Posts Tagged ‘Reddit’


Hi All, sorry for the hiatus. But I’m back in black. New year, and lots to discuss. Let’s get to it!

Clearly I couldn’t let discussion about SOPA and PIPA and the ensuing takedowns architected by Anonymous go untouched in this discussion space, so let’s delve into this, shall we?

For those who aren’t aware (where in the hell have you been?), let’s first break these two down to their most elemental forms:

Here’s what (admittedly biased on this matter) Wikipedia has to say about what SOPA is, “The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a United States bill introduced by U.S. Representative Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) to expand the ability of U.S. law enforcement to fight online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Provisions include the requesting of court orders to bar advertising networks and payment facilities from conducting business with infringing websites, and search engines from linking to the sites, and court orders requiring Internet service providers to block access to the sites. The law would expand existing criminal laws to include unauthorized streaming of copyright material, imposing a maximum penalty of five years in prison”

Basically, this was legislators catering to big media companies’ interests by proposing a law that would give the U.S. government the right to prosecute people who propagated intellectual property that they didn’t own online. In other words, the internet wouldn’t exist unless the government felt that it should.

“Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws, especially against foreign websites.”

“Opponents say the proposed legislation threatens free speech and innovation, and enables law enforcement to block access to entire internet domains due to infringing material posted on a single blog or webpage. They have raised concerns that SOPA would bypass the “safe harbor” protections from liability presently afforded to Internet sites by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.”

So that’s SOPA in the House of Representatives. A second, replica piece of legislation was simultaneously being put up for consideration in the Senate called PIPA or the Protect IP Act. On this legislation, Wikipedia says:

“The PROTECT IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA) is a proposed law with the stated goal of giving the US government and copyright holders additional tools to curb access to “rogue websites dedicated to infringing or counterfeit goods”, especially those registered outside the U.S. The bill defines infringement as distribution of illegal copies, counterfeit goods, or anti-digital rights management technology. Infringement exists if “facts or circumstances suggest [the site] is used, primarily as a means for engaging in, enabling, or facilitating the activities described. The bill was introduced on May 12, 2011, by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and 11 bipartisan co-sponsors.”

So that’s the house-cleaning. They’re the same piece of legislation, same clear and dangerous threat to internet freedoms and the Internet’s intrinsic ability to allow for the wide and free dissemination of information.  Now down to the brass tacks.

Let’s begin with the fact that just pragmatically, taking on the Internets is always stupid. Why? Because congress and the President are centralized forces of power- quite well identified and held to certain moral and legal standards of behavior and comportment. The internet is none of those things. It is a nebulous, unscrupulous, largely anonymous and completed decentralized force of power, and it will not be stopped. Which is why, they have certainly won this round of the fight and will ultimately win the war on issues of intellectual property online.

So Wikipedia was one of the largest of many web resources (others included Reddit, the social news site, and BoingBoing, a technology and culture blog) that decided to shut down for a 24 hour period in public protest against these two bills.  As the NYTimes Bits Blog reported: “Visitors around the globe who try to reach the English-version of Wikipedia will be greeted with information about the bills and details about how to reach their local representatives. Mr. (Founder Jimmy) Wales said 460 million people around the world visited the site each month, and he estimated that the blackout could reach as many as 100 million people. In addition, some international Wikipedia communities, including the one in Germany, have decided to post notices on their home pages leading to information about the protests, although they will remain functioning as usual.”

“The government could tell us that we could write an entry about the history of the Pirate Bay but not allow us to link to it,” he said, referring to the popular file-sharing site. “That’s a First Amendment issue.”

But then Anonymous had to go and get all involved, making it no longer a seemingly noble protest, but taking matters into their own hands. And this is where decentralization begins to get really interesting.

For Anonymous it wasn’t enough to shut down one’s own site, and make one’s own decision to go dark- Anonymous wanted to prove once and for all to big media companies such as CBS and Universal Music that it is but for the grace of Anonymous that their sites exist at all. In a bold and HIGHLY under-publicized and under-discussed move if you weren’t online (I think largely because of Anonymous’s reputation as an anarchist and borderline-terrorist non-organization) Anonymous temporarily removed CBS.com and Universal Music as well as its parent company Vivendi from online view. There has been much speculation about whether the sites were full-on deleted, redirected, etc. and I won’t debate that here, but I think the major point here is that a decentralized network of self-labeled “hacktivists” hold the power to completely destroy someone else’s online presence as retribution. So while the politicians, PACs and lobbyists seek to pass these bills the old-fashioned way through our system of government and legislation, the internet turns its nose on their efforts and operates completely independently.

The repercussions of these acts by Anonymous are massive. Is it to be said once and for all that the internet is ungovernable? Certainly any jurisdiction over internet content and domains is highly debatable and obscure- who has the right or the resources to police the net? Where is that online security task force- is it a branch of the UN peacekeeping forces? Which country’s government holds the right to censor content? If Google’s tangle with China and the Arab Spring have taught us anything, it’s that the rules for who gets to yea or nay internet content are still being written and continue to be written by unknown authors, sitting in dark corners leading their revolutions with armies of revolutionaries who couldn’t recognize them if they passed by on the sidewalk.

President Obama said no to the current versions of these bills, but SOPA and PIPA are by no means dead in the water. This will be an ongoing discussion, but I stand by my opinion that even if SOPA or PIPA were to pass in Congress, they would have a completely unmanageable time attempting to enforce either in the chaotic and decentralized network that is the Net. The point it would seem, my friends, is moot.

Advertisements

September 22, 2010- http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474978538816

Hear that? It’s the sound of the content aggregator death knell. On October 1st, popular web-based RSS reader and news aggregator Bloglines, run by the team at Ask.com, will discontinue service. When asked why, Ask’s team reported “that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook killed it.”

And Bloglines is only the first. Other aggregators such as Google Reader, Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon are sure to be next. According to Hitwise, “visits to Google Reader are down 27 percent year-over-year.” The New York Times recently reported “a more pivotal reason that Digg is falling behind, analysts say, is that users are simply spending more time on Facebook and Twitter than they are on Digg.”

How did this happen? Is it truly impossible that content aggregation sites such as Google Reader, StumbleUpon, Digg and ReddIt can not exist side-by-side with the type of social news aggregation offered by Facebook and Twitter? What does this mean for RSS? RSS, which stands for Real Simple Syndication, is a protocol which helps push website updates to readers around the world so they don’t have to search for new content or endlessly hit refresh on a favorite web page. In 2005 RSS was a game changer. Today? Not so much.

According to the Bloglines message about its own end-date, “the Internet has undergone a major evolution. The real-time information RSS was so astute at delivering (primarily, blog feeds) is now gained through conversations, and consuming this information has become a social experience…being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow. Today RSS is the enabling technology – the infrastructure, the delivery system.”

As a 2009 NeilsenWire also reported, part of this trend comes from the fact that blogs and news sites are no longer the endgame news tool, our friends are. “Socializers trust what their friends have to say and social media acts as an information filtration tool…If your friend creates or links to the content, then you are more likely to believe it and like it. And this thought plays out in the data.”

Does Mark Zuckerberg know that his company has driven content aggregators to the grave? Undoubtedly, yes. A recent New Yorker profile quoted Zuck as saying, “It’s like hardwired into us in a deeper way: you really want to know what’s going on with the people around you.” In fact, Facebook’s Open Graph feature allows users to see which articles their Facebook friends have read, shared, and liked. “Eventually,” the New Yorker observed, “the company hopes that users will read articles, visit restaurants, and watch movies based on what their Facebook friends have recommended, not, say, based on a page that Google’s algorithm sends them to.”

Some argue that content aggregators, or RSS readers, were always destined for the internet graveyard simply because they were too complicated and allowed users to become completely overwhelmed by the sheer bulk of information that was being pushed to them. One thing is for sure, if content aggregators don’t find a way to better integrate with, or at least successfully co-exist with social networking offerings like Facebook and Twitter, they will soon be relegated to the ever-growing category of “old news.”