What does the Robin Hood Tax and Skynet have to do with SOPA?

There has been lots of bitching by the banks against the Robin Hood tax. Detractors complain that it will make financial centres like London untenable by charging a .005% tax on stock market trades. I’m sure many would appreciate this move, however the likelihood of a mass migration of merchant bankers to Singapore or Australia is minimal.

What isn’t often discussed is a nifty side effect of the tax.

Ever wonder how ‘Rogue traders’ can bring down banks? It’s not huge transactions going south anymore – but death by a thousand papercuts.

The modern stock market isn’t run by people – it isn’t the ‘wall street’ of the 80’s with folk running around saying ‘Buy! Sell!’, it’s largely automated. A nice system scraping teeny-weeny amounts of cash with each transaction. A fraction of a point up or down still makes money – if you do it often enough – millions of times a second. However margins on these kinds of trades is extremely low – often less than 0.005% of the total transaction!

Under the new tax it becomes economically unviable. The algorithms will need to change and the entire system will need to radically slow down to make it worth while.

Fewer more considered transactions with a level of diligence attached ironically mean more stable markets. This is a good thing.

Now apply the same thinking to SOPA

In the US ‘infringing content’ is flagged via the DMCA (digital millennium copyright act). Basically you notify a site that something is dodgy, they then have a short period of time to remove otherwise the host is liable which can cost potentially $150k per infringement. Motivation or what! This takedown process for most of the big content owners is largely automated – they no doubt use search engines to seek out apparently infringing content, index it, format it, approve it and fire it off.

This automated output is received by site x – the larger of which (google/YouTube etc) will have an automated process which indiscriminately takes the content down. This explains why there are so many false positives across the board.

However painful, the current process does actually require some human interaction as theoretically you can be fined for false claims.

Not ideal but at least it’s just taking individual bits of content down and not entire sites.

The whole raison d’être of the bill is to shift the administrative burden (of proof) from the content owner to everyone else. SOPA would remove barriers increasing the speed of transaction exponentially and of course the collateral damage associated with it.

The doomsday scenario is what happens when big content write their tool to aid their quest for a rogue-free Internet. Let’s just call it Skynet.

    Skynet connects to internal content dbase
    Skynet searches web
    Skynet ‘identifies’ matches
    Skynet emails site, ISP, Search engines, payment processors etc and flags site as ‘dedicated to infringing’
    Site goes down
    Repeat millions of times

Judgement day.

Maybe it’s time to slow down a bit!

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    • Ian
    • November 22nd, 2011

    If you worked on the grammar to make it readable, this would be a pretty good article.

    • Sorry Ian – written on my phone while at a conference – will fix
      It during the next session

    • Ok – tidied up slightly – feel free to point out the bits I’ve missed!

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