Once a Bastion of Free Speech, the A.C.L.U. Faces an Identity Crisis

The A.C.L.U. unfurled new guidelines that suggested lawyers should balance taking a free speech case representing right-wing groups whose “values are contrary to our values” against the potential such a case might give “offense to marginalized groups.”

An organisation designed to protect free speech issues new internal guidelines that try to determine whether someone’s worthy of free speech protection depending on their beliefs. What could possibly be distorted about that, right?

Less than two months after that terrible day in Charlottesville, Claire Gastanaga, then the executive director of the A.C.L.U. chapter in Virginia, drove to the College of William & Mary to talk about free speech. One of her board members had resigned after Charlottesville, tweeting, “When a free speech claim is the only thing standing in the way of Nazis killing people, maybe don’t take the case.”

This is elementary school reasoning. Birth is also one thing that stand between anything and anything. We don’t advocate again birth.

Ms. Gastanaga planned to argue that by defending the rights of the objectionable, the A.C.L.U. preserved the rights of all. She walked onstage and dozens of students who proclaimed themselves allied with Black Lives Matter approached with signs.

“Good, I like this,” Ms. Gastanaga said. “This illustrates very well ——”

Those were the last of her words that could be heard.

That illustrates very well indeed.

China’s tech workers pushed to limits by surveillance software

In China and elsewhere, algorithms are starting to make decisions on behalf of humans — who gets hired, who gets fired and who gets promoted. In 2019, U.S. e-commerce giant Amazon was criticized for using a computer system to automatically fire hundreds of warehouse workers considered to have low productivity by the system, the Verge reported that year.

Of course in such cases no one’s responsible for a firing as any error can be defined as technical rather than an error in judgement and management. For a company, it’s a win/win.

Zhongduantong, a Beijing-based software company, developed a work reporting mobile application that requires workers to check in at designated locations within a certain time frame and upload a picture of the surrounding environment as proof through the app.

The use of such real-time tracking apps led to the 200 yuan ($31) fine of a sales manager in the northern city of Shenyang, who was found to be visiting a housing fund center for personal matters during their lunch break, Xinhua News Agency reported in 2018.

Let’s all take a few minutes to contemplate the concept of an employer issuing a fine to an employee.

“Companies look to increase the marginal revenue, or so-called surplus value, through increasing the work hours and intensity of labor,” he said. The greater technological capability in production does not equate to workers having a more relaxing life, he added.

Like in the previous development of new industries, a large number of young people would be drawn because of their physical resilience, ability to work long hours and lack of family responsibilities, Qiu said.

“The new economy is not so much different from the old economy in terms of the accumulation of wealth,” he said, as substantial amounts of human work is being involved to support the operations of the algorithms and machines.

For centuries humanity has dreamed of using technology to make time for itself to look beyond, think ahead and become better. For centuries we’ve only known failure in that respect. The thought that the new economy isn’t that different from the old one here is, well, depressing.

From a Super Rare Games announcement that reached my inbox:

The first of several new upcoming expansions, Shorts are a line-up of video games available exclusively as physical editions for the Nintendo Switch. That’s right – no Steam release, no release on another platform, and not even a Nintendo Switch digital release – these games will only ever be available in this format. All the content will be on the cartridge with full cover art & exquisite packaging.

Great ideas. Great backlash. Great irony. Creating artificial scarcity to keep prices high used to be frowned upon. Now it’s supposed to be hip instead of a sign of price fixing.

Having worked with over 50 developers across the last 3.5 years, Super Rare aims to boost indie developers beyond what the market currently provides for smaller-scale games that struggle to gain mass-market appeal, falling in line with our aim to become ‘indie’s best friend’. With massive visibility issues for digital indie games, and smaller-scope games generally being passed up by indie publishers who are looking for larger-scope, high-profit titles, Super Rare Shorts aims to showcase awesome titles that would otherwise have never seen the light of day or received the audience it deserved.

In funding these projects, Super Rare hopes not only that they’ll reach a passionate audience of indie game fans, but that more money can be generated for indie developers to fund their next projects – sometimes achieving more visibility, sales, and a higher level of profit than their previous releases, as with Glass Revolver’s fantastic but underrated game ITTA.

This is really rubbing me the wrong way. Yes, indie game discoverability is a mess. UI design, discoverability tools etc. keep getting better but not fast enough, mainly because there’s an oversupply of games.

It’s just plain wrong to automatically assume the existence of a game warrants any policy that pushes it to the market. A market that offloads over a 100 games a month on the Switch (just to give an example) has completely failed to realise that there’s no way for the releases to be adequately covered, reviewed, communicated, marketed to enough people. We’re at a point where most games just don’t register to people. Most games are effectively unknown to the majority of gamers. Treating this just as a marketing issue is nonsensical. Using it to justify any policy that can bring more money to indies (or anyone for that matter) is also ridiculous and disingenuous.

Where is the consumer here? What does the consumer get out of this other than a collector’s item? What does the developer get out of making it impossible for a game to be played by more people? The developer gets more money upfront, sure. But at what cost? How can the developer build relationships with consumer, a community as one says, based on artificial scarcity and, essentially, price fixing?

But never mind all that. How in the world is this supposed to be sustainable for an industry that goes increasingly the way of digital and, speaking of the Switch specifically, how does it make sense to use of the worst (in terms of speed) available medium (aka the cartridge in this case) as some sort of long term win?

This kind of model is so consumer-hostile it veers into comedy. Which immediately explains how Devolver will be working with Super Rare Games to bring Demon Throttle to market as a physical only release.

Spurred by Clarence Thomas, Ohio AG wants Google declared a public utility

“In many ways, digital platforms that hold themselves out to the public resemble traditional common carriers,” Thomas wrote. “Though digital instead of physical, they are at bottom communications networks, and they ‘carry’ information from one user to another. A traditional telephone company laid physical wires to create a network connecting people. Digital platforms lay information infrastructure that can be controlled in much the same way.”

This is what I’ve been telling everyone that brings the “it’s a private company and can do whatever it wants”. Yeah, well. Not necessarily. This way of thinking might be pragmatic but it’s not an actual argument.

Yost’s lawsuit says that, under Ohio law, “[a]n entity may be characterized as a public utility if the nature of its operation is a matter of public concern and if membership is indiscriminately and reasonably made available to the general public.” Further, the lawsuit said that a corporation’s services reach “public utility or common carrier status when it serves a substantial part of the public in a way that makes its methods of operations a matter of public concern, welfare, and interest.”

I don’t see this going anywhere. Big Tech lobbying aside, the fragmented nature of state lawmaking and it’s relation to the federal layer tends to be counterproductive in such matters that really are so far-reaching it’s almost comical to argue them on a per-state basis.

Jedi: Fallen Order’s next-gen version is out now, with 4K/30 and 1440p/60 modes | VGC

On Xbox Series X|S, the upgraded version of the game will import cloud saves from the last-gen game automatically, EA said, whereas PS5 owners will need to ensure their save is on the PS5 console (via transfer or cloud storage) and manually import it via a start-up menu.

As I keep saying, Sony might be doing awesome work with games but Microsoft is the one with experience in designing and building platform. Both can be true and evident at the same time.

Significantly, EA is also offering an upgrade path for owners of the last-gen disc versions who own a discless next-gen console. The publisher has opened a submission form and will provide digital games to those who can prove their purchase of the disc version.

And this is for those that insist there’s no feasible way to migrate physical collections to digital-only systems and the companies that insist there’s no easy legal workaround for such a transition. There’s EA for you all.