Monthly Archives: January 2011

What Dean Baker Said

In Debts Should be Honored, Except When the Money Is Owed to Working People — Dean Baker.

Posted in Econ & Money | Leave a comment

China Has its Revolutionaries Too

And they use the internet.

An example is this web video, created in China.  It is framed as a parable, but as you can see from this analysis at China Geeks it is really about recent incidents that have outraged the Chinese public. The video, now on Youtube, was first posted on Tudou, a Chinese video site, but has been taken down.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rnw5BvxSDmM&amp

Here’s the start of China Geeks’ analysis at via “Little Rabbit, Be Good” A Subversive New Years’ Video Card:

This video has been being passed around today on Twitter, Weibo, and other Chinese social networking sites. Most of my Chinese friends have seen it, although they almost all also work in media. Still, it’s fair to say the video is pretty widespread.

Regardless of what the disclaimer says8, it is probably obvious even to those who don’t speak Chinese that this video makes repeated and explicit reference to real life events. The milk powder death, the fire, the illegal demolitions, the beating of protesters, the self-immolation, the “Tiger Gang” car accident, etc. are all references to real-life events that any Chinese viewer would be immediately and intimately familiar with.

Of course, sarcastic animations and other web jokes about these incidents are common. What is not common is the end of the video, which depicts a rabbit rebellion where masses of rabbits storm the castle of the tigers and eat them alive. For viewers who have already gathered that in this picture, rabbits represent ordinary Chinese people and the tigers represent the government/the powerful, this is a revolutionary–literally–statement. The clip ends with what seems almost like a call to arms for the new year, with Kuang Kuang saying it will be a meaningful (有意义, could also be translated as “important”) year and then the end title reading: “The year of the rabbit has come. Even rabbits bite when they’re pushed.”

This isn’t the bullshit so-called “inciting to subvert state power” that Liu Xiaobo was given eleven years for. This video is actually inciting people to subvert state power.

This is, by the way, the year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Zodiac.

Update: boingboing, How China censors Egypt news, and why the story is so sensitive in China sends you to Global Voices Advocacy, China: Bridging news on Egypt. This begins:

On 28 of January, when commenting on the political situation in Egypt, the spoke person from Chinese foreign ministry stated that the Chinese government will continue to support the Egyptian government in maintaining social stability and oppose any foreign intervention in Egypt. Since then, the term “Egypt” has been blocked from search in major social media websites, such as Sina and Sohu micro-blog hosting sites.

Posted in Politics: International | 1 Comment

New Jotwell Section: Legal History

JotstarToday Jotwell: The Journal of Things We Like (Lots) inaugurates a new section on Legal History.  The Legal History section is edited by Prof. Kunal Parker of the University of Miami School of Law and Christopher Schmidt of the Chicago-Kent College of Law. Together they have recruited a great team of Contributing Editors.

The first posting in the Legal History section is A Global History of Law, Empire, and Geography by Richard Ross.

Jotwell is always open to contributors. See the Call for Papers for details.

Posted in Jotwell | Leave a comment

Videosurveypanel.com’s Amazing Contractual Terms

I mistyped the address for Youtube.com (I left off the final letter), and got redirected to videosurveypanel.com, which managed to convince me for a considerable period of time that it was running a survey for YouTube. It wasn’t until I dug into the unbelievably one-sided contract terms that I got suspicious – it didn’t sound like Google could be this evil. And (thanks to searching on Google) I confirmed that it wasn’t.

Not only is the way they reel you in borderline deceptive — I think YouTube would have a good shot at a trademark claim since I was genuinely deceived for some time and YouTube would very likely win a UDRP action — but the contract really is an amazing piece of draftsmanship: so one-sided as to likely not be enforceable (EDIT: against the user; the user could have various claims against the company. So could the FTC.).

Here’s what you see at first:

You’ve been selected from the Miami region to take part in our annual visitor survey.
This will only take 30 seconds of your time and will enhance user experience.
Upon completion you will have the opportunity to get a free Macbook Air, Sony Vaio, or Vizio HDTV.

Even at the outset I think “get” is a bit tacky for what I presume is going to be a minuscule chance to win a drawing sometime in the far future, but hey, it’s marketing. The questions were gender, age group, number of videos watched online a week (4-10), and how much I hate ads in videos (a lot). Then on to to the register for the sweepstakes part of the show. I “chose” the flashy laptop from the option. The next screen invites me to give my email and cellphone number under a headline saying

Thank you for your response.
If you are interested, this is your opportunity to
Get your free gift

There’s that “get” again. Nothing yet about odds. Of course, I’m not going to give my phone number without seeing the Privacy Policy. And it turns out to be dire.

First, they can change it retroactively any time:

[The Company] reserves the right to revise this Privacy Policy at any time simply by posting such revision, so we encourage you to review it periodically.

Second, if I give them a cellphone number (what if I don’t have a cell? presumably I’ve violated the terms of the offer?) they will spam me with ads.

By completing and submitting a registration form you are consenting to receive SMS, wireless or other mobile offering to your cell phone. You understand that your wireless carrier’s standard charges and rates apply to these messages. To unsubscribe or discontinue SMS messages, send “STOP”, “END”, or “QUIT” to the SMS text message you have received and the SMS sender will unsubscribe you from further SMS messages within 10 days of receiving such request.

Since I don’t have a texting plan, I’ll pay for each of them until I tell them to stop. Even though they have computers, it will take the squirrel in the cage in the back room ten days to do the data entry.

Third, they will sell my data to advertisers:

When you answer “yes” or “no” to a survey question, some or all of the information that you submitted during the website registration process will be transferred to advertisers that we believe may be of interest to you without providing you with another opportunity to review the information.

When you select “yes” next to an offer, we will transfer some or all of the information that you submitted during the website registration process to the applicable advertiser without providing you with another opportunity to review the information either with our own technology or a 3rd party proxy.

Surely, by saying I want the laptop, they will say I’ve agreed to the above. And even if not, they’ve still got me:

By completing and submitting a Company registration form, you are consenting to receive marketing communications from the Company and its third party marketing partners. If, after you have shared your information with the Company, you decide that you do not want to receive marketing communications from the Company and its third party marketing partners, you can discontinue the communications and following the opt-out instructions. If you have registered or submitted information under more than one e-mail account, you must submit separate unsubscribe requests for each account.

Fourth, if all that wasn’t enough, there is a separate document called Terms on the first page of the survey, and “Terms and Conditions” at the end of the privacy policy. It turns out this isn’t a lottery at all.

It purports to be one heck of webwrap contract:

This promotion is conducted exclusively by www.videosurveypanel.com, and is subject to participation terms and conditions. Receipt of your item requires compliance with offer terms, including: age and residency requirements; registration with valid e-mail address, shipping address and phone number; completion of user survey and sponsor offers. Upon completion of all requirements, we will ship your incentive gift to your verified shipping address. Fulfillment may be delayed based on availability.

Oh-oh: “completion of user survey and sponsor offers”. Typically that means jumping through a nearly endless series of hoops. If you find a single question too intrusive – no prize. If you miss a single complex detail designed to make you fail on a tight deadline – no prize. If you can’t prove you jumped through all the hoops – no prize.

By now I’m really puzzled: I expected better from Google. (And indeed, this turns out to have nothing to do with Google, so that’s one good thing about this.)

But let’s soldier on through the Terms & Conditions and see what they say.

It doesn’t start well:

PLEASE READ THESE TERMS & CONDITIONS CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THIS WEBSITE. BY USING THIS WEBSITE, YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY, AND TO COMPLY WITH, THESE TERMS & CONDITIONS UNLESS YOU OFFER DIFFERENT TERMS THAT ARE ACCEPTED IN WRITING BY www.videosurveypanel.com . IF YOU DO NOT ACCEPT THESE TERMS & CONDITIONS, YOU ARE NOT AUTHORIZED TO ACCESS OR USE THIS WEBSITE FOR ANY PURPOSE.

Leaving aside that webwrap contracts are almost certainly not enforceable if the user isn’t forced to read and acknowledge them, taken literally this language means I can’t even read the Terms & Conditions unless I agree with them. Or that by reading them, I’m agreeing to them. Sloppy and mean. And not founded in law.

The next paragraphs is no better. It seems I’m acknowledging that I love them:

By registering on this website, you are certifying you have read, understand and agree to these Terms & Conditions, as well as our Privacy Policy. Our Privacy Policy can be accessed and reviewed here. You also acknowledge that this website provides valuable rewards to consumers who respond to and complete the specified number of advertiser offers and that you are accessing this website solely for this purpose.

Note the ominous but undefined “specified number of advertiser offers” they intend to try to make customers sign on to.

But don’t worry: if it looks like you might win a valuable prize, videosurveypanel.com reserves the right to give you a single piece of bubblegum instead:

www.videosurveypanel.com reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to revise these Terms & Conditions at any time, for any reason, without notice. www.videosurveypanel.com also reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to change the methods through which future rewards are earned. This may include changing the approval requirements necessary to receive future rewards by increasing or decreasing the number of advertiser offers that must be completed to qualify, and adding or decreasing the amount of steps to confirm that you have a legitimate account. www.videosurveypanel.com may also add or remove any product or service listed as a reward at any time. If www.videosurveypanel.com replaces a reward, the new reward may not be of equal value.

Note that by now we don’t even have a contract, since they haven’t actually promised anything at all. But if you don’t like it, well, you’ve violated the terms of service:

Please check these Terms & Conditions periodically for changes. Your use of this website following any such modification constitutes your agreement to follow and be bound by the Terms & Conditions as modified. The last date these Terms & Conditions were revised is set forth below. IF YOU BREACH ANY OF THESE TERMS & CONDITIONS YOUR RIGHT TO USE THIS WEBSITE WILL TERMINATE AND YOUR ACCOUNT WILL BE DISQUALIFIED.

(Bold in original)

And it gets worse. The “rewards” are not actually rewards.

To qualify for the reward on this particular website, you may be required to complete reward offers from the Silver, Gold, and Platinum Offer Pages. Please refer to the requirements of each reward carefully.

*Please note that available reward offers will vary. Some reward offers require a purchase. Credit card offers may require you to activate the card by making a purchase, transferring a balance or taking a cash advance.

Got that? It’s going to be a very bad deal. But you can’t back out when you want to:

(1.) Your account/reward eligibility will expire 60 days from the date you register on this website. Upon expiration, you will no longer be eligible to receive the reward.

(2.) There is no way to cancel an account. If you no longer wish to remain a part of this website, you should refrain from accessing your account.

Yes a very very bad deal indeed. A couple of pages into the (very long) document, we finally get some hints of what is in store:
Continue reading

Posted in Law: Everything Else, Law: Internet Law, Law: Privacy | 5 Comments

This Takes the Cake (Updated)

A fertilizer company just bid (and paid) $10,000 for a cake baked by the 9-year-old daughter of the Florida State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (R).

The second-highest bid at the Polk County Youth Fair Auction was $600.

I can’t imagine why they would do that.

The Putnams donated $9,000 of their windfall from The Mosaic Co. to the State Fair.  And kept $1,000.

Via Adam Putnam’s daughter bakes a $10,000 cake via Mosaic Pays Big for Young Putnam’s Cake.

UPDATE (1/28 5:30pm): There’s a whole new version of the story today:

Abigail wanted to give the county fair $9,000, her 4-H Club $500 and keep $500 for herself, the usual going rate for auction cakes. But the award would have violated the state’s gift ban.

And so, Putnam negotiated with Abigail, offering to buy her an iPod instead. She countered that she wanted three iPods, so her sisters, including 7-year-old Emma, could have them as well.

“It’s been extremely awkward and embarrassing,” Putnam said. “And it’s gone viral.”

Meanwhile Mosaic is saying it was all the act of an unauthorized employee, but despite having figured that out, they are “investigating”.

Posted in Florida | Leave a comment

Egypt Cuts Internet Access & SMS

Reports are coming in that Egypt is now under an Internet and SMS blackout, just hours before a new series of major protests are planned against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

Sebone, a major Egyptian service provider based in Italy, is reporting that no Internet traffic is entering or exiting the country as of 12:30 AM Egyptian time.

via Internet Access & SMS Blocked in Egypt as Protests Escalate. See also C.Net’s Reports: Internet disruptions hit Egypt.

At present, the US government only wants the power to monitor all communications, and to require intermediaries to store them for a couple of years in case law enforcement wants them later, not the power to pull a kill switch.  That, fortunately, could never happen here.

Nor, of course, could torture.

UPDATE: On Twitter follow the #jan25 and #jan28 hash tags for user reports.

Tech reports at BGPMon, Internet in Egypt offline and Renesys, Egypt Leaves the Internet.

Posted in Civil Liberties, Internet, Politics: International | 5 Comments

When Manners Get You Nowhere

Worth reading in full: Justin Norman, t r u t h o u t, When Manners Get You Nowhere: 30 Weeks of Protesting Torture in 2010.  It begins:

Two years ago, if someone had suggested to me that I don an orange jumpsuit and a black hood and haul a cross down the street in opposition to torture, I would have laughed at them. Yet here I am at the end of 2010 having pulled that stunt, or something akin to it, more than 30 times in the past year.

Street protests in America today are far less common than they have been in years past, but they are particularly out of place in the relatively upscale business districts of West Des Moines, Iowa. There, week after week, a small, rotating group of ordinary people carry out the old tradition of holding signs inscribed with simple messages. These range in tone from straightforward pleas – “Shut down Guantanamo,” “No More Torture: Not Here, Not There, Nowhere” and “Free Shaker Aamer” – to sarcastic slogans – “USA: Torturing Our Way to World Peace” and “Don’t Worry, We’ll Tell You What to Confess!”

Note from the marketing department: if you are looking to convert strangers to your ideas, waving signs on a street corner is not your best bet.

Read the whole thing.

Earlier related post: When Bad Taste Is Acceptable (April 11, 2004)

Posted in Torture | Leave a comment