All posts by Thomas L. Knapp

@YesYoureRacist Crowdsources Social Preferencing

The Twitter account @YesYoureRacist went up in 2012, but jumped from about 65,000 followers to more than 350,000 in the days following Virginia’s “Battle of Charlottesville.” After an army of  white nationalists rioted to “Unite the Right,” murdering one and injuring dozens, @YesYoureRacist admin Logan Smith swung into action to identify, then “name and shame,” the attendees.

He’s getting lots of help. As photos of the thugs go up, the leads come in. At least one of the Charlottesville marchers is looking for a new job after his employer learned what he was doing on his time off. At least one family has disowned an outed “white nationalist.” There will likely be more of both.

@YesYoureRacist is a crowdsourced, social media powered implementation of “Social Preferencing” — the name given by Paul and Kitty Antonik Wakfer of The Self-Sovereign Individual Project (selfsip.org) for a process of “effectively extending market preferencing to all aspects of human interaction.”

There’s nothing new about Social Preferencing as such. Simply put, it amounts to rewarding people by befriending and trading with them, or punishing people with personal and economic ostracism. Human implementations of the practice precede recorded history. It’s a natural behavior.

But the Wakfers’ use of it presciently — they developed their framework before social media as we know it was born — comes in the context of a “Natural Social Contract” requiring “full openness concerning one’s Societal InterPersonal Relationships and the strong Social Preferencing that will be enabled and promoted by such accessible Personal disclosure.” Enter Twitter.

Projects like @YesYoureRacist make the information needed for rational Social Preferencing decisions more widely available and more easily accessed. Ostracism (and its opposite) need no longer be handled retail, by word of mouth at the barber shop and on the phone.  We’re all just a click away from being, if not famous, at least easily known in some detail to anyone who has reason to care and to look.

Are there likely pitfalls to a society in which social media boosts our ability to engage in informed Social Preferencing? Yes, there are. There are going to be mistaken identities. There are going to be false claims. But then, there are mistaken identities and false claims now, aren’t there? Presumably massive crowdsourcing will minimize such things by bringing multiple sources to bear.

The main objection to @YesYoureRacist doesn’t cut much ice with me. The project is not an “invasion of privacy” or a “violation of rights.” The Charlottesville marchers engaged in public action with the explicit purpose of attracting attention. Mission accomplished. They got noticed. Now they want the rest of us to forget what we saw, or at least refrain from acting based on what we saw.  That’s not going to happen.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

They Keep Using That Phrase, “Net Neutrality.” I do Not Think it Means What They Think it Means.

RGBStock.com WWW

“Verizon Wireless was just caught in the act of what looks like a blatant violation net neutrality,” writes Kurt Walters of Demand Progress in a fundraising message to the Internet activist group’s email list. “Last week, without warning or permission from its customers, Verizon throttled bandwidth speeds down to 10Mbs. Users trying to stream video or use certain apps were caught in an internet slow lane and couldn’t do anything about it.”

I’ve written a number of columns on Net Neutrality. Quick recap: Underneath all the talk about preserving a “free and open Internet,” Net Neutrality is just a corporate welfare scam under which Big Content bandwidth hogs like Amazon, Google, and Netflix hope to redistribute the costs of building infrastructure to carry their content, from their customers to Internet users in general. It’s a dangerous corporate welfare scheme (it enables Internet censorship by putting the FCC in charge of defining “legal” versus “illegal” content). It’s a complicated corporate welfare scheme (a friend in the telecom industry is trying to educate me on things like “peerage agreements” and such). But it’s just a corporate welfare scheme.

As the FCC considers repealing the 2015 Net Neutrality rule, its supporters are desperate to associate bad things with its absence. So desperate that Demand Progress is advertising EXAMPLES of Net Neutrality as VIOLATIONS of Net Neutrality.

At least one Verizon customer tells me he thinks the whole throttling story is — I hate to use the term — “fake news.” He didn’t notice any slowdown. But if there was one, well, let’s see what the FCC says about that. From the commission’s consumer guide to the “Open Internet,” aka Net Neutrality:

“Broadband providers may not deliberately target some lawful internet traffic to be delivered to users more slowly than other traffic.”

Demand Progress’s  accusation is not that Verizon slowed down some traffic in order to speed up other traffic. The accusation, rather, is that Verizon slowed down ALL traffic on its network, for whatever reasons. In other words, Verizon treated all traffic equally — thereby acting in strict accordance with the Net Neutrality rule.

Yes, the alleged slowdown would have had a greater effect on apps and content that use more bandwidth. Getting an email slowly isn’t especially noticeable; getting high definition video slowly is VERY noticeable. That’s a predictable effect of Net Neutrality’s demand that all content be treated equally.

To put it a different way: Demand Progress’s complaint isn’t that Verizon violated Net Neutrality. Demand Progress’s complaint is that Net Neutrality inherently brings with it exactly the opposite of the result its advocates claim for it.

Moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for — and when you get it, don’t complain about it.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY

Don’t Trust Trump’s North Korea Bluff, Bluster, and Brinksmanship

Early weapons models, such as the "Fat Ma...
Early atomic weapons models, such as the “Fat Man” bomb, were extremely large and difficult to use. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

US president Donald Trump put much of the world atwitter and ajitter Tuesday with his comment to the press: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”  Trump’s certainly proving himself  Kim Jong Un’s equal at foreign affairs smack talk.

Is he serious? I believe so. I expect some sort of major military confrontation — possibly even outright war — between the US and North Korea before August ends. Naturally I hope I’m wrong, but matters do seem to be coming to a head.

With that  in mind, it’s worth examining some of the US government’s claims about North Korea and how they stack up against reality.

First, let’s look at what Trump means when he refers to the current set of “threats” from North Korea: On August 7, the Washington Post reports, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho “told diplomats that his country will never negotiate away what he called a rational ‘strategic option’ against the threat of attack from the United States. … Ri said Pyongyang will use nuclear weapons only against the United States or any other country that might join it in military action against North Korea.”

In other words, North Korea is “threatening” to defend itself if attacked, and reserving the right to use nuclear weapons in its defense. Doesn’t sound like much of a “threat,” does it?

Next, the current round of mutual saber-rattling coincides with a convenient and likely Trump-approved leak. The Post cites unnamed officials and an alleged Defense Intelligence Agency assessment to the effect that North Korea “has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles” (the claim last month was that the North now has missiles which can reach the US mainland).

This set of claims doesn’t pass the smell test.

First of all, so far the North has only proven (with detonations) that it can make large, heavy, old-style fission atomic weapons, not bona fide nuclear weapons (hydrogen bombs). Miniaturization? That sounds a lot like “Saddam is stockpiling Weapons of Mass Destruction” (he wasn’t) or “Iran is six months from having nukes” (the latter claim having been renewed every six months from 1996 to 2015).

Secondly, while the North recently tested a rocket that it claims is an intercontinental ballistic missile, there’s reason to be skeptical of that claim and secondarily of the notion that they could reliably produce such rockets in quantity and expect them to work.

Finally, there’s the matter of mating those unlikely nukes to those unlikely rockets and getting them to detonate at the impact end of a fall from space. That’s rocket science of an order the North hasn’t previously displayed a flair for.

Claire Boothe Luce called Franklin Delano Roosevelt “the only American president who ever lied us into a war because he did not have the political courage to lead us into it.” If so, Trump seems bent on following in his illustrious predecessor’s footsteps.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:[email protected]) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

PUBLICATION/CITATION HISTORY