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Articles on this Page
- 11/29/12--11:33: _Worldwide secret ag...
- 11/29/12--12:42: _Chinese model jaile...
- 11/29/12--14:00: _Free condoms: The w...
- 11/29/12--14:21: _Dot Dot Dot: The In...
- 11/30/12--04:00: _#HireKevin: Man tri...
- 11/30/12--08:00: _A day in the office...
- 11/30/12--08:02: _Movember 2012: The ...
- 11/30/12--08:10: _Know Your Meme's fa...
- 11/30/12--08:32: _Facebook told to re...
- 11/30/12--11:59: _Student hit by bus ...
- 11/30/12--12:41: _100,000 Swedes can ...
- 11/30/12--13:46: _Haitian couple call...
- 12/03/12--04:48: _Defriendtion: Put y...
- 12/03/12--06:21: _4chan helps Kim Jon...
- 12/03/12--07:15: _Man who murdered on...
- 12/03/12--09:35: _Police use Twitter ...
- 12/03/12--11:24: _What will the Pope'...
- 12/03/12--12:59: _Student artist to m...
- 12/04/12--06:50: _19-year-old admits ...
- 12/04/12--07:25: _Noah Kravitz hints ...
- 11/29/12--11:33: Worldwide secret agents aren't so secret on LinkedIn
- 11/29/12--12:42: Chinese model jailed for posting police-fantasy pics to Weibo
- 11/29/12--14:00: Free condoms: The way to keep Twitter from mocking your campaign
- 11/29/12--14:21: Dot Dot Dot: The Internet's sexual revolution
- 11/30/12--08:00: A day in the office with Know Your Meme—the Web's "Britannica"
- 11/30/12--08:02: Movember 2012: The fullest 'stache wrap-up you'll ever read
- 11/30/12--08:10: Know Your Meme's favorite memes
- 11/30/12--08:32: Facebook told to remove pedophile-monitoring page
- 11/30/12--11:59: Student hit by bus fights to save campus foam-sword street battles
- 11/30/12--12:41: 100,000 Swedes can be wrong: "Horses are a fruit"
- 11/30/12--13:46: Haitian couple calls 2-year-old daily, baffles mother
- 12/03/12--04:48: Defriendtion: Put your Facebook friends in detention
- 12/03/12--06:21: 4chan helps Kim Jong-un top Time's Person of the Year poll
- 12/03/12--07:15: Man who murdered online date had 900 Facebook friends
- 12/03/12--09:35: Police use Twitter to reunite lost iPad with owner 6,000 miles away
- 12/03/12--11:24: What will the Pope's first tweet be?
- 12/03/12--12:59: Student artist to marry cutout of "Twilight" character
- Ceremony and minister fee
- Wedding dress
- Rings (his & hers)
- 12/04/12--06:50: 19-year-old admits to robbing bank, stealing car on YouTube
- 12/04/12--07:25: Noah Kravitz hints he got off scot-free in @PhoneDog case
One of the fundamental aspects of working for a spy agency is making sure to keep a low profile. Anyone who’s seen the Bourne films or read an Ian Fleming novel can attest to that.
That idea was apparently lost on agents from Belgium’s State Security Agency (Surete de l'Etat) and Coordinating Body for Threat Analysis (OCAM). At least two agents from the State Security Agency and five from OCAM disclosed their identities on LinkedIn. Some shared their official titles; others listed their general location.
“This is essentially the Belgian equivalent of listing your position as ‘Top Secret Spy at the CIA’ on LinkedIn,” BetaBeat’s Jessica Roy noted.
Pascale and her Flemish partners aren’t the only intelligence agents to use the network—American CIA agents are on LinkedIn too. A search for “Central Intelligence Agency” in the Washington, D.C., metro area turns up 94 different employees, one who claims to be a political analyst for the service.
While the CIA and other clandestine organizations require most employees to refrain from speaking in specifics about their jobs, the rules regarding social networking are unclear. But the CIA is probably not keen on employees using it, NakedSecurity reported:
The danger for organizations like the CIA, NSA and other intelligence services is that those members might become the targets of sophisticated phishing attacks by adversaries who use the publicly available information on LinkedIn and other social networks to learn more about the individuals and to construct a social graph of their professional and personal contacts.
Photo by andertoons/Flickr
Chinese authorities are very busy with state security these days. Just a few weeks after jailing a Twitter user for telling a joke, they’ve busted a model for posting pictures online.
By most standards, the photos Wang Xiaomeng posted to Sina Weibo in July border somewhere between minimally titillating and minimally voyeuristic. They show Wang, 23, wearing a policeman’s uniform and sitting on a bed, pulling up a pair of stockings over her bare legs.
She paired the photos with a pretty mundane fantasy, translated by The Telegraph’s Malcolm Moore:
"As a new cop in my hometown, I need to learn the basics. As one of the flowers of the force, I am under pressure. I have to eat and drink with government leaders every day. I am using my flower status to dine with the leaders and win contracts for projects and investments!"
Her followers liked the pics. They shared them more than 500 times and left more than 300 comments. But you can just imagine some uptight Chinese bureaucrat stumbling on the photos somewhere deep inside Beijing’s police headquarters, forced to shift in his seat and straighten his tie as the sight of bare flesh pops up in his Weibo feed.
Wang was arrested a day later. On Monday, she was sentenced to nine months in prison, which was immediately suspended for a year. Her crime: impersonating a policewoman. (Do China’s cops frequently post half-nude photos of themselves to social media or something?)
“It’s obvious that [Wang] was doing this purely out of fun,” the Huffington Post translated one Weibo user as saying in response to the news. “She had no intention of seeking illegal interests. Regardless of how she damaged the police force’s image, a law was not broken.”
Mostly true. Except the only things damaging the image of the Beijing police are the police themselves.
Photo via HuffingtonPost
The message “Free stuff to anybody who forwards this” is almost always a hoax. Remember in 2004, when every American with a gullible relative (in other words, every American) received an email falsely promising hundreds of Bill Gates’s dollars for every forward? Sadly, all we got were annoyed friends (and possibly a computer virus).
So, if nothing else, the Durex condom Twitter campaign is worth noting because it’s actually real. When anyone tweets a message with the hashtag #1share1condom, Durex will donate a condom to an AIDS-fighting charity in honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.
The company—along with its partners, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Dance4Life, and the UK’s National AIDS Trust—says it ultimately hopes to distribute 2.5 million condoms, “the same number of people infected with HIV last year.” As of Nov. 29, according to its website, it had already donated over 920,000.
But the Durex campaign is notable for another reason: It’s a corporate-sponsored Twitter promotion that didn’t backfire horribly against the company.
Twitter marketing promotions often fail spectacularly. For example, when Disney-Pixar and Touchstone Pictures tried promoting a warm and fuzzy family flick with the hashtag #PeopleLikeUs, the only Twitterers who picked up on the trend were misanthropes with extremely un-Disney-like opinions.
A&E had the opposite problem when it tried hashtag-promoting its show Monster In-Laws; the results might have been the first time in human history that a bunch of married people looking to make snarky jokes had nothing but good things to say about their spouse’s relatives.
And don’t forget the McDonald’s #McDStories disaster, in which the Twitterati enthusiastically shared heartfelt 140-character experiences involving diabetes, obesity, throwing up, and other things fast-food companies leave out of their commercials.
In light of such history, you might worry about the #1share1condom campaign. Sex, AIDS, rubbers—all fodder for countless tasteless jokes in the past. Would Twitter trolls derail Durex?
Remarkably, no. The hashtag appears in Tweets of all languages (unsurprising, since the AIDS virus respects no national or cultural barriers), and so far, the response is extremely nice. A 10-minute search turned up no rude jokes—just tweets mentioning the condom-donation offer or sharing HIV facts and statistics.
It’s enough to make a misanthrope feel good about humanity: Some things are so important, even the Internet won’t turn them into a joke.
Photo via Island Nimbus/Flickr
Is Hunter Moore this generation’s Larry Flynt?
Moore came to prominence as the creator of IsAnyoneUp.com. The site titillated visitors with “revenge porn.” Anyone could go to IsAnyoneUp.com and post nude pictures of their exes (or anyone else for that matter), and the site presented those pics alongside their respective Facebook pages. Moore would often follow up the photos with a reaction GIF, a kind of commentary on the subject’s physical attractiveness.
The site made him the “most hated man on the Internet.”
Eventually, however, Moore shut down the site, citing legal problems, media frenzy, and burn out.
Now, Moore is back and up to his old tricks. His new revenge porn site has debuted at HunterMoore.tv, but this time Moore promises to “do it right.” It’s not entirely clear what that means, but there is at least one new feature that distinguishes the new site from the old one. Now, not only can you post your exes’ pictures with their name, gender, city, age, and Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts, you can include their full physical address.
“We’re gonna introduce the mapping stuff so you can stalk people,” Moore said. “I know—it’s scary shit.”
You really can’t talk about smut online these days without talking about Michael Brutsch.
Brutsch, until recently widely known as Violentacrez, was the influential Reddit moderator behind many of its most notorious subreddits—many of which were highly sexually charged. One popular subreddit encouraged users to post sexy or revealing pictures of women taken without their knowledge or consent. Another was the home of similar photos of girls who were or appeared to be underage.
A few weeks ago, Adrian Chen at Gawker posted Brutsch’s true identity, a revelation that has been called (somewhat oddly) the tech story of the year. Brutsch was covered far and wide. He eventually apologized on CNN and lost his job.
Yet despite Brutsch’s apology, he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. Earlier this week, he briefly reappeared on Reddit. A redditor, discussing the events, wrote, “Violentacrez was a scumbag. He did something wrong.” Brutsch responded, “Really? Care to elaborate?”
No one did, and Brutsch deleted the comment.
The world seems to have lost interest in Brutsch, in more ways than one. Brutsch, hoping to capitalize on his infamy and surround himself with like-minded folk, hoped to get a job in the porn industry, but the deafening silence seems to indicate that they don’t want anything to do with him either.
To Jennifer Abel, a Daily Dot correspondent who put herself through college by stripping and therefore has a little first-hand knowledge of the adult entertainment industry, the porn industry’s avoidance of Brutsch is no surprise.
Brutsch, she wrote, broke the two ironclad rules of adult entertainment: age and consent. And therefore no self-respecting pornographer would have anything to do with him.
The truth is that amidst all the social turmoil around race, gender, sexual orientation, social and economic justice, nationalism, and international conflict from the ‘50s to the ‘70s, men like Hugh Hefner and Larry Flynt pushed the bounds of sexual taboos—taboos that had loosened only slightly since the Victorian era.
We are living through a similar period now. Digital media has once again changed the nature of sex and adult entertainment in our society. It has made porn both more accessible and more private than ever before. (You no longer need to go to a newsstand in a fake mustache, glasses, and a deerstalker to get an eyeful.) It has also made anyone (especially teens) with a camera phone into a potential amateur pornographer. There is both liberation and exploitation here, the same powerful blend of both that the sex industry has always manifested.
A big part of the sexual liberation afforded by the Internet is a result of community, not just technology. One of the laws of the Internet states the following: “If it exists, there is porn of it. No exceptions.” No matter how seemingly odd your fetish—even if you are particularly into sour cream, ugly drapes, and garden gnomes—you can find that porn online. And you can find others with exactly the same tastes.
That is not always a good thing.
Amanda Todd, a Canadian teen, flashed her breasts in a video chatroom with a stranger. He tried to get her to show more, threatening to expose her (literally) to her friends and family. Whether she complied or not, he did expose her, setting off a cycle of abuse and bullying that ultimately led to her suicide.
What is especially disturbing is that men like the one who persecuted Todd are not only common, but they have formed their own online communities, where they trade secrets and celebrate their “successes.” Some members of these communities claim victims in the hundreds.
Hunter Moore, at least, is equally dedicated to the age rule. When he closed IsAnyoneUp.com, the main reason for his burnout, he said, was having to deal with all the kiddie porn. He assiduously reported every picture submitted of underage subjects, and finally, after frequently spending three hours a day reporting child pornography, he simply couldn’t take it any more.
Arguably, expanding sexual freedom is a good thing. It has contributed greatly to the environment that has led to the sex-positive movement and enabled us as a society to rethink what constitutes a healthy relationship with sex. We have, I would argue, made some progress since the Victorians, but we’re still far from liberated. So the sexual revolution afforded by the Internet can be a good thing. But not all sex is good. Just as we decide what new sexual norms we will accept, we must also decide those which we will absolutely not.
Violentacrez, when he was brought out into the light of day, has been roundly rejected. But Hunter Moore has as many fans as he has haters. Many don’t even resent their pictures being posted without their permission. Moore, by breaking one of our two biggest sexual taboos, has become a symbol of the new sexual liberation. Of course, he’s also much cuter and more age-appropriate than Michael Brutsch.
Pushing the bounds of taboo is effective at getting people’s attention, but I don’t think that Moore is the symbol we want. Revenge porn may sometimes seem harmless, but it clearly isn’t. It is at the least mean-spirited; at worst, it is dangerous. Whatever other mores we dissolve, we should listen to the pornographers and keep the rules around age and consent inviolable.
Photo from melbourne3000/Reddit
Facebook is topping all our news feeds with obnoxious brand posts, while hiding updates from pages we actually liked. Clicking to hide the post leaves me feeling impotent. My colleague Henry likes to leave stupid comments on these promoted posts, punishing the brands for so desperately chasing his likes.
It looks like Kevin Matuszak is doing that, but on a grand scale. He’s begging Applebee’s to hire him, in a Facebook comment thread that’s gotten 182 comments and 265 likes. And whoever runs the Applebee’s Facebook page has been responding every now and then, checking on his progress — and then helping him along. They’re trying to turn it into a publicity stunt. A very silly, stupid, actually-fun publicity stunt.
On Monday, Kevin wrote on the Applebee’s Facebook timeline: “hi, can I work for you?” They replied, “Check if your local Applebee’s is hiring!”
But Kevin said he wanted a job at corporate. And he kept bugging them. With updates like these:
He got a lot of support, and screwed with people who took him seriously:
And Applebee’s kept responding:
Applebee’s even tweeted out about the #HireKevin campaign, linking to a half-assed video remix he made:
It seems like Kevin has a slim chance of actually getting some sort of gig out of this, thanks to the hunger a brand like Applebee’s has for “organic” customer interaction and “viral” marketing. But today Kevin has been escalating the crazy.
I imagine he’s keeping the Applebee’s marketing team on edge, as they wonder if further endorsement could force them to deal with an off-brand maverick.
Think he’s got a chance?
In 1768, all it cost to change history was £200. That’s what two Scottish publishers paid William Smellie—son of a stonemason and master printer—to squeeze the sum-total of human knowledge into a single text.
Smellie toiled for three years on the project, employing his expertise in the natural sciences and “a pair of scissars” to cobble together what would become one of the most important works of reference in Western history: the first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Fast forward 244 years: It’s a chilly November afternoon in midtown Manhattan. The three researchers for Internet culture repository Know Your Meme sit in the cluttered corner of an office building, clicking away at keyboards.
Don Caldwell, 30, suddenly looks up. “So should we write it?” he says. I’ve been sitting next to him all afternoon and have no clue what he's talking about. He’d just interrupted 30 minutes of silence.
Don’s colleagues know exactly what he means, though. The mysterious “it” is receiving a lot of chatter, replies the soft-spoken Amanda Brennan, her pink hair peeking out just above her computer monitor. Brad Kim, the site’s editor, agrees. They probably should write an entry about “it,” he says.
If Smellie had somehow witnessed this exchange, he surely would have believed them either insane or telepathic. Even when seated just feet apart, Know Your Meme’s staff talk shop mostly online. Their conversations, like the world that they chronicle, live largely in a digital place.
It’s a realm that would have been completely alien to Smellie and his contemporaries, and is still foreign to many alive right now. But Know Your Meme's work, and their discussion today, are the latest and least-appreciated inheritors of Smellie’s legacy. Know Your Meme is the Encyclopedia Britannica of the Internet.
From its beginning, Web culture has been niche, anarchic, and nebulous, typified by an absurdist and occasionally scatalogical sense of humor, an obsession with in-jokes, and a delight in pranks. It began bubbling up from the primordial Internet goo of Usenet discussion boards in the early ‘80s, back when computers talking to each other through phone lines was high technology and email was pretty much science fiction to your average American. The structure of a real culture began solidifying at Web forums in the late ‘90s and early 2000s—places like SomethingAwful, YTMND, and 4chan—and more recently at social sites like Reddit and Twitter.
Web culture always defied easy categorization or research, and its importance to society at large has often been largely murky. In recent years, however, the Web has seeped more and more into our daily lives. The hacktivist group Anonymous, nonexistent just 10 years ago, is the Internet unleashed—a full-blown social and political force whose exploits have become frequent fodder for mainstream media and political chatter. Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Force announces military strikes on Twitter—with hashtags—and President Obama’s presidential campaign speaks the language of animated GIFs.
“I think the spread of information on the Internet and how it works is becoming increasingly important,” Caldwell says. “We explain how it happens. We don’t just explain what it is. We trace how it spread.”
The word “meme” itself was coined by scientist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 work The Selfish Gene, and it usually refers to an idea that spreads from person-to-person. Applying evolutionary concepts to culture, Dawkins suggested that successful memes mimicked the selfish replication patterns of genes. The Internet proved a perfect testing ground for the concept, and “meme” quickly became a fitting catch-all term to label any popular online trend or cultural product.
Surely you’ve been Rickrolled before? At Know Your Meme, the Rickroll, one of the most ubiquitous and popular memes on the Web, is defined, its origins delineated, with great moments in its history detailed one by one:
In February 2008, during the Anonymous’ Project Chanology protests against the Church of Scientology, “Never Gonna Give You Up” was played from boomboxes, performed, and shouted. The UK daily The Guardian called it “a live rick-rolling of the Church of Scientology.”
Other Web topics not necessarily associated with Anonymous are also chronicled, of course, including great memes in Internet history. Shock site Goatse has a broadly detailed entry well-worth a read. So does one of the earliest and greatest memes, “All Your Base Are Belong to Us,” a catchphrase that went “viral on popular discussion forums in 2000, spawning thousands of image macros and flash animations.”
You can find an entry for pretty much every Advice Animal ever. Accompanying them, as with every other post, are graphs showing Google interest in the topic over time.
The Internet’s eternal obsession—cats—also has a page. “Images and videos of cats are widespread on the Internet,” that entry dryly explains, before laying out in exhaustive detail their long and ironfisted rule over the Internet.
Every month nearly 10 million people across the world click on Know Your Meme articles, either seeking to educate themselves on the meaning of a certain bit of Internet ephemera they’ve stumbled upon (what the hell is a Dolan?) or hoping to dig deep into its murky origins (“Didn’t read LOL”). Anywhere from 60 to 65 percent of Know Your Meme’s traffic comes from Google every day.
The staff for such a huge site is remarkably small: just three full-time researchers and one development staffer. (In contrast, the Britannica had a full-time staff of about 70 people in 2007.)
Know Your Meme occupies a corner on the 19th floor of a midtown Manhattan building that sits catty-corner to the Macy’s flagship store. When I told the doorman I was there to visit Know Your Meme, he had no idea what I was talking about. The offices are owned by digital marketing company Marketfish.
“I’m the, I guess, editor of the site,” the characteristically humble Kim says. (To be clear, he is most definitely the site’s editor.) Like the other staffers, Kim, 25, views his role at Know Your Meme as an extension of his academic background. “I think my background in journalism,” he says, “has helped me to shape the objective and factual tone of language that's become the norm within our community.”
Brennan, 26, has a master’s in library science and thinks of herself as a meme librarian—“the only one in the world,” she says, smiling. Caldwell, meanwhile, studied anthropology at Rutgers and calls himself a “digital anthropologist.”
Those three steer a vast, rowdy ship of more than 165,000 users who, as Kim freely admits, are absolutely essential to the site’s success. Know Your Meme operates like a traditional hierarchical encyclopedia welded together with the freewheeling crowdsourcing of Wikipedia.
The birth of a typical entry goes something like this: Someone witnesses a notable event on the Internet and decides to write a post about it. A staffer then comes along, confirms what they can using a combination of refined Google searches and the Internet Archive, and either marks the meme as confirmed or sends it to “deadpool,” a purgatory for the unproven or downright fictional. Staffers also write posts themselves, if they think the community has missed something important. They aim to publish six to eight confirmed entries a day.
With 1,300 confirmed entries and 3,000 total submissions, there’s a good chance that, if it happened on the Internet and it's important, Know Your Meme has written about it.
By any standard, Know Your Meme boasts one of the most underwhelming encyclopedia names in history.
Before encyclopedias were called encyclopedias they were called a lot of other things: Roman scholar Pliny titled his first century A.D. compendium Natural History. Medieval German nun Herrad of Landsberg named hers Garden of Delights. (The “delights” included illustrations of gutted and gored sinners roasting in hell.) Other fine examples include On the Universe, The Great Comprehensive Universal Lexicon, and On the Characteristics of Things.
The ancient Greek phrase enkyklios paideia, or “comprehensive education,” provides the foundation for the word “encyclopedia” itself. Paul Scalich, a German writer, was the first to use the term to describe a book—his 1559 tome, Encyclopaedia; or, Knowledge of the World of Disciplines, Not Only Sacred but Profane.
The Internet’s vast cultural revolution spawned Wikipedia, Know Your Meme, and dozens of other digital encyclopedias. Likewise, the Enlightenment, the Britannica tells us, “brought such an upheaval in the human concept of the world that the time was ripe for further experiments in the form of the encyclopaedia." The works became ever more comprehensive and, perhaps more importantly, alphabetized, so people could more easily navigate their vast contents. Frenchman Denis Diderot published his landmark Encyclopaedia or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts and Crafts in 1751. Two decades later Smellie finally completed the Encyclopedia Britannica—the “British Encyclopedia,” the definitive English-language compendium for more than 200 years.
Encyclopedias had fair cause for grandiose titles. Their authors often saw the works as reflections of the worlds from which they sprang and as tools for bettering society. That was explicitly the case in Vincent of Beauvais’s masterpiece The Great Mirror. The French scholar believed his complete compendium of medieval knowledge “showed the world what it is and what it should become.”
That’s what Know Your Meme does. It’s the Internet’s mirror. It shows the people of the Internet where they’ve been, and perhaps more importantly, where they’re going.
It cost £200 to publish the first Britannica. But Know Your Meme was pretty much free. Like so many other products of the Internet, it was born from the musings of of a bunch of bored people sitting around at work—in this case, the Flatiron offices of Web video pioneer Rocketboom in 2007.
“We’d sit around talking about internet memes all day,” recalls Kenyatta Cheese, 39, Rocketboom’s chief operating officer at the time. “We’d sit there and try to figure out where things originated. We just fucking geeked out about all of that about the history of things online.”
Cheese and fellow cofounders, Jamie Wilkinson, Elspeth Rountree, and Rocketboom CEO Andrew Baron had watched as Web culture creeped into the mainstream, especially at places like Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. But “none of it was being credited to the sites and cultures and communities where they originated,” Cheese says.
In December of that year, Rocketboom’s host Joanne Colan was unable to finish the current season. The company’s small staff suddenly had more time on their hands. The result was a flurry of explainer videos—10 over a period of just two weeks—that began with One Take and ended in “Crank That Soulja Boy.” The characters in the videos donned lab coats because, according to Cheese, “it was a great way to show authority without having to prove anything.”
At the same time, Wilkinson—on his own—had been building a database of every meme he’d ever found as a personal reference tool. The combination of the videos and the database naturally evolved into the website, which the company registered on Nov. 17, 2007. The videos also set the tone for the site’s style as a whole: an unlikely marriage between irreverent humor and a devotion to facts that was perfect for explaining the Internet to a mainstream audience.
“It had to be entertaining,” Cheese explains. “If you want the syrup to go down you need a sugar pill.”
Rocketboom’s staff knew that chronicling the Internet was too large a task for just a few people, and so from the beginning they also had to figure out a way to crowdsource the site’s content. Cheese notes that Wikipedia was often bogged down by a user-created bureaucracy, which ironically created a high barrier for entry. “There aren’t schools teaching this stuff,” Cheese says. “We had to find ways to value experience over expertise. If we let people make small contributions then everyone’s small contributions could add up if we did the heavy work—piece it together, fact check it.”
Photo of Kenyatta Cheese and Jamie Wilkinson by Sage Ross/Wikimedia Commons
Know Your Meme quickly took off and began hiring interns to fill in its staffing holes, including Kim, Caldwell, and Brennan. By early 2011, both Cheese and Wilkinson had left, and the former interns stepped up to take control. Just a few months later, Internet entrepreneur and LOLcat aficionado Ben Huh acquired the site, making it one arm of his massive Cheezburger Network.
At the time, Huh’s company was the target of criticism from places like 4chan, which saw Cheezburger's appropriation of images and memes as an attempt to profit off the Internet's free and often anti-corporate culture. (When Huh gave a presentation at this year’s ROFLcon, a group of hecklers proved so disruptive that organizers had no choice but to kick them out.)
It’s important to note that Know Your Meme wasn’t the first site to comprehensively chronicle the Internet. Encyclopedia Dramatica, “a radically profane and disturbing nightmare vision of Wikipedia,” has been doing the same thing since 2004. The site, often called simply ED, is a Wiki penned by the people who actually generate a lot of Web culture—hardcore denizens of places like 4chan. Primed for shock value and loaded with racism, misogyny, and gore, the best ED articles are masterpieces of trolldom, satirically chronicling the exploits of Anonymous and 4chan. In that sense, ED more perfectly reflects the subterranean online worlds from which much of the last decade of Internet culture bubbled up.
ED’s entry on Know Your Meme is scathing. “Know Your Meme is clearly intended for mass commercialization of every ‘cute’ meme that ever sprang forth from a *chan,” it reads. “It's also mostly safe for work, which is fucking lame.” While the criticisms are biting, they also speak to the truth of Know Your Meme’s present and future success: Your parents may turn away screaming from ED, but they can lose themselves for hours at Know Your Meme.
Back at Marketfish's Manhattan conference room, I ask the Know Your Meme editors if they think their work is important.
“We have different explanations of what we do depending on the audience,” Kim says. “To my mom, I’m just the dude who blogs for a living.”
“When someone won’t understand," contributes Brennan, “I just say I watch cat videos all day.”
Kim continues: “When it’s the right people or circle of people, we take it seriously. We take it very very seriously.”
The “right circle” is continuously growing. Anonymous's cultural influence is an early harbinger of our Web-defined future—a sign that Internet culture is leaving behind its niche, that it’s no longer gently influencing the mainstream but merging with it entirely. In the United States alone, the number of people with Internet access increased from 85 million in 1998 to 245 million in 2011. Smartphones put the Internet in your pocket. Your mom and dad aren’t just on Facebook; they’re sharing memes on your wall.
Know Your Meme staffers are starting to dream big. As the Marketfish logo looms over us in their conference room, they talk of expanding into a pure research institution, leaving behind the vestiges of a media company for the purity of data and facts and scholarship. They mention Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society as a structural model and wax hopeful about joining forces with the Internet Archive, the world’s only digital library of the Internet.
Brennan says she hopes the site will become a map for the future, so that generations to come “will be able to look back and figure out why we turned out the way we did.”
After our interview finishes, Caldwell finally has time to work on that mysterious entry they’d all first discussed hours ago—the Internet’s reaction to the Nicole Westbrook music video “Thanksgiving,” first released on YouTube on Nov. 7, and the latest inheritor to the Rebecca Black love-to-hate-it legacy.
Caldwell’s post goes live shortly thereafter. One of the earliest comments is from a Know Your Meme user bearing the pseudonym “Bill Clinton”:
“Everyone will forget about this by next week,” it reads.
That’s pretty much true of everything on the Internet. But if you ever want to remember, you’ll always know where to look.
Illustration via Jason Reed
It is time for Movember 2012 to come to a close.
Since its debut in Adelaide, South Australia, in 2004, men around the world have grown mustaches each November to raise money for charities funding men’s health issues such as prostate and testicular cancer. This year, “Mo Bros” raised close to $95 million worldwide.
According to the official leaderboards, the country that raised the most amount of money in 2012 was Canada, with over $31 million. Team Mo CIBC from Canada was the top-earning team, bringing in over $250,000.
In the United States, over $15 million was raised for Movember, ranking it fourth behind Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. Team Nuclear has achieved the coveted first-place team spot with close to $160,000 raised. A fund set up in the name of the late Benjamin Weible held the first-place ranking for an individual, with over $23,000 in donations.
Movember kicked off with an official endorsement from Nick Offerman, best known for his role as Ron Swanson in the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation. Roughly a week before Movember’s Nov. 1 kickoff, he released a video teaching participants how to grow the perfect mustache.
Offerman wasn’t the event’s only celebrity endorser this year. Homeland actor Damian Lewis kept fans updated on the progress of his ’stache throughout the month. Additionally, in an interview with Movember.com, mustachioed comic book icon Stan Lee revealed that he will help judge the Moscars, which awards prizes to the most creative Movember-related videos.
An antifeminist campaign early in November, in which users on Twitter and other sites declared Movember as a “males-only event,” did not discourage women from participating. While “Mo Sistas” are encouraged to support their male counterparts, some women feel this isn’t enough. Some spent Movember wearing fake moustaches. Others, like redditor AhriFox, grew out their pubic hair (NSFW). Still others, like U.K. participant Siobhain Fletcher, grew actual facial hair.
On Reddit, the 600+ subscribers of r/movember have spent the month keeping one another updated with pictures and challenges. Redditor John Burnside, a three-time Movember participant, earned over 1,000 upvotes with his unique moustache/chest hair combo.
Photo via Burnsidious/imgur
“I may have taken Movember a little too far,” he wrote.
“I had a beard that I shaved off on the first of November,” Burnside told the Daily Dot. “I was actually thinking about trying to shave down to a Batman symbol for the last day.”
Should he opt for the hairy artwork, he has competition in the form of fellow redditor msamard:
Photo via msamard/imgur
The Movember movement wasn’t limited to just people. Cupcakes donned ’staches in support of the cause, and Gameloft’s The Oregon Trail: Settler game featured an option to customize characters with Movember ’dos. Even London’s Big Ben got in on the action this year:
Photo via Movember
As participants and supporters nationwide welcome December with Gala Partés all over the country, we present you with six memorable moments from Movember 2012:
Movember kicks off with participants ringing the New York Stock Exchange’s opening bell on Nov. 1. Fun fact: That day, Proctor & Gamble, which owns the Gillette brand of razors, saw a nine-cent increase in its stock price.
User Jason Kent, upon reaching a $500 fundraising goal, accepts Nick Offerman’s challenge of eating a raw onion.
NHL players may be locked out of hockey, but that doesn’t stop them from participating in Movember. Here, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Mike Brown shaves off his massive beard for Movember.
No wonder Canada raised more money than any other country during Movember: Awareness of the cause is even discussed in government! Here, Len Webber, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta (representing Calgary-Foothills) speaks about the popularity of the moustache.
User cocoreysa creates a slideshow of his Minecraft character Steve tackling Movember.
Derick Watts and the Sunday Blues, a comedy/pop duo from Cape Town, South Africa, commemorate Movember in a parody of “Call Me Maybe.”
Photo via marktristan/Flickr
There’s so much Internet out there that it can all be pretty overwhelming sometimes, like jumping into an ocean of cats without a paddle.
Thankfully, the three researchers of Know Your Meme are there to help.
Brad Kim, Amanda Brennan, and Don Caldwell spend their lives chronicling the depths and heights of the Internet so that whenever you need to learn about a Dolan or a Goatse or a Pedobear, the answer is just a click away.
The're plugged right into the beating cultural heart of the Internet. So it goes without saying they've got some of the most refined meme-taste on the planet. Here are their 10 favorites.
Amanda Brennan, Meme Librarian
"Implying I can choose just one. No but seriously, greentext threads and implications changed the way a lot of 4chan users think and interact with each other and it's bled into other aspects of online language."
"I wasted far too much time in college listening to this song. All of Kelly's songs, actually. It's one of the earliest things I remember loving on YouTube."
"It's very, very hard to pick my favorite cat-related meme but hands down, Kitty Cat Dance is one of the most fun things on the Internet. I like to sing this song to my own black and white cat, but she is usually unamused by this."
Brad Kim, Editor
Out of many Internet cats that I've spent my days researching, this one is probably my favorite. Working on this entry was also the first time I realized how interconnected humor websites were and that there's some serious meme exchange going on across language barriers.
This entry about a South Korean photo fad was my first submission to Know Your Meme (and fwiw, I wrote this entry way before planking got all mainstream). It's practically the same game as planking, but has its origin in a prank played by a Japanese manga character and became very popular in South Korea in the early 2000s.
I spent a fair amount of time researching this entry to be as deconstructive of the label as possible. Since the trend of hipster-bashing caught on so early, not long after the emergence of the label "hipster," I think this entry offers an alternative explanation of the hipster phenomenon as a self-parody phenomenon, rather than as a nebulous subculture or movement rooted in indie music and arts scene.
Working on this entry was yet another eyeopener for me. OWS came to me as a major turning point in the cultural significance of Internet memes as a means to influence the news cycle and to bring about action for changes in real life. There was a lot of discussions in the beginning as to whether OWS should be considered a meme or not, which was also very interesting in itself.
Don Caldwell, Digital Anthropologist
Tourette's Guy is a series of videos featuring the character Danny, a man who wears a cervical collar and constantly screams ridiculous phrases and uses the name "Bob Saget" as an expletive. No matter how bad of a day I'm having, these videos can make me laugh.
This may be my favorite entry that I added to KYM. Emo Dad is the nickname for a middle-aged man who seems like he only wears clothes purchased from his local Hot Topic. His Myspace was a particularly good find, which contained some hysterical teen angst-style poetry.
This fictional monster created by H.P. Lovecraft is usually depicted as a green squid-dragon creature that sleeps in the ocean waiting to rise and destroy the earth. I've always had a strange fascination with cephalopods, so that may be why I'm such a big fan of this one.
Main photo via Batman1225/YouTube, all other photos courtesy of Know Your Meme
A court ordered Facebook to take down a page that monitored Northern Ireland pedophiles after a High Court judge ruled that some of its content constituted prima facie harassment against a convicted sex offender.
The “Keeping our kids safe from predators” page carried the risk of infringing on the man’s human rights, said Justice McCloskey, according to the BBC. "He has been punished by incarceration and he is subject to substantial daily restrictions on his lifestyle."
The man brought his case to the courts after finding his photo was on the page, along with some threatening comments. He claimed to be in fear of being attacked or burned out of his house.
The man, who was given a six-year jail sentence over several child sex offenses more than 20 years ago, claimed the material on the page constituted harassment, breach of privacy, and misuse of his private information.
While Facebook had already removed the man’s photo and the comments about him (including those posted after knowledge of the case was publicized, such as “Put him down like an animal), the man’s lawyers urged Facebook to shut down the page and hand over the identities of those behind it.
Facebook Ireland claimed it wasn’t necessary or proportionate to delete a page with 4,000 fans (the page is at 5,176 Likes at the time of writing). However, the judge ruled in the plaintiff’s favor.
He told Facebook it had 72 hours to take down the page. According to the BBC, a spokesperson for the company said it was "considering our next steps in light of the court's judgements."
While the page’s days seem to be numbered, those who are involved are trying to beat the impending banhammer by urging, “you have a few hours to name and shame as many as possible … don't waste the time.” Others plan to keep setting up pages to identify convicted sex offenders in the community.
Photo by Mari Smith/Flickr
Last May, Nick Engmann, then a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin, became an overnight Internet celebrity when he was hit by a bus during a campus tradition called “Foam Sword Friday.”
At the end of each semester, UT students line up on opposite ends of Guadalupe Street and charge at each other, foam weaponry at hand. Usually they look out for traffic.
Engmann, donning a Barack Obama mask, amazingly walked away from the accident largely unscathed. The video, which you can watch below, has amassed over 3 million views on YouTube and made an appearance on Tosh.0. It even inspired a Frogger-like flash video game.
Unfortunately, due to said Internet fame, the Undergraduate Architecture Student Council, the organization behind the biannual event, voted to not hold “Foam Sword Friday” at the end of the 2012 Fall semester until the event can be made safer.
Despite this setback, a group of students led by none other than Engmann himself have taken it upon themselves to keep the tradition alive. Engmann and his cohorts created “FREE FOAM SWORDS! ON A FRIDAY!” on Facebook, an event set for Friday, Dec. 7, the last days of classes for the fall semester.
“Unfortunately the Architechural School has decided that they won’t be holding Foam Sword Friday this semester,” wrote the indestructible Engmann (sics all around) on the event page. “This is a serious loss both to the 7 year striding tradiation and to myself as a student here at UT, and i hate to see such a fun and strong tradition come to a temporary stop due to myself and the situation regarding last Springs event.”
To make things easier for those who want to participate, Engman & Co. will provide close to 100 foam swords to attendees.
Engmann’s fellow students are rallying behind him.
“Nick the Brave leads the charge even after his defeat last year,” wrote Liam Kelly. “ALL HAIL KING NICK!”
“BYOB, bring your own bus,” quipped Luke Li.
If the Facebook event page is any indication, the Fall 2012 edition of “Foam Sword Friday” will most definitely happen. As of this writing, more than 500 students have noted that they will be attending.
Hey everyone—especially horse lovers and Swedes—don’t worry. Horses really do exist. And they’re definitely not a fruit. We’ve got confirmation on that one from the Swedish government.
There’s been downright horsey bedlam over there in Sweden in recent weeks. A Facebook page, “Hästar finns inte”—or, roughly translated, “horses don’t exist”—is challenging the country’s assumptions about biology, nomenclature, and obviously, the nature of equines themselves.
“We also support the science that claims horses to be a fruit. Horses [are] a fruit that does not exist.”
This direct challenge to observable reality has taken Sweden by storm. The page has assembled an army of nearly 100,000 horse-denying followers in just two months.
What’s the point? The whole spectacle reminds us of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the nonsense religion that mocks irrationality in mainstream faiths.
It also could serve as biting commentary on anti-science ideologues: The science of horses not existing is about as formidable as the science of global warming not existing.
Photo via Hästar finns inte/Facebook
Then again, maybe these guys just don’t actually believe in horses. I mean, horses are pretty weird, when you really think about them.
This is what the Facebook page’s founder told Werner:
“A lot of people in the world still believes in horses, but luckily our society hasn’t collapsed thus far. The [purpose] of this page is to get people to really think about it, and question what you’ve heard. We want to get the truth out.”
That’s the official stance of the Swedish government, too. News site ED, reporting on the phenomenon, reached out for comment from the press office of Sweden’s Ministry of Rural of Rural affairs. This is what they had to say:
“The Minister of Rural Affairs, Mr. Eskil Erlandsson, wants it to be known that there is no reason to be worried. Horses exist. They even exist in a lot of different races.”
There you have it. Not only are horses real, there are very many varieties of them, none of which are fruit, and especially nonexistent fruit. So go ahead and kill those plans for that horse fruit salad you were looking forward to.
Photo by tasweertaker/Flickr
How would you respond if your 2-year-old daughter regularly received calls from Haiti?
In redditor Hotdogdance’s case, she expressed thankfulness for the distraction that such calls provided and the joy they brought to her child. She detailed her situation to r/AskReddit in a Nov. 30 post titled “Reddit, almost every day some random Haitian couple calls and talks to my two year old giving me time to clean the house, etc. What weirdly awesome random little things are you thankful for?”
Soon after moving into a new house, a non-English-speaking couple called looking for “Mademoiselle Pierre” but instead reached Hotdogdance’s 2-year-old daughter.
“She reacted to their voice, and started ‘talking’ back babbling, laughing and mimicking them. I went in the other room and came back 10 minutes later and they were still on the phone talking to her,” Hotdogdance wrote.
On future calls, Hotdogdance tried to explain, as best she could, that the couple had the wrong number. Nevertheless, they continued to call, seemingly enamored with her 2-year-old daughter.
“I don't know who they are, if they are crazy, lonely, old, or really just don't understand that we have no clue who they are. They could be swearing or doing anything I guess, but they really seem harmless. I have become very thankful for the time they spend talking to my daughter. She even seems to look forward to it too and calls them her ‘pals.’”
“TL;DR My daughter has Haitian Phone Babysitters.”
Hotdogdance posted a video proving the daily activity, and it’s been seen more than 40,000 times since.
Within hours, the post was bursting with activity and received over 7,200 upvotes. While moved by the simplicity of the situation, many warned Hotdogdance to be wary of who might be on the other line.
Hotdogdance assured her fellow redditors that her daughter was perfectly safe.
“I am very protective of her, if i thought they were being creepy, seeking info or doing anything that affected her it would stop right away,” she stated. “She still can't count past 10 so I'm not worried about her giving out any Important info yet.”
Other redditors played detective, using the video Hotdogdance posted to make out what the callers were trying to communicate.
“Towards the beginning, the woman is saying over and over ‘I'll call you later.’(M'ap rele-ou pi ta - forgive me, my writing in Kreyol is pretty horrible). Towards the middle, before she makes those weird noises, she says ‘I'm about to cry’ (M'ap gen ten criye, wi). So the weird noise is her pretending to cry.”
As the thread continued to spiral, Hotdogdance asked her fellow redditors what “weirdly awesome little things” for which they are thankful.
“There is this sassy older lady who comes into my work. She always has stylish, unique, color-coordinated outfits. She's a lot of fun to talk to and gives me hope that I, too, will be awesome when I'm old. There are a lot of fun customers in my work, actually, and they make being ‘just a cashier’ quite fun :)”
“I am thankful for my very weird, random two year old daughter. I paused earlier as I was making Mickey pancakes for dinner, while she was watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and playing with her Mickey dolls that she was putting her Hello Kitty underwear on to help them potty. . . to realize how rad she is.”
“because i was poor and lonely growing up [ well i still am :(...] i never touched a drug, alcohol, or coffee. idk if i ever will but i at least can say i have not touched any of those so far in my life.”
“I'm thankful for a little girl that my wife and I talk to every evening on the phone. We can't really understand what she is saying, but she brings us such joy!”
Redditors: protectors, detectives, storytellers, and comedians, sometimes all in one thread..
Photo via Pat Pilon/Flickr
If you’re one of the billion people on Facebook, chances are that your news feed is littered with asinine and boring posts from your hundreds of friends.
Whether it be an old college acquaintance incessantly updating about their vacation (stop it, no one cares that you’re in Orlando) or a married couple bragging about their newborn (your baby looks weird), it seems like half of what appears on your Facebook homepage is nothing but garbage.
But that’s all about to change.
Thanks to new Facebook application Defriendtion you now have the option of virtually wagging your finger at any friend who violates acceptable social network decorum, much like you would with a dog that constantly rummages through the kitchen garbage.
The folks at Defriendtion have helpfully created an informative video that details what their app is all about.
Upon downloading the app, you’ll be able to fill out a form that closely resembles a detention slip. Users can cite the offense, the reason you find it offensive, evidence of the social network transgression, and the length of the punishment. Defriendtion will then post on your friend’s wall explaining what they did wrong on your behalf.
Photo via Fidel Martinez/Facebook
Because nothing corrects undesirable behavior like condescending chastisement, especially when it’s public.
Photo via Chris Heller/YouTube
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has shot to the top of Time Magazine’s Person of the Year poll—thanks to some funny business by 4chan users.
In the last two days, Kim, 29, has overtaken President of Egypt Mohamed Morsi for the No. 1 spot, with 2.9 million votes.
Kim trailed Morsi by about 60,000 votes early last week after users of 4chan’s /b/ imageboard—a random forum where people regularly post violent and sexual content—encouraged the community to vote for the newly crowned leader. Morsi is now in second place, with 389,000 votes.
“For our Glorious Leader, Episode II: We've already voted him to the top, now lets spell something nice with the first letters of the contestants.” wrote one anonymous 4chan user Thursday in a post that has since been deleted.
4chan hopes to spell “KJUGASCHAMBERS” with the first letter of every Time candidate's name. It references the concentration camp near the border of Russia and China, used by the North Korean government. It is “where thousands of men, women, and children accused of political crimes are held,” the Guardian reported.
That same 4chan user also posted a script for people to download to automate the voting process.
While Kim does have a dominant lead, he will likely not win Time’scoveted cover.
“As always, TIME's editors will choose the Person of the Year (issue date December 31, 2012, on sale December 21),” the magazine says on its public poll. “The winner of the people's choice for the person who most influenced the news this year for better or worse will be announced on December 14. Voting closes at 11:59 PM on December 12th.”
In 2009, 4chan pulled off a similar feat when helped its creator, Christopher “moot” Poole, top Time’s prestigious list. Since then, 4chan has gamed public votes for a new Mountain Dew flavor (one popular entry: “Hitler did nothing wrong”) and a competition to have Taylor Swift perform at a school for free.
The school 4chan decided to support was Boston’s Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, one of the oldest public schools of its kind in the county. The school was ultimately disqualified due to the way it received votes, but still received some great consolation prizes.
Swift herself gave the school a personal donation of $10,000, which was matched by the sponsors, as well as American Greetings and CoverGirl. Plus, VH1’s Save the Music program donated a fifth $10,000 gift in order to buy musical instruments for Horace Mann students.
Photo by zennie62/Flickr
When 45-year-old Leigh Swanson of Saginaw, Michigan, went missing on Nov. 17, her family knew where to look. But when they called Steve Fabi, the man Swanson had gone on a date with after meeting him online at dating site MeetMe.com, he was “rude” and hung up on them. Three days later, Swanson’s family called the police, but it was a week before anyone knocked on Fabi’s door.
Just as police arrived to pay him a call on Nov. 27, the 30-year-old Fabi committed suicide inside of his house. The next day, they found Swanson’s body in the woods nearby.
While other questions—like why it took police a full seven days after Swanson went missing to try talking to Fabi in person—could be asked about the case, news reports thus far have focused on the fact that Swanson and Fabi met online. Perhaps police would have moved faster if they had checked out Fabi’s Facebook profile:
Like the photo above, previously used as Fabi’s profile image, his bio is full of dark humor, and like the recent case of cannibalistic Brooklyn cop Gilberto Valle, disturbing in retrospect:
Lets see, my name is Steve, I'm a pretty retarded dude. I don't know what to say about myself. I'm a WICKED nice guy (to most people) and like to go out and have fun (sometimes a little too much - and I've got the bruises to prove it), then I wake up, laugh it off and do it all over again. I love hanging out with my friends and doing what ever won't get us arrested (well, most of the time). I love movies, stand-up comedians, all kinds of good stuff... I like things that are cool and people that are cool. You'd like me, hell, everyone else does! (Hah. yeah right)
Though Fabi's and Swanson’s MeetMe profiles are not publicly available, the networking site has assisted police with their investigation. Geoff Cooke, MeetMe’s COO, told the Examiner in August that MeetMe—formerly MyYearbook.com—was a “reimagination of offline activities” for the online world. “There aren’t many sites aimed at casual new friends meeting,” Cooke said. But while the site’s marketing seems to shy away from the notion of itself as a dating service, it contains a “Blind Date” service as well as a matching service.
Though MeetMe runs a website, Social Safety, designed to help members stay safe online, the likelihood, judging by Fabi’s Facebook page, is that most people would probably have read his profile as hyperbolic. It’s clear that many already did: Fabi had 891 friends on Facebook, and had been in a relationship just a month prior to meeting up with Swanson.
Other choice excerpts from Fabi’s About section:
I don't care about the past - I believe in the power to reinvent yourself.
".But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked. ..Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: ..We're ALL mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.' ..How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice. ..You MUST be,' said the Cat, ..or you wouldn't have come here.'
"Sell crazy some place else. We're all stocked up here."
If police had taken Fabi’s Facebook activity literally, would Leigh Swanson still be alive?
Just think of Twitter’s bird icon as a carrier pigeon.
When a tourist lost her iPad in the U.K., a police officer was able to return it to her after tracking her down with the help of the Twitter community.
North Yorkshire Police Constable Ed Rogerson was able to access some photos on the iPad, including a flight ticket and several images of what appeared to be the device’s owner. He tweeted one of those images in late October:
The photo was retweeted more than 1,700 times, while Rodgerson tracked down the apparent owner using Twitter’s search capability and the name on the ticket.
As it turned out, the owner, Thanomsup Kho, lives in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, in Thailand, but her Twitter account appeared inactive. However, Rogerson was able to get in touch with Kho through one of her Twitter followers and she responded to his tweets a few weeks later.
"I was very, very pleased and very happy when I heard that my iPad had been found,” she said, according to North Yorkshire police. “Now I can see all the photos I took when I was in England and have a nice reminder of my holiday."
Here’s hoping that Rogerson used something a little stronger than a carrier pigeon to send it back.
Photo via @hotelalpha9/Twitter
Pope Benedict XVI is not following @God. At least, not on Twitter, where the pontiff has opened a personal account.
The @Pontifex username was registered back in February, but the Vatican did not confirm the Pope’s username until Monday.
"The handle is a good one. It means 'pope' and it also means 'bridge builder'," Greg Burke, senior media advisor to the Vatican, said, according to Reuters.
To date, the Pope is following seven other Twitter accounts from @Pontifex—his official accounts in German, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Italian, French and Arabic. He already has more than 173,000 followers.
The Pope has dabbled with Twitter before, tapping the Post button to announce the launch of a Vatican news site last year. This will be the first time he’s had his own account, however.
Unless there’s divine intervention, expect to see the Pope’s first (or second) tweet and a Q&A (via the #AskPontifex tag) during his weekly audience on Wednesday, Dec. 12. After that, papal aides will write most tweets, but the Pope will sign off on them first.
Although the Vatican says @pontifex’s tweets will be “spiritual” in nature, would-be Twitter comics are already offering some alternative suggestions for the #popesfirsttweet.
Photo by Sergey Gabdurakhmanov/Flickr
Las Vegas art student and Twilight fan Lauren Adkins, is all set to tie the knot with a cardboard cutout of Edward Cullen.
“I didn't ask him to marry me out loud, I didn't have to,” Adkins told Metro UK. “I knew by his silence he'd said yes. Of course he'd say ‘yes’.”
Despite Adkins’ show of earnestness, and the actual plans she’s making for her invite-only wedding and reception on Jan. 26, the MFA student is pulling the stunt as an extended performance piece. A student at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, Adkins calls the piece Love is Overtaking Me. Funded through an IndieGoGo campaign as part of her master’s thesis, the “theatrical performance” comments on the level of devotion many Twilight fans feel for the sparkly, pale vampire—as well as general gender stereotypes in media.
Adkins describes herself as a “fiction junkie, media literacy advocate, and disbelief suspension expert”—all things that come into play when devising a performance piece that involves one of the most successful fictional franchises in recent memory. A previous photography exhibit, entitled You Are My Life Now, features a photo of Adkins and cardboard Edward, locked in an intimate embrace.
Photo via Lauren Adkins
Another, a three-minute film, features an all-too-appropriate snippet of the song “Going to the Chapel”: We’ll love until the end of time.
If all this seems just a bit creepy, that’s the whole point. Adkins is far from being the stereotype of the brainless Twilight fan. She described Edward Cullen to WMC TV as “inhumanly handsome, supportive, and possessive”—an unattainable ideal that can now be yours for about $15, or the amount Adkins paid for the cutout in a Memphis record store.
“Because of personal attachment to and experience with this fantasy or quest, which took a particularly strong hold of me when I discovered the intensely popular Twilight Saga, my thesis exhibition will touch on romantic expectation primarily through the main love interest, Edward Cullen,” reads Adkins’ wedding event and thesis project page.
“It’s absolutely real,” Adkins told Metro UK. She claims to have a beach honeymoon planned, just like the one in Twilight’s final installment.
How much does all this cost? About $2,000, of which she raised $1,200 through IndieGoGo. The list for the bride and groom includes:
The news prompted a flurry of mocking tabloid articles taking Adkins’ stunt at face value—thereby proving her point about the role of gender stereotypes involved in the way Twilight fans interact with and express their love for the series. "They are rewriting the story on their own volition to fit their perceived idea of this crazy female fanatic," Adkins told WMC. She snarkily links to “press coverage, accurate and otherwise,” on her website.
One thing’s certain: Satirical or not, her wedding is certain to sparkle.
Photo via Lauren Adkins/Facebook
A Green Day fan in Nebraska was arrested last week after she stole a car, robbed a bank, and then bragged about both of the heists on YouTube.
Hannah Sabata, 19, was taken into custody after police found a video titled "Chick Bank Robber" on her Jellee Beanie YouTube channel. In the video, the blonde teenager uses a series of handwritten notes to admit to both crimes.
The description: “I just stole a car and robbed a bank. Now I'm rich, I can pay off my college financial aid and tomorrow i'm going for a shopping spree. Bite me. I love GREENDAY!”
Sabata said that she stole a Pontiac Grand Am and disposed of the license plates before heading to a bank and using a gun, pillow, and handwritten note to rob it of $6,255.
"Why?" she asked rhetorically. "I am a victim of the government. The whole system is just a game."
She wrote that "the government stole [her] baby and they took him away before I could even take him home" before charging her with neglect.
"I may not be a mother anymore," she added, "but I can still find my purpose."
According to a Grand Island Independent report, Sabata was wearing the same clothes in the video as she was at the time of her arrest, and the outfit she was wearing in both instances matches the outfit worn by the female bank robber seen on surveillance cameras.
Sabata had said in the YouTube video's description that she planned to use the money to pay off college financial aid and go on a shopping spree, but that plan is almost surely derailed by now. Sabata currently remains in the York County Jail (Neb.) where she awaits trial.
Photo via Hannah Sabata/YouTube
The case of Noah Kravitz vs. PhoneDog, believed to be the first to actually put a price tag on a Twitter follower, has finally ended in a settlement.
And while you have to read between the lines a bit, it appears that Kravitz got off scot-free.
The case made headlines all the way back in July 2011, when Kravitz, a former employee, left PhoneDog, a mobile-phone review site. Since Kravitz had grown and managed the Twitter account @PhoneDog, and since any Twitter username can easily be changed, he switched to the username @noahkravitz, taking that account—and its then-17,000 followers—with him.
PhoneDog sued, asking for $2.50 for each follower, multiplied by the number of months until the suit, a total of $340,000. Kravitz balked, but went mum until Monday, when he revealed he’d settled.
If PhoneDog did capitulate, it might be because it’s finally gained some Twitter traction against Kravitz. Last December, the company had 15,000 followers to Kravitz’s 22,000. In the past year, though, the company’s gained 12,000 new followers, while Kravitz has only reached an extra thousand.
While neither Kravitz nor PhoneDog responded to the Daily Dot’s request for immediate comment, and while Kravitz himself appears not to be speaking to the press about the subject, he has left some pretty strong hints that he’s pleased with the outcome.
“It’s a good day,” Kravitz told Mashable when asked about the results. Mashable couldn’t confirm any details of the settlement, but, it noted, “it sounds like no money is changing hands for Twitter followers.”
And Kravitz has reinforced that notion on his prized Twitter account. He’s only mentioned the case twice: both times by tweeting a link to that Mashable story, indicating his endorsement.
The first time he tweeted the link, he added, blandly, “We have reached an agreement.”
The second time was more emphatic: “I’M LIKE A HONEY BADGER IN A HURRICANE!”
Photo via PhoneDog.com/Facebook