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Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Week At Techdirt

This week, we covered the fallout of FOSTA, which can be summarized as “nothing positive accomplished, plus dumb new rules at sites like Tumblr”. Both our winning comments on the insightful side came in response to people attacking this evaluation in various flawed ways. In first place, it’s Wyrm correcting an incorrect assertion about the impact on sex trafficking ads:

Trolling or just misunderstanding?

The article doesn’t attribute the raise in ads to FOSTA (ie “they raised because of FOSTA”), but notes that they still raised after FOSTA (ie “they raise despite FOSTA”). Hence, the law didn’t accomplish this objective and introduced a lot of other negative side effects (censorship, more difficult investigations, …) that were indeed attributed to this failure of a law.

It also points out that the supporters lie about the result both in effect (“raise” instead of “drop”) and cause (“it dropped because of FOSTA”, when the small-term drop that did occur happened before FOSTA).

I’ll pass on commenting the rest of the ridiculous rant.

In second place, it’s Stephen T. Stone with a lengthy refutation of those who would celebrate Tumblr’s sex ban:

Stephen T. Stone (profile), 5 Dec 2018 @ 11:19am
I always enjoy dismantling these little treatises—especially when they hit upon something I am intimately familiar with: sexual content in general and queer content in particular.

So what’s the “problem”? Less pornography?

Nudity, sexuality, and discussions thereof also fall under this ban. And since LGBT/queer content is, by nature of our wonderful society, damn near always seen as explicitly “sexual” in nature even if it were otherwise innocuous (e.g., a gay couple kissing), that content tends to get axed first.

Tumblr was a place where queer people could have frank discussions about their sexual orientations and gender identities with other queer people and not worry (too much) about being censored in some way. Queer artists of all kinds found an audience on Tumblr that they might not have found elsewhere before Tumblr became a thing, thanks in large part to Tumblr’s reblogging functionality. So yes, the ban on mature/“NSFW”/“adult” content disproportionately affects queer people because it is their content that will likely be axed well before straight content of similar (or greater) levels of sexual activity. This whole situation goes beyond mere “pornography”; if you were more interested in growing your perspective of the world instead of trying (and failing) to make yourself seem like a superior person, you might understand that.

prostitutes are hampered and even endangered by FOSTA, with clear implication that open solicitation should be permitted

Oh, a diversion into something else? Okay, I got time to kill. So! Two things:

  1. Prostitutes who work for pimps and traffickers are explicitly endangered by FOSTA because FOSTA makes harder the job of finding those pimps and traffickers.
  2. If an adult willingly wants to exchange sex for cash, I fail to see the issue.

Several pieces bewailing that convictions for downloading child pornography gained under a warrant should be thrown out because of a mere Court Rule that hadn’t been updated for the internet where actual location of downloader cannot be known in advance.

Yeah, you’re gonna have to provide links for that, because you’re either pulling shit out of your ass or exceedingly simplifying things so as to remove important context and make yourself sound superior.

Many other pieces wanting convictions of drug dealers thrown out on sheerly technical grounds, with underlying premise that the law is to protect the known guilty. Similarly, pieces cheering when such convictions are overturned on technicality.

Drug dealers are not inhuman monsters that we can lock up without trials, regardless of whether you want to believe that. They are people—and so long as we have laws that protect the rights of the people, those drug dealers are afforded both the presumption of innocence before they enter a courtroom and the same protections that the law affords to everyone else. You might wish to suspend their rights for the sake of putting them in prison; the courts, however, will not abide by your unconstitutional actions.

After the riot at Trump Inauguration causing much property destruction, with apparent organizing in advance, you resisted Facebook being required to provide evidence of what persons of own free will had published to the entire world.

What Techdirt resisted was an overreach by prosecutors to discover evidence that had nothing to do with convicting people of a crime and everything to do with finding more people to arrest on trumped-up charges because they happened to be at the protest at the same time as said destruction of property. (Also you should be happy that only property was destroyed. A car can be replaced; a human life cannot.)

According to your corporatist assertions elsewhere, Tumblr is fully within its “rights” to so manage its “platform”. You claim that “platforms” can deny access for their own definitions of “hate speech”, BUT YOU COMPLAIN when what’s forbidden is well within traditional limitations, widely accepted as “not safe for work”.

And here…we…go.

Verizon is fully within its rights to manage Tumblr however it sees fit. (Reminder that Yahoo bought Tumblr and Verizon bought Yahoo. Verizon owns Tumblr as a result. Ha Ha! Corporate vore.) Their decisions, however, can be criticized by anyone—including the very userbase that would be alienated by those decisions.

For the past few years, Tumblr had several problems. The porn bot issue aside, it also had issues with refusals to mitigate on-site harassment, rampant spreading of White nationalist/Nazi propaganda, and—yes—the child pornography problem. Tumblr management chose to sidestep all those issues until circumstances forced their hand into addressing them, then it chose to use a supposedly one-size-fits-all solution in banning “NSFW” content and declaring that to be nothing but pornography, then it enacted a shitty filter that tagged completely innocuous images as “NSFW”. Never mind when it initially removed “sensitive” content from its search results and “accidentally” targeted LGBT/queer content as a result (e.g., searching for “queer” bringing up few-to-no results).

While I understand the desire to knock pornography off the platform—high-end corporate advertisers don’t like their products appearing next to “female-presenting nipples” and all—I also understand that the “NSFW” designation (or any substitute or variation thereof) is also used to stifle legitimate conversations and information about sexuality, including educational content. It also makes creating works that either include or focus on sex much harder to share (let alone monetize). And that presents an issue for adults who want to create/experience these works, because it drives them off major platforms like Tumblr (and Twitter and Livejournal…) and back into smaller, more marginalized platforms where they cannot find/be an audience for such works.

Tumblr has every right to ban pornography, nudity, and talk of sexuality. Those of us with an ounce of goddamn sense recognize and understand this. But that does not mean we agree with the decision to do so—not if it means “hate speech” goes unpunished because it does not cross any boundaries into “NSFW” territory on first glance, and especially if queer content is the first (and possibly primary) target for the filters. We will criticize this decision for being heavy-handed, short-sighted corporate bullshit that is going to kill Tumblr faster than the spambots and the App Store lockout ever would have.

If you do not like our criticisms, well…join Tumblr and whine about it there. Come December 17th, you’ll have plenty of yelling space where all the people who were on the service used to be!

For editor’s choice on the insightful side, first we’ve got Steven with a reminder about the constitutional basis of copyright:

“To promote the progress of science and useful arts…”

As in the purpose of copyright is to promote progress as a benefit to society. It is not for the purpose of lining the pockets of large companies who leach off the creative works of others.

Next, we’ve got Gwiz with a response to the false dichotomy of copyright holders versus the public:

You do realize that pretty much everyone is a copyright holder in the US, right? Please explain why only some copyright holders should have a say.

Also, this is a public matter that impacts the public. Are you really saying something along the lines of: “You drink alcohol, so you should have no say concerning drunk driving laws.”? Because if you are, that is simply plum dumb.

Over on the funny side, for first place we head back to last week’s comment post, where the conversation about turning comment Markdown on by default (we’re going to do so soon!) continued with David clarifying the fact that we retired the option of HTML formatting:

I always assumed that HTML was no longer supported with the markdown ox checked, but is supported with it unchecked. Was I wrong in this?


In second place, our winner is mcinsand with thoughts on Twitter’s response to Rudy Giuliani’s hilarious URL fail:

Perhaps Twitter’s statement could get a little modification at the end:

“This incident shows how difficult it is to make software idiot-proof, especially when facing idiocy of this magnitude.”

One commenter on that post accused us of being petty and nitpicking over nothing, asking if we’d also harangue an official for “improper use of an Oxford comma”. Our first editor’s choice on the funny side is an excellent anonymous response:

Sure, if the person using an Oxford comma incorrectly is the Presidential Advisor on grammar, runs a grammar consulting firm, and goes on a laughable, false, conspiratorial rant about how Microsoft Word grammar check is out to get him.

Finally, with winter settling in up here in Toronto, I sympathize with this anonymous commenter who opted to strategically schedule their rage over ICE/CBP’s constitution-free zone in America:

Well given the time of year, I will allow ICE to dominate Buffalo. Come spring though, we will see how long ICE stays around.

That’s all for this week, folks!

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Author: Leigh Beadon

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