Cory Doctorow: Pro-abortion activists, anti-vaxers, drone delivery crashes, and Facebook’s war on accountability

Pluralistic: The new generation of pro-abortion activists is “militant, organized and unapologetic.”


  • What’s behind the Republican turnabout and support of vaccination? It’s “cooling the mark”—a con artist’s technique for keeping the grift going. “When Ron DeSantis says ‘the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,’ he’s shifting the blame from his cohort of cynical disinfo peddlers to other marks, and opening space for a mark to go and get vaccinated at last.” Republicans have spent years lying to their supporters, and are now blaming supporters for believing their lies.
  • Amazon’s drone delivery business is imploding, and was never serious to begin with. [T]ech companies promise to deliver impossible things in order to cultivate an air of mystical capability that’s invoked to mask real-world awfulness.” In Amazon’s case, the awfulness is labor abuses, including that its automated warehouse are more dangerous to workers than other warehouses. And “Uber promises self-driving cars to distract us from its exploitative labor practices.” (My $0.02: We saw this with Facebook’s recent metaverse initiative, which I don’t need a crystal ball to predict is not going anywhere.)
  • Facebook is escalating its “war on accountability,” cutting off access to a research application that tracked spread of disinformation on the service.

Cory Doctorow: The moral hazard of bankruptcy, stories from Black women’s customer service hell, a new way that phones can spy on you, and unauthorized cups.

Pluralistic: 29 Jul 2021: Bankruptcy lets billionaires destroy businesses, jobs, and the economy, and literally kill people, and walk away with billions of dollars, thanks to limited liability corporation, investor impunity, and corrupt judges.

Economists “wring their hands about the ‘moral hazard’ of public health care and housing, they’re oddly sanguine about limited liability.

Also: Stories from Black women’s customer service hell, about the women who answer the phone when you call Disney, Airbnb, Carnival and others.

And a new way your phone is invading your privacy, through the accelerometer:

“The way you move has a sufficiently unique signature that accelerometers can identify you as the person carrying a device. The same techniques can infer your driving style, whether you are intoxicated, and, through dead reckoning, where you are – even without a GPS fix.

“Alarmingly, accelerometers can be repurposed as crude mics, translating sound vibrations into speech and keyword detection.”

Unlike your phone’s camera and microphone, the accelerometer lacks privacy protection

And paper cup manufacturers are putting RFID chips in their products to deny homeless people drinking water.

The Facebook emperor’s new clothes

Cory Doctorow: Facebook’s alternative facts — After a company called CrowdTangle helped journalists discover that Facebook is a far-right echo-chamber whose US users tend to be angry old conservatives — a group that advertisers do not love — Facebook bought CrowdTangle and neutered it.

This is part of a larger gaslighting strategy, in which the rich and powerful substitute wishful thinking for reality, and it’s far from unique to Facebook. Previous examples include climate denialism. Donald Trump has built his life on wishful thinking and gaslighting, most recently in the Big Lie, early denial of the pandemic, and his overall “alternatives facts” strategy.

And wishful thinking by the rich and powerful isn’t new. Consider “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

Quick hits 2 — Wes Anderson, the mass-murdering Sacklers, California broadband deal, and voting rights

Wes Anderson’s ode to print journalism is a periodic delight. By Peter Bradshaw at The Guardian — Wes Anderson’s latest, “The French Dispatch,” is about 20th Century American journalism, features a French town called “Ennui-Sur-Blasé,” and the cast includes Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. I love it already! Also, this review includes the words “pasticheurs” and “feuilleton.”

— Cory Doctorow: The mass-murdering Sacklers will get to keep billions, thanks to their skill at shopping until they find a corrupt judge.

Governor, Legislative Leaders Reach Deal on $5.25 Billion California Broadband Expansion. By Chris Jennewein at the Times of San Diego — “Gov. Gavin Newsom and the leaders of the Senate and Assembly reached a deal Monday to spend $5.25 billion expanding California’s broadband internet connectivity for families and businesses.”

Vox explains the GOP voting bill that literally caused Texas Democrats to flee the state. By Ian Millhiser — The Texas GOP wants to make it harder for people to vote, make it harder to eject partisan poll-watchers who disrupt the electoral process, and impose draconian penalties for minor violations of voting laws, to prevent repeating imaginary voter fraud.

Biden Labels GOP Voting Laws Greatest Threat to American Democracy Since Civil War. By Zachary Evans at the National Review — “‘The Confederates, back then, never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on January the 6th,’ Biden said…. ‘I’m not saying this to alarm you; I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.’”

Cory Doctorow: Biden’s Right to Repair will include electronics, too — Part of a broad antimonopoly agenda.

Joe Biden’s endorsement of right to repair goes beyond farm equipment to include electronics — which is a ”huge fucking deal,” says Cory. And it’s part of a larger antimonopoly agenda.

The potential [antimonopoly] coalition is massive, but it needs a name. It’s not enough to be antimonopoly. It has to stand for something.…

That something can’t be “competition.” Competition on its own is perfectly capable of being terrible. Think of ad-tech companies who say privacy measures are “anticompetitive.” We don’t want competition for the most efficient human rights abuses.

A far better goal is “self-determination” – the right for individuals and communities to make up their own minds about how they work and live, based on democratic principles rather than corporate fiat.

Cory Doctorow: Tech Monopolies and the Insufficient Necessity of Interoperability

That would be a fine position indeed for the Democratic Party to stake out. As Teachout writes, “[Democrats once] stood for workers and the people who produced things, and against the middlemen who sought to steal value and control industry. They understood that anti-monopoly laws were partly about keeping prices down—but also about preserving equality and dignity, and making sure that everyone who contributed to the production of goods and services got a fair cut.”

Cory Doctorow: The Rent’s Too Damned High


A middle-class that relies on increasing property values as a means to fund their kids’ university tuition, their own retirements, and the next generation’s down-payments sows the seeds of its own destruction. Far from guaranteeing you kids’ security, a focus on asset appreciation dooms them to precarity and penury.

America’s strategy of tying personal wealth to housing — owning your own home as the foundation of personal prosperity and comfortable retirement — is a long con, trapping millions in poverty. These millions include much of the Millennial generation and Gen Z, who are just never going to own their own homes, and therefore will always struggle financially.

When we see the cost of food and healthcare go up, we know that’s bad news, because we know that food and healthcare are essentials and human rights. But when the cost of housing goes up, we cheer, because that means our homes are more valuable. And yet housing is an equally essential human right.

We need to separate personal wealth from housing. I don’t know how to do that short of violent revolution. And no I do not consider violent revolution to be an acceptable answer.

From couch potatoes to smartphone zombies

The failure of Donald Trump’s blog is symptomatic of the death of the Internet as a “lean in” medium.

Internet visionaries of the 1990s through early 2010s distinguished the Internet from TV. TV was a “lean back” medium, where passive couch potatoes took whatever the three networks gave them. On blogs, Web 2.0, and forums, engaged people “leaned in,” sought information, and engaged in discussion.

But social media algorithms killed that. Now, we take whatever Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram algorithms feed us. Not even Trump’s fanatical followers can be moved to follow him when the algorithms aren’t magnifying his message.

However, Cory Doctorow notes the paradox that the algorithms can bring like-minded people together, and many will get up out of their chairs and get things done, either in BLM protests or in the January 6 insurrection.

Like Cory, I wish social media would just go the fuck away. But I am also aware of that Facebook in particular – which I hate more than all the other social media – is also the one I love the most, because it has brought me together with friends that I would not have connected with you any other channel.

On Wired, Philip M. Napoli says leaned-back couch potatoes have become hunched-over smartphone zombies.

The failure of Trump’s blog tells us that even the kind of impassioned political extremists that form the core of Trump’s base of support are so entrenched in their passive, social-media-dependent mode of media consumption that a traditional blog, absent accompanying social media accounts to generate algorithmic amplification, is incapable of gaining a fraction of the online engagement that a single tweet could achieve. Not even the most public of public figures can break free from the platform dependency that largely dictates the distribution of audience attention online. If Trump’s blog can’t gain traction without direct access to the audience aggregation and amplification tools of social media, then perhaps nothing can.

The failure of Donald Trump’s blog is, then, yet another indication of the massive power that the platform giants hold over the content that we consume. But it’s a reminder that we bear responsibility for voluntarily ceding this power to them, and enthusiastically embracing the push model of the web over the pull. Ultimately, we may look back at the failure of Trump’s blog as the final, definitive nail in the coffin of the original model of the web and the notion of the “active” internet user.