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Government 101.

It’s not like Congress would say “we want to regulate your data collection practices” and Facebook would say “hmm no we’d rather you didn’t” and Congress would say “okay you have good lawyers we give up.” Facebook’s main leverage against the FTC—“we don’t think we did anything wrong and if you insist on restricting our data collection we will see you in court”—just wouldn’t work to stop Congress from making a law, because it is irrelevant. Congress can make a law about data privacy even if no one has broken any previous laws. In fact that’s the best reason to make a law! “There is a bad thing that is happening, and there is no law against it, so we should make a law against it”: That is a perfectly sensible line of reasoning!

[…]

The idea of passing a law to ban bad stuff is not to give the FTC more power to negotiate stricter settlement conditions. The idea of passing a law to ban bad stuff is to ban the bad stuff. If Congress passed a law restricting social media companies’ data collection practices, then the FTC wouldn’t need to include those restrictions in a consent decree with Facebook, because those restrictions would be in the law. Facebook would be bound by them, not because it agreed to them, but because they would be the law. Twitter and Google and other yet-to-be-invented internet services would also be bound by them, even without agreeing to them, because they would be generally applicable national rules about internet privacy passed by the legislative body in the name of the people, rather than the product of negotiations with one company.

Matt Levine on the law.

It’s almost like there’s been half a century of a concerted effort towards getting the public to stop thinking about the government as a tool through which it may use its collective will to curb the excesses of multi-million-dollar corporations and instead replacing that with an arrangement whereby the entire legislative and executive branches of government are replaced by the judicial. I mean. Almost. You remember that thing about the GOP not letting Obama appoint a SCOTUS judge? It’s almost like this is exactly the reason why. Who needs the affect of a representative democracy when you can have a panel of life-appointed plutocrats running the country as a kritocracy where he who has the most expensive lawyers almost always by-default wins?

2019-12-18T09:52:56+11:008th January, 2020|Tags: government, politics, social media, tech|

Ecommerce is terrible.

This post about someone trying to help their elderly mother buy opera tickets—and navigate the UX nightmare that was stopping her—reminds me of the time my parents ending up changing their entire insurance provider because their old one’s website wouldn’t load at all with an adblocker enabled…

2019-09-11T10:13:25+10:007th January, 2020|Tags: tech, ux|

Sinking blue.

[A]ccording to its last investor slide deck and basic subtraction, Facebook is not growing anymore in the United States, with zero million new accounts in Q1 2019, and only four million new accounts since Q1 2017. That leaves the rest of the world, where Facebook is growing fastest “in India, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” according to Facebook CFO David Wehner. Wehner didn’t mention the fine print on page 18 of the slide deck, which highlights the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam as countries where there are “meaningfully higher” percentages of, and “episodic spikes” in, fake accounts. In other words, Facebook is growing the fastest in the locations worldwide where one finds the most fraud. In other other words, Facebook isn’t growing anymore at all—it’s shrinking. Even India, Indonesia and the Philippines don’t register as many searches for Facebook as they used to. Many of the “new” users on Instagram are actually old users from the core platform looking to escape the deluge of fakery.

Aaron Greenspan on Fakebook.

Also known as, “What happens to your unregulated market growth when you literally run out of physical market to grow in?”

See also: Late-stage capitalism.

2019-09-11T10:07:54+10:006th January, 2020|Tags: facebook, social media, tech|

Boiling over.

What we hear from companies like T— and F— and Y— is that monitoring communication at this scale, preventing that harm, is an unprecedented technical challenge.

That’s correct. However… no one asked for communication at this scale!

To be clear, it’s a challenge these companies designed for themselves; a challenge they enlarged through relentless, ingenious growth; a challenge they now invoke as if it’s some longstanding problem in fundamental physics.

Like heating a pot to a boil, then complaining the water’s too hot to drink 🤔

“What do we do about this scalding hot substance??” the operators of social media platforms exclaim… as the burners roar on their highest setting.

Here’s a simple solution:

Cool it down.

Robin Sloan on breakers.

My favorite part about this thread is that everyone who encounters it immediately seems to want to try and sign up for the service it’s “hosted” on…1

(Also: I take great objection to the “weird crow“… which is very obviously an Australian Raven and the most common type of corvid where I live!)

  1. Spoiler alert: it’s a static website. The essay is basically a found-object narrative made to look like a social media thread. []
2019-09-04T11:14:55+10:001st January, 2020|Tags: social media, tech|

Dork mode.

So after several unsuccessful months of trying to convince myself I’d “get used to it”, this article made me finally give up and turn off dark mode on my laptop.

It’s not even that I dislike dark themes per se—I use them in apps where it’s the native default, like Sublime Text and Discord and Mastodon and, hell, even Steam—it’s just OS-level “dark mode” always looks so bad holy shit. Not to mention I’m also definitely someone who’s always found dark-on-light easier to read than light-on-dark, especially for longer blocks of text. Apparently there’s a reason for that; I’m extremely astigmatic, which turns out to be the Core Contra-indicator for dark mode, so… go figure, I guess.

2019-09-04T10:07:15+10:0031st December, 2019|Tags: tech|