[Plura-list] Facebook's foreseeable election consequences; David Graeber on Spectre TV

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Mon Sep 7 11:23:53 EDT 2020

Today's links

* Facebook's foreseeable election consequences: Incompetence AND malice?

* David Graeber on Spectre TV: Rest in power, David.

* This day in history: 2005, 2019

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


☃️ Facebook's foreseeable election consequences

I think Facebook is a serious problem for our democracy (and possibly
our species), but I also worry that many of the regulatory responses to
the company just enshrine its dominance, but imposing conditions it can
grudgingly comply with, but which new competitors could not.

That's why I think that we should regulate Facebook...but carefully. Get
it right and we can nerf it down to the point where it no longer
dominates our society. Get it wrong and we will crown it emperor


But sometimes, changes to Facebook that go awry aren't the result of
some hard-to-foresee unintended consequence - sometimes, it's just
Facebook engaging in lethal fuckery and/or stupidity.

This is one of those times. Facebook has observed that in the final days
before an election, unethical political operatives can push
disinformation in the form of political ads that aren't removed until
after the election - after the damage has been done.

Their response is to ban political ads for the 7 days before the
election, which sounds fine - until you realize that the only way local
election officials can get last-minute information in front of voters is
by buying ads.


That's because FB has no other facility for allowing election officials
to announce late-breaking info about polling places, mail-in votes, and
other nonpartisan, factual information that helps people vote.

If you're an election official - or even the Census - and you want to
put something into the feeds of people in your area, you have to buy an
ad - worse, FB calls that a "political ad."

And of course, this election is full of late-breaking info: changes to
in-person voting due to pandemics, changes to postal voting due to USPS
sabotage, changes to polling rules due to dozens of voting rights lawsuits.

To that, add the climate emergency: the Connecticut primary was
disrupted by Hurricane Isaias and officials had to spend thousands to
tell voters about new rules in light of the crisis.

Like I said, some changes to FB rules could just make things worse - for
example, proposals to abolish or weaken CDA230 will just create a world
where Facebook's terrible moderators make more stupid calls, removing
legit material.

While making it legally and commercially impossible to operate a FB
rival with better rules on harassment, hate speech, etc - AND snuffing
out any hope of forcing FB to interoperate or federate with rivals.

(We can order FB to police its users' actions, or we can order FB to
allow third parties to connect to its service, but we can't do both,
because they can't do both.)

But this isn't one of those thorny problems. FB has two glaringly
obvious ways to solve the problem of last-minute political ad disinfo:

I. Allow election officials to put messages in voters' feeds without
buying ads; or

II. Exempt election officials from the 7-day ban on political ads.

I know we should never attribute to malice that which can be attributed
to incompetence, but honestly, this is such A-grade fuckery it's hard
not to go with "both."


☃️ David Graeber on Spectre TV

I'm still processing last week's sudden, unexpected death of David
Graeber - an anarchist anthropologist writer, speaker and activist who
was prominent in the Occupy movement.


As I mentioned in my obit, the last time I saw David, it was when I
appeared on the first episode Spectre TV, the plague-era online panel
show he co-hosted, about heterodox economics and radical political
economy. Now, the show's producers have put both episodes on Youtube.

Here's episode 1, "What's so basic about basic income?"

"UBI is a simple idea - each person is entitled to a monthly guaranteed
income - but it's not so simple in its politics and implementation. The
pandemic, however, has brought the policy into the spotlight as millions
find themselves unable to work whilst mega-companies like Amazon earn
vast fortunes. In this discussion, monetary thinkers, basic income
advocates and a sf writer get together to debate the idea."


Here's the second episode: "Against Rentier Capitalism," with David
Graeber, Michael Hudson & Guy Standing.


I hadn't seen this one, and it was a sad delight to watch.

Rest in power, David.


☃️ This day in history

#15yrsago Yahoo rats out Chinese reporter to Beijing, writer gets 10
years in jail http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4221538.stm

#15yrsago Online Rights Group UK launches https://www.openrightsgroup.org/

#1yrago Marc Davis in His Own Words: Imagineering the Disney Theme Parks


☃️ Colophon

Today's top sources: Naked Capitalism
(https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Julio Linares.

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Friday's progress: 520 words (57818 total).

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 14)

Upcoming appearances:

* Keynote for Law Via the Internet conference, Sept 22,

* Writing into an Uncertain Future, Afterwords Festival, Oct 1,

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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