Elonis v. United States and the Nuances of Threats on Facebook On Monday morning, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts got some attention for quoting Eminem during oral arguments in a case, Elonis v. United States, about the limits of free speech. The issue Roberts wanted to understand—when does communication cross the line into being an illegal threat? In asking about the lyrics, Roberts seemed to be wrestling with some of the questions that have attracted a variety of groups to the case, including free-speech activists, demonstrators who use inflammatory protest materials, advocates for domestic-violence victims, and Internet companies. The Eminem lyrics that Roberts quoted weren’t far off from words Anthony Elonis began writing on Facebook four years ago. Elonis, who was twenty-seven years old at the time, was having a bad year. Elonis appealed the decision all the way to the Supreme Court, arguing that the jurors making the decision about his fate hadn’t used an appropriate definition of what constitutes a threat.
Edward Snowden's not the story. The fate of the internet is | Technology | The Guardian Repeat after me: Edward Snowden is not the story. The story is what he has revealed about the hidden wiring of our networked world. This insight seems to have escaped most of the world's mainstream media, for reasons that escape me but would not have surprised Evelyn Waugh, whose contempt for journalists was one of his few endearing characteristics. In a way, it doesn't matter why the media lost the scent. Without him, we would not know how the National Security Agency (NSA) had been able to access the emails, Facebook accounts and videos of citizens across the world; or how it had secretly acquired the phone records of millions of Americans; or how, through a secret court, it has been able to bend nine US internet companies to its demands for access to their users' data. These are pretty significant outcomes and they're just the first-order consequences of Snowden's activities. The first is that the days of the internet as a truly global network are numbered. Spot on.
The year we get creeped out by algorithms It turns out computers have a built-in “uncanny valley” (that creepy feeling android robots generate when they kind of look human). Just like we don’t want robots too human-shaped — we want them to know their place — it turns out we aren’t too happy when our computers go from “smart” (as in automating things and connecting us to each other or information) to “smart” (as in “let me make that decision for you”). Algorithmic judgment is the uncanny valley of computing. Algorithms (basically computer programs, but here I’m talking about the complex subset that is being used to calculate results of some consequence, which than shape our experience) have become more visible in 2014, and it turns out we’re creeped out. The Facebook experiment made visible what was always there, and raised more questions than it could answer. We’ve had computers for more than a century. One: Our devices are becoming more and more central to our social, personal, financial, and civic interactions.
Anonymous To 'Lizard Squad': Stop Attacking Tor The international activist group Anonymous is telling the hacker collective “Lizard Squad” to “stand down” and stop attacking Tor. Anonymous, which has a long history of hacking and cyber attacking governments, corporations, and religions organizations, says, "We don't give a f--k about corporate bulls--t networks, we do care about 3rd world communications." The Tor Project is one of the most effective sites for encrypted communication, making it one of the most important internet services in the world. Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden have used the service, and it's proven pivotal in "dissident movements” in Iran and Egypt. Prior to allegedly attacking Tor, “Lizard Squad” had claimed responsibility for taking down Sony’s PlayStation Network and Microsoft’s Xbox Live on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve — to the dismay of millions of gamers — by allegedly launching massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks that overload servers with bogus requests.
Save the Fav, Twitter's Digital Body Language Photo There’s a kerfuffle at the moment on Twitter about what should happen when you fav something. Until recently, when you pressed the “favorite” button on a tweet — that is, the little star below a Twitter posting — almost nothing happened. Other users, including the one who originally posted, might see that you’d starred the tweet, but Twitter’s “favorite” was different from the “like” button on Facebook. It wasn’t taken to mean that you actually liked or were interested in the substance of that tweet. This made the fav one of the few forms of online speech that were mostly disconnected from consequence. But now Twitter is slightly altering what happens when you press “favorite.” The new plan won’t change Twitter very much for most users. One of the problems of communicating online is that words are too precise. People encountered this problem immediately after they began communicating online, and they quickly came up with ways around it.
The Soul of the Censor by Robert Darnton What is censorship? If the concept of censorship is extended to everything, it means nothing. It should not be trivialized. Not that all states impose sanctions in the same way. Reading was an essential aspect of censoring, not only in the act of vetting texts, which often led to competing exegeses, but also as an aspect of the inner workings of the state, because contested readings could lead to power struggles, which sometimes led to public scandals. It also could be positive. Negotiation occurred at every level, but especially at the early stages when a text began to take shape. Consider Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s account of his experience in The Oak and the Calf, published in 1975, a year after his expulsion from the Soviet Union. At this point, Solzhenitsyn’s narrative turns into a kind of sociology. The course itself is described—leaked copies, huddled conversations in corridors of power, a reading before Khrushchev in his dacha, and approval by the Presidium (Politburo).
Detention of journalists in Iran a bellwether of internal politics With all of the headline-making turmoil in the Middle East, it’s understandable that the detention of three journalists in Iran has received relatively little attention. Since July 22, when plainclothes security officers took Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American correspondent for The Washington Post, and his Iranian wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for The National, an Abu Dhabi–based newspaper, from their home in Tehran, reaction from Western media and press freedom watchers has been supportive of the couple but relatively subdued. (Another Iranian-American journalist, a photographer, was also detained but has not yet been identified by authorities.) The Post and other outlets have tried to keep up momentum of coverage, but compare that with the global outcry that ensued when Egyptian authorities convicted three Al Jazeera correspondents in June for supposedly fabricating news of mayhem in the streets of Cairo. That distinction is significant.
Russian Government Reportedly Edited Wikipedia Entry About MH17 An Internet user within the Russian government reportedly revised a Wikipedia entry about Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was shot down over eastern Ukraine Thursday. The changes were spotted by a Twitter bot that monitors Wikipedia edits from Russian government IP addresses. The anonymous user revised one sentence in a Russian-language page that lists "aircraft accidents in civil aviation," according to a Google translation of the tweet by @RuGovEdits. The original entry said: The plane was shot down by terrorists of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic with Buk system missiles, which the terrorists received from the Russian Federation. The revised entry, written less than an hour after the original, said: The plane was shot down by Ukrainian soldiers. An Internet user from within the All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) made the changes, according to The Telegraph. Flight 17, a Boeing 777, was carrying 298 people when it crashed.
New Media Sites in Iran Blur Lines Between Citizen Journo, Professional Journo, & Activist A screenshot of the amateur video capturing Neda Agha-Soltan's death. The video won a prestigious Polk award. In 2010, Newsweek declared Iran the “birthplace of citizen journalism.” Iranian bloggers were hailed by Westerners as “brave” for their coverage of the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election. Although Blogestan—the “province of the blogs”—is no longer what it once was, citizen journalism is still being practiced. IranWire and the Professional Citizen Journalist “IranWire was designed and put together to introduce the concept of citizen journalism to young Iranians, many of whom were already practicing but did not realize it had a prescriptive identity,” Azadeh Moaveni, an Iranian-American journalist and the editor of the English version of IranWire, told techPresident. IranWire publishes material in both English and Persian, although the English site has only a fraction of the articles as the Persian. IranWire homepage (Screenshot) Bahari elaborated: