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2019: July-Sept

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Updated: The Hunt...

Universal cancels release of movie featuring an untimely plot of blue state elites hunting red caps


Link Here 17th August 2019
The Hunt is a 2019 USA action horror thriller by Craig Zobel.
Starring Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank and Emma Roberts. YouTube icon IMDb

Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don't know where they are, or how they got there. They don't know they've been chosen - for a very specific purpose - The Hunt.

The film was also originally titled Red State vs Blue State.

The film had earlier been MPAA R rated for crude and sexual content, nudity, language throughout, comic violence and drug use.

The movie The Hunt has been withdrawn prior to release by the US distributors after two US shooter incidents echoed the politically charged allegory of elites vs red caps underpinning this film.

Hollywood studio Universal distributing an action satire depicting a dozen supposedly red state Americans who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals, is to scrap the movie's release. The company had already announced that it would not promote or market the film.

The Hunt, produced by Blumhouse, the independent film house known mostly for low-budget horror films such as Paranormal Activity and The Purge as well as also the Oscar winner BlacKkKlansman, was due to come out on 27 September. But gun massacres in Ohio, Texas and California which resulted in more than 30 deaths has reignited a debate about gun control legislation. Blumhouse and distributor Universal Pictures have now said it would no longer release the movie.

Donald Trump inevitably had his say and tweeted about Hollywood liberals:

They like to call themselves 'Elite,' but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!

Universal said in a statement.

We stand by our film-makers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.

Update: More details on story of the cancelled release of The Hunt

17th August 2019. See article from hollywoodreporter.com

On the evening of Aug. 6, Universal Pictures held a test screening of its thriller-satire The Hunt at a crowded theater in the San Fernando Valley. It was the second such screening, and some test audience members were again expressing discomfort with the politics of the Jason Blum-produced film, a source familiar with the feedback tells The Hollywood Reporter.

Hunt, directed by Craig Zobel, chronicles a dozen deplorables trying to outlast a group of private jet-flying elites bent on killing their anti-choice, gun-loving targets. Following a THR story earlier that day on the altering of the film's marketing plan in the wake of a trio of mass shootings, Universal executives and the filmmakers began receiving death threats via email and on social media and immediately paused the campaign altogether.

...Read the full article from hollywoodreporter.com

 

 

History denial...

San Francisco Board of Education votes to hide artwork depicting slaves rather than destroying it


Link Here 16th August 2019
The San Francisco Board of Education voted this week to cover up a suite of controversial 1930's murals at George Washington High School, reversing an earlier decision to spend $600,000 to destroy them by painting them over.

The murals, The Life of Washington , were created by the Russian emigre artist Victor Arnautoff as part of a New Deal art initiative and depict episodes from the life of George Washington. A few people have been offended by three of the 13 murals in the cycle for including depictions of enslaved African-Americans working at Washington's Mount Vernon property, and also violent images of Native Americans.

In Tuesday's vote, the board members voted 4--3 in favor of covering up the murals, frustrating both those who'd campaigned for outright destruction, and those who'd campaigned for their preservation.

While it is a step in the right direction to take permanent destruction off the table, we will continue to strongly oppose spending $815,000 to permanently wall off the murals so nobody has the choice to see them or learn from them, said Jon Golinger, the executive director of the Coalition to Protect Public Art, an organization created to advocate for the murals' preservation, to the New York Times .

 

 

Protecting Americans from Online Censorship by appointing an online censor...

Donald Trump is considering appoint the FCC as the US social media censor


Link Here 11th August 2019
Full story: Internet Censorship in USA...Domain name seizures and SOPA

A draft executive order from the White House could put the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in charge of social media censorship. The FFC has a disgraceful record on the subject of internet freedom. It recently showed totally disregard for the rights of internet users when siding when big business over net neutrality.

Donald Trump's draft order, a summary of which was obtained by CNN, calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration's draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies.

US media giants have clearly been showing political bias when censoring conservative views but appointing the FCC as the internet censor does not bode well.

According to the summary seen by CNN, the draft executive order currently carries the title Protecting Americans from Online Censorship . It claims that the White House has received more than 15,000 anecdotal complaints of social media platforms censoring American political discourse, the summary indicates.

The FTC will also be asked to open a public complaint docket, according to the summary, and to work with the FCC to develop a report investigating how tech companies curate their platforms and whether they do so in neutral ways. Companies whose monthly user base accounts for one-eighth of the U.S. population or more could find themselves facing scrutiny, the summary said, including but not limited to Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat.

The Trump administration's proposal seeks to significantly narrow the protections afforded to companies under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Under the current law, internet companies are not liable for most of the content that their users or other third parties post on their platforms. This law underpins any company wanting to allow users to post their own comments without prior censorship. If protectsion were to be removed all user posting would need to be censored before being published.

 

 

FBI, Donald Trump, big tech, marketeers...they're all at it...

Everyone's out to scrape all your social media postings and compile a searchable database of your life


Link Here 10th August 2019
A few days ago Donald Trump responded to more mass shooters by calling on social networks to build tools for identifying potential mass murderers before they act. And across the government, there appears to be growing consensus that social networks should become partners in surveillance with the government.

So quite a timely moment for the Wall Street Journal to publish an article about FBI plans for mass snooping on social media:

The FBI is soliciting proposals from outside vendors for a contract to pull vast quantities of public data from Facebook, Twitter and other social media to proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests.

The request was posted last month, weeks before a series of mass murders shook the country and led President Trump to call for social-media platforms to do more to detect potential shooters before they act.

The deadline for bids is Aug. 27.

As described in the solicitation, it appears that the service would violate Facebook's ban against the use of its data for surveillance purposes, according to the company's user agreements and people familiar with how it seeks to enforce them.

The Verge comments on a privacy paradox:

But so far, as the Journal story illustrates, the government's approach has been incoherent. On one hand, it fines Facebook $5 billion for violating users' privacy; on the other, it outlines a plan to potentially store all Americans' public posts in a database for monitoring purposes.

But of course it is not a paradox, many if not most people believe that they're entitled to privacy whilst all the 'bad' people in the world aren't.

Commercial interests are also very keen on profiling people from their social media postings. There's probably a long list of advertisers who would love a list of rich people who go to casinos and stay at expensive hotels.

Well As Business Insider has noted, one company Hyp3r has been scraping all public postings on Instagram to provide exactly that information:

A combination of configuration errors and lax oversight by Instagram allowed one of the social network's vetted advertising partners to misappropriate vast amounts of public user data and create detailed records of users' physical whereabouts, personal bios, and photos that were intended to vanish after 24 hours.

The profiles, which were scraped and stitched together by the San Francisco-based marketing firm Hyp3r, were a clear violation of Instagram's rules. But it all occurred under Instagram's nose for the past year by a firm that Instagram had blessed as one of its preferred Facebook Marketing Partners.

Hyp3r is a marketing company that tracks social-media posts tagged with real-world locations. It then lets its customers directly interact with those posts via its tools and uses that data to target the social-media users with relevant advertisements. Someone who visits a hotel and posts a selfie there might later be targeted with pitches from one of the hotel's competitors, for example.

The total volume of Instagram data Hyp3r has obtained is not clear, though the firm has publicly said it has a unique dataset of hundreds of millions of the highest value consumers in the world, and sources said more than of 90% of its data came from Instagram. It ingests in excess of 1 million Instagram posts a month, sources said.

See full article from businessinsider.com

 

 

Getting it right...

Politico reports that the White House is working on order to counter the political bias demonstrated by social media companies


Link Here 8th August 2019
Full story: Politically biased internet censorship...Social media silences voices from the political right
The White House is circulating drafts of a proposed executive order that would address the anti-conservative bias of social media companies. This appears to be the follow up to President Donald Trump pledging to explore all regulatory and legislative solutions on the issue.

The contents of the order remain undisclosed but it seems that many different ideas are still in the mix. A White House official is reported to have said:

If the internet is going to be presented as this egalitarian platform and most of Twitter is liberal cesspools of venom, then at least the president wants some fairness in the system. But look, we also think that social media plays a vital role. They have a vital role and an increasing responsibility to the culture that has helped make them so profitable and so prominent.

The social media companies have denied the allegations of bias, but nevertheless the large majority of users censored by the companies are indeed on the right.

 

 

Updated: Shooting the messenger...

Cloudflare withdraws support from 8chan, the forum website used by some of the recent US shooters


Link Here 6th August 2019
8chan is a forum website that has become a home for the far right and those otherwise discontented by modern society for various reasons. There's nothing special about it that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere.

And as Buzzfeed notes:

Pull the plug, it will appear somewhere else, in whatever locale will host it. Because there's nothing particularly special about 8chan, there are no content algorithms, hosting technology immaterial. The only thing radicalizing 8chan users are other 8chan users.

However in the past six months is has been used to distribute racist and white nationalist manifestos prior to mass shootings.

It has now been refused service from Cloudfare which offers security services, most notably defending against denial of service attacks. Cloudflare announced in a blogpost the company would be terminating 8chan as a client.

This represents a reversal of Cloudflare's position from less than 24 hours earlier, when the co-founder and chief executive, Matthew Prince, defended his company's relationship with 8chan as a moral obligation in an extensive interview with the Guardian. Prince explained the change:

The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.

While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur. It does nothing to address why portions of the population feel so disenchanted they turn to hate. In taking this action we've solved our own problem, but we haven't solved the Internet's.

You'd have though the authorities would be advised to keep an eye on public forums so as to be aware of any grievances that are widely shared. Maybe to try and resolve them, and maybe just to be aware of what people are thinking. For example, if David Cameron had been better aware of what many people thought about immigration, he might have realised that holding the EU referendum was a disastrously stupid idea.

Update: Censored by the website hosting company

6th August 2019. See article from theverge.com

Internet forum 8chan has gone dark after web services company Voxility banned the site -- and also banned 8chan's new host Epik, which had been leasing web space from it. Epik began working with 8chan today after web services giant Cloudflare cut off service, following the latest of at least three mass shootings linked to 8chan. But Stanford researcher Alex Stamos noted that Epik seemed to lease servers from Voxility, and when Voxility discovered the content, it cut ties with Epik almost immediately.

 

 

Trump blames video games, social media and mental illness for shootings...

So surely it is not a good idea to let gamers or social media users to get hold of guns then


Link Here 5th August 2019
Full story: Shootings Blame...Blaming video games for mass shootings
US President Donald Trump has placed the blame of the US' latest mass shootings on video games, mental illness and social media, after 29 people died in attacks in Texas and Ohio over the weekend. He claimed: Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger - not the gun.

Doubling down on his suggestion that the attackers had mental health issues, the president called for new laws that better identify mentally disturbed individuals, adding that those people should not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement.

Trump called for the US to condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy. He also criticised the role of gruesome video games, adding that they are common place and too easy for young people to get a hold off, saying they celebrate violence.

Trump also announced that he has directed the justice department to work with local and national law enforcement alongside social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.

 

 

Messing with people's shit via their backdoors...

DOJ and FBI Show No Signs of Correcting Past Untruths in Their New Attacks on Encryption


Link Here 1st August 2019
Full story: US Crypto Wars...US authorities look to breaking the encryption used to keep people safe

Last week, US Attorney General William Barr and FBI Director Christopher Wray chose to spend some of their time giving speeches demonizing encryption and calling for the creation of backdoors to allow the government access to encrypted data. You should not spend any of your time listening to them.

Don't be mistaken; the threat to encryption remains high . Australia and the United Kingdom already have laws in place that can enable those governments to undermine encryption, while other countries may follow. And it's definitely dangerous when senior U.S. law enforcement officials talk about encryption the way Barr and Wray did.

The reason to ignore these speeches is that DOJ and FBI have not proven themselves credible on this issue. Instead, they have a long track record of exaggeration and even false statements in support of their position. That should be a bar to convincing anyone--especially Congress--that government backdoors are a good idea.

Barr expressed confidence in the tech sector's ingenuity to design a backdoor for law enforcement that will stand up to any unauthorized access, paying no mind to the broad technical and academic consensus in the field that this risk is unavoidable. As the prominent cryptographer and Johns Hopkins University computer science professor Matt Green pointed out on Twitter , the Attorney General made sweeping, impossible-to-support claims that digital security would be largely unaffected by introducing new backdoors. Although Barr paid the barest lip service to the benefits of encryption--two sentences in a 4,000 word speech--he ignored numerous ways encryption protects us all, including preserving not just digital but physical security for the most vulnerable users.

For all of Barr and Wray's insistence that encryption poses a challenge to law enforcement, you might expect that that would be the one area where they'd have hard facts and statistics to back up their claims, but you'd be wrong. Both officials asserted it's a massive problem, but they largely relied on impossible-to-fact-check stories and counterfactuals. If the problem is truly as big as they say, why can't they provide more evidence? One answer is that prior attempts at proof just haven't held up.

Some prime examples of the government's false claims about encryption arose out of the 2016 legal confrontation between Apple and the FBI following the San Bernardino attack. Then-FBI Director James Comey and others portrayed the encryption on Apple devices as an unbreakable lock that stood in the way of public safety and national security. In court and in Congress, these officials said they had no means of accessing an encrypted iPhone short of compelling Apple to reengineer its operating system to bypass key security features. But a later special inquiry by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General revealed that technical divisions within the FBI were already working with an outside vendor to unlock the phone even as the government pursued its legal battle with Apple. In other words, Comey's statements to Congress and the press about the case--as well as sworn court declarations by other FBI officials--were untrue at the time they were made .

Wray, Comey's successor as FBI Director, has also engaged in considerable overstatement about law enforcement's troubles with encryption. In congressional testimony and public speeches, Wray repeatedly pointed to almost 8,000 encrypted phones that he said were inaccessible to the FBI in 2017 alone. Last year, the Washington Post reported that this number was inflated due to a programming error. EFF filed a Freedom of Information Act request, seeking to understand the true nature of the hindrance encryption posed in these cases, but the government refused to produce any records.

But in their speeches last week, neither Barr nor Wray acknowledged the government's failure of candor during the Apple case or its aftermath. They didn't mention the case at all. Instead, they ask us to turn the page and trust anew. You should refuse. Let's hope Congress does too.

 

 

Offsite Article: Would you alter a flag on a jacket patch to be able to sell a film to China...hell yes!...


Link Here 29th July 2019
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship
American Movie Studios Are Wrong to Appease Chinese Censors. By John Fund

See article from nationalreview.com

 

 

Offsite Article: Silicon Valley vs Free Speech...


Link Here 27th July 2019
Silicon Valley Is Helping The US Government Circumvent The First Amendment

See article from forbes.com

 

 

Tyranny...

Virginia becomes the first US state to ban deep fake nude images and videos


Link Here 6th July 2019

Virginia has become the first US state to impose criminal penalties on the distribution of non-consensual deepfake images and video. New laws in Virginia take effect on July 1. The state's General Assembly passed the bill in early March, and it was signed into law by Gov. Ralph Northam later that month.

The new law amends existing law that defines distribution of nudes or sexual imagery without the subject's consent as a Class 1 misdemeanor. The new bill updated the law by adding a category of falsely created videographic or still image to the text:

Any person who, with the intent to coerce, harass, or intimidate, maliciously disseminates or sells any videographic or still image created by any means whatsoever that depicts another person who is totally nude, or in a state of undress so as to expose the genitals, pubic area, buttocks, or female breast, where such person knows or has reason to know that he is not licensed or authorized to disseminate or sell such videographic or still image is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For purposes of this subsection, another person includes a person whose image was used in creating, adapting, or modifying a videographic or still image with the intent to depict an actual person and who is recognizable as an actual person by the person's face, likeness, or other distinguishing characteristic.

A small handful other states are working to develop legislation making the use of deepfakes for election manipulation or sexual exploitation unlawful.

But of course the question is now how quickly the law will be used to outlaw political comment, criticism, jokes and internet memes.

 

 

Offsite Article: Poetic injustice...


Link Here 3rd July 2019
The US authorities harass man who criticised immigration policy in a poem

See article from theguardian.com

 

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