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The Most Important Free Speech Question Is: Who Decides?

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Like everyone, I've been watching as the free speech debate on college campuses has morphed from its usual steady background hum into a Big Issue Of The Day. First there was Milo Yiannopoulos at Berkeley. Then Charles Murray at Middlebury. Heather Mac Donald at Claremont McKenna. Ann Coulter at Berkeley. The right is naturally outraged that these speakers were harassed or banned, and the left is—well, what is the left's reaction to all this? At first, it was mostly a matter of not really sticking up for free speech rights on campus. That was bad enough, but then the conversation changed. Instead of a collective mumble, I began reading affirmative arguments that there was absolutely nothing wrong with "no-platforming" these folks. For example, a few days ago a New Republic article showed up in my Facebook feed and got high fives from several people I follow. Here is Aaron Hanlon:

When departments or groups arrange for a speaker, invitations are usually authorized by small committees or localized administrative offices without a campus-wide discussion or debate....Instead of community-wide discussion and debate over the merits of bringing a given speaker to campus, the debate happens after the invitation, giving the misleading impression that no-platforming is about shutting down speech.

....But no-platforming is better understood as the kind of value judgment that lies at heart of a liberal arts education....This has always meant deciding what people needed to know, but also what they don’t need to know—or at least which knowledge and skills deserved priority in one’s formal education.

....No-platforming may look like censorship from certain angles, but from others it’s a consequence of a challenging, never-ending process occurring at virtually all levels of the university: deciding what educational material to present to our students and what to leave out. In this sense, de-platforming isn’t censorship; it’s a product of free expression and the foundational aims of a classically liberal education.

The sophistry here is breathtaking. If it's just some small group that invites someone, then it's OK if the rest of the university blackballs their choice. After all, universities are supposed to decide what students don't need to know. It may "look like censorship from certain angles," but it's actually the very zenith of free expression. Juliet Kleber followed up today:

As Aaron Hanlon argued in the New Republic earlier this week, choosing not to host Ann Coulter or Milo Yiannopoulos on campus is not a suppression of their free speech. Academia certainly has an important place in selecting and elevating certain voices to relevance in a broader culture, but let’s not forget that a college isn’t a town hall: it’s a particular community of people engaged in intersecting missions of education. Coulter is not a member of that community and she has no claims upon it. Campus life is curated, and none of us outside of it are guaranteed access to that platform.

Enough. I don't usually pay a lot of attention to the latest outrages on college campuses because college campuses are teeming with smart, verbal, overconfident 19-year-olds. Of course they do stupid things. We all did stupid things at that age. I'm generally happy for all these micro-outrages to remain local controversies handled by local administrators.

But now everyone is weighing in, and here on the left we're caving in way too often to this Hanlon-esque lunacy. Is some of the speech he's concerned about ugly and dangerous and deliberately provocative? Of course it is. But that's not a reason to shut it down. That's the whole reason we defend free speech in the first place. If political speech was all a harmless game of patty-cake, nobody would even care.

Speech is often harmful. And vicious. And hurtful. And racist. And just plain disgusting. But whenever you start thinking these are good reasons to overturn—by violence or otherwise—someone's invitation to speak, ask yourself this: Who decides? Because once you concede the right to keep people from speaking, you concede the right of somebody to make that decision. And that somebody may eventually decide to shut down communists. Or anti-war protesters. Or gays. Or sociobiologists. Or Jews who defend Israel. Or Muslims.

I don't want anyone to have that power. No one else on the left should want it either.

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jimwise
1 day ago
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How Apple Won Silicon: Why Galaxy S8 Can’t Go Core-to-Core With iPhone 7

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Rene Ritchie, writing for iMore:

Conversely, Apple’s silicon team also doesn’t have to carry the baggage of competing vendors and devices. For example, Apple A10 doesn’t have to support Microsoft’s Direct X. It only and exactly has to support Apple’s specific technologies and implementations.

In other words, what iOS wants fast, the A-team can deliver fast.

I’ve said it before and will say it again: I’d prefer the iPhone over Android even if it were Android that had the massive lead in CPU performance. But Apple is literally over a year ahead of the competition — even the iPhone 6S and SE outperform the S8 in single-threaded performance.

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jimwise
7 days ago
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endlessmike
5 days ago
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The sadder part is that despite the S8 having the fastest processor of any Android device, Samsung's code is so horrible that it runs visibly slower than the Pixel, which uses an older, slower SoC.

The Seductive Appeal of the "Nazi Exception"

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Yes, rights are important, and we must offer them generously. But surely we can agree that Nazis don't have rights?

Can't we?

I mean, surely we can agree that we don't have to extend rights to people who, given a chance, would take those rights from us. Surely we don't have to extend rights to people who are actively arguing to take our rights away. Surely we don't have to extend rights to people who disagree with, and attack, the fundamental precepts underlying those rights: that all people are created equal and endowed with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Surely we don't have to extend rights to people who deny our humanity.

That's the argument — both viscerally appealing and idiotic — underlying some university students' fervor for censorship and even violence.

You can see it in a breathtakingly semi-literate and frankly totalitarian diatribe in The Wellesley News:

Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech. [sic] The founding fathers put free speech in the Constitution as a way to protect the disenfranchised and to protect individual citizens from the power of the government. The spirit of free speech is to protect the suppressed, not to protect a free-for-all where anything is acceptable, no matter how hateful and damaging.

You can see it in the demands of students of Pomona college:

The idea that we must subject ourselves routinely to the hate speech of fascists who want for us not to exist plays on the same Eurocentric constructs that believed Black people to be impervious to pain and apathetic to the brutal and violent conditions of white supremacy.

You can see it at Berkeley, in apologias for violence used to suppress speech:

The administration, demonstrated in emails from Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, failed to problematize a thoughtless adherence to the First Amendment and thus played straight into the hands of the likes of Yiannopoulos, who deliberately use such a basic interpretation of free speech to smokescreen their toxic, sexist, white nationalist agenda. Yiannopoulos and his supporters have a track record of actively targeting people in their hate speech, and the ideology they peddle perpetuates ideas that urgently endanger members of our community. In short: The principle of freedom of speech should not be extended to envelop freedom of hate speech, for the unchecked normalization of hate speech will have real consequences.

Isn't it simple? Isn't it principled? Isn't it safe? They're not trying to silence all speech. They just don't want to allow speech that calls for their extermination, dangerous speech.

Right?

No.

First, the argument relies on a false premise: that we don't, or shouldn't, extent rights to people who wouldn't extend those rights to us. This is childish nonsense, and a common argument for tyranny. We criminal defense lawyers know it very well: why should this guy get a trial? He didn't give his victim a trial. Why should she be shown any mercy? She didn't show her victims mercy. Why does he get due process? He didn't give his victims due process. The argument is particularly popular since 9/11. You hear it a lot whenever anyone suggests that maybe people accused of being terrorists — or of being someone who might plausibly grow up to be a terrorist, or might take up terrorism as soon as this wedding is over — perhaps should be treated as having some sort of right not to be killed or tortured or indefinitely detained. Nonsense, is the response. They wouldn't give you any rights. The constitution isn't a suicide pact! It's also popular in matters of modern religious liberty. How can you argue that Muslims should have the freedom to worship here when Muslim countries deny Christians and Jews that right? In this manner, the student Left represented by the quotes below shares an ethos with the authoritarian and racist wings of the Right. A common taste for authoritarianism makes strange bedfellows.1

In fact, we extend rights to everyone, regardless of whether they support those rights or not. That's the deal, it's the way rights work. Rights arise from our status as humans, not from our adherence to ideology. If they didn't, I could very plausibly say this: Pomona College, Wellesley College, and Berkeley should expel the students quoted above, because people actively advocating to limit free speech rights can't expect any free speech rights themselves.

Second, the "Nazi Exception" is not safe or principled because it's applied by humans, and humans are ridiculous and awful. Look, we already have exceptions to the First Amendment for dangerous speech: the doctrine of true threats (which allows punishing threats meant to cause fear and objectively reasonably causing fear) and incitement (which allows punishing speech aimed at provoking imminent lawless action). Those exceptions are narrow and well-defined and zealously monitored. There's a good reason for that: if you create a free speech exception, someone will always try to stretch it all to hell.

These students and their supporters argue that the "Nazi Exception" would only allow punishment of speech advocating actual violence against others. They're lying — they can't keep that story straight for a full paragraph. Ask them! Ask the students at Wellesley:

This being said, if people are given the resources to learn and either continue to speak hate speech or refuse to adapt their beliefs, then hostility may be warranted. If people continue to support racist politicians or pay for speakers that prop up speech that will lead to the harm of others, then it is critical to take the appropriate measures to hold them accountable for their actions. It is important to note that our preference for education over beration regards students who may have not been given the chance to learn. Rather, we are not referring to those who have already had the incentive to learn and should have taken the opportunities to do so.

It's not just speakers advocating genocide, it's "racist politicians." It's not just speakers advocating violence against groups, it's "speech that will lead to the harm of others."

Ask the students at Pomona:

The idea that the search for this truth involves entertaining Heather Mac Donald’s hate speech is illogical. If engaged, Heather Mac Donald would not be debating on mere difference of opinion, but the right of Black people to exist. Heather Mac Donald is a fascist, a white supremacist, a warhawk, a transphobe, a queerphobe, a classist, and ignorant of interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live. Why are you, and other persons in positions of power at these institutions, protecting a fascist and her hate speech and not students that are directly affected by her presence?

Heather MacDonald is a leading apologist for police violence, and I abhor her contributions to national discourse. But treating her as a genocide advocate demonstrates that these students can make anyone a genocide advocate and justify the suppression of anyone's speech. MacDonald's chief sin, in these students' view, is that she's a vigorous critic of the Black Lives Matter movement, its goals, its rhetoric, and its methods. I don't share many of her criticisms, but the notion that it is genocidal and outside acceptable discourse to criticize a protest movement is vile, un-American, imbecilic, and not to be taken seriously. These students' view that America is riddled with racism and injustice is quite arguable. But combined with their theory of permissible speech, it means that nearly anything can be identified as an instrument of genocide and therefore suppressed. I'm a Nazi. You're a Nazi. She's a Nazi. He's a Nazi. Wouldn't you like to be a Nazi too?

In modern America, we are faced with genuine aspiring Nazis who believe in genocide, and despicable hucksters who encourage them for profit. But these students — and the university cultures that produce them — utterly lack the honesty, principle, or self-awareness to identify them, or to identify true threats or genuinely actionable incitement. With few exceptions, American universities are unable or afraid to make rational, intelligent judgments about what speech is "dangerous" in any meaningful sense of the word. They've proved that again and again and again and again. Asking modern American universities "is this speech dangerous?" is like asking modern American cops "was it necessary to shoot that dude?"

Third, these students are pursuing useful idiocy in the guise of safety. Exceptions to free speech don't get used to help the powerless. They get used to help the powerful. We see that in the case of blasphemy laws: imagined by some on the Left as a measure of respect for a multicultural society, actually primarily used to oppress religious and ethnic minorities and the powerless. We see it in colleges, where the same rhetoric used by these students is also used to silence their allies. We see it in some reactions to campus violence, openly thirsting for an opportunity to suppress speech. If these students think that speech exceptions will ultimately promote their concept of social justice, they're goddamned fools. Fools have rights too, but we're not obligated to cooperate with their foolishness.

The "Nazi exception" is unprincipled, self-indulgent, and childish. Nazis and their admirers and fellow travellers ought to be called out, ridiculed, condemned, and exposed to the full array of consequences the First Amendment offers. They ought to face criminal and civil sanctions if they break the law. But I decline the invitation to help these students destroy the village in order to save it.

Copyright 2016 by the named Popehat author.
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jimwise
10 days ago
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How Google Ate CelebrityNetWorth.com

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Adrianne Jeffries, writing for The Outline:

At the end of it, we just said ‘Look, we’re not comfortable with this.’”

“But then they went ahead and took the data anyway.”

In February 2016, Google started displaying a Featured Snippet for each of the 25,000 celebrities in the CelebrityNetWorth database, Warner said. He knew this because he added a few fake listings for friends who were not celebrities to see if they would pop up as featured answers, and they did.

“Our traffic immediately crumbled,” Warner said. “Comparing January 2016 (a full month where they had not yet scraped our content) to January 2017, our traffic is down 65 percent.” Warner said he had to lay off half his staff. (Google declined to answer specific questions for this story, including whether it was shooting itself in the foot by destroying its best sources of information.)

That’s just outright theft, pure and simple. And it’s foolish — the only reason the good data from CelebrityNetWorth exists is that the site was able to make enough money to hire a staff of researchers. Now that Warner has had to lay off half his staff, the data is surely going to suffer. Forget about “Don’t be evil”, how about “Don’t be stupid”?

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jimwise
10 days ago
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reconbot
10 days ago
They Probably would have to support amp or something dumb
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Technical Analysis of the Facebook App Bundle for iOS

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Alexandre Colucci:

The version 66.0 was a 165 MB app on an iPad Air 2 (64-bit). It was a monolithic app with its main binary being more than 100 MB.

The version 87.0 is now available: 253 MB on the same iPad Air 2 with only 64-bit code. In just 6 months, the Facebook.app size grew by 88 MB!

It’s the most popular third-party app in the world, and it’s structured like a pile of garbage. At least 40 MB of resources are duplicated. Imagine how much collective bandwidth and storage Facebook is wasting here.

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jimwise
18 days ago
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F-Secure Acquires Jonathan Zdziarski's Mac Security App 'Little Flocker'

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Cyber security company F-Secure has acquired Little Flocker, the behavioral analysis-based monitoring app for Macs, developed by iPhone forensics expert and security researcher Jonathan Zdziarski, who joined Apple last month.

The Helsinki-based firm announced the news in a press release posted to its site, where it revealed that Little Flocker would be built into a new security product it's releasing, called XFENCE.


Little Flocker protects Macs by using advanced behavioral based analysis, and monitors apps that attempt to access confidential files and system resources. It also detects and blocks Mac ransomware. F-Secure will build Little Flocker's next-generation security engine into its new XFENCE technology. XFENCE will complement F-Secure's existing endpoint solutions to provide advanced behavioral Mac protection for both corporate and consumer customers.
F-Secure said that the "myth" of Macs not requiring protection against ransomware, backdoors, and other software was fading away, due to "Apple's popularity among senior-level employees and other high-value targets". By acquiring Little Flocker, it said it hoped to further enhance its products' existing cyber security capabilities for the sophisticated detection of zero-day attacks.

For businesses, the core technology is to be combined with F-Secure’s security cloud and packaged into its Protection Service for Business, a security solution with centrally managed computer, mobile and server security with integrated patch management and mobile device management. Consumer customers can make use of the Flocker technology with F-Secure Safe, the company's multi-device security product.

Little Flocker developer Zdziarski announced in March that he was joining Apple's Security Engineering and Architecture team. Known as "NerveGas" within the jailbreaking community, Zdziarski had provided input on a number of important iOS-related security matters over the years, including Apple's high-profile battle with the FBI over unlocking an iPhone used by a shooter in the 2015 San Bernardino attack.


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jimwise
20 days ago
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Selfishly, this sucks -- I'm a happy LittleFlocker user, and don't want to deal with a new product.

But it's good news for Zdziarski and for F-Secure, and I'll take his working for Apple on privacy tools as a fair trade.
MotherHydra
17 days ago
I'm gonna be selfish and say this sucks big time. You make some good counter-points but damn I like my security tools to be lean and mean, so I'm a bit unsure of how F-Secure's involvement will help (or harm) Little Flocker longterm. I'm not sure I want an F-Secure product on my Mac, especially if it involves a subscription.
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