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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    The Reddit community is powerful—even during historic blizzards.

    As Winter Storm Nemo found its way through the northeastern United States on Feb. 9, redditor chewy01234 discovered that his prescription medication was in New York.

    He was in Boston.

    "r/Boston can you help a guy with a Kidney Transplant out in this snow storm?" he posted to the city's subreddit.

    Chewy01234 explained that his bottle of Prograf, a medication designed to lower the body's immune system after receiving organ transplants so as to stave off rejection, was mistakenly left in New York. An attempt by his mother to express ship the package to Boston was fruitless, as post offices in both areas closed due to the storm.

    Within hours, upvotes and comments began pouring in from chewy01234's fellow redditors. Less than four hours after the post, one offer in particular managed to stand out from the rest.

    "I just sent you a message. I have prograf to spare, and a car that doesn't need digging out. I live in Brookline and can probably get it to you pretty easily. Check your messages," rockstaraimz, herself a kidney transplant recipient, commented.

    Fellow redditors awarded rockstaraimz's comment with more than 2,000 upvotes. Before long, chewy01234 edited the post.

    "SUCCESS!! rockstaraimz came through and dropped them off to me moments ago. She saved my weekend (and possibly my kidney!) Thank you to everyone else who was willing to help as well. Thank you Reddit for existing. Another Reddit success story!!"

    The thread exploded with positive reactions to chewy01234's story.

    "Seriously, this made my month, maybe year. rockstaraimz, you are a freaking hero," KaraAlissa commented.

    "Good Gal rockstaraimz. Reads random person needs life saving drugs during blizzard, trudges through snow to deliver," Verithos added.

    Needless to say, rockstaraimz herself was also overcome with emotion.

    "Holy crap! When I crashed last night this story had about 20 upvotes and I didn't think twice about it. I log in this afternoon and I am Reddit famous!" she said.

    rockstaraimz also noted that she had been given roughly 2 years' worth of Reddit gold for her philanthropy.

    Such generosity is not unprecedented on Reddit. Previously, redditors have raised funds for a man stricken with terminal kidney cancer to travel the world and also helped an admin during a struggle with leukemia.

    Photo via Rho/Flickr

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    Anita Sarkeesian is the great male-gamer bogeywoman. 

    Sarkeesian caused a mass communal bed-wetting last May when she launched a Kickstarter to fund a Web series on sexism in games. Based on the frothing reaction from the community, who trolled and harassed her for months, you'd think she denied the Holocaust.  

    After massive backlash and public support for Sarkeesian, haters shifted their tune: They weren't upset that she's pointing out (obvious) sexism, they argued, but that she hadn't started her project. She's stealing money from her Kickstarter donors! 

    And now to prove Sarkeesian's biblical level of unholy malevolence, they're Photoshopping images of fake shoe purchases. Because nothing says "mendacious evil feminist overlord" like $1,000 Gucci shoes.

    This image, supposedly taken from Sarkeesian's Twitter feed, was posted to Reddit's r/rage community ("for content that pisses you off just by watching it") Tuesday.

    "Instead of making the movies that she promised," read the dire headline, "she's using the money from the Kickstarter to buy herself expensive shoes. She deleted it after noticing her mistake."

    Sarkeesian didn't delete anything. As one redditor soon proved, the image was most likely altered. For one thing, a Twitter post doesn't actually look like that. Redditor Glorious-G provided a laundry list of alterations:

    Missing lines
    Different font
    Different alignment
    Different buttons above the image
    Missing name
    Missing twitter handle
    Also, notice that the links are red, not blue

    Here's where the Photoshopper found his shoe

    Of course, the premise of the outrage is baseless to begin with. Sarkeesian has already launched a Tumblr for the series, and says she'll probably release the first video this month. She explained to Kotaku's Stephen Totilo:

    "Due to all the unexpected extra Kickstarter funding we were able to greatly expand the scope, scale and production values of the project which is exciting but also means we've had to rework our timetable."

    Even if Sarkeesian did take her Kickstarter money and run, the idea that anything other than base sexism is motivating the gaming community's hatred is complete bullshit. How many other Kickstarter projects do they follow with such unwavering critical devotion? Where was the community's outrage over this actual Kickstarter scam? Or this one? Or this one?

    Gamers aren't angry that Sarkeesian hasn't finished her project. They're angry she ever proposed it.

    Photo via Anita Sarkeesian/Flickr

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    Congressman Jared Polis (D-Colo.) seems tailor-made for Reddit. He's gay. He's one of just a handful in Congress to sign the Declaration of Internet Freedom. He plays computer games.  And he supports nationwide marijuana legalization, representing one of the few states where it's already legal.

    For his third Ask Me Anything session with redditors, oddly scheduled for the night of President Obama's State of the Union address, Polis was cordial and happy to talk pot, politics, gay elected officials, and that one redditor who used to date his cousin.

    Can you please throw in a small amendment making it legal to punch people who would insist on posting their stupid "I'm so high because it's legal" statuses and photos? (pedantic_dullard)

    Yes. Truly folks, this does NOT help the cause

    What moneyed interests are blocking real progress on marijuana legalization? (Salacious-)

    the law enforcement industrial complex.

    All those on the gravy train of the drug war which means parts of law enforcement and their private sector vendors.

    This is @19natey6! I was curious to see if you actually run your Twitter account, or if I have been foolishly tweeting your intern. My friends make fun of my tweets to you, and I would love to prove them wrong! (LtJimmyCross)

    yeah you're my buddy on twitter. Of course it's me. I would fire an intern for impersonating me!

    Tell your friends I'm real, I remember giving you a restaurant recommendation once did u go?

    Amsterdam Falafelshop! It was amazing! (LtJimmyCross)

    Glad you tried it, I went there again two weeks ago. Hope you enjoyed DC!

    Certain municipalities in Colorado are attempting to keep marijuana illegal in their jurisdictions. Some still write tickets for marijuana paraphernalia, accessories explicitly legalized in the state constitution. What can be done to see that these municipalities respect the will of the voters of Colorado? (hubert1504)

    The will of the voters (Amendment 64) leaves it up to counties and cities how to regulate marijuana. I fully expect that many counties and cities will retain or enact bans. That is entirely their choice. The answer is to elect a different city council if you don't like their decisions.

    Just as when federal prohibition ended for alcohol, many counties remaind "dry" and there are dry counties to this day.

    Hi! I'm one of your constituents. I have a super important question for you: What's your Summoner name in League of Legends? (LucubrateIsh)

    private msg me with yours and I'll friend u

    Bill Gates said on reddit not too long ago "Higher is better." Do you agree with his statement sir ? (Hellshield)

    Much of my district is more than 5,000 feet above sea level and I also represent mountains that are well over 10,000 feet.

    Do you get tired of hearing how rich you are? (bizzle6)

    How rich I am, how gay I am, how Jewish I am, how handsome I am (well, maybe not so much that last one).

    I am fine with my identities of course (one has to get used to things). I always try not to judge people or assume things because of their identities. Someone's wealth, sexual orientation, etc says nothing about whether they are a good person or not.

    What do you think of the record numbers of LGBT members of this congress (of which you are a member)? Will Steve King and Michelle Bachmann willingly go within 15 feet of you? (interstate73)

    Yeah it's really exciting. We have six out LGBT House members now and one in the Senate. I think there will be more and more. I get along fine with Bachmann and King. I mean I haven't made out with them or anything, but we get along just fine.

    I dated Shari for almost 5 years. How's she doing? (neuromanced)

    u dated my cousin Shari? she's great, they have two kids

    What's your favorite thing about being a Congressman? (777Iamnumber4)

    The private planes, congressional yacht, private country club.... J/K (we have none of those things FYI)

    My favorite thing is being able to make a difference on an issue. I helped delay SOPA which led to ya'll helping finally kill it. That felt really good.

    think your actually a redditor who happens to be a congressman. (thestupids)

    yeah pretty much

    Photo via @jaredpolis/Twitter


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    What do you get when you cross modern philosopher Alain de Botton with one of the biggest names in pop music?

    20,000 retweets and a lot of people—including One Direction heartbreaker Harry Styles—talking about Socrates.

    Known for his ability to distill complex philosophy and literature into bestselling pop psychology works like How Proust Can Change Your Life, the U.K-.based Botton gave an interview to London's free newspaper, Metro, in which he naturally recommended that more people consume and disperse the teachings of philosophy. And one of the people he called out was none other than Harry Styles, the most famous member of the world's biggest boy band.

    Under the guise of promoting his new book, Religion for Atheists, Botton mused that "people such as Harry Styles" could benefit society by "[recommending] to everyone they read Proust and Hegel, which would achieve more in five minutes than the Arts Council achieves year in, year out.”

    "In an ideal world," he added, "Harry Styles would be teaching his 10 million Twitter followers a little more about Greek philosophy."

    The Metro published the interview by highlighting its reference to Styles, knowing it would get tongues waggling:

    Among the readers tuning into the interview was apparently Styles himself. Without context, but clearly referencing the Metro article, earlier today Styles tweeted, "Socrates, born in Athens in the 5th century BCE, marks a watershed in Ancient Greek philosophy."

    The whopping number of retweets--over 20,000 and counting--and Tumblr reblogs indicates Botton was on to something. No word from Styles on whether he intends to continue educating the masses, but we're pretty sure there are lots of Larry Stylinson shippers who'd really like to know what Harry's thoughts are on the, er, racier parts of Plato's Symposium. And that's all we'll say about that.

    Meanwhile, Botton insists that Styles has a leg up on Britain's cultural art institutions. "On the one hand," he told the Metro, "you’ve got people saying culture is getting dumbed down. On the other you have people saying you have to do lowest common denominator stuff. I’m trying to build a bridge between what’s serious and what’s popular."

    It looks like he's off to a bloody good start.

    Art by Fernando Alfonso III, Photos by Eva Rinaldi/Flickr and bencrowe/Flickr

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    Like most smitten girlfriends, South African model Reeva Steenkamp was eagerly anticipating Valentine's Day.

    "What do you have up your sleeve for your love tomorrow??? #getexcited #ValentinesDay," the 30-year-old tweeted Wednesday.

    On Thursday, she was found shot dead at the home of her boyfriend, famed sprinter Oscar Pistorius. Nicknamed "Blade Runner," he was the first Paralympian to compete in the Olympics, last summer in London.

    It's unclear how the shooting occurred, but South African police charged Pistorius, 26, with murder. Local media reports that Steenkamp was mistakenly identified as an intruder, but police could not confirm that. Pistorius will appear in court Friday.

    Pistorius' spokeswoman Kate Silvers told CNN that he is "assisting the police with their investigation but there will be no further comment until matters become clearer later today."

    In 2011, Steenkamp was named one of FHM's 100 Sexiest Women in the World, appeared in South African reality shows, and became a celebrity "on her own right," her publicist said.

    Steenkamp frequently used Twitter to communicate with fans and advocated them to fight sexual abuse. For example, she recently retweeted a message asking her followers to wear black on Friday in support against rape and abuse.

    She was very vocal about her relationship with Pistorius on Twitter, too. Several of Steenkamp's tweets talked about spending time with her "boo," and expressed her excitement for Valentine's Day.

    "It should be a day of love for everyone :) may it be blessed!" she tweeted Wednesday.

    Photo via Reeva Steenkamp/Twitter

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    Kobe Bryant has taken a break from battling homophobes on Twitter to brave new social media shores. China's Sina Weibo, the country's most popular social network, has verified the NBA star's account.

    In less than a day, Bryant's already got 140,000 followers. And he hasn't posted a thing. The only thing Bryant's has added to his account is profile picture—a photograph of himself as a young boy.

    Bryant is a huge star in China, where the NBA is almost a national pastime. Chinese buy his jersey more than any other. For the time being, however, Bryant's popularity on weibo pales in comparison to another NBA star. Houston Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, who posts in both Chinese and English, has more than 3 million followers. Time to get weiboing, Bryant. And break out that English-Mandarin dictionary.

    Photo via Kobe Bryant/Sina Weibo

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    Anderson Cooper: CNN anchor, silver fox, and soon-to-be "Pussy Willow Prince."

    That’s if Eddy Dobosiewicz, the co-founder of Dyngus Day Buffalo, gets his way. For the past few years, he's tried to convince Cooper to serve as grand marshall for the Polish-American tradition that's part polka festival, part parade—but Cooper keeps rebuffing his requests.

    "Anderson Cooper made fun of Dyngus Day in Buffalo and some people took it really personally," Dobosiewicz said to a Buffalo Business First, referencing a 2012 segment in which the CNN host mocked the event, and subsequently lost it in a now-infamous laughing fit.

    "It's really so stupid," mused Cooper. The Dyngus Day tradition of boys sprinkling girls with water and tapping them with pussy willows in the post-Lenten celebration was too much for him.

    But Dobosiewicz doesn't find it stupid and is offended that "Mr. 360 has done a 180." He started a website, aptly titled Party Pooper Cooper, lambasting him for refusing to attend. It's garnered more than 30,000 visits, and he hopes the online effort will change Cooper's mind. (They even made the cutest clip art imagining what Cooper will look like as King Dyngus!)

    "We tried taking the high road but we cannot let insult be added to the injury," wrote Dobosiewicz, sounding threatening. "We are mad as hell and we ain't gonna take it no more!"

    Cooper has a few months to respond, since Dyngus Day falls on April 1, but we think he shouldn't avoid the Dyngus because of a few pussy willows.

    Photo via PartyPooperCooper

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    Snuggling with a tiger, riding all-terrain vehicles at dusk, and posing with a AK-47 are just some of the hobbies Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov enjoys, according to a conspicuous Instagram account.

    The Instagram user alihan777 has posted 301 photos of Kadyrov, 36, dating back to Nov. 3. While some of the photos seem to have been taken at public events, such as this one with Russian President Vlaiamir Putin—who has his own history of colorful photo-ops—others are far more personal, including one of Kadyrov and his children.

    It is unclear who is posting the photos, but Kadyrov sure isn't angry about it.

    Kadyrov has tweeted links to the Instagram on numerous occasions.

    "Give with a smile the most valuable it is for someone's life ... From Instagram alihan777," Kadyrov tweeted on Monday, with a link to a photo of the Chechen president donating blood.

    Kadyrov was recently named one of the world's most social media savvy authoritarian leaders by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFERL).

    "Kadyrov covers quite an array of subjects on his Twitter account," RFERL reported. "In just 140 characters, he has alternately praised the Russian press, mourned the death of his grandfather, congratulated a Twitter user on the birth of his child, and fired off quite a few shout-outs, including one to Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s new defense minister."

    The following are some of the best Instagram photos of Kadyrov:

    All photos via alihan777

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    A Muslim minority living in China’s far west has become the target of malware attacks that take advantage of a security hole in the Mac version of Microsoft Office.

    Costin Raiu of computer security firm Kaspersky Labs posted a report on SecureList, in conjunction with AlienVault Labs, that indicated members of the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group using Apple’s Mac OS X are suffering an increasing number of cyberattacks.

    As long ago as last June, Uyghur groups were noted to have been targeted, and the problem appears to have worsened recently.

    “During the past months,” Raiu wrote, “we’ve monitored a series of targeted attacks against Uyghur supporters, most notably against the World Uyghur Congress... Although some of these attacks were observed during 2012, we’ve noticed a significant spike in the number of attacks during Jan 2013 and Feb 2013, indicating the attackers are extremely active at the moment.“

    The attacks apparently use poisioned Microsoft Word documents to exploit a Microsoft Office vulnerability.

    Victims are targeted via email, with messages that appear to include a relevant attachment, sometimes a Word document entitled “Concerns Over Uyghur People’s Fundamental Rights Under The New Chinese Leadership,” other times masquerading as a white paper.

    When the victim clicks on the attachment, the malware installs a backdoor on the target machine, giving whoever is perpetrating these attacks full remote access to the machine.

    Last year, prior to the Uyghur attacks, Kaspersky discovered Mac OS X vulnerabilities being exploited against Tibetan activists.

    The fact that both Tibetan and Uyghur activists are critical of the Chinese government does not prove the hackers are Chinese, but it is certainly a possibility.

    Photo by Ricky Qi/Flickr

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    The strange case of Manti Te'o and his fake girlfriend has certainly brought a lot of awareness to the bizarre and cruel online world of "catfishing." But this kind of Internet prank victimizes more than just the unsuspecting individual who gets duped into thinking they've found a significant other online.

    Tricking someone online into falling in love with a nonexistent person wouldn't be possible without the real images necessary to validate an artificial persona. Often, these images come from other victims completely unaware of the scheme.

    That's what apparently happened to Internet star Veronica Belmont, host of Tekzilla on the and The Sword and Laser podcast. Belmont sent the following message to Facebook followers earlier this week:

    "That moment when you learn that not only has someone stolen your photos, they've also used them to create an online dating profile so they could write a blog post about being a fake woman on the internet, a la Manti Te'o"

    She followed up a few hours later with this message:

    "The most recent update is that they've taken the photo off the blog post, so that's good. However, since they don't link to the dating profile, I have no idea if they changed that. Oh well, better than nothing I guess."

    Belmont declined to speak with the Daily Dot at length about this situation, but her case shines a light on the other victims of catfishing. This kind of hoax wouldn't be possible without identity theft in the form of fake photos. Attractive Internet celebrities like Belmont, who may not be instantly recognizable to everyone, become a prime target.

    That's what happened several years ago to Aimee Gonzales, whose photos were used in the online dating scam documented in the movie Catfish, from which this phenomenon gets its name.

    "I definitely felt violated and just completely drained," Gonzales told The Daily Beast in 2010, shortly after the film's release. "I don't think I've ever felt so tired in my life."

    Gonzales, a married model-photographer with children, said her photos have become extremely popular for those attempting to dupe people into phony online relationships. At the time of the film's release, she had to take time every day to track down new identity thieves to try and shut them down.

    “In a way, it’s almost worse than stealing someone’s name," Gonzales said. "She actually stole my face. There’s nothing more than your face that makes you who you are.”

    Photo of Belmont by Thomas Hawk/Flickr

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    Two Michigan men are in trouble with the law for comments left on Facebook that police are labeling as terrorism.

    On Jan. 22, Richard Walker and Brandon Davis were arrested for posing in pictures with rifles and allegedly writing comments about killing police in Detroit. Initially, charges were minor, but on Thursday the court increased their ruling to "felony charges for a false report or threat of terrorism." The men now face 20-year sentences. 

    Police say Walker, 18, wrote this on Facebook: "Wish people would kill more cops. We need more cops getting killed. We need true soldiers." Davis, 20, wrote on his Facebook page, "we really need more cop killers, like for real," then followed with an expletive against police and the court system.

    Walker's comment came a day after his car was towed. A search warrant was then issued for Walker's home, where Davis was staying, where police found assault rifles. They also face weapon-related charges and resisting arrest.

    Bond was set for $500 for each of the men.

    Photos via WDIV-TV

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  • 02/18/13--07:00: To catch a YouTube predator
  • On Jan. 14, a 12-year-old girl named Emily went onto her YouTube channel and revealed the details behind a frightening situation.

    A week before, Emily had received a message from a YouTube user named Ikon Modeling who claimed the agency would like to extend to her a tryout. They said that she was beautiful, that she looked gorgeous in her videos. Then they asked her to join an upcoming Skype video conference in which the person behind Ikon Modeling would use a different name. And in order to be a model, the person behind Ikon Modeling told Emily, she had to go into the Skype conference alone. Her parents could not attend.

    The Skype invitation wasn't the first red flag for Emily, she'd later concede in her video, "Need Help like ASAP!! Is Ikon Modeling a Scam?" She also found it peculiar that the individual would contact her just minutes after she'd posted the only video she'd ever put up in her life: a rough, homemade tutorial explaining how to do the splits. In it, she's smiling and wearing tight clothing. She's young and tan, and her dark hair's done up in a Carolina blue ribbon. She stretches her legs. She brings them back together. She opens them again, and then she goes all the way down.

    Emily had always wanted to be a model, so she accepted Ikon Modeling's contact request on Skype. The only caveat was that she chose to keep her webcam off. Instead, she chatted through text with a man named William whose profile picture showed that he was white and kept his dark hair buzzed short against his head. He looked young. In the photo he wore a dark, collared, short-sleeve shirt. His location was listed as New York City. The way that Emily remembers it, "He started posting a whole bunch of websites to prove that he was real."

    "I saw the website and then I think I saw a video of the president of Ikon Modeling," she added. "I saw a whole bunch of videos and a whole bunch of models. They were all adults, and I thought that was strange. I'm only 12, so I still count as a kid. I'm like a pre-teen." 

    Emily remained hesitant but the man who identified himself as William continued on. He said that he was a recruiter with the modeling agency but that he wasn't in the agency's office at the time; he couldn't officially vet her candidacy until he was.

    Instead, he asked her for three things: her age, her experience as a model, and when he learned that she'd had none, a reason for her failures. To the last question, Emily responded by saying that she's been trying to sign up, but agencies wouldn't accept her age.

    "He started saying, 'Oh, that's strange,'" Emily recounted. Then he asked for her webcam.

    Emily reminded William that she'd have to wait until her parents got home. William grew testy. He started to challenge her authority, saying that she'd be 13 soon and that she should be allowed to make her own decisions.

    "If your parents don't believe in you and trust you to make the right decisions, then I guess you can't make the right decisions to be a model," Emily recalled him saying.

    The conversation broke off. Shortly after, Emily received a message from another girl, one who'd also heard from Ikon Modeling.

    "I saw the video," Emily said, referring to the girl's confessional. "They did the same thing to her."


    Emily was smart enough to not to go too far with the user claiming to represent Ikon Modeling, so it's not entirely clear what his ultimate intentions were. However, it's a common enough approach in cases of online pedophilia, which occur with startling regularity. According to a study performed by the Crimes Against Children research center at the University of New Hampshire, one out of every seven children will be solicited for sexual activities online at some point during his or her teenage development.

    What's worse is that those creeps can crawl around every corner of nearly every online community with relative ease. Since massive social networks like Facebook and Twitter don’t have the bandwidth to actively monitor their channels, predators are able to sign up, operate, and change usernames with just a few clicks and almost no oversight. For example, a man, posing as a kid named Rob Williams, did whatever he could to solicit teens for private videos. At least nine different accounts have been suspended in his honor. He's been Rob the Canadian Prince, Iluvbacon96, Baconprince95, Iamyourprinceagain, and Iamyourprincereborn.

    Social news site Reddit shut down a forum devoted to sexualized images of minors, the subreddit r/jailbait, in October 2011, but it’s survived by r/legalteens, which posts pictures of girls who are 18, though a few photos of underaged teens purportedly fall through the cracks. Facebook bars convicted sex offenders from enrollment in its terms of service, but nothing's stopping them from trying. And on Twitter, more than 100 accounts belonging to alleged pedophiles were shut down in a sting operation by worldwide hacktivist collective Anonymous in June.

    Predators are everywhere. The hard part is trying to catch 'em.

    Take the case of Jimmy Lee Cook, for instance. Two years ago, when Cook was 40, he pretended in writing to be an underage male on YouTube in an effort to solicit sexually explicit videos from an 11-year-old who lived in Indiana. Authorities received a tip and arrested Cook in his Virginia home (courts sentenced him to 160 months in prison for possession of child pornography), but not before the damage had been done. According to those familiar who followed these stories, police didn't discover Cook for three years.

    Just last week, Steven Allabaugh, a 21-year-old Pennsylvanian man, was arrested for using Facebook to lure a 14-year-old to his house, where he recorded the two having sex. And on Thursday, a woman named Jennifer Dempsey was arrested in Phoenix for hatching quite a likeminded scheme—with two boys, ages 14 and 12. 

    There’s an even scarier and seedier underbelly to the Internet exposed by the tragic Amanda Todd saga that unfolded at the end of last year. The 15-year-old Canadian girl commited suicide after years of online sexual harassment at the alleged hands of Dakota "Kody" Maxson. Todd became a target after she briefly flashed a webcam in a chatroom in 2010, exposing herself to a pedophilic "capper" community that would coerce kids into stripping naked and then record—or snap screenshots of—their every move. The cappers would then use that footage as blackmail to secure their victims’ silence and further explicit acts, going so far as to create a YouTube show, The Daily Capper, to brag about the exploits.

    Those still in doubt about the dangers lurking online need to look no further than MSNBC's To Catch a Predator. The show, which ran for three years and made Chris Hansen a household name, was dedicated to the outing and eventual arrest of child predators, and it worked quite well. Over three years, To Catch a Predator was involved in the arrest of 12 pedophiles.


    The man who trolls YouTube for young girls under the guise of Ikon Modeling has done so since at least Oct. 29, 2012, when he first laid eyes on a girl from South Carolina who'd been posting videos on her sister's YouTube account.

    "Our agency would like to hire you as a model," he wrote to the girl. "Do you have a Skype to prove that you are the gorgeous girl in the videos? We can give you our website/proof first, just ask."

    The girl got so excited that she posted a video diary detailing the initial exchange that evening. Two days later, after she'd had the chance to talk it over with her mother, she posted another clip, one that told Ikon that she couldn't sign up for an account. "My computer won't let me email," she said. "I've asked my mom to show me, but she doesn't know."

    A string of similar videos followed. On Nov. 3, an 11-year-old named Faith angrily took to her YouTube channel just one day after posting a video that featured her conspicuously moving around in the dark in tight clothing.

    "Don't ever listen to them," she pleaded in a video titled "I Hate Icon Modeling" [sic]. "They're freaking scammers." She said that Ikon tried to hold a video conference with her on Skype but balked when she wanted to get her parents involved.

    Another preteen posted to her YouTube channel that same day. This time, the girl sniffed Ikon out.

    "A real modeling agency doesn't make a YouTube account," she said. "They also email people. They don't ask to video chat you."

    That girl said that she'd modeled before and wanted to get into acting. She's made tons of videos for her YouTube channel before, sometimes three or four in a day. Just prior to making the "Ikon Modeling?" video on Nov. 3, she'd posted videos of herself and her friends dancing in her bedroom in tank tops and tight pants.

    A 10-year-old named Hailey followed one day later to say that Ikon asked her if she wanted to be a model.

    "They want to ooVoo me," she said, referring to the moderately used video chat platform. "Dude, I'm 10. I'm not going to ooVoo a stranger. I'm not going near you. Just leave me alone, please."

    Siara followed, then Serenity, then Leah B. On Jan. 3, an anonymous community member who goes by anEthicalSociety took to Google's product forums to point out a glaring weakness in YouTube's governing system.

    "Child predators cannot be reported if they avoid posting videos or public comments because the Child Endangerment report cannot be submitted without citing such content," anEthicalSociety wrote. "This loophole needs to be fixed! Child predators can work by private messages alone."

    AnEthicalSociety has a point. The way the system sets up, YouTube's current Safety and Abuse reporting process requires that a reporter provide an example of abuse in a public comment or posted video. Third-party testimonials won't work. If you try to draft a narrative within the notes, the reporting system won't let you. Users cannot submit a report without citing an example from one of the aforementioned categories. (YouTube did not respond to the Daily Dot's request for comment. Skype, for what it's worth, wrote back that it "takes customers' privacy very seriously" and offers "a built-in privacy feature that can restrict who is able and who is not able to contact you." That’s good news for victims of repeat stalkers, but Ikon Modeling has yet to strike the same girl twice.)

    Ikon Modeling's YouTube channel is empty: The man behind it has neither uploaded any videos nor submitted any comments. All of the communications he had with the girls had been in private, effectively out of Google's reach. Despite more than eight testimonials alluding to this guy's tricks, Ikon Modeling has operated without a trace.


    The woman behind the real Ikon Modeling couldn't believe it when she found out.

    "You have no idea how many people I've had to speak with about this," Cynthia Saldana told me when I reached her on the telephone. She explained that her agency would never turn to YouTube to scout out new talent. In fact, Saldana largely only takes incoming calls. If you want to model, the agency requires a "professional portfolio or composite cards," its website clearly states.

    "You should send at least one clear head shot and one clear body shot," the website adds. "Your head shot should clearly show your entire face, and your body shot should give us a good idea of your build and body type …. Please DO NOT send any nude photographs."

    Saldana wouldn't speak to me further after learning that I planned to write a story on the subject, but her website bears witness to the issue at hand. Below the homepage banner that cycles through photos of undeniably adult-aged models, a block of red lettering explains: "Ikon NY does not scout or contact people over the Internet, not on YouTube or any other site.

    "The only way we would contact you about an open-call meeting is if you had submitted your photos directly to our email address first. Please do not be fooled by anyone contacting you who says they work for Ikon. They are absolutely not part of this company!"


    So who exactly is this person purporting to be Ikon Modeling? YouTube's account creation system makes it extremely difficult to tell.

    There's no name or alternative information to glean from it, other than the username and date joined—Oct. 23, 2012, six days before he contacted the girl in South Carolina—and a link to the user’s Google+ account that leads to a 404 error message.  

    But it's on that South Carolina girl's video that another preteen named Kenzie reports to have had a conversation on Skype with the man who claimed to be from Ikon Modeling, someone who held a username on Skype of thezigmeister88.

    I sent a contact request to thezigmeister88 and was able to pull up a brief sampling of his profile information in return. He's the same person described at the top of this story: white, short-haired, and dressed in a dark collared short-sleeve. He lists his birthday as Nov. 11, 1987—making him 25. At the top of his profile, his name reads "William Something."

    Google searches for "thezigmeister88" only yield results from the aforementioned YouTube thread, which lists "thezigmeister88" as the Skype account in question. However, a searches for similar names reveal an outdated Myspace page owned by a guy who looks strikingly similar to thezigmeister88. What's more, the profile lists his name as Will and contains the same photo that thezigmeister88 uses on his Skype profile.

    A PeekYou entry a few search results down identifies the person in the Myspace profile as a 25-year-old male in Florida.


    Looking at other accounts that appear to be held by the same person, William is not a treacherous online predator.

    On Facebook, he's a loving brother and son who poses for pictures with his grandmother and wrestles with his sister. He goes camping with his family, and went sailing on a school trip with his friends around San Francisco and nearby Monterey.

    He's written poems about the smell of change and the girls he couldn't get. In typical young-20s fashion, he once assembled a photo gallery to celebrate the French actress Audrey Tautou. He studied entomology—insects—and he hasn't reported to have moved from the Florida area since.

    He even has a Pinterest page, listed under a variation of the same username. The profile pictures line up, and the Facebook account is connected. On it are two boards: one for the childhood toys that bring back good memories and another for his favorite places.

    That same handle leads to darker secrets. Google that one and you'll find links to profiles that direct to shadier websites: CamFuze, a webcam and chat site whose front page features a whole mess of guys holding tightly to their penises, and a recently deleted account on Motherless, an amateur shockporn site whose child-porn moderation is notoriously insufficient. He's active on BlackPlanet, a site that touts itself as "the largest black community online," and he holds a presence on Filipina Online, a low-tech Filipino dating site. He has one friend on StickAm, a seedy live-broadcasting site he joined in 2010. The woman's username is DickInMyButt, and she loves to show her fans her breasts.


    On Jan. 10, a 20-year-old named Mandy Harter logged onto her Skype profile and started chatting with William about the opportunities that could come as a result of working with him at Ikon Modeling.

    He fed her the lines that Emily had reported and the ones that the other girls had said that he delivers, writing that he'd offer her Ikon's "licensed websites and video" in an effort to convince her that he's real. After chatting about career aspirations, he went in for the kill.

    "Do you have a webcam to prove that you are the gorgeous person in your pics/video from explore talent and to see if you are qualified when standing?" he asked. She said that she did but that she was wearing pajamas. William told her pajamas wouldn't be a problem "unless you absolutely hate being seen in them or they aren't appropriate." Three minutes later, she turned on her camera.

    Shortly after admiring Mandy and complimenting her "skintone/complexion and full lips" and "great tummy and figure," William laid out the full details of the scheme.

    "You can make up to $3,000 depending on how well you try/do during the audition, and you can decide to join after or quit if you don't want a modeling career.

    "We express mail the money, flown to your nearest airport and posted to the address you decide… [A]fter finishing, the notes I take go to my boss and he decides if you passed… [I]f you decide to join after auditioning, we send representatives to rent a studio/warehouse closest to your location to start your portfolio.

    "Then we present your portfolio to other agencies/magazines and they offer jobs for you to choose from, so whatever clothes you want to model you can choose those jobs.

    "If you decide to have pics taken in the audition, we can get them signed by a celeb like Justin Bieber, Taylor Lautner, Channing Tatum, Zac Efron, Chris Brown, Drake, etc.

    "Then if your pics impress him enough, he will want to come meet or date you."

    The two chatted a little more about nude photography and whether Mandy had other talents. When he learned that she was 20, he told her that she could try "any type of modeling you have the confidence for," then equated nude modeling to Playboy. The two chatted for an hour.

    William told Mandy he had to leave 10 minutes after she told him that she'd found Ikon's website.


    No arrests have been made, but the chase for William is on.

    AnEthicalSociety and others have spent the past two months passing their exploits to CyberTips, a national tipline for missing and exploited children; anEthicalSociety told me he received a call from Tallahassee's Internet Crimes Against Children unit Friday, Jan. 18.

    On Jan. 16 and again on Jan. 24, I fielded calls from a member of the Homeland Security Investigations team in Tallahassee. The man was looking for information on an Internet personality known as TheZigmeister. I offered what I had, and he told me he'd move swiftly.

    William has since adjusted his Skype profile to include less information than it had in prior days. He's simply thezigmeister 88 at this point—all references to his first name have been removed.

    On Jan. 27, anEthicalSociety wrote to inform me that William's Ikon Modeling channel was down. "This channel was closed and is no longer available," the page read. Clicking the link redirected to a 404. Two days later, I clicked on the link to discover that YouTube had provided some sort of an explanation. "The account has been terminated," the page read, "due to multiple or severe violations of our Community Guidelines."

    Back on Skype, his picture has been replaced by a generic white silhouette on a blue background. Instead of purporting to be from New York, he's listed as living in the United States. His birthday's been erased.

    He's trying to vanish without a trace. 

    Ed. note: This story was originally scheduled to run Jan. 25. Publication was suspended in cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security. It has been updated to clarify ownership of the Ikon Modeling YouTube account and clarify some background information.

    Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III

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    Like most of us, writer Jon Millward has spent the last few months thinking about porn on the internet. He's been crunching numbers taken from 10,000 profiles of porn stars on the Internet Adult Film Database, compiling the data—heights, weights, and bra sizes; roles, movie titles, and sex acts; names, races and birthplaces—into an impressive infographic that finally answers burning questions like what is the average age of a "MILF"?and what is more popular, butts or boobs?

    The answers may surprise you! Or they may not. Or you may find yourself wondering how accurate the information at is, and how comprehensive it is as a survey of porn stars—very, on both counts, Millward believes, though statistics like number of films and length of career may be skewed by performers whose foray into pornography is so brief no profiles are ever made.

    But it seems fair to assume that some of the more basic demographic information is right. Among the things we might learn from (the processed data of) 10,000 porn stars:

    • The most common bra size is 34B, and most female porn performers are brunettes.
    • The top porn star-producing state is California, which has birthed four times as many porn stars (939) as its next-closest rival Florida (at 216). (After Florida come Texas, New York and Ohio.)
    • Internationally, Hungary and the Czech Republic follow the United States as the most common birth places of porn stars.
    • The most common role for women in porn: "teen." Followed by: "MILF," "wife" "cheerleader" and "nurse."
    • The average age of performers playing "MILFs": 33. Only 7 percent are over 40 years old.
    • "Butts," and its synonyms, appear in porn titles twice as frequently as "boobs" and its synonyms. Peak butts was reached in 2006.

    The full infographic is below. (Mildly linguistically NSFW.) You can read Millward's analysis of his data at his blog here.

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    Have you ever wanted something so much you’d enlist the help of half a million people to make the wish come true? For Tumblr user thatsmoderatelyraven, a.k.a. Peyton, that desire came in the form of a cute, fluffy chicken.

    On Jan. 26, Peyton posted the screenshot below to Tumblr—a simple plea that proved quite effective. It immediately went viral and, after nearly three weeks, has garnered the requested 500,000 notes—Tumblr’s equivalent of a Facebook Like—leading some users to proclaim Feb. 17 as Fluffy Chicken Day.

    Along the way, the campaign inspired a Know Your Meme entry and a countdown site for people to check how close Peyton was to her goal. Followers contributed fanart and an inevitable Comic Sans Powerpoint meme. Peyton gained over 40,000 new followers in a week, all of whom are eagerly awaiting the first photos of the chicken. Some are even trying to get the bird on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

    In case you’re curious about the fluffy chicken Peyton posted about, it’s a Silkie. If you scroll down to the Popular Culture section of its Wikipedia page you’ll notice that a reference to Peyton’s post has already been included.

    Photo by fantasticallyclever

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    Okc_ebooks creator Sam Kriss made a fake female profile on the dating site OkCupid, through which he responds to unsolicited messages from men with quotes from @horse_ebooks, the surreal Twitter bot that streams nonsensical snippets of text. The result: dozens of conversations from horny men desperately vying to have sex with a robot.


    That men on dating websites are desperate enough to forge conversations with aleatory internet patter is not in itself surprising. For women who receive an abundance of unsolicited messages from men, it is effortless to reject a would-be suitor. There is no need to give an “I have a boyfriend” or even a “no.” Thus, to some men, any response at all from a woman is encouragement enough to try to keep the conversation going, even if that response is “Almost immediately Together Turned immediately Immediately Immediately Immediately Immediately Immediately Immediately Immediately.”

    What is surprising—to me, anyway—is how perfectly Okc_ebooks illustrates both the objectification of women and the way communication is degraded by pick-up artists.

    I operate PUA.txt, a Twitter and Tumblr outfit that features a mix of repulsive and pathetic quotes from pick-up artist message boards. Having spent a few months trawling the “seduction community” where men share canned routines for “opening” (i.e., talking to) women, it’s fascinating to see their scripted conversations play out from the opposite perspective, that of a robot horse.


    PUA routines diverge from other cliche pick-up lines (“Your legs must be tired…”) in that many PUAs believe their routines have an almost hypnotic pull and are grounded in psychology about the “female brain” and specious ideas about evolution and “human nature” that even a stoned philosophy undergrad would be embarrassed to say aloud.

    PUAs avidly share these incantations online like video game cheat codes or In-and-Out secret menu items. When PUAs discuss routines, they frequently put filler text like “bla bla” in place of the “target’s” (i.e., woman’s) dialogue, as anything she might say is presumed irrelevant while she’s being razzle-dazzled by a fast-talking man wearing eyeliner and a fedora. The hypothetical woman who will soon be bothered by a weirdo on the bus is treated with no subjectivity; no matter what she says, the PUA’s next line in the script remains essentially the same. The resultant one-sided conversation is a hollow parody of human interaction.

    Online routines are less varied, since there is no opportunity to do a magic trick or casually touch a woman’s hair to activate her attraction zones. On dating sites, the PUA’s aim is to distinguish himself among many messengers by provoking a woman’s sense of insecurity or curiosity.

    Yet the same denial of a woman’s subjectivity is present, perhaps to an even greater extent. Take, for example, this PUA who runs through three different routines, gets no response other than “OK,” then asks his colleagues if the woman is “flirting or being a bitch.” Like all good hustlers, PUAs are loath to take “no” for an answer,even when they’re talking to a Twitter horse. They seem genuinely oblivious or hostile to the fact that women enjoy the agency to reject potential paramours, no many how many alpha male traits their dating profile conveys.

    Sam, @horse_ebooks’ dating coach, told me via email: ”There was an article on ABC News about it where the gist was ‘here’s how to fend off internet creepers,’ which is bollocks. A lot of people just get angrier or hornier.”

    As for the PUAs caught in Okc_ebooks’ net, their routines are much more enjoyable to read when “bla bla” has been replaced by equally meaningless palaver. Take this routine, which relies on women being fascinated by mystical nonsense:


    This is a pick-up artist talking to a horse robot and claiming he just read its personality. If they had continued talking, “her” responses would have continued to be irrelevant (in case you were wondering, next he would have offered to tell herover dinner what aspects of her personality could be divined from her fondness for strawberries, along with her lucky lotto numbers for the week).

    Even if a real woman had been involved, this kind of exchange would not constitute real interhuman communication, any more than would an exchange between reality TV actors after having been told by their producer to “bitch up that last take.” Instead, this is a PUA acting out another PUA’s creepy fanfiction verbatim to an ebook aggregator. As one Twitter follower asked, ”if a PUA guy talks to horse_ebooks, is anyone really speaking at all?”

    Devoid of actual communication, the only remainder of the conversation between @horse_ebooks and a PUA is the context of one man’s desire to have sex with a picture of a woman. As Sam attested, “These people are talking by rote. I’ve had people send the same message to several of my accounts, some in different continents, all with the same avatars. They’re completely oblivious. It’s a horse robot talking to a meat robot.”

    But, at the end of the day, conversations on dating websites are regularly initiated and engaged in with that singular goal in mind. In messages between two actual people, the context is both overt and overwhelming, even if participants sometimes refrain from coming right out and saying exactly what they want to do to the other. By that rubric, men using canned PUA routines are as insincere as anyone else flirting online—including, perhaps, @horse_ebooks itself, as Sam suggested:

    One of the major criticisms of PUA is the fact that it turns human interaction into this weird grotesque number game. But that’s exactly what online communication does a lot of the time: it follows the logic of the computer, input and output. And given that the horse robot is made out of the ephemera of online language—sales patter, ad copy, technical specifications, whatever—she fits right in on OkCupid, where everyone’s kinda advertising themselves.

    OkCupid is itself a numbers name, with analytics ranging from precise compatibility scores to selectivity of responses. The schlubs who blast out hundreds of messages hoping for a nibble are playing a numbers game the site facilitates almost by design. If a man gauges his online dating success solely by the amount of phone numbers he snags, doesn’t it make sense for him to embrace the sexual context that everyone is aware of? Isn’t it more effective to abandon the pretense of engaging in original, real communication and become, well, more like @horse_ebooks?

    “Someone said it was an ‘anti-Turing Test,’ and I think that’s kinda true,” wrote Sam, whose personal blog is also worth reading. “In our communications we’re less human than the decontextualised content of those communications; even when it comes to things like love and sex, @horse_ebooks seems more alive than her suitors.”

    Or, as @horse_ebooks might put it, “Human Optimization for.”


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    There doesn't seem to be anything indecent about a picture showing a breast cancer survivor's tattoo covering her bare chest. But Facebook keeps pulling it, and users are complaining.

    The image, which has garnered 110,000 shares since Feb. 13, shows the clothes-free torso of a woman who has recovered from a double mastectomy. An elaborate tattoo of a woodland scene is draped across her. 

    It appears on the Custom Tattoo Design page and reads, "Facebook keeps removing the post in 24hour as an offensive photo do [sic] to nudity."

    "However we feel this woman is both brave and strong so we're going to post it anyways and ask for your awareness and support," the comment continues. 

    Facebook's alleged deletion of the picture has garnered more than 16,000 angry comments. Numerous users call the picture "beautiful," are calling the women "courageous," and are sharing their personal tales of how breast cancer affected them.

    "I think it's beautiful and if Facebook thinks this is offensive then they should look at some of the other sites on Facebook there is no nudity here unlike other pages," wrote Roxanne Firman.

    The Daily Dot has reached out to Facebook to confirm if the picture was pulled in the past, and if so, for what reason. We have not yet heard back.

    The site's Terms of Services read that nudity is not allowed on Facebook, like the group claims, but what defines nudity isn't defined. (However, since the image is taken from a book about women and tattoos, perhaps Facebook is taking it down due to copyright infringement.)

    Facebook has riled up its users in the past for inexplicably censoring a not-so-nude picture. In November, the site censored a woman's elbows. (In all fairness, they look like nipples in the thumbnail.)

    Photo via Custom Tattoo Design/Facebook

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    In a morbid but perhaps inevitable turn, you can now browse the final tweets of the recently deceased. Set up by Michael McWatters and Jamie Forrest, The Tweet Hereafter updates regularly with the most recent posts from notable Twitter users who have just passed away.

    The idea came about after the sudden death of conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart, whose final words on the microblogging site were an apology for calling someone a putz during an online argument. Fittingly, Forrest and McWatters’ resulting exchange took place on Twitter as well:

    After the final tweet of model Reeva Steenkamp, found dead at the home of her Olympic runner boyfriend Oscar Pistorius, was publicized last week, the idea of online life after death has become a hot topic once again. Is it appropriate to analyse a person’s online presence after they are dead?

    Looking at the messages collated on The Tweet Hereafter, it’s difficult not to look for hidden meaning. Hauntingly, the most recent update reads: “Things have been hectic. But I’m still here.” It’s the final message of country singer Mindy McCready, who was found dead in her home yesterday.

    For those who are concerned about the state of their Internet legacy after death, there are already several options on offer. DeadSocial sets up tweets and Facebook messages to be released at pre-planned intervals, whereas LivesOn (“When your heart stops beating, you’ll keep tweeting.”) takes a more proactive approach. The LivesOn app, due to launch in March of this year, is designed to maintain a facsimile of the user’s Twitter feed after death. After tracking the user’s syntax and retweeting habits, LivesOn will attempt to recreate the user’s Twitter style, with occasional input from an executor who was nominated by the user when they originally signed up for the service.

    Like The Tweet Hereafter, apps such as DeadSocial and LivesOn are bound to be controversial—even if they are used with the express permission of the deceased. But The Tweet Hereafter co-creator Jamie Forrest is philosophical about the situation, writing: “The site is certainly morbid, sometimes interesting, quite often meaningless. But we hope it makes you think a little bit.”

    Photo via

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    Tough love. A mother is pressing charges against her daughter and two other people who were buying weed publicly on Twitter.

    The Sandy, Utah, mom trawled her child's Twitter account and text messages after discovering she had marijuana. She found that her daughter and another 13-year-old girl had arranged to buy the drug from an 18-year-old male.

    “They were all telling each other who had what marijuana, who didn’t have it, who was coming and who smoked. They all pretty much put it out there,” said the anonymous mother, hinting that the arrangement was made through tweets rather than direct messages.

    She set up a sting with the alleged dealer at the girls' middle school, where police arrested all three teens. They arrested Maxwell Curtis on drug possession charges and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

    Police said they found evidence of marijuana in one girl's locker and the other's bag. The mother, praised by school officials and police for monitoring her daughter's social networking activity, pressed charges against the girls. 

    “I pressed charges against her for paraphernalia and possession so she was arrested,” she said. “I love my daughter and if it’s tough love and she hates me for it, I hope one day she forgives me because kids don't know what they’re doing.” The girls are set to appear in front of a juvenile court judge.

    The mother added that she's shut her daughter's Twitter account down before, but she'd opened another under a different handle. "They think it's their private message board, where their five friends are reading it, but it's out there," she added.

    Screengrab via Fox 13 Now

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    Today is February 19, which means that there are only 10 more days left in Black History Month. By now you've surely heard the facts and stories: how Frederick Douglass learned to read; how Harriet Tubman freed her people; the enduring legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    But there's an entirely different angle to celebrating Black History Month, one steeped in understanding the lesser known facts—or complete falsities—behind some of our country's greatest African American heroes and happenings. For that, we have Little Known Black History Facts, a Tumblr page Louisville, Ky., writer and humorist Tracy Clayton has managed since 2008.

    In that time, it's grown into 34 pages of outlandish African American falsehoods and stereotypes, from identifying the first person to refer to something as a"hot mess" to recognizing the first woman to "claim that she doesn't hang out with a lot of females because they're too much drama."

    "It all started as a hashtag," Clayton wrote to the Daily Dot. "I'm a Twitter addict, and I love a good, fun hashtag. By the third hour, I said to myself, 'Someone should compile all these.' So, I made a quick little Tumblr to keep them in, and decided to revive it and add more 'facts' each February for Black History Month."

    In that time, Little Known Black History Facts has grown from Clayton's own baby to a Web-wide phenomenon, with people posting their own facts elsewhere online (though Clayton says that the many of them are tasteless and disrespectful).

    Toeing that line is something that must be done carefully, and it's there that Clayton excels.

    CORRECTION: A previous version of this story stated that Little Known Black History Facts accepts reader submissions. It doesn't, but several others have posted their own facts elsewhere on the Web.

    Photo via Little Known Black History Facts

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    Would asteroid DA14 really leave a crater the size of Monaco if it collided with the Earth's surface? Do humans really radiate 100 watts of energy in the infrared? Did dinosaurs really predate flowers in our planet's evolutionary timeline? 

    We now have reason to doubt every pearl of wisdom doled out by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on Twitter

    Recently, Tyson got a little media attention after calculating the weight of Thor's hammer, Mjölnir, as being more than the gross tonnage of 300 billion elephants. But one researcher from North Carolina State University thinks the Pluto-killing, Daily Show–schmoozing science rock star made a crucial error in his calculations.

    Although the math behind Tyson's Tweet is solid, Suveen Mathaudhu, an adjunct materials science professor at NC State and fervent comic book enthusiast, says Tyson got the mythology of Thor wrong. Tyson's calculations are based on the idea that Mjölnir is "made of neutron-star matter," which Mathaudhu said simply isn't the case.

    "The critical mistake Tyson makes is thinking that Mjolnir was forged of the core of a dying star, when it was actually forged in the core of a dying star,' Mathaudhu told The Abstract. "It’s well documented that the hammer is made out of 'Uru,' a fictional metal from Thor’s native realm of Asgard."

    At which point the comic book and scientific communities each chimed in with a collective "oh, snap!"

    Mathaudhu backed up his claim with documentary evidence, specifically a 1991 Mjölnir trading card that explicitly states the hammer's weight: 42.3 pounds. Using the dimensions and weight described on the card, Mathaudhu estimates Mjölnir's density at roughly 2.13 grams per cubic centimeter, which would make Uru lighter than aluminum.

    But if that's the case, how is Mjölnir such an effective weapon? Mathaudhu has a theory about that, too.

    “Perhaps Uru is the ‘holy grail’ of high-pressure physics: a form of metallic hydrogen,” he said. “Some predictions of the density of metallic hydrogen fall into this range, it requires extreme conditions to form, and could be a tremendous energy source. It’s thought to be present at the core of planets, such as Jupiter, and at the core of suns—which are stars, after all.”

    Tyson has not responded to this counter-argument, nor has he returned the Daily Dot's eager, fan-boyish request for comment. As for Mathaudhu, there is no indication that he is working to get Pluto reinstated as a planet. 

    Photo by Richard Davies /

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