harmful information? Fair questions!

This is the cost of high-profile deals and attempts to expand podcasting’s revenue. Both creators and platforms are implicated in whatever content’s distributed, hosted, and sold, and both need to think clearly about how they’ll handle inevitable controversy.”

There is probably an argument about the right to Freedom of Speech throughout this controversy, but there is also the need to protect people from harm. It is one large, gray zone with only a tight rope to walk across it.

So Amouranth or Mr. Rogan? Jury’s out.

Whitney Grace, January 17, 2022

The Metazuck Shuts Down Iranian Accounts Posing as Scottish Nationalists

February 17, 2022

Here we have an all-too-rare case of Facebook (Meta) taking action against imposter accounts. Yahoo Finance reports, “Facebook Takes Down Fake Iranian Accounts that Posed as Scottish Locals.” The network in question, however, had not been particularly effective at influencing its target audience. Though the eight Facebook and 126 Instagram accounts had 77,000 followers between them, the most popular one only garnered 4,000 followers, and only half of those were actually located in the UK. We suppose even small victories can be used for PR purposes.

We are told the fake Scots were firm supporters of Scottish independence and critical of the UK government. The creators of these false accounts may have expected more bang for their rial, for they put in an unusual amount of effort to make them seem real. Reporter Karissa Bell writes:

“In a call with reporters, Facebook’s Global IO Threat Intelligence Lead, Ben Nimmo, said that it’s not the first time the company has caught Iran-linked fake accounts targeting Scotland, but that the latest network stood out for its ‘artisanal’ approach to the fake personas. ‘What was unique about this case was the effort that the operators took to make their fakes look like real people,’ Nimmo said. He noted the accounts spent considerable time posting about their ‘side interests,’ like football, in an attempt to boost their credibility. Some of the accounts also lifted profile photos from real celebrities or media personalities, and regularly updated the images in order to appear more real. Other accounts used fake photos generated by AI programs.”

That is a lot of effort to foment a bit of unrest in a corner of the UK. We wonder what else these imposters are up to and what they have planned for the future.

Cynthia Murrell, February 17, 2021

School Book Bans Are on the Rise

February 16, 2022

If one thought we had progressed beyond censorship in this country, one should think again.

History is cyclical, after all. Axios reports, “Book Bans Are Back in Style.” Writer Russell Contreras informs us:

“School districts from Pennsylvania to Wyoming are bowing to pressure from some conservative groups to review — then purge from public school libraries — books about LGBTQ issues and people of color. … ‘I’ve worked for this office for 20 years, and we’ve never had this volume of challenges come in such a short time,’ Deborah Caldwell-Stone, director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, told Axios. ‘In my former district, we might have one big challenge like every two years,’ Carolyn Foote, a retired Texas librarian of 29 years, told Axios. ‘I have to say that what we’re seeing is really unprecedented.’”

So it has gotten even worse than it was three decades ago. Would that be more of an ellipse than a circle? A cone? Perhaps a slippery slope. See the article for some of the banned titles, most having to do with racism and sexuality, as well as the thought police’s excuses, er, reasoning. It should be noted that conservatives, while firmly in the lead, are not the only ones trying to suppress the written word. Less often, progressives have called for older books with content like racial epithets and the “white savior” trope to be pulled from syllabuses and shelves. We learn:

“Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and John Steinbeck’s ‘Of Mice and Men regularly appeared on the American Library Association’s annual list of banned books. The ALA’s Caldwell-Stone says such challenges are sporadic and nothing compared to the current conservative-backed efforts.”

Gee, if only there were someone to provide students context around the literature they are assigned. An educated, more experienced human available in every classroom to provide guidance. Hmmm.

Cynthia Murrell, February 16, 2022

Israeli Law Targets Palestinian Content Online

February 11, 2022

A piece of legislation that was too heavy-handed for even former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is now being revived. On his Politics for the People blog, journalist Ramzy Baroud tells us “How Israel’s ‘Facebook Law’ Plans to Control All Palestinian Content Online.” The law, introduced by now-justice minister and deputy prime minister Gideon Sa’ar, would allow courts to order the removal of content they consider inflammatory or a threat to security. Given how much Palestinian content is already removed as a matter of course, one might wonder why Sa’ar would even bother with the legislation. Baroud writes:

“According to a December 30 statement by the Palestinian Digital Rights Coalition (PDRC) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), Israeli censorship of Palestinian content online has deepened since 2016, when Sa’ar’s bill was first introduced. In their statement, the two organizations highlighted the fact that Israel’s so-called Cyber Unit had submitted 2,421 requests to social media companies to delete Palestinian content in 2016. That number has grown exponentially since, to the extent that the Cyber Unit alone has requested the removal of more than 20,000 Palestinian items. PDRC and PHROC suggest that the new legislation, which was already approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on December 27, ‘would only strengthen the relationship between the Cyber Unit and social media companies.’ Unfortunately, that relationship is already strong, at least with Facebook, which routinely censors Palestinian content and has been heavily criticized by Human Rights Watch and other organizations.”

This censorship by Facebook is codified in an agreement the company made with Israel in 2016. This law, however, goes well beyond Facebook. We also learn:

“According to a Haaretz editorial published on December 29, the impact of this particular bill is far-reaching, as it will grant District Court judges throughout the country the power to remove posts, not only from Facebook and other social media outlets, ‘but from any website at all’.”

The write-up rightly positions this initiative as part of the country’s ramped-up efforts against the Palestinians. But we wonder—will this law really only mean the wanton removal of Palestinian content? If history is any indication, probably not. Baroud reminds us that measures Israel originally applied to that population, like facial recognition tech and Pegasus spyware, have found their way into widespread use. One cannot expect this one to be any different.

Cynthia Murrell, February 11, 2022

Government Content Removal Requests by Country, Visualized

February 8, 2022

We often hear about countries requesting tech companies remove certain content from their online platforms, especially Russia and China. It can be difficult, though, to discern and compare which types of content is verboten in which nations. Digg paints us a picture in, “The Countries that Ask Google to Remove the Most Content, Visualized.” Reporter Adwait writes:

“The most common reason for taking down content is ‘defamation’ according to a Surfshark analysis, which six out of the top ten leaders cite as a reason. Russia has a sizable lead with the most number of takedown requests, nearly ten-times more than second-placed Turkey. … Google receives thousands of requests every year from all levels of government to remove online content. From infringement of intellectual property rights to defamation, there are a number of reasons a removal request might be submitted. But where in the world asks Google to remove content the most? Historically, Russia is by far the most prolific content removal requester, submitting 123,606 requests in total over the past ten years. Turkey is next up with 14,231 requests which, although the second-highest figure, seems mere in comparison.”

Such a visual aid is a good idea, but it would be even better if it were well executed. Sadly, this illustration features ribbon graphs in muted colors with no numbers. Readers may want to navigate instead to the Surfshark User Data Surveillance Report from which this graphic was made. It includes several informative graphs, all of which contain easily discernable colors and actual numbers. It also includes data on request made of Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple as well as Google. The cybersecurity firm behind the report, Surfshark, was founded in 2018 and is based in Tórtola, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain.

Cynthia Murrell, January 8, 2021

Useful Concept: Algorithmic Censorship

January 28, 2022

This year I will be 78. Exciting. I create blog posts because it makes life in the warehouse for the soon-to-be-dead bustle along. That’s why it is difficult for me to get too excited about the quite insightful essay called “Censorship By Algorithm Does Far More Damage Than Conventional Censorship.”

Here’s the paragraph I found particularly important:

… far more consequential than overt censorship of individuals is censorship by algorithm. No individual being silenced does as much real-world damage to free expression and free thought as the way ideas and information which aren’t authorized by the powerful are being actively hidden from public view, while material which serves the interests of the powerful is the first thing they see in their search results. It ensures that public consciousness remains chained to the establishment narrative matrix.

I would like to add several observations:

  1. There is little regulatory or business incentive to exert the mental effort necessary to work through content controls on the modern datasphere in the US and Western Europe. Some countries have figured it out and are taking steps to use the flows of information to create a shaped information payload
  2. The failure to curtail the actions of a certain high technology companies illustrates a failure in decision making. Examples range from information warfare for purposes of money or ideology allowed to operate unchecked to the inability of government officials to respond to train robberies in California
  3. The censorship by algorithm approach is new and difficult to understand in social and economic contexts. As a result, biases will be baked in because initial conditions evolve automatically and it takes a great deal of work to figure out what is happening. Disintegrative deplatforming is not a concept most people find useful.

What’s the outlook? For me, no big deal. For many, digital constructs. What’s real? The clanking of the wheelchair in the next room. For some, cluelessness or finding a life in the world of zeros and ones.

Stephen E Arnold, January 28, 2022

2022 Adds More Banished Words To The Lexicon

January 27, 2022

Every year since 1976 the Lake Superior State University located in Michigan compiles a list of banished words to protect and uphold standards in language. The New Zealand Herald examines the list in the article, “Banished Word List For 2022 Takes Aim At Some Kiwi Favorites.” New Zealanders should be upset, because their favorite phases “No worries” made the list.

Many of the words that made the list were due to overuse. In 2020, COVID related terms were high on the list. For 2021, colloquial phrases were criticized. Banned word nominations came from the US, Australia, Canada, Scotland, England, Belgium, and Norway.

“ ‘Most people speak through informal discourse. Most people shouldn’t misspeak through informal discourse. That’s the distinction nominators far and wide made, and our judges agreed with them,’ the university’s executive director of marketing and communications Peter Szatmary said.

LSSU president Dr Rodney Hanley said every year submitters suggested what words and terms to banish by paying close attention to what humanity utters and writes. ‘Taking a deep dive at the end of the day and then circling back make perfect sense. Wait, what?’ he joked.”

Words that made the list were: supply chain, you’re on mute, new normal, deep dive, circle back, asking for a friend, that being said, at the end of the day, no worries, and wait, what?

Whitney Grace January 27, 2022

Amazon Twitch Vs Star Amouranth

January 17, 2022

The stars of new media are creating a new twist on the Hollywood studio moguls fight to control the stars of the silver screen. Class Struggle in Hollywood, 1930-1950: Moguls, Mobsters, Stars, Reds, and Trade Unionists documents some of the power struggles. Yep, you can buy it from Amazon, the outfit which is one of moguls, mobsters, stars, reds, and trade unionists-type protagonists in the study by Gerald Horne.

The modern social media spin is that Amazon Twitch finds itself in an uncomfortable old school Hollywood moment. Its “audience” is manufacturing or spawning “stars.” Unlike the digitally inhibited book publishers, Amazon Twitch is now finding it more difficult to corral and manage the streamers. These individuals with fame blasting into orbit with unique insights and talent allow Amazon Twitch to sell ads. And those ads? Pre rolls demand attention before one knows if the Twitch creator is online, doing the BRB (be right back) pause, or just leaving the inflatable pool naked in the digital stream. The ad produces revenue and the person wanting to form a digital bond with the star gets annoyed. Even Amouranth haters have to endure ads in order to post angry emojis and often hostile comments in the starlet’s live stream.

Amouranth Calls for Twitch to Start Revealing Ban Reasons for Streamers” includes some interesting observations and statements, some attributed to the social media starlet Kaitlyn Siragusa aka Amouranth. (One of her talent is creating video hooks like chewing on a microphone whilst breathing and donning a swim suit and splashing in an inflatable kiddie pool. She is also pretty good at getting media attention and free publicity. Plus she allegedly owns a convenience store. Did you, gentle reader, when you were 29 years old?)

The write up includes this statement:

Amouranth has called for that to change, and soon ?— according to the Amazon platform’s top female streamer, Twitch must change their tune, start being clearer when it comes to explaining bans for suspended stars, and finally “accept accountability” for the site’s rules.

She is quoted in the write up as saying:

“They [Amazon Twitch] do it because they don’t want the accountability of telling you what you did wrong. They don’t want to be in charge of upholding their own policies.”

Before you scoff at her talent, consider the allegation: A large technology outfit which is believed by some to be a monopoly type operation wants the money, wants the control, and does not want to upfront about who gets punished and who does not.

If the assertion is accurate, the social media star’s “situation” could become a flywheel and bump into the flywheel inside the Amazon money machine. Think in terms of one Tour de France racer bumping into another racer’s machine.


Amouranth is a human, and the products which Amazon offers are not. Amazon’s services are not people to the bits and bytes either. But Amouranth, the talent, is a human, and the human can create some waves. In a phone chat with one of my research team, we identified these momentum enhancers:

  1. Amouranth can claim discrimination and take her objection to a legal eagle or — heaven help the US government — one of the committees investigating the behavior of the largely unfettered tech giants. Wow, Amouranth testifying and then doing the talking head circuit.
  2. Amouranth can enlist the support of other individuals who have allegedly been digitally and financial abused by the high school science club management methods in use at some of the other high-tech, “we do what we want” outfits. Are there unhappy YouTubers out there who would respond to a call for action from a fellow traveler.
  3. An outfit struggling for traction — maybe a BitBucket like set up? — could make a play for these stars and use their followers to kick a video streaming service into gear? What happens if a somewhat rudderless operation in the streaming business embraces Amouranth and pulls off a Joe Rogan-type of deal? Imagine having Amouranth on ESPN as a commentator for a sports event which pulls an audience so small it’s tough to measure? What about Amouranth on the Disney Channel? (Come on, Minnie. Join Amouranth in her inflatable pool. Let an Amazon accountant manage the money from the program’s ad revenue.)
  4. More interesting, Amouranth might become the first Twitch personality to become a social media Adam Carolla in an inflatable kiddie pool.

Net net: Amouranth may be a starlet-type problem for Amazon Twitch. If not managed in an astute manner, a disruption of considerable size could result and travel at the speed of social media. Ad hoc censorship may have a hefty price tag.

Stephen E Arnold, January 17, 2022

Easier Targets for Letter Signers: Joe Rogan and Spotify

January 13, 2022

YouTube received a missive from fact checkers exhorting the online ad giant to do more to combat misinformation. Ah, would there were enough fact checkers. YouTube, despite having lots of money, is an easier target for government regulators. Poke Googzilla in the nose or pull its charming tail, and the beast does a few legal thrashes and then outputs money. France and Russia love this beast baiting. Fact checkers? Not exactly in the same horsepower class as the country with fancy chickens or hearty Siberians wearing hats made of furry creatures.

I noted “Scientists, Doctors Call on Spotify to Implement Misinformation Policy Over Claims on Joe Rogan Show.” Spotify is not yet a Google-type of operation. Furthermore the point of concern is a person who was a paid cheerleader for that outstanding and humane sporting activity mixed martial arts. My recollection is that Mr. Rogan received some contractual inducements to provide content to the music service and cable TV wannabe. He allegedly has a nodding acquaintance with intravenous vitamin drips, creatine, and fish oil. You can purchase mugs from which one can guzzle quercetin liquid. Yum yum yum. Plus you can enjoy these Rogan-centric products wearing a Joe Rogan T shirt. (Is that a a mystic symbol or an insect on the likenesses’ forehead?)


The write up states:

More than 260 doctors, nurses, scientists, health professionals and others have signed an open letter calling on the streaming media platform Spotify to “implement a misinformation policy” in the wake of controversy over podcaster Joe Rogan’s promotion of an anti-vaccine rally with discredited scientist Robert Malone in an episode published on December 31st. Rogan has repeatedly spread vaccine misinformation and discouraged vaccine use. The December episode attracted attention in part because Dr. Malone falsely claimed millions of people were “hypnotized” to believe certain facts about COVID-19, and that people standing in line to get tested as the omicron variant has driven record new cases of the virus was an example of “mass formation psychosis,” a phenomenon that does not exist.

Impressive. The hitch in the git along is that Mr. Rogan attracts more eyeballs and listeners than some mainstream news outlets. He is an entertainer, and one might make the case that he is a comedian, pulling the leg of guests and of some listeners. I think of him as an intellectual Adam Carolla. Note that I am aware of the academic credentials of both of these stars.

The larger issue is that these letters beef up the résumé of the publicists working on these missives. Arguments and discussions in online for a whip up eddies of concern.

There are a few problems:

  1. Misinformation, disinformation, and reformation of factual data are standard functions of the human.
  2. Identifying and offering counter arguments depends upon one’s point of view.
  3. Spotify receives content and makes it available. Conduits are not as efficient in modifying what an entertainer does in near real time before the entertainer entertains.

Why not tell Spotify to drop Mr. Rogan? Money, contracts, and the still functional freedom of speech thing.

Will more letters arrive this week? My hunch is that the French, Russian, et al approach might ultimately be more pragmatic. Whom does the publicity for the control Rogan letter benefit?

Maybe Mr. Rogan?

Stephen E Arnold, January 13, 2022

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