Tales from the Net

a work in progress

Friday, February 29, 2008

Computers, Freedom, and Privacy 2008: call for proposals is up!

CFP banner

From the CFP2008 web page:

This election year will be the first to address US technology policy in the information age as part of our national debate. Candidates have put forth positions about technology policy and have recognized that it has its own set of economic, political, and social concerns. In the areas of privacy, intellectual property, cybersecurity, telecommunications, and freedom of speech, an increasing number of issues once confined to experts now penetrate public conversation. Our decisions about technology policy are being made at a time when the architectures of our information and communication technologies are still being built. Debate about these issues needs to be better-informed in order for us to make policy choices in the public interest.

This year, the 18th annual Computers, Freedom, and Privacy conference will focus on what constitutes technology policy. CFP: Technology Policy ’08 is an opportunity to help shape public debate on those issues being made into laws and regulations and those technological infrastructures being developed. The direction of our technology policy impacts the choices we make about our national defense, our civil liberties during wartime, the future of American education, our national healthcare systems, and many other realms of policy discussed more prominently on the election trail. Policies ranging from data mining and wiretapping, to file-sharing and open access, and e-voting to electronic medical records will be addressed by expert panels of technologists, policymakers, business leaders, and advocates.


posted by Jon at 9:45 am  

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Bill Gates moves from Facebook to LinkedIn

Brad Stone has the story in the New York Times:

Earlier this month, the Microsoft co-founder reportedly deleted his Facebook page after receiving thousands of friend requests and becoming unnerved by some strange fan groups on the site.

Now Mr. Gates, who apparently has a little bit of free time on his hands these days as he transitions out of his day-to-day role at Microsoft, has popped up on the social network Linkedin. Mr. Gates has a paltry three connections on the professional networking service now, but on Thursday he is announcing his presence by posing a question to the LinkedIn community: “How can we do more to encourage young people to pursue careers in science and technology?”

Mr. Gates’ appearance presents something of a marketing opportunity for the Mountain View, Calif., social network.

No, ya think?  Microsoft very sensibly bought a bunch of ads on LinkedIn timed for Gates’ debut, but of course the much larger value for LinkedIn is supporting their message of a site for successful professionals.  If Gates finds time even sporadically to participate in discussions, what a huge pull that will be (a potential chance to interact with Bill Gates!); even if not, it’s still huge for LinkedIn that he’s hanging out there.

And it’s certainly very Bill-like to start out with an excellent question, one relevant both to Microsoft and the Gates Foundation — and a lot of other people on LinkedIn as well.  Still, it’s a little strange to me: wouldn’t it make more sense to ask the same question on Facebook or MySpace, where — unlike LinkedIn — there are actually a lot of real live young people?

posted by Jon at 8:12 am  

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to respond when Facebook censors your political speech: Part 1

Cross-posted on the Wired How-To Wiki.

Several now-deleted threads on public Facebook discussion groups, including Is anybody else getting spam warnings? and Everytime I post something here I get a “WARNING” from facebook.com discuss how Facebook’s automated filters mistake political speech for spam. When you trigger these automated filters, the system starts issuing repeated warning messages when you send messages, post on discussion boards, or write on walls:

Facebook warning: your account could be disabled

It’s really intimidating when this happens — as I found out first hand, especially once I started warnings continuously, even for checking my messages. And labor activists Derek and MiniMSFT, Hillary Clinton supporter Joanna, and Barack Obama supporters AJ and “deleted” (the now-anonymous deleted poster from one of the above threads), along with many others (1, 2, 3) have discovered that it’s not an idle threat.  Accounts are sometimes disabled, often with very little notice.

Facebook’s ‘Warning – Blocked from Using Feature’ page isn’t a lot of help. Basically, it

  • establishes the power vectors: “Facebook has determined that you were using a feature at a rate that is likely to be abusive”
  • lets you know you are in a Kafkaesque universe: “Unfortunately, Facebook cannot provide any specifics on the rate limits that we enforce. “
  • asserts omniscience: “Please know, however, that the speed at which you are acting and the sheer number of actions you have made are both taken into account”
  • reminds you that have no rights: “The duration of the block varies depending on the nature of the offense, ranging from a few hours to a few days…. Facebook will not lift this block for you until the entire penalty time has elapsed”)
  • and takes the opportunity to advertise:: “As a recommended alternative, we suggest you check out the Facebook Application Directory”.

Hopefully these threads-in-progress will be somewhat more useful.

In practice, things aren’t anywhere near as grim as Facebook paints them. When you trigger a warning, there are some simple steps to that usually keep things from getting worse, and protect you in case they do. And even in the worst case, most of the people who have had their accounts disabled have had them reinstated. Read on for more about Facebook’s automated filters; and see part 2 for What to do when you start getting warnings and What to do if your account gets deactivated.


posted by Jon at 11:33 am  

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

How to respond when Facebook censors your political speech: Part 2, what to do

Continued from part 1, which gave a bunch of examples and described Facebook’s automated filters. This post has two main sections: What to do when you start getting warnings and What to do if your account gets deactivated.

Cross-posted on the Wired How-To Wiki.


posted by Jon at 11:32 am  

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