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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    The Pakistani government plans to unblock access to YouTube within the next 24 hours, according to information detailed on federal interior minister Rehman Malik's Twitter feed

    The decision comes after a three-month embargo against the video sharing site, one that arrived in the wake of YouTube's decision to not remove the movie trailer for the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims, which sparked riots and widespread dissension throughout many parts of the world. 

    Friday on Twitter, Sen. Malik announced that he chaired a high-level meeting with members of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority on the future of YouTube's presence in Pakistan. According to Malik, the committee settled on the decision to unblock YouTube but acquire"powerful firewall software" that would "totally block pornographic and blasphemous material" from showing up on YouTube throughout Pakistan. 

    "There was a [great] demand to unblock [YouTube] from all sections of society," Malik wrote, "esp. fellow tweeps. Expect the notification today!"

    No word yet on what that powerful firewall software entails or where exactly the line will be drawn concerning what is pornographic and blasphemous and what is not. 

    Rest assured, however, that Innocence of Muslims will not be making the cut. 

    Photo via Rehman Malik


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    An Indiana teen has been arrested and charged with a felony after allegedly making threats to "go on a rampage" on Facebook.

    Eric Rizley, 19, told police he never really intended to carry out attacks in his sleepy hometown of Portage, Indiana. But just weeks after a lone gunman murdered 26 people—including 20 children—at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., it's not surprising Rizley's post touched a nerve, even among those who knew him best. 

    "Watch out portage people might be dying soon," the message reportedly read (it's since been deleted).

    His friends and family were so bothered by the posts they pleaded with him to stop. Even his mother reportedly jumped into the fray on Facebook. Rizley didn't listen.

    "No seriously imma go on a rampage," he replied to the pleas. He later add "bang bang" and "No this is it I’m bout to flip out."

    The father of one of those Facebook friends—who later described Rizley as "a kid who was teased a lot in school, but not a bad kid"—reported him to the police, who in turn charged him with felony intimidation. 

    Rizley told police he was angry because someone had broken into his house and stole electronics, including a video game system and a laptop.

    Photo via Sun-Times Media


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    It begs the question: Does Mickey Rooney have an Android phone?

    Some Asian-Americans are outraged by an app called "Make Me Asian," which morphs anyone's photos by narrowing their eyes, yellowing their skin, and, for good measure, throwing on a rice paddy hat and fu manchu mustache.

    It's by an app manufacturer called KimberyDeiss, which doesn't appear to have an official website.  Make Me Asian's terse, odd official description asks, "Have you ever wondered to present himself as a person of another nationality?" Clearly not written by a native English speaker, the description adds that "This is just a fun app lets you indulge you and your friends! You can for a few seconds to make himself a Chinese, Japanese, Korean or any other Asians!"

    If appearing as a caricature of the "other Asians" doesn't float your boat, KimberyDeiss has you covered: You can also download Make Me Indian, which gives you a sterner expression, war paint under your eyes, and a feathered headband.

    The Asian American advocacy group 18 Million Rising, however, doesn't find it so fun. In a petition launched this month, the group deplores the apps, writing:

    "These racist and offensive portrayals of Asians and Native Americans perpetuate damaging racial stereotypes and should not be distributed on the Google Play store. The apps should be removed immediately."

    To KimberyDeiss's credit, it seems to be more oblivious than mean-spirited. Its eleven apps are all along the "make me [look different]" theme, and the rest are tamer, like Make Me Bald, Make Me Punk, and Make Me Old. Unfortunately for KimberyDeiss, online reviewers seem to hate all their products, frequently giving them one-star reviews.

    In a review for Make Me Asian titled "Froze phone, racist," Daniel Peeples said the app was both offensive and didn't work. "Besides being racist and not working at all like its supposed to, it froze my phone, made it turn black and it took forever to get it back to normal," he wrote.

    That criticism extended to other apps, like Make Me Freddy [Krueger] (which is presumably also a trademark violation).

    "I dont have razer fingers or anything! This is bullcrap!" wrote an anonymous user in yet another one-star review.

    Screenshots via Google Play


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    Back in March 2012, prominent blogger and former CNN bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon stated that she believed Facebook yielded as much power as a nation.

    "Sovereignty and power are shifting," she told the New Scientist. "Before the internet, these notions were controlled by nation states. But companies like Facebook are the sovereigns of cyberspace.

    "Facebook exercises power by shaping the way you interact with the world. It makes decisions about what you can do and not do on its network. And there are only a few countries in the world where Facebook is not the most popular social network."

    Though MacKinnon's comments could justifiably be called hyperbolic—nation states collect taxes, while Facebook does not— she does make a very salient point. Whether we want to admit it or not, Facebook, more so than any other social media platform, has ingrained itself on to our society. The social network plays a prominent role in how we vote, how we worship, and how people do their jobs.

    We took MacKinnon's argument into consideration when making our list of 2012’s most influential Facebook users. This list is unconventional insofar as it doesn't enumerate the people with the most likes. This isn't a popularity contest.

    Instead, we took a look back at what were the biggest Facebook stories of 2012 and the players involved. It's those people, not celebrities (sorry, Rihanna), who helped shape the biggest online community in the world.

    1) George Takei

    Not only is Mr. Sulu a constantpurveyorof hilarity on the social network—if you've been on Facebook for longer than a day, chances are one of your friends has reshared one of Takei's memetastic posts—he's also been one of its biggest critics.

    Back in June 2012, Takei stood on top of his soap box and told his millions of followers that he was unhappy with Facebook's Promoted Posts, a feature that promised to expand the audience reach of any given post for a fee.

    "I understand that [Facebook] has to make money, especially now that it is public," wrote Takei, "but in my view this development turns the notion of 'fans' on its head."

    Takei still posts regularly on his Facebook fan page, though this November he announced that he was joining Tumblr, perhaps a sign that he was moving on.

    2) Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama had a banner year in 2012 and social media played a huge role.

    Much like he did in 2008, President Obama used various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Reddit—where he did an Ask Me Anything session so popular, it briefly took down the site—to stay in the White House for a second presidential term.

    Facebook was the lynchpin for Obama's social media success. His Facebook page, which currently has more than 34 million likes, became ground zero for disseminating his campaign's message, engaging his supporters via Facebook updates, pictures, and infographics.

    Mitt Romney, who at his peak had close to 14 million followers, never had a chance.

    It's no surprise then that the president set three new social-media Guinness World Records the day after his re-election. Following his victory, the Obama campaign posted an image of him hugging his wife with the caption "Four more years." That Facebook picture was liked more than 3.3 million times less than 12 hours after going up, establishing a world record for "Most likes on a Facebook item in 24 hours" and "Most likes on a Facebook item ever." As of this writing, the post has more than 4.4 million likes and has been shared a whopping 580,697 times.

    3) Judges

    If anything, 2012 was the year of court cases for the social network

    Most notably, Facebook has been embroiled in a class action lawsuit that goes back to 2011 involving its "Sponsored Stories" ad program. The plaintiffs alleged that Facebook had used their likeness in paid advertisements without their authorization. Facebook tried to settle the case in August 2012, but U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg rejected the settlement citing "serious concerns" over its terms. The case was finally settled in early December 2012.

    But it hasn't just been lawsuits. Facebook has also been the subject of various cases, the bulk of which pertain to a person's right to privacy.

    In the Philippines, for example, a judge ruled that a school had no right to ban a teenager who had posted pictures of herself in a bikini to the social network from her graduation because the school had obtained the images illicitly.

    In the United Kingdom, a judge ruled that a man was wrongfully demoted by his employer for speaking against marriage equality on his Facebook, something the man was entitled to do.

    Locally, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Davis ruled that a Minnesota school had violated a teenager's First and Fourth Amendment rights when school officials forced her to hand over the passwords to her Facebook account.

    4) Richard Metzger

    No other individual has done more to sully Facebook's name, for better or worse, over Promoted Posts than Richard Metzger.

    Metzger became the face of the anti-Promoted Posts crusade after penning a lengthy post on the blog Dangerous Minds accusing Facebook of holding his audience reach ransom for the sake of making a quick buck.

    In his Oct. 24 post, Metzger detailed how the Facebook page for Dangerous Minds had been steadily growing in the number of likes. Despite the new followers, the page was reaching less and less of them. Metzger blamed Promoted Posts.

    “It’s perhaps the most understated stick-up line in history,” he wrote, “worthy of a James Bond villain calmly demanding that a $365 million dollar [sic] ransom gets collected from all the Mom & Pop businesses who use Facebook.”

    The company responded by stating the changes were a result of EdgeRank, their ever-evolving proprietary algorithm that aims to bring only the best to a user's newsfeed.

    Despite these claims to the contrary, anti-Promoted Posts sentiment has spread. In addition to the aforementioned Metzger and Takei, Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban has also criticized Facebook over the maligned feature.

    5) God

    Here's something that the Daily Dot failed to cover in the past year.

    The biggest name on Facebook is not Eminem or soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. It's Jesus.

    Many brand pages' reach took a hit when Facebook changed modified their EdgeRank algorithm. This assertion was recently supported by a study released in November by GroupM, a media investment management group. According to the report, the average page went from reaching roughly 15 percent of its audience to slightly under 10 percent after EdgeRank was changed.

    Bucking that trend were various religion-oriented pages like Jesus Daily and GodVine. The two pages boast audiences of 14,904,448 and 5,362,774, respectively. They may not have the most likes, but they're doing more with what they have than everyone else. As of this writing, for example, the pages have 5,362,774 and 3,185,519 people "talking about this," respectively.

    "Talking about this" is a Facebook metric that factors in things like comments and shares on a given post, direct mentions, and the number of people who have liked the page. It's a pretty good number to gauge interest on the page.

    The aforementioned figures are incredibly high, given the audiences of those two groups. To put things in perspective, Rihanna is the most-liked celebrity on Facebook, with 64.5 million likes. Despite the big audience, only 639,257 are currently "talking about this," meaning her fans aren't as engaged.

    It's difficult to tell when this rise of religious fan pages occurred, but we've certainly missed it. Until now. Religious people, consider this oversight corrected.

    6) Shahien Dada

    When Shahien Dada expressed her displeasure on Facebook over the city of Mumbai shutting down to commemorate the death of controversial Indian politician Bal Thackeray, the 21-year-old did not expect to get arrested, much less become a watershed symbol for legislative reform.

    But that's exactly what happened. Dada was arrested on Nov. 19 for violating Section 66A of India's Information Technology Act, which makes it a crime punishable by jail time to use social media platforms to make offensive statements.

    The arrest galvanized opponents of the controversial law, which authorities have used to incarcerate individuals for dubious reasons, including criticizing police for failing to do their jobs. Within day after Dada's arrest, top political figures like former Supreme Court of India Judge Markandey Katju and Kapil Sibal, the country's minister for communications and information technology, called for legal reform.

    These calls to actions seemed to work. On Nov. 26, Member of Parliament Bijayant Jay Panda announced via Twitter that he had introduced legislation to amend Section 66A. The provision has also  been challenged in Allahabad High Court and the Madras High Court.

    7) Mike Huckabee

    Mike Huckabee might not have a million followers on Facebook (he's currently at 889,044 likes), but the former Governor of Arkansas and conservative television show still holds a lot of sway on the social network.

    Case in point: Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.

    Huckabee organized the aforementioned Facebook event in response to criticism of company CEO Dan Cathy, who had previously made comments against marriage equality.

    "I have been incensed at the vitriolic assaults on the Chick Fil-A company because the CEO, Dan Cathy, made comments recently in which he affirmed his view that the Biblical view of marriage should be upheld," wrote Huckabee on the event's page.

    "Let's affirm a business that operates on Christian principles and whose executives are willing to take a stand for the Godly values we espouse by simply showing up and eating at Chick Fil-A on Wednesday, August 1."

    The conservative call to action worked. Hundreds of thousands of people showed up to Chick-fil-a locations, including top right-wingers like Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, to show that they too were against marriage equality.

    When the breaded-chicken crumbs settled, more than 670,000 people had RSVPed to the event.

    Other conservative groups have tried to employ the same strategy since Huckabee's very successful campaign, but to no avail.

    8) Party People

    If you had a house party in the past year and you made a Facebook event for it, chances are that your soiree made the news.

    That at least seemed to be the trend 2012, when multiple parties got out of control because of the social network.

    In September, at least a thousand people showed up to the small northern Dutch city of Haren after a 16-year-old resident accidentally forgot to make her birthday party private. The event went viral, with more than 23,000 people invited to the event and close to 2,500 of them RSVPing for it.

    It wasn't the real life version of Project X—the 2012 film about a birthday party that turns into a chaotic rager— but it was still pretty wild.

    Just as insane was what happened in the United Kingdom a few weeks ago, when a teenager's 15th birthday party resulted in more than 800 people showing up to the party and trashing her house. According to the girl's mother, the anarchic revelers caused more than $50,000 worth of damage, which the insurance company refuses to pay. Ouch.

    How did people hear about the party? Facebook, of course.

    9) Police Officers

    When it comes to Facebook, law enforcement officials were the group of people we most wrote about. It makes sense, then, that they would make this list.

    Some of our stories pertained to cops behaving badly, like the 17 New York City cops disciplined for making racist comments, or the police officer who was arrested after a British woman identified him as one of her tormenting trolls.  

    Others were about how the social network behemoth was impeding them from doing their jobs, like when Australian police asked unsuccessfully the company to take down a page that revealed the locations of unidentified police vehicles, or the woman who was arrested for blowing an undercover officer's identity by posting his picture on Facebook.

    We also wrote about the opposite, of cops using Facebook to help them catch criminals. In October, for example, pbolice officers successfully arrested two suspects believed to be behind the murder of a teenage girl by using a Faceook conversation between one of the suspects and the victim.

    10) You

    You, beloved Facebook user, for better or worse, round out our top 10.

    Thanks to you, Facebook crossed the one-billion-users threshold in October. No small feat considering that the world's population is close to seven billion.

    You also ensured that Facebook stayed atop of the social media platform hierarchy this December by choosing to not vote on a referendum that modified the site's two governing documents. These changes, as we've detailed, abolished your right to vote on future modifications and granted Facebook carte blanche to do whatever it pleases in the future with little to no accountability to you.

    All photos via Facebook


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    A terminally ill Star Trek fan had his wish to see Star Trek Into Darkness come true, thanks to director J.J. Abrams himself—and Reddit.

    On Christmas Day, redditor ideeeyut posted a thread to the r/startrek subreddit entitled "Please come to the rescue of a Star Trek fan." On Dec. 26, the same story was posted to the r/scifi subreddit.

    In the post, ideeeyut described a bout of medical issues that unexpectedly plagued his friend "Dan," who is not only a Star Trek fan but also a general movie buff.

    After being diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 38, Dan not only endured chemotherapy and radiation treatments, but also developed a second strain of cancer as well as an "EXTREMELY rare vascular tumor that is crowding out his healthy liver tissue."

    "There is nothing left to do but make him comfortable, at 41, he is jaundice & his liver is enlarged, his body has had enough, he has weeks to live," ideeeyut said in the post, quoting Dan's wife.

    The post finished with Dan being unable to see the nine-minute preview of Star Trek Into Darkness due to hospitalization. The latest Trek doesn’t come out until May 2013, but a preview was made available before certain screenings of The Hobbit during that film’s opening weekend.

    Within hours, redditors were doing everything they could to help. Some posted contact information for Paramount Pictures, while others asked friends and family members with connections in the film and TV industries. The r/startrek thread achieved over 300 upvotes; the r/scifi version earned over 65.

    The plea was posted to MTV Geek and picked up by several national news sources, including ABC News.

    Redditor GradyHendrix, who identified himself as a personal friend of Dan's, posted an update on Dec. 27.

    "Thanks everyone, and a huge thanks to OP ideeeyut for posting this. JJ Abrams just called Dan's wife and left a message. He's going to try to arrange a screening for Dan, either of the film or at least of the 9 minute promo reel.

    I'll never say anything bad about JJ Abrams again. Seriously. He is now beyond reproach as far as I'm concerned," he wrote.

    The same day, ideeeyut posted a similar update.

    "Holy cow everybody!!! I just heard from his wife that they are going to do it!! I don't know who it what the path was to get there but thank you so much to everyone that tried to help!!!"

    Sure enough, within three days of the post, a screening of the film was set up for Dan, without much public fanfare from Paramount or Abrams himself. In a Dec. 29 follow-up post to r/startrek, ideeeyut updated supporters and well-wishers.

    "He got to see it a couple of hours ago and loved it. JJ Abrams is the man. I'm going to buy an extra ticket for Dan when it comes out," he wrote.

    Photo via Gage Skidmore/Flickr


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    A young Norwegian soccer player was overjoyed when his hero retweeted a video of him showing off his skills, but that wasn't all that awaited Daniel Nilsen in his Twitter interactions with Cristiano Ronaldo.

    Real Madrid star Ronaldo was wondering how to celebrate reaching 15 million Twitter followers when Nilsen sent him the link. Ronaldo shared the clip with his legions of followers, calling it a "great video."

    The well-edited video shows just how much of an influence Ronaldo's fancy footwork has had on Nilsen, 16. 

    Ronaldo later encouraged followers to send in ideas for what they'd like to see on his Twitter account in 2013, with the promise that the most-retweeted comment would win some swag. Most of the repliessimplypraised the 27-year-old star, and Nilsen was among the contenders, tweeting dozens of messages at Ronaldo. "I know that you HATE to lose, even against your girlfriend!!" Nilsen wrote.

    It scooped the top prize: a follow from Ronaldo and tickets to a Real Madrid game in Spain next month. 

    "It's been an AMAZING day," Nilsen tweeted. "I've been followed by Ronaldo and won two tickets! My dream became true :-)"

    Nilsen told adressa.no that he used to watch clips of Ronaldo on YouTube and wants to become a professional player. The tweets from Ronaldo give him "extra motivation" to reach that goal, he said. If his video's anything to go by, he's well on his way.

    Photo via @Daniel_Nilsen/Twitter


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    "This year, I resolve to make some changes."

    How many times have you heard this as New Year's Eve approaches? New Year's resolutions have become just as big a staple of the holiday as "Auld Lang Syne" and crowd-led countdowns. While those who make resolutions may be serious about maintaining them throughout the coming 12 months, many fall back into their old routines before January is even complete.

    We all know the person who, in between ice cream sundaes and trips through the McDonalds drive-thru, resolves to lose weight and spend more time at the gym. We also all have that friend who resolves to "be a better person"--then wishes a painful death on a fellow driver during a streak of road rage. We have also been in the company of people whose resolution is not to make any resolutions. We laughed politely.

    Some people may even forego making their own resolutions altogether and enlist the help of the Resolution Generator. From "jog" to "find someone with the same name as me on Facebook," there is something for everyone whose resolution for 2012 was apparently "make no original thoughts."

    Just in time for the dawn of 2013, we at the Daily Dot found a collection of 13 Twitter users who have taken the concept of New Year's resolutions to unique lengths. From the unattainable to the hilarious to just the plain absurd, enjoy what your fellow Twitter users resolve to do when the clock strikes midnight on January 1.


    Image via @claudjackson_


    Image via @PullinR


    Image via @TVD_obsession06


    Image via @NICK_FLIPS11


    Image via @bobbyshull


    Image via @Ricky_Ricardo93


    Image via @KameyRoberts


    Image via @JonathanEukel


    Image via @AlexRozay905


    Image via @RJRHQ


    Image via @rosechild


    Image via @TheNatFantastic


    Image via @SeanINCypress

    Photo via Gamma Man/Flickr

     


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    This year, Anonymous's calls to action have incuded #OpWBC, in which the group intimidated the Westboro Baptist Church into abandoning rumored plans to protest the funerals of Sandy Hook shooting victims; #OpAntiBully, which outed a group of teen boys threatening to gang-rape a 12-year-old; and #OpRIP, which took aim at the blackmailer and troll who drove Amanda Todd to suicide.

    The new operation: Bringing home Aishah Sabra, a 5-year-old British girl of divorced parents. She is missing in Egypt, having apparently been kidnapped by her father for a second time. 

    The first time she disappeared on a visit to her father, who lives in Egypt, she was held from May 2009 to January 2010 before being returned to her mother Leila (née Sheila). The pair were then prevented from leaving the country, even though Leila had full custody, because of a travel ban placed on Aishah. Leila has said she was unable to get a work permit, and thus was forced to rely on the charity of supporters back home.

    In September 2011, the little girl was on a brief visit to her father; she has never returned. According to her mother, the father denies knowing the girl's whereabouts. Clearly, whether or not the child is with him, Egypt is not currently the safest place on the planet for a young girl forcibly separated from her legally custodial parent

    In response to her mother's pleas, Anonymous set up OpFreeAishah over the winter of 2011–2012, and in concert with other pro-child initiatives, has been tweeting and Facebooking to spread awareness ever since. On the final Sunday of 2012, they took it to the next level.

    Tweetstorm.

    A Tweetstorm is a strategy to flood Twitter with information about a specific issue over a short period of time: sometimes an hour, sometimes a day, all using one hashtag. This particular #OpFreeAishah Tweetstorm is scheduled to last 24 hours, although it's clear the majority of energy came early, entirely dominating the streams of anyone who follows any significant number of Anonymous accounts. We'll see what happens as North America wakes up. 

    Graph via SeraphimWraith/Twitter

    This graph shows the moment of Tweetstorm launch. 

    So far, tweets have included two pastebins, one giving the main outline of the operation along with tips on how to maximize effectiveness while escaping Twitter Jail and suspension, increasingly a problem for Anons on Twitter; and one that translates"Please help save a child" into over 50 languages for easy tweeting.

    They've linked to a Facebook event, Smarties for Aishah, which encourages people to eat a tube of Smarties, which are what the British and Canadians have instead of M&Ms, and then fill the tube with money for Aishah in time for her 6th birthday, on March 6, 2013. Tweets have encouraged people to sign the Change.org petition addressed to the U.K. Foreign Office to return Aishah not only to her mother, but to the land of her birth. Currently it has just over 2,600 signatures, and the goal is 10,000. Some have simply propagated the hashtag, piquing curiosity and perhaps investigation and engagement. Some celebrated the fact that the tag was briefly trending

    And one special retweet came from film and television star Patricia Arquette, adding celebrity muscle to a homegrown movement.

    And some tweets included this powerful YouTube video, where Leila's words were read by a supporter. It provides much more detail about the original kidnapping than most other information sources. "You broke my heart by bringing shame on my family [by initiating the divorce], so I will break your heart. I took Aishah because she is your heart," said her father, according to the video.

    Leila also maintains two Tumblrs: Freedom for Kids explains the facts of Aishah's case and presents them for easy reblogging; the other, Aishah Sabrah, I Am Your Mother, consists of inspirational sayings and notes from Leila to her missing daughter, reminders that when she was returned from the first kidnapping, it took her some time to recognize her mother. 

    Aishah has been illegally kept from her mother for more than half of her life.

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story described Aishah as Egyptian. She is actually a British citizen. The Daily Dot regrets the error.

    Photo via Aishah Sabrah I Am Your Mother/Tumblr


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    Michigan becomes the latest state to pass a new law that prohibits employers and educational institutions from demanding that workers or students give up their social media passwords.

    On Friday, Governor Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5523 into law. Known as the "Internet privacy protection act," and introduced by Republican state Representative Aric Nesbitt, the newly enacted legislation comes into effect immediately.

    “Cyber security is important to the reinvention of Michigan, and protecting the private internet accounts of residents is a part of that,” Governor Snyder stated in a press release on Dec. 28. “Potential employees and students should be judged on their skills and abilities, not private online activity.”

    According to the legislative language, it's a misdemeanor crime punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000 for employers and schools to demand "certain individuals to grant access to, allow observation of, or disclose information that allows access to or observation of personal internet accounts."

    Those affected can file a civil lawsuit within 60 days of the incident via a written demand that provides "reasonable documentation of the violation."

    Michigan joins California, Maryland, and neighbor Illinois as the fourth state to enact similar type of legislation. A similar proposal was floating around in the Federal legislature, but it was eventually killed in the House of Representatives

    Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities already prohibits this practice.

    “You will not share your password (or in the case of developers, your secret key), let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account.”

    Though well intentioned, it's not entirely clear whether employers and schools forcing its workers and students to give up their social media passwords is an actual issue. There have been very few instances—justtwice from what we can tell—in which individuals have been victimized by this very practice. In one such case involving a Minnesota school forcing a student to forfeit her Facebook password, a federal judge ruled against the educational institutional and declared that they had violated the constitutional rights of the student.

    Photo via Michigan Municipal League/Flickr


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    In a recent ruling, Vietnam has refused leniency to two bloggers who disobeyed the state by allegedly posting anti-government messages online.

    On Friday, courts denied two appeals of dissident bloggers, maintaining that they must respectively serve out prison sentences of 12 and 10 years. The two maintained their innocence during the hearing. A third imprisoned blogger, who pled guilty, saw his sentence reduced from four to three years. The three, who were each sentenced Sept. 24, had cofounded a free-speech site called the Free Journalists Club in 2007.

    Nguyen Van Hai, known by his online persona Dieu Cay, or Peasant's Pipe, received the 12-year sentence. Before his imprisonment, he had been outspoken online about Vietnam's relationship with China, and has been accused of collaborating with Viet Tan, an outlawed pro-democracy group. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Nguyen has lost an arm in prison.

    Former policewoman Ta Phong Tan, who received the 10-year sentence, ran a blog called Truth and Justice, about government and police corruption. After Tan's arrest, her mother burned herself alive in front of a government building.

    Phan Thanh Hai, who ran a blog called Anhbasaigon, was the sole member of the group to plead guilty, and as such received the reduced, three-year sentence. According to his wife, his health is deteriorating while he's in prison.

    All three were found guilty of violating article 88 of the penal code, “conducting propaganda against the state." In the past year, Vietnam has doubled down on online dissent, even drafting a law that would criminalize anonymous online activity.

    According to Reporters Without Borders, which strongly condemned the sentences and lists Vietnam as one of the "Enemies of the Internet," several other bloggers were arrested during the hearing.

    Photo of Vietnamese officers by by Jame and Jess/Flickr


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    What’s the best thing about Reddit? The community. What’s the worst? The community.

    That’s according to andrewsmith1986, a power user who’s been upvoted to a special place in Reddit’s strata, where karma—a form of Internet points on the social news site used to score users’ contributions—rules the roost. Over the past six years, his moderating duties have taken him to the helm of more than 75 subreddits, including defaults r/IAmA, r/funny, and r/pics, and he was the first site user to surpass heavy user karmanaut in karma points and break the 1-million mark.

    Yet the man behind the straightforward username—Andrew Smith, a Lafayette, La., native born in 1986—surprisingly shrugged off the Internet fame he has cultivated throughout his half-decade on the “front page” of the Web. And when he was accidentally booted off the site earlier this month, he claims he was ready to leave it behind for good.

    “I have a good life,” he told the Daily Dot. “I have awesome roommates, a great girlfriend, tons of friends, and a good job. Reddit is just a website.

    “It’s like smoking. I’ve quit before.”

    You may have heard of Reddit after President Obama stopped by the site last September, or after a similar visit from your favorite celebrity—or maybe after the site's most notorious troll was outed and exposed on Gawker and CNN. In fact, if you haven't heard of Reddit, you're in the  minority these days: The site, which allows users to control content by voting it up or down in a massive content free-for-all, is one of the most popular in the world, boasting more than 40 million unique visitors and serving up billions of pageviews every month.

    And in the pantheon of influential redditors, Smith sits near the top. Reddit works by allowing users to create their own communities, called subreddits, which are oriented around specific topics. The site's paid staff maintain a pretty laissez-faire management style toward subreddits, and generally leave their management in the control of redditor volunteers like Smith. Some subreddits grow to humongous sizes, and the largest 20 become what Reddit calls "defaults": Communities that every user subscribes to automatically when they join the site.

    Because of those automatic subscriptions, defaults boast gigantic subscriber numbers—reaching into the millions—and as a result their moderators wield huge influence over Reddit and even the Internet as a whole. r/funny, for instance, which Smith moderates along with 20 others, has nearly 3 million subscribers and can send hundreds of thousands of visitors to a site with a single front page link.

    Smith's ascent to the top began slowly. Like many redditors, Smith was a Digg and 4chan refugee who was looking for a stronger sense of community online. While he has an impressive history with Reddit, he didn’t begin commenting until “much, much later,” pointing out a thread that compared different brands of toilet paper as the home of his first “big comment.”

    I had this argument between my gf, some friends and I. apparently they are all crumpling idiots. I feel people that crumple are sick and twisted. ...

    What are you five? Fold like 4 sets before you are finished and put them on your knees or counter like a normal adult. Buy nice textured toilet paper of a decent thickness you slob.

    “I became well known because I posted a lot, not because of specific threads or because of the quality of my comments,” he explained. “I posted like 400 or so comments a day in r/askreddit for like eight months.”

    There are so many accounts and usernames on Reddit--and so many comments to wade through--it's hard for anyone to stand out. But Smith's commenting was so prolific he soon became a kind of Reddit celebrity. Contrary to popular opinion, his face isn’t lit 24 hours a day by the glow of his computer. He works as a geologist and claims he only visits Reddit during his daily 9-to-5 work schedule, rarely accessing the site on evenings or weekends.

    Smith's time at the top gives him a unique perspective on Reddit's best communities--and how its governance structure is broken. While he has moderated some of the most popular subreddits, going so far as to help orchestrate the rescue of r/IAmA, Smith prefers the site’s smaller communities. He spoke highly of r/randomactsofamazon, a subreddit where people not only vent frustrations and talk about their daily lives, but also display their Amazon wish lists for fellow subscribers who might feel extra generous.

    “Not too long after I joined, I had two people send me stuff from my wish list,” he said. “Because that’s just the kind of people they are. Nice people.”

    Such small, close-knit communities are a far cry from the default subreddits that dominate Reddit’s front page.

    “When people first join Reddit, the first thing I tell them to do is to unsubscribe from the default subreddits,” Smith said. “Find what you like. The site has everything. Local subreddits, fingernail polish subreddits! Reddit is an open place with a wide array of topics and while I disagree with many of the topics, I do believe that they have their own ‘place’ there.”

    The problem, according to Smith, is that Reddit’s moderation is not handled as collective governance but as a hierarchy.

    “Community members should have a say in what goes on,” he proclaimed. “Major changes should always be put to a vote. But Reddit is not a democracy. It may try to sell itself like it is, especially in the larger communities, but that’s bullshit. It’s a dictatorship.”

    While Smith was quick to applaud a number of great moderators who take their communities seriously, others, he said, view their positions as “status symbols,” pointing to the fact that many default and popular subreddits feature the same moderators. You can't choose to be a moderator of a subreddit someone else created—you have to be invited. That creates the Reddit version of an old boy's club, where the insiders and well-connected keep control of the biggest communities—and there's nothing the rest of the site can do about it.

    “It’s like a totem pole,” he said. “When you’re a mod of a subreddit, and you bring on another mod, you’re now above him. You’re on top. So for communities with like 100 mods, the guys on the very bottom have absolutely no say in anything. And if you disagree with the guys at the top, they’ll just remove you. They can do that.”

    “Think... Game of Thrones,” he elaborated later. “Only more boring.”

    Smith illustrated his point with the story of how he lost his moderator privileges in the r/IAmA subreddit after he spoke out against the moderator’s decision to pull the plug on Overly Attached Girlfriend’s live interview because it broke the subreddit’s rules.

    “A mod above me simply said that it wasn’t allowed. There was no discussion about it and it was completely one-sided. I suggested in the comments that we put it to the community for a vote. Gradually, I wound up turning a lot of people against that particular mod. And I got removed for doing this.”

    Smith added later, “I'm bad at politics.”

    That’s why, when Smith’s account mysteriously disappeared in early December, his contemporaries assumed the worst. It turned out that his account was hacked by an unknown user. After a great deal of internal discussion, the decision was made to restore the account andrewsmith1986 to its rightful owner. The move was unprecedented.

    The ordeal made Smith view his history on the site a little differently.

    “[My girlfriend] helped me realize that what I was the most concerned with was getting my username back,” he said. “Take away all of my karma, take away my awards, take away my mod duties, I just wanted ‘andrewsmith1986’ back. I have been using that handle since fourth or fifth grade and it is everywhere: my email, my Facebook, everything.”

    Even if he lost the username, there’s still r/andrewsadventuretime, a subreddit he started for an ambitious idea he has to take Reddit on the road. Not unlike charitable frequent flier Generique, travel-show host Zach Anner, and railroad adventurer isthisadream,  Smith wants to travel from “town to town” to host Reddit meetups, preferably with the site’s assistance.  

    “I considered doing a Kickstarter to raise the money,” he said.

    That’s an odd goal for a guy with such a complicated relationship with Reddit. But if there’s a lesson to be learned from Smith’s situation, it’s that you have to take the good with the bad and make the most of it.

    “Reddit has the best and worst of the Internet all in one place,” he said. “Great in-jokes and really intelligent users on one hand and the same tired old memes and racists/sexists on the other.”

    Somewhere between those two extremes, that’s where you’ll find andrewsmith1986, balancing his corner of Reddit through moderation and commenting. At least for now.

    Additional reporting by Kevin Morris

    Photos via Andrew Smith


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    Tweeting insults at athletes is the new screaming at the TV.

    When a mistake gives the opponents an advantage, when a player misses a chance to win the game at the buzzer, when a terrible foul changes the momentum of the match entirely, you can bet Vegas odds have it that there will be someone complaining about it on Twitter.

    Indeed, the proliferation of athletes who use Twitter themselves allows for fans to directly send their criticisms to fallen heroes. But a dark plague undercuts the missives fired at athletes, especially in the world of soccer.

    Racism, both on and off the pitch, has been a widespread problem in the sport for decades and still exists at the highest levels of the game. It was on display between players and coaches in an international youth game in Serbia, when a fan threw a banana onto a field, and when Liverpool star Luis Suárez and Chelsea captain John Terry were suspended and fined over on-field insults.

    The problem has been most visible on Twitter, where fans and players alike have faced censure for their actions. Here's a look at some of the more notable incidents from 2012.

    March

    Player: Fabrice Muamba, Bolton Wanderers

    Slur: "A string of offensive stereotypes and insulting swearwords"

    Sentence:56 days in jail

    Story: Liam Stacey, a student at a university in Wales, sent tweets about Muamba after the the player collapsed on the field during a game. A senior European human rights official said Stacey's sentence was "too much."

    Photo via BBC/YouTube

    April

    Player: James Perch, Newcastle United 

    Slur: "I want to punch perch in his n****r head!"

    Story:Police investigated a complaint of abuse targeting Perch after the Newcastle player clashed with Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina on the field.

    Photo via NUFCExclusiveTV/YouTube

    Player: Kyle Bartley, Rangers 

    Story: Rangers complained to police after player Bartley was allegedly subjected to racist abuse. The tweets in question came after the team lost 3-0 to bitter rival Celtic.

    Photo via TheChrisMacLennan/YouTube

    May

    Player: James McClean, Sunderland

    Slur: “Fuck up your dirty fenian bastard il make sure you get shot when you set foot back into gods country #FTP” 

    Story: The death threat above was directed to McClean after he was named to the Republic of Ireland's Euro 2012 team despite playing for Northern Ireland as a junior. "Fenian" is often used as a sectarian term of abuse toward Catholics, while the hashtag #FTP can mean a slur against the Pope.

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons

    June

    Players: Ashley Cole & Ashley Young, England

    Slur: “yeah I said it, ASHLEY YOUNG AND ASHLEY COLE ARE BOTH WORTHLESS N****RS AND SHOULD BE DEPORTED TO AFRICA, come do something bout it”

    Story: Cole and Young both missed penalty kicks against Italy in England’s quarter-final loss to Italy at Euro 2012. Afterwards, they were attacked on Twitter by one user in particular. The owner of the now-deleted account claimed to live in the U.S., outwith the purview of U.K. cops.

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons

    July

    Player: Michel Morganella, Switzerland

    Slur: “I want to beat up all South Koreans! Bunch of mentally handicapped retards!”

    Story: Morganella was sent home from his team's Olympic training camp after he sent the above tweet. Switzerland had lost 2-1 to South Korea during the Men's Soccer tournament at the London Olympics.

    Photo via Mediagol/YouTube

    August

    Player: Emmanuel Frimpong, Arsenal

    Slur: "Scum Yid"

    Fine: £6,000 ($9,660) 

    Story: The FA fined Frimpong after he used a slur toward a fan of rival team Tottenham Hotspur. The term “yid” refers to Tottenham's Jewish heritage, though the player claimed he "didn't even no the word is offensive as u hear it all the time."

    Photo via 008GOONER/YouTube

    Player: Rio Ferdinand, Manchester United

    Slur: "Choc ice," or a "black person who acts like a white person"

    Fine:£45,000 ($72,900)

    Story: The FA fined Ferdinand £45,000 ($72,900) after he agreed with a fellow Twitter user who called Chelsea’s Ashley Cole a “choc ice.” Later, police arrested a 15-year-old fan who tweeted a racial slur at Ferdinand.

    Photo via NikeFootball/YouTube

    September

    Player: John Obi Mikel, Chelsea

    Story: After a string of offensive tweets sent in his direction following a mistake, midfielder Mikel quit Twitter, with his team tweeting "Abuse on social networks is abhorrent. Racist tweets towards Mikel are totally unacceptable. Police informed. #CFC supports strongest action."

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons

    Clarke Carlisle, chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association (the trade union for professional players in England and Wales), told the Daily Dot racism in soccer "is more prevalent than a lot of people perceive, especially if we go from park football to the professional level. Great strides have been made from the very dark days of the '80s, but there is still plenty more to do."

    Carlisle made a documentary in 2012 called Is Football Racist?, which looked at the issue both on- and offline. The documentary highlights former player Stan Collymore, who both collected racist tweets regarding Suarez and has himself been subjected to racist remarks. (He's reported a number of such incidents to police.)

    Many players who have been subjected to racism have been "been dispirited, angered and wanted to leave the game altogether," Carlisle said.

    It has caused some to not want their family or children to get into the industry, whereas it has motivated others to want to stand up and make a change. You can't sum up a feeling to encapsulate every person who has suffered abuse, but you can say with certainty that all victims have been impacted by their experiences.

    The PFA encourages players to be active in communicating with fans on social networks and to express opinions and ideas, though "not in a way that would be deemed offensive, abusive or bringing the game into disrepute," Carlisle said. He noted that the PFA guides players to steer clear of tweeting anything they wouldn't say on camera. Before the current season got underway, the Barclay's Premier League set out social media guidelines for players as well.

    An FA spokesperson told the Daily Dot that any comment it deems threatening, abusive, indecent, or insulting may lead to disciplinary action, and deleting comments or apologizing doesn't necessarily excuse them from censure. Discriminatory comments may lead to more serious disciplinary sanctions, and retweeting an improper comment may be grounds for discipline too.

    That said, players might escape legal consequences if they quickly apologize and delete offensive tweets, according to new social media guidelines set out by prosecutors.

    The FA, which promotes equality based on the dual aspects of inclusion and anti-discrimination, supports a number of anti-racism charities, such as Show Racism the Red Card, Football Unites and Racism Divides, and Football Against Racism in Europe. It is also a trustee and funding partner for the Kick It Out campaign.  

    The FA spokesperson said, "By taking collective responsibility, huge strides have been made by the English game over the last 20 years in terms of fighting against discrimination of all types."

    Yet, it's clear there is still racism within the sport, and amid calls for racist players to be fired, there is a broader conversation still to be had on the issue. 

    Widespread discrimination in soccer is a tough nut to crack. For instance, the subject of gay players was placed under a hotter spotlight in recent weeks as one Premier League player, Manchester United goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard, insisted his peers would accept a gay teammate. 

    He conceded that fans, however, might not be so ready to welcome gay players. (Though there are around 5,000 professional players in England, none has come out to the press since Justin Fashanu in 1990.) Meanwhile, Liverpool player Suso was fined £10,000 ($16,248) by the FA after a tweet calling teammate José Enrique "gay."

    It appears deep-seated prejudices still exist for many. While progress has been made on many fronts (as depicted in Carlisle's documentary), there's a long way to go before discrimination is taken completely off the soccer field.

    Photo of Clarke Carlisle via @clarkecarlisle5/Twitter


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    Cyberwar, cyberespionage, cyberterrorism, cyberattacks. These words elicit an almost unseemly emotional response from everyone. The public, the government, the military, and academics are all concerned. The question is, is the concern real, or is it Y2K all over again?

    In Foreign Affairs, one of the preeminent publications on international policy, Brandon Valeriano and Ryan Maness argue that our current concern for hacks, viruses, DDoS attacks and other forms of online destruction and manipulation may be overblown.

    The Fog of Cyberwar

    In their article, “The Fog of Cyberwar: Why the Threat Doesn’t Live Up to the Hype,” the authors call out the high-profile Stuxnet attacks on Iranian uranium enrichment efforts and the Flame virus, which also seemed to target Iran. Both have been said to have been created by the United States and Israel. And both inspired a great deal of press coverage.

    However, the Stuxnet attack, they said, slowed Iran’s weapons development much less than was first reported, and the Flame attack seemed to be strictly an information gathering event. (Spying on other nations did not start with the development of the Internet.) Furthermore, there is no online vector for these sorts of viruses. They were delivered to Iranian computers on physical media, such as USB drives.

    “The majority of cyberattacks worldwide have been minor: easily corrected annoyances such as website defacements or basic data theft -- basically the least a state can do when challenged diplomatically.

    “Our research shows that although warnings about cyberwarfare have become more severe, the actual magnitude and pace of attacks do not match popular perception.”

    Given that “a state is 600 times more likely to be the target of a terrorist attack than a cyberattack,” such attention to cyberattacks borders on paranoia. And that paranoia is hardly relegated to the backwaters of the Internet. In October, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber Pearl Harbor.”

    This Pearl Harbor-level anxiety has more than just a psychological cost for the country. The Pentagon estimated it spent between $2.6 and $3.2 billion on cybersecurity in 2012 and, according to Valeriano and Maness, the Air Force alone estimates it will spend $4.6 billion in the coming year.

    That money doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from you. Each dollar that goes into cybersecurity is one that doesn’t go to rebuild a road or the economy. If it’s money well spent, that’s one thing. If it’s unnecessary, that’s quite another. If the authors of the Foreign Affairs article are correct, the U.S. foreign policy establishment may be using an A-bomb where a mousetrap would do.

    The Valeriano/Maness study identified 124 active rivals, “defined as conflict-prone pairs of states,” and evaluated attacks occurring between 2001 and 2011. To each attack, they assigned a “severity score” of between five (minimal damage) and one (“where death occurs as a direct result from cyberwarfare”).

    “Of all 95 cyberattacks in our analysis, the highest score—that of Stuxnet and Flame—was only a three.”

    The top “ongoing interstate rivals in their study” were the United States and China; Pakistan and India; and North Korea and South Korea.” The overwhelming majority of the attacks the authors catalogued would be more easily labeled cyberespionage and vandalism, not cyberwarfare.

    “(T)his seldom-used tactic,” the authors conclude, “will not change foreign policy calculations anytime soon. Cyberwarfare poses a threat only if it is grossly overused or mismanaged, or if it diverts resources toward a mythical fear and away from real threats.”

    The Fog of Reporting on Cyberwar

    To put it mildly, not everyone buys Valeriano’s and Maness’s assessment of the situation. Those who don’t may include cyberChicken Littles who see the sky falling in every piece of errant code, but it also includes responsible, respected cybersecurity specialists, like Adam Shostack.

    Shostack has a long list of credits as a security innovator, including currently working on member of Microsoft’s Security Development Lifecycle team, co-founding the International Financial Cryptography Association and co-authoring The New School of Information Security.

    Shostack has written a response to the Foreign Affairs story. In “The Fog of Reporting on Cyberwar,” Shostack credits Valeriano’s and Maness with a “fascinating set of claims,” which obscure “a fundamental methodological question.”

    “(W)hat counts as an incident, and how did the authors count those incidents? Did they use some database? Media queries? The article seems to imply that such things are trivial, and unworthy of distracting the reader... but I don’t agree.

    “The question of what’s being measured is important for assessing if the argument is convincing.”

    Shostack holds up the example of the hacking of Lockheed Martin in May, an act undertaken, many believe, by China.

    “Is that a state on state attack which is included in their data? If Lockheed Martin counts as an incident, how about the hacking of RSA as a pre-cursor?”

    Shostack further notes that the list of incidents in the Valeriano-Maness study is unlikely to be complete.

    “As every security practitioner knows,” he wrote, “we sweep a lot of incidents under the rug.” If that’s the case, the study cannot be complete. And if it is not complete, what omissions might change the picture and how might that picture change? The underlying data does seem to be elusive. There is no link to the study itself and Valeriano’s personal website does not provide much illumination.

    The Fog of Foggy Bottom

    The sad thing about life, for those who would reduce it to apprehensible proportions, is its inherent irreducibility. The most apparently simple thing can prove to be fractal in its complexity if you observe it closely enough, as anyone who’s tried to return a sweater to Macy’s or make a piece of toast in an elderly toaster can attest.

    The American literary critic Susan Sontag famously said, “By reducing the work of art to its content and then interpreting that, one tames the work of art. Interpretation makes art manageable, conformable.”

    It is not art alone that one feels the impulse to reduce, nor is it art alone that, reduced, gives the impression of manageability, though seldom the reality.

    When a topic is as complex as the use of computers and code by nations against other nations is broached, it is practically useless to investigate without as full a spread of data as is possible to assemble. By not explicitly defining processes and offering the data upon which their thesis is built, Valeriano and Maness do a disservice to their readers, their critics and the conversation as a whole.

    If Shostack’s overriding concern is that this information is missing, he is correct. But the mere absence of proof is not the proof of absence. In other words, the study’s authors may well be correct about the overemphasis on state-to-state cyberattacks. But a great deal more information will need to be brought to the fore before they can be said to have made their case.

    In the meantime, we must continue to attempt to understand this dynamic with full acknowledgement of its multiplicity: the technology itself, of machine and code; the psychology of the statesmen, spies, generals and diplomats involved; the relationships between allies and adversaries; the effects of non-governmental parties on the success of such attacks as well as on their desirability and likelihood; the history of both the individuals involved and their countries.

    Even then, the best we can hope for is a sense of what is more and less likely in international cyberconflict and of how we might best prioritize our money, time and emotional currency given our dominant values.

    Photo by Adrian R. Tan/Flickr


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    Playboy founder Hugh Hefner is off the market, again.

    The 86-year-old married former Playmate Crystal Harris, 26, on New Year's Eve in a small ceremony captured on Twitter.

    Harris, who officially changed her last name on Twitter to Hefner, started dating the media mogul in January 2009. The couple were first engaged on June 14, 2011, but it was called off by Harris after rumors circulated that she was secretly dating the son of TV personality Dr. Phil.

    Hefner and Harris ultimately reunited almost a year later.

    "Today is the day I become Mrs. Hugh Hefner," Harris tweeted Monday night. "Feeling very happy, lucky, and blessed."

    This is Hefner's third marriage.

    Harris and Hefner posted the following photos on Twitter from the ceremony at the Playboy mansion.

    All photos via Hugh and Crystal Hefner/Twitter


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    After being slammed for making anti-gay comments, former American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino is now claiming everyone misunderstood her.

    Barrino posted this rambling, semi-coherent message to her Instagram account Monday:

    Its a lot that going on that the Bible speaks about we should Not be doing. Weed legal in some places, Gay Marriage Legal BUT YET IM JUDGED!! Im not doing Nothing for you… My Life!!!!

    The blowback was swift. Some wondered what the "judged" portion of her rant meant. A writer for Towleroad, a prominent gay blog, wondered who was doing the judging: "An invisible jury? Ghosts of American Idol contestants past? … She thinks that judgmental shade should be thrown at the people legally getting married and legally smoking dope."

    Despite including the legalization of weed and gay marriage in some states as reasons for society's faults, Barrino's management is now doing damage control. In a statement late Tuesday—in which the photo-sharing app is misspelled as "Intragram"—her management wrote that Barrino loves the gay community:

    Comments made by Ms. Barrino through her Intragram [sic] account were recently taken far out of context, and the purpose of this release is to set the record straight. Ms. Barrino is not now, nor has she ever been an opponent of the LGBT community. She has supported and performed at numerous events that are sponsored by the LGBT community. Whether it’s through a live performance or placement on social media, Ms. Barrino uses every opportunity to reach out and connect with her fans, all of her fans.

    What does the Bible have to say about damage control?

    Photo via tasiasword/Instagram


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    Stop me if you've heard this one before: A woman in Brazil has taken to YouTube to announce that she's put her virginity up for auction.

    This time, however, the woman is 18 years old, and she's doing the deed for somewhat of a good cause. The Sapeaçu native told CNN that she's auctioning off her virginity in an effort to raise money for her struggling mother, who recently suffered a stroke.

    Rebecca Bernardo is the lady who's taken to YouTube to do the deed. Speaking with CNN last week, the 18-year-old said that she tried other methods of employment but could not raise the money necessary to get her bed-ridden mother proper care.

    More than one month into the campaign, Bernardo reports that the highest bidder has offered up $35,000 for the opportunity to handle her deflowering. Such a figure pales in comparison to the hefty prize money brought in by fellow Brazilian virgin Catarina Migilorini, who used an online auction to raise $780,000 in October.

    Bernardo has listed Migilorini as an inspiration for her auction, saying that "There comes a time when you have to make decisions to get what you want. You have to be strong."

    Her mother, however, is not so much a fan of the auction. From her bed, she told CNN that her daughter should "look for work."

    "She shouldn't prostitute herself," she added.

    Photo via Master2Views/YouTube


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    The "halal" social network that aimed to overtake Facebook as the go-to destination for Pakistani Muslims can't even pay its bills.

    Representatives of MillatFacebook.com asked its supporters via email Dec. 10 for financial support to help defray the costs of running and operating the site. Specifically, the social network is hoping to raise $581 to pay for Web hosting.

    "As you can imagine, cost of running a social network is never easy and very costly," wrote a company representative who identified himself simply as "S.O.A.," as reported by the Pakistan's Express Tribune.

    "Current month we are facing a shortfall of 581USD (sic) in server payments. (We are paying 1000s of USD in server payments ourselves and now need your helping hand to meet this shortfall). We are asking for a contribution from you that will help us towards our goal of keeping this Peaceful Social Network run forever and defeat blasphemer facebook. inshaALLAH, Aameen. Any amount that you can contribute would be greatly appreciated."

    MillatFacebook's Chief Operating Officer Umar Zaheer Meer claims that his social network has over 467,000 members. This figures are highly disputed, however. According to variousreports, the site only averages two users a day, nowhere near enough to merit spending thousands of dollars for hosting services.

    The social network was first launched in May 25, 2010, days after a Pakistani high court banned Facebook from the country after the latter refused to remove the Facebook page for "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day."

    Meer and his cohorts hedged that Facebook's ban in the Islamic nation would be permanent, and launched their site in hopes that it would fill in the void. In its first three days, MillatFacebook attracted 4,300 members, the lot of them being English-speaking Pakistanis in their 20s. 

    Unfortunately for them, that same Pakistani court restored Facebook service mere days later.

    Currently, there are roughly 8 million Facebook users in Pakistan.

    Photo via MillatFacebook


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    This past December Reddit user MakingThings lived through a real-life version of the Jodie Foster thriller Panic Room, about a mother who watches her home get ransacked by burglars from surveillance equipment in an isolated room inside her house.

    Only instead of being trapped in a panic room, MakingThings was on Christmas vacation watching the burglars on her cell phone.

    MakingThings captured the two burglars on camera pilfering $1,500 from her home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

    "They kicked in the back door," MakingThings commented on Reddit. "They took our Xbox. Video games. Wii. A hard drive. Money. ipod. A Roku. A router. ect...They ruined a camera, the DVR, the door, a router, a TV and the bleach ruined some clothes."

    The video shows the burglar carrying objects in and out of the house over the course of 14 minutes. MakingThings' husband installed the cameras to give the couple peace of mind when they were out of the house. They never realized it would instead give them a look into their worst nightmare.

    "It is really disheartening. I am having trouble sleeping and I am so paranoid. At the same time, it is my house that I love. It is a strange feeling," she wrote. "It really ruined our Christmas vacation. We had to leave early and drive 8 hours home to try and deal with all this."

    While no words can help make up for all MakingThings and her husband have lost, more than 2,000 redditors left comments featuring similar stories and words of encouragement.

    "My college house got robbed only two days before this," stniesen commented. "I know how it feels, and I think violated is the best term for it. All these robbers take advantage of either college students going home or families going to visit someone else for holidays. Fuck all of them. I hope you catch these assholes."

    In 2009, there were an estimated 2.19 million burglaries in the U.S.—a decrease of 1.3 percent when compared with 2008 data, the FBI reported. In 2010 that number reportedly fell by 2 percent.

    MakingThings’s case has been picked up by Raleigh TV stations and is currently under investigation.

    "We think the more this gets passed around, the better chance someone will know one of them," she added.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    After staying up late on New Year’s Eve to sort of diffuse its own financial time bomb, Congress has faced no shortage of criticism for its divisiveness, procrastination and, well, all around suckiness.

    So it's a particularly good time for the Vlogbrothers to look at just why exactly Congress sucks so much.

    “Congress was designed to suck at doing stuff, as they do, but they have to work together just enough to cover you know, the basics," said Vlog Brother John Green in his latest rapid fire educational video.

    But now, Green argues that Congress is in danger of losing the total faith of the American people in its ability to do anything—though he does it with the kind of characteristic wit and speed that has already attracted more than 100,000 viewers in just 19 hours.

    Green squarely places the blame on a broken redistricting process. Citing statistical heartthrob Nate Silver, Green argues that "safe" congressional districts give voters less and less of a choice each year. Using the example of himself and his neighbor in a different congressional district across the street, Green points out how state lawmakers have contorted their states' congressional maps for nakedly partisan reasons.

    "In the next election, your most important vote might be for state (representative)," he said.

    Reaction to Green's video was, like any opinion on the web pertaining to congress, divided. Most commenters agreed with the overall sentiment expressed (re: Congress sucking), but not everyone was optimistic that voter education would changed the system.

    "Sigh. As usual, the best solution has like, zero chance of ever actually happening," said YouTube Commenter einootspork.

    Photo by Erik Daniel Drost/Flickr


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    Hardcore gamers had better keep a close eye on their disapproving parents—or they could be killed.

    Their in-game characters, that is.

    "Xiao Feng" (Chinese for "Little Feng") let his addiction to video games affect all areas of his life. The 23-year-old's gaming began during his junior-high years and negatively affected his school performance. Currently, his desire to play overrode his need to find—or keep—gainful employment. A promising career as a software developer, for example, was cut short because the position was not what he "wanted to do." His father, frustrated at numerous failed attempts to plead with his son, decided to try disciplining him on a more relatable level.

    He hired in-game assassins to kill his son's characters.

    "I think...this way, he will probably lose interest in the game, thus turning...attention to finding work," Mr. Feng told a Chinese news website.

    When Xiao Feng logged into the game, which appears to be World of Warcraft but was not confirmed, he suddenly realized that a group of mysterious characters with high levels of experience points had surrounded his team. After repeated brutal—yet silent—defeats drove his character to "rookie" status, he decided to do some snooping. Requesting age verification from his new attackers, the son discovered that his father was behind the tactic.

    The move didn't deter Xiao Feng.

    According to gaming news site Kotaku, he was quoted as saying "I can play or I can not play, it doesn't bother me. I'm not looking for any job—I want to take some time to find one that suits me."

    The father reportedly said he was "relieved" at his son's stance.

    Gone are the days of simply unplugging the controller.

    Photo via Analea Styles/Flickr


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