posted 15 days ago on techdirt
The European anti-hate speech machinery rolls on, with each successive demand for social media platform responsiveness being greeted by Facebook's "Thank you, may I have another?" Mark Zuckerberg informed the German chancellor in 2015 that Facebook's often-blundering proxy censorship team was all about removing hate speech. In appreciation for Facebook's efforts, German officials spent the following year trying to find a way to hold the company criminally liable for third party postings determined to be hate speech under German law. Right next door, an Austrian court has just declared that Facebook is required to stamp out locally-defined hate speech... all over the globe. Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online "trolling". The case - brought by Austria's Green party over insults to its leader - has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling. Not only will Facebook need to delete original posts and reposts, but it's apparently supposed to track down anything that quotes the offending posts verbatim and delete those as well. Simply blocking them in Austria isn't sufficient, though. Whatever one aggrieved Austrian political party thinks is hate speech has the possibility to affect all Facebook users, regardless of their location or level of free speech protections. But that's not all Austria's Greens want: they want this ruling expanded to grant the Austrian government additional power over Facebook's moderation efforts. The Greens hope to get the ruling strengthened further at Austria's highest court. They want the court to demand Facebook remove similar - not only identical - postings, and to make it identify holders of fake accounts. These are dangerous powers to hand over to any government entity, but especially to recently-offended government officials with a half-dozen axes to grind. If this ruling holds up, Facebook -- and by extension, its users -- will be subservient to a foreign government that appears to like the sort of thing it sees in more authoritarian regimes where insults to government officials are met with harsh punishments. The worst thing about the ruling -- it contains many bad aspects -- is that it allows the Austrian government to determine what the rest of the world gets to see on Facebook. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Earlier this year, we wrote a story about a fairly nutty patent troll, Blackbird Technologies, who had sued a bunch of companies over a patent it claimed covered letting users download content to consume offline (even though the actual patent was for a CD-ROM burning system). Blackbird has been suing a ton of companies over the last few years, and one of its recent targets was CDN provider Cloudflare (note: we're a customer of Cloudflare). The lawsuit is over US Patent 6,453,335 on "providing an internet third party data channel." The patent itself seems questionable. The application of the patent to Cloudflare's technology seems questionable -- but rather than dig into all of that, instead, let's focus on Cloudflare's response to all of this. First, it's pushing back on the lawsuit (of course), but it's going much, much further than that. As detailed in a new blog post, it's directly going after the lawyers behind Blackbird. You see, it's fairly typical for patent trolling operations to be pretty secretive about how they operate. They are often formed by former patent lawyers who then try to lay low while they know they're abusing the system. In this case, Cloudflare is first calling out the patent lawyers behind Blackbird: Blackbird was formed three years ago by two attorneys who left law firms where they had been engaged in patent defense work — Wendy Verlander (@bbirdtech_CEO; LinkedIn) at WilmerHale, and Chris Freeman (LinkedIn) at Kirkland & Ellis. Notably, both of those firms promote themselves as ready to protect companies from patent trolls. Kirkland trumpets that its IP practice group scored a victory against the “original patent troll,” while WilmerHale has a Patent Troll Initiative that aims to help businesses deal comprehensively with patent trolls. Having gained valuable experience and training by working for clients who paid their firms handsomely to fight suits brought by patent trolls, Verlander and Freeman were well aware of the harm done to their clients by patent trolls. Yet, Verlander and Freeman decided to cast their lot with the other side and formed a patent troll for themselves. But it goes way beyond them just flipping to the dark side. As Cloudflare details, it believes that Blackbird and the two lawyers who run it may have violated legal ethics rules. Many of them. First, Cloudflare makes the case that Blackbird Technologies is really just a law firm, rather than a tech company: As made clear in this blog post, Blackbird’s founders made the decision to leave law firms that were engaged in the defense of clients who were faced with patent lawsuits, and formed a new law firm focused on bringing law suits as a patent troll. The only services promoted on its website (http://www.blackbird-tech.com/) are legal services; the website notes that Blackbird represents a “new model” which provides the benefits of “top law firm experience” offering clients the ability to “litigate at reduced costs.” Of 12 total employees listed on the Blackbird website, 7 are attorneys. The remaining 5 are very junior employees described as “analysts” (3 are current undergraduate students and 2 received Bachelor's degrees last May). As far as we can determine, Blackbird produces no products or services which it makes available to the public. Rather, it offers litigation services and is in the business of filing lawsuits. And its output in that regard is prolific, as it has filed a total of 107 lawsuits since September 2014. As final confirmation that Blackbird is a law firm marketing legal services, its own website includes a disclaimer about “Attorney Advertising,” which states explicitly “[p]lease note that this website may contain attorney advertising.” Blackbird’s “new model” seems to be only that its operations set out to distort the traditional Attorney-Client relationship. Blackbird’s website makes a direct pitch of its legal services to recruit clients with potential claims and then, instead of taking them on as a client, purchases their claims and provides additional consideration that likely gives the client an ongoing interest in the resulting litigation. In doing so, Blackbird is flouting its ethical obligations meant to protect clients and distorting the judicial process by obfuscating and limiting potential counterclaims against the real party in interest. And thus, the company is subject to certain rules. Many of which Cloudflare argues it is not following. Blackbird may have acquired a proprietary interest in the subject matter of the litigation in violation of Rule 1.8(i) — Attorneys have a near monopoly of representing clients in the judicial system. Rule of Professional Conduct 1.8(i) explicitly prohibits an attorney from “acquir[ing] a proprietary interest in a cause of action or subject matter of litigation.” But that is exactly what Blackbird does. Blackbird’s website contains a pitch to recruit clients with potential legal claims under their patents, but then buys those claims and brings them on their own behalf. Wouldn’t that be a violation of Rule 1.8(i)? Doesn’t Blackbird’s attempt to pitch this as a “new model” of being a patent troll ignore the fact that the only non-law firm activity in which they are engaged (buying patents to bring lawsuits) is the exact thing prohibited by Rule 1.8(i)? They shouldn’t be able to use creative contractual or corporate structures to avoid its responsibility under the rules. Blackbird may be sharing fees or firm equity with non-lawyers in violation of Rule 5.4(a) or 5.4(d) — In order to preserve the integrity of the Attorney-Client relationship, Rule of Professional Conduct 5.4(a) prohibits attorneys from splitting legal fees in individual matters with non-lawyers, and Rule 5.4(d) prohibits providing an equity interest in a firm to non-lawyers. We think Blackbird may be violating both provisions. Although he no longer owns the patent and is not a party to the case, the assignment agreement’s terms (specifying payment of only $1) makes it possible that Mr. Kaufman has a contingency interest in the lawsuit. If that is the case, wouldn’t Blackbird be in violation of Rule 5.4(a)? Similarly, Blackbird has moved very quickly since its founding to file lawsuits against a great number of companies — 107 complaints since September 2014. So far, none of those cases have gone to trial. We intend to examine whether they have used financial support from non-lawyers to fund the very fast start to their operations in exchange for an impermissible equity interest, or have shared an equity interest with patent holders like Mr. Kaufmann, either of which would be in violation of Rule 5.4(d). Yeah. So, that might make things slightly more interesting for Blackbird. Rather than just having to fight off the claims of non-infringement or attempts to invalidate the patents, if Cloudflare's arguments here get anywhere, it could put the founders of Blackbird into serious trouble. In some ways, based on Cloudflare's description of how Blackbird operates, it reminds me of Righthaven. As you may recall, that was a copyright trolling operation that effectively "bought" the bare right to sue from newspapers. They pretended they bought the copyright (since you can't just buy a right to sue), but the transfer agreement left all the actual power with the newspapers, and courts eventually realized that all Righthaven really obtained was the right to sue. That resulted in the collapse of Righthaven. This isn't exactly analogous, but there are some clear similarities, in having a "company," rather than a law firm (but still run completely by lawyers), "purchase" patents or copyrights solely for the purpose of suing, while setting up arrangements to share the proceeds with the previous holder of those copyrights or patents. It's a pretty sleazy business no matter what -- and with Righthaven it proved to be its undoing. Blackbird may face a similar challenge. Cloudflare claims they're taking such an extreme step with the bar complaints to ward off other patent trolls from evolving into this type of model, that will only encourage more bogus lawsuits. And, that's not all the company is doing in going after Blackbird. The company is also crowdfunding up to $50,0000 for prior art discoveries not just on the patent being asserted against Cloudflare but on any patent held by Blackbird Technologies. The first bounty (up to $20,000) is for prior art which reads on the patent Blackbird is using to sue Cloudflare, the ‘335 patent. $10,000 is guaranteed and will be divided among prior art submissions that raise substantive questions on the ‘335 patent. The remaining $10,000 will be used to compensate prior art submissions that Cloudflare uses as evidence in an invalidation procedure at the USPTO or invalidation at trial. The latest date of prior art on the ‘335 patent would be July 20, 1998. The larger bounty (up to $30,000) will be spread among those submitting substantial prior art which reads on any of the 34 other outstanding Blackbird patents or their 3 in-flight patent applications and could lead to the invalidation of these dubious patents. Cloudflare will pay the second bounty to people who submit relevant and substantive prior art which, in Cloudflare’s opinion, reads on any other Blackbird patent. The money will be distributed based on the quality of the prior art, the perceived value of the patent, and the extent to which the evidence is used in a proceeding to invalidate one of the Blackbird patents. We will maintain a list of all the Blackbird patents at cloudflare.com/blackbirdpatents/. The list will provide the number of each patent, the relevant latest date of prior art, and will list germane already-identified prior art. We will update the list periodically as we get new information submitted. In other words, if Blackbird Technologies wants to go after Cloudflare in court, Cloudflare is going to hit back hard and make sure that Blackbird can't just run away. In many ways, this reminds me of Newegg's scorched earth approach to any patent trolls that sue them. Once a troll initiates a lawsuit, Newegg goes to war to make sure that other patent trolls don't even think of trying to go after Newegg again (and that strategy seems to mostly be working, as trolls now know to steer clear of the company). Kudos to Cloudflare for hitting back against patent trolling that serves no purpose whatsoever, other than to shake down innovative companies and stifle their services. But, really, the true travesty here is that the company needs to do this at all. Our patent (and copyright) systems seem almost perfectly designed for this kind of shakedown game, having nothing whatsoever to do witht the stated purpose of supporting actual innovators and creators. Instead, it's become a paper game abused by lawyers to enrich themselves at the expense of actual innovators and creators. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Both Oracle and Cisco (not coincidentally major ISP vendors) have come out in full-throated support of the FCC's plan to kill net neutrality. FCC boss Ajit Pai has been making the rounds the last few weeks in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, trying to drum up support of his attack on broadband consumer protections. Pai met with Cisco, Oracle, Facebook and Apple in a number of recent meetings, but so far only Oracle and Cisco have been willing to enthusiastically and publicly throw their corporate fealty behind Pai's extremely-unpopular policies. In its letter, Oracle (which also supported the recent dismantling of consumer broadband privacy protections) is quick to trot out the stale and debunked canard that net neutrality stifled telecom investment: "From our perspective as a Silicon Valley technology company, what should have been a purely technological discussion of managing traffic on internet networks has inexplicably evolved into a highly political hyperbolic battle, substantially removed from technical, economic, and consumer reality. Further, the stifling open internet regulations and broadband classification that the FCC put in place in 2015 – for just one aspect of the internet ecosystem – threw out both the technological consensus and the certainty needed for jobs and investment." If you're playing along at home, you should, by now, realize this is bullshit. Once again, public SEC filings, earnings reports, and ISP executive statements contradict this claim. Killing net neutrality and broadband privacy protections is about one thing: letting giant incumbent ISPs make more money by abusing the lack of competition in the broadband last mile. And while that's good for ISP vendors like Oracle, that's not so great for the smaller companies that need a healthy, level playing field to do business. That's why over 800 startups have come out in opposition to the FCC plan. Like Oracle, Cisco was similarly eager to ignore the vast negative repercussions of the FCC's plan in a statement over at the company's website that also, again, insists net neutrality stifled investment: "The proposal will review what is needed to protect consumers and prevent anti-competitive behavior, while rolling back Title II reclassification, which has inhibited investment. The balanced approach Commissioner Pai unveiled will encourage new investments in broadband networks and speed the development of innovative services, including Internet of Things technologies, telemedicine, distance learning, emergency services, and mobile 5G." As we've noted, Pai's "balanced approach" involves first gutting all FCC authority over broadband, then shoveling the remaining, paltry authority back over to an already limited FTC authority that AT&T lawyers have demostrated they're able to tap dance around. Both Cisco and Oracle are well aware that the goal here isn't "balanced" regulations or "protecting consumers"; the goal is to turn a blind eye to the lack of competition in the broadband space (a disease for which neutrality violations are just one symptom) for the sole benefit of their clients at AT&T, Comcast, Verizon and Charter. Oracle and Cisco's vocal support of the killing of net neutrality comes as former net neutrality supporters like Netflix and Google have remained notably silent this go-round. Contrary to some media narratives, Google hasn't really been a vocal net neutrality supporter since 2010, and its interest in protecting an open internet has waned exponentially after launching an ISP (Google Fiber) and jumping into wireless. Netflix has similarly toned down its rhetoric to aid its lobbying under the Trump administration, while shifting its overall focus toward international expansion. That has left startups, consumers, smaller companies (like Roku and Mozilla) under-funded and under-gunned as they fight to keep the internet resembling something vaguely like a level playing field. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Another day, another attack on a free press. The latest: a long-time reporter, Daniel Heyman, of the Public News Service in West Virginia was arrested for asking questions of Trump administration officials. Heyman yelled some questions to Health & Human Services Director Tom Price along with White House senior advisor Kellyanne Conway: Daniel Ralph Heyman, 54, with the Public News Service of West Virginia, was freed on $5,000 bond Tuesday night on a charge of "willful disruption of government processes," according to a criminal complaint. “The above defendant was aggressively breaching the secret service agents to the point where the agents were forced to remove him a couple of times from the area walking up the hallway in the main building of the Capitol,” the complaint states. It adds Heyman caused a disturbance by “yelling questions at Ms. Conway and Secretary Price.” Whether you like it or not, the press is kind of supposed to ask questions of elected officials. That's their job. And, sure, some will argue that the complaint says that he was "aggressively breaching the secret service agents," but others on the scene indicated nothing beyond ordinary questioning happened: Valerie Woody, who was there as outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, said Price's group was moving quickly down a hallway and Heyman was racing after them. "I saw nothing in his behavior, I heard nothing that indicated any kind of aggressive behavior or anything like that," she told Public News Service. "Just simple, you know, trying to get somebody's attention and ask them a question. It seems to me there was no violation of anyone's space, or physicality, other than the arrest itself." And, making matters worse, rather than admitting to over-aggressive enforcement, Price is cheering on the arrest: Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price on Wednesday commended police in West Virginia for “doing what they thought was appropriate” in arresting a journalist who shouted questions at him, but added that it wasn’t his call to say whether they took the proper measures. Price said the reporter confronted him while he was walking down a hallway. “That gentleman was not in a press conference,” he said. I'm curious if Price (or anyone else, for that matter) could point to where in the First Amendment there's a rule that says the press is only allowed to ask questions "at a press conference." That's not how it works. There's also this: Asked Wednesday by STAT whether he thought Heyman should have been arrested, Price said: “That’s not my decision to make.” Well, that's only partially true. Obviously, the local law enforcement gets to make that decision, but there's nothing stopping a competent public official from telling law enforcement to knock it off and to answer a few basic questions from a reporter. In an era where we're hearing more and more about both attacks on a free press, as well as the need for a stronger press, these kinds of shenanigans should not be allowed. In the past, when we've covered police arresting reporters, the courts have come out repeatedly in favor of the reporters (that whole First Amendment thing still matters). But that's of little use in the moment when police are dragging reporters off to jail for shouting questions outside a press conference. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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One of the most infuriating aspects of typical trademark disputes is how often the dire nature of the supposed infringement is ratcheted up in the threat rhetoric, while the eventual settlement reached seems laughably inconsequential. Bethesda, which has built a reputation for itself in terms of trademark bullying over its video game franchises, has been an example of this sort of thing in the past. When it decided that it owned the term "scrolls" generally after trademarking its Elder Scrolls franchise, it launched a dispute with developer Mojang over its game which was titled Scrolls. Much was made about the potential for customer confusion, except the eventual settlement allowed Mojang to keep the name for its game. One wonders why such a settlement would be agreed to by Bethesda were its original assertions remotely accurate. But where Mojang's settlement was at least cut and dry, such is not the case with indie studio No Matter Studios. No Matter held a successful Kickstarter campaign for its game Prey for the Gods, but ran into trouble when it tried to trademark the name for its title. In a post mostly about updates made to the game following its successful Kickstarter, No Matter Studios also announce that the project will now be known as Praey for the Gods after Bethesda "chose to oppose our [trademark]." "We could've fought this and we did think about it for quite a while", the statement says. "Something like a trademark opposition can be long and depending on how far someone wants to fight it can be very expensive. We didn't want to spend our precious Kickstarter funds, nor did we want to have to ask for additional funds to fight this in court." Instead of fighting, No Matter reached an agreement with Bethesda, and that agreement carries with it a hilariously meager name change for No Matter's game. Instead of calling it Prey for the Gods, it will instead be titled Praey for the Gods. A single lower-case "a", it seems, is all it took to satisfy Bethesda's hunger for trademark protection. I would submit to you, dear readers, that any potential customer confusion is unlikely to be alleviated by that single character. Particularly when No Matter is allowed to keep the original name in its logo for the game. "While we disagree with their opposition we were able to come to an agreement", No Matter say. That agreement means that they can continue to use a logo that says Prey For The Gods, with a stylised "e" that's actually the silhouette of a woman praying, but must use Praey for the Gods every time the game's name is written. And that might actually be confusing, but not in any way that points gamers to Bethesda. For the name of the game and its logo to be different is going to strike everyone as odd, all while the actual name change rings as wholly inconsequential. I'm not sure what kind of billable hours get generated for this sort of thing, but I give Bethesda's lawyers an A for effort when it comes to justifying the timecard. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
Earlier this year we wrote about the nonsensical move by the Department of Homeland Security to ban laptops and tablets in the cabin on flights from a bunch of cities in the Middle East. The rumored reason was discoveries that terrorists had learned how to make bombs out of laptops. As we noted, this made almost no sense at all when you challenged any of the assumptions. But, never let logic and reason get in the way of a bit of inane security theater. Because now Homeland Security is about to announce that it's now banning laptops in the cabins on all flights from Europe (it's unclear if this will also apply on flights from the US to Europe, but it seems likely that European airports will reciprocate). While this does answer one of the questions raised by the original ban ("why won't potential terrorists just fly out of other countries?") it still raises a host of other questions. Again: why won't this apply to flights from other countries? Or domestic flights? Or all flights? But, really, that just raises an even larger issue, which is that if you want to protect 100% of all flights 100% of the time from ever having a problem in which people might die, the answer is ground all flights and never let anyone fly anywhere ever. Problem solved. Of course, the cost of such a solution would be horrendous -- which is why we don't do it. But that's the key issue: all of these things involve tradeoffs. All too frequently, it appears that government officials -- especially those on the national security side of things -- don't care at all about the tradeoffs. They just care about blocking any possible attack no matter how unlikely or how remote the chance of such an attack might be, and without any consideration of the costs and inconveniences to everyone else. And, yes, it's reasonable to point out that a single attack would be very, very costly as well. And there's clearly a reason to protect heavily against attacks. But there's still a balance. And there must be a better solution. If laptops are a risk factor, it's difficult to see how putting them in the cargo hold -- where there's no one to stop a fire -- is a better solution. Hell, most current airline rules require passengers to store all lithium ion batteries in carry-on luggage for exactly that reason. Putting them all in the hold would seem to increase the risk of accidental explosions and fires that might cause just as much, if not more, damage. And, of course, forcing people to give up their laptops has a secondary (but very serious) problem: for anyone traveling with sensitive information (lawyers, doctors, reporters, business execs, public officials, etc.) giving up your laptop is a massive security risk. In other words, the "cost" of this solution is ridiculously high for a very large number of people, for whom flying to or from Europe has just become a massive inconvenience and tremendously problematic to justify given the personal risk. And for what? Vague and unclear threats about "possible" exploding laptops? I'm sure that no one wants to be on a flight with a laptop that will explode (whether on purpose or not), but there has to be a better way to tackle the problem than doing a blanket ban on laptops in the cabin. And, yes, perhaps this sounds like saying nerd harder back to Homeland Security, but this is a case where there clearly are more reasonable tradeoffs that can and should be explored, well short of inconveniencing everyone and creating a very different (but very serious) kind of security threat by forcing people to give up their laptops. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
No-knock warrants may have served a purpose when they first became a thing. It's not as though law enforcement's fear of evidence disappearing or a violent reaction to warrant service is completely unjustified. But no-knock warrants are being deployed extremely frequently, becoming the preferred method of warrant service any time drug sales are involved. The warrant requests are supposed to be subjected to a higher standard of review, but it's devolved to the point where officers are requesting no-knock warrants simply because the residence they're searching has locking doors and working toilets. Now, cops and citizens are being killed or injured unnecessarily, simply because the SWAT team's armored personnel carrier seems like a waste of money if it's not deployed every six weeks or so. The higher standard is practically nonexistent, replaced by "upon information and belief" statements that work backwards from the desired form of warrant service. Over in Massachusetts, state police pledged to hold themselves to a higher no-knock warrant standard after a botched raid of the wrong residence led to a civil rights lawsuit. The department said it would bring its no-knock requests directly to a judge, rather than whatever court clerk happened to be on hand when the request was made. One year later, the state police appear to have made no changes at all, according to the Worcester Telegram's investigation. [A] T&G review of no-knock warrants in all 10 courts in Worcester County shows that of the 10 no-knock warrants issued to state police since 2016, only one was reviewed by a judge. Brendan T. Keenan, first assistant clerk-magistrate in Worcester’s Central District Court, said last week he was never asked to accommodate the change. “I read that in the paper,” he said of the pledge. “That’s the only place I heard it.” Clerk-magistrates in Fitchburg and Leominster, the only other two courts that have issued no-knock warrants to state police since 2016, said they also had never been asked to kick the warrants up to a judge. The higher standard the police promised ended up being no standard at all. And no standard at all is standard practice for many law enforcement agencies. The only defense offered for the department's reneging on its judicial review standard is… well, it's terrible. Apparently, going in-house is just as stringent as placing a no-knock warrant app in the hands of an impartial judge. “There is a heightened sense of review on these types of warrants now,” Col. McKeon said April 15, noting all warrants are forwarded to the district attorney’s office for review. There are very few prosecutors willing to turn down law enforcement requests. If anyone thinks a review by the DA's office is somehow more stringent than a clerk-magistrate's cursory glance, they probably work in a law enforcement agency's PR department. Clerks may have the word "magistrate" appended to their titles, but don't let that fool you into thinking they're only a small step down from actual judges. Nine of the 10 no-knock warrants examined by the T&G were signed by assistant clerk-magistrates; in six of the cases, that person had no law degree. A former judge with 16 years of experience says he knows why cops are bringing no-knock warrants to clerks: because judges will give warrant requests more scrutiny. "This is the day-to-day bread and water of judges,” said Mr. Borenstein, adding that it is not unusual for police to eschew judicial review. “There have been major studies done over the years, and one consistent thing about the studies is that police like to avoid judges,” he said. “They’d rather go to magistrates.” The police maintain the promise they broke still makes the entire process perfectly legal. As they see it -- in unofficial statements made in response to the investigation -- going to clerks gives officers more flexibility. The lack of judicial rigor is supposedly offset by the list of internal policy requirements cops must follow when obtaining no-knock warrants, which includes performing zero due diligence before asking a clerk for their autograph. There are no requirements that police conduct surveillance on a home or determine whether children live there prior to serving a no-knock warrant. And in two of the cases examined, the no-knock warrants were used to seize marijuana -- even as the state was holding a referendum to legalize personal possession and use. In other words, a drug that citizens felt could be safely legalized was treated as a threat so severe that warrant service could only be handled with a maximum amount of surprise and force. Because of its unwillingness to voluntarily subject itself to higher standards, the Massachusetts State Police is setting itself up to be the recipient of additional civil rights and wrongful death lawsuits. It could have taken the small extra step to ensure no-knock warrants were subjected to a bit more judicial scrutiny, but obviously preferred to do things the old way. The easier way. The way that got the department sued. That's the real "standard" of law enforcement: the bare minimum. As defenders of the practice point out in the Telegram piece, running no-knock warrants past assistant clerk-magistrates rather than judges is "legally sufficient." It's not better for cops or better for citizens. It's nothing more than ticking just enough boxes to avoid being punished by other arms of the state government. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 16 days ago on techdirt
This hasn't worked yet, but that's not going to keep anyone from giving it another try. Excolo Law, representing victims of the San Bernardino attacks (and others in similar lawsuits), is suing Twitter, Facebook, and Google for [sigh] "knowingly and recklessly" supporting terrorism. The lawsuit, like others before it, claims the social media platforms aren't doing enough to prevent terrorists from using them for communication, not taking down reported posts fast enough, and otherwise making the world a more dangerous place simply by offering their services. Section 230 is the bar litigants have to clear before holding social media platforms accountable for the actions of their users. This hasn't happened yet, despite the suits being lobbed in California federal courts where some dubious 230 decisions have been handed down. But try they will. Repeatedly. The lawsuit claims that if these three internet giants hadn't existed, the "most feared terrorist group in the world" would not have experienced as much growth as it has. Maybe so, but if it wasn't these three companies, it would just be other communications platforms being dragged into court -- third parties several steps removed from the underlying tragedies. The lawsuit goes so far as to allege the perpetrators wouldn't have carried out the San Bernardino shooting if Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube hadn't existed. From the lawsuit [PDF]: Farook and Malik were radicalized by ISIS’ use of social media. This was the stated goal of ISIS. Farook and Mateen then carried out the deadly attack in San Bernardino… But for ISIS’ postings using Defendants’ social media platforms, Farook and Malik would not have engaged in their attack on the Inland Regional Center. OK, then. There's not anything new is this filing, the third by Excolo. I assume the firm will keep recruiting litigants and filing doomed lawsuits until its gathered enough dismissals to reach a cost/benefit tipping point. As always, the incidents underlying the suits are undeniably tragic. But that doesn't make suing third parties for other people's posts and communications any more correct than it does when nothing more than someone's allegedly-damaged reputation is on the line. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As previously noted, the FCC has begun fielding comments on its plan to dismantle net neutrality protections. As of the writing of this post, nearly 556,000 users have left comments on the FCC's plan to roll back the rules, which will begin in earnest with a likely 2-1 partisan vote on May 18. The lion's share of that comment total were driven by John Oliver's recent rant on HBO. Many others are the result of what I affectionately call "outrage-o-matic" e-mail campaigns by either net neutrality activists or think tanks that let people comment without having to expend calories on original thought. Earlier in the week I was looking through the comments and noted how a large number of them all made the exact same (aggressively innacurate) claim: "The unprecedented regulatory power the Obama Administration imposed on the internet is smothering innovation, damaging the American economy and obstructing job creation. I urge the Federal Communications Commission to end the bureaucratic regulatory overreach of the internet known as Title II and restore the bipartisan light-touch regulatory consensus that enabled the internet to flourish for more than 20 years." FCC net neutrality proceeding being bombarded with form letter anti-net neutrality comments today. pic.twitter.com/HEto47VY1A — Karl Bode (@KarlBode) May 9, 2017 This in and of itself didn't seem like that big a deal, given the aforementioned campaigns often let commenters quickly file a form letter with the agency. But it was notable that if this was a form letter, the people who were filling it out magically organized themselves in perfect alphabetical order. And when ZDNet decided to do a deeper dive into these alphabetical duplicate comments, they found that they appear to be produced by a bot that's grabbing the names from somewhere (perhaps public voter registration records or a previous data breach). What's more, the reporter managed to get a hold of many of the folks that purportedly filed the comments, and found several that state they never filed the comments in question, and have no idea what net neutrality even is: "We reached out to two-dozen people by phone, and we left voicemails when nobody picked up. A couple of people late Tuesday called back and confirmed that they had not left any messages on the FCC's website. One of the returning callers specifically said they didn't know what net neutrality was. A third person reached in a Facebook message Tuesday also confirmed that they had not left any comments on any website." Numerous Reddit users also spotted the bot campaign, and noted the language used by the 58,000 (and counting) phony commenters was pulled from a 2010 press release by the Center for Individual Freedom, which does not appear to be driving the comments with a corresponding campaign. As of this writing, nobody has identified the driver of the bot, and the FCC has stated it doesn't comment on public proceeding input. ISPs do have a history of trying to artificially pad anti-net neutrality sentiment, since finding a critical mass of people who blindly support policies that only help companies like Comcast can be... difficult. As Vice News pointed out in 2014, a lobbying organization named the DCI Group (which receives funding from Verizon) paid individuals to flood websites and the FCC comment system with anti-net neutrality sentiement. Whether the work of a similar group, think tank, or other organization, you just know you have a quality argument when you need to pay people (or bot masters) to support your position. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Get the $19 Linux Power User Bundle and start on your way to becoming a Linux expert. The bundle features over 22 hours of courses covering core concepts, commands and jargon essential to learning how to make Linux work for you. It also covers Linux alternatives to Windows apps and LAMP stack solutions to ensure your sites and apps run smoothly. 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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We just got done noting that the FCC's commenting system crashed after comedian John Oliver's latest bit on net neutrality last weekend. Given that Oliver's first bit on net neutrality did the exact same thing, it didn't take long before the media wires were filled with stories about how a flood of outraged net neutrality supporters had crippled FCC systems. Again. But then something interesting happened. The FCC issued a statement (pdf) claiming that the agency's website didn't crash because of a flood of annoyed net neutrality supporters, but crashed due to "multiple DDoS attacks" that just happened to have been launched at the exact same time Oliver announced a specially crafted URL (GoFCCYourself.com) to make commenting on the FCC's net neutrality-killing NPRM easier: "Beginning on Sunday night at midnight, our analysis reveals that the FCC was subject to multiple distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDos). These were deliberate attempts by external actors to bombard the FCC’s comment system with a high amount of traffic to our commercial cloud host. These actors were not attempting to file comments themselves; rather they made it difficult for legitimate commenters to access and file with the FCC. While the comment system remained up and running the entire time, these DDoS events tied up the servers and prevented them from responding to people attempting to submit comments. We have worked with our commercial partners to address this situation and will continue to monitor developments going forward." And while that may or may not be true, there's a rising tide of skepticism about the FCC's statement. For one, requests from multiple news outlets for additional detail on the scope and nature of the attack were met with total silence by the agency. And multiple security experts were quick to point out that there were none of the usual indicators, claims of responsibility or online chatter you see online ahead of many DDoS attacks: "There don’t appear of be any indications of a DDoS attack in the sensors we use to monitor for such things,” said John Bambenek, a threat intelligence manger at Fidelis Cybersecurity. “It appears the issue with the FCC is less of a DDoS attack, traditionally defined, and more of an issue of crowdsourcing comments generated by John Oliver and reddit." Jake Williams, CEO of cybersecurity firm Rendition InfoSec, said the agency “offered no support” to prove a DDoS had occurred. "There was no observed DarkWeb chatter about such a DDoS before or after the event and no botnets that I’m monitoring received any commands ordering a DDoS on the FCC’s site,” Williams said. Of course that's not definitive proof that the there wasn't a DDoS attack, but the fact that the FCC isn't willing to offer a shred of additional detail -- along with the timing of the mystery "attack" -- remains curious. And given that this is the same FCC that has spent the last few months claiming that gutting all regulatory oversight and public accountability of some of the least liked and least competitive companies in America somehow "restores freedom," lying in a feeble attempt to squash the media narrative that a flood of pissed off consumers broke the FCC's website wouldn't be out of character for the Ajit Pai-led agecy. Of course, there's one way to settle any confusion: the FCC could release logs of its network traffic during the attack. Net neutrality activists were quick to demand as much. As was Senator Ron Wyden, who fired off a letter to the FCC asking for some hard data on the width and breadth of the attack. If it really was a malicious attack -- and not just a wave of consumers genuinely annoyed by the FCC's wave of recent anti-consumer behavior -- it shouldn't be particularly hard to prove. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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For several years now, cable giants Comcast and Charter have had their eye on jumping into the wireless business. Both companies gobbled up a large amount of spectrum at the FCC's 2008 700 MHz auction, but a few years later got cold feet after realizing that going solo in wireless would not only be incredibly expensive, but would require something called competition (gross). So in 2011, they struck a deal with Verizon Wireless, which bought the cable sector's spectrum for $3.6 billion, in exchange for a cozy cross-promotional relationship. As an unspoken part of that relationship, Verizon Wireless has been happily driving its unwanted DSL customers to cable, where they're often then sold Verizon Wireless service. That 2011 deal also featured language allowing the cable providers to launch their own MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) that leans heavily on WiFi, but uses the Verizon network for cellular backup. So over the last few years, Charter and Comcast have been cooking up new WiFi-centric wireless services they plan to only bundle with traditional cable and broadband inside their own footprints (again, to avoid having to more seriously compete with national established carriers like their friends at Verizon). Neither service has launched yet, but this week Comcast and Charter struck a new cooperative deal that will let them use their combined leverage to secure better handset rates. A Comcast announcement states that the agreement will provide both companies with "operational efficiencies" down the road: "The efficiencies created are expected to provide more choice, innovative products and competitive prices for customers in each of their respective footprints. Additionally, the companies have agreed to work only together with respect to national mobile network operators, through potential commercial arrangements, including MVNOs and other material transactions in the wireless industry, for a period of one year. But the deal, outlined in more detail in this SEC filing, also has a few other interesting conditions -- including one preventing either company from making a major wireless acquisition without involving the other. Some of these provisions immediately set off alarm bells among some consumer advocates, who worry that the agreement will also ensure that the two companies don't compete with each other as they push into wireless: "One of the basic ideas of antitrust law is that when companies that compete with each other, or could compete with each other, make an explicit agreement to not compete with each other, that violates the antitrust laws," Feld told Ars today. "Agreeing to coordinate with each other to avoid competition is expressly a violation of the antitrust laws." But that doesn't mean Comcast and Charter won't be able to follow through with their plan. It's impossible to say with absolute certainty whether any specific agreement violates antitrust law, and "both Comcast and Charter have very good lawyers," Feld said. Right now, some of these worries seem premature. For one, Comcast and Charter always intended to offer their respective, traditional wireless services siloed within their own broadband footprints, not nationwide. Most telecom analysts also feel that Comcast's effort seems a little half-baked, with the company weirdly going out of its way on a recent conference call to downplay expectations for the service. And the cable industry is filled with these kinds of cross-collaborative efforts that quite often tend to go nowhere fast. There's a very strong chance that these companies' wireless services, for lack of a more technical term, suck. That said, there is a framework here for some anti-competitive shenanigans. With Trump being bullish on M&As to prop up job claims (real or not), rumors have emerged that Comcast or Charter could acquire Verizon. If an expected Sprint bid to acquire T-Mobile also takes place, you could be looking at a dramatic fixed and wireless telecom consolidation wave that would reduce the already tepid desire to compete substantially. And with a Trump FTC and FCC that believe duopolist oversight and consolidation restrictions are quaint, nobody's going to be looking out for the potential anticompetitive impact of these deals. Combine that with the death of privacy and net neutrality consumer protections, and the cable industry's growing monopoly over fixed broadband, and we really could be looking at an anticompetitive firestorm of bad ideas across both fixed and wireless networks. Under that scenario, Comcast and Charter's new arrangement would be the least of our collective worries. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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In what may be an attempt to bolster now ex-FBI director James Comey's oft-derided "Ferguson Effect" claims, the FBI has released a "study" that gathers facts feelings from law enforcement officers around the US and attempts to build a narrative somewhere between "life is unfair" and "there's a War on Cops." It's not a study. It's an opinion poll with the word "study" appended to it. In short, the Ferguson Effect theory is this: cops are afraid to do their jobs because they're undergoing intense scrutiny in the wake of controversial shootings. It's bullshit, but there are plenty of law enforcement officials willing to stake their reputations on assertions that portray their officers as cowards. Faced with heightened public scrutiny, officers are apparently deciding to do less work than before, supposedly to head off any misrepresentation of their tactics. The FBI's study involved interviewing officers and supervisors at agencies where an officer had been killed in the line of duty. It studied the background of the assailants, but that appears to be the end of any factual basis for claims made. What these stats show is most attacks on officers involved a person who didn't want to be arrested. A smaller percentage of attacks were motivated by a desire to hurt cops. Despite these conclusions, the FBI's study pushes forward with an officer-driven narrative that follows the War on Cops/Ferguson Effect: supposedly-increased violence towards cops (not supported by line-of-duty death statistics) and "de-policing." I supposed the FBI's "impartiality" restrained it from challenging contradictory and false assertions provided to it by officers. From the study [PDF]: Since 2014 multiple high-profile police incidents across the country have occurred that law enforcement officials believe influenced the mindset and behaviors of the assailants. Specifically, the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, in 2014, and the social disturbances that followed, initiated a movement that some perceived made it socially acceptable to challenge and discredit the actions of law enforcement. This attitude was fueled by the narrative of police misconduct and excessive force perpetuated through politicians and the media. This narrative has apparently risen unbidden. It couldn't possibly have been the result of multiple DOJ civil rights investigations and the rise of non-police-controlled cameras. In other words, it couldn't possibly be the result of verifiable evidence, rather than hurt feelings of police officers who fear they're no longer viewed as minor deities. Law enforcement agencies also complained they're no longer able to provide the only narrative after incidents of abuse or violence. Due to the coverage of the high-profile police incidents, it appears that immediately following the incidents, assailants were constantly exposed to a singular narrative by news organizations and social media of police misconduct and wrong-doing. In many cases, this singular narrative came from the subject's friends and family, and witnesses to the incident who often knew the subject, long before law enforcement provided their findings to the public. Reading this is like asking a four-year-old for their opinion on current events. This is so self-centered, self-pitying and bereft of awareness, it's ridiculous. The standard M.O. following the killing of someone by a police officer is to get the dead person's rap sheet into journalists' hands as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, the officer's agency will refuse to provide any information on the officer involved (in most cases, not even the officer's name) until everything is thoroughly investigated, which means weeks or months will pass before law enforcement is ready to tell its side of the story. Both of these bogus assertions lead to a third: the inability of law enforcement to control the narrative has "emboldened" arrestees, making them less compliant, more argumentative, and more likely to engage in violence. The officers surveyed also threw out the following, which is so unmoored from reality, it calls their judgment into question: Across the country, law enforcement officials link the de-criminalization of drugs to the increase in violent attacks on law enforcement. If this were even remotely true, the number of officers killed in the line of duty should have dropped dramatically during the late 80s and early 90s when new, extremely-harsh statutory minimums were put into place in response to the crack epidemic. And those numbers should be on the rise in recent years, as marijuana legalization and sentencing reform efforts have taken hold. None of what's asserted by officers is reflected in killed in the line of duty stats. If anything, it shows deaths have decreased as legalization efforts have increased. And, as officers have felt less support from non-cops and been subjected to unprecedented scrutiny (i.e., more than none), they've felt less and less like doing the job taxpayers are paying them to do. The above-referenced factors have had the effect of "de-policing" in law enforcement agencies across the country, which the assailants have exploited. Departments - and individual officers - have increasingly made the conscious decision to stop engaging in proactive policing. The intense scrutiny and criticism law enforcement has received in the wake of several high-profile incidents has caused several officers to (1) "become scared and demoralized" and (2) avoid interacting with the community. Let's just repeat this simple fact: being a law enforcement officer is not compulsory. If you no longer feel you can do the job, or don't like the working conditions, leave. Find something else to do. Taxpayers aren't interested in being under-served by officers who can't stand the heat but are unwilling to leave the kitchen. I realize this is a facile response. Leaving a job, much less a career, is a very difficult thing to do. But these are facile answers. And they're being given by officers who are finding out they need to do their jobs better in the future, but are clearly unwilling to improve themselves or their agencies. Instead, they'd rather blame everyone outside of law enforcement for their problems, when years of opacity and unquestioned authority have turned them into the officers and officials they are. We usually see the worst of law enforcement when it comes to the media. But we generally see the worst of all members of the public when filtered through this narrow lens. Police work is a customer service job, albeit one that grants employees an incredible amount of leeway to perform their duties. The worst will be what's remembered. That may seem unfair, but that's just the way it is. United Airlines may fly millions of passenger miles without complaint, but it will be remembered for a long, long time as the airline that booted a paying passenger from its plane using law enforcement as the stick. (There was no carrot.) The same goes for law enforcement agencies. The FBI's study contains no indication officers are willing to surmount the challenges of this era of policing. There's no sign officers are interested in making the effort needed to change the public's perception. Instead, it's an open airing of grievances that may have had limited therapeutic value for responding officers, but does nothing to repair the relationship between law enforcement and the public. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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With eSports exploding into a legitimate spectator event, both for in-person viewership and televised events, it was only a matter of time before professional sports leagues got in on the act. As it has been on so many things, the NBA became the first American league to announce it was creating its own eSports league, partnering with Take-Two Interactive and its NBA2K series to power its sponsored competition. When commissioner Adam Silver announced all of this in February, however, he was speaking for the league, but not the individual teams that make up that league. Asked at the time what he expected the participation level to be from individual teams, he said he expected about half to jump into this. It turns out that projection was pretty much spot on, as 17 NBA teams ave officially agreed to participate in the league, lending their jerseys and branding to the games. Also released were some details about how the league will operate and how the games will be conducted. The league will draft teams of five players to compete in a five-month season, which will mirror the NBA with a regular season, bracketed playoffs, and a final championship match to wrap it all up. Players will create their own avatars for competition, so no one will be using avatars of the recognizable basketball stars that appear in NBA 2K, like LeBron James or Kyrie Irving. The Chicago Bulls are not among the teams participating, because the universe hates me and takes every opportunity to make me unhappy. That aside, the NBA's monopoly on a pro-league-backed eSports league will be short lived. In Europe, a FIFA eSports league is already in the works, with several European clubs buying in. Netherlands’ Eredivisie, the country's highest soccer league, will launch its own esports league, the organization announced earlier today. All 18 clubs, among them the “Big Three” (Ajax Amsterdam, PSV Eindhoven, and Feyenoord) will participate in the league. The “E-Divisie” launched in association with EA SPORTS and Endemol Shine Netherlands, a TV production company. You should expect the other major pro sports leagues to follow suit very, very quickly. As eSports begins to stretch its legs and expand its reach, these leagues are going to want to get in on what the NBA and soccer clubs are doing. And with major broadcast partners like ESPN bringing the product to the market, hopefully with all the polish and production one would expect of them, it's likely eSports growing popularity is about to explode. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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So... not quite sure what to make of this yet, but according to the NY Times, just a little while ago, Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey (of course, just after our podcast came out talking about how Comey seemed to be hopeful the Trump administration would approve his encryption backdoor plans). “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday to Mr. Comey. “It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote. The full letter is... even more crazy: If you can't read that, it says: Dear Director Comey: I have received the attached letters from the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General of the United States recommending your dismissal as the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I have accepted their recommendation and you are hereby terminated and removed from office, effective immediately. While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgement of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau. It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission. I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. Donald J. Trump I'm not sure why it even bothers to mention that Trump himself is not a target of an investigation (or that Comey told him that three times). It's already known that the wider administration is subject to an investigation, and even if you don't believe that such an investigation will turn up anything, it's still happening. At the very least, this should call into question whether or not there can effectively be any investigation into the administration that won't involve meddling by the administration. That alone, should be a big concern. I don't think we've ever said anything particularly supportive of Comey, who we've disagreed with on a large range of issues, but it's difficult to see how this is going to be a good thing. It's already been admitted that the FBI was investigating potential ties between Russia and the administration. Whether or not that investigation had anything at all to do with the firing, there's no way to spin this that looks good. Yes, the President has the power to fire the head of the FBI... but when that FBI was conducting an independent investigation of the President, any such firing is clearly going to be seen as politically motivated. And, yes, it's important to note that this is NOT entirely unprecedented. President Clinton fired FBI director William Sessions soon after taking office as well, though there wasn't the stench of an FBI investigation into the President going around at the time. If anything, the comparison that seems slightly more apt that people are making is to Archibald Cox, the independent special prosecutor that Richard Nixon fired, leading to the resignations of the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General (contrast that to today's news, where it was those two roles who recommended this firing...). Comey was not a particularly good FBI director, and we've covered numerous problems with his leadership. But that doesn't mean that whoever replaces him won't be even worse. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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The current instalment of the crypto wars hit full stride with the clash between Apple and the FBI, but in truth the tension over encryption has been around for a long time — and it doesn't look like it's going away anytime soon. As our readers know, Tim Cushing has been following these developments closely, and this week he joins the podcast for a discussion about encryption, law enforcement and "going dark". Follow the Techdirt Podcast on Soundcloud, subscribe via iTunes or Google Play, or grab the RSS feed. You can also keep up with all the latest episodes right here on Techdirt. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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As you hopefully know by now, we're currently facing a major lawsuit, brought against us in Boston, that we consider to be an attack on our First Amendment right to report on matters of public concern. If you support journalism and support the First Amendment, please consider donating to our survival fund, which is helping us to continue reporting on a variety of important matters, including new battles over net neutrality and encryption, not to mention many other battles over freedom of expression. As we've noted, repeatedly, this case has been a huge distraction and has made it difficult for us to do the kind of work we've done for almost twenty years. If you wish to catch up, you can read about our initial filings in the case, including our motion to dismiss and our motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP law. We also made additional filings concerning Section 230 problems with some of the claims against us. In addition, in early April we filed a reply to the opposition to our filings. On April 20th, there was a hearing in federal court on our motions. If you're interested, a reporter from Law360, Brian Amaral, was in court and covered the hearing (possible paywall): Techdirt tells federal judge that a libel suit by email "inventor" belongs in the trash https://t.co/B6wlJockoS — Brian Amaral (@bamaral44) April 21, 2017 Following the hearing, the lawyers for the Plaintiff filed a sur-reply. We have now filed our own response to that sur-reply. As always, I encourage everyone to read all of the documents in the case, most of which are available via RECAP at the Internet Archive. And, again, if you'd like to support us, please check out ISupportJournalism.com. Thank you. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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Last week comedian and "The Late Show" host Stephen Colbert found himself in a little hot water after he made an oral sex joke about Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin at the tail end of his opening monologue. If you missed it, here's the relevant bit (the easily-offended can skip down the page). Obviously, the monologue wasn't exactly enjoyed by Trump supporters, who collectively backed a somewhat rudderless and unsuccessful attempt to pressure CBS into firing the comedian (whose ratings have, non-coincidentally, been soaring thanks to his Trump tirades). Colbert ultimately issued a follow up comment in which he stated he probably could have more carefully chosen his words, but quite intentionally fell well short of offering an apology to Donald and Vlad. Normally this is where the story would have ended. But last Friday afternoon The Hill ran a piece stating that the FCC had received an entirely-ambiguous number of complaints about the monologue, and was going through the process of determining whether or not Colbert's comments violated FCC broadcast TV indecency guidelines. Under current FCC rules, the agency keeps an eye out for broadcast TV content deemed "indecent" before 10PM, and attempts to police "obscene" content after that point. This is all pretty standard FCC practice, with the end result most frequently either resulting in a modest fine or no action whatsoever. When asked about Colbert's comments, FCC boss Ajit Pai made a fairly innocuous comment to a talk radio station stating that the FCC would, in essence, manage the Colbert complaints in much the same way they handle every other obscenity complaint: "We are going to take the facts that we find and we are going to apply the law as it’s been set out by the Supreme Court and other courts and we’ll take the appropriate action,” he told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT Thursday. “Traditionally, the agency has to decide, if it does find a violation, what the appropriate remedy should be,” he said. "A fine, of some sort, is typically what we do." Again, this is a fairly inane comment by an FCC boss, effectively stating that he was simply going to follow normal FCC process. Yet somehow the narrative quickly shifted in the media, with outlets immediately complaining that Pai's actions were somehow a frontal assault on free speech, or worse. The Writers Guild of America fanned these flames by issuing a statement claiming it was "appalled" by Pai's behavior: "“As presidents of the Writers Guilds of America, East and West, we were appalled to read recent remarks by Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai,” said WGA East boss Michael Winship and WGA West chief Howard Rodman this morning. “He said the FCC would investigate a joke about Donald Trump by Writers Guild member Stephen Colbert, ‘apply the law’ and ‘take appropriate action’ if the joke were found to be ‘obscene,'” the duo added of the FCC chair’s May 5 response in a radio interview. Again though, all Pai really said is that the FCC would do what it has always done when investigating obscenity complaints. In fact, you'll note he never even uses the word "investigation." Yet somehow this idea that Pai was engaged in a rogue attack on free speech quickly ballooned to becomce this week's media narrative du jour. Look, Ajit Pai has done plenty of arguably horrible things in just his first few months in office. He has helped the cable industry protect its cable box monopoly. He's helped prison phone monopolies rip off inmate families. He has started dismantling efforts to bring broadband to the poor. He has begun the process of killing net neutrality, solely for the benefit of telecom duopolies. He helped pave the way to the elimination of consumer broadband privacy protections. He's even taken aim at already-finalized telecom merger conditions intended to improve broadband competition. Make no mistake: Pai wants to replace meaningful oversight of companies like Comcast with the policy equivalent of wet cardboard. All while pretending -- with the help of misleading, cherry picked data -- that this is all of immeasurable benefit to consumers. There's been a torrent of controversial or otherwise abysmal things Pai has been up to that deserve attention. Yet somehow the focus this week has been a hysterical over-reaction to a non-story. Yes, Pai has obvious post-FCC political ambitions and enjoys throwing the occasional red meat to what he hopes will be his future constituents. But his comments on the Colbert indecency complaints are quite arguably the least interesting and most innocuous thing the FCC has been up to. Not only did the press hysteria over the Colbert non-story take the media's eye off the ball, it reinforced the narrative that the press is awash in a "fake news" -- requiring a litany of hand wringing and soul-searching -- despite nobody really knowing what the term even means. And while many were quick to insist this proves "the left" also engages in "fake news," that tends to obfuscate the fact that the problem with modern news most frequently isn't that it's fake (though it sometimes is) -- it's that much of it is just good, old-fashioned shitty reporting. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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It is important to have multiple backups of your important files. One option could be the $30 1TB Zoolz Dual Cloud Storage, which uses Amazon AWS infrastructure. With this lifetime of 500 GB of Instant, and 500 GB of Cold Storage, you'll have an extremely affordable place to safely store massive amounts of data. Access your Instant storage quickly and easily, or just deposit data in Cold Storage if you know you won't be needing it for awhile. The license allows you to backup data from 2 machines and to use a third device for recovery. 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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Look, let's just start with the basics: there are some bad people out there. Even if the majority of people are nice and well-meaning, there are always going to be some people who are not. And sometimes, those people are going to use the internet. Given that as a starting point, at the very least, you'd think we could deal with that calmly and rationally, and recognize that maybe we shouldn't blame the tools for the fact that some not very nice people happen to use them. Unfortunately, it appears to be asking a lot these days to expect our politicians to do this. Instead, they (and many others) rush out immediately to point the fingers of blame for the fact that these "not nice" people exist, and rather than point the finger of blame at the not nice people, they point at... the internet services they use. The latest example of this is the UK Parliament that has released a report on "hate crime" that effectively blames internet companies and suggests they should be fined because not nice people use them. Seriously. From the report: Here in the UK we have easily found repeated examples of social media companies failing to remove illegal content when asked to do so—including dangerous terrorist recruitment material, promotion of sexual abuse of children and incitement to racial hatred. The biggest companies have been repeatedly urged by Governments, police forces, community leaders and the public, to clean up their act, and to respond quickly and proactively to identify and remove illegal content. They have repeatedly failed to do so. That should not be accepted any longer. Social media is too important to everyone—to communities, individuals, the economy and public life—to continue with such a lax approach to dangerous content that can wreck lives. And the major social media companies are big enough, rich enough and clever enough to sort this problem out—as they have proved they can do in relation to advertising or copyright. It is shameful that they have failed to use the same ingenuity to protect public safety and abide by the law as they have to protect their own income. Social media companies currently face almost no penalties for failing to remove illegal content. There are too many examples of social media companies being made aware of illegal material yet failing to remove it, or to do so in a timely way. We recommend that the Government consult on a system of escalating sanctions to include meaningful fines for social media companies which fail to remove illegal content within a strict timeframe. This is the kind of thing that sounds good to people who (a) don't understand how these things actually work and (b) don't spend any time thinking through the consequences of such actions. First off, it's easy for politicians and others to sit there and assume that "bad" content is obviously bad. The problem here is twofold: first, there is so much content showing up that spotting the "bad" stuff is not nearly as easy as people assume, and second, because there's so much content, it's often difficult to understand the context enough to recognize if something is truly "bad." People who think this stuff is obvious or easy are ignorant. They may be well-meaning, but they're ignorant. So, for example, they say that these are cases where such content has been "reported" on the assumption that this means the companies must now "know" that the content is bad and they should remove it. The reality is much more difficult. DO they recognize how many such reports these companies receive? Do they realize that before companies start taking down content willy nilly, that they have to actually understand what's going on? Do they realize that it's not so easy to figure out what's really happening sometimes? Let's go through the examples given: "dangerous terrorist recruitment material." Okay, seems obvious. But how do you distinguish terrorist recruitment videos from documenting terrorist atrocities? It's not as easy as you might think. Remember how a video of a European Parliament debate on anti-torture was taken down because the system or a reviewer thought it was promoting terrorism? People think this stuff is black and white, but it's not. It's all gray. And the shades of gray are very difficult to distinguish. And the shades of gray may differ greatly from one person to another. Sexual abuse of children. Yes, clearly horrible. Clearly things need to be done. There are, already, systems for government-associated organizations and social media platforms to share hashes of photos deemed to be problematic and these are blocked. But, again, edge cases are tricky. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Facebook got mocked for taking down the famed Napalm Girl photo? Here's a situation that seems black and white: no naked children. Seems reasonable. Except... this naked child is an iconic photo that demonstrates the horrors of war. That doesn't mean we should let all pictures of naked children online -- far from it, obviously. But the point is that it's not always so black and white, and any policy proposal that assumes it is (as the UK Parliament seems to be suggesting) has no idea what a mess it's causing. Next on the list: "incitement to racial hatred." This would be so called "hate speech." But, as we've noted time and time again, this kind of thinking always ends up turning into authoritarian abuse. Over and over again we see governments punish people they don't like, by claiming what they're saying is "hate speech." But, you say, "incitement to racial hatred" is clearly over the line. And, sure, I agree. But be careful who gets to define both "incitement" and "racial hatred." You might not be so happy. Here in the US, there are people who (ridiculously, in my opinion) argue that groups like Black Lives Matter are a form of "incitement to racial hatred." Now, you might think that's crazy, but there are lots of people who disagree with you. And some of them are in power. Now are you happy about handing them the tools to demand that all social media sites take down their content or face fines? Or, how do you expect Google and Facebook to instantly determine if a video is a clip from a Hollywood movie, rather than "incitement to racial hatred?" There are plenty of powerful scenes in movies that none of us would consider "polite speech," but we don't think they should be taken down as "incitement to racial hatred." Then the report notes that "the major social media companies are big enough, rich enough and clever enough to sort this problem out." First off, that's not true. As noted above, companies make mistakes about this stuff all the time. They take down stuff that should be left up. They leave up stuff that people think they should take down. You have no idea how many times each and every day these companies have to make these decisions. Sometimes they get it right. Sometimes they don't. Punishing them for a mistake in being too slow is a near guarantee that they'll be taking down a ton of legit stuff, just to avoid punishment. Separately, who decides who's a "major social media company" that has to do this? If rules are passed saying social media companies have to block this stuff, congrats, you've just guaranteed that Facebook and Google/YouTube are the last such companies. No new entrant will be able to take on the burden/liability of censoring all content. If you try and somehow, magically, carve out "major" social media companies, how do you set those boundaries, without creating massive unintended consequences? The report falsely claims that these companies have successfully created filters that can deal with advertising and copyright, which is laughable and, once again, ignorant. The ad filter systems on these platforms are terrible. We use Google ads for some of our ad serving, and on a near constant basis we're weeding out terrible ads, because no company is able to and awful people are getting their ads into the system all the time. And copyright? Really? If that's the case, why are the RIAA/MPAA still whining about Google daily? These things are much harder than people think, and it's quite clear that whoever prepared this report has no clue and hasn't spoken to anyone who understands this stuff. Social media companies currently face almost no penalties for failing to remove illegal content. What a load of hogwash. They face tremendous "penalties" in the form of public anger. Whenever these stories come out, the companies in question talk about how much more they need to do, and how many people they're hiring to help and all that. They wouldn't be doing that if there were "no penalties." The "penalties" don't need to be legal or fines. It's much more powerful when the actual users of the services make it clear what they don't like and won't stand for. Adding an additional legal threat doesn't change or help with that. It just leads to more problems. And that's just looking at two awful paragraphs. There's much more like that. As Alec Muffett points out, the report has some really crazy ideas, like saying that the services need to block "probably illegal content" that has "similar names" to illegal content: Despite us consistently reporting the presence of videos promoting National Action, a proscribed far-right group, examples of this material can still be found simply by searching for the name of that organisation. So too can similar videos with different names. As well as probably being illegal, we regard it as completely irresponsible and indefensible. So, not only do the authors of this report want Google to remove any video that is reported, no questions asked (despite a long history of such systems being widely abused), it wants them to magically find all "similar" content that is "probably illegal" even with "different names." Do they have any idea what they're asking for? And immediately after that they, again, insist that this must be possible because of copyright filters. Of course, these would be the same copyright filters that tried to take down Cory Doctorow's book Homeland because it had a "similar name" to the Fox TV show "Homeland." "Similar names" is a horrific way to build a censorship system. It will not work. What's so frustrating about this kind of nonsense is that it keeps popping up again and again, often from people with real power, in large part because they simply do not comprehend the actual result of what they're saying or the nature of the actual problem. There are not nice people doing not nice things online. We can all agree (hopefully) that we don't like these not nice people and especially don't like the not nice things they do online. But to assume that the answer to that is to blame the platforms they use for not censoring them fast enough misses the point completely. It will create tremendous collateral damage for tons of people, often including the most vulnerable, while doing absolutely nothing to deal with the not nice people and the not nice things they are doing. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
By now it should be clear to most Techdirt readers that new FCC Boss Ajit Pai envisions a future where there's little to no oversight of giant telecom duo/monopolies like Comcast. Pai has wasted no time making that dream a reality since taking office, having killed plans for more cable box competition, undermined FCC attempts to stop prison phone monopolies from ripping off inmate families, and paved the way for killing net neutrality. He's made no mystery of his overarching goal: replacing functional FCC oversight of broadband providers with the policy equivalent of wet tissue paper. If you spend twenty seconds with Pai's voting record (like that time he voted down holding AT&T accountable for actively helping crammers rip off its own customers by making scams harder to detect on customer bills), you'll discover his positions have one consistent beneficiary (tip: it's not you). You'll also note his arguments are often comically disconnected from the actual facts. Like that time the FCC boss declared that Netflix was the real enemy of net neutrality -- simply because it operates a content delivery network. Or the time he insisted meaningful consumer protections would inspire Iran and North Korea to censor the internet. Or the countless times he's insisted net neutrality killed network investment -- despite that claim not being supported by objective data, SEC filings, quarterly earnings or ISP executive statements. And while it's one thing to actively disagree on policy, Pai has consistently engaged in countless, easily-debunked falsehoods to justify his positions. Which is ironic, since pretty much every speech Pai makes involves him promising to bring more "sound economic analysis" to FCC policy making. Take this recent speech (pdf) given to the American Enterprise Institute (which takes substantive funding from the large ISPs that benefit directly from Pai's policies): "I have long been concerned that economists haven’t been systematically incorporated into the FCC’s policy work. Instead, their expertise is typically applied in an ad hoc fashion, and often late in the process. We are taking a major step to correct that. A month ago, I kick-started a process to establish an Office of Economics and Data. This Office will combine economists and other data professionals from around the Commission. I envision it providing economic analysis for rulemakings, transactions, and auctions; managing the Commission’s data resources; and conducting longer-term research on ways to improve the Commission’s policies. My goal is to have the new office up and running by the end of the year. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the prior work done by Jeff Eisenach and others at AEI in providing the intellectual foundation for this office. Again though, if you track Pai's votes and real-world actions, you'll consistently find a comic disconnect from this breathless, self-professed dedication to sound data and economic policy. In fact the very same day Pai was giving that speech, his Chief of Staff Matthew Berry took to Twitter to proclaim that new data suggests that Title II (the legal underpinnings of net neutrality) has reduced telecom sector investment by $5.6 billion: BREAKING: @FSFthinktank releases new estimate that Title II has decreased broadband investment by $5.6 billion. https://t.co/rsdrwcx2LM — Matthew Berry (@matthewberryfcc) May 5, 2017 The source of that data is the Free State Foundation (FSF), a think tank that takes consistent funding from large broadband providers like AT&T and Comcast (and tries to obfuscate that fact). This isn't objective science. It's farmed data pushed by a lobbying arm of the telecom industry. And when you head over to the methodology of that report you'll note a fairly selective window chosen to support the group's position: "USTelecom publishes data on broadband capital expenditures (capex) for each year dating back to 1996. Using this historical data, I collected figures on the previous twelve years before the Open Internet Order was adopted in February 2015. I picked 2003 as the first year because the market had just collapsed from the dot-com bubble and total broadband capex was at its lowest point since 1996. I established a trend line from 2003 to 2016, which created a linear pattern over the first 12 years before the Open Internet Order and estimated what we could have expected broadband capex to be in 2015 and 2016 without Title II public utility regulation. One, the office of a former Verizon lawyer citing an ISP-funded think tank using data from an ISP-funded lobbying organization -- should be nobody's definition of "sound economic analysis." Two, Twitter users were quick to point out that the FSF specifically began tracking CAPEX movement in 2003 to avoid addressing an important point. Namely that large ISPs were under Title II until 2005 without the slightest impact on investment. In fact, as even USTelecom's data shows, it was under former FCC boss turned top cable lobbyist Michael Powell (who professed a similarly disingenuous respect for real data) that Title II was killed. Perhaps you'll notice something in the data below: @matthewberryfcc @FSFthinktank What about the $40 billion dollar loss the year cable ISPs were made info services? pic.twitter.com/eDrvn8XsNG — Dennis Restauro (@GroundedReason) May 5, 2017 Under Powell (2001-2005), the broadband industry was blindly deregulated and government began effectively letting large ISPs dictate federal internet policy. As a result, you saw less competition and more consolidation than ever before, cementing Comcast's reputation as an apathetic, anti-competitive giant (a monopoly that's currently growing even larger as telcos give up on fixed-line residential broadband). Powell tried to disguise this reality by frequently hyping broadband over powerlines (BPL) as a looming additional competitive option that would work hand-in-hand with sector deregulation to deliver telecom utopia. This promised utopia never materialized. Powell ironically ignored real-world data showing that BPL was an interference-prone mess. The result? BPL never arrived to save us from the telco/cable duopoly, and things got worse as Powell made it harder than ever to hold ISPs accountable for failed promises and anti-competitive abuses of their power over the broadband last mile. As a result, net neutrality violations (the symptom) became more apparent manifestations of the disease (a lack of competition). Deregulation can benefit competitive industries, but in telecom... it helped create the Comcast we all know and love today. Yet here we are with an FCC boss suggesting that more of what brought us to this particularly ugly dance is surely the thing that's going to make everything wonderful. After all, data from the very industry supporting the gutting of these consumer protections says so. It's also worth noting that looking only at CAPEX doesn't really tell the entire story. Like the other piece of farmed think tank "economic analysis" the broadband industry regularly trots out to defend the "net neutrality killed investment" canard, you'll often see these groups ignore how any number of routine investment behaviors (like a cable company wrapping up a new digital set top box deployment) can impact investment numbers. Cherry pick a particular window of time, ignore the massive investments being made in wireless spectrum, and you can massage the data to suggest pretty much whatever you'd like. But again, if you stopped and listened to candid comments by Sonic, Sprint, Frontier, Cablevision, Charter and even Verizon executives over the years, you'll consistently see them admit that Title II didn't impact investment one way or the other. And that's all supported by easily-perused earnings reports, SEC filings and other publicly-accessible data. And, pretty much like clockwork, every few months a reporter assembles that data to make the case that net neutrality didn't hurt telecom investment. Those same folks are similarly quick to point out that focusing exclusively on investment numbers helps the industry avoid subjects like... competition and high prices: "If you think that the best way to measure the success of the U.S. broadband market is by the amount of money its biggest private businesses spend on the task of getting people connected, then it looks like we’re still winners, despite Title II. If you think that the best way to measure the success of the U.S. broadband market is in the number of people connected, the available speeds, the prices, the competition, and the customer service, well… We’ve still got quite a way to go to be as great as the ISPs say we always have been." Only those prioritizing ISP revenues over consumer welfare and the health of the internet still think any of this is even debatable. If folks like Pai were actually interested in hard data and sound economic analysis, they'd cite respected reporters and objective economists untethered to the companies benefiting from these policies. Since those folks have repeatedly told Pai he's wrong, he's instead turned to using cherry picking, ISP-funded stat farms to massage existing data so it fits the overarching narrative that net neutrality has been a telecom investment apocalypse. All while expressing a very post-truth-esque dedication to hard data. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 17 days ago on techdirt
A little less than two years ago, we covered Prison Legal News' FOIA lawsuit against the Bureau of Prisons. While we're aware litigation is seldom a swift process, PLN's ongoing lawsuit was particularly epic: twelve years after filing its initial requests for records covering a period from 1996-2003, the DC Appeals Court reversed the lower court's decision in favor of the US BOP and instructed it to order the government to hand over the requested records to PLN. Two years after that ruling -- fourteen years after PLN sued -- the government is finally settling the case. The government Taxpayers will be paying out nearly a half-million dollars for more than a decade of government stonewalling and obfuscatory litigation. From the decision [PDF]: 1. The parties do hereby agree to settle, compromise and dismiss the above-entitled action under the terms and conditions set forth herein. 2. Since Plaintiff filed Civil Action No. 05-01812, Defendant agency has produced material Responsive to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request originally filed by Plaintiff; Plaintiff is satisfied with that production. 3. Defendant agency shall pay Plaintiff a lump sum of $420,000 in attorneys' fees and costs in this matter pursuant to 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(4)(e). Despite the Appeals Court finding the BOP misused FOIA exemptions and engaged in wildly-inconsistent redactions, the settlement from the government comes with a "this isn't our fault" stipulation. This Stipulation and Dismissal shall not constitute an admission of liability or fault on the part of the Defendant or Defendant agency or the United States or their agents, servants, or employees, and is entered into by both parties for the sole purpose of compromising disputed claims and avoiding the expenses and risks associated with further litigation. If the government was really interested in "avoiding the expenses" of further litigation, you'd think it would have settled this case sometime during the last ten years. But the government wasn't interested in ending its litigation. It only decided to settle when it became apparent it wasn't going to win the case. Litigating further would have subjected it (or rather, US taxpayers) to an even larger legal fee payout. This is how hard the government is willing to fight to keep public records out of the public's hands. Understandably, it was in no hurry to hand out evidence of crimes committed against prisoners by BOP employees, but power is supposed to be tied to accountability. The BOP doesn't care much for accountability or transparency. Since it has unlimited resources and time, engaging in a legal battle whose length rivals that of the War on Terror is no big deal. Only when faced with an inevitable loss did it finally concede, and its concession comes with "this isn't a concession" boilerplate attached. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
China has a long history of producing encyclopedias that goes back thousands of years. One of the most famous works is the fifteenth-century Yongle encyclopedia, which had over 15,000 volumes, and is still the largest paper-based general encyclopedia ever created. More recently, the main publication in this field was the Encyclopedia of China, whose first edition had 74 volumes. Later, CD-ROM and online versions were added. The third edition has just been announced, and although it is not quite on the scale of the Yongle encyclopedia, it is ambitious in its scope: The third edition of the Chinese Encyclopaedia is currently China's largest publication project, with more than 20,000 authors from universities and research institutes contributing to articles in more than 100 disciplines. Designed to be the nation's first digital book of "everything", it will feature more than 300,000 entries, each about 1,000 words long, making it twice as large as the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and about the same size as the Chinese-language version of Wikipedia. As the article in the South China Morning Post notes, access to Wikipedia is patchy in China. Most of the uncontroversial articles can be read, but searches for sensitive keywords such as "Dalai Lama" and even "Xi Jinping," have a habit of timing out. The new project is clearly designed to steer people towards safer opinions: "The Chinese Encyclopaedia is not a book, but a Great Wall of culture," Yang Muzhi, the editor-in-chief of the project and the chairman of the Book and Periodicals Distribution Association of China, told senior scientists at a meeting at the headquarters of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing on April 12, according to a report on the academy’s website the next day. ... Yang told the meeting China was under international pressure and felt an urgent need to produce its own encyclopaedia to "guide and lead the public and society". Speaking of Wikipedia, Yang went on: "The readers regarded it to be authoritative, accurate, and it branded itself as a 'free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit', which is quite bewitching," he wrote. "But we have the biggest, most high-quality author team in the world ... our goal is not to catch up, but overtake." China certainly has the resources to complete this huge project by 2018, its planned launch date. And once those 300,000 entries are available to "guide and lead the public," it's hard not to think that accessing the rival Wikipedia will be made so hard that most people will give up trying, and stick with the new Chinese Encyclopedia. At that point, the Chinese authorities will indeed have created a "Great Wall of culture" to complement that Great Firewall of China, both designed to keep out all those inconvenient ideas. Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+ Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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posted 18 days ago on techdirt
There's no shortage of existing laws protecting law enforcement officers. So, of course, there's no shortage of new legislation being introduced to further protect a well-protected subset of government employees. Using a nonexistent "War on Cops" as impetus, legislators all over the nation are submitting bills designed to make harming a cop more of a crime than harming anyone else. This isn't just happening at the state level. Last year, Colorado representative Ken Buck introduced a federal "Blue Lives Matter" law, which would have turned attacks on cops into "hate crimes." The bill is a ridiculous extension of protection to officers who aren't in any more danger than they were a decade ago, histrionic statements by various federal officials notwithstanding. Buck's bill has gone nowhere in the last year. It's been sitting in a House subcommittee since April of last year. But one bill's failure doesn't predict the future performance of similar legislation. As Reason's C.J. Ciaramella reports, a similar bill -- Florida rep Vern Buchanan's "Thin Blue Line Act" -- has cleared the House Judiciary Committee. The House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Thursday, the Thin Blue Line Act, by a 19-12 vote that would make the killing of a state or local law enforcement officer during the commission of a federal crime an aggravating factor for juries to consider when weighing a death penalty sentence. All well and good, I suppose, although the bill is pretty much a carbon copy of Florida rep David Jolly's 2015 proposal, right down to the bill's name. Like Rep. Buck's bill, Jolly's made it as far as a committee referral before stalling out. Buchanan's bill, however, now has a greatly increased chance of being pushed towards the President's desk. But to what end, asks Ciaramella? The law apparently does nothing more than signal supporters' cop-supporting virtue. The legislation would be largely symbolic. Federal death penalty cases are exceedingly rare, and executions at the federal level are even rarer. The last federal execution took place in 2001, when Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing. Most homicide cases are prosecuted by states. Congressman Bob Goodlatte seems to feel the bill will be most useful when deployed in terrorism cases, but otherwise admits practical applications will be few and far between. The bill has support from police unions but, more importantly, it certainly has the support of the DOJ and the President. This bill caters to Trump's "law and order" push and does a fair amount of sucking up to Attorney General Sessions himself. Attorney General Jeff Sessions introduced similar legislation in 2015, when he was a U.S. senator, saying "the alarming spike in violence directed against the men and women entrusted with ensuring the safety and order of our society must be stopped..." The "alarming spike in violence" Sessions was apparently referring to was the increase of police killed in the line of duty by one over 2014's total of 122… which itself was below the average for the preceding ten years (~150 per year). The bill's being tossed into a pretty receptive Congress. It won't really need the support of powerful police unions, though -- not when the head of the DOJ has previously expressed his legislative desire to give cops even more protection. Permalink | Comments | Email This Story

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