Posts tagged ‘freedom of speech’


A refreshing piece on diversity in our mainstream media

31.01.2021

Two fantastic items in my Tweetstream today, the first from journalist Jehan Casinader, a New Zealander of Sri Lankan heritage, in Stuff.
   Some highlights:

   As an ethnic person, you can only enter (and stay in) a predominantly white space – like the media, politics or corporate leadership – if you play by the rules. And really, there’s only one rule: blend in. You’re expected to assimilate into the dominant way of thinking, acting and being …
   I sound like you. I make myself relatable to you. I communicate in a way that makes sense to you. I don’t threaten you. I don’t make you uncomfortable. And I keep my most controversial opinions to myself.

And:

   Kiwis love stories about ethnic people who achieve highly: winning university scholarships, trying to cure diseases, inventing new technology or entering the political arena. These people are lauded for generating economic and social value for the country …
   We do not hear stories about ethnic people who work in thankless, low-skilled jobs – the refugees and migrants who stock our supermarket shelves, drive our taxis, pick our fruit, milk our cows, fill our petrol tanks, staff our hospitals and care for our elderly in rest homes.

   Jehan says that now he is in a position of influence, he’s prepared to bring his Sri Lankan identity to the places he gets to visit, and hopes that everyone in Aotearoa is given respect ‘not because of their ability to assimilate’.
   He was born here to new immigrants who had fled Sri Lanka, and I think there is a slight difference to those of us who came as children. Chief among this, at least for me, was my resistance to assimilation. Sure I enjoyed some of the same things other kids my age did: the Kentucky Fried Chicken rugby book, episodes of CHiPs, and playing tag, but because of various circumstances, as well as parents who calmly explained to me the importance of retaining spoken Cantonese at home, I constantly wore my Chineseness. I hadn’t chosen to leave my birthplace—this was the decision of my parents—so I hung on to whatever I could that connected me back to it.
   I could contrast this to other Chinese New Zealanders I went to school with, many of whom had lost their native language because their parents had encouraged assimilation to get ahead. I can’t fault them—many of them are my dearest friends—but I was exposed to what Jehan wrote about from a young age.
   It saddened me a lot because here were people who looked like me who I couldn’t speak to in my mother tongue, and the only other student of Chinese extraction in my primary class who did speak her native language spoke Mandarin—which to many of my generation, certainly to those who did so little schooling before we left, find unintelligible.
   At St Mark’s, I had no issue. This was a school that celebrated differences, and scholastic achievement. (I am happy to say that sports and cultural activity are very much on the cards these days, too.) But after that, at one college, I observed what Jehan said: the Chinese New Zealanders who didn’t rock the boat were safe buddies to have; those who were tall poppies were the target of the weak-minded, the future failures of our society. You just have to rise above it, and, if anything, it made me double-down on my character—so much so that when I was awarded a half-scholarship to Scots, I found myself in familiar surroundings again, where differences were championed.
   But you do indeed have to play the game. Want your company recognized? Then get yourself into the media. Issue releases just like the firms that were sending them to you as a member of the media. Don’t bring your Chineseness into that, because you won’t get coverage. Jack Yan & Associates, and Lucire for that matter, always had a very occidental outlook, with my work taking me mostly to the US and Europe, with India only coming in at the end of the 2000s—but then we were bound by the lingua franca of the old colonial power.
   Despite my insistence on my own reo at home, and chatting every day to my Dad, I played the game that Jehan did when it came to work. I didn’t as much when I ran for mayor, admittedly—I didn’t want voters to get a single-sided politician, but one who was his authentic self—but that also might explain why Stuff’s predecessor, which was at that stage owned by a foreign company, gave me next to no coverage the first time out. They weren’t prepared to back someone who didn’t fit their reader profile. The second time out, it still remained shockingly biased. Ironically the same publishing group would give me reasonably good coverage in Australia when I wasn’t doing politics. That’s the price to pay for authenticity sometimes.
   Jehan finishes his piece on a positive note and I feel he is right to. We still have issues as a nation, no doubt, but I think we embrace our differences more than we used to. There have been many instances where I have seen all New Zealanders rise up to condemn racism, regardless of their political bents. (What is interesting was I do recall one National MP still in denial, residing in fantasy-land, when I recalled a racist incident—and this was after March 15, 2019!) People from all walks of life donated to my fund-raising when a friend’s car had a swastika painted on it. We have a Race Relations’ Commissioner who bridges so many cultures effectively—a New Zealander of Taishanese extraction who speaks te reo Māori and English—who is visible, and has earned his mana among so many here. The fact that Jehan’s piece was even published, whereas in 2013 it would have been anathema to the local arm of Fairfax, is further reason to give me hope.

The second item? Have a watch of this. It’s largely in accord with my earlier post.

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Posted in business, culture, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


In the ‘I told you so’ department: Facebook purges left-wing, anti-war accounts

23.01.2021

Further to my Lucire op–ed on January 8, and my blog post on January 11, I hinted that this could happen.
   From the World Socialist Web Site:

On Friday, Facebook carried out a purge of left-wing, antiwar and progressive pages and accounts, including leading members of the Socialist Equality Party. Facebook gave no explanation why the accounts were disabled or even a public acknowledgement that the deletions had occurred.
   At least a half dozen leading members of the Socialist Equality Party had their Facebook accounts permanently disabled. This included the public account of Genevieve Leigh, the national secretary of the International Youth and Students for Social Equality, and the personal account of Niles Niemuth, the US managing editor of the World Socialist Web Site. In 2016, Niemuth was the Socialist Equality Party’s candidate for US Vice President.

   Seen it happen before, and we’ll see it again. Given Facebook’s management’s right-wing leanings, this really should come as no surprise. Doing it on a Friday also ensures less coverage by the media.
   I just wonder if the leftists who celebrated the ban of former US president Donald Trump will now be claiming, ‘It’s a private company, they can host whom they like,’ and ‘The First Amendment doesn’t guarantee that these websites should provide you with a platform.’
   I have never trusted Facebook with my personal information and made sure I kept copies of everything. It’s precisely because it is a private company that acts unilaterally and above the law that one never should trust them. We have had so many examples for over a decade.
   My exact words on the 8th were: ‘Leftists (and a good many on the right) might be delighted at the actions taken by US Big Tech, but would one be as cheerful if a Democratic president or a leftist movement were silenced?’
   As I have said for a long time, the left and right have common enemies, and here is a shining example.

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Posted in internet, politics, USA | 1 Comment »


From one émigré to the Lais, leaving Hong Kong for Scotland

31.12.2020

This final podcast of 2020 is an unusual one. First, it’s really directed a family I’ve never met: the Lais, who are leaving Hong Kong for Glasgow after the passing of the national security law in the Chinese city, as reported by Reuter. They may never even hear it. But it’s a from-the-heart piece recounting my experiences as a émigré myself, whose parents wanted to get out of Hong Kong because they feared what the communists would do after 1997. Imagine heading to a country with more COVID-19 infections and lockdowns and feeling that represented more freedom than what the Chinese Communist Party bestows on your home town.
   Secondly, it’s in Cantonese. The intro is in English but if you’re doing something from the heart to people from your own home town, it’s in your mother tongue. It seemed more genuine that way. Therefore, I don’t expect this podcast episode to have many listeners since I suspect the majority of you won’t know what I’m saying. They are themes I’ve tackled before, so you could probably guess and have a good chance of getting it right.
   If you know the Lais, feel free to share this link with them.

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Posted in China, culture, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


The most likely explanation: Google doesn’t like academic reports that harm its interests

07.12.2020


TechCrunch/Creative Commons 2·0

I summarized this article to my friends as: ‘How can we trust Big Tech? Google didn’t like hearing the truth from an intelligent woman, so they forced her out.’ And my friend Cathy pointed out it’s a woman of colour.
   And if you take the basic position that Google lies, just as I take the basic position that Facebook lies, then you’d rightly take Google’s Jeff Dean’s explanation with a grain of salt. The MIT Technology Review noted that it doesn’t hold water based on practice.
   The ousted woman, Dr Timnit Gebru, was the co-lead of Google’s ethical AI team—you can already spot the oxymoron as there is no place at Google, a company exercising monopoly powers and paying little tax, for ethics.
   Dean claimed Gebru resigned voluntarily, which is being disputed by both current and former Google employees. The Review notes:

Online, many other leaders in the field of AI ethics are arguing that the company pushed her out because of the inconvenient truths that she was uncovering about a core line of its research—and perhaps its bottom line. More than 1,400 Google staff and 1,900 other supporters have also signed a letter of protest.

   Dr Emily Bender of the University of Washington said in Ars Technica, ‘From the outside, it looks like someone at Google decided this was harmful to their interests.
   ‘Academic freedom is very important—there are risks when [research] is taking place in places that [don’t] have that academic freedom.’
   It wouldn’t be the first time Google attempted to silence a critic, then claimed it did nothing of the sort.
   And if it doesn’t like being warned about the dangers of AI, then what sort of horror awaits us from Google in that space? It’s not hard to foresee AI bots operating online being harmful or generating misinformation, with nothing to hold them back. Again from the Review:

In 2017, Facebook mistranslated a Palestinian man’s post, which said “good morning” in Arabic, as “attack them” in Hebrew, leading to his arrest.

   We are letting these companies get away with being accessories to crimes and, in Facebook’s case, to genocide (over which it withheld evidence).

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Posted in culture, internet, technology, USA | No Comments »


Language lines on NewTumbl

24.10.2020

This post was originally posted to NewTumbl.

I’m surprised that a clip from a front page of a British tabloid newspaper was ruled M by a moderator here after I made it O. It was critical of British cabinet minister Matt Hancock and made fun of his surname, with two words that rhymed with its two syllables.
   The words on the headline included the work wank, which was even starred there (w*nk) for the really sensitive. I realize this is an American website but I didn’t even think that was a word they used. For most of us in the Anglosphere, it’s nowhere near offensive. It’s not uncommon to call someone a wanker and the word is never bleeped on television—it’s that throwaway. I learned of the word wank when I was 11, and wanker I heard before that. Kids would probably know of it even younger now. A younger reader would not link it to anything sexual and if they did, they’re a dirty little kid. (Same with bugger, which infamously even appeared on television commercials for Toyota here, and I know in Australia, too.)
   The second word that appeared was cock, a colloquialism for penis, but also it has other meanings. Let’s not get into those: it’s clear the context suggested penis—in the same way an American might call someone a dick, I suppose. Again, hardly offensive, never bleeped, and, I don’t know about the US, but here it’s the word that children might learn to refer to male genitalia.
   But, here’s the real kicker: the image was from the front page of a national newspaper. Not the top shelf wrapped in a brown paper bag or plastic at a convenience store.
   Looking at the classifications, M is for adults-only stuff, with ‘strong suggestive or violent language.’ O was already suggested by NewTumbl staff as suitable for politics, including COVID-19 posts (this qualified), and the language by any standard was mild (feel free to come and give your reasoning if you were the mod and you want to defend your decision).
   So I’ve had a post removed for a word that an 11-year-old uses (remember, O is for ‘older teens’) and another word that children use, and both appeared on the front page of a national newspaper.
   I have used these words on a website run from a country that thinks it’s OK to show people getting blown away in violent movies and cop shows (oh, sorry, ‘police procedurals’), where guns are commonplace, but words are really, really dangerous. Thought you guys had a First Amendment to your Constitution.
   The conclusion I am forced to draw is that the post was removed because, like Facebook, there is a right-wing bias shown by a moderator who does not like a conservative government criticized here. Good luck, because I’ll continue to criticize a bunch of dickheads that even my right-leaning, pro-market, lifelong-Tory friends in Britain dislike. If this post is classified M then I will have to conclude that the reason is also political, because there’s not a single word here that any right-thinking user of English would deem ‘strong suggestive or violent’.
   I came here because I objected to the censorship at Tumblr, where, for instance, they hide posts referring to NewTumbl in searches. That’s pretty tame but enough for me to insist on free speech over silly, petty corporate decisions, the sort of games that other silly, petty corporations like Google play. I can live with NewTumbl’s male nipple rule and other attempts to be non-sexist, but I also believe that if you’re moderating, you should be apolitical.

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Posted in internet, media, publishing, UK, USA | 1 Comment »


Back on RNZ’s The Panel: on Hong Kong’s new national security legislation

08.07.2020


Public domain/Pxhere

What a pleasure it was to be back on The Panel on Radio New Zealand National today, my first appearance in a decade. That last time was about the Wellywood sign and how I had involved the Hollywood Sign Trust. I’ve done a couple of interviews since then on RNZ (thank you to my interviewers Lynda Chanwai-Earle and Finlay Macdonald, and producer Mark Cubey), but it has been 10 years and a few months since I was a phone-in guest on The Panel, which I listen to very frequently.
   This time, it was about Hong Kong, and the new national security legislation that was passed last week. You can listen here, or click below for the embedded audio. While we begin with the latest development of social media and other companies refusing to hand over personal data to the Hong Kong government (or, rather, they are ‘pausing’ till they get a better look at the legislation), we move pretty quickly to the other aspects of the law (the juicy stuff and its extraterritorial aims) and what it means for Hong Kong. Massive thanks to Wallace Chapman who thought of me for the segment.

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Posted in business, China, culture, Hong Kong, media, New Zealand | 1 Comment »


‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’

25.07.2019

I didn’t read this thinking of Trump, which is what the Tweeter intended. I read it thinking of New Zealand. Heard the ‘If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave?’ bullshit a lot—I dare say every immigrant to this nation has. English-born American columnist Sydney J. Harris, in 1969, answered it better than I ever could. (I hope the image appears in the embed below, since I see no img tags—it seems reliant on Javascript.) Presumably this is either the Chicago Daily News or the Sun–Times.

   Not a heck of a lot has changed, has it?
   Hat tip to Juan Incognito for the re-Tweet.

PS.: The Sun–Times has run this on its website, and it was from the Chicago Daily News.

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Posted in media, New Zealand, politics, USA | No Comments »


Facebook: Kiwi lives don’t matter

10.04.2019

As someone who read Confucius as a young man, and was largely raised on his ideas, free speech with self-regulation is my default position—though when it becomes apparent that people simply aren’t civilized enough to use it, then you have to consider other solutions.
   We have Facebook making statements saying they are ‘Standing Against Hate’, yet when friends report white nationalist and separatist groups, they are told that nothing will be done because it is ‘counter-speech’. We know that Facebook has told the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, that it has done absolutely nothing despite its statements. This is the same company that shut off its ‘View as’ feature (which allowed people to check how their walls would look from someone else’s point-of-view) after share price-affecting bad press, yet when it comes to actual humans getting killed and their murders streamed live via their platform, Facebook, through its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, essentially tells us, ‘There are no problems, nothing to see here.’


   We may differ on where we draw the line on what is permitted speech and what isn’t, but where we can agree is that Facebook, once again, has said one thing and done another, leading Edwards to say on Twitter, ‘Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars.’
   He is right. Just as Facebook said it would support the drag community while kicking off its members, just as Facebook forced highly suspicious downloads on people after false claims of malware detection, just as Facebook says you can opt-out of its ad targeting while collecting more data on you, its latest feel-good announcement was a blatant lie, to make unquestioning sheeple believe it was a good corporate citizen. More people will have seen the Facebook announcement than Edwards’ Tweet, so it would have weighed up the consequences of doing nothing or getting bad press.
   Basically, as far as Facebook is concerned, Kiwi lives don’t matter, because it believes it can ride the negative press. Apparently, however, getting accused by Wired for questionable downloads does matter, hence they stopped doing them after getting exposed. The priorities are massively screwed up.
   I would actually respect Facebook and Zuckerberg more if their pronouncements were in line with their real intent:

We’re just a platform
We take no responsibility at all for what gets shared through us. You can say what you like, but we think we can weather this storm, just as we weathered the last one, and just as we’ll weather the next.

Kiwi lives don’t matter
White nationalist groups make for great sharing. And sharing is caring. So we won’t shut them down as we did with Muslim groups. The engagement is just too good, especially when we’re only going to upset fewer than five million New Zealanders.

Hate is great
Hate gets shared and people spend more time on Facebook as a result. Whether it’s about New Zealanders or the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, we’ll be there to help distribute it. Genocide’s fine when it doesn’t affect our share price.

Facebook users are ‘dumb fucks’
Our founder said it, and this is still our ongoing policy at Facebook. We’ll continue to lie because we know you’re addicted to our platform. And no matter which country summons our founder, we know you won’t have the guts to issue a warrant of arrest.

   Actions speak more loudly than words, and in Facebook’s case, their words are a form of Newspeak, where they mean the opposite to what everyone else understands.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


The Facebook and Twitter purge: you can violate policies by doing nothing

16.10.2018

I’m not familiar with The Anti-Media, but New Zealand-based lawyer Darius Shahtahmasebi, who contributed to the site, notes that it was caught up in the Facebook and Twitter purge last week.
   The Anti-Media, he notes, had 2·17 million Facebook followers. ‘Supposedly, Facebook wants you to believe that 2.17 million people voluntarily signed up to our page just to receive all the spam content that we put out there (sounds realistic),’ he wrote in RT.
   After Facebook removed the page, Twitter followed suit and suspended their account.
   Not only that, Shahtahmasebi notes that Anti-Media team members had their Twitter accounts purged as well. Its editor in chief received this message: ‘CareyWedler has been suspended for violating the Twitter Rules. Specifically, for:’. That was it. She’s none the wiser on what violation had been committed.
   But here are the real kickers: their social manager had access to 30 accounts, and Twitter was able to coordinate the suspension of 29 of them, while their chief creative officer had his removed, including accounts he had never used. The Anti-Media Radio account suffered a similar fate, Twitter claiming it was due to ‘multiple or repeat violations of the Twitter rules’—and it had no Tweets.
   Shahtahmasebi has his theories on what was behind all of this. It does give my theories over the years a lot of weight: namely that Facebook targets individuals and its “rules” are applied with no reference to actual stated policies. Essentially, the company lies. Twitter has been digging itself more deeply into a hole of late, and it’s very evident now, even if you didn’t want to admit it earlier, that it operates on the same lines. Google I have covered before, some might think ad nauseam.
   One of his conclusions: ‘There is nothing much that can be done unless enough people take a principled stand against such a severe level of censorship.’ In some cases, including one Tweeter I followed, it has been to vote with one’s feet, and leave these spaces to continue their descent without us.

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Posted in internet, media, politics, publishing, technology, USA | 3 Comments »


Facebook’s censorship purge is a joke

13.10.2018

Facebook has continued its purge of pages and individual accounts, and proudly proclaimed, ‘Today, we’re removing 559 Pages and 251 accounts that have consistently broken our rules against spam and coordinated inauthentic behavior’.
   Long-time readers of this blog will know why I think this is a massive joke.
   If I can find 277 bots and fake accounts in one evening in 2014 (and that wasn’t an outlier) and Facebook says they had to take action in a public statement on a grand total of 251, then Facebook doesn’t have any clue of how bad its problem is.
   Even though I barely use Facebook, I found around 50 fakes yesterday, and I’m just one person. How many of those fakes are still up, I have no idea, but I can bet you they weren’t part of the 251 purge.
   Let’s face it, Facebook loves the fakes. They count them as they help exaggerate their claims of user numbers, and those have been proven to be BS last year. They even use them when people pay for likes via Facebook itself, again a long proven fact.
   Those 277 bots in 2014 were coordinated, and the most recent ones I found (largely based in Asia, especially Myanmar) were also coordinated.
   We know Facebook targets accounts, including to plant software on users’ computers, and the reasons given have no foundation in fact.
   Those 251 were political, given the theme of the purges this week, as Facebook, along with Google, play censor. They’ve no time for independent voices, while big corporations survive. So much for the web being the leveller, which we once hoped in the 1990s, as the big players work among themselves to do whatever they can to cement their view of the world.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, politics, publishing, USA | No Comments »