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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Facebook has made no secret of its desire to mature into a content delivery system, positioning itself to replace paper boys and traditional news sites as the way most of us get our news. 

    But this change is not just superficial. New research suggest the news we get from our friends on Facebook and other social media sites is measurably more positive, exhibiting a break from the traditional "news values" that have typically decided what is or is not "newsworthy."

    In his new book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Penn University Professor Jonah Berger details the findings of multiple research studies that examine what causes us to share information with one another.

    "With all the emphasis on 'It bleeds, it leads' in traditional news, it was surprising to see that when it comes to sharing, positive news is actually more likely to go viral," Berger told the Daily Dot.

    "If it bleeds, it leads" is the mantra ascribed to conventional news editors to describe their perceived preoccupation with shocking news about crime, wars, and disasters. But Berger said the business model of traditional news outlets is what has created this definition of newsworthiness. It's all about getting eyeballs, he said. People will tune in to hear negative news, but they are more likely to share positive news.

    Take for example the current No. 2 post on social-sharing behemoth BuzzFeed: "25 Things That Will Definitely Make You Smile." (No. 1 is about dogs making funny faces.)

    Traditional outlets don't necessarily care if a story elicits a negative emotional response from their audience. That's the difference between traditional news outlets and social media users who share news. Social media users typically have an investment in how their friends and family feel, and thus don't want to be perceived as "Debbie Downers" online. Berger said if anything, social news dissemination exhibits a "Polly Positive bias"

    To verify this theory, Berger and his research partner, Katherine Milkman, examined how a particular set of stories from the New York Times website where shared over social media. Correcting for the placement of news stories on the Times site, Berger and Milkman found much higher rates of sharing for stories that were generally positive and intriguing, the kinds of things that you might actually bring up with friends in conversation. 

    Hence, researchers found a much higher rate of sharing for science stories than non-science stories. Milkman said those stories were much more likely to inspire feelings of awe and wonder.

    "I think a key takeaway from our research is that printing positive as well as negative news makes sense if a primary objective is to encourage readers to share content," she said. "Our work also highlights the benefits of writing stories about science and discovery given that awe-inducing stories are among the most widely shared."

    That's not to say that negative news has no place in the modern age. The researchers found negative stories that inspired feelings of anger, shock or anxiety were still shared quite a bit. However, stories that just left readers feeling sad were usually the least shared. Still, even some sad stories were more likely to be shared than stories that were completely neutral. Milkman said eliciting an emotional response was key to a stories viral potential.

    This all raises the question of whether or not changing social media trends will lead to a watering down of news. But the researcher say enough news is still obtained through old-fashioned outlets to create a balance.

    "Of course it remains important to cover all the news that’s fit to print (sad or not)," Milkman explained. "Keep in mind that more emotional stories are more widely shared than neutral stories, so sad news beats some news. It’s just that sad news is less viral than news tinged with other emotional characteristics."

    H/T New York Times | Photo by NS Newsflash/Flickr

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    With phony job offers on Craigslist, scammers are enticing young people to Mexico, where gangs of criminals wait to strip the victims’ car and maybe worse.

    U-T San Diegotells the story of 18-year-old Nate Dirkmaat, who was on a semester break from Brigham Young University when he came across an ad on Craigslist that sounded like a great gig. Habitat for Humanity—the charity that builds affordable housing around the world—was paying $21.50 an hour for drivers. Dirkmaat could earn some cash and help people out at the same time.

    He set up a meeting with the man who posted the ad on March 2 at a coffee shop in Mission Valley, Calif. The man told Dirkmaat he'd have to go on a "tour" in Mexico first before getting hired. At that point Dirkmaat—who'd already handed over copies of his Social Security card, birth certificate, driver’s license, and vehicle registration—got suspicious. He left the meeting and told his parents about it.

    They called Habitat for Humanity, who confirmed it was all a scam. And not the first of its kind, either.

    The representative told them a story of a another young man didn't get suspicious until it was almost too late. He had driven down for the "tour" in Tijuana, where someone showed him the charity's supposed home-building project. It must have been wholly unimpressive, because the young man suddenly got very worried. Something was off. He returned to his SUV—only to find a group of men preparing to strip it. According to U-T San Diego, the kid managed jump back into the car and sped off.

    Since then, the scam has morphed. Dirkmaat's mother said she's found ads with the exact same name and number for the Salvation Army.

    There are some obvious lessons to learn from this story: Don't go down to Tijuana for a Craigslist job offer that has nothing to do with Tijuana, and for Christ's sake, don't hand over all your identifying information to a stranger you just met in a coffee shop. “They could totally open a credit card in his name,” Dirkmaat's mother told U-T San Diego. That, or worse.

    Photo by zemistor/Flickr

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    The technosphere is reeling over #Donglegate, the firing of an unnamed programmer after Adria Richards called him out via Twitter for uncomfortable sexualized jokes he made at a programmers' conference—and the subsequent firing of Richards herself after the Internet responded with a massive backlash that has included doxing, rape and death threats, and denial of service (DDoS) attacks on her website and that of her former company, SendGrid.

    And all this is over a single incident at a conference that had extremely positive feedback from the women in attendance, and an incredibly high number of women attending (at least for the tech world). 

    But is this really an isolated incident or a sign of something larger going on within the community? I spoke with Valerie Aurora, cofounder of the Ada Initiative, an advocacy group for women in tech and geek culture. Aurora and the Ada Initiative were also recently involved in speaking out against a tech conference environment that made them uncomfortable, much to the chagrin of many attendants. We spoke to her about the rising tensions in tech culture and the possibilities for preventing incidents like this one—and the subsequent massive fallout—from happening to techies in the future.

    Daily Dot: What is going on in the technosphere right now?!

    Sexism in tech has been a problem for a long time, but people have been trying to keep it underground and under wraps. I think part of what's happened is that the Internet has given women the ability to share their stories. We've tried to paper over all these fault lines but there are underlying problems of major, underlying issues in tech. It's not so much this incident itself as this growing feeling of, 'hey, there's something wrong here; women deserve to be treated as people.'

    Is this tied in with Anita Sarkeesian, the Skepchick backlash, etc? Are these all connected or are they individual skirmishes?

    There are all personal connections between different people and groups, in that we share various tools and teach each other how to use them. So for example, Rebecca Watson stating that she won't speak at a conference unless it has a sexual harassment policy. This is actually something that began in science fiction conventions and spread to tech conventions. And of course, clearly the people who oppose [women in tech] are also sharing the same tactics, like rape threats and doxing, etc.

    Is this a culture that's arising from the culture around the computer industry, or is it a culture that's arising from communities like 4chan? 

    The feeling has always been there in our culture. What I think the Internet has changed is that it's made it lower cost for people to express their sexist and racist comments or feelings. So most people feel that  they can safely make these comments without being punished. And I think that may be part of why this incident is so huge; people felt safe making sexist comments in what they thought was a crowd. ... I feel like these opinions have been there already; it's just that people have more opportunity to express them without consequences. For the vast majority of people sending [Richards] rape threats there will be no cost. They won't get fired, their names won't be on the Internet.

    Do you feel like the solution was to fire the programmer?

    I don't have enough information to know that. If there was a situation where there'd been like five other incidents, then that would be it, right? None of us knows. [Note: Playhaven, the employer of the fired programmer, has since clarified their decision.] I do know that Adria... certainly didn't suggest it.

    Is this "shoot the messenger" mentality more acceptable in tech culture, or is it society-wide?

    I think that a key element of what got her fired was Anonymous, in that in Internet tech culture, when you upset the guys who like the sexist jokes, what you get is a massive hacker account.

    A Denial of Service.

    Right, all across everything—her website, their website. And it allows people to disrupt your business very easily. If you put together a boycott, people have to passionately care and be committed to social justice before the boycott has any effect. If you put together a Denial of Service attack, all you need is a bunch of computers that you've broken into. It's a way of distorting social pressure so that it has a much greater effect.

    Does SendGrid have reasonable grounds for firing her?

    That's an interesting question and it also applies to the other firing. There's always more information than we have. It's important to keep in mind that we don't know everything. I don't know whether they had reasonable grounds to fire her. What I do know is that by firing her they sent a message to women in tech all over the world.

    What was that message?

    Don't speak up. It's an interesting thing. People will say they want sexism to end, but they won't support any of the things you have to do to end it. There's no reason for people to stop being sexist if they have no reason to worry about being sexist.

    Do you agree with Richards's method? She basically outed these guys.

    I do notice that many of the people who support the Reddit jailbait photos of underage women in sexual positions taken without their consent, are also the same people who are suddenly saying, 'Wait, now that it's a white guy who's a programmer, taking his picture and posting it without his consent? That's not cool.' So there's some level of hypocrisy going on. It's clear that people differ on whether that was a good move. It does seem clear to me that the reason to do it was to remove that level of anonymity, because they were faceless and nameless in the crowd.

    What's the ideal safe environment for a woman to have a productive time at a tech conference like this?

    Well, it's a very long list, and there's actually a good page on the Geek Feminism Wiki called Women-Friendly Events. The important thing, I think, is to listen to what women say and to understand that women are different and have different needs and feelings, both from each other and from people with other genders.

    That's pretty basic.

    [Laughter] Yes, but a lot of people don't understand.

    PyCon actually seemed to do a good job of making their environment safe, and I saw that you ran a Feminist Hacker Lounge. What, if anything, can we learn from PyCon?

    I think what we can learn is that if you do all of the things that all of the women-in-tech activists have been saying you should do, you can get a record percentage of women at your conference. I saw one tweet saying that there were over 20% women at Pycon. That is unheard of. And I think that that may also be part of why there's so much backlash on this particular incident. Doing all these things, having a code of conduct at your conference, having lots and lots of encouragement for women in tech, works, and it brings women into the community, and for whatever reason people don't want that. And if you're against that, then that was a pretty depressing thing to see.

    Why do you think the "it was just a joke" refrain is so popular with the people who are backlashing against Richards right now?

    I'd refer people to the "Lighten Up" blogpost. It's a classic way to belittle and trivialize other people's real experiences. If it's the case that you do want more women in tech then it shouldn't matter that it's a joke.

    The thing that struck me about Adria's blog post was that she thought about herself, and it wasn't enough to take action, but then she thought about that little girl who had just joined PyCon. "It's just a joke" that's keeping you daughters from becoming computer programmers.

    Has this overshadowed all the inclusivity of PyCon?

    I think that depends on what happens over the next week. The jury's still out on whether this will be a net-positive or a net-negative, and it really depends on what people like your readers will do in the next few days.

    How do moments like this affect the Ada Initiative and the work that you do?

    It's both discouraging and causes me to work harder. There are some days when you say, 'Is this worth doing or am I having an impact?' And when you see something like this, you say, "Wow, this is really important work to do: this is affecting the entire future of technology and the entire future of our culture, because it's so Internet-based." So it's a kick in the pants, in both senses.

    Is there any way to turn this into a positive?

    I think one way to make this a positive is to donate to Black Girls Code. I was shocked and horrified—and I should not be shocked and horrified, but it's because I'm not a Person of Color—that people were using racist epithets about her, including the N-word. It's about both her gender and her race. I think that race is an important dimension in this story as well.

    Is it ever OK to just laugh it off? If she hadn't thought about that girl and just said, "OK, I'm going to move on." Would that have been doing everyone a favor?

    It's hard to say. If everyone always does that, nothing will change—and it seems like things get worse, even, if we're not fighting sexism. Look at everyone who thought that sexism was over 20, 30 years ago. In each individual case, it's hard to tell what the greatest effect is going to have. But it's also really important for people to consider how much they can take at that moment. Everyone has their own ability to fight at any particular time. Somebody has to speak up sometime, or we're never gonna fix this.

    Photo via the Ada Initiative

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    A video allegedly showing a young girl being sexually abused by an older man proliferated rapidly across Facebook last night, sparking outrage. It took eight hours for Facebook to delete the clip, by which time it had gathered 32,000 shares and over 5,000 likes. 

    In a statement, Facebook acknowledged the video's existence, confirming the dozens of reports from Twitter users, many of whom were furious such a thing had shown up in their newsfeed. 

    In a misguided attempt to raise awareness, some took screengrabs of the video and posted those to Twitter, too.

    A Facebook rep toldThe Independent:

    Nothing is more important to Facebook than the safety of the people that use our site, and this material has no place on Facebook. We have zero tolerance for child pornography being uploaded onto Facebook and are extremely aggressive in preventing and removing child exploitive content. We are pleased that this material was reported to us quickly enabling its swift removal.

    Facebook's "aggressive" removal strategy depends largely on its supposedly state-of-the-art photo detection software, Microsoft's PhotDNA. Yet the fact the video spread with such speed over the network indicates the system has some inherent flaws. Perhaps, in addition to improving obviously buggy software, Facebook should give its employees a crash course on how to use Twitter.

    Photo by Ksayer1/Flickr

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    Animal activists across the United States are up in arms this morning after a video showing an employee at the Valley Meat Company in Roswell, N.M., shooting a horse in the head was posted onto YouTube.

    The video, which allegedly shows Tim Sappington, a maintenance contractor at Valley Meat, pulling a pistol out of his gun holster and shooting what appears to be a perfectly healthy horse in the head.

    Just before he shoots, he issues a rude message to those watching.

    "To all you animal activists, f*ck you," he says, then pulls the trigger on the pistol.

    The video has brought the ire of animal activists and sympathizers throughout the country. According to New Mexico's KOB the Valley Meat Company has received a litany of phone calls and hate letters, all of which have slammed the company for employing such a crude individual.

    Part-owner Rick De Los Santos has denied any involvement in the act.

    "I didn't have anything to do with that video, that's the honest truth," he told KOB. "But like I said, people will make assumptions."

    He added that Sappington shot the video on his own time and property. The FBI is reportedly looking into the shooting.

    Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Sappington is an avid fan of horse meat who's "eaten it for years" and keeps a meat locker stocked at his home.

    "Anything we've ever made with meat, we've made with horse," he said.

    UPDATE: Bloomberg reports that Sappington has been fired from his job at Valley Meat Company for his role in the horse slaughter video. 

    "It's extreme cruelty, a penalty, to maliciously kill an animal," Bobby Pierce, the deputy director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, said in a statement. He added that charges will likely result from the investigation. 

    Sappington maintains that he killed the horse "for my personal consumption." Earlier today, Pierce verified that it is legal to kill livestock for food.

    Photo via Horsehumane/YouTube

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    Finally, some good news concerning females in technology.

    In the same week that people lost their minds over the Donglegate and upon learning that a woman is behind the popular Facebook page "I F*cking Love Science," the Internet redeemed itself somewhat after throwing its collective support behind a Kickstarter campaign that'll help a 9-year-old girl build her very own role-playing game.

    With the help of her mother Susan, Mackenzie Wilson—she goes by Kenzie— turned to the popular crowdfunding site to raise $829, enough money to cover her entrance fee to RPG STEM Camp, a program where kids learn the necessary skills to build their own video games.

    According to her video, the third grader hopes to build an RPG that's free of inappropriate language and violence and that "allows team members to face danger together and get hurt but doesn't kill teammates off and eliminates them from battle."

    Kenzie notes in her project page that she wants to get a headstart in technology thanks in large part to her entrepreneur mom.

    "My parents are into technology as users but my Mom has to hire programmers and developers sometimes for her work," she notes. "She's really glad I like computers and programming because she says as a business person she feels like she's held hostage by developers.

    "She's the one that got me interested in creating my own stuff on my computer instead of just playing with stuff other people create."

    Also serving as motivation were her two older brothers, teenage haters who don't think she's capable of raising the money, much less actually make a game.

    They're wrong at least in one accord. In the two days since the campaign was launched, 844 backers have pledged $15,499. That's more than enough to send Kenzie to camp all summer long and to purchase a new laptop. On top of that, Adobe has agreed to give the 9-year-old a complimentary subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud to help Kenzie in her noble pursuit.

    It's not just Kenzie's older brothers drinking the haterade. Some Kickstarter commenters are cautioning other backers that this might be a scam.

    "I think many of you are missing some very suspicious things regarding this Kickstarter," writes backer Corey Brinn. "First the Kickstarter rules themselves say that you can't Kickstart for tuition, a camera, etc and all these things are basically what the Kickstarter is for.

    "Also check out the mothers linkedin. She's a Harvard grad amongst many other things that needs to raise money to send her child to camp? The video also has a 9 year old girl saying she will basically have to rely on 'sugar daddy's' multiple times if she is unable to go to camp? These are all very suspicious things in my opinion. I've reported the Kickstarter so they can look into it further. It smells like a scam that is using 'the cute factor’ to real people in....'"

    The backlash has been loud enough that Susan Wilson responded in an update, noting that she will be posting a video showing off her entire family.

    Negativity aside, it's refreshing to see the Internet put its pettiness away long enough to make a little girl's dream a reality.

    H/T The Next Web | Photo via Susan Wilson/Kickstarter

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    In the wake of the #donglegate saga, redditors are rallying behind the man who was fired over the incident. Why? "It's our middle finger to feminists."

    At the PyCon programming conference last weekend, developer evangelist Adria Richards overheard a sexual joke behind her about "big dongles" and tweeted a photo of the men who made it. The incident, and ensuing fallout, led to both the man who made the crack and Richards being fired from their jobs.

    But a new subreddit called r/FVF, which stands for Feminist Victims Fund, are making a martyr of the male developer who was laid off from mobile game monetization firm PlayHaven.

    The first campaign on the day-old subreddit calls for Bitcoin donations.

    "Our first Victim who we would like to reach out to is 'Mr Hank' from the Adria Richards scandal," moderator u/redpillschool wrote in that thread

    Another thread, announcing the opening of the subreddit, proclaims:

    Feminism has caused some serious changes to our culture, to our society, and to our lives. We focus on some that are affected more than others, and we give back. Our goal is to encourage men to speak out, to be men, to not fear oppression and enjoy their freedom of speech. Unfortunately in today's climate, being a man has become a financial liability. Say the wrong thing in the wrong place and you can find your entire life ruined. Destroyed. Feminists have fought for equality, but now they're out for our rights. They're destroying us financially. They're trying to tear apart our families. We're saying that enough is enough. No longer should men fear masculinity. No longer should speaking up risk a man his job, career, or family. It's time to rise up against the tyranny. It's time to tell men it's ok to speak up. We're here for you. This is the Feminist Victims Fund.

    The subreddit was borne from r/theredpill, a Reddit section dedicated to helping others find out how "to live, find success and happiness in an era of Feminism." 

    u/redpillschool told the Daily Dot the idea for the subreddit came from "a conversation I was having with Roosh and some forum members, we were trying to determine a good way to start helping with what we believe to be a worsening climate. Every day we see more ridiculous examples of feminists over-reacting without considering the consequences. When this man got fired, it was the final straw."

    The redditor claimed that those behind r/FVF, which has nine subscribers thus far, plan to raise and send aid "to real victims that we read about in the media" as determined by a selection group comprising himself and two others at the moment.

    The decision to use Bitcoin came from a desire of anonymity when donating. "Bitcoin allows us to run our entire movement without any way of tracking who is involved," the initial thread states. "It's our middle finger to feminists."

    The aim is to collect at least $1,000 to send to the developer. Once the money's raised, redpillschool plans to convert the Bitcoins to dollars, sending a photo of a cashier's check with the subreddit before sending it.

    redpillschool claims the r/FVF collective wants to "put out a message that says, 'hey, it's ok to be a man!' At the moment, a lot of men aren't sure if that's true. It's a scary climate when feminists stopped pushing for their own rights and started trampling on men's."

    Whether the developer is a true victim in this incident is up for debate. That he has his supporters evidently is not.

    Photo by allaboutgeorge/Flickr

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    In a week where it seems like geek culture has served as a setting for endlessfacepalming, it's nice to have a reminder that geekdom is also constantly inspiring and enriching us. This week, the reminder comes courtesy of actor and geek hero Wil Wheaton, who found his own surprising source of inspiration at MegaCon last week.

    On his Facebook, Wheaton—best known for his roles in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Stand By Me—wrote a moving post about a fan encounter that profoundly touched him. You'd pretty much have to be an inanimate object not to get at least a little choked up.

    "I was a fan at conventions long before I was a special guest," Wheaton wrote.

    I know what it’s like to be on that side of the table, and it’s important to me to treat people the way I want to be treated. It’s also wonderful, because I get to meet remarkable and inspiring people, and share in the mutual joy we have for Doctor Who, Tabletop gaming, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Star Trek, beer, hockey, and silly Internet memes.

    Wheaton went on to describe the number of inspiring and touching fans he met that weekend:

    I met dozens of people who told me that they were scientists, engineers, doctors, or programmers because they were inspired by [his Star Trek: TNG character] Wesley Crusher. I met tons of women and a few men who told me that I was their first teenage crush. I met a lot of people, men and women, my age and younger, who thanked me for speaking out about depression and anxiety. I held a young woman’s hands while she cried because her anxiety was so intense and scary, and I promised her that she would be okay. I was moved by her bravery, and inspired by her courage.

    Still, he said, there was one that truly stood out from the crowd:

    On Saturday, a young woman walked up to my table with her husband and her two children. She handed me a typed letter and told me that she knew she wouldn’t be able to get through what she wanted to say to me, and would I please read it.

    I unfolded it, and read her story. When she was a young girl, she had a serious complication due to her Lupus, and her doctors told her that she would never walk again. She had a photo of me, though, that she took with her to physical therapy every day, and the therapists would hold it up for her and encourage her to walk toward it — toward me — while she recovered. She made a promise to herself, she said, that she would walk again some day, and if I was ever in her town, she would walk up to meet me. At the end of her letter, she thanked me for being there, so she could *walk* to meet me.

    I looked up at her through tears, and she looked back at me through her own. I stood up, walked around my table, and put about fifteen feet between us. I held my arms open, and asked her to walk over to me. She began to cry, and slowly, confidently closed the distance between us. I embraced her, and we stood there for a minute, surrounded by thousands of people who had no idea what was going on, and cried together.

    Needless to say, Facebook has reacted emotionally as well to this story. Nearly 14,000 people have “liked” Wheaton's post since Tuesday, and over 5,000 people have commented on it.

    But some, including self-described "geek convert" Veronica Hanson, are taking away as much respect for the humble, gracious Wheaton as they are for the woman who walked to him.  

    "I did respect Wil Wheaton the actor," she wrote earlier today. "[No]w I have a deep respect for Wil Wheaton the man."

    Photo via Facebook

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    Genocide in Burma (Myanmar) is, unfortunately, nothing new. The country is consistentlyfeatured in Worst Human Rights lists. But with the recent democratic reforms—including the freedom of former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi—there was hope.

    Unfortunately, it took hacktivist collective Anonymous to show the world that for oppressed minorities in the country, things are unchanged. In the case of the Rohingya people, life is actually far worse.

    OpRohingya aims to bring attention to the slaughter and forced dislocation of tens of thousands of Rohingya people from their traditional lands. The Rohingya people are Muslim in a predominantly Buddhist nation, and many observers are putting this conflict down to clashes between religions. In an exclusive interview with the Daily Dot, Global Square founder Heather Marsh debunks that claim and indicates that the actual motivation for these sectarian clashes is no different than that which motivated either of the Gulf Wars. 

    Marsh told us she discovered the Rohingya issue last summer, after the first reported massacre in June. "I started getting hysterical after the second massacre [in October], when it became more obvious that this was systemic and was not going to be solved by NGO's and UN platitudes. Reading Dr. Aye Chan and Monk Wirathu was completely chilling; everything was so openly genocidal." Wirathu is a very prominent supporter of Aung San Suu Kyi, and according to has also been an outspoken proponent of the slaughter of the Rohingya. He has been censured for his anti-Muslim hate speech.

    Marsh explains:

    I did not see any of them being addressed by "those mandated to keep an eye on things" as an NGO described themselves to me, and none of them were covered from a local perspective in the media either. I have wanted the voices of local people to replace voices speaking for them in the media and NGOs for a long time, and seeing @Aungaungsittwe tweeting diligently into the darkness was extremely frustrating. So very grateful to Anonymous and Occupy for helping to amplify this. It was also helped by everyone I have ever worked with on any other project, people from Guantanamo, Gaza, Kashmir, Gabon, Brazil, Eritrea, Kenya and all their friends. Truly amazing global solidarity.

    Media were presenting this as a spontaneous flareup of grass roots violence that had only been held in bay by military rule. It is actually well planned and top down conditioning in racial hatred by powerful figures who have ties to military and intelligence and operate with impunity.

    We asked what was behind it all: Although Burma has a history of sectarian violence, why suddenly the Rohingya rather than the Karen, another minority in the country which have endured an estimated 140,000 displaced refugees? Was it, as rumoured, all about oil? 

    Resources play a very big part, the Rohingya are being cleared off land that is wanted for resource contracts and the world bank and foreign governments are not willing to bring up human rights with 30 oil and gas contracts waiting to be signed in April. But the conflict in central Myanmar is different. These are areas where Muslims and Buddhists have gotten along for years and our reports say the violence is from trucked in "strangers." Many there think that it will be used as an excuse for reinstatement of military rule, and western media is setting the stage to excuse that as a "necessary evil" by reporting on violence that "flared up" because of a "power vacuum."

    OpRohingya on Sunday was extremely successful: Not only did they trend No. 1 in the U.S., but they were also  No. 3 in the U.K. and hit top 10 worldwide. For those who might dismiss this as slacktivism, we'd draw your attention to the fact that this morning a report on the Rohingya slaughters is on the front page of The Guardian, which has not previously covered the issue. Al Jazeera, the Qatari network, has covered the Rohingya issue a number of times, but it has yet to truly penetrate Western media, which is riding a wave of optimism since Aung San Suu Kyi was freed from her decades-long house arrest. Coverage on radical sites has been growing, but until the Twitter storm, there was virtually no coverage in what could be considered the mainstream media. 

    Tweets in the tweetstorm included the fax number to the CNN assignment desk (no joy there so far) as well as a live protest in front of the CNN offices. The protesters were reportedly told by a CNN staffer that they "don't care" about the issue. The protest was, as all protests currently are, livestreamed. In a hearkening back to Tiananmen Square days, black faxes were sent to Burmese embassies, and numerous government sites including the office of the president were either DDoS'd or defaced. Instructions for the Twitterstorm, distributed on Pastebin, were unusually detailed, which certainly had an impact on their effectiveness. By laying out so many specific options, Anonymous maximized the chance that someone would feel connected enough to any specific one to tweet it, and by suggesting copy/paste tweets rather than retweets, Anonymous successfully gamed the Twitter system, gaining the top ranking. 

    Clever media strategies may seem trivial or mundane, but in a world where lives are at stake and the fate of a people can be changed by diverting the world's attention, such stratagems can no longer be dismissed; indeed, they may be the most powerful weapon the world possesses. 

    Photo via 2012 Rohingya Massacre/Facebook

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    With his kidneys failing and facing a years-long wait on the donor list, Eddie Beatrice turned to Facebook—and found a match in under an hour.

    Beatrice, of North Reading, Mass., underwent rotator cuff surgery in Oct 2011. The routine procedure went awry: A bacterial infection put him into septic shock, shutting down his kidneys and dropping his blood pressure.

    After a week in a medically induced coma and months of inpatient care, Beatrice, 51, is in end-stage renal failure. He undergoes 12 hours of dialysis each week. His sisters were not a suitable match as kidney donors for him, and so he was left waiting for a transplant.

    Come Jan. 1, Beatrice decided to take matters into his own hands and turned to Facebook. On a page run by Living Kidney Donor Network, he spotted a recent post by a woman who was looking to donate a kidney. After talking to Beatrice, Kelly Wright of Newport Beach, Calif., called Massachusetts General Hospital the next day to start the screening process. Their surgeries are now set for April 2.

    Wright, 44, previously planned to donate a kidney to the son of an acquaintance. She was unable to at the time, but her desire to donate remained. 

    She and Beatrice now talk every day. “We were fast friends, and now we’re like family,” Beatrice told the Globe. Boston Bruins fan Beatrice even got Wright hooked on hockey. 

    As someone who is both adopted and has adopted kids, Wright believes "family is not always blood. It’s who you decide is family. And definitely, the Beatrice family is my family now.”

    Dozens of the Beatrice clan thanked Wright in person at a dinner earlier this month. 

    "I want to Thank the 40 to 50 people that showed up to meet and greet Kelly a huge thank you for reprensentin' and giving her the appreciation that she deserves." Beatrice wrote, also referring to Wright as his "new sister," on Facebook. "No matter what happens, either way, she and her family are now part of my family for life."

    According to another post on Beatrice's Facebook timeline, Wright is in Massachusetts, preparing for the procedure. 

    "It was almost like God brought her to me, because this just doesn’t happen," Beatrice gushed to the Globe. "To find somebody within an hour is incredible.”

    Photos via Kelly Wright/Facebook

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    The Daily Dot is pleased to present InterActs, a series of roundtable discussions exploring digital creation, in partnership with the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (NAMAC). InterActs brings together various members of online media to examine topics related to creating art and community in the age of the Internet.

    If you've ever gotten a takedown notice on your YouTube account, had your DVD player or other software tell you that the movie you're trying to watch is rights-restricted, or been the victim of a false copyright claim, then you know how confusing and frustrating the concerns regarding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) can be.

    Originally the DMCA was passed to provide major corporations with a method of recourse for quickly acting upon copyright infringement, as well as to deflect responsibility from Internet service providers that host infringing material. However, confusion over current copyright law, as well as occasional digital rights mismanagement or abuse of claims from copyright holders, has hampered the activities of many media creators and consumers.

    As new technologies evolve, creative forms of expression abound, and as both artists and corporations become savvier about sharing and protecting content, copyright becomes an increasingly contested territory, despite the fact that more and more forms of creative work are protected under the Fair Use clause of U.S. copyright law. While media arts nonprofits, advocacy groups, and legal teams have been fighting to extend the rights granted to creators under the DMCA, rights holders are increasingly threatening and misfiring at protected material.

    This week, the Daily Dot and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture will look at the DMCA and current copyright law as it pertains to digital rights: the confusing, the frustrating, and the hopeful. Moderated by David Cooper Moore, the discussion will feature creators, fans, educators, and tech and legal experts who have felt the full impact of DMCA on their work. We'll discuss the victories and challenges in Fair Use across media arts disciplines and fill you in on how to join the community that is staunchly and successfully advocating for protected forms of creation in an increasingly restrictive world.

    Tune in right here, Wednesday, March 27, at 3pm EST.

    About the speakers:

    • Moderator David Cooper Moore is a documentary filmmaker and board member for the National Association for Media Literacy Education. He also works with the Center for Media and Information Literacy at Temple University. In 2009, he was a director/producer for the short 3 Fair Use Case Studies for the Media Education Lab, where he is a program director. As a documentary filmmaker, David has created videos and curricula for the PBS Elections 2008 curriculum, Access, Analyze, Act: a Blueprint for 21st Century Civic Engagement, and the Center for Social Media’s Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education.
    • Sina Khanifar is a serial entrepreneur whose first company, started while he was studying at Oxford in England, offered a service to unlock Motorola phones. He was subsequently sent a cease and desist letter by Motorola claiming that he was in violation of Section 1201 of the DMCA. After working with Jennifer Granick at Stanford to respond to those letters, he's been actively following the conversation around some of the problems with the DMCA, and recently started a We the People petition regarding unlocking that garnered a response from the White House. He is now leading a coalition of technology organizations including Reddit, Mozilla, and O'Reilly at, asking for Congress to reassess the anti-circumvention provisions of the DMCA.
    • Art Neill is the founder of New Media Rights, which provides pro bono legal resources and assistance regarding intellectual property, licensing, and other legal issues that arise with new technologies and media, along with a free media studio. Neill also practices public interest law in the areas of internet, intellectual property, and communications law, and is an adjunct professor of law at California Western School of Law teaching Internet & Social Media Law.
    • Tisha Turk is associate professor of English at the University of Minnesota at Morris, where she teaches courses on writing, gender studies, and fandom. She has written about fan videos both in academic journals and for the In Media Res Media Commons Project. She has been making vids for over ten years. She was part of the Organization for Transformative Works team that successfully testified before the Library of Congress in 2009 and 2012 in favor of lifting DMCA restrictions for fan videos and remix video.

    How to interact with us:

    Use the Twitter hashtags #InterActs #DMCA, or direct questions to us at @InterActsOnline. Submit comments on Google Plus or on YouTube.

    After the conversation, the Daily Dot and NAMAC will post summaries of the broadcast and/or embed the videos on their respective websites. Will also follow up with a compilation of resources and links discussed during the conversation or that panelists find helpful to these issues.

    Additional resources:

    Photo by Daily Dot/NAMAC

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    A mother who locked her newborn baby in her car while she went grocery shopping has learned an important lesson in child-rearing after an outpouring of outrage from strangers on Facebook: Don't lock your baby in the car. 

    The mother apparently thought she'd taken enough safety precautions on Saturday while she did shopping at a Porirua, New Zealand, supermarket. She wrapped her sleeping infant in a blanket and a knit cap and appended a note on top: "If anything goes wrong while I'm shopping, please call this number." (FYI, new parents: Infants are highly portable. You can strap them to your chest like a lumpy fashion accessory or push them around in high-tech baby wagons.)

    While she was inside, a man and his wife pulled into the parking spot next to her car. They were shocked to see the child alone. "We waited there for a little bit, wondering if the mum was just going to be two seconds and come back," one of the good samaritans told the New Zealand Herald. "And my wife said, 'I'm not going in without someone being here with the baby.'"

    They snapped a photograph and called the mother. 

    No one would have known about the bizarre event if that passerby hadn't posted the photograph on Facebook. It was picked up by local radio personality Polly Gillespie, at which point it furiously fast across the social network. It's illegal to leave a child under the age of 14 alone for an unreasonable amount of time or under unreasonable conditions, according to the Daily Mail, but police have said they won't be making any arrests. None of the passersby have pressed charges. 

    On Facebook, some people took the mother's side: "This is clearly early morning with dew on the car, there's almost no cars in the carpark," wrote one user on the Polly Gillespie page. "I reckon the woman just nipped in to grab milk, and made a spur of the moment decision not to wake her baby." 

    Still, it's not a good idea to lock your family dog in the car. So it kind of goes without saying that's even more dangerous for a child.

    As one New Zealand police officer told the Herald:

    "Babies can dehydrate quickly and become very distressed. So for a newborn that's one of the key issues. Plus there's a security issue—a small baby is unable to defend itself if need be, or call for help, or anything like that."

    Photo via Polly Gillespie/Facebook

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    When the events you're livetweeting took place 2,000 years ago, there's only so much you can do.

    One priest in Devon, England, is tweeting the story of Easter in "real time" through sunrise on Easter Sunday. Canon Andrew Godsall, who came up with the idea during a social media course, is sending tweets from Jesus Christ's perspective throughout the week at @CofEDevon.

    The Passion story is a pretty juicy one, in case you hadn't heard. According to the Bible, Christ strutted into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday while adoring fans thronged the streets. Public opinion of him soon soured. He was put to death a few days later before coming back to life on Easter Sunday (according to scripture).

    "We need to appeal to people more used to tweet culture than listening to sermons," Godsall told the BBC. "We wanted to help people really connect with the events of the last week in Jesus' life."

    Godsall suggested some church members might be offended with the embracing of contemporary culture, but he said he was "unapologetic."

    "Jesus always used contemporary culture, for example the parables, because it appealed to people's imaginations," Godsall affirmed.

    Using Twitter and the Internet to spread the gospel is an idea Pope Benedict agreed with before he stepped down.

    However, Godsall's tweets are actually kinda dull so far. There's little opportunity for them to get better, since the Diocese is sharing just one tweet a day, at 11 GMT. 

    The Easter story was told much better on Twitter two years ago, when @EasterLIVE had a more collaborative take on telling the story. It retweeted comments from followers as they took on the roles of bystanders during the crucifixion and resurrection. 

    Godsall is giving a fresh perspective on the Easter story, although a few aspects remain questionable. For one, how would the disciples react if Jesus livetweeted the Last Supper?

    Photo by tonystl/Flickr

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    The self-proclaimed "Garbage Pail Kids version of Zooey Deschanel," Mary Charlene (@iamenidcoleslaw), only had two words for Time magazine after finding out she wasn't listed as one of their 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013.

    "F*** u."

    It's hard to blame Time for leaving Charlene out, considering her tweets don't fit nicely into topics like comedy, politics, or cultural critics. They are a delightful mix of non sequiturs, news, and obscenities, with a little self-deprecation thrown in for good measure.

    Charlene is part of a burgeoning comedy subculture that’s been labeled “Weird Twitter.” It’s difficult to define who or what “Weird Twitter” is, but Nick Douglas at Slacktory may have come closest when he called it“a loose group of Twitter users who write in a less-accessible form, using sloppy punctuation/spelling/capitalization, poetic experimentation with sentence format, first-person throwaway characters, and other techniques little known to the vast majority of 'serious' Twitter users.”

    Weird Twitter has recently started to get some mainstream attention—a Guy Fieri parody menu written by three of the most prominent weird tweeters went viral earlier this year, and @dadboner, one of the movement’s poster boys, has scored a book deal based on his account.

    But Time has yet to catch on. Only one of their 140 Best Twitter Feeds, @cool_pond, represents the Weird Twitter movement.

    To help the magazine catch up with the Twitter culture of 2013, here are 10 Weird Twitter profiles you should be following.

    1) @bransonbranson, 5,743 followers

    @bransonbranson is that tiny juvenile inside your head that you've been trying suppress for years but can't because things like "squeezing an avocado to feel if it is ripe feels like an incredibly sexualized act."

    2) @dadboner, 132,300 followers

    If you've ever been to Michigan, you know exactly why Karl Welzein has so much free time to tweet about beer, model Kate Upton, and drawing on his driver's license.

    3) @dril, 41,412 followers

    If there is indeed a hell, @dril's Twitter profile background is what it looks like, and his tweets are what you’ll find written in its feces-stained bathroom stall.

    4) @boring_as_heck, 22,867 followers

    Stefan uses his Twitter feed as a mirror he holds up to the world. The only catch is, the mirror already has an image of dirty man in a trenchcoat on it.

    5) @utilitylimb, 13,227 followers

    If @dril's Twitter profile is what hell looks like, @utilitylimb is the delusional devil.

    6) @grawly, 9,453 followers

    Picture a toddler playing Dance Dance Revolution in diapers while shaking a dildo. That's as close you'll get to understanding @grawly's tweets.

    7) @iamenidcoleslaw, 98,180 followers

    If you were ever looking for tips on exfoliating, sex, or how to make the perf margarita, check out Mary Charlene's tweets. And make sure you have some eye bleach handy.

    8) @rare_basement, 27,651 followers

    Don't let @rare_basement's innocent looking Twitter profile pic fool you. She will cut you if you get between her and watching Goonies.

    9) @aRealLiveGhost, 13,502 followers

    Heaven seems pretty lame compared to the life of this freewheeling ghost stuck on earth.

    10) @lawblob, 7,364 followers

    What happens when you mix the horrified look of a Pac-Man ghost with the topical humor of a hobo? @lawblob.

    Illustration by shokunin

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    It wasn't Reddit’s r/creepshots section. It wasn't a thread that called for rapists to share their stories.

    It wasn't the objectification of a 15-year-old girl on r/atheism, nor the mocking of a rape victim, nor the hate campaign against Anita Sarkeesian, nor the widespreadcriticism of Reddit as a place where sexism breeds and Men's Rights Activists perpetuate misogyny.

    It was the campaign to fire developer evangelist Adria Richards and give money to the men she publicly called out for offensive comments at a conference that has finally pushed the co-founder of Reddit into speaking out about the sexism in his community.

    Alexis Ohanian, the 29-year-old Redditor supreme, took to his blog—not to a subreddit—earlier today to discuss Adria Richards and the ongoing sexism that seems to run rampant not only on Reddit but in the larger tech community and geek culture.

    "Aren't we better than this?" he asked in a post that addressed the frequent hardcore insults and sexist slurs that Redditors, 4channers, and others within the tech community had been leveling at Richards and other women during the backlash.

    Ohanian spoke directly to the tech community's ties to wider geek culture—the same geek culture which has recently been dealing with deeply entrenched sexism on numerous fronts. Ohanian appealed to the misunderstood geek's sense of empathy:

    Growing up, we typically weren't picked first for sports, but were first on the Quake II server. Few people really understood our peculiar hobbies or how amazing it was to see "Hello, world" for the first time. Plenty of us got used to being ignored. Many of us were bullied. But what did we learn from it—empathy or hate?

    We need to know the answer, because suddenly we are the cool kids. They're making movies about us. We're "rock stars." Holy shit, the rest of the world is finally realizing how awesome we are. The geek has inherited the earth. And now that we’re the powerful ones, we need to remember: with great power comes great responsibility. It's irresponsible to continue to act as though we are victims

    …. Diversity does not end at gender or sexuality or race; people with a wide variety of life experiences and opinions have joined the community. This is a wonderful thing, but it also means that there will be a wider range of reactions and more potential for miscommunication. In other words, we have many more opportunities to decide whether we 1) belittle and ostracize people for being different from us or 2) react with empathy, patience, and kindness.

    Ohanian has been vocal about his enthusiasm for opening the tech community to wider participation from people outside of his self-declared 'not-poor straight white guy' demographic. But he’s waging an uphill battle where women are concerned: Despite going out of its way to create an extremely supportive environment for women, PyCon was only 20 percent women. What's even more surprising is that, according to the Ada Initiative's Valerie Aurora, that 20 percent is so high it’s "unheard of.”

    At many tech conferences like PyCon, debates continue to be held about how to make the conference environment more friendly to women. The online backlash faced by Richards, Sarkeesian, and others may actually pale in comparison to the rampantsexual and physicalharassment—including rape—faced in person by many women who go to tech conventions and fandom cons.

    But Ohanian, who professes a goal of "making the world suck less," avoided mentioning the ways in which many parts of the Reddit community encourage both the online and offline forms of rape culture.

    Instead, he confessed himself disappointed with the tone of the argument, and reminded his fellow geeks that "Your tweets, your comments, and your upvotes matter."

    The comments (and support for them) I’ve seen over the past few days have really disappointed me and I really hope this is a chance for us to reflect on how we use these tools to foster the tech community. This isn't "political correctness," this is you having the courage to use your words to create an environment that promotes an open exchange of ideas—not alienate people and certainly not terrorize them.

    Fine words; but as critics like the Atlantic Wire and Gawker's Adrian Chen have noted, it may take more than words to make Reddit and the other mainstays of the geek community safe spaces for all.

    In fact, the Reddit backlash to Ohanian's post has already begun: according to some Redditors, Ohanian "hates free speech" and deserves to be smeared with the same sexist slurs as the women he was attempting—however passively—to defend.

    Screengrab via CNN

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    Someone is sexually assaulted in the U.S. every two minutes, and more often than not the public (and sometimes the media) will place the blame with the victim.

    Amid the backlash from #donglegate, Melissa McEwan of Shakesville started #IAskedPolitely over the weekend in order to show what happened when women spoke out and asked men to stop making sexually inappropriate comments, which often sparked more sexually inappropriate comments from participants.

    But it was an article from Australian site The Punch explaining how advocating "risk management" was not a form of "victim blaming" that broke the camel's back for Hilary Bowman-Smart.

    "I am absolutely sick to death of being told what to wear and what to do and how to be, as though any of that will somehow save me from being raped," Bowman-Smart wrote on her blog. "It's not a woman's responsibility to prevent sexual assault."

    Tired of "patronising bullshit articles" that tell women how to prevent rape, it sparked her to start tweeting her own outrageous tips under the hashtag #safetytipsforladies in order to show the means to which women would have to go to in order to "prevent rape."

    Photo via Chase Carter/Flickr

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    If you've complained about your boss or job on Twitter, watch out for a warning from a new app called FireMe!. Ricardo Kawase and his team at the University of Hannover, Germany, created the tool, which tracks certain negative phrases about bosses and jobs and rates how likely they are to get the poster fired.

    When FireMe! flags such a tweet, it automatically sends a tweet to the user in question, reading something like, "Can you imagine if your boss gets to know that you said: 'I hate my job so much'. You said that on Twitter and the whole world can see it!" according to New Scientist. (I’d be surprised if that exact tweet was sent, since it clocks in at 138 characters with no space for a handle.)

    The offending user is also sent a link to their FireMeter! score, a percentage showing how likely they might be to get fired. It's based on negativity toward their job and how often they'd cursed in the last 100 tweets. The score is just for fun, but weighs into the overall philosophy of helping people watch what they tweet. For the record, I have a four percent chance of being fired, according to the tool, probably because I use bad words now and again.

    Those sent a message were given the option to delete their tweet. After 4,304 warning tweets over three weeks, 249 people deleted their questionable message within two hours. Kawase's team, which will present findings to the Web Science conference in Paris next month, found those slamming their jobs tended to tweet more often than others and had fewer followers than those who shared positive thoughts about their work.

    With that in mind, FireMe! also highlights those who have kind words for their jobs and employers:

    A little love can go a lot further than some hate.

    Photo via dyranios/YouTube

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    One Reddit user has put it all on the line for Bitcoin, the digital currency that saw its value increase by 70 percent over a two-day period last week thanks to an banking crisis in Europe and a growing skepticism surrounding government-backed currencies.

    Since December, redditor anon_bitcoin_gambler claims to have purchased $30,000 worth of Bitcoins and shares of Satoshidice—a computerized dice game that’s currently the most popular way to gamble with Bitcoins—when the currency was trading at about $14 per coin.

    Anon_bitcoin_gambler told the Daily Dot he doesn't plan on cashing out completely anytime soon, but if he were to do so today, his investment could be worth between $92,400 and $164,934.

    "I invested/gambled on Bitcoin because I believe it will grow significantly long term, both in value, price, and usage based on its fundamentals," Anon_bitcoin_gambler said. "I can't say that about any stock or bond. Also, I had a lot of debt and not much to lose if this failed."

    Anon_bitcoin_gambler would not reveal much about himself or his investment, but in a post made on the r/Bitcoin subreddit last month he claimed that he was a rather poor man with a lot of student loans. When asked to provide proof of his investment, anon_bitcoin_gambler declined, saying that sharing his blockchain information, which is a way of tracking who has owned a particular Bitcoin, might reveal his identity. He claims to have invested in Bitcoin to support his family "and hopefully never have to worry about money again."

    Bitcoins have seen unprecedented growth in the past nine months. When the currency was started in January 2009 by pseudonymous developer "Satoshi Nakamoto," it was largely used to hide illegal activity like drug dealing. By October 2012, more than 1,000 merchants were reportedly accepting Bitcoins, including, an electronics store, file-locker service Mega, and a business that allows you to order pizza. Bitcoins can also be used to tip redditors and Twitter users for quality content.

    "People are tired of having their wealth stolen from them, whether it be through inflation, taxation, or otherwise," Anon_bitcoin_gambler added. "Besides empowering people to manage their own money and not rely on others, it is extremely useful. Being able to send thousands of dollars across the world for only pennies in fees, instantly and anonymously (if done properly) is a major innovation."

    Anon_bitcoin_gambler has received a fair amount of criticism on Reddit, with many people warning that Bitcoin's growth is just a bubble waiting to burst. Bitcoin reached an early peak of $35 in the summer of 2011, according to BlockChain. But that bubble burst, and the value of a Bitcoin plummeted to $2.51.

    Anon_bitcoin_gambler has also been criticized for investing in Bitcoin using credit cards.

    "He borrowed the funds he's using to buy the Bitcoins using a credit card, which is an absolutely awful kind of debt to finance an investment of any kind," Roozle10 commented. "A quick Google search says the average card pays 15% interest on balances carried over month to month. Unless he thinks he can beat 15% a month, he will lose."

    Illustration via Pixabay/ Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

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    If you've been on Facebook at all today, you've probably noticed that several of your friends have changed their profile pictures to a red box with a pink equal sign inside of it.

    But what does it mean?

    The symbol, also known as the "Red Equals Sign" is a viral campaign of support for marriage equality launched by the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that describes itself as working towards an "America where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are ensured equality at home, at work, and in every community."

    The nonprofit first posted the image on its Facebook page on Monday in the wake of the Supreme Court hearing arguments over two significant cases—the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8 and of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—that could decide the fate of same-sex marriage.

    "Who's wearing red tomorrow?" asked the HRC.

    That single post was shared more than 51,670 times and liked by 15,691 people.

    Earlier today, the organization doubled their efforts and posted the image again. That repost went viral, with 32,452 shares and 11,259 likes.

    Also throwing his support behind the HRC initiative was advocate/actor/Facebook celebrity George Takei, who encouraged his fans to use the red equals sign as a profile picture.

    "Tomorrow, the U.S. Supreme Court hears argument on two critical marriage equality cases," noted Takei yesterday. "I'm changing my profile pic for the next two days to help bring attention to this important and historic occasion."

    "Friends, you can all say you know at least a gay couple who are married— George and Brad Takei. I hope you value our marriage as equal to any other between two loving adults. Thank you."

    Takei's post garnered 11,944 shares and 144,071 likes.

    Photo via Human Rights Campaign/ Facebook

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    When a Kickstarter project is cancelled, it’s usually because it didn’t get funded—not because the creators realize that, in retrospect, their project was a very, very bad idea. 

    But that's what happened this week when a group of manga fans decided to take on some of the common tropes in shounen manga—the Japanese term for adventure & sports comics marketed to boys—by applying them to some of America’s most common sexist, racist, and cultural stereotypes.

    Not surprisingly, their pitch offended basically everyone.

    The controversial comic, Shaniqua-no-Ho, starred a black woman with a "raging beast" inside of her. The supporting cast included "Big Lips Dorothy, the trailer park ho, and Pimpsferatu, not to mention Shaniqua’s primary antagonist, The Vice Squad, as well as the evil, drug-abusing Gold Diggers syndicate."

    Illustration via Kickstarter

    While creators Isaac Shapiro, Scott Ferguson, and Greg Lanzara, who formed the company Wacky Beast Productions, were excited about their take on manga cliches, many others.... weren't.  The description of a vengeful black sex worker—a "ho,” as the creators put it—didn't go over very well—at least judging by the creators' subsequent abject apology and cancellation of the project.

    "We were naive, privileged, and stupid," Wacky Beast wrote in their final project update on March 21, when they announced they were suspending the project. "While we're sure we would have eventually reached our goal, we realized, after deep reflection, that it wouldn't have been right."

    Given that the project creators have been working on the comic since at least June of last year, they’ve had quite some time to come to the realization that, in their words, “we f*cked up.” 

    It’s hard to believe they didn’t expect at least some people to take offense at Shaniqua-no-Ho, though. This is the comic’s plot description:

    A Ho in Shaniqua’s world are like an MMA fighter, Miss America, and Jedi master all rolled up into one. They defend the world from rampaging monsters that burst out of people's pants. Of course, hos aren't alone in the fight. They often work with pimps, men and women who form special bonds with their crotch monsters and command them in battle. Unfortunately being a ho or a pimp ain’t easy because they all have to deal with the Vice Squad, an army of fanatics sworn to wipe out crotch monsters, hos, and pimps.

    Preview shots of the first issue featured Shaniqua holding up her victims' bloody heads like Judith and Holofernes:

    Illustration via Amazon

    The project billed itself as an "action-packed love letter" to sports manga like Naruto, Dragonball Z, and others. Shounen manga tropes often feature a video game-like plot arc involving the boy hero growing stronger and stronger while facing off against a series of increasingly strong opponents. The broadness of the trope means that it can be applied to just about anything with a competitive aspect, a feature that Wacky Beast evidently decided to exploit for their comic. 

    The title Shaniqua-no-Ho is a pun on Hikaru no Go ("Hikaru's Go"), in which the central game is a board game.  In Shaniqua, the "game" is evidently the exploitation of black sex workers. 

    Wacky Beast insisted they intended to subvert the racist tropes and make their characters strong women. "We wanted to make manga with an empowered, capable woman as the protagonist," they wrote in their extended Kickstarter apology.  

    We wanted to make a comic that showed a brown skinned woman in a leading role like Luffy and Goku. We wanted to change the conversation about sex workers by making them respectable and powerful. We wanted to do it by parodying a genre we love very much. We thought we'd been careful with problematic elements in the script by asking women and sex workers for feedback while we were working. We were wrong.

    Instead, they ran into the question of whether parodying a racist trope is still racist.

    "Despite our efforts, we did not check privilege nearly enough when considering this project," they wrote, "and we completely deserved the angry reactions it produced."

    The project wasn't without its supporters—over 5,000 people had "liked" the comic's Facebook page, and some even created fanart.

    Now, instead of being an example for how to write a successful manga, it looks like Shaniqua will be held up as an example for how to write a successful Kickstarter apology.

    Illustration via Kickstarter

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