Archive for the ‘In a Goolag State of Mind’ Category

George Soros Reportedly Turns on Google and Facebook

February 1, 2018 Comments off

In a curious turnaround, Quartz reports that George Soros in a speech at Davos identified the “monolithic power” of Google and Facebook as threats to democracy as we know it.  Considering that Soros typically puts his vast wealth behind his view of the world, this could get interesting.  Here’s the nub of what Quartz reports he said:

Facebook and Google effectively control over half of all internet advertising revenue. To maintain their dominance, they need to expand their networks and increase their share of users’ attention. Currently they do this by providing users with a convenient platform. The more time users spend on the platform, the more valuable they become to the companies.

Content providers also contribute to the profitability of social media companies because they cannot avoid using the platforms and they have to accept whatever terms they are offered.

The exceptional profitability of these companies is largely a function of their avoiding responsibility for—and avoiding paying for—the content on their platforms.

Mr. Soros, come on down.  We’ve only been saying this for about 10 years now.  It is significant that someone like Soros has joined the value gap club and by the looks of it the SESTA club as well.  For at the heart of the “avoiding responsiblity” functionality is the DMCA and Section 230 of the Communciations Decency Act (and soon the newest safe harbor in the Music Modernization Act).

While I doubt that Mr. Soros would have the uncouthness to stop payment on financial commitments he’s already made to fund groups he now disagrees with, it is remarkable to think that Soros might actually fund groups that support private property rights.  He certainly sounds like he’s headed in that direction:

Social media companies deceive their users by manipulating their attention and directing it towards their own commercial purposes. They deliberately engineer addiction to the services they provide. This can be very harmful, particularly for adolescents. There is a similarity between internet platforms and gambling companies. Casinos have developed techniques to hook gamblers to the point where they gamble away all their money, even money they don’t have.

Something very harmful and maybe irreversible is happening to human attention in our digital age. Not just distraction or addiction; social media companies are inducing people to give up their autonomy. The power to shape people’s attention is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few companies. It takes a real effort to assert and defend what John Stuart Mill called “the freedom of mind.” There is a possibility that once lost, people who grow up in the digital age will have difficulty in regaining it. This may have far-reaching political consequences. People without the freedom of mind can be easily manipulated. This danger does not loom only in the future; it already played an important role in the 2016 US presidential elections.

Mr. Soros goes on to put his finger on a topic that we discussed at the recent Artist Rights Symposium at the University of Georgia–the combination of tech companies and totalitarian states like China’s joint development efforts with Google for artificial intelligence and Tencent’s investment in Spotify that may give it a foothold in controlling popular culture.

[T]here is an even more alarming prospect on the horizon. There could be an alliance between authoritarian states and these large, data-rich IT monopolies that would bring together nascent systems of corporate surveillance with an already developed system of state-sponsored surveillance. This may well result in a web of totalitarian control the likes of which not even Aldous Huxley or George Orwell could have imagined.

The countries in which such unholy marriages are likely to occur first are Russia and China. The Chinese IT companies in particular are fully equal to the American ones. They also enjoy the full support and protection of the Xi Jingping regime. The government of China is strong enough to protect its national champions, at least within its borders.

US-based IT monopolies are already tempted to compromise themselves in order to gain entrance to these vast and fast growing markets. The dictatorial leaders in these countries may be only too happy to collaborate with them since they want to improve their methods of control over their own populations and expand their power and influence in the United States and the rest of the world.

The owners of the platform giants consider themselves the masters of the universe, but in fact they are slaves to preserving their dominant position. It is only a matter of time before the global dominance of the US IT monopolies is broken. Davos is a good place to announce that their days are numbered. Regulation and taxation will be their undoing and EU Competition Commissioner Vestager will be their nemesis.

Big Tech Going to Capitol Hill to Explain How they Profit from Terror

January 17, 2018 Comments off

Facebook’s Monika Bickert, YouTube’s Juniper Downs and Twitter’s Carlos Monje will testify today at the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee to explain how their company’s profit from terror groups using their platforms.  The hearing, Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough? at 10 am ET today.

As Ranking Member Senator Bill Nelson noted, the hearing is the first time that all three of Facebook, Google and Twitter have deigned to appear before the Commerce Committee at the same time:

[T]heir appearance is long overdue.  These social media platforms – and those of many other smaller companies – have revolutionized the way Americans communicate, connect and share information.

But, at the same time, these platforms have created a new – and stunningly effective – way for nefarious actors to attack and harm our citizens and our nation.  Frankly, it is startling that today, a terrorist can be radicalized and trained to conduct attacks all through social media.  And then a terrorist cell can activate that individual to conduct an attack through the internet – creating in effect a terrorist drone controlled by social media.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about what their companies are doing to make sure their platforms are not being exploited and manipulated by terrorists and criminals.

Using social media to radicalize and influence users is not limited to extremists.  Nation states, too, are exploiting social media vulnerabilities to conduct campaigns against this nation and interfere with our democracy.

We know that Russian hackers—at Vladimir Putin’s direction—attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks and spreading propaganda and disinformation through paid social media trolls and botnets on Facebook and Twitter.

And, we also know that Putin is likely to do it again.

In its January 6, 2017 assessment, the U.S. intelligence community said that Putin and his intelligence services see the election influence campaign as a success and will seek to influence future elections, right here in the United States, and abroad.

This should be a wake-up call to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and to all Americans, regardless of party. This was an attack on the very foundation of American democracy and we must do everything in our power to see that it never happens again.

It would be interesting if Senator Nelson could ask Facebook, Google and Twitter if they could run a quick tape to tell the people how much they made, give or take, on selling ads against terror recruiting videos.



Must Read from @schneidermaria: Thoughts on “Net Neutrality” From Down Here in the Coal Mine – Guest Post Maria Schneider

December 6, 2017 Comments off

Maria Schneider is a 5-time GRAMMY-winning composer/bandleader in jazz, classical and for her work with David Bowie. An outspoken advocate for the rights of musicians, she has testified before Congress, and teaches and performs throughout the world. 

When Google really really wants something, it’s a marvel to watch how it hides its own greedy motives, while using surrogate groups, political polarization, and their own power over information networks to whip up a national outcry – all as Google feigns concern for the “public good.” Google has now orchestrated just such a public outcry over the vague phrase “net neutrality.” It’s a phrase that has most of us, including John Oliver (see John Oliver’s piece), biting hook, line, and sinker. I smell something rotten.  As musicians, we’re the canaries in the proverbial coal mine. We’ve long been taken on this ride by the world’s biggest data lord, and we’ve developed a keen nose. We’ve been coughing up blood down in this damn mine for too long to not take notice when new wafts of rotten stench make their way down here – especially when we look up the dark shaft and see rainbows spelling the word “Google” beneath radiant blue skies.

So I figured it was time to dig into this phrase “net neutrality” and see what it’s all about. And sure enough, as I’ll explain below, this appears as just another typical Google scam where they systematically create mass hysteria that the little guy is going to somehow be hosed. I’m afraid to say, the public is being duped.

Read the post on The Trichordist:  Thoughts on “Net Neutrality” From Down Here in the Coal Mine – Guest Post Maria Schneider — The Trichordist

The Information’s Expose on Google’s Hostile Work Environment is a Cry for Corporate Reform

December 1, 2017 2 comments

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”

Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell

The Information has conducted an extensive review of Google’s apparently hostile work environment and one thing is clear–all the stories we heard about Google’s headman, Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt really have had the predictably corrosive effect.

The romantic relationships within the walls of Google made ideal fodder for gossip columns and magazine profiles.

Co-founder Larry Page dated Google lieutenant Marissa Mayer in the company’s early days, and co-founder Sergey Brin later drew attention for dating Amanda Rosenberg, a younger colleague. CEO Eric Schmidt dated publicist Marcy Simon when she did work for Google. The stories had sex, money and power against a backdrop of one of the world’s largest tech empires. It was like something out of a rebooted soap opera—Dynasty 2.0.

But an examination by The Information found that those interoffice relationships, and others featuring some of the company’s top leaders, have for years been a flashpoint of frustration and anger among Google’s employees. The relationships often violated at least the spirit of a company policy that prohibits superiors from secretly dating subordinates. But employees noted that there had been no apparent repercussions for the powerful, mostly male, leaders who had such relationships.

As a result, many Google employees expressed the opinion that the company’s culture appears to tolerate, or even endorse, such workplace relationships. In interviews with nearly 40 current and former Google employees, many said the issue had tainted the perception of women who earn promotions, created uncomfortable encounters at off-site events and had raised concerns over whether human resources would address inappropriate conduct. Some described their own experiences with sexual harassment at the company.

And it goes on from there.  While you may ask, where was the board, the Google board of directors was actually exactly where Uncle Sugar wanted them to be:  In the words of the Rolling Stones’ classic, under his thumb.


Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt at Burning Man

The Roman dictator Sulla is credited with originating the practice of decimatus from which we derive the word “decimation”.  The practice was military in origin and was a punishment meted on a Roman cohort often for the dishonor of the unit such as mutiny or abandoning the line.  The cohort (about 500 men) was divided into groups of 10 and each group drew lots to identify a single soldier to be killed by the others, usually clubbed to death.

Google practices a kind of reverse decimation as the three Google insiders Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergei Brin are the only Google stockholders who are allowed to hold a class of stock that gives them 10 votes for each share.  And extending the Roman motif, holding this 10:1 voting power over other Google stockholders affords them a kind of co-emperor status–for you Roman Empire fans, think Diocletian and Maximian.  I guess you could say that Schmidt is the senior co-emperor and Page and Brin are the junior co-emperors.

But co-emperors they are indeed with a 10:1 power to decimate the lesser stockholders who dare challenge them.

The futility of stockholder votes at Google is obvious at Google stockholder meetings where ordinary stockholders are routinely decimated by the 10:1 voting power of the co-emperors.  The predictable results of the voting are often announced by David Drummond, the company’s head lawyer, who is himself implicated in The Information’s report.

So when you are reading The Information’s report on the internal workings of Google, just remember that not only were the employees captive to the Google culture, the perpetrators also had complete control of their board of directors.  In addition to the other takeaways from this sorry episode, it should be obvious that not only should Google be broken up, but the Google method of insider control needs to be thoroughly investigated.

Watch Out Toronto, Robocop is coming to Googleville

November 17, 2017 Comments off

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:

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

November 11, 2017 Comments off

[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

The New York Times Exposes Google’s Values Gap

November 6, 2017 Comments off

Americans are freedom loving people, and nothing says freedom like getting away with it.

From Long, Long Time by Guy Forsyth

The good thing about the Internet is that it brought people together.  The bad thing about the Internet is that some of those people previously only met on Death Row.

The New York Times has caught YouTube up to their old tricks, none of which will come as a surprise to team MTP or anyone else in the music business.  We have fought Google (and Facebook, Twitter and essentially every business using user generated content) about what boils down to one basic problem:  Google doesn’t pay anything like sufficient attention to what is being uploaded onto their monopoly video platform.  Google monetizes that failure–looking the other way–and that failure creates easily foreseeable commercial harm.  We even have a name for it: the “Value Gap.”


But this time, the Times has surfaced how Google’s cavalier “see no evil” attitude is harming children.  This psychological and developmental harm isn’t about the value gap, it’s more about the depraved greed that produces another kind of gap altogether–a values gap.  And of course Google is trying to cover it up.

It was a typical night in Staci Burns’s house outside Fort Wayne, Ind. She was cooking dinner while her 3-year-old son, Isaac, watched videos on the YouTube Kids app on an iPad. Suddenly he cried out, “Mommy, the monster scares me!”

When Ms. Burns walked over, Isaac was watching a video featuring crude renderings of the characters from “PAW Patrol,” a Nickelodeon show that is popular among preschoolers, screaming in a car. The vehicle hurtled into a light pole and burst into flames.

The 10-minute clip, “PAW Patrol Babies Pretend to Die Suicide by Annabelle Hypnotized,” was a nightmarish imitation of an animated series in which a boy and a pack of rescue dogs protect their community from troubles like runaway kittens and rock slides. In the video Isaac watched, some characters died and one walked off a roof after being hypnotized by a likeness of a doll possessed by a demon.

Realize that Google has been pushing itself as a solution for cord-cutters for a while.  If you watched the World Series, you will have seen the ubiquitous Google ads for YouTube TV from Google’s partnership with Major League Baseball.  You’ll find YouTube on your Internet TV, easily accessed on your family television screen.  In case you hadn’t noticed, Google wants inside your house.

Google also launched YouTube Kids as another way to get into your house and tried to make everyone believe that it was safe for your children.  I knew this charm offensive was utter and complete crap and a prime example of Google’s values gap, but then I’m supposedly jaded and cynical.  You know who is also jaded and cynical?

In 2015, Senator Ben Nelson (D-FL) highlighted the flaws in the YouTube Kids app–remember, this is not the web version of YouTube, this is an app expressly targeted at parents of children “five and under”–FIVE AND UNDER.  As Senator Nelson describes them: “toddlers”.

Team MTP will, of course, know where this is going–the values gap.  Because Google refuses to take any responsibility for assuring that improper materials–materials that violate Google’s own policies and terms of use–get into places the materials are not supposed to be, a substantial amount of shocking stuff gets into the YouTube Kids app.

It must be said that challenging Google’s ability to keep bad things off of their service was also at the heart of Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s questions he asked of Google and for which Google and the Shills–EFF, Engine Advocacy, R Street–went into litigation overdrive.  They never did answer those questions.

The Times reports that a Google flack told them:

[W]hile YouTube Kids may highlight some content, like Halloween videos in October, “it isn’t a curated experience.” Instead, “parents are in the driver’s seat,” he said, pointing to the ability to block channels, set usage timers and disable search results.

Sound familiar?  Kind of like you are free to send Google a takedown notice–and rest assured, they will fight any lawsuits from parents with the Communications Decency Act Section 230 defense they are vigorously lobbying to protect by trying to defeat the SESTA bill that would try to stop online pimping.

Parents are also encouraged to report inappropriate videos, which someone at YouTube then manually reviews, he said. He noted that in the past 30 days, “less than .005 percent” of the millions of videos viewed in the app were removed for being inappropriate.

“We strive,” he added, “to make that fraction even lower.”

Ah yes.  Report the bad stuff.  That should sound familiar, too.  Is that before or after your kid’s brain is fried?  And notice one thing that the Times let slip by–the switch from hard numbers to percentages.  Google does this all the time when they don’t want to acknowledge the scale of the problem by attempting to trivialize criticism by saying that the problem is just a tiny fraction of their business and they are trying so hard to do the right thing.  But like Zeno’s Arrow Paradox, they don’t ever quite seem to eliminate the problem.

But it’s a very, very low percentage of the bad stuff–less than 1/2 percent of millions.  So let’s say “millions” means at least two million (although it’s probably more).  Doing the math, .005 of two million is 10,000.  Even if it were 100, are you willing to bet that your child, or your sister, brother or cousin will be in that 10,000?  Sounds like a lot.

Senator Lindsay Graham recently told the counsel for Facebook, Google and Twitter that their respective companies had “enriched America.”  And then he paused for a second–I was expecting him to say “and America enriched you.”  But he didn’t, although I swear he was thinking it.

The question is–will we let these people continue to profit themselves from exploiting children?  Will we permit them to profit from the values gap?



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