Social Media

Zuckerberg’s Regulation Proposal Distracts from the Solvable Problems on His Platform – like Piracy

20 April 2019

From Creative Future:

On March 30, in an op-ed published in The Washington Post, the man who once coined the phrase “Move fast and break things” made a very public about-face. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called for the internet to be regulated.

“Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” Zuckerberg wrote. “But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”

Seemingly, this was a watershed moment. A concession by an online giant, after years of arguing precisely the opposite, that maybe it isn’t well-equipped to solve the problems it itself had created. That the time had come, Zuckerberg continued, for “a more active role for governments and regulators.”

. . . .

Perhaps because we have heard it all before, we are skeptical of Zuckerberg’s big proclamation. Or perhaps we are just not that impressed by the sight of a CEO worth billions pleading for the government to step in and clean up his mess. Or perhaps, as some have suggested, there are even more sinister forces at play here.

. . . .

“By draping his essay in the guise of cooperation, Zuckerberg hopes to distract policymakers from the real threat,” wrote Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor who has morphed into one of its fiercest critics. “Internet platforms like Facebook and Google dominate the public square in every country in which they operate… No one elected these companies and they refuse to be held accountable. That must change.”

Zuckerberg’s pining for a uniform set of rules to govern his public square seems like a grand gesture toward a kind of formal accountability – but the truth is, it is yet another opportunity for him to shirk responsibility. In the piece, he calls for a “globally harmonized framework,” which sounds nice but is an absurdly unrealistic goal. Can you think of a single thing that is “harmonized” across the world’s nearly 200 existing national governments, subject to a consistent set of regulatory guidelines that every country honors and upholds? Why would something as massively complicated as the entire internet be any different?

. . . .

Exacerbating this delusion, Zuckerberg recommends his proposed regulation formulate around not one, not two, but four primary concerns: “harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability.” Any one of these concerns on their own would pose a logistical nightmare around which to legislate. If Zuckerberg’s plan is to wait for the nearly 200 existing national governments to come together around all of them, he’s going to be waiting a long time – which is precisely his plan. The buck officially passed, he can now sit back and continue doing what he has been doing – evading any “meaningful” regulation until the world finally agrees on his impossibly lofty set of regulatory ideals.

In essence, Zuckerberg has presented us with a fantasy, offering little in the way of specifics and leaving out other, equally crucial regulatory categories entirely – such as unfair competition and market monopolization within the internet industry. It is not surprising, of course, that Zuckerberg does not want to talk about antitrust, but shouldn’t his list at least include the regulation of artificial intelligence – the force behind the algorithms that steer and essentially control our online lives? Or what about CreativeFuture’s core issue of piracy, an internet plague that affects the livelihoods of millions of people?

Link to the rest at Creative Future

PG thinks part of Zuckerberg’s reason for making this suggestion is that Facebook and similar companies are rich with financial and human resources and have the ability to adjust to government regulation and take legal steps to fight or blunt regulations that might be harmful to Facebook.

PG suggests that Zuckerberg’s biggest fear is that another Mark Zuckerberg is laboring in obscurity, working on an idea that will make Facebook obsolete almost overnight.

Like all startups, The hypothetical Bane of Facebook faces many hurdles and obstructions. Even a much better idea is not enough to guarantee success. Financing becomes necessary, hiring the right people early on is very important.

If you add a requirement to comply with complex government regulations in each country where the startup wants to be available online, that might be a bridge too far for a potential Facebook killer. Violating a law no one inside the startup has never heard of can bring a deluge of bad publicity and an avalanche of legal costs.

Copyright and Plagiarism in the Age of Memes

20 April 2019

From Plagiarism Today:

Back in March, comedian Miel Bredouw found herself in a very public battle with the site Barstool Sports. According to her, the site has reposted a video she had created two years prior and did so without attribution or permission.

According to Bredouw, she filed a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice and got the video removed but Barstool Sports responded by first offering her increasing amounts of money to rescind the notice and with a campaign of harassment.

But after Barstool filed a counter-notice to get the video restored, Bredouw went public with her story and highlighted much of the communication that that had been exchanged.

As the story began to get attention, Barstool Sports deleted over 60,000 of its social media posts, purging over 70% of its Twitter history. The move was likely in a bid to head off future DMCA notices, which could have resulted in the account being suspended.

The site also tweeted saying that it was the “old Barstool” and that they were committed to change.

. . . .

However, it doesn’t seem that Barstool Sports fully learned from the incident. Today news is coming out that Barstool Sports has been accused yet again of content theft. This time it was a gif of a blue monster that’s owned by artist Ben Rubin that was used in Barstool Sports’ Snapchat story.

Though Rubin did not face the same harassment that Bredouw did, Rubin was forced to file a DMCA notice to get the clip removed. Barstool admitted to taking the image out of Giphy, where it can still be found.

However, Barstool Sports is far from alone in facing these issues. In fact, they aren’t even the biggest name in meme content theft.

. . . .

All of this begs an interesting question: If Jerry Media and Barstool Sports have been lifting memes and gifs for years, why is it suddenly a big issue now?

Some of it, most likely, is as simple as awareness breeding more awareness. Jerry Media brought much of the scrutiny on itself with its Fyre documentary and that attention gave people the chance to raise old grievances to a new audience and raise the broader issue in the public’s mind.

However, it’s likely more than that.

One reason is that memes have become big business. Back in 2016 FuckJerry was estimated to get around $30,000 per sponsored post. It’s a hefty haul for simply reuploading other people’s creations.

Re-sharing memes, with or without attribution, has traditionally been seen as a strictly non-commercial act. Sure, people might be uploading content without permission, but no dollars were thought to be changing hands. As a result, people largely tolerated it.

An exception to that came in 2015 involving Josh Ostrovsky, better known as the Fat Jew, was caught stealing jokes for his Instagram. Ostrovsky, at the time, was lined up for a show on Comedy Central but those plans were cancelled after the scandal.

But that’s been one of the big changes. In 2015 Ostrovsky was seen as an oddity for being able to parlay his meme-finding skills into a lucrative career, today it’s well-understood that many meme accounts are getting extremely wealthy. This has led to a pushback from the artists who create the original works while toiling in relative obscurity.

In short, the awareness isn’t just of the worst actors. It’s of the industry at large. Creators are aware of how they’re being exploited and are fighting back against it. To that end, the best weapon they have is the DMCA takedown, not only because it’s free, fast and easy to file, but the law obligates hosts to terminate the accounts of users that accumulate too many.

That, ultimately, is why companies like Barstool Sports and Jerry Media fear content creators.

Link to the rest at Plagiarism Today


Instagram Memers Are Unionizing

19 April 2019

From The Atlantic:

Instagram memers have had enough.

They generate the engagement that helps keep Instagram growing—but, they argue, the multibillion-dollar platform doesn’t pay them for their work, or give them any control. So they’re fighting back. And before you write off IG Meme Union Local 69-420 as a joke, the organizers of the collective would like you to know that they are very serious.

“Solidarity actions with memers. Memers of the world unite,” the Instagram page for the union reads, encouraging followers to “seize the memes of production.”

The IG Meme Union will probably never be recognized by the National Labor Relations Board, but organizers say it can still act as a union for all intents and purposes. “We’re calling it a union and doing union-organizing tactics,” Paul Praindo, a representative of the organizing committee, told me. “We stand in firm support of others who are working to organize anti-labor industries. We think these movements mark the beginning of a labor renaissance.” Some other “unions” function this way: The Freelancers Union, for instance, doesn’t have a formal management structure to negotiate with, but does advocate collectively for independent workers.

Similarly, the IG Meme Union, which is currently taking applications through an online form, hopes to negotiate better working conditions for memers who say they have been exploited by Instagram and other tech platforms for too long. “People are doing a lot of work, doing it for free or little compensation, or not recognized for the work they’re doing,” Praindo said. “All these people are bringing revenue to Instagram, producing this major profit margin for this

. . . .

“We as content creators want to have worker protections,” Praindo said. “Even if you’re producing funny pictures of Shrek, that should not determine whether you’re taken seriously as a creator or your livelihood is imperiled at the drop of a hat … We are a meme union; the whole point of it is to work for protections for other content creators.”

. . . .

A few things the IG Meme Union wants: a more open and transparent appeals process for account bans; a direct line of support with Instagram, or a dedicated liaison to the meme community; and a better way to ensure that original content isn’t monetized by someone else. “Having a public and clear appeal process is a big thing,” Praindo said. “People appeal now and get turned down, and they won’t know why.

. . . .

Memers represent a burgeoning sector of the labor force that currently has no job security or formal protection. “If you’re spending all your time as a Twitch broadcaster or creating memes, that is work,” says John Ahlquist, an associate professor at the University of San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy, who has done research on the changing nature of work. “People that are trying to earn a living on these platforms are recognizing how vulnerable they are on an individual basis with respect to the platform, and so they’re turning to this tried-and-true model of collective action.”

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

PG is not an expert on labor law, but he wonders if there is any real solution residing in a labor union when so many people are willing to post to Instagram with no financial compensation.

If the Memers want to organize, offering to their collective talents elsewhere (PG doesn’t know enough about Instagram’s competitors – if any, to point out a possible alternative) or setting up a competing meme/image site (he understands you don’t recreate Instagram overnight) might be a more effective response.

Another question popped into PG’s mind – Is Patreon a possibility for Instagram stars?

Americans Hate Social Media but Can’t Give It Up

5 April 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

Americans have a paradoxical attachment to the social-media platforms that have transformed communication, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll finds, saying they regard services such as Facebook to be divisive and a threat to privacy but continue to use them daily.

Across age groups and political ideologies, adults in the survey said they held a negative view of the effects of social media—even though 70% use such services at least once a day.

. . . .

The deep-dive survey into views of technology draws a picture of Americans struggling personally with their social-media habits and looking for more supervision of social-media companies by the federal government. Pollsters said they were surprised by the high and relatively uniform dissatisfaction with social media across demographic and political groups.

“If we saw this same, strongly negative force of opinion—spanning partisanship and age—stacked against any one of our corporate clients, I think they would certainly be concerned about their standing in the marketplace and in the halls of Congress,” said Micah Roberts, a Republican pollster

. . . .

The findings about social media show that “people are kind of struggling with how to handle it from a self-regulation point of view and how we regulate it as a country,’’ said Jeff Horwitt, a Democratic pollster

. . . .

While they take a skeptical view of social-media companies like Facebook and Twitter,  Americans have favorable views of Amazon, Alphabet Inc.’s . . . Google unit and Apple, though they have little faith in the ability of these three tech giants to protect their personal data.

. . . .

[A]lmost three quarters of respondents said they believe the trade-off that underpins the huge sector—consumers receiving free services but giving up detailed data about their online behavior—is unacceptable.

And a solid majority of respondents said social-media services such as Facebook and Twitter do more to divide Americans than bring them together.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (stock symbols and less-familiar formal names omitted or shortened)

Facebook Says It Left ‘Hundreds of Millions’ of Users’ Passwords Stored in Plain Text

21 March 2019

From The Washington Post:

Facebook on Thursday said that it had left “hundreds of millions” of users’ passwords exposed in plain text, potentially visible to the company’s employees, marking another major privacy and security headache for a tech giant already under fire for mishandling people’s personal information.

Facebook said it believed the passwords were not visible to anyone outside the company and had no evidence that its employees “internally abused or improperly accessed them.” But it said it would notify users of Facebook as well as its photo-sharing site, Instagram, that they had been affected.

The incident was first revealed by the Krebs on Security blog, which estimated the total number of affected users ranged between 200 million and 600 million. Facebook declined Thursday to confirm the estimate.

. . . .

Like most companies, Facebook said it stores passwords using a technique called hashing that’s supposed to make them unreadable. But a security review in January, detailed in a blog post Thursday, found they were actually stored in a readable format, a problem Facebook said it has since fixed. Most affected were users of Facebook Lite, the company said, a stripped-down version of the social network that’s largely in use in countries with lower Internet-connection speeds.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG wonders if there is any manner in which Facebook can’t screw up.

Taming Facebook, Google and Amazon

14 March 2019

From The Wall Street Journal:

 The internet, the web, all things digital are officially in beta. Because they’re in beta, everything is forgiven—there is absolution for the infelicities, the flaws and the wrongs, intended and unintended. Here we are in the midst of e-evolution, looking for a moral and intellectual GPS at a time when our phone is supposed to measure heartbeat, steps walked, stairs climbed and hours slept, but gives no true sense of perspective or place. Yet there is an awakening, and we are on the cusp of a reckoning.

. . . .

Almost 12 years ago, as editor of the Times of London, I testified to a House of Lords committee: “Facts are incidental if not accidental, and the problem that we have as a society is that there is a significant number of people who have grown up in a different information environment . . . surrounded by much more information, but whose provenance is not clear. . . . The rumors will be believed; the fiction will be thought of as fact; and the political agendas, among other agendas, will be influenced by interest groups who are coming from some quite strange trajectory to issues based on collective understanding that is founded on falsity.”

The digital world has brought manifold benefits, but it shouldn’t surprise us that there are problems with provenance and opportunities for bad actors to damage democracies.

. . . .

A few facts about the media: Some 1,800 U.S. newspapers have closed in the past 15 years. An industry that employed 412,000 people in 2001 declined to 166,000 in 2017. Have the digital natives succeeded where the traditional titles have failed? No. In recent weeks, BuzzFeed, Vice, the Verizon digital properties and others laid off more than 2,100.

The creators are still being slain by the distributors, who are publishers, though they find it hard to pronounce the word. If you are intervening to filter out offensive material, you’re editing, and if you are editing, you should aspire to be a great editor, not selective and reactive but proactive.

. . . .

There is generally an understanding in business that connections lead to partnerships, which lead to relationships with responsibilities. But digital partnerships quickly descended into abusive relationships—serial cheating, digital denials, haughtiness, smugness, playing content creators for suckers. Allowing rampant piracy, sometimes actually encouraging it, was at the core of the business model for some.

. . . .

I’ll highlight one more egregious example—the Amazon Book Summary. These are blatant rip-offs, unauthorized bastardizations of best sellers that sometimes use the same cover art and for which authors and publishers receive no compensation. Amazon leveraged these unauthorized summaries by including them in its Kindle Unlimited and “Audible” subscription services. After complaints from publishers, the company promised to take action—but complaint compliance is not a sustainable strategy for Amazon, Facebook or Google.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG just searched Amazon Books for “Summary” and he was appalled at what he found.

Total Number of Twitter Users Worldwide

28 February 2019


PG was an early adopter of Twitter and an early unadopter of Twitter.

For him, the Prime/Slime ratio was all wrong and he was not as amused by 99.99% of Twitter users as they were amused by themselves.

PG recognizes that others will have different experiences and information preferences. However, the chart above indicates to PG that Twitter is experiencing a high churn rate. A bit of quick-and-dirty research shows this may be the case:

From Verto (2017 information):

[F]or any digital company, an often-overlooked number is churn rate: the percentage rate at which users of a given service leave that service from one time period to the next. That is to say, it’s the percentage or number of consumers that a given company loses over time.

. . . .

[B]oth Snapchat and the ailing Twitter show churn rates of around 25%, meaning that both platforms have lost nearly a quarter of their user base between Q3 and Q4 2016.

. . . .

While churn is not necessarily a bad thing for all businesses, a high churn rate compared to your competitors can be a troubling sign. For social media and advertising platforms, it can suggest a lack of engagement and loyalty among the user base – and increased consumer dissatisfaction with the platform at large.

Link to the rest at Verto

There is also the question of Twitter bots:

A Twitter bot is a type of bot software that controls a Twitter account via the Twitter API. The bot software may autonomously perform actions such as tweeting, re-tweeting, liking, following, unfollowing, or direct messaging other accounts. The automation of Twitter accounts is governed by a set of automation rules that outline proper and improper uses of automation. Proper usage includes broadcasting helpful information, automatically generating interesting or creative content, and automatically replying to users via direct message.

. . . .

Twitter bots are estimated to create approximately 24% of tweets that are on Twitter.

. . . .

One significant academic study estimated that up to 15% of Twitter users were automated bot accounts.

. . . .

A subset of Twitter bots programmed to complete social tasks played an important role in the United States 2016 Presidential Election. Researchers estimated that pro-Trumpbots generated four tweets for every pro-Clinton automated account and out-tweeted pro-Clinton bots 7:1 on relevant hashtags during the final debate. Deceiving Twitter bots fooled candidates and campaign staffers into retweeting misappropriated quotes and accounts affiliated with incendiary ideals.

. . . .

The majority of Twitter accounts following public figures and brands are often fake or inactive, making the number of Twitter followers a celebrity a difficult metric for gauging popularity.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

If you Google free twitter followers, PG will point out another element of Twitter. You can pay to become a big shot on Twitter. On the internet, one of PG’s expectations is that whenever something is free, there is a paid version that works evey better.


Looking to buy Twitter Followers? Or maybe followers onFacebook, Instagram or another social network?

Let me ask you…

What’s more important, 10,000 fans or followers, or 100 who will actually engage with you?

It seems this question isn’t asked too often by a number of people running social media channels who opt to buy their followers in order to boost their numbers.

. . . .

There are plenty of services out there which claim to boost your numbers. Many say they can boost your numbers quickly. Some services offer to do this for free and some require payment.  There are a number of different methods that they can employ.

  1. Aggressive Following Technique. (Twitter Only) By following a large number of people each day, waiting for them to follow you, then unfollow those who don’t follow you back it is possible to artificially increase your followers very quickly. This goes against Twitter’s terms and conditions and so is definitely to be avoided. There is nothing wrong with following or unfollowing a large number of people every now and again, but if Twitter think you are aggressively trying to increase your followers by follower/unfollower churn methods, you are likely to get your account suspended. Note- a service will need you to give permission for it to access your Twitter account in order to follow Twitter accounts
  2. Zombie Account Following. (Facebook & Twitter) By paying a 3rd party you can get 100s, 1000s of even 10,000s of followers or likes. Generally each supplier has a database of twitter or Facebook “zombie” accounts that they can use to follow or like you. These are usually completely inactive accounts, sometimes with random names with jumbled up letters and numbers.

Link to the rest at


Kim Kardashian Sues U.K. Online Retailer Claiming Violation of Right of Publicity

27 February 2019

From The 1709 Blog:

Kim Kardashian is suing U.K. fast fashion online retailer Missguided and its U.S. subsidiary for trademark infringement and violation of her right of publicity. The case is Kimsaprincess, Inc.; and Kim Kardashian West v. Missguided USA (Finance) Inc., and Missguided Limited, 2:19-cv-01258 (C.D.Cal).

The complaint alleges that the inexpensive and fast fashion retailer is using Kim Kardashian’s likeness on its site and on its Instagram account to sell clothes. The pages on the site referring to the petite celebrity are no longer available, but the complaint shows a page entirely dedicated to the Kardashians, including a page named “crushin’on kim k,” featuring several photographs of Kim Kardashian, and another page named “5 party looks inspired by the kardashians” featuring Plaintiffs and several of her sisters.

The complaint states that Kim Kardashian commands a fee of several hundred thousand dollars for a social media post, while “longer-term endorsement arrangements regularly garner fees in the millions of dollars.” 120 million people follow her on Instagram, and a little less than 60 million do so on Twitter. The celebrity owns also several trademarks protecting cosmetic and fragrance products.

. . . .

The complaint claims that Missguided has breached California’s right of publicity law, Cal. Civ. Code § 3344 and California’s common law right of publicity when it “willfully and without authorization used Kardashian’s name, image, likeness, and persona for commercial purposes, to advertise the Missguided brand and website, and to promote the sale of clothing on Missguided’s site.”

. . . .

The California statutory law protects use of a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph and likeness for purposes of advertising or selling, or soliciting purchases of products, merchandise, goods or services, without this person’s prior consent.

Link to the rest at The 1709 Blog

PG notes that Ms. Kardashian filed suit in California against a UK company.

How does a California court have power over a company that is headquartered overseas?

In civil litigation, a court in one state can assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant who resides in another state if the out-of-state defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state in which the court is located (the forum state).   A court in California can assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant who lives in New York, so long as the defendant’s contacts with California make it fair for the California court to force him to appear in court.

From Wikipedia:

[I]f a Florida orange grower were to breach a promise to deliver a bushel of oranges to a buyer in Alabama, the breach of that agreement would be sufficient for Alabama courts to assert specific jurisdiction, even if the Florida grower had no other contacts with Alabama, and had never even set foot there. The lone contact of a promise to deliver something to a state is enough to give the state jurisdiction over disputes arising from the breach of that promise.

. . . .

Merely placing products in the “stream of commerce” is insufficient to provide minimum contacts with the states where the products end up. The defendant must make an effort to market in the forum state or otherwise purposefully avail himself of the resources of that state. However, since only four of the nine Supreme Court Justices joined the opinion that required a defendant to do more than place his products in a “stream of commerce,” some lower courts still rule that doing so is adequate for a court to exercise personal jurisdiction.

. . . .

Courts have struggled with the Internet as a source of minimum contacts. Although not determinately established by the Supreme Court, many courts use the Zippo test, which examines the kind of use to which a defendant’s website is being put. Under this test, websites are divided into three categories:

  1. passive websites, which merely provide information, will almost never provide sufficient contacts for jurisdiction. Such a website will only provide a basis for jurisdiction if the website itself constitutes an intentional tort such as slander or defamation, and if it is directed at the jurisdiction in question;
  2. interactive websites, which permit the exchange of information between website owner and visitors, may be enough for jurisdiction, depending on the website’s level of interactivity and commerciality, and the number of contacts which the website owner has developed with the forum due to the presence of the website;
  3. commercial websites which clearly do a substantial volume of business over the Internet, and through which customers in any location can immediately engage in business with the website owner, definitely provide a basis for jurisdiction.

Link to the rest at Wikipedia

Suffice to say, jurisdiction over non-resident persons or corporations is not a crystal-clear question in some cases. PG hasn’t read the Complaint filed on behalf of Ms. Kardashian, but suspects Missguided and/or its US subsidiary may have advertised and/or sold its products in California.

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