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Article 13: Let the Investigations Begin

February 14, 2019 Leave a comment

 

 

It remains to be seen how the legislative process on Article 13 will play out but it’s very clear what the European Parliament’s next step is–investigate how American multinational corporations attacked a duly elected government.  The European Commission is foreshadowing this crucial next step in its official, undeniable and detailed condemnation of Google’s lobbying tactics.  (See The Copyright Directive: how the mob was told to save the dragon and slay the knight on the EC’s official blog.)

Bear in mind that these techniques have been used by Big Tech for many years as I have documented.  But it must be said that Google and Facebook have hit a new low with Article 13 and the Parliament should not let it go back to business as usual.  What is unusual about the Article 13 campaign was that it simply was repeated versions of Plan A–carpet bomb the MEPs with automated emails (aka spam) and pretend that these fakes were the voice of the people.

Bots 14-2-19 Edited

Many of these Twitter accounts behaved in a manner that is similar to the Russian bots that all these social media companies have told the U.S. Congress and the UK Parliament that they are taking steps to control.  If that’s true, it should be clear that when Jack Dorsey bats his stock options at the Congress about how seriously they take the problem, they don’t seem to take it very seriously when it is Big Tech’s interests on the line.

Twitter should have caught all this behavior given their supposed interest in stopping the Russian bot farms.  It’s hard to know exactly what the game was with these accounts the way that Twitter could tell the MEPs in, say, an investigation.  Under oath.  But we can guess based on the old Twitter ratioing techniques.

Bot 8 2-12-19 Edited

There are hundreds if not thousands of accounts that all have some common traits–very high numbers of likes, very low numbers of followers and all making a clear effort at riding an emotional contagion that social media is designed to exploit.

There is a real problem with governing-by-contagion and public officials are investigating this very thing with the Russian bots that bear a striking resemblance to Google’s Article 13 campaign.

But this problem isn’t news–for example, Cass Sunstein, then the Administrator of the Obama Office of Management and Budget, issued a memo in 2010 to the heads of executive branch departments and regulatory agencies which dealt with the use of social media and web-based interactive technologies.

Specifically, the Sunstein memo recognized the attraction to social media for policy making:

To engage the public, Federal agencies are expanding their use of social media and web- based interactive technologies. For example, agencies are increasingly using web-based technologies, such as blogs, wikis, and social networks, as a means of “publishing” solicitations for public comment and for conducting virtual public meetings.

 

But Sunstein called for exercising caution with public consultations.  He warned that “[b]ecause, in general, the results of online rankings, ratings, and tagging (e.g., number of votes or top rank) are not statistically generalizable, they should not be used as the basis for policy or planning.”

The European Parliament would do well to take a page from Sunstein’s thinking.

But the most important thing for the European Commission to take into account is that a company that is the target of multiple investigations is using the very market place monopoly that caused the competition investigations to begin with.

And Google is doing it to intimidate the European government into bending to its will on Article 13.  I’ll say it again–the European Commission needs to launch a full-blown criminal investigation into exactly what happened on Article 13.

 

 

 

 

Not All Bots Are Created Equal

February 6, 2019 Comments off

@SusanWojcicki Thanks YouTube “Creators” for Making Her Rich

February 6, 2019 Comments off

#WholeLottaBots: Tracking the Meme Factory Against Article 13

February 5, 2019 Comments off

If you check these accounts, you may find that only a couple look real (including Doctorow).  Who knows, but looks weird.

reda tweet

Reelect Threat 1 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 2 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 3 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 4 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 5 2-5-19

Reelect Threat 6 2-5-19

Gotta Whole Lotta Likes: Social Media Oppo to Article 13 Continues

February 5, 2019 Comments off

Here’s a few examples of what the Twitter campaign against Article 13 looks like, draw your own conclusions:

Bot 4 1-5-19

 

Bot 3 1-5-19

BOT 2 1-5-19

Bot 1 1-5-19

@GTP_Updates Demonstrates Google’s European Influence Campaign

January 22, 2019 Comments off

@artistrights tweeted in reaction to the stalled Article 13 legislation in Europe “American multinational corporations impose their commercial imperialism over their vassal states. Not the Europe we love.”

There probably has never been as revealing an insight into Google’s short, loathsome and treacherous lifespan as the Article 13 legislative process in the European Parliament.  It has put a microscope on Google’s fake lobbying campaign, but it also shows the extent of Google’s influence peddling to protect its profits from the European version of what we call the DMCA safe harbor.

Beyond the vile messaging of YouTube’s chief child exploiter Susan Wojcicki, Google has been investing in European academics for a decade.  Thanks to the Google Transparency Project, we know considerable detail about the extent of that investment.

Google has spent millions of euros funding European academics to write papers on digital policy, bankrolling university institutes and think-tanks in London, Berlin, Brussels, Paris and Warsaw

Over the past decade, Google has invested heavily in European academic institutions to develop an influential network of friendly academics, paying tens of millions of euros to think tanks, universities and professors that write research papers supporting its business interests.

Those academics and institutions span the length and breadth of Europe, from countries with major influence in European Union policymaking, such as Germany and France, to Eastern European nations like Poland….

For example, Google has paid at least €9 million to help set up the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG) at Berlin’s Humboldt University. The new group launched in 2011, after German policymakers voiced growing concerns over Google’s accumulated power.

The Institute has so far published more than 240 scholarly papers on internet policy issues, many on issues of central importance to Google’s bottom line. HIIG also runs a Google-funded journal, with which several Google-funded scholars are affiliated, to publish such research….

And in Poland, Google has funded the Digital Economy Lab (DELab) at the University of Warsaw, similarly described as an interdisciplinary institute that will research and design policies governing technology issues. Second, Google has created and endowed chairs at higher-learning institutions in European countries including France, Spain, Belgium, and Poland. Those chairs have often been occupied by academics with a track record of producing research that closely aligns with Google’s policy priorities….

Europe’s importance for Google cannot be overstated. It is both a key market, with usage rates above 80 percent in many countries, and the most organized source of opposition to its expansion plans. The European Commission is arguably the only regulator beyond the U.S. with sufficient clout to cause Google to alter its conduct. European officials have levied billions of dollars in fines for antitrust violations and have enacted some of the most stringent laws in the world to protect consumer privacy.

Strangely enough–sarcasm alert–the countries where Google has made its most significant purchase of academic mind share are also the countries where opposition to Article 13 seems the greatest, especially Poland.

But the larger point is that there should be no doubt in the mind of any artist anywhere in the world that Google and its fellow travelers are not your friends, never were and never will be.  This includes the Digital Media Association, the Internet Association and the MIC Coalition.

Read the report here.

 

@Europarl_EN Statement Explains Article 13 and Google’s Fake “Lobbying”

January 12, 2019 Comments off

This week the European Parliament issued a scathing rejection of Google and Facebook’s massive lobbying campaign against Members of the European Parliament over what’s often called “Article 13”, or the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.  Article 13 is the first meaningful attempt to reverse the European safe harbor income transfer and close the value gap.  

Europe’s Global Influence

Beyond its benefits inside the European Union, Article 13 is also a crucial step toward restoring creator rights outside Europe.  Passing this watershed legislation will be in important first step toward safe harbor reform around the world, hopefully as a positive influence on reforming the U.S. version commonly called the “DMCA” copyright infringement safe harbor. Congress may well pick up that DMCA safe harbor reform in this session.   

Another benefit to Article 13 is that it’s another step toward encouraging legislative bodies to continue closing Big Tech’s cherished loopholes in other areas of the law, such another U.S. loophole beloved by Big Tech that is commonly called “Section 230.”   Congress cut back Section 230 last session.

Section 230 not only allows Google to profit from a wide variety of non-controversial behavior, but also from human trafficking, illegal drugs and counterfeit goods.  Google’s Section 230 safe harbor was significantly rolled back with the Stop Enabling Sex Trafficking Act (“SESTA”) in the last Congress.  Google fought SESTA with by launching an “off the shelf” SOPA-style, faux apocalyptica, end-of-days campaign against the U.S. Congress to preserve their human trafficking profits and stop “SESTA”, but failed.

European Commission is Also Closing De Facto Loopholes

The European Parliament historic action on Article 13 likely was of particular concern to Google because the European Commission has been closing a de facto safe harbor that protected Google’s obscene commercial overreach.  The EC brought the first two of what may be many cases against Google for competition law violations with fines in the many billions of euros.  The most recent fine in those competition law cases came down days after the first of a series of votes on Article 13.  Personally, I feel that all these events must be read of a piece.

European Parliament Tells Us That Goliath Never Learns

Google’s response to all of them appears to me to also be of a piece—barrages of fake emails and robocalls to deceive MEPs into thinking there were actual constituents who supported safe harbors for multinational U.S. corporations that violate privacy and steal culture.  (If there were real constituent voices they were drowned out or irreparably tainted by Google’s fake lobbying.)

Of course, it must be said that Big Tech’s barrage of fakery was as much directed at artists as it was at elected officials.  The campaign against Article 13 is remarkable for how much it revealed that  Big tech is as out of step with cultural history in the countries where it does business as it is failing with honest advocacy.

The fakery has gotten so bad that the European Parliament found the need to release a “myths and facts” style question and answer document regarding Article 13.  Here’s a choice passage:

The draft directive has been the subject of intense campaigning. Indeed, some statistics inside the European Parliament show that MEPs have rarely or even never been subject to a similar degree of lobbying before (such as telephone calls, emails etc.). The companies to be most affected by the directive have multi-billion dollar yearly revenues (for example Google’s revenue for 2017 was $110 billion and Facebook’s was $40.7 billion).

Such wide-ranging campaigning generally does lead to impressive claims snowballing; there are claims that the draft directive risks “breaking the internet”, or “killing the internet”. Since the draft directive does not confer any new rights on creators, nor impose new obligations on internet platforms/news aggregators, such claims seem excessive.

There are numerous precedents of lobbying campaigns predicting catastrophic outcomes, which have never come true.

For example, telecom companies claimed phone bills would explode as a result of caps on roaming fees; the tobacco and restaurant lobbies claimed people would stop going to restaurants and bars as a result of the smoking ban in bars and restaurants; banks said they would have to stop lending to businesses and people, due to tougher laws on how they operated and the duty-free lobby even claimed that airports would close down as a result of the end of duty-free shopping in the single market. None of this happened.

The document comes down to this—the Parliament is not buying Google’s jive.  Let’s hope the U.K. Parliament and the U.S. Congress take note.

Europe Defends the Human Rights of Artists

For most of the 20th century, the world shared values that authors rights were to be respected and even cherished.  These values were passed into international laws that protected creator rights.  Authors rights are human rights and authors rights are memorialized in a host of human rights documents from the U.S. Constitution to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and well beyond.  

Those rights were largely defended and violators of those rights were reviled.  A country’s treatment of artists from writers to poets to musicians and composers, screenwriters and directors defined that society. Crackdowns were shameful events, from the Red Scare to the gulags, from Tiananmen Square to the Arab Spring.

But when profit from violating the rights of authors becomes too tempting, the siren call of greenbacks breaks down what you learned from parents, teachers, rabbis, priests or pastors or even the very secular culture under attack.  In the 1990s and to the present day, a group of commercial actors in the Internet space demanded that they be given a special mandate in which to operate—a Neverland of legislated “safe harbors” ostensibly to protect the sainted innovation.  

Largely based in the Silicon Valley protectorate and backed by venture capitalists, these folks wanted a kind of autonomous or near-autonomous zone where the human rights of authors could be abridged and outright violated, largely with impunity.  Why?  Make no mistake, they didn’t do it for “freedom,” exploration of new frontiers, innovation or substantial non infringing uses—they did it for the money.

In fact, taking an inverted page straight out of Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, violating the human rights of authors even became fashionable in the fast-buck, get big fast world of the dot bomb redshift of money, money, money.  Artists who expected their human rights would be at least tolerated by the anarcho-technocrats of the 99ers got a big surprise.  Imagine the hell-bent Kafka-esque spawn of Bill Jackson’s Youth of the Future and George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.  The mish mash elites of Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Free Software Foundation sprang up from their Palo Alto petrie dish to mau-mau both Hollywood and Silicon Valley.  They gave us a mantra straight out of Orwell’s Minitrue:  WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY and of course COPYRIGHT IS CENSORSHIP.

These first-generation Californian startup elites didn’t know Lawrence Ferlinghetti from Carol Doda or Sam Andrew from Neil Cassidy.  They didn’t know the Henry Miller’s Rosy Crucifixion series, but they knew all about the rights, preferences and privileges of the Series A.  They went to Silicon Valley for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks—because that’s where the money was.

And thus began in 1998 one of the biggest income transfers in commercial history that continues to this day.  But after 20 years, the tech bros who wouldn’t grow up may find that the world has had enough of their hysteria and heartlessness and that spring cleaning time has come for them.

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