Baker's Law of Evil Technology

"You'll never know how evil a technology can be until the engineers deploying it fear for their jobs" in Episode 241 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


This episode's should be titled "Baker's Law of Evil Technology," as it explains Twitter's dysfunctional woke-ness, Yahoo's crappy security, and Uber's deadly autonomous vehicles. Companies with lots of revenue can afford to offer benefits that they don't much care about, including protection of minority voices, network security, and, um, not killing people. But as Uber's travails show, all that gets tossed out the window when corporate survival is at stake. And here's Baker's Law in action: Airline algorithms that deliberately break up families sitting on the plane so they can charge to put the kids back in the same row.

I do a mini-interview of Adam Candeub, who has disclosed that the supposedly populist, supposedly Silicon-Valley-skeptical Trump Administration has proposed a massive and antidemocratic subsidy for conservative-censoring social platforms. Worse, it's written into the virtually unamendable NAFTA 2.0. I rant (briefly) about it and pray that Congress kills the provision in the lame duck.

Merrick Garland may now be available. But, we ask Jamil Jaffer and Gus Hurwitz, is a Facebook Supreme Content Court a good idea?

Speaking of Facebook, even 98-lb weaklings seem to be kicking sand in the company's face. I lay out the latest, incredible tale about how an app that finds all your friends' bikini pics ended up spurring an international breach of US confidentiality orders – at the behest of the UK Parliament's serjeant at arms. And when I say it's an incredible tale, I mean just that; the story told by the participants is extraordinarily hard to believe.

Jamil and Gus note that Commerce has begun identifying an enormous list of "emerging" technologies to be restricted for export. Is this a kind of defense-industrial policy? And will it work? The panel disagrees.

Paul Rosenzweig reports that Airbnb now has its own (woker-than-thou, naturally) foreign policy. He thinks it may violate a host of state anti-BDS laws.

Nick Weaver gives us the latest Bear Facts. Both Cozy and Fancy are back with a vengeance – and not much concern about avoiding attribution.

Download the 241st Episode (mp3).

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  1. WTF? Uber is a company with “lots of revenues” to do things. But their survival is at stake, so they aren’t doing them. Was this intended for the National Enquirer? Daily Kos? Pravda?

    1. If you bothered to read the article you’d know that the project managers had decided not killing people was of less importance than appearing to have a functioning autonomous car. In other words, the things consumers would want them to do (not kill people) were of less import than the things they decided to do (look like they’re further along than they really are). They hobbled the actual ability of the car to react to humans in its path in order to give a smoother ride, apparently to satisfy the higher-ups with their progress. Not only did they disable their own safety settings but Volvo’s settings as well. Their simulations were crap and the safety tests on tracks were disorganized and inconsistent. The test drivers were overworked and had no actual effect on the program. All of this was apparently because they thought their under-performing program would be shut down, so they tried to impress the CEO.

      1. Still more interested in whether they are safer, net, over humans.

        1. Absolutely not, at least for Uber. The car might know if something is in the way but won’t stop unless the human stops it. It’s the same situation as a human driver except that the Uber driver is more likely to be distracted.

          1. I can’t read the article because it’s behind a paywall. But you aren’t answering the question. Even with the changes to the features, are you sure that Uber’s car is safer than humans? Humans kill people, too.

      2. If you had a logical mind, you’d never have asked that question.

        Lots of revenues to do things =/= survival at stake so can’t (regardless of why)

        Anything else?

  2. Why be troubled by all of the wokeness, conservatives, and fret about whether private companies wish to associate with or provide services to intolerant liars?

    Mississippi’s white Republican racists just returned another Confederacy-fondling, stale-thinking bigot to the United States Senate. Right-wingers may have lost the culture war, and are facing a demographically challenged destiny, but they’re still battling for backwardness, at least in the backwaters!

    1. It really feels like you wrote that second paragraph before signing in and pasted it on the first comment you thought it might go with. It didn’t, and your transition was really weak. You can do better than this.

  3. “. . . supposedly populist, supposedly Silicon-Valley-skeptical Trump Administration has proposed a massive and antidemocratic subsidy for conservative-censoring social platforms.”

    The law would also benefit liberal-censoring social platforms, so I’m not sure what the writer is squawking about.

    Before, social content providers could not “. . . be held liable for good faith restrictions on what they consider ‘to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable.'”

    The new law removes the “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing” qualifiers and allows providers to monitor and delete any material they doesn’t like–using whatever standards they want.

    Currently, it seems that social platforms have mainly “targeted” (not sure of the best word) conservative writers, so I guess conservatives are worried it will happen more.

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