Law in the Internet Society

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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 34 - 15 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Introduction

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In an important victory for citizens of the Net located in the United States, the FTC recently issued enforcement guidelines addressing “native advertisements,” a deceptive practice internet marketers use to make ads not look like ads. Some, such as Forbes’ Mark Howard, are outraged, claiming that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers.[1]. Apparently, concocting new ways to trick people into reading things under false pretenses is what passes for "innovation" nowadays.
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In an important victory for citizens of the Net located in the United States, the FTC recently issued enforcement guidelines addressing “native advertisements,” a deceptive practice internet marketers use to make ads not look like ads. Some, such as Forbes’ Mark Howard, are outraged, claiming that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers.[1]. Apparently, concocting new ways to trick people into reading things under false pretenses is what passes for "innovation" nowadays.
 
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In reality, the major shortcoming of the guidelines is that the FTC did not go far enough. The principles it provides work well for print media, but are insufficient to prevent the harms of deceptive advertising tactics in a digital universe. The fact is that native advertising is a revolting tactic that serves little purpose other than to deceive. Thus, the FTC should feel no qualms about prohibiting the tactic outright.
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In reality, the major shortcoming of the guidelines is that the FTC did not go far enough. The principles it provides work well for traditional marketing, but are insufficient to prevent the harms of deceptive advertising tactics in a digital universe. The fact is that native advertising is a revolting tactic that serves little purpose other than to deceive. Thus, the FTC should feel no qualms about prohibiting the tactic outright.
 

Native Advertising

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Native advertising “encompasses…advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. By replicating the look and feel of editorial content, native ads are supposedly a powerful mechanism to increase “consumer engagement” with brands, possessing a click-through rate that is 8 to 15 times higher than traditional banner ads.[3] In 2013, native ads were used by 73% of mainstream digital publishers. These publishers view native ads as an effective way to help save their industry, whose revenue streams have otherwise been strained by the realities of the Internet economy.[4].
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Native advertising “encompasses…advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. By replicating the look and feel of editorial content, native ads are supposedly a powerful mechanism to increase “consumer engagement” with brands, possessing a click-through rate that is 8 to 15 times higher than traditional banner ads.[3] In 2013, native ads were used by 73% of mainstream digital publishers. These publishers view native ads as an effective way to help save their industry, whose revenue streams have otherwise been strained by the realities of the Internet economy.[4? ].
 
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But what is the source of this increase in “consumer engagement”? Advertisers argue that native ads allow them to provide relevant messages consumers actually enjoy.[5]. Samsung, for example, might compose a piece on retailer adoption of mobile payment technologies and feasibly argue that consumers seek its industry expertise on the subject. The problem with this argument, however, is that if consumers are so eager to read Samsung’s take, why use the publisher at all? Why not simply publish the piece on samsung.com and drive traffic to the page through social media, SEO, and banner advertisements?[6].
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But what is the source of this increase in “consumer engagement”? Advertisers argue that native ads allow them to provide relevant messages consumers actually enjoy.[5]. Samsung, for example, might compose a piece on retailer adoption of mobile payment technologies and feasibly argue that consumers seek its industry expertise on the subject. The problem with this argument, however, is that if consumers are so eager to read Samsung’s take, why use the publisher at all? Why not simply publish the piece on samsung.com and drive traffic to the page through social media, SEO, and banner advertisements?[6].
 
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence indicates that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes [a native] ad.”[7]. If they knew the ads were not real editorial content, consumers, one can imagine, would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion implied time and time again in the literature.[8].
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence indicates that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes [a native] ad.”[7]. If they knew the ads were not real editorial content, consumers, one can imagine, would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion implied time and time again in the literature.[8].
 Based on all this, native advertising certainly feels like deception. If consumers cannot tell the difference between a native ad and editorial content or decipher whose interests are being served, they will be unable to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, insofar as journalism is civil society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard set by the great Joseph Pulitzer – native advertising is contrary to the values inherent to our democracy. The question must arise: is a media that tricks readers the type we want to save?

The Guidelines

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Against this backdrop, the FTC last month issued its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements.[9]. Since its inception, the FTC has fought “unfair or deceptive acts…affecting commerce” through enforcement actions pursuant to Section 5 of the FTC Act.[10]. Detailing this history, the Statement provides enforcement guidance on native advertisements based on two historical legal concepts: net impression and misleading door openers.
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Against this backdrop, the FTC last month issued its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements.[9]. Since its inception, the FTC has fought “unfair or deceptive acts…affecting commerce” through enforcement actions pursuant to Section 5 of the FTC Act.[10]. Detailing this history, the Statement provides enforcement guidance on native advertisements based on two historical legal concepts: net impression and misleading door openers.
 
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The FTC will prohibit native advertisements according to the Statement based on “the net impression it conveys to reasonable consumers.” This determination derives from factors including the ad’s appearance, similarity to non-advertising content, and distinguishing qualities.[11]. For example, “if a natively formatted ad appearing as a news story is inserted into the content stream of a publisher site that customarily offers news and feature articles, reasonable consumers are unlikely to recognize it as an ad.”[12]. In all cases the advertiser will also need to disclose the ad’s true nature or source in “simple, unequivocal language.”[13]. Specifically, the FTC advises firms to include the word “Advertisement.”[14].
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The FTC will prohibit native advertisements according to the Statement based on “the net impression it conveys to reasonable consumers.” This determination derives from factors including the ad’s appearance, similarity to non-advertising content, and distinguishing qualities.[11]. For example, “if a natively formatted ad appearing as a news story is inserted into the content stream of a publisher site that customarily offers news and feature articles, reasonable consumers are unlikely to recognize it as an ad.”[12]. In all cases the advertiser will also need to disclose the ad’s true nature or source in “simple, unequivocal language.”[13]. Specifically, the FTC advises firms to include the word “Advertisement.”[14].
 
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The FTC also warns against “misleading door openers,” a term originating from door-to-door salesmen who approached prospects by pretending to be surveyors or prize-givers.[15]. States the FTC, “when the first contact between the seller and a buyer occurs through a deceptive practice, the law may be violated, even if the truth is subsequently made known to the purchaser.” [16]. Thus an advertiser may be liable for deception even if “a party other than the sponsoring advertiser is its source.”[17].
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The FTC also warns against “misleading door openers,” a term originating from door-to-door salesmen who approached prospects by pretending to be surveyors or prize-givers.[15]. States the FTC, “when the first contact between the seller and a buyer occurs through a deceptive practice, the law may be violated, even if the truth is subsequently made known to the purchaser.” [16]. Thus an advertiser may be liable for deception even if “a party other than the sponsoring advertiser is its source.”[17].
 The Statement is a step in the right direction but also seems to create unnecessary confusion. First, there is a real question here regarding whether native advertisements are de facto prohibited under these guidelines. Based on the data discussed previously, if the FTC actually adheres strictly to the net impression factors, it is difficult to imagine an ad that both does not mislead reasonable consumers and could be described as a “native ad.” Second, in a digital environment, “misleading door openers” are everywhere. Within hours, material from any article on a high-traffic website will be reposted hundreds of times on other sites, most of whom will list the publisher but care little about brand disclosure requirements. What is the advertiser to do about these? The Statement does not provide an answer.
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 [9] See generally FTC, _Comm'n Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements, Note 2.
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[10] 15 U.S.C.A. 45(a)(1); Also see generally Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising 11-24, Note 6.
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[10] 15 U.S.C.A. 45(a)(1); See also, generally Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising 11-24, Note 6.
 [11] FTC at 11.

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 33 - 14 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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 Native advertising “encompasses…advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. By replicating the look and feel of editorial content, native ads are supposedly a powerful mechanism to increase “consumer engagement” with brands, possessing a click-through rate that is 8 to 15 times higher than traditional banner ads.[3] In 2013, native ads were used by 73% of mainstream digital publishers. These publishers view native ads as an effective way to help save their industry, whose revenue streams have otherwise been strained by the realities of the Internet economy.[4].
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But what is the source of this increase in “consumer engagement”? Advertisers argue that native ads allow them to provide relevant messages consumers actually enjoy.[5]. Samsung, for example, might compose a piece on retailer adoption of mobile payment technologies and feasibly argue that consumers seek its industry expertise on the subject. The problem with this argument, however, is that if consumers are so eager to read Samsung’s take, why use the publisher at all? Why not simply publish the piece on samsung.com and drive traffic to the page through social media and banner advertisements?[6].
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But what is the source of this increase in “consumer engagement”? Advertisers argue that native ads allow them to provide relevant messages consumers actually enjoy.[5]. Samsung, for example, might compose a piece on retailer adoption of mobile payment technologies and feasibly argue that consumers seek its industry expertise on the subject. The problem with this argument, however, is that if consumers are so eager to read Samsung’s take, why use the publisher at all? Why not simply publish the piece on samsung.com and drive traffic to the page through social media, SEO, and banner advertisements?[6].
 
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence suggests that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes [a native] ad.”[7]. If they knew the ads were not real editorial content, consumers, one can imagine, would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion implied time and time again in the literature.[8].
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence indicates that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes [a native] ad.”[7]. If they knew the ads were not real editorial content, consumers, one can imagine, would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion implied time and time again in the literature.[8].
 
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Based on all this, native advertising certainly feels like deception. If consumers cannot tell the difference between a native ad and editorial content or decipher whose interests are being served, they will be unable to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, insofar as journalism is civil society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard set by the great Joseph Pulitzer – native advertising is contrary to the values inherent to our democracy. The question must arise: is a media that tricks readers really the type we want to save?
>
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Based on all this, native advertising certainly feels like deception. If consumers cannot tell the difference between a native ad and editorial content or decipher whose interests are being served, they will be unable to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, insofar as journalism is civil society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard set by the great Joseph Pulitzer – native advertising is contrary to the values inherent to our democracy. The question must arise: is a media that tricks readers the type we want to save?
 

The Guidelines


ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 32 - 14 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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 But what is the source of this increase in “consumer engagement”? Advertisers argue that native ads allow them to provide relevant messages consumers actually enjoy.[5]. Samsung, for example, might compose a piece on retailer adoption of mobile payment technologies and feasibly argue that consumers seek its industry expertise on the subject. The problem with this argument, however, is that if consumers are so eager to read Samsung’s take, why use the publisher at all? Why not simply publish the piece on samsung.com and drive traffic to the page through social media and banner advertisements?[6].
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence suggests that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes an ad.”[7]. If they knew the native ads were not real editorial content, one can imagine consumers would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion reached time and time again in the literature.[8].
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence suggests that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes [a native] ad.”[7]. If they knew the ads were not real editorial content, consumers, one can imagine, would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion implied time and time again in the literature.[8].
 
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Based on all this, native advertising certainly feels like deception. If consumers cannot tell the difference between a native ad and editorial content or decipher whose interests are being served, they will be unable to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, insofar as journalism is democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard set by the great Joseph Pulitzer – native advertising stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry. The question must be asked: is a media that tricks readers really the type we want to save?
>
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Based on all this, native advertising certainly feels like deception. If consumers cannot tell the difference between a native ad and editorial content or decipher whose interests are being served, they will be unable to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, insofar as journalism is civil society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard set by the great Joseph Pulitzer – native advertising is contrary to the values inherent to our democracy. The question must arise: is a media that tricks readers really the type we want to save?
 

The Guidelines


ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 31 - 13 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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FTC Guidelines on Native Advertising: Not good enough

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FTC Guidelines on Native Advertising: Not Good Enough

 -- ShayBanerjee - 17 October 2015

Introduction

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In a satisfying and long-overdue victory for Internet users located in the U.S., the FTC recently issued guidelines addressing “native advertisements” (“N-A’s”) – a deceptive marketing practice used by advertisers to disguise promotional material as "journalism." Those who have made a living on manipulating readers are, unsurprisingly, outraged by the FTC action. Mark Howard, a senior executive at Forbes, grumbles that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers and publishers.[1]. Yet concocting novel ways to trick consumers is not "innovation," but a market inefficiency that should be discouraged and eradicated.
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In an important victory for citizens of the Net located in the United States, the FTC recently issued enforcement guidelines addressing “native advertisements,” a deceptive practice internet marketers use to make ads not look like ads. Some, such as Forbes’ Mark Howard, are outraged, claiming that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers.[1]. Apparently, concocting new ways to trick people into reading things under false pretenses is what passes for "innovation" nowadays.
 
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On the contrary, the major shortcoming of the FTC guidelines is that they do not go far enough. N-A's are a revolting tactic in the Internet universe, the type that citizens should despise and governments should prohibit outright. Here the FTC has applied principles from an age of print media to a digital environment, and thereby grossly underestimated the disruptive nature of N-A’s to American society.

This paragraph needs to be sharpened, it does not say enough. Need to return to it.

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In reality, the major shortcoming of the guidelines is that the FTC did not go far enough. The principles it provides work well for print media, but are insufficient to prevent the harms of deceptive advertising tactics in a digital universe. The fact is that native advertising is a revolting tactic that serves little purpose other than to deceive. Thus, the FTC should feel no qualms about prohibiting the tactic outright.
 

Native Advertising

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N-A’s encompass “advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. Figure 1 displays an recent example of an N-A on Forbes. The boxes on either side are advertisements for SAP. The “article” in the middle is also an advertisement for SAP, though no one would blame you for not noticing. The “article” is an N-A, and a recent study showed that more than half of people cannot tell that it is an advertisement.[3]. N-A’s were used as an advertising tactic by 73% of online publishers in 2013.[4]. According to Adam Ostrow, Chief Strategy Officer at Mashable, N-A’s possess a click-through rate 8 to 15 times higher than traditional display advertisements.[5] While Ostrow sees this as an optimistic sign of “consumer engagement” with brands, research suggests that consumers simply do not realize they are looking at advertisements. If they did, one can imagine they would prefer to avoid them.

Figure 1

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Native advertising “encompasses…advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. By replicating the look and feel of editorial content, native ads are supposedly a powerful mechanism to increase “consumer engagement” with brands, possessing a click-through rate that is 8 to 15 times higher than traditional banner ads.[3] In 2013, native ads were used by 73% of mainstream digital publishers. These publishers view native ads as an effective way to help save their industry, whose revenue streams have otherwise been strained by the realities of the Internet economy.[4].
 
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Publishers view N-A’s as the savior of a media industry that has struggled to generate reliable revenue streams in the Internet society. In truth, however, a media that stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry is not worth saving. N-A’s fall neatly into a category of destructive advertising tactics that exploit consumers, degrade public trust in journalism, and cheapen the media’s vital role as democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard once set by Joseph Pulitzer. Put simply, readers must be able to decipher whose interests editorial content is serving, and corporations are not at liberty to piggyback on the trust that reputable publishers past and present have earned from readers.
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But what is the source of this increase in “consumer engagement”? Advertisers argue that native ads allow them to provide relevant messages consumers actually enjoy.[5]. Samsung, for example, might compose a piece on retailer adoption of mobile payment technologies and feasibly argue that consumers seek its industry expertise on the subject. The problem with this argument, however, is that if consumers are so eager to read Samsung’s take, why use the publisher at all? Why not simply publish the piece on samsung.com and drive traffic to the page through social media and banner advertisements?[6].
 
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Research suggests that there is something more insidious going on. In fact, the evidence suggests that readers simply do not realize they are looking at ads. As one study states, “no matter what steps publishers have taken, there is still significant confusion on the part of readers as to what constitutes an article and what constitutes an ad.”[7]. If they knew the native ads were not real editorial content, one can imagine consumers would prefer to avoid them, a conclusion reached time and time again in the literature.[8].
 
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This is a section ties the essay together and it is very weak. The reader needs to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong, something irreparable, about how consumers engage with native advertising, As a reader, I currently do not.

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Based on all this, native advertising certainly feels like deception. If consumers cannot tell the difference between a native ad and editorial content or decipher whose interests are being served, they will be unable to make fully informed decisions. Furthermore, insofar as journalism is democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard set by the great Joseph Pulitzer – native advertising stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry. The question must be asked: is a media that tricks readers really the type we want to save?
 

The Guidelines

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Protecting the wall between advertising and editorial content has long been a matter of public concern. In 1905, the American Medical Association published an expose on patent medicine companies and newspapers, who were crafting advertising contracts that were voidable if the newspaper published any content detrimental to the advertiser's interests, a disturbing revelation that helped lead to the creation of the FDA.[6]. In 1913, Congress enacted the FTC Act, Section 5 of which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”[7]. Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not protect deceptive advertising tactics.[8]. For years, the FTC has utilized Section 5 to prohibit misleading advertising across a variety of formats. In a renowned case, the FTC successfully invoked Section 5 against a bookseller who deceptively formatted a direct-mail ad to resemble a personalized, handwritten message, which simply read, “Try this. It works! - J.”

This paragraph is disjointed. The purpose here must be to covey that the separation of Church and State is indispensable to the American tradition. All I've done so far is name a bunch of historical points with a connection that is tenuous.

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Against this backdrop, the FTC last month issued its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements.[9]. Since its inception, the FTC has fought “unfair or deceptive acts…affecting commerce” through enforcement actions pursuant to Section 5 of the FTC Act.[10]. Detailing this history, the Statement provides enforcement guidance on native advertisements based on two historical legal concepts: net impression and misleading door openers.
 
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Given this history, it is no surprise that last month the FTC released its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements. The Statement was issued pursuant to Section 5 and targets the proliferation of N-A online. Holding that “an ad is deceptive if it…is not readily identifiable to consumers as an ad,” the Statement requires advertisers to disclose information that clearly and prominently identifies N-A’s as advertisements. To make this determination, the FTC will decide, as it has done in print media, whether the “net impression” of the N-A is permissible, examining factors that include the N-A’s appearance, similarity to non-advertising content, distinguishing qualities, and the language used to disclose the advertisement.
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The FTC will prohibit native advertisements according to the Statement based on “the net impression it conveys to reasonable consumers.” This determination derives from factors including the ad’s appearance, similarity to non-advertising content, and distinguishing qualities.[11]. For example, “if a natively formatted ad appearing as a news story is inserted into the content stream of a publisher site that customarily offers news and feature articles, reasonable consumers are unlikely to recognize it as an ad.”[12]. In all cases the advertiser will also need to disclose the ad’s true nature or source in “simple, unequivocal language.”[13]. Specifically, the FTC advises firms to include the word “Advertisement.”[14].
 
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The FTC also warns against “misleading door openers,” a term originating from door-to-door salesmen who approached prospects by pretending to be surveyors or prize-givers.[15]. States the FTC, “when the first contact between the seller and a buyer occurs through a deceptive practice, the law may be violated, even if the truth is subsequently made known to the purchaser.” [16]. Thus an advertiser may be liable for deception even if “a party other than the sponsoring advertiser is its source.”[17].
 
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Just a summary of the law. Need to give the Reader more to work with.
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The Statement is a step in the right direction but also seems to create unnecessary confusion. First, there is a real question here regarding whether native advertisements are de facto prohibited under these guidelines. Based on the data discussed previously, if the FTC actually adheres strictly to the net impression factors, it is difficult to imagine an ad that both does not mislead reasonable consumers and could be described as a “native ad.” Second, in a digital environment, “misleading door openers” are everywhere. Within hours, material from any article on a high-traffic website will be reposted hundreds of times on other sites, most of whom will list the publisher but care little about brand disclosure requirements. What is the advertiser to do about these? The Statement does not provide an answer.
 
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This is a solid effort, but the guidelines feel like an unnatural fit. In the Internet society, sharing information is essentially free. An advertiser who wants to reach consumers has literally millions of channels to do so. This is why big publishers are struggling in the first place and also why native advertising leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth. There is simply no good reason to pursue such tactics unless the goal is to deceive consumers by piggybacking on the reputations of publishers. Generally, governments prohibit activities that needlessly prey on ordinary citizens. Perhaps the FTC should have just kept things simple.
 
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[1] Sydney Ember, F.T.C. Guidelines on Native Ads Aim to Prevent Deception, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/business/media/ftc-issues-guidelines-for-native-ads.html?_r=2.
 
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The Path Forward

Although a positive step toward protecting consumers from manipulation, the FTC Statement also reeks of a federal agency that has not fully come to terms with the nature of digital media. An N-A is not akin to a newspaper ad – it exists in a space where content migrates. Within hours of the article referenced in Figure 1 being posted, it showed up on dozens if not hundreds of other sites and news aggregators – many of which are outside the reach of FTC regulation. These sites rarely differentiate between N-A's and organic content; they will simply describe the article as originating from Forbes (or wherever). Thus, even if we assume that slapping the phrase “Sponsored by X” on top of an N-A is sufficient to inform consumers about the nature of the source – and the research shows that it is not – it is nonetheless an insufficient solution for consumer protection in the Internet age.

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[2] FTC, Comm'n Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements (Dec. 22, 2015) at 10, available at https://www.ftc.gov/public-statements/2015/12/commission-enforcement-policy-statement-deceptively-formatted.
 
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[3] Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising (Dec. 4, 2013) at 75, available at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/2013/12/blurred-lines-advertising-or-content-ftc-workshop-native.
 
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The last sentence here is basically the central criticism, on which the entire analysis rests. It needs to be unpacked, and probably made earlier in the essay.
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[4] Ginny Marvin, 73% of Online Publishers Offer Native Advertising, Just 10% Still Sitting On the Sidelines (July 22, 2013), http://marketingland.com/73-of-online-publishers-offer-native-advertising-just-10-still-sitting-on-the-sidelines-emarketer-52506.
 
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[5] See e.g. Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising at 43 (“our approach has always been to marry the themes and ideas and topics that are relevant to brands with editorial content…that isn't promoting the brand”).
 
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The simple reality is that both the fluid nature of digital environments and the particular manner in which consumers digest information online render N-A’s a wholly unacceptable practice under Section 5. If corporations want to raise awareness about their brand, they should do so on their own websites and social media pages or through traditional display mechanisms that do not intentionally replicate editorial content. True, many consumers will rationally choose to avoid viewing these advertising forms – but that is their right as free citizens. Brands are not entitled to our patronage – it is their burden to earn it.
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[6] Id. at 128 (making a similar argument about an IBM sponsored native ad)
 
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[7] Joe Lazauskas, Study: Article or Ad? When it Comes to Native, No One Knows (Sep. 8, 2015), https://contently.com/strategist/2015/09/08/article-or-ad-when-it-comes-to-native-no-one-knows/.
 
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The point that has not been driven home in the essay, but that must be made, is that there is no purpose of native advertising other than manipulation. If the goal is demonstrate a corporation's expertise, there are ways to do so in the Internet universe that are free and that do not take up the banner of reputable publishers. If the goal is to expand the name recognition of your brand, you can use display advertisements. The decision to utilize N-A's comes from an inherently bad place where the sole motivation is to reorient the consumer's thought-flow. In 1000 words, that was danced around but never stated.
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[8] See Lazauskas; Bartosz W. Wojdynski & Nathanial J. Evans, Going Native: Effects of Disclosure Position and Language on the Recognition and Evaluation of Online Native Advertising , J. of Advertising (Dec. 2014), available at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00913367.2015.1115380; Sophie Borman et. al., Effects of Sponsorship Disclosure Timing on the Processing of Sponsored Content: A Study on the Effectiveness of European Disclosure Regulations (March 2014), available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260412359_Effects_of_Sponsorship_Disclosure_Timing_on_the_Processing_of_Sponsored_Content_A_Study_on_the_Effectiveness_of_European_Disclosure_Regulations; Lucia Moses, How Native Advertising Confuses People in 5 Charts, Digiday (May 4, 2015), http://digiday.com/publishers/5-charts-show-problem-native-ad-disclosure/. Also see Paul Hill, Can Native Advertising Help Brands Overcome ‘Banner Blindness’? (Dec. 5, 2013) (on general consumer aversion to advertisements)
 
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[9] See generally FTC, _Comm'n Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements, Note 2.
 
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[1] Sydney Ember, F.T.C. Guidelines on Native Ads Aim to Prevent Deception, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/business/media/ftc-issues-guidelines-for-native-ads.html?_r=2.
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[10] 15 U.S.C.A. 45(a)(1); Also see generally Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising 11-24, Note 6.
 
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[2] FTC, Comm'n Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements (Dec. 22, 2015), available at https://www.ftc.gov/public-statements/2015/12/commission-enforcement-policy-statement-deceptively-formatted.
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[11] FTC at 11.
 
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[3] Joe Lazauskas, Study: Article or Ad? When it Comes to Native, No One Knows (Sep. 8, 2015), https://contently.com/strategist/2015/09/08/article-or-ad-when-it-comes-to-native-no-one-knows/.
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[12] Id. at 12.
 
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[4] Ginny Marvin, 73% of Online Publishers Offer Native Advertising, Just 10% Still Sitting On the Sidelines (July 22, 2013), http://marketingland.com/73-of-online-publishers-offer-native-advertising-just-10-still-sitting-on-the-sidelines-emarketer-52506.
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[13] Id. at 13.
 
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[5] Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising (Dec. 4, 2013) at 75, available at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/2013/12/blurred-lines-advertising-or-content-ftc-workshop-native.
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[14] Id.
 
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[6] Id.
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[15] Id. at 7.
 
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[7] 15 U.S.C.A. 45(a)(1).
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[16] Id.
 
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[8] See Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771-72 (1976).
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[17] Id. at 16
 
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[9] Georgetown Publ'g House Ltd. P'ship, 122 F.T.C. 392, 393-96 (1996) (consent order).
 
 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 30 - 11 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Introduction

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In a satisfying and long-overdue victory for Net citizens located in the U.S., the FTC recently issued guidelines addressing “native advertisements” (“N-A’s”) – a deceptive practice utilized by advertisers to trick consumers by presenting advertisements under the guise of “journalism.” Those who have made a living on manipulating consumers are, unsurprisingly, outraged by the guidelines. Mark Howard, a senior executive at Forbes, grumbles that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers and publishers.[1]. Howard’s criticism is laughable. Concocting new ways to mislead consumers is not “innovation,” but inefficiency repugnant to the functioning of a market economy.
>
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In a satisfying and long-overdue victory for Internet users located in the U.S., the FTC recently issued guidelines addressing “native advertisements” (“N-A’s”) – a deceptive marketing practice used by advertisers to disguise promotional material as "journalism." Those who have made a living on manipulating readers are, unsurprisingly, outraged by the FTC action. Mark Howard, a senior executive at Forbes, grumbles that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers and publishers.[1]. Yet concocting novel ways to trick consumers is not "innovation," but a market inefficiency that should be discouraged and eradicated.
 
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On the contrary, the major shortcoming of the FTC guidelines is that they are insufficient to confront the dangers of N-A’s. N-A’s are a revolting tactic that citizens should despise and governments should prohibit outright. Here the FTC has applied principles from an age of print media to a digital environment, and thereby grossly underestimated the disruptive nature of N-A’s to American society.
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On the contrary, the major shortcoming of the FTC guidelines is that they do not go far enough. N-A's are a revolting tactic in the Internet universe, the type that citizens should despise and governments should prohibit outright. Here the FTC has applied principles from an age of print media to a digital environment, and thereby grossly underestimated the disruptive nature of N-A’s to American society.

This paragraph needs to be sharpened, it does not say enough. Need to return to it.

 

Native Advertising

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  Figure 1
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Publishers view N-A’s as the savior of a media industry that has struggled to generate reliable revenue streams in the Internet society. In truth, however, a media that stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry is not worth saving. N-A’s fall neatly into a category of destructive advertising tactics that exploit consumers, degrade public trust in journalism, and cheapen the media’s vital role as democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard once set by Joseph Pulitzer. Put simply, readers must be able to decipher whose interests editorial content is serving, and corporations are not at liberty to piggyback on the reputations that reputable journalists past and present have earned from readers.
>
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Publishers view N-A’s as the savior of a media industry that has struggled to generate reliable revenue streams in the Internet society. In truth, however, a media that stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry is not worth saving. N-A’s fall neatly into a category of destructive advertising tactics that exploit consumers, degrade public trust in journalism, and cheapen the media’s vital role as democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard once set by Joseph Pulitzer. Put simply, readers must be able to decipher whose interests editorial content is serving, and corporations are not at liberty to piggyback on the trust that reputable publishers past and present have earned from readers.

This is a section ties the essay together and it is very weak. The reader needs to believe that there is something fundamentally wrong, something irreparable, about how consumers engage with native advertising, As a reader, I currently do not.

 
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The Guidelines

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Protecting the wall between advertising and editorial content has long been a matter of public concern. In 1905, the American Medical Association published an expose on patent medicine companies and newspapers, who were crafting advertising contracts that were voidable if the newspaper published any content detrimental to the company’s interests, a disturbing revelation that helped lead to the creation of the FDA.[6]. In 2013, Congress enacted the FTC Act, Section 5 of which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”[7]. Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not protect deceptive advertising tactics.[8]. For years, the FTC has utilized Section 5 to prohibit misleading advertising across a variety of formats. In a particularly cited case, the FTC successfully invoked Section 5 against a bookseller who deceptively formatted a direct-mail ad to resemble a personalized, handwritten message, which simply read, “Try this. It works! - J.”
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Protecting the wall between advertising and editorial content has long been a matter of public concern. In 1905, the American Medical Association published an expose on patent medicine companies and newspapers, who were crafting advertising contracts that were voidable if the newspaper published any content detrimental to the advertiser's interests, a disturbing revelation that helped lead to the creation of the FDA.[6]. In 1913, Congress enacted the FTC Act, Section 5 of which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”[7]. Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not protect deceptive advertising tactics.[8]. For years, the FTC has utilized Section 5 to prohibit misleading advertising across a variety of formats. In a renowned case, the FTC successfully invoked Section 5 against a bookseller who deceptively formatted a direct-mail ad to resemble a personalized, handwritten message, which simply read, “Try this. It works! - J.”

This paragraph is disjointed. The purpose here must be to covey that the separation of Church and State is indispensable to the American tradition. All I've done so far is name a bunch of historical points with a connection that is tenuous.

 Given this history, it is no surprise that last month the FTC released its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements. The Statement was issued pursuant to Section 5 and targets the proliferation of N-A online. Holding that “an ad is deceptive if it…is not readily identifiable to consumers as an ad,” the Statement requires advertisers to disclose information that clearly and prominently identifies N-A’s as advertisements. To make this determination, the FTC will decide, as it has done in print media, whether the “net impression” of the N-A is permissible, examining factors that include the N-A’s appearance, similarity to non-advertising content, distinguishing qualities, and the language used to disclose the advertisement.
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Just a summary of the law. Need to give the Reader more to work with.

 

The Path Forward

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Although a positive step toward protecting consumers from manipulation, the FTC Statement also reeks of a federal agency that has not fully come to terms with the nature of digital media. An N-A is not akin to a newspaper ad – it exists in a space where content migrates rapidly. Within hours of the article referenced in Figure 1 being posted, it showed up on dozens if not hundreds of other sites and news aggregators – many of which are outside the reach of FTC regulation. These sites rarely differentiate between native advertising and organic content; they will simply describe the article as originating from Forbes. Thus, even if we assume that slapping the phrase “Sponsored by X” on top of an N-A is sufficient to inform consumers about the nature of the source – and the research shows that it is not – it is nonetheless an insufficient solution for consumer protection in the Internet age.
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Although a positive step toward protecting consumers from manipulation, the FTC Statement also reeks of a federal agency that has not fully come to terms with the nature of digital media. An N-A is not akin to a newspaper ad – it exists in a space where content migrates. Within hours of the article referenced in Figure 1 being posted, it showed up on dozens if not hundreds of other sites and news aggregators – many of which are outside the reach of FTC regulation. These sites rarely differentiate between N-A's and organic content; they will simply describe the article as originating from Forbes (or wherever). Thus, even if we assume that slapping the phrase “Sponsored by X” on top of an N-A is sufficient to inform consumers about the nature of the source – and the research shows that it is not – it is nonetheless an insufficient solution for consumer protection in the Internet age.

The last sentence here is basically the central criticism, on which the entire analysis rests. It needs to be unpacked, and probably made earlier in the essay.

 The simple reality is that both the fluid nature of digital environments and the particular manner in which consumers digest information online render N-A’s a wholly unacceptable practice under Section 5. If corporations want to raise awareness about their brand, they should do so on their own websites and social media pages or through traditional display mechanisms that do not intentionally replicate editorial content. True, many consumers will rationally choose to avoid viewing these advertising forms – but that is their right as free citizens. Brands are not entitled to our patronage – it is their burden to earn it.
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The point that has not been driven home in the essay, but that must be made, is that there is no purpose of native advertising other than manipulation. If the goal is demonstrate a corporation's expertise, there are ways to do so in the Internet universe that are free and that do not take up the banner of reputable publishers. If the goal is to expand the name recognition of your brand, you can use display advertisements. The decision to utilize N-A's comes from an inherently bad place where the sole motivation is to reorient the consumer's thought-flow. In 1000 words, that was danced around but never stated.

 
[1] Sydney Ember, F.T.C. Guidelines on Native Ads Aim to Prevent Deception, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/business/media/ftc-issues-guidelines-for-native-ads.html?_r=2.

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 29 - 08 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Native Advertising

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N-A’s encompass “advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. Figure 1 displays an recent example of an N-A on Forbes. The boxes on either side are advertisements for SAP. The “article” in the middle is also an advertisement for SAP, though no one would blame you for not noticing. The “article” is an N-A, and a recent study showed that as many as 88% of people cannot tell that it is an advertisement.[3]. N-A’s were used as an advertising tactic by 73% of online publishers in 2013.[4]. According to Adam Ostrow, Chief Strategy Officer at Mashable, N-A’s possess a click-through rate 8 to 15 times higher than traditional display advertisements.[5] While Ostrow sees this as an optimistic sign of “consumer engagement” with brands, research suggests that consumers simply do not realize they are looking at advertisements. If they did, one can imagine they would prefer to avoid them.
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N-A’s encompass “advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. Figure 1 displays an recent example of an N-A on Forbes. The boxes on either side are advertisements for SAP. The “article” in the middle is also an advertisement for SAP, though no one would blame you for not noticing. The “article” is an N-A, and a recent study showed that more than half of people cannot tell that it is an advertisement.[3]. N-A’s were used as an advertising tactic by 73% of online publishers in 2013.[4]. According to Adam Ostrow, Chief Strategy Officer at Mashable, N-A’s possess a click-through rate 8 to 15 times higher than traditional display advertisements.[5] While Ostrow sees this as an optimistic sign of “consumer engagement” with brands, research suggests that consumers simply do not realize they are looking at advertisements. If they did, one can imagine they would prefer to avoid them.
  Figure 1
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Publishers view N-A’s as the savior of a media industry that has struggled to generate reliable revenue streams in the Internet society. In truth, however, a media that stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry is not worth saving. N-A’s fall neatly into a long line of destructive advertising tactics that exploit consumers, degrade public trust in journalism, and cheapen the media’s vital role as democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard once set by Joseph Pulitzer. Put simply, readers must be able to decipher whose interests editorial content is serving, and corporations are not at liberty to piggyback on the public trust that reputable journalists past and present have earned from readers.
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Publishers view N-A’s as the savior of a media industry that has struggled to generate reliable revenue streams in the Internet society. In truth, however, a media that stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry is not worth saving. N-A’s fall neatly into a category of destructive advertising tactics that exploit consumers, degrade public trust in journalism, and cheapen the media’s vital role as democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard once set by Joseph Pulitzer. Put simply, readers must be able to decipher whose interests editorial content is serving, and corporations are not at liberty to piggyback on the reputations that reputable journalists past and present have earned from readers.
 

The Guidelines

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The Path Forward

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Although a positive step toward protecting consumers from manipulation, the FTC Statement also reeks of a federal agency that has not fully come to terms with the nature of digital media. An N-A is not akin to a newspaper ad – it exists in a space where content migrates rapidly. Within hours of the article referenced in Figure 1 being posted, it showed up on dozens if not hundreds of other sites and news aggregators – many of which are outside the reach of FTC regulation. These sites rarely differentiate between native advertising and organic content; they will simply describe the article as originating from Forbes. Thus, even if we assume that slapping the phrase “Sponsored by X” on top of an N-A is sufficient to inform consumers about the nature of the source – and, again, the research shows that it is not – it is nonetheless an insufficient solution for consumer protection in the Internet age.
>
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Although a positive step toward protecting consumers from manipulation, the FTC Statement also reeks of a federal agency that has not fully come to terms with the nature of digital media. An N-A is not akin to a newspaper ad – it exists in a space where content migrates rapidly. Within hours of the article referenced in Figure 1 being posted, it showed up on dozens if not hundreds of other sites and news aggregators – many of which are outside the reach of FTC regulation. These sites rarely differentiate between native advertising and organic content; they will simply describe the article as originating from Forbes. Thus, even if we assume that slapping the phrase “Sponsored by X” on top of an N-A is sufficient to inform consumers about the nature of the source – and the research shows that it is not – it is nonetheless an insufficient solution for consumer protection in the Internet age.
 
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The simple reality is that both the fluid nature of digital environments and the particular manner in which consumers digest information online render N-A’s a wholly unacceptable practice under Section 5. If corporations want to raise awareness about their brand, they should do so through the traditional display mechanisms that consumers know are advertisements or on their branded websites and social media pages. True, many consumers will rationally choose to avoid viewing these advertising forms – but that is their right as free citizens. Brands are not entitled to our attention or patronage – it is their burden to earn it.
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The simple reality is that both the fluid nature of digital environments and the particular manner in which consumers digest information online render N-A’s a wholly unacceptable practice under Section 5. If corporations want to raise awareness about their brand, they should do so on their own websites and social media pages or through traditional display mechanisms that do not intentionally replicate editorial content. True, many consumers will rationally choose to avoid viewing these advertising forms – but that is their right as free citizens. Brands are not entitled to our patronage – it is their burden to earn it.
 
[1] Sydney Ember, F.T.C. Guidelines on Native Ads Aim to Prevent Deception, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/business/media/ftc-issues-guidelines-for-native-ads.html?_r=2.

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 28 - 08 Jan 2016 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Human Freedom & Internet Society: A Materialist Meta-Critique

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FTC Guidelines on Native Advertising: Not good enough

 -- ShayBanerjee - 17 October 2015

Introduction

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The Internet is not a closed system, so we should not ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, amusing, voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
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In a satisfying and long-overdue victory for Net citizens located in the U.S., the FTC recently issued guidelines addressing “native advertisements” (“N-A’s”) – a deceptive practice utilized by advertisers to trick consumers by presenting advertisements under the guise of “journalism.” Those who have made a living on manipulating consumers are, unsurprisingly, outraged by the guidelines. Mark Howard, a senior executive at Forbes, grumbles that the guidelines “limit the…creativity and innovation” of advertisers and publishers.[1]. Howard’s criticism is laughable. Concocting new ways to mislead consumers is not “innovation,” but inefficiency repugnant to the functioning of a market economy.
 
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If all the above is true, my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Breathe it in. Kick back and enjoy it. But I must ask: how did we get here? At one time and place, this essay was yet unwritten. At another, you were alive but had not started reading. At still another, another person on Earth never had the chance. The difference between those coordinates and the “here and now” depends on factors unrelated to the mediums on which we have chosen to read and write. If we truly love freedom, we must examine those factors and fully comprehend their significance.
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On the contrary, the major shortcoming of the FTC guidelines is that they are insufficient to confront the dangers of N-A’s. N-A’s are a revolting tactic that citizens should despise and governments should prohibit outright. Here the FTC has applied principles from an age of print media to a digital environment, and thereby grossly underestimated the disruptive nature of N-A’s to American society.
 
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This takes too many words to say too little. By now, the reader should know what the central idea of the essay is, and she does not. Substantively, whatever defitnion of freedom is in use is very thin indeed.
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Native Advertising

 
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On Subsistence

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N-A’s encompass “advertising and promotional messages that match the design, style, and behavior of the digital media in which it is disseminated.”[2]. Figure 1 displays an recent example of an N-A on Forbes. The boxes on either side are advertisements for SAP. The “article” in the middle is also an advertisement for SAP, though no one would blame you for not noticing. The “article” is an N-A, and a recent study showed that as many as 88% of people cannot tell that it is an advertisement.[3]. N-A’s were used as an advertising tactic by 73% of online publishers in 2013.[4]. According to Adam Ostrow, Chief Strategy Officer at Mashable, N-A’s possess a click-through rate 8 to 15 times higher than traditional display advertisements.[5] While Ostrow sees this as an optimistic sign of “consumer engagement” with brands, research suggests that consumers simply do not realize they are looking at advertisements. If they did, one can imagine they would prefer to avoid them.
 
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I struggled with this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I took our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing a portion of my burrito bowl with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and a smiling face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing from the keyboard.
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Figure 1
 
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I do not know where you are right now, but I can make some educated guesses. You most likely have a roof above your head, ready access to food and water, and little fear of immediate bodily harm. You are probably in a developed country, reside in a neighborhood with relatively little criminal activity, and possess a stable source of economic security. Perhaps the weather outside is pleasant over there, and maybe you, like me, help care for a companion that brings joy and comfort into your life.
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Publishers view N-A’s as the savior of a media industry that has struggled to generate reliable revenue streams in the Internet society. In truth, however, a media that stands in the way of a fully informed citizenry is not worth saving. N-A’s fall neatly into a long line of destructive advertising tactics that exploit consumers, degrade public trust in journalism, and cheapen the media’s vital role as democratic society’s “organ of truth, [following] no caucuses but its own convictions” – that inviolable standard once set by Joseph Pulitzer. Put simply, readers must be able to decipher whose interests editorial content is serving, and corporations are not at liberty to piggyback on the public trust that reputable journalists past and present have earned from readers.
 
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At the date of this writing, most people do not have what you and I have. For the majority of humanity who live in poverty, this sort of freedom is unimaginable. The really existing material conditions surrounding the poor are producing permanent damage to their cognitive development; are placing them at risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and delinquency; and are directly causing depression, anxiety, and illness. If we want them to enjoy the same kind of freedom you and I possess during this shared moment together, we must provide for their material wellbeing. Expecting them to read, write, and learn without doing so is repugnant to the very concept of human liberty.
 
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The Guidelines

 
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I'm not sure why. Societies incapable of securing everyone a material competence have nonetheless been able to provide universal education, of which the material results are always good. Why this is repugnant to human liberty it would be useful to explain carefully.
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Protecting the wall between advertising and editorial content has long been a matter of public concern. In 1905, the American Medical Association published an expose on patent medicine companies and newspapers, who were crafting advertising contracts that were voidable if the newspaper published any content detrimental to the company’s interests, a disturbing revelation that helped lead to the creation of the FDA.[6]. In 2013, Congress enacted the FTC Act, Section 5 of which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce.”[7]. Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly held that the First Amendment does not protect deceptive advertising tactics.[8]. For years, the FTC has utilized Section 5 to prohibit misleading advertising across a variety of formats. In a particularly cited case, the FTC successfully invoked Section 5 against a bookseller who deceptively formatted a direct-mail ad to resemble a personalized, handwritten message, which simply read, “Try this. It works! - J.”
 
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Given this history, it is no surprise that last month the FTC released its Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements. The Statement was issued pursuant to Section 5 and targets the proliferation of N-A online. Holding that “an ad is deceptive if it…is not readily identifiable to consumers as an ad,” the Statement requires advertisers to disclose information that clearly and prominently identifies N-A’s as advertisements. To make this determination, the FTC will decide, as it has done in print media, whether the “net impression” of the N-A is permissible, examining factors that include the N-A’s appearance, similarity to non-advertising content, distinguishing qualities, and the language used to disclose the advertisement.
 
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On Alienation & Use Value

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The Path Forward

 
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Throughout this writing, I resisted offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending my limited free time with them or on personal projects like this one is often difficult. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, billing 1800-2500 hours annually, the choices will only become harder.
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Although a positive step toward protecting consumers from manipulation, the FTC Statement also reeks of a federal agency that has not fully come to terms with the nature of digital media. An N-A is not akin to a newspaper ad – it exists in a space where content migrates rapidly. Within hours of the article referenced in Figure 1 being posted, it showed up on dozens if not hundreds of other sites and news aggregators – many of which are outside the reach of FTC regulation. These sites rarely differentiate between native advertising and organic content; they will simply describe the article as originating from Forbes. Thus, even if we assume that slapping the phrase “Sponsored by X” on top of an N-A is sufficient to inform consumers about the nature of the source – and, again, the research shows that it is not – it is nonetheless an insufficient solution for consumer protection in the Internet age.
 
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If you are like most people in the developed world, you are an employee of someone else, you find much of your job mundane and repetitive, and your work imperfectly aligns with your individual interests. You nonetheless stay at your job for fear that you will otherwise fall into poverty or out of favor with friends and family. In the process, you lose time to spend on activities you find more personally fulfilling - such as reading this essay.

For freedom to mean anything, people must actually have the time to experience it. This is problematic because industrial economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine how they spend their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: arguably far more labor time today is dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.

The prevailing view, also reflected in some essays submitted here, is that human beings in industrial economies have far more leisure time available to them than could ever be developed in subsistence economies. The evidence on this point is strong enough that you should at least confront it.

On Software & Freedom

You are likely reading this essay without passing through a pay-wall, worrying that a stranger is tracking your behavior on a remote server, or wondering if a corporation or government manipulated the content. Free software is an important component of this essay’s status as an expression of freedom, and I do not intend to fully diminish that reality.

Even if the piece had been written using some proprietary services, your "without worrying or wondering" could still be true, particularly because the users of such services rarely wonder or worry. And so?

My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the limited resources and time available for advocacy. As an example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste.

That's odd. It seems to me to have been obviously a resounding success: it put all the world's manufacturers onto building post-Windows ultra-light notebooks, which had an immense and valuable effect on technology everywhere. Sugar, it's user interface, is available everywhere as free software to run on all sorts of hardware, and is widely used. Perhaps the criteria of success and failure should be defined.
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The simple reality is that both the fluid nature of digital environments and the particular manner in which consumers digest information online render N-A’s a wholly unacceptable practice under Section 5. If corporations want to raise awareness about their brand, they should do so through the traditional display mechanisms that consumers know are advertisements or on their branded websites and social media pages. True, many consumers will rationally choose to avoid viewing these advertising forms – but that is their right as free citizens. Brands are not entitled to our attention or patronage – it is their burden to earn it.
 
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[1] Sydney Ember, F.T.C. Guidelines on Native Ads Aim to Prevent Deception, N.Y. Times (Dec. 22, 2015), http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/business/media/ftc-issues-guidelines-for-native-ads.html?_r=2.
 
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Simply handing poor children a free software machine does not improve learning outcomes, precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstance.
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[2] FTC, Comm'n Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements (Dec. 22, 2015), available at https://www.ftc.gov/public-statements/2015/12/commission-enforcement-policy-statement-deceptively-formatted.
 
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I'm not sure what your evidence is for this statement. I have seen both lots of data and have acquired lots of personal experience showing precisely the opposite. I'm not sure how to explain to the kids at AC3 in Bangalore, for example, that computers didn't change their lives because after they began learning, they and their families were still very poor. I don't think that's how they see the matter, any more than it is how I do. Given that what you say doesn't accord with experience or what I think I know, is it too much to ask for some data, of any kind, to back up this otherwise completely unsupported and counter-intuitive assertion?
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[3] Joe Lazauskas, Study: Article or Ad? When it Comes to Native, No One Knows (Sep. 8, 2015), https://contently.com/strategist/2015/09/08/article-or-ad-when-it-comes-to-native-no-one-knows/.
 
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On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times over the last several hours, perhaps costing me a few minutes of productivity and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files, but not substantially impeding the creation of this writing. Had I chosen to publish on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could have gained access to this essay with a few dollars or a baseline tolerance for advertisements.
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[4] Ginny Marvin, 73% of Online Publishers Offer Native Advertising, Just 10% Still Sitting On the Sidelines (July 22, 2013), http://marketingland.com/73-of-online-publishers-offer-native-advertising-just-10-still-sitting-on-the-sidelines-emarketer-52506.
 
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If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything in our lives that is not freedom? Is it really the software, or is it something else?
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[5] Transcript of FTC Workshop on Native Advertising (Dec. 4, 2013) at 75, available at https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/events-calendar/2013/12/blurred-lines-advertising-or-content-ftc-workshop-native.
 
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[6] Id.
 
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I don't know what makes it the right question, but if it is the right question, how about beginning the essay with it, and helping the reader to understand the effort you then go on to make to answer it?
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[7] 15 U.S.C.A. 45(a)(1).
 
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[8] See Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748, 771-72 (1976).
 
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[9] Georgetown Publ'g House Ltd. P'ship, 122 F.T.C. 392, 393-96 (1996) (consent order).
 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 27 - 10 Nov 2015 - Main.EbenMoglen
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 If all the above is true, my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Breathe it in. Kick back and enjoy it. But I must ask: how did we get here? At one time and place, this essay was yet unwritten. At another, you were alive but had not started reading. At still another, another person on Earth never had the chance. The difference between those coordinates and the “here and now” depends on factors unrelated to the mediums on which we have chosen to read and write. If we truly love freedom, we must examine those factors and fully comprehend their significance.
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This takes too many words to say too little. By now, the reader should know what the central idea of the essay is, and she does not. Substantively, whatever defitnion of freedom is in use is very thin indeed.

 

On Subsistence

I struggled with this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I took our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing a portion of my burrito bowl with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and a smiling face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing from the keyboard.

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 At the date of this writing, most people do not have what you and I have. For the majority of humanity who live in poverty, this sort of freedom is unimaginable. The really existing material conditions surrounding the poor are producing permanent damage to their cognitive development; are placing them at risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and delinquency; and are directly causing depression, anxiety, and illness. If we want them to enjoy the same kind of freedom you and I possess during this shared moment together, we must provide for their material wellbeing. Expecting them to read, write, and learn without doing so is repugnant to the very concept of human liberty.
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I'm not sure why. Societies incapable of securing everyone a material competence have nonetheless been able to provide universal education, of which the material results are always good. Why this is repugnant to human liberty it would be useful to explain carefully.

 

On Alienation & Use Value

Throughout this writing, I resisted offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending my limited free time with them or on personal projects like this one is often difficult. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, billing 1800-2500 hours annually, the choices will only become harder.

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  For freedom to mean anything, people must actually have the time to experience it. This is problematic because industrial economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine how they spend their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: arguably far more labor time today is dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.
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The prevailing view, also reflected in some essays submitted here, is that human beings in industrial economies have far more leisure time available to them than could ever be developed in subsistence economies. The evidence on this point is strong enough that you should at least confront it.

 

On Software & Freedom

You are likely reading this essay without passing through a pay-wall, worrying that a stranger is tracking your behavior on a remote server, or wondering if a corporation or government manipulated the content. Free software is an important component of this essay’s status as an expression of freedom, and I do not intend to fully diminish that reality.

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My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the limited resources and time available for advocacy. As an example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste. Simply handing poor children a free software machine does not improve learning outcomes, precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstance.
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Even if the piece had been written using some proprietary services, your "without worrying or wondering" could still be true, particularly because the users of such services rarely wonder or worry. And so?

My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the limited resources and time available for advocacy. As an example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste.

That's odd. It seems to me to have been obviously a resounding success: it put all the world's manufacturers onto building post-Windows ultra-light notebooks, which had an immense and valuable effect on technology everywhere. Sugar, it's user interface, is available everywhere as free software to run on all sorts of hardware, and is widely used. Perhaps the criteria of success and failure should be defined.

Simply handing poor children a free software machine does not improve learning outcomes, precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstance.

I'm not sure what your evidence is for this statement. I have seen both lots of data and have acquired lots of personal experience showing precisely the opposite. I'm not sure how to explain to the kids at AC3 in Bangalore, for example, that computers didn't change their lives because after they began learning, they and their families were still very poor. I don't think that's how they see the matter, any more than it is how I do. Given that what you say doesn't accord with experience or what I think I know, is it too much to ask for some data, of any kind, to back up this otherwise completely unsupported and counter-intuitive assertion?
  On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times over the last several hours, perhaps costing me a few minutes of productivity and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files, but not substantially impeding the creation of this writing. Had I chosen to publish on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could have gained access to this essay with a few dollars or a baseline tolerance for advertisements.

If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything in our lives that is not freedom? Is it really the software, or is it something else?

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I don't know what makes it the right question, but if it is the right question, how about beginning the essay with it, and helping the reader to understand the effort you then go on to make to answer it?

 

 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 26 - 29 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 25 - 19 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Introduction

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The Internet is not a closed system, so we should not ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, amusing, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
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The Internet is not a closed system, so we should not ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, amusing, voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
 
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If all the above is true, my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Breathe it in. Kick back and enjoy it. But I must ask: how did we get here? At one time and place, this essay was yet unwritten. At another, you were alive but had not started reading. At still another, another person on Earth never had the chance. The difference between those coordinates and the “here and now” depends on factors unrelated to the mediums we have chosen to read and write. If we truly love freedom, we must examine those factors and fully comprehend their significance.
>
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If all the above is true, my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Breathe it in. Kick back and enjoy it. But I must ask: how did we get here? At one time and place, this essay was yet unwritten. At another, you were alive but had not started reading. At still another, another person on Earth never had the chance. The difference between those coordinates and the “here and now” depends on factors unrelated to the mediums on which we have chosen to read and write. If we truly love freedom, we must examine those factors and fully comprehend their significance.
 

On Subsistence


ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 24 - 19 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Introduction

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The Internet is not a closed system, and we should not ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, engaging, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
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The Internet is not a closed system, so we should not ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, amusing, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
 If all the above is true, my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Breathe it in. Kick back and enjoy it. But I must ask: how did we get here? At one time and place, this essay was yet unwritten. At another, you were alive but had not started reading. At still another, another person on Earth never had the chance. The difference between those coordinates and the “here and now” depends on factors unrelated to the mediums we have chosen to read and write. If we truly love freedom, we must examine those factors and fully comprehend their significance.

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 23 - 19 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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The Internet & Human Freedom: A Materialist Critique

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Human Freedom & Internet Society: A Materialist Meta-Critique

 -- ShayBanerjee - 17 October 2015

Introduction

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The Internet is not a closed system, and to treat it as such is to ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, enjoyable, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
>
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The Internet is not a closed system, and we should not ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, engaging, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
 
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To be clear, I believe that my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Thus, if we both love freedom, we must examine what we did to get here and determine what we require to produce similar experiences. That is already plenty to keep us busy, but if we are real freedom fighters our inquiry must not stop there. Our ultimate goal is to replicate the enjoyment of freedom as often as possible, in as many places as possible, and for as many people as possible—until the entire world is cleansed in the holy waters of human liberation.
>
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If all the above is true, my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Breathe it in. Kick back and enjoy it. But I must ask: how did we get here? At one time and place, this essay was yet unwritten. At another, you were alive but had not started reading. At still another, another person on Earth never had the chance. The difference between those coordinates and the “here and now” depends on factors unrelated to the mediums we have chosen to read and write. If we truly love freedom, we must examine those factors and fully comprehend their significance.
 

On Subsistence

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I struggled with the topic and structure of this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I decided to take our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing a portion of my meal with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing.
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I struggled with this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I took our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing a portion of my burrito bowl with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and a smiling face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing from the keyboard.
 
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I do not know where you are right now, but I’ll make some guesses. You most likely have a roof above your head, ready access to food and water, and little fear of immediate bodily harm. You are probably in a developed country, reside in a neighborhood with relatively little criminal activity, and possess a stable source of economic security. Perhaps the weather outside is pleasant over there, and maybe you, like me, care for a companion that brings joy and comfort into your life.
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I do not know where you are right now, but I can make some educated guesses. You most likely have a roof above your head, ready access to food and water, and little fear of immediate bodily harm. You are probably in a developed country, reside in a neighborhood with relatively little criminal activity, and possess a stable source of economic security. Perhaps the weather outside is pleasant over there, and maybe you, like me, help care for a companion that brings joy and comfort into your life.
 
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At the date of this writing, most people do not have what you and I have. For the majority of humanity who live in poverty, the sort of freedom you and I enjoy is unimaginable. The really existing material conditions surrounding them are producing permanent damage to their cognitive development; are placing them at risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and delinquency; and are directly causing depression, anxiety, and illness. The obstacles facing their lives are repugnant to the very idea of human freedom.

No discussion of freedom in the Internet Society can begin without fully addressing the problem of subsistence. You and I might be free during this shared moment together, but as long as we fail to provide for the material wellbeing of billions of people, the human race never will be.

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At the date of this writing, most people do not have what you and I have. For the majority of humanity who live in poverty, this sort of freedom is unimaginable. The really existing material conditions surrounding the poor are producing permanent damage to their cognitive development; are placing them at risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and delinquency; and are directly causing depression, anxiety, and illness. If we want them to enjoy the same kind of freedom you and I possess during this shared moment together, we must provide for their material wellbeing. Expecting them to read, write, and learn without doing so is repugnant to the very concept of human liberty.
 

On Alienation & Use Value

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Throughout this writing, I resisted offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending free time with them or on personal projects is often difficult. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, the choices will only become harder.
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Throughout this writing, I resisted offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending my limited free time with them or on personal projects like this one is often difficult. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, billing 1800-2500 hours annually, the choices will only become harder.
 
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If you are like most people in the developed world, you are an employee of someone else, you find much of your job mundane and repetitive, and your work imperfectly aligns with your individual interests. You nonetheless stay at your job for fear that you will otherwise fall into poverty or out of favor with friends and family. In the process, you lose time to spend on activities more personally fulfilling.
>
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If you are like most people in the developed world, you are an employee of someone else, you find much of your job mundane and repetitive, and your work imperfectly aligns with your individual interests. You nonetheless stay at your job for fear that you will otherwise fall into poverty or out of favor with friends and family. In the process, you lose time to spend on activities you find more personally fulfilling - such as reading this essay.
 
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For freedom to mean anything, people must actually have the time to experience it. This is problematic because contemporary economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine how they spend their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: much more labor time today is arguably dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.
>
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For freedom to mean anything, people must actually have the time to experience it. This is problematic because industrial economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine how they spend their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: arguably far more labor time today is dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.
 

On Software & Freedom

You are likely reading this essay without passing through a pay-wall, worrying that a stranger is tracking your behavior on a remote server, or wondering if a corporation or government manipulated the content. Free software is an important component of this essay’s status as an expression of freedom, and I do not intend to fully diminish that reality.

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My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the resources and time available for advocacy. For example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste. Simply handing poor children a free software machine does not improve learning outcomes, precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstance.
>
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My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the limited resources and time available for advocacy. As an example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste. Simply handing poor children a free software machine does not improve learning outcomes, precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstance.
 
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On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times in the process of writing this, perhaps costing me a few minutes and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files but not substantially impeding the production of this writing. Had I chosen to post on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could gain access to this essay with a few dollars or a tolerance for advertisements.
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On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times over the last several hours, perhaps costing me a few minutes of productivity and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files, but not substantially impeding the creation of this writing. Had I chosen to publish on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could have gained access to this essay with a few dollars or a baseline tolerance for advertisements.
 
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If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything that is not freedom? Is it really the software, or is it something more substantial?
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If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything in our lives that is not freedom? Is it really the software, or is it something else?
 

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 22 - 19 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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On Subsistence

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I struggled with the topic and structure of this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I decided to take our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing about a portion of my meal with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing.
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I struggled with the topic and structure of this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I decided to take our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing a portion of my meal with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing.
 I do not know where you are right now, but I’ll make some guesses. You most likely have a roof above your head, ready access to food and water, and little fear of immediate bodily harm. You are probably in a developed country, reside in a neighborhood with relatively little criminal activity, and possess a stable source of economic security. Perhaps the weather outside is pleasant over there, and maybe you, like me, care for a companion that brings joy and comfort into your life.

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 21 - 18 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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Introduction

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The Internet is not a closed system, and to treat it as such is to ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that I hope is enlightening, enjoyable, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
>
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The Internet is not a closed system, and to treat it as such is to ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that is hopefully enlightening, enjoyable, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
 
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To be clear, I believe that my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Thus, if we both love freedom, we must examine what we did to get here and decide what we require to produce similar experiences. That is already plenty to keep us busy, but if we are true freedom fighters our inquiry must not stop there. Our ultimate goal is to replicate the enjoyment of freedom as often as possible, in as many places as possible, and for as many people as possible—until the entire world is cleansed in the holy waters of human liberation.
>
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To be clear, I believe that my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Thus, if we both love freedom, we must examine what we did to get here and determine what we require to produce similar experiences. That is already plenty to keep us busy, but if we are real freedom fighters our inquiry must not stop there. Our ultimate goal is to replicate the enjoyment of freedom as often as possible, in as many places as possible, and for as many people as possible—until the entire world is cleansed in the holy waters of human liberation.
 

On Subsistence

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I struggled with the topic and structure of this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I decided to take our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing about a quarter of my meal with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing.
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I struggled with the topic and structure of this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I decided to take our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing about a portion of my meal with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing.
 I do not know where you are right now, but I’ll make some guesses. You most likely have a roof above your head, ready access to food and water, and little fear of immediate bodily harm. You are probably in a developed country, reside in a neighborhood with relatively little criminal activity, and possess a stable source of economic security. Perhaps the weather outside is pleasant over there, and maybe you, like me, care for a companion that brings joy and comfort into your life.

At the date of this writing, most people do not have what you and I have. For the majority of humanity who live in poverty, the sort of freedom you and I enjoy is unimaginable. The really existing material conditions surrounding them are producing permanent damage to their cognitive development; are placing them at risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and delinquency; and are directly causing depression, anxiety, and illness. The obstacles facing their lives are repugnant to the very idea of human freedom.

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No discussion of freedom in the Internet Society can begin without addressing the problem of subsistence in full. You and I might be free during this shared moment together, but as long as we fail to provide for the material wellbeing of billions of people, the human race never will be.
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No discussion of freedom in the Internet Society can begin without fully addressing the problem of subsistence. You and I might be free during this shared moment together, but as long as we fail to provide for the material wellbeing of billions of people, the human race never will be.
 

On Alienation & Use Value

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Throughout my writing, I resisted multiple offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending free time with them or on personal projects is not always easy. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, the choices will only become more difficult.
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Throughout this writing, I resisted offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending free time with them or on personal projects is often difficult. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, the choices will only become harder.
 
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If you are like most people in the developed world, you are an employee of someone else, you find much of your job mundane and repetitive, and your work imperfectly aligns with your interests. You nonetheless stay out of fear that you will otherwise fall into poverty or out of favor with friends and family. In the process, you lose time to spend on activities more personally fulfilling.
>
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If you are like most people in the developed world, you are an employee of someone else, you find much of your job mundane and repetitive, and your work imperfectly aligns with your individual interests. You nonetheless stay at your job for fear that you will otherwise fall into poverty or out of favor with friends and family. In the process, you lose time to spend on activities more personally fulfilling.
 
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To experience freedom, people must actually have the time to do so. This is problematic because contemporary economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine the utilization of their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: much more labor time today is dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Thus, absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor power, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.
>
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For freedom to mean anything, people must actually have the time to experience it. This is problematic because contemporary economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine how they spend their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: much more labor time today is arguably dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.
 

On Software & Freedom

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You are likely reading this essay without going behind a pay-wall, wondering if a corporation or government has manipulated the content, or worrying that a stranger is tracking your behavior on a remote server. Free software is an important component of this essay’s status as an expression of freedom, and I do not intend to fully diminish that reality.
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You are likely reading this essay without passing through a pay-wall, worrying that a stranger is tracking your behavior on a remote server, or wondering if a corporation or government manipulated the content. Free software is an important component of this essay’s status as an expression of freedom, and I do not intend to fully diminish that reality.
 
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My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the resources and time available for advocacy. For example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste. Simply handing poor kids a free software machine did not improve learning outcomes precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstances.
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My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the resources and time available for advocacy. For example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste. Simply handing poor children a free software machine does not improve learning outcomes, precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstance.
 
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On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times in the process of writing this, perhaps costing me a few minutes and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files but not substantially impeding the production of this writing. Had I chosen to post on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could get access to this essay, even if you had to see advertisements or spend money to do so.
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On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times in the process of writing this, perhaps costing me a few minutes and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files but not substantially impeding the production of this writing. Had I chosen to post on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could gain access to this essay with a few dollars or a tolerance for advertisements.
 
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If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything else around it? Is it really the software, or is it something bigger?
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If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything that is not freedom? Is it really the software, or is it something more substantial?
 

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The following is my response/rebuttal to Eben's LawNetSoc? lecture given on Wednesday, September 30, 2015
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The Internet & Human Freedom: A Materialist Critique

 
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-- By ShayBanerjee - 01 Oct 2015
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-- ShayBanerjee - 17 October 2015
 
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My Background: Not Total Ignorance

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Introduction

 
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Milward Brown Digital, Inc. (“MBD”) is a market research firm claiming to be “the world’s leading digital expert in helping clients grow great brands.” MBD leverages proprietary software to track consumer behavior and then sells aggregations of that data to clients. More specifically, companies such as Google, Facebook, Bank of America, and Wal-Mart pay millions for data studies derived from MBD’s “Consumer Input Panel.”
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The Internet is not a closed system, and to treat it as such is to ignore the set of material forces that generate human-machine interactions in the first place. Take this essay. I, the Writer, sit in a four-bedroom apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan on October 17, 2015, typing on my 2014 MacBook Air. You, the Reader, are likely somewhere else, on a different machine, and in a different time. Yet here we are, engaged in a mutual venture, one that I hope is enlightening, enjoyable, fully voluntary, and undisturbed by outsiders.
 
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I took a job as a data analyst at MBD in May 2013. A bright-eyed graduate of Boston University (“BU”), I was eager to earn money and develop cutting-edge work experience before law school. Over the next fourteen months, I worked about 65 hours/week preparing customized industry reports on online consumer behavior. What does that task entail? Stay with me.
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To be clear, I believe that my writing this essay and your reading it is what we call "freedom." Thus, if we both love freedom, we must examine what we did to get here and decide what we require to produce similar experiences. That is already plenty to keep us busy, but if we are true freedom fighters our inquiry must not stop there. Our ultimate goal is to replicate the enjoyment of freedom as often as possible, in as many places as possible, and for as many people as possible—until the entire world is cleansed in the holy waters of human liberation.
 
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Picture that every time you visited a url, a log file was printed containing a user id, a time stamp, the visited url, the referral source, the time spent on page, and demographic information about you. We called this “clickstream” data, and we had it for over 2 million users.
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On Subsistence

 
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Now imagine that every time you conducted a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. a log file was printed containing a user id; a time stamp; the search engine name; the search query; the title, ranking and url of every search result that appeared (the “impressions”); and the listing that you clicked. We called this “SERP” (search engine result page) data, and we had it for over 80,000 users.
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I struggled with the topic and structure of this essay. After spending the first half of the day brainstorming with little to show for it, I realized I had not eaten in 14 hours. Thus, I decided to take our dog Dexter for a walk, making a stop at a Chipotle on Ninth Avenue. Since the weather was nice, I ate outside, sharing about a quarter of my meal with Dexter. Needless to say, when I got home with a belly full of food and face covered in dog slobber, the words started flowing.
 
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Finally, imagine that the same company that had the above data also sent you periodic emails surveying you about your shopping behavior. This was called “attitudinal data,” and we had it for about 1 million users. Once we got their answers, we could match the user id against clickstream and SERP. So if we asked someone “have you purchased X product from Y site in the last 30 days” and she said “No,” we could tell if she was lying.
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I do not know where you are right now, but I’ll make some guesses. You most likely have a roof above your head, ready access to food and water, and little fear of immediate bodily harm. You are probably in a developed country, reside in a neighborhood with relatively little criminal activity, and possess a stable source of economic security. Perhaps the weather outside is pleasant over there, and maybe you, like me, care for a companion that brings joy and comfort into your life.
 
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I worked with all of the above data, containing what likely amounted to trillions of log files going back over a decade. Using that data, I could tell clients that X percent of men under 25 bought a box of Trojan condoms from Amazon on March 25, 2011 or that Hispanic women on the West Coast spent on average Y seconds staring at that adorable cat video on Youtube.
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At the date of this writing, most people do not have what you and I have. For the majority of humanity who live in poverty, the sort of freedom you and I enjoy is unimaginable. The really existing material conditions surrounding them are producing permanent damage to their cognitive development; are placing them at risk of alcoholism, drug abuse, and delinquency; and are directly causing depression, anxiety, and illness. The obstacles facing their lives are repugnant to the very idea of human freedom.
 
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That’s just client work. I also had full, 24-hour access to this data. What if I was less of an upstanding guy? Sure, the user ids were “anonymous,” but if I was dedicated I could have gotten around it. I could have gotten someone’s credit card number from that Amazon purchase form. I could have figured out who did that sketchy pornography search on February 8, 2007. I could have done a lot of things.
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No discussion of freedom in the Internet Society can begin without addressing the problem of subsistence in full. You and I might be free during this shared moment together, but as long as we fail to provide for the material wellbeing of billions of people, the human race never will be.
 
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And what software did we use to complete all these evil data mining tasks that would have made Eben jump out of his socks? Yup, that's right: GNU/Linux.
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On Alienation & Use Value

 
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My Perspective: The Relevance of Labor Time

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Throughout my writing, I resisted multiple offers to go out drinking or play football at the park. As a law student, I am lucky enough to have free time on the weekends, but Monday through Friday I am busy with classwork. Socializing with my friends is an important component of my freedom, and having to choose between spending free time with them or on personal projects is not always easy. If I work at a corporate law firm in two years, the choices will only become more difficult.
 
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I remain skeptical about the ability for the free software movement to solve the problem of subsistence. In my experience, most people do not use learning, education, and technology to solve social problems, but rather to pursue their own individualized economic goals. People who know the intricacies of CDOs, leveraged buyouts, climate denial, and wiretapping tend to be highly educated. That does not make their knowledge socially productive.
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If you are like most people in the developed world, you are an employee of someone else, you find much of your job mundane and repetitive, and your work imperfectly aligns with your interests. You nonetheless stay out of fear that you will otherwise fall into poverty or out of favor with friends and family. In the process, you lose time to spend on activities more personally fulfilling.
 
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The fact is that providing the children of India and China with free software will accomplish little by itself. As long as they are anxious and hungry, like most Americans they will simply acquire the knowledge that is valued in the labor market. Since the factors of production condition human culture and knowledge acquisition by extension, it is most important to change the economic base and the incentive structure to which it aligns. Absent systemic changes in the economy itself, knowledge resources merely reinforce existing systems of exploitation.
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To experience freedom, people must actually have the time to do so. This is problematic because contemporary economies deprive humans of the ability to fully determine the utilization of their time. The resultant activities are also not socially optimal: much more labor time today is dedicated to mobile app development than solving global hunger, for example. Thus, absent structural change in employment relations and the utilization of labor power, the pursuit of freedom in the Internet Society is necessarily constrained.
 
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All of this goes back to what we learned about political economy during the 19th century. Eben claims that in the digital universe the marginal cost of knowledge production and distribution is zero. The marginal cost, of course, is not zero, any more than the marginal cost of my spending the next three weeks lying on Jones Beach is zero. The cost in both cases is my time. In human economies, labor is the fundamental basis of value, and that value is expressed in time. Any time we spend playing NetWorldGame? or analyzing Volkswagon software is time that we are not working to accumulate the resources necessary to subsist. That might not be a problem for the predominantly upper middle-class white male population of techies whose writings we have been reading for this class, but it is a problem for most of the human race.
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On Software & Freedom

 
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To be blunt, the problem is production, not consumption. All across the world, people are selling their labor time to socially unproductive enterprise in order to subsist. This is why Eben's final argument - that redistribution does not solve the problem of growth - is also wrong. Wealth redistribution encourages growth because it provides the poor with the freedom and time to pursue socially productive ends. In the mid-20th century, when, according to Eben, America was still "creating," we did not have any of the software toys he talks about. People who had the time to learn about social problems and solve them did so the old-fashioned way. What we did have back then was a substantially more equitable society than we do today.
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You are likely reading this essay without going behind a pay-wall, wondering if a corporation or government has manipulated the content, or worrying that a stranger is tracking your behavior on a remote server. Free software is an important component of this essay’s status as an expression of freedom, and I do not intend to fully diminish that reality.
 
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Conclusion

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My contention instead is that dedicating social force to free software development is not an optimal use of the resources and time available for advocacy. For example, I consider the once-hyped “One Laptop Per Child” program to be a proven failure and a waste. Simply handing poor kids a free software machine did not improve learning outcomes precisely because it does not alter their surrounding material circumstances.
 
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When I graduated from BU, I felt the need to take a job at a company where the social impact of the work was questionable but the compensation was high. During the process, I acquired numerous technical skills, but did not use them on the sort of socially productive work Eben seems to believe flows organically from free software.
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On the other hand, I expressed my views here despite using a computer lacking RYF certification. I visited Facebook multiple times in the process of writing this, perhaps costing me a few minutes and giving Mr. Zuckerberg fresh log files but not substantially impeding the production of this writing. Had I chosen to post on a proprietary system instead of a TWiki, you the Reader may have sacrificed some privacy, but still could get access to this essay, even if you had to see advertisements or spend money to do so.
 
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I am more class conscious than I was then, and at this stage I am lucky enough to not have to worry about going to bed hungry or homeless. To me, those two realities are the basis of my freedom and are what will help me drive social impact. The majority of the world does not have that. And I am not persuaded they will get it through the free software movement.
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If we are to fight for this, we need to ask the right questions. What is the real difference between this essay and everything else around it? Is it really the software, or is it something bigger?
 
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Shay, can you explain how and why you think Eben argued that socially productive work flows organically from free software? i don't think that's a correct summary. I think it's fair to say that unfree/proprietary software forecloses many possibilities for human progress, but that's quite a different concept. Do you agree with the latter idea as I have put it?

-- LizzieOShea - 01 Oct 2015

I don't need to explain, since I can just quote him from last week.

I think, as I said, that the point of attending to the brains growing within the network is that the brains thereby liberated think about the problems of survival and welfare of the people around them. By multiplying the quantity of human intelligence we multiply the intelligence devoted to human survival and welfare

To be absolutely precise, here I argue the diametric opposite of that last sentence. By multiplying the quantity of human intelligence we do not multiply the intelligence devoted to human survival and welfare. Instead given how the economy is structured we merely multiply the intelligence devoted to socially unproductive or counterproductive work.

To answer your second question (which, to be clear, involves a narrower claim than Eben is making), I will cede that free software makes learning easier, but I do not agree that proprietary software forecloses any possibilities for human progress. People find ways to learn what they need to learn. They have done so for thousands of years, long before computers, and will continue to do so long after either of us are gone. The point is to not to increase the amount of available knowledge, but to structure the economy in such a way that people spend their time acquiring the correct type of knowledge.

-- ShayBanerjee - 01 Oct 2015

Well, people have also been resisting and engaging in revolution for thousands of years and will continue to do so most likely regardless of whatever you or I do with our lives. But there are small but vital opportunities to contribute to creating those moments and helping to advance their cause when they take the stage. Of course, a piece of infrastructure like the internet, like power lines, like roads etc make life easier for people but do not make social change themselves. They will reproduce and reflect the inequality that is already in society. But freeing up those paths between people is a necessary project. They present great opportunities to connect people in ways that foster collaboration, solidarity and often critical thinking.

-- LizzieOShea - 03 Oct 2015

Lizzie, I admire your attempts to assuage two competing approaches to social action, but I fear that in attempting to moderate you have missed the takeaway. Here you simply restate the perceived benefits of the incumbent approach without fully engaging with the central criticism brought on by the insurgent. This makes sense to you because a recurring theme underlying your argument is that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. According to you, there is no conflict - there are benefits to each approach. Thus, as long as the incumbent appears even slightly productive, it is undeniably worth preserving. That belief is erroneous and must be corrected before we continue this discussion any further.

By approaching this subject the way you have, you are de-politicizing a fundamentally political decision - one that is actively shaping our common life together. To teach a subject one way necessarily involves a conscious choice not to teach it another way. Students are at liberty to question that choice. Teachers are obliged to defend the merits of that choice or change it.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of this class is - or ought to be - to teach law students how to drive social impact using the Internet. The question underlying our entire discussion has until the end of this paragraph gone unstated, but to law students it should have already been obvious. The question, put simply: Does this curriculum represent the optimal value of our purchase?

As I have stated, based on my personal experience and understanding of social theory (both of which are admittedly less expansive than Eben’s), it is not clear to me that mass distribution of knowledge resources constitutes the most productive form of social action (or even close to it). There are ways to teach law that both center on the Internet and also are more overtly materialist, focusing directly on social injustice/poverty rather than on distributing knowledge to others in the hope that they will use it productively. For whatever reason, we have chosen one way to teach and not the others.

We are socially conscious and talented individuals sitting in one of the most privileged institutions in the world. Why are we not learning how to use the Internet to fight economic inequality, reduce the cost of living, and restructure governmental institutions? Why are those being written off as secondary goals, taking a back seat to discussions about IP laws, free education, and data privacy? The answers to those questions involve a political judgment about what it means to be a lawyer in the Internet society. I am not out of line demanding an adequate explanation for where that judgment came from.

-- ShayBanerjee - 04 Oct 2015

Shay: I think you overstate your presumption as to the purpose of the class. That may be the purpose as you receive it; but it's not clear to me that it really is the purpose in the objective sense, supposing that exists. For my part, to exemplify the nuances to the reception, it may very well be that exposure to topics greatly unfamiliar to a majority of the class ultimately results in the expansion and more precise direction of creative legal approaches than those which would result were the class to focus on overly materialist orientations. Funny enough, this possibility seems to mirror the conceptual framework of impoverished Indian children expressing their curiousity and ingenuity through the language of computers; we simply take the role of the children and our knowledge of the law fills in the gaps newly created by the subject matter and presentation within the class. I don't take it that the goals you describe are couched as secondary. Rather I suggest that the process of countenancing them is somewhat inverted in relation to what we would otherwise expect in the pursuit of such ambitions—expectations hardwired into our learning centers, I may surmise, by an educational system that Eben seems to fundamentally denounce.

As for the ultimate point as to where the judgment came from, my two years and change of law school have given me the impression that, when dealing with matter that is simultaneously arcane and unprecedented, it is often best to simply throw a bunch of stuff at a wall and see what sticks.

None of this is to disagree with your perspective as such. Just a thought.

-- GreggBadichek - 07 Oct 2015

Gregg, thank you for your perspective, but I think you also might be de-politicizing. Your comment reads as if we have not been told that our freedom is linked to the free software movement, as if we have not been fed an insular body of literature, as if we have not been told that tending to human brains achieves more than tending to human bodies, as if it has not been implied that Mark Zuckerberg is a greater threat than, say, Agribusiness or Big Oil. In other words, you write as if there are no power relations governing the makeup of this curriculum.

If there are impoverished children in India expressing their ingenuity and curiosity through computers and in ultimate pursuit of socioeconomic change, perhaps those stories should be told instead of discussed in the abstract. That would actually convince me about the merits of the free software movement. Until then, all I am hearing about in these readings and lectures are a group of society's most privileged individuals who so love their privilege they decided to give it a name: "Revolution."

To be blunt, I simply do not believe that starving children half a world away are engaging in the same sort of intellectual endeavors that we are under the shadow of the ivory tower. Being only one generation removed from those children, I believe they are hungry and want us to help get them food. Until I see evidence of the former, I would rather structure our learning environment on the latter. I'm sorry if that demand comes off as impatient or cynical. But, as a racial minority, I have been lectured enough by those in power about what my freedom looks like to approach this whole thing with a certain degree of skepticism.

-- ShayBanerjee - 07 Oct 2015

Okay, perhaps so I understand this better - how would you design the curriculum? Genuine question.

-- LizzieOShea - 08 Oct 2015

 
 
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 To be blunt, I simply do not believe that starving children half a world away are engaging in the same sort of intellectual endeavors that we are under the shadow of the ivory tower. Being only one generation removed from those children, I believe they are hungry and want us to help get them food. Until I see evidence of the former, I would rather structure our learning environment on the latter. I'm sorry if that demand comes off as impatient or cynical. But, as a racial minority, I have been lectured enough by those in power about what my freedom looks like to approach this whole thing with a certain degree of skepticism.

-- ShayBanerjee - 07 Oct 2015

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Okay, perhaps so I understand this better - how would you design the curriculum? Genuine question.

-- LizzieOShea - 08 Oct 2015

 
 
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 If there are impoverished children in India expressing their ingenuity and curiosity through computers and in ultimate pursuit of socioeconomic change, perhaps those stories should be told instead of discussed in the abstract. That would actually convince me about the merits of the free software movement. Until then, all I am hearing about in these readings and lectures are a group of society's most privileged individuals who so love their privilege they decided to give it a name: "Revolution."
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To be blunt, I simply do not believe that starving children half a world away are engaging in the same sort of intellectual endeavors that we are under the shadow of the ivory tower. I believe those children are hungry and want us to help get them food. Until I see evidence of the former, I would rather structure our learning environment on the latter. I'm sorry if that demand comes off as impatient or cynical. But, as a racial minority, I have been lectured enough by those in power about what my freedom looks like to approach this whole thing with a certain degree of skepticism.
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To be blunt, I simply do not believe that starving children half a world away are engaging in the same sort of intellectual endeavors that we are under the shadow of the ivory tower. Being only one generation removed from those children, I believe they are hungry and want us to help get them food. Until I see evidence of the former, I would rather structure our learning environment on the latter. I'm sorry if that demand comes off as impatient or cynical. But, as a racial minority, I have been lectured enough by those in power about what my freedom looks like to approach this whole thing with a certain degree of skepticism.
 -- ShayBanerjee - 07 Oct 2015
 
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 None of this is to disagree with your perspective as such. Just a thought.

-- GreggBadichek - 07 Oct 2015

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Gregg, thank you for your perspective, but I think you also might be de-politicizing. Your comment reads as if we have not been told that our freedom is linked to the free software movement, as if we have not been fed an insular body of literature, as if we have not been told that tending to human brains achieves more than tending to human bodies, as if it has not been implied that Mark Zuckerberg is a greater threat than, say, Agribusiness or Big Oil. In other words, you write as if there are no power relations governing the makeup of this curriculum.

If there are impoverished children in India expressing their ingenuity and curiosity through computers and in ultimate pursuit of socioeconomic change, perhaps those stories should be told instead of discussed in the abstract. That would actually convince me about the merits of the free software movement. Until then, all I am hearing about in these readings and lectures are a group of society's most privileged individuals who so love their privilege they decided to give it a name: "Revolution."

To be blunt, I simply do not believe that starving children half a world away are engaging in the same sort of intellectual endeavors that we are under the shadow of the ivory tower. I believe those children are hungry and want us to help get them food. Until I see evidence of the former, I would rather structure our learning environment on the latter. I'm sorry if that demand comes off as impatient or cynical. But, as a racial minority, I have been lectured enough by those in power about what my freedom looks like to approach this whole thing with a certain degree of skepticism.

-- ShayBanerjee - 07 Oct 2015

 
 
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 We are socially conscious and talented individuals sitting in one of the most privileged institutions in the world. Why are we not learning how to use the Internet to fight economic inequality, reduce the cost of living, and restructure governmental institutions? Why are those being written off as secondary goals, taking a back seat to discussions about IP laws, free education, and data privacy? The answers to those questions involve a political judgment about what it means to be a lawyer in the Internet society. I am not out of line demanding an adequate explanation for where that judgment came from.

-- ShayBanerjee - 04 Oct 2015

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Shay: I think you overstate your presumption as to the purpose of the class. That may be the purpose as you receive it; but it's not clear to me that it really is the purpose in the objective sense, supposing that exists. For my part, to exemplify the nuances to the reception, it may very well be that exposure to topics greatly unfamiliar to a majority of the class ultimately results in the expansion and more precise direction of creative legal approaches than those which would result were the class to focus on overly materialist orientations. Funny enough, this possibility seems to mirror the conceptual framework of impoverished Indian children expressing their curiousity and ingenuity through the language of computers; we simply take the role of the children and our knowledge of the law fills in the gaps newly created by the subject matter and presentation within the class. I don't take it that the goals you describe are couched as secondary. Rather I suggest that the process of countenancing them is somewhat inverted in relation to what we would otherwise expect in the pursuit of such ambitions—expectations hardwired into our learning centers, I may surmise, by an educational system that Eben seems to fundamentally denounce.

As for the ultimate point as to where the judgment came from, my two years and change of law school have given me the impression that, when dealing with matter that is simultaneously arcane and unprecedented, it is often best to simply throw a bunch of stuff at a wall and see what sticks.

None of this is to disagree with your perspective as such. Just a thought.

-- GreggBadichek - 07 Oct 2015

 
 
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 -- LizzieOShea - 03 Oct 2015
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Lizzie, I greatly admire your repeated attempts to assuage two competing approaches to social action, but I fear that you have missed the point. Here you simply restate the perceived benefits of the incumbent approach without fully engaging with the central criticism brought by the insurgent. This makes sense to you because a recurring theme underlying your argument is that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and that so long as the incumbent appears even slightly productive, it is undeniably worth our time. That belief is erroneous and must be corrected before we continue this discussion any further.
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Lizzie, I admire your attempts to assuage two competing approaches to social action, but I fear that in attempting to moderate you have missed the takeaway. Here you simply restate the perceived benefits of the incumbent approach without fully engaging with the central criticism brought on by the insurgent. This makes sense to you because a recurring theme underlying your argument is that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive. According to you, there is no conflict - there are benefits to each approach. Thus, as long as the incumbent appears even slightly productive, it is undeniably worth preserving. That belief is erroneous and must be corrected before we continue this discussion any further.
 
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By approaching this subject the way you have, you are de-politicizing an essentially political decision that is shaping our common life together. To teach a subject one way involves a conscious choice not to teach it another way. Students are at liberty to question that choice, which is undeniably political. Teachers are obliged to explain it.
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By approaching this subject the way you have, you are de-politicizing a fundamentally political decision - one that is actively shaping our common life together. To teach a subject one way necessarily involves a conscious choice not to teach it another way. Students are at liberty to question that choice. Teachers are obliged to defend the merits of that choice or change it.
 
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As far as I can tell, the purpose of this class is - or ought to be - to teach law students how to drive social impact using the Internet. The question hidden beneath our entire discussion (until the end of this sentence) is simple: Is the curriculum that we have purchased the optimal way to fulfill that goal?
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As far as I can tell, the purpose of this class is - or ought to be - to teach law students how to drive social impact using the Internet. The question underlying our entire discussion has until the end of this paragraph gone unstated, but to law students it should have already been obvious. The question, put simply: Does this curriculum represent the optimal value of our purchase?
 
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As I have stated, based on my personal experience and understanding of social theory (both of which are admittedly less expansive than Eben’s), it is not clear to me that mass distribution of knowledge resources constitutes the most productive form of social action (or even close to it). There are ways to teach law that at once center on the Internet and also are more overtly materialist, striking directly at social injustice/poverty rather than relying on the additional assumption that knowledge will be used productively by others. For whatever reason, we have chosen one way to teach and not the others.
>
>
As I have stated, based on my personal experience and understanding of social theory (both of which are admittedly less expansive than Eben’s), it is not clear to me that mass distribution of knowledge resources constitutes the most productive form of social action (or even close to it). There are ways to teach law that both center on the Internet and also are more overtly materialist, focusing directly on social injustice/poverty rather than on distributing knowledge to others in the hope that they will use it productively. For whatever reason, we have chosen one way to teach and not the others.
 
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Here we are socially conscious and talented individuals sitting in one of the most privileged institutions in the world. Why are we not learning how to use the Internet to fight economic inequality, reduce the cost of living, and restructure governmental institutions? Why are those being written off as secondary goals to take a back seat to discussions about IP laws, free education, and data privacy? The answers to those questions involve some sort of judgment about what it means to be a lawyer in the Internet society (and also a judgment about the definition of human freedom). I do not think I am out of line demanding an adequate explanation about where that judgment came from.
>
>
We are socially conscious and talented individuals sitting in one of the most privileged institutions in the world. Why are we not learning how to use the Internet to fight economic inequality, reduce the cost of living, and restructure governmental institutions? Why are those being written off as secondary goals, taking a back seat to discussions about IP laws, free education, and data privacy? The answers to those questions involve a political judgment about what it means to be a lawyer in the Internet society. I am not out of line demanding an adequate explanation for where that judgment came from.
 -- ShayBanerjee - 04 Oct 2015
 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 10 - 04 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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 Lizzie, I greatly admire your repeated attempts to assuage two competing approaches to social action, but I fear that you have missed the point. Here you simply restate the perceived benefits of the incumbent approach without fully engaging with the central criticism brought by the insurgent. This makes sense to you because a recurring theme underlying your argument is that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and that so long as the incumbent appears even slightly productive, it is undeniably worth our time. That belief is erroneous and must be corrected before we continue this discussion any further.
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By approaching this subject the way you have, you are de-politicizing an essentially political decision that is shaping our common life together. To teach a subject one way involves a conscious choice to not teach it another way. Students are at liberty to question that choice, which is undeniably political. Teachers are obliged to explain it.
>
>
By approaching this subject the way you have, you are de-politicizing an essentially political decision that is shaping our common life together. To teach a subject one way involves a conscious choice not to teach it another way. Students are at liberty to question that choice, which is undeniably political. Teachers are obliged to explain it.
 As far as I can tell, the purpose of this class is - or ought to be - to teach law students how to drive social impact using the Internet. The question hidden beneath our entire discussion (until the end of this sentence) is simple: Is the curriculum that we have purchased the optimal way to fulfill that goal?
Changed:
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<
As I have stated, based on my personal experience and understanding of social theory (both of which are admittedly less expansive than Eben’s), it is not clear to me that mass distribution of knowledge resources constitutes the most productive form of social action (or even close to it). There are ways to teach law that at once center on the Internet and also are more overtly materialist. For whatever reason, we have chosen one and not the others.
>
>
As I have stated, based on my personal experience and understanding of social theory (both of which are admittedly less expansive than Eben’s), it is not clear to me that mass distribution of knowledge resources constitutes the most productive form of social action (or even close to it). There are ways to teach law that at once center on the Internet and also are more overtly materialist, striking directly at social injustice/poverty rather than relying on the additional assumption that knowledge will be used productively by others. For whatever reason, we have chosen one way to teach and not the others.
 Here we are socially conscious and talented individuals sitting in one of the most privileged institutions in the world. Why are we not learning how to use the Internet to fight economic inequality, reduce the cost of living, and restructure governmental institutions? Why are those being written off as secondary goals to take a back seat to discussions about IP laws, free education, and data privacy? The answers to those questions involve some sort of judgment about what it means to be a lawyer in the Internet society (and also a judgment about the definition of human freedom). I do not think I am out of line demanding an adequate explanation about where that judgment came from.

ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 9 - 04 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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My Perspective: The Relevance of Labor Time

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I remain skeptical about the ability for the free software movement to solve the problem of subsistence. In my experience, most people do not use learning, education, and technology to solve the social problems, but rather to pursue their own individualized economic goals. People who know the intricacies of CDOs, leveraged buyouts, climate denial, and wiretapping tend to be highly educated. That does not make their knowledge socially productive.
>
>
I remain skeptical about the ability for the free software movement to solve the problem of subsistence. In my experience, most people do not use learning, education, and technology to solve social problems, but rather to pursue their own individualized economic goals. People who know the intricacies of CDOs, leveraged buyouts, climate denial, and wiretapping tend to be highly educated. That does not make their knowledge socially productive.
 The fact is that providing the children of India and China with free software will accomplish little by itself. As long as they are anxious and hungry, like most Americans they will simply acquire the knowledge that is valued in the labor market. Since the factors of production condition human culture and knowledge acquisition by extension, it is most important to change the economic base and the incentive structure to which it aligns. Absent systemic changes in the economy itself, knowledge resources merely reinforce existing systems of exploitation.
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 Well, people have also been resisting and engaging in revolution for thousands of years and will continue to do so most likely regardless of whatever you or I do with our lives. But there are small but vital opportunities to contribute to creating those moments and helping to advance their cause when they take the stage. Of course, a piece of infrastructure like the internet, like power lines, like roads etc make life easier for people but do not make social change themselves. They will reproduce and reflect the inequality that is already in society. But freeing up those paths between people is a necessary project. They present great opportunities to connect people in ways that foster collaboration, solidarity and often critical thinking.

-- LizzieOShea - 03 Oct 2015

Added:
>
>

Lizzie, I greatly admire your repeated attempts to assuage two competing approaches to social action, but I fear that you have missed the point. Here you simply restate the perceived benefits of the incumbent approach without fully engaging with the central criticism brought by the insurgent. This makes sense to you because a recurring theme underlying your argument is that the two approaches are not mutually exclusive, and that so long as the incumbent appears even slightly productive, it is undeniably worth our time. That belief is erroneous and must be corrected before we continue this discussion any further.

By approaching this subject the way you have, you are de-politicizing an essentially political decision that is shaping our common life together. To teach a subject one way involves a conscious choice to not teach it another way. Students are at liberty to question that choice, which is undeniably political. Teachers are obliged to explain it.

As far as I can tell, the purpose of this class is - or ought to be - to teach law students how to drive social impact using the Internet. The question hidden beneath our entire discussion (until the end of this sentence) is simple: Is the curriculum that we have purchased the optimal way to fulfill that goal?

As I have stated, based on my personal experience and understanding of social theory (both of which are admittedly less expansive than Eben’s), it is not clear to me that mass distribution of knowledge resources constitutes the most productive form of social action (or even close to it). There are ways to teach law that at once center on the Internet and also are more overtly materialist. For whatever reason, we have chosen one and not the others.

Here we are socially conscious and talented individuals sitting in one of the most privileged institutions in the world. Why are we not learning how to use the Internet to fight economic inequality, reduce the cost of living, and restructure governmental institutions? Why are those being written off as secondary goals to take a back seat to discussions about IP laws, free education, and data privacy? The answers to those questions involve some sort of judgment about what it means to be a lawyer in the Internet society (and also a judgment about the definition of human freedom). I do not think I am out of line demanding an adequate explanation about where that judgment came from.

-- ShayBanerjee - 04 Oct 2015

 
 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 7 - 03 Oct 2015 - Main.LizzieOShea
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 To answer your second question (which, to be clear, involves a narrower claim than Eben is making), I will cede that free software makes learning easier, but I do not agree that proprietary software forecloses any possibilities for human progress. People find ways to learn what they need to learn. They have done so for thousands of years, long before computers, and will continue to do so long after either of us are gone. The point is to not to increase the amount of available knowledge, but to structure the economy in such a way that people spend their time acquiring the correct type of knowledge.

-- ShayBanerjee - 01 Oct 2015

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>
>

Well, people have also been resisting and engaging in revolution for thousands of years and will continue to do so most likely regardless of whatever you or I do with our lives. But there are small but vital opportunities to contribute to creating those moments and helping to advance their cause when they take the stage. Of course, a piece of infrastructure like the internet, like power lines, like roads etc make life easier for people but do not make social change themselves. They will reproduce and reflect the inequality that is already in society. But freeing up those paths between people is a necessary project. They present great opportunities to connect people in ways that foster collaboration, solidarity and often critical thinking.

-- LizzieOShea - 03 Oct 2015

 
 
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 Shay, can you explain how and why you think Eben argued that socially productive work flows organically from free software? i don't think that's a correct summary. I think it's fair to say that unfree/proprietary software forecloses many possibilities for human progress, but that's quite a different concept. Do you agree with the latter idea as I have put it?

-- LizzieOShea - 01 Oct 2015

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I don't need to explain, since I can just quote him from last week.

I think, as I said, that the point of attending to the brains growing within the network is that the brains thereby liberated think about the problems of survival and welfare of the people around them. By multiplying the quantity of human intelligence we multiply the intelligence devoted to human survival and welfare

To be absolutely precise, here I argue the diametric opposite of that last sentence. By multiplying the quantity of human intelligence we do not multiply the intelligence devoted to human survival and welfare. Instead given how the economy is structured we merely multiply the intelligence devoted to socially unproductive or counterproductive work.

To answer your second question (which, to be clear, involves a narrower claim than Eben is making), I will cede that free software makes learning easier, but I do not agree that proprietary software forecloses any possibilities for human progress. People find ways to learn what they need to learn. They have done so for thousands of years, long before computers, and will continue to do so long after either of us are gone. The point is to not to increase the amount of available knowledge, but to structure the economy in such a way that people spend their time acquiring the correct type of knowledge.

-- ShayBanerjee - 01 Oct 2015

 
 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 4 - 01 Oct 2015 - Main.LizzieOShea
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 I am more class conscious than I was then, and at this stage I am lucky enough to not have to worry about going to bed hungry or homeless. To me, those two realities are the basis of my freedom and are what will help me drive social impact. The majority of the world does not have that. And I am not persuaded they will get it through the free software movement.
Added:
>
>

Shay, can you explain how and why you think Eben argued that socially productive work flows organically from free software? i don't think that's a correct summary. I think it's fair to say that unfree/proprietary software forecloses many possibilities for human progress, but that's quite a different concept. Do you agree with the latter idea as I have put it?

-- LizzieOShea - 01 Oct 2015

 
 
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ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 3 - 01 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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 All of this goes back to what we learned about political economy during the 19th century. Eben claims that in the digital universe the marginal cost of knowledge production and distribution is zero. The marginal cost, of course, is not zero, any more than the marginal cost of my spending the next three weeks lying on Jones Beach is zero. The cost in both cases is my time. In human economies, labor is the fundamental basis of value, and that value is expressed in time. Any time we spend playing NetWorldGame? or analyzing Volkswagon software is time that we are not working to accumulate the resources necessary to subsist. That might not be a problem for the predominantly upper middle-class white male population of techies whose writings we have been reading for this class, but it is a problem for most of the human race.
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To be blunt, the problem is production, not consumption. All across the world, people are selling their labor time to socially unproductive enterprise in order to survive. This is why Eben's final argument - that redistribution does not solve the problem of growth - is also wrong. Wealth redistribution encourages growth because it provides the poor with the freedom and time to pursue socially productive ends. In the mid-20th century, when, according to Eben, America was still "creating," we did not have any of the software toys he talks about. People who had the time to learn about social problems and solve them did so the old-fashioned way. What we did have back then was a substantially more equitable society than we do today.
>
>
To be blunt, the problem is production, not consumption. All across the world, people are selling their labor time to socially unproductive enterprise in order to subsist. This is why Eben's final argument - that redistribution does not solve the problem of growth - is also wrong. Wealth redistribution encourages growth because it provides the poor with the freedom and time to pursue socially productive ends. In the mid-20th century, when, according to Eben, America was still "creating," we did not have any of the software toys he talks about. People who had the time to learn about social problems and solve them did so the old-fashioned way. What we did have back then was a substantially more equitable society than we do today.
 

Conclusion


ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 2 - 01 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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 That’s just client work. I also had full, 24-hour access to this data. What if I was less of an upstanding guy? Sure, the user ids were “anonymous,” but if I was dedicated I could have gotten around it. I could have gotten someone’s credit card number from that Amazon purchase form. I could have figured out who did that sketchy pornography search on February 8, 2007. I could have done a lot of things.
Changed:
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Oh, and what software was I using that entire time, to complete all these evil data mining tasks that would have made Eben jump out of his socks? Yup, that's right: GNU/Linux.
>
>
And what software did we use to complete all these evil data mining tasks that would have made Eben jump out of his socks? Yup, that's right: GNU/Linux.
 

My Perspective: The Relevance of Labor Time

Changed:
<
<
I am still a skeptical about the ability for the free software movement to solve the problem of subsistence. In my experience, most people do not use learning, education, and technology to solve the pressing problems that plague humanity. Instead they leverage education to pursue their own individualized economic goals. People who know the intricacies of CDOs, leveraged buyouts, climate denial, and how to tap phone lines tend to be highly educated. That does not make their knowledge socially productive.
>
>
I remain skeptical about the ability for the free software movement to solve the problem of subsistence. In my experience, most people do not use learning, education, and technology to solve the social problems, but rather to pursue their own individualized economic goals. People who know the intricacies of CDOs, leveraged buyouts, climate denial, and wiretapping tend to be highly educated. That does not make their knowledge socially productive.
 The fact is that providing the children of India and China with free software will accomplish little by itself. As long as they are anxious and hungry, like most Americans they will simply acquire the knowledge that is valued in the labor market. Since the factors of production condition human culture and knowledge acquisition by extension, it is most important to change the economic base and the incentive structure to which it aligns. Absent systemic changes in the economy itself, knowledge resources merely reinforce existing systems of exploitation.

All of this goes back to what we learned about political economy during the 19th century.Eben claims that in the digital universe the marginal cost of knowledge production and distribution is zero. The marginal cost, of course, is not zero, any more than the marginal cost of my spending the next three weeks lying on Jones Beach is zero. The cost in both cases is my time. In human economies, labor is the fundamental basis of value, and that value is expressed in time. Any time we spend playing NetWorldGame? or analyzing Volkswagon software is time that we are not working to accumulate the resources necessary to subsist. That might not be a problem for the predominantly upper middle-class white male population of techies whose writings we have been reading for this class, but it is a problem for most of the human race.

Changed:
<
<
To be blunt, the problem is production, not consumption. All across the world, people are selling their labor time to socially unproductive enterprise in order to survive. Giving them new software toys with which to play changes nothing.
>
>
To be blunt, the problem is production, not consumption. All across the world, people are selling their labor time to socially unproductive enterprise in order to survive. This is why Eben's final argument - that redistribution does not solve the problem of growth - is also wrong. Wealth redistribution encourages growth because it provides the poor with the freedom and time to pursue socially productive ends. In the mid-20th century, when, according to Eben, America was still "creating," we did not have any of the software toys he talks about. People who had the time to learn about social problems and solve them did so the old-fashioned way. What we did have back then was a substantially more equitable society than we do today.
 

Conclusion


ShayBanerjeeFirstEssay 1 - 01 Oct 2015 - Main.ShayBanerjee
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The following is my response/rebuttal to Eben's LawNetSoc? lecture given on Wednesday, September 30, 2015

-- By ShayBanerjee - 01 Oct 2015

My Background: Not Total Ignorance

Milward Brown Digital, Inc. (“MBD”) is a market research firm claiming to be “the world’s leading digital expert in helping clients grow great brands.” MBD leverages proprietary software to track consumer behavior and then sells aggregations of that data to clients. More specifically, companies such as Google, Facebook, Bank of America, and Wal-Mart pay millions for data studies derived from MBD’s “Consumer Input Panel.”

I took a job as a data analyst at MBD in May 2013. A bright-eyed graduate of Boston University (“BU”), I was eager to earn money and develop cutting-edge work experience before law school. Over the next fourteen months, I worked about 65 hours/week preparing customized industry reports on online consumer behavior. What does that task entail? Stay with me.

Picture that every time you visited a url, a log file was printed containing a user id, a time stamp, the visited url, the referral source, the time spent on page, and demographic information about you. We called this “clickstream” data, and we had it for over 2 million users.

Now imagine that every time you conducted a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. a log file was printed containing a user id; a time stamp; the search engine name; the search query; the title, ranking and url of every search result that appeared (the “impressions”); and the listing that you clicked. We called this “SERP” (search engine result page) data, and we had it for over 80,000 users.

Finally, imagine that the same company that had the above data also sent you periodic emails surveying you about your shopping behavior. This was called “attitudinal data,” and we had it for about 1 million users. Once we got their answers, we could match the user id against clickstream and SERP. So if we asked someone “have you purchased X product from Y site in the last 30 days” and she said “No,” we could tell if she was lying.

I worked with all of the above data, containing what likely amounted to trillions of log files going back over a decade. Using that data, I could tell clients that X percent of men under 25 bought a box of Trojan condoms from Amazon on March 25, 2011 or that Hispanic women on the West Coast spent on average Y seconds staring at that adorable cat video on Youtube.

That’s just client work. I also had full, 24-hour access to this data. What if I was less of an upstanding guy? Sure, the user ids were “anonymous,” but if I was dedicated I could have gotten around it. I could have gotten someone’s credit card number from that Amazon purchase form. I could have figured out who did that sketchy pornography search on February 8, 2007. I could have done a lot of things.

Oh, and what software was I using that entire time, to complete all these evil data mining tasks that would have made Eben jump out of his socks? Yup, that's right: GNU/Linux.

My Perspective: The Relevance of Labor Time

I am still a skeptical about the ability for the free software movement to solve the problem of subsistence. In my experience, most people do not use learning, education, and technology to solve the pressing problems that plague humanity. Instead they leverage education to pursue their own individualized economic goals. People who know the intricacies of CDOs, leveraged buyouts, climate denial, and how to tap phone lines tend to be highly educated. That does not make their knowledge socially productive.

The fact is that providing the children of India and China with free software will accomplish little by itself. As long as they are anxious and hungry, like most Americans they will simply acquire the knowledge that is valued in the labor market. Since the factors of production condition human culture and knowledge acquisition by extension, it is most important to change the economic base and the incentive structure to which it aligns. Absent systemic changes in the economy itself, knowledge resources merely reinforce existing systems of exploitation.

All of this goes back to what we learned about political economy during the 19th century.Eben claims that in the digital universe the marginal cost of knowledge production and distribution is zero. The marginal cost, of course, is not zero, any more than the marginal cost of my spending the next three weeks lying on Jones Beach is zero. The cost in both cases is my time. In human economies, labor is the fundamental basis of value, and that value is expressed in time. Any time we spend playing NetWorldGame? or analyzing Volkswagon software is time that we are not working to accumulate the resources necessary to subsist. That might not be a problem for the predominantly upper middle-class white male population of techies whose writings we have been reading for this class, but it is a problem for most of the human race.

To be blunt, the problem is production, not consumption. All across the world, people are selling their labor time to socially unproductive enterprise in order to survive. Giving them new software toys with which to play changes nothing.

Conclusion

When I graduated from BU, I felt the need to take a job at a company where the social impact of the work was questionable but the compensation was high. During the process, I acquired numerous technical skills, but did not use them on the sort of socially productive work Eben seems to believe flows organically from free software.

I am more class conscious than I was then, and at this stage I am lucky enough to not have to worry about going to bed hungry or homeless. To me, those two realities are the basis of my freedom and are what will help me drive social impact. The majority of the world does not have that. And I am not persuaded they will get it through the free software movement.

 
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