Pluralistic: 24 Jun 2020

Today's links

EU v FB (vg!) (permalink)

Like all walled gardens, Facebook doesn't have users, it has hostages – but it also has prey. Even if you don't have a FB account (and especially if you do), FB tracks you across the web and through your apps, thanks to Like buttons, FB pixels and other trackers.

A German court just ordered them to knock that shit off.

Last year, the German competition regulator ruled FB was breaking the law when it collected data using non-FB websites and apps. FB appealed to Germany's highest court, which just ruled against them.

The Federal Court of Justice ordered FB to change how it processes user-data, and to allow people (including those without FB accounts) to choose not to be followed around the web and through their apps.

FB has vowed to fight, though the lower court that punted the question up to the top court is almost certain to rubberstamp the decision. FB might take the decision to the EUCJ, Europe's top court, but that's quite a gamble, given recent ruling from that court.

In the meantime, FB is making no changes to its illegal nonconsensual tracking conduct, slow-walking compliance with the order until the very last second.

You can block FB data-collection on the web with Privacy Badger, EFF's tracker-blocker.

But when it comes to keeping FB out of your pocket distraction rectangle, you're basically fucked. Neither of the mobile OS duopolists have given you adequate tools to keep FB from following you around, even if you don't have the FB app.

AOC wins (permalink)

NY14 is a Democratic safe-seat, meaning whomever gets the Democratic nomination there automatically ends up in Congress. In 2018, AOC trounced Joe Crowley, a 10-term, banker-lovin' DINO who was thought to be unassailable.

NY just had 2020 primaries, and AOC a primary challenge: Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former registered Republican who hates Medicare and Social Security, and whose campaign raised vast sums from private equity looters and other garbage people.

Choosing Caruso-Cabrera as their standard bearer was a spectacular act of contempt and hubris on the part of the finance sector. Not only did she not articulate a single policy (!), but she has a history of writing books calling for the abolition of the Department of Labor!

Other gems from her literary oeuvre: a demand for more offshore tax-havens: "Freedom and democracy are best secured when banking secrecy and tax havens exist."

Contrast this with AOC's brilliant performance in shredding finance industry criminals in Congress!

The finance industry truly made the primary race a referendum on plutocracy, impunity, inequality and corruption…

…And they lost.


Despite being grossly outspent and outgunned, AOC slaughtered Caruso-Cabrera at the polls.

The victory tells us two things about the current moment:

  1. The time of plutocratic rule is coming to an end.

  2. The plutes do not understand that.

Vegas casino workers beg for their lives (permalink)

Las Vegas was one of the first US cities to re-open and it was among the most aggressive, thanks largely to its idiot mayor Carolyn Goodman, who says businesses should make up their own protocols and the market will decide what's adequate.

Goodman: "I am not a private owner. That's the competition in this country. The free enterprise and to be able to make sure that what you offer the public meets the needs of the public."

You will never guess what happened next.

As cases rise in Nevada, casino workers are "begging" gamblers to put on a fucking mask – reportedly only 10% are doing so.

(No language on Earth contains the phrase "As prudent as an habitual gambler")

The state Casino Board has only mandated masks for games whose tables require players to be in close proximity, again, relying on the caution and sound statistical reasoning of people who throw their life's savings into pseudorandom-number generators.

(Image: Las Vegas Guy, CC BY-SA)

You are wrong about CDA 230 (permalink)

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is probably the worst-understood – and most important – internet regulations, and the confusion's only gotten worse since Trump signed a legally incoherent executive order purporting to reform it.

Under CDA 230, responsibility for bad speech acts (libel, obscenity, etc) rests on the speaker, not the host. FB isn't legally responsible for what its users post, but it IS responsible for what its employees and execs post.

A bunch of well-meaning people who hate things that I hate – racism, harassment, etc – have been calling for CDA 230 reform to fight this. I think they're well-intentioned, but dangerously wrong.

Big Tech is terrible at moderation. Forcing them to do more will not make them better at it. Instead, we'll get more kangaroo courts, powerful people who hire moderation-policy experts can silence their victims while harassing them with impunity.

Right on cue, far-right assholes have weaponized the right's victim-complex to join forces with progressives who want to dismantle CDA 230, in a bid to force a "fairness doctrine" on tech companies that will favor whoever has the most resources.

I get exhausted just thinking about this stupid, stupid stuff. But one person who's been absolutely rock-solid in handing out fact-based rebuttals to it is Mike Masnick.

Now, he's posted "Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About Section 230 Of The Communications Decency Act," which breaks down every one of the bad arguments made by CDA 230 opponents.

(It's a riff on Ken White's canonical "Hello! You've Been Referred Here Because You're Wrong About The First Amendment.)

Here's the myths Masnick busts:

  • "Once a company like that starts moderating content, it's no longer a platform, but a publisher"

  • "Because of Section 230, websites have no incentive to moderate!"

  • "Section 230 is a massive gift to big tech!"

  • "A site that has political bias is not neutral, and thus loses its Section 230 protections"

  • "Section 230 requires all moderation to be in 'good faith' and this moderation is 'biased' so you don't get 230 protections"

  • "Section 230 is why there's hate speech online…"

  • "Section 230 means these companies can never be sued!"

  • "Section 230 is a get out of jail card for websites!"

  • "Section 230 is why there's piracy online"

  • "Section 230 gives websites blanket immunity!"

  • "Section 230 is why big internet companies are so big!"

  • "Section 230 was designed to encourage websites to be neutral common carriers"

  • "If all this stuff is actually protected by the 1st Amendment, then we can just get rid of Section 230"

Look, I get why you might have heard someone say this stuff and assumed they were right. Normally, reading statutes is a hard slog and we have to rely on experts to interpret the laws for us.

But while there's a lot of caselaw around CDA 230 (Masnick's got links), the actual statute is remarkably short, punchy and clear. You can and should read it for yourself, especially if you're going to opine about what it means.

This day in history (permalink)

#15yrsago Dianne Feinstein on the Broadcast Flag: Idiot or liar?

#10yrago Young people, risky behavior and the net: the facts

#10yrsago Regwall cuts The Times's online readership in half

#10yrago EU secretly pushing to put kids in jail for sharing music: ACTA leak

#10yrsago Canada's Heritage Minister caught covering up "radical extremists" slur

#5yrsago Not just Germany: the NSA has been spying on France's leaders since at least 1995

#1yrago America's super-rich write to Democratic presidential hopefuls, demanding a wealth tax

#1yrago You can't recycle your way out of climate change

#1yrago Lessons from Microsoft's antitrust adventure for today's Big Tech giants

#1yrago US election security: still a dumpster fire

#1yrago Mandatory childbirth: how the anti-abortion crusade masks cruelty to women in the "sacralizing of fetuses"

#1yrago The internet has become a "low-trust society"

#1yrago "PM for a day": dissident Tories plan to bring down the government the day after Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources: Slashdot (, Naked Capitalism (, Four Short Links (

Currently writing:

  • My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 596 words (30792 total).

  • A short story, "Making Hay," for MIT Tech Review. Yesterday's progress: 320 words (2932 total)

Currently reading: Goliath, Matt Stoller.

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