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Crystal Cox is Getting So Much Free Speech Coming at Her, She Probably Got Some in Her Eye

Redwood sunlight by NPS Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsThere is not much I can add to the saga of Crystal Cox except for a few dirty puns. The bottom line of this story is that a “blogger” is not always a journalist. Sometimes a “blogger” is just an extortionist. I will relate the story by shamelessly quoting from better legal bloggers.

A good summary, in dramatic form, of how Crystal Cox operates comes to us from Jordan Rushie:

Imagine this…. you Google yourself. To your surprise, a whole bunch of stuff that is blatantly untrue comes up. Being an adult, you call the person who wrote it. This is how the conversation goes down:

“Did you write all that stuff on a website about me?”
“Yup. I’m an investigative blogger journalist!”
“Um, a bunch of the stuff you wrote about me is untrue. Actually all of it is.”
“Oh sure, I know. But I’m a journalist blogger so I can say whatever I want. First Amendment, bitch! But tell you what – I’m also reputation manager. If you pay me $2,500 a month, I’m sure a lot of that untrue stuff would go away.”
“Uhhhhhh… wait a second. You wrote a bunch of stuff that’s untrue about me. And now you’ll only take it down if I pay you?”
“Yup! And if you DON’T pay me it’s going to get worse! I’m going to buy a bunch of domain names that involve you and your family. Not only will I smear your reputation, but I’ll smear theirs, too! I’ll write all kinds of stuff, like call your wife a slut! I’ll even go after your four year old child!”
“That’s extortion!”
“No silly, it’s not extortion! It’s journalism! Investigative journalism!”

You’re probably saying to yourself “nah, that couldn’t happen. That’s illegal. A person could get in a lot of trouble for doing something so irresponsible and probably illegal.”

Too bad that’s exactly what Crystal Cox did. Twice now. Maybe more.

Crystal Cox first came to the public’s attention last year, when a judge ruled against her in a defamation suit and ordered her to pay $2.5 million. After some hand-wringing over what this might mean for other bloggers, it eventually became clear that Crystal Cox actually runs an online, reputation-based protection racket. That is many things, but it ain’t journalism.

At the heart of the current kerfuffle is first amendment bad-ass Marc Randazza (Full disclosure: he’s my lawyer in this thing I’ve got going on. That’s how I know he is a bad-ass.) When Crystal Cox did not get what she wanted from Marc Randazza, she went after him by registering dopey domain names like marcrandazzasucks.com. When that didn’t work, she went after his family, registering domains in the name of his wife and three-year-old daughter.

This is not a valiant warrior fighting the forces of darkness to defend freedom of speech. While it may be true that the front-line warriors for free speech (and I mean the speakers themselves, not their attorneys), are often ultimately fighting to clear the way for people who actually have something useful to say, Crystal Cox doesn’t even fit that description. She is not a reporter, journalist, or even the kind of blogger who just regurgitates other people’s news in a restated format (something about which I know a thing or two.) She is not a blogger in any meaningful, useful, constructive sense. She is a thug, nothing more, as court documents and her own statements and actions amply demonstrate.

Trying to shut her down is not necessarily the answer, though. In some ways, it is helpful to know that people like her are out there. As Marc Randazza says: “Sunshine is the best disinfectant. The cure for bad speech is more speech.”

Consider this my ray of sunshine.

Photo credit: Redwood sunlight by NPS Photo [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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Pinterest is going to change the world. At a quantum level. Or something. I really don’t know.

People Who Use Pinterest  via ilovechartsI don’t get Pinterest. I’m not going to deny that many, many people seem to love it. It seems to primarily appeal to women, so (a) I can accept that perhaps I am just demographically excluded, and (b) I’m not going to overly bemoan something that millions of people seem to enjoy so much.

Its status as the fastest-growing social network is both impressive (12 million unique visitors) and relatively meaningless (6 or 7 years ago, most people had no idea what “social media” was). I signed up for Pinterest in January, and every day I get new followers, mostly because you can register through Facebook, and it will auto-follow your Facebook friends for you–every time one of my Facebook friends signs up, therefore, I get a new follower on Pinterest. It’s like signing up for a free friend-delivery service!

I also created a “board” (where you “pin” photos that you either upload to the site or link to elsewhere on the web) out of a sense of sarcasm. After encountering a series of pictures of Nutella-coated bacon on the aptly-named Geeks are Sexy site, I had an epiphany. As soon as I figured out that Firefox’s cut-and-paste function for some reason does not work well with Pinterest’s code, the “Food porn” board was born. It currently has 182 followers. All it requires is occasional Google image searches of phrases like “key lime pie” and “bacon-covered meat.”

It should be no surprise, therefore, that this website, which only went fully public a little over a year ago, has “experts” in its use in small business marketing. Anyone with the ability to use the word “expert” with no apparent sense of irony can become a “social media expert” in this day and age.

Nutella-covered bacon, via Pinterest, via geeksaresexyOf interest to people who care about such things is the suspicion that Pinterest might actually be a massive, albeit possibly unintentional, mechanism for enabling copyright infringement. At its most basic level, Pinterest is a means to post other peoples’ pictures online with no requirement of correct attribution. Of course, the entire internet is a mechanism for failing to attribute copyrighted material correctly, but Pinterest has made it so much easier. It’s like Flickr for stealing.

Also, as everyone by now knows, the site may have some interesting ways of making money.

I’m not holding my breath that Pinterest is going to change the world. For every revolution aided by social media’s ability to connect people, there are around 2,000 boards that really only help some recent sorority member pick the perfect tiara for her wedding.

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You have until Thursday before Google gets all up in your stuff

Child Saluting American FlagAnyone using any sort of Google product has now had ample opportunity to not read the terms of its new “unified privacy policy,” which will align the various privacy policies of its many different services (searches, YouTube, Gmail, secretly searching for LOLcats saying dirty words, etc.)

As of March 1, 2012, the new policy will go into effect, and data collected from your search history will become available to other Google services, for marketing purposes (h/t ABA Journal).

You ought to know what that means: those late-night searches for pictures of tree sloths eating bananas will become part of the algorithm used to target advertisements at you. Some people may not want that.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, who is fast becoming one of the most relevant advocacy groups in the world (thanks, SOPA!) has a step-by-step guide to removing your entire Google search history ahead of the big day.

I tried doing it, and Google is telling me that I do not even have have “Web History” turned on. I’m not sure how that could be, since I tend to sign up for new internet and social media services without even thinking about it, but maybe this means all my secrets are safe…

Of course, Google will record all of your searches no matter what, but you can opt not to have your history get shared for marketing purposes. Your search history will always be available to law enforcement, of course.

Just thought you should know about this.

Photo credit: Child Saluting American Flag by JefferyTurner, on Flickr.

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My advice to people who use Twitter to send automated spam

Go die in a fucking fire.

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Bring on the Trolls!!!

I have added Disqus commenting to the blog. You may now troll me across multiple platforms.

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Indeed I am Curmudgeonly…

The AgeAnalyzer will take a look at you blog and, using unknown and probably arbitrary parameters, guesstimate the age of the blogger. Try it, it’s fun!

Several people (indicating that more than one person reads my blog – yay!) have described my writing style as “curmudgeonly.” I doubt I am (or will ever be) up to a Scott Greenfield-level of curmudgeonliness, but I take it as a high compliment.

Imagine my (somewhat) surprise when AgeAnalyzer told me this:

I’m 37 years old as I sit writing this. Yet AgeAnalyzer identifies my writing with someone in an age bracket just below my parents. They think I have 12-28 years more relevant life experience and wisdom than I do.

How does that make me feel?

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I maintain my faith in humanity – for now

Illustration by Ravenscraft Graphics, Photo by Wayne Slezak PhotographyThe American Bar Association has published its 5th Annual Blawg 100 list, naming its picks for the one hundred best blogs dealing with legal issues. (Law + blog = blawg. Get it? Ha!)

For the fifth straight year, I am not on the list.

This gives me reason to believe that the American Bar Association knows what it is doing and is an excellent judge of blog quality.

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Grandpa lawyer doesn’t understand your newfangled technoggoly

I wrote the headline to this post on August 17, 2011, and I saved a draft that only consisted of four URL’s. Honestly, I have no idea exactly where I was going to go with this, but the headline was too, uh, weird not to post. Rather than try to piece together exactly what sort of thesis I was going after almost four months ago, I’ll just link to the articles that so inspired me.

Obviously it was something about older lawyers eschewing newfangled technology.

cat
see more Lolcats and funny pictures, and check out our Socially Awkward Penguin lolz!

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I’ve got 72 problems, but a lack of topics to blog about ain’t one.

First, I should apologize for that horrendous appropriation of a hip hop lyric.

Second, I apologize for what is about to become a “why I haven’t been blogging” blog post, one of the more obnoxious cop-outs of the written word.

I’ve previously noted that I have embarked on a new journey of discovery as a freelance writer, spending a good chunk of my time as a “ghost blogger” for a legal marketing company. After a long day’s blogging, my brain is pretty mushy. It’s also generally easier to post things to my Tumblr blog and pretend that I’m being original.

Today, I carved out some time to do a bit of personal blogging, because:

a) It’s partly how I got this professional legal blogging gig in the first place, and it’s really something I should keep up with;

2) It keeps me sane;

C) It feeds my narcissistic need to see my name in print;

iv) I can’t write about topics like animal rights porn anywhere else; and

qq) Did I mention it keeps me sane?

Now then, WordPress has this handy feature called “Press This” that lets me put a button on the dash of my browser (Firefox at the moment) to bookmark stories for later blogging inspiration. Today I decided to tackle a few of the drafts I’ve saved since I discovered that feature back in August.

I had 84 “drafts” saved. I do not want to write that many posts, particularly on things that seemed like a good idea when it was still 100+ degrees outside and Texas was still on fire. So I took it upon myself to thin the herd, removing drafts that have become obsolete, drafts that no longer sound that interesting, and drafts that are somehow incomprehensible to me, even though I’m the one that wrote them (it happens).

Even after a good, hard winnowing, I still have 72 drafts sitting there. And here I am writing about those 72 drafts instead of just writing the dang posts. I guess that means I have 73 drafts. Sweet Jeebus, blogging is awesomely meta.

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Fun times at #BlogathonATX

Lots of fun at BlogathonATX. Just thought you should know.

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