Tuesday, January 31, 2012

WikiLeaks’ Assange to Guest Star on The Simpsons


Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, will guest star on the 500th episode of the animated TV comedy show The Simpsons that will be aired on February 19, The Entertainment Weekly reported.
Assange will be portraying himself as a new neighbor of the Simpsons family, who left their home in Springfield and moved to a rugged and isolated area.
“He invites them over for a home movie and it’s an Afghan wedding being bombed,” The Entertainment Weekly quoted The Simpsons executive producer Al Jean as saying.
Assange recorded his voice from an unknown location, Jean said, as he has been and still is under a house arrest somewhere in Britain and Jean directed him remotely from Los Angeles.
“I was just given a number to call,” Jean said adding that it was Assange, who expressed his interest to appear as a guest in the milestone episode of The Simpsons show.
The news comes a week after Russia Today television channel announced that Assange would host a ten-part political discussion program “The World Tomorrow” beginning in March.
Assange, who gained global notoriety after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified U.S. documents beginning in 2010, is battling an extradition request from Sweden, where he faces charges of sexual abuse of two women.
He was arrested in London in December 2010 and released on bail a few days later.
Assange is scheduled to appeal the extradition order in Supreme Court on February 1.


Angry Birds boss: 'Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business'

Rovio is considering working with music companies on in-app partnerships for Angry Birds
Rovio Mobile learned from the music industry's mistakes when deciding how to deal with piracy of its Angry Birds games and merchandise, chief executive Mikael Hed told the Midem conference in Cannes this morning.
"We have some issues with piracy, not only in apps, but also especially in the consumer products. There is tons and tons of merchandise out there, especially in Asia, which is not officially licensed products," said Hed.
"We could learn a lot from the music industry, and the rather terrible ways the music industry has tried to combat piracy."
Hed explained that Rovio sees it as "futile" to pursue pirates through the courts, except in cases where it feels the products they are selling are harmful to the Angry Birds brand, or ripping off its fans.
When that's not the case, Rovio sees it as a way to attract more fans, even if it is not making money from the products. "Piracy may not be a bad thing: it can get us more business at the end of the day."
According to Hed, Rovio has taken some more positive lessons from the music industry, including how it sees its customers.
"We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans. We do that today: we talk about how many fans we have," he said.
"If we lose that fanbase, our business is done, but if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow."
It seems there may be more partnerships between Angry Birds and music artists in the future, too. Hed explained that Rovio sees Angry Birds as a bona-fide "channel" now, with people spending so much time in the app, it is competing with the most popular TV shows in the US in terms of time spent.
"Already our apps are becoming channels, and we can use that channel to cross-promote – to sell further content," he said. "The content itself has transformed into the channel, and the traditional distribution channels are no longer the kingmakers."
Rovio hasn't worked with music companies or artists yet, although that is happening elsewhere in the games industry. Social games company Zynga, for example, has run promotions with Lady Gaga and Michael Buble in its Facebook games.
"We have some discussions with labels about what we could do together to give access," Hed told the Midem audience.
"It is possible to promote music content through our apps as well... We are positively looking for new partnerships, and we have a rather big team working on partnerships, so it's just a case of getting in touch with us and we'll take it from there"


McDonald's Pink Slime


McDonald's scraps controversial beef process


Celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver is a man on a mission: to stop the use of what he calls "pink slime," beef scraps no one would choose to eat, reprocessed and repurposed for use in hamburger patties.
It is, he asserts, "not fit for human consumption."
"We're taking a product that would be sold in its cheaper form for dogs and," he says, "after this process, we can give it to humans."
The first salvo in his high-profile food fight was an April 2011 stomach-turning demonstration on his TV show, "Food Revolution," nine months ago.
He washed bits of beef in a solution of ammonia and water -- ammonium hydroxide -- to kill off bacteria, a technique approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
"This is a practice," Oliver says, "that's openly admitted to being in 70 percent of ground beef. That kind of puts it everywhere."
But last week, McDonald's announced it's no longer using the controversial beef. In a statement, the chain said the decision "was not related to any particular event."
Still, Oliver said he's "thrilled."
But, if he considers McDonalds a victory, he'd have to call Los Angeles a loss. City schools rejected his offer for a healthy menu makeover and decided to go it alone.
And student Kevin Albrecht says, "The healthier it gets, the more disgusting it is."
Some can barely describe what "it" is.
Fellow student Marina Sangit said one item is "called a barbecue sandwich, but it looks like an imitation Sloppy Joe."
So, the district keeps trying, testing healthy, "tastier" foods on kids and parents.
But, observes student Cameron Michaels, "Any food (adults say) is good for me, I think I'm not going to like it."
Yet - one student says he likes "the pesoli, the hummus and the water."
Parent Amu Narin agreed, noting, "He's shoveling it in. And I've never seen him eat salad at home."
Like Jamie Oliver, the schools want healthy foods, but they're learning kids will only eat what's good for them, if it tastes good.


Did You Know FEMA has Patented A Coffin?


Multi Functional Cremation Container For


Kid Does Push Ups On Glass Bottles

 7-year-old Giuliano Stroe, know as the world's strongest kid, does push ups while balancing on glass bottles. He already holds a few Guinness World Records!


'At Twitter, The Future Is You:' Employees Spoof Corporate Recruitment Videos


In an effort to create the "best/worst recruiting video of all time,"spoof on the corny corporate recruitment video of yore, reports Mashable. In it, they poke fun at such classic corporate tropes as employees being really enthusiastic about coffee, employees sitting up very straight at their desks and employees pointing at flying words like "product management!" Twitter employees Ian Padgham and Jeremy Briggs made "At Twitter, The Future Is You," a "Man this is a sweet job, but working at Twitter isn't just a sweet job. It's a way of life. A way of life that's like a sweet job," one of the videos' stars says to the camera after getting off of a call with Lady Gaga.
But it's not all jokes, much of the information, which is delivered with about as many fake smiles as a face can reasonably take, sums up exactly why people would want to work for the communication transforming micro-blogging platform.
"Olivia from recruiting" says, "At Twitter you get to work on small teams working on projects that affect hundreds of millions of users." The camera then cuts to a "real engineer" who talks about how much he likes his job until he is cut off mid-sentence by our star who says, "Boy, I wish I didn't already work here so I could apply for a job."
Our review of the 3 minute clip: If it were funnier the whole thing might be enjoyable instead of coming off as an extended humblebrag. Yes, Twitter is ultimately trying to get people interested in positions with the company. But it's a bit off-putting because it ridicules an old-fashioned corporate lifestyle that seems to have little to do with people's perception of the Silicon Valley social media company.
The best part is Twitter CEO Dick Costolo's deadpan portrayal of himself. Costolo steals every scene he is in, which unfortunately amounts only to two. He makes a nice cameo as a dry erase board drawing.
The assignment was part of Twitter's Hack Week, during which employees take time out of each day to work on ideas for improving Twitter. According to the Twitter blog, the week-long event is designed to "actively promote innovation through experimentation around the company." Many of the ideas will become real live additions to Twitter, although as the blog states, "Some of what happens in Hack Week will stay in Hack Week."
Actually want to work at Twitter? Click here, and then check out the "recruitment" video below.:


E. chromi Designer Bacteria Will Color Your Poop According to What Ails You


E. chromi is an experimental collaboration between designers and scientists working in the field of synthetic biology. Royal College of Art graduates’ James King and Daisy Ginsberg, together with University of Cambridge’s iGEM 2009 Biology team, are developing a cheap, personalized disease monitoring system that works from the inside out. By color-coding diseases and giving a patient an E. Coli bacteria-engineered drink — much like a probiotic shake — sick patients could soon find out what ails them by simply checking the color of their poop!

Ginsberg, one of the designers in the team, explains how the bacteria works: “The patient ingests a drink, much like a probiotic shake, laced with the engineered E. coli; the bacteria react with the enzymes, proteins, and other chemicals that are present in the gastrointestinal tract and turn different colors for different diseases, thus changing the color of the patient’s feces.”
A finalist in last year’s Index Awards, and a winner of the World Technology Awards, E. chromi’s design gives us access to the complex networks and systems of the human body. Moreover, E. chromi has valuable, real-life applications for many disciplines outside of the medical word. In the future, chemical-free colorings and dyes made by bacteria could be used in food, and in the textiles industry, producers can use the new pigments as dye for clothing.


Black Guy does Centurion Challenge



Saturday, January 28, 2012

Copyright Industry Calls For Broad Search Engine Censorship

At a behind-closed-doors meeting facilitated by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport, copyright holders have handed out a list of demands to Google, Bing and Yahoo. To curb the growing piracy problem, Hollywood and the major music labels want the search engines to de-list popular filesharing sites such as The Pirate Bay, and give higher ranking to authorized sites.

It’s no secret that the entertainment industries believe search engines are not delivering enough when it comes to protecting copyright works. Just last month, the RIAA and IFPI accused Google of massively profiting from piracy, while putting up barriers to make life difficult for rightsholders.
If the copyright industry had their way, Google and other search engines would no longer link to sites such as The Pirate Bay and isoHunt. In a detailed proposal handed out during a meeting with Google, Yahoo and Bing, various copyright holders made their demands clear.
The document, which describes a government-overlooked “Voluntary Code of Practice” for search engines, was not intended for public consumption but the Open Rights Group obtained it through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.
In short, the rightsholders want the search engines to make substantial changes so that pirated content becomes harder to find, or is de-listed entirely. In addition, they want to boost the rankings of licensed content. Below are the three new measures they propose.
Assign lower rankings to sites that repeatedly make available unlicensed content in breach of copyright
Prioritize websites that obtain certification as a licensed site under a recognized scheme
Stop indexing websites that are subject to court orders while establishing suitable procedures to de-index substantially infringing sites
In the document rightsholders explain that they find it inexcusable that some websites – Pirate Bay and Isohunt in particular – are still indexed by all major search engines even though courts have ruled they facilitate copyright infringement.
Not surprisingly, there is no mention of the collateral damage that such a broad filter would bring with it – many artists and other legitimate individuals are known to use these websites to share their works.
The document further details how many of the top search results for music, movies and books currently link to pirated copies. In order to stop this, the rightsholders propose that Google and other search engines systematically assign a lower ranking to possibly infringing pages.
“We propose that in order to further protect consumers and to encourage responsible behavior among websites, the extent of illegal content on a website should become a factor influencing the ranking of that website in search results returned to consumers,” they write.
This should be doable according to the rightsholders, as Google already influences its search results based on various other criteria, such as the lower rankings that are assigned to so-called content farms.
“Given that Google already de-ranks and de-lists sites that do not meet its own ‘quality guidelines’ or otherwise violate its policies, we do not believe that search engines would face significant legal exposure if they were to de-rank or de-list sites using an objective measure, based on their actions in response to legal DMCA complaints, in pursuit of the legitimate objective of preventing their service being used to facilitate copyright infringement,” they write.
Conversely, it’s argued that search engines should also boost the ranking of legitimate sites for certain ‘relevant’ searches. A list of relevant terms to match to these relevant searches should be provided by pro-copyright groups. In the proposal, the rightsholders give the following example in the case of music files.
“We would propose that prioritization be enabled for searches that contain any of the following key search terms: “mp3″, “flac”, “wma”, “aac”, “torrent”, “download”, “rip”, “stream” or “listen”, “free”, when combined with an artist name, song or album title contained on a list to be regularly updated and provided to a search engine by a recognized and properly mandated agency representing rights holders for a particular sector, such as BPI.”
Aside from these new proposals, the document also calls on the search engines to improve the censorship measures already in place, such as Google’s keyword filter for their “instant” and “autocomplete” services.
Although the proposal from the rightsholders is not a direct threat as it is a long way from being accepted, it clearly shows that rightsholders see censorship as the way forward. The search engines on the other hand were not impressed and are expected to supply a proposal of their own in a future meeting. Again behind closed doors.
The proposals


Proposals to Search Engines


  Parrot Lectures Owner About Poop
Just knock it off, you #$%^#@!!!


When Breast Implants Attack

Sometimes, as in the case of a recent Florida stabbing, breast implants can save lives. But as many as 500,000 women in 65 countries across the world may have received breast implants consisting of silicone designed, not for medical procedures and placement in the human body, but rather for manufacturing mattresses. And because this silicone wasn’t designed to leave inside human beings forever, the shoddy implants have been rupturing. The result? Hundreds of thousands of women with ticking-time-bomb breast enhancements, their boobs full of something akin to mattress stuffing.
Jean-Claude Mas, the founder of Poly Implant Prostheses, or PIP, is being investigated for involuntary manslaughter in France for his role in knowingly producing these implants using industrial-grade silicon. Mas was arrested in his home Thursday for his possible involvement in the 2010 death of a French woman with PIP implants.
Judge Annaick Le Goff opened an investigation into the events after the mother of the deceased filed a lawsuit against the implant manufacturers. In November of 2011, another woman died after receiving PIP implants, this time from complications from lymphoma. Currently, over 3,000 PIP implant recipients are involved in the lawsuit against Mas.
Implants with industrial silicone are more likely to rupture than those made with medical-grade silicone, the French Health Ministry said in a statement this December. While they haven’t stated that the industrial silicone is carcinogenic, they do warn that it can cause scar tissue, inflammation, and fibrosis. It’s difficult to parse whether implants do, in fact, raise cancer rates among women. There are many studies showing that breast cancer rates, specifically, are not higher in implant populations. But there are also long-term follow-up studies that show increases in respiratory and brain cancers in women with implants, not to mention a four-fold increase in suicide. Personally, if I had to gamble on whether implanting globes of silicone in a human body for fifty years would increase its chances of developing some sort of cancer, I’d probably go with yes.
The best course of action for the hundreds of thousands of affected women is unclear. Luckily for Americans, the medical device approval process of the FDA prevented the approval of the PIP implants in the United States. The French, Czech, and German governments are recommending removal for all women, while the UK authorities state that there is not enough evidence that the implants pose a health risk to recommend mass removals. The Brazilian government announced they will fine private health plans that refuse to pay for the removal and replacement of the implants.


PIP Breast Implants Mass Ruptures Causing Health Scare


Medical experts such as Dr. Grant Stevens say France's PIP breast implants are prone to rupture. Some 300,000 women worldwide have PIP implants! Plastic surgeon, Dr. Grant Stevens, while founder of implant maker PIP arrested in southern France. PIP implants linked to health scare in Europe & South America.

Some PIP implants made from non-medical grade silicone. Medical authorities: PIP implants could rupture, cause health problems, German medical groups urging women to have PIP implants removed! French government: more than 1,000 PIP implants have ruptured.



'Muslim taxi' offers gender-segregated rides


A German man has created a new website to arrange shared car trips with a twist – it’s targeted toward Muslims, and drivers can only offer transport to members of the same sex.

Called Muslimtaxi.de, the site is based on the same principle as other popular websites like mitfahrgelegenheit.de , which lets cost-conscious Germans arrange shared car rides.

Those interested in offering rides specify their gender, asking price and how many passengers they can accommodate. Potential passengers contact the driver directly.

Selim Reid, a 24-year-old from Norderstedt, city of about 70,000 near Hamburg, told the
Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper that he was inspired to create the site because of Muslims’ bad ride-sharing experiences.

In 1996, for instance, his parents, who are originally from Iraq, caught a ride with a Muslim-hating driver who spent the whole time criticizing them.

“The driver and the people with him swore the whole way about foreigners in general and in particular about my mother’s head scarf,” Reid told the newspaper.

Of course, you don't need to be a Muslim to use Reid’s service. In fact, he told the
Abendblatt, that’s one of the main points of Muslim Taxi.

“Those really looking for dialogue will find it by using Muslim Taxi,” he said.

In operation since late last year, the website has attracted its share of criticism. People have accused Reid of trying to create a parallel society and supporting immigrants who don’t want to integrate in German culture.

But Reid says the response from thousands of grateful riders has showed him he’s filling a niche.

“Many Muslim brothers and sisters complained that they can’t use conventional offers because the gender segregation stipulated by Islam is not implemented,” he added.


Friday, January 27, 2012

Did someone park a tank on Kim DotCom's lawn?


Would you have been fooled? A life-size inflatable balloon designed to look like a Soviet-era tank, was parked on Kim DotCom's lawn this week

Days after police in New Zealand arrested Kim DotCom, the founder of cyberlocker service MegaUpload and accused pirate, journalists were chasing reports that a tank was parked on the front lawn of his Auckland home.
"National Radio (New Zealand) called me about a half hour ago because someone texted to say that there's an army tank on Kim's lawn that is aimed at the front gate," France Komoroske, an attorney and DotCom neighbor, wrote CNET. "They asked me to go take a look."
Now, before we go on, put yourself in the position of DotCom's neighbors or reporters covering this story. Ask yourself this: Why wouldn't there be a tank?
DotCom is the 6-foot-7, 300-pound former street racer and convicted felon who is relatively new to the area and known for driving around in exotic automobiles. The 38-year-old referred to himself as "God" and "Dr. Evil" and lived in a massive $24 million mansion. Only a week earlier, more than 70 police officers had stormed the home by helicopter to arrest him on charges of operating a massive Internet piracy empire.
Police hauled away millions in cash and had to remove DotCom from a specially designed safe room, where they discovered he owned specially designed semi-automatic shotguns.
After all this, what's too far-fetched? Who would blink if DotCom had built a secret underground lair beneath a volcano, or equipped his cars with ejection seats or defended his house with a tank?
That's the kind of thing criminal masterminds do in the movies, and for many years that's the image that DotCom went out of his way to construct for himself.
Nonetheless, the tank was a fake--albeit a good one. What people saw on DotCom's lawn was an inflatable, life-size balloon made to look like a Soviet-era T-72 Russian battle tank, reported the New Zealand Herald. A party was held for one of DotCom's children and an inflatable castle was also at the home but set up in the back, according to Komoroske. 

The tank balloon looked real enough to fool a host of neighbors and some journalists. Inflatable tank models were used in battle to deceive foes.
What I'd like to know was, while the other inflatable toys were stationed in the back of the home, how come the tank was left in the front? One has to wonder if DotCom, who was born Kim Schmitz, is still having fun at the expense of his neighbors and the media.
He remains in police custody until an extradition hearing is held. The United States wants to bring DotCom and three associates, two of which have been released on bail, back here to stand trial.
Odds are this story is going to play out over a long period and won't be boring.


Model makes herself naked for PETA

Model Sophie Barrett protested for PETA against the 
consumption of meat.

Model Sophie Barrett, a vegetarian and animal rights activist, runs to the waiver of the flesh for PETA.

As part of a PETA demonstration against the consumption of meat in London on Thursday gave Sophie Barrett falling shells.

Nude Protest in London

With a butcher's diagram on her body, the young Briton drew attention to the motto of the demonstration. Covered by a makeshift sign saying "All animals have the same parts - no meat," and a scanty panties, Sophie caused a stir with their Action in the City of London.
The young woman was from the police at London's Picadilly Circus asked several times to re-tighten as this posed almost nude for photographers and passersby.

PETA preaches renunciation of meat

The animal rights organization PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) wanted to do with the action on the "World Week for the Abolition of Meat", the "World Week for the absence of meat," attention. Model Sophie Barrett should have become known in any case a lot.


African Twitter map reveals how continent stays connected

Analysis of 11.5m tweets in last three months of 2011 shows South Africa generated the most, with more than 5m recorded

Breakdown of the African countries who tweet the most.

The first Twitter map of Africa shows the social network is forging links between smartphone users from Cape Town to Cairo while, with a few exceptions, political and business leaders are yet to get the hang of tweeting.
More than 11.5m geographically pinpointed tweets originating on the continent during the last three months of 2011 were analysed by Portland Communications's Kenya office and media platform Tweetminster.
Africa's biggest economy, South Africa, generated the most tweets with over 5m, more than double second placed Kenya's 2.48m. Then came Nigeria (1.67m), Egypt (1.21m) and Morocco (0.75m).
Rwanda, which has invested heavily in information technology, produced nearly 100,000 tweets – way more than its giant and impoverished neighbour, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 2,408.
The map also shows that thousands of people are now using Twitter in less "wired" countries such as Angola, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Sudan.
The research, How Africa Tweets, also carried out a survey of 500 of Africa's most active tweeters. It found Twitter in Africa is fast becoming an important source of information on a continent with few guarantees of press freedom.
The average age of African tweeters is between 20 and 29 years old, compared to the worldwide average of 39 years old. Some 57% of tweets from Africa are sent from mobile devices, including BlackBerrys and iPhones.
Toby Shapshak, editor of Stuff magazine in South Africa, said: "Africa is a mobile-first continent. There are more people with phones than PCs."
Twitter is widely used for social conversation, with four in five of those polled saying they mainly used it for communicating with friends. But more than two in three of those polled said they use Twitter to monitor news. More than one in four uses it to search for job opportunities.
How Africa Tweets found that Twitter is helping to form new links within Africa. The majority of those surveyed said that at least half of the Twitter accounts they followed were based on the continent.
But the companies behind the research said few African business and political leaders have joined the continent's Twittersphere.
Mark Flanagan, Portland's partner for digital communications, said: "One of the more surprising findings of this research is that more public figures have not joined Africa's burgeoning Twittersphere.
"With some notable exceptions, we found that business and political leaders were largely absent from the debates playing out on Twitter across the continent. As Twitter lifts off in Africa, governments, businesses and development agencies can really no longer afford to stay out of a new space where dialogue will increasingly be taking place."
Rwanda's president Paul Kagame is a notable exception when it comes to leaders' Twitter abstinence, as is South African president Jacob Zuma, although his most recent post was on 8 January. "It feels good to be here in Mangaung," it reads. "I wouldn't have it any other way. The ANC is great."


Twitter To Censor Tweets In Some Countries 



Twitter, according to its official description, promises to offer up the "latest information about what you find interesting."

There's now a caveat to that, however: The social media service will offer up the latest information about what you find interesting -- and what your government deems acceptable.
Twitter announced Thursday that the company now has the ability to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis, allowing the popular microblogging site to comply with local governments' request to remove or block certain content.
"Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries' limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country -- while keeping it available in the rest of the world," Twitter wrote in a blog post. "We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why."
The company noted that it has not yet exercised the option to withhold content from users in specific countries.
Once it does, it will alert its users to censored tweets by replacing the text of the post with a grayed-out tweet that reads, "This Tweet from @username has been withheld in: Country. Learn more." (See screenshot below.)
In its blog post announcing the changes, Twitter focused on its new ability to remove some tweets. Yet a Twitter Help Center post expanding on this tool noted that the site could also block access to entire accounts. "[I]f you see a grayed-out user in your timeline [...] or elsewhere on Twitter [...] access to that particular account has been withheld in your country," Twitter wrote. (See below.)
We've reached out to Twitter to clarify whether the company previously had the ability to block individual accounts in specific countries.
Twitter maintained that "one of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user's voice," and the company noted that it has partnered with Chilling Effects, a non-profit focused on issues of free speech online, to create a site, http://chillingeffects.org/twitter, where it will alert its community when tweets have been blocked.
The company also said it will "attempt to notify" users whose content countries have requested withheld.
Alternately, users could just bypass the restrictions altogether: The Next Web has posted instructions for how to subvert the censorship.
Twitter users have been up in arms about the change, which many see as incompatible with Twitter's professed commitment to openness and a policy that has the potential to undermine Twitter's role in political movements, such as the pro-democracy protests that rocked Egypt last year.
"It's an affront on a free society & could be a PR disaster for Twitter after it's [sic] much praised role in the #Arabspring," tweeted @globalvybe.
Some users are attempting to organize a "#TwitterBlackout" on January 28 and intend to boycott Twitter in protest of the changes.
Others, most notably the director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have come to Twitter's defense.
"Let's be clear: This is censorship. There's no way around that. But alas, Twitter is not above the law," wrote the EFF's Jillian York. "I understand why people are angry, but this does not, in my view, represent a sea change in Twitter's policies. Twitter has previously taken down content-for DMCA requests, at least-and will no doubt continue to face requests in the future. I believe that the company is doing its best in a tough situation...and I'll be the first to raise hell if they screw up."


Twitter isn't censoring you.  Your government is.

It’s barely been a day since Twitter made the announcement that, going forward, tweets could be censored based on the local laws that govern a user’s location, and the rumour mill is hard at work trying to figure out the reasons behind the decision.
At the same time, many Twitter users are calling for a Twitter Blackout on January 28, vowing to keep Twitter quiet tomorrow.
While Twitter cited the example of the ban of pro-Nazi content in Germany and France, could there be more to it than meets the eye?

Why is Twitter doing this?

Taking a look at the hashtag, #TwitterCensored, a lot of fingers were very quick to point straight at the recent investment by Saudi Prince, Alwaleed bin Talal, without considering the fact that his stake in the company is a mere 3%. Alex Macgillivray, the general counsel of Twitter, has also confirmed that the move has nothing to do with any investments that Twitter has received.
While up until now, Twitter is said to have only blocked content that violates copyright laws, the change expands to include tweets that violate the laws of any given country, provided that they are asked to remove the offending tweets.
One possible reason is that Twitter has been consistently targeted by governments for allowing what is considered “illegal” content to be shared via the site. Israeli law firm, Shurat HaDin threatened to sue the microblogging site if it didn’t boot accounts with ties to Hezbollah and al-Qaeda. Twitter has also seen increasing pressure from US politicians, with Congressman Lieberman decrying the fact that the Taliban has a very vocal Twitter presence.
Twitter obviously used carefully selected words to convey the changes – at the end of the day blocking tweets can’t be defined in any terms other than censorship. But it is a half-hearted form of censorship that seems to appease the lawmakers but has no real direct effect on the user.

Does this affect activists?

Much has been made of the use of social media in the Middle Eastern uprisings, particularly in Egypt. In 2011, Twitter proved to be one of the essential tools used to broadcast news from Egypt to the world, while a year before that, Cairo-based activists used Twitter to coordinate protests and warn each other of security presence around the city. Twitter provides one of the easiest mobile methods to disseminate information online today.
While it may be understandable to withhold racist, hateful or threatening content, Twitter’s definition is all-encompassing and has the potential to take down perfectly acceptable content.
Following the uprising in Egypt, the government passed a law criminalizing protests. What if a law were passed that criminalizes online criticism of authorities? It’s no stretch of imagination, not when bloggers have been arrested and imprisoned for exercising their freedom of speech. In that case, the government in question could tell Twitter what is considered acceptable content.
So does this mean that Twitter has given governments complete power to control what their citizens see on Twitter?

Is it really a big deal?

It’s very easy to criticize Twitter for this move, but the fact remains that in one day, it provided users with the news that content could be censored by location, while also giving them a simple method, one-click away, to make sure that the tweets do flow, regardless of location.
The backlash has been harsh, and Twitter has even been accused of committing social suicide, assuming that an algorithm would be taking care of the extremely sensitive task of censoring content. In it’s announcement however, Twitter points out:
“…if we receive a valid and properly scoped request from an authorized entity, it may be necessary to reactively withhold access to certain content in a particular country from time to time.”
Twitter is not placing an automated censorship system in place, but rather will only comply with what it sees are valid requests.
Twitter has actually found something of a compromise. With the use of a technicality, Twitter is able to safeguard the company legally, comply with governmental requests, and still make the content available to users with the workaround.
The alternative would be to see Twitter blocked entirely in countries which consider its content to be a violation of their local laws. If the finger should be pointed at anyone, it isn’t Twitter, but rather the lawmakers that make it possible to censor content in the first place.
Twitter is viewing a hyperventilation of sorts, going to the point of calling for a Twitter boycott for one day, but as Jillian York points out, the announcement is not a significant change to Twitter’s existing policies.
The current attack on Twitter is no different from the common, but misguided, accusations that are often heard, that Twitter censors certain hashtags from making it into its Trending Topics, when in fact that is an entirely algorithm-based system, driven mainly by news outlets, and represent “topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis.”
Taking a look at Google’s Transparency Report, which we reviewed here, you’ll find that Google is already exercising similar practices, having withheld content locally in the past in India, while refusing some requests to remove content, in the US for example.
It is not clear whether or not Twitter will do the same, and we could do well to give them the benefit of the doubt, before burning them at the stake.


Twitter uncloaks a year's worth of DMCA takedown notices, 4,410 in all

On almost any given day, Twitter receives a handful of requests to delete tweets that link to pirated versions of copyrighted content—and quickly complies by erasing the offending tweets from its site.
That fact itself is probably unsurprising to people familiar with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown process, which gives sites like Twitter a "safe harbor" against lawsuits related to user behavior and uploads—so long as the sites don't knowingly tolerate pirated material or links to such material.
But Twitter has taken the unusual step of making DMCA takedown notices public, in partnership with Chilling Effects, a project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and several universities. The site shows 4,410 cease and desist notices dating back to November 2010. While most of 2011 shows daily or near-daily activity, there is just one notice in January 2012, suggesting either that Twitter is suddenly receiving fewer DMCA takedown notices or that the database is not quite up to date. (If we find out from Twitter or Chilling Effects, we'll update the story.)
Scrolling through recent takedown notices, you'll see names like Magnolia Pictures, Simon and Schuster, Warner Music Group, Universal Music Group, among those of many other media companies. A typical takedown notice contains links to tweets that in turn link to websites where pirated versions of copyrighted material is distributed. Attempting to locate the actual tweet from the notice invariably leads to a Twitter.com error page saying "Sorry, that page doesn't exist!" Movies, music, footage of cricket matches and stolen photographs of an actress in states of undress have all inspired DMCA notices.

Twitter's censorship process accompanied by greater transparency

Twitter's history of deleting tweets to gain safe harbor under the DMCA illustrates that it's not strictly an anything-goes platform, but Twitter says it at least wants to make the deletion process transparent. "One of our core values as a company is to defend and respect each user’s voice," Twitter said. "We try to keep content up wherever and whenever we can, and we will be transparent with users when we can't. The Tweets must continue to flow."
The Chilling Effects database was announced along with Twitter's new program to censor tweets on a country-by-country basis.
"As we continue to grow internationally, we will enter countries that have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression," Twitter said yesterday. "Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country—while keeping it available in the rest of the world."
Twitter hasn't yet used this new ability, but said "when we are required to withhold a Tweet in a specific country, we will attempt to let the user know, and we will clearly mark when the content has been withheld." Deleting tweets is nothing new. What is new is Twitter's ability to prevent people in only one country from seeing specific tweets.
Chilling Effects is designed to inform people about their online rights and help them navigate a legal process that the groups behind the site believe has a "chilling effect" on legitimate Internet activity. "Anecdotal evidence suggests that some individuals and corporations are using intellectual property and other laws to silence other online users. Chilling Effects encourages respect for intellectual property law, while frowning on its misuse to 'chill' legitimate activity," the group says on its website. (One porn site and copyright holder, by the way, made the interesting argument in 2010 that publishing certain takedown notices on Chilling Effects was itself a copyright violation, because the notices contained copyrighted images.)
It is clear that many of the Twitter takedown notices are aimed at bot-like accounts that continue to link to pirated material even after specific takedown requests are granted. Others are just casual Twitter users, including one who complained about the DMCA after one of her tweets was deleted because of a link she posted to the Pirate Bay.
The tweet in question linked to a piece of sheet music that costs $105, and the takedown notice sent to Twitter reads: "We ask that the Twitter public not be encouraged to visit infringing sites. Kindly remove this tweet. We have contacted piratebay.com as well."
Twitter has a page for reporting copyright infringement available for copyright owners and authorized representatives of copyright owners. It also contacts Twitter users after complaints are filed. "If we remove or restrict access to user content in response to a notice of alleged infringement, Twitter will make a good faith effort to contact the affected account holder with information concerning the removal or restriction of access, along with instructions for filing a counter-notification," Twitter says in its copyright and DMCA policy.
Twitter users targeted by DMCA takedowns can file counter-notices by responding to Twitter's e-mail notification. Counter-notices are forwarded to the copyright holder who issued the takedown request. If the copyright holder does not respond within 10 days, Twitter may re-publish the deleted tweet. But within the 10-day period, the rights-holder can seek "a court order to prevent further infringement of the material at issue," Twitter says. 

Cease and Desist Notices: Sent to Twitter



FBI releases plans to monitor social networks

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation has quietly released details of plans to continuously monitor the global output of Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, offering a rare glimpse into an activity that the FBI and other government agencies are reluctant to discuss publicly. The plans show that the bureau believes it can use information pulled from social media sites to better respond to crises, and maybe even to foresee them.

The information comes from a
document released on 19 January looking for companies who might want to build a monitoring system for the FBI. It spells out what the bureau wants from such a system and invites potential contractors to reply by 10 February.

The bureau's wish list calls for the system to be able to automatically search "publicly available" material from Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites for keywords relating to terrorism, surveillance operations, online crime and other FBI missions. Agents would be alerted if the searches produce evidence of "breaking events, incidents, and emerging threats".
Agents will have the option of displaying the tweets and other material captured by the system on a map, to which they can add layers of other data, including the locations of US embassies and military installations, details of previous terrorist attacks and the output from local traffic cameras.

The document suggests that the bureau wants to use social media to target specific users or groups of users. It notes that agents need to "locate bad actors...and analyze their movements, vulnerabilities, limitations, and possible adverse actions". It also states that the bureau will use social media to create "pattern-of-life matrices" -- presumably logs of targets' daily routines -- that will aid law enforcement in planning operations.

The use of the term "publicly available" suggests that Facebook and Twitter may be able to exempt themselves from the monitoring by making their posts private. But the desire of the US government to watch everyone may still have an unwelcome impact, warns
Jennifer Lynch at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based advocacy group.

Lynch says that many people post to social media in the expectation that only their friends and followers are reading, which gives them "the sense of freedom to say what they want without worrying too much about recourse," says Lynch. "But these tools that mine open source data and presumably store it for a very long time, do away with that kind of privacy. I worry about the effect of that on free speech in the US".

The document also suggests that the FBI thinks it can use social media to peer into the future. It notes that agents need to use social media to "[p]redict likely developments in the situation or future actions taken by bad actors (by conducting, [sic] trend, pattern, association, and timeline analysis)".

The bureau declined to immediately comment on how this analysis might work, or on any other aspect of the document, but the idea of turning agents into digital soothsayers is plausible: researchers working at Facebook and in academia have shown that social media can be used to infer many things about an individual, including the existence of
friendships that are not declared on social networking sites and the location of users who have not revealed where they are based.