Apple: Oh, One More Thing

October 15, 2021

I am not sure about the British Broadcasting Corporation. It’s a news maker, not just a news purveyor. Let’s assume that “Apple Takes Down Koran App in China” is on the money. The write up asserts:

Quran Majeed is available across the world on the App Store – and has nearly 150,000 reviews. However, Apple removed the app at the request of Chinese officials, for hosting illegal religious texts, the company said.

The Beeb tried its best to contact China and the iPhone outfit, saying:

Apple declined to comment, but directed the BBC to its Human Rights Policy, which states: “We’re required to comply with local laws, and at times there are complex issues about which we may disagree with governments.”

I find this interesting. If information is not available online, does it exist? If an entity removes content from an online service, how does one know that content has gone missing? Allegedly Microsoft faced a Chine moment. What did that company do? Disappeared the service. Here’s a report, but it will cost you money to read the news. (For a person without resources, is there a difference between disappearing content and services and censorship?)

That’s two more things but maybe just one at the end of a very long week in which more and more people are functioning as skilled, informed, and professional reference librarians.

Stephen E Arnold, October 15, 2021

A Compliance Hat Trick?

October 14, 2021

Apple, Google, and Microsoft have scored. I read “LinkedIn Caves Again, Blocks US Journalists’ Accounts in China.” I noted this passage:

LinkedIn — the business-oriented social media platform owned by Microsoft — has spent the last few years increasing its compliance with the Chinese government’s demands for censorship.

The write up points out that a reporter for Axios, another with-in online information service, has been disappeared.

The cited article provides links and more color for the Chinese action.

It appears that major US technology companies are complying with guidelines and regulations in the countries in which they operate.

Why?

One possible answer is revenue. Another may be a desire to avoid legal consequences for the firms’ in-country employees.

It seems reasonable to conclude that the era of the Wild West Internet is ending. Some large countries want to manage certain aspects of information and data flows.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? The answer depends on one’s point of view, where one lives, and how one generates revenue/income.

Stephen E Arnold, October 14, 2021

Google and the Russian Law: A Mismatch

October 8, 2021

I think this may have been a social visit. You know. A couple of people who wanted to snag a Google mouse pad or one of those blinking Google lapel pins. “Court Marshals Visit Google’s Moscow Office to Enforce Censorship Decision” asserts in “real” news fashion:

In the run-up to Russia’s parliamentary elections on Sept. 17-18-19, the Kremlin’s battle against online dissent brings new developments almost daily. Tech giants are not spared, with Google at the forefront earlier this week. Court marshals visited the company’s Moscow office to enforce an injunctive measure to remove the opposition-minded ‘Smart Vote’ site from search results. This online voting recommendation system was designed by the team of jailed Kremlin critic Alexey Navalny.

Yep, just a casual drop in. Fun. Censorship? I think it depends on whom one asks.

What happened? Google and Apple rolled over. I assume that digital countries understand that real countries have some powers that commercial enterprises lack?

Do you remember when Sergey Brin hoped to ride a Russian rocket into space? Not going to happen this week.

Stephen E Arnold, October 8, 2021

Internet Defreedoming: An Emerging and Surging Market Sector

October 6, 2021

Check out “The Global Drive to Control big Tech.” The information in the article and the report suggest that Internet freedom is decreasing. The write up makes this point and supports it with data and research:

In the high-stakes battle between states and technology companies, the rights of internet users have become the main casualties.

The data can be viewed from a different perspective; namely, censorship is a growth business. Products and services needed to censor content at scale are available, but these are often clunkers or complex add ins to network components which are under load and often less reliable than a used Lada.

Opportunities include:

  • Repurposed software designed for artificial intelligence operations; for example, identifying and flagging problematic content
  • Workflow software which can automate the removal, posting of flags, or once in a while notifying a person his or her content is problematic
  • Tools for locating objectionable content and triggering removal, logging the issue, and locating other instances of the “problem.”

After a decade of consistent censorship growth, opportunities abound.

Censorship appears to be a hot business segment.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2021

China and That Old Time Religion: Oil and Water?

September 22, 2021

Chairman Mao Zedong infamously said, “Religion is the opiate of the people.” Since the communist takeover in China, the country’s government has not sanctioned any religion. In short, China does not like religion at all. China does not like Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, nor Islam.

Islam is a hot button issue for China, because of its extermination of Uyghurs Muslims. China has not formerly acknowledged the Uyghur genocide. China does not like the Uyghurs, because the the minor Islamic denomination are separating themselves from the main Chinese population. Under the Chinese government, all people are equal and the same. The government does not like it when people separate themselves into ethnic or religious groups. Uyghur adults are being sent to extermination camps, while Uyghur children are separated from their parents and reeducated. China’s population crisis is another issue.

China banning the Koran reader is not any different from banning the Bible, Torah, or other religious documents. China notoriously bans literature and other media that the government finds contrary to its ideals. A developer named Ameir tweeted on Twitter that he uploaded the Koran reader to the China Apple App Store and he was told:

“I got notified from Apple that the Quran Reader has been removed from sale in China because it has ‘content that is illegal in China as determined by the Cyberspace Administration of China.’It’s literally just the Quran.”

Another user replied that China does not allow the Bible online either.

Whitney Grace, September 22, 2021

Enlightened Newspaper Deletes Info

September 21, 2021

News media outlets usually post a retraction or correction if they delete something. The Daily Dot tattles on a popular British nets outlet when it deleted content: “ ‘This Is Astonishing’: The Guardian Removed A TERF-Critical Passage From An Article.” What is even more upsetting is that the Guardian removed the passage a few hours after it was posted.

The article in question was an interview with gender theorist Judith Butler, who also wrote the book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity that includes information about a partnership between fascists and trans exclusionary radical feminists (TERFs) or anti-trans feminists. The Guardian did post an editorial note saying the piece was changed on September 7, 2021. The deleted portion was mistakenly associated with an incident at Wi Spa in Los Angeles, where a purported trans-woman was in the women’s only nude section. The exposed trans-women was charged with indecent exposure in front of women and children the past.

Jules Gleeson, the article’s author, asked a question that referenced the Wi Spa incident, but Butler’s response was a general answer and did not mention the spa. Gleeson offered to rewrite the article, but The Guardian declined. The entire interview has fallen victim to the Streisand effect, it has become popular because the Guardian tried to cover it up:

“In an email to the Daily Dot, Gleeson confirmed that she offered to revise the question. ‘Unfortunately, the Guardian editors decided to go ahead with their decision to censor Judith Butler,’ she said. ‘I can only hope that the overall point Judith Butler was making can receive some wider circulation, in light of this controversy,’ she continued. ‘The Heritage Foundation and Proud Boys (and those who collaborate with them) are threats to us that deserve more than online intrigue and editorial backpedalling.’”

The British media leans towards an anti-trans opinion, so the deleted passage upset readers. Gleeson’s note is correct, it does draw more attention to trans-people’s struggles and approaching the trans-rights discussion with intellectual curiosity.

Whitney Grace, September 21, 2021

Wiki People: One Cannot Find Online Information If It Is Censored

September 2, 2021

Women have born the brunt of erasure from history, but thanks web sites like Wikipedia, their stories are shared more than ever. There is a problem with Wikipedia though, says CBC in the article: “Canadian Nobel Scientist’s Deletion From Wikipedia Points To Wider Bias, Study Finds.” Wikipedia is the most comprehensive, collaborative, and largest encyclopedia in human history. It is maintained by thousands of volunteer editors, who curate the content, verify information, and delete entries.

There are different types of Wikipedia editors. One type is an “inclusionist,” an editor who takes broad views about what to include in Wikipedia. The second type are “deflationists,” who have high content standards. American sociologist Francesca Tripodi researched the pages editors deleted and discovered that women’s pages are deleted more than men’s. Tripodi learned that 25% of women’s pages account for all deletion recommendations and their pages only make up 19% of the profiles.

Experts say it is either gender bias or notability problem. The notability is a gauge Wiki editors use to determine if a topic deserves a page and they weigh the notability against reliable sources. What makes a topic notable, Tripodi explained, leads to gender bias, because there is less information on them. It also does not help that many editors are men and there are attempts to add more women:

“Over the years, women have tried to fix the gender imbalance on Wikipedia, running edit-a-thons to change that ratio. Tripodi said these efforts to add notable women to the website have moved the needle — but have also run into roadblocks. ‘They’re welcoming new people who’ve never edited Wikipedia, and they’re editing at these events,’ she said. ‘But then after all of that’s done, after these pages are finally added, they have to double back and do even more work to make sure that the article doesn’t get deleted after being added.”

Unfortunately women editors complain they need to do more work to make sure their profiles are verifiable and are published. The Wikipedia Foundation acknowledges that the lack of women pages, because it reflects world gender biases. The Wikipedia Foundation, however, is committed to increasing the amount of women pages and editors. The amount of women editors has increased over 30% in the past year.

That is the problem when there is a lack of verifiable data about women or anyone erased from history due to biases. If there is not any information on them, they cannot be searched even by trained research librarians like me. Slick method, right?

Whitney Grace, September 2, 2021

Thailand Does Not Want Frightening Content

August 6, 2021

The prime minister of Thailand is Prayut Chan-o-cha. He is a retired Royal Thai Army officer, and he is not into scary content. What’s the fix? “PM Orders Internet Blocked For Anyone Spreading Info That Might Frighten People” reported:

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered internet service providers to immediately block the internet access of anyone who propagates information that may frighten people. The order, issued under the emergency situation decree, was published in the Royal Gazette on Thursday night and takes effect on Friday. It prohibits anyone from “reporting news or disseminating information that may frighten people or intentionally distorting information to cause a misunderstanding about the emergency situation, which may eventually affect state security, order or good morality of the people.”

So what’s “frightening?” I for one find the idea of having access to the Internet blocked. Why not just put the creator of frightening content in one of Thailand’s exemplary and humane prisons? These, as I understand the situation, feature ample space, generous prisoner care services, and healthful food. With an occupancy level of 300 percent, what’s not to like?

Frightening so take PrisonStudies.org offline I guess.

Stephen E Arnold, August 6, 2021

Facebook Lets Group Admins Designate Experts. Okay!

August 2, 2021

Facebook once again enlists the aid of humans to impede the spread of misinformation, only this time it has found a way to avoid paying anyone for the service. Tech Times reports, “Facebook Adds Feature to Let Admin in Groups Chose ‘Experts’ to Curb Misinformation.” The move also has the handy benefit of shifting responsibility for bad info away from the company. We wonder—what happened to that smart Facebook software? The article does not say. Citing an article from Business Insider, writer Alec G. does tell us:

“The people who run the communities on Facebook now have the authority to promote individuals within its group to gain the title of ‘expert.’ Then, the individuals dubbed as experts can be the voices of which the public can then base their questions and concerns. This is to prevent misinformation plaguing online communities for a while now.”

But will leaving the designation of “expert” up to admins make the problem worse instead of better? The write-up continues:

“The social platform now empowers specific individuals inside groups who are devoted to solely spreading misinformation-related topics. The ‘Stop the Steal’ group, for example, was created in November 2020 with over 365,000 members. They were convinced that the election for the presidency was a fraud. If Facebook didn’t remove the group two days later, it would continue to have negative effects. Facebook explained that the organization talked about ‘the delegitimization of the election process,’ and called for violence, as reported by the BBC. Even before that, other groups within Facebook promoted violence and calls to action that would harm the civility of the governments.”

Very true. We are reminded of the company’s outsourced Oversight Board created in 2018, a similar shift-the-blame approach that has not worked out so well. Facebook’s continued efforts to transfer responsibility for bad content to others fail to shield it from blame. They also do little to solve the problem and may even make it worse. Perhaps it is time for a different (real) solution.

Cynthia Murrell, August 2, 2021

Putin Has Kill Switch

July 26, 2021

“Russia Disconnected Itself from the Global Internet in Tests” shares an intriguing factoid. Mr. Putin can disconnected the country from the potato fields near Estonia to the fecund lands where gulags once bloomed. The write up reports:

State communications regulator Roskomnadzor said the tests were aimed at improving the integrity, stability and security of Russia’s Internet infrastructure…

If a pesky cyber gang shuts down the Moscow subway from Lichtenstein, it’s pull the plug time. The idea is that Russia will not have to look outside of its territory to locate the malefactors. If outfits like Twitter refuse to conform to Russian law, the socially responsible company may lose some of its Russian content creators.

What other countries will be interested in emulating Russia’s action or licensing the technology? I can think of a few. The Splinter Net is starting to gain momentum. Those ideals about information wanting to be free and the value of distributed systems seem out of step with Mr. Putin’s kill switch.

Stephen E Arnold, July 26, 2021

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