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August 2019
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Philippines Lawmaker Introduces 'Fake News' Bill That Would Allow The National Police To Literally Police Speech

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Fake news laws are so hot right now. Any government with an authoritarian bent is getting in on the action, stepping up domestic surveillance while trampling remaining speech protections -- all in the name of "protecting" people from a concept they can't clearly define.It's not just the places you expect. Sure, we may like to think this sort of opportunistic lawmaking may be relegated to places like Vietnam and Singapore, where governments have continually expressed their interest in deterring criticism of governments and kings and their shitty laws. But even our own President spends a great deal of time talking about "fake news" and the need to prevent journalists from criticizing the guy sitting in the Oval Office. And France's government is looking at adding this to its long list of speech restrictions, even if only at "election time."The latest country to add a speech-squashing, government-expanding "fake news" bill to its roster of bad ideas is the Philippines. The proposal doesn't use the terminology du jour, but "fake news" by any other name is still "fake news." Here's the immediate effect the "Anti-False Content Act" would have on the country's population.

Introduced by Senator Vicente Sotto III, the bill strikes at the heart of Internet freedom, regulating if not outright policing the content of cyberspace in the Philippines. It mandates stiff prison terms and fines ranging from PHP 200,000 to PHP 2,000,000 against individuals who “create and/or publish” false and misleading content in social media sites, blogs and websites, as well as the “intermediaries” or platforms which carry the content, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Citizens are welcome to report "false content" to the government, which adds this to the tool chests of hecklers seeking a veto or online brigades wanting to put the color of law behind their deplatforming efforts. It's "see something, say something" for the internet, which is going to turn out to be just as useless as any other iteration of "report your friends and neighbors" programs.If citizens don't step up, the government can initiate the complaint process itself. The three agencies authorized to do this are the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the National Police. Not scary at all. If any of these entities think the public needs protecting, it can start hunting down "false content" purveyors and extracting fines from social media companies. The law affects everyone, not just users of major social media platforms. Individual blogs can be targeted, as can the nation's news agencies.Rather than allow more speech to act as a corrective measure, legislators want to limit speech further, ensuring the only speech remaining will be government-approved. This is bad enough, but the agencies allowed to make these judgment calls on questionable posts/publications are among the worst to be entrusted with the literal policing of speech.
The harm that false information can inflict is undeniable. But there is far greater harm in authorizing government agencies to decide what is fake or factual news, false or accurate conclusions, correct or mistaken findings. Assigning agencies who deal with criminality and violations of law guarantees a most limited scope for the arbitration of truth.
If passed, another government will have succeeded in converting buzzwords to authoritarian power moves. The world needs less of this, but it's the rarest of governments that can see an opportunity to expand its power without acting on it.

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Authors Take Copyright So Seriously They Hides Jokes In Their Copyright Notices

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Were you to hear from the lobbying groups for the major book publishers on the topic of copyright, their answers are generally to push for longer terms, stricter anti-piracy measures, and the most draconian reading of copyright law possible. Groups like The Authors Guild have been firm in their stances that copyright is the only thing that keeps authors in any kind of business, so important is it to their livelihoods. One would think, therefore, that all authors of books would likewise take copyright very, very seriously.Fortunately, for those of us that appreciate irreverent humor, not so much.

When my first couple novels came out, I lobbied to add some kind of notation about "fair use" and "limitations and exceptions to copyright" on the copyright notice page and was told not even to try because legal would never allow even the slightest variance from the boilerplate; apparently Steve Stack is better connected than I am, because his book 21st Century Dodos, has a copyright notice that is full of whimsy and gags, as Rebecca discovered and documented.
The entire thread is a fun read, and we'll get to other authors that do this sort of thing in a moment, but the whole thing kicks off with Stack's copyright notice on one of his books.
In case you can't read that or click through to the tweet, the bottom photos are of Stack's copyright notices. They are mostly boilerplate, save for these fun exceptions:
Steve Stack asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work, and woe betide anyone who suggests otherwiseA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library, whatever that means
The other image is more of the same, except too long for me to type out entirely. That said, to get an idea of its flavor, it includes lines such as "No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, cookie jar or spare room... Unless you want to write the whole thing out in green crayon, in which case feel free." and "This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, carried across the country by relay, fired into space, turned upside down, eaten... On pain of death."You get the idea. That idea being that it doesn't seem like the author is taking copyright all that seriously. And he's not alone, as it turns out. Down the thread, another tweet points out that author Dave Eggers has a habit for this sort of thing as well.
Again, read the whole thing, but the opening paragraph is tasty enough that I will quote it below in case you cannot see it.
First published 2000 by Simon & Schuster, New York, a division of a larger and more powerful company called Viacom Inc., which is wealthier and more populous than eighteen of the fifty states of America, all of Central America, and all of the former Soviet Republic combined and tripled. That said, no matter how big such companies are, and how many things they own, or how much money they have or make or control, their influence over the daily lives and hearts of individuals, and thus, like ninety-nine percent of what is done by official people in cities like Washington, or Moscow, of Sao Paulo or Auckland, their effect on the short, fraught lives of human beings who limp around and sleep and dream of flying through bloodstreams, who love the smell of rubber cement and think of space travel while having intercourse, is very very small, and so hardly worth worrying about.Copyright © David (Dave) Eggers 2000Height: 5'11"; Weight: 170; Eyes: blue; Hair: Brown; Hands: chubbier than one would expect; Allergies: only to dander; Place on sexual-orientation scale, with one being perfectly straight, and 10 being perfectly gay: 3
It goes on from there.Now, none of this is to suggest that these authors have any dislike of copyright law. In fact, I scoured the internet for comments either might have made on the subject of copyright and couldn't find a thing. Which sort of leaves the literary graffiti both left in their books' copyright notices as their only comment on the topic at all.And, while it cannot be said that this defacing of their own rights is dismissive of those rights entirely, it certainly does suggest both that these authors don't take the subject quite as seriously as groups like The Authors Guild and that they have a fantastic sense of humor.

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