A hearing happened yesterday that could radically change how we use the internet. Depending on how the Supreme Court rules on Van Buren vs U.S., third-party scraping could become a criminal activity. #scrapingisnotacrime

2:18 PM · Dec 1, 2020

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Scraping of publicly available data makes a more equal & inclusive internet. By blocking third-party scrapers, we would lose monitoring by data journalists, watchdog orgs, and researchers. Here’s some of the stuff that would disappear due to being labeled criminal activity:
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❌ Or studies that how disinfo spread on social media networks - like the recently released incredible study on Facebook echo chambers from @hamahmrd’s @Amir_Ghasemianwork @aaronclauset @markusmobius & @DavMicRot @duncanjwatts nitter.net/homahmrd/status/… —GONE
Excited to share a new preprint "Evaluating the scale, growth, and origins of right-wing echo chambers on YouTube", with great @Amir_Ghasemian & @aaronclauset & @markusmobius & @DavMicRot & @duncanjwatts: arxiv.org/abs/2011.12843 Here’s a little summary: 1/10
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❌ Being able to find lost websites or older versions - such as @internetarchive's quiet work of documenting culture + knowledge archive.org —GONE
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❌ Algorithmic monitoring of racist, sexist software. All the work that @yeshican’s @Data4BlackLives is encouraging data activists to do would be illegal d4bl.org/action.html --GONE
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❌ Election campaigning data and election analysis - such as @alloydotus or @alex_gaynor's 2020 election scraper made with a team of contributors on Github github.com/alex/nyt-2020-ele… —GONE
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❌ White hat hackers who help tech platforms find vulnerabilities in their stack - @rootkovska’s work on Intel, @0xcharlie’s work on Apple, @dakami’s work on DNS — the work would be considered criminal —GONE
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Scraping in the connective tissue of the internet! Without scraping: 1.) interoperability between platforms & scripts that make the cloud seamless could disappear. 2.) Important services that keep our internet healthy would disappear.
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"Extracting or scraping that data for analysis flips the power balance so that the audience decides what can be done with the data." says the @markup in a great thread from them that explains the problems of CFAA
🧵 We think that the Van Buren v. United States case before the Supreme Court today is a threat to data journalism. So much so that we filed an amicus brief. This is why:
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If the SC gives a shitty misinterpretation (legalese calls it “broad interpretation”) of the CFAA, scraping could become a criminal activity because of an outdated law from 1986 when we didn’t even have the WWW or a commercialized internet!
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The CFAA gives Big Tech cover to not share any data and claim that they're protecting users despite the fact they gather data from users and keep it in their walled gardens. Big tech is manipulating what is considered personal data and privacy
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PERSONAL DATA- The data we put up on sites with the purpose of public SHARING is our personal data. Eg when you post your data to Linkedin, you want others to see it. But who owns that data? Can Linkedin prevent others from scraping the data that you’ve already made public?
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Companies like Linkedin and Facebook are arguing that they are protecting users' privacy when they prevent scraping or data sharing. They are collapsing the context of data use and clumping all types of data together.
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e.g. they don’t differentiate between 1:1 DM messages from the university you list. We need to distinguish data use by type in order to understand that scraping should be allowed for publicly shareable data.
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Right now, privacy advocates like @EPICprivacy are buying it. They filed several amicus briefs in defense of the CFAA in the name of privacy - seriously WTF epic.org/amicus/cfaa/linkedi… epic.org/amicus/cfaa/van-bur…
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Part of the issue is that talking about scraping solely through privacy is incredibly limiting and narrows our understanding of what is at stake. We need to expand our language to personhood, which is about self-determination and agency over our own livelihoods and lives.
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With personhood, we could ask, does criminalizing scraping compromise people’s personhood? And you see all the ways it would prevent monitoring of abuses & therefore impede one’s personhood or a group’s communityhood. More about personhood in this essay: deepdives.in/you-are-not-you…
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Correction to tweets above - I meant to tag @themarkup ! Thanks you for all that you’re doing !
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❌ federal gov would lose ability to respond to federal disasters if third party scraping were a crime says @denicewross - @disastahguy that would affect @disastertechinc services!
Replying to @triciawang
If scraping were a crime, the federal gov would lose situational awareness of power outages during disasters csm.ornl.gov/newsite/documen…
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Gahhh @binarybits’s latest article on CFAA has me feeling so nervous like election week again ... arstechnica.com/tech-policy/… Thanks @vvas for the tip
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GIF
EVEN my dog is alarmed about the impending Supreme Court ruling on CFAA this week. She is proudly wearing @themarkup shirt #scrapingisnotacrime & talking all dogs to the cause instagram.com/p/CIUJ2H3pNRP/…
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