Speaking At The Liberty Forum In February

I've accepted an invitation to speak at the Liberty Forum in New Hampshire in February 2014. The Liberty Forum is hosted by the Free State Project, which seeks to persuade libertarian-minded citizens to move to New Hampshire to pursue more limited governments.

Here's the talk I am giving:

Online Censorship By Lawfare: How Thin-Skinned People Abuse The Legal System To Shut You Up, And What You Can Do About It

The internet gives us unprecedented power to talk about things that are important to us. Our audience is limited only by the persuasiveness of our message and our creativity in spreading it. But some of our neighbors don’t like being criticized online. Across America, everyone from rich corporations to isolated and deranged individuals are taking advantage of a flawed legal system to shut down online speech they don’t like. Regardless of the merits of their cases, unprincipled people can and will sue you to shut you up, and their suits cost time and money. What can you do about it? Ken White is a First Amendment litigator and a blogger at Popehat.com, where he uses the “Popehat Signal” to help beleaguered bloggers find pro bono defense against defamation suits. He’ll explain the flaws in our legal system that allow this abuse, and describe what you can do to protect yourself and make speech more free in America.

I'm also participating in a panel on criminal justice issues.

We all know that the correct response to law enforcement in consensual encounters is "Am I being detained?" and "Am I free to go?" but what happens if you get arrested? What should you expect to happen if you end up going to court? This panel not only examines procedural aspects of the justice system but also deals with how to deescalate law enforcement encounters to avoid arrest and court.

I'm looking forward to meeting fellow speakers I admire like Trevor Timm and Clark Neily, among others. I'm also interested in hearing ideas that challenge me, and trying to challenge others. The Free State Project, and some of the speakers at the event, have views I don't share; I have views they don't share. But I think we all share — or should share — core beliefs about freedom of expression and the dangers of overly powerful and unaccountable law enforcement, and I look forward to exploring those topics. It's a good thing for people from different backgrounds with different views to converge on core values.

I'd enjoy meeting any Popehat readers who are there.

[Early in the new year I've also been invited to give a talk about sexual harassment prevention at a secular event, in case you think this engagement makes me too easy to predict.]

Glitch in the matrix

Traffic during the past 48 hours

Traffic during the past 48 hours

After 4 hours, the server came back to life. The ISP's customer service representative sent a note to explain that (a) they could not find a problem and didn't know what we were on about, and (b) they fixed it and were glad to help.

Hold that thought…

Simple comment bookmarking!

Thanks to lurker (and friend of the 'hat) Tony H. for providing a handy Javascript utility that allows readers of the site to mark their place among the comments and resume reading at that juncture. Tony rolled it for his own use, but was kind enough to share.

In the lower-right corner of each comment, you'll see a pushpin icon. If you click it, the browser will silently set a cookie remembering your place. Next time you visit that page of comments, look for the corresponding pushpin right at the top of the Comments section. Click it, and you'll scroll right down to the comment you previously marked (if it's on the present page).

That should allow you to pay attention to more weighty matters, such as correcting whoever's wrong on the internet!

A Policy Under Consideration

I'm seriously considering banning or pasting anyone who shows up in the comments to say "I like Popehat author X but I hate Popehat author Y," or "I wish I could read Popehat author Q without reading Popehat author Z," or words to that effect. Patrick already decided to ban anyone who warns us not to harm our brand, a perfectly sound policy.

I suspect this approach would not deprive us of any audience participation of significant value.

Feel free to comment. Please don't let me being in a pasting mood deter you.

I have altered the blog

Pray that I alter it further.

In the meantime, be sure to express your opinion in the comment field enhancement post.

I have implemented the following features for now:

  • A preview pane that appears below the comment field as you type and shows you how your comment will appear after you submit it.
  • A 5-minute timeout allowing you to edit your comment in case the preview pane betrays you.
  • New HTML tags, including <table> and <tr> and <td> and <ul> and <li>.
  • Clearer explanatory text below the comment field.
  • Top Commenters by Volume (as measured in decibels) in the sidebar.

Spam Attack Immediately Follows Post on Brett Kimberlin

When people argue for robust "report spam" and "report abuse" tools on social media, I always have a reservation: those tools are inevitably abused by unprincipled people who want to silence speech they don't like.

Twitter is no different. The report function on Twitter is routinely abused in an effort to attack political opponents.1

In a mildly creative twist, some abusers flood opponents with huge numbers of spam followers. Then they report the opponent to Twitter. See, buying followers is a breach of terms of service, and flooding someone with spam followers makes it appear they have bought followers. If you want to protect yourself from this, the best way is to make your account private — which achieves the abuser's goal by reducing your audience.

Today Popehat's twitter account got hit with about 20,000 spam followers in the course of a couple of hours. That attack followed, by about an hour, my posting the Popehat Signal seeking help for bloggers sued by Brett Kimberlin. Some of the bloggers sued by Brett Kimberlin have also been attacked by surges of spam followers.

But I'm sure all that is just a coincidence.

Twitter makes this extremely difficult to deal with, because it is laborious to block spam followers one by one, and because Twitter forces you to contact support via form, and yet there is no suitable form for this situation.

Just Tinkerin' And Thinkin'



Eventually we'll offer shirts and stuff. When we do, we'll set it up so that any proceeds that would otherwise go to us will go to charity.

Ideas and suggestions are welcome.