Last week the US House Judiciary Committee took time out from their busy schedule of impeaching Donald Trump to actually do something useful. They held a field hearing about the power of online platforms and spoke to witnesses specifically about Facebook, Google and Amazon. This was the title of the hearing:
Date: Friday, January 17, 2020 – 10:00am Location: 01/17/2020 10:00 AM MST Tags: Antitrust
If you want to watch the whole thing, you can here (link). Fox had a good write up. All of the witnesses told compelling stories of how difficult it is to innovate in a market dominated by companies that have grown so huge. Throughout I heard a clear tension between business people who clearly want government to get out of the way and let them innovate, but a recognition that Google, Facebook and Amazon (in particular) have grown unnaturally large and are now a threat to innovation.
I pulled out the following clip by the CTO of software service provider Basecamp, David Heinemeier Hansson. He has decided not to use Facebook for advertising and he explains how that is so difficult to do. It is entirely analogous to a news site or prominent individual who choses not to be active on Facebook or is banned from it for whatever reason.
He’s arguing, and I completely agree with him, Facebook and Google managed to collect and gather a trove of personal information in an early gold rush. Most people had no idea they were handing over something this valuable in aggregate because individually they thought it a fair exchange for shiny beads and services. Amazon is also sitting on a similar power.
I no longer have access to Facebook and I absolutely know that for the kind of blog posts I write, I would receive something like 70% of my traffic from there if I merely had a Facebook mirror of my blog posts. Whether you’re buying adverts using their astonishingly intrusive targeting data, or just trying to have your thoughts heard, Facebook is the giant you can’t ignore. That’s one of the reasons why their ban on crypto advertising had such a devastating effect.
America doesn’t really have the same anti-trust regulations we’re using in Australia for our suit. Which is a pity, they don’t seem to know what to do. Toward the end of the hearing the politicians ask the panel what they suggest: the short version is they really don’t know what to do about it!
Tommy Robinson was featured in a documentary by Ross Kemp on the UK’s ITV. You can see the whole documentary here on Bitchute if you wish. The first half of my podcast this week are my reactions to that show. I split this week’s show into two parts for the video but the podcast is one long show.
For the second part I dove headfirst into the fall out from the Soleimani strike a week before. I still think Trump knew exactly what he was doing and I go into some of the details on how these drones operate and why its likely the US had absolute knowledge of who they were hitting. This is the Tablet piece I talked about regarding proxy wars.
Syrian air defence is useless: it will never see Israeli or American planes, all it can ever do is shoot down civilian planes. It’s a shocking disaster that they even have that equipment.
Twitter really doesn’t know what to do with itself. If you share this picture of my friend, taken days after two terrorists failed to murder her, on Twitter, they may suspend your account:
The reason give by Twitter for suspending her account are:
Violating our rules against posting media depicting gratuitous gore.
You may not share excessively graphic media (e.g., severe injuries, torture). Exposure to gratuitous gore can be harmful, especially if the content is posted with intent to delight in cruelty or for sadistic pleasure.
I want to analyse this a bit deeper. When I first met Kay she was only just starting to talk about the terrorist attack that changed her life for ever. Reading her book “The Rage Less Traveled” filled in what she was going through at that time but suffice it to say, I didn’t see this particular picture of her wounds for a long time.
In fact, in the spring of 2016, a few weeks before the Brexit referendum in the UK, I remember a discussion with Kay about whether or not to allow the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper to publish the picture. Eventually Kay decided it was important and necessary. You can see the page from the newspaper with this picture inset bottom right.
It took courage to do that and you should probably know even more about how that picture came to be taken. Knowing Kay, in a way in which no AI and even no moderator at Twitter will ever be able to, I know that this picture is not “posted with intent to delight in cruelty or for sadistic pleasure”. But Twitter have set for themselves an almost impossible task of judging the intent of someone when they post a photograph!
Here’s the extract from Kay’s book that describes how this photograph was taken by a police forensic scientist. During this part, Kay is on serious pain medication and her narrative reflects how her mind was unable to focus and drifted off in all sorts of directions. I’m adding in an exclusive extract from her audio book.
I dream about a company of bald-headed dwarfs, who under the command of my dog Peanut plant sunflower seeds in the Negev Desert. It’s all very pleasant. When I wake up, there is a man with a bald head who has his face in my cleavage.
Holding a small camera an inch from my chest, his breath tickles my skin. I stare at the specks of sweat on his shiny scalp, then look over at Nurse Olga fidgeting with the drips at the side of the bed. Her hair is pulled back tight. It resembles an onion. I love onions. I love how they feel all papery on the outside, and when the skin is peeled off, they become cool and hard. I can’t eat too many onions though, they make me burp.
Nurse Olga adjusts the valves and chats away. “This gentleman is from the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Holon. Have you been to Holon, Kay? That’s where the Jewish Agency had the nerve to put us when we arrived in Israel. In those days, Holon wasn’t any more friendly than the Kremlin. We even—”
“Nurse,” says the man, taking his head out of my chest. “Can you take off Kay’s pajamas please, so I can get to her back?”
While Nurse Olga eases my top off, the man looks past me at the lamp on the headboard. His lips are thick, his forehead high, and his eyes bulge. He gives his best smile and tells me his name is Avi. He doesn’t look like an Avi though, he looks like an explorer, or a philosopher, or a scientist.
Einstein. I’ll call him Einstein.
Einstein, who seconds ago had his face in my cleavage, now thanks me in a formal voice for my cooperation and apologizes for the intrusion.
I edge forward so he can get to my back. Even moving a couple of inches brings on the agony of feeling impaled. He grimaces with me and waits for my pain to subside, then embarks on his scientific expedition. He documents what he calls “lacerations.” It sounds exciting. He has an efficient but mysterious method. It involves a tape measure, the camera and a clipboard. Working his way down my side and across my back, he mutters secret formulas to himself, like “two-and-a-half inches,” as if worried he may forget.
He gives the camera a couple of clicks, puts it down, hurriedly writes on the clipboard and then goes back to the tape measure. It is clammy on my skin and makes me shudder. Camera clicks. Pen scratches. Camera clicks. Pen scratches.
Genius. I am in the presence of genius.
Engrossed in his mission, Einstein gives me the feeling that he is working on something that will change the world. I wonder what it could be. Whatever it is, I feel quite proud to be part of this great experiment, even though it means being photographed naked from the waist up.
Nurse Olga resumes her monologue about how, back in the ’90’s, Holon used to be a real dump. But, genius that he is, Einstein is too consumed with his world-breaking discovery. He just says, “Nurse, let me concentrate for a moment, please.” I blink around the room. Einstein must have been so excited at what he discovered that he slipped away without saying goodbye, to carry on working towards his great invention. Olga’s not here anymore either. She must have gone with him.
And from later on in the book, this photograph is directly part of the evidence used to convict the two terrorists.
He hands them a pile of photographs. “And these are Kay’s injuries.”
As the judges bend forward to survey the damage, Padan goes into detail. The stenographer types as he speaks. The clicks of the typewriter compete with the traffic.
“Thirteen machete wounds, a crushed sternum, multiple fractures of ribs, bone splinters in her lungs, a broken shoulder blade and a dislocated shoulder.”
How can social media scale globally and ever avoid this kind of problem? I don’t have the answer and neither does Twitter or Jack Dorsey.
In the show art for this show you can see the picture of the kid sleeping on the floor. This shot, meant to show the desperate horrors of the Britain’s state health system, the National Health Services (NHS) and it’s abysmal condition obviously all caused by the Conservatives. I contrast that with the case of Mohammed Al Durah.
I think the American Thanksgiving Holiday is terrific. It’s a solid holiday that the whole nation can get behind and a strong binding force. That’s not to say we have to ignore how America came into being and the indigenous cultures and peoples who were there before and who were, in many cases, destroyed. There’s no way to change that now, but hating America for it doesn’t help anyone.
If I’m going to be talking about Indigenous peoples and Indigenous rights, I can’t fail to link to Ryan Bellerose’s seminal article: Who’s Indigenous.