Pluralistic: 01 Oct 2022 How Palantir will steal the NHS
1 October 2022 | 5:18 pm

Today's links How Palantir will steal the NHS: Stealth privatisation was always the endgame for public-private-partnerships. Hey look at this: Delights to delectate. This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021 Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading How Palantir will steal the NHS (permalink) Britons are divided on many matters, but one uniting force that cuts across regional, party and class lines is jealous pride for the NHS and fierce resistance to its privatisation and the importation of America's grisly omnishambolic health care "system." But while the British people oppose privatisation, the British investor class are slavering for it. Oligarchs love to loot public services, which is why the IMF is so adamant that the countries it "helps" sell off their public water, housing, even their roads and schools and museums. Normally, the corrupting, immiserating effects of privatisation happen so slowly that they can feel like a natural phenomenon, a gradual change in the weather that makes everyone a little colder, a little more uncomfortable every day, until one day, the situation is unbearable. But there have been moments of "big bang" privatisation where governments and oligarchs speed-ran the process of looting the public coffers and transferring them to private hands – think of the sell-off of ex-Soviet state industries to connected insiders. Or think of Thatcher's sell-off of council homes, an airdrop that converted shelter from a human right to an asset, in which "market forces" were allowed to "optimise" the housing system, with the result that everyday people can't afford a home, while wealthy speculators trousered billions. Thatcher had a supermajority, and she understood how to play different economic blocs against each other, resulting in the "shock therapy" of the 1980s. Her successors – both Tories and New Labour – had to move more slowly: https://jacobin.com/2022/10/liz-truss-mini-budget-imf-boe-government-debt-brexit Back to the NHS. It has been subject to the death of a thousand literal cuts, as Tories and Labour alike have starved it of resources. More importantly, both parties have turned ever-larger chunks of the NHS over to private-sector looters who have taken over hospitals, services, record-keeping and more. These "public-private partnerships" were billed as a "third way," combining the strengths of both the public and private sectors. In reality, they were a way to transfer a ever-larger sums from the public purse to private investors. Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are a heads-I-win, tails-you-lose proposition. When a private sector manager takes over a public service and extracts so much profit from the system that it risks collapse, the public sector is blamed for undersubsidising the service, and the looter can demand more money. Lather, rinse, repeat. After decades of this, everyone understands how PPPs can be used to siphon endless sums out of the public coffers. But there's a more sinister aspect to PPPs that is only just coming to light, exemplified by Palantir's leaked plans to take over the NHS. Palantir is one of the most sinister companies on the global stage, a company whose pitch is to sell humans rights abuses as a service. The customers for this turnkey service include America's most corrupt police departments, who use Palantir's products to monitor protest movements. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0003122417725865#articleCitationDownloadContainer Palantir's clients also include the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a federal agency who rely on Palantir's products for their ethnic cleansing: https://theintercept.com/2018/03/26/facebook-data-ice-immigration/ Palantir also sells to the CIA: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2018-palantir-peter-thiel/ One of Palantir's best markets is the UK, where it has insinuated itself into numerous public services: https://privacyinternational.org/sites/default/files/2020-11/All%20roads%20lead%20to%20Palantir%20with%20Palantir%20response%20v3.pdf That includes the NHS, where Palantir has been jockeying for an ever-larger slice of the health service's private procurements. But the company's reputation has preceded it, and even NHS commissioners understand that they risk public outrage if they sign over the NHS to a notorious private-sector surveillance company. Palantir has a solution. The company has effectively unlimited access to the capital markets, as well as to its deep-pocketed founder Peter Thiel, a cartoon villain who's written that women shouldn't be allowed to vote and that democracy and freedom are incompatible. All that liquid capital means that Palantir doesn't have to win NHS contracts – it can simply buy up other companies that have won them. Palantir's strategy leaked to Bloomberg, and Olivia Solon lays it out: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-30/palantir-had-plan-to-crack-uk-health-system-buying-our-way-in In a Sept 2021 email with the subject line "Buying our way in…!" Palantir regional boss Louis Mosley describes a plan to go around "hoovering up" NHS contractors, to "take a lot of ground and take down a lot of political resistance." (A Palantir spokesman said the email was "regrettable" and "not an accurate characterization of our relationship with the NHS") Palantir's Mosley said he'd target NHS software suppliers with "credible leadership" and revenue between £5-50m, offering their founders "v. generous buyout schedule (say 10x, especially if all stock)," adding "(we might even be their only real exit option)." Palantir also urged the lobbying group TechUK to pressurise the NHS and other government departments to buy commercial, proprietary systems rather than building their own. Palantir ran their own separate lobbying as well, hiring Indra Joshi and Harjeet Dhaliwal away from the NHS to push their agenda in Westminster: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-04-21/palantir-hires-ai-chief-from-nhs-in-u-k-as-it-bids-to-expand For backup, they retained Global Counsel, a lobbying firm run by the Blairite archvillain Peter Mandelson, to push Palantir to the UK government. Mandelson is one of the great monsters of New Labour, masterminding a plan to permanenly disconnect British households from the internet if any member of the family was accused – without proof – of illegaly downloading music: https://memex.craphound.com/2009/11/19/breaking-leaked-uk-government-plan-to-create-pirate-finder-general-with-power-to-appoint-militias-create-laws/ Palantir's plans are bearing fruit. In Dec 2020, the company won a £23.5 no-bid contract to manage NHS patient data: https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2021-02-24/revealed-data-giant-given-emergency-covid-contract-had-been-wooing-nhs-for-months The deal was successfully challenged by Foxglove, who represented Opendemocracy in a suit to force the government to make future Palantir deals subject to public tender: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/ournhs/weve-won-our-lawsuit-over-matt-hancocks-23m-nhs-data-deal-with-palantir/ The real prize isn't a mere £23.5 contract, though: the NHS is about to open to bids for a massive, £360m IT project. That's where Palantir's plan to buy out its rivals for the deal could bear real fruit. That's not a bug in PPP, it's a feature. The point of PPP is to apply market dynamics to public service provision. Foremost among these market dynamics is the right of company owners to sell their businesses to other companies. The UK – along with the rest of the west – has spent 40 years waving through anticompetitive mergers, under a doctrine that holds that monopolies are "efficient" (Thiel agrees: according to him, "competition is for losers"). The combination of lax merger scrutiny and PPP inevitably leads to this kind of play: one deep-pocketed company can "hoover up" all the contractors to the NHS and form a single entity that can hold the NHS to ransom. Palantir's commitment to proprietary, secretive software development methodologies makes it utterly unsuitable for NHS service provision. Compare the NHS to Ben Goldacre's landmark "Better, broader, safer: using health data for research and analysis": https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/better-broader-safer-using-health-data-for-research-and-analysis/better-broader-safer-using-health-data-for-research-and-analysis Goldacre argues that the only way to unlock the medical insights in aggregate NHS patient data is with public software: an open and free "trusted research platform" that anyone can audit and verify. While the code for this platform would be public, NHS patient data would never leave it. Instead, researchers who wanted to investigate hypotheses about the effectiveness of different interventions would send queries to the platform and get results back – without ever touching the data. This is a system that only works if it's hosted by democratically accountable public services – not by private actors accountable to their shareholders, and certainly not secretive companies whose primary expertise is in helping spy agencies conduct mass surveillance. (Image: Gage Skidmore, CC BY 2.0, modified) Hey look at this (permalink) hark ye oakland county https://mcmansionhell.com/post/696589275826946048/hark-ye-oakland-county HDD Clicker https://www.retrokits.de/index.php/hdd-clicker-hdd-sound-simulator-v0-1/ (h/t Slashdot) ‘We can continue Pratchett’s efforts’: the gamers keeping Discworld alive https://www.theguardian.com/games/2022/sep/28/we-can-continue-pratchetts-efforts-the-gamers-keeping-discworld-alive (h/t Waxy) This day in history (permalink) #20yrsago Danger Hiptop reviewed https://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Likable-Sidekick-is-priced-right-2765968.php #20yrsago Distributed.net cracks the RC5-64 cipher https://web.archive.org/web/20030710002806/https://www.distributed.net/pressroom/news-20020926 #20yrsago Kevin Mitnick’s laptop, signed by Woz, on eBay https://forums.atariage.com/topic/14593-own-a-piece-of-hacking-history/#comment-145970 #20yrsago Record industry defends practices to Senate https://web.archive.org/web/20021018162342/http://www.musicdish.com/mag/?id=6675 #20yrsago Dan Gillmor responds to Jack Valenti https://web.archive.org/web/20021012222914/https://www.siliconvalley.com/mld/siliconvalley/4175607.htm #20yrsago 2000+ year old Greek computer reinterpreted https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2002/09/19/the-clockwork-computer #15yrsago Keep Your Copyrights: helping creators beat abusive contracts https://web.law.columbia.edu/kernochan/keep-your-copyrights #15yrsago Disney kills its spy-on-your-kids phones https://web.archive.org/web/20071019152903/http://www.news.com/8301-10784_3-9786517-7.html #15yrsago Nokia taunts Apple lockware phone with posters for “open” N-series https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/timely-advertising-nokia-poster-hot-off-the-press.362519/ #15yrsago Archibishop of Mozambique: condoms and HIV cocktails will give you AIDS https://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7014335.stm #15yrsago Rudy Rucker’s Postsingular: Wheenk! https://memex.craphound.com/2007/10/01/rudy-ruckers-postsingular-wheenk/ #15yrsgo Copyright and censorship https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2007/oct/02/censorship #15yrsago Things you shouldn’t do in science fiction/fantasy writing https://eeknight.livejournal.com/283350.html #15yrsago Guerrilla librarians free the $86k Library of Congress copyright database https://web.archive.org/web/20071011005126/http://bulk.resource.org/copyright/ #15yrsago Scott Westerfeld’s Extras – a superb volume in the Uglies series https://memex.craphound.com/2007/09/30/scott-westerfelds-extras-a-superb-volume-in-the-uglies-series/ #10yrsago Quant: leaving finance made me happy, you should try it https://mathbabe.org/2012/09/30/telling-people-to-leave-finance/ #10yrsago How Frederik Pohl became a pulp literary agent, and saved himself 8¢ per story in postage https://web.archive.org/web/20121005010255/https://thewaythefutureblogs.com/2012/10/early-editors/ #10yrsago Replacement ear grown on an arm https://www.cbsnews.com/baltimore/news/hopkins-doctors-give-woman-a-new-ear/ #5yrsago Troops fire rubber bullets to prevent Catalan independence vote, injure at least 465 https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2017/oct/01/catalan-independence-referendum-spain-catalonia-vote-live #5yrsago Equifax blames hack on state actors, but breach followed spat with security contractor https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-09-29/the-equifax-hack-has-all-the-hallmarks-of-state-sponsored-pros #5yrsago China’s massive property bubble creates mad scramble to take on decades of debt https://www.scmp.com/news/china/economy/article/2112873/chinas-household-debts-soars-it-being-stalked-subprime-spectre #5yrsago Republican Senator caught making up fake news about fake news doubles down https://web.archive.org/web/20170930210228/https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/taibbi-latest-fake-news-panic-appears-to-be-fake-news-w506396 #5yrsago Hamilton: the My Little Pony edition https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96nPe1BfAzI #5yrsago DRM could kill game emulators and erase the history of an artform https://www.techdirt.com/2017/09/29/how-can-video-game-company-dmca-patreon-page-emulator-dmca-1201-strikes-again/ #1yrago Facebook thrives on criticism of "disinformation": They'd rather be evil than incompetent https://pluralistic.net/2021/09/30/dont-believe-the-criti-hype/#ordinary-mediocrities Colophon (permalink) Today's top sources: Currently writing: The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Friday's progress: 599 words (45053 words total) The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Friday's progress: 516 words (41474 words total) Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson. Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/ Upcoming appearances: Regulating the Online Public Sphere: From Decentralized Networks to Public Regulation, Oct 3 https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/events/regulating-the-online-public-sphere-from-decentralized-networks-to-public-regulation/ Chokepoint Capitalism event, Books and Books (Miami), Oct 12 https://www.booksandbooks.com/event/in-person-chokepoint-capitalism-an-evening-with-rebecca-giblin-and-cory-doctorow/ Reboot Conference, Lincoln Network (Miami), Oct 13 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reboot-2022-a-conference-exploring-technology-culture-and-politics-tickets-322718568927 Library Journal Day of Dialog (Zoom), Oct 20 https://www.libraryjournal.com/event/library-journal-day-of-dialog-2022-fall#program Surviving Apocalyptic Economics, with Douglas Rushkoff and Rebecca Giblin, Ottawa Writers Festival, Oct 24 https://writersfestival.org/events/fall-2022-in-person-events/surviving-apocalyptic-economics World Ethical Data Forum, Oct 26-28 https://worldethicaldataforum.org/ Arthur C Clarke Award (DC), Nov 16 https://mailchi.mp/2e2b8a01e992/save-the-date-9142941?e=209e9b41ba Recent appearances: Triangulation: Chokepoint Capitalism https://twit.tv/shows/twit-events/episodes/13 Cultural Capture by Chokepoint Capitalism (This Machine Kills) https://soundcloud.com/thismachinekillspod/194-cultural-capture-by-chokepoint-capitalism-ft-rebecca-giblin-cory-doctorow Billionaires As Policy Failure Factories (Macro N Cheese) https://realprogressives.org/podcast_episode/episode-190-billionaires-as-policy-failure-factories-with-cory-doctorow Latest book: "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html) "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/. Upcoming books: Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022 Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023 This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution. 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Pluralistic: 29 Sep 2022 Porn on Tumblr is a complicated subject
29 September 2022 | 4:48 pm

Today's links Porn on Tumblr is a complicated subject: Chokepoints, compliance, weakest links. Hey look at this: Delights to delectate. This day in history: 2002, 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021 Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading Porn on Tumblr is a complicated subject (permalink) In 2018, Tumblr announced a ban on "adult content." That call was made by Verizon, Tumblr's erstwhile owner, and to call the resulting mess "a shitshow" is an insult to good, hardworking shitshows all over the world. Verizon enforced this policy with an automated filter, which was charged with analyzing images and categorizing them as "sexual" or "nonsexual." This is risible enough, like asking a computer to sort videos into "virtuous" or "sinful" but that was just for starters. Verizon's ban included a ban on "female-presenting nipples" – a canonically hard-to-define category – but included exceptions for non-sexual nipple images. Hard to imagine that any serious, disinterested computer scientist promising that an algorithm could cleave "female-presenting nipples" from "male-presenting" ones, let alone decide which ones were "sexual" or not. The filters were…not good. Verizon posted a selection of images that were explicitly permitted under its policies. That post was blocked by Tumblr's filter. https://gizmodo.com/tumblrs-porn-filter-flags-its-own-examples-of-permitted-1831151178 It wasn't just that Tumblr's AI couldn't turn its unblinking eye upon the nipples casting their shadows upon the wall of Plato's Cave and divine their true nature. Tumblr's AI thought everything was a nipple – or some other potentially "adult" body-part. I posted an image of a hand producing a fingerprint. Tumblr's filter blocked it. I posted a followup about Tumblr's idiotic filter. Tumblr's filter blocked that. I did it again. The filter did, too. https://boingboing.net/2018/12/11/recursive-neural-nets.html Verizon was not good at running Tumblr, which isn't a surprise, because Verizon's core competencies are lobbying and union-busting. Eventually the company wrote down its online media assets, taking a $4.6B loss: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-12-11/verizon-writes-down-4-6-billion-of-value-of-aol-yahoo-business Tumblrites didn't know what to make of the writedown. There was a lot of trepidation, sure, because even after years of mismanagement by Yahoo and then Verizon, Tumblr was still a community that mattered to its members. What's more, with the writedown, there was the possibility that someone else – someone less Verizony – would buy the company. That happened! Automattic, creators of WordPress, announced that they would buy Tumblr. Tumblr's filter blocked the announcement: https://brucesterling.tumblr.com/post/187053987273/yeah-that-news-is-looking-mighty-adult-there When Automattic took over Tumblr, there was a lot of hope that the adult content ban would be reversed. Tumblr's adult communities had been hugely important in creating and promulgating a sex-positive, queer-positive, sex-worker-respecting platform, utterly unlike anything else online. The impact of contributing to and participating in these adult communities can't be overstated. In Tumblr Porn, Ana Valens offers a memoir of how profoundly Tumblr's sex-positive spaces ("vanguard of a user-generated sexual revolution") affected her life: https://www.instarbooks.com/books/tumblr-porn.html Verizon's sex ban didn't just shut those communities down – it consigned them to the memory-hole, blocking the archivists who scrambled to preserve them: https://www.vice.com/en/article/d3bekm/archivists-say-tumblr-ip-banned-them-for-trying-to-preserve-adult-content But despite the importance of sex to Tumblr's success and the manifest idiocy of Verizon's ban, Automattic did not bring back the adult content, and made it clear they had no immediate plans to change that position. Now, five years later, Tumblr has made its first tentative moves to open the platform to NSFW materials, with a new dashboard that lets views opt into adult content and a labeling system that lets posters flag their uploads: https://photomatt.tumblr.com/post/696578252906659840/staff-introducing-community-labels-as-you This is a far cry from Tumblr's original full-throated, wide-open NSFW policy, and there's a reason for that. In a new post, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg describes why Tumblr's old "go nuts, show nuts" policy can't work today: https://photomatt.tumblr.com/post/696629352701493248/why-go-nuts-show-nuts-doesnt-work-in-2022 It all comes down to chokepoints and liability. It's an open secret that Verizon's Tumblr porn ban was triggered by Apple's threat to block the Tumblr app for iOS users, in the name of preserving the App Store's "child friendly" policy. Remember when Steve Jobs announced that "Folks who want porn can buy an Android phone?" https://techcrunch.com/2010/04/19/steve-jobs-android-porn/ Google Play – the Android version of the App Store – is only slightly less adamant about blocking adult material. With the mobile duopoly dead set against adult content, an NSFW-friendly Tumblr would have to be web-only. Mullenweg explains why that's not viable: "40% of our signups and 85% of our page views come from mobile apps." Now, it's true that there are other apps for platforms with a lot of adult content that both app stores welcome (Reddit, Twitter). Mullenweg says "My guess is that Twitter and Reddit are too big for Apple to block so they decided to make an example out of Tumblr, which has 'only' 102 million monthly visitors." Though, he adds, "Maybe Twitter gets blocked by Apple sometimes too but can’t talk about it because they’re a public company and it would scare investors." Playing chicken with Apple's App Store censors is a losing proposition. As Mullenweg describes, the interpretation of the App Store rules varies from day to day, depending on which person is evaluating your app. If you submit an app update, Apple might arbitrarily change its position on whether you're crossing a line and block your app instead. When that happens, it's a big deal. Mullenweg: "If Apple permanently banned Tumblr from the App Store, we’d probably have to shut the service down." But it's not just the mobile duopoly that holds Tumblr's future in its hands. Mullenweg actually ranks payment processors as more powerful than mobile companies. Credit-card companies hate porn. Adding adult content back to Tumblr threatens Automattic's ability to process payments for all its services, from WordPress hosting to ad-free Tumblr subscriptions. Without money, the company couldn't last long, and its 2,000+ employees would be out of a job. At this stage, Mullenweg anticipates a chorous of cryptocurrency enthusiasts claiming that the solution to this is to accept payment in cryptos. He heads them off. No matter whether you think crypto might solve this problem tomorrow, "today if you are blocked from banks, credit card processing, and financial services, you’re blocked from the modern economy." But even if you bypass the mobile dupology and find a way to live without payment processing, setting up an adult-content-friendly site is still fraught. New rules (including SESTA/FOSTA) create civil and criminal liability for adult content hosting; as do rules against nonconsensual pornography (AKA "revenge porn"). Mullenweg doesn't want to host illegal adult content, not just because he doesn't want to go to jail, but because he decries the odious trade in sexual material made without consent, featuring children, or other unsavory circumstances. But today's environment, filled as it is with networked pocket cameras, is fertile ground for the production of those materials. When anyone can produce sexual images, it becomes extremely difficult to establish whether everyone pictured is of age and consenting. But even if Tumblr could hire the moderators it needed to make those determinations, it still wouldn't be in the clear, because market concentration elsewhere in the stack makes operating an "adult content business" far harder than it was in Tumblr's heyday. Today, hosting adult content means finding specialized network connections, hosting, DDoS mitigation and more, because every layer of the "stack" of services other kinds of sites can rely on has been turning into an oligopoly with uniform anti-sex policies. Paying for those specialized services is a problem, too, and not just because you will struggle to find a bank and credit-card company that will serve your business. Many investment funds are prohibited from investing in "vice" related businesses due to agreements with their own backers, and even the ones that can fund such a business choose not to. Mullenweg sums up: If you wanted to start an adult social network in 2022, you’d need to be web-only on iOS and side load on Android, take payment in crypto, have a way to convert crypto to fiat for business operations without being blocked, do a ton of work in age and identity verification and compliance so you don’t go to jail, protect all of that identity information so you don’t dox your users, and make a ton of money. That's a sobering conclusion, but even more striking is Mullenweg's back-of-the-envelope calculations for what this would take: I estimate you’d need at least $7 million a year for every 1 million daily active users to support server storage and bandwidth in addition to hosting, moderation, compliance, and developer costs. Mullenweg closes with his hope that someone else will figure out how to "replace what people used to get from porn on Tumblr," but implies that for Tumblr itself, the best we can hope for are more baby-steps. Hey look at this (permalink) Small Scale LA https://www.smallscalela.com/ (h/t Super Punch Authors For Libraries https://www.fightforthefuture.org/Authors-For-Libraries (I signed!) Free online version of Bruce Sterling's seminal MIRRORSHADES anthology https://www.rudyrucker.com/mirrorshades/ (h/t Richard Kadrey) This day in history (permalink) #20yrsago My talk at UT Austin https://web.archive.org/web/20021022184450/https://www.weblogsky.com/2002_09_01_blarchive.html#85498216 #15yrsago Pratchett’s Discworld: a reading-order guide < ahref="https://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/">https://www.lspace.org/books/reading-order-guides/ #15yrsago New AT&T terms of service: We’ll cut off your Internet connection for criticizing us https://web.archive.org/web/20071011020653/http://home.bellsouth.net/csbellsouth/s/s.dll?spage=cg/legal/att.htm&leg=tos #15yrsago Smith-Corona’s voice letters by post: dead media https://vintage-ads.livejournal.com/3792381.html #10yrsago Why can’t pacemaker users read their own medical data? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oro19-l5M8k #10yrsago TV news programs ignore false claims in the thousands of political ads that pay their bills https://web.archive.org/web/20121108201938/http://www.freepress.net/blog/2012/09/24/tv-stations-accept-political-ad-cash-and-leave-viewers-dark #5yrsago Rich people in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania are to blame for dangerous anti-vaxx surge https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/09/dangerous-anti-vaccine-tweets-have-spiked-from-rich-people-in-just-5-states/ #5yrsago Spinal Tap’s $400m lawsuit against Vivendi will proceed https://web.archive.org/web/20170929190656/https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/news/spinal-tap-judge-allows-400-million-lawsuit-to-proceed-w506169 #5yrsago Trump’s chief Goldman-Sachs goblin tells America they can buy a new car for $1000 https://www.huffpost.com/entry/gary-cohn-trump-tax-plan-new-car_n_59cd50e3e4b0ef0694274690?ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000067 #5yrsago Architect of Reagan’s tax cuts reminds us that tax cuts don’t stimulate the economy https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2017/09/28/i-helped-create-the-gop-tax-myth-trump-is-wrong-tax-cuts-dont-equal-growth/ #5yrsago The story of Casa Jasmina: the first automated home built to improve its residents’ lives https://makezine.com/article/home/casa-jasmina-explores-meaning-maker-home-future/ #5yrsago Right-wing thinktank polls UK, find vast majority favour Labour’s policies https://www.theweek.co.uk/88724/uk-voters-favour-socialism-over-capitalism #1yrago Wells Fargo can't stop criming: The nation's third-biggest bank is a criminal enterprise https://pluralistic.net/2021/09/29/jubilance/#too-big-to-jail #1yrago "Are you calling me a racist?": The libertarian case for racism https://pluralistic.net/2021/09/29/jubilance/#tolerable-racism #1yrago Debts that can't be paid, won't be paid: The first David Graeber Foundation meetup, between Thomas Piketty and Michael Hudson https://pluralistic.net/2021/09/29/jubilance/#debt Colophon (permalink) Today's top sources: Waxy (https://waxy.org/category/links/). Currently writing: The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Yesterday's progress: 517 words (43073 words total) The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Yesterday's progress: 504 words (39451 words total) Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson. Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/ Upcoming appearances: Discussing "Adventure Capitalism" with Raymond Craib, Skylight Books (LA), Sept 29 https://blog.pmpress.org/events/raymond-craib-and-cory-docrorow-discuss-adventure-capitalism-at-skylight-books-in-los-angeles/ Regulating the Online Public Sphere: From Decentralized Networks to Public Regulation, Oct 3 https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/events/regulating-the-online-public-sphere-from-decentralized-networks-to-public-regulation/ Chokepoint Capitalism event, Books and Books (Miami), Oct 12 https://www.booksandbooks.com/event/in-person-chokepoint-capitalism-an-evening-with-rebecca-giblin-and-cory-doctorow/ Reboot Conference, Lincoln Network (Miami), Oct 13 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reboot-2022-a-conference-exploring-technology-culture-and-politics-tickets-322718568927 Library Journal Day of Dialog (Zoom), Oct 20 https://www.libraryjournal.com/event/library-journal-day-of-dialog-2022-fall#program Surviving Apocalyptic Economics, with Douglas Rushkoff and Rebecca Giblin, Ottawa Writers Festival, Oct 24 https://writersfestival.org/events/fall-2022-in-person-events/surviving-apocalyptic-economics World Ethical Data Forum, Oct 26-28 https://worldethicaldataforum.org/ Arthur C Clarke Award (DC), Nov 16 https://mailchi.mp/2e2b8a01e992/save-the-date-9142941?e=209e9b41ba Recent appearances: Cultural Capture by Chokepoint Capitalism (This Machine Kills) https://soundcloud.com/thismachinekillspod/194-cultural-capture-by-chokepoint-capitalism-ft-rebecca-giblin-cory-doctorow Billionaires As Policy Failure Factories (Macro N Cheese) https://realprogressives.org/podcast_episode/episode-190-billionaires-as-policy-failure-factories-with-cory-doctorow Where’s My Privacy? (Where's My Jetpack) https://www.wheresmyjetpack.ca/2022/09/14/doctorow1/ Latest book: "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html) "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/. Upcoming books: Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022 Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023 This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution. How to get Pluralistic: Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection): Pluralistic.net Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection): https://pluralistic.net/plura-list Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection): https://mamot.fr/web/accounts/303320 Medium (no ads, paywalled): https://doctorow.medium.com/ (Latest Medium column: "Oil is Bankrupt (If We Want It): Alberta’s Oil Companies Are the Walking Dead" https://doctorow.medium.com/oil-is-bankrupt-if-we-want-it-c64fcd1313c2) Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising): https://twitter.com/doctorow Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising): https://mostlysignssomeportents.tumblr.com/tagged/pluralistic "When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla

Pluralistic: 28 Sep 2022 Maintaining monopolies with the cloud
28 September 2022 | 3:11 pm

Today's links Maintaining monopolies with the cloud: Microsoft, Oracle and other cloud giants use their terms of service to prevent competition. Hey look at this: Delights to delectate. This day in history: 2007, 2012, 2017, 2021 Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading Maintaining monopolies with the cloud (permalink) Correction: An earlier draft of this article incorrectly stated that John D Rockefeller owned the railroads that shipped product for the Standard Oil Company. In reality, Rockefeller controlled those railroads through bribery and coercion, not an equity stake. I regret the error. "There is no cloud, there is only other people's computers." It's funny because it's true, and the "other people" in this case are rapacious, vertically integrated monopolies that use their cloud businesses to put their customers in cages. The Coalition For Fair Software Licensing is a group of businesses that have banded together to resist some of the worst cloud-based abuses. Their main targets are companies like Oracle and Microsoft who sell software, software as a service, and cloud hosting, and use these three prongs to gouge and entrap their customers. Writing for Bloomberg, Brody Ford gives a high-level view of the scam: whereby integrated monopolists charge extra to run their rivals' software on their cloud systems, or block them altogether. That makes it hard – or impossible – to shop around for cloud services: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-27/software-makers-restrictive-license-rules-targeted-by-new-group The group itself lists nine demands for "cloud fairness," ranging from no-brainers ("Licensing terms should be clear and intelligible") to absolute yikes!es like "Freedom from retaliation for cloud choices" (involving "intrusive software audits" and "higher software licensing fees"). https://www.fairsoftwarelicensing.com/our-principles/ The Coalition's beefs are familiar ones, echoing the fights that led to the creation of antitrust law in the 19th century. Back then, small businesses were at the mercy of another kind of infrastructure: railways, who operated chokepoints between producers and their customers. These railways weren't just operating the playing field – they also owned one of the teams. They would operate their own businesses that competed directly against the freighters whose goods they carried. They would charge the freighters more for carriage than they did their own businesses, making it impossible to compete with them. This turned out to be an incredibly hard problem to solve with regulation. Even when there were rules ordering railroads to charge the same rates to all comers, there were so many subtle ways to cheat. For example, Rockefeller's Standard Oil controlled many railroads via bribery and other underhanded tactics, which let them control the delivery of oil from the pumphead to the refineries and thence to market. The railways were ordered to charge everyone the same rate – whether a train was carrying his oil or a rival's. And they did! All the oil shipped from Ohio to the port shipped at the same price. All the oil that shipped from Chicago to the port also shipped at the same price. But the Ohio price was much higher than the Chicago price, and Rockefeller owned all the Chicago refineries, while the Ohio refineries were owned by the independents. What's more, the price-per-mile for everything that wasn't oil (lumber, for example) was the same from Chicago or Ohio – it was only oil that had this steep price differential. The nondiscrimination order for Rockefeller merely stipulated that there couldn't be discrimination on a given route – but left open the door for discrimination between routes. When you control the infrastructure, there are so many ways to cheat against the companies that use the infrastructure, and they can be incredibly hard to detect, and even when you do, it can be incredibly hard to write a loophole-free rule to block a given tactic. That's why the trustbusters were so big on "structural separation": the principle that a business can own a platform, or use the platform, but not both. They banned the railroads from running their own freight businesses, and they banned the banks from owning businesses that competed with the firms they loaned money to. Rather than trying to construct rules that kept the referee honest even when they played on one of the teams, they ordered the companies to choose one role – either you were the ref, or you were a player, but you couldn't referee a match where you were also in the competition. Today, with tech antitrust surging around the world, we're speedrunning the lessons of the rail-barons, trying to impose rules on companies that ban them from abusing their vertical monopolies, rather than ordering them not to form vertical monopolies: https://locusmag.com/2022/03/cory-doctorow-vertically-challenged/ After all, if Microsoft and Oracle had to choose between running clouds and selling cloud software, they wouldn't have any reason to screw with businesses to leverage their cloud into software licenses and their software licenses into cloud subscriptions. And for so long as they are in both businesses, they will have infinite tools at their disposal to subtly (and blatantly) cheat on whatever limits we put on them. One fascinating wrinkle: Senator Gary Peters has proposed legislation that would overhaul federal procurement rules, requiring companies that want to sell cloud services to the US government to play fair. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-09/revamp-of-federal-software-buys-could-force-microsoft-changes This is a very powerful move. Every government – US and foreign, federal, state and local – should have a rule that says, "If we're going to spend public money on your products, you have to promise not to lock us in." That's just basic prudent governance, and there's plenty of precedent for it. Lincoln had a policy that he would only buy rifles for the Union Army from companies that used interoperable tooling and bullets. No general wants to have to cancel a battle because the single-source supplier decided not to make any ammo this month. This policy could and should be extended to cars in government motor-pools (requiring manufacturers not to block third-party parts and to supply diagnostic codes to independent mechanics). Likewise software like Google Classroom (requiring Goog not to block third-party textbooks, assessment tools, etc). It should be universal, all the way down to requiring printer companies that sell to the public sector to stop blocking third-party ink. Cloud lock-in is incredibly unpopular. Bloomberg's Ford cites a study that found that 90% of tech executives support the Coalition for Fair Software Licensing's demands. But we need to do more than order tech monopolies to play fair – we have to take away their incentive to cheat. I think there's momentum for this. Before she took over the FTC, chair Lina Khan published "The Separation of Platforms and Commerce," a banger of a law-review paper from the Columbia Law Review ("the potential hazards of integration by dominant tech platforms invite recovering structural separations"): https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3180174 And businesses are unlikely to be happy with mere rules ordering fairness, given the big companies' propensity to cheat and the incredible upsides for doing so. They just can't help themselves, whether that's Amazon mining its sales data to figure out when to clone its own customers' products: https://pluralistic.net/2020/04/24/slicey-boi/#moral-hazard Or Apple using its control over the App Store to block companies that directly compete with its own apps: https://pluralistic.net/2022/06/17/no-gods-no-masters/#oh-the-irony We don't let judges hear cases where they have a stake in the outcome, we don't let lawyers represent the plaintiffs and the defendants, we don't let referees call games where they own one of the teams. Hey look at this (permalink) Blockchain solutionism – Guest lecture at the University of Texas at Austin by Molly White https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0k_GjxuJDM Making Halloween skulls from recycled plastic milk jugs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oy_73euCaU8 Extractivism and Science Fiction http://strangehorizons.com/issue/26-september-2022/ This day in history (permalink) #15yrsago Terry Pratchett’s “Making Money” — economic comedy https://memex.craphound.com/2007/09/28/terry-pratchetts-making-money-economic-comedy/ #10yrsago UK banks use robo-callers to make fraud-check calls, conditioning customers to hand out personal information to anonymous machines that phone them up out of the blue https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2012/sep/27/automated-calls-fraud-banks #10yrsago Panama’s new copyright law is the worst in the history of the universe https://www.technollama.co.uk/is-panama-about-to-pass-the-worst-copyright-law-in-history #5yrsago Better education doesn’t correlate strongly to economic mobility (but union membership does) https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/09/education-and-economic-mobility/541041/ #5yrsago A glimpse of the European Commission’s plans for ham-fisted, indiscriminate mass online censorship https://felixreda.eu/2017/09/when-filters-fail/ #5yrsago Former Equifax CEO Richard Smith collects $90M for his last year of outstanding work https://fortune.com/2017/09/26/equifax-ceo-richard-smith-net-worth/ #5yrsago Landscape With Invisible Hand: Late Stage Capitalism, by way of a YA alien invasion novel https://memex.craphound.com/2017/09/28/landscape-with-invisible-hand-late-stage-capitalism-by-way-of-a-ya-alien-invasion-novel/ #1yrago Democrats can pass the reconciliation today (sorta) https://pluralistic.net/2021/09/28/timescale-dependent/#reconciled Colophon (permalink) Today's top sources: Slashdot (https://slashdot.org/). Currently writing: The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. Yesterday's progress: 534 words (43940 words total) The Internet Con: How to Seize the Means of Computation, a nonfiction book about interoperability for Verso. Yesterday's progress: 514 words (40428 words total) Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. (92849 words total) – ON PAUSE A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, WAITING FOR EXPERT REVIEW Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FINAL DRAFT COMPLETE A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson. Latest podcast: Sound Money https://craphound.com/news/2022/09/11/sound-money/ Upcoming appearances: Chokepoint Capitalism event, Alta Live (Zoom), Sept 28 https://www.altaonline.com/events/a41109319/alta-live-author-cory-doctorow/ Discussing "Adventure Capitalism" with Raymond Craib, Skylight Books (LA), Sept 29 https://blog.pmpress.org/events/raymond-craib-and-cory-docrorow-discuss-adventure-capitalism-at-skylight-books-in-los-angeles/ Regulating the Online Public Sphere: From Decentralized Networks to Public Regulation, Oct 3 https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/events/regulating-the-online-public-sphere-from-decentralized-networks-to-public-regulation/ Chokepoint Capitalism event, Books and Books (Miami), Oct 12 https://www.booksandbooks.com/event/in-person-chokepoint-capitalism-an-evening-with-rebecca-giblin-and-cory-doctorow/ Reboot Conference, Lincoln Network (Miami), Oct 13 https://www.eventbrite.com/e/reboot-2022-a-conference-exploring-technology-culture-and-politics-tickets-322718568927 Library Journal Day of Dialog (Zoom), Oct 20 https://www.libraryjournal.com/event/library-journal-day-of-dialog-2022-fall#program Surviving Apocalyptic Economics, with Douglas Rushkoff and Rebecca Giblin, Ottawa Writers Festival, Oct 24 https://writersfestival.org/events/fall-2022-in-person-events/surviving-apocalyptic-economics World Ethical Data Forum, Oct 26-28 https://worldethicaldataforum.org/ Arthur C Clarke Award (DC), Nov 16 https://mailchi.mp/2e2b8a01e992/save-the-date-9142941?e=209e9b41ba Recent appearances: Cultural Capture by Chokepoint Capitalism (This Machine Kills) https://soundcloud.com/thismachinekillspod/194-cultural-capture-by-chokepoint-capitalism-ft-rebecca-giblin-cory-doctorow Billionaires As Policy Failure Factories (Macro N Cheese) https://realprogressives.org/podcast_episode/episode-190-billionaires-as-policy-failure-factories-with-cory-doctorow Where’s My Privacy? (Where's My Jetpack) https://www.wheresmyjetpack.ca/2022/09/14/doctorow1/ Latest book: "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59 (print edition: https://bookshop.org/books/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism/9781736205907) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html) "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/. Upcoming books: Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press, September 2022 Red Team Blues: "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books, April 2023 This work licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Quotations and images are not included in this license; they are included either under a limitation or exception to copyright, or on the basis of a separate license. Please exercise caution. How to get Pluralistic: Blog (no ads, tracking, or data-collection): Pluralistic.net Newsletter (no ads, tracking, or data-collection): https://pluralistic.net/plura-list Mastodon (no ads, tracking, or data-collection): https://mamot.fr/web/accounts/303320 Medium (no ads, paywalled): https://doctorow.medium.com/ (Latest Medium column: "Oil is Bankrupt (If We Want It): Alberta’s Oil Companies Are the Walking Dead" https://doctorow.medium.com/oil-is-bankrupt-if-we-want-it-c64fcd1313c2) Twitter (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising): https://twitter.com/doctorow Tumblr (mass-scale, unrestricted, third-party surveillance and advertising): https://mostlysignssomeportents.tumblr.com/tagged/pluralistic "When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla


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