We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Swatted by Siri

“How a personal trainer’s smart watch caused 15 armed police officers to turn up to his Sydney gym while he was teaching a client”Daily Mail.

Apparently, Jaime Alleyne, who is a a Muay Thai and boxing trainer, called out “one, one, two” followed by “good shot” to a client he was sparring with. He was not wearing his smart watch but it was still active – and 112 is one of the Australian emergency phone numbers. Mr Alleyne said, “Next minute about 15 officers including undercovers showed up, with several ambulances parked out the front, and that’s when I started bricking myself.”

He would have had no need to fear an over-zealous response from the UK emergency services. They would still be waiting for a risk assessment.

Let’s make Nicola Sturgeon the content moderator for the entire UK!

I received this email from the estimable Free Speech Union the other day. So far as I can tell, it is not available as an article on their website. It should be. (UPDATE: Fear not, the FSU are getting the word out. Go to “The Critic” for a very slightly different version. Hat tip to David Norman, who pointed out a shorter version at the “Daily Sceptic”.)

Yesterday brought news that the Government is due to remove the ‘legal but harmful’ clause from the Online Safety Bill, a major victory for all the free speech groups that have been campaigning for this, including the FSU (i, Sun, Guido Fawkes). As Fraser Nelson points out in the Spectator, Rishi Sunak and Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan deserve credit for having made good on their pledges to look at this clause again.

However, the battle is not over. As FSU General Secretary Toby Young makes clear in today’s Telegraph, there’s a little-known flaw in the Bill that risks making Nicola Sturgeon the content moderator for the whole of the UK.

The FSU highlighted this flaw in discussions with Chris Philp, then the Digital Minister, earlier this year. The definition of illegal content in clause 52 (12) of the bill states that the content social media platforms will have a legal duty to remove in every part of the UK will be content that’s illegal in any part of the UK (“offence means any offence under the law of any part of the United Kingdom”). Failure to remove such content could result in those platforms being fined up to 10% of their annual global turnover.

The obvious difficulty with that is it means the big social media companies like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter would have to remove something it’s unlawful to say in Scotland in every part of the UK — hence the claim that the Bill will effectively appoint Nicola Sturgeon as content moderator for the entire population.

That’s particularly concerning given that last year Scotland’s Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent. Among other things, this “authoritarian mess” of an Act (as the FSU’s Scottish Advisory Council member Jamie Gillies describes it for Spiked) makes it a criminal offence, punishable by up to seven years in prison, for a person to behave in a threatening or abusive manner or to communicate material considered threatening or abusive to another person with the intention of “stirring up hatred” against people on the grounds of: age; disability, religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity, or variations in sex characteristics (intersex).

In effect, if a feminist says in Scotland that she doesn’t think transwomen are women, she could be prosecuted for stirring up hatred. And because of the clause in the Online Safety Bill that states that “offence means any offence under the law or any part of the United Kingdom”, the big social media platforms would also then have to remove any such content across the whole of the UK.

The article went on to say that the Government had made at least some attempt to close this loophole by introducing an amendment. The text of the amendment left me baffled, but it seemed to be well-intentioned. But we are not out of the woods yet:

The amendment is still unsatisfactory, however, because it creates a loophole whereby a future minority Labour Government, knowing it wouldn’t get some draconian new anti-free speech law through the House of Commons, could simply approve that law after it’s been passed by Nicola Sturgeon’s devolved government in Holyrood.

Where the birds do not fly free

“The bird is freed”, says Elon Musk after buying Twitter.

“In Europe, the bird will fly by our 🇪🇺 rules”, replies Thierry Breton, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market.

Mahsa Amini was beaten to death by the Iranian hijab police. Guess what Twitter did next.

Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested by the morality police for having an improperly adjusted hijab. Witnesses say that she was beaten in the police van. Her relatives published pictures of her lying in a coma in intensive care. They wanted the world to know what had been done to her. She never woke from that coma.

Anything a social media company might do pales in comparison to the evil of beating a woman to death because she did not cover her hair in the approved way – but what Twitter did next is still worth noting.

Vahid Yücesoy reports,

I’ve just spoken to @AlinejadMasih. @Twitter chose to suspend her account because she shared the picture of #MahsaAmini, 22-year-old Iranian girl in coma after she was severely beaten by the hijab police and later died.

Alinejad Masih’s post was mass-reported by supporters and hirelings of the Iranian regime. The grounds for suspension of her account were that she had included an image of “graphic violence” in her tweet. The fact that it was a true image of Iranian government brutality that Mahsa Amini’s family wanted the world to see was ignored. This is how a system of pre-emptive censorship inevitably works.

(Via Jim Treacher.)

I read it as “digital collar”

From the White House website:

President Biden often summarizes his vision for America in one word: Possibilities. A “digital dollar” may seem far-fetched, but modern technology could make it a real possibility.

A United States central bank digital currency (CBDC) would be a digital form of the U.S. dollar. While the U.S. has not yet decided whether it will pursue a CBDC, the U.S. has been closely examining the implications of, and options for, issuing a CBDC. If the U.S. pursued a CBDC, there could be many possible benefits, such as facilitating efficient and low-cost transactions, fostering greater access to the financial system, boosting economic growth, and supporting the continued centrality of the U.S. within the international financial system. However, a U.S. CBDC could also introduce a variety of risks, as it might affect everything ranging from the stability of the financial system to the protection of sensitive data.

To be fair, these remarks by Dr. Alondra Nelson, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Alexander Macgillivray, Principal Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer, and Nik Marda, Policy Advisor do acknowledge the existence of risks:

For example, these objectives state that a U.S. CBDC system should expand equitable access to the financial system, preserve the role of physical cash, and only collect data that is strictly necessary.

Given the record of the FBI, the CIA and the NSA, I would put very little faith in their definition of “strictly necessary” as a shield against the US government spying on its citizens.

First there was #GamerGate and then there was #NAFO

I have written here about the #GamerGate phenomenon before, which was a series of rolling online flash mobs, events and activist commentary mostly doing its thing circa 2014-16. This was kicked off by something specific but quickly evolved into a far wider reaching grassroots pushback against rampant corruption, collusion and ever more woke politicisation in games ‘journalism’ and indeed games themselves.

Naturally the gaming press harrumphed with indignation, howling that GamerGater was an unconscionable harassment campaign; its largely nameless supporters all racist/sexist/homophobic. And much to their shock it didn’t work. GamerGaters ridiculed their evolving official narratives. And to the PR wonks working for MSM publications and their assorted vassals, none of it made any sense, which is why they still make sure the preposterous Wikipedia entry conforms to the official narratives (i.e. very little relation to reality). Too bad guys, you can’t bomb a hashtag.

GamerGate was something that drove (and still drives) many people insane, living rent free in their heads for years. Even now, the mere sight of GamerGate mascot Vivian James (video games, geddit?) can cause hilarity and rage in certain people.

Vivian James

Fast forward to 2022 and behold #NAFO: the North Atlantic Fellas Organisation.

And who are ‘the fellas’? A large and growing online pack of attack dogs countering, dare I say smothering, official Russian troll factory output, as well as other pro-Kremlin talking heads online. And their mascots are daft cartoon dogs (variations of a Shiba Inu to be precise). If journalistic collusion was a constant target of #GamerGate, the Russian troll farms are the modern analogy to that, constantly targeted and smothered by NAFO posting either pro-Ukrainian counter-narratives or just ridiculing or flagging up pro-Russian ones.

Many people, particularly those operating within institutions, don’t understand #NAFO for same reason PR departments of various video games companies & press outlets didn’t (and still don’t) understand #GamerGate.

Is #NAFO engaged in ‘information warfare‘? Absolutely. They even get a shout out from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence. But they are not managed out of an office in Langley, Virginia nor by some adjunct of the Ukrainian intelligence services. #NAFO is a hashtag, a phenomena, it isn’t “run” by anyone, because it doesn’t need to be. Like GamerGate, NAFO is a confluence of the motivated willing in every timezone on the planet.

And just as GamerGate had a single original trigger, which was then largely forgotten as the ‘movement’ grew and started attacking larger more juicy prey, NAFO started as a fund raising effort for the Georgian Legion (a now battalion sized unit of about 600 within the Ukrainian army made up mostly of Georgian volunteers). At blinding speed, NAFO rapidly morphed into a wider distributed online effort supporting Ukraine in the “information space”.

NAFO… daft, puerile, bonkers, pervasive. But it works.

“The media could not be played”, and that frightens me even more

The video embedded in this tweet from Laurence Fox apparently shows someone being arrested for tweeting. I cannot see the video, but the top comment says,

“Chap shares a post by @LozzaFox and the police arrest the chap, even though Laurence is actually stood there 👀

This is disgraceful. People upset by hurty words need to turn the Internet off and remember the old children’s rhyme – Sticks and Stones.”

Apparently the arrest had something to do with that meme that shows four LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flags (my goodness, “Newsround” has changed a lot since John Craven presented it) arranged so that the triangular inserts form a swastika. Fox’s Wikipedia entry says, “In June 2022 Fox tweeted an image of a swastika made from the LGBTQ+ Progress Pride flag with the caption ‘You can openly call the [Union Jack] a symbol of fa[s]cism and totalitarianism on Twatter. You cannot criticise the holy flags’. This led to him being temporarily suspended from Twitter for a day.”

This tweet from Richard Taylor of GB News may show the same video.

As you can probably tell, I am not at all sure what is going on. Is my inability to play the video censorship by Twitter, or just my old computer not being up to the job? Some accounts seem to imply that that the threatened arrest was not carried through, although that reassures me very little. As we have all seen, making the process the punishment has been a very successful way for the police to chill free speech while avoiding having to defend their actions in court.

Someone is banned/cancelled…

Someone is banned/cancelled, then someone else is banned/cancelled for talking about the person who was banned/cancelled…

Sic transit gloria mundi

Some thoughts on the Assange case

Julian Assange is on the verge (as he has been for ten years, but this time for real) of being extradited from the UK to the US. The question I ask is, has he done anything wrong?

If it were the case that he had supplied information that would have been useful to a hostile power then I would say hang the bastard. But that is not what the US government is accusing him of. The accusation is that he helped to steal the information. Now, if someone steals my stuff, I want them to have their hands cut off. Along with a few other appendages. But Assange “stole” information not stuff. And remember the US government is not claiming that that information would have been useful to a foreign power.

Which puts a rather different gloss on things. US government information is – if we are to take the US government’s own position seriously – owned by the US people. They have every right to see it. More or less. As well as military secrets there may be commercial contracts which – possibly – they don’t want to disclose. For instance, one of my frustrations in the UK was that you couldn’t inspect the contract of a Train Operating Company because it was deemed to be “commercially confidential”. Whatever, it doesn’t apply in this case.

So, it would appear that all Assange has done is to supply the US population with something it already owned and had every right to have.

Have I got that right?

Government love

“Tinder Wants Money. We Want Love. The Solution: Socialize Dating Apps”, writes Nick French in Jacobin magazine.

Really jump in

“Top Biden aide prods big tech to crack down on climate change misinformation”, Axios reports.

Gina McCarthy, President Biden’s top domestic climate adviser, said tech companies should do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information about climate change and clean energy.

Driving the news: “The tech companies have to stop allowing specific individuals over and over again to spread disinformation,” she told Axios’ Alexi McCammond at a virtual event that aired Thursday.

“We need the tech companies to really jump in,” McCarthy said.

Who is “we”?

And what the [fossil fuel] industry is now doing is seeding, basically, doubt about the costs associated with that and whether they work or not.”

Expressing doubt about the cost of a proposed government measure, and whether it will actually work as promised? How dare they! Such dangerous speculation cannot be allowed.

Hat tip: Iain Murray.