March 14, 2004

Network Research on the Internet [7:16 pm]

Study Finds a Nation of Polarized Readers

His map showing how the titles are connected by buyers reveals a readership — or at least a book buyership — as fiercely polarized as the national electorate is said to be. On the left is a cluster of several dozen liberal polemics (the blue nodes) linked by a dense thicket of crisscrossing gray lines. On the right is a nearly identical cluster of conservative tracts (the red nodes). Connecting the blue and red sides of the map are just a few gray lines and gray nodes, all politically moderate or nonpartisan titles, including “Sleeping With the Devil” by Robert Baer, “Bush at War” by Bob Woodward and “All the Shah’s Men” by Stephen Kinzer, a cultural correspondent for The New York Times.

Mr. Krebs, who got similar results when he conducted the same experiment last year, calls this pattern the “echo chamber” effect: for the most part, he found, buyers of liberal books buy only other liberal books, while buyers of conservative books buy only other conservative books. This finding appears to buttress the argument made by Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, in his influential study “Republic.com” (Princeton University Press, 2001) that contemporary media and the Internet have abetted a culture of polarization, in which people primarily seek out points of view to which they already subscribe.

[...] Even with the bridging books, the average distance between the map’s left and right clusters is still four links — or in network theory parlance, “four degrees” — Mr. Krebs said. Given that the clusters represent ideological extremes, he reasoned that if he expanded his book sample to include nonpolitical best sellers like “The Da Vinci Code” and “The South Beach Diet,” the distance between left and right would be reduced. To his surprise, that turned out not to be the case, though what, if anything, this means he is not entirely sure.

Ernest raises all the right questions about the conclusions (and points to the actual study) in Republic.Press. Of course, there’s still the interesting question of, in an age of intrusive legislation into reading habits, just how easily the researcher was able to do this work using online resoursces like Amazon’s reading lists…..

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GrokLaw on the Anderer Letter [5:47 pm]

Mike Anderer, composer of the infamous Halloween X memo, posted his thinking about what the working strategy at SCO and, by implication, Microsoft and other open/free software opponents have in mind — in short, lawsuits, lawsuits and more lawsuits. GrokLaw has an analysis and response.

Their loathsome litigation business model, which includes using the courts as an aggressive competitive weapon, is a misuse of the legal system. It’s a form of blackmail, a leftover artifact from the dot.com bubble days. It can only work for so long before everybody gets sick of it and them and changes the patent laws, in my opinion.

But in the meanwhile, let me ask you this: how’s it going for SCO? Are they raking in the dough from anybody in any quantities? Without MS propping them up, where would they be today? Even with MS, how’re they doing? As well as they expected? No? Not well? And why is that?

Because there are millions of people in this world who love GNU/Linux software and despise SCO’s way of thinking and their business model and are willing to stand up and say no. We’re willing to research and testify and produce evidence and leak memos and use our considerable talents, for no money and at considerable risk, I might add, to defeat this monstrously ugly attack. SCO can’t buy this at any price. Not even Microsoft can buy it, with all their billions. It’s not for sale.

So far, we’re winning by a mile.

Go figure.

Talk about your David and Goliath.

And we’ll keep on doing it until they give up. Happily, the other side has forgotten something important. Businesses can’t kill FOSS. They can benefit by using it if they play by the rules. The GPL rules. But they can’t kill it. It wasn’t and isn’t predominantly written by business. It’s written by individuals who wrote it for fun, not profit, and for the creative challenge. There are no weapons against that kind of creativity, barring martial law. And even then, it sprouts up like grass, pushing up through the sidewalk’s concrete, reaching for the sun.

Slashdot’s story: Halloween X Author Mike Anderer Speaks Out

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LawMeme on the FBI’s Carnivore Expansion Proposal [11:26 am]

FBI seek to expand the system-formerly-known-as-Carnivore With links, especially to the News.Com article by Declan: FBI adds to wiretap wish list

“It is a very big deal and will be very costly for the Internet and the deployment of new technologies,” said Stewart Baker, who represents Internet providers as a partner at law firm Steptoe & Johnson. “Law enforcement is very serious about it. There is a lot of emotion behind this. They have stories that they’re very convinced about in which they have not achieved access to communications and in which wiretaps have failed.”

[...] Baker agrees that the FBI’s proposal means that IP-based services such as chat programs and videoconferencing “that are ’switched’ in any fashion would be treated as telephony.” If the FCC agrees, Baker said, “you would have to vet your designs with law enforcement before providing your service. There will be a queue. There will be politics involved. It would completely change the way services are introduced on the Internet.”

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EMax on Copy Protection [11:17 am]

EMax Software Group Clarifies Digital Rights Management Position

“It’s our underlying belief that copy-protection is an unworkable solution to the issue of piracy. We have found no ‘copy-protection’ system that works. The only reliable way to prevent copying of music and video is to never give access to it in the first place. Schemes based on encryption, licenses, keys or special playback devices and applications to control playback or copying are little more than superficial feel-good remedies doomed to failure. They never have worked, and they never will.

“For that reason we have abandoned our previously announced license of Microsoft Corporation’s Windows Media Player as a viable solution to our DRM needs. Likewise, it’s our opinion the Apple Computer, Inc solution, while different in nature, remains equally ineffective. We find these sorts of solutions generally do nothing to prevent willful unauthorized duplication and distribution of our content. So long as it’s possible to easily strip DRM from the media or produce unprotected freely distributable copies, these ’solutions’ are not useful.

“Working DRM must recognize legitimate consumers have a moral and legal right to unfettered use of music and video they have purchased. Our position is that our customers, our artists’ fans, must be able to freely use the titles they legally purchased as they see fit. They must be able to burn CDs for their own use, keep copies on their MP3 players and computers and so on as suits them without enduring DRM hoops.

“However, those who would illegally distribute unauthorized copies must also be held accountable and that’s the solution we are seeking to develop.

EMax’s (rather hideous) www site

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Tough Sledding for CRIA’s Copies of RIAA Lawsuits [10:57 am]

Service providers resist tracking pirates

The Canadian Recording Industry Association has asked for a federal court order that would force the country’s five largest high-speed service providers to disclose the names, addresses and other personal information relating to unauthorized “uploaders” of copyrighted music.

Lawyers for the group argued yesterday that the ISPs “hold the key” to identifying the 29 accused file-swappers and have a duty to co-operate that overrides any privacy concerns related to policy, legislation or Charter rights.

[...] Some of the ISPs shot back. Shaw Cable, the most defiant company among the pack, poked holes in CRIA’s case and accused the music industry of planning an extended fishing expedition for the purpose of forcing individuals into costly settlements before cases ever get to trial.

This is the same strategy used by sister organization the Recording Industry Association of America, lawyers argued.

Shaw lawyer Charles Scott, of Lax O’Sullivan Scott, said the cable company has a duty to protect the privacy of its customers, not to become a “private investigator” for the music industry by being forced, at its own expense, to analyze and hand over subscriber information.

Slashdot discussion: Canadian Record Industry Presses ISPs in Court

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An ILaw Conference Theme: Jurisdiction [10:52 am]

Slashdot: World’s First Warez Extradition Decided Soon. From News.Com.Au - Aussie faces $68m piracy charges

The Commonwealth DPP last week applied for the extradition to the US of Hew Raymond Griffiths, 42, of Berkeley Vale. They want Griffiths, code-named “Bandido” and allegedly co-leader of the Drink Or Die Internet gang, to face trial for criminal copyright breaches, including a conspiracy charge.

But Griffiths is fighting the US move, which has already seen several Internet associates jailed. His lawyer told a Sydney magistrate last week Griffiths “had never set foot in the US”, and argued he had committed no crime in Australia.

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The Perils Of Astroturfing [10:11 am]

Sometimes, you get grass roots instead - from today’s Boston Globe: The do-it-yourself campaign (I can’t find the poster shown with the Globe article - "misunderestimate" was involved - and I also can’t find any uses of "dignitude" or "strategery")

VISITORS TO THE official Bush campaign website, GeorgeWBush.com, are encouraged to “join the team” by volunteering for the president, writing letters to editors, calling talk radio — or, until this week at least, customizing a downloadable Bush-Cheney `04 poster with a slogan of one’s choosing. There was only room for 44 characters on the virtual poster, but that proved more than enough for Ana Marie Cox, editor of the snarky Beltway blog Wonkette.com.

Last Wednesday, Cox posted a Bush-Cheney poster with the slogan “But not if you’re gay!” to her site, and asked readers to send in their own “creative adaptations of this technology.” (Certain words, she warned, will be rejected by the GOP’s software. According to her own experiments, these include: lying, Hitler, Iraq, evil, prince of darkness, and most expletives.) Some of the slogans submitted to Wonkette on Wednesday and Thursday included: “Putting the Fun back into Fundamentalism,” “Read my lips. No new jobs,” “Not as bad as Sauron,” and “Vote ironically!”

But the campaign seems to have pulled the plug on its do-it-yourself experiment. When Ideas visited the site on Friday, he discovered that although one can still create a poster with one’s home state emblazoned on it, a personalized slogan was no longer an option. At press time, the Bush campaign had not responded to requests for comment.

Here’s a gallery created before the site was changed. Wired News’ article: Bush Site Unplugs Poster Tool; and this gallery supplied the image posted here with this article.

Update (April 18, 2004): A Wonkette profile in First With the Scoop, if Not the Truth

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