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    Has @Horse_ebooks become self-aware? And has it started self-promoting?

    Some background: It is thought that @Horse_ebooks, the funny Twitter robot that chops and screws snippets of text from ebooks and marketing pitches, then regurgitates them into surreal found poetry on Twitter, is entirely automated, and that its aleatory tweets are the happy by-product of a misguided and nonsensical attempt to market ebooks.

    horse_ebooks recent tweets

    However, a debate raged at one point in 2011, when the feed, whose popularity had just then exploded, started churning out “funny” Tweets at a higher rate than it had previously, when novelties like “Famous Crab” and “‘This is not acceptable!’ I screamed as Kathy drowned” had appeared much more infrequently like diamonds in the rough. Some argued that the feed’s creator had turned off the bot and was now writing its zany quips by hand.

    According to Adrian Chen, Gawker’s go-to hack on the @horse_ebooks beat, the feed is run by a reclusive Russian web developer named Alexey Kouznetsov.  While it’s hard to imagine that a Russian spammer with a loose understanding of English—or even a dream team of comedians, Oulipo writers, and surrealist poets, for that matter—could replicate @horse_ebooks’ algorithmic randomness, there is evidence that Kouznetsov, far from being an absentee father, at least acknowledges his creation’s stateside success.

    Chen reported that Kouznetsov also runs LITE WebDesign, whose logo is a stylized @horse_ebooks avatar:


    And @horse_ebooks itself is featured on the homepage:

    Description: This popular website and Twitter account promote ebooks about horses. For horse lovers.

    In addition to promote ebooks about horses For horse lovers, Kouznetsov is now promote something reflective of his beloved invention—For horse lovers., the URL listed on the Twitter account, redirects to a page of horse-themed ebooks for sale on Kouznetsov’s online store. Yet, despite being presented as “ebooks,” the top two items for sale are in actuality two popular Tumblrs created by fans of @horse_ebooks: horse_ebooks fanfics, which publishes frequently-erotic fiction using @horse_ebooks tweets as dialogue, andHorse_ecomics, which publishes cartoons based on individual tweets.

    Each item description contains an excerpt from the Tumblr along with a link to it titled “Download this ebook here.” More bizarre, despite neither being a book for purchase in any format whatsoever, each item is represented by an mock-up of a book:

    29214 29213

    The covers are both lifted from Horse_ecomics: one is the background picture, and the other is the last panel of this cartoon. But the creator of Horse_ecomics,@BurtDurand, didn’t make the mock-ups. Instead, they were probably made with some Soviet-era ebook generator that can splash Comic Sans onto whatever picture you want turned into a dust jacket.

    But it’s unclear who took the time to make them and why. After all, if Kouznetsov is still trying to sell ebooks to @horse_ebooks’ 130,000+ followers despite the feed’s pomo popularity, why would he place two fan creations above the actual books he profits off? And if he were trying to develop the @horse_ebooks “brand,” maybe get a movie deal or expand into the surreal horse comedy industry, why would his only other attempt to profit off the account’s popularity be to sell web design services?

    I asked @cheesegod69, co-runner of horse_ebooks fanfics, and he and I agreed on a far more pleasing explanation: that, far from having made any personal input to the operation of @horse_ebooks, Kouznetsov has let his thresher gobble up so much random internet text that now it is feeding on news articles and creative works about itself. In time, new creations will be derived from these snippets of the old creations, and left unchecked, @horse_ebooks will process these new creations, and so on, until all that is left from this recursion is a single beacon transmitting the simulacra of long-forgotten ebooks, signifying nothing: the pasture of the real.

    By  // Illustration via Slacktory

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    Internet memes are taking over our metropolises.

    At least that's the case in Minnesota, where Marjorie Holsten has recently thrown her name into the race for the position of chairman of Minnesota's Republican party.

    Holsten is the energetically confused mother who went on The Daily Show in May to contest high school student Mike Stone's spring crusade to take a porn star to prom.

    Holsten, an attorney who has long touted herself as a "conservative activist""who supports candidates who promise to Stop the Pork," had a big problem with the fact that "every young man there is going to be mentally undressing” Stone’s date, porn star Megan Piper.

    "Maybe that's the attention she likes. I don't know," Holsten added during the interview.

    Stone immediately rose to Internet fame, but Holsten was not impressed. She told The Daily Show's Jessica Williams that she agreed with the school's decision to bar Piper from the prom.

    "Megan Piper said 'No, I'm not going to take off my clothes and go butt naked,' but that's what you do in your profession," Holsten argued.

    Sounds like the kind of woman you'd want to sit back and grab a beer with, right?

    As Blue Stem Prarie's Sally Jo Sorensen notes, Holsten's somewhat of an unintentional comedy legend, one with a sprightly, energetic voice who's downright excellent at reading cue cards.

    “MN conservative tweeps are excited that Marjorie Holsten ...  is announcing today,” Sorensen wrote.

    Aside from her Daily Show appearance, Holsten’s other claim to fame is as the proud owner of a conservative pet pig named Taylor Swine, who became well-known around the state after endorsing Republican candidate for governor Tom Emmer in 2010.

    Photo via EmmerforGovernor/YouTube

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    As a cultural movement, 2012 was a watershed year for fandom.  Everywhere, it seemed, new parts of the media, entertainment industries, and various corners of the world were discovering fandom or interacting with it in new ways. Whether it was through fanfic contests, the omnipresence of Fifty Shades of Grey, or the widespread attention given to The Avengers, bronies, Sherlock, and Homestuck fans, fandom reached an unprecedented level of convergence with the mainstream.

    Of course, within fandom, life went on as usual—with exceptions for a few fans who had noteworthy accomplishments in 2012. The Daily Dot has compiled a series of end-of-the-year fandom Top 10 lists designed to pay tribute to the various events, people, and fandoms who shaped our lives; today, we look at 10 fans who stood out for their exceptional ability to influence their fandoms.

    The question of how influential—and what kind of influence—a fan can have over other fans is a very difficult one. Though it could have been easy to fill this list with a handful of the most popular fanfic writers in fandom, ultimately we dug deeper and looked at fans who shaped discussions or had considerable impact on the evolution of a fandom or even a canon. We focused on fans who were, with one notable exception, still active in their fandoms, and we looked for people who created shifts in how the mainstream viewed and interacted with fandom.

    We spoke with a wide array of fans, asking them: Who influenced you this year, and how? Without further ado, here are the Daily Dot’s 10 most most influential, and sometimes controversial, fans for 2012.

    1) E.L. James The Ultimate Pro

    The bestselling author of Fifty Shades of Grey is topping many end-of-year lists: the most powerful women in Hollywood, Publishers’ Weekly’s Person of the Year, and Britain’s annual Women of the Year luncheon. But before she was the author of a bestselling erotic trilogy, E.L. James wrote a Twilight fanfic called Master of the Universe (MotU) under the handle “snowqueens icedragon”—or Icy, to fandom. James’ fic was just one of dozens of Twilight fics coming out of the fandom to be published as original novels. It was inevitable that some of them would rise to the top. That it was Fifty Shades that did so speaks to the tenuous relationship James still holds to fandom.

    The dark side of this fan-to-pro fairy tale is that James bred considerable resentment among Twilight fans, who allege that she treated her fans with contempt while using the Twilight community as a stepping stone to better things. While James initially made no connection between Fifty Shades and MotU, the Internet did it for her, making Fifty Shades’ fanfic origins known far and wide until the publisher, Vintage, publicly owned up to its roots. In a statement, Vintage explained that they knew it was fanfic and just didn’t care. Of course, by that point Fifty Shades had sold 10 million copies in a single month, drowning out potential ethical objections to fanfic being published.

    James has since embraced the fandom community she reportedly disowned; she recently told the Hollywood Reporter that fandom is “a fantastic experience... You meet the most extraordinarily [sic] women. It's women who are smart, warm, witty. They bring these skills into whatever they are writing.“  

    When you’ve single-handedly saved the publishing industry and forever altered the relationship between publishers and fans, it seems you can afford to be gracious.

    2) Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) The Accidental Fanboy

    Illustration via The Oatmeal

    Matthew Inman, a.k.a. The Oatmeal, is no stranger to controversy, but not even he could have predicted the way the Internet responded to turn-of-the-century scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla. Before this year, the biggest Tesla fan on the Internet was comic artist Kate Beaton. But when Inman drew his own love song to Tesla in May, it went viral instantly and spawned a massive amount of interest in the legacy of the underdog scientist. In August, Inman issued an appeal to his readers to help save Wardenclyffe, Tesla’s lab, and “build a goddamn Tesla museum.” The Internet responded with an unprecedented outpouring of love that boosted Inman’s IndieGoGo campaign to $1.4 million, nearly doubling the struggling Tesla Foundation’s original distant goal of $800,000.

    Not only did Inman save a historical monument and advance science education in the state of New York, he inadvertently proved, through his delightful comic about Tesla and geekiness and laser pigeons, the galvanizing power of sheer fan enthusiasm. He may still be the only Tesla BNF (Big Name Fan), but when the goal was announced, for one shining moment, we were all fans of 19th-century, underdog scientists whose dreams live on today.

    3) Noelle Stevenson (Gingerhaze) The Ubiquitous Fangirl

    in 2012, Noelle Stevenson became the face of Tumblr fandom. As the popular artist Gingerhaze, she had a hand in endless Tumblr fandom in-jokes and viral fanart. She invented or popularized mini-memes like the Broship of the Ring, the Pokemon Project, and The Avengers’ New Groove. Just two weeks ago, she inadvertently started the Hawkeye Initiative, which has turned into an entire Tumblr cultural movement. It’s all routine by now for an artist so popular everyone knows her, even if they aren’t in any of her fandoms.

    In 2012, Stevenson’s Tumblr readership climbed to 80,000 followers, enough to boost her into a Young Adult publishing deal and into everyone’s hearts.

    Illustration by Noelle Stevenson/Blogspot

    4) Rebecca Tushnet and Francesca Coppa Vidding Queens

    The Organization for Transformative Works is a fan-run nonprofit created in 2008 to help preserve fanwork (among other things, the OTW runs the fanfiction Archive of Our Own) and give voice to fans dealing with legal issues. As founding members of the organization, Tushnet and Coppa are formidable voices for the transformative nature of fanwork: Tushnet, an intellectual property lawyer who clerked for the Supreme Court, is the chair of the OTW’s Legal committee. Coppa, an academic and director of film studies at Muhlenberg College, is the chair of its Vidding committee, designed to help people who “vid,” i.e. make their own music videos, mini-films, and trailers compiled from film, TV, and other media sources.

    This year, Tushnet and Coppa advised the Library of Congress about Digital Millennium Copyright Act restrictions on how DVDs and other media formats can be used. Tushnet, Coppa, and OTW Vidding committee member Tisha Turk all provided evidence, compiled from fandom examples, that fanvidders and other creators of fanwork can’t do their best work if they can’t work directly with their source material by ripping DVDs and doing other things that the DMCA stringently forbids.

    Tushnet and Coppa had helped to secure DMCA exemptions for fans in 2010, but in the wake of the Stop Online Piracy Act and other stringent attempts to restrict Internet freedoms this year, it was by no means a guarantee that this year’s renewal hearings would go smoothly. While there were some hiccups, the Library of Congress ultimately voted to not only renew but expand the freedom that fans have to legally, safely make cool stuff.

    The next time you spend hours ripping six different DVDs, all for that epic montage or supercut you’re editing, remember to thank these ladies.

    5) James Turner (Coder Brony) The Magician

    Fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a.k.a. bronies, have long touted their own commitment to the values of love, tolerance, and friendship espoused by the show. One fan, James Turner, took that commitment a step further this year, creating an ad campaign to tell the world what Bronies are really about.

    Despite the Derpy Hooves fiasco and accusations of sexual harassment, Bronies made strides in terms of public perception in 2012, largely due to Turner’s Brony Thank You Project, an IndieGoGo ad campaign that brought in over $16,000 from 400 contributors, all towards the idea of thanking Hasbro and the Hub for airing the show.

    Though some bronies questioned the campaign’s usefulness, in the end the 30-second spot aired. While fans have directed ad campaigns to save threatened or canceled shows, Turner, who produced, wrote, and directed the commercial, told the Dot that this was the first time in history fans had bought ad space purely to say thank you while the show was still running.

    It may not be as edible as Cookies for Sterek, another fan-run thank you campaign, but it definitely did some good: The Thank You Project is now raising money to endow the “Derpy Hooves Animation Scholarship” at the California Institute of the Arts.

    6) Cara McGee (areyoutryingtodeduceme) Sherlock Tea Tempest

    Longtime fanartist Cara McGee had no plans to create a business model breakthrough when she started custom-drawing her labels and uploading fandom tea blends to online tea retailer Adagio. But the 26-year-old Atlantean’s teas quickly shot to the top of the bestseller list, where they have stayed for the duration of 2012.

    As McGee’s popularity within the Sherlock fandom climbed, so did the number of people clamoring to try her tea, which boasted unique flavors and catchy names like Moriartea and Reichenbach Recovery. Adagio, realizing that a unique marketing tool had fallen into its laps, decided to embrace the influx of fans, offering special Harry Potter and Sherlock discounts over the summer, and eventually giving fandom its own section of the website, where fandom teas of all types and varieties promptly flooded it. They even got aboard the fandom practice of shipping, offering discounts when you buy two teas “paired” together.

    Adagio’s decision to go with the fandom flow is a milestone. Not since last year’s influx of fans to social bookmarking network Pinboard have we had such a clear example of a business outside of a creative industry choosing to evolve around fandom rather than shutting it out. And it’s paid off. Although many more tea makers are trying out their own blends, McGee and Adagio have together become their own mini-fandom.  And McGee has more than 20,000 Tumblr followers anxious to try whatever blend she makes next.

    Photo via semaphore-drivethrough/Tumblr

    7) Sophistory Slash Satirist

    Within slash fandom—the enormous community of fans primarily devoted to male/male relationships—debate has raged all year about the focus given to white male characters at the expense of all others. The mantra “slash is the sound of white men fucking” has long been a criticism volleyed at slashers, but on Tumblr, where so-called “social justice warriors” rub shoulders with fangirls, the discussion has intensified.

    This year, controversy sprang up everywhere. In TheAvengers fandom, the amount of love for other ships dwarfed, very noticeably, the film franchise’s primary non-white pairing. Sherlock and Elementary fans lashed out at each other over issues of racism, misogyny, and homophobia allegedly inherent in preferring either of the two shows over the other one. On Twitter, @hetwhitefangirl parodied a type of slash fangirl who operates without any self-awareness. On Tumblr, slash fandom got its own song parody of its tendency to fixate on white men above all else. Superwholock, Teen Wolf, and James Bond all came under fire for the dominance of white male pairings (though in Skyfall’s case, at least, het and other ships appear to be popular as well).

    In March, longtime slash fan turned social justice blogger Sophistory got fed up with seeing slash fandom go for what, in her opinion, were the same generic types of media featuring two white dudes who banter but who are never intended to have actual queer identities, let alone relationships. She Photoshopped a generic poster for what she deemed the ultimate slash-friendly TV show: No Homo, complete with acerbic commentary:



    fandom’s new favourite show you guys, txt it

    Illustration by sophistory/Tumblr

    The poster came to embody all the criticism leveled at slash fandom, for good and ill. It sparked intense discussion about all the popular fandoms and slash ships that fit sophistory’s criteria, drew unironic enthusiasm from fangirls who didn’t grasp the social commentary at work (“I’d ship it”), and served as a touchstone for months to come, prompting debate about racism, misogyny, and the harm of media that baits fans with queer subtext it never intends to deliver. It also racked up 15,000 notes and made sophistory’s Tumblr a hot spot for fandom discussions. In April another of her photomanips critiquing slash subtext versus actual, queer representation inspired the creation of actuallygay, a Tumblr devoted to highlighting queer relationships in the media.

    Though sophistory was notably critical of slash fandom in 2012, she does have slash ships. Currently she’s adding her own special flair to the Hawkeye Initiative.

    8)Emma Clark (nuttymadam3575)Twilight Diehard

    We’ve already paid uber-fan Emma Clark homage in our list of Awesome Things Twilight Gave Us, but the Internet famous Twilight fan also belongs on this year’s top 10 fannish influences. Who else could properly articulate fandom’s feelings on the epic drama that was the breakup/makeup of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, affectionately known as Robsten, in 2012?  

    Along with being utterly gracious in the face of constant media attention and constant criticism of her looks, her weight, her fangirl glee, and her openly shed tears over fandom drama, Clark also has borne the responsibility of being the face of Twilight fandom to the outside world. It couldn’t have been easy. But her steadfastness has paid off: She’s gotten to meet the cast, and she told Metro UK that she’s no longer bothered by the abuse she gets in YouTube comments: “If people see me [just being myself] maybe it reassures them that they’re not so strange after all.”

    9) Scamp The Nostalgic Fanboy

    It’s been something of a lackluster year for new anime series. Several older shounen powerhouses like Bleach and Naruto are still chugging away with massive fandoms, and “new” series have included revamps and sequels to previous series: Hunter x Hunter, Eureka Seven, Initial D,Lupin III, to name just a few—and, of course, a record-breaking film release for Neon Genesis Evangelion. With all this nostalgia, it’s not surprising that the anime blog that hit its stride this year is the Cart Driver, where the owner, Scamp, revisits old series, one year at a time. Scamp dubs himself a “proud member of the YouTube generation of anime fans,” and it shows: His 2009 predictions for the best anime of the decade are, in retrospect, almost defiantly mainstream compared to the actual tally of results.

    Which is why watching him embark on his year-by-year discovery of earlier classics has been so refreshing. In the process, Scamp reminds us that certain things we love about anime, like girls being insufferably nice to each other, the inexplicable abundance of incest, and “generic-male-lead-has-high-school-girl-with-super-powers-fall-into-his-lap,” are things that transcend generations. “This is one of those anime you make up as a joke,” he says about a recent preview. “There’s a genuine earnestness to it I can get behind,” he comments on another, “even if the characters resemble scarecrows made out of bowling balls.”

    This is pretty much how we feel about the Cart Driver himself, even if he may hate shojo and refuses to watch Hikaru no Go. In 2012 his site got so popular Scamp added two more writers to the roster and posted a list of best anime that’s far more respectable than his previous attempt (despite the absence of Monster). While other fans on this list have indelibly influenced those around them, Scamp’s real superpower is letting himself be influenced. His goal to encourage discussion has been met. And the best part? Our understanding of anime has grown alongside of his.

    10) Shelby Cragg (duedlyfirearms) The Ascended Artist

    We don’t have set criteria for what makes the “ultimate fan,” but if you fulfill any of the following, let alone all of them, then you deserve the label:

    • You create not one, but two of the most popular fanfic projects in the fandom you’re in.
    • You get invited to work with the creator of the thing you love.
    • You get to design your own character for the thing you love.
    • Said creator develops said character into a beloved avatar for you, which also serves as a meta-statement on how awesome fangirls are; so basically you’ve been elevated to the status of fangirl deity in your own canon.

    Artist Shelby Cragg is a fan of Homestuck, the massive webcomic with over a million fans. Its creator, Andrew Hussie, is known for collaborating with his fans, but in Cragg’s case he went a step further. Cragg was already popular as the fanartist who, along with her friend urbananchorite/t_ZM, created two massively popular fanworks, Marchingstuck (an epic marching band alternate universe), and its hilarious spinoff, Promstuck.

    Screengrab via Archive of Our Own

    Cragg’s range of style and sometimes hilariously crude, sometimes gorgeous artwork caught Hussie’s attention, and he invited her to join the roster of guest artists on the webcomic. Cragg also influenced the design her own popular character, Calliope, who served as a muse and a commentator on the action of the series, much like Cragg herself. Cragg also contributed artwork to the donation perks for Homestuck’s massive Kickstarter.

    Cragg has stayed active in the fandom throughout the year. She co-organized the Homestuck fanartist meetup at DragonCon and continued to collaborate with t_ZM; their latest epic work-in-progress, The Serendipity Gospels, has been read over 50,000 times.

    Disclaimer: The author of this article is a member of the Organization for Transformative Works, mentioned above.

    Correction: Shelby Craigg did not design her own character for Homestuck, as previously reported.  Rather, she influenced creator Andrew Hussie's design.

    Photo via duedlyfirearms/Tumblr

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    The Daily Dot is proud to present a new way to spread holiday cheer: GIF cards. Each business day leading up to Christmas, we’ll be presenting two or more fun and easy-to-share GIFs to get you and your loved ones in the spirit of the season. To see our entire catalog, visit us on Tumblr.  

    Despite technological advancements like flashing lights and voice-recording modules, most holiday cards sold around the world are just pieces of cardstock with a warm message and a drawing.

    Last Christmas season, the Daily Dot’s card was exactly that—an illustration of our small staff by college student Ashley Hallenbeck, who was selling sketches on Reddit to help buy her mom a new stove.  

    This year we decided to go digital. We worked with eight premier GIF artists to create holiday GIF cards that will never fade or tear. The artists include Hoppip, Intothecontinuum, Mathew Lucas, William Reiss, Nick Kegeyan, Psykzz, and Jason “challenger” Reed, each putting their own unique style and humor into the original compositions.

    It seems only fitting. After all, the GIF, or graphics interchange format, was dubbed America’s Word of the Year by the Oxford English Dictionary, capping off its 25th anniversary. The looping images became a sort of Internet language this year, with the rise of reaction GIFs, used by President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign, in advertisements by Coca Cola, and a slew of Tumblr users who have turned GIFs into respected works of art.

    At the forefront of the GIF renaissance has been Mr. GIF, the New York-based duo of artists Jimmy Repeat and Mark Portillo. With a subject-driven style that ranges from suave portraits to crude 8-bit animates, the college friends have some ridiculously high-profile GIF gigs, including works for Forbes, American Apparel, designer Mark Ecko, Vice magazine, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and chef Anthony Bourdain.

    The two have been longtime Tumblr GIF tag editors, helping curate the best animations on the network. They’ve also mastered the art of topical animations, creating timely GIFs for catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy and Tumblr’s latest hacking debacle.

    “I think the format is fulfilling what it was supposed to do,” Portillo told the Daily Dot in August. “Maybe the people who made it didn’t intend for it to do end up what it is now. Technology has gotten better compared to the ‘90s,when you had a GIF with only two or three frames. Now, you have more capability with it. You have bigger GIFs, a faster Internet.”

    Without further ado, here are Mr. GIF’s exclusive holiday GIF cards. Spread the love.

    All illustrations by Mr. GIF

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    It’s official: The British love their cyberporn as much as they love beans on toast.

    Plans to universally block access to porn on the Internet has been rejected by ministers because lack of support by the public, reports BBC News. It would’ve allowed Internet users to “opt in” to see indecent material, but failed to garner much support. Just 35 percent of surveyed parents said it was a good idea.

    However, the government decided that Internet service providers (ISPs) should encourage those concerned with seeing indecent material to exercise parental controls. The move left the plan’s leader, Conservative MP Claire Perry, “disappointed.”

    More than 3,500 responses were tallied for 10 weeks to see if the law should move forward. Eight hundred of those who argued that ISPs should limit access to porn were parents. Others surveyed were citizens, charities, and academic professionals.

    MP Perry hoped her plan would lead to a universal blockade of all Internet porn, enforced by British ISPs. But her plan wasn’t feasible, noted the ISPs, and would create a “false sense of security.” Access to educational websites providing information should sexual health could also be inadvertently blocked. The four biggest U.K. ISPs plan to ask new customers if they want to block indecent material at signup as a compromise.

    The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) called the plan “disappointing” for not implementing a universal blockade against cyberporn.

    "The best option to protect children is for adult content to be automatically blocked by internet service providers," said a spokesperson from the NSPCC to BBC News. "Hardcore pornographic videos are just a few clicks away and a quarter of children have been sent unsolicited sexual material online."

    Critics charged that the plan gives the government too much control, thus seizing control from U.K. citizens.  

    "This is a positive step that strikes the right balance between child safety and parental responsibility without infringing on civil liberties and freedom of speech,” said Nick Pickles from Big Brother Watch, who was against the plan.

    "The policy recognises it is parents, not government, who are responsible for controlling what their children see online and rightly avoids any kind of state-mandated blocking of legal content,” said Pickles.

    Photo by Michael Francis McCarthy/Flickr

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    Anonymous is waging war on the Westboro Baptist Church.

    The loosely organized hacker collective announced on Saturday via video that it was targeting the WBC. Earlier that day, the church had announced via Twitter that it would picket Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

    The WBC, based in Topeka, Kan., believes that God is responsible for Friday’s tragic event—which resulted in the death of 26 teachers and students—because America has embraced homosexuality. The 100-member organization has made a name for itself by protesting and picketing outside of military funerals and other high-profile events, holding signs reading “God Hates Fags.”

    “We will not allow you to corrupt the minds of America with your seeds of hatred,” declared the automated voice in the video. “We will not allow you to inspire aggression to the social factions which you deem inferior. We will render you obsolete. We will destroy you. We are coming.”

    True to its word, Anonymous released a link to a Pastebin document containing the personal information of multiple church members as part of #OPWestboro

    Anonymous has also endorsed a petition on's We the People asking that the federal government recognize the Westboro Baptist Church as a hate group. The nonprofit civil rights organization Southern Law Poverty Center has already qualified them as such. The petition currently has more than 101,000 signatures, far more than the 25,000 needed for the White House to officially review.

    In addition to the doxing, the Twitter account belonging to church member Shirley Phelps-Roper was hacked. Cosmo the God, a 15-year-old prodigy hacker who was arrested by the FBI in June for stealing thousands of credit card numbers, is taking credit.

    “This account is now being ran [sic] by@CosmoTheGod #UGNazi #oops,” tweeted @DearShirley. The comment was also retweeted by the hacker’s personal account.

    Photo via @DearShirley/Twitter

    The hack might be in violation of the juvenile Cosmo's parole, which dictated that he be banned from using the Internet for six years. The defaced account also contains an image of the state of Connecticut in the background with the words “Pray for Newtown” written on it.

    The church, for its part, has responded by taunting Anonymous, tweeting an image from @WBCPhotos displaying two men with face paint and tape over their mouths that read “God h8s bad” and “God h8s hackers.”

    Photo via @WBCPhotos/Twitter

    The church has also taken to popular social news site Reddit, conducting an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session, a popular question-and-answer format where users can ask questions about anything. The AMA has been confirmed via Twitter by Margie Phelps, daughter of church founder Fred Phelps. Predictably, the AMA has received more than 2,000 downvotes and more than 1,300 comments.

    Photo via HyperVocal

    The Daily Dot reached out to Margie Phelps—whom we interviewed in July 2012—seeking a comment. Here's her response:

    God sent the shooter to Connecticut. That is a warm up. Many more shooters and much worse mayhem are coming. The criminals called Anonymous are known to God, and we’ll let Him and the criminal authorities deal with them. We’ll meanwhile stay on message. The God of Glory doesn’t rely on Anonymous—or us—for His message to get to His creatures. These words are going to go forth by one means or the other, praise God. Meanwhile, those children died a horrible death for the great sins of this nation, one of the worst being the fevered pursuit of same-sex marriage. Connecticut was one of the first states to come out with same-sex marriage, and now God is dealing with them. The blood of those children is on the hands of Beast President Barack Obama, who should have hung his head in shame last evening. God is not going to have same-sex marriage. The cowards called Anonymous can’t fix that.

    Photo via westborobaptistchurchphotos/Instagram

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    A man in Florida will legally change his last name to Headsetsdotcom after orchestrating an eBay-style auction that allowed a person or company to buy the rights to his name for one year.

    Jason Sadler announced last week that had purchased the rights to his name for $45,000. The Jacksonville native, a communications specialist with a bachelor's degree in graphic design from the University of North Florida, will take on the name Headsetsdotcom for the full 2013 calendar year—so long as a judge approves of the change in court. 

    Sadler told Fox News on Thursday that Headsetsdotcom barely edged out Pawnupdotcom for the rights to change his name. 

    “They went back and forth and had a little bidding frenzy, literally to the minute,” he said. “I pressed the button, closed it down, and Headsetsdotcom wanted it."

    According to CNN, the man intends to reinvest the money into "other fun marketing things" and give 10 percent to charity. 

    "I just saw an opportunity," Sadler, 30, told CNN. "My mom is going through a divorce and I don't need this last name anymore. I thought 'How am I going to find a new last name?' Well, why not just sell it?"

    Sadler has been keeping followers updated on the name change via his personal website, which featured a post on Friday titled"A look at my first day with the name Jason Headsetsdotcom."

    "Technically I'm not changing it until January 1, 2013, but let's be honest," he wrote. "I'm terrible at waiting for things."

    This is not the first time that Sadler has been in the news because of his involvement in a wild marketing ploy online. In 2009, Sadler raised $65,000 wearing other people's T-shirts, thanks to his development of, a site he still runs today. 

    Photo viaJason Sadler

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    At least 59,120 Twitter users have a very poor understanding of how Twitter works.

    That’s how many have retweeted, in the wake of Friday’s tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., a false message that promises to help victims if it’s retweeted.

    While it would be nice if it were true—that’s already $295,600 in charity—it’s pretty obvious it’s from a parody account.

    The tweet seems to come from someone posing as Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo. @RobertoLuongo_1, who posted the Connecticut tweet, is often uncouth. In addition to tweeting that fake promise of money to victims a second time (that one got 15,425 retweets), his account’s riddled with the sentiments of a middle school hockey fan.

    “I have stopped wiping my bum, way to time consuming, gotta train for this years hockey season,” reads one bon mot.  “Im straight and like girls! #ShitRobertoNeverSays” goes another.

    For context, President Obama’s victory declaration: “Four more years,” accompanied with a photo of himself hugging the First Lady, became the most retweeted Twitter post of all time on Nov. 7, with 302,176 RTs. That record probably won’t be beaten anytime soon, as it’s since more than doubled to 816,837.

    @RobertoLuongo_1 didn’t respond to request for comment. And if some Twitter users get their wish, it won’t be a valid account much longer.

    ‏“We're working to shut the account down. All over it,” tweeted‏@VanCanucks, the official Canucks Twitter account.

    “U R disgusting sick person to make light of this horrible tragedy!” tweeted Jamal Mayers, who plays for the Chicago Blackhawks. “Karma is coming your way, imposter for a retweet?”

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story claimed that another Roberto Luongo Twitter account belonged to the player himself. It now appears that neither that account nor @RobertoLuongo_1 is authentic.

    Photo via @RobertoLuongo_1/Twitter

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    Sorry, but the dream proposal you’ve been waiting for just got upstaged by Matthew Phelps and Ben Schock, as the pair became the first same-sex couple to get engaged at the White House.

    Phelps, an active U.S. Marine Corps captain, asked his boyfriend to marry him at a festive occasion Saturday. He posted pictures to his Facebook account, writing“such a special night surrounded by wonderful people in an amazing place.”

    “Thanks for all the wonderful greetings and messages, and thanks to Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for lending us your home for the occasion!” Phelps wrote. The pictures circulated on Facebook, Reddit, image-sharing site Imgur, and his blog.

    Wipe Out Homophobia, a Facebook group with 560,000 members, shared the picture, which collected 7,000 shares and hundreds of comments congratulating the couple. In the comments, Phelps thanked supporters and explained how the repeal of the military’s strict anti-gay law, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, made this possible.

    “[Ten] years ago when I enlisted in the Marine Corps under DADT, I never imagined I would one day propose to the man of my dreams, much less as a Marine captain still on active duty and at the White House,” Phelps wrote. “Thank you all so much for your love, support, and continued hard work to make our world a better one.”

    Photo via Imgur

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    A teenager who's been told he has only a few months left to live has taken to YouTube to begin saying his goodbyes.

    Three years ago, Zach Sobiech, 17, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer that develops in children and affects only 800 people each year. A lifelong lover of the guitar, he underwent a number of surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy, but more bad news came this summer when the Lakeland, Minn., native learned that the cancer had spread to his lungs and pelvis.

    The doctors told him that there were no other effective methods of treatment left to try out. Sobiech was given only a few months left to live.

    On Dec. 5, Sobiech teamed up with Minnesota production house The Whoolly Rhino to release somewhat of a farewell song for his friends and family. Called "Clouds," the song plays out with a sweet melody over xylophones and acoustic guitars. In it, Sobiech references his figurative transcendence into the clouds, singing "If I only had a little more time with you, we could go up, up, up and take a little ride."

    Since its posting, the song has attracted more than 390,000 views and quite a few inspirational messages.

    "Your song made me think about the life I'm living," YouTuber marqukitoz wrote. "I'm here today, living with the hope that I will wake up tomorrow. The truth is I don't know. No one knows. I might take a trip to the clouds sooner than you. Anyone could. Thanks for being so strong. It inspires others with problems in their lives, and it helps to overcome them because there is always someone with bigger things to deal with. I hope you find peace in your soul and your family, too."

    Those who like the song and want to hear it offline can purchase "Clouds" through iTunes. Sobiech and The Whoolly Rhino report that all proceeds will go to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, a foundation dedicated to facilitating the research and treatment of children's cancer.

    Photo via The Whoolly Rhino/YouTube

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    Noah Pozner, 6, was one of the many young lives taken Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary. JetBlue helped his family remind the world that he’ll never be forgotten.

    Victoria, or @VDog on Twitter, is Noah’s aunt. On Sunday, she tweeted that her 5-year-old son wanted a love note to be buried with Pozner. Her husband was in Newtown, Conn., to attend Monday’s funeral, but he didn’t want to scan the note in an email. She preferred Noah be buried with the “real thing.”

    She was stumped. How does a 9"-by-12" piece of paper travel 3,000 miles in less than 24 hours?

    The United States Postal Service was closed. UPS and FedEx were too slow. 

    “I need to know if there's a way to overnight an envelope to CT as my SIL wants notes from the whole family buried with Noah. Help?” tweeted Victoria.

    The answer was Twitter.

    Her followers sprung into action and tweeted at Delta and JetBlue, which had red-eye flights between Seattle and New York available. Within 10 minutes, JetBlue responded, offering to help Victoria. 

    She delivered the note to Craig Myers, a JetBlue flight attendant working the JFK-bound plane. On Monday morning, Victoria’s friend boarded the plane to get the note with the help of airline staff to bypass security.

    “My friends at @JetBlue really took a risk taking on this huge responsibility and we will all be eternally grateful. #LoveForNoah,” Victoria tweeted, who is looking to return the favor by creating a “love bomb” for the airline and a fund for the family.

    The airline is now being lauded with appreciation. Twitter users bombarded the New York–based airline with compliments.

    “Thank you, @JetBlue for delivering the letters for @VDog to CT today. You are a spectacular company & your hearts are huge!” tweeted @TwinsMa. Airline representatives are responding to tweets saying they feel “very privileged” to help. 

    Perhaps the friendly skies still exist.

    Photo via Peter Cinnate/Twitter

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    Today’s economy, at least in the eyes of one person, is “medium.”

    Almost everyone from President Obama himself to a frozen TV dinner chef has participated in a Reddit AMA—so, why not a 4-year-old? On Dec. 17, a Reddit mother decided that her preschool-aged daughter would be a prime candidate for the subreddit’s latest round of questioning.

    I'm a four year old AMAA,” the throwaway account 4yearold wrote, with mom relaying reddit’s questions to the girl (who says she doesn’t “really know how to read”) and posting the answers.

    “I'll read her the questions and type her answers exactly as given. No coaching or translating. I reserve the right to ignore any questions that I feel are inappropriate,” the mother wrote in the thread.

    She provided a video as proof of the subreddit’s latest—and likely littlest—persona.

    Redditors responded to the innocence-filled session with a barrage of questions on topics ranging from the child’s favorite candy (“Gum. It's sticky AND chewing”) to her views on the recession (“Good, kinda good. What's a recession?”). Through the questions, redditors learned that the young girl was a fan of aliens, the childrens’ show Dragon Tales, and shopping malls.

    Finally someone who will appreciate the question! Would you rather pet 100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck? (Frood4)

    100 duck sized horses, because that wouldn't be too heavy to hug.

    In your opinion, what is the most amazing thing in the world? (the_mollusque)

    Spending time with Daddy.

    If you could be anywhere in the world with anyone you wanted, where would you be and who would you want to be with? Imaginary people and places count too! (linziboo)

    California with Grandma, Daddy, Mommy, sissy, and the elf.

    If you were a hot dog, would you eat yourself? (buchec18)

    No. Like how many dogs would eat themselves if they were hot?

    Do you like music? What's your favorite? (chrlsdmrs)

    Um, sometimes. Do you know the one that Dad likes to sing a lot? Techno.

    Do you want to become a grown up or would you rather stay at 4 years old for now? (LoneStar92)

    I wanna be five and never grow up.

    Screengrab via chefcrouch/YouTube

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    Following the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., millions of people around the U.S. shared their thoughts on the shootings that claimed the lives of 26 people, including 20 children, and how the media covered it.

    One person who hasn’t said anything publicly is Morgan Freeman. Surprised?

    If you saw that Morgan Freeman quote circulating around Facebook and Reddit, chastising the mainstream media for turning killers like Adam Lanza into celebrities, you might not have realized that it's a fake. 

    You know, this one:

    Fox News has plastered the killer's face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer's identity? None that I've seen yet. Because they don't sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you've just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next. You can help by forgetting you ever read this man's name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.

    The hoax was perpetrated by a Reddit user named Mark who “thought it'd be funny” to peg the diatribe to Freeman. A Reddit thread featuring the quote collected more than 1,700 comments from people upset over the hoax and others from people who looked past the lie to discuss the media’s influence on society.

    “So is the argument that the shooter wouldn't have done this if he wasn't going to get TV famous for it? That's a weak argument in my opinion. What evidence points to him doing this for the infamy? His targets weren't even entirely random people, he was hunting his parents. Everyone is just trying to pin the blame on whatever will further their agenda,” Outlulz commented. “I've seen more blame put on guns, mental health industry, the media, and teachers than even placed on the shooter himself.”

    Freeman’s first breakout role was in Driving Miss Daisy (1989) as Hoke Colburn, an illiterate chauffeur. Since then he’s starred in hit like The Shawshank Redemption, Million Dollar Baby, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But it’s been his voicework, suave demeanor, and outspoken political views that has made him an Internet favorite. It’s also made him a lightning rod for death hoaxes and outlandish speculations. The following list is just some of the latest rumors connected to Freeman. 

    March 18, 2010: The glove hoax

    In 2008, America’s fascination with gloves was rekindled after Freeman was is a car accident that left him with shoulder damage, a broken elbow, and an injured hand. As part of his recovery, Freeman wore a compression glove on his left hand to the premiere of Invictus. The sight left people wondering, did the actor get a prosthesis? The blog buzz surrounding Freeman’s glove ultimately forced the actor to explain his injury.

    “I hope it's not permanent but it's been three years and it's not the arm, just the hand, I can't move the fingers,” Freeman said on CNN on Sept. 23, 2011. “I have it in a glove because I can't move it and if you can't move your hand—you move your hand a million times a day every day. If you can't move it, blood will pool in it. It doesn't get proper circulation and blood pools in it and it swells.”

    Nov. 2, 2010: The B.J. Lawson hoax

    It was a case of he said, she said during a heated North Carolina political race when Republican B.J. Lawson ran an advertisement featuring what he thought was a genuine endorsement from Freeman. 

    “These people are lying. I have never recorded any campaign ads for B.J. Lawson and I do not support his candidacy. And no one who represents me ever has ever authorized the use of my name, voice, or any other likeness in support of Mr. Lawson or his candidacy,” Freeman’s representative told Politico

    Lawson’s campaign contends that the ad agency, California-based M.E.I., promised to get Freeman. M.E.I. said it did not lie to Lawson—but the video was still taken down. It has since been uploaded to YouTube, where it has collected 77,000 views.

    July 28, 2011: The Sheila Harsdorf hoax

    With a silky-smooth voice like Freeman’s, what politician wouldn’t want his endorsement? That was the case when another voice almost identical to Freeman’s was used in a commercial supporting Wisconsin state senator Sheila Harsdorf. 

    "Our office represents Morgan Freeman. A political ad running in Wisconsin by a conservative group narrated by a someone trying to sound like Morgan Freeman was not narrated by Mr. Freeman. Morgan Freeman did NOT narrate that ad," Freeman’s representative Stan Rosenfeld told Politico.

    Aug. 28, 2012: The Duke Nukem hoax

    Duke Nukem is a brash, cigar-smoking video game character hired by the CIA to save the world from aliens. When the game was first released, in 1991, the character wasn’t much of a talker, often muttering his signature phrase, "It's time to kick ass and chew bubble gum, and I'm all out of gum." 

    But over the years, as more installments of the game was released and video game technology improved, Nukem was in need of a longer script. That’s where a Freeman impersonator came in. A YouTube video by UTRAXHQ features Freeman uttering Nukem’s favorite phrase as part of a sound test for a new video game. The hilarious video has collected 319,000 views.

    August 2012: The homophobes-are-assholes hoax

    In the world of Twitter parody accounts, nothing is more satisfying than seeing people mistake a tweet for the words of the person being parodied. That was the case for a homophobe-bashing tweet from @MorgonFreeman—note the o—in August.

    Screengrabs of the tweet have been posted on Facebook and Imgur, where the photo has been viewed more than 1 million times.

    Photo by charlieanders2/Flickr

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  • 12/18/12--04:47: The Morning GIF: On Anon
  • Here at the Daily Dot, we swap GIF images with each other every morning. Now we’re looping you in. In the Morning GIF, we feature a popular—or just plain cool—GIF we found on Reddit, Canvas, or elsewhere on the Internet.

    The iconic Guy Fawkes mask of Anonymous is as recognizable a visage as the Internet contains, more famous even than Cheezburger Cat. It’s not easy to obfuscate that grinning pan, but this mysteriously morphing GIF from the Screams of Mutilation Tumblr succeeds, leaving only residual retinal impressions to fill in the dashes, not dots, of this coded message.

    As is the case with Anonymous itself, at first you don’t see anything. By the time you do, it’s too late. They are already there. You should have expected them.

    GIF via Screams of Mutilation/Tumblr


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    The Daily Dot has spent a considerable amount of time this year reporting incidents of sexism, misogyny, and attacks on women that have occurred throughout the gaming and comics industries this year. These are two often-overlapping mainstays of geek culture that have traditionally been seen as male-only spaces and are plagued with severe systemic gender inequality.  

    A noted essay by gamer girl Lucy Gillam argued in 2005 that within gaming fandom, “true gender equality is actually perceived [by male gamers] as inequality.” Seven years later, women account for 47 percent of gamers and actually comprise a majority of the membership of some gaming and comics fandoms.

    Yet they are far from having equal representation among either creators, producers, or characters in the media they’re consuming. One game developer appeared to actively exclude certain female demographics from its recruitment efforts, while DC Comics’s percentage of female writers and artists fell at one point to a jawdropping 1 percent. All the while, some male geeks have grown more and more threatened by the increasing presence of women in their communities.

    Geeks have previously seen major blowups like the 2010 Dickwolves incident and the 2011 Comic Con Batgirl controversy. Blogs like Fat, Ugly, or Slutty have tracked sexism across geek culture for a while now. But in 2012, there seemed to be new cause for alarm at every turn, with characters getting raped, players getting harassed, and critics getting death threats.

    2012 was truly not a good year for female geeks. Here’s how the year looked on a month-by-month basis.



    • Forbes writer Tara Tiger Brown requests that “Fake geek girls” “do everyone a favor and call yourself what you are: a casual hobbyist.”


    • The Oatmeal draws fire for a comic implying that women are treated to a different, nicer standard of behavior in live gameplay than men. “aaaaaaaaactually, in my experience,” wrote Tumblr user starwards, “it tends to be more like if I make a mistake, i’m representing my entire gender, am lampooned mercilessly, and reminded that all girls suck at playing games.”






    • The lead designer of Borderlands calls the secondary player mode of the new Borderlands 2 game the “girlfriend mode,” meaning “a new option to allow inferior gamers to play co-op with more skilled players.”


    • Popular blogger DC Women Kicking Ass speaks out against ongoing online harassment she and other female comic artists have endured.

    • A study of gender inequality in gaming reveals significant issues of sexism, including the fact that nearly 70 percent of women polled had concealed their gender in order to avoid harassment.

    • DC’s Sword and Sorcery reboots a series called Amethyst, ditches some major components but includes a graphic attempted gang rape of a female character. At Comics Alliance, Chris Sims writes:

    “It's not that it's not an abhorrent cliché that sums up everything that's wrong with their line in one tidy scene, because it certainly is that, it's that this just seems to be how it is now. Rape and rape threats have become a cornerstone of the DC Universe. Complaining about it at this point is like complaining about Marvel having a bunch of comics about mutants. It's just something they do in their books because they don't know any other way to tell stories."



    Screengrab via Comics Alliance


    • Black Cat cosplayer Mandy Caruso is sexually harassed in front of a large crowd during a filmed interview while attending New York Comic Con.

    November: Finally, some signs of change?

    • The creators of Halo 4 announce a lifetime ban on the game’s servers for anyone engaging in harassment or defamatory behavior against women and other minorities

    • Zelda player reprograms the game with gender-swapped language so that his three-year-old daughter can be the hero of the story.

    • After a Twitter user queries, “why are there so few lady game creators?” the revealing hashtag #1reasonwhy trends for hours as thousands of women in the industry and other female gamers and geeks share their experiences of being ostracized, harassed, and silenced.

    • Marvel comics broke records by hiring more women professionally than any month in previous history, to raise the tally to a whopping... 14 percent.

    ...or maybe not.

    • Respected comic artist Tony Harris posts an enormous screed against “fake geek girls” to Facebook. Previous “fake geek girl” ranter Joe Peacock agrees with him. The same day, comic creator Dirk Manning posts his own Facebook screed against the “fake geek girls” of comics fandom.


    • The Hawkeye Initiative takes off as the latest iteration of the “Strong Superhero Pose” meme, which critiques the ridiculous, anatomically impossible poses women in comics are frequently drawn in, in order to fully objectify them.

    • DC Comics removes popular, outspokenly feminist author Gail Simone from her financially successful series Batgirl, an inexplicable decision considering how well her issues were doing.

    • In case we didn’t get enough nun-killing in May, Hitman: Absolution comes back with a thankfully short-lived Facebook app that not only allowed you to send death threats to all your Facebook friends but lets you target women for murdering based on specific reasons, including “Her awful make-up, her hairy legs, her small tits.”

    Taken together, it was an embarrassing and frustrating year in geek culture. But as the events in November illustrated, there were a few glimmers of hope.

    Here’s hoping they shine even brighter in the new year.

    Correction: The original version of this story stated Anita Sarkeesian's Kickstarter campaign raised $600,000. The correct amount was $158,922. We regret the errior. 

    Screengrab via Hitman: Absolution/YouTube

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    The University of North Alabama long snapper who got kicked off his football team for posting a racist and insensitive tweet about Barack Obama's Sunday address to the victims and families at Sandy Hook Elementary School has apologized for his actions, saying in a statement that he would have done it all differently if he could go back in time. 

    "I want to apologize to President Obama for my outbreak last night," Bradley Patterson said in a statement. "What I said was uncalled for, but I didn't even stop to think what he was saying before it was sent." 

    "If I could go back right now, I would change it," he added. "I wouldn't hesitate to do so."

    On Sunday, during Obama's nationally televised address to Newtown, Conn., which overrode NBC's coverage of the football game between the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers, Patterson posted a tweet that read, "Take that n****r off the tv, we wanna watch football!" 

    News of the tweet quickly spread to UNA athletic director Mark Linder, who announced later that evening that Patterson had been kicked off the team. 

    "I just want to tell them that I'm sorry for everything that went on," Patterson said in a message to his teammates. 

    "I really ain't like that. I ain't racist. I wasn't thinking last night when I put it on there, but I'm sorry to all the guys. I let them down and just don't give up on me."

    Correction: An earlier version of this article used a Facebook photo of a man named Bradley Patterson who was not actually the Bradley Patterson who posted the tweet. The Daily Dot regrets the error and has removed the photo from the story.

    H/T HyperVocal. Screengrab via WAFF

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    The Daily Dot is proud to present a new way to spread holiday cheer: GIF cards. Each business day leading up to Christmas, we’ll be presenting two or more fun and easy-to-share GIFs to get you and your loved ones in the spirit of the season. To see our entire catalog, visit us on Tumblr.

    Growing up in Chicago, Ill., William Reiss passed the time drawing scenes from his favorite Disney movies, creating doodles of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Little Mermaid.

    He continued drawing through his teenage and college years at the California Institute of the Arts and ultimately sketched his way into Walt Disney Company. Today Reiss, 36, is a co-executive producer for Fish Hooks, a children's cartoon that follows a school of fish in a pet store aquarium.

    "I had always dreamed being a part of [Disney]," Reiss, who first worked on SpongeBob SquarePants out of college, told the Daily Dot. "I have always loved to draw portraits, but the novelty of the GIF allows me to take caricature to another fun level.”

    To push the boundaries of his charming caricatures, Reiss starter a Tumblr blog, IHave4Catz, in August 2011, posting some rough character sketches. One of his first animations—a colorful portrait of rapper Nicki Minaj—collected 1,700 notes. He’s since GIFed the likes of Paul Ryan, Anne Hathaway, and Lady Gaga to comparable effect.

    "The challenge of capturing the essence of a person in the way they blink, react, or move is fascinating to me—and it has also increased traffic on my blog immensely because I find people love to share a GIF way more than a still image."

    This holiday season Reiss will travel home to the Midwest where he hopes to spend time with his friends, family, and four cats. But before he does, Reiss created two exclusive holiday GIF cards.

    "I see them as a very modern form of expression," Reiss said.

    “We now have the ability to quickly share a favorite memory from a movie, pop culture or childhood in a way we hadn’t thought of before. I think this is a good thing. It keeps me inspired to think a little differently about the images that occupy our world."

    Share and be merry!

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    It’s been said before but it’s never been more true: YouTube is indeed the new TV.

    Just as cable dramas like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Boardwalk Empire have pushed the boundaries of primetime television, so too has YouTube experienced a major shift in the past year—spotlighting bold new programs, championing new personalities, and changing the very nature of storytelling.

    Want comedy? YouTube’s got it. Dramas? Done. What about a show that stars Eliza Dushku and runs episodes lasting sometimes 15 minutes or more? YouTube has that too—tune into “The Leap Year”—and it’s actually pretty good.

    The Google-owned company actually put in serious work this year to hone in on a newfound commitment to high-quality original programming, investing more than $100 million on 60 new channels, with subject matters ranging from geekdom culture on Chris Hardwick's Nerdist channel to the hilarious shenanigans on Rob Barnett's My Damn Channel.

    The investment irked longtime partners, many of whom believed the company was turning a cold shoulder on the homegrown stars, but the company remained committed: In November, it announced another $60 million investment in original content.

    Another sign of site’s shifting template was the rise of independent women, mastering a domain whose top 100 channels have long been dominated by men.

    The course of YouTube's calendar year, in fact, owes an unwavering debt to the Reply Girls, that springtime assembly of breasty bloggers who manipulated the site's algorithms for pageviews and big money. The loosely affiliated group was so influential that Google actually changed the way in which YouTube's view counts and suggested videos work. But Alejandrá Gaitan and company weren't the only ladies to leave their mark on the massive video sharing site.

    As our list of 2012's most influential YouTubers helps illustrate, it was a banner year for women on the site. From Jenna Marbles and Amy Poehler to Felicia Day and Ashley Clements, women changed the conversation and helped push YouTube further into the mainstream eye than ever before.

    1) Reply Girls

    In February, a rogue assembly of buxom video bloggers took to YouTube with a series of reply videos that would change the way the video-sharing site calculates and provides data forever. Known known as The Reply Girls, the group—which was unofficially fronted by Argentinian blogger Alejandrá Gaitan, who held the handle of The ReplyGirl—would manipulate site tags and post videos in which they talked somewhat aimlessly at their cameras while wearing revealing clothing. They became public enemy No. 1 among the YouTube brass, leading to a change in algorithms that determined view counts and widespread attempts to shut down the movement in general. The site's done massive work to label Reply Girls as spam and effectively end their short reign atop the site, but YouTube moderators must always be on the lookout. As many have predicted, the Reply Girls are really here to stay.

    2) Psy

    Unknown in America as recently as July 14, K-pop rapper Psy is now quite literally the creator of the most watched YouTube video of all time. With"Gangnam Style," the South Korean sensation became a household name throughout the world, generating more than 800 million views in half a year and bringing K-pop into the common American music conversation. Pretty soon, "Gangnam Style" should be the first video to ever top 1 billion views.

    3) The Vlogbrothers

    Though brothers Hank and John Green didn't do much to push their popular Vlogbrothers channel anywhere that it hadn't already been before, the longstanding and much beloved YouTubers were instrumental in helping bring YouTube further into the mainstream. That's something the two handled through VidCon, YouTube's unofficial but ever-growing annual conference in Los Angeles, which got so grandiose this summer that it had to move to the Anaheim Convention Center.

    4) Jenna Marbles

    The brash comedian's rapid ascent through the YouTube ranks continued this year as Jenna "Marbles" Mourey catapulted into the site's Top 10 Most Subscribed list, making her the first woman in history to hold that distinction. Thanks to her rare ability to balance sex appeal with witty, accessible social commentary, Mourey's videos have now been seen more than 858 million times, and her 4.8 million subscribers have her planted firmly in YouTube’s Top 5.

    5) Nakoula Basselley Nakoula

    This summer, a California filmmaker published a trailer onto YouTube for a movie called Innocence of Muslims, an anti-Muslim film that painted the prophet Muhammad not as the hero he was but rather as a philander and pedophile. Reaction to the trailer was unlike anything YouTube had ever seen. By September, Innocence of Muslims was sparking riots and killings throughout the world, with YouTube getting banned in countries throughout the Middle East and beyond. Nakoula, who recently said that he regrets no part of the film's production, is currently incarcerated on charges stemming from a 2010 bank fraud.

    6) Mainstream comedians

    Rainn WilsonAmy PoehlerAbby ElliottJohn LutzSue GallowayGilbert GodfreyHarry Shearer. Everywhere you look, mainstream comedians are taking to YouTube and learning quite quickly that there's a bevy of opportunity on the video-sharing network. Much of the migration has been in thanks to YouTube's new commitment to original programming, which has rewarded channels like My Damn Channel, Broadway Video, and NBC's Above Average Network to bring primetime quality to anytime viewers.

    7) Kony 2012

    With a gripping story that told the tale of Central African rebel Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army and a firm understanding of the power of social channels, nonprofit group Invisible Children took over YouTube's second quarter. The video exposed Kony as a human-rights violator and launched a massive online campaign that nearly brought justice tp a man who's spent the past 30 years torturing civilians his region. Posted to YouTube March 5, "Kony 2012" now has more than 94 million views.

    8) Pussy Riot

    One video featuring five members of Russian feminist punk rock activist troupe Pussy Riot protesting the Orthodox Church and its support of President Vladimir Putin from the altar of Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior resulted in the arrest of three women and cast light on Russia's stringent censorship laws in ways that few instances have been able to before. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich were each sentenced to two years in prison, but their efforts and actions will be heard worldwide for years to come.

    9) Felicia Day

    In launching Geek & Sundry, a nerd-centric YouTube channel dedicated to all things delightfully dorky, longtime YouTuber Felicia Day simultaneously gave YouTube gaming enthusiasts a home and a primary source of entertainment. With The Guild, Day's trademark show," the 33-year-old actress leads a show that Forbes magazine predicted in April "could help blaze a trail for the future of network television" by proving" that programming designed for niche audiences makes more sense—and more money—on the Web than on cable."

    10) The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

    This hugely popular remake of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice redefined the concept of transmedia storytelling, combining a rich, linear narrative with quirky, inherently likable skits. Produced by Hank Green and featuring direction from writer Bernie Su, the saga, now in its 34th week—with episodes on Monday and Friday—now boasts a fanbase of more than 112,000 subscribers.

    Honorable mentions:

    Chris Hardwick: The geektastic comedian announced the launch of his Nerdist channel, an original content hub that includes programming from such big names as Bill Nye and Neil DeGrasse Tyson, this spring.

    asapSCIENCE: In a matter of months, old friends Mitchell Moffit and Greg Brown turned their love of science into one of the most entertaining, informative, and impactful science-discovery shows on YouTube.

    Daym Drops: Thanks to Daymon Patterson and his series of fast-food reviews, we may never look at a 5 Guys Burgers and Fries the same ever again.

    Devin Graham: The young director spent the past year redefining the visual standard for YouTube clips through his SuperTramp channel, a high-octane adventure highlight reel.

    Janet Liang: Janet Liang’s fight against leukemia went massively public last winter when the California resident took to YouTube to look for a bone marrow donor. She eventually found one in August but never made it through her surgery, passing in Houston in mid-September.

    Gregory Brothers: The AutoTune the News crew’s mastery of standard news spoofing set the precedent for election cycle coverage, like this Motown remake of the presidential town hall debate.

    Symphony of Science: Mashup maestro John Boswell’s repeated work with PBS made evident the fact that YouTubers now have a place in mainstream media.

    Will Hyde: The longtime YouTube reporter split with his Will of DC show this summer, leaving a big hole in the community’s meta news coverage.

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    Perhaps the Virgin Mary was sold out: An all-male nativity scene is sparking backlash in Colombia.

    Andrés Vásquez and Felipe Cárdenas posted the "homosexual nativity scene"—where baby Jesus has two father Josephs and Virgin Mary is noticeably absent—to Facebook. Critics and Catholic Church members are calling the scene sacrilegious and disrespectful. 

    “As much as I support gay rights, this is just stupid on so many levels,” wrote a Facebook commenter. “If you are a Catholic you have to accept Jesus’ parents were Mary and Joseph.”

    Other not-so-gay supporters fumed that it shows a “lack of respect” to Christians and God, the church in the guys’ city labeled it “sacrilege.” 

    Vásquez and Cárdenas are gay activists who have been committed via a civil union for three months. They told a Colombian website they posted the scene to Facebook to reform the country’s marriage laws. The Latin American country is mulling over a bill to legalize gay marriage. 

    The pair were the subject of a splashy profile in Kien & Ke, a Colombian culture magazine. Vásquez and Cárdenas said Colombia is quickly warming to gay rights and that the nativity scene is indicative of that, despite the backlash.

    "We do not care what the constitution says, yes we are family,” Vásquez told the magazine.

    Photo via Queerty

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    Suso needs to be a little more careful about what he tweets in future.

    The Liverpool player was fined £10,000 ($16,248) by the Football Association (FA) after a comment about teammate José Enrique on Twitter in November.

    Suso, 19, shared a photo of Enrique having his teeth whitened along with the caption, “What f*** is he doing? This guy is gay... he does everything except play football.” He later deleted the tweet and reposted the photo with the comment, “”I dunno what to say...”


    The FA announced the fine Tuesday and added that Suso, full name Jesus Fernandez Saez, was warned about his conduct.

    In a statement, it said, “The charge, which the player admitted and requested a paper hearing, was that he acted in a way which was improper and/or brought the game into disrepute in that the comment was posted on his Twitter account and included a reference to a person/s sexual orientation and/or disability.”

    In August, Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand was fined £45,000 ($72,900) for improper conduct after sending a tweet about Chelsea player Ashley Cole. The Barclays Premier League released social media guidelines for players ahead of the season kicking off in August. Let's hope for Suso's sake he pays closer heed to them.

    Photo via @suso30fernandez/Twitter

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