Posts tagged ‘Big Tech’


Are you a scam artist? Facebook loves you, and protects you

04.04.2020


The Royal New Zealand Ballet generously put its Hansel & Gretel performance from November 2019 online for free this weekend, choosing Facebook as its medium. That, naturally, attracts scam artists, putting in false links in order to charge credit cards. Many Kiwis were duped. The RNZB reported many, and so have I. All six of the ones I reported have been given a pass: in other words, scams are permitted on Facebook.
   Note that I did not report these people for selling drugs or guns, but ‘other’. Simply marking a comment on Facebook as ‘inappropriate’ does nothing: you are given only the option to hide or block the writer.
   This is entirely consistent with pretty much everything I have said about Facebook over the years.
   1. It’s not easy to report fake accounts, and when you do, Facebook keeps many of them up.
   2. Facebook behaves like scam artists anyway.
   3. Facebook enjoys fake accounts and uses them. (In fact, Facebook claims to have deleted 5,400 million fake accounts from January to November 2019—so just how many are there? I’m going to repeat what I have said many other times: Facebook’s claims of its user base cannot be believed.)
   And now, we can say: Facebook encourages scams by leaving them up and doing nothing.
   Remember, Facebook lies, so don’t bother with its terms and conditions, as they are meaningless.
   So why are people still on this site?

PS.: This fake page has been up for days, and its posts, promoting a phishing link, apparently do not violate Facebook’s standards. Duly reported, but what really is the point since Facebook seems to love these?

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Social media sheeple don’t know they’re sheeple

27.01.2020


Andrew R. Tester/Creative Commons

It’s pretty hard to deactivate one’s Facebook. When I ceased posting in 2017 and reduced my activity to client stuff and group management, I made sure that I had no more Facebook sign-ons left. But it turns out that Lucire’s Twitter-to-Facebook page script relies on my account.
   I did look today and got caught up in a thread which reminded me why I don’t tend to look at the feed. Usual behaviour: person offended by a friend’s post. Spewed out opinions disguised as fact. Got called out. Couldn’t back them up. Then began obfuscating and attacking the messenger.
   It would be funny if it weren’t so obvious these days—and that this person thinks they are intelligent. Social media have allowed those under the average IQ to believe they are the superior beings in the human race, because they have an audience and enough dopamine hits from likes to back up that feeling.
   To heck with facts. We also find the same folks despise expertise, and truth is the obvious casualty.
   I still remember last year one gentleman having a go at me for a Tweet that joked about MSG in ‘white people food’ (a term, I should note, that whites use), then proceeded to tell me all the incidents of racism perpetrated by my race that he had witnessed—all without recognizing that what he was doing was putting forth a “master race” argument on how his race was better and more tolerant. A racist who slams others over race. It stuck in my mind as a brilliant exemplar of ignorance and pigheadedness. I’d link it but he’s deleted it—I hadn’t expected the cowardice—but it was a great example of how the original message became the pretext to attack someone rather than engage. (Incidentally, there’s plenty of MSG in occidental food—just look out for those 600 numbers, and fast food joints are particularly nasty.)
   I know there’ll always be more sheeple than independent thinkers. I know there’ll always be more who’ll swallow BS than analyse something for themselves. But it’s still disappointing to see it writ so large in this social-media-democratized world of ours.
   Of course everyone should have a voice, a freedom to say their piece.
   But in a bigger forum it would also be useful for all of us to have some sense of self-control and admit it when we don’t have evidence or we’re not experts in the area. I don’t think that’s likely unless schools are training kids some netiquette, what an actual debate looks like, and how social media “debates” are not debates.
   I’d never go on a forum to debate my GP over medicine. And if I did, I’d qualify my statements with ‘As a layman, I would have thought …’ and allow myself to be corrected by people who know more than me in their specialist area.
   In the 1980s, the Scots comedian Robbie Coltrane said the difference between a Briton and an American was that the Brit might recognize their limitations and say, ‘I didn’t go to a very good school,’ whereas the American would say, ‘If he comes over here, I’ll shoot him.’ But in 2020 I doubt such a distinction exists, certainly not online. A Briton is as likely as an American, or a New Zealander for that matter, to be anti-expert and truth- and fact-resistant.
   I don’t know where that puts society. When I talked about leaving Twitter, one very active and knowledgeable friend in the South Island said he would stay because he ‘didn’t want to let the bastards win,’ or a sentiment to that effect. Sometimes I feel retreat leaves some of us in a gated community while the Morlocks go wild in Big Tech forums. And there would be absolutely no point to such an arrangement, because we enrich each other in society through contact, not isolation.
   So how do you educate others who are so resistant to education, so unwilling to enter into a debate without character assassinations? Is this why the social media sites love us so much, because some of us think that the only way to get through with facts is to shout?
   A religious person might advance the idea of living life better and to lead by example. Don’t preach it, show it. That doesn’t mean isolation, but it does mean demonstrating that not being an arsehole is enriching. Sounds good to me, except, with some so self-obsessed with ignorance, will they even recognize that that’s what’s happening? When this person on Facebook was called out today, I don’t think she realized it. It’s easier in the real world, and not so much in the virtual one where people are so caught up in their own head.

PS.: Let my friend and colleague Peter Fraterdeus have the last word here:

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Posted in culture, internet, technology | 1 Comment »


Mastodon before Twitter: time to change my main social network

21.01.2020

With the Twitter advertising preference monster continuing to gather preferences on all of us even after opting out—which basically makes Twitter Facebook—I decided to switch the Mastodon–Twitter Crossposter around.
   With Twitter being my main social network, I was quite happy to allow the Crossposter to take my Tweets and turn them into Toots on Mastodon, and I’d check in to the latter regularly to respond to people.
   But with this latest discovery, I’m having second thoughts. We all know Twitter censors, and protects bigots, and its latest way to make a quick buck crosses a line.
   I know most people have lines that they redraw regularly, especially when it comes to social media and phone apps, but I’m trying to manage mine a little better.
   What I’ll miss is the news: I get plenty from Twitter, often breaking items. I’ll have to find an equivalent, or a news bot, on Mastodon. I’ll also miss interactions with real friends I’ve made on the service. It was incredible to get the condolence messages from Twitter. But if Stephen Fry can walk away from time to time, leaving millions there, I can probably take some time out from the 5,200 following me.
   Note that I won’t cease going to Twitter altogether: I’m not going cold turkey. There’s a bunch of us supporting one another through Alzheimer’s in the family, so I still want to be there for them. But if plans go well, then it won’t be my main social network any more. Twitter’s advertising clients will all miss me, because I simply never consented to Twitter compiling info to micro-target me. Mastodon will get my info first.
   And if Mastodon, one day, decides to do ads, I actually won’t mind, as long as they don’t cross that line. If I’ve opted out of personalization, I expect them to respect it. Even Google respects this, and they’re a dodgy bunch. The fact I have an IP address tied to my country, and that I’ve given some personal info about me, is, in my book, enough. Besides, anyone who knows me will know that a lot of the preferences shown in Twitter have no connection with me—just as Facebook’s were completely laughable.

PS.: Dlvr.it does not take RSS feeds to send to Mastodon. I’m trying out the Activitypub plug-in for Wordpress instead.

P.PS.: Ton Zylstra suggested Autopost to Mastodon, which looks far simpler.

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Posted in business, internet, marketing, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Twitter also tracks your preferences, even after you opt out of ad customization

18.01.2020

As with most platforms, I selected, on Twitter, that I didn’t want my advertising to be personalized. I don’t mind them making a buck, but I do mind them tracking my preferences, just as I did with Google and Facebook.
   Google lied about its advertising preferences from 2009 to 2011 till yours truly busted them, and Facebook lies by continuing to compile preferences on you even after opting out, repopulating deleted preferences in some cases, and now, blocking you from making further edits to them. I was surprised that Twitter had a bunch of options I never saw beyond that old ad preferences’ one till I happened across them after clicking ‘Why did I see this ad?’ You can find this here.

   Go a bit further to this link, and there they are, nearly 500 preferences linked to me, compiled even though I had opted out of personalization—making Twitter just as bad as Facebook.


   What do I do? Exactly what I did on Facebook: I deselected each and every single one. Twitter doesn’t need this to market to me. Frankly it’s enough that it has my IP address and it can geo-target. It doesn’t need any more precision than that. I get to the bottom of the page, having done them all:

   And just like Facebook, within hours it has reselected over 400 of them, repopulating preferences and overriding what the user wants.

   In fact, some were being reselected within seconds, but I put that down to the fact I was using a cellphone. As of this writing, the second deselections have been done on the desktop.
   This is simply not right, but we have been seeing signs in the latter part of the 2010s that Twitter is as bad as Facebook, with its love of bots, bigotry and its mass censorship. Now it’s as devoted to selling its users as the rest of Big Tech. The net result is I’ll begin limiting my time on Twitter because its privacy intrusion has gone too far. It cannot be trusted. It will probably become a work tool as Facebook has, where I do little of my own stuff, and only serve my clients; or I simply have automated content.

I suppose you can always say, ‘Well, at least it’s not as bad as …’ and on that note, I checked in to Facebook to see if I could post a question on why advertising preferences were not editable.
   Eventually I found four others had managed, after wading through Facebook’s many layers of pages before getting to one where you could pose a question, to ask the same.

   Except none of them are clickable to a question-and-answer page. They all take you to a Facebook Business advertising queries’ page.
   Therefore, I asked the question even though it had already been asked. I doubt I’ll hear back, as I noticed that on the same visit, Facebook had censored two of my earlier responses.


   Why? They reveal that Facebook’s platform is buggy, that I was unable to do some things on pages that it claimed I was able to do.
   All I can say is that this is petty. Facebook: for the last 15 years your platform has been buggy. Everyone knows this. Covering up a couple of comments made in your own forums, comments that are truthful and actually helpful to others who encounter the same thing, doesn’t make your platform any less buggy. But this is the Zuckerberg way: all-too-precious, wimpy against criticism, with a self-belief that not publishing something will make it go away. I mean, it’s worked against equally wimpy governments. It is a page out of the Google playbook, too: its forums are full of cultist believers who ask, ‘How dare you question our god?’ when you post about bugs. However, it alienates users.
   It’s probably why the old Getsatisfaction Facebook forum was closed down, because it revealed so many bugs about the system.
   I’m hoping the 2020s will see some sort of mass rejection of these Big Tech social-tracking platforms, but I thought that would happen years ago. I was wrong. There are still good people on them but there are also good people on Mastodon and elsewhere.

PS.: Here we are, four hours later, after I unticked all the preferences. At least 300 of them have been reselected by Twitter. So it is like Facebook. Once again, we have to say to a US Big Tech firm: stop lying. Your claims about your settings are bogus.

P.PS.: Day two, still fighting Twitter, which reticked a lot (but not all) of the preferences. Still in the hundreds.

P.P.PS.: Day two, two hours later, 107 reticked:

P.P.P.PS.: Day four:

P.P.P.PS.: Day seven, still battling:

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Wide of the mark

25.12.2019

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, e.g.:

   Anyone alive during this period will be wondering, ‘Where’s Altavista?’
   Just on visitor numbers, as opposed to visits per month, they were doing 19 million daily in 1996, 80 million daily in 1997. Goodness knows how many searches we were doing per day. Yet they are nowhere to be seen on this animation till December 1997, with 7 million monthly visits. If you were anything like me, you were using Altavista countless times a day—even conservatively, say you went on four times daily, and you were one of the 80 million per day, you would be putting Altavista at 9,600 million visits per month, dwarfing AOL and Yahoo. By 1997–8, we weren’t using directories like Yahoo for search, we were using these newfangled search engines. Google only overtook Altavista in 2001 in searches.
   And I am old-fashioned enough to think this channel should be called Data Are Beautiful, not Data Is Beautiful.
   I’d love to know the sources: not only could I remember clearly Altavista’s position (and Alexa had them in number one as well), it took me no time at all to confirm my suspicions through a web search.


Above: A re-created Altavista home page from 1999.

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Capitalism falls down when it’s rigged

04.12.2019

Martin Wolf, writing in the Financial Times, touches on a few points that resonate with my readings over the years.
   He believes capitalism, as a system, is not a bad one, but it is bad when it is ‘rigged’; and that Aristotle was indeed right (as history has since proved) that a sizeable middle class is necessary for the functioning of a democracy.
   We know that the US, for instance, doesn’t really do much about monopolies, having redefined them since the 1980s as essentially OK if no one gets charged more. Hence, Wolf, citing Prof Thomas Philippon’s The Great Reversal, notes that the spikes in M&A activity in the US has weakened competition. I should note that this isn’t the province of “the right”—Philippon also shows that M&A activity reduced under Nixon.
   I alluded to the lack of competition driving down innovation, but Wolf adds that it has driven up prices (so much for the US’s stance, since people are being charged more), and resulted in lower investment and lower productivity growth.
   In line with some of my recent posts, Wolf says, ‘In the past decade, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft combined have made over 400 acquisitions globally. Dominant companies should not be given a free hand to buy potential rivals. Such market and political power is unacceptable. A refurbishment of competition policy should start from the assumption that mergers and acquisitions need to be properly justified.’
   History shows us that Big Tech’s acquisitions have not been healthy to consumers, especially on the privacy front; they colluded to suppress wages before getting busted. In a serious case, according to one company, Google itself commits outright intellectual property theft: ‘Google would solicit a party to share with it highly confidential trade secrets under a non-disclosure agreement, conduct negotiations with the party, then terminate negotiations with the party professing a lack of interest in the party’s technology, followed by the unlawful use of the party’s trade secrets in its business.’ (The case, Attia v. Google, is ongoing, I believe.) Their own Federal Trade Commission said Google ‘used anticompetitive tactics and abused its monopoly power in ways that harmed Internet users and rivals,’ quoting the Murdoch Press. We see many undesirable patterns with other firms there exercising monopoly powers, some of which I’ve detailed on this blog, and so far, only Europe has had the cohones to slap Google with massive fines (in the milliards, since 2017), though other jurisdictions have begun to investigate.
   As New Zealand seeks to reexamine its Commerce Act, we need to ensure that we don’t merely parrot the US and UK approach.
   Wolf also notes that inequality ‘undermines social mobility; weakens aggregate demand and slows economic growth.’ The central point I’ve made before on Twitter: why would I want people to do poorly when those same people are potentially my customers? It seems to be good capitalism to ensure there’s a healthy base of consumers.

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Posted in business, internet, politics, USA | No Comments »


Tesla or SpaceX doesn’t like you? They’ll say you’re an active shooter

24.11.2019

What does Tesla do to whistleblowers?
   They tell the cops you’re an active shooter.
   Apparently, this case about a gentleman called Martin Tripp emerged in 2018 but only today were the police documents released, and are worth reading.



Above: Two of the pages from the Storey County Sheriff’s Office over the false Martin Tripp ‘active shooter’ incident at Tesla.

   One could attempt to read it generously in Tesla’s favour but I think you’d be fooling yourself.
   Tripp had concerns about waste, and even raised them with Musk. From what I can tell, Musk only engaged Tripp after Tripp had been fired; and it was after that email exchange that the tip was given to police.
   It’s a far cry from the admirable firm I remember, being run by Martin Eberhard. Back then, it was optimistic and transparent. Nowadays it seems a truck prototype can’t stand up to scrutiny for 25 minutes, CEO Elon Musk disses one of the Thai cave rescue divers, Vernon Unsworth, calling him ‘pedo guy’, and Tweets misleading information that lands him in trouble with the US SEC. As far as I can tell in the Twitter thread above, Musk knew about Tripp—enough to speak on the case and be excessively paranoid about him, thinking he could be part of a conspiracy involving oil companies, claiming he committed ‘extensive and damaging sabotage’.
   As Bloomberg put it: ‘Many chief executive officers would try to ignore somebody like Tripp. Instead, as accounts from police, former employees, and documents produced by Tesla’s own internal investigation reveal, Musk set out to destroy him.’
   Also from Bloomberg:

The security manager at the Gigafactory, an ex-military guy with a high-and-tight haircut named Sean Gouthro, has filed a whistleblower report with the SEC. Gouthro says Tesla’s security operation behaved unethically in its zeal to nail the leaker. Investigators, he claims, hacked into Tripp’s phone, had him followed, and misled police about the surveillance. Gouthro says that Tripp didn’t sabotage Tesla or hack anything and that Musk knew this and sought to damage his reputation by spreading misinformation.

   When Gouthro says Facebook (where he had worked before) is more professional than Tesla, that’s really worrying.
   In another case, Jason Blasdell claims that SpaceX, another Musk venture, where he was employed, falsified test documents. When he brought this to his superior’s attention, he was fired. In Blasdell’s case, two of his managers suggested he would ‘come in to work shooting.’ His account makes for sobering reading as the legal avenues he had get shut down, one by one.
   Google and Facebook might do some terrible things in the market-place, but I don’t think I’ve come across this level of vindictiveness against employees further down the food chain from the CEO.
   They seem to be mounting as well—I wouldn’t have known about the two ex-employee cases if not for spotting the Tripp police report Tweets. They both follow a similar pattern of discrediting people with valid concerns, going well beyond any reasonableness. We’re talking about lives and reputations getting destroyed.
   It all points to a deep insecurity within these firms, which go beyond the sort of monopolistic, anticompetitive, un-American, anti-innovation behaviours of the usual Big Tech suspects. Yes, Google will go as far as to get your fired, according to Barry Lynn of Citizens Against Monopoly (Google denies it), or it might play silly buggers and seemingly shut down your Adwords account, or blacklist your site by falsely claiming it is infected, hack your Iphone and bypass its ‘Do Not Track’ setting, expose your private information for years, and plain lie about tracking, but I’ve yet to hear them sicking armed police on you and having their staff say you’d be heading to the office shooting. So maybe in this context, Google can say it hasn’t been evil. Well done. Slow clap.
   At this rate, it’s Big Tech and the monopolies the US government has fostered that’ll drag down the reputation of ‘Made in the USA’.

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Posted in business, cars, culture, USA | 1 Comment »


Tumblr is now where Verizon’s corporate agenda rule

24.04.2019

How quickly an opinion can change.
   I have been on Tumblr for 12 years, signing up in 2007, with my first post in January 2008.
   For most of that time I have sung its praises, saying it was one of the good guys in amongst all the Big Tech platforms (Google, Facebook) that are pathological liars. Even a few years back, you could expect to get a personal reply to a tech issue on Tumblr, despite its user base numbering in the millions.
   Last year, as part of Verizon, Tumblr enacted its “porn ban”. I didn’t follow any adult content, and I didn’t make any myself, so it didn’t affect me much—though I noticed that the energy had gone from the site and even the non-porn posters were doing far less, if anything at all. As mentioned yesterday, I had been cutting back on posting for some time, too. It had jumped the shark.
   While I didn’t agree with the move, since I knew that there were users who were on Tumblr because it was a safe place to express their sexuality, I didn’t kick up as big a stink about it as I did with, say, Google’s Ads’ Preferences Manager or the forced fake-malware downloads from Facebook.
   But what is interesting is how Verizon ownership is infecting Tumblr. I see now that Tumblr can no longer say it supports ’net neutrality because its parent company does not. This isn’t news: the article in The Verge dates from 2017 but I never saw it till now. Of course Verizon would have wanted to keep this under wraps from the Tumblr user base, one which would have mostly sided with ’net neutrality.
   And now, after posting about NewTumbl on Tumblr last night, I see that Verizon’s corporate interests are at the fore again. Tumblr returns no results for NewTumbl in its search, because it’s that scared of a competitor. Apparently this has been going on for some time: some NewTumbl users in February blogged about it. I was able to confirm it. This isn’t censorship on some holier-than-thou “moral” grounds, but censorship because of corporate agenda, the sort of thing that would once have been beneath Tumblr.

   If I was ambivalent about leaving Tumblr before, this has made me more determined. I still have blogs there (including one with over 28,000 followers), so I won’t be shutting down my account, but, like Facebook, I won’t update my personal space any more after my 8,708 posts, unless I can’t find a creative outlet that does what Tumblr currently does and am forced to return. Right now, NewTumbl more than fulfils that role, and it’s doing so without the censorship and the corruption of long-held internet ideals that seem to plague US tech platforms. Tumblr users, see you at jackyan.newtumbl.com.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


EU copyright: as far as we’re concerned, link away

13.04.2019


European Unionwww.europarl.europa.eu/downloadcentre/en/visual-identity, Public Domain; link

I’m reading more about this EU copyright directive that was voted in last month.
   Without doing a full analysis, I can say that we won’t go after anyone who links to our publications.
   We presently don’t care if you use a brief snippet of our content and link back to the rest. I can’t see our position changing on this.
   We do care if you take entire chunks (e.g. the text of an entry on Autocade, since they’re only a paragraph long). In some cases we only have the rights to photos appearing on our own site so we may want those removed if they’ve been copied from us.
   Over the years I’ve just contacted publishers and asked them politely. Only a tiny handful actually respond; quite a few sites are bot-driven with feedback forms that no one checks. They get DMCAed.
   But I don’t have a problem with the systems that are in place today.
   It seems the EU is going to wind up creating a segregated internet: one where Big Tech and large media corporations can afford to do everything and smaller publishers can’t. This is already happening, thanks to Google’s own actions with favouring mainstream media sources rather than the outlet that had the guts to break the news item. Big companies are flexing their muscles and lawmakers are bending over backwards to serve them ahead of their own citizens. (Incidentally, I can’t see the UK doing anything differently here post-Brexit.)
   Smaller publications might band together and share among themselves by some sort of informal agreement.
   So for us, when it comes to linking and excerpting, keep doing it. Unless something happens that forces me to change my mind, I’m all for the status quo ante in the EU.

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Posted in business, internet, media, publishing, technology, UK | No Comments »


In the wake of terrorism in your own country

20.03.2019


Above: Flowers at the Islamic Centre in Kilbirnie, Wellington on Monday.

On 9-11, I wrote an editorial in Lucire immediately. It was clear to me what I needed to write, and the editorial got quite a few readers at the time.
   Today is March 20, five days after a terrorist attack on our country, and it’s only now I’ve had some idea of how to put my thoughts into a longer-form fashion, rather than a lot of Tweets, some of which have had a lot of support.
   I guess it’s different when the attack happens to your own people in your own country.
   One of the earliest points I made, when the death toll hit 49, was that this was “our 9-11”, at least when you consider the per capita loss of life. When it hit 50, it actually exceeded the number of lives lost per capita in 9-11. This helps put the matter into some context.
   While the terrorist is a foreign national, who was most likely radicalized by foreign ideas, it has generated a great deal of soul-searching among New Zealanders. Even the right-wing talking heads have suddenly changed their tune, although, if a friend and colleague’s experience as a waiter in New York City in September 2001 is anything to go by, they will return to their regularly scheduled programming in two weeks’ time. Certain media bosses, especially among foreign-owned companies, would have it no other way, since they are not here to benefit New Zealanders, only their foreign shareholders and their own pockets. Stoking division is their business and I do not believe leopards change their spots.
   Therefore, the majority of right-thinking New Zealanders are not complicit, but a minority of us harbour bigoted thoughts, and enough of that minority infect the comments’ sections of mainstream media websites and social networks to make it seem as though they are more numerous in number. The outpouring of support for our Muslim community highlights that the good far outnumber the rotten eggs in our society. And I think more of us are now prepared to call out racism and bigotry knowing that, in fact, public opinion is behind us.
   So many Kiwis, myself included, say that hatred toward Muslims is not in our national character. But it is sufficiently in our national character when Muslim groups have pleaded with government agencies to step up, to be met with endless bureaucratic roadblocks; and many political parties have stains on their records in appealing to Islamophobia, something which indeed was foreign to this nation for all of my childhood.
   I grew up with a Muslim boy and we remain friends to this day, but I never thought of him by his creed. If I was forced to “label” him I would have called him a Pakistani New Zealander. I am willing to bet many Kiwis were in the same boat: we probably knew Muslims but never thought once about their religion.
   It takes certain people to make changes in mainstream thinking. I thought I might be labelled a ‘Chinese New Zealander’ till Winston Peters, now our deputy PM, droned on about ‘Asians’ out of some fear about the weakness of New Zealand culture; and we might have only become aware of Islam to any degree after 9-11. But these are, in fact, foreign ideas, adopted here by those who lack imagination or a willingness to do some hard work. They have been imported here through the sharing of culture. While I support the exchange of ideas, in some misguided utopian belief that dialogue is good for us all, I certainly did not anticipate, during the first heady days of the web, that we would have so much of the bad come with the good. I believed in some level of natural selection, that educated people would refrain and filter, and present their country’s or community’s best face. But as each medium boganfied (yes, I am making up words), the infection came. Newspapers changed thanks to Rupert Murdoch cheapening them, eventually morphing into publications that sensationalized division, especially against Muslims after 9-11. Television went downhill as well largely thanks to the same bloke and his lieutenant, Roger Ailes. The web was fine till each medium became infected with negativity, but Google, Facebook and Twitter were all too happy for it to continue because it increased engagement on their properties. Each fuelled it more with algorithms that showed only supporting views, deepening each user’s belief in the rightness of their ideas, to the exclusion of everyone else’s.
   Most Americans I know believe in civility. I’ve spoken often enough in their country to know this. They don’t believe their freedom of speech is absolute, and personally draw the line at hate speech, but their big websites act as though this is absolute, and allow the negative to fester. It seems it is for profit: we see Twitter remove Will Connolly’s (‘Egg Boy’) account but not racist Australian politician Sen. Fraser Anning. It is tempting to believe that Twitter is following the dollars here without regard to their stated policy. We have, after all, seen all Big Tech players lie constantly, and, for the most part, they get away with it. We let them, because we keep using them. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need to say anything about Christchurch, because we’ll keep using his websites (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) and he’ll keep finding ways of monetizing us, dehumanizing us. He won’t show up to the UK when summoned, and Facebook will continue to lie about removing videos and offensive content when we know many reports go unheeded.
   Umair Haque wrote in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks: ‘Facebook and Twitter and YouTube etcetera really just bring the American ideal to life that there should be extreme, absolute freedom of speech, with zero consequences whatsoever, even for expressing hate and violence of the most vile and repellent kinds.’
   As people become dehumanized through words and campaigns, it makes it easier for people to commit violence against them. They no longer see them as deserving of respect or protection. In the foulest version, they no longer see them as having a right to life.
   Now, I don’t believe that this absolute approach can be branded American. And I do believe Big Tech has very different values to Americans. Their newsmedia have, too. When regular people are censored, when big money talks more loudly than their laws, then there is something very wrong with their companies—and this is the common enemy of both Republicans and Democrats, not each other. And this wrongness is being exported here, too. I’ve said it for years: we are a sovereign nation, and we have no need to copy their failed idea of a health system or even their vernacular (on this note: retailers, please cease using Black Friday to describe your end-of-year sales, especially this year). We do not need to import the political playbooks, whether you are a political party, a blogger, or a local newspaper. There are Kiwis who actually talked about their ‘First Amendment rights’ because they may have watched too much US television and are unaware we have our own Bill of Rights Act. Even the raid on Kim Dotcom’s home seemed to be down to some warped idea of apeing their cop shows, about impressing the FBI more than following our own laws on surveillance and our own beliefs on decency.
   I honestly don’t see the attraction of turning us into some vassal state or a mutant clone of other nations, yet foreign-owned media continue to peddle this nonsense by undermining the Kiwi character and everyday Kiwi unity.
   Did the terrorist see any of this? I have no idea. I equally have no idea if the people he came into contact with here cemented his hate. However, I think he would have come across sufficient international influences here to validate his imagined fears of non-whites and women. By all means, we should call out bad behaviour, but when we do, we shouldn’t restrict it to individual cases we see in our daily lives. There are entire institutions that are doing this, strings pulled from faraway lands, and to them we must also say: enough is enough. The way you do business isn’t in line with who we are. We need to be aware of who the non-Kiwi players are, often masquerading under locally grown brand names (such as ‘Newstalk ZB’—a quick peek of shareholders suggest the majority are as Kiwi as Ned Kelly), and, if need be, vote with our time and money to support those who really understand us. Be alert to who’s really trying to influence us.

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Posted in culture, globalization, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, USA | 1 Comment »