The Internet as an Identity-Multiplying Technology

When I saw that a friend had shared this years-old post about Facecebook founder Mark Zuckerberg‘s infamous remark that “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity,” I thought I’d chime in:

Actually, Zuckerberg’s is a common misunderstanding of telecommunications.

If you’ve done even a tiny bit of academic study on media you will have encountered McLuhan’s “The Medium Is the Massage,” which talks about the ways that many people “approach the new with the psychological conditioning and sensory responses of the old.” In other words, people treat the Internet like TV we can click on, just as they treated TV like radio we can see. This is obviously wrong, but it takes a lot of time for people as a demographic whole to approach new technological abilities in what we might call a “native” way. See, for instance, the entire discussion around “Digital natives,” of which I will note Zuckerberg is not.

What’s at issue in the “nymwars” (or “Real Names Policies”) is not integrity at all, but rather power and control. Namely, that of an authoritarian entity such as a government to have the power to legitimize what your identity is (your “real name”), and to control what you can do with that identity. Facebook has a cozy relationship with governments because the interests of both governments and Facebook are well-aligned with respect to how they would like people to use identities. This is why Facebook appeals to the legal system to enforce its “Real Names” policy, see specifically the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act clauses about “misrepresenting identity” for “authorized” versus “unauthorized access.”

In point of fact, however, identities are not inherently static things—there is no “real” you distinct from any other you, at least not any more or less “real” than any other (“part of”) you. They can and do change with time, space, and other factors. The physical capability of communicating to people far away from us therefore has a direct impact on the identities we hold, and subsequently, choose to claim, because that is a fundamentally different thing than speaking to someone who is next to you. This began with the invention of writing, not the telegraph. The telegraph simply sped up the process.

What Zuckerberg and many other people don’t understand is that the impact telecommunication actually has on identities is a fracturing and multiplying of identities. They are still stuck cognitively processing the Internet as a “window” through which you can “look at things” like “pages.” (Why do you think they called it a “Browser window”?) But what the Internet actually is, with respect to who we are (as opposed to we do) is very different. The Internet is much more like a ham radio than a telephone. Just as ham radio operators took callsigns when transmitting, so do we take “screen names” when writing online forum posts.

What this means in the Internet, a world with unlimited space distinctly unlike ham radio, is that an individual body can be influential in an unlimited number of arenas that may never intersect. And, given that, it means an individual body can have an unlimited number of distinct identities, each one time-and-space-sliced. There is a real, whole “identity” in each of these time-and-space slices of influence.

The Internet is therefore unique in that exactly contrary to Zuckerberg’s self-serving assertions, the Internet is an identity multiplexing technology. It is not, never has been, and I strongly argue must never be allowed to be an identity trunking technology.

End rant.

The interaction between telecommunication and identity, as well as this interaction’s effect on societal notions of safety and privacy, has been one of my primary philosophical inquiries. For more, see also:

Watch this 2 minute clip from feature-length documentary “Schooling The World.” The full documentary video is freely available online for a limited time. (Obviously, after that, you should pirate it.)

"No one will give you the education you need to overthrow them."

Assata Shakur

Your Consent is Not Being Violated by Accident

unquietpirate:

When you start looking for examples of nonconsensual culture in technology, you find them absolutely everywhere.

- Deb Chachra, Age of Non-Consent

About a month ago, someone sent me this lovely rant and asked me to publish it anonymously. I’ve been sitting on it mostly because I got wrapped up in other things. But I was reminded of it tonight when I read Deb Chachra’s “Age of Non-Consent” and Betsy Haibel’s “The Fantasy and Abuse of the Manipulable User”.

Both of the above pieces draw links between rape culture and issues of consent in software design. I recommend them both, particularly the Haibel piece, for incisive and disturbing analysis of the details of how the Stacks intentionally build software to violate their users’ consent — and what a major problem this is given technology’s influence on culture as a whole.

This coercion is picked up on and amplified by the platforms themselves - when someone I know tried to delete his Facebook account, it tried to guilt him out of it by showing him a picture of his mother and asking him if he really wanted to make it harder to stay in touch with her.

I’ve been in meetings where co-workers have described operant conditioning techniques to the higher-ups, in those words - talking about Skinner boxes and rat pellets and everything. I’ve been in meetings where those higher-ups metaphorically drooled like Pavlov’s dogs. The heart of abuse is a fantasy of power and control - and what fantasy is more compelling to a certain kind of business mind than that of a placidly manipulable customer?

- Betsy Haibel, The Fantasy and Abuse of the Manipulable User

However, where these otherwise terrific articles don’t go far enough is in explicitly acknowledging that the people who are most responsible for perpetuating rape culture and the people writing consent-violating software are the same people. It’s no coincidence that Facebook doesn’t care about your consent, because most of the people who work at Facebook wouldn’t think twice about getting you drunk and “taking advantage” of you at a party, or of defending a friend who did.

So, while both of the above authors optimistically implore high-level developers and other elite tech workers to adopt an ethic of “enthusiastic consent” when it comes to software design — as if the majority of workers in that sphere understand what that is or would even care if they did — my angry and extremely on-point friend below has another solution:

There has been much gnashing of teeth recently about how blatantly people’s privacy is violated by software like the new Facebook messenger app. These articles or editorials will rage about “companies like facebook” and often have a picture of Mark Zuckerberg’s punchable face just so people know who to have rage at.  One imagines Zuckerberg, possibly at the same table as the director of the NSA, maybe a CIA agent, and maybe the ghost of Steve Jobs all conspiring to violate your privacy and make hardware you bought do what they want against your will. The villain in these stories is either the CEO of some company or “the corporation” as a faceless monster.     

But what’s really going on here?  What we have, overwhelmingly, is a lot of technology being built which ignores the consent of the user.  A app which no one wants is forced on everyone, things which clearly everyone will hate are put in vague terms of service which essentially say that the service provider can do anything they want any time they want and there is nothing you can do about it.  How did this happen?  

Meanwhile, if you follow technology media and especially feminist technology media you see constant stories about what a festering shithole of sexism the technology industry is.  These articles are generally along the lines of a narrative about female engineers trying to be at conferences or trade shows and facing constant harassing of just about every kind from their overwhelmingly male peers.  They are constantly being touched, catcalled, and generally treated like shit, obviously against their will. Articles will talk about how this needs to be addressed in order to improve the quality of life for women in tech as well as to bring more women into tech.  As tech insider media, they meanwhile generally ignore the role of the user in all this.

What I find disappointing here, and is the point of this article, is that these are all the same shit heads, and that this is no accident.  Is it an accident that the same men who think it’s ok to grab ass at a technical conference are writing software that deliberately and blatantly ignores the consent of the user all the time?  No.  Because software is simply one of the worst industries in the history of technology.  I think it would be hard to find any industry in the history of technological capitalism that has held itself to such low standards and shown such consistent contempt for the user or for quality of their product.  

It is time for people in the public at large to stop seeing companies like Facebook as either a monolithic inhuman monster, or the personal fiefdom of some monstrous oligarch like Zuckerberg, but rather like just a big group of horrible people doing horrible work.  It’s time for the tech backlash within the industry to wake up to just how fucked the rest of us are by this, and for the rest of us to wake up to just how fucked this industry is from the inside.  

It’s time to smash Silicon Valley.

Yes, to all of this. My personal experiences of working in the software industry validates every word of this. It is why I left.

Chokepoint:

Filmmakers Katy Scoggin and Laura Poitras follow reporter Marcel Rosenbach as he informs the staff of a German communications firm that they have been targeted for surveillance by British spies.

Count how many times this guy gulps.

See also:

Say goodbye to paying money to show charts or graphs on your website

Yesterday I learned that all the popular, easy ways to show charts and graphs on your WordPress-powered blog or website cost money.

One plugin I saw an ad for cost $15. I think that’s stupid and unfair because there are tons of ways to make charts and graphs online for free. So I thought I’d take the bottom out of that market by writing a plugin that does the same thing as those plugins, but that’s totally free.

I’m not even sorry.

Reddit user made famous off celeb nude photos wants his privacy back

thebrightobvious:

teratocybernetics:

supreme-thunder-dragon:

dragondicks:

just for fairness his username is johnsmcjohn, his real name (presumably) is John Randall Meneses, and here’s his photo

image

FUCKING LOL YOU IDIOTIC SHITPARADE

Here’s his Facebook page, ID number 1826584964.

Here’s his Reddit profile.

Here’s his personal Twitter.

Here’s his business Twitter.

Here’s yet another Twitter.

Here’s his public LinkedIn page.

Here’s his Google Plus page.

Here’s another picture of him from his business Twitter.

image

Here’s a picture of one of his paychecks, provided by the man himself on his @Shooksrunllc handle.

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Here’s his FourSquare page.

Here’s more information from The Washington Post, which doesn’t reveal his name out of “respect for his privacy” (??) but reveals a lot of other personal details. [It’s slightly out of date, though - r/TheFappening has been shut down since.]

To be clear, John is not the hacker of the photos, and it doesn’t appear that he belonged to the nude-trading ring that hacked dozens of celebrities over a period of months. But he is responsible for spotting the photos on 4Chan — a highly inaccessible, niche Internet community, inhabited largely by trolls — and promoting them on Reddit, where they promptly attracted an audience in the millions before spilling out into mainstream media. Since then, he’s also taken on the role of editor-in-chief of the free-for-all: policing for Photoshop jobs and underage photos, posting traffic statistics for the forum, and generally making sure that the photos remain publicly accessible on Reddit — the one mainstream network that has not moved to take them down — for as long as humanly possible.

In other words, John – by all accounts a normal Internet-dwelling dude, with no particular notoriety or qualifications — was the original gatekeeper of the celebrity nudes. If you’ve seen the photos, he is, to large degree, the person who made that possible.

According to his personal blog, Twitter and LinkedIn profile, John has spent much of the past five years ping-ponging through a smattering of short-term odd jobs on the West Coast. He played professional poker, he yo-yoed on the Vegas strip, he applied to be an Apple Genius (… without success).

In 2011, after getting laid off from a YouTube tech video series for which he was working, John lost his car, his laptop, and his phone. He applied for a trade license and failed the background check over unspecified “incidents” in Colorado. Undeterred, John registered a new Web site and claimed to be working on a startup to “monetize the common web.” Whatever that means, it doesn’t seem to have worked out.

“$100 needed to keep utilities on,” he posted on Reddit just last week, requesting a loan from a stranger to pay his gas bill. “Thank you for any help you can give me.”

John has — as the loan request might suggest — never shied away from discussing controversial or personal subjects online. Outside of /r/TheFappening, he’s also a moderator and active member of Reddit’s cocaine forum, where he advises other users on the intricacies of finding safe dealers, snorting lines and passing drug tests after you’ve used. He regularly discusses his financial problems on Reddit and Twitter. And on Asexuality.org and WrongPlanet.net — forums for people who are asexual and have autism, respectively — John has detailed his struggle with “undiagnosed Asperger’s” and his gradual realization that he wasn’t “attracted to anyone.”

“About two weeks ago some friends from back home came to town and the first thing they wanted to do was hit the strip club,” he wrote at one point. “I went and was bored to tears.”

It’s an odd confession, coming from the guy whose only claim to Internet infamy rests in a trove of naked photos. If he didn’t create the forum for his own personal titillation, then why exactly did he start it? Reddit karma? Kicks? The adulation of a million unprincipled “fappers” who, even as I write this, are cheering John’s moderation skills?

Or maybe, more likely, it’s something else: the extraordinary, unprecedented power of orchestrating the takedown of a hundred beautiful, famous women from the (dis?)comfort of one’s almost gas-less home.

Here’s his personal website.

Here’s his father’s in memory of page, as circumstantially confirmed by this tweet.

Here’s his WrongPlanet.net profile page and all his posts there.

Here’s a more specific link to his post on Asexuality.org.

According to USSearch, he has lived in Colorado Springs, CO; is related to Anthony Meneses, Alex Meneses, Terry Meneses, and Trudy Russell; studied at Pikes Peak Community College (confirmed by his LinkedIn page); and has worked at Myspace, Mahalo, Exectact Inc, 1every Inc, and Mentoring of America.

Other circumstantial evidence that he has lived in Colorado Springs comes from his Twitter handle @Shooksrunllc; there is a Shooks Run Trail in CO Springs.

What good will all this do? Probably not much. John Randall Meneses wasn’t the original hacker. But he is without a doubt a rape apologist. If you can, report him on Predator Alert Tool for Facebook or Predator Alert Tool for Twitter, or out him and his social circle some other way.

Me, to myself: “welp, reblogging this post sure won’t help secure that man’s privacy.” *reblogs*

Never expect anything of fandom that you are not willing to contribute. Never believe that a fanwork creator ‘owes’ you anything, or that readers ‘owe’ you anything in return for creating fanwork.

From Saathi1013’s post, On Fandom Expectations, Entitlement, & Exclusion

This seemed relevant to what Maymay’s been saying about how dehumanizing it is to deal with people who perceive the world exclusively in terms of consumption and production. They act like paying customers who were promised a positive experience, and they’re hell to deal with whenever they get into a situation where no one is actually obligated to cater to them. It’s an anti-skill that carries over from long term immersion in Capitalism: expecting some sort of tit-for-tat, labor-for-payment arrangement in a space that doesn’t work like that. Or alternatively, expecting that because they came in wanting to be entertained, the people creating stuff have a duty to successfully entertain them. This is a conflict that plays out in a thousand different ways in fandom. 

(via cool-yubari)

We live in an epoch of techno-utopianism with a strong drive for techno-cracy. The former means that many believe that technology alone determines certain outcomes, while the latter believes it is a good thing that flawed human processes are replaced by ‘clean’ technological processes. Both attitudes are very dangerous.

First, distributed technologies do not necessarily lead to distributed outcomes. We have seen this historically with the effect of the invention of printing, which led to a democratisation of knowledge and literacy, but also in time replaced the local autonomy of free medieval cities with much stronger and controlling nation-states, i.e. more political centralization, not less. Networks which have no counter-measures to maintain equality inevitably lead in time to a new concentration of resources. Hence, in Amazon and iTunes, the so-called long tail of culture consumption predicted by Chris Anderson is no longer operative, and in p2p social lending, 80% of loans are provided by big bangs and institutions, the very forces the technology was supposed to disintermediate.

Again and again, we see that the potential disintermediation of power, which may affect established powers, creates new intermediaries, such as the platform monopolies. Technologies are indeed, used by social forces, who inflect technologies for their own needs. The inequality of bitcoin ownership will inevitably further affect the structures that make bitcoin operational, leading to new kinds of monopolies. Technologies are always infused with human values, no programming or infrastructure is truly neutral in that respect.

Michel Bauwens’s “A political evaluation of BitCoin” sums up some of the most overlooked problems with cryptocurrency. A short read (~5 minutes) and very worth the time.

See also:

unquietpirate:

unquietpirate:

thegreatgodum:

cleromancy:

autisticfandomthings:

madeofpatterns:

"Always believe people about abuse" sounds like a good rule but it isn’t.

It is really, really important to remember that abusers often accuse their victims of abuse.

I was talking to someone about this the other day - we often get caught up in the Legal System viewpoint on this (innocent until proven guilty because if you’re guilty we’re putting you in jail and that’s a terrible thing to do to someone, so we don’t want to do it to an innocent person) when from a social point of view, it’s perfectly valid and in fact common to hold provisional opinions about stuff like this - opinions you can act on even though they might change if you were presented with contradictory evidence. You can support and help someone who says they’ve been abused or assaulted without actively harming the person they’re accusing, and I think if we focused on that more it might make people a bit more likely to speak up instead of feeling like, if they say something about what they’re going through, they’ll be responsible for hurting the other person. (in re my blog recs meme answer, this is one of the opinions I’ve come to after reading and thinking about unquietpirate's stuff, by the way)

You can support and help someone who says they’ve been abused or assaulted without actively harming the person they’re accusing

This is a really good, succinct way of putting this. And it’s such an important point. This is not to say that we shouldn’t take action against people accused of abuse, either. It’s simply a question of triage priorities when dealing with cases of abuse:

1. Make sure the person who experienced violence is okay, safe, supported, and being taken care of.

2. Make sure people who are in a position to be vulnerable* to violence by the accused have information that there has been an accusation made against this person, group, community, institution etc.

3. Determine whether or not the accused is actually guilty of committing violence. If the accused is determined to be guilty, add that information to the existing information that there has been an accusation made.

4. If frameworks for doing so exist in your social context, mete out whatever consequences are deemed appropriate for someone who commits violence against another person. (Punishment, deterrence, banishment, counseling, whatever.)

If people understand that 4 won’t happen until/unless 1 - 3 are taken care of — and that the point of talking about what happened to you isn’t simply to get to 4, but also to get 1- 3 — then I agree with thegreatgodum that people would probably be far more comfortable talking about their experiences and seeking the help they need. 

* Note how this is different from making sure the authorities have information about the accusation. Giving vulnerable people access to more information empowers them to make more informed choices about their own interactions with the accused. Giving “the authorities” access to information empowers them to act against the accused. When people say e.g. “rape accusations ruin lives” it’s important to consider the context of who the rape is being reported to.

This is an important thing to understand when thinking about the Predator Alert Tools. PAT-FetLife, PAT-Facebook, PAT-Twitter etc. are not the cops. When someone uses Predator Alert Tool to share information about abuse they experienced, they are not making an accusation. (That’s already happened. Maybe to the police, to community authorities, to friends, or even only in their own head.) They are letting others know that an accusation has been made and what that accusation consists of.

Predator Alert Tool is a communications technology, not some kind of community authority. If it were, that authority would need to have some kind of arbitration process for determining whether reports were true or false. (See: #3) The Predator Alert Tools do not, and they should not.

The PAT databases are a clearinghouse of information about who has had accusations of abuse made against them (#2). Not of who has committed abuse (#3). Information about accusations can be helpful and important to vulnerable peoples’ decision-making processes — even if there is no subsequent information yet, or ever, about a verdict. But people who treat stories posted to the Predator Alert Tool as if they are verdicts, rather than information about accusations, are using the tool wrong.

And people who, because they can’t differentiate between an accusation and a verdict, would try to keep that information out of the hands of people who might need it are doing something very wrong.

^^^^^^^^ fucking THIS for fuck’s sake fuckers