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Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Rocks and hard places - digital regulation

I don't know what the collective term is for Youtube channels, infomercials, newstainment, multi-channel infotainment, e-pinion and the like - 'digital' is too encompassing, 'media' too finely drawn. 'Content' seems to be a useful portmanteau sort of word. There used to be certain checks and standards for those who created and disseminated Content. Newspaper and magazine ownership and distribution, broadcasting bandwidth governance and licencing, professional journalists, barriers to entry including technical complexity, equipment cost and limited capacity. Making a video use to be a matter of  a camera, lighting and sound crew, an offline editor, an online editor and a facility with half a million quids worth of Beta SP machines, editing suites, reference monitors and so on. Then came processing power, software and easy GUIs that meant a video recorded and edited on an Apple laptop could rival in look and feel one costing £2k a broadcast minute to make.  

Regulation has yet to catch up with what has happened. If I want to broadcast a three minute speech, I need a government licence for a digital broadcast radio channel, a transmitter, and a roomful of compliance and diligence stuff and every breath I broadcast is subject to the most minute scrutiny. If I put the same speech on the web as a podcast, there are no restrictions, no standards and no regulation whatsoever bar the criminal law. One can argue that broadcast bandwidth, for the 'push' media, is a limited and valuable resource that must be centrally controlled and rationed, whilst internet bandwidth, for the 'pull' media, is effectively unlimited and use is determined by market forces, i.e. popularity. 

Why should these differences be a problem? Can't we live with the way things are? well, perhaps today we can - but technology and economics mean the boundaries between the transmission mechanisms of exactly the same Content are being increasingly blurred. Established broadcasters want to regulate the Wild West of the internet to replicate the analogue regimes under which they toil. Authoritarians strive to impose their own bigotry. And all the while champions of free speech, Libertarians and democrats are resisting State control, censorship and the economic cudgels of the global corporates all seeking to 'own' the internet. 

Personally, I don't buy the guff that the internet is 'harming millions'. The few sensitive souls getting the vapours because someone was rude to them on Facebook seem the same sort of folks who used to swoon at the sight of a nipple on 'Play for Today'. Yet I also want to take-down ISIS videos of lads from East Ham hacking-off people's heads, sick paedo filth or grainy footage of dogs tearing eachother to pieces. These views are not inconsistent; the latter repulsive Content types are all contrary to existing law. We don't need new laws - we just need a mechanism for we, internet users, to apply the existing law. We don't need need nine-hundred police officers crouched over glowing screens - we need ways in which we, Peel's citizen police, can act ourselves to exclude the already-illegal stuff whilst leaving the hurty words intact.


right-writes said...
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right-writes said...
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right-writes said...

Probably the one area of politics that can genuinely be blamed on Trump and/or brexit.

TPTB are trying EVERYTHING to stop these incursions into their assumed fiefdoms, and as a well known former butcher said, over and over again...

... They don't like it up 'em, they don't like the cold steel.

NB: Apols for the previous deletions... Apple keyboards are utter crap!

Bring back the "Buckling Spring"... (no relation to the one in Prague...)

Billy Marlene said...


Are you using an I Pad in a case?

My Apple iPad keyboard was crap too. Repeatingggg letterrrrs at raaaandom..

I spoke to an Apple fella in Portugal.

He told me to remove it from the case. I did, it is perfect now.

right-writes said...

No Billy, it is a "Magic keyboard", which goes with the "Magic trackpad" and the expensive Mac Pro...

And magically, it makes letters magically disappear!

As if by magic!

Anonymous said...

You are right to make the distinction between 'push' and 'pull', broadcast TV/Radio and newspaper content is 'pushed' into the homes of everyone that subscribes to that channel whereas internet content is usually searched for and then 'pulled' by the user.

The distinction starts to get blurred with services like Facebook or Youtube that become trusted 'go to' starting places that provide ready-made links to other content, i.e. links not specifically searched for by the user. Rather than use thousands of state employees to scan the internet the users could self-police, just as the search engines claim that they rank links by popularity they could have a mechanism for users to flag 'undesirable' links that would demote them on search engines and remove them from 'recommended for you' lists and trigger investigation as to legality. This system would need to be carefully constructed to prevent malicious use to attach 'controversial' i.e. not 'left-wing enough' content. One way of doing that is to restricted the number of down flags that a given user can make per week

Dave_G said...

This issue is only coming to attention because some 'broadcasters' have reached a critical audience level at which .gov starts to be concerned for 'competition' against their own preferred propaganda outlets - the BBC in our case.

The likes of Alex Jones is (perhaps) the first to receive this attention and we need to understand that if such broadcasters are attracting this form of attention from our 'betters' and that they are properly concerned, then we should be listening to what Jones has to say as he's obviously ruffling some feathers.

Now we have attacks on RT....

I don't doubt for one second that they don't each have their own agenda and they certainly have 'obvious' biases but this is no reason for control or censorship as we certainly lack a BALANCE in media coverage of ALL matters of importance these days and the only way to get it is to use multiple sources and derive your own opinion.

But when an organisation uses MY money to bend MY thoughts (step forward BBC) I can object in the strongest form possible and STOP PAYING THEM.

Mark The Skint Sailor said...

The internet is only harming the millions of "victims" with skins like rice puddings that can be hurt by being spoken to in an adult way.

Victimhood is the new black, it's being worn everywhere by everybody as a badge of status. If you ain't a victim, you're a far-right racist/bigot/nazi (delete or don't delete as appropriate to any online argument in progress at the time).

The left have failed to shut down debate by calling people bad names so now they are de-platforming those that are pushing back.

As an older white male aparrently I can't claim victim status because of my automatic priviledge. Yeah, tell that to my boss and my bank account...

Only left-leaning middle-class white youngsters can see a tangible priviledge, because they live in those circles. Outside of that the blue-collar, low-wage white working class are suffering just as much as any other social group.

John Dub said...

A good phrase for the new "media" is alt-media.

A coupple of good commentators on the internet:

Styx, a yank Libertarian.

Sargon, a left-center liberal who reently joined UKIP.

Both have built massive followings on the basis on being interesting and having good insights, and both have been smeared by the MSM, who dont like the competition.

Cull The Badgers said...

This goes for many areas of life. There was a time when we acted freely subject only the law. Today almost everyone, and certainly those in power, believe everything should be regulated. It's for the comfort of snowflakes. We need a counter view on regulation, but it is so embedded it will be a Herculean task.

Anonymous said...

Interesting discussion on Samizdata