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Comment: Re:FEO (Score 5, Insightful) 251

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49161057) Attached to: Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links

"Fact optimization" is already behind more than one multi-billion dollar industry: advertising, political lobbying...

And this is why I fear this initiative, no matter how well intentioned, is doomed to failure. Just because something gets repeated a lot, that doesn't make it factually correct. Moreover, censoring dissenting opinions is a terrible reaction to active manipulation and even to old-fashioned gossip, because it removes the best mechanism for correcting the groupthink and promoting more informed debate, which is introducing alternative ideas from someone who knows better or simply has a different (but still reasonable) point of view.

Remember, not so long ago, the almost-universal opinion would have been that the world was flat.

Comment: Re:Monopolistic: Do no evil? (Score 3, Insightful) 181

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49154799) Attached to: Google Taking Over New TLDs

Now will ICANN put its foot down

It had better hope so, because giving entire TLDs to specific big companies could easily be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of the rest of the world accepting US-led administration of the general Internet. There's plenty of scepticism already, but organisations like ICANN are tolerated because frankly no-one has much of a better idea or wants to take on the responsibility. However, it is not difficult to think of a better idea than letting big businesses rewrite the established rules in arguably the most important address space in the world today for their own benefit.

Comment: Re:Amateurish (Score 1) 501

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49143063) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

I tend to agree about the icons, but I do think flat design is particularly bad in this respect. By its nature, it removes tools that could otherwise be used for distinguishing different types of content, establishing hierarchy, and directing the user to important details.

The Microsoft style of flat as seen here isn't as bad as the more extreme "monochrome line art" version that is plaguing web sites at the moment. Even so, all those subtle lighting-based effects we used to see, and even the not-so-subtle styling of say Apple's older metallic or aqua looks, could serve practical purposes as well as creating a signature style for a platform.

Comment: Re:Amateurish (Score 1) 501

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49137147) Attached to: Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

The thing that really hit me about the screenshot was how crowded it looks. The example is presenting information with a clear underlying structure (a file system) and a small number of actions I can take, and probably half the area of that window is empty space. And yet, my immediate reaction is that there's no clear structure to tell me where to look, and the design desperately needs more visual hierarchy and better use of whitespace.

Of course, this is a recurring problem with the current trend for flat designs, bright colour schemes with limited contrast, and very rectilinear graphics and layout. It's still disappointing that Microsoft seems to be chasing Apple and Google down that blind alley, though, instead of coming up with something more interesting, distinctive, and most importantly, usable.

Comment: Re:Clearly, we must regulate comments! (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49078913) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

Here in the UK, our journalism professional doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in its ability to police itself. As you may be aware, we just had a long and very public judge-led enquiry into press behaviour, including some of the outright criminal actions that some parts of the media engaged in to get their stories. At least one newspaper collapsed as a result, and several industry heavyweights are doing jail time. So I'm not sure appealing to journalistic ethics over the law of the land is any better as a strategy for promoting the responsible use of protected speech.

Comment: Re:Are you that slow? (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49078903) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

To the meat of it, the only thing I can gather is that you want to somehow ensure that everyone's identity is available and verifiable on every comment.

No, that's not what I'm saying. I'm only saying that if you are actively claiming a certain level of protected qualification, you should actually have it.

This is quite orthogonal to the issue of anonymity, which IMHO is a much harder one simply because someone who can't be identified is self-evidently immune from prosecution but as you rightly point out anonymity has also been a positive influence on many of the most significant breakthroughs in recent history. There are clearly both genuine pros and genuine cons to anonymous speech.

It's true that if we allow anonymity then someone could claim false qualifications even if doing so is illegal. However, I think we are slowly learning as a society not to trust everything we read on the Internet when we don't know the source, and this somewhat mitigates the damage.

I challenged you to provide just one example of censorship working, and you came up empty (again).

Here are a few places where a degree of censorship might be morally justifiable -- not saying it necessarily is, but there's enough of an argument for reasonable debate:

Protection of individual privacy

Innocent until proven guilty

Operational details of genuine military/security activities

Advertising aimed at minors or other vulnerable people

Advertising prescription-only medication to non-prescribers

Political advertising by artificial legal entities (businesses etc.)

As a matter of law, various first world jurisdictions do in fact take different positions on some of these issues today.

Once again, I don't think anyone here is disputing that censorship is fundamentally a nasty and potentially very damaging idea. I think the rational debate is about whether things like spreading misinformation, infringing privacy, and taking advantage of the vulnerable are worse.

Comment: Re:Clearly, we must regulate comments! (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49064515) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

The theory of our amendments is such that if a person is accused of a crime there should be no journalism which presents an opinion of guilt until the Jury has done it's job.

That seems a reasonable principle, which is probably in the interests of justice. But how is it not a restriction on free speech? Is this not just another form of censorship? I haven't brought this situation up myself, but if I'd been pushed for more examples of free speech vs. privacy issues and why I believe privacy should be given more weight in our modern, highly connected world, this would have been one of the first examples I would have given.

Comment: Re:Are you that slow? (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49064505) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

Then who do you propose be the arbiter of who can comment and on what topics?

Are we back to on-line discussions again now? If so, then I haven't proposed any general limitation on who may comment, only that when doing so people shouldn't be able to claim protected qualification or authority that they do not legitimately possess.

To me, that is still a restriction on absolute freedom of speech, but a justifiable one. I see no general need to protect malicious liars from the harmful consequences of their actions under colour of defending free speech. Others here seem to feel this isn't a freedom of speech issue but more a matter of fraud, which to me just seems like quibbling over semantics, but maybe their views and mine aren't so different after all and we just frame the argument in slightly different ways. Perhaps protecting speech yet punishing its consequences is a particularly US way of looking at the issue, like framing the debate in terms of the First Amendment rather than any specific moral, ethical or practical motivation?

How do you propose that the system does not become corrupt like our allegedly free democracies?

The qualifications are awarded by peers through an open, transparent process. As I commented elsewhere, that is the best system I know of for recognising any particular qualification or authority. It's not perfect, but to defeat it you have to corrupt the entire expert body in a field, and if you can do that then the field has no value anyway.

If you claim to want control, there must be a controlling entity.

But that controlling entity doesn't have to be part of the government, any more than we have courts that make determinations of guilt or innocence based on the whim of the Powers That Be rather than people being tried by juries of their peers.

Censorship can not be implemented without corruption, and though repeatedly attempted in history it has _ONLY_ resulted in damage to society. Never has censorship been implemented in a positive way, because it can't be implemented in a positive way.

I'm not so sure. Censorship is a very dangerous thing, and if you said that free speech should only be obstructed when it is necessary to protect other fundamental principles, I'd be the first to agree.

But I don't accept your premise that anything resembling censorship is automatically a bad thing in any context. People lie, with damaging consequence. Even when they aren't lying, you can't force people to tell the whole truth, and a half-truth may be worse than saying nothing at all. You also can't give everyone the power to speak with an equal voice, but otherwise reasonable arguments about defeating negative speech by countering rationally with a more positive alternative tend to assume a right to reply exists, which of course it doesn't in practice. Unless you're going to physically compel everyone to provide such a right of reply, which you can't because it's completely impractical, you have only traded one form of censorship for another anyway.

Consider those things in the context of, say, modern political systems, and you can immediately explain much of the corruption we see in the world today. Consider them in the context of a specialised profession like medicine, and you can immediately explain a lot of problems in the US healthcare industry.

Comment: Re:Clearly, we must regulate comments! (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49064459) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

Same thing with libel and slander - it is the fraud that is being punished, not the speech.

That may be true as a technicality, depending on how your local laws are written, but what difference does it make in practice? Either you are free to say something defamatory about someone else or you are not. If you will be punished for saying something fraudulent, you are still not free to say that thing without legal consequence.

That is why there is more freedom for people in the United States than other countries like France or Germany.

An interesting example. In Europe, we tend to favour individual privacy over free speech to a greater degree than the US does, perhaps because in Europe -- and particularly in countries such as those you mentioned -- we still have living memory of what can happen if privacy is not sufficiently protected.

Comment: Re:Are you that slow? (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49060475) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

Unfortunately, requiring certification — as seems to be your proposal — will continue to allow those same politicians to control, just who is free to call themselves a "subject matter expert".

Why? The politicians don't award higher degrees and professional qualifications. Generally, within regulated industries, these matters are adjudicated by more experienced peers. In the absence of any absolute truth, I don't know of any better way to run such a system than open peer review.

Sure, in principle you could undermine that system and corrupt the whole thing, but to do that you'd have to undermine the entire community to the extent that established participants almost unanimously agreed with your distorted vision rather than their own previous convictions. If you can do that in a profession important enough to regulate in the first place then you have much, much bigger things to worry about.

No-one exists in a vacuum. At some point you have to trust that someone working in a complicated field who has been recognised as competent by their peers through an open process actually does know what they're doing. The damage from political meddling happens when things like the "by their peers" and "open process" parts get forgotten.

Comment: Re:Clearly, we must regulate comments! (Score 0) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49060405) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

Calling me names doesn't negate my arguments or make yours any stronger.

On your first point, while yelling "Everyone kill that guy" might not make everyone kill that guy, offering a substantial reward for doing so might. This is why crimes based on incitement and conspiracy exist.

On your second point, I don't see what alternative hypotheses about a particular scientific theory have to do with unqualified subjective opinions expressed in on-line comments. No-one is suggesting that scientists can't propose alternative theories about how the universe works, or for that matter that censorship is generally a good thing, so I don't know why you keep responding as if they are.

Comment: Re:Clearly, we must regulate comments! (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49060375) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

Speech is dangerous to the would-be tyrants, who want it regulated. It is not dangerous to the actual society of free citizens.

You did actually read the article, right? The entire point here is that misleading speech can in practice convey unwarranted credibility and thus cause harm to those who wrongly believe what is said.

Comment: Re:Are you that slow? (Score 1) 267

by Anonymous Brave Guy (#49060369) Attached to: What Your Online Comments Say About You

You seem to have a delusion that everyone in Government is altruistic

I honestly have no idea where you got that from. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact, the need to prevent political operatives and corporate PR departments from misleadingly claiming to hold the same peer-approved credentials as real scientists and engineers and doctors is one of the most important reasons I hold the view I do on this subject.

In my country, for example, a drugs company may not lawfully run a TV ad that makes false claims about the effectiveness of its product. In fact, for drugs that require prescription by a qualified doctor, they aren't allowed to advertise them to the general public at all.

If you think this situation is broken and commercial drugs companies should instead be able to advertise to whomever they wish with as misleading a presentation as they wish, presumably this is because we can't trust doctors to give competent professional advice to their patients. I wonder, are you also then in favour of anyone being able to buy any approved drug without a doctor prescribing it based on a proper examination of the patient? For that matter, do you think we should do away with regulatory authorities for things like drugs or food standards altogether, so anyone can sell anything they want based on whatever claims they want to make?

I'm not sure I'd want to live in the world you'd create by undermining any level of professional qualification and expert status. In fact, it seems unlikely that most of us would live for very long, since one of the first things that would happen would be the complete collapse of modern medical practice as things like antibiotics rapidly became useless -- another background trend where the US is currently doing far more harm than most places in the developed world, by the way, but in this case with disturbing long term consequences for the entire human race.

"Right now I feel that I've got my feet on the ground as far as my head is concerned." -- Baseball pitcher Bo Belinsky