08.01.08

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Barriers to Reporting Truths

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux, Law, Microsoft, Mono, SCO at 4:38 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

OLPC a good example

Writing for popular publications can be a frustrating experiencing if one wants to speak one’s mind out. A journalist often needs to rely on statements made by other journalists, some of whom merely echo shamelessly-promotional press releases. Some PR lies gradually become factual, at least in some people’s minds. it’s dangerous.

Wealthier companies are able to push their press releases (and more of them) into a broader audience, which pollutes the pool of truth. Moreover, one must also be careful when making direct accusations even where compelling evidence clearly exists.

“Speaking based on personal experience, some editors feel afraid of material about Microsoft.”Examples of an inability to make accusations is the SCO case, where circumstantial evidence that can be found here is considered insufficient. To repeat the SCO strategy, Microsoft may try to 'poison' FOSS projects. Sadly, even the KDE Commit Digest now states: “Start of resurrecting C# support in KDevelop.” How can this be countered?

Speaking based on personal experience, some editors feel afraid of material about Microsoft. It can either be watered-down or reprimanded about in advance. Microsoft is a powerful force in trade journals. It’s an advertiser. For criticising Microsoft, as oppose to covering mundane topics, people will call the reporter a 'hater'. Of course, denouncing crime is a bad thing in our cautious press and fantasy-chasing society.

Over the past few years, I have been attacked using obscene slander (e.g. as in this recent example) by numerous pseudonymous characters whom I believe are connected to Microsoft (there is evidence to suggest so). There are signs that suggest things may change.

The unmasking of the posters marks a milestone in a rare legal challenge to the norms of online commenting, where arguments live on for years in search-engine results and where reputations can be sullied nearly irreparably by anyone with a grudge, a laptop and a WiFi connection…

Both women tried in vain to persuade the administrators of the AutoAdmit.com site to remove the threads, according to the lawsuit. But then the story of the cyber-harassment hit the front page of The Washington Post, and the law school trolls became fodder for cable news shows. Soon after, the female law students, with help from Stanford and Yale law professors, filed the federal lawsuit in June 2007 seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

The Jane Doe plaintiffs contend that the postings about them became etched into the first page of search engine results on their names, costing them prestigious jobs, infecting their relationships with friends and family, and even forcing one to stop going to the gym for fear of stalkers….

A federal judge ruled in January that the attorneys could serve subpoenas on ISPs and webmail providers. Using that power, the lawyers have unmasked some — though not all — of the AutoAdmit posters.

This type of process (lawsuits to unmask people) become more routine. Another case was reported yesterday. Could new laws, as opposed to litigation, ever deter and this stop corporate AstroTurfing?

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