Over the past year, we seem to be fixated on Russia and political collusion or electoral ties of foreign influence. A bulk of the conversation seems to focus on Facebook or other social media outlets as the center point of false news. I can only step back into time and think about when Obama was a candidate for President and used social media to get voters motivated. It was a different tactic that worked. On the other hand, there were much libelous conversations and accusations that Obama was a Muslim and possibly not American. Credible news sources, even today, redistribute conversations based on social media feeds and introduce that as a news segment rather it be entertainment or editorial coverage. The point is that news sources have contributed without much fact-finding to false news. At this point, it would be hard-pressed to blame Russia or any foreign government that they are ultimately responsible. At least with a news story, there is a journalistic standard to retract or publish a correction. The internet does not allow retraction because it becomes a trend of an unstoppable train of misinformation.
Long ago I have said that Facebook is a dangerous company with an addiction for numbers rather than quality. Today Facebook appears to be the hot topic of Washington politics. Instead, what does Facebook do to speak before Congress? It sends its lawyers instead of its CEO. But lets not just throw Facebook under the bus. It is fair to say that local news media outlets are just as responsible for allowing fake news or facilitates bias and misinformation. Take a look at any local news website and take notice of the public comment section. It is usually filled with hate speech and equally disturbing information. Sure, its community based but the rhetoric distracts from the actual news coverage towards community conversations. That is not news. That is creating an entertainment value that distorts real news to essentially become misleading news – because it’s on its website. Such comments are no different than Facebook or any other social media site.
First, Facebook is not our news source as some would like to insinuate. Television media is not really a news source either as we would like to think it is. Television regardless if its Fox News or CNN has its own bias and spin. Real reporting is old fashioned journalism where a story develops and progresses based on the facts allowing the reader to decide or speculate. Newsprint will enable us to be educated on the facts and allows constructive dialog by editors and those that engage in a sensible and respectable level. Social media has very little respect value and sensibility.
Sometimes technology and flash news briefs don’t make us smarter. In fact, I argue that it makes it hard to distinguish what is factual versus what is not credible. Old fashioned newsprint and some bits of patience could potentially restore our credibility value and reduce the hyperbolic rhetoric that appears on social media and television newscasts each day in America. For the sake of quality news, it may be safe to say its a good idea to turn back the clock and reinvest in print media once again. At least we can learn a bit of patience and not be up to our ears in news overload.
Executives from Facebook, Twitter, and Google appeared today before Congress to discuss issues of possible Russian election interference. What I learned from that discussion was that internet providers are not as transparent as they claim to be. It has been a long-standing unwritten policy that the internet will not be controlled by anyone or any company. What we perceptively learned today was that the big internet giants have an interest in revenues and public image. Naturally, they do not wish to be labeled as “controllers of free speech.” But what about television, mail adverts or newspaper media flyers. They are regulated by many rules and regulations, and the deliverables of that particular irregularity or false product could be held liable for distribution not to mention investigators will be serving search warrants and filling up evidence boxes for later court dates. Such false advertising or false production is similar to snake oil pitches. Eventually, the salesman and the product can be banned and criminally charged if it causes harm.
The internet can be a dangerous place. It does have a unique mystique about it, and the data it collects and shares can be compared to a diamond mine depending on how one desires to implement a plan. But the internet today is not the porn hub central that once was deemed the 1990’s deviant playground. Today, the internet has become a part of our connected world with ala carte news and home appliance device connectivity. This is a differing contrast to European and foreign markets that protect user information. The internet has become dangerous because we have created conditions for it to be hazardous. Without fundamental enforceable law and boundaries, we have allowed the internet to be policed by not companies and people but instead analytics and software. This is not to imply a conspiracy theory of artificial intelligence taking over the world. Alternatively, the implication is that software is not human enough to determine what is real versus what is not. But to take that argument a bit further, many Americans have difficulty in distinguishing between fake or credible.
Based on that little snippet of discovery it will be hard-pressed for any prosecutor to effectively rule on the Russian election hacking issue. Not because of evidence, but because of the complexities of election laws differing across state lines and internet data servers that typically reside outside the United States as a form of redundancy and backup qualities. Let’s not mix up collusion with election tampering. Collusion is a secretive path to data where tampering is a physical adulteration of data. But I think it is equally important to ask tech giants to disclose to government or a branch of oversight how it maintains its secretive or propriety paths. For example, today I performed a random search of Kevin Spacey and Anthony Rapp separately. What I quickly discovered was that Spacey had all the press information while Rapp had similar linkage. There was not one negative search story about Rapp to include alternative viewpoints or discussions. Why? Is it that analytics immediately point to what is deemed credible or is it what tech giants want us to read?
Overall, it is very complicated, and any legal ramifications about internet tampering will ultimately set a new precedent of how we or others police credible data. Another question to ask ourselves “does metadata exclude opposite viewpoints on purpose because it deems them as false?” This would be the argument I would introduce because not one blog or publication raised issues with Rapp. I am not attempting to slam Rapp. I am only using this as a prime example of how information seems adulterated and selectively scrubbed while searching for it.
The bottom line is that tech giants have an agenda and we the people are its product. Naturally, there won’t be much transparency from tech giants because that would remove a large slice of income and data collection from its grasp. Google, Facebook, and Twitter currently monopolize our data where we do not own ourselves or our privacy any longer. Until someone breaks up the monopoly or peels back the onion of these companies, we will continue to witness distortion and snake oil pitches that seem all too real. Perhaps the internet and another nation adulterated our recent election by creating emotional harm. At what point will it become perilous where many people die or are harmed because the internet has succeeded credible standards seemingly no longer used because it’s not technical or high speed sufficient?
Last week Kim Jong Nam, the son of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, was assassinated according to Malaysian police. Kim Jong Nam died shortly after two women put a substance on his face while he was checking in for a flight. Police have not said how the women were able to apply the nerve agent to Kim’s face and also avoid becoming ill themselves. The seeming contradiction of a poison that could kill him quickly but not sicken the attackers has stumped experts. A statement from the inspector general of police said that a preliminary analysis from the Chemistry Department of Malaysia identified the agent as “VX Nerve Agent.”
When I heard the news events regarding Kim Jong Nam I couldn’t help but think, “this is like a 007 film in real life.” The scary world of missile test launches just took a back seat causing the world to become a whole lot more terrifying. Just think for one moment that every bomb terror plot or dirty nuclear device that our nation heavily investigates and monitors now has to deal with a potential military grade nerve agent that can kill unmonitored within seconds. What makes this story interesting is that it was quickly administered with the potential to expose others in a public area such as an airport. Look for a moment at the diplomatic chaos it has stirred. Is Homeland Security prepared for this new threat both domestic and internationally? Maybe on paper, but perhaps not as prepared as we may think.
My question is, “was this a test of a new terrorism threat to airport security?” If so, how will airports or security experts deal with detecting nerve agents as a threat from public places? But another question is where did this nerve agent come from? It has been since the 1960’s since nerve agents were widely identified. Ask any soldier from the Cold War Era, and they will mention stories about Nerve Agent Treatment Autoinjector training scenarios. The threat was real until Congress banned nerve agents in 1972. 32,000 tons of nerve and mustard agents had already been dumped into the ocean waters off the United States. Currently, Russia stockpile of nerve agents is still available but lacks the money and resource to destroy it. Perhaps this is the footprint from where an international investigation should begin? But that is likely to occur due to the current relations between the United States and Russia.
I would suggest that Congress and the United Nations begin an accountability audit of nerve agent nation facilities immediately. This is not the time to point fingers at how the nerve agent was acquired or used. It is a time to place steps and practices, so this horrible event doesn’t escalate into a catastrophic incident. If I were the Director of the CIA, I would be concerned how a nation such as Malaysia has a military grade nerve agent on its land. What if this nerve agent was in a small container on a plane bound for the United States? Do we have the technology to intercept it? These are the questions that you and I should be concerned about.
I remember traveling to Israel once. Getting there felt as if I were a would-be terrorist. The amount of security to get on a plane to visit the tiny nation can be nerve racking but at the same time a feeling of security and safety. Once in Israel, the rules were pretty simple and clear. Avoid walking as a large group, be prepared to have any bag or backpack searched, and dress appropriately. At that time Isreali customs agents would stamp your passport. That practice stopped so Americans would not be turned away in Saudi Arabia or other nations that won’t accepts Israeli passport stamps.
This reminds me a bit of the recent American ban of Muslim-majority countries. I am not very pleased with our current level of diplomacy. But it does raise a question on how the very nations that discriminate against Israeli stamps in my American passport on how they feel being handed a similar feeling or gesture. I would like to take a step further by saying when I visit China that I must pay over $140 for a visa that typically costs $30 for all other nations. Other countries levy some hefty visa fees in retaliation for visa-waiver programs or other fiscal issues.
The passport as we once knew it has become somewhat worthless because of various visa requirements or financial hoops. But equally the American Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) has become just as cumbersome and problematic. The latest rules now require where a person was born rather than where they are a citizen. Permanent Residency in the United States once thought as a promising program is being destroyed by politics and fear tactics. I am afraid that many programs extending to Americans overseas may be in jeopardy because of knee jerk reactions by our current administration. Additionally, I also fear that many nations may begin to refuse extradition treaties to circumvent extremities in our immigration laws.
The bottom line is that extreme conditions by any government more than likely will ensure the same treatment from the opposition or another government. Visa fees for Americans will more than likely skyrocket because other nations want to send a strong message to the United States even if it risks reductions in tourism. It somewhat feels as if Americans are no longer welcome around the world. We didn’t do it any favors by the latest events with immigration and visa restrictions.
Some will argue that the youth is our future. I certainly would love to buy into that hope. Let’s face it. Youth don’t really care about the future. All they seem to care about is what is in the now or convenient for them. It is the same pattern generation after generation in America. Our addiction to pop culture, materialism, and the latest fad seems to be the center of the youth agenda rather than caring for future generations. You can attempt to sway me with a soothing rhetoric of graduation speeches that we all have heard repeated. Yes, we want to believe that the youth is our future but the bottom line is they don’t give a damn.
Case and point are the recent elections. Voters nationwide from ages 18 and 25 barely made a blip on the electoral radar. In fact, it was older Americans that dominated the polls. I am surprised that a young generation filled with Facebook, Twitter and smartphone technology apps misses an opportunity to pick a leader for its future. That same leadership choice is a decision by youth that could shape the future of student loans, affordable housing, special job creation, and so forth. Again, youth missed the opportunity without giving as much as a middle finger to any side of the political isle. Instead, those same tambourine shaking young people are blaming Republicans for nearly a landslide victory. It’s sad. The youth of America had an enormous opportunity to shift the election and didn’t do a thing. Perhaps this is a good lesson learned to not take things for granted.
Youth don’t give a damn either about student loans. In fact, most students have barely a clue about how the interest rates or longevity works. Some student thinks they can claim bankruptcy after a period of time. At this point, I would say not only do students not give a damn but don’t want to educate themselves about credit. Instead, most youth completely avoid credit altogether. Sure, this could be interpreted as “credit can ruin your lives” or other rhetoric. But it’s safe to say that credit on a small level prepares a person for that large purchase such as a home or a family vehicle.
Naturally, my tone with regards to youth is a bit disgusted and disappointed. It seems more interested in technology but becomes fickle with that technology around election time. Youth will go to college and seek a major that has nothing to do with what they desire to work in. Youth taunt about the need to control gun violence yet is the largest group of firearms violators. Youth seek to decriminalize our drug use laws but are the biggest group of citizens addicted to a critical or life-threatening substance. If this is the best our future can produce then at what age will it change? As adults are we no longer concerned about youth? Is the age of innocence and promise completely lost? I certainly hope not. For now, ages 30 and 40 seem to be more in line with our future.
Have you ever received a telephone call from an unknown number? Of course, this is typical, and in most cases, we don’t answer the call. But what if you receive a telephone call from perhaps a legitimate number and person only to discover that the caller ID information is inaccurate. This type of inaccuracy of information is provided by what is termed as “spoofing.” When I think of the recent fake news reporting, I also think of letters in the mail pretending to be legitimate businesses and telephone spoofing. It is so out of control that this is perhaps one key reason that texting has outpaced the traditional phone call.
Spoofing has been going on for over a decade, and it seems far from the problem going away. What makes spoofing a problem is that such technology makes the national Do Not Call Registry ineffective. If you receive a telephone call from a spoofing number but turns out to be a telemarketer from a call center in India then reporting that information only pings the number used; not the number actually being called from.
Who is to blame? The primary responsibility is software distributors that sell programs with the intention to defraud legitimacy. However, software publishers will always use the “for entertainment use only” caption to remove it from liabilities. This is nonsense, and federal or national law enforcement agencies should be ashamed to allow this to continue. The next blame assessment is the telephony providers themselves. These are the same companies that charge a fee to consumers for caller ID services, blocking services, and anonymous rejection plans. Even if you pay for the premium telephone feature, you are not getting what you paid for because spoofing overrides all those features. Phone providers seem only interested in profitability versus public safety or credibility. Businesses are just as much to blame because they lay claim that telephone information won’t be used for telemarketing purposes. Yeah, right.
Lastly, Congress is to blame. They are the very body of government that introduced the Do Not Call Registry but placed a caveat in the law that won’t allow political calls to be blocked. Therefore just before and after an election, the telemarketing calls flow because political groups do not discard the telephone listings correctly. Just think about the Democratic National Convention hacked records. How many phone numbers do you say were released back into the calling pattern to hinder further the effectiveness of the Do Not Call Registry? I am willing to bet a significant amount.
Data security and telephony information is in my opinion at a critical stage. Our smartphones and telephone services are an important infrastructure and a source of our daily requirements. Phone providers must do more to help not only businesses but consumers of the credibility of the services we buy. Federal agencies must do more to combat fraudulent spoofing and impersonation. Congress should do its part by removing its clause from existing law to help protect its constituents.
The BBC News recently wrote an article, “Is it OK to watch porn in public?” To me, it is a no-brainer. Absolutely Not! Porn, in general, should be something in the privacy of your own home and never in the workplace. I remember taking a domestic flight, and the passenger next to me decided he wanted to watch a “bit of porn” on his smartphone but at least had the decency to use his headphones. At first, I didn’t know if he was trolling for a response, mentally disturbed, or just plain desperate? However, there should be a standing rule that porn on any device should not be visible or audible to anyone else in a public setting.
A few years ago I remembered a case in North Carolina where a motorist was stopped for “displaying pornographic materials” in his own SUV. What occurred was the driver had entertainment screens in his SUV that could clearly be seen by passing motorists. I guess some people want to bend or test the rule of law to see what applies to them? I am unsure if the case was thrown out, but it draws the question about appropriate behavior. It is bad enough listening to loud stereo car systems that rattle every wall stud and picture frame. But now we may face a brief moment of stopped traffic to glance in the vehicle in front of us displaying porn? Yes, it is somewhat a private space but on public roads.
I keep hearing about porn addiction and the need to regulate Internet porn. I think we need to start with the regulation of clearly labeled rated X or homemade videos visible in public spaces. There are plenty of laws regarding public decency but rarely enforced. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites have attempted to push the envelope by allowing porn to filter and become somewhat the norm in today’s society. Sexting, another issue, has morphed from a private space to being shared all over public spaces and schools. Have we come to the level in our life that open space is a rarity?
A problem with displaying pornography in public places was difficult to catch and difficult to prosecute. The American justice system seems more concerned about embarrassment and humiliation rather than education or providing a dissolvable punishment. Additionally, citizens won’t get involved because it puts them squarely in the middle rather than sensible law effectively working as the law is written. Public porn will become a debate as art versus vulgarity by differing critics. But I’d like to point out that any rated XXX film should never be publically displayed because you feel the need to exercise your first amendment right. It should always be a personal space in the privacy of your home and never accessible to children. After all, membership to the “Mile High” club is behind closed doors.