Sunday, December 16, 2018

"Bad Command" And The Perils of Petitions

If a petition has very few signatures, a reasonable observer might assume that not a lot of people agree with the petition.  Likewise, if an online petition has thousands of signatures, it suggests that the petition has tremendous support.

Apparently, if the petition is online, there may be other reasons for lack of support, or overwhelming support.

For instance, last evening, this writer was mildly inclined to sign a petition asking the new Congress to support copyright owners. How many times, though, does a mildly enthusiastic person keep going back to sign a petition (for the first and only time) when entering the first couple of letters of ones first name crashes ones computer, logs one out of all sites, and closes ones browser? 

I tried four times before giving up on my right to support copyright. Interestingly, it was the "firstname" block that was boobytrapped. If one started with ones zip code, nothing happened.   Apple called the issue a "Bad Command".

Imagine a dystopian world where one tries to vote, but if one votes in a way that ones internet provider or a sponsor of the site opposes, that vote would be called a bad command, and would be blocked.

Hacking democracy happens. Online polls and referenda have been manipulated.

Previously, there's been news about tricky campaigns where people who are not eligible to lobby someone elses parliamentary representative (even one in another country) find ways to geek around the rules.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul does not really need to worry about how someone in Scotland would like him to vote on copyright issues.   And European MEPs (apology for the tautology) should not be tricked into voting according to the wishes of someone with very busy fingers and geek skills who is domiciled in California, USA.

Even more shocking is this allegation about foreign political fund-raising at the expense of American taxpayers:

However, there is another peril of petitions and surveys. The petition launchers and survey creators may sell your private information and your private opinions to unscrupulous others.

One outfit that appears to purchase petition and survey results could be  Check it out. They display the most intimate results about individuals (which are not always accurate), and offer to suppress this "information" for a monthly fee. The foreign operatives of this site will ask dissatisfied customers not to contact their credit card providers. Be sure to disregard such requests.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry

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