The logic of “don’t get pulled over” is the same as “don’t get raped”

A Facebook friend posted a link to this HuffPo article titled “Cop’s Tips For Not Getting Raped By A Cop: ‘Don’t Get Pulled Over,’” and in response I posted a Facebook comment. I’m copying it here after a request to make it reblorgable.

Story time.

I am an extremely defensive driver because I live in my car. As in, the car *is* my house. This means I not only habitually take EXTREME precautions while driving, but I am “incentivized” to the max to be very careful when I drive. I literally never speed. I always signal—as in I signal BEFORE I switch lanes. I flash lights to warn truckers where I am. I place both hands on the wheel—but not at 10-and-2 because "stiff driving" is technically "reasonable suspicion" to be pulled over as per Oregon State law. (I am not even fucking kidding.) I drive a inconspicuous American-made wagon with all its lights regularly checked, my papers in order, everything. I have a valid registration, license, and insurance.

I present white and male. And I STILL get pulled over.

You know why? For “speeding” tickets—always in a State other than the one my car is registered to. You know where? Always in “construction zones” that are never sign posted—as in there is not even a fucking construction crew, ONLY an unmarked cop car.

The point is that there is literally nothing anyone can do to “not get pulled over” because even if you do everything absolutely fucking perfectly you will still be a target for cops who want to pull you over, and they do want to because *your ticket costs is part of what pays their salaries.* The entire *design* of police forces is designed to have economic incentives to ticket and fine people, particularly poorer people for whom the fine is low enough to justify paying for it instead of fighting it but not too low as to be negligible.

Why is this relevant? Because this dynamic is THE EXACT SAME THING as the “don’t get raped” mentality: there is literally nothing anyone can do to “not get raped” because even if you do everything perfectly, you dress modestly, you don’t flirt, you don’t rebuff sexual advances impolitely, you are pretty, you are ugly, it doesn’t fucking matter because it’s not about what you do or don’t do, it’s about what THEY are intending. Rapists rape. Cops pull people over. The only time the victim’s innocence or guilt plays into the equation is *after* the fact, and it’s usually used to justify pulling them over or raping them in the first place.

And I think it’s pretty fucking telling that a serial abuser cop uses the EXACT SAME LOGIC in both circumstances: “If I didn’t serve and protect you it was totally your fault for getting in the way of my serving and protecting you.” #CopLogic

"How I Explained Heartbleed To My Therapist"      

noegenesis:

maymay:

This is an important post by Meredith L. Patterson:

“Remember back around April or May, when you had to change your passwords on all the websites you use? Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, everywhere?” He nods, vigorously. “Do you remember hearing the word ‘Heartbleed’ back around then?” A blank look. Maybe I should have worn the T-shirt. Too late. I have to press on.

“That part’s not important. It doesn’t matter what the problem was called. What matters is, there’s one piece of software that nearly all those websites use to make sure that all the messages that go between your browser and their site are private. And nobody pays for it.”

“Nobody at all?”

“Nobody. The people who write it have been working on it for like fifteen years now, and they’re basically all working for free, the same way I’m doing on the work I’d rather be doing, even though Google and Facebook and practically every company with a website relies on that software these guys make. ‘Relies’ as in without this software, all their business evaporates.” I leave out the part where half of “these guys” are my dead husband’s friends and they’re not all guys; there will be time to talk about that at a later appointment. “And back around New Year’s in 2011, one of those guys made a little mistake with a really big consequence. The upshot of it was that any jerkoff could just ask whatever websites they wanted for whatever private information they had on hand at the time — your passwords, your calendar, whatever.

“And nobody in a position to fix it noticed until April of this year. Which is why you and everybody else had to change all your passwords. And in the meantime, who knows how many credit card numbers and god knows what else got snatched.” My e-cigarette is nearly empty but I fidget with it anyway, calculating on the back of the envelope in my head whether I can dredge just one more hit of nicotine without burning the coil to an ashy, taste-ruining wreck. Everything has become a cost-benefit analysis on the edge of a razor in this New New Economy that has become my life: how far can I stretch the resources I have before physics or information theory dictate they snap? “And even after a disaster like this, these poor fuckers are still running on handfuls of donations. They’re still overstretched and understaffed. It’s a tragedy of the commons problem.”

That’s a catchphrase you hear sometimes in sociology, a cousin dialect to the language of psychoanalysis he speaks. He leans forward. “In what way?” he asks. I hope it means I’ve given him firmer footing than all this computery shit he doesn’t speak.

“These bugs that happen, these mistakes in software that lead to vulnerabilities, they aren’t one-off problems. They’re systemic. There are patterns to them and patterns to how people take advantage of them. But it isn’t in any one particular company’s interest to dump a pile of their own resources into fixing even one of the problems, much less dump a pile of resources into an engineering effort to fight the pattern. Google could easily throw a pile of engineers at fixing OpenSSL, but it’d never be in their interest to do it, because they’d be handing Facebook and LinkedIn and Amazon a pile of free money in unspent remediation costs. They’ve got even less incentive to fix entire classes of vulnerabilities across the board. Same goes for everybody else in the game.

See also, “Your Consent Is Not Being Violated By Accident” and “Predator Alert Tool as a Game Theoretic Simulation of Countermeasures to Rape Culture,” two posts further describing the intentional abuse by the Silicon Valley for-profits against individuals and organizations who explicitly declare a “people over profit” motive. Also relevant is this short post about the so-called “sharing economy,” bluntly titled, “Get on your knees and thank the Silicon Valley elites for your chance to serve them.

Except it *is* in their interest to do it, and in Google’s case they *have* thrown a pile of engineers at it. See BoringSSL, a fork of OpenSSL that trades patches with the upstream project.

There’s also the Core Infrastructure Initiative. $4mm isn’t a lot of money considering the players involved but it’s not nothing to open source projects either.

There’s also all the accounts of folks being paid to work full time on open source. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6660923 (Granted, done of these cases are companies trying to get free support for their software by open sourcing it, but some people are working on very core projects.)

Could things be better? Absolutely. Way better. By leaps and bounds. Is it the utter dismal failure illustrated by the quote? Not quite.

So here’s what really, really grinds my gears about rebuttals to people pointing out systemic problems, like this rather shortsighted one, above:

$4mm isn’t a lot of money considering the players involved but it’s not nothing to open source projects either.

Did you catch it? I’ll rephrase less diplomatically:

Sure, $4mm is peanuts in comparison to the numerous trillions of dollars being spent on for-profit and totalitarian government surveillance endeavors, but these measly crumbs PROVE that the people with the trillions obviously care about open source code.

The implicit assumption here is that the baseline is, if not perfect, at least generally equitable. And the truth is it’s not. And we all know it. But the people most technically adept, which this person obviously is, are the abusers profiting off the labor of untold others, precisely as the quote by Patterson lays bare and precisely as the other arguments in the other posts I linked point out. And here’s the kicker! They’re not strangers no one knows, they’re the unpaid volunteers’ friends.

Did Google fork OpenSSL? Yes. They did it specifically to isolate themselves from further OpenSSL (communal) development. That was their own explicit statement. Do they share patches? For now, yes, because the codebase is largely the same. But the point of the fork is to diverge, not to coalesce. In their words, “There are no guarantees of API or ABI stability with this code.” And Google is only following Apple’s footsteps here, which they also state quite explicitly, who also have their own SSL/TLS implementation as of Mac OS X 10.9. Again, capitalist divergence, the antithesis of the commons.

Patterson is talking about systemics. See, more recently, #Shellshock. Same kind of problematic source as Heartbleed. Same pattern. Same inexcusably self-interested reaction from every for-profit vendor.

An interesting study for economics grads (hint hint, nudge nudge) would be to trace and then account for where the financial revenue generated through the use of free software actually ends up. I suspect you’ll find trendlines very similar to those found by this New Economics Foundation study on ecological and social value in comparison to financial distribution from 2009. I.e., the people who provide the most fundamental and quantifiable value to society at large are paid the least (think nurses, janitors, etc.) while those who provide the least societal benefit are paid the most (think bankers, execs of consumer goods multi-nationals like Wal-Mart). That is what Meredith L. Patterson is arguing: free software, created and maintained by unpaid individuals provides the literal foundation on which almost every multi-trillion dollar industry or government monopoly relies, and yet we are somehow supposed to believe that $4mm dollars (or even $400mm) is an equitable exchange.

And don’t get me started on projects that are more about culture than technology, like my own. You wanna know why Predator Alert Tools aren’t being written by companies? Because there’s no business model for helping users avoid rapists on your company site but there absolutely is a business model to help rapists hide on your site.

And so, just as in every other exploitative industry, you still find tech industry apologists who want you to get on your knees and grovel for the donations Silicon Valley gives out to keep themselves alive. Man. If robots destroy humanity, I hope they kill these scumbags first.

So here’s a rather uncomfortable thing about pigs, trial by jury, and the so-called “progress of civilization”

cool-yubari:

f-ni:

xthegirlwithkaleidoscopeeyesx:

Animal welfare is the biggest bullshit ever.
Animal rights is the way to go. 
No ‘bigger cages’, no ‘free range’ or ‘organic’. It’s all part of the same exploitative system.
Animals are not products.
Animals have a right to live.
Animals are not ours to use or buy.

Human welfare is the biggest bullshit ever.

Human rights is the way to go.

No ‘bigger cages’, no ‘open borders’ or ‘higher wages’. It’s all part of the same exploitative system.
Humans are not ‘workers’.
Humans have a right to live.

Humans are not ours to use or buy.

Relevant to Maymay’s observation that humans are animals. With a toxic superiority complex dating back to Aristotle. I forget to say that because it seems so completely obvious. But human liberation = animal liberation. These ideologies need to go together. Unquietpirate reblogged an excellent post explaining how that works. To wit:

melanijann

As long as it is considered acceptable to ignore the interests of others based on such an arbitrary distinction [perceived humanness], it will always be possible to define and mold the hierarchy to include or exclude others based on the interests of those with the most power. In other words, the problem isn’t that some people mistakenly fall into a lower level of the hierarchy than they deserve, the problem is that the hierarchy exists.

And just to be clear, the distinction is arbitrary. Humans, after all, are animals. Because of this, humans often act and look like animals. If all it takes to have your interests become worthless is to be labelled as “animal”, then the only thing that those in power need to do in order exclude you from moral consideration is to point at the ways in which you are like an animal. And they are guaranteed to find them. This happens all of the time. It is why people in marginalized groups often become, understandably, upset when some vegans make comparisons between them and non human animals. They are well aware of how arbitrary and tenuous their classification as “human” is. And yet, on the other side, when trying to explain to vegans why the interests of animals shouldn’t matter, people are incapable of presenting a distinction that doesn’t also exclude some of the already most marginalized humans.

We cannot simply keep fighting to make sure that those who we have arbitrarily decided are deserving can get to and stay at the top of the hierarchy. As long as it is considered acceptable for the interests of anyone to be devalued and ignored, we all will be at risk. But even if that weren’t the case, the idea that it is ever okay for the interests of some to be categorically valued over the interests of others is abhorrent.

In the most pragmatic terms possible, this is why throwing more stigmatized groups under the bus is an inherently self-defeating strategy. As long as society has a category of “okay to abuse. Okay to hurt,” devalued, sentient beings are at risk of being demoted into it. When that isn’t challenged on all fronts, the prison just keeps getting bigger. 

So I’m going to be a bit pedantic but I hope my larger point gets across in this stream of consciousness.

Hierarchy is not the problem. Hierarchy is simply a way of making comparisons between like and unlike things. We will always need to do that because there will always be like and unlike things needing comparison. After all, you wouldn’t want to eat a steel pellet even if it looked like a grape and you wouldn’t get very far expecting a pig to respond to questions in your human language.

For example, it seems obviously ridiculous to people living in the age of Tumblr for us to, say, put pigs on trial in human courts, but that’s exactly what Europeans did for a very long time:

On September 5, 1379, two herds of pigs at a French monastery grew agitated and killed a man named Perrinot Muet. As was custom at the time, the pigs—the actual murderers and those that had simply looked on—were tried for their horrible crime, and sentenced to death. You see, with their “cries and aggressive actions,” the onlookers “showed that they approved of the assault,” and mustn’t be allowed to escape justice.

But the monastery’s prior, Friar Humbert de Poutiers, couldn’t bear to suffer the economic loss of all those pigs. So he wrote to the Duke of Burgundy, pleading for him to pardon the onlookers (the friar would allow the three murderers to suffer their fate—he was no scofflaw, after all). The duke “lent a gracious ear to his supplication and ordered that the punishment should be remitted and the swine released.” Records don’t show just how the three pigs were executed, though it was common for offending animals to be hanged or burned alive for their crimes.

Such is Europe’s shameful and largely forgotten history of putting animal “criminals” on trial and either executing them or, for plagues of insects, ordering them to leave town not only by a certain day, but by an exact time. Such irrational barbarism is hard to fathom, but as early as 824 all the way up to the middle of the 18th century, animals were held to the same moral standards as humans, suffering the same capital punishments and even rotting in the same jails.

What’s bizarre about this today is not that a system of law which dolled out punishments for real or imagined crimes existed, but that non-human animals were subject to that system same as any animal whose species happened to be human was subjected to it. This raises a fantastically peculiar question: if we accept that we have “progressed” beyond the “barbarism” of those times, does the narrowing of the judicial system to human animals present a net “Good” or “Evil”?

Your answer of course depends on a number of other assumptions that you have already implicitly made without realizing it. Is the judicial system itself a just way of meting out punishments for breaking certain rules? Who made those rules anyway? Who agreed to them? It’s certainly true that there are many laws on the books that neither you nor I agreed to, laws that, in fact, were written by people generations ago and who are no longer alive today,  yet we are still bound to those laws without much fuss, despite the equally obvious fact that it seems silly to many of us that we ought be bound to the agreements or judgements of our ancestors in many other respects.

We could compare the treatment of animals today to the treatment of animals in the past. Today, factory farming is arguably much more brutal than the relatively simplistic agrarian farming techniques of the so-called Dark Ages. And on top of that, non-human animals were even granted full-fledged legal rights back then, albeit their inability to meaningfully navigate a system whose language they could not speak is surely cause for ethical concern. Even if we took the system itself as just, I can’t find a single record of an animal putting a human on trial for the killing of its family members. All cases of animal trials I know about have the animal as the defendant, usually charged with killing or maiming some human animal. So, obviously, another ethical concern is the unequal application of the law.

And while it may seem obvious to us now that the reason for this probably has something to do with the fact that pigs can’t speak in human languages or hire lawyers, I find it hard to believe that most people living in September of 1379 were ignorant of those specific facts, y’know?

Nevertheless, over time, what remained of this system was the continued unequal application of laws. We still have a system of crime and punishment that punished some more than others. We still have a system of law that most of never agreed to and that we have no recourse against. After all, to what court other than a government one can you appeal for redress of grievances against the government’s own laws? And still, that part doesn’t seem insane to most people, even though by all reasonable accounts it is a farcical apparition of “justice.” Even that article I linked doesn’t call criminal “justice” systems insane. To that author, only putting non-human animals on trial is insane. Putting human animals on trial in an equivalent way today as we did then? Why, that’s just par for the course, all the way to 2014!

So. That’s weird.

Especially for a people whose founding national principles are fairness and freedom from tyrannical rule.

TL;DR: The hierarchy of “human versus non-human” is not inherently bad—it can’t be, because it’s irrefutably true—but when we consider the actual history of how that distinction has been applied, what we find is that we are not only much more similar to pigs than we would have thought, we are also treated much more like we once treated pigs than we ever imagined.

And that? Well, that would certainly seem to be cause for concern for everyone who still believes humanity has “progressed” beyond those “barabric” times. Just sayin’.

"How I Explained Heartbleed To My Therapist"

This is an important post by Meredith L. Patterson:

“Remember back around April or May, when you had to change your passwords on all the websites you use? Facebook, Yahoo, LinkedIn, everywhere?” He nods, vigorously. “Do you remember hearing the word ‘Heartbleed’ back around then?” A blank look. Maybe I should have worn the T-shirt. Too late. I have to press on.

“That part’s not important. It doesn’t matter what the problem was called. What matters is, there’s one piece of software that nearly all those websites use to make sure that all the messages that go between your browser and their site are private. And nobody pays for it.”

“Nobody at all?”

“Nobody. The people who write it have been working on it for like fifteen years now, and they’re basically all working for free, the same way I’m doing on the work I’d rather be doing, even though Google and Facebook and practically every company with a website relies on that software these guys make. ‘Relies’ as in without this software, all their business evaporates.” I leave out the part where half of “these guys” are my dead husband’s friends and they’re not all guys; there will be time to talk about that at a later appointment. “And back around New Year’s in 2011, one of those guys made a little mistake with a really big consequence. The upshot of it was that any jerkoff could just ask whatever websites they wanted for whatever private information they had on hand at the time — your passwords, your calendar, whatever.

“And nobody in a position to fix it noticed until April of this year. Which is why you and everybody else had to change all your passwords. And in the meantime, who knows how many credit card numbers and god knows what else got snatched.” My e-cigarette is nearly empty but I fidget with it anyway, calculating on the back of the envelope in my head whether I can dredge just one more hit of nicotine without burning the coil to an ashy, taste-ruining wreck. Everything has become a cost-benefit analysis on the edge of a razor in this New New Economy that has become my life: how far can I stretch the resources I have before physics or information theory dictate they snap? “And even after a disaster like this, these poor fuckers are still running on handfuls of donations. They’re still overstretched and understaffed. It’s a tragedy of the commons problem.”

That’s a catchphrase you hear sometimes in sociology, a cousin dialect to the language of psychoanalysis he speaks. He leans forward. “In what way?” he asks. I hope it means I’ve given him firmer footing than all this computery shit he doesn’t speak.

“These bugs that happen, these mistakes in software that lead to vulnerabilities, they aren’t one-off problems. They’re systemic. There are patterns to them and patterns to how people take advantage of them. But it isn’t in any one particular company’s interest to dump a pile of their own resources into fixing even one of the problems, much less dump a pile of resources into an engineering effort to fight the pattern. Google could easily throw a pile of engineers at fixing OpenSSL, but it’d never be in their interest to do it, because they’d be handing Facebook and LinkedIn and Amazon a pile of free money in unspent remediation costs. They’ve got even less incentive to fix entire classes of vulnerabilities across the board. Same goes for everybody else in the game.

See also, “Your Consent Is Not Being Violated By Accident” and “Predator Alert Tool as a Game Theoretic Simulation of Countermeasures to Rape Culture,” two posts further describing the intentional abuse by the Silicon Valley for-profits against individuals and organizations who explicitly declare a “people over profit” motive. Also relevant is this short post about the so-called “sharing economy,” bluntly titled, “Get on your knees and thank the Silicon Valley elites for your chance to serve them.

TL;DR: Everything you think you know about animal behavior is a lie. Also, humans are animals, yo.

cool-yubari:

unquietpirate:

amondra:

cyprith:

koryos:

Dominance Behavior in Canids

I didn’t really even WANT to make a post about this.

The alpha-beta-omega model of wolf packs is dead in scientific literature, hammered into the ground, so to speak, and it’s been dead for over ten years. So why am I still hearing about it on TV and reading about it in articles? Why are popular dog trainers that encourage you to “be the alpha” still taken seriously?

I think the unfortunate truth is that the idea that there are strong and ferocious leaders in wolf packs and that you, too, can take on that role with your dog is just somehow appealing to people. Almost romantic, in the older sense of the word. And because of this, it makes money. It sells werewolf media. It sells dog training classes. Educational science channels that have no business promoting this false ideology keep it on board because it gets people watching.

If you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty fed up with the whole thing.

Okay, let’s talk about dominance, particularly what the word even means, because popular media does a terrible job of explaining it.

Read more…

This is fantastic. I roll my eyes so hard every time I see yet another writer trotting out the alpha/beta shit for their werewolf packs.

If you want to write about a group of werewolves that are emotionally and physically assaulted by the individual they elected to lead them on a regular basis, fine. But don’t pretend that’s really how wolf packs work.

(Although, that would be pretty interesting, actually. If the author recognized that she was writing an unhealthy and abusive dynamic and actually portrayed it as such? Pack alpha character actually a violent, terrorist cult leader? Pretty neat. I’d read it.)

This is why the werewolves in my novel don’t even touch that crap.  I wanted to make sure I was as far away from this as possible.  Not to mention as one of my characters put it, they are Werewolves not wolves.  They were human first. 

From the expanded article:

While there are many hazy definitions of the word dominance in the current scientific literature, the most accepted one that I have seen is that dominance is a factor of a relationship between two individuals regarding control of resources. In this relationship, the submissive individual will allow the dominant individual to have the resource. Theoretically.

What dominance is NOT is a character trait. No animal is born “the alpha.”

[…]

Sometimes the hierarchy changes for no apparent reason at all.

Different species appear to have different forms of hierarchies, but it also really depends on who you’re asking about it and how they analyzed it and what theory was popular when they did. The study of dominance can be unfortunately subjective.

Well, this seems relevant.

I especially liked

The word ‘submissive’ has a negative connotation. It suggests a loss of power, a humbling, a subjugation. It might be better to remove it as a label for certain types of canid behavior, in that case. Canidsdon’t demand submissive behavior from one another, they offer it. Muzzle-biting in wolves, which seems fierce, is usually solicited from the animal being bitten- several times in a row. Far from the popularized “alpha roll,” canids rarely force each other to roll over- they use rolling over as an invitation to play or a plea for affection. This type of affiliative, cohesive behavior makes up the vast majority of all social behavior in canid groups.

Most animal behavior that pings as “hey, I want to interact with you and I’m socially competent, so playing together will be safe and fun for both of us. You want?” is culturally marked (by humans) as submissive. Hmm.

#cool-yubari #has the best tags

See also:

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.

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