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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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  • 01/09/13--08:24: The anatomy of a 4chan hoax
  • When the 4chan imageboard community helped make #cutforbieber a trending topic on Twitter and the subject of more than a half dozen news stories Monday, the world collectively gasped at the thought of Justin Bieber fans cutting themselves in response to a photo of the teenage heartthrob smoking marijuana. Yet underneath the shock and awe, 4chan's first prank of the year was about more than just cheap laughs.

    Since its inception nine years ago, 4chan has become known as the Internet's sketchy male outhouse—a place where people can make crude jokes, show one another their penises, share their porn collections, and shock one another with gory photos, all under the guise of anonymity.

    The site retained its smutty charm in 2012, but its tradition of schemes and pranks at the expense of other websites and the mainstream media took on a new level of sophistication. In the past six months, 4chan users rigged Time magazine's Person of the Year poll in favor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and made "Hitler Did Nothing Wrong" look like the most popular name for a new Mountain Dew flavor.

    In recent years, 4chan has become best known as the site that spawned Anonymous, the hacktivist collective that spent 2012 cracking FBI databases, lending a helping hand to Syrians,  and seeking justice for a rape victim in Steubenville, Ohio.  

    But while Anonymous may have been spawned by 4chan, it no longer necessarily calls it home. Major Anonymous mouthpieces, like the influential @YourAnonNews, have shifted largely to Twitter or other sites. Anonymous has become a sociopolitical force. 4chan, meanwhile, has returned to its roots—with a twist.

    While most 4chan stunts have been for the lulz, Monday’s sinister hoax at the expense of impressionable Beleibers is an example of the community's renewed obsession with manipulating the media into reporting on anything.

    "I don't think it's at the children as it is the dum-dum tabloid media," Anonymous expert Cole Stryker told the Daily Dot. "I think Anonymous is going to revert back to this playfully dark mentality ... This stuff is way more fun than trying to bring down Tunisian government websites.”

    The latest scheme started as most have, on the site’s random imageboard known as /b/, where users exchange foul language, violent images, and sexual content freely. The mission was to make the #cutforbieber hashtag trend on Twitter worldwide with photos of bloodied arms in response to one of Bieber smoking marijuana and “see if we can get some little girls to cut themselves.”

    Once the scheme got rolling, the users who started the original /b/ thread removed it from the site in an attempt to hide their tracks and trick media organizations into believing the Twitter hashtag appeared organically.

    It's around that point where the scheming likely moved to a private room on Internet Relay Chat (IRC) and leadership roles were determined, said _js5, an IRC user who created the Java script used to game the aforemention Time poll in favor of Kim Jong-Un and spell “KJU GAS CHAMBERS” with the first letter of each candidate's name.

    "The main hub of people working on the initiative will set goals and are very strict on following them," _js5 explained to the Daily Dot. _js5 also claims to have seen chatter about the scheme on the Internet after the photo of Bieber first leaked on Jan. 4.

    "The leadership will decide the next moves and leadership is determined by skill, and how much power that person holds. The more resources a person has, the more power they will have. Access to easy media, web servers, administration of chat channels are examples of this."

    With the leadership established, and the goal set, #cutforbieber went worldwide shortly after the 4chan thread was deleted. The result was gruesome. Photos of bloodied arms, a fake Facebook memorial page for a fan, and fake tweets from Bieber himself flooded Twitter, Buzzfeed reported.

    #cutforbieber became the most popular hashtag on Twitter some time around 2:30pm ET Monday.

    "As much as I love laughing at mindless internet drones joining an initiative that trolls set forward this one is a little too dark for my taste," _js5 added.

    Almost immediately after #cutforbieber was a success, 4chan tried to double down on its trolling by making #smoke4bieber a trending topic.

    "Time to counter troll!!!!" an anonymous user wrote around 6pm ET Monday. "We will now fuck with more kids by influencing them to smoke. It will still piss people off, and will make some stupid 12yr old smoke. At the end of the day, Bieber takes all the blame."

    The effort proved to be futile due in part to a breakdown in leadership, said Jacob, a 4chan user.

    "Once it reaches media attention, it gets picked up by outsiders of the community, and that's when it loses its leadership structure," Jacob added.

    _js5 has been no stranger to the effects of such leadership woes and its damaging effects.

    After Time magazine launched its prestigious Person of the Year poll on Nov. 26. users from Reddit, 4chan, and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) gamed the online poll using a Java script by _js5 to automate votes for the Korean leader. The same script also enabled the group to to spell “KJU GAS CHAMBERS” with the first letter of each candidate's name and ultimately help Kim win  Time's Person of the Year Reader Poll, despite North Korea's government run news organization reporting the opposite. (Time's coveted cover ultimately went to President Barack Obama.)

    With the deed done, the leadership structure behind the Time prank fell apart. Other IRC users retaliated against _js5 for cooperating with the Daily Dot and for claiming ownership of the Java script by ordering pizzas to his home and dumping his personal information online.

    So in the end, was #cut4bieber a success? Articles by Fox News, Daily Mail, Wired, The Telegraph, and BuzzFeed all point to yes.

    "I look at these pranks as a cultural antidote to the asinine celebrity industrial complex," Stryker said. "It's a way for people to take the piss out of powerful media entities that try to present themselves as authentic to their audiences."

    And if #cut4bieber is any indication, 2013 is shaping up to be the year of the prank.

    "Expect Time magazine to get rigged again, and more people on Twitter to get trolled," _js5 said. "I predict the hoaxes to be more frequent. They gained a national spotlight recently in 2012 and people have gained a taste of what to expect."

    Art by Jason Reed

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    Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks have gained a new prominence in the last several years, due in large part to the actions of the collective hacking activist group, Anonymous, who have recently launched an appeal on the White House’s petition platform to make the activity legal, claiming it should have free speech protection.

    DDoS attacks consist of flooding a website with so many requests for information (necessary when one visits a website to see its pages), sent from a network of hijacked that its servers slow down or even become overwhelming. Often victims will need to shut down the server temporarily to rescue it from the attack.

    Just because something is in the news, of course, does not mean it is important, so we asked a number of people involved in the battle of DDoS attacks what they thought. Are DDoS attacks useful from an activist viewpoint? Do they do real damage to a target, or are they just a minor irritant? If they’re not effective, does their use reduce Anonymous’ credibility?

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Press Office:

    No comment.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation — Cyber Crime:

    No comment.

    HSBC bank (victim of an Anonymous DDoS):

    No comment.

    Crowdstrike cybersecurity firm (staffed by former FBI agents with cybercrime experience):

    No comment.

    Department of Homeland Security official (on background):

    The Department of Homeland Security told the Daily Dot that, while no two incidents are alike, it takes seriously any potential disruption affecting a government network or critical infrastructure.  

    When DHS becomes aware of a disruption, they said they work closely with the affected entity to identify the nature of the threat and put in place mitigation strategies to help protect the security and ensure the resiliency of the network.

    Adam Wosotowsky, researcher on the McAfee Labs team:

    DDoS attacks are generally considered to be crude attacks. In general, a DDoS attack doesn’t cause a long-term disruption if there is adequate capacity and cooperation amongst the victim, their ISP, hosting company, etc.

    A network administrator’s job is to design a network and its associated infrastructure in such a way that it is easy to monitor and oversee. Their job is to identify the nature of the attack and take actions to reduce or eliminate the impact. Once that assessment is made, they work with their hosting provider and ISP in order to block the attack farther and farther away from the target of the attack. If modifications to the nature of the attack occur, then that information is shared and the attack is repelled.

    Companies with large internet presences are going to have individuals with the network competency to react faster and more efficiently. It’s a lot of work and monitoring, but it can be done.

    A DDoS attack tends to be brute-force and will expose at least part of the botnet to identification, which can lead to the loss of part of it. If certain systems have unpatched DDoS vulnerabilities then it will take far less attackers to disrupt the service and it can be carried out with successive adjustments and the participating hosts can be brought to bear more slowly, lengthening the duration of the attack by causing the administrator to have to adjust more frequently. It can also be cover for a more skillful attempt to break into the systems while the administrator’s focus is elsewhere, or could increase costs because of the bandwidth that is being used.

    DDoS is a blunt tool in an attacker’s arsenal and can always be brought to bear against a victim. It’s not the biggest trump card, but it can always be used. In this respect I doubt that it is going anywhere. There are a lot of botnet infections out there that aren’t being monetized to send spam as much as they have in the past, which leaves DDoS attacks as a good way to rent away a botmaster’s less interesting hosts.

    TheLulzDeptxx, member of Anonymous:

    Personally I do not DDoS. This is merely my personal opinion.

    Let's consider anyone reading this knows the history of DDoS and how it became a form of digital protest.

    There are many reasons people want a site to go offline. This will be about the protesting reason for it.

    The basic point of any protest is to get your voice out there and let people know you are unhappy. Imagine over 9,000 people went into a Wal-Mart to fuck around and not buy anything to protest how poorly Wal-Mart treats their employees. Compare this to DDoS and remember that one of them could possibly land you in jail for a night and the other could land you in jail for ten years.

    The U.S. government is set up to protect capitalism, not people. They claim to have come up with a quantitative monetary amount of damage from some of these sites that have been taken down like during OpPayPal. This is how they justify these long sentences even though the figures are a mere guess.

    Most of the DDoS progs are fairly simple to use. The beauty of an online protest is that you are not limited in participating by where you are geographically. So if anyone can protest online and the programs are easy to use it means almost anyone can do it. This is really what is scaring the fuck out of governments worldwide. The people of the world can now make their voices heard. If they don't want to listen, the people now have the choice of making them listen. As for whether this is to focus attention on something, I do not believe in the beginning that was the point. These people were pissed and were venting their frustrations. Currently it does focus attention on a site or a cause because it makes the news almost immediately.

    As for damage done to the sites, so far in my readings there has been no permanent damage caused by DDoS except for some hurt feelings, some embarrassment and a really bad day for their IT department. If somebody wanted to use PayPal to buy something and PayPal was down its most likely that they would just wait till the next day to buy it. So it causes no permanent harm, it’s temporary, it gets a message across, and you will go to jail if you get caught.  

    Some people seem to have forgotten that the actual protest is only as important as the message behind it. As long as a legitimate reason is behind it, it will continue to be an effective tool for people to use.

    To anyone thinking about doing it I would like to remind you to consider the risk and if you are willing to go to jail for a long time. Research all aspects of it and assess all safety risks. The one thing you miss or do not fully understand will be the reason you get (arrested).

    Photo by Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr

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    Now that we're more than a week into 2013, it feels safe to say the world did not end in December 2012. Planet Earth and human civilization aren't the only things that stubbornly refused to end last month. So did lots of apocalypse websites and forums.

    Some of the survivors are clearly forums maintained by people still hoping to peddle their unsold copies of various "2012 OMG" products, while others appear to be from true believers so sincere you almost feel bad for them, ready to pick up the shattered pieces of a world that steadfastly refused to shatter. How rude.

    The website Survive2012: Ancient Mayan Doomsday, Pole Shifts and Evolution exists mainly to sell copies of a book called Survive 2012, so it's no surprise that author and website owner Robert Best urges his readers to "give it another 6 months (at least)."

    Apparently, he's also behind the still-popular, which announced last November that the forum would shut down sometime between January and June 2013.

    The Maya Calendar and 2012 forum is also still up, though as of press time, most of the threads had not had new comments for several weeks. The most recent comment was to a thread started on Dec. 20, the night before the non-apocalypse, by a gloater posting under the name "ToldYouSo."

    Still, one determined 2012 believer responded, cheerfully suggesting that even if the end hasn't happened yet, it's bound to sooner or later:

    I believe that a crisis is what we have to have to bring about SUDDEN CHANGE and I think we will have one sooner rather than later.

    The true believer behind apparently combines Mayan apocalypse stories with unique interpretations of Biblical prophecies and the works of Nostradamus, plus something about the Antichrist and terrorists with nukes. We can't pin it down more closely than that.

    In addition to Mayan-exclusive forums, there were also post-apocalyptic threads on regular conspiracy sites. One gloating poster at started a thread asking "A question for 2012ers: will you admit you were wrong?" The answer appears to be no.

    Photo via Kim-bodia/Flickr

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    They post the message on billboards, Santa caps, placards, and hand-painted signs. They write it in football eye black, in floral wreaths, in legos and crayons. They get their children to pose, drape signs over pets, and call in the local fire brigade.

    On Facebook, 2,000 people want you to remember one thing: There are still 68,000 troops serving in Afghanistan—and they could use your support.

    "Those men and women are still serving on behalf of our country," said Jim Hake, whose nonprofit, Spirit of America, organizes the campaign.

    "It’s good to have an acknowledgement that they’re there, to build support that can help them be more successful and finish their job as long as their there."

    Hake hops the campaign will inspire one person for every soldier in Afghanistan to take a picture of themselves with the words "68,000 Remember" somewhere in the frame. He encourages supporters to get creative with the messaging, hence the myriad of poses and backdrops. The "68,000 Remember Campaign," as the group calls it, has also seen its fair share of celebrity endorsements, from former NFL star Michael Strahan to the crew from Fox News's Fox and Friends.

    "Even people pretty familiar with Afghanistan or what’s going on are usually pretty surprised to have that many men and women serving," Hake said.

    But supporting the troops represents just one part of Spirit of America's ambitious charitable goals.

    Hake, 55, made a career for himself in the IT sector, leading Access Media, a digital media pioneer, for 10 years, and then serving as vice president of technology for publishing giant Ziff Davis. Then, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, two planes struck the World Trade Center in New York Center, and another hit the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Hake, like a lot of Americans, felt his world turn upside down. And he wanted to help.

    After mulling over the idea for a couple years, Hake launched Spirit of America in 2003. "I was surprised to see that my background in business venture and the Internet was more relevant than I thought,"  he said.

    Though older, you can see Spirit of America as a kind of charitable complement to the counterinsurgency strategy later promoted by former general David Petraeus. In counterinsurgency, political and social programs are often emphasized as keys to military success than more traditional means, like armed conflict.

    Hake explained that Spirit of America uses the Internet to "connect the generosity and resources of American people to the idea we have personnel on the ground."

    It works like this: Servicemembers tell Spirit of America what supplies locals need, people donate money for whichever project they want to support, and the charity makes sure the goods and services move into the hands of the people. In that sense, it's similar to other crowdfunding sites, such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter, but with a much more narrows focus.

    Current projects run the gamut from buying solar powered lights for a medical clinic in Kandahar Province, to helping Afghans keep warm in the cold winter months, to providing clean water to Afghan families.

    The charity was the first to work directly alongside U.S. troops in the field, with two teams assisting in Afghanistan.

    If you want to help out, you can find their current projects here. Or you grab a pen, some paper, and a camera, and head over to the Spirit of America Facebook page.

    Photo via Spirit of America/Facebook

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    Two long-lost siblings from America's heartland were reunited after 65 years apart this week thanks to a quick-witted 8-year-old and his ability to run a Facebook search.

    Clifford Boyson had spent the better part of the past six decades looking for his older sister Betty Billadeau, who he was separated from when the two were sent to separate foster homes as young children in Chicago.

    The Iowa man, who is not on Facebook, had searched high and low and had come up empty-handed, until he told his 8-year-old neighbor about his never-ending quest.

    2nd grader Eddie Hanzlin was able to locate Boyson's sister Betty by executing a simple Facebook search for "Boyson," the Missouri resident's name before she married.

    An entry for a married woman who graduated from St. Louis' Fontebonne University in 1982 showed up, and Boyson had met his match. In typical reunion fashion, the two chatted via iPad FaceTime shortly after connecting.

    The two plan to reunite in person this weekend. Here's guessing their conversation will in one way or another lead to Boyson signing up for Facebook and running searches for all his old girlfriends.

    Photo via Mrs Logic/Flickr

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    After racking up more than 30,500 shares on Facebook, a picture of a couple from a lost camera memory card has been identified.

    South Australian resident Susan Templer spearheaded a Facebook campaign to return the card to its rightful owners after seeing a lost-and-found posting about it in a newspaper. Her international outreach effort worked as two of the couple's nieces spotted the posting and the man in the picture contacted Templer.

    “I have no idea as to how I lost the memory card—fortunately most of the photos have been downloaded and I suspect that I was using the card as a backup card as my current card was nearly full," he told Templer according to Adelaide Now.

    Describing the memory card's return as "ecstatic," the man said the card was lost during a Christmas hiking trip in Mitchell Falls in western Australian. The couple is making arrangements with Templer to get the memory card back.

    “I said I hope you don’t mind being a celebrity because you're everywhere," Templer told the man.

    Templer, who had also lost a camera memory card, said she involved herself in the search after seeing an ad for the lost card in a local newspaper believing it was hers.

    "This woman had found a memory card in Burnside on a walking trail," said Templer. “I called her about it and she sent me one of the photos on the card, of this elderly couple. I thought, well that's obviously not mine, but maybe I can help find the owners."

    Templer said she was "completely overwhelmed" by people's efforts to help her.

    "I had my handbag and my husband's wallet stolen and...they were returned by a complete stranger who found them on a walking trail, so I just want to pay it forward, basically," she said.

    "I want to do the right thing because I know what it's like to lose a lot of photos.”

    Photo via WHO Adelaide/Facebook

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    Baseball slugger Sammy Sosa may have struck out with MLB Hall of Fame (HOF) voters Wednesday, but he's still hitting home runs on Pinterest.

    Sosa's hilariously bad Pinterest page, which has about 250 followers, is filled with photos of the 44-year-old wearing a mustard colored sweater as he poses around his home. Underneath each of the 13 photos is the same message:

    "Sammy Sosa. Yes, I'm the real Sammy Sosa, and this is my Pinterest."

    Each photo also links to Sosa's Flickr page, titled "The Real Mr. 609," which is a reference to the number of home runs he hit over his career (which was mostly spent with the Chicago Cubs).

    Sosa was was one of three steroid-linked players passed over by the Hall of Fame voters Wednesday. It was the first time since 1996 that no players were selected for induction into the Hall. The other high profile players rejected were pitcher Roger Clemens and slugger Barry Bonds, who were also in their first year of HOF eligibility.

    Now break open some Cracker Jack's and soak up some Sosa.

    All photos via Sammy Sosa/Pinterest

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    It turns out it's a good week to be my friend.

    I mean, I sort of feel that way every week. But apparently this week, it's particularly good to be a buddy of mine. Despite being in the midst of the worst flu outbreak in years, my 311 Facebook friends are all just fine … or so says a timely new Facebook app that purports to know which one of my friends are (or recently were) infected.

    Help, I Have The Flu is a new app from pharmaceutical brand Help Remedies meant to make cold & flu season at least a bit more fun, if in fact it proves less than stellar at combating and preventing the disease.

    "The premise is that when you get the flu, you always end up trying to work out who gave it to you," Help Remedies CEO Richard Fine told the Daily Dot. "This app will help you do that. Hopefully with a certain degree of accuracy."

    The app works by scanning your newsfeed to find out which friends have recently reported flu-like symptoms, locking onto key phrases like "under the weather" and "feeling tired." The app also looks at social habits (which friends have been to crowded parties recently?) then it cross-references all this information with the list of people with whom you're most likely to come in contact.

    The end result? In my case, the app told me none of my friends were likely to infect me. So my girlfriend who just took a day and a half off work fighting a virus will be happy to hear that. So will all my other friends who, for the purposes of this article, wrote to tell me they actually do have the flu presently.

    Perhaps there are some kinks to work out. But as Fine readily admits, the app is meant to be taken with a grain of salt (or perhaps a spoonful of sugar).

    "The app is a fun idea," Fine says. "It's a great way to raise awareness for our company and for flu prevention, but there is no substitute for just washing your hands."

    The app has definitely raised Help Remedies' profile. Founded in 2008, the company is meant to be like the Apple computers of medicine—stylish and easy to use. While most generic medicine companies combine formulas and use scientific names, Help Remedies provides single-ingredient medicines in low doses with obvious names (acetaminophen becomes "Help: I Have A Headache" in Help Remedies speak).

    The son of two medical professionals, Fine has sought to make the world of over-the-counter treatments less intimidating. The app, though not as helpful as a fever reducer, goes hand-in-hand with that philosophy.

    Though specific numbers were not available, Fine said the app has seen a major uptick in growth in the past two days which has translated into significantly increased traffic for the company's website and Facebook page.

    "We've been thrilled by the response," he said. "As more and more people use it, we'll tweak the algorithm and hopefully make it even more accurate."

    At least someone is having a good week.  

    Photo via William Brawley/Flickr

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    The Ohio State University quarterback who notoriously claimed on Twitter that "classes are POINTLESS" and that he “we ain’t come to play SCHOOL” has apparently turned a new leaf.

    In a drastic turnaround, Cardale Jones now frequently tells his followers how much he enjoys being a student.

    "Off to class I go," he tweeted Monday morning.

    "I love the first day of class," he updated 45 minutes later.

    The account, @12Gauge_, is a new one: He deleted @cordale10 in October after the considerable backlash at his preference for the football life over academia. @12Gauge_ was created in December. It's unconfirmed, but appears to really be Jones, as the account is followed by several players and Columbus-based sportswriters.

    One of that account's first tweets came as the fall semester wrapped up. "Got a good feeling walking out that final," he posted December 12.

    Jones seemed confused Wednesday, when fellow Twitter users called him out for tweeting "Student Before Athlete," with an image of a pencil.

    "what's the #lolz for?" he asked @shelb315. "what's funny?" he asked @Luthman23."

    When one fan, @diabolicalh4ter, said he would "never forget this tweet," in reference to his "classes are POINTLESS" tweet," Jones acknowledged he was stuck with the association.

    "you and alot more people, by hey we live and we learn," he responded.

    Photo via @12Gauge_/Twitter

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    Who needs open-top bus tours around Los Angeles to see the stars' homes when they tweet their addresses instead?

    Actor Rosario Dawson accidentally tweeted her apparent home address to more than 360,000 followers Friday in what looked like a failed Direct Message.

    "Wonderful. I leave LA on Monday," the Men In Black II star wrote before asking an unidentified person to send an item to the address by then.

    Though she quickly deleted the tweet, one Twitter user provided a stark warning to be careful when posting personal information online, even in a private message, as he shared a Google Street View image of the location.

    Some kindhearted tweeters urged Dawson to take down the tweet:

    Others were glad that she managed to remove the tweet hastily, though suggested an impromptu trip to LA was on the cards.

    Dawson hasn’t responded to any of her concerned fans (or stalkers), and has yet to acknowledge the apparent Direct Message blooper.

    Photo via @rosariodawson/Twitter

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    When link5688 asked r/askreddit subscribers to share real-life horror stories, an array of powerful and haunting responses resulted. 

    "Either embarrassing or actually horrifying" shares were welcome. The only stipulation: The tale must be true.

    Two of the thread's top comments were by redditors who had had someone die in their arms.

    "Lying suspended in the crushed cab of my dad's overturned truck, with my sisters lifeless body on top of me for 45 minutes," began squirtbottle's submission. Numerous redditors chimed in to express condolences and praise squirtbottle's bravery—even buying him Reddit Gold

    Being her big brother, holding her, not being able to help. Feeling her turn cold. Seeing the white glove reach in and check a pulse. None. Unbuckling her lifeless body from the seatbelt and having her fall limply onto me. She appeared to be sleeping. So innocent. So young. I was 15. She was 11. I grew up that day. And lost my faith. But it has made me the man I am today.

    The_Grateful_Living described a high school relief-work trip to the Dominican Republic:

    I felt something very wrong from the way they were all staring at me and a feebleness about the infant. After a few minutes, the baby in an [inexplicably] eerie but incredible fashion leaned its head off of my knee in a way that, as crazy as it sounds, seemed almost knowingly polite and thankful, and threw up a mixture of blood and who knows what. Then the baby died in my arms.

    The depth of stories increased throughout the thread, including /iii_shouldbestudying's tale of a car accident that killed his mother while he was an infant:

    When I was a baby (19 months old) my mother (19 years old), her three college friends, and baby-me were in a terrible car accident. Everyone was fine except my mother who was thrown from the car. Her seatbelt was faulty and she broke her neck. When the paramedics got to the scene, they assessed her brain damage and decided to let her die rather than try to resuscitate a brain-dead woman. They had no idea that she had a baby (she was flung 10-20 feet from the vehicle, and her friends were holding me and trying to keep me calm). When I turned 19 I got a letter from one of the paramedics apologizing for not trying harder to save her.

    goddamnbatman617's physical abuse by extended family members: 

    Haven't really told this story to many people, but here goes. When I was 2 1/2 years old, my father's side of the family invaded my home to "take care of" me when I was sick. They used this as an excuse to raid the house and find any personal information about my parents (more specifically my mother because they despised her) which included bills and notebooks with personal information as well as thoughts. In order to get away with what they were doing, they threw a fake birthday party with a Batman theme to distract me. Once they were done scavenging the house for information, they realized that I may tell my parents what I had seen and they began to question me as to whether or not I was going to say anything to my parents.

    At this time, my mother had instilled the idea of always telling the truth into my head, so I had naturally responded yes. After a few more attempts from the family, they stopped asking and began to transcend sinister. Within a 5 hour time frame, the following happened to me: Dropped from a third story window to be caught by someone at ground level (this happened several times), hung upside down in a tree with a rope tied to my leg, hit in the head with a frying pan (reshaped my skull with a permanent indent), sliced open the webbing between each of my toes, and finally a gun was held to a Batman doll's head (being told that this would happen to my parents) and the trigger was squeezed.

    The gun was the final straw and I said I wouldn't say anything. For years I had hated Batman, because the idea of dying always came rushing forward from my subconscious. Years (17 to be precise) of therapy ensued, but it never really did anything for me and left me a pretty angry kid who wanted revenge. Currently, I am almost 24, a Buddhist, and far from angry. What happened to me broke who I was for several years, but it has made me able to cope with pretty much anything that life could throw at me.

    MuFoxxa's rape by a woman and the subsequent disbelief of the ordeal by everyone from friends to even rape crisis counselors.

    I was once drugged at a party and later raped by a woman I didn't know and left passed out with my pants down on the floor. The 1 counselor I told screamed at me, called me a liar and kicked me out. The 1 female friend I told called me a liar, kicked me out and hasn't spoken to me since. The rape crisis line I called told me that women don't rape men and that it was disgusting that I would lie about something like that before hanging up on me. The one male friend I told gave me a hug, he asked me if there was anything I needed, then told me he was sorry that this happened to me and that he was there for me if I ever wanted to talk about it. We then went back to business as usual and he didn't treat me any differently or as if I was some fragile china doll who would break at the slightest touch. I'll love him forever for that.

    While few, if any, of the stories are light-hearted, some redditors shared tales that broke free from the traumatic vibe.

    Philipp related:

    As a kid, half cut off my one thumb on the bread cutting machine while sneaking out for a late night snack in dimmed light. Was taken to hospital and it was barely saved and put in bandage. Skip some weeks, my family is on a trip to Brazil and we're at the monkey cage. While one monkey distracts me by pulling my bandage inside the cage, another monkey bites his two sharp front teeth deep into my other, healthy thumb. A shriek by me follows, and I'm taken to the hospital again and now find myself in Brazil with both thumbs in bandage, and a story no one at school ever believed happened.

    The thread wasn't the only area of the site in which redditors exchanged horror stories. On the same day, redditor OneForJustice called for firefighters, cops, and EMTs to share their own horrible—or amusing—stories from their time on the job.

    Once again, grief-soaked tales filled the thread.

    From former firefighter bigmike0402:

    SOMEBODY HELP ME! PLEASE, SAVE MY BABY" We were ordered not to go into that house. There was no chance they would make it out alive, even if we got to them. So I stood there was two minutes listening to a desperate mother cry out for help, powerless to do anything. All I could try and block out her screams as we worked to make sure the fire didn't spread to a neighboring house.

    "I gave my father CPR as he died when I was 18," wrote dummystupid.

    The thread was balanced out with several stories detailing everything from living in squalor to a morbidly obese woman who, while being arrested and processed, had a grilled cheese sandwich drop from her skin folds.

    In related news, r/aww saw its biggest-ever spike in traffic.

    Photo via NatalieMaynor/Flickr

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    In 2012, chances are that you invested yourself in the 2012 Presidential Election, visited Times Square, and watched a lot of Duck Dynasty—and that you shared this with your Facebook friends.

    These are some of the conclusions reached by Facebook Stories, which documents how people use the social media site. Users can create their own personalized "year in review" and, through a series of infographics, reflect on what they considered to be important during the previous year.

    Facebook Stories has also broken down what mattered most to Facebook users in a collective sense. At the end of 2012, the site compiled the stats on everything from television to trends, movies to memes. What resulted was a portrait of what defined our past year of history.

    Here is a complete list of the site's finished infographics, detailing what Facebook users found popular in each category.








    Public Figures




    Infographics via Facebook Stories

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    How many celebrities follow you on Twitter?

    For $10, that number can increase by one, with the money going to a worthy cause.

    Joshua Malina, who starred in the Aaron Sorkin series The West Wing and currently appears on ABC's Scandal, has made a unique offer to Twitter users who donate $10 to Mazon: a Jewish Response to Hunger.

    "A minimal kick-in gets you a heartfelt thank-you and a year's worth of being followed by me on Twitter," he wrote on

    By Jan. 6, the project had already raised over $4,000. Malina is using his upcoming Jan. 17 birthday to further the project.

    Once his new followers are in place, Malina has some hefty promises in store.

    "At least once a week, I will check in to your feed, and laugh gently to myself at something you've posted. Promise!"

    Malina already has close to 70,000 followers and frequently interacts with them. With only 10,080 minutes in a week, he will have just over 8 seconds for each follower, provided he does not eat or sleep.

    Photo via Joshua Malina/YouTube

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    An LGBT rights organization in North Carolina is incensed after learning that YouTube will not restore a video the organization believes does nothing to violate any of the video sharing site's Terms of Service.

    Faith in America executive director Brent Childers is leading the charge against YouTube in the case of a video spotlighting Jerry Cooper, whose on-screen testimonial against North Carolina's Word of Faith Fellowship (WOFF) caused an uprising in the LGBT and brought into question the church's handling of gays in its community.

    The organization argued last Friday that the Google-owned site is "giving cover to a church that believes it is OK to harm gay youth and families in the name of religious teaching."

    The video, a response to a similar testimony by 22-year-old Michael Lowry, depicts WOFF as a fear-mongering cult that brainwashes its members and preaches hatred towards gays. According to Childers, such accusations are nothing new to the massive video sharing site.

    "It is really dumbfounding," Childers said in a statement last Friday. "YouTube allows a controversial video that pokes fun at Islam [the much debated trailer for “The Innocence of Muslims,” which depicts the prophet Muhammad as a philanderer and pedophile and has been granted permission to remain on site]. But here we have a video in which a person is telling his own personal knowledge of how this bizarre Christian church treats gay youth or those suspected of being gay, and they remove the video."

    YouTube did not respond to the Daily Dot's request for comment on the takedown, but Childers said that he has been told the video sharing site "apparently considers allegations against a church as somehow stepping on their religious liberty.

    "Considering the wealth of YouTube videos that address controversial religious issues, we find that hard to believe. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't offer a process to question the removal of a video that has been deemed inappropriate, and they do not give a reason why."

    Unfortunately for Childers and the Faith in America organization, YouTube may have already spoken. The site's community guidelines explicitly state that the site does not allow hate speech or speech which attacks or demeans a group based on race, ethnic origin, or religion. That may go against the precedent the site established in September, when it chose to allow the trailer for “The Innocence of Muslims” to remain onsite, but Cooper's testimonial clearly fits the bill—not that that's any consolation.

    "The purpose of the video is to expose a so-called church that misuses religious teaching to bring harm toward LGBT youth and their families," Childers told the Daily Dot. "I certainly hope Google and YouTube would agree that such harm needs to end."

    The testimonial, as well as Lowry's, is currently being hosted on the Faith and Equality website.

    WOFF did not respond to the Daily Dot's request for comment.

    Screenshot via Faith in America

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    On Tuesday of last week, left-wing British columnist Suzanne Moore wrote an article in the New Statesman that has sparked debate about transphobia in the feminist press, inspired an uprising of Twitter anger and hate mail, and eventually led Moore to delete her Twitter account entirely.

    While the original article was about the hardships faced by women during the economic recession, the part that inspired such anger was a remark about women being expected to have the body of "a Brazilian transsexual."

    Supporters of trans rights were quick to Tweet their discomfort at this phrase, and Jane Carnall at (while describing the original column as “mostly great”), pointed out that Moore’s words were poorly chosen in the light of the high murder statistics for trans people in Brazil. Rather than posting a retraction, Moore doubled down, answering flippantly and finally tweeting, “People can just fuck off really. Cut their dicks off and be more feminist than me. Good for them.”

    In response to criticism that her Tweets were transphobic, Moore’s column in The Guardian the next day tried to bring the discussion round to her original topic of vulnerable people faring badly during the recession, but to no avail. By ignoring the concerns of trans people and online social justice activists, she had incensed a significant number of her own readers.

    This reaction from both consumers and writers of feminist commentary is just one in a long string of arguments, both online and off, about the concept of intersectionality. In this context, intersectionality refers to the links between differing groups of people who suffer from bigotry or oppression, and the theory that all methods of oppression must be fought rather than each being dealt with as a separate entity. Moore’s comments run on a theme often put forward by other social justice advocates: that one aspect of social justice (in this case, the economic oppression of women) is more important than another.

    High-profile left-wing feminists quickly closed ranks. Author and journalist Julie Burchill writing a column in The Observer titled “Transsexuals should cut it out.” Unsurprisingly, this only served to fan the flames:

    To have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women—above natural-born women, who don’t know the meaning of suffering, apparently—is a bit like the old definition of chutzpah: the boy who killed his parents and then asked the jury for clemency on the grounds he was an orphan.

    At current count, Burchill’s article is the most-read page of the day on the joint Guardian-Observer homepage, and 20 pages of comments have been left by readers from both sides of the argument. Even more significantly, enough complaints have been sent to the Observer website that editor John Mulholland was forced to weigh in, tweeting that the Reader’s Editor would provide a response to the 2,000-plus comments like votesaxon's:

    I am a woman, working class and a feminist. You do not speak for all "natural-born women". You do not speak for me. You use the language of a bigot when you speak about the trans lobby. What is next, an article about the gay agenda? I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember and this is the first time I feel ashamed of that. You do not speak for all of us.

    With this comment already boasting almost 2,000 upvotes from other readers, while many mainstream feminist writers continue to throw in their support with Burchill and Moore, it is clear that this is one of the most divisive social justice issues of the moment. Journalist and women’s rights activist Julie Bindel, who in the past has come under fire for her opinions on trans issues, also tweeted her support of Moore and Burchill’s articles, saying,

    But while the old guard of British feminist polemicists continue to rail against the replies from online social justice and trans rights advocates, popular left-wing reporter Laurie Penny (@pennyred, whose tweets on feminism, LGBT issues, and the Occupy movement are read daily by over 56,000 followers), announced in no uncertain terms:

    This tweet succinctly represents the opinions of the social justice community on Tumblr, whose reactions on the tags for Suzanne Moore and Julie Burchill are almost uniformly enraged. Posts and reblogs with titles like “All women are equal but some are Moore equal than others” and “I wish Suzanne Moore would just stop digging” are all that one finds relating to these two writers.

    The readers of Tumblr social justice posts typically skew younger than the average age of Observer or New Statesman readers, possibly indicating an age gap as well as a divide in opinion between social justice advocates who primarily operate online, and those who originate from the generation of print journalism. 

    While Moore, Burchill, et al. continue to publish diatribes against “the vociferous transsexual lobby” of Twitter critics and social justice bloggers, their online counterparts largely seem to be in favour of discussing intersectionality as a fact of life rather than an extremist theory. Along with multiple Tumblr posts urging people to send complaints to the Guardian-Observer and New Statesman, an online petition has been set up to persuade the Guardian-Observer to publish an apology—and has already been signed by over 3,000 people in less than a day.

    As of today, Julie Burchill’s Observer article is under enquiry from the paper’s Reader’s Editor, who has responded to reader comments here. On Monday morning, The Guardian reported that international development minister Lynne Featherstone called for Burchill to be fired for what she called "absolutely disgusting … bigoted vomit."

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    The naked partisanship of cable news outlets and the vitriolic rhetoric from Washington, D.C. make it seem as if America's political divide is constantly growing. But there is one place where common ground can be found: Wikipedia.

    That's according to a new study that finds Wikipedia has become more politically neutral over the past decade, thanks to the increasing involvement of editors from diverse political backgrounds and higher editorial standards on the site.

    "It's something that's not been looked at closely before—this idea of the Neutral Point of View," the study's author, Shane Greenstein, told The Daily Dot. "A lot of the (Wikipedia editors) were eager to see what we found out."

    What Greenstein and his co-author, Feng Zhu, found was an increasing trend away from more Democratically slanted articles a decade ago to predominantly neutral content today. By searching through articles using an analytic technique first used to study newspaper bias, the researchers examined more than 70,000 articles related to U.S. political issues, looking for specific code phrases. Lifted from the Congressional record, the phrases the researchers looked for where terms used disproportionately by either Democrats or Republicans, such as "Obamacare," "death panel," "civil rights," "illegal immigration," and "death tax" to name a few.

    Taking this research approach, the authors found that articles written shortly after Wikipedia's founding in 2001 had more of a Democratic bias. But Greenstein doesn't think the slant was intentional. Though the researchers don't speculate on the cause of the early bias in their paper, Greenstein theorizes it's a byproduct of who was editing the site at the time.

    "The earliest vintages of some of these articles lean Democratic, but at the time most of the editors on Wikipedia where college-aged," Greenstein said, recalling a time when interest in online collaboration and access to high-speed internet was still limited.

    As a broader spectrum of users have come into the fold however, the balance has begun to shift.  It's changed in two ways. There are still many articles being born on Wikipedia with a pronounced partisan bias, but now it's split down the line. Just as many Republican slanted articles being created as Democratic ones.

    From these balanced but biased beginnings, the articles now undergo more revisions by editors dedicated to the prospect of making Wikipedia a legitimate source of information. These editors are guided by Wikipedia's own Neutral Point of View Doctrine. But Greenstein said his research shows this is a less important factor than the sheer number of users involved.

    "That's the interesting thing to look at when you're dealing with collaborative, crowd-sourcing information projects like this," he said.

    But if Wikipedia's political neutrality is based on its number of collaborators, trouble could be on the horizon. Another recent study, sponsored by the Wikimedia Foundation, found the number of Wikipedia editors has been on the decline in recent years as a byproduct of the site's own internal politics. The drop off in usage has begun to slow, but the authors say at current rates, a significant shortage of Wikipedia editors could be on the horizon.

    However, if there is one thing Wikipedia editors are universally interested in, it's Wikipedia. Greenstein said his research received a lot of interest and support from the Wikimedia Foundation, who are looking for ways to make the site better.

    "They get the need for neutrality," Greenstein said of the site and its users. "They know that's central to credibility."

    Photo by opensourceway/Flickr

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    There might not be a better person to speak out against bullying than openly gay singer Adam Lambert.

    On Friday, the season eight American Idol runner-up took to his Twitter account and said bullying victims should feel empowered and focus "on the positive." Lambert's spiel lasted 20 tweets, with the singer arguing that to help solve the problem of bullying, kids must be instilled with confidence and self-esteem.

    "it's a case by case thing. If someone's being so viciously bullied that its affecting their mental health - yes- huge problem we must stop," tweeted Lambert. "But because its become such a trendy way to identify certain kinds of typical teenage angst, I hope it's not making it worse."

    Lambert compared the problems bullying victims face to the same plights celebrities encounter with the tabloids, press, and fans. With the rise of constant sharing on social networking leading to more exposure of kids’ lives, they now face some of the same issues.

    "Yet w/ social networking taking over, isnt society emulating celebrity culture by posting pics and updates of themselves to a broad audience," asked Lambert. "So with fame having become the new American Dream, are we punishing those who have 'made it' with our own inferiority complexities? Envy?"

    Lambert said he was just creating a "Twitter forum" and wasn't taking sides in any current celebrity beefs (perhaps the fight between rapper Azealia Banks and gossip hound Perez Hilton). He concluded that his tweets, which drew much support from fans and even Evan Rachel Wood, were pointing that society should focus on the victims and not on glorifying the bullies.

    "The reason I brought up how society tends to view celebrity culture was to suggest the sometimes hypocritical aspect to victim/bullying," tweeted Lambert. "Sometimes it seems that folks adopt an "eye for an eye" attitude instead of just rising above it. Doesn't this just become a vicious cycle?"

    "im not saying there shouldn't be consequences for bullies. I'm saying that HELPING folks cope and ignore is ALSO important & more proactive," explained Lambert.

    His rant ended with a group hug saying anyone is welcome into his Glamily: "Please be welcoming and kind. Quit cyber fighting."

    Photo via glambert4eva97/Hashgram


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    Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt have divorced.

    The couple who met on Facebook because they had the same name are ending their three-year marriage. They made headlines in 2009 for marrying after the female Hildebrandt searched her name and found her male counterpart living in Texas.

    "How do they term it at the courthouse? Irreconcilable differences, that is what I would say,” Hildebrandt said to WTVJ-TV. “We gave it our best shot.”

    The pair separated last March when "male Kelly" decided to move back to Lubbock, Texas. He returned to South Florida, where "female Kelly" lives, to finalize the divorce last week. He said they didn't have any "hard feelings" against each other.

    “She’s a Florida girl, and I’m a Texas guy,” he said. “We really did come from pretty different worlds.”

    The relationship started when female Kelly messaged male Kelly gawking about having the same name. It escalated when male Kelly proposed to her by hiding a diamond ring on the beach. They married less than year after meeting each other in South Florida.

    "He is just everything that I've ever looked for," said female Kelly at the time. "There's always been certain qualities that a guy has to have. And he has all the ones I could think of - and more."

    She's now being more tight-lipped. When reached for comment by the NBC affiliate, female Kelly’s mother released this statement: “Yes, I am sorry to say they have separated. I am happy to say they have remained good friends and are both doing well.”

    Female Kelly has removed her Facebook, account but male Kelly’s profile is still active (his relationship status says "single").

    He said he wouldn't marry someone solely based on having the same name again.

    “I wouldn’t want my future spouse to have to deal with everything from before,” he said. “That wouldn’t be a fair situation, given the media coverage.”

    Photo via TODAY

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    A year from now, Grom Social will no doubt look back at January 2013 as the month it made a big splash. The site, which bills itself as "social networking for the youth," has been favorably covered by various media outlets. But what has compelled publications like Salon and MediaBistro to create such a positive buzz for a social network platform that only boasts 6,800 users?

    Its origin narrative.

    According to company lore, 11-year-old Zachary Marks really wanted a Facebook account. He asked and pleaded with his dad to let him set one up, and after much insistence, the latter relented. Despite being two years too young by Facebook's age requirements, Zachary created his own profile. He was immediately addicted.

    But then he got out of control.

    "One of my adult friends cursed and posted something inappropriate, and I cursed back," Zachary writes on The Grom Social Story, a page meant to serve as an "about us" section for the site.

    "Also, I friend-requested grown ups who I did not know. About a day later, my dad found out. He was really mad. I had to deactivate my account. Then, I was really mad."

    Instead of being sans social network, Zachary set out to build his own when he couldn't find one that catered to his demographic.

    "I began looking for a kid's social network that was safe and cool. I did not find any that looked interesting to me. They were all childish," he noted.

    "So, I began thinking. That night, the idea came to me. I could create a social networking place for kids that was cool with sick graphics. I added a bad word filter and we do not allow adults to join unless they are friends or family."

    And thus, in November 2011, Grom Social was born.

    The site, which takes its name from surfer slang, is compliant with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, federal legislation that restricts and regulates how online sites collect the private information of minors. Grom Social requires that a parent or guardian verify a child's account via email before it's created. The site keeps a parent's email on file so as to provide them with updates and disclose what information their child has shared.

    In addition to being a social network, Grom Social also offers educational and nutritional information.

    As previously mentioned, the site has received nothing but praise. In fact, a lot of the positive write-ups have made the obvious comparison to another individual who started his own social network at a relatively young age.

    "Is this the next Mark Zuckerberg?" asked the New York Daily News.

    "Mark Zuckerberg should better watch out," warned Australia's International Business Time. "His potential successors are getting younger."  

    One social business consultant even went so far as to claim that Grom Social is a threat to Facebook.

    "As membership grows and Grom Social reaches the tipping point with its members, more and more teenagers and pre-teens will turn away from other social networking sites such as Facebook and join their friends on Grom Social," speculated Eileen Brown on ZDNet.

    "Then, without the influx of youth, Facebook growth will stall as its value to the next generation diminishes."

    At the risk of sounding like a contrarian, this reporter is not buying it.

    It's not that I don't think that someone so young could build a social network from scratch. Quite the contrary, precocious children and teens have shown time and time again that they're capable of being exceptional in the tech world. One only needs to look at the likes of the recently deceased Aaron Swartz, who at age 14 accomplished more than most do in a lifetime. There's also the case of Cosmo the God, a hacking wunderkind who is currently banned from the Internet for his role in stealing hundreds of thousands of credit card numbers.

    My skepticism is rooted in the notion that there's little to no proof that Zachary Marks actually created Grom Social himself beyond the aforementioned origin story on the site.

    It's not out of the realm of possibility that Marks did have the idea of making a social network for kids, but is that the definition of creating something?

    In the video embedded above, Darren Marks, Zachary's father and COO of Grom Social, speaks in depth about the site. At one point in the clip, the elder Marks mentions that Zachary sat down with a web developer employed by his company to actually build the Grom Social's framework.

    As per Zachary's actual involvement with Grom Social, Darren Marks told Florida Today that the pre-teen and the rest of his siblings are in charge of the site's "creative side," but did not explain what the kids’ exact responsibilities are.

    From the site's team page, we can ascertain that Zachary and the rest of the Marks children at least have some help in the creative department. Grom Social employs a graphic designer to assist with how the site looks and feels.

    The youth-oriented social network also boasts a marketing specialist, so it's unlikely that young Zachary is behind getting the Grom Social name out there. Oh yeah, and there's also an executive board filled with individuals with years of experience in finance and marketing—including Zachary's father, Darren Marks, founder of an energy drink and food company—should raise some questions.

    But not one single news outlet who has reported on this story has brought up these facts, possibly because a headline like "11-year-old creates own social network" is more attractive than "11-year-old creates own social network with the help of a team of professionals."

    In 2005, Pino Audia, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, penned a piece titled "A Garage and an Idea: What more does an entrepreneur need?" The article explored the "garage belief," a symbol that "conjures up some common images of entrepreneurship, including ... the freedom of working for oneself." It essentially looks at the origin stories of various companies like Hewlett-Packard and Apple, and how these feed the myth.

    Zachary Marks as the originator of Grom Social is the site's garage. After all, who doesn't want to believe that a young entrepreneur pulled himself up by his bootstraps?

    The Daily Dot has reached out to Grom Social on multiple occasions, but no representative has responded to our requests for comment.

    Photo via Grom Social

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    Social media is giving voice to those in some of North America's most remote corners as part of the ongoing Idle No More protest. Since November, Aboriginal peoples of Canada have been protesting actions by the government that they say violate historic treaties with the First Nations, including agreements over water and land rights. The movement has been compared to Occupy Wall Street in 2011.

    In the past, the largest voices of the Aboriginal people have been the First Nation chiefs, according to writer Karissa Donkin, who interviewed University of Saskatchewan student and activist Erica Lee.

    “Social media allows the people who are actually directly involved and impacted by these kinds of movements to have their voices heard,” Lee said. “It gives [people], especially in northern communities and rural First Nation communities, a chance to be connected with events and be inspired by other peoples' event that they might not have access to, that they aren't seeing on TV and in the newspapers.”

    Lee first became involved with the Idle No More protest in November, when about 100 people gathered in Saskatoon. It was during those early days in November when Tanya Kappo reportedly first used the #IdleNoMore hashtag, which has become the calling card for the movement. Soon after that initial protest, a Facebook page was created, and in less than two months, it has gained more than 76,000 likes. Since its creation, the Idle No More Facebook page has become a hub of activity, with people sharing stories, information about events and ways to participate.

    Perhaps the biggest example of Idle No More's social media reach, is the #IdleNoMore tweet map, which shows the 679,000 messages that have gone out since November and where they came from. While the bulk of the Twitter activity has been in southern Canada, the map shows activity as far north as Nunavut, inside the Arctic Circle.

    So far the movement appears to be getting results too. On Jan. 11, officials from some of Canada's tribes met with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Ottawa.

    Ryerson University professor Ron Stagg told, that much of the movement's success is due to social media.

    “What this group has done with social media is to make [them] into a national issue,” he said. “This is one way people can get together.”

    Photo via IdleNoMore/Facebook

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