Will the Internet change defamation law?

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The Internet has already changed the defamation law scene in many ways. Perhaps most important, as Toronto defamation lawyer Gil Zvulony notes,

In the past, only famous people had libel and slander issues. Today, it is the common person who must deal with this issue. For example, a disgruntled consumer, an angry ex-spouse, a competitor, or a peddler of gossip can now “vent” their frustrations about their victim cheaply, easily, and seemingly anonymously. A Google search of the victim’s name usually reveals the poisonous words for anyone that is interested.
The harm to reputation and character is real. A malicious customer review by a competitor could destroy a small business. A false accusation of adultery on a social networking site could destroy a marriage. An allegation that someone is a “crook” could be read by a potential employer or business partner.

Readers may… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is “the most secretive White House ever” a new trend?

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top secret

Recently, I mentioned Truthy, a proposed government project to monitor non-progressive views on the Internet. Realistically, there is probably no way of simply preventing this trend. Not when you consider that universities today graduate some arts majors who would otherwise end up as baristas, and can be easily persuaded both of the importance of such a project to society and the benefit to themselves of helping in some way.

Indeed, at the Washington Post, we read,

At some point, a compendium of condemnations against the Obama administration’s record of media transparency (actually, opacity) must be assembled. Notable quotations in this vein come from former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson, who said, “It is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering”; New York Times reporter James Risen, who said, “I think Obama… click here to read whole article and make comments



Is Facebook interfering with midterm US elections? Or any elections?

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There is a tendency to blame new technologies for everything. For example, it would be far easier to sell a story that cell phones cause cancer than that tobacco does. Yet only some contestable evidence supports the first proposition and masses of evidence supports the second.

Recently, I reported on the question of whether the rise of Big Data would be the death of politics. Actually, it’s not so much that politics will die as that it might change.

The key issue for most of us is whether it will still be the politics of a free society.

Currently, some are pointing fingers at Facebook, claiming it is wrecking political news. Facebook is hardly innocent. I have noted earlier that it experimented on its users (Part I and Part II), without knowledge or consent.

That was bad principally because… click here to read whole article and make comments



Does high tech necessarily lead to grievous inequality, and anyway does it matter?

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Every so often one comes across an article that is worth reading in depth for what it can tell us about new media and high tech in the days to come. David Rotman’s longish piece in MIT’s Technology Review is one of the best on offer.

First, he points out a long-neglected fact about Silicon Valley:

The signs of the gap—really, a chasm—between the poor and the super-rich are hard to miss in Silicon Valley. On a bustling morning in downtown Palo Alto, the center of today’s technology boom, apparently homeless people and their meager belongings occupy almost every available public bench. Twenty minutes away in San Jose, the largest city in the Valley, a camp of homeless people known as the Jungle—reputed to be the largest in the country—has taken root along a creek within walking distance of Adobe’s headquarters and the gleaming,… click here to read whole article and make comments



The slow death of traditional media

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Every so often I take a little time to talk about the slow death of traditional media

I don’t gloat over it. I loved newspapers. I left a proposed comfortable life in the academy to be a journalist. But times change.

And why is this even important? Because many people, including older people, still believe that traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio, TV) are in some sense the “real” news. Even when they aren’t. Even when they are obviously not up to the job. When social or political or artistic correctness prevents them from reporting plain facts.

Today, many look for trusted sources apart from traditional “news" media, while remaining aware that older folk especially still believe in those sources. So tact is definitely called for, especially when dealing with the sources’ deficiencies. Here are some things that might usefully be said.

First, when discussing… click here to read whole article and make comments



Can massive databases reveal a whole new set of truths?

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As Nathan Jurgenson asks at The New Inquiry,

As the name suggests, Big Data is about size. Many proponents of Big Data claim that massive databases can reveal a whole new set of truths because of the unprecedented quantity of information they contain. But the big in Big Data is also used to denote a qualitative difference — that aggregating a certain amount of information makes data pass over into Big Data, a “revolution in knowledge,” to use a phrase thrown around by startups and mass-market social-science books. Operating beyond normal science’s simple accumulation of more information, Big Data is touted as a different sort of knowledge altogether, an Enlightenment for social life reckoned at the scale of masses.

He goes on to note:

As with the similarly inferential sciences like evolutionary psychology and pop-neuroscience, Big Data can be used to give any chosen hypothesis a… click here to read whole article and make comments



Must Amazon’s monopoly be stopped? Can it be?

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Amazon is becoming a monster and must be stopped. So says editor Franklin Foer at The New Republic:

In confronting what to do about Amazon, first we have to realize our own complicity. We’ve all been seduced by the deep discounts, the monthly automatic diaper delivery, the free Prime movies, the gift wrapping, the free two-day shipping, the ability to buy shoes or books or pinto beans or a toilet all from the same place. But it has gone beyond seduction, really. We expect these kinds of conveniences now, as if they were birthrights. They’ve become baked into our ideas about how consumers should be treated.
Perhaps the debate over Amazon won’t take as many fits and starts. There are already a few ideas percolating—one would strip Amazon of the power to set prices; another would deprive it of the ability to use its site to punish recalcitrant suppliers. Those… click here to read whole article and make comments



Would you marry an intelligent robot or just stay single?

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It's remarkable how the idea of artificial intelligence (intelligence free of nature) meets some of the needs of the chattering classes of our culture. A New Scientist writer flirts with the idea that we will one day be able to marry intelligent robots, explaining, “Perhaps our evolving knowledge of the biology of love – as a brain state mediated by neurochemicals that evolved to increase reproductive success … will make society more understanding.”

Notice the unquestioning assumption that love "evolved to increase reproductive success," enlisted in support of the marry-a-robot idea. Many of us underestimate the extent to which concepts derived from Darwinian evolution can help shape eccentric movements.

If we think love "evolved" by natural selection acting on random mutations to increase reproductive success, we lose track of the idea that love is first of all a relationship between human beings; getting a robot programmed to act like it loves us is narcissism, the opposite of love.

click here to read whole article and make comments



Will intelligent technology create mass unemployment?

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Resulting in a brave new world of adult children who needn’t work?

It’s a question to take seriously.

A new book, The Glass Cage by technology writer Nicholas Carr, is raising some sobering questions. As Hiawatha Bray puts it at the Boston Globe,

By examining the fallout of a series of technological advances, Carr makes the case that millions of us will have lots of time for television, as machines are becoming smart enough to do the high-skill jobs we once believed “computer-proof.” And he fears that all of us will see our skills eroded, our intelligence debased, and our work devalued, if we sacrifice human responsibility to black boxes full of microchips.

Is this "new book" hype? 

As I mentioned in an earlier column, new technology doesn’t actually replace the doctor unless we think that a docbot can handle such tasks… click here to read whole article and make comments



Let’s start asking politicians about Internet privacy

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Recently, I mentioned that telephone companies actually get paid to provide information to governments about their customers. And they don’t have to tell the customers. 

Of course, it could be routine and completely harmless, but we don’t know. Also, it might be an attractive business opportunity for otherwise less profitable telecoms.

However, the big telecoms don’t like this situation (see the vid below). They are well-established and can compete without selling data on their customers; maybe they would do all the better by offering privacy guarantees.

Some eye-openers surfaced recently in Canada. Merely because someone asked for details, not because it is necessarily any worse there. The practice is probably happening everywhere, for example in the United States (dragnet surveillance), Britain (via undersea cables) Australia, and New Zealand.

Now, it would be one thing if government was snooping to stop terrorists from capturing and beheading… click here to read whole article and make comments


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Connecting is MercatorNet's blog about social media and the virtual self. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your tips and suggestions. Post comments. We want to make it as lively as possible. The editor is Denyse O'Leary, a Canadian journalist. 

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