posted about 1 hour ago on techdirt
With increased regulatory pressure surrounding the platform's ability to help distribute disinformation (often to bloody and disastrous effect), Facebook owned Whatsapp this week announced it would be more tightly restricting how app messages can be forwarded. Under the new system, if a user receives a "highly forwarded" message – one which has been forwarded more than five times – that user will only be able to send it on to a single chat at a time. Previously, users could forward these messages on to five people at a time, a limit that was implemented last year. It doesn't block all message forwarding (you can still smash the forward button individually as many times as you like), but it does implement a little "friction" in a bid to slow mass forwarding in general. Over at the Whatsapp blog, the company explains its thinking: "Is all forwarding bad? Certainly not. We know many users forward helpful information, as well as funny videos, memes, and reflections or prayers they find meaningful. In recent weeks, people have also used WhatsApp to organize public moments of support for frontline health workers. However, we’ve seen a significant increase in the amount of forwarding which users have told us can feel overwhelming and can contribute to the spread of misinformation. We believe it’s important to slow the spread of these messages down to keep WhatsApp a place for personal conversation." Last year, Whatsapp says it introduced double arrow labels to indicate that forwarded messages were not from a "close contact," trying to make it clearer which messages were effectively from someone you trust, versus mass forwarded memes or spam. It's not entirely clear yet how impactful this will be in places like India, where, for several years, misinformation has helped fuel violence against religious minorities. But as we've noted previously, these problems often go well beyond just Whatsapp, making it illogical to place the entire onus for fixing the problems squarely on Whatsapp's shoulders. There's also a mountain of cultural and technical issues (like managing what's sent inside of encrypted messages) that makes the assumption that Whatsapp can "just fix this" overly simplistic. Still, with the app now being used to spread bogus Coronavirus information, the stakes have grown higher, and the calls from regulators and governments to "do more" have grown exponentially. But again, there's numerous factors at play, and it has long been clear that any solution is likely complicated and multi-faceted. In many countries, social media applications have been conflated with the internet itself, creating a walled garden "internet" that consists of just a few apps and sources, creating a less open echosphere where it's easier than ever to spread disinformation. Often that's by design as we saw with Facebook's "Zero Basics" program, which attempted to help the company corner developing nation ad markets by offering free access to a Facebook "curated" selection of content -- but not access to the full internet. Add in government censorship, and it gets even more complicated. That's not to say Whatsapp shouldn't continue to experiment with ideas to slow the spread of mis and disinformation. The company has helped promote a World Health Organization bot aimed at providing more accurate information, and it recently donated $1 million to the International Fact-Checking Network. But because of the scope and complexity of the problem, it's going to take a hell of a lot more than just Whatsapp tweaks to fix a global, surging disinformation problem. It's going to require a cooperative, global shift in media literacy and critical thinking -- combined with mass collaboration between governments, platforms, academics, and users -- with nary a single silver bullet anywhere in sight. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 3 hours ago on techdirt
Last week we talked about just how insane it was that hospital administrators were threatening and/or firing doctors and nurses for speaking out publicly on social media about just how unprepared America's healthcare system has been for the COVID-19 pandemic -- and now we find out it gets even worse. Business Insider has seen a memo sent around by the country's largest hospital provider, HCA Healthcare, noting that they changed their social media guidelines just as the pandemic got really cooking, to tell those healthcare professionals on the frontline that telling the truth in public might cost them their jobs: HCA Healthcare, which has 185 hospitals in 20 states, sent an email to employees on March 24 that added new guidelines for social media and media inquiries during the pandemic. The email said HCA employees could get disciplined or even fired for posting information on social media about its policies about treating patients with COVID-19, the illness caused by this coronavirus. The health system also barred employees from speaking to journalists about the virus without explicit permission from HCA's communications director. One nurse, Jhonna Porter, told Business Insider that HCA Healthcare had already suspended her for violating these new guidelines and did so retroactively, for her activity before March 24. Porter, a charge nurse at West Hills Hospital in California, said HCA Healthcare suspended her without pay on March 25, a day after sending the email updating its social-media policy. The situation with Porter seems particularly ridiculous. She was talking in a private Facebook group with her colleagues, and that's why she got suspended: Porter said HCA Healthcare issued her suspension over a phone call and told her it was for talking to her colleagues in a private Facebook group about a floor the hospital had turned into one for treating patients with COVID-19. Porter said the health system said her social-media activity was a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, which mandates that healthcare workers keep patient information private. Porter said her post did not name the health system or mention sensitive patient information. Rather, she said, she was being punished for being a whistleblower who called out equipment shortages and other hospital issues. It is true that HIPAA rules are (often overly) strict, and that does limit what healthcare providers can share, but this seems like trying to pin a false HIPAA violation on what is actually embarrassing whistleblowing in the midst of a pandemic. It's ridiculous how many times it needs to be said, but, in the midst of a pandemic, accurate and transparent information sharing is the key to actually getting a handle on this and minimizing the damage. That our hospitals are doing the opposite is not just scary, it's literally putting lives in danger. Meanwhile, I'll just toss this paragraph here: HCA Healthcare is publicly traded, with backing from the private-equity firms Bain and KKR, which took the system private in a $33 billion deal in 2006, at the time the largest leveraged buyout in history. Its market capitalization on Monday was nearly $30 billion. You don't say. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The Coding with Python Bundle has 6 courses geared to help you learn one of the most popular programming languages. You'll start with the basics and move on to more advanced lessons covering REST APIs with Python and Flask, testing automation, Version Control, and more. It's on sale for $50. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Content moderation at scale is impossible to do well. The latest example? Facebook's rules to takedown content deemed to be people trying to price gouge medical supplies like face masks resulted in tutorials on how to make your own face masks being taken down: Facebook’s systems threatened to ban the organizers of hand-sewn masks from posting or commenting, they said, landing them in what is colloquially known as “Facebook Jail.” They said it also threatened to delete the groups. The issue has affected do-it-yourself mask makers in states like Pennsylvania, Illinois and California, they said. As the NY Times notes, Facebook, like most other social media sites, has been aggressively trying to block price gouging medical supplies: At the top of its list were ads for masks, hand sanitizer and others looking to profit from the sale of safety equipment. Facebook banned advertising for such equipment last month, and has taken down nearly all posts related to the sale of masks across its Craigslist-like section, called Marketplace. But as the company ramped up efforts to crack down on scammers and other miscreants, volunteer coordinators may have been caught in the crossfire. “The automated systems we set up to prevent the sale of medical masks needed by health workers have inadvertently blocked some efforts to donate supplies,” Facebook said in a statement. “We apologize for this error and are working to update our systems to avoid mistakes like this going forward. We don’t want to put obstacles in the way of people doing a good thing.” This is not an attack on Facebook, but, once again, it's important to recognize just how impossible it is to do these things well, especially at scale, and especially in the midst of a pandemic where things are changing daily. With the US only changing its recommendations on face masks last week, demand for any kind of face mask, including homemade ones, has sky-rocketed. And if you trying to build systems that are trained to look out for posts "advertising" things having to do with face masks -- which was important in the first few weeks of the pandemic -- they're inevitably going to lead to false positives flagging those who are actually trying to help. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 7 hours ago on techdirt
Conspiracy theories have always plagued the deployment of new wireless technology. WiFi has no proven impact on human health, yet it has been a bogeyman for the better part of the last fifteen years. Fast forward to 2020, and social media is filled with "internet famous" folks claiming new fifth-generation (5G) wireless is part of a vast mind control conspiracy or a massive threat to human health. Russia, and likely other countries, have incorporated 5G for a few years into its online trolling operations, apparently believing it's another wedge issue that can be used to amplify already heated divisions in western countries. During the coronavirus, the conspiracies surrounding 5G have exploded, with many "famous" Twitter users falsely linking 5G directly to the coronavirus. And in recent months, a lot of these bogus claims have been amplified by the likes of U.S. celebrities, who appear to be getting their health and science information from the "healing with crystals" set. Like Woody Harrelson, who last week vaguely suggested that 5G and the coronavirus are somehow linked. Or M.I.A., who in March doubted a COVID-19 link but falsely told her 650,000 followers 5G could slow down human healing: I don't think it's related except for timing. The timing is orchestrated by them. Not Us. I don't think 5G gives you COVID19. I think it can confuse or slow the body down in healing process as body is learning to cope with new signals wavelength s frequency etc @ same time as Cov https://t.co/VDkE4oaxF5 — M.I.A (@MIAuniverse) March 24, 2020 This week, the honor belonged to John Cusack, who kept things vague in suggesting that 5G is just an ambiguous threat to human health: While it would be hubris to suggest we have a full understanding of human health, the vast, overwhelming, scientific data to date suggests there is no health risk from 5G. If you want to read actual insight from an expert, I'd recommend this lengthy piece exploring wireless health concerns from Glenn Fleishman, who has been writing about and studying wireless networking for the better part of two generations. I'd generally trust him a bit more than an actor whose experience with wireless technology is largely of the fictional variety. Glenn's piece leans hard on numerous established studies, coming to this important conclusion on 5G: "But the newness and differentness of 5G don’t matter. Whether we’re talking about 5G, 4G, 3G, Wi-Fi, or other consumer-level wireless technologies, the sum total of results from many studies and many years of research paints a straightforward picture—there’s nothing to worry about." Of particular note in regards to 5G is that much of the millimeter wave spectrum being used for 5G (especially from the likes of Verizon) is millimeter wave, and has a hell of a time traveling very far or penetrating things like walls and human bodies: "In particular, Wi-Fi and cellular networks, including 5G networks, use relatively high frequencies, which have short wavelengths. They don’t travel far and, the higher the frequency, the shorter the distance they can travel using the same power as lower frequencies. By deploying 5G densely, less power is needed, and by using high frequencies, it can’t penetrate far—whether through walls or into our bodies. Even though many more base stations will be deployed, they’ll be sending out far less power than today’s networking systems." As Glenn also highlights on Twitter, the goopification of America and our distrust in establishment voices didn't happen in a vacuum: The cellular industry shouldn’t be trusted (nor the U.S. or Chinese governments). But a huge body of evidence assembled independently around the world by academic researchers provides a basis to make a strong conclusion about safety. — Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) April 7, 2020 Our susceptibility to bullshit is driven by a general, well-founded distrust in every last corner of the steadily eroded American establishment. Folks are right not to trust the wireless industry, which engages in self-serving lying on pretty much a daily basis. They're right to not trust captured U.S. lawmakers and regulators from the FDA to the FCC. They're right to often distrust the courts, which have also been clearly hijacked in the service of mypic greed. And they're right to raise a skeptical eyebrow toward press outlets that, again more often than not, parrot press releases (this merger will be great! This surveillance technology has no downside!) in a way that uniformly winds up coming back to bite readers on the ass. We've undermined any number of American institutions in a relentless quest for profit and power, so it shouldn't come as a surprise when the public now finds celebrities and internet randos a better source of authority and reason than our oldest institutions. If we want to fix the global disinformation problem, telling unqualified celebrities to shut up is a good start, but restoring the integrity of our institutions has to take priority. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Well, it took a pandemic to normalize domestic surveillance by [checks notes] employers. Not sure if this is the dystopia we needed or the one we deserved, but the shelter-in-place policies that have turned lots of office workers into telecommuters has led to incredible growth in one particular market sector. With so many people working remotely because of the coronavirus, surveillance software is flying off the virtual shelves. “Companies have been scrambling,” said Brad Miller, CEO of surveillance-software maker InterGuard. “They’re trying to allow their employees to work from home but trying to maintain a level of security and productivity.” Axos spokesman Gregory Frost said in a statement that “the enhanced monitoring of at-home employees we implemented will ensure that those members of our workforce who work from home will continue” to meet quality and productivity standards that are expected from all workers. This new surveillance obviously doesn't extend to the executive levels of these companies. It's the rank-and-file that will feel it the most -- the same that have been subjected to always-on monitoring of their computer and internet use while at the office. It's another system -- one that can be gamed just as easily as those deployed in the workplace. Actually, these will probably be gamed even more easily considering some companies are using weird metrics like "emails sent" to gauge worker productivity. But there's more to it than virtual bean-counting and hall-monitoring. The spyware that works-from-home will also alert clients if employees engage in certain behavior. Managers using InterGuard’s software can be notified if an employee does a combination of worrisome behaviors, such as printing both a confidential client list and a resume, an indication that someone is quitting and taking their book of business with them. Companies that don't want to pay extra for snooping software are relying on existing systems to make sure their employees are earning their paychecks. But these methods are even more intrusive than software specifically crafted to track telecommuter productivity. “I’ve heard from multiple people whose employers have asked them to stay logged into a video call all day while they work,” said Alison Green, founder of the workplace-advice website Ask a Manager. Slightly less intrusive than this low-tech "solution" is a new product that acts like a low-power CCTV camera installed by proxy in every telecommuting employees' home. In order to keep productivity high while working remotely, some companies are turning to tools like Sneek. The software features a "wall of faces" for each office, which stays on throughout the workday and features constantly-updating photos of workers taken through their laptop camera every one to five minutes. Welcome to micromanagement hell: If a coworker clicks on their face, Sneek's default settings will instantly connect the two workers in a live video call, even if the recipient hasn't clicked "accept." However, people can also configure their settings to only accept calls manually — and only take webcam photos manually — if their employer allows it. Chances are, none of these employees were subjected to supervisory visits to their desks every few minutes while at work. There's no reason for them to be subjected to it now just because they're working from home. The only reason this is happening is because it can happen. It's seamless, automated, and makes zero physical or mental demands from their employers. If you can't trust your employees to work remotely, you probably can't trust them at the office either. And if there was any mutual respect between the employer and its employees, efforts like this will erode that very quickly. Employees who feel their employers don't trust them aren't too motivated to add value to the company they work for. Always-on surveillance isn't going to result in productivity. It will result in pointless busywork and a shit-ton of resentment. Sneek's CEO Del Currie issued one of stupidest defense of pervasive surveillance of employees while defending his product from critics. The purpose of Sneek isn't surveillance, Currie said, but office culture. Currie claims a wall-of-faces that's continuously connected to each other (as well as their mutual supervisors) will keep people from feeling "isolated" while working from home. Currie may sincerely believe his remote work tool is better for employees' wellbeing, but it's doubtful most of the companies signing up for Sneek accounts to deal with newly-minted teleworkers are concerned about anything more than ensuring no one's getting paid to do nothing -- even if they've paid for plenty of hours of zero productivity back when everyone was under one roof. Things aren't going to go back to normal once the coronavirus is under control. Employers may find they can still get work done without needing everyone in the same building breathing the same air. Some will find they can get the same amount done with fewer employees. The only constant will be the ability to invade their employees' homes to "ensure productivity" or "build office culture" or whatever. That will be here to stay. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 18 hours ago on techdirt
As we all live through this bad but real life knockoff of a season of The Walking Dead, we've talked about how professional sports leagues are dealing with forced shutdowns. With auto-racing leading the way, several leagues and/or broadcast stations have turned to broadcasting athletes playing video game versions of their sports since they cannot broadcast the real thing. This has been done over varying mediums and to varying degrees of professionalism, but it's quite clear that there is a thirst during what is nearly a national shutdown for something like the live sports the country regularly enjoys. And maybe I've been confined to one space for too long, but NASCAR's version of all of this, broadcast on Fox Sports, is getting genuinely entertaining. Not only as intended, either, but also due to the wild variance with how serious those involved are taking all of this. Let's start with the NASCAR driver who failed to take it as seriously as those around him would have liked. The eNASCAR iRacing Pro invitational Series event, where NASCAR drivers are racing each other on the internet because they can’t currently do it in real life, is already giving us some spicy sports action. During Sunday's race, which was televised, Bubba Wallace quit in the middle of a race after tangling with a rival in the most video game way imaginable. NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was intentionally bumped in this past weekend's iRacing event, ragequit the game on national television and stream, and then got dropped by his sponsor after the race for doing so esports are definitely sports now pic.twitter.com/XvCAq8eJnW — Rod 'keydaddy' Breslau (@Slasher) April 6, 2020 In case you can't see the embedded video or tweet, Wallace got bumped a bit during the video game race and decided to rage quite on national television. When a whole bunch of people gave him shit about his tantrum on Twitter, he essentially responded by telling everyone to screw themselves since this was just a video game, not real life. But here's the thing: video game or not, the iRacing broadcast on Fox has very real sponsors, one of which was not at all pleased with Wallace's attitude and actions. GTK where you stand. Bye bye Bubba. We're interested in drivers, not quitters. — Blue-Emu (@BlueEmu1) April 5, 2020 And if you can't see that one, the tweet is Wallace's sponsor telling him it's dropping its sponsorship of him. As the earlier tweet stated, esports are sports now, and that includes the fact that athletes need to maintain their image when sponsored by corporate interests easily swayed by public perception and pressure. But if you thought it was only the corporate goons taking all of this seriously... nah. In the same event, as The Guardian reports, driver Erik Jones missed qualifying because of connection issues, and “seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson fired his spotter less than 20 laps into the race after falsely being told he was clear of another car, only to crash.” If that isn't entertaining on some kind of level then you just don't like sports or video games or weird and interesting events that feel like the future. If all sports is esports now and that means pro athletes getting hammered by sponsors for rage-quitting games on national television, then I'm all for it! Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted about 22 hours ago on techdirt
In the midst of a pandemic, a Navy captain pleaded for the health and safety of his sailors. And for that, he was relieved of duty. A letter to Navy officials, written by Captain Brett Crozier of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle. Social distancing doesn't work when you're stuck on a ship. Just ask anyone stuck on the handful of luxury cruise liners that became floating attack vectors for the coronavirus. “This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do,” Crozier wrote. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors.” In the four-page letter to senior military officials, Crozier said only a small contingent of infected sailors have been off-boarded. Most of the crew remain aboard the ship, where following official guidelines for 14-day quarantines and social distancing is impossible. “Due to a warship’s inherent limitations of space, we are not doing this,” Crozier wrote. “The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating.” Crozier went through the proper channels but one copy of his letter made its way to the press. This resulted in the acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, relieving him of command -- supposedly for not ensuring his letter was not leaked to the press. On Thursday, after the letter was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, the acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, declared that he’d “lost confidence” in the captain and was therefore relieving him of his command. This wasn't necessarily Modly's idea. But it appears to be Modly's idea of what he thought the Commander-in-Chief would want him to do. Two days later, David Ignatius reported in the Washington Post that Modly had told associates he’d acted at the behest of President Donald Trump. Modly then phoned Ignatius at 1 a.m. to deny the story, saying he’d moved against Crozier before he heard from Trump. Rather, he acted in anticipation that Trump would want him to do so. The removal of Crozier from the ship should have been the first indication the Navy would be unable to control this narrative. Several recordings exist of Crozier's exit from the ship, accompanied by sailors applauding him and chanting his name. Here's one of them: Modly made it worse by boarding the ship and addressing the sailors. His efforts to win hearts and minds consisted of telling sailors to stop complaining and do their jobs, punctuated by him insulting the man he had fired. “If he didn't think, in my opinion, that this information wasn't going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly told the Theodore Roosevelt’s crew on April 5. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that's a serious violation of the UCMJ which you are all familiar with.” A recording of this speech leaked, too. An unknown sailor speaks for everyone at the 1:57 mark, when he responds to Modly's "too naive or too stupid" comment with a very audible "WHAT THE FUCK?" The Navy's damage control continues, but it appears to consist solely of dispatching more shovels and shovel operators to its hole. A self-serving communication from Navy brass telling sailors to STFU about the Crozier debacle was leaked to another journalist, which made its way to social media immediately. Here's the best bit of Navy's insistent self-Streisanding: *** Please engage with your sailors onboard and let them know that they need the person's permission to record them and put them online. If they posted SECNAV's 1MC remarks on social media, they need to take them down immediately. *** It does not get any less laughable: I know everyone's emotions are running high but posting negative comments on social media regarding Senior Leaders will not help our current situation. [...] Bashing a Senior Leader online will not rally the troops. Looks like the troops are plenty rallied already, judging from the fond farewell they gave to their unceremoniously shit-canned senior officer. And they seemed pretty united in their rejection of SECNAV Modly's "shut up and go back to work" speech. Modly appears to have belatedly realized his speech to the Theodore Roosevelt sailors was a mistake. But his non-apology isn't going to make things any better. Modly wants people to believe he was misunderstood by everyone that heard his comments, rather than actually take responsibility for the things he said. I want to apologize to the Navy for my recent comments to the crew of the TR. Let me be clear, I do not think Captain Brett Crozier is naive or stupid. I think, and always believed him to be the opposite. [...] I apologize for any confusion this choice of words might have caused. Shorter Modly: "I'm sorry you thought I called Crozier naive and stupid when I was calling him naive and stupid." This whole response has been the epitome of "naive and stupid." The Navy's best option for letting this debacle get swept under the tidal wave of news that flows through social media every day would have been to let its original response -- given to the San Francisco Chronicle -- be its only response. Within 48 hours, no one would have cared. But it chose to fire an obviously-beloved and respected captain, insult him in front of his crew, and threaten unhappy personnel with punishment for sharing anything about this on social media. The Navy's measured response to the leak of Crozier's letter is all but forgotten now, buried under layer after layer of self-sabotaging hubris. And, of course, as the finishing touches were being put on this post, Modly announced he was resigning. Apparently he realized that he was either "too stupid or too naive" to run the Navy, if he didn't realize how nearly all of his decisions in the last few days would play out. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Earlier this year (though it feels like decades ago...) we wrote about how Mycroft AI was being sued by a patent troll, and how the company's CEO Joshua Montgomery had put up quite a blog post about the scourge of patent trolls, and how Mycroft AI had taken the position -- like a few smart companies before them -- to never settle and never give in to patent trolls. The blog post included this fun paragraph: I don’t like letting these matters go quietly. In my experience, it’s better to be aggressive and “stab, shoot and hang” them, then dissolve them in acid.  Or simply nuke them from orbit, it is the only way to be sure. The court case has continued, but the troll (or rather, the troll's lawyer) Tod Tumey, has apparently received some fairly angry phone calls and emails. Let's be clear here: do not do that. That's very much not cool and people certainly don't deserve threats of violence. No matter how terrible a person you are, and no matter what bad decisions you've made in life that lead you to become a lawyer issuing silly patent troll shakedown letters, that doesn't mean you deserve death threats. But there are lots of idiots on the internet, and sometimes when they get angry, they do stupid things. Tumey, though, seems to blame Montgomery for all of that, and has run to court to submit a "Motion for Relief to Require Decorous and Civil Conduct by the Parties." In other words, "Judge, please stop the other side from saying mean things about me online." I've now asked four litigators if they've seen such filings in the past, and got varying degrees of bafflement in response. In the more thorough filing accompanying the motion, the "Suggestions in Support of Motion for Relief to Require Decorous and Civil Conduct by the Parties", Tumey vents his frustration at having people online mad at him. Regrettably, however, Mycroft, through its CEO/First Officer, Joshua Montgomery, has responded to Voice Tech’s professional and respectful handling of this business dispute with an aggressive campaign of harassment, identity theft, cyber-attacks, and even death threats directed personally at Voice Tech’s counsel, Tod Tumey, and Mr. Tumey’s family. Under these extraordinary circumstances, Voice Tech brings this Motion to ask the Court’s intervention at the outset of this case to require Mycroft and Montgomery to remove the threatening content it has published online and cease its assaultive campaign against Mr. Tumey and his family; to admonish Mycroft and Montgomery that such bad faith conduct is unacceptable and will not be tolerated; to express the Court’s expectation and requirement that the parties will refrain from such abusive behavior going forward; and to place Mycroft and Montgomery on notice that they may be subjected to further sanctions and consequences for their misconduct should they fail to heed the Court’s direction. The filing goes on to show a number of angry emails that were sent to Tumey's firm. These are typical angry people on the internet sounding off type emails, but Tumey seems sure that it's really Montgomery himself. The timing and nature of this email strongly suggested that Montgomery (or, at the very least, someone acting for him/Mycroft) sent it. Indeed, it includes a link to Montgomery’s Reddit post, and brags about posting Mr. Tumey’s correspondence on the Mycroft website—something, presumably, only Montgomery or someone else at Mycroft could have done. See id. Moreover, the subsequent avalanche of orchestrated assaults on Mr. Tumey and his firm further evidence a purposeful campaign by Montgomery/Mycroft against counsel in apparent retribution for Voice Tech’s orderly, lawful pursuit of its rights through the justice system: Or -- and hear me out on this -- the story had already started to go viral on Reddit (the email in question linked to the Reddit story, as noted in the filing) and some immature Redditors, who (for good reasons!) hate patent trolls, decided to act immaturely. That does not mean that it's Montgomery himself. The next day Tumey received another mean email and again assumes that it must be Montgomery, despite the much more obvious answer that it was people who read the story on Reddit. First, the next morning after receiving the email shown above, Tumey L.L.P. received another email to its general email account seemingly from the same source (i.e., Montgomery/Mycroft), which, among other hostile content, recommended—in graphic and highly disturbing terms—death and acts of violence against counsel (as Montgomery’s online post had also done) As Tumey recounts, the various, angry, immature internet trolls then did a bunch of other mean stuff to Tumey -- such as signing him up for mailing lists. This is, again, childish behavior. But it's kinda what often happens when you do something stupid and the internet finds out about it. To blame Montgomery for it seems crazy -- and kind of clueless about the internet. But, no, Tumey assumes it's all because of Montgomery: The timing and pattern of these activities, as well as the nature of the emails, and similarities and connections with Montgomery’s published posts led Voice Tech’s counsel to conclude that Montgomery, alone or in concert with others, was most likely the individual behind this onslaught of harassment. Look: again, the actions here were dumb, childish pranks played by dumb, childish individuals. But to lump it all on Montgomery because he published a blog post is crazy. Indeed, later in the filing, Tumey drops even the idea that this juvenile behavior was done "in concert" with Montgomery, and just insists that it was the company Mycroft's actions directly: In this case, Mycroft’s threatening suggestions of physical harm and death towards Voice Tech’s counsel, as well as its litany of other harassing and abusive behavior, are antithetical to an orderly and fair judicial process, and undermine the sanctity of this proceeding. As the above authorities demonstrate, it is well within this Court’s inherent authority to make it clear that such conduct will not be tolerated. Indeed, Voice Tech notes that, even in the absence of the extraordinary circumstances of this case, courts routinely issue orders and adopt standing procedures directing civil and professional behavior by those appearing before them. Notably, nowhere in the filing does Tumey link to the Reddit post in question. So I went and looked, and it sure looks like it went viral in r/linux and did pretty well in a few related open source subreddits as well. In other words, a lot of people who are sick of patent trolls saw the story. The idea that all the messages are coming from Montgomery or Mycroft themselves is simply bonkers. For its part, when asked, I was told by the company's lawyer, Lee Cheng (who masterminded NewEgg's anti-patent troll strategy): "Of course no one, even blatant patent abusers and legal advantage takers, should be harassed or threatened. No one who threatens or harasses people or their families is a friend of either Mycroft AI or Josh Montgomery." And it does seem like rather than insisting that Montgomery and Mycroft AI are sending the threatening emails and engaging in the other childish behavior, the real reason it happened is because a lot of people really hate patent shakedown efforts, and chose a poor way to express that. For VoiceTech and Tumey to try to work the refs early in the case by pinning bad behavior of third parties on Mycroft seems particularly distasteful. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It's amazing how two people can look at the same situation and see the exact opposite conclusions. As experts are pointing out that to fight COVID-19 we should be relaxing intellectual property laws to enable more experimentation and collaboration, some have decided what we really need is more locking up of knowledge, and apparently Senator Ben Sasse falls into that ridiculous camp. We joked a few weeks ago about a law professor who's never seen an intellectual property law he didn't want to make worse, saying that pharma companies needed longer patent terms to incentivize the creation of treatments, but we didn't think anyone in power would actually take that nonsense seriously. Senator Sasse, however, took up the ridiculous challenge, and has introduced the Facilitating Innovation to Fight Coronavirus Act. It's a bad, bad, bill that makes no sense at all, but it's separated into two sections that have no business being together in a single bill other than as a ridiculous way to try to convince people who want one provision to support the other. Let's start with the first provision, that actually does make sense. It would take away laws that are blocking some doctors from helping, and also blocking doctors from making use of unproven but potentially valid treatments: Notwithstanding any other provision of Federal, State, or local law, no health care provider shall be liable in any Federal, State, or local civil proceeding for— (1) using or modifying a medical device for an unapproved use or indication; (2) practicing without a license or outside of an area of specialty if instructed to do so by an individual with such a license or within such an area of specialty; or (3) conducting the testing of, or the provision of treatment to, a patient outside of the premises of standard health care facilities; where such action was carried out to test, treat, or otherwise counter the effects of the Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 during the duration of the national emergency... Those issues have been blocking doctors from being able to help during this pandemic. And, yes, there are reasonable fears concerning snake oil treatments and nonsense spewed by cranks and non-doctors, but most doctors are not pushing snake oil and aren't cranks. If they can help out, they should be able to do so -- and as we learn more and more about what works, having to wait until something is an "approved use" has already been frustrating many. But, those good ideas are completely drowned in the muck of the horrible idea Sasse has tied to it: extending patent terms for COVID-19 treatments. First, the bill says that the patent term won't be considered to start until after the national emergency is over and then, on top of that, it grants any COVID-19 related patent 10 extra years of protection, which would mean more than 50% more than any other patent. EFFECTIVE DATE.—Notwithstanding any provision of title 35, United States Code, with respect to an eligible patent, the term of the patent shall not begin until the date on which the national emergency declared by the President under the National Emergencies Act (50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.) with respect to that disease terminates. LENGTH OF TERM.—Notwithstanding any provision of title 35, United States Code, with respect to an eligible patent, the term of the patent shall extend for 10 years longer than it otherwise would under such title. And what is an "eligible patent"? Well, basically anything that is helpful in treating COVID-19, even if it's already patented: In this section, the term ‘‘eligible patent’’ means a patent issued for a new or existing pharmaceutical, medical device, or other process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof used or intended for use in the treatment of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19). If this became law, you can bet tons of ancillary drugs and devices would suddenly try to claim those ten extra years of exclusivity. I'm not even sure how this law would apply to things that are already off-patent but are used. Would they suddenly go back on patent for 10 years? The bill is terribly drafted and appears to have been written by someone who doesn't understand how any of this works. I get that there's a desire to create incentives for stopping the pandemic, and that some very ignorant people think the patent system is the only incentive lever that exists for innovation, but that's utter nonsense. You just need to look around. Tons of companies are stepping up to work on this problem, because another incentive is not watching millions of humans die. That's kind of a big one. Also, just being a good citizen of the world. Second, it's difficult to see how any of this makes any sense anyway. If the treatment is something that's actually new and patent-eligible, then patents filed now won't be approved for quite some time, possibly over a year at which point one hopes that we're out of this pandemic. But, even so, the bill is written to suggest that we'll be fighting COVID-19 for the next 30 years. And if that's the case, we're going to have much bigger problems on our hands than how long some pharma company's patents last. Finally, this is completely brain-dead public policy. The entire point of patents is to create a monopoly so that the creators can charge monopoly rents. We already have some general issues with how that makes any sense in a free market economy, but, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, this makes less than no sense at all. It's a law that is literally designed to jack up the cost of treating COVID-19. Because that's what patents do. They create a monopoly so the sole supplier can increase prices. Right now we need widespread solutions that can quickly be deployed globally. Jacking up the price of it makes that impossible. There is no sensible model in which this approach makes any sense at all. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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In a win for researchers and the ACLU, a federal court has ruled that violating a site's terms of service is not a criminal violation of the CFAA. The ACLU filed this lawsuit in 2016, representing researchers, scientists, and journalists who were looking into whether employment websites engaged in discriminatory behavior. To do so, the researchers needed to deliberately violate the terms of service of the websites they were studying by creating bogus accounts and providing other false information. Since the CFAA has been the go-to law for companies seeking to silence security researchers and critics, the ACLU and its plaintiffs raised a pre-enforcement challenge, seeking a ruling declaring this work legal before the DOJ had a chance to abuse this terrible law to shut the research down. The DC federal court doesn't go so far as to extend First Amendment protection to these actions, but it does hold, importantly, that the CFAA does not criminalize terms-of-service violations. From the decision [PDF]: The Court agrees with the clear weight of relevant authority and adopts a narrow interpretation of “exceeds authorized access.” Without weighing in on the circuit split over employers’ computer-use policies, the Court concludes that violating public websites’ terms of service, as Wilson and Mislove propose to do for their research, does not constitute a CFAA violation under the “exceeds authorized access” provision. The DOJ tried to argue the plaintiffs had no case because it would never in a million years even think about bringing a CFAA prosecution over terms of service violations. The court says the government's own words and actions contradict its assertions. The government argues that plaintiffs fail to establish a credible threat of prosecution under the CFAA, contending that (1) plaintiffs’ testimony shows that they do not fear prosecution (and, indeed, already have engaged in such research); (2) past CFAA prosecutions do not establish a credible threat that plaintiffs’ proposed conduct will be prosecuted; and (3) the government’s charging policies and public statements undercut plaintiffs’ attempt to establish a credible threat of prosecution. [...] [E]ven assuming the absence of prior prosecutions, but see Sandvig, 314 F. Supp. 3d at 19–20 (discussing two previous prosecutions under the Access Provision), plaintiffs still are not precluded from bringing this pre-enforcement action. When constitutionally protected conduct falls within the scope of a criminal statute, and the government “has not disavowed any intention of invoking the criminal penalty provision,” plaintiffs are “not without some reason in fearing prosecution” and have standing to bring the suit. It's not enough for the government to declare it probably won't pursue ToS-violation prosecutions, the court says. [T]he government points to guidance from the Attorney General that “expressly cautions against prosecutions based on [terms-of-service] violations,” as well as statements to Congress by Department of Justice officials, as evidence that plaintiffs face no credible threat of prosecution. Gov’t’s Opp’n at 16–17. But the absence of a specific disavowal of prosecution by the Department undermines much of the government’s argument. All we're left with is the DOJ's prosecutorial discretion, which is extremely suspect and not backed by any statements from officials that would assure the plaintiffs the government would not choose to take action against them in the future. Discovery has not helped the government’s position. John T. Lynch, Jr., the Chief of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, testified at his deposition that it was not “impossible for the Department to bring a CFAA prosecution based on [similar] facts and de minimis harm…" Although Lynch has also stated that he does not “expect” the Department to do so, Aff. of John T. Lynch, Jr. [ECF No. 21-1] ¶ 9, “[t]he Constitution ‘does not leave us at the mercy of noblesse oblige...’” This may keep the DOJ off researchers' backs but it won't shield them from lawsuits from the targeted sites. The Court concludes that agreeing to such contractual restrictions, although that may have consequences for civil liability under other federal and state laws, is not sufficient to trigger criminal liability under the CFAA. This at least will deter the DOJ from pursuing these prosecutions in its "home" court. Most CFAA action still takes place in the Ninth Circuit, where most tech companies are located. Opinions on civil CFAA cases have been hit and miss, but at least one major case (LinkedIn v. HiQ) saw the court come down on the side of the party doing the scraping, a violation of LinkedIn's terms of service. This decision is being appealed, but for now, it still stands. The research can move forward without the threat of government prosecution dangling over its head. That's a start. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Learn Spanish, French, Italian, German, and many more languages with Babbel, the top-grossing, language-learning app in the world. Developed by over 100 expert linguists, Babbel is helping millions of people speak a new language quickly and with confidence. After just one month, you will be able to speak confidently about practical topics, such as transportation, dining, shopping, directions, making friends, and much more. It's on sale for $159. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Lots of famous folks have been making (often amusing) "Stay Home" public service announcements. One great one showed up last week, in which Samuel L. Jackson read a copy of a new "poem" by Adam Mansbach, the author (a decade ago) of the infamous Go the Fuck to Sleep. This time, it was Stay the Fuck at Home. As with the original, Mansbach wrote it, and they got Samuel L. Jackson to read it -- though it debuted on the Jimmy Kimmel show (filmed with everyone at home, of course). You can see it embedded below (hopefully starting at the right part): As you can see, this was in the middle of a much longer clip from the show (an interview of Jackson by Kimmel). Many, many people snipped out just the reading and posted versions of it to Twitter and YouTube. In fact, the first version I spotted was a tweeted version that only had about half of the reading. A bunch of versions showed up on YouTube as well... and, of course, Disney had to step in and shut that shit right down with a copyright takedown (ht to Plainsite, who first spotted this). While there was some confusion as to how Disney held the copyright on this, it's because it was originally aired on Jimmy Kimmel's show which is on ABC, which is owned by Disney. So, pretty straightforward, and you might argue, a legitimate use of copyright. The clip's copyright is held by Disney, and so it's not a bogus takedown. But that doesn't make it smart. After all, the whole damn point of this is to make it be seen by as many people as possible. That's the nature of a Public Service Announcement. And the Kimmel clip buried the reading in the middle, whereas many people making clipped versions of it made it that much easier for people to see it. And, I should remind you, the whole damn reason that the original Go the Fuck to Sleep became popular in the first place was because of "piracy" sharing the original around (oh, and also, the original artwork was done without licensing some of the artwork). But, hey, it's the middle of a pandemic and Disney's going to Disney everything up, I guess. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Fifth generation wireless (5G) is not magic. It's not witchcraft. It's not a "race." It's not going to kill you. And frankly, it's not even all that interesting. We've noted for years now how 5G has been over-hyped by wireless carriers looking to spike lagging smartphone sales, or the gear makers hoping to cash in on global network builds. They've been busily trying to suggest that 5G is almost magic, capable of everything short of curing cancer. In reality 5G is barely available, expensive to adopt, and requires pricey new handsets that aren't worth it because we haven't figured out battery life issues. In time 5G will be a good thing in the way faster, more resilient networks are good, but it's not actually all that transformative. On the flip side of the industry's relentless empty hype is the conspiracy theorists who, despite the overwhelming consensus of scientists, insist that 5G is bad for your health. While it would be hubris to claim we know everything about the way wireless technology impacts human biology, the science we have at the moment makes it clear 5G is not killing you. Theories to the contrary have always bubbled around the internet, but during the pandemic they've somehow gone next level, resulting in folks actually burning down 5G towers in the UK last week: "There have been fires at masts in Birmingham, Liverpool and Melling in Merseyside. A video, allegedly of the blaze in Aigburth, was shared on YouTube and Facebook, claiming a link between the mobile technology and Covid-19. Some foreign influence operations designed to try and wreak havoc have long circulated 5G-related bullshit among the internet gullible. But there's also a laundry list of assorted internet famous folks who've also been happily linking 5G to coronavirus on social media to either push an embedded ideology or just make a buck, like these two gentlemen--both verified and with 300K+ follower counts: For those unfamiliar with Icke, he's a sort of proto-Alex Jones if Jones believed the world was secretly run by lizard people. He's a well known crackpot, but he has followers and a blue checkmark on Twitter. Hell, even Hollywood celebrities like Woody Harrelson have been spreading around the bullshit, thanks in part to our new Goop mindset, which took the "healing powers of crystals" mentality and industrialized it at scale: "Former “Cheers” TV star Woody Harrelson recently posted a report “about the negative effects of 5G” and its supposed role in the coronavirus pandemic to his more than 2 million Instagram followers. "I haven’t fully vetted it I find it very interesting,” he wrote of the report claiming that “5G radiation” is “exacerbating” the contagion’s spread and making it more lethal." There's an endless list of problems that brought us to this point. Shoddy, sensationalist media. Poor education standards. Companies like Twitter find it impossible to police obvious, hugely-popular verified accounts that spread clear disinformation. Celebrity worship. Foreign and domestic disinformation campaigns we've yet to create solutions for. General human stupidity and gullibility. A prioritization of "engagement" over substance. A steady degradation of political norms. America's general, several-hundred-year old adoration of profitable bullshit. There's no quick fix, there's only a simple individual answer: don't be part of the fucking problem. Fact check. Verify your sources. At least try to rely on actual scientists and widely-credible experts instead of the fun-loving dudebros at brainwaves5Gdeath.com. Again, the ultimate irony being is that 5G isn't just safe and decidedly not a mind control experiment, but it's not even all that interesting. It's a spottily available, over-hyped, and expensive upgrade to the 4G networks you're already using. And while it will provide impressive speeds and more resilient networks in time, right now (at least in the U.S.), it's an over-marketed, under-delivered mess not worthy of this level of attention. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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No one really needs to wait until Friday afternoon to bury bad news. Not these days when bad news is all we seem to have, occasionally mixed with even worse news. But the White House remains the White House, so the time-honored process of dumping stuff you want to stay out of the headlines right before everyone punches out for the weekend remains in place. The government as a whole claims it wants whistleblowers to report wrongdoing through the proper channels. It then routinely follows this up by ensuring the proper channels remain the best way to see good deeds punished. The whistleblower that reported President Trump's inappropriate conversation with Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky saw their report buried by the White House's Office of Legal Counsel. So much for the proper channels. President Trump himself asked for the whistleblower to be outed, undermining the protections the federal government has established to ensure wrongdoing is reported. The only party receptive to the whistleblower's complaints has now been fired by President Trump, closing the loop on the White House's retaliatory actions. President Donald Trump on Friday fired Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson, who had told Congress about the whistleblower complaint that led to Trump's impeachment, the President told Congress in a letter obtained by CNN. So, there's another spot open in the administration -- one that will probably be filled by an underqualified suck-up, rather than someone who can actually do the job. Trump's faith in appointees often appears to be directly related to how good they make him look, rather than how well they do their jobs. "As is the case with regard to other positions where I, as President, have the power of appointment ... it is vital that I have the fullest confidence in the appointees serving as inspectors general," Trump wrote. "That is no longer the case with regard to this Inspector General." Atkinson's response letter is worth reading. It makes it clear his firing was politically motivated and had nothing to do with his ability to carry out his duties. It is hard not to think that the President's loss of confidence in me derives from my having faithfully discharged my legal obligations as an independent and impartial Inspector General, and from my commitment to continue to do so. More of the same from this administration, which isn't all that different from the actions of the administrations that preceded Trump's. Whistleblowers get punished. Those aiding whistleblowers in their efforts by following the law are also retaliated against with alarming frequency. This is what whistleblower laws are supposed to deter. But they're ultimately toothless, especially when it comes to presidential appointees who can be hired and fired at will. Since the protections only go so far, whistleblowers are likely to be deterred by appointees inhabiting the "proper channels," who may selectively bury reports to ensure their own employment continues. Those that do pass on information that will displease the administration put their own necks on the line, and that's the sort of ideal that rarely has a 100% participation rate in Washington, DC. It would be nice if these protections -- and the rules against retaliation -- were respected across the board. But they'll never be. They'll only be used when they're politically expedient. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As most of you will know, the term "fake news" has been so bastardized at this point so as to be more a moniker of quite literally the opposite of its original intended meaning. Once used to label the sort of nonsense news stories that people would share haphazardly on social media, the term is now almost exclusively used by government strong-men with paper-thin skin and entirely too much power. Still, the term does have a real meaning, if only we made a point of getting back to it. Perhaps in one story, we can illustrate both sides of this. One of the aforementioned leaders that has enjoyed shouting "fake news!" at any media coverage he doesn't like has been Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu. You would think "fake news" would be something Netanyahu really hates. And, yet, Netanyahu also apparently gathered his cabinet members, sat them down, and then solemnly showed them video of Iranian government officials secretly dumping dead bodies in garbage dumps so as to conceal how many COVID-19 deaths the country was enduring. There was just one tiny problem... The backdrop: Iran has been Netanyahu's top foreign policy focus for 25 years. Israeli intelligence believes there have been up to five times more coronavirus deaths there than the 3,036 that have been officially acknowledged, an Israeli official tells me. Netanyahu thought he'd seen evidence of a cover-up. Behind the scenes: Several hours later, Netanyahu's office realized the video had nothing to do with Iran, or with the coronavirus crisis. It was a clip from “Pandemic," a 2007 Hallmark Channel mini-series. Whoops. So, how does real, actual "fake news" happen? Well, usually it occurs when a relatively ignorant person, often of older age, encounters media or content that is easily shared and also aligns with their own pre-existing worldview and conceptions, and then that person does the sharing without bothering to vet the truth of the content at all. Were there a more perfect example of this than Netanyahu pushing a Hallmark movie clip as Iranian bad deeds, I cannot possibly imagine what it would be. And Netanyahu's people aren't denying any of this. The prime minister’s office didn’t deny this account. It said the video had only been sent to three Cabinet ministers who requested it and were told it came from social media and its authenticity was unclear. Boy, if ever there were a time for Netanyahu to call a story fake news, I'd have thought this would be it. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Hamilton County (TN) Deputy Daniel Wilkey is in more trouble than possibly any other law enforcement officer has ever been in. Currently facing nine lawsuits over his bizarre and disturbing rights violations, Wilkey is simultaneously facing 44 criminal charges, 25 of which are felonies. Wilkey's rights violations were especially creative. He forced one woman to undergo an involuntary mid-winter baptism in a nearby lake in exchange for some assistance with the drug charges Wilkey was filing against her. In another incident, Wilkey pulled over a car full of minors, forcing the only male occupant to strip to his boxers while he alternated between swearing at the teens and preaching to them. The criminal charges against Wilkey are a hideous blend of mundane and horrifying -- ranging from reckless driving to false imprisonment to stalking to rape. Wilkey could have been taken off the street anytime before this turned into national news, but the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department apparently felt eight internal affairs investigations in ten months was acceptable behavior, rather than a continuous stream of misconduct it should have diverted before it overflowed the office's capacity to control the narrative. But the Sheriff's Office seems determined to protect Wilkey from the consequences of his actions. As Courthouse News reports, a whole lot of camera footage from Wikey's patrol car has suddenly gone missing. The attorney for the woman who was forcibly "baptised" by Wilkey has just discovered months of possibly-damning footage has mysteriously vanished. A few weeks ago, the woman’s attorney, Robin Flores, learned that the county admitted in another case in Tennessee state court that the server storing all the dash-cam footage the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office recorded from Oct. 25, 2018, to Jan. 23, 2020, suffered a software failure. According to the county, all the footage is gone and unrecoverable. Flores has asked the court to ensure any recoverable footage is recovered and anything else that may have been recorded be preserved and handed over to her client. The court agrees this is a suspicious and oddly convenient software failure. Before appointing a forensic examiner or considering sanctions against a Tennessee county for the loss of months of dashboard-camera footage — possible evidence for nine lawsuits against a single sheriff’s deputy accused of a range of misconduct — a federal magistrate wants to ensure the footage is actually gone. Calling the loss of the data a “front-burner item,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Steger in Eastern District of Tennessee said Tuesday that Hamilton County, which sits in the southeast corner of the state, had a duty to preserve evidence — including the dash-cam footage of the traffic stops in question. The preservation request [PDF] points out that the date range of the "lost" footage covers most of the incidents Wilkey is being sued over. It also points out the Sheriff's Office never notified any of the nine plaintiffs (or the judges overseeing the cases) about the lost footage. Here, this data appears to have been lost for more than a month yet no notice of its loss has ever been provided to the Plaintiff, notwithstanding her spoliation demands and her properly served discovery demands. The only way this loss came to Plaintiff’s attention today (February 28, 2020) was when counsel was reviewing the Hinds matter and saw the undated letter attached to a state court pleading filed on the same day. The letter indicates that the Sheriff’s Office has been working on this problem for “several weeks” and it may be inferred that the loss occurred on or about January 23, 2020, the last date for which the data was lost. There's nothing in it for the Sheriff's Office. Ensuring the footage remains intact only raises questions about why it didn't do anything sooner to get Wilkey taken off the streets, if not removed from the force entirely. So, it took 180 hours of dashcam footage, moved it to an external hard drive, and than claimed a "software failure" suddenly made all of this evidence irrecoverable. There's no reason to believe this was an accident -- not until the Sheriff's office makes some sort of showing it actually cares about the people it's supposed to be protecting and serving. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Late last week, we wrote a nice story about how the infamous image of the coronavirus that is causing COVID-19 is in the public domain, since it's a work of the US federal government. That's part of the reason why it's everywhere these days: But, as one of our commenters pointed out, that won't stop Getty Images from trying to sell you a license to the image (even complete with the CDC logo on it, which takes real balls by Getty) for an astounding $500. I mean, the text with the image even directly says that it was created at the CDC. You'd think some worker bee at Getty might recognize that this makes it public domain. Getty has a bit of a history of this, and was even sued by a photographer for trying to license images that she had put into the public domain. To be clear, Getty is not violating any law here. Something that's in the public domain is free for use in any manner, meaning that you certainly could try to sell it, though it does seem a bit sleazy and dishonest, especially at a time when news about the coronavirus is so important. What would be problematic, of course, is if Getty actually threatened, sent DMCA takedowns, or sued over anyone using the image. Because that would be bullshit. It's a little unclear exactly how Getty got this image. It's listed as part of the "Smith Collection/Gado." However, it's hard to find out what exactly that means. There is a company called Gado Images, which mixes a bunch of buzzwords about AI with stuff about archiving photographs. I'm not sure I understand what one has to do with the other. It says it's using AI for "digitizing, capturing and sharing the world's visual history." And licensing it, perhaps. But if the images are not Gado's to share, then that raises a whole bunch of other questions. Either way, the whole thing is pretty sleazy, and Getty should either (a) take it down, or (b) admit that it is public domain and make it freely available.

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Thanks to the goddamn everything else going on in the world right now, we've now learned what happens when Congress lets surveillance authorities expire. Nothing, really. Here's Charlie Savage for the New York Times. House Democrats left the capital on Friday after passing the $2 trillion coronavirus relief legislation without taking up a Senate bill to temporarily revive three expired F.B.I. surveillance tools for terrorism and espionage investigations, ensuring that the laws will remain lapsed at least until the Senate returns from vacation next month. The authorities created by the US Patriot Act -- specifically, the bulk collection of business records and roving wiretaps -- both expired on March 15th. More pressing issues backburnered the reauth, which is probably preferable to the alternatives: a blanket reauthorization rush job or some rights-wrecking abomination tacked onto a must-pass coronavirus response bill. But letting these authorities expire doesn't change much of anything, especially since the FISA Court is presumably on limited duty like other courts in the nation while waiting for the pandemic curve to flatten a bit. It's still business as usual for any surveillance business in progress before the March 15th cutoff, as Julian Sanchez explains. A so-called savings clause permits the laws to remain in effect for investigations that already existed on March 15, or for new investigations into events that occurred before then. “The authorities remain available for either investigations open at the time of expiration or investigations predicated on underlying conduct that predates the sunset date,” Mr. Sanchez said. This means agencies can initiate surveillance using these expired authorities so long as they backdate the impetus for the investigation. We're in the midst of a never-ending War on Terror, so any targets loosely associated with the terrorist networks we've targeted for decades will remain surveilled under expired authorities. And that will continue up until Congress gets around to actually reauthorizing the surveillance that never stopped. In practice, this means all sorts of surveillance is continuing without explicit Congressional permission. But that's the way the law was written. The escape hatch says nothing needs to stop even when nothing governing surveillance says it's alright to keep going. Securing the nation is too important to be left in the hands of three branches. Congress has cut itself out by not handling the reauthorization in a timely manner. And the FISA Court can't do anything about since it's forced operate (and authorize) in the void Congress created. There's a lot of power in play here and it's being handled irresponsibly. Just when the FBI has shown it can't be honest with the FISA Court (and hasn't been for most of two decades), no one's stopping anyone from doing anything, much less instituting needed reforms. While tackling the virus may have been the more important job, it's disheartening to know there's really no expiration date on surveillance authorities, no matter what might be said in Congress during these periodic battles over domestic surveillance. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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WordLogic is a patent troll. The company has been around for a while and holds a bunch of patents (such as US Patent 7,681,124) which it claims covers the concept of predictive text writing. While WordLogic is (was?) a publicly listed company, the stock is currently worth $0.0001 per share. About the only news about the company has to do with hiring patent lawyers and failing to live up to bragging press releases. The company has spent the last few years filing a whole bunch of patent shakedown lawsuits. A quick glance shows 12 federal cases involving the '124 patent, and they don't appear to have gone all that well for WordLogic. I didn't check all of the cases to see how they ended up, but I haven't come across one that they've won yet. Two cases are notable. Unified Patents asked the patent office to review the patent, saying it should never have been granted in the first place. The PTAB (the review board) came out with an initial ruling that the patent was likely invalid, at which point, WordLogic suddenly found religion and "settled" the case before the PTAB could issue a final ruling on the validity of the patent. But that meant that WordLogic could continue to shake down companies with that patent. Indeed, it looks like 9 of the cases over the '124 patent were filed after the review was "settled." In one case, against Fleksy, WordLogic's lawyers were facing Rule 11 sanctions in which Fleksy highlights that nothing it does comes anywhere near what the patent asserts and that WordLogic knew this. Just a snippet: Fleksy invites the Court’s attention to the brief filed in opposition to this motion. It is a guarantee that there will be nothing in the realm of evidence that Fleksy does this. But, more importantly, counsel for Plaintiffs will be unable to cite anything non-evidentiary to convince this Court that he had a “good faith” basis to believe that the app he accused of infringing this patent claim actually satisfies the recited element. A thirty-second review of the app would have confirmed that multi-level search or anything close to it simply does not occur and has never occurred on Fleksy’s app. There isn’t an iota of evidence in the public domain that could plausibly support a reasonable belief that discovery would uncover such evidence. Any bare bones pre-filing investigation would have revealed to counsel that on Fleksy’s app, when a user accepts a completion candidate, the app inserts the word, then inserts a space bar after the word, and then awaits the user’s entry of a brand new word. It does not obtain and display a list of further completion candidates. That is, the Fleksy app does not process a user selection of a completion candidate as a request by the user to continue searching for further completion candidates, i.e., multi-level search of the sort explained in the ’152 patent specification and claimed in claim element (h) of Claim 19. And then this: Here, the accused product is a mobile app that was freely and easily available for download and inspection at the time Wordlogic’s counsel filed this patent lawsuit. For zero dollars and ten minutes of his time, counsel could have confronted the factual realities about Fleksy’s app that Fleksy has detailed in this brief. These factual realities collide head first with entire claim elements recited in the two patents-in-suit. After a weak response from WordLogic's lawyers, WordLogic agreed to drop the case a few days later. This is all pretty typical of an out-and-out patent troll. Focus on shaking lots of companies down for a license fee, and sue a few hoping for a big win or to convince someone to pay up to settle the suit... but it turns tail and runs the second things start to look bad. Its latest target... was not wise. WordLogic sent a shakedown threat letter over the same patent to Wikimedia Foundation. The letter itself is fascinating as a perfect example of how patent troll shakedown normally works. It starts out with grand claims about WordLogic's patents, and insists that Wikipedia infringes on one specific claim (#19 in the '124 patent), but then says "likely other claims in the WordLogic patents." That sort of vagueness is pretty typical of trollish thuggery. The threat letter blusters about how the company is a "global leader" in the field -- which is laughable given that the company appears to have made literally zero revenue for the last two years that it disclosed its income statements publicly. The letter references the Fleksy case, calling it "ongoing litigation" which is odd, considering that that the case was dismissed with prejudice nearly two years before this shakedown letter was sent. I'm not up on legal ethics rules, but I'm curious if it's at all appropriate for a legal threat letter to claim that there's ongoing litigation two years after the case was dismissed. In the end, the letter demands... $30,000. This kind of fee is typical of patent trolls, because they know damn well that litigating this (even to an easy victory) will cost Wikipedia significantly more than $30,000. Thus, the economical choice is to just pay up and move on. That's what's so scammy about WordLogic and this legal threat from lawyer Artoush Ohanian: We recognize that WIKIPEDIA has several options for addressing WordLogic's infringement concerns, including litigation and/or WIKIPEDIA attempting to invalidate the patents by filing an Inter Partes Review (IPR) with the Patent Office. Although we are confident in the validity and infringement of the WordLogic patents, we appreciate the inherent risks and costs to a patent owner in pursuing litigation and/or facing the uncertainties of IPR proceedings. To that end, and to encourage the continued use of WordLogic patented technology, WordLogic is offering a discounted, lump sum fee of $30,000 in exchange for a paid-up one-time license. That, right there, is a quintessential patent troll shakedown paragraph. Gee, we know that challenging this patent and going to court is expensive and uncertain -- so why not just pay us to leave you alone. Disgusting. And I'll note that while it misleadingly mentions the Fleksy litigation, it leaves out the settled IPR process in which the PTAB said that patent was likely invalid. I wonder why... Wikipedia, correctly, is not one to give in to such trollish bullying. It turned around and went to court asking for declaratory judgment that it does not infringe on the patents that WordLogic was waving around. Wikimedia notes that (1) WordLogic's patents are invalid due to prior art, (2) that they are invalid for not covering patentable subject matter, and (3) that anyway, it doesn't even infringe on the patents if they were valid. The claims of the Asserted Patents are invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102 and/or 103(a). For example, the Patent Office determined to institute IPR2017-01856. In reaching that decision, the Patent Office considered prior art references to the Asserted Patents, including U.S. Patent No. 5,724,457 (“Fukishima”), U.S. Patent No. 5,367,453 (“Capps”), U.S. Patent No. 6,307,548 (“Flinchem”), U.S. Patent No. 5,797,098 (“Schroeder”), and John J. Darragh & Ian H. Witten, Cambridge Series On Human- Computer Interaction, The Reactive Keyboard 3 (J. Long ed. 1992) (“Witten”). The Patent Office determined that it would review the claims of the ‘124 patent because it found that these prior art references established a reasonable likelihood that the claims of the ‘124 patent were unpatentable under 35 U.S.C. § 103(a). These same prior art references also establish that the claims of the other Asserted Patents are invalid. The claims of the Asserted Patents are also invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. For example, Fleksy Inc. filed a motion to dismiss on February 3, 2017 in WordLogic Corporation et al v. Fleksy, Inc., Case No. 4:17-cv-07169-JSW, in which it set forth reasons why the claims of the ‘124 patent are invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The allegations of infringement made by the WordLogic Entities fail to show that Wikimedia infringes any claim of any Asserted Patent. For example, for claim 19 of the ’124 patent, the Wikipedia search box that WordLogic identifies as infringing does not perform the required step of “obtaining and displaying in the search list a further modified plurality of completion candidates from among the group of completion candidates, if a completion candidate is accepted via the search list from the modified plurality of completion candidates.” If WordLogic is smart (big if), it should probably come grovelling to Wikimedia promising to leave it alone. If it's not smart and pushes forward, I can't imagine this ending well for the "company" or its patents. Considering that the patents expire in a couple years anyway, it may try to turn tail and run again and look for someone else to shake down who it hopes will be easier prey. In the meantime, it's still ridiculous that Wikimedia (and anyone else) continues to have to deal with this kind of bullshit trolling activity. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Enjoy your laptop's supposed portability and convenience with Ledetech's Laptop Docking Station Stand. Featuring 9 outputs, this dock holds your laptop while it functions as a universal port replicator, allowing you to connect the peripherals you need with ease. The holder has an HDMI, RJ451, SD Card/Micro SD card readers, and more ports that you can use simultaneously with your laptop. With 12.2" length, this device will add convenience without taking up much space. This holder has full support for Windows 7, 8.1, and 10 systems from most manufacturers and models. It's on sale for $70. Note: The Techdirt Deals Store is powered and curated by StackCommerce. A portion of all sales from Techdirt Deals helps support Techdirt. The products featured do not reflect endorsements by our editorial team. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Pretty much everyone knew this was coming. Fox News' coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic has been absolutely despicable -- insisting that it was little more than the flu, was overhyped by Trump's political enemies, and nothing anyone should be worried about, before turning on a dime to suddenly pretend they never said any of that earlier, and that suddenly it was always obvious it was serious: Of course, a ton of people not only still remember the earlier messaging, but continue to insist it was correct. I've seen it pop up over and over again in various internet forums, where Fox News watchers still, to this day, insist that it's little different than the flu and that all of the efforts to stop the spread are part of a "Democratic hoax" which was messaging straight from Fox News. The news channel, of course, is shameless in its buffoonlike support for the President's messaging, which is now almost certainly contributing to people dying. It's sickening. But, that doesn't mean that anyone should be able to sue to silence Fox News -- but it was widely expected that there would be such lawsuits. And now we've got the first one. As first reported by the Times of San Diego, a little-known non-profit in Washington is suing Fox News (it also throws in AT&T TV, and Comcast, claiming that they offer Fox News in their programming and "are named only insofar as they may have interests that would make them necessary parties, and no relief is sought from them") and trying to get an injunction to get Fox News to stop pushing nonsense about COVID-19, claiming that its existing reporting violates the states consumer protection laws. The complaint filed in Washington state court is a joke, filed by a group that calls itself the Washington League for Increased Transparency and Ethics or "WASHLITE." Except, as the Times of San Diego reports, it had trouble finding people who had heard of the organization before. The group got a real life lawyer, Elizabeth Hallock -- who, um, is "an attorney and risk management consultant, a certified family law mediator and owns the Sweet Relief marijuana retail store in Yakima", and also is running for governor of Washington as a Green Party candidate -- to write the complaint, and I'd suggest she keep one of her day jobs. The whole argument is that by broadcasting misleading information, Fox News "engaged in unfair and deceptive acts" under Washington's Consumer Protection Act. Except, that's not what the law means. The unfair and deceptive acts need to be actions not protected speech. The San Diego article has quite the interview with Arthur West, who runs WASHLITE, and it feels like every word he said is designed to troll Ken "Popehat" White: West denied that the nonprofit group (with perhaps 30 associate members) was aiming to stifle First Amendment rights. “It’s like the theater thing,” he said. “Up to the point where you get up in the theater and yell ‘Fire!’ you can say whatever you want. But when you get to the point where you are endangering the community — that transcends the limits of the First Amendment.” He also contends that commercial speech is involved, not private speech by members of the public. Of course, we've covered to death why you should never ever listen to anyone who spews the nonsense "fire in a crowded theater" line, because it's not good law, and was only mentioned (as an aside) in a since-superceded case that was about putting a politician in jail for protesting a war. Oh, and also, because it's the prime excuse used by every would-be censor. And while "commercial speech" does have fewer protections than speech by the public, that doesn't mean you get to just ignore the 1st Amendment. As despicable and awful as Fox News' coverage has been, it's all been protected free speech. West also seems to think that, because people are dealing with Stay-at-Home orders around the country, the 1st Amendment is suspended or something: Finally, ordinary conditions don’t apply in Washington, with First Amendment rights to assemble and travel already “rightfully” restricted, he said. “Reasonable time, place and manner restrictions on speech have almost universally been upheld in the extraordinary circumstances where such measures are necessary to forestall a clear and present danger,” he said. “This is one such occasion.” That is not how any of this works. Also, a real lawsuit would include actual examples of the "unfair and deceptive acts." This one does not. It just talks vaguely that the network "acted in bad faith to willfully and maliciously disseminate false information denying and minimizing the danger posed by the spread of the novel Coronavirus, or COVID-19, which is now recognized as an international pandemic." As Ken White likes to say, vague complaints are usually the sign of censorial thuggery. Yes, it's true that people are spewing garbage because of Fox News' reporting, but that doesn't mean the network violated the law. By creating a false belief in a statistically significant percent of the population that the coronavirus is a “Hoax,” the Defendants have created an epidemiological hazard. A subset of the population has and will continue to ignore or resist reasonable and necessary efforts to control and mitigate the virus and prevent mass death. That's not how the law works, and if it was, it would be a disaster for the media -- even the media that is usually a lot more reasonable than Fox News propaganda. Sometimes reporters get things wrong. Sometimes they make mistakes. Making them liable in this manner would be a huge attack on a free press. Also, as is evident from the interview in the San Diego coverage, the WASHLITE folks are entirely focused on trying to get internal Fox News documents in discovery -- which they probably are never going to get access to as this case should be tossed out before that's ever allowed. Unfortunately, while Washington State used to have an anti-SLAPP law, due to some bad drafting the law was mostly tossed out as unconstitutional five years ago. Ridiculously, this seems to excite West, as when asked about this being a SLAPP suit, he told the Times of San Diego reporter about how Washington no longer has a real anti-SLAPP law. That's not something you should be proud of, dude. No matter what you think of Fox news and its despicable coverage, this lawsuit is a SLAPP suit and an attack on the 1st Amendment. That it's filed by a group that purports to be about "transparency" and "ethics" and is run by a guy who claims to make his living as a public records advocate is shameful. Speak out all you want about how awful Fox News and its coverage has been. Tell everyone you can that it's spewing propaganda and misinformation. But that doesn't mean you get to sue and claim that it's an "unfair or deceptive" practice. That's just not how any of this works at all. Meanwhile, the Daily Beast spoke to West as well, in which he notes that he's a former automobile mechanic and then proceeds to brag about how much money he makes suing the government over public records requests. “This might seem strange to you,” he added, “but I make a very good living beating the government in court”—mostly suing local jurisdictions, politicians, and taxpayer-funded agencies using Washington’s public records and open records laws. “I’ve gotten a number of six-figure awards… I have a collection of European sports cars. I drive a Jaguar. I have three Mercedes 450 SLs and an Alfa Romeo. My house overlooks the water, and it was purchased with money from the liquor control board.” West won a $192,000 settlement after filing an open-meetings lawsuit against the agency that governs Washington’s legalized marijuana industry. Of course, thanks to a lack of a good anti-SLAPP law in Washington, it likely means he's protected from having to pay Fox News' (likely considerable) legal fees. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Location data has long proven to be hugely profitable to wireless carriers, given it's used by everyone from city planners to marketing departments. Now it's proving useful to help spread the track of COVID-19, allowing researchers to see not only who an infected person has been in contact with and where they've been, but also helping them predict where hot spots might appear next. Such technology was used during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to help both track and predict the movement of the disease. Now the government says it's working in partnership with the advertising industry to use such location data here in the States. The Wall Street Journal (paywall, alternative read at The Verge) indicates the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state and local governments have already received cell phone data about people in areas of “geographic interest." In this case, to track movements and determine how well people are adhering to "stay at home" restrictions: "The goal is to create a government portal with geolocation information from some 500 cities across the country, to help ascertain how well people are complying with stay-at-home orders, according to the WSJ. One example of how the anonymized data was reportedly used: Researchers discovered large numbers of people were gathering in a New York City park, and notified local authorities." Of course just because we're in a pandemic doesn't mean that privacy concerns magically evaporate, or that we shouldn't make an effort to respect citizen privacy. We've noted repeatedly that anonymized location data isn't really anonymous, and individual identities can usually be ferreted out with little to no effort. The more widely this data circulates, the more likely the chance is it's abused by everybody from industry and government to hackers and con artists. The other obvious problem is that the fear of a pandemic creates wonderful cover to abuse the collection of this data for other, less noble purposes. The wireless industry was just busted selling access to this data to any nitwit with a nickel, which is likely why government is collaborating with the ad sector and not carriers directly (at least not yet, and as far as we know). The Washington Post also indicates that Google and Facebook, fresh off one of the biggest privacy scandals in U.S. history, are also collaborating with the government in regards to location data. As anybody tracking this space knows, it's extremely difficult to claw surveillance power back from the government once it's been obtained, and with the U.S. still having no real privacy law for the internet era, it's a virtual certainty that the collection of this data will be abused. There could certainly be ways to mitigate that harm -- such as sunset provisions on collection and strict rules governing how this data can be used -- but we'd already made it abundantly clear as a nation we weren't particularly interested in such options, and with a climate of fear likely overshadowing everything, it's not likely we're about to start now. While it takes a while, the threat posed by COVID-19 will eventually retreat. The surveillance practices we normalize during this period will very likely be here to stay.

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Copyright system supporters keep insisting to me that copyright is never used for censorship, and yet over and over again we keep seeing examples that prove that wrong. The latest is Dr. Drew Pinsky, the somewhat infamous doctor and media personality, who has been one of the more vocal people in the media playing down the impact of the coronavirus. In a video that had gone viral on Twitter and YouTube, it showed many, many, many clips of Dr. Drew insisting that COVID-19 was similar to the flu, and that it wouldn't be that bad. Assuming it hasn't been taken down due to a bogus copyright claim, you can hopefully see it below: Dr. Drew is a snake oil salesman. Really terrible stuff here. What a disgrace. pic.twitter.com/Eh35Ky8yVO — Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) April 4, 2020 As you can see, for well over a month, deep into March when it was blatantly obvious how serious COVID-19 was, he was playing down the threat. Beyond incorrectly comparing it to the flu (saying that it's "way less virulent than the flu" on February 4th -- by which time it was clearly way more virulent than the flu in China), he said the headlines should say "way less serious than influenza," he insisted that the lethality rate was probably around "0.02%" rather than the 2% being reported. On February 7th, he said your probability of "dying from coronavirus -- much higher being hit by an asteroid." He also mocked government officials for telling people to stay home, even at one point in March saying he was "angry" about a "press-induced panic." On March 16th, the same day that the Bay Area in California shut down, he insisted that if you're under 65 you have nothing to worry about, saying "it's just like the flu." This was not in the distant past. At one point, a caller to his show, again on March 16th, said that because it's called COVID-19 that means there were at least 18 others of them, and that's why no one should worry -- and Drew appeared to agree, making it appear he didn't even know that the 19 refers to the year not the numnber of coronaviruses, and even though there are other coronaviruses out there, this one was way more infectious and deadly, so it doesn't matter. To give him a tiny bit of credit, on Saturday, Pinsky posted a series of choppy videos on Twitter in which he flat out said that he was wrong and he was sorry for his earlier statements, and said that he regretted his earlier statements. He also claimed that he signed up to help in California and NY if he was needed. But, even that apology seems weak in the face of what else he said in those videos... and, more importantly, his actions. In terms of what he said, he kept saying that he always said to listen to Dr. Fauci and to listen to your public health officials. Amazingly, at one point in his apology video, he insists that he thinks the real reason why New York got hit so bad is because of hallways and trains. Yet, in the video above, at one point he literally mocks NYC Mayor de Blasio for telling people to avoid crowded trains, saying: "de Blasio told them not to ride the trains! So they're not riding the trains! So I am! [guffaw] I mean, it's ridiculous." Given that, it's a bit difficult to take him seriously when he claims that all along he always said to listen to your public officials, when just a few weeks ago he was mocking them. Indeed, as multiple people have pointed out, the issue here isn't so much that Pinsky was wrong -- in the early days, when there wasn't as much info, lots of people got things wrong about COVID-19 (though Pinsky kept it up way way after most others recognized how serious it was), but that he acted so totally sure about his opinions that this was nothing to worry about. It was the certainty with which he said what he said that was so much of the problem, including deep into it already being a pandemic with local officials warning people to stay home. But, even worse, just as he was doing the right thing and mostly apologizing... he was trying to hide those earlier clips that made him look so, so, so bad. His organization began sending out DMCA notices. If you went to the original YouTube upload you got this: That says: "This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Drew Pinsky Inc." Now, some might argue that it was just some clueless staffer working for Dr. Drew sending off bogus DMCAs, or maybe an automated bot... but nope. Drew himself started tweeting nonsense about copyright law at people. I originally linked to that tweet, but sometime on Sunday, after thousands of people -- including some of the most famous lawyers in the country -- explained to him why it was nonsense, he deleted it. But I kept a screenshot: That says, amazingly: Infringing copywrite laws is a crime. Hang onto your retweets. Or erase to be safe. The wrongness-to-words ratio in that tweet is pretty fucking astounding. First of all, the layup: it's copyright, Drew, not copywrite. Make sure you know the name of the fucking law you're abusing to censor someone before tossing it out there. Second, no, infringing copyright is not a crime. Yes, there is such a thing as criminal copyright infringement, but this ain't it. Someone posting a video of you would be, at best, civil infringement. For it to be criminal, someone would have to be making copies for profit -- like running a bootleg DVD factory or something. Someone posting a 2 minute clip of your nonsense is not that. Most important, however, this isn't even civil infringement, thanks to fair use. Putting up a 2 minute video showing a dozen or so clips of Drew making an ass of himself is not infringing. It's classic fair use -- especially given the topic at hand. So it's really difficult to believe that Drew is really owning up to his mistakes when at the same time he says he's sorry, he's actively working to abuse the law to try to silence people from highlighting his previous comments. Also, someone should point him to Lenz v. Universal in which a court said that before sending a takedown, you need to take fair use into consideration. It certainly appears that Drew hasn't the foggiest idea how copyright law works, so it seems unlikely he considered fair use at all. I certainly understand that he likely regrets his earlier comments. And I appreciate his willingness to admit that he was wrong. But to really take ownership of your previous errors, you shouldn't then be working doubletime to try to delete them from the internet and hide them from view. That's not taking ownership of your mistakes, that's trying to sweep them under the rug.

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posted 3 days ago on techdirt
This week, both of our winning comments on the insightful side come in response to the news that Jared Kushner's coronavirus task force has been using private email accounts for official business. In first place, it's That One Guy breaking down his reaction: 'Lock... him... up?' The best case scenario I can think of is this is just hypocritical incompetence, where they're using private email accounts because doing otherwise would take work, and the whole point of nepotism is to avoid that, with it only getting more damning from there such as the potential they are trying to keep the public in the dark because they know full well that something they are doing would not go over well with the public(can't imagine what though, I mean it's not like there's an absolutely staggering pile of money up for grabs...). Given the point raised in the article about how hard Trump ragged on Hilary for using a private server during the election I don't see that they deserve any 'maybe they just didn't think about it?' benefit of the doubt here, such that the assumption should be the worst case scenario, full blown corruption, until proven otherwise. In second place, it's PaulT answering one commenter's question about why so few candidates on either side of the aisle actually seem worth voting for: A combination of the effectively binary system not allowing true independents to have a chance, a primary system that tends to favour the status quo, and a shift to the right politically over the last few decades which means that even a true centrist will appear to be hard left-wing to a lot of people. Meaning that, if your politics are truly centrist or centre-left there's not really any representation, and you're completely out of luck if you're an actual left-winger. I just hope you realise that a vote is still necessary, even if it's not for your ideal choice. For editor's choice on the insightful side, we've got a pair of responses to the misguided freakout about the Internet Archives enabling more checkouts of ebooks from their library. First up, it's Heather M with a librarian's take: Libraries and copyright issues. As a librarian I for one welcome the Archive. In fact I was ecstatic. Our library had to close and it really bugs all of the librarians that we can't provide services people need safely. One idea we had was to continue our storytimes on line. We can't the biggest publishers will only let people do a live event and then we are to delete any recording we've made. How is this helpful how is this even reasonable? Do they think that by restricting us people are going to rush out and buy their books. Newsflash That isn't going to happen. It didn't happen before the new plague and it is sure not happening now. But when people ask why we can't and we tell them why I can guarantee the names of the publishers who did this are going to linger in memory far longer than the memory of a book being read on line. Next, it's PaulT again with a thought on misleading pleas about authors needing income: Well, yes, it's clearly an emotional ploy that's not taking into account the wider picture. Typical for these kind of arguments, along the lines of the stereotypical "starving musician", who is often starving because they signed to a label for a 4 album deal who then refuse to release their 2nd one because it's too uncommerical. Over on the funny side, our first place winner is Sok Puppette responding to one commenter who decided to defend bad cops after a court smacked them down: Based on my training and experience, I know that posters of inflammatory and idiotic comments are often trolls. I therefore have a reasonable suspicion that you are a troll. If you persist in this behavior, I will have probable cause to believe that you are a troll. My training and experience, trolls lurk under bridges and eat children. Based on my awareness that you are a troll, I will fear for my safety and may be forced to discharge my weapon. If you persist in this course of action, I cannot be responsible for the consequences of your behavior. In second place, it's That Anonymous Coward responding to the audacity of performance rights organizations trying to get licensing fees from rental car companies: It finally happened... After decades of trying to jump the shark, they have now attempted to jump the sharknado. Our only hope now is that fight each other to the death while we listen to radios without paying them. For editor's choice on the funny side, we start out with an anonymous comment that in fact mostly racked up insightful votes for its reminder that the world of older books is much bigger than classics and money-makers, but I think it deserves a funny nod for how colorfully it illustrated this fact: You mean those books that have been out of print for 20 years (and only had one printing), are forgotten by used book stores, and were last seen in a box in your uncle's attic beside the stuffed octopus and the box of 1980's tax documents? Jeez, I didn't think they'd be so upset about the 1994 land survey of Maricopa County water rights, or "Flax and you: the businessman's new threads." Both very good reads when you're out of Ambien. Finally, it's DannyB wondering about the nomenclature that's often employed by collective licensing organizations: Something I don't understand? Why are they called "Collection Societies"? I thought organizations like this were called "Collection Rackets" and prosecuted. That's all for this week, folks!

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