Month: July 2023

Sara Fischer and Kerry Flynn, Axios:

Vox Media, the parent company to websites such as New York Magazine, Eater and SB Nation, will no longer use Chorus — its proprietary content management system — to power its own websites, sources told Axios.


Vox Media will move its own websites off of Chorus and into WordPress VIP, the enterprise arm of the 20-year-old CMS company.

Last year, Vox stopped licensing Chorus to third parties, but some sites are still using the platform, including the Ringer and the Chicago Sun-Times. Incredibly, Vox Media also operates two other proprietary CMSes: Clay and Pinnacle. In a press release from September, Vox said it planned to move everything to a new “publishing platform” called Duet, which Axios says will continue to be used on the front-end.

WordPress continues its slow absorption of the web. Soon, everything will be blogs again, and publishers will just be publishers. The stars are aligning.

I thought this interview with Alan Dye by Debbie Millman, recorded in June shortly after WWDC, was entertaining and occasionally enlightening. If you spent the weeks after WWDC immersed in news about Apple’s Vision Pro, I am not sure there is much new here — mostly because I am not sure there was much polished work to talk about beyond what was shown during the keynote. Dye is an enthusiastic speaker about the craft of design; I think that is reason enough to give it a listen.

(Also in Overcast.)

Speaking of creepy and pervasive surveillance, the U.S. Senate Commission on the Judiciary, in a Friday press release, triumphantly announced it had advanced a bill turning communications providers into narcs:

Today, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bipartisan Cooper Davis Act, introduced by U.S. Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), to the full Senate on a bipartisan vote of 16-5. The bill, as amended, would require social media companies to take on a more active role in working with federal agencies to combat the illegal sale and distribution of drugs on their platforms.

Suzanne Smalley, the Record:

Many privacy advocates caution that, if passed in its current form, the bill could be a death blow to end-to-end encryption services because it includes particularly controversial language holding companies accountable for conduct they don’t report if they “deliberately blind” themselves to the violations.

Sens. Marsha Blackburn, Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley have repeatedly accused social media platforms and tech companies of being biased against U.S. conservative positions in their moderation choices — though which positions is often something they dodge — and obviously do not trust them to decide what is acceptable. Yet all of them were among those who voted to advance this bill (PDF). They seem to believe tech companies are able to monitor and discern the meaning of deliberately cryptic messages which could be about drugs and should report senders to the D.E.A., but they do not think they should suspend people who are engaging in any rhetoric — no matter how hateful or dehumanizing — if it is even remotely suggestive of conservative beliefs. Ridiculous.

This was, as acknowledged in the press release, a bipartisan vote. Policymakers around the world continue their push to undermine encryption.

Martin Lukacs, reporting for the Breach last year:

Working around-the-clock in special rooms or wings of police stations, these so-called “real-time operations centres” are the cornerstone of a shift to confront what police call the “new challenges” of a digital age.

They are intended to provide “virtual backup” for police officers in any situation, supplying them with information drawn from deep social media monitoring, private and public closed-circuit televisions (CCTV), open-ended data collection, and algorithmic mining.

Over the last 10 years, the surveillance centres have been quietly set up within police forces from Halifax to Vancouver, with no public debate about their functions, corporate relationships, or impacts.

The police services contacted by the Breach refused to comment. As Lukacs writes, Real-Time Operations Centres — more often referred to as Real-Time Crime Centres in the U.S. — were conceived without public consultation and are operated with little oversight; their lack of response to quite reasonable press questions does little to change that narrative.

Zac Larkham, Wired:

Each RTCC is slightly different, but their function is the same: gather surveillance data across a city and use that to build a live picture of crime in the city. Police departments have an array of technologies available to them that span from CCTV, gunshot sensors, and social media monitoring to drones and body cameras. In Ogden, Utah, police even floated the idea of a 30-foot “crime blimp.” In many cases, images that police systems collect are run through facial recognition technology, and the data gathered is often used in predictive policing. In Pasco County, Florida, which operates an RTCC, the sheriff’s office’s predictive policing system encouraged officers to continuously monitor and harass residents for minor code violations such as missing mailbox numbers and overgrown grass.

On the plus side, “Crime Blimp” sounds like a great movie.

On the other hand, the apparent capabilities of these Centres are worrisome. Larkham notes it is hard to figure out how effective they are, if at all, while storing massive surveillance records. It is also worth pointing out how different a picture this paints from law enforcement’s frequent public pleading that it is “going dark” by losing its ability to gather evidence and investigate crimes. Meanwhile, a tiny county in Florida fights crime with the help of real-time surveillance and an autonomous drone.

Charlie Warzel, the Atlantic:

[…] That’s because the mere idea that Zuckerberg is having a moment is itself a carefully composed bit of image maintenance. The feeling that there might be a new Zuckerberg in town is not an accident, nor is the fact that the CEO made headlines by saying he was down for a cage match with Musk just two weeks before launching a product to compete with Twitter. What you’re seeing — the biceps, the bravado — is yet another in a long line of Zuck eras. A software update, if you will.

This latest makeover looks like a bizarre attempt at a duplication of whatever version of masculinity Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and Musk himself have carved out. Perhaps not to the same extreme, but definitely nodding toward that bubble. I would not read too much into it, though — give it a few years, and Zuckerberg will have found a new image in whatever happens to be trendy then. The products are not so different from the CEO.

Michael Schulman, the New Yorker:

“Orange [is the New Black]” was distributed by Netflix but produced by Lionsgate, which determined the cast’s up-front payments. Myles was paid scale, SAG’s minimum rate, which was under nine hundred dollars per day. “They could and would pay us the absolute bare minimum, and there was really no wiggle room,” she recalled. Her contract was appended with SAG’s 2012 New Media Agreement, which covered projects “produced for initial exhibition via the Internet, mobile devices, or any other platform known or which hereafter may be adopted” (now known as half of TV). SAG had originally codified the agreement in 2009, after a yearlong standoff with the studios. At the time, streaming TV was mostly theoretical, except for the under-five-minute “Webisodes” that “Lost” ran on The contractual terms were — and remain — much worse for actors than those of “linear” TV. (This is a major source of contention in the actors’ current standoff with the studios.) Traditional broadcast series pay residuals for each re-airing, calculated as a percentage of the actor’s salary. The 2012 New Media Agreement entitled Myles to residuals only after the first fifty-two weeks the show was on the platform; the amount was based not on how many times each episode was watched but on a percentage of the licensing fee that Netflix paid Lionsgate to distribute the show. (If this sounds confusing, don’t worry — the actors also find it baffling.) Myles still gets around six hundred dollars a year for a handful of guest spots on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” stretching back to 2004, but her residuals this year for “Orange” have come to around twenty bucks.

It is upsetting to see the parallels to the streaming music economy, where a four-piece band getting a couple million streams a month might struggle to pay rent. But at least musicians can look forward to tours and merchandise sales to supplement their income.

In April 2021, Microsoft announced it was seeking to replace Calibri as the default type family in Office products. It made available five different choices to users. Bierstadt, the likely contender, was described by its designer Steve Matteson as a humanized grotesque sans-serif:

Microsoft already has Arial — which has many attributes from grotesque types preceding Helvetica — and my approach was to design a sans serif which would contrast with Arial by being far more mechanical and rationalized. The terminal endings are precisely sheared at 90 degrees — a modern note contrasting the softer, angled endings in Arial — and a lack of somewhat fussy curves found in Arial’s ‘a’, ‘f’, ‘y’ and ‘r’.

The type designer doth protest too much over the Arial–Helvetica comparisons, methinks.

Si Daniels, of Microsoft Design, in a blog post published on Medium — which is still super weird to me — today formally announced Bierstadt as the replacement for Calibri, where it will be renamed Aptos:

Today we begin the final phase of this major change where Aptos will start appearing as the new default font across Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Excel for hundreds of millions of users. And, over the next few months it will roll out to be the default for all our customers. We can’t wait for Aptos to be readily available since it was crafted to embody the many aspects of the human experience.

Fine so far. I do not see much of any humanist sans-serif in Aptos, however. It seems pretty specifically grotesque. Maybe if I keep reading I will get what Matteson was going for:

He designed the font with a slight humanist touch. He wanted Aptos to have the universal appeal of the late NPR newscaster Carl Kasell and the astute tone of The Late Show host Stephen Colbert. […]


I am still not understanding. Perhaps the new name will clue me in?

[…] Steve renamed the typeface he designed from Bierstadt to Aptos after his favorite unincorporated town in Santa Cruz, California, whose widely ranging landscape and climate epitomizes the font’s versatility. The fog, beaches, redwood trees, and mountains of Aptos summed up everything that he loved about California. […]

Still not getting it. But thanks to a handful of tech companies, I am learning way more about Californian geography than I thought I ever needed to.

Update: Marcin Wichary:

Personally a little frustrated with posts like these. This has a lot of artistic words about a *utilitarian* typeface, but no screenshots of it in use, no close ups of the details, no comparison with other fonts mentioned. There is a part that explains some subtle choices made by the type designer – and yet, no photo *showing* them.

I agree. It is ridiculous that the closest we see to Aptos in-use is on a series of posters and things which look like signage. In the real world, we will most often see it a few hundred words at a time at body text size with the default Microsoft Word margins.

IDC, explaining an estimated 13.4% year-over-year decline in PC shipments:

The overall weak demand has caused inventory levels to remain above normal for longer than expected. This includes finished systems at the channel level, as well as the supply chain. So far, no PC maker has been immune to the challenges presented by the market. Except for Apple and HP Inc., all the leading companies experienced double-digit declines during the quarter. But Apple benefited from a favorable year-over-year comparison as the company suffered supply issues during 2Q22 due to COVID-related shutdowns within the supply chain.

Compared to their estimated 40% decline in Mac sales for January through March — see previous commentary — this is notable to me because it includes only a couple of weeks of shipments for the Macs newest announced at WWDC. IDC’s press release for the same quarter a year ago blamed the supply chain for a drop in Mac sales.

Bizarrely, though Apple is the only brand to record growth, CNBC’s Rohan Goswami somehow framed it as both a positive and a negative:

Apple saw year-over-year growth of 10.3%, the only PC maker out of the top five globally to return to positive results. Apple’s Mac computers now account for 8.6% of global market share, as the company shipped 5.3 million Mac units in the second quarter alone.

That number is still markedly down relative to the quarter a year ago, which had 4.8 million Mac shipments total. It’s a decline mirrored by the broader market, which experienced a total fall of 13.4% in PC shipments year over year, from 71.1 million units to 61.6 million units, according to IDC.

I feel like a dummy because I cannot figure out how the second paragraph here fits with the first. The number of Mac shipments, as Goswami acknowledges, grew; it was not “markedly down” and did not “mirror […] the broader market”. It was the complete opposite. Market share is also up — from 6.8% to 8.6%. I might be reading this wrong, but it looks a little like the second paragraph here was prewritten in anticipation of a sales slide and Goswami forgot to delete it.

Simon Fondrie-Teitler, Angie Waller, and Colin Lecher, reporting for the Markup in November:

Major tax filing services such as H&R Block, TaxAct, and TaxSlayer have been quietly transmitting sensitive financial information to Facebook when Americans file their taxes online, The Markup has learned. 

The data, sent through widely used code called the Meta Pixel, includes not only information like names and email addresses but often even more detailed information, including data on users’ income, filing status, refund amounts, and dependents’ college scholarship amounts. 

This alarming story caught the attention of lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who commissioned a report (PDF) on the use of analytics and tracking in tax preparation software. Regrettably, the text in this document has been rasterized; if you need a version with recognized text — for example, if you use a screen reader — I have uploaded a copy to Dropbox. I recommend reading it if you are at all interested in this sort of thing.

For example, while everyone involved acknowledged the inadvertent collection of tax-related information by ad tech companies, they waved away any concern because, they said, the data was de-identified. We all know how comforting a statement like that really is. Two of the three tax software providers enabled the collection of additional data — one of them blamed it on advice given to them by a Meta representative — and none knew exactly what had been transmitted to Meta. Nobody seems to be able to say exactly how this information was used after transmission, but the investigation concluded it was likely it was used for targeted advertising, because that is the main reason for this data collection in the first place.

I previously filed tax returns through H&R Block; in 2022, I used Wealthsimple. The tax prep areas for both sites appear to still be using tracking products from Google and Meta. It looks to me like less information is being collected; however, it is still strange to me that I would find any third-party trackers in tax prep software. Wealthsimple’s site also has a number of other third-party analytics providers within its tax prep area, and it sure looks to me like my income is being processed by a third-party data unification platform for Wealthsimple’s internal use. Importantly, there is no indication it is being resold to advertisers nor collected by any other third-party product. I have asked Wealthsimple for comment. (Update: Wealthsimple assures me that “personal information is not shared with any other third parties such as Google or Meta”, and that data collected in Segment is “only used for internal purposes (such as our business intelligence tools) that improve the user experience”.)

Colin Lecher, the Markup:

Meta claims to have automated mechanisms to filter out sensitive data, but the lawmakers’ report claims those safeguards are “woefully inadequate” and appear to exist only to provide “a modicum of deniability.” According to the report, Meta told congressional staff that it sent notifications to tax prep companies about the data after The Markup requested comment ahead of publication, but the tax prep companies said they never received those notifications.


Unlike many other countries, the United States does not have a widely available, free tax-filing option run by the government itself, essentially forcing many taxpayers to go through tax preparation companies. The report urges the IRS to change that, concluding that the “investigation raises serious doubts about the ability of the tax prep industry to safeguard taxpayer information and highlights the urgent need for the IRS to develop its own online tax filing system—to protect taxpayer privacy and provide a better alternative for taxpayers to file their returns.”

Sen. Warren’s office:

The lawmakers also sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice highlighting their key findings and calling on these departments to fully investigate this matter and prosecute any company or individuals who violated the law. The companies shared millions of taxpayers’ tax return data, meaning they could face billions of dollars in potential criminal liability.

Canadians also need to file our own taxes, but the federal government says automatic and free filing will be trialled next year.

It should have been a surprise to exactly nobody that Threads, Meta’s Twitter-alike, was going to seem hungrier for personal data than Bluesky or Mastodon.

That is how Meta makes its money: its products surveil as much of your behaviour as possible, then they let others buy targeted advertising. That differs from the other two services I mentioned. Bluesky says its business model “must be fundamentally different” because anyone will be able to spin up their own server; it has raised venture capital and is selling custom domain names. Mastodon is similarly free; its development is supported by various sponsors and it has a Patreon account pulling in nearly half a million dollars annually, while most individual servers are donationware.

Meta is not currently running advertising on Threads, but one day it will. Even so, its listings in Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store suggest a wide range of privacy infractions, and this has not gone unnoticed. Reece Rogers, of Wired, compared the privacy labels of major Twitter-like applications and services on iOS, and Tristan Louis did the same with a bunch of social apps on Android. Michael Kan, of PC Magazine, noticed before Threads launched that its privacy label indicated it collected all the same data as Twitter plus “Health & Fitness, Financial Info, Sensitive Info, and “Other Data””. That seems quite thorough.

Just as quickly as these critical articles were published came those who rationalized and even defended the privacy violations implied by these labels. Dare Obasanjo — who, it should be noted, previously worked for Meta — said it was “a list of features used by the app framed in the scariest way possible”. Colin Devroe explained Threads had to indicate such a vibrant data collection scheme because Threads accounts are linked to Instagram accounts. My interpretation of this is because you can, for example, shop with Instagram, it is possible to link billing information to a profile.

That there is any coverage whatsoever of the specific privacy impacts of these applications is a testament to the direct language used in these labels. Even though Meta’s privacy policy and the supplemental policy for Threads have been written with comprehension in mind, they are nowhere near as readable as these simplified privacy labels.

Whether those labels are being accurately comprehended, though, is a different story, as indicated in the above examples. The number of apparent privacy intrusions in which Threads engages is alarming at first glance. But many of the categories, at least on iOS, require that users grant permission first, including health information, photos, contacts, and location. Furthermore, it is not clear to me how these data types are used. I only see a couple of passing references to the word “health” in Meta’s privacy policy, for example, and nothing says it communicates at all with the Health database in iOS. Notably, not only does Threads not ask for access to Health information, it also does not request access to any type of protected data — there is no way to look for contacts on Threads, for example — nor does it ask to track when launched. In covering all its bases, Meta has created a privacy label which suggests it is tracking possibly everything, but perhaps not, and there is no way to tell how close that is to reality nor exactly what is being done with that information.

This is in part because privacy labeling is determined by developers, and the consequences of violations for misrepresentation are at the discretion of Apple and Google. Ironically, because each of the players involved are giant businesses, it seems to me like there may be limitations about the degree to which these privacy labels are able to be policed. If Apple or Google were to de-list or block Meta’s apps, you know some lawyers would be talking about possibly anti-competitive motives.

That is not to say privacy labels are useless. A notable difference between the privacy label for Threads and some other apps is not found in the list of categories of information collected. Instead, it is in the title of that list: “Data Linked to You”. It should not be worrisome for a developer to collect diagnostic information, for example, but is it it necessary to associate it with a specific individual? Sure enough, while some apps — like Tapbots’ Ivory and the first-party Mastodon client — say they collect nothing, others, like Bluesky and Tooot — a Mastodon client — acknowledge collecting diagnostic information, but say they do not associate it with individual users. Apple is also pushing for greater transparency by requiring that developers disclose third-party SDKs which collect user data.

All of this, however, continues to place the onus of responsibility on individual users. Somehow, we must individually assess the privacy practices of the apps we use and the SDKs they use. We must be able to forecast how our granting of specific types of data access today will be abused tomorrow, and choose to avoid all features and apps which stray too far. Perhaps the most honest disclosure statements are in the form of the much-hated cookie consent screens which — at their best — give users the option for agreeing to each possible third-party disclosure, or agreeing or disagreeing in bulk. While they provide an aggressive freedom of choice, they are overwhelming and easily ignored.

A better option may be found in not giving users a choice.

The rate at which tech products have changed and evolved has made it impossible to foresee how today’s normal use becomes tomorrow’s privacy exploitation. Vacation photos and selfies posted ten or twenty years ago are now part of at least one massive facial recognition database. Doorbell cameras become a tool for vigilante justice. Using the web and everyday devices normally subjects everyone to unchecked surveillance, traces of which persist for years. The defaults are all configured against personal privacy, and it is up to individuals to find ways of opting out of this system where they can. Besides, blaming users for not fully comprehending all possible consequences of their actions is the weakest rebuttal to reasonable consumer protections.

Privacy labeling, which appeared first in the App Store before it was added to the Play Store, were inspired by food nutrition labels. I am happy to extend that metaphor. At the bottom of many restaurant menus will often be printed a statement which reads something like “eating raw or lightly cooked foods of animal origin may increase your risk of food poisoning”. There are good reasons (PDF) to be notified of that risk and make judgements based on your personal tolerance. But nobody expects the secret ingredient added by a restaurant to their hollandaise to be salmonella. This reasonable disclosure statement is not sufficient to protect kitchen staff from taking reasonable precautions to avoid poisoning patrons.

We can only guess at some pretty scary ways these everyday exploitations of our private data may be used, but we do not have to. We have plenty of evidence already that we need more protections against today’s giant corporations and tomorrow’s startups. It should not be necessary to compare ambiguous labels against company privacy policies and imagine what they could do with all that information just to have a text-based social media account. Frivolity should not be so poisoned.

Aaron Wherry, CBC News:

Whether the Online News Act takes the exactly right approach to addressing the last of those problems [the financing of journalism] or not, it exists downstream from the real issue — the dominance over digital advertising that Google and Facebook have been allowed to achieve. The best that might be said for the legislation is that it could represent a “stopgap” solution for the industry, buying it some time to adapt.

(CBC/Radio-Canada’s corporate position is that the Online News Act will help level the playing field and contribute to a healthy news ecosystem in Canada.)

The American media industry is belatedly realizing that chasing the viral Internet traffic social-media platforms can generate was ultimately a fool’s errand. But as the fight over C-18 makes clear, that traffic also gave a platform like Facebook an incredible amount of power — power it is now wielding by blocking Canadian news.

This was published over the weekend. Today, the Department of Canadian Heritage, which is responsible for this legislation and its implementation, acknowledged it is negotiating some concessions to the Act:

The Minister of Canadian Heritage intends to propose regulations that would:

  • Establish a financial threshold for contributions to sustainability of the Canadian news marketplace, outlined in subparagraph 11(1)(a)(vi) of the Act. The threshold would be based on a platform’s estimated Canadian revenues and would be specific to each platform and their position within the news marketplace.

  • Reaffirm language from the Act that non-monetary offerings to news organizations, such as training or other products, be included in the CRTC’s evaluation of exemption criteria.

  • Consider existing agreements that the digital platforms have reached with news businesses, provided that they reflect the criteria outlined in Section 11 of the Act. […]

Michael Geist:

[…] There were alternative options proposed that look much like this structure. Those were consistently rejected and those proposing the alternatives dismissed as shills. Yet faced with emerging disaster that is Bill C-18, the government seems prepared to ditch the principles it said were critical in its news bill in the hope of a face-saving compromise. Whether it is also willing to drop the visions of hundreds of millions for the sector will likely determine whether it can convince at least one of the platforms to drop their plans to block news links or news sharing in Canada.

It would be quite something if this ends up by the Canadian government enforcing a watered-down version of this law while Google and Meta still avoid linking to Canadian publications. Quite a terrible something.

Tara Deschamps, the Canadian Press:

In response to the act known as Bill C-18, Meta and Google have said they will remove news by Canadian journalism outlets from their sites before the law comes into force.


In response to such moves, Bell Media brands including CTV and BNN Bloomberg issued Instagram statements recommending people seeking their news look directly on their websites or visit their apps. CBC News prodded readers to make a similar move earlier this week.

National Post owner Postmedia on Friday joined Toronto Star owner Torstar Corp., TVA and Videotron owner Quebecor Inc. and broadcaster Cogeco Inc. in suspending advertising on Meta’s platforms.

Now there are two reasons Canadians will not see as many politics and news stories in our Threads feed.

It has been about two days since Meta launched Threads — apparently a week ahead of schedule — and it is huge. Mark Zuckerberg says there are seventy million users already, and it seems likely it will hit a hundred million within the next couple of days. For comparison, it took Google over a year to reach 100 million Google Plus users.

It is not just the raw number of accounts which impresses, either — people are using this thing. It is busy and chaotic, but not in the same way as a bubbling restaurant or bar. It is more like a busy trade show where people are yelling motivational platitudes hoping you will buy their seminars. But that is not all. There are plenty of brands repurposing old tweets or trying unclever new posts, meme accounts, lifestyle influencers, meme accounts, some good photographers, and sports. And also meme accounts. There is no way to tailor this feed or tell it what you are more or less interested in; I have blocked every sports account I can find, and it keeps showing me more. Then there is the Instagrammy-ness of it: when you launch Threads, the Home feed updates with a delay just long enough to bury the post you were interested in below a few dozen new things.

Ryan Broderick:

My verdict: Threads sucks shit. It has no purpose. It is for no one. It launched as a content graveyard and will assuredly only become more of one over time. It’s iFunny for people who miss The Ellen Show. It has a distinct celebrities-making-videos-during-COVID-lockdown vibe. It feels like a 90s-themed office party organized by a human resources department. And my theory, after staring into its dark heart for several days, is that it was never meant to “beat” Twitter — regardless of what Zuckerberg has been tweeting. Threads’ true purpose was to act as a fresh coat of paint for Instagram’s code in the hopes it might make the network relevant again. And Threads is also proof that Meta, even after all these years, still has no other ambition aside from scale.

Broderick stacked the scales against the app a little by not following anyone and just seeing what suggested posts would come up. I, on the other hand, have followed a bunch of accounts with some clear interests and topics in mind. Its suggestions are still garbage.

Threads, therefore, is an exciting and interesting new product which is striking a chord with brand managers and internet personalities alike. It is not good; I do not like it. But the joke is on me because I would not be surprised to see it succeed and become the new way I find out about local events and businesses’ holiday hours. Things do not need to be good, original, or clever to be popular, and Threads unfortunately leverages Instagram’s existing scale with aplomb.

Update: The best part of Threads is how it mimics Twitter’s proximity to power so people can once again tell companies their products are bad. That is a quality not yet delivered by Bluesky or Mastodon.

Leyland Cecco, the Guardian:

A Canadian judge has ruled that the “thumbs-up” emoji is just as valid as a signature, arguing that courts need to adapt to the “new reality” of how people communicate as he ordered a farmer to pay C$82,000 ($61,442) for an unfulfilled contract.


“This court readily acknowledges that a 👍 emoji is a non-traditional means to ‘sign’ a document but nevertheless under these circumstances this was a valid way to convey the two purposes of a ‘signature’,” he wrote.

Note to self: always respond to contracts delivered via text with “😶” to signify the requirement of a more formal response.

Dell Cameron, Wired:

A “must-pass” defense bill wending its way through the United States House of Representatives may be amended to abolish the government practice of buying information on Americans that the country’s highest court has said police need a warrant to seize. Though it’s far too early to assess the odds of the legislation surviving the coming months of debate, it’s currently one of the relatively few amendments to garner support from both Republican and Democratic members.


Congressional staffers and others privy to ongoing conferencing over privacy matters on Capitol Hill say that regardless of whether the amendment succeeds, the focus on data brokers is just a prelude to a bigger fight coming this fall over the potential sunsetting of one of the spy community’s powerful tools, Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the survivability of which is anything but assured.

Cameron cites his February story, reporting bipartisan skepticism over the reauthorization of Section 702. But Karoun Demirjian, of the New York Times, is bizarrely framing the abuse of this law and disagreement with its renewal as a “far-right” concern:

Since the program was last extended in 2018, the G.O.P.’s approach to law enforcement and data collection has undergone a dramatic transformation. Disdain for the agencies that benefit from the warrantless surveillance program has moved into the party mainstream, particularly in the House, where Republicans assert that the F.B.I.’s investigations of Mr. Trump were biased and complain of a broader plot by the government to persecute conservatives — including some of those charged for storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — for their political beliefs. They argue that federal law enforcement agencies cannot be trusted with Americans’ records, and should be prevented from accessing them.

If you do not read it very carefully, this is a shining profile of a Republican party which now appears to be standing up for privacy rights. But it is not the party with a track record of supporting reform. Rep. Matt Gaetz, of Florida, is cited as a Republican who sees Section 702 as overreaching and will not reauthorize it — though Demirjian notes he did so last time it was up for a vote. At the time, though there was plenty of evidence that surveillance authorized by the law was being routinely abused by intelligence agencies, Gaetz rejected an attempt to introduce new restrictions. Now that Republicans have apparently been the victims of Section 702 violations, they are more on board. As for Democrats?

In recent years, Capitol Hill has welcomed several new Democrats with backgrounds in national security who favor extending the program. But convincing others is a challenge, as most members of the party — including Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the minority leader — have voted against extensions. Even President Biden voted against the law to legalize the program in 2008, when he was a senator.

U.S.-based readers concerned about privacy and surveillance might wish to ensure there is bipartisan consensus on restricting private data purchases and warrantless wiretaps.

Max Tani, Semafor:

On Wednesday, Instagram parent company Meta introduced Threads, a text-based companion to Instagram that resembles Twitter and other text-based social platforms. Just hours later, a lawyer for Twitter, Alex Spiro, sent a letter to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg accusing the company of engaging in “systematic, willful, and unlawful misappropriation of Twitter’s trade secrets and other intellectual property.”

Spiro specifically alleges ex-Twitter employees working at Meta were tasked with building Threads, something which an anonymous Meta source denied to Tani. Embarrassing, though I am looking forward to two detestable businesses trying not to trip over themselves in court while slinging mud at the other.

Brian Merchant, of the Los Angeles Times, with a different take on the Bill C–18 fallout:

California and Canada must absolutely not give in to the tech giants’ tantrum. This is a bluff, and not a particularly convincing one. For the sake of the beleaguered news industries in both places (yes, including this media outlet), the Canadian and Californian governments must absolutely call it.

For assurance, we should look to Australia, where a like-minded bill went into law in 2021, even after Google and Facebook made the same exact threats. Facebook did initially restrict access to news, but the ploy lasted barely a week before it backfired wildly, and Facebook agreed to comply, albeit after extracting some concessions.

Merchant makes a compelling case, but it does not sway me. For one, the proliferation of similar bills around the world will cause Meta and Google to dig in more. For another, it is still a link tax — it still means a fundamental component of the web is subject to fees and bureaucracy even this government- and regulation-loving writer cannot agree with.

If you are a celebrity or public figure, you probably gained access to Threads within the past week or so. You are also probably not reading my website. For the rest of us, Instagram’s Twitter clone is out now. As promised, you can log in with your Instagram account — full ActivityPub support is coming later, says Mosseri. What you might not expect is how Instagrammy it feels: the Home timeline is flooded with posts from people you do not follow and there does not appear to be any way to limit that. It is also quite slow — though that could be because of a rush of new users — and, ironically, crashed when I tried to post a picture.

But it is easier to understand than Mastodon and, unlike Bluesky, generally available. And it has something else, too: the backing of a major company that has experience with moderating at scale.

Casey Newton spent a few hours trying Threads before its public launch:

Had Meta launched this app in 2019, it seems safe to say, everyone would have rolled their eyes. Its big new feature is … logging in with Instagram? Come on.

By the standards of Twitter 2.0, though, it can feel like a miracle. Reading unlimited posts for free? On a robust network that basically never goes down? That is monitored by a robust team of content moderators, following a stable set of community guidelines?

When the competition is an app where “cisgender” is considered a slur, Threads has an easy time standing out as an oasis of calm and civility.

Newton also scored an interview with Adam Mosseri, who sheds some light on why Meta built Threads on ActivityPub, even if full support is not available at launch.

Anyway, if you just cannot get enough of me, I am also there.

Update: Chaya Raichik, better known as LibsOfTikTok, has joined Threads. Mosseri explains that one reason for ActivityPub support is so that banned users can take their audience elsewhere. To me, that means the bar for removing someone from Threads ought to be much lower since the repercussions are comparatively minor. Let us see whether that holds true.

Mike Masnick, writing at Techdirt last May:

This one is just absolutely bizarre. The Attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana are now suing President Joe Biden and a whole bunch of his administration, including press secretary Jen Psaki, Dr. Anthony Fauci, DHS boss Alejandro Mayorkas, and newly appointed Disinfo czar Nina Jankowicz, in a nearly incomprehensible complaint that the Biden administration forced social media sites to take down information, mostly before it was in office. Also, apparently Section 230 is both bad and the Biden support for repealing it violates the 1st Amendment. Or something. It really does not make much sense at all.

This suit was updated this year to reflect some changes in the Biden administration. Notably, the amended complaint retains core features of the original — namely, that moderation actions taken against a couple of New York Post stories about files obtained from a laptop formerly belonging to Hunter Biden, various COVID-19 posts, and 2020 election posts are evidence of state censorship by this administration. The suit does not meaningfully reconcile how actions taken by officials from the Trump administration before the 2020 election are somehow the fault of the Biden administration.

Masnick’s explanation is worth reading because of today’s update in the case.

Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica:

A federal judge yesterday ordered the Biden administration to halt a wide range of communications with social media companies, siding with Missouri and Louisiana in a lawsuit that alleges Biden and his administration violated the First Amendment by colluding with social networks “to suppress disfavored speakers, viewpoints, and content.”

This comes just a few months after a judge ruled in a broadly similar case that state officials flagging posts is not a First Amendment violation.