Social media, society and technology 2013 -15

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Pascal Zamprelli: What Canadian Voters Actually Care About
(HuffPost) Not to brag, but working at Change.org Canada is a lot of fun. Every week, we get to see the 200 or so petitions Canadians start on all sorts of topics, giving us a good sense of what matters most to people, and why. Throw in an election campaign that has everyone thinking more deeply about what kind of country they want, and suddenly you’ve got over 160 election-related petitions accounting for over 1.2 million signatures, and counting — it’s like having our own RSS feed that could be called “What Voters Actually Care About.”
In 2015, when an issue matters to a lot of people, they will mobilize using online tools that were unavailable even five years ago — everyday people can get organized to effect meaningful change around the big questions of the day. But things get even more interesting when we look at some the lower profile electoral issues that are gaining traction through petitions. If a problem isn’t getting much attention on the campaign trail, online petitions are proving to be an effective way to get a candidate’s attention.
15 October
Raiders of the Lost Web
If a Pulitzer-finalist 34-part series of investigative journalism can vanish from the web, anything can.
(The Atlantic) “We’ve got the storage to be able to store all the books, all the movies, all the music, all the software, webpages, the whole damn thing,” said Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, in a 2004 forum. “Everything, all the creative output of humankind, now can be in computers. And the Internet now can make it so that anybody that can access the Internet can access these things.”
This is, after all, the great promise of the Internet: All of the knowledge, for all of humanity. A mix of legend and history tells us that the Library of Alexandria almost got there in its time. “We needed a technology change to be able to see this idea through again,” Kahle said.
But the thing unsaid, the fact that unravels even an optimist’s belief in what the web can be, is that the ancient library was eventually destroyed. Not by technology or a lack of it, but by people. Saving something and preventing its destruction are not entirely the same thing.
“At this point, if you mean the web when Tim Berners-Lee invented it, right now that web does not exist,” Scott said. “Not really. News organizations kill old articles, YouTube’s old videos go away. And while the Archive and other entities are saving—quote-unquote saving—these sites, even those will go to new URLs. They won’t be in the same place. You’ll have to search for them… There are success stories. But meanwhile, silently, thousands of useful things are disappearing. As time goes on, I have even less and less hope for how long it will last.”

Analysis: Ads masquerading as journalism, the slippery slope of branded content
9 clickbait reasons to be wary of ‘native advertising.’ Actually, it’s just a debate
(CBC) Journalism and advertising have always carried on a sordid, furtive relationship.
They need one another. … Publicly, though, journalism is the rigidly self-righteous deacon, married to truth and principle, reluctant to even acknowledge, let alone publicly do business in the gaudy bordello of advertising. … Journalism holds its nose, and pretends it cannot be bought, but it needs the filthy lucre. The news division has always been sort of a silent partner.
Trouble is, the cheque has stopped arriving. Ever since some idiot first decided to give away editorial content on the internet, advertising has been sending journalism less and less money each month. …
Branded content
Meanwhile, the very concept of a regular, defined, subscription-paying audience — to which journalism’s first and only loyalty is supposed to lie — has shrivelled.
Paywalls have not worked. There’s so much free content out there that most people see no reason to buy subscriptions.
The whole online experience, for news organizations, has been a form of unassisted suicide.
The Current: Branded content, blurring the line
In a single generation, news organizations went from serving (and sometimes preaching to) paying subscribers, to chasing herds of fickle readers and viewers who “snack” information on phones and tablets, and expect it all for free. … a new form of advertising is erupting. In the industry, these new ads are called “native,” or, more commonly, “branded content.” Look and you find them quickly enough. They are the “around the web” section on news websites, or the “partner content” section, or the “sponsored stories.”
At first glance, they blur, even shatter the line between journalism’s church and state. Which is to say, they are not clearly and unequivocally ads in the old sense. They actually appear to be journalism. Some are more clearly marked than others, and some are barely marked at all. What they have in common, though, is they are interesting. (4 Feb 2015; rebroadcast 15 August)

11 August
Google upside downGoogle learns ABCs of conglomerate life
(Reuters)The $444 billion web-search goliath is separating its driverless cars, balloon-powered internet, biotech ventures and the like from its main ad businesses under a new Berkshire Hathaway-like structure called Alphabet. The move suggests Google recognizes how its sprawl has spelled trouble.
Outside perceptions began to change four years ago. That’s when Google expanded from smartphone software into hardware with its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility, its largest-ever acquisition. The deal attracted the attention of U.S. and European trustbusters, who worried about how a more dominant Google might use the thousands of patents it bought. Wall Street began trotting out sum-of-the-parts analyses, as sure a sign as any of the harms of diversification. Google later sold the handset-manufacturing arm to Lenovo, but it also has spread itself vastly into myriad new areas since then.
Google to restructure into new company called Alphabet
‘Slimmed down’ Google will be largest subsidiary of parent company, whose structure is said to be similar to that of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway
(The Guardian) Google is dead. Long live Alphabet.
The tech company announced on Monday that it would rebrand itself as Alphabet – a new holding company whose largest wholly owned subsidiary will be Google.
In a surprise blog post made public after the stock markets closed Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founders, announced a radical shake-up of the company’s corporate structure and management, handing control of its core search engine business to rising star Sundar Pichai.
The new company, Alphabet, will preside over a collection of companies, the largest of which will be Google. Even the site’s new address also eschewed convention, https://abc.xyz/
30 July
Max Fisher — From Gamergate to Cecil the lion: internet mob justice is out of control
(Vox) When an American dentist named Walter Palmer killed a beloved lion named Cecil, the social media platforms that allowed outraged web users to spread the story also enabled them to do more than just fume. It gave them the power to act on their anger, to reach into Palmer’s life and punish him for what he’d done, without having to wait for the wheels of more formal justice to turn. …
This should look familiar: It is the same set of tactics that has been used in online harassment campaigns such as the “Gamergate” movement that targeted women in technology, or the seemingly endless online harassment conducted against female journalists. It is a growing trend of internet mob justice, one that often bleeds into real-world harassment with real-world consequences.
We as a society deemed campaigns such as Gamergate unacceptable and rejected their proponents as harassers who crossed the line. But because we all agree that we dislike Palmer, the campaign against him has so far been deemed acceptable, even funny or laudable.
That worries me. And it should worry you. Gamergate has been run out of polite internet society, but the mob campaign against Palmer suggests that the tactics Gamergate employed are not disappearing — they are becoming more mainstream. That should be deeply worrying to us all.
What Palmer did was wrong, and he deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law. But it’s easy to forget just how dangerous and unjust “mob justice” is while it’s targeting someone you despise. …
A formal justice system, at least in theory, determines the severity of a crime based on objective factors such as its impact on society and how it compares with other crimes. The internet mob determines the severity of a crime based on subjective factors, such as how unlikable they find the alleged criminal to be, how likable they find the victim, and the degree to which the alleged crime fits into their preconceived beliefs. You’ll notice that most of these trace back not to the crime’s impact on society, but rather the degree to which punishing the crime will feel good for the punishers.
18 July
Apple’s Broken Promises
(The Passionate Eye) Do you know how your iPhone is made?
Apple is the most valuable brand on the planet, making products that everyone wants – but how are its workers treated when the world isn’t looking?
A BBC documentary team goes undercover to reveal what life is like for workers in China making the iPhone6. And it’s not just the factories. Reporter Richard Bilton travels to Indonesia to find children working in some of the most dangerous mines in the world. But is the tin they dig out by hand finding its way into Apple’s products?
2 June
Oyindamola Olofinlua: How mobile internet killed off cyber cafés in Nigeria
(Quartz) According to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, as at February 2015, Nigeria had 83 million active phone lines with access to mobile internet on their phones. Remember as recently as 2001 there were only about 400,000 fixed telephone lines in the whole country.
23 May
And in a bit of ironic timing
BlackBerry Layoff Notices Issued To Unspecified Number Of Employees
22 May
Losing the SignalThe Inside Story of How the iPhone Crippled BlackBerry
(Wall Street Journal) ‘Losing the Signal’ examines Research In Motion’s efforts to take on Apple’s game-changing smartphone
By Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff
How BlackBerry’s bid to one-up the iPhone failed
Excerpt from Losing the Signal: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of BlackBerry
(Globe & Mail) Chapter 11: Storm
In the summer of 2007, however, Lazaridis cracked open a phone that gave him pause. “They’ve put a Mac in this thing,” he marvelled after peering inside one of the new iPhones. Ever since Apple’s phone went on sale in June, critics and consumers were effusive about the sleek phone’s playful touch screen, elegant graphics, and high-resolution images. Lazaridis saw much more. This was no ordinary smartphone. It was a small mobile Apple computer whose operating system used 700 megabytes of memory – more than twenty-two times the computing power of the BlackBerry. The iPhone had a full Safari browser that traveled everywhere on the Internet. With AT&T’s backing, he could see, Apple was changing the direction of the industry.
17 April
(Quartz weekend letter) For a decade, it seemed like the technology industry was going to usher in a newer, friendlier form of capitalism. The CEOs wore t-shirts and hoodies. Their staff had spare time to improve the world. They said they wouldn’t be evil. For a while, web users believed them.
But things have been shifting. This week, the European Union formally accused Google of abusing its dominant position in search. In India, Facebook is facing an uprising against Mark Zuckerberg’s internet.org, meant to give first-time users a taste of the internet for free. Uber is under criminal investigation in the Netherlands. Apple was last week met with underwhelming reviews for its watch.
Why? The uniting factor is arrogance. Google, with over 90% of the search market in Europe, blatantly favored its own services. Of the 500 million people who’ve used internet.org, first-time internet users make up only 1.4%, and Indians saw that this was less about connecting the poor than consolidating Facebook’s dominance. Apple decided to make the watch without any notion of what it might actually be used for—except maybe as a notifications device. No wonder even people who wanted to like it had a hard time recommending it.
The ultimate symbol of that arrogance, of course, is tech company valuations. The latest example is Slack, a one-year-old chat tool for businesses, whose funding round this week prompted cries of disbelief. “Is Slack Really Worth $2.8 Billion?” asked the New York Times (paywall). “It is, because people say it is,” said the CEO.

2014

26 August
How Social Media Silences Debate
(NYT) The Internet might be a useful tool for activists and organizers, in episodes from the Arab Spring to the Ice Bucket Challenge. But over all, it has diminished rather than enhanced political participation, according to new data.
Social media, like Twitter and Facebook, has the effect of tamping down diversity of opinion and stifling debate about public affairs. It makes people less likely to voice opinions, particularly when they think their views differ from those of their friends, according to a report published Tuesday by researchers at Pew Research Center and Rutgers University.
Provocative findings of the Pew Research Internet Project report: Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence’
A major insight into human behavior from pre-internet era studies of communication is the tendency of people not to speak up about policy issues in public—or among their family, friends, and work colleagues—when they believe their own point of view is not widely shared. This tendency is called the “spiral of silence.”1
Some social media creators and supporters have hoped that social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter might produce different enough discussion venues that those with minority views might feel freer to express their opinions, thus broadening public discourse and adding new perspectives to everyday discussion of political issues. …
The survey sought people’s opinions about the Snowden leaks, their willingness to talk about the revelations in various in-person and online settings, and their perceptions of the views of those around them in a variety of online and off-line contexts.
In both offline and online settings, people said they were more willing to share their views on the Snowden-NSA revelations if they thought their audience agreed with them.
Previous research has shown that when people decide whether to speak out about an issue, they rely on reference groups—friendships and community ties—to weigh their opinion relative to their peers. In the survey, we asked respondents about their sense of whether different groups of people in their lives agreed or disagreed with their positions on the Snowden leaks. There was some notable variance between those who feel they know the views of their peers and those who do not know what others think. Generally, the more socially close people were—e.g. spouses or family members—the more likely it was that the respondents felt their views matched.

Break in case of revolutionEmerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology

Cell Phones Nearly Ubiquitous in Many Countries
(Pew Research Global Attitudes Project) People around the world are using their cell phones for a variety of purposes, especially for texting and taking pictures, while smaller numbers also use their phones to get political, consumer and health information. Mobile technology is also changing economic life in parts of Africa, where many are using cell phones to make or receive payments
While the internet still has a limited reach in the emerging and developing world, once people do gain access to the internet, they quickly begin to integrate it into their lives. A significant number of people in these nations say they use the internet on a daily basis, including roughly half of those polled in Lebanon, Russia and Argentina. At least 20% use the internet daily in 15 of the 24 nations surveyed.
In 21 of 24 nations, a majority of internet users also participate in sites like Facebook and Twitter (see here for a country by country list of social networking sites).
People are using social networking sites to stay in touch with family and friends and to share their views on an array of topics, including popular culture, religion and politics.
These are among the main findings of a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 24,263 people in 24 emerging and developing economies from March 2, 2013 to May 1, 2013. All interviews were conducted face-to-face.(13 February 2014)

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Riding the Juggernaut That Left Print Behind
(NYT) Last month, researchers at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand published a study that found that comprehension, concentration and retention all went off a cliff when information was taken in online. (Then again, there are those who say that we see everything and remember nothing because we don’t have to, that the web now serves as our memory.)
Online, we are always beckoned forward to the next great thing, often right in the middle of what we thought we wanted to read about. Consider how many times you have clicked a link early in an article and never returned to what brought you there in the first place.
2 July
Iraq crisis: ISIS social media blitz could be its downfall
As ISIS fighters tweet out maps and share tips online, intelligence ops may want them to keep it coming
25 May
Robert Fisk: Our addiction to the internet is as harmful as any drug – and what passes for comment these days is often simply foul abuse
The focus on ‘surfing’ rather than proper reading has impoverished literature
The internet catastrophe – perhaps I should say tragedy – grows tentacles. We have become, as one psychologist has said, “seduced by distraction”. We no longer reflect. We react. We don’t read books – always supposing we buy them – we “surf” them. Take Spritz. According to its own pap advertising, it’s a “Boston-based start-up focused on text-streaming technology”, whose founders are “serial entrepreneurs with extensive experience in developing and commercialising innovative technologies”. And you’ll not be surprised to learn that the crackpots running Spritz, after inviting fans to read up to 600 words a minute, claim that you’ll soon be able to read Tolstoy’s War And Peace in less than 10 hours.
Is that not part of the problem? When you delete thought, impoverish literature and worship technology – not as a wonderful scientific achievement but as a god – then there are no rules. You can drink Tolstoy, smoke books, and breathe in hatred. Something rotten? What does rotten mean?
20 May
Here’s What The End Of Net Neutrality Could Cost You
If we keep innovators locked out of the Internet fast lane, we may never know what we are missing, but we will likely miss innovations of huge value.
16 May
Net Neutrality and the Idea of America
(The New Yorker) Most people have a rough sense that net neutrality is about the rules for Internet traffic; but the precise debates about regulatory authority and the rules themselves are abstruse. Net neutrality has seized the moment because it is standing in for a national conversation about deeper values. It is, among other things, a debate about opportunity—or more precisely, the Internet as another name for it. The Web’s famous openness to anyone with vision, persistence, and minimal cash recalls the geographic frontiers of earlier America and the technological frontiers of the twentieth century, as in industries like radio and early computing. As such, the mythology of the Internet is not dissimilar to that of America, or any open country—as a place where anyone with passion or foolish optimism might speak his or her piece or open a business and see what happens. No success is guaranteed, but anyone gets to take a shot. That’s what free speech and a free market look like in practice rather than in theory.
15 May
The leaked New York Times innovation report is one of the key documents of this media age
It’s an astonishing look inside the cultural change still needed in the shift to digital — even in one of the world’s greatest newsrooms. Read it.
(Nieman Journalism Lab) There are few things that can galvanize the news world’s attention like a change in leadership atop The New York Times. Jill Abramson’s ouster yesterday afternoon probably reduced American newsroom productivity enough to skew this quarter’s GDP numbers.
We don’t typically write about intra-newsroom politics at Nieman Lab, leaving that to Manhattan’s very capable cadre of media reporters. But Abramson’s removal and Dean Baquet’s ascent has apparently inspired someone inside the Times to leak one of the most remarkable documents I’ve seen in my years running the Lab, to Myles Tanzer at BuzzFeed. It’s the full report of the newsroom innovation team that was given six full months to ask big questions about the Times’ digital strategy.
What the Death of Homepages Means for the Future of News
(The Atlantic) Why should the death of homepages give rise to news that’s more about readers? Because homepages reflect the values of institutions, and Facebook and Twitter reflect the interest of individual readers. These digital grazers have shown again and again that they aren’t interested in hard news, but rather entertainment, self-help, awe, and outrage dressed up news. Digitally native publishers are pretty good at pumping this kind of stuff out. Hence quizzes, hence animals, hence 51 Photos That Show Women Fighting Sexism Awesomely. Even serious publishing companies know that self-help and entertainment often outperform outstanding reporting.
13 May
FCC vote on ‘net neutrality’ will kick off long battle
(Reuters) – U.S. efforts to set new Internet traffic rules face a lengthy tug of war between broadband providers and Republicans on one side and some tech companies and consumer advocates on the other as regulators prepare to propose the rules formally on Thursday.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has expanded the issues and questions raised in his “open Internet” proposal to sway his two Democratic colleagues on the five-member panel, though some consumer advocates remain unhappy.
Public interest groups including Free Press plan to deliver petitions with more than 1 million signatures to the FCC and stage a protest against Wheeler’s proposal that may allow Internet providers to charge some content companies for faster and more reliable delivery.
9 May
Boko Haram campaign shows Twitter’s power – but is that power dangerous?
(Telegraph UK) … let’s not forget that these governments were very aware of the Boko Haram situation before the campaigns started. And they, unlike Twitter users and news outlets, actually do have a responsibility to dispense their attention and resources fairly. As my colleague Tom Rogan pointed out a couple of days ago, their response to the February “dormitory inferno” was to “issue a vague press release”. Why didn’t they intervene back then, or earlier? With all their access to intelligence and expert advice, were they really waiting for the issue to drift into the eyelines of Twitter users before acting? Twitter campaigns are so easy to start, so easy to contribute to once they get going, so easy for the clueless to drive forward. Do we have that much uninformed power? It’s an uneasy feeling.
25 April
Net Neutrality: A Guide to (and History of) a Contested Idea
(The Atlantic) This week, news broke that the Federal Communications Commission is considering new rules for how the Internet works.
In short: the FCC would allow network owners (your Verizons, Comcasts, etc.) to create Internet “fast lanes” for companies (Disney, The Atlantic) that pay them more. For Internet activists, this directly violated the principle of net neutrality, which has been a hot-button issue in Silicon Valley for a long time.
Net neutrality is the idea that any network traffic—movies, web pages, MP3s, pictures—can move from one place (our servers) to any other place (readers’ computers phones) without “discrimination.”
Legal scholar Tim Wu, who helped define and popularize the term, laid out what could go wrong under such rules. “This is what one might call a net-discrimination rule, and, if enacted, it will profoundly change the Internet as a platform for free speech and small-scale innovation,” Wu wrote.
Internet activists revved up, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who is a former lobbyist for cable and cellular companies, defended the new position. Wheeler said companies would not be allowed to “act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.”
24 April
Putin calls internet a ‘CIA project’ renewing fears of web breakup
Russian president’s remark fans idea that has gained ground in Germany, Brazil and elsewhere after Edward Snowden’s revelations
A purely Russian-run system could make it easier for the Russian intelligence services to monitor and control traffic. The Kremlin already has powerful tools in place for this, but nonetheless the internet offers a platform for Russian opposition groups denied a voice on the country’s television and radio. At the same media conference, Putin also referred directly to the most popular search engine in Russia, Yandex – a reference that caused its shares to plummet.
Putin’s St Petersburg comments could herald the most serious challenge yet to the world wide web, which was founded by the British computer scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
Putin claimed the “CIA project” was still developing and that Russia needed to be protected from it. The nation had a duty to resist that influence and fight for its interests online, he said.
His remarks come in the wake of a law passed by the Russian parliament this week requiring foreign social media websites to keep their servers in Russia. The law also requires them to save all information about their users for at least six months.
Apple’s iPhone ‘lock-out’ patent could end texting while driving
A new automatic system to preventing phone use while driving could ‘change the culture’ of texting addiction, say experts

Maintain true net neutrality to protect the freedom of information in the United States.
True net neutrality means the free exchange of information between people and organizations. Information is key to a society’s well being. One of the most effective tactics of an invading military is to inhibit the flow of information in a population; this includes which information is shared and by who. Today we see this war being waged on American citizens. Recently the FCC has moved to redefine “net neutrality” to mean that corporations and organizations can pay to have their information heard, or worse, the message of their competitors silenced. We as a nation must settle for nothing less than complete neutrality in our communication channels. This is not a request, but a demand by the citizens of this nation. No bandwidth modifications of information based on content or its source.

23 April
Feds May Be Looking To Bail On Net Neutrality: WSJ
(HuffPost) Net neutrality is not dead. But it may be about to take a big blow to the head.
The Wall Street Journal has a foreboding scoop that provides details on an early draft of the Federal Communications Commission’s new net neutrality rules. And to put it mildly, Internet activists will not be thrilled.
According to the WSJ’s sources, the FCC’s plan would restructure the rules that govern online traffic by granting Internet service providers the ability to give some websites “preferential treatment” — i.e. faster traffic — in exchange for money.
If such rules were imposed, activists fear Internet service providers would make bandwidth-exhaustive websites — think Netflix and Skype — pay more for smoother delivery, which would theoretically mean higher prices for customers in turn.
According to the WSJ, companies in need of faster connections would have to pay for preferred treatment on the “last mile” of networks that connect to customers’ homes. Such pay-to-play schemes were banned under the old rules.
11 April
Heartbleed bug: What’s affected and what passwords you need to change
(Global News) As we learn more about the Heartbleed bug’s impact on online security, experts say it’s time to change your passwords – all of them
10 April
Heartbleed Bug Found in Cisco Routers, Juniper Gear
Encryption Bug Affects Equipment That Connects to the Web
(WSJ) The encryption bug that has the Internet on high alert also affects the equipment that connects the Web.
Photographer reveals the secret of the Windows XP desktop image
Charles O’Rear is the photographer who took Bliss, the image that became the desktop of every single Windows XP computer in the world. Billions saw it and probably think the photo is so perfect and colorful that it is computer generated—or at least Photoshopped. O’Rear reveals the origin of the photo in this video.
4 February
Bill Gates Out As Chairman, Satya Nadella In As CEO
… the company has always made software that powered computers made by others — first with its MS-DOS system, then with Windows and its Office productivity suite starting in the late 1980s. Microsoft’s coffers swelled as more individuals and businesses bought personal computers.
But Microsoft has been late adapting to developments in the technology industry. It allowed Google to dominate in online search and advertising, and it watched as iPhones, iPads and Android devices grew to siphon sales from the company’s strengths in personal computers. Its attempt to manufacture its own devices has been littered with problems, from its quickly aborted Kin line of phones to its still-unprofitable line of Surface tablets.
Analysts see hope in some of the businesses Nadella had a key role in creating.
Microsoft’s cloud computing offering, Azure, and its push to have consumers buy Office software as a $100-a-year Office 365 subscription are seen as the biggest drivers of Microsoft’s growth in the next couple of years. Both businesses saw the number of customers more than double in the last three months of the year, compared with a year earlier.
Those businesses, along with other back-end offerings aimed at corporate customers, are the main reason why investment fund ValueAct Capital invested $1.6 billion in Microsoft shares last year.
Last April, the fund urged investors to ignore the declining PC market — which hurts Microsoft’s Windows business — and to focus on the so-called “plumbing” that Microsoft provides to help companies analyze massive amounts of data and run applications essential to their businesses on Microsoft’s servers or their own.
Yahoo’s Geek Goddess
(Vanity Fair January 2014) As one of Google’s highest-ranking women, Marissa Mayer became a Silicon Valley superstar, but inside the search giant her dazzle sometimes wore thin, with colleagues rebelling against her imperious style. In the wake of Mayer’s jump to run the struggling Yahoo, Bethany McLean asks whether she will be its savior or its next big problem. A year and a half in, the results are mixed.
31 January
Yahoo says user names, passwords stolen
(AP) User names and passwords of some of Yahoo’s email customers have been stolen and used to gather personal information about people those Yahoo mail users have recently corresponded with, the company said Thursday. Yahoo didn’t say how many accounts have been affected. Yahoo is the second-largest email service worldwide, after Google’s Gmail, according to the research firm comScore. There are 273 million Yahoo mail accounts worldwide, including 81 million in the United States.
It’s the latest in a string of security breaches that have allowed hackers to nab personal information using software that analysts say is ever more sophisticated. Up to 70 million customers of Target stores had their personal information and credit and debit card numbers compromised late last year, and Neiman Marcus was the victim of a similar breach in December.

2013

If Facebook existed during World War 2

What happens when you deactivate your Facebook account: Deactivate
(The New Yorker) You have confirmed your selection to deactivate your Facebook account. Remember, if you deactivate your account, your nine hundred and fifty-one friends on Facebook will no longer be able to keep in touch with you. Drew Lovell will miss you. Max Prewitt will miss you. Rebecca Feinberg will miss you. Are you still sure you want to deactivate your account? Read and cringe! (20 June 2013)

Restrictions to limit Internet access on the rise, warns UNESCO
The United Nations agency which deals with freedom of expression on the Internet today warned that restrictions directly limiting Internet access appear to be on the rise, and called on governments to implement policies that facilitate broadband connectivity instead of putting up barriers particularly during political developments.
“Knowledge and ideas today flow in volumes and at speed that we could not have imagined years ago, ‘regardless of frontier’ and at low cost,” the Assistant Director-General for Communication of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Janis Karklins, told participants at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). “However, barriers to this flow still exist, and new ones continue to emerge.”
Human Rights, Technology and Movement Building Around the World
Most of us see technology an essential tool,something that helps us do our jobs, implement our programs and reach our supporters; it is a tool that allows us to influence change. But rarely do we stop to think about technology as more than a tool, but as itself a powerful mechanism of change.

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27 December
Facebook Is ‘Dead and Buried’ to Teens, and That’s Just Fine for Facebook
9WIRED) Anthropologist Daniel Miller has been studying British teens, and he has a dire message for Facebook: The social network is “dead and buried” to Britain’s 16-to-18-year-olds because they’re “embarrassed even to be associated with it.”
In a recent article for academic clearinghouse The Conversation, Miller shares preliminary findings from a 15-month ethnographic study of social media in eight countries, and explains that Facebook is “so uncool” to teens because their parents and other family members are using it to keep tabs on them.
“You just can’t be young and free if you know your parents can access your every indiscretion,” Miller writes. “Young people care about style and status in relation to their peers, and Facebook is simply not cool anymore.”
To keep in touch with friends away from mom and dad, Miller found, teens are turning most often to Twitter; photo network Instagram (which is owned by Facebook); to Snapchat, which sends self-destructing photos; and to WhatsApp, a free replacement for cellphone text messaging. That only makes sense.
But it shouldn’t worry Facebook or its investors.
13 December
David (Jones) Death of Newspapers: Time to accept the inevitable conclusion\, newspapers are moving into a niche category of interest to a limited category of citizens. Papers such as Financial Times or The Hill Times focus on specialty professional groups. Just as opera or “theatre” rarely have the mass audiences they once did, newspapers’ appeal is becoming tertiary. Some seek survival by increasing ideological content. Just as Torstar provides ritualized support to Liberal/liberals, Sun Media endorses conservatives.There are no “must read” columnists of the Walter Winchell, Scotty Reston, or Drew Pearson type.
Others, including the iconic Washington Post have sold themselves to new billionaire magnates before going broke (for the Post it was Amazon.com Inc.’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos). And finally there are local community papers of the give-away/throw-away nature recounting the tribulations of school boards and the triumphs of local sports teams.
vs
David Kilgour Death of Newspapers: Newspapers vital to democratic culture
World Press Trends in its 2013 report concluded that print circulations continue to grow in many developing markets, while declining in mature ones. Consumers are turning to digital platforms to interact with news media. More than half the world’s adult population reads a daily newspaper: 2.5 billion in print and more than 600 million in digital form. Five hundred million read both print and online editions. The global newspaper audience has grown by 4.2 percent since 2007. Circulation rose 4.8 percent in the Middle East and North Africa. Western Europe and North America still have the highest levels of readership by region.
12 November
Philippines aid workers use geomapping to speed relief efforts
Geomapping for humanitarian aid is being employed to help with Philippines relief efforts. Data gathered by the Digital Humanitarian Network is being used by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to help relief workers assess where to deploy. IRINNews.org (11/11), Inter Press Service (11/12)
8 October
Social media, crisis mapping and the new frontier in disaster response
During a crisis the large amounts of data produced can be overwhelming to analyse. Microtasking could help solve that problem by harnessing the power of the crowd
(The Guardian) There is such a thing as too much information. During a disaster or crisis, Twitter and other social media can provide an instant view of conditions on the ground. This information can be more specific and timely than official data from aid agencies or relief organisations. But not all of this massive information is useful, and the sheer volume can be overwhelming. For example, there were 20m disaster-related tweets in a single week during Hurricane Sandy. …
Patrick Meier, formerly of Ushahidi and now director of social innovation at Qatar Computing Research Institute, announced the MicroMappers launch on 18 September. On 25 September, MicroMappers was called to action by the United Nations for the first time. Meier was planning to launch the platform next month, but they were asked to test the platform now in response to the recent earthquake in Pakistan.
19 August
How the Syrian Electronic Army took out the New York Times and Twitter sites
Summary: The short, snappy answer is: “All too easily.” Here’s how it appears to have happened
19 August
The story has a happy ending despite the very ungracious response of Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg could have gained all sorts of brownie points had he reacted quickly and personally.
‘Sorry for breaking your privacy’: Programmer hacks Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook page to expose security bug
After discovering a privacy bug on Facebook, unemployed Palestinian programmer Khalil Shreateh said he just wanted to collect the traditional $500 bounty the social network giant offers to those who voluntarily expose its glitches.
But when Facebook ignored his first two reports, Shreateh took his message to the top — and hacked into CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personal page to prove his point.
The bug — and Facebook’s response to it — has become a talking point in information security circles, with many speculating that the Palestinian could have helped himself to thousands of dollars had he chosen to sell the information on the black market.
Shreateh said he was initially disappointed by the Facebook response but that after being inundated by job offers from all over the world he is pleased with how things worked out.
30 July
Bangladesh’s “info ladies” connect rural villages with the world
Entrepreneurial “info ladies” are bringing Internet and Skype access to rural villages in Bangladesh, allowing residents to speak to family overseas and to access health care information. Fifty-six women have joined the pilot project organized by nonprofit group D.net. The Guardian (London)/Le Monde (7/30)
7 July
Animal Behaviorist: We’ll Soon Have Devices That Let Us Talk With Our Pets
We’re fast approaching the point, says Con Slobodchikoff, when computers will help to mediate our communications with animals.
(The Atlantic) Con Slobodchikoff, a professor emeritus at Northern Arizona University, and a modern-day Dr. Doolittle… is an animal behaviorist and researcher who has devoted his career — 30 years of it, at any rate — to the decoding of animal communications. And though Slobodchikoff has studied those signals across different species, he has focused his original research on the communications of the prairie dog. The creatures, he says, talk to each other using “the most sophisticated animal language that has been decoded.” The animals have word-like phonemes, combining those into sentence-like calls. They have social chatter. They can distinguish between types of predators that are nearby — dogs, coyotes, humans — and seem to have developed warnings that specify the predators’ species and size and color.
4 July
Why does LinkedIn want to be a media company? It’s all about the data
Why does LinkedIn care if you get your news there or anywhere else? The company knows the more news there is on LinkedIn, the more likely you are to visit, and you’ll keep the business cycle going.
3 July
Digitally Enhanced Protest
(Open Canada.org)  Brazilian protesters jubilantly rallied around a constellation of causes including systemic corruption, poor services, insecurity, and runaway spending on mega sporting events such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Their voices were diverse, including left-wing and right-wing pundits as well as hacker outfits such as Anonymous. As the rallies grew in scope and scale, more extremist conservative voices emerged calling for, among other things, the death penalty, impeachment of leftist politicians and fewer taxes. While these latter groups were rebuffed, they are symptomatic of the widening of grievance claims in Brazilian society. In the process, innovative visualizations emerged that captured the spread of protests across Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and other social media platforms such as Tumblr, Instagram, and Whatsapp. These spontaneous efforts underline the transformative effects of technology in shaping Brazil’s digital revolution.
6 June
Farhad Manjoo: You Won’t Finish This Article
Why people online don’t read to the end.
(Slate) I’m going to keep this brief, because you’re not going to stick around for long. I’ve already lost a bunch of you. For every 161 people who landed on this page, about 61 of you—38 percent—are already gone. You “bounced” in Web traffic jargon, meaning you spent no time “engaging” with this page at all. … Only a small number of you are reading all the way through articles on the Web. I’ve long suspected this, because so many smart-alecks jump in to the comments to make points that get mentioned later in the piece. But now I’ve got proof. I asked Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis firm Chartbeat, to look at how people scroll through Slate articles. Schwartz also did a similar analysis for other sites that use Chartbeat and have allowed the firm to include their traffic in its aggregate analyses.
Turkey Is Now Arresting Dozens for Using Twitter
(Atlantic Wire) Freedom of speech is not high on the shifting priorities list of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. And after he chastised “every kind of lie on” Twitter — and blamed almost everything else but his government for the outbreak of violence across his country — at least 25 people have been arrested this week for messages of protest, perhaps centered on a few videos or one photo, that they’ve posted on the social network. Turkey’s Government Doesn’t Understand Its Digital Enemy
3 June
Singapore to require news websites to be licensed
(AP via Salon) — Singapore’s government says a new policy will require online news websites to be licensed, a move that is being criticized as a form of censorship in a country where the media is already strictly controlled.
The policy will require websites that report regularly on Singapore news and have at least 50,000 visitors a month to obtain annual licenses, the city-state’s Media Development Authority said in a statement Tuesday. They also will be required to remove content found to be in breach of MDA standards within 24 hours of notification. …
The MDA singled out 10 websites, nine of which are state-owned, with the exception being Yahoo Singapore. It said the new policy also may be extended to netizen websites and foreign news sites covering Singapore news.
To receive a license, a website will have to post a performance bond of 50,000 Singapore dollars ($39,400). This is similar to current requirements for niche TV broadcasters in Singapore.
3 June
Matthew Yglesias: Netflix’s Race to Become a Content Producer Before the Producers Swallow Netflix
(Slate) The basic problem with Netflix streaming is that it seems to be caught between the folks who own copyrights (movie and TV studios) and the folks who own broadband pipes (cable and telephone companies). Netflix itself jumped out of the gate with a great user-friendly service for longform streaming video and a couple of canny content deals (with Starz, etc.) that made its streaming service popular (I loved it), but in the long run it was hard to see how a pure-play middleman company was going to survive. One great way to do it is to simply stop being a pure-play middleman and start producing original content. And the Netflix bet is that its unequaled access to rich user data about what people actually watch can give it a competitive advantage in the production space.
Google Warns Brands To Be Up-Front About Native Ads
(MediaPost) Ask marketers to describe the beauty of native advertisements, and most will tell you they work well because they don’t look like ads. Just don’t tell that to a Google employee. The company’s spam expert Matt Cutts took to YouTube warning brand marketers and agencies they must make it clear to consumers that the native ad content they are reading is an advertisement.
Cutts points to several unnamed sites in the United Kingdom that he believes crossed the line.
In the video, Cutts explores the issues surrounding advertorials, editorial content, and native ads. “Advertorials, native advertising content or paid content hasn’t been disclosed adequately, so people don’t realize what they’re looking at is paid [content],” he said. “We have had longstanding guidance since 2005.”
One of the biggest issues that Cutts wants marketers to consider involves ensuring that the content doesn’t contribute to the Web page ranking in the search-engine query. He says paid links should not contribute to PageRank, so be sure to use a rel=”nofollow” tag when optimizing the content.
14 May
How Twitter Is Messing With Al-Qaeda’s Careful PR Machine
Individual jihadis are increasingly taking to social media with their own opinions, sparking disputes within the terrorist organization.
(The Atlantic) The idea that the Internet facilitates Al-Qaeda’s recruitment and messaging campaigns is not new. However, more than ever, the changing landscape of the online environment is allowing for dissent from within the ranks of Al-Qaeda’s supporters. Gone are the days when Al-Qaeda’s senior online ideologues could control the flow of information by operating their own bulletin board-style forums. While Al-Qaeda and its supporters still facilitate discussion through their own web communities, the nature of jihadi discourse today is much more democratic, with jihadi personalities claiming inside knowledge dispersed across the online environment. The evolution toward platforms such as Twitter that empower the individual are allowing Al-Qaeda’s supporters to avoid forum censors and promote their own personal narratives, which are not necessarily in agreement with that of Al-Qaeda’s messaging strategy writ-large.
7 March
Is This Canadian Newspaper Breaking Copyright Law?
If you try to highlight the text to cut and paste it, you are presented with a pop-up request to purchase a licence if you plan to post the article to a website, intranet or a blog. The fee would be $150. In other words, the National Post is seeking payment for text in an article that was itself copied from the Globe. Of course, it is not just Selley’s work as many articles quote from other articles or sources (for example, this Post article on Taylor Swift is primarily quotes from Vanity Fair. If you highlight a chunk of text, the licence message pops up).
None of this requires a licence or payment. In fact, the amount of copying is often so insubstantial that a fair dealing analysis is not even needed. Last year, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that several paragraphs from a National Post column by Jonathan Kay posted to an Internet chat site did not constitute copying a substantial part of the work. If there was a fair dealing analysis, there is no doubt that copying a hundred words out of an article would easily meet the fair dealing standard. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has indicated that copying full articles in some circumstances may be permitted.
26 February
Marissa Mayer Has Made a Terrible Mistake
Working from home is great for employees—and employers.
(Slate) The point—and this is hardly groundbreaking—is that different people work differently. Any organization whose success depends on maximizing its workers’ productivity ought to allow their employees some degree of flexibility. That brings us to Yahoo’s ridiculous new ban on working from home. Last week, All Things D’s Kara Swisher reported that Marissa Mayer, the beleaguered Web company’s new CEO, will force Yahoo’s few hundred remote workers to relocate to its offices. In a memo Swisher obtained, the company’s human-resources chief allows workers to “occasionally” stay home to “wait for the cable guy,” but otherwise requires people—I’m sorry, “Yahoos”—to submit to “the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.” Because this was an HR memo and therefore freed from any requirement to be truthful, it went on to declare that “speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.” It added: “We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.”
5 February
Dell computers to be bought back by founder Michael Dell
Michael Dell has said he will buy back the world’s number three PC-maker that he founded and that carries his name.
Along with technology investor Silver Lake, and with financial backing from Microsoft, he will offer to buy the firm for $24.4bn (£15.5bn). The move will take Dell off the Nasdaq stock exchange after 25 years.
Mr Dell hopes to turn the tide for a firm that has struggled to compete with cheap Asian rivals and the boom in smartphones and tablet computers.
15 January
Look Out, Google: Facebook Unveils Personalized Search Engine
(Slate) At an event at the company’s Menlo Park headquarters on Tuesday, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg unveiled “Graph Search,” a search engine that mines your Facebook connections to give you personalized answers to queries about people, photos, places and interests. Unlike Google, it doesn’t search the Web—it searches Facebook. …
In short, Facebook’s search will attempt to replicate the experience of being able to ask a question of all of your friends at once, as if they were all gathered in one room. And it actually goes beyond that, because it includes information from people you’ve never met, provided they’ve made it public (or available to friends of friends, or people who live in your city, etc.). And, of course, Facebook can recall and organize the information automatically and instantaneously in ways that your friends couldn’t. Zuckerberg said Graph Search will honor everyone’s privacy settings, so that it accesses only information that you would be able to see otherwise on the site.
14 January
When the Law Is Worse Than the Crime
Why was a prosecutor allowed to intimidate Aaron Swartz for so long?
How To Honor Aaron Swartz
In the wake of the brilliant technology activist’s death, let’s fix the draconian Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
(Slate) Aaron was one of our community’s best and brightest, and he achieved great heights in his short life. He was a coder, a political activist, an entrepreneur, a contributor to major technological developments (like RSS), and an all-around Internet freedom rock star. As Wired noted, the world will miss out on decades of magnificent things Aaron would have accomplished had his time not been cut short.
Over the past two years, Aaron was forced to devote much of his energy and resources to fighting a relentless and unjust felony prosecution brought by Justice Department attorneys in Massachusetts. His alleged crimes stemmed from using MIT’s computer network to download millions of academic articles from the online archive JSTOR, allegedly without “authorization.” For that, he faced 13 felony counts of hacking and wire fraud (PDF), which carried the possibility of decades in prison and crippling fines. His case would have gone to trial in April.
5 January
Conquering Babel
Simultaneous translation by computer is getting closer
(The Economist) IN “STAR TREK”, a television series of the 1960s, no matter how far across the universe the Starship Enterprise travelled, any aliens it encountered would converse in fluent Californian English. It was explained that Captain Kirk and his crew wore tiny, computerised Universal Translators that could scan alien brainwaves and simultaneously convert their concepts into appropriate English words.
Science fiction, of course. But the best sci-fi has a habit of presaging fact. Many believe the flip-open communicators also seen in that first “Star Trek” series inspired the design of clamshell mobile phones. And, on a more sinister note, several armies and military-equipment firms are working on high-energy laser weapons that bear a striking resemblance to phasers. How long, then, before automatic simultaneous translation becomes the norm, and all those tedious language lessons at school are declared redundant?
Not, perhaps, as long as language teachers, interpreters and others who make their living from mutual incomprehension might like. A series of announcements over the past few months from sources as varied as mighty Microsoft and string-and-sealing-wax private inventors suggest that workable, if not yet perfect, simultaneous-translation devices are now close at hand.

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