Sunday, August 30, 2015

Trolling is an Addiction

Hate on the internet has been dominated by hate websites from neo-Nazis, the  KKK, conspiracy crazies and other intolerant and racist groups.   Many of those groups and websites are still there, but there has been an increasing trend and problem with trolls, snipers and individual haters.  

People troll and post hate online for any number of reasons; revenge, frustration, anger, emotional problems or just experimentation.  But like drug abuse, there is a trap. There is a thrill, and for some people, satisfaction.  I am not a medical professional, but some quick research shows a number of well credited articles regarding correlation in brain and body chemistry to thrill seeking and drug use.  

The behavioral similarities to the cycle of addiction and dependency are hard to dismiss casually. .

Merriam-Webster (the dictionary) defines addiction as, “compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly :  persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.”

There are numerous stories where unmasked trolls tell  how they couldn’t stop, knew they were doing something wrong and hurtful, and if caught, acknowledged it would be disastrous.  Some have even committed suicide after being discovered.

Not everyone who uses or abuses drugs becomes addicted.  However, why would someone risk everything to post nasty comments on the Internet that they know are not just hurtful to others but ultimately self-destructive? Addiction seems a reasonable candidate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Who Controls Your Search?

It all starts with The Right to be Forgotten (RTBF).  Do you know the RTBF?  You really should. It may soon change the Internet.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name gave links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home. As a result, Internet companies in Europe can be made to remove irrelevant or excessive personal information from search engine results regardless of what is true or actually appears on the Internet.

RTBF is one of those ideas that starts out sounding good in principle, but turns bad in practice.  
The content which search engines are forced to delist is still on the Internet. It is potentially listed in other search engines, just absent from Google. RTBF does not compel the website where the content actually resides to remove the source of the problem. The users whose information is posted are the ones who specify what is to come down. There is a review panel, but there are no published rules on what will and won’t be removed. RTBF only applies to individuals, not ethnic, religious or social groups. Lastly, RTBF is a regional law; it impacts search engine listings in countries where that law prevails. 

 In a borderless medium like the Internet, RTBF is unenforceable. It became law anyway. 

Internet Extraterritoriality

It didn't take long for people and governments to figure out that RTBF was easily circumvented.  If you live in a RTBF country, you can use a proxy to access a search engine from a non-RTBF country.  All the content delisted under RTFB is then visible. The ultimate weakness of such a law is revealed.  

France has now demanded that Google apply RTBF removal to a global level.  Follow that? France wants an EU law to determine what you can find on Google in the US. 

Google has declined to comply. 

A showdown is in the making.  France has threatened legal action and sanctions.  Remember that France and other countries have the ability to block Google, search engine and all.  A very potent weapon. 

If France wins, the Internet loses and so do we.  

If France loses – well,  let’s wait and see.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Evils Can Be Created Much Quicker Than They Can Be Cured. – Winston Churchill 1952

 I see the worst of the internet every day. I have come to think of hate as a physical thing. It has breadth – how many issues it covers, how many different hates.  It has depth – hate can be animosity or homicidal and it has height, magnitude – how far, how many platforms, people and apps does it infest.

 I have become convinced, in a sci-fi way, that it has  tiny  eyes and ears (hate does not care to listen or see much), has a huge mouth (loud and all consuming), many clawed yet short arms (grabbing slashing) and many legs (hate moves fast). 

 Hate is a monster that can operate as a unit or individually – one big foe, a bunch of little adversaries or a coordinated infantry. 

Opposing hate is a war of attrition. To oppose hate you need to know hate, understand hate, recognize hate. I have seen many haters come and go.  Hate weakens the hearts and minds of its proponents. Luckily, the last one standing wins. As long as we keep fighting, there’s a good chance we’re going to be OK.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Apologies To My Daughter And Her Friends

Apologies to my daughter and her friends - the internet is not all new and shiny – I wish it was.

My daughter used to get really aggravated when I would point out that her favorite video or song was actually a remake of something older. If I even implied that Disney and others took some creative license with classic stories to make new movies, the reaction could be volcanic. 

As a teenager my daughter is exposed to some very powerful online evil.  These too are a variation on old hateful patterns. Technology has given the Hydra a few more heads, but it is mostly more of the same nastiness, and not so much new.

Updated monsters from our past stalk the internet:

Dorian Gray, whose destructive behavior eats away at him as much as everyone around him.

Dracula with a hunger for draining the life essence from its victims in order feel alive.

Lawrence Talbot who, uncontrollably, changes into a wolf which is compelled to destroy all the man himself loves.

Dr. Jekyll; A brilliant scientist who becomes dependent on an evil self he has created through the best intentions. 

And Frankenstein, who becomes whole from an imperfect amalgamation of components, yet never feels complete or belonging.  

There are many more examples from more recent human and social reflections in movies, books and made for TV videos. There is the string of other-worldly badness and I could go for pages about Steven King, HP Lovecraft and other devotees of our collective darkness. The Thing, IT, The Blob; some things shouldn’t be embraced or they change you. 

It is all there.  The blueprint we have taken and modernized. What is new are the ways we have found to bring hate into sharper focus and push it into our neighbor’s faces louder and more frequently than ever. New messaging, not new messages. 

Our intellectual, cultural, creative and social history has taught the evil and hateful how to do their worst. Our parables tell us, in every case, the only way to win is by confronting the monster. Apologies to my daughter and her friends – we have not got it right yet. It looks like we will be leaving you a lot of work to do.