Sergi Xaudiera


The Internet and the Third Estate

Read the full post if you want to understand the current state of the internet.

People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society. People no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard, and that has important consequences.

For a moment, though, step back to the world as it was: the one where newspapers (and TV stations, etc.) were gatekeepers thanks to their ownership of production and distribution. In this world any viable political campaign had to play nicely with those who ran the press in the hopes of gaining positive earned media, endorsements, etc. Just as important, though, was the need to buy advertising, as that was the only way to reach voters at scale. And advertising required lots of money, which meant donors. And then, once the actual election rolled around, a campaign needed an effective GOTV effort, which took not only money but also the sort of manpower that could only be rustled up by organizations like labor unions, churches, etc. It is all these disparate pieces: partisan media members, advertisers, donors, large associations, plus consultants and specialists to manage them that, along with traditional politicians, made up the “party” in The Party Decides…

Said reticence, though, creates a curious dynamic in politics in particular: there is no one dominant force when it comes to the dispersal of political information, and that includes the parties described in the previous section. Remember, in a Facebook world, information suppliers are modularized and commoditized as most people get their news from their feed. This has two implications:

All news sources are competing on an equal footing; those controlled or bought by a party are not inherently privileged

The likelihood any particular message will “break out” is based not on who is propagating said message but on how many users are receptive to hearing it. The power has shifted from the supply side to the demand side

China is building its own internet focused on very different values, and is now exporting their vision of the internet to other countries. Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values. There’s no guarantee these values will win out. A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top ten are Chinese.

We’re beginning to see this in social media. While our services, like WhatsApp, are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the US. Is that the internet we want?

★ Ben Thompson, Stratechery

# (November 04, 2019)

Github removes Tsunami Democràtic’s APK after a takedown order from Spain

That’s a clear example of fighting in a digital war with an analogical approach.

From time to time, GitHub receives requests from governments to remove content that has been declared unlawful in their local jurisdiction. Although we may not always agree with those laws, we may need to block content if we receive a valid request from a government official so that our users in that jurisdiction may continue to have access to GitHub to collaborate and build software.

While the Tsunami Democràtic app could be accused of encouraging disruption, the charge of “terrorism” is clearly overblown. Unless your definition of terrorism extends to harnessing the power of peaceful civil resistance to generate momentum for political change.

And while there has been unrest on the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan towns and cities this month, with fires being lit and projectiles thrown at police, there are conflicting reports about what has triggered these clashes between police and protestors — including criticism of the police response as overly aggressive vs what has been, in the main, large but peaceful crowds of pro-democracy demonstrators.

Asked what impact the Github takedown of the Tsunami Democràtic app’s APK will have on the app, a source with knowledge of the movement suggested very little — pointing out that the APK is now being hosted on Telegram.

★ Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch

# (November 04, 2019)

NBA the cost of doing business in and with China

With no other pretention to put together some quotes. A lot have been written these days, that can drawn a timeline of the events.

Hong Kong, China, NBA & Apple. This story of fourth started with a tweet by Daryl Morey, GM of Houston Rockets (NBA).

The episode began Friday night, when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted an image on Twitter that included a slogan commonly chanted during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” He quickly deleted the tweet, but the damage was done.

Chinese fans, who see the Hong Kong protesters portrayed as violent rioters in the state-run news media and largely regard them as such, were furious. Sponsors paused their deals with the Rockets, and the country’s main broadcaster said it would remove the team’s games from its schedule.

The league issued an apology for Mr. Morey’s comments Sunday night. That inflamed fans back home, where the protesters are generally seen as pro-democracy fighters battling a repressive government. Democratic and Republican politicians found agreement in calling the league gutless, accusing it of prioritizing money over human rights.

Brookly Nets (NBA) owner Jose Tasi, posted a response on his personal Facebook page. He as an owner it’s also on NBA board.

The NBA is a fan-first league. When hundreds of millions of fans are furious over an issue, the league, and anyone associated with the NBA, will have to pay attention. As a Governor of one of the 30 NBA teams, and a Chinese having spent a good part of my professional life in China, I need to speak up.

What is the problem with people freely expressing their opinion? This freedom is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues.

The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities.

Then a Sixers (NBA) fan was ejected from exhibition game in Philadelphia (USA) after supporting Hong Kong.

Seeking to bring attention to the issue, Wachs and a companion purchased seats behind the bench of the Chinese team and wore face masks — which have been banned at ongoing protests in Hong Kong. They held up a pair of signs. One read, “Free Hong Kong” and the other, “Free HK.”

“We sat in our seats silently and just held up the signs,” he said. About five minutes into the game, Wachs said, security confiscated the “Free Hong Kong” sign and asked what the second sign meant.

“And I said HK stood for [former Phillies announcer] Harry Kalas,” Wachs said.

“He said, ‘Isn’t Harry Kalas dead?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, free Harry Kalas.’ And he said, ‘Why would you free Harry Kalas?’ And I said, ‘Hey, I just wanna free Harry Kalas.’ And he said, ‘OK.’”

About ten minutes later, Wachs recalled, security returned to take the “Free HK” poster.

Finnaly after three days, China realised what he was doing, deteriorating its internationally image, and bringing more support to Hong Kong protesters.

After three days of fanning nationalistic outrage, the Chinese government abruptly moved on Thursday to tamp down public anger at the N.B.A. as concerns spread in Beijing that the rhetoric was damaging China’s interests and image around the world.

The Communist Party indeed doesn’t hesitate to use state power to tell the Chinese people how they should think. But the displays of patriotism, especially from young people, also show that the party’s propaganda machine has mastered the power of symbol and symbolism in the mass media and social media era…While imposing tight censorship, the Communist Party has also learned to lean on the most popular artists and the most experienced internet companies to help it instill Chinese with patriotic zeal. It’s propaganda for the Instagram age, if Instagram were allowed in China.

And also affecting economic issues.

Now, the Chinese government appears to be reassessing its campaign against the N.B.A. and dialing down the clamor. The government is already in a bruising trade war with the United States, and a backlash against China could hurt its image in the sporting world ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics near Beijing. The dispute with the N.B.A. was also quickly politicizing an audience of sports fans who would not normally focus on issues like the protests in Hong Kong.

Ambigous NBA public statement.

The N.B.A. faces an existential problem. For the better part of a decade, the league’s leading players and coaches have spoken out, often eloquently, on issues like police brutality, gay rights, guns and the president of the United States. They even toppled the retrograde racist owner of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The N.B.A.’s challenge, its headache, comes encoded in this dynamic. Social justice marketing is grand for the hoop audience in the United States but looks far less attractive to an authoritarian power in Beijing.

“This is the vulnerability for the N.B.A.,” said Matheson, the sports economist. “Social justice and free speech does not sell well in China.”

This is the point, after years of Chine investing in western business and organizations, they have the own part of the biggest companies, but they can act like home outside world. On the other hand, western companies realised the price of doing business in such a different market, with such different values. The ultra-know and attributed (not sure it was ever a true story) to Michael Jordan can summarise this idea “Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too”.

At same time Apple removed from app store, an app that geo-point riots on map, a way to avoid riots, in consequece, also tracking police activity. ç

A day earlier, People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an editorial that accused Apple of aiding “rioters” in Hong Kong. “Letting poisonous software have its way is a betrayal of the Chinese people’s feelings,” said the article, which was written under a pseudonym, “Calming the Waves.”

“The app displays police locations and we have verified with the Hong Kong Cybersecurity and Technology Crime Bureau that the app has been used to target and ambush police, threaten public safety, and criminals have used it to victimize residents in areas where they know there is no law enforcement,” Apple said in a statement late Wednesday. “This app violates our guidelines and local laws.”

★ Daniel Victor, The New York Times

★ Joe Tsai, personal Facebook page

★ Avi Wolfman-Arent, WHYY

★ Keith Bradsher and Javier C. Hernández, The New York Times

★ Michael Powell, The New York Times

★ Jack Nicas, The New York Times

# (October 11, 2019)

TikTok's local moderation guidelines ban pro-LGBT content

Global digital censorship, how dangerous could be that China sets the global standard.

The rules were applied on top of the general moderation guidelines, first reported by the Guardian on Wednesday, which included a number of clauses that banned speech that touched on topics sensitive to China, including Tiananmen Square, Tibet and Falun Gong. ByteDance, the Beijing-based company that owns TikTok, says the moderation guidelines were replaced in May.

★ Alex Hern , The Guardian

# (September 27, 2019)


The meaning of platforms centrality, you don’t own your audience, users are referred by a platform; even Google as a web platform. That’s the reason why more and more people are going back to personal blogs, rss and newsletters. Dark side: not everybody can build his own communication channel without social platforms and, especially, it’s hard to gain visibility without platforms who handle audiences.

Con ese cuadro uno podría concluir que lo mejor es tener tu web o tu app (aquí se tiene la intermediación de Apple y Google) o incluso hacer como Milo y otros y refugiarse en plataformas menos «arbitradas» como Telegram o las listas de correo. Esa apuesta tiene un precio de que tanto el descubrimiento como la «viralidad» y la fidelización son mucho más difíciles de conseguir que en las plataformas.La web de hoy está centralizada por mucho que a algunos nos pique y decidamos volver a escribir en el blog en lugar de hacer un hilo largo en Twitter.

★ Antonio Ortiz , Error 500

# (September 13, 2019)

How Facebook is trying to stop its own algorithms from doing their job

Doing good, could mean earning less. Is Facebook ready for a change on its business model?

For example, the company will update its scrolling news feed algorithm by reviewing little-known websites whose articles get sudden surges of traffic on Facebook — a pattern that Facebook says internal tests showed were a red flag for misinformation and clickbait. The new metric does not mean the problematic articles will be taken down, but their traffic will be reduced in news feed, the primary screen Facebook users seen when they open the app.

The question is whether these changes are tweaks on the margins or more fundamental fixes to a service that–while massively profitable–has experienced a precipitous loss of public trust. The newsfeed algorithm alone takes in hundreds of thousands of behavioral signals when it evaluates which posts get promotion — and it’s tough to assess the impact any single fix might have on such a complex system.

★ Elizabeth Dwoskin , The Washington Post

# (July 25, 2019)

Scotland Yard's Twitter account breached in series of bizarre posts

How important is to secure all public official accounts. My kudos to the human who fixed it on Saturday morning.

In the early hours of Saturday, after apparently regaining control of its output, Scotland Yard said it believed the “security issue” related solely to the external service the Met’s press bureau uses to issue news releases. It said the MyNewsDesk service automatically spreads content to the Met’s website and Twitter account once it is published, as well as sending corresponding emails to subscribers.

“While we are still working to establish exactly what happened, we have begun making changes to our access arrangements to MyNewsDesk. We apologise to our subscribers and followers for the messages they have received.

★ Kevin Rawlinson, The Guardian

# (July 22, 2019)

Stop Surveillance Humanitarianism

Help people without selling their privacy

If an individual or group’s data is compromised or leaked to a warring faction, it could result in violent retribution for those perceived to be on the wrong side of the conflict. When I spoke with officials providing medical aid to Syrian refugees in Greece, they were so concerned that the Syrian military might hack into their database that they simply treated patients without collecting any personal data. The fact that the Houthis are vying for access to civilian data only elevates the risk of collecting and storing biometrics in the first place.

★ Mark Latonero, The New York Times

# (July 17, 2019)