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Around the Web

Issue No. 008

Facebook does not know what it is doing (with your data), someone bought a website, others have no internet, and 185 hellos from British Columbia.

Note: While the post is written in English, some links lead to articles in German.

Happy Labour Day, everyone.

Let’s remember those who lost their lives fighting against capitalism, making the world a better place, and keep up the fight.

I spent multiple days without looking at a computer, or work. 10/10. While I’ve been looking away, the internet has been revolving around a billionaire, mostly. While the rest of the world was busy bombing itself to pieces and burning the remains to the ground. 0/10.

Other people have been busy writing, and here’s what I read:

Social, they said

Facebook does not know what it is doing (with your data). According to a leaked document, all the data Facebook’s collects is ink flowing into a lake, while no one has the slightest idea to control it.

In other words, even Facebook’s own engineers admit that they are struggling to make sense and keep track of where user data goes once it’s inside Facebook’s systems, according to the document.

netpolitik.org’s Unsplash game is on point as usual.

While they do have no idea where data goes, they, of course, know how to do harm, amplifying pro-eating disorder content.

They, too, still have no clue how to tackle misinformation. Do they even try? Misinformation on Facebook’s platform is going rampant in Africa, with Facebook from the outside looking in.

When I first saw the title of this video, I thought that someone was playing an elaborate prank with Johnny Cash’s 4'33". But, as we live in the worst timeline, I was – of course – wrong. Twitch is copyright claiming literal silence. Twitch is also cutting creator payouts as overlord Bezos is becoming jealous of his billiomate Elon.

Speaking of whom!

Elon from Twitter

Okay, so Elon Musk bought Twitter and the fallout so far has been mesmerising. Musk comes up with stupid idea after stupid idea, the right is buzzing with enjoyment, and the rest of us is trying to parse what happens next. Musk apparently thinks he is a billionaire with an ego problem.

Tumblr, still around, meanwhile saw a considerable bump in user registrations. Is this a sign of things to come? Maybe. Read Ryan Broderick’s theory of a breach of containment.

Of course, nothing has happened yet, and the current news cycle is driven by Musk’s frantic tweeting and little of newsworthy substance.

If there’s any, it’s the impact Musk’s free-speech mania shitposting has on everyone who is not a cis-het white male.

I can’t help but get the feeling that the whole thing has the same vibes as some years, driven by the Twitter usage of a certain ex-president of the USA. I’m not alone with this observation:

Like Trump, Musk puts his critics in a real bind. Broadly speaking, in an attention economy there’s no satisfying way to deal with people like them. There’s a circular thing where they command attention because they have some kind of power (fame, money, etc.) but, increasingly, their ability to command attention also grants them power (to influence/program the news cycle, amass cult-like followings, enhance their businesses).

Charlie Wenzel – Elon Musk Is Already Grinding Us Down

A point that is underreported, even after the hundredth piece on what might, might not or who knows happen, is that we can’t solve society’s problems with Twitter, regardless of who owns it.

The dissociation of truth and the fabric that holds our world together is going on for a while. Somehow this piece from The Awl (R.I.P.) came up again. It was published a century ago in 2016, and reminds us that right-wing pundits have been trying to dissipate what’s left of a shared understanding of, well, anything since at least 2004.

As we speak about Twitter anyway

Where have all the tweets gone? Twitter throttled tweets mentioning the HBO docuseries Q: Into the Storm. Twitter said they did so because they wanted to avoid amplifying QAnon. Which is quite ridiculous, given that the docuseries tries to dismantle the Q world-view. It certainly has nothing to do with the fact that the documentary criticises Twitter for enabling Q in the first place.

And now back to our regular 2022 schedule: Snickers dick vein. A Twitter user named Juniper dropped the «fact» that Snickers is removing the dick vein from its sugar bars. Which, obviously, is trolling. Which, obviously, didn't stop the right-wing social media power stupids from getting outraged. So angry, that Snopes was forced to publish a fact-check. I’ll stop laughing now.

What are you looking at?

After the USA left Afghanistan, and the Taliban took over, they also got control of the installed biometric surveillance systems. Having biometric data in the hands of a terrorist government is as bad an idea as it sounds.

Apple introduced its App Tracking Transparency to much fanfare last year. Facebook’s revenue took a hit because of it. But, in the end, tracking might still be possible.

Taking an Uber after trying to overthrow the US government? Bad idea.

Palantir is reportedly set to close a new deal for a data platform of the British NHS.

This ain’t intelligence

Julia Angwin interviewed Meredith Broussard on AI ethics and if it is possible to build AI products that embed as little bias as possible. Meredith Broussard is author of the book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World and More Than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender and Ability Bias in Tech.

Every time there is some supposedly new, world-changing AI system, it turns out that the problems of humanity are just reflected inside the computational system. Honestly, I’m a little tired of the narrative that computers are going to deliver us. I think the narrative itself is tired.

The MIT Technology Review published a series of articles on Artificial Intelligence and how it embeds the remnants of colonial domination. In its introduction, Karen Hao writes:

Together, the stories reveal how AI is impoverishing the communities and countries that don’t have a say in its development—the same communities and countries already impoverished by former colonial empires. They also suggest how AI could be so much more—a way for the historically dispossessed to reassert their culture, their voice, and their right to determine their own future.

Bot Populi answers how we can decolonize and depatriarchalize AI. The piece also features the most succinct description of AI I’ve read so far: «Artificial intelligence is the holy grail of capital accumulation and socio-political control in contemporary societies.»

As a response to datafication, algorithmic mediation and automation of social life, communities worldwide are trying to pursue justice on their terms, developing the technology they need, committing to the community’s best interests, and building pathways to autonomy and a dignified life. We have explored some such initiatives and the ideas underpinning them below. These initiatives provide insights about different dimensions of AI technologies: feminist values applied to AI design and development, communitarian principles of AI governance, indigenous data stewardship principles, and the recognition of original languages and cultures.

Not AI, but colonialism nonetheless: A group of crypto bros is trying to buy an island (yes, again). The cryptonians are once again showing how capitalism with cryptocurrencies is only capitalism after all, and the Jacobin piece does a fantastic job showing how we ended up where we are.

Fantasies of libertarian exit from society were not uncommon at the time. The 1960s in the United States was as much the heyday of market libertarianism as it was of New Left anti-capitalism. Fears of demographic, ecological, and monetary collapse, combined with anxieties over the activities of social movements seeking racial, gender, and economic justice and redress, hastened efforts to find ways to abandon the sinking ship of state and to start anew elsewhere.

Providers of facial recognition technology are no fans of transparency and accountability.

The Tech & the Web

Rest of World analysed the history of internet shutdowns. Once Egypt open Pandora’s box, shutting down the internet to quell dissent, it became a favourite tool in the box of governments around the world. It’s not only bad for protests but also bad for business, as shown at the example of Kashmir, the region most affected by internet shutdowns in the world.

Hence the practice of blocking the internet outright has given way to more nuanced approaches. As witnessed in Russia, where the once chaotic infrastructure powering the internet has been centralised, and internet service providers are required to install government provided control software.

Meanwhile, Russia is the target of wave after wave of attack by Ukraine’s «IT Army» and hacktivist groups like Distributed Denial of Secrets. So far, they have yet to prove any real impact on the war, and the all out cyberwar some analysts were predicting is not happening.

Displaying colours on the Web is broken, and browsers do not seem to care.

Enjoy capitalism

Apple enlists union-busting lawyers as more retail locations organise. Everybody is surprised. Except they are not.

The world is burning

In Around the Web 006 I mentioned Tesla’s Gigafactory in Brandenburg, Germany, and how the surrounding area is increasingly susceptible to drought. Unfortunately, not much has changed. But the problem is more complex than Tesla.

On the blockchain, nothing is safe, but everything is forever. Binance meanwhile, snitched their customer data to the Russian state – because of course they do.

What does it take to humiliate a bunch of conspiracy theorists and their trucks? Eggs suffice.

A consortium of journalists found that Frontex is misclassifying illegal pushbacks in an internal database. Fabrice Leggeri, long-time head of Frontex, finally resigned.

And finally, Justin McElroy ranked 185 welcome signs in British Columbia. That’s the content I’m on the internet for.


That’s it for this week. If you’ve made it this far, why not recommend Around the Web to a friend?

Until next week. Stay sane and hug your friends.

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