"You’ve heard Anons say before that this is a war," he said. "A full scale information war. That’s not mere propaganda, many regard that as a perfectly accurate description. And the stake at play is, simply, ‘Who will control access to information? Everyone or a small subset?’"
In case it wasn’t clear, he then labeled that subset: “The government.”
First in a two-part series tracing the development of Anonymous by Skaki Knafo at HuffPo.
What Europe’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Has in Common with SOPA
Over at TIME.com I write that if you didn’t like SOPA because it threatened free speech, then you probably won’t like the new “Right to be Forgotten” proposed in the EU. Prof. Jane Yakowitz contributes some great insights to the piece. What I dislike most about the rule is that it subordinates expression to privacy:
[T]he new law would flip the traditional understanding of privacy as an exception to free speech. What this means is that if we treat free expression as the more important value, then one has to prove a harmful violation of privacy before the speaker can be silenced. Under the proposed law, however, it’s the speaker who must show that his speech is a “legitimate” exception to a claim of privacy. That is, the burden of proof is switched so that speakers are the ones who would have to justify their speech.
In case you haven’t seen it, here is a quiz that goes along with Charles Murray’s new book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010. His thesis is that the elite that influences the course of the country is out of touch with the mainstream middle class more than ever given that they live in coastal Arugula-lined bubbles. (The obvious question is: So what? I guess I’ll have to read the book to see if he sheds light on that.)
The quiz purports to tell you how elite or not you are by asking questions about NASCAR and what beer you drink. I scored a 4 out of 20, which means my bubble is pretty thick. How about taking the quiz and reblogging this with your score?
Me at TIME.com: “In George Orwell’s 1984, the Ministry of Truth employs a “memory hole” to eliminate inconvenient facts. If a previously published photo or record later proves to be embarrassing for the government, it is thrown down the hole. The facts are erased from the face of the earth and the world is led to believe that something that happened never actually happened. The European Commission last week sought to give citizens their own personal memory holes.”
In case you didn’t know, every week I host a podcast on tech, economics, and policy called Surprisingly Free. Today we reached our 100th episode and, of course, it’s a clip show. It has some of the best from the last 99 shows. Give it a listen, subscribe in iTunes, reblog this, and Tweet about it. Thanks!
Is there a market failure in cybersecurity? It's not an open and shut case
Cybersecurity is one of the issues that the President may touch upon tonight in his State of the Union speech, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he is ready to move on comprehensive cybersecurity legislation soon. This all raises the question: what is the problem we’re trying to fix?
In an important new working paper for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Eli Dourado asks if there is a market failure in cybersecurity that requires a government response. He concludes that policymakers may be jumping to conclusions a little too hastily.
Proponents of cybersecurity regulation make the case that private network owners do not completely internalize cyber risks. The reason, they say, is that a loss stemming from a cyber attack, against a financial network for example, will affect not just the network owner, but thousands of consumers as well. As a result, private network owners won’t spend the socially optimal amount on to meet that risk. That is a market failure, they say, and only government intervention can ensure that we get the right amount of cybersecurity.
In his paper, however,Dourado shows that the presence of an externality does not necessarily mean that there is a market failure. Externalities are often internalized by private parties without government intervention. This is true both generally and in the realm of cybersecurity. Policy makers, he says, should therefore be careful not to enact cybersecurity legislation just because they observe an externality. Regulating when there is no market failure will likely have dire unintended consequences.
The SOPA blackout protest last week was an unprecedented event. Its massive success — with dozens of members of Congress switching their stance in one day under the withering intensity of thousands of phone calls — surprised even the activists who spurred the protest. So does this mean that we are entering the much-heralded era of Internet-powered citizen democracy?
Me at TIME.com: “The SOPA blackout protest last week was an unprecedented event. Its massive success — with dozens of members of Congress switching their stance in one day under the withering intensity of thousands of phone calls — surprised even the activists who spurred the protest. So does this mean that we are entering the much-heralded era of Internet-powered citizen democracy?”
The Megaupload folks are not the most sympathetic defendants, to say the least. They likely knew very well they were profiting from piracy, and they probably induced it as well. Anonymous’s attacks in retaliation for the arrests and domain seizures, therefore, threaten to destroy the good will the Internet community generated the previous day with the SOPA protests. That all said, we can’t lose sight of the principle because of the bad actors involved.
This case shows that law enforcement is perfectly capable of securing international cooperation and taking direct action against large piracy operations overseas. The Megaupload principals were arrested and they now face extradition and trial. So why do we need due-process-free domain seizures or tinkering with the inner workings of the Internet to combat piracy?
This case also reminds us that the federal government already has the power to seize .com, .net, .org and other U.S.-registered domains. Stopping SOPA is one thing, but now the task should be rolling back excessive government powers to control information online.
The balance struck by the DMCA, which gives safe harbor to sites that take down allegedly infringing content when notified by the owner, is the right one. No safe harbor is available to sites that have actual knowledge that they are benefiting from pirated content, as is probably the case with Megaupload.
“[A] very broad law that gives the government the power to start saying who can pass what to whom, I say no and I am standing for freedom.”—That’s Mitt Romney at yesterday’s GOP debate. I like this very broad statement on free speech, but sadly marking this one for later claim chowder.
Why Google’s Biggest Problem with ‘Search Plus Your World’ Isn’t Antitrust
Over at TIME.com, I write that while some claim that Google Search Plus Your World violates antitrust laws, it likely doesn’t. But I note that Google does have a big problem on its hands: market reaction.
So if antitrust is not Google’s main concern, what is? It’s that user reaction to SPYW and other recent moves may invite the very switching and competitive entry that would have to be impossible for monopoly to hold. … Users, however, may not wait for the company to get it right. They can and will switch. And sensing a weakness, new competitors may well enter the search space. The market, therefore, will discipline Google faster than any antitrust action could.
“Back when search wasn’t personalized, Google could defensibly say that one service was better than another because it got more traffic, was linked to more (better PageRank), and so on. Back when everyone got the same results and the web was one homogenous glob of HTML, well, you could claim “this is the best result for the general population.” But personalized search has broken that framework[.]”—John Batelle
At the Top of Congress’ New Year Agenda? Regulate the Net
Over at TIME.com, I recap the latest on SOPA and PIPA and look at what’s ahead once Congress reconvenes. I also address the argument that the piracy bills don’t amount to censorship since they’re aimed at unprotected speech.
Both bills would likely affect non-infringing speech because they allow for entire sites to be blocked — even if they also include otherwise legal speech. Yet the Supreme Court has ruled, “Broad prophylactic rules in the area of free expression are suspect. Precision of regulation must be the touchstone in an area so closely touching our most precious freedoms.” And you can add to that a troubling lack of due process that’s a recipe for abuse.
This week in TIME I recap the latest on SOPA and PIPA and look at what’s ahead once Congress reconvenes. I also address the argument that the piracy bills don’t amount to censorship since they’re aimed at unprotected speech.