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September 2021
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Billy Mitchell Lets His Site Lapse, With A Critic Of His High Score Claims Swooping In To Take It Over

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It's been a minute since we last discussed Billy Mitchell, the man with the self-propelled reputation as an immense gamer with many high scores on record. He has also demonstrated a willingness to be quite litigious towards anyone who disagrees with this assessment of his gaming prowess. A couple of years back, he threatened to sue the Guinness Book of World Records for -- checks notes -- , huh, defamation. This defamation appeared to amount to the GBoWR rescinding his "record" for a high and perfect Pacman score, noting that there were evidenced claims that Mitchell had not earned the videotaped score on an official arcade cabinet, but rather using an emulator. These records were later reinstated, with GBoWR indicating it didn't have enough evidence to refuse the record. Mitchell also sued Twin Galaxies, an organization that acts as something of an arbiter for gaming records like this. That case failed to get dismissed on anti-SLAPP grounds and appears to still be active.As does the website Mitchell setup to proclaim his own glory, it seems, though it appears that Mitchell let his registration for the site lapse and now it is under decidedly new ownership.

If nothing else, you’ve gotta respect the bit. Billy Mitchell, the so-called “video game player of the century,” appears to have let ownership over his old website, perfectpacman.com, lapse some years ago. Now someone else has commandeered the domain, and is using it to publish a multipart investigation into the oft-questioned legitimacy of Mitchell’s world-record Pac-Man scores."Welcome to our new blog, www.perfectpacman.com. This blog will be dedicated to gaming related topics of interest to us. If you like what you see, just give us a whistle! Disclaimer: The new site administration has no affiliation with any liars and/or cheaters and/or narcissistic frauds who may have owned this web domain in the past. But we appreciate the free advertising lol."
The author of the posts has kept their identity hidden, but each subsequent post is part of a currently six-part series that is entirely dedicated to the claim that Mitchell's Pac-Man record is illegitimate. Many of those posts are also mirrored in a way on the Twin Galaxies website, which is sure to cause a great deal of ruckus within the ongoing litigation, though those Twin Galaxy posts appear to be user-generated, rather than official posts on the site. The posts on either site are incredibly detailed.
Since it’s still a work in progress and covers a very contentious subject, the veracity of many aspects is up for debate. But while it’s hard to miss that Walter C. has an axe to grind with the famous Pac-Man / Donkey Kong player, it’s not like controversy surrounding some of Mitchell’s claimed achievements hasn’t been piling up over the last decade, either. If you’ve time to kill, you can read the series here—parts one, two, three, four, five, and six are currently up—and judge for yourself. Fair warning: Each section is looong.
Now, none of this is to say that these posts by whoever took over Mitchell's own site prove that Mitchell did anything untoward. But it sure does make one wonder why someone so obsessed with the world believing his claims about video game records couldn't also ensure that his website making those claims was maintained in his name.And, frankly, if this lawsuit can ever make it to the point where discovery is fully conducted and the public gets to see evidence presented on both sides... well, grab a bucket of popcorn.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Sep-2021
path: /Policy | permalink | edit (requires password)

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Content Moderation Case Study: Bing Search Results Erases Images Of 'Tank Man' On Anniversary Of Tiananmen Square Crackdown (2021)

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Summary: On the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, internet users noticed Microsoft's Bing search engine was producing some interesting results. Or, rather, it wasn't producing expected search results for some possibly interesting reasons.Users searching for the most iconic image of the protests — that of the unidentified person known only as "Tank Man" — were coming up empty. It appeared that Microsoft's search engine was blocking results for an image that often serves as shorthand for rebellion against the Chinese government.As was reported by several web users, followed by several news outlets, the apparent blocking of search results could be observed in both the United States and the United Kingdom, leaving users with the impression the Chinese government had pressured Microsoft to moderate search results for "tank man" in hopes of reducing any remembrance of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, which resulted in the deaths of 2,500-3,500 protesters.

The apparent censorship was blamed on Microsoft's close relationship with the Chinese government, which allowed its search engine to be accessed by Chinese residents in exchange for complying with government censorship requests.This led to Microsoft being criticized by prominent politicians for apparently allowing the Chinese government to dictate what users around the world could access in relation to the Tiananmen Square protests.Company Considerations:
  • When complying to one government's interests, how can Microsoft ensure these considerations don't affect users located elsewhere in the world?
  • How can compliance departments assist in handling edge cases and/or overly-broad moderation demands? 
  • What are the tradeoffs for content providers when weighing offended users against offended governments?
  • What ethical concerns should be taken into consideration when entering markets controlled by oppressive governments? Is there a line companies should not be willing to cross when seeking to expand their user base so as not to offend or alienate the user base they already have? 
Issue Considerations:
  • What options can companies pursue when seeking to do business in countries with historically-censorial/repressive regimes to prevent collateral moderation damage to users located elsewhere?
  • What sort of cost/benefit analysis, both human and fiscal, should take place before offering a product in countries with known human rights issues?
Resolution: Shortly after the apparent censorship of the iconic "Tank Man" image was reported, Microsoft claimed the very timely removal of relevant search results was the byproduct of "accidental human error." However, the company refused to offer any additional explanation. And, while searching the term "Tank Man" produced search results in Bing, it did not generate the expected results.
Image via The Verge
Several hours after the first "fix," things returned to normal, with "Tank Man" searches bringing up the actual Tank Man, rather than just tanks or tanks with men near or on the tanks.
Image via Twitter user Steven F
More clarification and comment was sought, but Microsoft apparently had nothing more to say about this "human error" and its conspicuous timing. Nor did it offer any details on whether or not this "human error" originated with its Beijing team. It also didn't explain why the first fix resulted in images very few people would associate with the term "Tank Man."Originally posted to the Trust & Safety Foundation website.

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posted at: 12:00am on 23-Sep-2021
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