Things looked grim for Ahmed Mohamed as he stood in his school handcuffed by police. He had made a clock, a clock a teacher had commended, and instead was headed to jail under suspicions of crafting a bomb. He remains suspended from his suburban Dallas high school and plans a transfer.
— ruchi kokcha (@ruchikokcha) September 16, 2015
In the meantime, he has plenty of offers to keep him busy:
First, there’s the President:
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great.
— President Obama (@POTUS44) September 16, 2015
Then, there’s Zuck:
Ahmed is going to Space Camp USA, if he wants:
Creative minds are always welcome at Space Camp, and we appreciate donors who help them come. Someone has provided a scholarship for Ahmed.
— SpaceCampUSA (@SpaceCampUSA) September 16, 2015
Google wants to hang out with Ahmed and his clock this weekend:
Hey Ahmed- we're saving a seat for you at this weekend's Google Science Fair…want to come? Bring your clock! #IStandwithAhmed
— Google Science Fair (@googlescifair) September 16, 2015
Bruce Fenton, a Bitcoiner, put together a group to offer a scholarship:
A Dallas hackerspace is saving a seat for Ahmed:
That’s not all. MIT invited the young inventor to tour their campus live on MSNBC. We’re sure, by the time we click publish for this article, there will be more.
Featured image from Shutterstock.
Viral Disinformation Warning: Fake News Are Taking over Facebook
Today’s news: Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford voted for Donald Trump, the Republican President-elect of the US, because the liberals want to take away their money; Melania Trump filed to divorce her husband, Donald Trump; Donald Trump himself said to People Magazine that Republicans are the dumbest group of voters; All the news above are fake, but trending on the social networks.
Like: Facebook Could Stop Playing Nanny and Thought Cop
Facebook is often criticized for playing nanny: removing content deemed unsuitable for minors, removing content deemed offensive to this or that group, and in general adopting a perhaps benevolent but certainly heavily hands-on approach to the material posted by users. That could be about to change.
According to a Facebook news release penned by Joel Kaplan, VP Global Public Policy, and Justin Osofsky, VP Global Operations and Media Partnerships, the social network’s interference practices are about to be relaxed.
“In the weeks ahead, we’re going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest – even if they might otherwise violate our standards,” say Kaplan and Osofsky. “We will work with our community and partners to explore exactly how to do this.”
The social network’s policies are outlined in the Facebook Community Standards. The first two sections of the document, titled “Helping to keep you safe” and “Encouraging respectful behavior” are relevant here.
Many Facebook users are familiar with the fact that a post containing adult language, or a picture showing nudity, or a video with sexual content, for example, can be removed by Facebook.
The company is also known for enforcing a strict real name disclosure policy: pseudonymous users and privacy-conscious users who log in through Tor and anonymizing proxies can be blocked from accessing Facebook unless they provide government-issued documents and pictures.
Facebook has probably good intentions. Its interference and censorship measures can be justified by invoking, for example, the need to protect young Facebook users from predators hiding behind a fake identity. At the same time, many perfectly normal Facebook users are beginning to resent the leading social network’s nanny attitude, and switching to more hands-off social media like Reddit.
Censorship is more difficult to justify when it comes to current news and opinions shared by users and media operators on Facebook, which may “involve violence and graphic images of public interest or concern, such as human rights abuses or acts of terrorism.” Though such material is deeply disturbing, publishing it is important to raise awareness of important issues.
“Our intent is to allow more images and stories without posing safety risks or showing graphic images to minors and others who do not want to see them,” say Kaplan and Osofsky.
Facebook move to relax its community standards is a step in the right direction, and it’s to be hoped that the identity standards will be also relaxed. There are plenty of nice folks who don’t want to reveal their real identity for perfectly legitimate reasons.
Facebook, Please Also Stop Political Censorship and Thought Policing
“We think of ourselves as a technology company,” said Facebook VP of News Feed Adam Mosseri, as reported by TechCrunch. Mosseri added that Facebook plays an important media role, yet “our responsibility is to make sure we’re a platform for all ideas.”
We’re not in the business of deciding which ideas people should read about.
That makes perfect sense, though TechCrunch seems to disagree. It appears that some people at Facebook also disagree. In fact, some employees pushed to remove posts by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for alleged “hate speech,” The Wall Street Journal reported a few days ago. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ruled that it would be inappropriate to censor the candidate, after which some pro-censorship employees threatened to quit.
In August, Facebook fired some contract workers who manipulated the social network’s trending topics feed for political purposes, skewing it toward a liberal bias.
According to Pew Research, about bout 44 percent of Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook. That shows how Facebook is de-facto a major news media with important political impact. Therefore, Facebook should either explicitly declare a political bias, or strive to provide impartial, unbiased coverage of political news and opinions.
Libertarian magazine Reason notes that calls to ban hate speech are deeply misguided. “Such bans have the opposite of the intended effect, protecting the forbidden speech from critical engagement and giving it a martyr-like status.”
Unpopular speech is the most important speech to protect, otherwise free speech is an illusion.
Zuckerberg recently resisted witch-hunting calls to end Facebook’s association with venture capitalist Peter Thiel, “guilty” of openly supporting Trump. “We can’t create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate,” said Zuckerberg in an internal memo. “There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia or accepting sexual assault.”
In related news, the Trump campaign launched a new Facebook Live show Monday night.
Facebook’s steps toward an open, impartial and unbiased approach, are to be praised. “Like” it or not, the world is full of people who, for perfectly legitimate reasons that make sense to them, adopt wildly different political positions, and the citizens can exercise their right to democracy only if they can listen to, and evaluate, all different political position.
Images from Ksayer1/Flickr and Shutterstock.
A Judge Has Approved a Lawsuit to be Served via Twitter
Non-profit St. Francis of Assisi has been prosecuting a lawsuit on behalf of the estates and families of Assyrian Christians were murdered and had their property destroyed as a result of ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State activities in the middle east. The group is suing Kuwait Finance House, Kuveyt-Turk Participation Bank Inc., and a man named Hajjaj al-Ajmi for having financed the terrorist groups, but has had trouble serving papers on al-Ajmi.
The plaintiffs noticed that al-Ajmi has an active Twitter account and asked a federal court to allow them to serve the papers that way. US Magistrate Judge Laurel Beeler assented to this request, saying in a ruling:
The court grants St. Francis’s request because service via Twitter is reasonably calculated to give notice and is not prohibited by international agreement.
Also a Twitter Rebel
Hajjaj al-Ajmi was kicked off Twitter in 2014 following a Treasury Department sanction. However, in May of this year he created at least one new account, and currently has over 100,000 followers. At the time, al-Ajmi was actively raising funds for Islamic State efforts, even posting phone numbers for people to call and make donations through. Archived tweets and news coverage would provide ample evidence in a case against him.
The St. Francis of Assisi is acting specifically on behalf of Christian victims of the Islamic State. Al-Ajmi’s status as a banned transactor by the Treasury Department, his history of being kicked off social media platforms for terrorist activities, and his general repertoire of anti-Christian, extremist Islam make him a ripe target for the proceedings. The other parties named in the suit have already been served by traditional means.
Not a First
The ruling notes that other cases in the past have allowed for the use of social media as an alternative means of serving papers. It noted the case of a trademark infringement suit against a Turkish citizen who could not be located. In that case, the court authorized e-mail, Facebook, and LinkedIn to be used. In a scam artistry case in which the Federal Trade Commission could not reach the alleged scam artists and could not get help from the Indian government, a federal court gave them permission to use the Facebook accounts of the parties named.
Probably Not a Normal Thing
Don’t worry, though. If you’re named in a lawsuit and you’re reachable by traditional methods, most likely you’re still going to be served in the traditional ways. One can imagine a future where frustrated process servers push for legislation to allow for the regular serving of papers via social media, and such an explicit law could conceivably make this ordeal the norm, but in all three of the largely known cases where this has happened, the plaintiffs had to get special permission from the court before considering social media serving to be in line with due process.
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