Here’s a new game we can all play. The rules are simple: Log out from YouTube and clear your cookies, so you’re viewing the site as some anonymous person it knows nothing about. Go to the front page, and pick a totally innocuous video from its recommendations. Clicking only on recommended videos in the sidebar on the right, see how quickly you can get steered to either white nationalism, or mad conspiracy theories.
Right now there are a bunch of competing proposals for how to create a universal healthcare system for the USA. People are starting to talk about which 2020 candidates support which schemes, and who to support in the Democratic primaries based on that information. In particular, Beto O’Rourke has been criticized for not backing Medicare for All, and instead backing a scheme called Medicare for America. Based on my experience of UK public and private healthcare, and US HMOs and other health insurance, I have some strong opinions about what a good healthcare system should look like.
In recent articles I’ve talked about what’s wrong with social networking and some ways I think we might improve it. This week I saw a Twitter thread about a Facebook group with a few hundred members that was being used to organize harassment campaigns. Then came the news that private Facebook groups were spreading the conspiracy theory that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in a coma, or even dead and being replaced with an impostor.
In the previous article I talked about some of the history of social media, and identified 14 pervasive problems of today’s online social networks: Addiction to social media Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) and the negative psychological consequences Pervasive annoying advertising Privacy invasion to justify advertising spend and allow microtargeting Spread of extremism through engagement maximization Spread of propaganda through microtargeting Funding of extremism through automated advertising
The Internet sucks. This is something that pretty much everyone seems to agree on to some extent. Somewhere along the way, things went seriously awry. The result has been a series of news stories of the Internet’s impact on the real world that are hard to distinguish from the dystopian nightmares of science fiction.v Social media has been a big part of many of these nightmares. WhatsApp triggering lynchings in India.
A while back I realized that I spent most of my time listening to music on my desktop speakers while working. The speakers were an old system from Cambridge Soundworks, a local company back when I lived in Cambridge MA. The company had been founded by Henry Kloss, an audio engineer who had also founded KLH and Acoustic Research. Their business model had been midrange to high quality at bargain prices via direct sales, until Kloss died and the assets were bought up by Creative Technology for use in PC speakers.
October 22, Houston Chronicle: Two Harris County judges accounted for more than one-fifth of all children sent to the state’s juvenile prisons last year, driving up the county’s Texas Juvenile Justice Department commitments even as those figures fall in the rest of the state. The two courts — overseen by Judges Glenn Devlin and John Phillips — not only sent more teens to juvenile prison, but they also sent them younger and for less-serious offenses than the county’s third juvenile court, where Judge Mike Schneider presides.
So, Google+ is being eliminated. It was already in benign neglect mode, but they found a massive privacy hole, and rather than fix that they’re just going to shut the whole thing down. To revisit, Google products I used until they killed them: Reader Notebook Health Desktop Plus Android (for tablets) Inbox Messenger Latitude Google products I’ve abandoned this year: Gmail Sheets Docs Contacts Search Hell of a way to get customer loyalty.
Last week I went back to using an IMAP client. Google had decided to eliminate Inbox after coaxing me into completely reworking how I handle mail. Gmail’s web UI isn’t a reasonable alternative, so I went back to IMAP. Lesson learned, no more new Google products for me. But as I was adjusting to that, it emerged that Google had done something far worse. I’m a pretty cynical person, and when it leaked out earlier this summer that Google was going to launch a censored search engine for China, it didn’t surprise me.
An article has been doing the rounds suggesting that Signal is closed for selfish reasons and suggesting that it can’t be trusted. The article carefully omits any mention of the reasons why Signal is the way it is, so here are those reasons. Signal is a closed system because of its focus on (a) user experience and (b) security for ordinary users. First, user experience. If you want people to use your secure messaging app rather than whatever comes with their phone, it has to use push messaging in order to receive messages without the app running and without draining the user’s phone battery.