If you’re a Comcast customer, your WiFi is probably open to the whole neighborhood.

January 15, 2016 In The News Comments (0) 508

Comcast SUX VanI noticed something strange the last time I was home visiting my parents in the Philadelphia suburbs: They suddenly had a public wifi hotspot in their home. 

My parents’ house is far enough from public utilities and any neighbor houses that they often have difficulty just getting cellular service, so a public wifi network with a signal as strong as their home wifi seemed impossible.

But this was shortly after Comcast, their ISP, cable, and phone provider, forced my mother to switch out her modem and router (which I’d chosen and installed for her) for a new Comcast-owned 2-in-1 gateway. 

That part of the story is questionable enough. For years I had insisted they own their own equipment, both because it ensured better quality hardware and less tampering from Comcast and because they could avoid the nonsense monthly rental fee that meant they’d essentially be purchasing the crappy Comcast hardware anyway. Continue Reading

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Compulsory or not, it’s time for Internet voting.

March 20, 2015 ACLU, In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (1) 310

It was just past 7 PM on Election Night, 2012. I was in front of my computer, a dozen browser windows open to various local news outlets and social networks, feverishly making memes for the ACLU. “Don’t Leave the Line,” they said in English and Spanish. “By law, if you’re in line when the polls close, you must be allowed to vote.”

479775_10150345243979953_388193148_nWith less than an hour until polls closed, and wind chills well below freezing, thousands of people across our state were still waiting in line to vote. We’d received word that some officials planned to lock their doors at the 8PM cutoff, so while some of our staff took calls to voting rights hotlines, our attorneys were on the phone with judges and election officials, and I worked the social networks, trying to spread the word so that no one gave up their rightful place in line.

This circumstance was not unique to Pennsylvania, or to the 2012 election, and while intentional attempts to suppress votes are at least in part to blame, the larger problem is a system and an infrastructure woefully inadequate to handle even the 60% of eligible Americans who choose to vote.

Our system of elections in the United States is a joke. Voters participating in the most vital core function of democracy must do so by visiting their municipal buildings, staffed by volunteers, often to fill out a piece of paper. In some states–including Pennsylvania–polling places might literally be inside private homes. This is not the system of elections one expects from a society where a person can order a yoga mat from their smartphone and have delivered to their hands 12 minutes later.* It’s past time for the United States to embrace electronic voting. Continue Reading

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The Free Speech Problem

November 17, 2014 In The News, Politics / Religion Comments (0) 336

Most everyone agrees that online harassment is a major problem in need of an immediate solution, but in the hunt for trolls, some are too quick to dismiss legitimate concerns about free speech.

(Cross-posted at Medium)

In the wake of the GamerGate blowup, most of America is aware of our epidemic of online harassment. Unrepentant trolls on Twitter, Facebook, and similar services exploit anonymity and the ease of creating sockpuppet accounts to stalk, threaten, dox, and torment victims, even driving some to the point of suicide. But while activists rightly raise alarms about the problem, their proposed solutions often carry the risk of limiting the free speech and expression that make the Internet so powerful.

Writing at Boing Boing, for example, Glenn Fleishman explores Twitter’s problem with serial offenders, known trolls who have been banned but then return thanks to Twitter’s failure to enforce their own policy against serial accounts. Roughly two-thirds through the piece, Fleishman leaps abruptly to a rather dramatic conclusion: “the fight for anonymous speech ends when promotion of it is inexorably and demonstrably linked to enabling harassers.” Continue Reading

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COMIC: A Long Time Ago in a Comment Section Far, Far Away

September 16, 2013 Artwork, Comics, Pop Culture Comments (0) 214

AD: This one weird trick will convince storm troopers to tell you to move along.

Inspired by recent experiences. “Recent” in this case meaning “over the last 17 years.”

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