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teal_deer_by_matheusrosa94-d30bu6uTeal Deer: Whether something IS censorship or a distortion of the free market or marketplace of ideas is a different argument as to whether said censorship or distortion is justified and acceptable.

What is a boycott?

What is censorship?

What does a completely free market (FM) look like?

What does a completely free marketplace of ideas (MOI) look like?

Strap down, this is going to be a long ride and a lot of definitional stuff and background needs to be established at the start.

Introduction

Over the last couple of days I’ve gotten into late night arguments over the interplay between the free expression of artists and companies (or other collective entities) to create material and the right of other individual and collective entities (such as activist or protest groups) to protest. It’s the old ‘freedom from’ versus ‘freedom to’ issue I’ve banged on about before.

A particular set of sticking points clustered around:

  1. The difference between exercising individual choice to buy or not to buy something versus an organised boycott.
  2. The concept of ‘violence’ as wielded by to silence or control others, going beyond actual physical damage or threats to reputational, emotional or fiscal harm.
  3. How threats etc distort both the FM and the MOI meaning that they can no longer be described as free.

This set of topics was particular difficult for me as I am a left-anarchist and pragmatic socialist, not a libertarian. I don’t not particular believe in the pure value of the FM or the impartial power of the ‘invisible hand’.

In fact, I think the FM as it is expressed in capitalism is often the worst possible choice as a way to run certain things. The classic example of a bad place to apply FM is in medicine. The aim of a medical system and a medical marketplace should be to supply the best possible care to the greatest number of people as cheaply as possible without harming them. In practice this only occurs in socialised medicine where triage is based on need, rather than FM medical systems where triage is based on the size of one’s wallet and people are often still ruined.

An argument can also be made, I think, that aesthetic goals are also not necessarily best served by a system that values profit and money above those goals.

The MOI is something I believe much more strongly in, but even there we have problems. The fact is that being correct, accurate and factual is no guarantee of the ‘fitness’ of an idea. A free market – whether capitalistic or noospheric – is supposed to be analagous to a Darwinian biosphere, where the fittest survive and thrive. The bot-fly in the cheek here is that bad practices and bad ideas can survive and thrive, despite the harm they do to the whole. In the FM this results in things like environmental damage, lying, cheating, stealing, fraud etc and in the MoI this results in things like fearmongering, lying, playing to emotions and people’s laziness and exploiting human psychological tendencies towards faith and groupthink.

Religions, for example, are fantastically successful memeplexes, arguably more successful globally than rationalism and enlightenment values, despite the latter being responsible for so much more that has benefited humanity as a whole while religions and cults such as Scientology or third-wave feminism (winky-face) cause nothing but harm and are very, very distant from enlightenment values of logic and reason.

So I found myself arguing for the ideal version of FM and MOI that I don’t necessarily buy into myself.

To further complicate matters I don’t particularly like arguing about boycotts, having been targeted by one that was particularly vicious and particularly dishonest. Its too personal and I don’ trust myself to maintain the kind of intellectual distance I normally try to muster around these subjects (though I sometimes play up the anger for effect on videos). Indeed, I did lose my rag late in the argument when it became apparent the opposition weren’t in it for a discussion, but for disingenuous ‘lulz’.

Alright, let’s move on to the definitions…

Definitions

Boycott: “To withdraw from commercial or social relations with (a country, organization, or person) as a punishment or protest (OED).”

A boycott is an organised & directed (see below) attempt to censor or control via a threat of violence (see below).

Censorship: “Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups.” (ACLU).

Censorship is ANY act that silences or attempts to silence ANY form of expression. The true argument is whether an act of censorship or a form of censorship is justified or acceptable. To my mind the best test we have at the moment for that is a cost/benefit analysis derived from JS Mill’s ‘harm principle’. Does this action cause harm? Does it cause more harm than benefit?

Emergent: “In philosophy, systems theory, science, and art, emergence is a process whereby larger entities, patterns, and regularities arise through interactions among smaller or simpler entities that themselves do not exhibit such properties.”

By way of example, flocking behaviour in birds is an example of emergent complexity. Each bird is acting individually, of its own volition, slightly influenced by its nearest peers. Each bird’s actions are individual and simplistic but the behaviour of the whole is something complex and wonderful that has the appearance of complexity.

Many human actions are emergent and it is a force in societal change, economics, traffic flow and many other aspects, including social trends, runs on the stockmarket etc. Evolution is an emergently complex system. With regard to these topics, genuine grassroots movements – such as Gamergate – are examples of emergently complex systems. People acting individually find themselves suddenly aligned and a new force emerges. Compare and contrast with directed.

Directed: “Controlled, operated, managed or governed” (OED).

Directed actions contrast with emergence by virtue of being hierarchical and intentionally organised and directed. They have leaders, firmly stated goals, brittle but forceful organisation and so on. This may be obvious – in the form of state or corporate hierarchy – or less obvious, as in the case of Koch brothers funding of the Tea Party as ‘astroturf’ (a directed group masquerading as an emergent group).

Groups like No More Page 3 and other organised and directed ‘activist’ operations are of this sort, rather than being emergent. Often a movement will transition from emergence to directed over time, though it can break apart under the strain. The Occupy Movement stands as a powerful example of the risks and problems of transitioning from emergent to directed and that shift is what killed it as an effective force. Gamergate probably needs to transition from an emergent mass-action to a number of directed groups with more defined goals over time, but it remains to be seen if this can or will happen.

Violence: To do violence is to: “Damage or adversely affect”.

My misguided anarcho-capitalist and (big ‘L’) Libertarian semi-comrades make great play of the implicit or explicit threat of statism. The state as an actor is backed by the ability to project force via its courts etc and at the end of all the veneer of civilisation it ultimately comes down to the capacity to force compliance by physical violence.

The state is not the only actor capable of violence in this broader definition. Companies can do violence by leveraging their market-share or buying power to cut out, buy out or marginalise competitors. Activist groups can do reputational damage in terms of public relations issues, they can lie, cheat, play to emotion rather than fact and can wear on the emotional health and sense of security of those they choose to pick on.

The threat of such violence need not necessarily be a bad thing. In a perfect world the threat of police violence helps to maintain a civil society and they act responsibly and in accordance with the proper ideas of fair treatment before the law. On the other hand, Ferguson.

In a perfect world everyone tells the truth and do not abuse the fervid atmosphere around sexual assault allegations for attention or to harass-by-proxy. On the other hand we have the UVA hoax scandal and the damage done by mobs willing to listen and believe, uncritically, and to act before the wheels of a supposedly detached and truth-oriented legal system could turn.

The Actual Argument – Censorship

Boycotts are censorship. They come about as an attempt to silence, control, remove or ruin. They are intended to force a change in behaviour or the removal of a product or form of expression and, as such, they are censorship. They can, confusingly, also be an act of free expression in and of themselves in that you should be able to express disgust, concern etc individually or collectively about a product or form of expression free of interference just as the creator should be able to make it under the same conditions.

The difference between a boycott and individual action or inaction with regard to speech or products is the organisational nature. If I choose not to by the new Thor comic (Ther) because it is poorly written femsploitation, that is me acting individually and not a boycott or an act of censorship or violence. It’s merely an exercising of choice. If you choose to organise a campaign to take breasts off page 3 of The Sun this is a collective action and is, indeed, censorship with an implicit or explicit threat of violence. Even many individuals, independently making the same choice not to buy is not the same as a boycott.

So the argument is whether such acts are justified, for which you need to look to the Harm Principle. Specific arguments and cases are beyond the scope of this piece and there are no hard and fast rules here. It’s an eternal debate but one that I personally would assess to be skewed away from the harm principle in most instances at the moment and instead to be in the realms of dangerous moral panic.

I will, however, note that it seems to be very difficult to get traction for a justified boycott of, say, Apple for their Chinese sweatshops and all too easy to get people worked up over a few lines of text hidden away in an obscure side-track of a computer game. Something is clearly out of whack.

The Actual Argument – Free Markets and Marketplace of Ideas

A truly free market or marketplace of ideas is a platonic ideal that probably cannot exist. There are simply too many things at work that constrict our ability to truly think freely or to operate a truly free market, unimpeded by outside forces.

That said, if you’re advocating a truly free market you cannot be arguing for boycotts, letter writing campaigns to advertisers or anything else that actively seeks to distort a free market. In a free market you would not boycott, you would make your choice and leave others free to make theirs, trusting to the individual actions of people to emergently form the success or failure of whatever it is you take exception to.

To take a case in point with No More Page 3 since it’s well known and provides a good example, the effort is made to distort the market by associating bare breasts in a tabloid newspaper with misogyny, ‘rape culture’ etc and to forcibly shame people into abandoning their patronage of the newspaper via bad publicity. As noted above, it’s the difference between the emergent ‘I don’t like this’ and the directed ‘You shouldn’t buy this’ and pushed forward via dubious tactics, pseudo-science and browbeating, rather than the harm principle.

Boycotts are deliberate and wilful acts to distort the market. The real argument is over whether they’re justified or not.

To use a different example from earlier of the medical system, in order to create a more effective and humane medical system we might want to eliminate the financial free market and replace it with a market that rewards efficiency, provision of care and medical success (low waiting times, high success rates etc) and this is what socialised medicine attempts to do.

When it comes to the marketplace of ideas, keeping a truly free and open mind is incredibly difficult. We are all the product of our upbringing and past influences and it is very difficult for people to give up ideas that they have become wedded to, even if they’re provably and demonstrably false.

This is reflected in the heritability of religious and political affilations (75% with modest defections in free societies) and in the criminal arena people’s unwillingness to admit they’ve been defrauded and continued vulnerability to fraud even after the fraud is revealed. This is how people end up hundreds of thousands of pounds in debt on obvious scams, they simply don’t want to admit they were fooled, or wrong, so they double down.

In Conclusion

The argument over whether something is censorship or whether it is against free market or marketplace of ideas principles is separate to whether it is justified or the correct course of action – or ‘right action’ if you want to get Buddhist about it. There is no escaping the fact that if you’re trying to silence someone or something it is censorship. There is no escaping the fact that if you’re trying to strip individual choice of action away, you’re distorting the free market. The question – again – is whether it is justified or not.

Obviously, I’m involved in Gamergate and so lets wrap up by bringing it back to that.

Gamergate is an emergent system, a genuine grass-roots consumer revolt to reassert the desires of the majority market in games (and increasingly geek-media on a broader base) against the directed control of a minority voice that shouts loudly, but often aren’t even consumers of the media.

Some of Gamergate’s actions are censorious and some of them are anti free market.

Many, if not all of their opposition’s actions are censorious and against both the free market and the marketplace of ideas. Especially against the marketplace of ideas, revealed in a great unwillingness to debate honestly, if at all, or to examine their ideas. GG, for all its faults, is much more willing to engage and to thrash out ideas amongst itself.

cbf23abd52736fe31698651fb24fb77eThere’s much that genuinely emerges from GG that I do not agree with and do not participate in, but I do not presume to insist others conform to my personal choices on these issues, nor do I withdraw my support from the overall aims (ethical journalism and anti-censorship) simply because I disagree with parts.

To me, GG is simply a necessary and long-needed counterbalance to the largely unchallenged opposition that has ridden roughshod over consumers and creators with insults, shaming, censorship and distortion for years.

And ye gods, that’s a long essay. Thanks for reading.

picture35

“Can I say that?” He said, and he cut off his tongue so there was no more risk.

“Am I allowed to look?” He thought and he put out his eyes so his soul would not impinge on any other’s.

“Are there things I should not hear?” And his ears joined his eyes, cast aside on the floor, so he wouldn’t hear anything dangerous.

“Are there things I should not touch?” And he took the axe to his hands, leaving bloody stumps that would never explore, transgress or be idle again.

“Are there places I should not go?” And he broke his ankles so he would not stray – at least not without help.

“Does my presence offend? Are there things I should not think?”

And there was simply.

Nothing.

Left.

.

Bletchley Park

20150322_110149We spent today visiting Bletchley Park and the nearby Computing Museum.

Bletchley has a weird vibe to it. It has the weight of history to it, but doesn’t feel that old, even though the manor house dates back to the 17th Century and the site appears in the Domesday book – and was occupied back to Roman times. In some ways it feels like a school or a college campus, in others still like a military installation and layered over all of that is the museum, though it doesn’t feel so much like a museum as a more interactive/hands on.

It’s rare you can point to a particular time and place as the time and place that a new technology emerges, but Bletchley is that and a such a powerful and meaningfully influential place that you can feel it.

20150322_111751I’m still none the wiser as to how the Bombe works, because even the expert explanation didn’t show how the machine could understand when it got a positive result – without human intervention – but the Colossus at the neighbouring museum did make perfect sense and was incredibly impressive – especially considering it was pretty much the first fully operational computer. Even the paper-tape reader was impressive – the fastest one ever made – and its operation made far more sense (based on probability distributions).

The Computing Museum had more doodads, but less history. They run classes to teach kids to code, promote the Raspberry Pi (booo) – alternatives are available – and have a lot of big, old, working computers.

My dad was a maths teacher when home computers were just getting really popular, so I got to see a lot of older computers and to tinker around on the Acorn Atom, BBC, Spectrum and a bunch of old computers as well as to rummage in boxes of dead computer parts. I still can’t code to save my life, but I still find I know more about these things than I want to!

20150322_142635Bletchley is well worth a visit, but for my money the Computing Museum next door is more interesting to poke around in and look at the various artefacts of electronic history, in that nicotine-stained, yellow-beige plastic that’s always been so ubiquitous. As the spiritual home of computing, the whole area can’t help but feel special to netizens and digital kids of all ages.

Give it a shot, though Bletchley is pretty expensive to visit they force you to buy a ‘season pass’, so you can go back.

The computing museum sells Raspberrys and all kinds of casings and add-on widgets, so if you want to get hands on before you buy, it seems like a good bet.

I was going to do this as a video, but I’m in the middle of upgrading my desktop PC so you’ll have to make do with a blog post for now.

fc9

So, recently we all got the wonderful news that The Block Bot – a crude and breathtakingly stupid and stifling tool that came out of the AtheismPlus schism – was shutting down.

And there was much rejoicing.

rejoicing

But then… IT CAME BACK!

92175-massive-facepalm-gif-Imgur-e8XZ

Well, that’s not necessarily so bad. They seem to have kept all the wording changes etc they made to avoid legal action. Further, they’re trimming the team and consulting other people. Hopefully with a bit more legal advice and fewer and more level heads there won’t be a problem. So who are these people they’re working with?

Screenshot from 2015-03-21 19:55:13

I try not to be prejudiced, but I do think there’s a difference between prejudice and bitter experience. While I’ve met some awesome trans people in my offline life and via Gamergate, most of the ones I’ve met who are online activists are gigantic arseholes, more concerned with being gigantic shitheads to everyone that crosses their path than on education, discussion, explanation or understanding.

5fnk8l

Between the exhaustive lists of pronouns and the rest of the language used on the site, there’s more red flags than a North Korean march past.

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But this, THIS is the glacé cherry on the diarrhetic shit-sundae of the whole thing.

Screenshot from 2015-03-21 20:16:31

79cc3e6b891567444ebc7822548e277d16eb0c94870887d3c5915223c859d9f7

So you’re going to put a supposed ‘anti-harassment’ tool into the hands of self-admitted racists, sexists and heterophobes?

What a brilliant idea! Almost as good as Randi Harper, considered by a great many people to be a hate-spewing harasser, setting up her own version of the bot in relation to Gamergate and trying to set up an anti harassment initiative.

Here’s some other great ideas of the same form:

  • Australian daycare by dingos.
  • The Jimmy Saville Initiative – Paedophiles working in primary schools to repay their debt to society.
  • KKK-run racial sensitivity seminars.

Seriously, all this website needs is a Confederate flag and a looping midi of banjo music to fit the degree of gobsmacking prejudice on show.

But hey, maybe they can swallow their clusterfuck of ‘isms and continue the improvements and lawsuit avoidance that has been going on already. On the other hand, maybe they’ll make things worse but engage in ‘reverse libel tourism’. That may not help if they fall afoul of anti-discrimination and hate speech legislation though.

I’ll hope for the best, but I ain’t holding my breath.

tumblr_m0fe82V7AV1qh2o7zo1_500

PS: Can we all agree that this kind of ‘article’, full of shitty memes and reaction gifs, and low on words has had its fucking day by now?

 

PrintThings do tend to move fast in the internet age.

The previous post was getting a bit long, so here’s where things currently stand.

Regarding the Block Bot

I’ve managed to actually have a conversation with ‘Oolon’ and away from Twitter he’s a lot more reasonable. The Block Bot has made considerable changes already and appears to be in the process of making more. Hopefully this will address the remaining issues but honestly as things stand my only remaining objection is to the titles of the levels and this is extremely iffy as something actionable, even in the UK, given the other changes in wording.

Given that Oolon’s been very reasonable and we’ve had productive conversations on the issues and given the changes that have taken place I see no reason to proceed any further on that score at this point.

Regarding the GG Autoblocker

Harper’s less amenable to reasonable discussion, at least so far. No changes have been made at the site as of yet either. I’ve consulted with a third solicitor with more specialist knowledge regarding defamation online and US law and they’re a bit less optimistic than the other two, though both agree that this is a pretty cut and dried case all things considered and don’t believe the SPEECH issue is really an issue.

Cheaper alternatives to a full libel suit are harder to prosecute and I’ll need to gather more evidence before deciding to proceed on that score.

I’ve been approached by some intermediaries, neutral parties, who are seeking via other means to repair the problems with the GG Autoblocker and have asked me to ease off.

Given the changes at The Block Bot seem to indicate the way the wind is blowing, the need to build a stronger case and in the interests of giving allowable time for these people to work and for potential solutions to come through (as well as not wanting to be used as an excuse to fuel Harper’s Patreon) I’ll hold off for now.

The letter is still a first step and exhibiting patience and fairness will build a stronger case – should it be necessary – in the future. Hopefully Harper et al seeking legal advice will lead to changes and not to ‘reverse libel tourism’. With a year free to file there’s no rush and meanwhile I’m talking to the local police as well as solicitors – as they have some options for dealing with online harassment and false accusations.

It is, however, amusing to me that when accused of harassment themselves – as a matter of record – people who will normally take it, if anything, too seriously will so quickly rush to judgement, shaming, trolling and further harassment.

Notes

To reiterate, yet again, the issue isn’t the block list in and of itself or being blocked. I don’t think anyone HAS to listen to anyone. While I think these kind of lists and pre-emptive blockings are a terrible idea and contribute to a potentially dangerous trend towards extremism (an internet equivalent of only ever watching Fox News) they’re not illegal and people have the right to do stupid things, so long as they don’t directly harm anyone.

The issue with the blockers is (or has been) that they defame people both as a group (the list) and as individuals (named individuals). By way of analogy, it is like having a big sign up saying ‘These people are all rapists’ with thousands of names listed underneath, many – even most – of which are not rapists.

It’s not about being blocked, it’s not even about the breathtakingly dangerous stupidity of ideological purity tests for who can talk to you or challenge your statements, it’s about defamation and – as Block Bot has shown – this can be relatively easily fixed.

hqdefault (2)Further to the reading and examination of this article I have consulted with two firms of solicitors that deal with defamation cases.

Both agree that there are definite cases of libel involving both the Block Bot and the GG Autoblocker, both however recommend taking the Data Protection route as a cheaper, easier, faster way to pursue recourse. Another option for those in the UK is the Small Claims Court which allows claims of damages up to a maximum value of £3,000 (this will cost £100 to file) and which usually go to the complainant if they are uncontested. Whether you’d ever see those damage from someone like Randi Harper or Oolon is another matter entirely, but at least you would have the court system on your side from that point onwards.

I have been loathe to taken action previously when I have been slandered and libelled because I consider the rough and tumble of the internet to mostly be insignificant and not worth making a fuss over. However, after 8+ months of this kind of treatment and the constant dredging up of old libellous statements against and about me I have reached the end of my tether.

One must also consider the problems these block bots have been causing in defusing situations, encouraging useful debate, creating dangerous echo chambers and libelling thousands of people all at once. The spread of this ‘tool’ is greatly concerning to people like myself who believe in the power of discourse and free expression.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with blocking and muting people. There is something wrong about writing people off, sight unseen, and accusing thousands of people of being trolls, harassers, bigots etc without proper consideration.

Below is a redacted version of the Letter of Claim I sent to the GGautoblocker site, this references UK & EU law so others will need to consult locally for legal advice. I would advise other UK people on either block list to use this as a template to make their own claims, but note that as of this morning the Block Bot checker appears to be down.

If you require further advice or the contact information for solicitors specialising in online defamation, you can call the Law Society (UK) on 0207 2421222

Cover Note

Please find attached my letter of claim as advised by my solicitors. Whatever our disagreements I believe strongly in the principle of free expression and would rather not pursue you through the courts.

Harassment and trolling are important online issues and do need innovative solutions. However, smearing a consumer movement as a whole and individuals in particular with such a crude and poorly thought-out measure is worse than the pre-existing solutions.

I look forward to your formal reply and proposal for remedy within the next 14 days.

[Your Name Here]

Letter of Claim

[Contact Information – You will have to doxx yourself]
[Date]

Dear Sirs,

Regarding your defamatory internet posts and publications:

I am contacting you in connection with the identification and pursuit of identified instances of libellous statements made across the internet.

I have been made aware of defamatory statements made on behalf of you and your organisation on your website and in association with your automated Twitter blocking system.

Examples of defamatory statements include but are not limited to:

  • Repeated accusations of harassment.
  • Describing Gamergate and those blocked on your list through association as a ‘hate group’.
  • Describing Gamergate and those blocked on your list as ‘harassing women for sport’.

My Claim
I have evidence to prove that the block list and the website associated with it contains or implies serious, untrue and highly defamatory comments towards myself and thousands of others. In doing so defamatory comments and reputational damage are being communicated to many thousands of people throughout the world, posing a serious threat to my reputation and those who work with me.

Further, these comments and the language used in the code and the website do or have seemed designed to damage my reputatio, and those of thousands of others, and to divert business away from me – rather than to have any fair comment basis.

There are also possible issues relating to UK/EU data protection law and its export from the EU in breach of the data protection act.

Under the law of England and Wales, a defamatory statement is one which tends to lower the claimant in the estimation of right thinking members of society generally (Sim v Stretch [1936] 2 All ER 1237). The words are defamatory, identify or refer to the claimant and are published by yourselves to third parties.

The relevant data protection issues can be found in the Data Protection Act ([1998] Schedule1).

Legal proceedings
In order to protect my interests I am considering proceedings against you in the Small Claims or High Court. These proceedings would seek remedies including but not limited to the following:

  • Substantial damages;
  • an injunction to restrain you from publishing the same or similar statements in the future; and
    costs.

Jurisdiction
A defamatory statement is published at the place where it is read, heard or seen, and is not where the material was first placed on the internet. In internet cases, therefore, provided a small number of people have access to the material on the internet in England, the English courts will have jurisdiction to hear the claim against a foreign defendant (Spiliada Maritime Corp v Cansulex Ltd [1987] A.C. 460).

Next steps
I am not against freedom of speech and recognise the value of fair comment. Indeed, this is at the root of my objections to tools such as block bots. At this I have no desire to issue legal proceedings against the operators and the Website and I am keen to do all I can to avoid litigation where possible.

However, in accordance with the pre-action protocol for defamation, I will desist from issuing legal proceedings provided within 14 days of the date of this letter you agree to do the following:

  • remove from publication in their entirety the defamatory statements to prevent harm to my business;
  • produce an apology and a declaration that the allegations referred to are false and defamatory and cause such apology and declaration to be published on your website (such apology to be approved by me prior to publication);
  • remove my entry on your block list.
  • make proposals for the payment to me of damages for the harm caused to my reputation; and business – or perhaps a donation to a mutually agreed upon charity in lieu of damages.
  • undertake to actively monitor and delete any newly published defamatory content relating to me.

If the defamatory material is not permanently removed and the above undertakings are not complied with by 4.00pm GMT on 31/03/2015 I shall review the circumstances and consider proceeding to court.

I draw to your attention the terms of Section 2 of the Defamation Act 1996, under which you have the right to offer to make amends, which I will consider fairly.

I await your response. In the meantime I reserve my rights, in particular the right to produce this letter to the Court when it comes to consider costs under CPR 44.3.

Yours faithfully

[Your Name]

Update 1
I have had a response from Oolon (James Billingham) and it seems I shall have to seriously consider taking it to the next stage. I record it here for sake of having a complete record.

Your email and “claim” has been passed to Hampshire police as evidence against Sam Smith in his harassment campaign against me. I suggest you get some real advice, rather than a “solicitor” find an actual solicitor to make any further contact. Any further correspondence will be reported to the police as harassment. Sam Smith might want to share his own correspondence with head of litigation at Prieskel & Co … It might explain why he dropped his “legal claim”. 

Thanks
James Billingham. 
Personally I do not see how contacting him to try and sort out a redress of grievances can be termed harassment. Nor do I see why two pro-bono consultations with legal representation requires ‘scare quotes’. I have replied purely to confirm that he is not going to take any steps to correct the issue.
He did not provide contact information of any sort so it appears I may have to send a hardcopy of the letter to his place of work. Just to be absolutely certain. Something I hoped to avoid.
Update 2
Despite his bluster, the Block Bot appears to have made a series of updates to its pages and also appears to have removed the Block Bot checker tool, which was the thing that came up with the reasons you were on the block list (mine included ‘MRA’, ‘Atheist’, ‘Writer’, ‘RPG’ and more seriously, ‘rape apologist’ etc – the actionable parts.
With the defamatory search results removed and the wording on the pages changed, I’m actually fairly happy and provided nothing slips back I won’t pursue that matter any further.
The GG autoblocker is another matter. Harper has put out a defiant message and nothing has changed. I have reached out to her to have a conversation on her terms in hopes of getting some movement and understanding, but I don’t hold out much hope. There are other, neutral parties also seeking to talk to Harper about improving, softening or otherwise dealing with the GG autoblocker issues and the good changes at the Block Bot hold out hope that some sense might be seen.
Trolls and abuse aside (and boy am I getting a lot of that right now) I hope that my sincerity in this matter and my concern for the thousands of other people being defamed by the current state of the autoblocker comes through.
For sake of clarification:
  • I, personally, am not seeking to end the existence of either block list. While I think they’re dangerous and ‘problematic’ (to coin a phrase) people should be able to ignore who they want.
  • My concern is purely the defamation. The autoblocker lists thousands of people and it’s doubtless that the overwhelming majority are not part of any hate group nor do they engage in the ‘harassment of women for sport’. Yet they are described as such and individually listed.
It is a mischaracterisation of my position to claim that I am ‘suing for being blocked’. I haven’t decided whether to sue or not yet. The letter is merely the first step and the one that gives me the option later on. What I hope results from this is some pressure and a better conversation and – hopefully – a change along the lines of that which has occurred at the Block Bot.
Update 3
I have contacted Mr Billingham of The Block Bot, despite his claims that doing so are ‘harassment’ it seems to me that communication on legal matters is essential if they are to be avoided. Provided the changes currently made at The Block Bot remain permanent I see no reason to proceed further.
With The Block Bot Checker taken down the defamatory statements are no longer viewable and the changes to The Block Bot’s front page altered, what remains appears to be ‘small potatoes’. Technically the definitions of the higher levels (EG: bigot) are still defamatory but the changes show willing and it seems pointless to me to pursue that further.
I’ve contacted him to check if these changes are permanent and, if so, there’s no reason to proceed.
Similar changes to the wording on the GGautoblocker would solve the issue there, though I still doubt Randi Harper would be the type of person to change that without pressure – both of us are stubborn and combative it seems.
Ideally statements about ‘harassment’ would be removed along the lines of purely stating that it’s a tool for blocking Gamergate, without the defamation. Such as one might, say, present a tool for blocking Democrats (US political party) without asserting that all democrats are secretly Communist Muslim lizard people.
Even so, the real problem is on the FAQ section of the Autoblocker and its accusations of harassment, hate spewing, harassing women for sport etc (or ‘and n’, if you prefer).
I don’t think moderating the language of the GGautoblocker is such a huge ask. It would help deflate some of the rhetoric on the issues, allow the tool to continue to be used by those who want their echo chambers and would remove the issue of defamation from those on the list who do not fit those descriptions.
If Ms Harper will talk to me in good faith, and again I’ve agreed to do so on her terms entirely, perhaps we can find some useful common ground. Several people have come forward offering to mediate and it will be worth seeing how this proceeds before making any final decisions.
REPUTATIO is an important thing to defend, important enough to order a new laptop when your keyboard – including the ‘n’ key, stops working.

sci-fi-banner

Curated from @JeffNoon on Twitter.

  • A while back I wrote a sort of manifesto for science fiction. I’ve just updated it. I’ll present it here. 26 ideas and images…
  • Science Fiction infects and transforms. It questions, supports and replicates, firing off clichés and wonders at equal rates.
  • Science Fiction moves at the pace of life, accelerated or slow-motion. It walks the borderlines of mainstream culture, enamoured of edges.
  • Science Fiction is an emergent system. It exists both in the reality of the present day and the equally valid reality of tomorrow’s dreams.
  • Science Fiction conducts experiments upon Form and Content, inventing new techniques, new processes, new kinds of narrative expression.
  • Science Fiction evolves through small variations and wild mutations. It is designed to examine, distrust, perfect and dismantle itself.
  • Science Fiction enflames, enrivers, begulfs, undertugs, sidetwists and interslips. It befogs, englows, transplodes and intraflows.
  • Science Fiction is modified by its users over time. It revels in having loose screws and wires. It can so easily catch fire.
    Science Fiction is unashamed to fly on sentimental wings over lands populated by werebeasts, elves, vampires, androids, aliens and unicorns.
  • Science Fiction is trying to understand itself. It never will. It’s not that kind of genre. It’s diseased. The disease is its power source.
  • Science Fiction is the undercurrent, a visceral urge towards life. It worships weirdness and tradition, and will fuse the two to make anew.
  • Science Fiction is a magical sword forged in that ultimate of all fantasy realms: the human mind.
    Well-mannered literature is scared of pulp, of popular art. And of the avant-garde. And by this act it severs a deep vein of the life blood.
  • Science Fiction revels in elements from both pulp and avant-garde, and frequently mixes the two to create avant-pulp dreams and realities.
  • How fruitful this world is, when pulp fuses with the avant-garde. What strange, conjoined creatures are born. How the twin suns shine.
  • Science Fiction is a four-dimensional object (at the very least). It has more edges and borderlines than all other genres put together.
  • Science Fiction will create new ways of reaching the public. Words will flow from root to stem to flower to seed to air to earth to root…
  • Science Fiction does not have an operator’s manual. The operators are the manual.
  • Science Fiction is a journey of words through time. It says Down with perfection! Welcome to corrupted signals, glitches and fused wires.
  • To read, write or add new engine parts to Science Fiction is to partake in a grand, bizarre, dangerous, clumsy, vital, unique experiment.
  • Science Fiction embraces clichés. It can read through the clichés, explore clichés, dismantle clichés. It knows that wonders lie ahead.
  • Science Fiction moves along well-travelled paths, and yet, at the dusty end of the road, it desires to go further, out into the wastelands.
  • Science Fiction seeks out realms where no signposts or maps point the way. It crosses borders illegally under cover of night, in disguise.
  • Science Fiction celebrates hybrid creatures: monsters of the Id, machines of flesh, women who turn into fish, and floating men of fire.
  • At the liquid edge, Science Fiction leaves mainstream, middlebrow culture far behind. It travels beyond, into fog, into darkness.
  • Let us go now. Open all channels, connect to everything. Here we are gathered, lost in the flow of words. There is a strange light ahead…

Its an inspiring manifesto, but to me it embodies the ideals of the New Wave. Modern science-fiction is relatively insipid, timid, safe, inoffensive. Yet convinces itself it is radical.

Maybe we can change that.

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