Sunday, May 05, 2019

Youtuber sentenced for c.p. receipt after he tempts viewers



A somewhat popular YouTube star, Austin Jones, 26, was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of receiving child pornography.

He had urged minor female to produce videos and send them to him to prove he was their “biggest fan”.
  
Buzzfeed News (Stephanie Barr) reports

  
The story might be interpreted as precautionary, not to entice readers or viewers with content.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

COPA opinion (2007) still does bear on the "free content without gatekeepers" question



Given some debates going on concerning “free content” on the Internet, where speakers want to be heard and are willing to let platforms make profits from their work, I thought I would refer to the Pacer copy of the COPA opinion again.

On page 11, at the bottom, there is mention of me as a plaintiff for putting my first book online (with extra footnotes), which I did on July 31, 1998 (I remember doing this from my cozy apartment in the Churchill in Minneapolis well).

On page 51, for several pages, there is detailed narrative of what would happen, given 2007 technology, if visitors had to offer age verification through credit cards to visit most websites unless there were filters. But the narrative becomes relevant were there ever a public policy change eliminating “free content” as a public “hygiene” problem (to control echo chambers, fake news, “stochastic threats” and the like).  This is at least conceivable in the future, given many other recent developments. 
  
The link is in the third paragraph of the March 22, 2007 post on this site.  It's ironic that there is a discussion of free content on this opinion when the law was designed to target "commercial sites", but that paradigm is not a clean one today. 
   
This issue is relevant for a Wordpress post I published April 10, 2918, “What happens if platforms are treated as if they were publishersor movie studios, and not as utilities?” 

Addendum: April 13

The First Amendment normally is interpreted to the narrow legal concept of "publication" (a statement to at least one person who understands it). You submit an LTE, magazine article or book manuscript to a traditional print publisher, it is under no obligation to publish it and generally does so based on its own best interests as a business (will the book sell?)  The publisher shares the First Amendment right with you. With hosted and social media platforms, publication happens mostly under the user control.  Technologically (starting in the late 1990s) this had been unprecedented. The platform has the right to curate the content with algorithms, as part of its own First Amendment right. It has the right to remove or censor content or users whom it deems as unacceptable under its own political ideology, But it would probably not have the right to collude with other businesses to get them to do so and hinder competition. Judge Reid's comments starting on p. 51 probably help support that idea.  YouTuberLaw (Lior Leser) is working on a complaint with the FTC over collusive behaviors that have allegedly been taken against conservative speakers, especially in late 2018 (as with Sargon of Akkad, Milo Yiannopoulos and others). 

Monday, March 25, 2019

New Zealand law compares the recent terrorist manifesto to child pornography (for all practical purposes -- mere possession gets you ten years in prison)



New Zealand, as a British Commonwealth country temperamentally similar to Australia, has a “chief censor”, named David Shanks.

It has been widely reported that Shanks has himself banned possession of not only the video of the March 15 massacre in Christchurch, but also the 74-page manifesto.

According to the Washington Times (Andrew Blake) only establishment academics or others approved by government can possess it.  Bloggers, like myself, who might want to possess it to ensure there was no possible reference to me in the document, may not.  This sounds like a bizarre comparison to arguments surrounding the Second Amendment (as well as the First) in the U.S. 

The CTPost, in an article (AP) by Alexandra Ma, reports that anyone in New Zealand found possessing the document could be sentenced to ten years in prison, and up to fourteen years for attempting to share or upload it.
  

Make no mistake, I do live and work in the US.  So far I have read the manifesto on my smartphone (iPhone) and one laptop.  I saved the pdf for reference on the laptop, so it is backed up in the cloud but not published on the web. This is not against US law.  But if I traveled to New Zealand, say in 2022 (this is a possibility) would I be arrested?  Will their customs check my private document cloud? 

While I was in New York City March 15 I discussed this with an Uber driver and he asked me if I would email it to him.  I declined.  But it would not have been illegal.
    
I’ve mentioned the name of the perpetrator on one or two posts, and I don’t buy the idea that he gains by the notoriety.  He will be in prison for the rest of his life with no online access.  How can he benefit?

I think New Zealand treats this content as if it were like child pornography.  But the document did not need an actual victim to be produced.  This gets back to some similar problems in the past, with text only  or drawn or animated images (or manga) with no actual person as in Canada and Australia and probably New Zealand. The 1996 CPPA law in the U.S. was stuck down in 2002.

There is another conceptual issue that I have talked about elsewhere, “gratuitous publication”, and “implicit content”, especially regarding content that doesn’t seem to benefit the speaker other than to provoke another otherwise aggrieved party into action.
  
The ideology in the manifesto has been widely reported.  It is said to have some intentionally confusing and distracting passages.  It seems extremely condemnatory of individualism and of people who aren’t loyal to their own “blood and soil”.   There is something very disturbing about trying to ban information from private citizens and letting them think for themselves. 
  
Quartz has a major article by Tripti Lahiri on why New Zealand made mere possession a specific crime. The New Zealand government has an explanation classification document, the QA portion of which is surreal (is if reading the text would infect someone with a virus as in a horror film).  But it is reasonable for a country to take exception to the naming of specific places or targets in a document like this.   There may be a "problem in Canada", at least in Ontario; I'll check into this story further. 

Saturday, March 09, 2019

The possible dark side of over-zealous security scanning, from the viewpoint of a foreign enemy



The media doesn’t talk about this much because there haven’t been any obvious incidents.  But it would appear, that since security companies scan sites for malware, they could easily scan for NCMEC watermarked images; and they could even scan people’s private cloud backups (which aren’t supposed to be online).

That could set up a temptation for a foreign enemy to smear someone or frame them for possession charges with hacking.  

We have little reliable experience as to how law enforcement and prosecutors would react.  Would hacking be an affirmative defense?  Possession was, at one time, an absolute liability offence.  
  
I suppose I can imagine a John Grisham novel based on this scenario. But it could set the stage for a personalized kind of “terrorism”.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

CDT amicus brief in appeal on FOSTA court dismissal gives the history of CDA and COPA



The Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington DC has submitted an amicus curiae brief to the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit (federal circuit), for the appeal by Wodhull at all to a dismissal of their lawsuit which would seek to have FOSTA (the “Backpage law”) declared unconstitutional.  The link is here.

What is striking is that the document gives a three page history, from pages 6-9, of the attempt to protect minors on the Internet with the original Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996, much of which was struck down by the Supreme Court in June 1997.  I actually attended the oral arguments on a snowy March day in March 1997 from the three-minute line and heard the government’s arguments (no cell phones in those days).  It's important to note that Section 230 from that law did remain and that is very important today (in fact that is what FOSTA weakens).



It follows (on about page 7) with the history of the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) itself, one dat of which I attended the trial of in Philadelphia in October 2006, via Amtrak, with a good Philly Cheesestake lunch with the lawyers that I still remember.  The judge mentioned the concept of “implicit content” from the bench that day, and it’s unusual that it comes up.

The CDA SCOTUS opinion does compare user speech on the Internet to pamphleteering or leafleting in earlier periods of American history (a topic that came up in a speech at the CDT forum in Washington Dec. 7, 2018), in conjunction with how the post office and newspaper industries worked in these time. Yet I have wondered if there is a difference between protecting the content of speech,  and protecting the right to self-distribute it.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Inappropriate content can be defined by the eye of the beholder



There have been claims that YouTube has banned the monetization of children’s gymnastics, in connection with other statements by YouTube that inappropriate comments by users could get some posts demonetized.

I couldn’t verify the first claim. But it is understandable that some viewers could perceive what is intended as a legitimate and healthful physical activity as provocative and inappropriate, given the mindset of some viewers. This is a disturbing observation with possibly serious implications.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Maybe you do need VPN to protect yourself from unexpected government spying for the "context" of your browsing habits?


ThioJoe has a video on why you need a VPN (or else, his title says).


He gives a story from July 2017 when a teenager (younger than 18) made a meme which imitates Trump getting in a fight, where the kid did a brief “deepfake” on top of a CNN brief video.

CNN tracked down the user’s IP address and contacted the teen and demanded an apology, and threatened to “dox” him.

What I wonder about is browsing.  The post previous to this referred to a government’s getting a search warrant for a user who alleged attempted to connect to a site or address thought to have child pornography.  There could be an ancillary followup.  A prosecutor could then look at a pattern of video watching, of images technically legal (or posted for special purposes in another context) but possible viewed for fantasy satisfaction, which might become a legal problem.  YouTube will sometimes warn viewers when they go directly to private videos embedded in web pages or blog posts. 

Thio also talks about “deep packet inspection” as a possible tool for law enforcement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Merely linking to a URL with c.p. can result in a search of you home and computers



Electronic Frontier Foundation is arguing in Richmond at the Fourth Circuit on January 31 a particularly disturbing case.

A search warrant was obtained for a user’s home and computer(s) or device(s) when the user had connected to a URL for a file serving link that apparently was closely associated with child pornography.

EFF argues that this is not probable cause.

All modern web hosting services have logs that enable investigators to find all IP addresses that ever linked to any element on a site.  Google no longer allows search arguments to be displayed (it had back in 2005).  Theoretically, when a site is identified by NCMEC or similar facility, all possible users who attempted to connect could be found and investigated.

If an illegal image is loaded into a cache on the end user’s computer and the user knows that this site has illegal material, a criminal violation of possession is possible.  (At one time, some states like Arizona even had “strict liability” in these circumstances.)  This might be possible when an email preview loads, which makes phishing at least a remote risk for all users for being “framed”.

It would be possible to land on a site containing illegal images but not on a specific element that has such and image, so an investigation would show no illegal material. 

In ambiguous cases, dangerous plea bargains could be possible, including agreeing to give up Internet use.  So this situation sets up an invitation to frame and silence political enemies. 
   
One possibility that I have wondered about contains YouTube videos claiming “boys” or “teens” in sexual activity in the titles.  YouTube has become stricter in recent months on community guidelines (as have other services like Tumblr).  Presumably an end user has a “right” to assume that age 18 or 19 is possible and intended.  But some of these videos come from overseas and might be illegal to view in the U.S.  Could a prosecution happen in these circumstances.
  
The law has to draw a line somewhere on age.  In practice teens and young adults vary enormously on maturity at any given age.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Consumers Base" offers parental controls on children's online access



Someone sent me a link to a product called “ConsumersBase for parents to use to protect their kids from inappropriate content online.
  
 The product protects against cyber bullying, malware, inappropriate content, phishing, sexual predators, and what is most attention-getting, grooming.

This should not be confused with “consumer base exact data”. 

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Vigilante groups with no law enforcement authority entrap people on the Internet for interest in minors and shame them publicly



Brandy Zadrozny writes for NBC a story about vigilante groups that function much like Chris Hansen’s “To Catch a Predator” in the 2000s. 

The groups are apparently particularly effective in entrapping young gay men, if they answer dark web or even social media ads for possibly minor gay men.

The result is often a public shaming online, although you would think platforms would take these down.
  
But the groups do not have the authority of law enforcement and might be guilty of impersonating law enforcement.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Washington Times starts 2019 with particularly graphic account of child pornography on the Dark Web



The Washington Times, admittedly a “conservative” daily newspaper for the DC area, opens the first business day in 2019 with a front page article by Jeff Mordock on the use of the “Darnket” or Dark Web and Tor for child pornography

But the prosecutions and investigations described in this article are particularly shocking, one even involving an unborn child.  I’ll leave the details to the article.

Electronic Frontier Foundation and the libertarian community as a whole has encouraged people to learn to use TOR, especially in non-democratic countries.