Google Keeps Pushing Scams

It is really starting to piss me off in no uncertain terms. I keep getting the same ad that I wrote about the last time. The last few times I paid more attention to who registered the ad with Google; it was always some “unverified” entity in Kazakhstan. I also looked around the CZ interwebs on the stories of people who fell for it and they reported that there usually was someone with strong Russian accent involved.

Every time I block the ad, and I report it. And that is where it becomes bizarre. Sometimes Google responds that they will take the ad down. Sometimes they respond that the ad exists no more and they cannot actually verify it. And twice they actually answered that the ad will remain because it is OK!

I am 100% sure that it is the same ad because it is the ONLY ad that I have ever reported to Google. I do not understand how this can be happening. There is something seriously wrong with Google ad vetting.

Why is Google Promoting Scams?

These last few days Google served me several identical ads on a fake investment scheme (on YouTube). The sites these ads point to mimic the looks of a prominent Czech news service novinky.cz and they are written in the form of a news article about an alleged law that our president Petr Pavel signed (the fake article contains even his picture). And the investment scheme is about investing in a prominent Czech company, in which the state owns the majority of shares. Very good job, with very few grammatical errors. The site does not pass even a very cursory check – all links point to the “registration” site for the fake investment, even links that on a normal news website should lead to other articles, comments, etc. Also, a short Google search shows that the company whose name is used for this fake investment scheme filed a lawsuit over a year ago.

Police are investigating the matter, but so far they could not find who profits from these ads – several people fell for them so there is an ongoing investigation for fraud in addition to impersonating a company and abusing their logo. So far they were not able to establish who is behind the scam and stop it.

And I have to ask – how come? How can it happen, that Google continues to show people ads for illegal activity for over a year by now? And how is it possible that they cannot be traced? One would expect that when someone wants to buy an ad from Google they would have to prove that they are a legitimate company/person with a legitimate need. And that said ad would be vetted before publishing. But apparently, it is possible to buy ad space from Google without any verifications and checks and without any human being involved at any point. I do wonder how the payments are done, since in the EU anonymous bank accounts are illegal. This scammer must operate within the EU because the ad is targeted at a Czech-speaking audience only.

We are not talking about a random person using a free service to publish shit on some social networks, I do understand that those cannot be all vetted prior to publishing. Here we are talking about someone purchasing an illegal service from Google and Google subsequently providing said illegal service unless and until somebody goes through the trouble to report it.

Which I did, btw. Three times over three days. All three times I got confirmation that the ad will be taken down. On the fourth day, I got an ad for a different fraudulent scheme and I reported that too. It too was taken down.

But this is evidently a broken system since people get defrauded and the perpetrators were not caught (yet).

 

Intersection of DnD and Social Justice

Today I was etching blades and listening to the YouTube channel LegalKimchi and I must recommend it so far. I especially liked his last video:

But his other videos that I managed to see today were good too. I haven’t yet seen everything and I am unlikely to see everything he has made, but so far he seems to be on the side of social justice, especially with regard to people of color.

Big Gay Sword

I have featured michaelcthulhu several times already, and he keeps proving that he is a wholesome and good person.

The summary quote from this video:
“I don’t pretend to understand God or being gay. But only one side is sending death threats to a 22-year old so I’m pretty sure how I feel in this situation.”

Mike is trying to mad science how to make various patina colors on his sword in this one. I feel like I could have saved him a lot of trouble with that.

Why Relying on Algorithms is Bad

About two years ago, I got into playing chess online and I also watch chess videos since then, usually at dinner or lunch. One funny thing that happened last year in the online chess community was that a live stream interview between the (then) most popular chess YouTuber Agadmator and chess Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura was banned for hate speech. Apparently, the algorithm has interpreted the phrases as “white is better here”, “black is defending”, “white attack” and similar as incitement to violence, and completely failed to recognize that the talk is about a board game.

At the same time, open racists and transphobes were spouting and often keep spouting their bile on YouTube completely unimpeded under the guise of “Humor” or “Just Asking Kwestchions”.

Today the algorithm struck marvelously again.

I do not remember precisely when I have seen so-called fractal burning of wood on YouTube, but I think it was some time last year. I thought that it looks cool so I researched how it is done. And I have immediately gone to the conclusion that cool looking it might be, but I certainly ain’t doing that, not even for a big clock. And YouTube channel “How To Cook That” has published an excellent video a few weeks ago explaining why fractal wood burning is not a good craft hack for woodworkers:

And of course, an excellent youtube video cannot go unpunished – the algorithm yanked it for allegedly promoting harmful and dangerous acts. And while it was banned, that same algorithm has actually recommended to me a video showing the hack in action. Marvelous work – a warning about dangerous practice gets banned as promotion of said practice and an actual promotion of it gets promoted. Logic straight as a corkscrew.

The video has been reinstated after YouTube got pushback, but I do wonder how many really good and possibly important videos get yanked and never get back because the channels that made them were small and did not have millions of subscribers to cry foul on their behalf. Because let’s be real – YouTube gets an actual human to do the review only when there is an outcry, otherwise, they do not bother.

I think that overreliance on algorithms has great potential for actual harm. Human social interactions are so complex that there are humans out there (like me) who are barely able to navigate them. I do not think that AI is there yet.

No, “Tankie” Is Not Orwellian

When a tankie complained on Pharyngula -click- it was instantly funny – in a sad, sad way – but it was made even funnier – in an even more sad way – later on when this particular tankie openly condoned the current Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“Tankie”, just like “TERF” is not a meaningless slur whose only purpose is to offend and insult. It is a descriptive term whose negative connotations stem entirely from context, i.e. from the repulsive, disgusting, and, frankly, downright evil attitudes of the person being described as such. If you are being offended by being called either of those two terms, the remedy is easy – stop displaying attitudes that fit the definition of the term.

True, “Tankie” originally meant leftists who supported the use of military force by the USSR government to quell popular reforms in Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the 50s and 60s of the last century. The reforms were simply deemed not in alignment with what USSR wanted so a military intervention was called in. Even though the Czechoslovakian Prague Spring was being entirely peaceful and democratic and above all socialist right until the tanks rolled in. Dubček was simply not the right kind of socialist for the authoritarian regime that had all the answers and did not need to reconsider anything, ever.

Applying the term to people who support current Russia’s use of tanks to subjugate a country when the will of its people strays from what Russia’s government thinks is in alignment with its interests is just logical evolution of its use.

And when a cheerleader for a brutal totalitarian regime invokes Orwell to criticize the spontaneous use of a term that aptly describes people cheering for a brutal totalitarian regime, it is just beyond ironic.

Ukraine – Central European Perspective

Adam Something is maybe not as far left as to satisfy purists, but he is reasonably far left to seem to be a decent person and not be an extremist. I find most of his videos informative, and I think his last one – a length-ish take on Ukraine’s conflict with Russia, is very good.

Adam Something is a Hungarian Youtuber currently residing in CZ (these are public pieces of information that he himself has disclosed on his YouTube channel). That might explain why he, whilst being a leftist, is very critical of both current Russia and the former USSR empire. He does not have the personal experience with the failed socialist experiment of the last century that I have, but the cultural memory is still fresh. Thus he shares my deep dislike of tankies.

The cold war was not a conflict between good guys and bad guys, just between two different types of bad guys. And that has not changed, at least as far as the current proxy conflict between USA and Russia goes. For some baffling reason, there appears to be a sizable amount of people who think that because the USA was the bad guy in every conflict for the last 75 years that it makes their opponents into good guys.

USA – Ain’t Just Proto-Fascist No More?

This video by Second Thought is very interesting, and I will probably watch his advertised Nebula series on the subject.

I have said as early as 1999 that the USA is a proto-fascist state, and I have said before Trump got into office that he is an outright fascist. It is important not to forget that although he lost the election, the current that brought him into the White House in the first place is still there and still strong.

TERFs Failing to Posthumously Claim Pratchett as Their Own

If I were on Twitter (which I am not) and if I were keeping up with what flavor of nonsense TERFs are currently peddling (which I am not) I would probably notice that they are trying to claim late Terry Pratchett as a transphobe.

And if I were making YouTube videos (which I am not) I would make one just like Shaun did (and I did not).

Whenever I think about trans issues and Terry Pratchett, the Monstrous Regiment immediately springs to mind. I did not like that book after the first reading, which was rare for Discworld books – I liked most of them straightaway. But it grew on me with subsequent reading and like most Discworld books I ended up reading it multiple times and I probably will read it some more before I finally die.

We cannot know what a dead person would say about some issue. Even a word from their living friends and relatives might not be entirely reliable, since friends and family could tend to be overly favorable when judging their loved ones who passed on (although when multiple people say the same, it does bear significant weight). Throughout the books, many things about Pratchett become apparent, among them his deep humanism and knowledge of the intricacies and complications of the human condition. There is absolutely no doubt that he would reject any notion of trying to shoehorn people into neat little boxes with simple definitions. All of his books stay and fall on the only “simple” fact about humans – that each is their own person and categories and words are mere imperfect crutches that we use for communication, always imperfectly.

What is The Situation in India – View of Indian Doctors

TLDW – It’s hell.

It looks like the Indian government made the same mistake that the Czech government has made – the first wave of the pandemics was so well handled that politicians got the feeling that it is all over now. And communicated this to the public, who were all too eager to believe it. And because India has both a lot more people than Czechia and fewer hospital beds per capita, the disaster is proportionally worse.

I have never expected to see the truth of the saying “you should not rest on your laurels” demonstrated in such a tragic way.

Medlife crisis is an excellent and entertaining science and health-oriented YouTube Channel. This video, however, is not of the entertaining and funny kind. I do recommend his other videos too.

“The silent majority agrees with me”, gender critical edition

Open letters are a time honoured form of activism. They allow individuals to connect over a single and very specific issue and raise awareness for that cause. They are, of course, also problematic in a way, since they usually are initiated by people who already have some influence and publicity, because nobody publishes an open letter signed by 40 noobs with a blog and a 50 people Twitter account, so they’re usually a tool of academia, authors, or various kinds of celebrities. At least you need a couple of celebrities to boost your idea.

The latest round of “gender critical”, aka transphobic open letter seems to have suffered from a certain lack of celebrity endorsement, which is why they decided to simply sign the names of dead women to their cause. “Come on, Giliell”, I hear you say, “nobody would be that dishonest”. But go, look for yourselves: Here it is.

The letter itself is the usual transphobic whining about trans women taking things from cis women, like all those shiny Olympic medals trans women have so far failed to win. The novel “Detransition, Baby”, by Torres Peters, has been listed for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. The usual suspects are all up in arms because a literary prize that was founded to celebrate women’s often  undervalued contributions to fiction has dared to list a novel by a trans woman, and this is of course another instance of a “trans identified male” taking things from “biological women”, just like in sports. Only that of course they always try to base their bigotry on biology, claiming that anybody amab has intrinsic and immutable advantages over anybody afab. Does this mean they’re indirectly claiming that women cannot write and therefore need some protected prizes where they don’t have to compete with men?*

But let’s not get sidetracked from the incredible dishonesty of “the dead agree with me via ouija board”. Among the “supporters” of the letter you’ll find Emily Dickinson, Daphne du Maurier and Mary Anne Evans, aka George Elliot. Why they couldn’t get the Transphobe in Chief, the woman writer who publishes under her initials, a male pseudonym of a guy who tortured gay people, and who singlehandedly invented women back in the 1990s to sign their letter, I don’t know. Now, we all like to claim great woman of the past as our forbearers, brand ourselves as their heirs, but a simple fact is that we have no idea what their opinion on many things was or would have been. Who knows what Rosa Luxemburg would have thought about gay marriage? For a couple of other issues we do know their positions and they are horrible, especially with regards to race. Is it possible that these people would have agreed with them? Sure. Does that mean anything? Not unless you declare them infallible. Now, given that many transphobes are also terribly racist and homophobe, they probably consider that a feature, not a bug, since they happily outsource critical thinking.

It is, of course, also possible that those women would have told them to stuff it. It happens time again with modern authors who they suppose agree with their bigotry, like Margret Atwood. And after all, it is pretty unimportant. Those women are long dead, and while celebrities sure can help or hinder a cause, their opinion does not magically make a position right or wrong. Human rights are not determined by Grammy nominations or book prizes. There’s a hell lot of horrible people with book prizes or Nobel prizes. In the end that’s just an argument from second hand authority and you learn back in grade 10 that those are not actually arguments at all. By the end of the day it’s just another episode of transphobes (if you read the list you will indeed find familiar names) being terrible, and none of them sees any issue with this.

*Just to make this clear: I’m very fond of things like Women’s Prize for Fiction. We don’t have a level playing field and authors don’t get published by sole merit of their writing. Until we have a level playing field we do need Women’s Prizes, Black Literature Prizes, Queer Literature Prizes etc.