The Fallacy of the True Ad Hominum

November 19, 2017 Leave a comment

It bears repeating that a statement capable of truth value cannot be fallacious.  All too frequently truthful statements about a person are defended by resort to the ad hominem fallacy.  The ad hominem fallacy is intended to defend against a string of qualitative statements, e.g., “he’s so evil you can’t believe anything he says” or the “so-called representative.”

However, calling out failing to disclose or purposely hiding a conflict of interest as astroturf, or otherwise pointing to specific facts that are capable of truth value is not an ad hominem in the normal sense of the term.

For example, when Judge Alsup demanded that Oracle and Google disclose any bloggers it had paid to write about the Oracle v. Google case, Judge Alsup was not engaging in an ad hominem attack on either party.  Rather, he was requiring the litigants to disclose to the Court (and consequently to each other and to the public) what they had or had not done in a desire to shape the outcome of the case.

If you were to take Google’s version of that list (sometimes referred to on MTP as the “Google Shill List”) and say about someone listed on it “that person shills for Google, you can’t believe anything they say”, that would be an ad hominem attack.  If, however, you were to say, “That person is on the Google Shill List” with a link to the court document, I would argue that is a factually correct statement and not ad hominem.  And if you were to say, “That person is on the Google Shill List, therefore be careful about believing what they say as they may be shilling for Google again,” that would also be a factually correct statement and is not an ad hominem attack.  You could substitute “Google Shill List” with “Google’s Response to Order to Supplement” and vice versa, but that is just editorial discretion and a link to the actual document allows the reader to see that document.

While it may make the person or organization about which it said uncomfortable, statements capable of truth value are qualitatively different than the “He is evil so don’t believe him”.

Likewise the sequential antidote fallacy.  Continuing the Google Shill List example, when an organization on the Google Shill List takes a dozen unequivocal and irrevocable actions (such as filing amicus briefs in favor of Google or Google’s positions in court under oath) and then takes one or two actions against Google’s interest, the one or two actions should not be trotted out as disproving or as an antidote for the dozen other actions for which the organization was paid.

Watch Out Toronto, Robocop is coming to Googleville

November 17, 2017 Leave a comment
prime_directives_2

We started talking about all of these things that we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge

You may have read that Google is building its own city inside Metro Toronto.  As reported by the New York Times:

Google’s founders have long fantasized about what would happen if the company could shape the real world as much as it has life on the internet.

“Years ago, we were sitting there thinking, Wouldn’t it be nice if you could take technical things that we know and apply them to cities?” Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet (now Google’s parent company), said Tuesday. “And our founders got really excited about this. We started talking about all of these things that we could do if someone would just give us a city and put us in charge.”

That is, of course, an outlandish idea. “For all sorts of good reasons, by the way, it doesn’t work that way,” Mr. Schmidt acknowledged. But there he was standing Tuesday before an array of Canadian flags, in front of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ontario officials, to announce the closest thing anyone has seen to a tech company that takes the reins in a major city.

Toronto has about 800 acres of waterfront property awaiting redevelopment, a huge and prime stretch of land that amounts to one of the best opportunities in North America to rethink at scale how housing, streets and infrastructure are built. On Tuesday the government and the group overseeing the land announced that they were partnering with an Alphabet subsidiary, Sidewalk Labs, to develop the site.

They want it to embody the city of the future, a technological test bed for other communities around the world, “the world’s first neighborhood built from the internet up.”

So whether you call it Trudeauville or Googleville, not since the Treaty of Westphalia has a private company more powerful than the British East India Company had quite such a choice opportunity.  (And no, they won’t call it the “Goolag”.)  Google gets a chance to fulfill the dream of every hacker since Peter Lamborn Wilson wrote Temporary Autonomous Zones, Bruce Sterling on pirate utopias, Napster thought of locating its servers on Sealand, or White House aide Susan Crawford sighed about how she aspired to “geek around the nation state.

Yes, Google gets its own city.  And who do you think will enforce the Laws of Google?  Why robot cops, of course.  Cops like Officer Atlas, from Google’s own Boston Dynamics subsidiary.

And of course, Officer Handle for those pesky foot chases:

Google Meltdown Continues With Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Subpoenas

November 15, 2017 Leave a comment

One of Google’s worst policy nightmares is that state attorneys general will wake up to their obligation under state laws to protect both consumers and advertisers from Google’s overreach.  This would potentially force Google to answer for its actions in 51 jurisdictions–some state laws that are essentially common to all 50 states plus the federal government.  These state laws include consumer protection statutes and unfair competition or state antitrust rules that are not overriden (or “preempted”) by simultaneous federal jurisdiction.

In case you missed it, this kind of action is unlikely to happen in the typical states where that you would expect to see on the side of the little guy–California and New York, for example–due to Google’s outsized lobbying footprint.  And of course Google famously got a free pass from the federal government during the Obama Administration where it enjoyed extraordinary access, reminiscent of Standard Oil, United Fruit and ITT.

Google White House Meetings

However–it looks like the chickens are coming home to roost, at least in Missouri.  According to the Kansas City Star:

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley’s office on Monday issued a subpoena to Google as part of an investigation into whether the tech giant is violating Missouri’s consumer protection and anti-trust laws.

The investigation delves into Google’s collection of data on users and whether Google, the world’s most popular search engine, has manipulated search results at the expense of competitors, according to a release from Hawley’s office.

“When a company has access to as much consumer information as Google does, it’s my duty to ensure they are using it appropriately,” said Hawley, a Republican who is mounting a campaign for U.S. Senate. “I will not let Missouri consumers and businesses be exploited by industry giants”…

Hawley’s investigation also will look at whether Google has misappropriated content from competitors. Yelp wrote a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in September contending that Google has violated a 2012 settlement by allegedly scraping photos from Yelp reviews for its own search results.

Although the Missouri AG seems focused on the privacy aspects of consumer protection, it is also possible that consumer protection statutes may protect advertisers against Google’s sale of advertising against ISIS recruitment videos or sites selling illegal drugs or pirated content.  (Remember that Google paid a $500,000,000 fine under a 2011 non prosecution agreement–even though the then-U.S. Attorney General apologized to the company for the prosecution.)

As General Hawley noted in his press release:

On the state level, Attorney General Hawley is leading the way, holding tech companies such as Google accountable for their actions. However, this is not the first-time Google’s business practices have come into question. In June, the European Union issued Google a record $2.7 billion antitrust fine. Then, in July, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission regarding a Google program that tracks consumer behavior.

He’s right about that.  In fact, Google’s many, many collisions with the law were recently cited in the first civil RICO complaint filed against the company, an avenue that may also be open to Missourians.

How will Google react?  We should all remember the full-court press that Google and the Shills put on Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood who also served a subpoena on Google for comparable issues that could have led to a violation of Mississippi’s consumer protection statutes.  In that case, Google heavily leveraged support Hood allegedly received from lobbyists that was disclosed in the “North Korea hack” of Sony Pictures–which resulted in disclosure of many thousands of emails from Sony by Wikileaks (but, if memory serves, fewer than five to or from Sony and Google).

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Google sued Hood to avoid responding to the subpoena, a case that attracted an amicus brief signed by forty–count ’em–state attorneys general supporting an attorney general’s duty to protect their citizens.  Although Google was able to dodge General Hood, it was only a matter of time before another AG took on the Leviathan of Mountain View.

Even so, General Hawley needs to buckle his chin strap.

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That’s miss-iss-ippi…

President Obama’s Farewell Address on Social Media’s Threat to Democracy — Artist Rights Watch

November 13, 2017 Leave a comment

The good thing about Facebook is that it brings people together in new communities. The bad thing about Facebook is that some of those people previously only met on Death Row. And as Sartre said, hell is other people.

via President Obama’s Farewell Address on Social Media’s Threat to Democracy — Artist Rights Watch

Must Read: @oliviasolon: Ashamed to Work in Silicon Valley: how techies became the new bankers

November 11, 2017 Leave a comment

[Editor Charlie sez:  Meet the 1% of the 1%]

When Danny Greg first moved to San Francisco to work at Github in 2012, he used to get high-fives in the street from strangers when he wore his company hoodie.

These days, unless he’s at an investor event, he’s cautious about wearing branded clothing that might indicate he’s a techie. He’s worried about the message it sends.

Greg is one of many people working in tech who are increasingly self-conscious about how the industry – represented by consumer-facing tech titans like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Twitter and Uber – is perceived: as underregulated, overly powerful companies filled with wealthy tech bros and “brilliant assholes” with little regard for the local communities they occupy. Silicon Valley has taken over from Wall Street as the political bogeyman of choice, turning tech workers – like it or not – into public ambassadors for the 1% [of the 1%].

“I would never say I worked at Facebook,” said one 30-year-old software engineer who left the company last year to pursue an alternative career. Instead, at dinner parties he would give purposefully vague responses and change the subject. “There’s this song and dance you learn to play because people are quick to judge.”

Like Wall Street before, the tech industry is a justifiable punchbag. “MBA jerks used to go and work for Wall Street, now wealthy white geeks go to Stanford and then waltz into a VC or tech firm.”

Read the post on The Guardian

MusicTechPolicy Monthly Newsletter is out! Subscribe here!

November 11, 2017 Leave a comment

The latest email only MusicTechPolicy Monthly newsletter is out!  Sign up by subscribing to this blog.  This month we focus on Spotify board member Sean Parker’s revelations about how the social platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram are all consciously based on addiction modalities.  Parker’s revelations are confirmed by Dr. Adam Alter’s shocking book “Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked

Wyden Tobacco

Chris argues that this is national crisis worthy of a Congressional hearing like the tobacco industry’s cultivated addictive powers conducted by consumer hero Senator Ron Wyden. Senator Wyden conducted one of the most famous hearings in history when he asked the CEOs of the tobacco companies to state whether nicotine was addictive.

We also take a look at the tragic humor of Sen. Al Franken’s examination of Facebook, Twitter and Google regarding their inexplicable participation in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.

Happy Birthday Devil Dawgs!

November 10, 2017 Leave a comment

“Come on, you sons of bitches!  Do you want to live forever?”  [GySgt. Daniel J. “Dan” Daly, USMC; near Lucy-`le-Bocage as he led the 5th Marines’ attack into Belleau Wood, 6 June 1918.  The Marines lost 1,056 enlisted and 31 officers that day. Gunny Daly was awarded the Navy Cross for his service in the battle, and also received the Medal of Honor on two other occasions.]

Check out @semperfifund!

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