Comments on Rep. Gosar’s “Stop the Censorship Act,” Another “Conservative” Attack on Section 230
> Now that the text is public, we can finally do a well-informed evaluation.
> This bill is terrible in many ways. Among other problems, it grossly misunderstands Section 230’s mechanics, its desired policy consequences would be horrible, and it is misdrafted to advance those objectives.
> It doesn’t bring me any joy to dunk on a bill like this. Like Sen. Hawley’s bill, it almost certainly was meant as a piece of performative art to “play to the base” rather than as a serious policy proposal. But even as performative art, it highlights how Section 230 is grossly misunderstood by politicians inside DC, and it’s a reminder that modifying Section 230 requires extreme care because even minor changes could have dramatic and very-much-unwanted consequences.
The scramble to secure America’s voting machines
> Paperless voting devices are a gaping weakness in the patchwork U.S. election system, security experts say. But among these 14 states and their counties, efforts to replace these machines are slow and uneven, a POLITICO survey reveals.
Very annoying scroll interaction at the top, but eventually some content appears.
Cisco to pay $8.6 million fine for selling government hackable surveillance technology
> Cisco has agreed to pay $8.6 million to settle a claim it sold video surveillance software it knew was vulnerable to hackers to hospitals, airports, schools, state governments and federal agencies. The tech giant continued to sell the software and didn’t fix the massive security weakness for about four years after a whistleblower first alerted the company about it in 2008, according to a settlement unsealed Wednesday with the Justice Department and 15 states as well as the District.
This is a new wrinkle in the disclosure debate. Refuse to patch, pay out later. But 10 years seems like a very long timeline.
Moxie Marlinspike on encryption bans
> Host Molly Wood spoke with Moxie Marlinspike, founder and CEO of the private chat app Signal Messenger, about what a ban on encryption — or giving law enforcement a back door to messages — might mean. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
The Roots of Boeing’s 737 Max Crisis: A Regulator Relaxes Its Oversight
> In the days after the first crash of Boeing’s 737 Max, engineers at the Federal Aviation Administration came to a troubling realization: They didn’t fully understand the automated system that helped send the plane into a nose-dive, killing everyone on board.
> Engineers at the agency scoured their files for information about the system designed to help avoid stalls. They didn’t find much. Regulators had never independently assessed the risks of the dangerous software known as MCAS when they approved the plane in 2017.
> So one way of extending political time horizons and increasing is to age-weight votes. The idea is that younger people would get more heavily weighted votes than older people, very roughly in proportion with life expectancy.
I suspect this has very little chance of becoming reality.
Who Can Pay Venezuela’s Debts?
> Also racing sponsorships, credit ratings, ice-water celebrations and Trump on crypto.
This was a good one.
The New York City passport office
> The New York passport office. Wow. Where to begin?
Why Nasa’s next Moon mission can’t be an Apollo retread
> There is a familiar question asked of politicians, entrepreneurs and innovators: if you were to do it all again, what would you do differently?
> At Nasa headquarters, they’re fielding almost the opposite inquiry. Why don’t you just do it the same? If you managed to put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the Moon five decades ago, why is it so hard to do it now?
Building the Wind Turbines Was Easy. The Hard Part Was Plugging Them In
> There was a snag and it was a big one. We have 21st-century technology to produce the power, but we still have a 20th-century power grid that can’t move it from the windy and sunny parts of the country to the urban markets. The American power grid isn’t set up for it. It’s old-fashioned and parochial when it needs to be continental and forward-looking. It’s like the nation’s roads before President Dwight D. Eisenhower championed the construction of the Interstate Highway System seven decades ago.
> Skelly was regularly visiting TVA’s headquarters and received a warm reception from the TVA head. Negotiations seemed to be going well. But the TVA was getting a decidedly different message from Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican who had a longstanding dislike for wind turbines. He had bought a vacation property on Nantucket Island, off the Massachusetts coast, in 2001. The week he closed on the property, news broke about Cape Wind, a plan to build 170 wind turbines in the middle of Nantucket Sound. A year later, after being elected to the U.S. Senate, he introduced a bill that would make life difficult for offshore wind developers. Over the next few years, he kept up his campaign against them.
KPMG Audit Professionals Manipulated the Scoring of Training Exams
In today’s edition of edit a URL and go to jail...
> KPMG sent participants in training programs a hyperlink that directed them to the applicable exams. Embedded in the hyperlink was an instruction to the server that specified the score necessary to pass the exam. Thus, the characters “MasteryScore=70” meant participants were required to answer at least 70 percent of the answers accurately to pass the exam. By changing the number in the hyperlink, audit professionals could change the score required to pass.
> 58. For a period of time up to November 2015, certain audit professionals, including one partner, altered the URLs for their exams to lower the scores required to pass. Twenty-eight of these auditors did so on four or more occasions. Certain audit professionals lowered the required score to the point of passing exams while answering less than 25 percent of the questions correctly.
Also: 25%??? Come on guys, that’s worse than random chance!
[Statute of] Queen Anne’s Revenge? Supreme Court Grants Certiorari in Allen v. Cooper
> Most media reports concerning the case, however, were less concerned with the legal principle involved, and more interested in the factual situation out of which the dispute arose: the discovery, in 1996, of the 300-year-old wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, the flagship of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the pirate. Coincidentally, Blackbeard named his ship for the same Queen Anne who gave royal consent to the first British copyright act, the Statute of Anne, in 1710. In the same year, Bristol merchants completed a ship named Concord, which was later sold to French merchants who called it La Concorde. Blackbeard captured the ship in 1717, outfitted it with additional cannon, and renamed it Queen Anne’s Revenge, because he had served as a British privateer during the war against France and Spain that lasted for almost the whole of Queen Anne’s reign.
> Allen v. Cooper raises a host of interesting issues regarding the relationship between the states and the federal government vis-à-vis copyright infringement and the ability of a state to declare a copyrighted work to be a “public record.” The U.S. Supreme Court granted certoriari only on a single threshold issue: whether the states have sovereign immunity from suits for copyright infringement under the Eleventh Amendment. Even if the Supreme Court rules in favor of sovereign immunity, as expected, the possibility of a state lawsuit for inverse condemnation remains. Thus, more than 300 years after the Queen Anne’s Revenge ran aground, her voyage through the American judicial system is far from over.
To Evade Pre-Prohibition Drinking Laws, New Yorkers Created the World’s Worst Sandwich
> Bar owners insisted on this bizarre charade to avoiding breaking the law—specifically, the excise law of 1896, which restricted how and when drinks could be served in New York State. The so-called Raines Law was a combination of good intentions, unstated prejudices, and unforeseen consequences, among them the comically unsavory Raines sandwich.
Privacy Rights and Data Collection in a Digital Economy (Senate hearing)
> As someone who earns his living through data collection, I am acutely aware of the power the tools we are building give us over our fellow citizens’ private lives, and the danger they pose to our liberty. I am grateful to Chairman Crapo, ranking member Brown, and the committee for the opportunity to testify on this vital matter.
Why Recycling Doesn't Work
> After being picked up, enormous volumes of recyclable waste are unloaded at a local materials-recovery facility (MRF, pronounced like “smurf”), dumped onto conveyor belts, and passed through a battery of sieves, magnets, optical sorters, and manual workers who separate each item into its own stream—plastic, paper, metal, and so on. The batches from each stream are then sent to gigantic balers, squeezed into cubes, and sold, often by middleman companies, to “end markets.” These are the manufacturers, in Canada and around the world, that profit from turning our waste into something new—toilet paper, perhaps, or plastic lawn furniture, egg cartons, or drywall. More than a public service, recycling is largely a commodity business, as dependent on supply and demand as any other. When municipalities produce more recyclable garbage than end markets can absorb, the value of the product decreases, and in the selling market, Canada faces competition from countries across the world.
A New Way of Voting That Makes Zealotry Expensive
> The tool is called quadratic voting, and it’s just as nerdy as it sounds. The concept is that each voter is given a certain number of tokens—say, 100—to spend as he or she sees fit on votes for a variety of candidates or issues. Casting one vote for one candidate or issue costs one token, but two votes cost four tokens, three votes cost nine tokens, and so on up to 10 votes costing all 100 of your tokens. In other words, if you really care about one candidate or issue, you can cast up to 10 votes for him, her, or it, but it’s going to cost you all your tokens.
You’re About to Get Fewer Robocalls. But Maybe Not for Long.
> Major telecom companies, including AT&T, Comcast, T-Mobile and Verizon, have announced that they will voluntarily adopt the dual technologies known as Secure Telephone Identity Revisited and Signature-Based Handling of Asserted Information Using Tokens, known collectively as STIR/Shaken.
> The industrywide use of STIR/Shaken should hamper the prolific robocall industry by making it harder to fake calling from a number belonging to someone else. But will that be enough to end the onslaught of robocalls we all live with today?
Info Tech Of Ancient Democracy
> The Athenians had to keep those bodies flowing smoothly, then, and that was largely a matter of keeping track of who belonged where and when. They also had to maintain a smooth and dependable flow of the information generated by those bodies -- the votes, the decrees, the endless speechifying. They had, in short, to do a lot of stuff that modern information technology would have helped them tremendously to do, and nonetheless they managed pretty well, with the materials at hand, to build the tools they needed to make their system work.
> Those tools -- the info tech of ancient Athenian democracy -- are the subject of the following Notes. I present them now without further ado.
Parking Enforcers Who Chalk Tires Violate The Constitution
> A federal appeals court ruled Monday that “chalking” is a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Terrible business, chalking.
> Law professor Orin Kerr, noting that he had never seen a chalking case before, said parking enforcement officers could sidestep the constitutional issue altogether by simply taking a photo of the car rather than using chalk.
Ah, yes, much better.
Tracking Phones, Google Is a Dragnet for the Police
> The new orders, sometimes called “geofence” warrants, specify an area and a time period, and Google gathers information from Sensorvault about the devices that were there. It labels them with anonymous ID numbers, and detectives look at locations and movement patterns to see if any appear relevant to the crime. Once they narrow the field to a few devices they think belong to suspects or witnesses, Google reveals the users’ names and other information.