Appiness.io blog

15 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Amazon Just Released A Sneak Peek At Its Black Friday Deals

Amazon is an obvious destination for holiday shopping, and it’s no surprise given the e-retailer’s ability to offer insanely good deals on big-ticket purchases like Amazon Echoes, electronics, toys, kitchen tools, fashion accessories and more. 

Earlier this week the commerce giant low-key released a sneak peek at its upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. The below deals will be available on various dates and times between Nov. 17 and Black Friday, Nov. 24. 

Black Friday itself will feature more than 30 “Deals Of the Day” and thousands of “Lightning Deals” across over two-dozen categories ―with full details that have yet to be announced. Shoppers can be the first to know about Amazon’s Black Friday deals by setting up alerts, downloading the app, checking their Black Friday countdown, and asking even Alexa for deals as early as Wednesday, Nov. 22. 

For those eager to get a head start on their holiday shopping list, we’ve highlighted the best of Amazon’s sneak peek deals below. Check them out, and remember: These deals are available on various dates and times between Nov. 17 and Black Friday, so shop fast.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page.

14 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Lack Of Diversity In Tech Makes It Difficult To Override Russian Fake News

The outrage over Russian manipulation of social media platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter during the 2016 election has been appropriate and long overdue. And these companies’ response to it thus far has been deeply inadequate.

But lost among the outrage is the damage that has been done to the communities targeted by the false and bigoted content. In short, the Russian social media content took an already toxic election campaign and made it far worse.

It is no coincidence that Russians used anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, anti-Latino, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, and anti-black messages to stoke divisions, since candidates were already stoking them.

This is not just a crisis for marginalized communities. It is a crisis for our democracy.

According to Facebook’s testimony earlier this month before the Senate Committee on Intelligence, at least 126 million Americans—or more than one-third of the country—were exposed to this Russian content. That means millions more people than we realized were exposed to the falsehoods and hyperbole that are being used as the rationale for the immigration polices the Trump administration pursued.

And the Russians joined the many homegrown actors online already peddling this corrosive content. In other words, communities of color have been fighting a tidal wave of misinformation with a bucket.

This is not just a crisis for marginalized communities, it is a crisis for our democracy. And it is far past time for the tech companies involved to treat it as such.

That is why it is so dismaying to us that for months these companies dismissed these concerns as overblown, even though they have been aware of the dangerous use of their platforms for a long time. While they have pledged to “do better,” they have been woefully short on specifics. And we are most concerned that they have yet to fully acknowledge their role in giving bigots both credibility and a platform beyond their wildest dreams.

These companies have to address this crisis with concrete specifics. We know that companies are wary of solutions that could restrict free speech, but there is nothing against creating more speech.

Social media companies must work with organizations representing affected communities on how to most effectively counter hate speech on their platforms. The companies should provide the opportunity, the resources and the training to help these organizations create and disseminate this content.

There is something to be said for fighting hate speech with better speech and falsehoods with facts. We want to see tech companies adhere to the kind of accountability and transparency that is the hallmark of companies that practice sound corporate responsibility.

But ultimately, the failure to fully see or acknowledge the impact on Latinos and other communities of color points to another longstanding issue—the profound lack of diversity in Silicon Valley.

The Russian crisis underscores why diversity matters. A more diverse workforce could have helped these companies understand the deep impact of what was happening online. And that includes taking demonstrable and quantifiable steps to not only diversify the pipeline of potential new employees, but also their current workforce, leadership and boards of directors.

The issue of diversity in tech has been raised for years, by us and a host of other organizations, elected officials, and leaders. And while the companies have been very open to dialogue and most have made steps in the right direction, the results are dismal.

In 2014, 4 percent of Facebook employees were Latino; today it is just 5 percent. For Twitter and Google, it was 3 percent in 2014, and is only 4 percent currently. At the highest and decision-making levels for all companies, those percentages plummet even further.

Polls show that the vast majority of Americans believe diversity is one of America’s greatest strengths. These companies need to decide whether they will be a party to the erosion of that cherished value, or if they will do what it takes to both prevent the use of their platforms to destroy the ties that bind us as Americans.

These companies and their platforms must reflect the customers they serve. We stand ready to help if they make the right choice.

13 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Buying A PC? Here’s What You Need To Know Now

If you’re in the market for a new computer, there are things you need to know. Things your PC manufacturer or retailer won’t necessarily share with you.

And with the frenzied days of buying just ahead, now is the time to inform yourself. Otherwise you could end up overpaying ― I mean really overpaying ― for your next laptop or desktop.

Turns out there’s a time for everything, when it comes to a new PC.

Wait for the new chips

Don’t pay attention to the new models, but instead the new chipsets ― the things that power the PCs. “My advice is to buy a new PC right after a new motherboard chipsets come out,” says David Cox, the CEO of an internet company in Cheyenne, Wyoming. “You will get the most longevity out of your system that way.” AMD and Intel have released new chips recently. Competition between the two have driven down prices and introduced a lot of cool, new features, according to Cox. “Last time consumers had this much buying power was before 2005,” he adds.

Tune in to “special” days

Antony Vitillo, an artificial reality developer, says certain days are best to buy a PC, beyond Black Friday and Cyber Monday. “Some of them are celebrated by one particular website, like Amazon Prime Day,” he says. Wait for these days to see what deals are being offered. But also, know that there will be other windows that open later. In other words, if you miss Black Friday, don’t worry; Cyber Monday is just a few hours away.

Hang on for PC buying season

Yes, there’s a season, says Yanatha Desouvre, an information systems professional who has watched the ebb and flow of computer prices for the last two decades. Fall is the best time for a PC purchase. “Manufacturers have back-to-school sales, including printer bundles and other accessories,” says Desouvre. The holiday season is also a good time, with retailers trying to meet or exceed their fourth-quarter sales goals. But perhaps the lowest prices come to those who wait a little longer, a few days after the holidays, when the discounting can reach a frenzy. The worst time? Summer, since prices are high and it’s near the end of the product life cycle. Never buy a PC during the summer.

Purchasing data backs up that assertion. For laptop computers, for example, prices typically drop an extra 8 percent to 25 percent in August and early September, according to DealNews.com. In fact, August had 24 percent more computer deals last year than September did. The PC deals pick up again in November with Black Friday sales, according to the site.

Find out if the coast is clear

PCs rely on components, and the cost of those parts can fluctuate based on demand and other factors. “For example, an earthquake or hurricane can affect pricing of hard drives and memory by creating a temporary shortage of supply to the current demand,” explains Tim Lynch, publisher of Psychsoftpc.com, a computer site. For example, that happened to computer monitors when the production of quality glass was effected by a natural disaster, he says. Always check to make sure your computer’s prices are not artificially inflated by an outside event

Missed it? March madness awaits

Yet another buying window opens up in March, at the end of the first quarter, according to Todd Millecam, the CEO of SWYM Systems. “They’re getting rid of the stock they couldn’t move for Christmas,” he says. “This is also the best time to buy components to build your own PC.” In other words, manufacturers and retailers are often under immense pressure to move inventory and meet sales goals, and those can favor the buyer at the end of the fourth and first quarters of the calendar year. So watch for aggressive prices in the final days of March.

There’s a bigger question if you’re in the market for a new PC. Should you wait for the newest computer or buy one that’s been available for a while? That’s worth addressing in a story about seasonality, since the most important season is yours. PC expert Itai Danan says consumer typically find the best value in the middle range of the new family of processors.

“Even getting a PC with the lowest speed processor of the newest platform, rather than a faster one of the previous platform, is advantageous. Not only will it last longer but it will also stay upgradable for longer since memory and other compatible components will be available longer.”

Finally, when you have an opportunity to buy a discounted PC, seize it. Sale quantities are limited, notes Eric Rintell, president of Rintell Technologies. “You have to be swift,” he says. “In the past, I have woken up in the middle of the night to ensure that I can purchase the sale PC.”

To improve your odds, subscribe to sites or newsletters that preview the sales weeks in advance so you can plan ahead. Otherwise, you’ll pay too much for your next PC.

Christopher Elliott specializes in solving unsolvable consumer problems. Contact him with your questions on his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google or sign up for his newsletter.

13 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Company Blames Secret Intimate Recordings By Sex Toy On ‘Minor Bug’

A high-tech sex toy company in Hong Kong is blaming a “minor bug” after a customer realized that one of its vibrators was recording human sounds on its own while the gadget was in use.

The wireless remote-controlled vibrator is designed to be operated by a lover across a room — or across an ocean — using a cell phone app. The glitch in the Lovense vibrator was noted by a Reddit poster who discovered that the smartphone used to control a lover’s vibrator was recording and saving sounds at the same time – without being directed to do so.

The full audio file — discovered as tempSoundPlay.3gp — lasted six minutes and was stored in the app’s local folder, noted a startled tydoctor. Some who responded to the Reddit message had similar experiences.

The Lovense app has access to the phone’s microphone and camera, but they’re intended to be used for in-app chats or voice clips for communication, not constant recording.

TLDR: App for remote control vibrator records your sexytime lovemaking sessions

The lovense remote control vibrator app (used to control remote control sex toys made by lovense, such as this one) seems to be recording while the vibrator is on. I was going through my phone media to prepare it for a factory reset and came across a .3gp file named “tempSoundPlay.3gp” in the folder for the App. The file was a FULL audio recording 6 minutes long of the last time I had used the app to control my SO’s remote control vibrator (We used it at a bar while playing pool).

The app permissions allow for mic and camera use, but this was supposed to be for use with the in-app chat function to send voice clips on command. At no time had I wanted the app to record entire sessions using the vibrator.

I’m not tech savvy enough to know if the recording had been sent to them or not, but I assume this is the case given the history of the industry and their disregard for privacy.

I have deleted the app, and will no longer be using its bluetooth functions. It’s unfortunate, because there’s no other way to control the vibrator without the app.

Someone from Lovense popped in on Reddit to assure tydoctor that the recording was caused by a “minor bug,” and the glitch was fixed Nov. 10. “Your concern is completely understandable,” the representative wrote. “But rest assured, no information or data is sent to our servers. The cache file currently remains on your phone instead of deleting itself once your session is finished.”

The glitch affected only Android phones, not iOS devices, according to the Lovense representative.

A Lovense spokesman confirmed to The Verge that the Reddit response was from the company. The rep noted that the bug was blocking recordings from automatically being erased at the end of “sessions.”

A flaw in another Lovense product was discovered in October. A security researcher found that Lovense’s Bluetooth-enabled Hush butt plug could be hacked and a stranger could send a vibrate command. Hackers have warned that commandeering a sex toy used by another could constitute sexual assault and that the devices should be much more secure.

Standard Innovation, the parent company of tech sex toy maker We-Vibe, settled a class action lawsuit for $3.75 million earlier this year after it was discovered that We-Vibe “smart vibrators” were tracking customers’ sexual activity without their knowledge.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story indicated that Standard Innovation lost the class action lawsuit and was ordered to pay $3.15 million to customers. In fact, the company settled the suit for $3.75 million.

09 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Facebook Police: There’s No Such Thing As Free Speech On Social Media

Dear Facebook,

In 2008, we started our relationship. You were down for anything and only hung out with my closest friends. We told inappropriate jokes, talked about drugs and laughed about stupid sh*t we had done earlier in our lives. You wanted to know what was on my mind and I’d always tell you the truth. 

Flash forward almost a decade into our relationship and things have drastically changed. 

I’m still the same person I have always been. Abrasive, heavily sarcastic, and extremely alpha are some of the phrases used to describe me still, after all these years. Meanwhile, you’ve changed and done a complete 180 on me. You’ve gone soft, delicate and get offended by almost everything I say.

This is why I’m breaking up with you. I can’t continue to be a part of your downward spiral of trying to please everyone. It’s just not me and it’s not what I want to be a part of. I wish you all the luck in life and I know you will make lots of people happy, I just can’t be one of them. It’s not you; it’s me and I’m moving on. 

I first signed up for Facebook in 2008. I met my oldest son’s mom on the site and it changed my life. Literally I’ve made millions of dollars in the last decade from Facebook. I’ve met some of my best friends and even become sort of famous from the site. Facebook has been the single biggest blessing in my lifetime.

That’s why the above letter was so hard to write. I’m breaking up with the love of my life. Allow me to explain.

In 2010, I lost my job. I had no idea what I was going to do and the job supply wasn’t exactly overfilled back then. I found a program on how to manage social media and I knew I was on to something. I started my own business as a social media manager. I spent 10 hours a day convincing thousands of people to join Facebook and post often. I was Facebook’s #1 cheerleader. 

In 2014, I learned Facebook ads and since then I’ve spent over $500,000 in advertising as well as convinced thousands of others to do the same. I’ve sent millions of dollars’ worth of business to Facebook this year alone.

Just last year I was selected as one of the top Facebook marketers in the world. 

In the last two years, though things have gotten weird for me on the site. It all started when I grew my fan page. I went from 8,000 likes to over 100,000 in less than a year. It was at that time someone at Facebook started watching me closely. I made the occasional right-leaning post and Facebook started restricting my posts. 

At first, I thought it was all in my head but after a while I realized someone was throttling my posts. Although I was disappointed and downright pissed, I knew there was nothing I could do about it, so I just worked harder at coming up with great content. 

I guess that wasn’t enough for whoever over at Facebook. 

One day, while I was working I saw a friend make a post containing a political joke. I made a sarcastic comment on the post, and I went on about my business. When I tried to login to Facebook a little while later, I noticed I’d been completely logged out of the system. As I logged back in, I learned I had violated community standards and that I would be blocked from the site for seven days. 

I got kicked off Facebook for joking with one of my friends. My mind was blown. Since when had Facebook started blocking people for jokes? I had no idea this was even a thing or that it was possible. Yet here I was, blocked from the site and scratching my head. 

After the ban, I got back on and posted about being kicked off. None of my friends (who often say way worse stuff than me) had ever been kicked off. If you think about it, my friend, who posted the joke, didn’t get banned. I did, for commenting on it. I’m not one to feel like a victim or as if someone is picking on me, so I just chalked it up as a learning lesson. 

A month or so later the same thing happened.

I got kicked off for another week for sarcastically commenting on a political post. Someone at Facebook has to have been watching me. I don’t know why they put me on a watch list. I don’t vote Republican or Democrat. I don’t promote any candidates and I don’t spew any hate speech. I’m mostly just posting jokes on the site. But I was getting worried because they had kicked me off twice and I didn’t even know why. 

Flash ahead to this February when I got an email from my assistant. It was a forwarded email from someone in our 60,000 member Facebook group. Apparently, whoever it was, was fired from their job over a sarcastic Facebook post. We joke in the group a lot and someone took a screenshot and sent it to the poster’s boss, getting him fired. Turns out, that same person did this to 4-5 other people, too. The problem was, we had no clue who was doing this, so we couldn’t kick them out. 

So, I made a long post about it and in the end jokingly said, “Whoever is the snitch, kill yourself.” When I went to log back into Facebook later, I noticed I was completely logged out of everything again. I was banned for 30 days. Of course, I don’t want anyone to go kill themselves and if you read the post it was in a joking tone. Yet FB kicked me off with no warning. 

As luck would have it, I met a person who is one of the higher ups at Facebook and I asked this person to see what was going on with me. He mentioned that I was red flagged and basically refused to comment any further. I didn’t know that I was that important. They red flagged me then gagged the dude I had just met.

Is this Facebook or the CIA?

I decided it wasn’t worth it and I would stop posting abrasive, humorous stuff, because whoever is red flagging me at Facebook clearly can’t take a joke. 

Everything was good, no issues were had and all was smooth until about a week ago. One of my military friends shared a link with fake news about Trump banning “trans” people from the military. I commented that ISIS is not scared to fight trannies. Now, I didn’t know that tranny wasn’t PC and nor do I really care. I don’t have time to keep up with what special interest group wants to be called what. I have a life to live. I thought “tranny” was short for “transvestite” but it turns out both of those terms are offensive. I had no clue, I’ve never met a trans person in my life. 

So, they kicked me off for 30 days again!

The message this go-round was that I had violated community standards. Now, I don’t get it. I see all sorts of hateful comments, people using derogatory terms and everything else, without consequence. Even Snoop said he was going to kill Trump, our president and he didn’t get kicked off. The one lady wiped her ass with our flag and didn’t get kicked off. But me, I’ve been kicked off four times now. For very minor things. 

I don’t know how many people spend seven figures with Facebook in ads, but I imagine it’s not a lot. You’d think I’d be a valued customer, but I don’t even have a rep to get a hold of there. So, I’m just dealing with the block I guess.

This morning I woke up and checked my Instagram account. They blocked me on there, too.

I don’t even engage on that site so I have no idea what is going on. The site says my account is restricted, no time frame, no reason why.

Facebook is trying to run me off social media. 

Now mind you, I have 111,000 followers on Instagram and over 200,000 on Facebook. It’s obvious that people want to listen to me and hear what I have to say. Facebook is trying to silence my influence and I have no clue why. I’ve read the community terms and they are so vague and broad that the only way you can be in full compliance is by not posting at all. 

I’m not sure what’s going on over there at Facebook these days. They are trending fake stories; they make left-leaning content viral and they are banning real people like me for no real reason other than disagreeing with an opinion. I’d like to say I’m never gonna use Facebook again, but I still have an advertising business to run. However, what I am going to do is hire a social media manager to run my page and never look at it again. 

It was a good run. It lasted almost a decade, but now, it’s time for me to leave the haters behind. It sucks it has to be like this but I don’t know what else to do. Free speech comes with a price on Facebook. Watch your words. 

09 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Twitter ‘Verifies’ Jason Kessler, Organizer Of Charlottesville White Supremacist Rally

Jason Kessler, the organizer of the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August that left one person dead, was verified on Twitter. The Daily Beast reports that the white supremacist got the official badge next to his name Tuesday.

The social media company, which recently made public statements about fighting hate speech on its platform, says the blue check mark is used to inform people “that an account of public interest is authentic.”

“A verified badge does not imply an endorsement by Twitter,” the site’s policy states.

Still, the verified status caused a swift backlash from other users on the platform. 

Kessler previously called Heather Heyer, the woman who was killed when a car plowed into the crowd demonstrating against the white supremacists that descended on Charlotesville, “a fat, disgusting Communist.” He added that her death was “payback time.”

Police identified James Alex Fields Jr., a white supremacist, as the driver who hit Heyer and others at the protest. He has been charged with multiple felonies, including one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and one count of failing to stop at an accident resulting in a death.

Last month, Kessler was indicted on a felony perjury charge after video surfaced showing that he had lied to a judge about the reason he punched a man in the face in January. Kessler claimed the man he assaulted had been the aggressor, but video showed otherwise.

08 Nov 2017
by Admin
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Introducing HuffPost’s New Comic Generator: This Is Sketchy

Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. 

With that in mind, we’ve teamed up with Alpha, Oath’s emerging platforms team, to build a new comic generator, called This Is Sketchy. The app makes it easy to create political and pop culture-themed comics in a matter of seconds. The best part: No artistic talent is required. 

The generator features more than 40 characters and backgrounds, illustrated by HuffPost producer Ji Sub Jeong. You can create comics based on any topic of your choosing, or, if you need some inspiration, you can choose from a selection of hashtag challenges to respond to. 

Our first challenge is #SketchThisYear. In honor of the first anniversary of the 2016 election, we’re inviting people to create comics about the ups and downs of the past few months. Share them to your social accounts with the hashtag #SketchThisYear, and we’ll retweet the best submissions on HuffPost’s Twitter account

Check out some of our favorite comics so far: 









07 Nov 2017
by Admin
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The Fakebook Inside Facebook

This post first appeared at BillMoyers.com.

Beginning in 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and his companions made a historic contribution to the annals of alchemy: They converted the lust for human contact into gold. Facebook’s current net worth is more than $500 billion, with Zuckerberg’s own share tallied at $74.2 billion, which makes him something like the fifth-wealthiest person in the world.

What can be said about Facebook can also more or less be said of Google, Twitter, YouTube and other internet platforms, but here I’ll confine myself mainly to Facebook. What a business model! Whenever their 2-billion-and-counting users click, the company (a) sells their attention to advertisers, and (b) rakes in data, which it transmutes into information that it uses to optimize the deal it offers its advertisers. Facebook is the grandest, most seductive, farthest-flung, most profitable attention-getting machine ever. Meanwhile, according to a post-election BuzzFeed analysis by Craig Silverman, who popularized the term “fake news”:

In the final three months of the U.S. presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement [industry jargon for shares, reactions and comments] than the top stories from major news outlets such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News and others.

What has to be faced by those aghast at the prevalence of online disinformation is that it follows directly from the social-media business model. Ease of disinformation — so far, at least — is a feature, not a bug.

Zuckerberg presents himself (and has often been lionized as) a Promethean bringer of benefits to all humanity. He is always on the side of the information angels. He does not present himself as an immoralist, like latter-day Nazi-turned-American-missile-scientist Wernher von Braun, as channeled by Tom Lehrer in this memorable lyric:

Don’t say that he’s hypocritical Say rather that he’s apolitical “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department!” says Wernher von Braun.

To the contrary, Zuckerberg is a moralist. He does not affect to be apolitical. He wants his platform to be a “force for good in democracy.” He wants to promote voting. He wants to “give all people a voice.” These are political values. Which is a fine thing. Whenever you hear powerful people purport to be apolitical, check your wallet.

There’s no evidence that in 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg and his Harvard computer-savvy buddies devised their amazing apparatus and wrote the code for it, that they intended to expose Egyptian police torture and thereby mobilize Egyptians to overthrow Hosni Mubarak, or to help white supremacists distribute their bile, or to throw open the gates through which Russians could cheaply circulate disinformation about American politics. They were ingenious technicians who wholeheartedly shared the modern prejudice that more communication means more good for the world — more connection, more community, more knowledge, more, more, more. They were not the only techno-entrepreneurs who figured out how to keep their customers coming back for more, but they were among the most astute. These engineer-entrepreneurs devised intricate means toward a time-honored end, pursuing the standard modern media strategy: package the attention of viewers and readers into commodities that somebody pays for. Their product was our attention.

Sounds like a nifty win-win. The user gets (and relays) information, and the proprietor, for supplying the service, gets rich. Information is good, so the more of it, the better. In Zuckerberg’s words, the goal was, and remains, “a community for all people.” What could go wrong?

So it’s startling to see the cover of this week’s Economist, a publication not hitherto noted for hostility to global interconnection under the auspices of international capital. The magazine’s cover graphic shows the Facebook “f” being wielded as a smoking gun. The cover story asks, “Do social media threaten democracy,” and proceeds to cite numbers that have become fairly familiar now that American politicians are sounding alarms:

Facebook acknowledged that before and after last year’s American election, between January 2015 and August this year, 146 million users may have seen Russian misinformation on its platform. Google’s YouTube admitted to 1,108 Russian-linked videos and Twitter to 36,746 accounts. Far from bringing enlightenment, social media have been spreading poison.

Facebook’s chief response to increasingly vigorous criticism is an engineer’s rationalization: that it is a technological thing — a platform, not a medium. You may call that fatuously naïve. You may recognize it as a commonplace instance of the Silicon Valley belief that if you figure out a way to please people, you are entitled to make tons of money without much attention to potentially or actually destructive social consequences. It’s reminiscent of what Thomas Edison would have said if asked if he intended to bring about the electric chair, Las Vegas shining in the desert, or, for that matter, the internet; or what Johannes Gutenberg have said if asked if he realized he was going to make possible the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf. Probably something like: We’re in the tech business. And: None of your business. Or even: We may spread poison, sure, but also candy.

This candy not only tastes good, Zuckerberg believes, but it’s nutritious. Thus on Facebook — his preferred platform, no surprise — Mark Zuckerberg calls his brainchild “a platform for all ideas” and defends Facebook’s part in the 2016 election with this ringing declaration: “More people had a voice in this election than ever before.” It’s a bit like saying that Mao Zedong succeeded in assembling the biggest crowds ever seen in China, but never mind. Zuckerberg now “regrets” saying after the election that it was “crazy” to think that “misinformation on Facebook changed the outcome of the election.” But he still boasts about “our broader impact … giving people a voice to enabling candidates to communicate directly to helping millions of people vote.”

Senators as well as journalists are gnashing their teeth. Hearings are held. As always when irresponsible power outruns reasonable regulation, the first recourse of reformers is disclosure. This is, after all, the age of freedom of information (see my colleague Michael Schudson’s book, The Rise of the Right to Know: Politics and the Culture of Transparency, 1945–1975). On the top-10 list of cultural virtues, transparency has moved right up next to godliness. Accordingly, Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Mark Warner and John McCain have introduced an Honest Ads Act, requiring disclosure of the sources of funds for online political ads and (in the words of the senators’ news release) “requiring online platforms to make all reasonable efforts to ensure that foreign individuals and entities are not purchasing political advertisements in order to influence the American electorate. (A parallel bill has been introduced in the House.) And indeed, disclosure is a good thing, a place to start.

But it’s a start, not a finish. Consider how disclosure was supposed to remedy deficiencies in the laissez-faire system of political donations. Thanks to the post-Watergate reforms, any curiosity-seeker can today readily find out who donated to whom in which election. Data piles higher than mountains. But you may have noticed that disclosure has not drained any swamps. As the law and political science professor Richard L. Hasen wrote in 2010, just after the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that corporations (and unions) could donate as much as they like to any political committee, the disclosure rules are not only largely toothless but “porous.” That’s one word for the plutocratic chew-up of American political finance.

What to do? That’s the question of the hour. The midterm elections of 2018 are less than a year away.

Europeans have their own ideas, which make Facebook unhappy, though it ought not be surprising that a global medium runs into global impediments — and laws. In September the European Union told Facebook, Twitter and other social media to take down hate speech or face legal consequences. In May 2016, the companies had “promised to review a majority of hate speech flagged by users within 24 hours and to remove any illegal content.” But 17 months later, the EU’s top regulator said the promise wasn’t good enough, for “in more than 28 percent of cases, it takes more than one week for online platforms to take down illegal content.” Meanwhile, Europe has no First Amendment to impede online (or other) speech controls. Holocaust denial, to take a conspicuous example, is a crime in 16 countries. And so, consider a German law that went into effect on Oct. 1 to force Facebook and other social-media companies to conform to federal law governing the freedom of speech. According to The Atlantic:

The Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz, or the “Network Enforcement Law,” colloquially referred to as the “Facebook Law,” allows the government to fine social-media platforms with more than 2 million registered users in Germany … up to 50 million euros for leaving “manifestly unlawful” posts up for more than 24 hours. Unlawful content is defined as anything that violates Germany’s Criminal Code, which bans incitement to hatred, incitement to crime, the spread of symbols belonging to unconstitutional groups and more.

As for the United Kingdom, Facebook has not responded to charges that foreign intervention through social media also tilted the Brexit vote. As Carole Cadwalladr writes in The Guardian:

No ads have been scrutinized. Nothing — even though Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council think tank, asked to testify before the Senate intelligence committee last week, says evidence of Russian interference online is now “incontrovertible.” He says: “It is frankly implausible to think that we weren’t targeted too.”

Then what? In First Amendment America, of course, censorship laws would never fly. Then can reform be left up to Facebook management?

Unsurprisingly, that’s what the company wants. At congressional hearings last week, their representatives said that by the end of 2018 they would double the number of employees who would inspect online content. But as New York Times reporters Mike Isaac and Daisuke Wakabayashi wrote, “in a conference call with investors, Facebook said many of the new workers are not likely to be full-time employees; the company will largely rely on third-party contractors.”

Suppose that company is serious about scrubbing their contacts of lies and defamations. It’s unlikely that temps and third-party contractors, however sage, however algorithm-equipped, can do the job. So back to the question: Beyond disclosure, which is a no-brainer, what’s to be done, and by whom?

For one thing, as the fierce Facebook critic Zeynep Tufekci notes, many on-the-ground employees are troubled by less-than-forceful actions by company owners. Why don’t wise heads in the tech world reorganize Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (which existed through 2013)? Through recent decades, we have seen excellent organizations of this sort arise from many professional quarters: scientists — nuclear scientists in particular, lawyers, doctors, social workers and so on. Ever since 1921, when in a short book called The Engineers and the Price System the great economic historian Thorstein Veblen looked to engineers to overcome the venality of the corporations that employed them, such dreams have led a sort of subterranean, but sometimes aboveground, life.

The Economist is not interested in such radical ideas. Having sounded an alarm about the toxicity of social media, The Economist predictably — and reasonably — goes on to warn against government intrusion. Also reasonably, it allots responsibility to thoughtless consumers, though while blaming the complicit victims it might well reflect on the utter breakdown of democratic norms under the spell of Republican fraudulence and insanity:

[P]olitics is not like other kinds of speech; it is dangerous to ask a handful of big firms to deem what is healthy for society. Congress wants transparency about who pays for political ads, but a lot of malign influence comes through people carelessly sharing barely credible news posts. Breaking up social-media giants might make sense in antitrust terms, but it would not help with political speech — indeed, by multiplying the number of platforms, it could make the industry harder to manage.

Not content to stop there, though, The Economist offers other remedies:

The social-media companies should adjust their sites to make clearer if a post comes from a friend or a trusted source. They could accompany the sharing of posts with reminders of the harm from misinformation. Bots are often used to amplify political messages. Twitter could disallow the worst — or mark them as such. Most powerfully, they could adapt their algorithms to put clickbait lower down the feed. Because these changes cut against a business model designed to monopolize attention, they may well have to be imposed by law or by a regulator.

But in the U.S., it’s time to consider more dramatic measures. Speaking of disclosure, many social scientists outside the company would like Facebook to open up more of its data — for one reason among others, to understand how their algorithms work. There are those in the company who say they would respond reasonably if reformers and researchers got specific about what data they want to see. What specifically should they ask?

Should there be, along British lines, a centrally appointed regulatory board? Since 2003, the UK has had an Office of Communications with regulatory powers. Its board is appointed by a Cabinet minister. Britain also has a press regulation apparatus for newspapers. How effective these are I cannot say. In the U.S., should a sort of council of elders be established in Washington, serving staggered terms, to minimize political rigging? But if so, what happens when Steve Bannon gets appointed?

Columbia law professor Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, advocates converting Facebook into a public benefit or nonprofit company. The logic is clear, though for now it’s a nonstarter.

But we badly need the debate.

The Economist’s conclusion is unimpeachable:

Social media are being abused. But, with a will, society can harness them and revive that early dream of enlightenment. The stakes for liberal democracy could hardly be higher.

The notion of automatic enlightenment through clicks was, of course, a pipe dream. What’s more plausible today is a nightmare. It is no longer a decent option for a democracy — even a would-be democracy — to stand by mumbling incantations to laissez faire while the institutions of reason are shaking.

02 Nov 2017
by Admin
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#FreeChelsea Leader Excludes Hacktivist Jailed By Carmen Ortiz From Aaron Swartz Day

Lisa Rein, who ran Manning’s Twitter account, implies that dead Internet/freedom of information activist Aaron Swartz would want it that way.

One might think that my voice would be welcomed at Aaron Swartz Day given all that the late Internet/freedom of information activist and I share in common. For starters, we were both indicted under the same controversial federal law, the CFAA, by the same Boston U.S. Attorney’s Office and indeed under the tenure of the same notorious U.S. Attorney, Carmen Ortiz.

Both of us have been persecuted for doing the moral thing; Aaron for trying to make taxpayer-funded research available to the general public and me for stopping the torture of an innocent child (see here for Aarons biopic, “The Internet’s Own Boy” on YouTube and see here for Lee Camp’s coverage of my case or here for Red State’s, depending on your news persuasion).

We’ve both been featured by Rolling Stone for our work, see here for Aaron’s story and here for mine (although I must note that the dozen or so pages of factual corrections I submitted to Rolling Stone have yet to be made). We were both even assigned the same trial judge, though years apart. Further, both of us refused to take a plea deal because neither of us did anything wrong and both of us spent our lifes’ savings on lawyers, who had little impact.

In fact, no one who will actually be heard at Aaron Swartz Day can talk firsthand about this remarkable experience I share with Aaron. And indeed, with Carmen Ortiz thankfully no longer serving as Boston’s U.S. Attorney, no one in the future will ever come as close as I have to the trials and tribulations that pushed him to suicide.

So, why won’t my voice be heard on Aaron Swartz Day, during an event that is supposed to document Aaron’s life and experiences as well as to celebrate the free access to information for which he fought so tenaciously? It’s not because I didn’t ask to be included. Rather, it’s due to the umbrage it seems the day’s main organizer, Lisa Rein, takes to hacking and the unilateral decision she made to exclude my story. You see, the message below was sent to my wife by Rein:

This is odd to me because Rein is also Chelsea Manning’s archivist and ran one of Manning’s Twitter accounts for years. While she is obviously no fan of Anonymous, that didn’t stop her from inviting Barrett Brown and Gabriella Coleman to mark the occasion either:

Further, the comment above is simply ridiculous revisionist history. It would be difficult if not impossible to propagandize even one degree of separation between Aaron and “anything having to do with Anonymous,” let alone two, as Rein indicates. It’s so comical that here’s Steven Colbert detailing the connection between Anonymous and WikiLeaks, with which both Aaron and Manning were associated:

“You may not know that Wikileaks is protected by a global hacker nerd brigade known as Anonymous, whose commitment to openness and free exchange of information is right there in the name.” – Stephen Colbert

Now, of all Rein’s abhorrent comments to my wife, and there were many, there are only a few other things I’d like to highlight.

First, as a student of the George Carlin School of the English Language, I find the way Rein calls Aaron Swartz Day “my event” quite illuminating. I believe that if Aaron Swartz Day truly does belong to anyone, other than to the public, then that would be to Aaron himself and his family.

Additionally, Rein’s notion that I’ve “done nothing to further Aaron’s legacy” is patently ludicrous. I went on a 100-day hunger strike in prison protesting the kind of political prosecution that claimed Aaron’s life. I’ve also written dozens of articles across HuffPost and other outlets, keeping Aaron’s story spreading on both sides of the aisle. For a list of other ways I’ve furthered Aaron’s legacy, please see FreeMartyG.com.

Indeed, my work ended over a year of solitary confinement for a mentally ill man at MCC New York, exposed corrupt politicians, including some of those at the DOJ who targeted Swartz, and helps wage the war against the for-profit torture of American children. In short, as Aaron did, I’ve made a lot more of an actual impact for actual people by taking actual risks than Lisa Rein ever has. That’s because, as Rein has previously told my wife, unlike Aaron, she prefers to play a supporting role, i.e. not take any risks herself. Rather, it seems, she’ll play armchair quarterback and criticize as well as belittle those who do. Now that indeed is some distinctly unAaron-like behavior.

Further, by denying me a platform, Rein is also helping to perpetuate the kind of bullying that was endured by Swartz. Indeed, Carmen Ortiz and Stephen Heymann owe Rein quite a bit of thanks for keeping my case quiet, blocking fundraising efforts, demoralizing myself and wife, etc. What a way to celebrate Aaron’s legacy, huh? By suppressing and discouraging the next person in his shoes. Somehow, I don’t think Aaron would approve.

In fact, the comment above is so obviously wrong that when considered with its accompanying apparent reference to the movie Mean Girls below, it seems that Rein was trying to be hurtful to my wife… who has been reaching out to her fruitlessly for a long time because her spouse has been held without bail by Carmen Ortiz on CFAA charges for 20 months now.

That’s a special kind of heartless and it’s found all over Rein’s various messages to my wife.

Though I never met Aaron personally, based on his work and what others consistently say about him, I believe in reality it’s Rein’s behavior that he wouldn’t want “anything to do with.”

For the record too, I believe that if he had ever come to know about the suffering of Justina Pelletier and the thousands of other American children like her, Aaron would have courageously tried to stop it because he had a big heart, a strong moral compass, and the bravery to take personal risks to defy injustice; all of which Rein seems to lack.

I’ll let the rest of Rein’s messages speak for themselves below, and since I won’t be heard there, let me wish everyone a Happy Aaron Swartz Day. My thanks to all the people and media organizations who have helped get my message out.

Martin Gottesfeld #71225

Unit BS1, Bed 6

26 Long Pond Road

Plymouth, MA 02360

P.S. from Marty’s wife: Jason Leopold told me he was working on a story about Marty but stopped responding after Marty was placed in solitary. I never heard from him again despite repeated inquiries.

Chelsea Manning did not return a request for comment.

26 Oct 2017
by Admin
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As Puerto Rico Struggles In Darkness, Tesla Brings Light To Children’s Hospital In San Juan

As millions of Puerto Ricans struggle without power, automaker and energy company Tesla is bringing some much-needed light to the hurricane-ravaged island.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, announced on Wednesday that the company had restored electricity to San Juan’s Hospital del Niño (Children’s Hospital) after installing solar panels and energy storage batteries at the facility.

In a viral Instagram post, Musk said the solar firm’s installation at the hospital marked the “first of many solar+battery Tesla projects going live in Puerto Rico.” 

“Glad to help support the recovery,” added Musk, who has personally donated $250,000 to support the island’s hurricane relief efforts.

According to David Begnaud, a CBS News correspondent, the hospital’s solar farm is capable of generating 200 kilowatts of solar power and has 500 kilowatts of storage. That’ll be sufficient to support the day-to-day operations of the facility, which has 35 permanent residents with chronic conditions and provides care to more than 3,000 children from across the island.

The solar farm is reportedly a donation from Tesla to the hospital and will be provided free of charge for an indefinite time as Puerto Rico gets back on its feet following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, which barreled through the island last month.

Maria Lopez, the hospital’s executive director, told the newspaper El Nuevo Dia that once the energy crisis is over, the facility would likely negotiate a deal with Tesla to acquire the system permanently. 

She added that the solar installation had “enormous implications on the operation of the institution,” which had been struggling to serve its patients since the hurricane hit. 

Tesla has made quick work of its promise to help Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria ― a promise that was apparently sparked by a series of tweets between Musk and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello.

Musk had mused on Twitter on Oct. 5 that Tesla could likely help restore power to parts of Puerto Rico using solar panels and batteries.

Rossello promptly responded to Musk’s comments: “Let’s talk,” the governor tweeted. Musk replied that he’d be “happy” to chat and hoped “Tesla can be helpful.”

Less than three weeks later, Rossello attended the unveiling of Tesla’s solar farm at San Juan’s Children’s Hospital.

The governor thanked Tesla for what he called a “humanitarian gesture,” and said the project “could be a model to follow for public or private entities that offer services critical to citizens,” according to El Nuevo Dia.


Seventy-five percent of Puerto Rico’s power grid is still down. Rebuilding it will likely take months, experts estimate, and could cost as much as $5 billion, according to NPR. 

Millions are currently relying on generators for power. But with the price of generators skyrocketing, they’re “out of reach” for many average Puerto Ricans, reported Vox.

The stories coming out of the U.S. territory are harrowing: Children returning to schools without electricity and doctors performing surgery under the light of cellphones.

The former governor of Puerto Rico, Alejandro Padilla, tweeted this image last week: 

The source of the photo is unknown and could not be independently verified. 

A tiny Montana energy company named Whitefish was recently awarded a $300 million contract to help restore Puerto Rico’s power grid, prompting questions as to how such a small firm could secure such a major project. The company has ties to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and backing from a major donor to President Donald Trump. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz called the contract “alarming.”

© 2017