Pluralistic: 22 Apr 2020

filternet,copyfight,article 17,disney,themepunks,abigail disney,class war,business,spectrum,charter, thomas rutledge,letitia james,ny,ppe,brian krebs,astroturf,koch network,dark money,freedom works,dorr brothers,gop,mcmansion hell,urban theory,

Web-wide copyright filters would be a disaster; Apartment buildings didn't cause the pandemic; Unmasking the registrants of the "reopen" websites; Covid burns through Charter Cable employees; Disney heiress slams top execs' compensation

Pluralistic: 22 Apr 2020 filternet


Today's links

Web-wide copyright filters would be a disaster (permalink)

I have enormous sympathy for artists suffering financial anxiety during the pandemic. I have 3 books out in 2020 and my family was really counting on them selling well to pay our bills, so I really, really get it.

The anxiety is real and justified, but music-industry calls to force US online services to filter everything we post with automated copyright filters are not. They are a terrible, awful idea.

Anyone who's ever dealt with existing copyright filters – like Youtube's Content ID – knows that they are (and this is being charitable), a giant fucking flaming shit-show that everyone hates with the heat of a thousand suns.

Not only do these filters fail to police copyright adequately (source: the exact same people calling for MOAR FILTERZ), they also flag and block entire libraries' worth of legit material.

It's hard to overstate just how bad the overblocking is. Youtube blocked a panel where copyright experts discussed how its blocking system worked. That video was only unblocked because one of the experts knew a top lawyer at Youtube and made a call.

Also blocked: classical musicans' own performances of centuries-old Bach compositions. Birdsong. Silence. Static. Videos of adorable toddlers dancing in their parents' kitchens.

And – this should surprise no one – when you create a system that allows scumbags to fraudulently claim copyright to other peoples' work, with no effective system to reverse those claims, scumbags do exactly that.

Sometimes it's to steal artists' money. Sometimes its to censor their work. Sometimes it's to blackmail artists (three "copystrikes" and Youtube nukes your account from orbit, with no recourse for you).

Filters aren't just bad at stopping infringement, nor merely bad at permitting lawful material to pass, nor simply an invitation to fraud and censorship.

They're also really, really expensive.

Content ID (the aforementioned flaming shit-show) cost $100 million. So far.

You know how many online companies have an extra hundred mil kicking around during the crisis? About five of 'em. The exact same Big Tech companies that are ripping the rest of us off.

Big Tech is happy to cough up a mere $100m or so to annihilate every possible competitor. $100m isn't chump change, but it represents a stellar bargain as a fee for a Perpetual Internet Domination License.

And if you think Youtube and FB are hard to get a decent deal out of in a world where they have to worry about smaller competitors getting bigger, just imagine what they'll be like once they've carved up the internet forever.

I want a diverse, pluralistic internet, not five giant websites filled with screenshots from the other four.

Not just because that's a better internet, but because it's a better internet for artists.

The internet is already terrible enough, and it's all we've got to see us through this crisis.

Subjecting every word, image, video and sound we upload to automated black-box filters operated by high-handed faceless corps that can't be bothered to answer their email?

That'll make it a billion times worse.

For everyone.

Apartment buildings didn't cause the pandemic (permalink)

You could be forgiven for thinking that Kate "McMansion Hell" is all about dunking on McMansions (for obvious reasons), but Wagner is a multiple threat. Here she is explaining why coronavirus doesn't prove that apartment buildings are bad.

The pandemic has brought out a slew of idiotic criticisms on the lines of "See, this proves that every city should be a sprawling, low-density car-commuter paradise and everyone should have a standalone house with a tiny private park to exercise in."

As Wagner points out, this NIMBY opportunism is incredibly bad faith: Apartment buildings are inanimate objects. They didn't cause the shortage of medical supplies. They didn't make Donald Trump procure bum tests. They didn't prompt weeks of catastrophic denial and inaction.

It's true that badly maintained apartment buildings – lacking regular cleaning and maintenance – represent a public health crisis accellerant. But to blame the structure – and not the slumlord who chose to skimp on maintenance – is obviously wrong.

What's more: the pandemic has spread in the suburbs just as readily as it has spread in the built-up cities. Irrespective of the density of your neighborhood, you still have to go grocery shopping, visit your pharmacy, etc.

And if you get sick in a city, you have a better chance of getting care, because high-density living can sustain higher densities of both medical facilities and medical experts.

The pandemic is a runup for the waves of (far deadlier) emergencies we will face due to the climate crisis. Cities – which sustain public transit, and free up land for habitat and agriculture – are the only way we'll weather those storms.

Regressing to sprawl in the name of fighting future pandemics is incredibly shortsighted. Think of the crises visited upon our unplanned, sprawling places – the Houston floods, say – and imagine trying to socially distance and treat the sick during one of those disasters.

Unmasking the registrants of the "reopen" websites (permalink)

One of the best cybercrime sleuths is Brian Krebs. He used Domaintools to list out all the "reopen*.com" domains registered in the past month, finding ~150. The registrants of most of these were redacted by the registrars, but that didn't stop Krebs.

By cross-referencing things like Google Analytics identifiers, Krebs was able to assemble a (remarkably short) list of shadowy figures behind this (very long) list of "Reopen" domains.

The rogues' gallery starts with the Dorr Brothers, a pair of grifters who target gullible musketfuckers by running scare stories about looming gun confiscations leading to prominent donation boxes that suck dollars out of these bedwetting ammosexuals.

Next up, Freedomworks, an astroturf org founded with Koch money and funded since with great sluicings of dark money, last seen as the organizing force behind the Tea Party.

Below them, a bunch of local GOP orgs: the Orange County Republicans, the Horry County, SC Conservative Republicans, etc.

Then it's "In Pursuit Of LLC," a Koch-founded org whose employees include several current and former Trump White House staffers.

Here's a spreadsheet with domains and known or likely registrants.

Covid burns through Charter Cable employees (permalink)

Charter is the garbage company I have to buy my internet from, due to their monopolistic arrangement with my city, Burbank.

Charter doesn't give its field techs hazard pay or PPE. Instead they get $25 gift cards for (closed down) restaurants.

Charter's CEO, Thomas Rutledge, an asshole, decreed that back-office staff would have to keep going to work, even if they could work from home, on the theory that they would be more productive under the watchful eye of their managers.

(He forced a whistleblower who complained to resign)

You will never, ever guess what happened next.

At least 230 Charter employees now have covid-19. NY Attorney General Letitia James has opened an inquiry into corporate culpability in their illness.

Disney heiress slams top execs' compensation (permalink)

Abigail Disney is the outspoken, anti-corporatist Disney heiress – granddaughter of Roy Disney – and she's really angry about the company's decision to furlough 100,000 front-line workers.

She points out that the top exec paycuts that the company has announced are effectively meaningless, because top Disney management's compensation is only incidentally derived from their salaries.

The meat of Disney's exec compensation comes from the $1.5B it pays out in bonuses every year, and that figure has not been affected by the company's belt-tightening.

Former CEO Bob Iger, despite foregoing his salary, will still take home 900X the median worker's salary (this despite two shareholder votes to rein in exec pay).

Disney fought hard against a $15 wage for Parks employees, but since they won it, the company spun it for PR.

But the $15 wage is now $0, because those workers are furloughed. Iger's pay-packet could fully cover the annual wages of 1,500 of them. CEO Bob Chapek (who used to run the Parks division), will still take home 288 Parks workers' annual pay.

And, as Abigail Disney points out, these executive bonuses are being paid to a team that greenlit $11.5B in stock buybacks, which drained the company's cash reserves. Today, the company is BORROWING billions to stay afloat during the crisis.

Bonuses should reward foresight and good judgment. Plunging the company into debt through financial engineering is not evidence of either. As Abigail Disney says, though the pandemic wasn't foreseeable, an emergency of some kind certainly was.

Abigail Disney finishes by calling on the company management to show true leadership by foregoing all of their compensation, not just their salaries – to share in the pain that the 100,000 furloughed workers are going to endure.

These, after all, are the workers whom the leadership showers with honeyed words ("Our ability to do good in the world starts with our cast members . . . who create magic every day. Our commitment to them will always be our top priority." -R Chapek).

Those honeyed words are justified, as it happens. Disney Parks employees don't just do an excellent job – they also represent storehouses of esoteric knowledge about the peccadilloes and idosyncracies of a bunch of bespoke buildings and machines.

These are effectively giant mechanical cocktail shakers that the company puts the richest, most litigious people in the world into for 12+ hours/day, 365 days/year. The company needs the skilled operators and staffers to come back.

Working at a Disney Park – even in food service, custodial, etc – requires a bunch of specialized knowledge that can't be entirely conveyed through training alone. The continuity of culture and knowledge passed among staffers is key.

If that continuity is shattered, it will add years of disruption to the Parks' operation: breakdowns, customer service failures, logistical snarls, etc. Keeping that furloughed workforce intact isn't just "decent" (as Abigail Disney writes), it's also business-critical.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Fit 20 functions into a single 5.25" drive bay

#10yrsago Charity auction for Jeanne Robinson's cancer fund

#10yrsago Hitler's pissed off about fair use

#5yrsago Jeb Bush loves Obama('s NSA surveillance)

#5yrsago John Oliver on patent trolls

#5yrsago Google anti-trust action is dumb, but the EU should be worried about online giants

#5yrsago Canada's music copyright extension will cost Canadians millions

#5yrsago Fascinating, wide-ranging discussion with William Gibson

#1yrago Platform cooperativism (or, how to turn gig-economy jobs into $22.25/hour jobs)

#1yrago Zuck turned American classrooms into nonconsensual laboratories for his pet educational theories, and now they're rebelling

#1yrago Heiress "Instagram influencer" whose parents are accused of paying a $500K bribe to get her into USC has trademark application rejected for punctuation errors

#1yrago Elizabeth Warren's latest proposal: cancel student debt, make college free

#1yrago Google walkout organizers say they're being retaliated against for demanding ethical standards

#1yrago Facebook has hired the Patriot Act's co-author and "day-to-day manager" to be its new general counsel

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot (

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 568 words (6384 total).

Currently reading: I'm getting really into Anna Weiner's memoir about tech, "Uncanny Valley" and Jo Walton's forthcoming novel "Or What You Will."

Latest podcast: Podcast swap: Wil Wheaton on Little Brother
Upcoming appearances:

Upcoming books: "Poesy the Monster Slayer" (Jul 2020), a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Pre-order here:

"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden:

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