Archive for the ‘US News’ Category

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donald trumpPresident Donald Trump took to Twitter to complain that social media companies are discriminating against prominent conservatives, saying we won’t let that happen. He tweeted:

Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices. Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won’t let that happen. They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others.

…..Censorship is a very dangerous thing & absolutely impossible to police. If you are weeding out Fake News, there is nothing so Fake as CNN & MSNBC, & yet I do not ask that their sick behavior be removed. I get used to it and watch with a grain of salt, or don’t watch at all.

The president later added:

….Too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad, and that cannot be allowed to happen. Who is making the choices, because I can already tell you that too many mistakes are being made. Let everybody participate, good & bad, and we will all just have to figure it out!

Trump in July said his administration will look into the practice of shadow banning on Twitter, or reducing the visibility of certain people or groups on the platform, which he alleged was happening to prominent conservative voices.

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eighth grade posterEighth Grade is a 2018 USA comedy by Bo Burnham.
Starring Elsie Fisher, Josh Hamilton and Emily Robinson. IMDb

An introverted teenage girl tries to survive the last week of her disastrous eighth grade year before leaving to start high school.

Eight Grade is a US film aimed at 8th graders but its 8th grade strong language has resulted in it being rated R by the MPAA. The R rating means that with graders cannot see the film at theatres unless accompanied by their parents.

The film makers from A24 Studio are not impressed by their target audience being disallowed so organised nationwide screenings where the R rating was not enforced (age restrictions are legally voluntary n the US). 50 no-rating-enforced screenings were organised on August 8. The studio partnered with one theater in every state across America for the screenings.

But US moralist campaigners were not happy. The Parents Television Council called on the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to hold the A24 Studio accountable for those under 17s admitted without a parent. PTC President Tim Winter whinged:

Subjective declarations such as the one by A24 — that some content is ‘too important’ to be labeled in accordance with the standards set forth by the MPAA and understood, trusted and relied upon by parents — undermine and negate the entire purpose of having the content rating system in the first place. In this instance, and based upon empirical data of this film’s content, the Hollywood studio at issue here is grotesquely and irresponsibly usurping parental authority. Either the standard means something or it means nothing. Those who are openly violating both the spirit and the letter of the age-based content ratings system for this publicity stunt should be held to account by the MPAA.

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us government logoThe US Federal Government is quietly meeting with top tech company representatives to develop a proposal to protect web users’ privacy amid the ongoing fallout globally of scandals that have rocked Facebook and other companies.Over the past month, the Commerce Department has met with representatives from Facebook and Google, along with Internet providers like AT&T and Comcast, and consumer advocates, sources told the Washington Post.

The goal of these meetings is to come up with a data privacy proposal at the federal level that could serve as a blueprint for Congress to pass sweeping legislation in the mode of the European Union GDPR. There are currently no laws that govern how tech companies harness and monetize US users’ data.

A total of 22 meetings with more than 80 companies have been held on this topic over the last month.

One official at the White House told the Post this week that recent developments have been seismic in the privacy policy world, prompting the government to discuss what a modern U.S. approach to privacy protection might look like.

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indianapolis metro police logoSupporters of the US internet censorship law FOSTA were supposedly attempting to target pimps and traffickers, but of course their target was the wider sex work industry. Hence they weren’t really interested in the warning that the law would make it harder to target pimps and sex traffickers as their activity would be driven off radar.Anyway it seems that the police at least have started to realise that the warning is coming true, but I don’t suppose this will bother the politicians much.

Over in Indianapolis, the police have just arrested their first pimp in 2018, and it involved an undercover cop being approached by the pimp. The reporter asks why there have been so few such arrests, and the police point the finger right at the shutdown of Backpage:

The cases, according to Sgt. John Daggy, an undercover officer with IMPD’s vice unit, have just dried up. The reason for that is pretty simple: the feds closed police’s best source of leads, the online personals site Backpage, earlier this year. Daggy explained:

We’ve been a little bit blinded lately because they shut Backpage down. I get the reasoning behind it, and the ethics behind it, however, it has blinded us. We used to look at Backpage as a trap for human traffickers and pimps.

With Backpage, we would subpoena the ads and it would tell a lot of the story. Also, with the ads we would catch our victim at a hotel room, which would give us a crime scene. There’s a ton of evidence at a crime scene. Now, since [Backpage] has gone down, we’re getting late reports of them and we don’t have much to go by.

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walkaway video A shock poll by Reuters/Ipsos reveals that the Democrats are shedding millennial votes, with support dropping by 9% since 2016. This shift is most pronounced among white millennial men, who now favour Republicans over Democrats by 11%.The Democratic Party seems to have adopted a rather toxic mix of identity politics and political correctness that blatantly sneers at white folk, especially men. So perhaps it is hardly surprising that the party has been losing support from white millennial men. But the party’s malaise seems more widespread than that, plenty from the minority communities are voicing their disquiet at being presented in a permanent state of victimhood, especially as the previous administration didn’t actually do anything to help them break out from such a state.

Anyway a passionate and eloquent YouTube video by Brandon Straka seems to have inspired a movement to #WalkAway from the Democratic Party. Straka notes of his original reason for aligning with the Democratic Party was his belief in free speech and equality for all. And then insightfully notes that as the party lurches towards identity politics and authoritarianism, then he cites exactly the same reason for walking away.

I suspect that Donald Trump has changed politics around the world for a few years yet to come. You may, or may not, agree with his policies, but he has been seen to be going out on a limb to do something positive for his electors. Maybe it is no longer enough for other parties just to utter fine words, and do little more. People now expect their representatives to do something that actually helps.

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pied piper
What is the mysterious hold that US Big Music has over Euro politicians?

Article 13, the proposed EU legislation that aims to restrict safe harbors for online platforms, was crafted to end the so-called “Value Gap” on YouTube.

Music piracy was traditionally viewed as an easy to identify problem, one that takes place on illegal sites or via largely uncontrollable peer-to-peer networks. In recent years, however, the lines have been blurred.

Sites like YouTube allow anyone to upload potentially infringing content which is then made available to the public. Under the safe harbor provisions of US and EU law, this remains legal — provided YouTube takes content down when told to do so. It complies constantly but there’s always more to do.

This means that in addition to being one of the greatest legal platforms ever created, YouTube is also a goldmine of unlicensed content, something unacceptable to the music industry.

They argue that the existence of this pirate material devalues the licensed content on the platform. As a result, YouTube maintains a favorable bargaining position with the labels and the best licensing deal in the industry.

The difference between YouTube’s rates and those the industry would actually like is now known as the ” Value Gap ” and it’s become one of the hottest topics in recent years.

In fact, it is so controversial that new copyright legislation, currently weaving its way through the corridors of power in the EU Parliament, is specifically designed to address it.

If passed, Article 13 will require platforms like YouTube to pre-filter uploads to detect potential infringement. Indeed, the legislation may as well have been named the YouTube Act, since it’s the platform that provoked this entire debate and whole Value Gap dispute.

With that in mind, it’s of interest to consider the words of YouTube’s global head of music Lyor Cohen this week. In an interview with MusicWeek , Cohen pledges that his company’s new music service, YouTube Music, will not only match the rates the industry achieves from Apple Music and Spotify, but the company’s ad-supported free tier viewers will soon be delivering more cash to the labels too.  “Of course [rights holders are] going to get more money,” he told Music Week.

If YouTube lives up to its pledge, a level playing field will not only be welcomed by the music industry but also YouTube competitors such as Spotify, who currently offer a free tier on less favorable terms.

While there’s still plenty of room for YouTube to maneuver, peace breaking out with the labels may be coming a little too late for those deeply concerned about the implications of Article 13.

YouTube’s business model and its reluctance to pay full market rate for music is what started the whole Article 13 movement in the first place and with the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliament (JURI) adopting the proposals last week , time is running out to have them overturned.

Behind the scenes, however, the labels and their associates are going flat out to ensure that Article 13 passes, whether YouTube decides to “play fair” or not. Their language suggests that force is the best negotiating tactic with the distribution giant.

Yesterday, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher led a delegation to the EU Parliament in support of Article 13. He was joined by deputy Labour leader Tom Watson and representatives from the BPI, PRS, and Music Publishers Association, who urged MEPs to support the changes.

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us congressDemocrats in the United States House of Representatives have gathered 90 of the 218 signatures they’ll need to force a vote on whether or not to roll back net neutrality rules, while Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai has already predicted that the House effort will fail and large telecommunications companies publicly expressed their anger at last Wednesday’s Senate vote to keep the Obama-era open internet rules in place.Led by Pai, a Donald Trump appointee, the FCC voted 3-2 along party lines in December to scrap the net neutrality regulations, effectively creating an internet landscape dominated by whichever companies can pay the most to get into the online fast lane.

Telecommunications companies could also choose to block some sites simply based on their content, a threat to which the online porn industry would be especially vulnerable, after five states have either passed or are considering legislation labeling porn a public health hazard.

While the House Republican leadership has taken the position that the net neutrality issue should not even come to a vote, on May 17 Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle introduced a discharge petition that would force the issue to the House floor. A discharge petition needs 218 signatures of House members to succeed in forcing the vote. As of Monday morning, May 21, Doyle’s petition had received 90 signatures . The effort would need all 193 House Democrats plus 25 Republicans to sign on, in order to bring the net neutrality rollback to the House floor.