Capitol Crimes

“The only good thing I can think of about the tsunami of stupid that crashed into Capitol Hill on Tuesday is that so many of those idiots posed for pictures or appeared in videos that show them committing one or more crimes. In most cases, they are easily identifiable in these images, often because they posted the evidence against them to their personal social media accounts. As we have discussed many times before, that is a very stupid thing to do. So it isn’t too surprising that it happened so often the other day.

[Precedes to cite some of the applicable statutes] …there’s also the federal Anti-Riot Act (18 U.S.C. § 2101, up to five years), and I feel pretty confident in saying that the rioters violated that one. See 18 U.S.C. § 2102 (defining “riot”). Under federal law, it only takes three people to constitute a riot (in California and many other states, it only takes two), so that isn’t an issue.

And those are just some of the crimes they committed simply by being part of the riot.” [Then, lists examples.]

-Kevin Underhill, “Dear Idiots: Please Keep Posting Pictures of You Committing Federal Crimes.” LoweringTheBar.net. January 8, 2021

Jumbo

“Jumbo (Android, iOS) isn’t a social media app replacement as such, but it can help you lock down the social networks that you’re already signed up for (and where your friends will already be). At the moment it comprehensively covers Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and though some of its features require a subscription, you do get a lot for free.

One of the best features that Jumbo brings to the table is auto-deleting your posts after a certain amount of time has elapsed, so you’re never leaving behind a long digital trail. It’ll also advise you on ways in which you can limit your exposure and increase your privacy on the apps you’ve got connected (by turning off face recognition or photo tags, for instance).

—David Nield, “6 Privacy-Focused Alternatives to the Apps You Use Every Day.” Wired. December 13, 2020.

Message Board Rot

“This ties into something I’m extremely interested in that I like to call “message board rot”. I like looking for signs that social networks are dying or atrophying. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always found it fascinating that one day Myspace was the biggest thing in my social life and then one day it wasn’t. And while working over the years as a community moderator and then as a reporter who covers online communities, I’ve tried to put together a criteria for how you know if a social network is on its last legs. I’m not sure I’ve finished building it out, but I’ll share with you what I have so far:

* Power users aggressively dominate discussion on the site.

* Public harassment and inter-community elitism has created a culture of indirect communication, where users no longer directly say what they’re actually trying to say.

* There is no longer any internal cultural memory.

* Users have become so obsessed with the minutiae of the community that the site now functions as a meta discussion of itself instead of whatever its intended purpose was.

* Poor or lax moderation has created a sense that nothing on the site is genuine — fake users, fake trending topics, fake threads, fake engagement.

* Users, reacting to the inauthentic behavior, public harassment, and elitism that occurs due to bad moderation, create their own self-policed communities within the larger community, which typically only exacerbates these problems and creates warring factions within the site.

-Ryan Broderick, “tfw a crustacean.” Garbage Day. December 2, 2020.

Social Chronophage

“The social industry doesn’t just eat our time with endless stimulus and algorithmic scrolling; it eats our time by creating and promoting people who exist only to be explained to, people to whom the world has been created anew every morning, people for whom every settled sociological, scientific, and political argument of modernity must be rehashed, rewritten, and re-accounted, this time with their participation.

These people, with their just-asking questions and vapid open letters, are dullards and bores, pettifoggers and casuists, cowards and dissemblers, time-wasters of the worst sort…Time is not infinite. None of us can afford to spend what is left of it dallying with the stupid and bland.”

—Max Read, “Going Postal.” Book Forum. Sept/Oct/Nov 2020.

Review of Richard Seymour’s The Twittering Machine, which is worth reading in its own right.

h/t Velcro City Tourist Board.

YouHole

Warning: Youhole is random and potentially NSFW. Browse at your own risk.

YouHole, another site in the same spirit programmed by Alden, exclusively plays YouTube videos under 500 views in random order. You can’t click through or see the name of the video (differentiating it from other similar websites), much less save, share, or subscribe. Videos from all over the world come up on YouHole; finding something in English is uncommon.

The site’s content-sorting system starts with picking a random language. If that language uses a Latin script, the system selects two random words from a dictionary; if it’s any other language, then it uses two random letters or characters from Unicode blocks. Then it trawls YouTube’s API, grabbing videos under 500 views and storing them in a server for future use. A lot of videos do come from the same random search term, but they’re shuffled within the database for maximum unpredictability.

“YouHole provides access to randomness,” Alden says. “You can’t do that on any of the major platforms because it’s not profitable, so their algorithms conspire to get you into feedback loops of the same content.” They maintain that this manipulation makes it easy for platforms to “market to viewers more easily and consistently.” YouHole, conversely, defies predictability and allows viewers to experience humanity how it really is, in the abyss.”

—Catherine Sinow, “Three algorithm-less streaming sites revive the wacky Web from days of yore.” Ars Technica. August 9, 2020.

http://youhole.tv/

Three Years Without Facebook, Most Social Media

Occasionally, I’ll see an article where someone talks about giving up social media or a specific service – such as Facebook – for a week, a month, 99 days, a year, or even that it isn’t possible for most people. The last may be true. If someone relies on weak ties to get through difficult times in their lives, they probably need to maintain those ties in an efficient way, such as by using Facebook.

For example, if you need to call Uncle Joe to come and pick you up when your car breaks down, Uncle Joe uses Facebook and you don’t see him much, then you probably need to be on Facebook. That’s your reality.

Another reality is that giving up Facebook is that you’ll lose friends. I tend to have a very small social circle. I have a couple of friends, and I invest a lot in those relationships. However, one of my friends lives far away, and we had moved to communicating primarily through Facebook. When I deleted most of my social media accounts back in 2017, the friendship slowly faded after.

So, there’s a price to be paid. You aren’t as connected, and it means some of your relationships will atrophy as a result.

I still maintain a few social media accounts. But, I’ve moved to a model where I do not post anything to social media and I don’t use it. I don’t browse. I don’t post. I don’t comment. On a very rare occasion, I might react or like something. But, I mostly use it so that if there’s a link to, say, Twitter in an email newsletter, I use a Twitter account using a free software app to view it on my phone. There’s no point being a zealot about it.

But, on the other end, I’ll never go back to being a regular user of a service like Facebook, which I don’t use in any form. It’s poisonous and manipulative. I miss my friend, but the cost of maintaining that relationship, and others, through Facebook was simply too high.

Looking at it after three years, I’d recommend leaving it, if you can. At the very least, try a sabbatical, so you can get a feel for what using the service is costing you in terms of your emotional well-being. Uncle Joe will still be there, if you decide log back on after a month off.

Attack, Reframe, Normalize and Politicize

The playbook is: Attack, reframe, normalize and politicize. The goal is not rational discussion but repetition. I could write a bot to make far right political comments in Internet forums, and people do. Which leaves the question: how should we respond to people whose ideas could algorithmically programmed and whose goal is repetition? One place to start is simply pointing out what is going on. There’s no point engaging with the content of what is being said because it’s being offered in bad faith.

Under Control of Your Smart Phone

Open Question: Are smart phones primarily an information technology or a control technology?

“What the phone promises you psychologically is not content as such, but a space on the screen that is totally obedient to you. This translates into the illusion that the world, seen through the screen, will be equally obedient. I think any effort to try to understand smartphone addiction needs to grapple with the fact that it is much closer to a control technology than an information technology. Of course, it tells you useful things but what it offers you is navigation and control, the ability to make a fast-moving and confusing world obey you. One of the main contrasts in the book is between a view of the world that tries to represent it—the classically modern one of the seventeenth century for which the map would be a classic example—and a view of the world which brings it under control, which is a military ideal. Today, we often have no idea where we are going until we put a destination into our phone and follow the instructions. This navigation-based approach to the world originates from military technology and the need to bring the world under control.”

William Davies interview with Tobias Haberkorn, “Control Groups.” The Point Magazine. December 7, 2019.