Technology, Thoughts & Trinkets

Touring the digital through type

Tag: judicial system

Vancouver’s Human Flesh Search Engine

Photo by Richard Eriksson

I don’t like violence, vandalism, or other actions that generally cause destruction. Certainly there are cases where violent social dissent is a sad but important final step to fulfil a much needed social change (e.g. overthrowing a ruinous dictator, tipping the scale to defend or secure essential civil rights) but riotous behaviour following a hockey game lacks any legitimating force. Unfortunately, in the aftermath of game seven between the Vancouver Canucks and Boston Bruins a riot erupted in downtown Vancouver that caused significant harm to individuals and damage to the urban environment.

The riot itself is a sad event. What is similarly depressing is the subsequent mob mentally that has been cheered on by the social media community. Shortly after the riot, prominent local bloggers including Rebecca Bollwitt linked to social media websites and encouraged readers/visitors to upload their recordings and identify those caught on camera. In effect, Canadians were, and still are, being encouraged by their peers and social media ‘experts’ to use social media to locally instantiate a human flesh search engine (I will note that Bollwitt herself has since struck through her earliest endorsement of mob-championing). Its manifestation is seemingly being perceived by many (most?) social media users as a victory of the citizenry and inhabitants of Vancouver over individuals alleged to have committed crimes.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have significant issues with this particular search engine. In this post, I’m going to first provide a brief recap of the recent events in Vancouver and then I’ll quickly explain the human flesh search engine (HFSE), both how it works and the harms it can cause. I’m going to conclude by doing two things: first, I’m going to suggest that Vancouver is presently driving a local HFSE and note the prospective harms that may befall those unfortunate enough to get caught within its maw. Second, I’m going to suggest why citizens are ill-suited to carry out investigations that depend on social media-based images and reports.

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Copyfraud, the Corporation, and College Publishing

pointandshootThis posting is motivated by Jason Mazzone’s paper “Copyfraud“, where he investigates copyfraud.  Copyfraud is defined as “claiming falsely a copyright in a public domain work” (3) and after discussing instances that copyfraud is both perpetrated he reflects on ways to alleviate it. Mazzone, an American, generates his account from within the American political and judicial system but his insights can be generally applied internationally to any nation that either accommodates or has adopted US and British copyright principles.

Copyright is intended to let authors receive financial compensation for the works that they create. In the US, copyright exists in an antagonistic relationship with the First Amendment because it limits how people can use words that they have received – an author’s speech cannot be used wholescale by others when they generate their own creative works that are derived or inspired by the author’s work. The only exception to this limitation stem from fair use policies, which assert that small parts of a copywritten work can be used to facilitate discussions between writers/performers. Fair use, however, is a protection that is being banished by corporate groups that are striving to protect their profits and avoid lawsuits rather than encouraging the growth of the public domain.

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