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October 2018
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Steam, Proud Adopters Of Hands Off Games Policy, Very Hands On When Banning All Of TorrentFreak

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The calls for internet platforms to actively censor content one group or another doesn't like has slowly risen to a cacaphony as of late. Even the most well-meaning arguments calling for internet platforms to be more heavy-handed in moderating the sources of content are invariably stupid, showing little understanding of just how hard it is to do this without creating all kinds of collateral damage, how hard it is to properly define for a large subset of humanity what sources are acceptable and what sources aren't, and a near complete misunderstanding of just how much human error goes into this overall. We have helpfully cited several exmaples of platforms sticking their feet in crap as they try to attempt this.But the case studies in how badly this always goes keep rolling in. You may recall that we recently discussed how Comcast's protected browsing options managed to disallow access to TorrentFreak, a news site. Well, Comcast doesn't exactly have a reputation for being hands-off when it comes to managing its network. Unlike, say, Valve's Steam platform, which just made a bunch of news with a new games policy championing its hands-off approach. How Steam handles links shared on its platform are obviously in a different timezone compared with the games its allows, but it's still a bit odd to see that Steam is apparently very much hands on when it comes to blocking TorrentFreak as well.

Here at TorrentFreak we’re used to censorship. Every few months we’re contacted by readers trying to access our news articles on public WiFi, only to find that the site is blocked alongside various warnings, none of which are true. It’s almost as if the word ‘torrent’ in our URL has been blindly blacklisted for some reason.Sadly, this week we’ve discovered that Steam, the popular digital game distribution and social networking platform, has jumped on the “let’s censor TorrentFreak” bandwaggon. A tip from a TF reader and Steam user highlighted the problems he’d experienced when trying to read TF articles via Steam’s chat interface.
As has often been the case in the past, the likely culprit in all of this is a combination of an overly aggressive filtering and blacklisting system combined with the simple fact that TorrentFreak's name has the word "torrent" in it. Still, as non-nefarious as that explanation is, assuming it's even true, that almost perfectly highlights just how terrible even large internet platforms are when it comes to correctly censoring undesirable content.Just to make this clear, nothing about TorrentFreak makes it a valid target for censorship of this kind. It's purely a news site, covering topics related to digital marketplaces, piracy, and filesharing. And, yet, the site is depressingly used to finding itself on all kinds of blacklists. In this case, however, users are being told that TorrentFreak is something it absolutely is not.
Steam has banned our entire platform and put up a warning that’s not only completely false but also damaging to our reputation.“https://torrentfreak.com has been flagged as being potentially malicious. For your safety, Steam will not open this URL in your web browser. The site could contain malicious content or be known for stealing user credentials,” the warning reads.Of course, on its own platform Steam is fully entitled to block resources that it believes can harm its users. Some might even argue that it has a duty of care to do so, in order to keep its community safe. However, making blatantly false statements while blocking access to accurate news reporting shouldn’t ever be part of that.
It's an obvious point, but one that needs to be repeated to every person out there shouting for websites to do more site and source blocking. Because going down that road is always going to lead to this kind of collateral damage, particularly for larger platforms that need to do this kind of censorship in an automated fashion. Perhaps for some, blocking valid news organizations is worth the larger outcome of blocking content they don't like.For us, however, it's quite obvious how horrible a deal that is for free and open speech on the internet.

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posted at: 12:53am on 31-Oct-2018
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Memphis Police Department Body Cam Program Being Undercut By Its Body Cam Policies

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The Memphis PD is facing quite a bit of scrutiny right now. In addition to just having lost a lawsuit over unconstitutional surveillance of protesters and activists, and being told to stop creating fake Facebook accounts (by Facebook itself), it's dealing with the heat of a recent shooting of a Memphis resident by police officers -- one that left the victim in critical condition. Body cameras were available but not in use by all officers on the scene. In addition, it appears at least two officers deliberately deactivated their cameras during the pursuit of the suspect, Martavious Banks.

In that same Tuesday news conference, [Memphis Police Department Director Mike] Rallings had also said that two other officers who encountered Banks during a traffic stop prior to the shooting weren't using their cameras properly:“After further review, it was discovered that two additional officers who were involved in the original stop at Gill and Pillow deactivated either their body-worn cameras or in-car video systems during the pursuit from Gill and Pillow,” Rallings had said on Tuesday.
This has led to a discussion about the Memphis PD's body cam practices and policies. At this point, the MPD releases footage at its own discretion. In theory, this would allow the MPD to get out ahead of criticism by releasing footage of controversial incidents. In practice, however, this means the MPD usually refuses to release footage until forced to.Director Rallings is now out defending his department from accusations that it covers up incidents by withholding footage or, in some cases, ensuring footage is never recorded. Records released to the Memphis Commercial Appeal show there is at least some officer misconduct being captured by cameras. The records also show a number of violations of body camera policies by officers.
Fifty three Memphis police officers have violated the department's body camera policy since the cameras were deployed in October 2016, according to police records obtained Friday by The Commercial Appeal.The department has issued more than 20 reprimands to police officers who have violated its body camera policy. At least 10 of those officers were suspended. Four officers received oral reprimands.The department's records also show allegations of officers using excessive force and displaying police misconduct while not operating their body cameras.
Rallings says the comparatively small amount of violations isn't indicative of a larger problem. Instead, he posits this shows a high rate of compliance by MPD officers.
“Out of 2.4 million videos, you are going to have some officers that either make a mistake or make a bad decision," Rallings said."But I want you to divide that (number of violations) by 2.5 million and you see that it is very rare there is a negative incident. Given the 1,650 officers with body-worn cameras, that is a very small percentage,” he said, referring again to the 53 officers.
It can be both. There can be a small subset of officers who've been caught violating policies or covering up misconduct and larger overall compliance by the rest of the MPD's staff. But assuming the ones who have been caught violating policy are the only ones violating policy is a mistake.Even if it's exactly what it looks like, the MPD's refusal to release footage until forced to doesn't allow anyone outside the department to double-check this math. Director Rallings says the policy on withholding footage relevant to ongoing investigations will remain in place. This will continue to ensure no footage is released when it is of greatest public interest, as internal investigations can be extended to fit the timeframe needed for outrage to die down.Rallings is right about one thing, though. Body cameras are in place for one reason -- and it's not the reason most law enforcement agencies would publicly acknowledge.
"We bought the cameras to be an independent witness, not because I don’t trust the police officers, and, officers, y’all need to hear this," Rallings said. "It is 'cause a lot of the public doesn’t trust you."
But his internal policy undercuts his words. He acknowledges that the PD needs to rebuild trust, but then says the PD won't release footage of controversial incidents until it's convenient for the PD. Collecting footage and locking it up behind restrictive policies won't make this trust problem go away. And discovering officers are still deactivating cameras during controversial incidents doesn't exactly give citizens much confidence the new tech will serve anything more than the PD's interests.And Rallings heads completely off the rails by stating a deliberate lack of recordings -- like in the Martavious Banks shooting -- will have zero effect on internal investigations.
“The body-worn camera is just a tool, it’s not perfect," Rallings said. "There is no law in the nation that says for an officer-involved shooting to be justified, it must be captured on body-worn cameras."
So, that's what it's going to take, huh? That's a tacit admission officers will continue to act as their own film directors during questionable stops and deployments of force. They'll decide what the cameras capture and how it's framed and "no law in the land" will stop them from doing it. Director Rallings could put a stop to it by proactively releasing both footage and officers when questionable incidents are coupled with deliberate deactivation of recording devices. But he's chosen to go the other way and make the law force recordings out of his hands and accountability onto his officers. The law can only go so far. It's sad Rallings isn't willing to make up the difference.

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posted at: 12:53am on 31-Oct-2018
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Sep/Oct 2018 Magazine

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Cover Story - Migrating NorthWind Database to a MultiValue Database

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Sep/Oct 2018 - Migrating NorthWind Database to a MultiValue Database

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RDBMS model doesn't really scale well in complexity. It never has. In many cases, it doesn't really scale well in volume, either. One of the best ways to see how MultiValue exceeds the abilities of competing technologies is by comparing apples to apples. If we take the Northwinds database into a MultiValue system, we can demonstrate the speed, the ease, and the scaling that we excel at in a clear and concise way.

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