Be very afraid

Big Tech is about to experience its Cersei moment, when it learns the difference between influence and power:

This is the moment the U.S. technology superpowers surely knew was coming: The U.S. government is preparing to crawl all over Google to figure out whether it is an abusive monopolist. Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and the other tech giants should be quaking in their fleece vests.

Bloomberg News and other news organizations reported late Friday that the U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to open an investigation into Google’s compliance with antitrust laws. If it goes forward, an investigation will no doubt be broad, lengthy, messy, and impossible for Google and its investors to predict.

That should terrify Google and every other big technology company — because there’s no guarantee that the antitrust Klieg light will turn on one company alone.

This isn’t Google’s first antitrust rodeo. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission in 2013 closed without further action its own antitrust investigation into whether Google wielded its dominant web search engine like a cudgel to disadvantage rivals, drive up prices for advertisers and ultimately harm consumers. (Google did agree to some voluntary changes.)

And in recent years, the European Union antitrust watchdog imposed billions of dollars in fines after finding antitrust violations, including over how Google conducted business with its Android smartphone software and its internet shopping service. In the U.S. and elsewhere, politicians from all party stripes have sought to attack Google or other tech giants for various perceived sins, including being too big for the good of industry and consumers. Being Google has meant dealing with perennial regulatory and political nightmares.

This latest chapter of “As Google Turns” may have started in January on Capitol Hill. “I don’t think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers,” Bill Barr, now the U.S. attorney general, said to U.S. senators during a confirmation hearing. The DOJ’s chief antitrust enforcer, who represented Google during a merger more than a decade ago, has expressed similar views.

Antitrust investigations are difficult to predict, of course. Once the U.S. government pores over every internal email and business development contract, there’s no telling what it will turn up. If the DOJ moves ahead, it will also be an open invitation for every company or individual with a gripe against Google to pile on, and an investigation will embolden critics of Facebook, Amazon and other tech giants as well.

I’ve certainly got a complaint or two to register against Twitter, just to name one of the Big Tech companies that will be investigated, as do dozens of other individuals of my acquaintance. I think it might even be a good time to sign up for a few of these converged companies specifically in order to get deplatformed. Several of them are clearly dumb enough to continue the very activities that have put them in the DOJ’s sights.

By the way, it will be interesting to see if this serious problem with Google Cloud may have been the cause of everyone’s recent streaming issues. It’s not necessarily SJW action:

Google experienced several major technical problems Sunday that left YouTube down for many users in the US, South America and Europe. The Alphabet-owned search engine company said its tech troubles began at 12.25pm on Sunday. YouTube’s was first reported down at 2.50pm, according to downdetector.com. YouTube, Google Cloud and G Suite services including Gmail were affected, but Google said it believes it has identified the cause of the issue in its cloud network. Some users also said they were having issues with third-party sites and applications including Snapchat, Pokemon Go, Uber, Uber Eats, Vimeo and Discord.  


Striking down the thought police

This is potentially great news. It appears the God-Emperor is finally preparing to strike back against the converged companies that have been persecuting his supporters:

The Trump administration is asking victims of social media censorship to share their stories, promising to “fight for free speech online” and exciting conservatives who feel their plight has been ignored.

No matter your views, if you suspect political bias has caused you to be censored or silenced online, we want to hear about it! http://wh.gov/techbias 

Of the named platforms, only Twitter had anything to say about the administration’s call for stories, responding that it enforces its terms of service “impartially” without regard to “background or political affiliation.” President Donald Trump met with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last month at the White House just hours after complaining (via Twitter) that the platform didn’t “treat [him] well as a Republican,” and Dorsey has admitted in the past that they’ve been “too aggressive” in banning right-wing users, but many complain that nothing has changed.

I suggest every AH:Q backer submit the story of how the AH:Q campaign was deplatformed by Indiegogo to the administration site.

SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS should advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Yet too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear “violations” of user policies. No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump. 


Break up Facebook

Even one of Facebook’s founders is now calling for the breakup of Facebook:

The government must hold Mark accountable. For too long, lawmakers have marveled at Facebook’s explosive growth and overlooked their responsibility to ensure that Americans are protected and markets are competitive. Any day now, the Federal Trade Commission is expected to impose a $5 billion fine on the company, but that is not enough; nor is Facebook’s offer to appoint some kind of privacy czar. After Mark’s congressional testimony last year, there should have been calls for him to truly reckon with his mistakes. Instead the legislators who questioned him were derided as too old and out of touch to understand how tech works. That’s the impression Mark wanted Americans to have, because it means little will change.

We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.

It is time to break up Facebook.

The easiest way to check the power of the corpocracy is simply to punish juridical persons as the actual persons under law that they legally are. If the corporation commits a crime, the corporation goes to jail. No natural person is permitted to engage in normal business operations when in jail, neither should juridical persons be allowed to do so.

But in the absence of this eminently sensible system, breaking up Facebook would be a reasonable thing for the Trump administration to do.


Facebook deplatforms BIC

The independent comic industry news and review site Bounding Into Comics has been deplatformed:

Facebook has censored Bounding Into Comics and completely removed our 250k+ strong Facebook page.

Facebook did not provide any warnings and didn’t really explain why the page was removed.

The page was removed on Monday around 10:20 a.m. ET shortly after we published the new Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer. I was logged out of my personal Facebook account, which I use to manage the Bounding Into Comics Facebook page. Upon logging back in, I received a number of alerts from Facebook indicating they had removed ‘Content’ which ultimately meant they had removed not just content posts but all traces of the Bounding Into Comics Facebook page.

The first alert indicated Bounding Into Comics was being removed because it violated “the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.” The next alert read, “Our policies prohibit posting content that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.”

The alerts continued, “If you continue to post content that infringes or violates other’s rights or otherwise violates the law, you could be temporarily blocked from posting content on Facebook, or even have your account permanently banned.”

The next alert then directed us to review Facebook’s Intellectual Property Policies. It read, “If you have questions regarding the removal of content please visit the Help Center. To help keep your account in good standing, remove any other content you’ve posted to Facebook that may infringe or otherwise violate another’s rights. To learn more about intellectual property, visit the Help Center.”

Two of the messages then repeated. The next alert read, “Our policies prohibit posting content that infringes or violates someone else’s rights or otherwise violates the law.”

The final message read, “If you continue to post content that infringes or violates others’ rights or otherwise violates the law, you could be temporarily blocked from posting content on Facebook, or even have your account permanently disabled.”

Facebook did not provide us with any actual concrete examples of the alleged violation. In fact, the reason why we are writing this article today, instead of yesterday, is because we attempted to reach out to Facebook believing the removal of the page was inadvertent. However, Facebook has not responded to any of our Help Center inquiries. They stopped responding in an email thread with a Publisher & Media Support team representative once the page was identified.

This is why it is absolutely vital to stop relying upon these enemy platforms. What is the point of building anything that relies upon them as a foundation when they can pull it out from under you like Lucy yanking the football away from Charlie Brown at any time?


Milo, Alex Jones, PJW banned by Facebook

Facebook’s most recent banning binge is a little ironic in light of how they wouldn’t let me delete my account, so I had to settle for deactivating it last year.

Facebook announced Thursday afternoon that it had designated some high-profile people, including Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who’s notorious for using anti-Semitic language, and right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, as “dangerous” and said it will be purging them from its platforms.

Jones and his media outlet InfoWars had previously been banned from Facebook (FB) in in August 2018, but had maintained a presence on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. On Thursday, Jones and InfoWars will be barred from Instagram as well.

Other people banned Thursday include fringe right-wing media personalities Laura Loomer, Milo Yiannopoulos and Paul Joseph Watson. Also included are Paul Nehlen, an anti-Semite who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016 and 2018.

“We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN Business. “The process for evaluating potential violators is extensive and it is what led us to our decision to remove these accounts today.”

Build your own platform. That is the only solution. And, of course, make the rubble bounce. 


AI is racist

But then, we knew that AI was naturally inclined to racism when Tay became self-aware and promptly joined the Nationalist Right:

Artificial Intelligence is rapidly becoming the Artificial Id, revealing through coded algorithms what we humans really think about taboo topics.

Why does AI think Michael Obama and Scrotal Williams are men?

Oh I dunno, it could be the hulking physiques.

The ripped musculature.

The overhanging brow.

The prognathism.

The shadowed canvas.

AI, like humans, is racist, which just means it notices things and isn’t polite enough to keep those thoughts to itself.

Reality wins.


Cyberwar 2020

Russia is following China’s lead in setting up its own Internet free of US control:

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed into law a “sovereign internet” bill which will allow Russian authorities to isolate the country’s internet, a move decried by rights groups.

Russian lawmakers insist the new law is necessary to ensure the security of Russia’s online networks but critics say the vaguely worded bill gives new censorship powers to government monitors.

The text of the law was published Wednesday but it will not come into effect until November.

The measures include creating technology to monitor internet routing and to steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers, ostensibly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down.

The authors of the initiative say Russia must ensure the security of its networks after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new American cybersecurity strategy last year that said Russia had carried out cyber attacks with impunity.

On a not-entirely unrelated note, I expect the foreign alternatives to rapidly sweep away the US tech giants due to the latter’s abuse of their customers.


Enhancing your experience

Amazon isn’t SPYING on you. They’re just improving your experience!

Amazon workers are listening to private and sometimes disturbing voice recordings to improve the voice-assistants’ understanding of human speech. Amazon has admitted to its customers that thousands of recordings are being analysed by staff and transcribed before feeding them back into the software.

As many as 1,000 clips are reviewed by workers in buildings all over the world, many of which are not obviously run by the online giant.   Staff members have said that the work is mostly mundane, however they do come across embarrassing clips, like a woman singing off-key in the shower.  The teams use internal chat rooms to share files when they need help deciphering a muddled word – or come when they come across an amusing recording. Among more sinister content the workers have heard, have been a child screaming for help and two instances were they believed they heard a sexual assault taking place. 

Amazon last night confirmed the revelations when approached by Bloomberg saying that ‘an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings’ are analysed by staff. In an emailed statement to MailOnline, an Amazon spokesperson said: ‘We only annotate an extremely small sample of Alexa voice recordings in order to improve the customer experience.

I find this particularly amusing because Spacebunny and I use the term “enhancing your user experience” as a synonym “made it stop working”. Which is usually expressed in some sort of context like this:

“Did you take out the trash?”

“No, I’m enhancing your user experience!”


That would be awkward

My money would be on China getting there first.

The US military is desperately trying to recover the wreckage of a Japanese F-35A stealth fighter which crashed over the Pacific yesterday amid fears China and Russia could beat them to it. Parts of the tail of the world’s most sophisticated stealth jet have already been found after it disappeared off the radar 85 miles east of Misawa, Japan during a training mission.

Eight ships and seven aircraft,including a U.S. Navy P-8 Orion maritime patrol plane, are looking for traces of the jet that is believed to have sunk to 5,000ft. The pilot of the aircraft is still missing.

But experts today warned that Russia and China could also be trying to get their hands on the aircraft to discover its secrets.

Tom Moore, a former senior professional staff member at the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted: ‘There is no price too high in this world for China and Russia to pay to get Japan’s missing F-35, if they can. Big deal.’

‘Bottom line is that it would not be good,’ retired US Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula told Business Insider.

It is believed Russia and China could be using their advanced submarines to scour the ocean floor in search of the jet in order to steal vital technology on board. And experts have warned that parts of the jet could easily be replicated if they do recover the wreckage before US or Japanese search teams.

On the other hand, given the apparent shortcomings of the F-35, the bigger fear might be the Chinese or Russians learning that there is no reason to replicate any parts of the jet. It’s interesting how this storyline tends to track the plot of A Mind Programmed/The Programmed Man.


Vanished history

Facebook again proves – as if any more proof were necessary – that it cannot be trusted in any way, shape, or form:

Old Facebook posts by Mark Zuckerberg have disappeared — obscuring details about core moments in Facebook’s history.

On multiple occassions, years-old public posts made by the 34-year-old billionaire chief executive that were previously public and reported on by news outlets at the time have since vanished, Business Insider has found. That includes all of the posts he made during 2007 and 2008.

Reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said the posts were “mistakenly deleted” due to “technical errors.”

“A few years ago some of Mark’s posts were mistakenly deleted due to technical errors. The work required to restore them would have been extensive and not guaranteed to be successful so we didn’t do it,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“We agree people should be able to find information about past announcements and major company news, which is why for years we’ve shared and archived this information publicly — first on our blog and in recent years on our Newsroom.”

These disappearances, along with other changes Facebook has made to how it saves its archive of announcements and blog posts, make it much harder to parse the social network’s historical record. This makes it far more difficult to hold the company, and Zuckerberg himself, accountable to past statements — particularly during a period of intense scrutiny of the company in the wake of a string of scandals.

The very nature of the issue means it is extremely challenging to make a full accounting of what exactly what has gone missing over the years.

It’s always Year Zero for these liars. Nothing they say is ever true, which is why they’re always focused on hiding what they said yesterday.