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May 17, 2019

Remedies for Facebook and Twitter Censorship

People say that companies like Facebook and Twitter can do business, and refuse to do business, with whoever they want, because they are private companies.  However, I don’t see much difference between refusing to serve customers because of their political views and refusing to do business with people because of their religious views.  I know all about refusing to sell to people because of their religious views, because it happened to my grandparents.  My Methodist grandmother bought a house in her name alone because my Jewish grandfather could not in the restricted neighborhood where the house was located.  The deed stated no Jews or blacks.  We needed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to stop such nonsense.  Perhaps we need a legislative solution to stop discrimination against people for their political views.

Facebook, Twitter and similar companies take advantage of an exemption in the copyright law that says they are not responsible for material on their site that violates copyrights because they don't exercise editorial control.  Since they supposedly exercise no editorial control, they are considered to be a platform, not a publisher.  I think that if they are blocking content for failure to meet their obviously political “community standards,” there is a good argument to be made that they are no longer a platform. They have become a publisher.  I think the law should be changed so that companies like Facebook and Twitter have a choice of not censoring content and having the exemption, or exercising control of content and losing the copyright exemption.  Platform censorship should be limited to the option of stopping people who advocate violence or spread explicit pornography.

If that’s too radical a change to pass Congress, I have two alternatives.  The milder legislative alternative is to force companies like Facebook and Twitter to publish a full explanation of their “community standards.” At the moment, there is no way anybody can know in advance what will offend My Lords Dorsey and Zuckerberg.  They should have to publish guidelines in advance so that users actually have a chance of skirting their censorship.   The companies also should be forced to give people whose posts are censored or whose accounts are suspended or banned an “Error Report” that shows the offending post(s) and explains what is wrong with them and how the user can correct them so that the user can avoid future censorship or being banned completely.  These “Error Reports” could also be used to push back against the censorship as extreme or completely arbitrary.  In other words, sunlight could be a good disinfectant for this censorship behavior.

The other solution I think would require an anti-trust suit and settlement.  Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are natural monopolies. Part of the convenience is that everyone is on the same platform, exchanging information, The monopoly part that needs to be broken up is who  selects what the user sees.

There is no technical reason that the only Facebook can select what you see. Technically, Facebook could be forced to share its data with third parties who could select what you see. Users could then choose who they wanted to select what they see. Facebook would still manage the platform and be able to place some ads based on customer data. Third parties selecting what the users see also could place some ads along with the content they show users.

Facebook would no longer be allowed to remove any content except on the grounds of content advocating violence or containing pornography. Users could choose which companies would select content for them. Competition should remove any need for government content regulation

The first company to get hit with this anti-trust settlement hopefully might scare the others straight.  This would represent a tremendous loss of value to the platform company.  They would no longer receive monopoly rents provided by exclusive content filtration.  Hopefully, the abuse of content filtration monopolies for political censorship would stop.

Nov 11, 2018

Time to End Democrats' Impunity

Now that the Midterm Elections are over, the Justice Department needs to end the impunity with which Democrats in Washington, DC, violate laws. It's time for equality before the law to really mean the law applies to Democrats as well as Republicans. It's time to indict Cheryl Mills, Huma Abedin, Samantha Power and Susan Price for lying to the FBI when they said they knew nothing about Hillary Clinton's private email server. Subsequent evidence indicated they all helped set it up. If we can add mishandling classified information to the charges after all of the immunity granted to these people, we should. It's time to indict John Koskinen, former IRS Commissioner, for obstruction of justice and perjury, for saying that he couldn't find any record of Lois Lerner telling the IRS to harass Tea Party groups. Six almost simultaneous hard drive crashes and numerous overwritten backup tapes strain credulity to the breaking point. Lois Lerner needs to be indicted for disclosing taxpayer information to her friends in liberal PACs.
It's time to indict Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. All of those text messages make a great case with just what's on the public record. It's time to indict Andrew McCabe for lying to the FBI. McCabe was fired for "lacking candor," which translates to lying to the FBI.
In other words, the Democrats should get the Mueller special counsel treatment. If General Mike Flynn can be forced to plead guilty to lying to the FBI, when the agents who interviewed him didn't think Flynn was lying, then all of the Democrats who really did lie to the FBI or obstruct justice need to be indicted. There is no downside to prosecuting these people any more. It's not like the Democrats are going to go easy on us if we go easy on them.

Oct 17, 2018

Comparing Elizabeth Warren to Actual American Indians

Elizabeth Warren's claim of affirmative action status based on being an American Indian was completely bogus. Almost any tribal affiliation requires 1/8. Warren has 1/64 tops, and more likely 1/1024.  That likely means Warren in 99.9% white. The affirmative action status is supposed to compensate for past discrimination. I doubt Elizabeth Warren experienced any.

From 1957 to 1963 I spent my summers on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. My family owned a ranch there. In about 1960, I knew we had become unpopular with other ranchers, but I didn't understand why. I was about 9, so I asked my Uncle Knute why. He told me we were paying an Indian haying crew 5 cents a bail to pick up our hay. This was the going rate for white workers. Uncle Knute told me Indians got only 3 cents a bail. I told Uncle Knute that the work was the same, so the pay should be the same. Uncle Knute said that's what we thought, but not everyone agreed.

I mention this to show you that Indians faced a lot of actual racial discrimination. I very much doubt that Elizabeth Warren faced anything like what I saw in Montana. She took personal advantage of a preference designed for people who had faced actual discrimination by lying about her background. Given how much discrimination the Flathead Indians faced when I lived there, I find Elizabeth Warren's claim insulting and selfish.

When I lived there, the Flathead Indians had almost nothing.  Fish and game laws didn’t apply to them, so sometimes they shot fish to get enough to eat.  Even if you miss with a .22, the shock wave knocks the fish unconscious, so you can net the fish. The houses they lived in barely kept the winter out.  The tribal organization wasn’t a noticeable presence.

The Flathead Indians, aka Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, are now the most successful American Indian tribal organization in the US. (The Alaskan Native organizations are richer, because they sold access for the Alaska Pipeline, but as an employer and as a social service organization, I think the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are overall more successful for their members.) They achieved this by pursuing education with a passion, so they could learn how to make the best of what they have. They own and operate their own 4-year college. Their tribal annual report looks like they are a conglomerate, not a tribe. They have a large timber operation, a beautiful hotel on Flathead Lake that I stayed at with my family once, an electronics factory and a recently purchased hydroelectric dam. They added casinos as an afterthought.  The timber operation was how they got their start.

My respect for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' accomplishments is why I find Elizabeth Warren's affirmative action claim so despicable. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes overcame poverty and prejudice by study and hard work to become extremely successful. Elizabeth Warren lied about her background to use an affirmative action shortcut she didn't really qualify for to achieve her success.

Just to be clear, Proudfoot is a Scottish name.  That part of my family came from Dumfriesshire, Scotland.  I am not claiming any American Indian ancestry.  Proudfoot is also my pen name, so if you don’t remember my family on the Flathead reservation, it’s because they weren’t called Proudfoot.