Archive for October, 2006

Fake news, fake people, real outrage.

Posted in blogs, cyberlaw on October 22nd, 2006

This week, one of our guests was Nick Sylvester, who talked about his experiences being the center of controversy. He wrote for notable publications, including the Village Voice, and it was revealed that some of the interviews he had published were in fact made up. Although they were indeed satirical to the astute eye, this fact was not as apparent as it is on, say teh Colbert Report or the Daily Show, and people got quite angry. The Gawker apparently developed quite a fixation on him.

The discussion about the controvers leapt from the wiki’s single page for that week’s video and notes, and launched into a seperate discussion page. I will admit, I have no burning desire to rehash that conversation, nor do I have any particularly unique thoughts about it. However, I did discover a similar, but distinguishable controversy, posted on that same page:

Wal-Marting Across America

LT: Let’s change the context a little, and see how it affects our analysis.

This couple ran a popular blog about their travels across America in an RV; staying in Wal-Mart parking lots. When it was discovered that Wal-Mart was the actual impetus (and funding) behind their trip, controversy erupted.

  • What is the “moral weight” of their failure to disclose the true nature of their trip? Does the fact that it was being done for profit, for commercial reasons, make that situation somehow more offensive – or for those who saw no problem with the above – does it make the behavior cross some line into offensive?

Of course, the situation is distinct in other ways. The blog was not per se fabricated – the couple alleges that they were entirely truthful. However, this assertion is undermined by the fact that the blog was unfailingly positive – and had frequent citations of how wonderful all the Wal-Mart employees were.

Keep in mind that Wal-Mart took down the blog after the information got out that it was their doing – now all that remains are two defensive posts.

  • Is this otherwise offensive because it was an attempt at “GoogleWashing” the pejorative use of the new verb Walmarting?
  • Is it offensive because it is Wal-Mart – because it is being done b a company that is already known for using its bulk to conform the world around it to its wishes?

This I find even more intriguing. Since noone has taken the bait and added their comments, and since I’m not about to reply to my own questions on the discussion site, I thought this might be a more appropriate place to hash them out. However since 1. it is now past midnight and 2. I have not yet formulated actual opinions, I will save this discussion for a later post. I just wanted to invite comments rom nyone reading, and honestly to set this up as a spur and reminder to myself to revisit the subject.

Links

Business Week Article

Blog’s Remnants

Consumerist posts Banned Pics

Citizen Media – Blogs and Journalism

Posted in blogs, cyberlaw on October 22nd, 2006

In my own news blog, I collect and comment on news on a particular subject (so not in the category of citizen media). The topic of this week’s class so got in my head, I almost subconsciously changed my strategy for selecting posting material. I found that in the past week, I had departed from my exclusive focus on professional media stories and indeed posted two stories derived from other blogs:

Do We Count? and Revisiting the Ann Landers Survey

In today’s blog on the site, I depart entirely from my quote-and-comment format and explore why I had made this shift. I discuss this class (indeed, I very rarely mention aspects of my personal life there) and the impact it has has, as well as the topic of this week’s class:

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Answering the Question You Never Asked

In case anyone was wondering why I am posting to other blogs rather than solely to media articles. . . .I am enrolled in a course entitled “Cyber One“, which explores argument and the ‘court of public opinion’ through new technologies. This week my project was on blogs and journalism. We explored how the internet, especially blogs, has changed the nature f journalism in some respects. Personal blogs can gain wide attention without the need for working capitol and a corporate structure present in most professional media outlets. Does this change the nature of journalism? Are personal bloggers somehow less qualified – or indeed more objective than professionals? Are the channels of popularity that allow something to gain attention on the internet a valid replacement for professional training and editing?

It could very well be that the kinds of stories we need to see – about corporate complicity with censorship in China or waterboarding – are the kinds that the main media outlets will not present.

This has made me rethink my strategy on posting only stories published by professional news outlets. Not everything I post has been, strictly speaking, “news”. Many of the stories I quote are largely the opinions and experiences of the journalist in question. The experiences and thoughts of those in the blogosphere are not per se less valid. Therefore, when one is particularly topical, thought-provoking, or well-written, I will be including it.

I will continue to focus primarily on professional outlets, because the object of this blog is not just to collect newsworthy and topical pieces. It is also to keep tabs on the amount of media attention that the childfree are receiving. Therefore, I may well include articles that are no better than blog entries I exclude.

I apologize for the off-topic posting, and I certainly will not allow this post to live indefinitely in the archives of this site. However, I would like to give any of our regular readers a chance to respond. After all, if you are only coming here to gauge media attention or to keep abreast of actual news, this shift in policy might well be something that detracts from our usefulness. If this is the case for many of you, I am amenable to rethinking it. However, it is also likely that you all saw that this was not a posting of groundbreaking news, and already moved on.

My aim is certainly to remain unique, and not to become another blog that simply reflects my own thoughts – there are many quality sites out there already doing that. Of the times I do depart from posting media stories, it will only be to refer to posts that in some way deal with wider national and international issues facing the childfree. After all, the lack of such a site is what inspired a busy law student to take on such a project in the first place.

I think this is notable (as well as repostable, since I do discuss the class!) since I never expected the class to start affecting my perspective quite so much. Indeed, I never expected it to have an impact outside of the class itself, letalone outside of law school. But it has. That’s what happens when you strip down assumptions and start thinking philosophically about things.

I am getting my “Doctorate of Jurisprudence” and jurisprudence is actually the philosophy of law. Studying philosophy that is both useful and marketable. It’s like I found the largest loophole in academia.

By no means have my other classes lacked this component – indeed much of my property reading was philosophy-based and got me rethinking the way I think about property itself. Almost all my classes have reshaped my perception of law – or at least gotten me to think about it on a very deep level. Perhaps it is because the subject of this class is not confined to such narrow topics, or perhaps it is because it encompasses subjects that I take part in every day life (such as blogs and wikis), but this is somehow different.

New Assignment

Posted in cyberlaw on October 16th, 2006

Our latest assignment is to choose an issue we are passionate about, and then write 1500 words presenting the view of he opposition. My original plan for the project (making an argument in a cyber medium) was to attempt to create a ‘grassroots internet’ activism for Spyware – for example, boycotting Vonage as a frequent advertiser on such programs, and starting a ‘click-cott’ on MySpace until they remove the Zwinky/ SmileyCentral ads that download MyWebSearch. MyWebSearch is a program that comes bundles with free software, and inserts a toolbar onto your web browser, serving pop-up ads. It does not disclose that it is a toolbar, and uses vague wording in its EULA to disguise its true purpose. For example, on its website it states:

Bonus: Also includes Smiley Central™, Cursor Mania™, Popular Screensavers™, the MyWebSearch® search box and Search Assistant – relevant search results in response to incorrectly formatted browser address requests.

I did not know that ‘relevant’ was the new euphemism for ‘paid advertisements’.

I was hoping to integrate it into a new project that would tie into my work on Spyware at the FTC last summer, and perhaps my upcoming clinical at the Berkman Center. However, I found that the first stage would be very difficult for this topic. Although there are various arguments on the other side – such as simply standing by the contention that internet users are responsible for thoroughly reading the EULAs, no matter how obscurely they are presented and how vaguely they are worded. One could also make the argument that these adware programs help fund free software that would otherwise cost money. However, one could not spend 1500 words making such arguments. Well, I couldn’t.

I chose instead something from my other life – my job as Spokesperson for No Kidding! which essentially makes me a prominent spokesperson for the childfree (although NK is open to all, regardless of why they don’t have kids, many of its members are childfree and it is, in essence, the largest childfree org in the world.)

Some issues might be just a little too outside the mainstream – such as advocating Stork spots be replaced with elderly parking, since pregnant women benefit from the walk while the arthritic don’t (and those with pregnancy complications can get handicap permits) or advocating that movie theatres have childfree showing, restaurants childfree sections – I took on a budding, yet less controversial topic – employee benefits. Currently, most parents are effectively paid more since the extra benefits employees provide to children have large monetary values. 1500 words on the opposite side was pretty easy – economic efficiency + corporate responsibility to the community. Here’s the result.