[Plura-list] Save video game history; Life as a precriminal; Qanon is basically the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Fri Sep 11 12:13:22 EDT 2020


Hey! The Kickstarter to preorder the audiobook of ATTACK SURFACE (Little
Brother 3) is going great guns: if you haven't backed, please consider
doing so, as a massive splash here will fundamentally alter the way that
publishers relate to Amazon/Audible and pave the way for
anti-monopolistic release strategies:



Today's links

* Save video game history: The MADE needs help to mothball for two years.

* Life as a precriminal: 1,000 people in Pasco County, Florida are
harassed day and night as part of a predictive policing tool.

* Qanon is basically the Protocols of the Elders of Zion: It's a
recycling program for nutjob racists.

* EFF vs filternet: Comments to the EU on Article 17.

* America's pandemic spiral: 9 awful things. How many do you recognize?

* Security Engineering, 3d edition: Anderson's revenge!

* Alexa for landlords: Unauthorized Bread was not a pitch-deck.

* This day in history: 2015, 2019

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


🤿 Save video game history

In 1991, Bruce Sterling gave a landmark keynote at the Game Developer's
Conference in which he lamented game developers' technological amnesia -
the fact that old game platforms disappeared and when they did, they
took the games that ran on them with them.

Imagine an art form where anything more than a few years old is
inaccessible without specialized equipment, and after a decade, most of
it disappears forever!


Since Sterling's talk, preservation efforts have sprung up to ensure
that the history of video games isn't lost. One of the most important of
these is The MADE, a museum that preserves both hardware and code.

They even secured a DMCA exemption to let them crack games so they'd
remain playable.


As you might expect, the plague has been hard on The MADE. They are
mothballing their entire collection - a unique, important, vital history
of an otherwise ephemeral medium - and seeking funds to help pay for
storage and a new space.


It's a tough time for everyone, including us, but humanity's capacity to
preserve its history during crises is legendary (think of how the
Hermitage's curators starved in their museum through the 900 long days
and nights of the Siege of Leningrad):


Which is why I've contributed to The MADE's preservation fund. If you
can spare a little, I hope you will too.


🤿 Life as a precriminal

One of the wisest things anyone's ever said to me about predictive
policing tools - algorithms that purport predict where crime will occur
- is that they don't predict crime, but they predict the police, who
will obey the algorithm's directives (thanks, Patrick Ball!)

Normally that means that predictive policing tools send cops to poor and
brown neighborhoods to stop-and-frisk and traffic-stop people, but
sometimes it's a little more personal than that.

In Pasco County, Florida, Sheriff Chris Nocco's algorithm generated a
list of 1,000 people "it considers likely to break the law, based on
arrest histories, unspecified intelligence and arbitrary decisions by
police analysts."


The people on this list were then relentlessly targeted, as were their
relatives (about 10% of them were children, putting their parents in the
algorithm's path). They and their relatives were stopped and questioned
dozens of times in public and at work.

Police entered and searched their homes, over and over again,
irrespective of whether they ever found evidence of wrongdoing, without
warrant or probable cause.

One former deputy said the point was to "Make their lives miserable
until they move or sue."

The Tampa Bay Times's incredible, in-depth investigation unearthed an
endless list of brutal acts of algorithmic discrimination, a pattern of
endless harassment, a demonic lovechild of Kafka and Orwell.

(or as the Sheriff's Department called it, "basic law-enforcement

The Sheriff's intelligence program has a $2.8m budget and is run by an
ex-National Counterterrorism Center analyst whose number 2 is former
Army intelligence.

Deputies are put on a quota: they have to do a certain number of
"prolific offender checks" (that is, acts of harassment to the unlucky
1,000 precriminals), or they face sanction from their superiors.

The department has dedicated Strategic Targeted Area Response (STAR)
teams whose job is to "hunt down" precriminals as they go about their
business and engage in "intensive monitoring," keeping track of trivial
things like when a child on the list changed his hairstyle.

STAR Teams raided precriminals' trash cans, going through curbside waste
for evidence of crime, and cited precriminals for minor offenses "like
faded mailbox numbers, a forgotten bag of trash or overgrown grass."

Periodically, without provocation, precriminals' homes would be
surrounded by deputies who would line their streets, surround their
homes, shine lights in their windows and pound on their doors - often in
the middle of the night.

The parents of juvenile precriminals were sometimes arrested, as when
deputies saw a precriminal's friend having an underaged cigarette
through a window, then arrested the precriminal's father for refusing to
force his kid and friend to go out of the house.

Sometimes, family members of precriminals would be arrested on even
flimsier pretenses, as when a deputy pounded on a door and then was hit
in the chest when a precriminal's relative opened the screen door to
talk to him.


🤿 Qanon is basically the Protocols of the Elders of Zion

In 1903, Russian antisemites published a pamphlet called the Protocols
of the Elders of Zion, purporting to reveal a secret Jewish cabal that
secretly controlled the world's governments, using its leaders as puppets.


This power allowed them to kidnap Christian babies and use their blood
in secret, mystical rituals. The Protocols were wildly popular, and
prompted endless rounds of vicious, bloody, genocidal pogroms.

Henry "No Jews or Dogs Allowed" Ford and Charles "Lucky" Lindbergh
*loved* the Protocols and paid to have them translated into English and
distributed across America. They also founded a group dedicated to
protecting Hitler from "American aggression" called "AMERICA FIRST."

Hitler also loved the Protocols. Mein Kampf heavily plagiarised it.
Nazis worshipped Hitler as a living god who had unearthed a vast
conspiracy and would have a day of reckoning, a gathering storm that
would wipe wickedness from the Earth.

Is any of this sounding familiar? You know, like, are there boomers in
your life in red hats who worship Trump as a god because he's discovered
a deep state cabal of baby-kidnapping, ritual-killing evildoers led by a
Jewish billionaire named Soros?

If you're lucky enough that this isn't ringing bells, it's because you
haven't yet encountered the idiocy that is Qanon. But last month, a
group of neo-Nazis waving Q signs *literally stormed the Reichstag*.

Take it away, genocide historian Gregory Stanton: "The world has seen
QAnon before. It was called Nazism. In QAnon, Nazism wants a comeback."



🤿 EFF vs filternet

In Mar 2019, the EU approved the new Copyright Directive by an absurdly
slim margin (it passed by 5 votes and later 10 MEPs said they got
confused and pressed the wrong button; due to procedural rules, despite
an amended total showing a majority *against*, it still passed).

Specifically, the part that passed through this bureaucratic, incoherent
nonsense was Article 13 (now confusingly called Article 17), which
imposed a duty on online platforms to stop their users from infringing

This proposal has a bizarre history (everything about this is bizarre).
It started as a mandate for copyright filters (like Youtube's ContentID,
which cost $100m and counting). Then Axel Voss, the MEP in charge of it,
said it absolutely was *not* a proposal to mandate filters.

Then Voss admitted that there was probably no way to accomplish the
Directive's goals without forcing all online speech through a copyright
filter. Then the EU's various legal and human rights bodies said that
the proposal could *not* require filters.

Confused yet? So is everyone else.

The EU Commission is now preparing guidance for the EU member states,
who must each turn the Directive into a national law. And that brings us
to today.

A coalition of giant entertainment companies has filed comments with the
Commission that were the most bizarre turn in this saga yet, insisting
that this was always about mandating filters and all countries should
mandate that all speech be filtered:


They just pretended that subjecting every European citizen's every
online utterance to interception and algorithmic processing wasn't a
giant, glaring, radioactive violation of the GDPR, the EU's privacy law
(it most assuredly is!):


Today, my EFF colleague Christoph Schmon submitted our comments on the
guidance to the Commission, with niine recommendations:


I. Crisply define what kind of online services this applies to

II. Clarify that while platforms have to try to obtain copyright
licenses from rightsholders, the standard is "due diligence" and is
tempered by the principle of proportionality and fundamental human rights

III. No tech mandates

IV. No "general monitoring" allowed - governments can't order online
services to spy on their user

V. Clarify that the fact that copyright filters exist does not mean that
they are "best practices"

VI. Don't burden small businesses with requirements designed for Big Tech

VII. Clarify that filters can't determine whether something is
infringing - only humans who understand copyright law can do that

VIII. You can't protect users' free speech rights by taking down their
content and then telling them they can appeal the decision

IX: Address the fact that subjecting users' speech to filtering is a
massive, illegal privacy violation


🤿 America's pandemic spiral

More than 200k Americans have died of covid -  about 70 9/11s, with no
end in sight. Indeed, things are getting worse, as the US enters a
"Pandemic Spiral," as Ed Yong writes in The Atlantic. Yong identifies 9
factors driving the spiral:


I. Serial Monogamy of Solutions: we only pay attention to one thing at a
time: isolating, masks, plasma. Some of that is driven by Trump's short
attention span and addiction to distraction tactics, but it's also
science's methodological isolation of one variable at a time.

We especially struggle with "necessary but insufficient." Masks aren't
effective - on their own. Neither is distancing. Neither is ventilation.
All three? Pretty good, actually.

II. False Dichotomies: "We save lives or the economy," "It's like a flu,
no it's like a plague." Actually, we *can* partially reopen the economy
(most retail, with precautions, but not, say, nightclubs), and it IS a
mild flu for some, and a death-sentence for others.

III. The Comfort of Theatricality: Hygiene theater (like sanitizing
surfaces) provides the appearance of diligence and the comfort of *doing
something*, but it distracts from taking steps that address the most
recent science, like mitigating aerosol spread.

IV. Personal Blame Over Systemic Fixes: You can't recycle your way out
of climate change, you can't shop your way out of monopoly capitalism,
and your personal health strategies won't stop the systemic problems
exacerbating the pandemic.

Without sick leave, workplace safety, child care  and transit, people
will do things that put themselves and others at risk. Americans love to
moralize, but they're terrible at systems thinking.

V. The Normality Trap: We want things back the way they were, and this
can overpower our commonsense: we want to re-open tattoo parlors or
movie theaters because that tells us it's finally over.

VI. Magical Thinking: Remember Trump's "Maybe this goes away with heat
and light?" I confess that I get up every morning, make a cup of coffee
and think, "Maybe today's the day this ends." It's impossible not to
have these daydreams - but in America, they become policy.

VII. The Complacency of Inexperience: If you come from a privileged
group with few cases and few comorbidities, you assume that if we just
"let nature take its course," things won't be so bad.

Countries that have had recent experience with epidemics did *so much
better* than the US. That's why poor African countries - who survived
ebola - are kicking America's ass when it comes to addressing the virus.

VIII. A Reactive Rut: We suck at understanding exponential growth, and
this deficit is worsened by the time-gap between infection and symptoms,
which makes it hard to emotionally grasp the connection between
"superspreader" events and outbreaks weeks later.

This confounds our ability to do long-term planning, as we just keep
expecting things will be OK in a month or two, and we don't need to (for
example) figure out how schooling will work when the virus is still raging.

IX: The Habituation of Horror: Remember the movement to "not normalize
Trump?" It was always doomed to fail. Human stimulus response always
regresses to the mean - that is, if you're exposed to the same thing all
the time, no matter how terrible, you get used to it.

Just ask children of abusive parents, or prisoners in solitary, or
Auschwitz survivors. *Everything* becomes normal over time.

Yong: "The U.S. might stop treating the pandemic as the emergency that
it is. Daily tragedy might become ambient noise. The desire for
normality might render the unthinkable normal. Like poverty, racism,
school shootings, police brutality, mass incarceration, sexual
harassment, widespread extinctions and changing climate,  covid might
become yet another unacceptable thing the US accepts."


🤿 Security Engineering, 3d edition

Ross Anderson's SECURITY ENGINEERING is a bedrock textbook for computer
scientists - and also remarkably accessible to laypeople. To call it a
classic is to massively understate the case (same goes for
"indispensable," etc).

Anderson's just completed a long-awaited third edition, and he's put his
draft chapters online as a free preview:


I was delighted to see that I'm quoted in the epigraph to Chapter 11,
"Inference Control":

"Anonymized data' is one of those holy grails, like 'healthy ice-cream'
or 'selectively breakable crypto.'"


🤿 Alexa for landlords

Today in "Cyberpunk is a warning, not a suggestion" news, Amazon has
released a landlord edition of its Alexa surveillance speaker that can
be forced upon tenants.


Here's Amazon's pitch: Landlord Alexa "makes it easy for property
managers to set up and manage Alexa-powered smart home experiences
throughout their buildings."

Satire is dead. Poe's Law rules all.

Landlord Alexa incorporates special commands that "let their residents
pay rent, submit maintenance requests, and manage other things."

It also lets landlords "drop in" (Alexaspeak for "trigger the mic and
camera") in their tenants' homes.

Amazon claims they've taken steps to prevent nonconsensual surveillance,
but as Joanna Nelius writes for Gizmodo, there are so many trivial ways
that landlords could circumvent Amazon's precautions.

It's as simple as adding themselves as a contact on the device before
turning it over to you (indeed, this is so trivial that one must presume
that Amazon either did no security analysis at all here, or that this is

And of course, if you forget to set "Do Not Disturb" when you're not
home, your landlord can just virtually "drop in" and surveil your
residence without leaving any trace.

I am well aware that I wrote one of the definitive texts on how evil
landlords could exploit IoT devices to torment their tenants (how could
I forget when so many people sent me this story!), but honestly,
Unauthorized Bread was not a pitch deck.



🤿 This day in history

#5yrsago Data is a liability, not an asset

#1yrago Majority of period-tracking app share incredibly sensitive data
with Facebook and bottom-feeding analytics companies

#1yrago A symphony orchestra in masks and helmets perform for Hong
Kong's protesters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUIDL4SB60g

#1yrago The EU's top trustbuster gets a surprise re-appointment


🤿 Colophon

Today's top sources: Kottke (https://kottke.org/), Memex 1.1
(https://memex.naughtons.org/), Four Short Links
(https://www.oreilly.com/feed/four-short-links), Naked Capitalism
(https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Schneier (https://www.schneier.com).

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 535 words (59994

Currently reading: Gideon the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Chapter 1 of Attack Surface, the third Little Brother

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.

This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.
That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially,
provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link
to pluralistic.net.


Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are
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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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