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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    You don’t often see the words “badass” and “vegan cooking” together in the same sentence (or even on the same website), but Dr. Thug is determined to change that. The pseudonymous doctor is the foul-mouthed nutrition buff behind the Thug Kitchen (Motto: “Eat Like You Give A F*ck”), the Internet’s newest (and possibly only) gangster vegan food blog.

    Thug Kitchen’s website, Facebook page and Twitter feed all contain roughly equal parts nutrition facts, healthy recipes, gorgeous food photography and NSFW language. But beneath his thug demeanor, the doctor’s a nice (though still badass) guy who took a few minutes to have an email chat with the Daily Dot.  

    Daily Dot: Hi, Dr. Thug! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us.

    Thank you for the love and support. We are flattered as f*ck that you would like to do an interview.

    DD: Our pleasure. How did you first become interested in the subjects of cooking and nutrition, anyway?

    I like to know how sh*t works, ya know? It is no different than learning to work on a car. I mean, if you're going to drive everyday, you should probably learn how that son of a bitch runs. Food is like that. We eat at least three god damn times a day; people should know to make the food they eat and how it works in their f*cking bodies.

    DD: So what inspired you to start your blog?

    Just got tired of all the other sh*t out there. I couldn't relate to most cooking blogs. They make eating healthy seem like an expensive hobby or stupid-ass fad. I just wanted some real talk about some real f*cking food.

    DD: There’s this idea that cooking and nutrition are effete subjects, interesting mainly to helicopter mommies, foodie hipsters and people like that. Aren’t you worried your interest in healthy eating might damage your street cred?

    I don't believe that taking care of yourself by eating better damages street cred. Sh*t, if anything I probably got more cred; I'm fit as f*ck.

    DD: What would you say to anyone who says eating or cooking healthy is too hard, or takes too much time?

    Don't believe the hype. Yeah, learning new sh*t takes a f*cking minute. Expect some mistakes. You gotta burn a dish or two, it doesn't just come together every time. Sh*t, I still f*ck dishes up, but those are the ones my readers don't hear about. If you make something terrible, you f*cking remember why it came out terrible. Trust. And yeah, cooking does take time but don't blow that sh*t out of proportion. I don't spend more than 30-40 minutes cooking a meal and cleaning up. And leftovers mean you don't have to do that every god damn day. Don't try to figure out what you are going to make when you are already starving. Just plan your sh*t out.

    DD: Are there any foods you absolutely hate, won’t let in your house?

    There are so many different ways to make a meal, if I don't like something I find another way to cook it to change that sh*t up. I use to hate beets, but then one day I marinated them and threw them on the grill. F*cking love beets now. Eating them makes me feel like a grown-up. I will say as far as not letting something in my house, if anyone comes over here with fast food, they can sit outside on the curb and eat that sh*t. They also can't use my bathroom.

    DD: Is there any message or advice you’d like to give our readers?

    Part of what I like about Thug Kitchen is how, hopefully, it will get readers thinking about what kind of additional behaviors they attribute to people who try to eat healthy. Everyone deserves to feel a part of our country's push toward a healthier diet. The food we eat fuels our lives; we should all give a f*ck. Thug Kitchen would like to thank everyone for the all the love and support. The emails we get are f*cking hilarious.

    Photo via Thug Kitchen/Facebook


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    It's up and then it's down, and then it's up again and then it's down forever.

    Nate Walsh wants to sell his 1999 Toyota Camry, lovingly nicknamed "The Tanry." Craigslist won't let him.

    Walsh, a St. Louis-based copywriter with a knack for DIY art projects, popped into the national spotlight last week when his Craigslist advertisement for a $1,500 Camry redefined what was possible in the world of online classifieds.

    The listing, which is entirely outrageous and looks like it could have been put together by South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone, got attention from such outlets as AdWeek and Jim Romenesko before being flagged and unceremoniously removed from Craigslist altogether. Walsh told the Daily Dot that the site offered no explanation outside of a reference to its robust Terms of Use page, which didn't help Walsh one bit.

    "I think that one of the exes featured might have flagged it," he told the Daily Dot. "To be honest, I'm not really sure."

    Walsh placed headshots belonging to three of his ex-girlfriends in the ad. All three offer reviews of their experiences with the car.

    Craigslist reposted the listing on Thursday without warning, but it was back down again Friday—again, no explanation. No matter, Walsh said that he's received enough interested phone calls that he feels he'll be able to find a worthy suitor.

    "It's kind of become a process of narrowing it down to somebody who I think it going to use it and appreciate it how I would, in the spirit of the ad," he said. "I'm thinking about putting together a competition between interested parties to drag this out a little bit longer and make it a little bit weirder.

    "It could be anything from a talent show to a contest where people have to act out a short skit about the car, or maybe an Amazing Race thing where the first person to get here with the money gets the car.

    "I don't know. I just figure the ad's so weird, it should have some weird ending too."

    Photos via Craigslist


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    More than 2.7 million U.S. Facebook users changed their profile photos in support of marriage equality during this week’s historic Supreme Court hearings on California's Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

    The new photo of choice for most of these users was the "Red Equals Sign" or variations that included the Lion King, Grumpy Cat, and bacon. The 2.7 million figure reflects a 120 percent increase in daily profile photo activity thanks to Human Rights Campaign's (HRC) promotional effort, Facebook's Eytan Bakshy stated in a report.

    The HRC's original Facebook post featuring the "Red Equals Sign" has collected 19,500 likes and been shared more than 71,000 times.

    Profile picture changes were up 2.3 percent among females and 2.1 percent among males during the campaign, Facebook said. Although those percentages may sound small, the raw numbers are in the millions, considering that Facebook has more than 163 million U.S. users.

    Michigan's Washtenaw County, home to the University of Michigan, had the highest percentage of users changing their photos. About 6.2 percent of total Washtenaw County users made the change.

    Many of the other top counties were home to big universities, including Orange (University of North Carolina), Boulder (University of Colorado), and Travis (University of Texas at Austin) counties.

    After arguing over same-sex marriage for two days, "a sweeping ruling on gay rights seems unlikely from the U.S. Supreme Court," NBC reported. Decisions on DOMA and Proposition 8 are expected in June.

    Graphs via Facebook | Image via Human Rights Campaign


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    According to a new study, the longer you spend on Facebook, the likelier you are to agree with racist sentiments.

    The research—published in the latest issue of the academic journal Computers in Human Behavior (it's behind a paywall)—was led by Shannon Rauch, assistant professor of psychology at Providence College, and Kimberley Schanz, a doctoral candidate at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. 

    Rauch and Schanz took 623 participants (69 percent of them were female) and asked them to rate their level of Facebook usage on a scale of 1 to 8, with the higher number indicating a higher frequency of consumption of the social network.

    They were then asked to read one of three different Facebook notes about race, supposedly written by "Jack Brown," a fictional 26-year-old male. 

    The first, dubbed the "superiority message," it argued that whites as a whole were superior to blacks. The second, "victim message," insisted that whites had become the "oppressed racial group in America." The third post was called "the egalitarian message," arguing that all races were equal and that anti-black sentiment was still an issue.

    The study's subjects were then asked to indicate how much they agreed with the message that they read. Rauch and Schanz found that users who spent more time on the social networks were more likely to find truth in Brown's racist notes.

    In contrast, users who didn't spend as much time logged on eschewed Brown's discriminatory posts and sided with his "egalitarian message."

    "The ability of racist messages to spread via social networks is of concern," the psychologists concluded, "as people are increasingly using Facebook not only as a way to connecting with friends, but as a primary source of information."

    "Frequent users are particularly disposed to be influenced by negative racial messages."

    Photo via PureLolz468/YouTube


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    Bad fashion style blogs can be a hilarious way to skewer the fashion industry and critique the ridiculous beauty standards that the industry typically upholds. But when the fashion being mocked is plus-sized, it's easy to completely miss the point of the joke.

    Last week, plenty of people were laughing over plus-sized fashion sendup wtfplus; but Roxy, the woman behind the Tumblr, wasn't one of them.

    Roxy is part of the "fatshion" community, an evolving trend of fat activism that pairs positive self-image with fashion tips, social commentary, and positive representations of fat people, most often women. One of the earliest fatshion blogs, LiveJournal's fatshionista, was a niche community when it was founded in 2004, but today fatshion blogs abound, especially on Tumblr. 

    But not everything in the fatshion community is positive, as any woman who's ever tried to find non-stretch jeans above a size 18 knows all too well. And when women are faced with the dismal prospects of trying to find attractive outfits that fit them, it helps to have a strong sense of humor—or at least to follow a funny Tumblr that mocks the sorry state of plus-sized fashion along with you.

    When Jezebel linked to wtfplus last week, they intended to praise the humorous style blog for its witty takedown of the notoriously garish fashions that the plus-sized women's clothing industry constantly puts on the market.

    But instead they—and other media outlets who tried to follow suit—got an earful from the owner, Roxy, who felt the media was being hypocritical by praising her blog while doing nothing to further the acceptance of fat women in society or in the fashion industry.

    Explaining why she declined an interview with NBC's Today website, Roxy wrote: "you think it’s really important to ‘change the conversation’ but you want to do so by embarrassing a fat woman who is already having this conversation?" She went on to point out that many of the sites covering her blog, like Jezebel and Today, were also complicit in the erasure and even ridicule of fat women. 

    "I think the dominant conversation in media about fat women and fat bodies in general needs to become less toxic," Roxy said in an email Friday, "and I think that would do more to improve the way fat people experience life and the way everyone reacts to and regards fat people than a silly one-off article about my blog."

    Initially, Roxy refused an interview with the Daily Dot as well. But then I wrote her and told her how much I appreciated her blog, as someone who'd had trouble trying to find clothes to wear after all the Lane Bryants within a 50-mile radius of my hometown closed. I told her that I'd started occasionally shopping in the men's section just so I could find clothes that fit without having to wear outrageous patterns, polyester everything, and only stretch fabrics. And don't even get me started on bra shopping.

    We spoke via email about some of the larger social problems behind the fashion industry's constant choice to dress fat women in things like hideous animal prints:

    Potato sacks masquerading as clothing:

    Awkwardly draped asymmetry:

    More hideous prints:

    Vaginally-centered patterns:

    … And did we mention hideous prints?

    But as fun as it may be to poke fun at bad clothes, wtfplus is serving up more than laughs. It also provides commentary on the inexplicable price jumps between plus-sized clothing and their smaller-sized counterparts. It warns readers away from retailers whose clothes look good online but fall apart easily or turn out to be deceptively ill-cut or poorly made. And it serves as a much-needed resource for fat women on Tumblr to discuss clothing options, find reliable retailers, and advocate for more clothing options for larger bodies.

    Roxy said that although the increased exposure has meant some nasty fatphobia, "the overall response" from her readers has been "amazing":

    Like most groups who face discrimination, fat people are often made to feel like they must be quiet and act happy and act like the discrimination they face is no big deal, or that it’s their fault, and I actually love the “I’m fat as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore” response that I’m getting.

    Roxy says she had long thought about starting a Tumblr to talk about the problems with fat fashion, but that a recent trip to Torrid to revamp her wardrobe after going up a size drove home the frustration:

    [T]his is kind of the story of my life with plus size shopping—buy an item for too much money, settle for something that is embellished beyond belief/is too short for your liking/has too few sleeves for the number of arms you have, spend more money to make it wearable, and then roll the dice and hope it actually fits when it arrives, since there’s so few plus size brick and mortar stores.

    If the submissions that her readers send in are any indication, they're all able to relate:

    The question of why plus-sized fashion is so horrible is one that many, many fat women have asked and been unable to answer. Fashion gurus like Tim Gunn have lamented the lack of beautiful clothes for fat women; Gunn's own Project Runway often reveals the fatphobic attitudes of its designers through its annual "Real Women" challenge. Season 3's Jeffrey Sebelia made his "real woman" cry after belittling her size, but still went on to win the competition.

    Many small plus-sized boutiques eventually go out of business due to a lack of follow-through on their promise to provide well-designed and flattering clothing for fat women. Others, like ReDress, are calling directly upon the plus-sized community for help staying afloat or getting into the business.

    When I asked Roxy about the problems with plus-sized fashion, she replied that fashion designers weren't making the effort to design affordable clothes for larger sizes "because they don’t want their brands associated with fat people,"

    and they don’t realize yet that our money works exactly the same as thin people money. They don’t want to take a risk because they’ve seen similar ventures fail, but similar ventures have failed because they don’t listen to fat people or think hard enough about fat bodies—if you extend your ‘straight sized’ line to pluses, plus size people will buy it. We don’t need a special online-only ghetto of polyester nightmares.

    But while some readers have praised her for being so vocal and open about the need for more options in plus sizes, Roxy thinks the media exposure her blog is getting may be sending the wrong message. And while her blog may be humorous, it's there for a serious reason, and Roxy doesn't feel like performing for outsiders.

    [N]on-fat people want us to be good, to be self-effacing, to be sexless and friendly and invisible, to ‘make up’ for the way our bodies look. I’m not interested in being a fat clown to make thin people more comfortable. I am smart, weird, rude, loud, sexually active in ways that thin people should picture in their heads right now, and I’m very, very fat. I am a fully realized human being, and so are the rest of us. We eat food, we have sex, we have individual personalities, and we have the same thoughts and feelings as everyone else.

    Roxy has stated that she's not interested in being an activist all the time, especially when just existing often feels like activism all by itself. "Ultimately my goal is just to commiserate with other fat people about a crappy problem we have to deal with, and not be an activist who is going to turn the fashion industry on its ear," she said. Her blog is firmly in the category of "fun project" rather than "activist community"—though it's obvious from a glance at her Tumblr that it often functions as both for her readers.

    But if media exposure can also be toxic, is there any way at all to highlight the issues that fat women face without also increasing the amount of fatphobia we have to endure?

    Roxy says yes—but not by singling out funny fat women or their blogs.

    I don’t even need to feel celebrated—I just need to feel represented. If I could see articles about women that don’t talk about their bodies, how they’re aging, how much they weigh or don’t weigh, what they’re wearing, etc. and also feature women of all sizes, I’d be blown away.

    Until we arrive at that halcyon day, fat women can continue to use wtfplus as a place to commiserate on our hilariously dowdy/frumpy/matronly lot in fashion life. "I really, really love all of the submissions and asks I’ve gotten," Roxy says. 

    It’s nice to be able to TALK about being fat. In the past few years I’ve gotten 100% comfortable with my body and have challenged everyone I know to start thinking and talking about fatness differently... but I love having the opportunity to talk to other fat people about this thing most of us have been dealing with since elementary school. The intersection of funny, frustrated, and fat is a great place right now.

    All photos via wtfplus/Tumblr


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    In case you were wondering if anyone could be this terrible, the answer is yes.

    On Sunday, during March Madness, some people saw Louisville guard Kevin Ware's right leg land on a once-in-a-million bad angle, splintering out like a snapped Slim Jim, and rushed to their computers, one thought in their head: "I should make a Twitter parody account of that."

    It was "maybe the most gruesome injury in the history of televised sports," Deadspin wrote. But at least three Twitter users saw opportunity, not horror, as paramedics rushed Ware to the hospital. They promptly registered @KevinWaresLeg, @KevinWareLeg, and @LifeAsKevinWare, and have thus far accumulated more than 7,000 followers.

    @kevinwaresleg is the only actual parody account, in the sense that it simply tweets the jokes that Ware's actual leg—were it somehow sentient, wry, and either not in constant, horrendous pain or shock—would say. "If anyone can send me some cash I'd appreciate it. I'm broke as hell," it tweeted, as Ware's teammates finished the game without him. Then this: "Is a broken leg a pre-existing condition? #Obamacare."

    @LifeAsKevinWare purports to actually be the sophomore guard's actual account, though that's clearly not the case. It tweets drivel like that passed-around photo of Ware's teammates crouched over him, but overlaid with "1 tweet = 1 prayer." That was retweeted 34,476 times. Similarly, an obvious lie about paying for Ware's bills: "For every #Retweet, $1 will be donated to help him heal" fooled 41,465 people.

    Least imaginative is @KevinWareLeg. Apparently, it's the former account of a Boston sports fan (tweets about the Celtics and Red Sox go back to July) who just changed the account to the hottest topic in the sports world. It claims to have started the #WinForWare hashtag. OK.

    There is, at least, a silver lining for Ware, who had surgery Sunday evening and won't play again for months: His team stomped Duke 85-63, advanced to the Final Four, and handed him the team's regional trophy.

    Photo via peypeysiva/Instagram


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    Following the death of her mother and the birth of her daughter, 24-year-old Juana Valdez was disconsolate and determined.

    It had been about 17 years since Valdez had communicated with her father, Jose, who had separated from her mother when she was 7. Now, thanks to Facebook, Valdez and her father are back together.

    Valdez used Facebook search to find the profile of his father's new wife. It's there she found old photos of herself. Valdez, of Kennesaw, Ga., messaged the woman to confirm it was her father's wife and set up a time for them to talk.

    "I broke out in tears, and I get on the phone and he's like I can't believe this is happening," Valadez told FoxAtlanta.

    Stories like Valdez's have become a heartwarming fixture on Facebook over the years, with people all over the world harnessing its search power to find loved ones, a lost camera, and even a kidney.

    In January two siblings who were sent to two different foster homes were reunited after 65 years thanks to second-grader Eddie Hanzlin, 8, who helped track down Clifford Boyson's sister using her maiden name.

    Jose plans on visiting Valdez and his granddaughter this weekend. 

    "You can see water in my eyes just by talking about it," Jose Valdez told FoxAtlanta. "It's awesome. Every time I talk to her I feel so much emotion, so great."

    H/T Fox Atlanta | Screengrab via Fox Atlanta

     


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    Sexual assaults involving Facebook and Twitter have skyrocketed in recent years, jumping from 139 offenses in 2009 to 614 in 2013, according to report published in British tabloid the Mirror. Nearly half of those cases involved children under the age of 16. Alleged rapes, meanwhile, have risen from 22 to 117.

    The data comes from 25 police offices across England and Wales, who handed it over to the paper after it filed various freedom of information act requests. Is the jump in sexual violence involving social media a growing epidemic? Other numbers suggest the numbers are more a sadly predictable corollary to Facebook and Twitter's explosive rise.

    Facebook's users have more than quadrupled in that time, too—from 175 million in 2009 to more than 1 billion this year. U.K. Facebook users have more more than doubled, from 19 million in 2009 to about 32 million in 2013. That trend is more shocking on Twitter, whose population has jumped nearly tenfold, from about 1.5 million in early 2009 to 10 million in 2013. In other words, the increase in social media sexual assaults may simply mirror the networks' own extraordinary growth. 

    Epidemic or not, parents should still be worried about how their children use social media. Facebook has admitted that its age restrictions, which prohibit users under the age 13 from creating accounts, are essentially pointless—the site can't control who joins. (A recent U.K. study revealed that nearly 40 percent of British children aged 9 to 12 have set up Facebook profiles.) Pedophiles exploit easily available personal information on sites like Facebook to help earn the trust of their victims. As one police officer told the Mirror:

    Sex offenders, and particularly serial sex offenders, are adept at seeking out people who are perhaps more likely to let their guard down. We know that some sex offenders will wander the streets looking for vulnerable people late at night. But there is absolutely no reason to think they don’t spend time online doing exactly the same.

    That behavior was displayed perhaps most horrifically by Ryan Chambers, a 19-year-old Brit sentenced to three years in prison last year after being found guilty of eight counts of sexual activity with a child, involving four girls. But he'd been stalking many more children. Using Facebook, Chambers would reach out to young girls, telling them flattering things about their profile pictures. Before his arrest, Chambers had collected the names and phone numbers of more than 1,000 girls between the ages of 12 and 15.

    Photo by mkhmarketing/Flickr


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    1,161 people on Reddit can now be accused of having at least a tiny fetish for images of Adolf Hitler's face photoshopped onto the bodies of softcore porn models.

    Thanks to the Reddit subreddit r/Titler, the world now has a place where it can aggregate and rank its its favorite Führer fap photos, with images like Hitler rubbing his nipples or Hitler modeling the latest lingerie line taking pole position over all sorts of weird concepts and compromising postures.

    And that's pretty much all there is to it. The subreddit's three moderators have stipulated that "this is not intended to be Nazi porn," but otherwise redditors can go nuts—or, rather, nüsse—in their efforts strapping the militant and reviled German leader's mean mug onto any freaky photo that they see fit.

    Those three moderators did not get back to us, but we do have a few questions, if anybody has any answers.

    In the meantime, here are a few of the safer shots of the sensuous Stabschef.

    UPDATE: /r/Titler creator CurryBananas explained the origin of the subreddit in a message to the Daily Dot.

    It came from watching The Producers. During the performance of "Springtime for Hitler, " we were thinking of ways to continue to mock the man. What would Hitler's drag name be? Titler. It was summer, and we had extra time so r/titler was born.

    People seemed to be taking for more than it is. I added the tag, Not intended to be Nazi porn, to prevent people from using it as a fetish subreddit. It's a joke, a tasteless one, but still a joke.

    All images via r/titler


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    First, Russia demanded Facebook censor a fan page that violated the country's controversial new Internet censorship law. Then Facebook decided the page violated its terms of service anyway, and deleted it.

    It's the latest American company to move to stay in accordance with Russia's so-called blacklist law, which allows the government to efficiently blacklist any site thought to promote child abuse, drugs, or suicide. The law, which passed in November despite protests, was almost immediately used to mistakenly, temporarily block a parody site.

    This time, the offending culprit was a Facebook group called "Club Suicid," flagged by Russia's "Roskomnadzor" (the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media). The agency demanded Facebook take down the page or risk being Facebook's entire domain becoming inaccessible to the average Russian Internet user, The New York Timesreported. On Friday, Facebook deleted the page.

    Russia is one of the few countries where Facebook isn't the most dominant social media service, but it's close: Facebook is still the nation's 8th-most popular site.

    It's hard to tell what, exactly, caught the Russian censors' attention—with the group deleted, there doesn't appear to be a trace of it left on the Internet. But Facebook announced that Club Suicid violated its terms of service, which was reason enough to delete the page. “We reviewed the content and it was removed because it violated our terms of use,” it said in a statement.

    Facebook's decision comes on the heels of a different Roskomnadzor announcement, that Twitter has been "actively involved" in banning users and deleting accounts that promote "suicidal tendencies." Twitter didn't respond to the Daily Dot's multiple requests to confirm that news.

    Google, at least, is fighting back. The company filed a lawsuit in February after Roskomnadzor blocked a YouTube video that showed users how to fake slashed wrists with cotton and fake blood. 

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons


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    If the forum r/ShitRedditSays (SRS) is Reddit's rambunctious neighborhood watch, a place where users publicly shame others for misogynistic, racist, and just downright nasty content, 4chan's Shit4chanSays (S4S) is what happens when the watch sets fire to the neighborhood.

    Shit4chanSays is 4chan's ingenious April Fools' Day prank, a jab at Reddit's controversial r/ShitRedditSays and the demonic stepbrother of /b/, the community's most notorious forum and home for all things random, pornographic, and violent.

    The "objective" of Shit4chanSays is to call out anyone for posting "bigoted, creepy, misogynistic, transphobic, racist, homophobic" content. (Ironic, because that description applies to nearly 100 percent of the content on /b/.) If you can't find anything offensive, Shit4chanSays encourages you to "check your privilege."*

    But rather than restore order, Shit4chanSays is pure chaos. It's a random collection of anime porn, online oddities, and other nonsense. And just for fun, some images actually fulfill the board's purpose of calling out bad behavior.

    Users began to enjoy the forum unironically. "This board is actually pretty great," one wrote. "It's kinda what /b/ used to be, before we got those rules for what we're allowed to post there, and everyone just posting porn all the time. Just random non-sense and fun. Gonna be sad to see it go so soon."

    All good April Fools' Day pranks must come to an end. Shit4chanSays is allegedly slated for deletion around 1:30pm ET. Funny that the biggest prank on 4chan—a site known for the meanest pranks on the Internet—is on its users: a fleeting glimpse of what 4chan used to be.

    Image via Shit4chanSays

    *A popular online expression used to "remind others that the body and life they are born into comes with specific privileges that do not apply to all arguments or situations," KnowYourMeme reports.


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    It's no secret that the Supernatural fandom is huge on Tumblr.

    After all, there's a reason that the homespun, frequently homoerotic remix of mythology, religion, folklore, and Americana is now in its 8th season and ruling the WB as well as fandom. Or should we say, there are three reasons: stars Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, and Misha Collins.

    And one of these reasons just exploded all over your Tumblr dash in an April Fools' Day Tumblrpocalypse. Make that, the Mishapocalypse.

    As an actor, Misha Collins is unassuming in stature, and most of his role playing the angel Castiel on Supernatural has been spent huddled in a bulky, ill-fitting trenchcoat—hardly the treatment that normally builds a huge fanbase, unlike his co-stars, ex-model Ackles and former Gilmore Girls boy-next-door Padalecki.

    Yet by fully embracing fan culture—much of which involves fans shipping his character, Castiel, with Ackles’s Dean Winchester—Collins has grown a fanbase that has culminated in the annual running of the world's largest scavenger hunt, GISHWHES (the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen). 

    Collins' antics and openness when doing interviews and con appearances are well known to SPN fans, who apparently decided there was no better day than April 1 to declare their love by, apparently, taking over the Internet. Or at least most of Tumblr.

    What does a Mishapocalypse look like? Fans have been changing their normal Tumblr avatars to use icons of Misha--most using the same image. One post, that simply says, "reblog if your icon is a sex god from the high heavens," which could be a reference to Misha's angelic status on the show, has gotten almost 250,000 reblogs.

    Fans have also shopped Misha's face onto everything:

    Mount Rushmore:

    Photo via samwindchesterlover22/Tumblr

    The weeping angels from Doctor Who (because he plays an angel, get it?):

    And other heavenly sex gods:

    Photo via sookylee/Tumblr

    Tumblr users who normally have Misha Collins added to Tumblr Savior, a popular browser extension which allows you to block unwanted tags or subjects from your Tumblr dashboard, may have a little more trouble than usual sorting through the overwhelming amount of Misha in the world today. "This is literally my whole dash," said one Tumblr user, screencapping an entire page of blocked posts about Misha.

    Elsewhere, Tumblr users maxed out the daily posting limit right and left. "IT WAS A PRIVILEGE BLOGGING THE SAME FUCKING PICTURE OF MISHA WITH YOU OVER AND OVER AGAIN!" said Tumblr user bluesteaktacos shortly before hitting the limit of 250 posts in a 24-hour period.

    The Mishapocalypse  even took over the randomized chat site Omegle, as well as audio hosting service Soundcloud. And, of course, it has its own (hilarious) Facebook page

    "WE RULE THE WORLD WITH MISHA AS OUR FACE," it reads. 

    So far, there's been no official comment from Collins' popular Twitter on Mishapocalypse, but the actor has tacitly changed his Twitter icon—to someone who is emphatically not Misha.

    Photo via Facebook


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    $1,000 is all it took for the greatest painting ever put on canvas to trade hands from the baseball icon Jose Canseco to two guys in Washington, D.C. who administer one genuinely enthusiastic fantasy baseball league.

    The painting itself is an unofficial portrait of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig. It comes by way of Canseco's fanatical mind and vision and first showed up on the Internet about a month ago in March.

    It's beautiful, really. You should look at it closely.

    Canseco put a photo of the painting online and told his 500,000 Twitter fans to make him an offer.

    whole slew of price points came in, but two D.C. dwellers were able to get through.

    Their names are Rob Lalka and Andrew Bender, and they made contact with the former Bash Brother because they found his cell phone number on a Deadspin article from May 2012.

    "We took a shot in the dark and texted Canseco's number, telling him we're interested," the two wrote this afternoon inThe Washington Post. "Two hours later, while sitting at a bar in Roanoke, our phones lit up with a text from Canseco—’1k takes the painting.’”

    The portrait of Bud Selig showed up at their doorstep one hot minute later.

    Lalka and Bender say the painting will serve as a trophy for their ten-team fantasy league.The Washington Post's sports blog has the story, right down to "Little Bud"'s appearance at the Washington Nationals' first game of the season.

    "Our goal is to have this bad boy end up in Cooperstown one day," the two wrote, "once baseball decides to address the steroid issue in a more nuanced way and allow dissenting voices into the narrative."

    Art by José Canseco/Twitter


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    Thanks to 3-D printing technology, Eric Moger is getting his life back.

    Four years ago, doctors detected a massive tumor growing beneath the skin on his face. They successfully removed the cancerous growth, but were also forced to remove most of the entire left side of his face. After the lifesaving procedure, the British restaurant manager had a gaping hole where his eye, cheek bone, and part of his jaw had been. Moger would have gone on to live the rest of his life with half his face missing.

    Nicholas Kalavrezos—the surgeon who removed his tumor—referred Moger to Dr. Andrew Dawood, a dental surgeon and implant specialist. Dawood had previously experimented with 3-D printing by recreating his patients' jaws and practicing surgical procedures on them.

    With Moger, Dawood used CT and facial scans to create a facial blueprint. Using that data, the doctor was able to construct a "scaffold," a titanium jaw replacement that uses 2-inch-long rods to hold it in place.

    Dawood also implanted a plastic plate inside of Moger's mouth. This would allow him to eat and  drink for the first time since the surgery. Previously, Moger was fed via a tube that went directly into his stomach.

    The surgeon used toughened nylon and magnets to build a removable facade.

    "When I had it in my hand, it was like looking at myself in my hands," Eric Moger told the Sydney Morning Herald, referring to his new mask. "When I first put it up to my face, I couldn't believe how good it looked." 

    This is what Moger looked like prior the surgery. This is him with the prosthetic. 

    "Before, I used to have to hold my hand up to my jaw to keep my face still so I could talk properly and I would have liquid running out the side of my face if I tried to drink. When I had the first glass of water wearing the prosthetic face, nothing came out—it was amazing."

    The 60-year-old British man, who got engaged prior to developing the tumor, is just glad to be getting his life back on track.

    "Now I have a new face for the wedding," he noted. "I can restart my life after having it on hold for four and a half years."

    H/T Sydney Morning Herald | Photo via GoDakshin/Flickr


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    Only a few nations remain.

    A recent study by blogger and social media analyst Vincenzo Cosenza showed that each year, Facebook gobbles up more and more of the market share for social networks. It's gotten to the point where only 10 countries choose a competitor, and only four different non-Facebook sites can claim to be the most popular social networks in their respective countries.

    GIF via Vincos.it

    So I set out to find out what these other networks are like. Are they missing out? Are we? And perhaps most importantly, is it possible to sign up for these sites if you don't have an inkling of how to speak or read their native languages?

    VK (formerly VKontakte)

    Launched: 2006

    Where it's more popular than Facebook: Russia, where it's the second-most popular site (even more popular than Google).

    Users: 195 million

    Facebook Users in Russia: 7.5 million

    Random fact: More than any service on this list, VK (it used to be VKontakte, but I guess VK is cleaner) looks like a Facebook clone.

    Why it’s more popular than Facebook: Free entertainment. VK offers integrated BitTorrent file sharing, and it has long been a source of both local and international movies dubbed into Russian. It also operates a music service that has repeatedly landed it on the U.S. Trade Representative’s list of the world’s most egregious copyright violators.

    Getting started with VK is easy. It asks you to narrow down where you're from, and has a database of seemingly every high school and college in the U.S. Unfortunately, none of the kids who graduated from my high school in West Virginia are among the nearly 200 million who use the service. (Ditto my small Ohio liberal arts college.)

    Also unfortunately, signing up requires a cell phone confirmation. American numbers don't work—at least mine didn't—and tech support didn't respond to my requests for help. So it's safe to say that this is the least-friendly for Americans, if only by default.

    Cloob

    Launched: 2004

    Where it's bigger than Facebook: Iran

    Users: More than 2 million

    Facebook users in Iran: Officially, zero. Unofficially, as many as 14 million.

    Random fact: Iran's so strict with its citizens' online activity that it frequently threatens to create its own, self-contained Internet. So it should be no surprise that the country blocks Facebook.

    Why it’s more popular than Facebook: Technically, it’s probably not. But because of Iran’s Facebook ban, Cloob is the largest social network Iranians can use without bypassing the country’s Internet filters.


    Signing up for Cloob requires both an English and Farsi name. I just copied some Farsi text up top for the latter; when I ran it through Google translate later, I learned I'd dubbed myself “Camille Also.”

    And it uses the Iranian calendar, to which I was also ignorant, so I just clicked that I was born in 1319—or as I quickly learned, am 73 years old.

    To give you an idea of how much Cloob wants to avoid the same fate in Iran as Facebook, check out its disclaimer (thanks redditor benchowd for the translation):

    Most text and all images (profiles, Cloobs, albums) of the site are monitored by the management team and the Cloob Police [moderators] in order to comply with the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Computer Crimes Act.

    Should you witness any flouting of the rules on the site, please use the "Report to Cloob Police" links which can be found on various pages. Help us maintain the safety, health and dynamic of this virtual city by reporting things which are against the rules.

    Cloob is sort of a do-everything kind of social site, like AOL. You fill out a lot of details (who do you live with, how much do you weigh, do you smoke, what's your religion). There are chat rooms, and plenty of games. Unfortunately, those wouldn't load for me, so I'll forever wonder what it's like to play "Diving Monkey," which has adopted the evil monkey from Family Guy as its mascot, or 'Hamster,” which features a terrifying cartoon spider.

    QZone

    Launched: 2005

    Where it’s bigger than Facebook: China

    Users: 600 million

    Facebook users in China: 611,000 (according to Facebook), as many as 125 million (according to WebIndex). The actual number falls somewhere in between.

    Random fact: There are several social networks with more Chinese users than Facebook, including Sina Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter). 

    Why it’s more popular than Facebook: China is another country that technically blocks Facebook, forcing Chinese users to employ a proxy server or VPN to access the site through the “Great Firewall.” QZone is also one of the most sophisticated, feature-rich Facebook competitors in the world.

    Definitely the sharpest looking of the bunch, QZone is also the most Facebook-like. First you have to sign up for a QQ account, but after that, the main screen is pretty straightforward.

    Once I posted my first status update, I saw I'd also generated an automated post, complete with a background picture of a girl looking out a train, that said (via Google Translate):

    The first day of my Qzone Post Cube log.

    My Name: Chebin

    I am here: Dongcheng, Beijing, China

    My sign: Saggitarius

    Like the rest of these networks, QZone offers a number of disparate services, like a Spotify-like music service where you can stream a number of songs. I tried some QZone game. Graphically, this was no FarmVille. In terms of gameplay, though, I was totally lost. I was some dude wearing just his tighty-whiteys, or maybe a diaper, though I couldn't control his actions. I just kept running through a forest, and I'd run into non-playable characters that gave me what appeared to be items and power-ups. One of them gave me clothes, which was nice. Then a monkey started following me, apparently in friendship. I seriously met someone who gave me something every few seconds, and nothing else happened.

    Look, I'm going to be honest: For the most part, I had no idea what I was doing on QZone. Google Translate is much shoddier with Chinese than with some other languages, at least when it comes to translating social media idioms.

    Odnoklassniki

    Launched: 2006

    Where it's bigger than Facebook: Moldova

    Users: More than 500,000 in Moldova, more than 148 million worldwide

    Facebook users in Moldova: 295,940

    Why it’s more popular than Facebook: Moldova has a significant Russian-speaking population and a close cultural and economic relationship with Moscow, an advantage for the Russian-language Odnoklassniki. Although the younger, English-speaking generations of Moldovans are starting to migrate to Facebook, older citizens and people in rural areas have stuck with Odnoklassniki because of its focus on looking up old classmates.

    Features-wise, Odnoklassniki doesn’t allow users to post on each others’ public walls—making it more for profile-stalking than social interaction. However, it does have something FB doesn’t: the ability to rate any photo on a scale of 1 to 5 stars. The 1-star rating is basically Facebook’s missing “dislike” button.

    Random fact: Founder Albert Popkov was sued in 2008 by his former company, which alleged that he founded Odnoklassniki—which means “Classmates” in Russian—with code he'd written for a different social network. He settled for an undisclosed amount.

    ---

    Odnoklassniki has something of a MySpace feel. Nobody uses their own name or avatar, it seems. (This may be because of the profile-stalking nature of the site, which leads many users to start anonymous second accounts.)  

    Signing up prompts you for hobbies. I tried mandolins, then the Daily Dot, but it was Ultimate Frisbee that hit. Specifically, "Ultimate" is a big word for a lot of Odnoklassniki users, and a number of themselves have named themselves variations of "Ultimate Fighting."


    The author's Odnoklassniki friends

    For my own photo, I uploaded a Mario Lopez promo picture from a show called H8R that was on my hard drive for some reason. Odnoklassniki's facial recognition technology is good; it instantly pointed at Mario's face (not the silhouette) and asked for a name. I told the photo was of me, or as I was automatically transliterated, Отметить себя (Mark Himself, Google Translate tells me).

    Like Cloob, Odnoklassniki offers a hodgepodge of services, ranging from dating, to streaming music and videos, to less social network-y genres like real estate. The games here, like Warface, are much more realistic and hardcore than Cloob's flash-based offerings.

    There's also "Okie points," a form of virtual currency for the site. You get 20 for signing up. I couldn't figure out anything to do with them, so if any Odnoklassniki users are reading this, hit me up if you're low on Okie points.

    Also, when you friend request someone, you're asked to state your relationship with that person. At one point, this happened.

    Art by Jason Reed, photo by Brian Solis


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    Last week, the Daily Dot and the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture explored the detrimental effects of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on artists, creators, teachers, fans and other participants of online media.

    Hard on the heels of that discussion, Slate is drawing attention to another chilling effect of the restrictive U.S. copyright law: abiding by the DMCA could be actively harming your computer.

    Let's say the CD you just bought has interactive computer content. You put it in your computer, the software installs... and you suddenly have a computer full of security flaws and invisible malware.

    In order for the average computer user to know about the existence of a security issue with their hardware or software, like CDs that install spyware on your computer, someone has to research that issue, discover the security flaw, and make the public aware of it.

    But what if the research itself is rendered illegal because that CD you bought was copyright-protected?

    Under the current protections afforded by the DMCA, researchers and technicians can break into and decrypt the data stored on otherwise copyrighted media, but only if the hardware contains encrypted, secure data, and the methods for extracting it also involve encryption.

    It's an allowance so narrow as to be useless for most technological researchers—at least according to Princeton computer science professor Edward Felten.

    Felten is also the Chief Technologist for the Federal Trade Commission, and he's not happy that confusing DMCA restrictions once waylaid him and a sharp-eyed grad student from publishing their findings about Sony's spyware-ridden software.

    In his Slate column, Felten describes numerous instances where the DMCA significantly hampered research publication efforts, either through the overreaching of companies who wanted to use the DMCA as "a go-to strategy" for dealing with "embarrassing revelations about their products," or through judicial confusion surrounding the law itself.

    It's not the research itself that's hard; it's the fact that publishing the research usually requires confessing to having thoroughly explored and experimented with copyright-protected equipment—methods that the DMCA deems illegal because they could hypothetically be used for acts of copyright infringement.

    The DMCA attempts to curtail the "circumvention" of copyright management by preventing people from tampering with technology, digital services, hardware, and other media formats. It restricts what you can do with the DVDs, smart phones, CDs, and other digitally formatted media that you purchase. For example, you might want to take your new iPhone and switch it to another service provider; but even though you've purchased it, you can't "unlock" most phones, tablets, e-readers, or other devices in order to transfer service to them without breaking your contract—and the law.

    As for ripping your newly-minted Blu-ray and burning a copy for a friend? Don't even think about it. Unless you're using a clip for your academic work, remixes or fanvids, educational purposes, nonprofit work, law enforcement, documentary filmmaking, or other fair use activities, ripping your DVD is generally illegal under the DMCA.

    Every two years the Library of Congress grants or renews a limited number of exemptions to the anti-circumvention clauses of the DMCA, but the law is applied unevenly across the board. For instance, in 2012, the Library granted an exemption for "jailbreaking" phones—installing software from sources outside the approved stores for your devices; but the exemption, bizarrely, only applies to phones, not tablets, video game consoles, or other devices, and "unlocking" them is still illegal.

    Felten similarly describes the narrowly applied exemption for technological research as "so narrowly defined as to be all but useless:"

    [T]here is a 116-word section of the Act titled “Permissible Acts of Encryption Research,” and it appears to have been written without consulting any researchers. There may be someone, somewhere, who has benefited from this exemption, but it fails to protect almost all of the relevant research. It didn’t protect Alex and me, because we were investigating spyware that didn’t rely on the mathematical operations involved in encryption.

    Because of legal fears about the scope of the DMCA, Felten and student Alex Halderman delayed publishing their research until they were scooped by a bolder researcher.

    Of course, this was in 2005, and exemptions have since been evaluated and renewed four times over; but the narrow scope of "encryption research" as defined by use of mathematical algorithms has yet to be expanded as of 2012—even though the scope of what falls under illegal "circumvention" of technology is quite broad, encompassing "avoiding, bypassing, removing, deactivating, or otherwise impairing a technological measure."

    In other words, all the things a savvy researcher might need to do to discover invasive code or otherwise harmful computer software.

    Felten implies that the DMCA has discouraged his peers from researching proprietary software and other copyrighted technology. If true, it implies a decreased level of supervision over copyright holders due to a lack of researchers who can face down the DMCA in order to be watchdogs. Indeed, in 2000, Felten had to sue for the right to publish his research after DMCA restrictions initially prevented him. Not everyone has the money to brave an expensive legal battle in order to hold corporations accountable for the code they create.

    Felten urges for the lifting of restrictions for researchers along with other much-needed exemptions like the ability to unlock cell phones:

    While we’re tinkering with [exemptions], let’s create a safe harbor for the researchers who can be our early warning system against unpleasant surprises in the next generation of technologies.

    Felten describes this as an easy thing to do; but even if the Library of Congress is ready to listen to advocates for broader exemptions, they won't decide whether to expand the provisions until late 2014—at which point, the debate will begin all over again in preparation for the next set of exemption renewals in 2016.

    Illustration via oggie85/deviantART


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    Pointing out the problems with a Wikipedia article is apparently enough to get you sued.

    This is what a German Wikipedia editor has learned after he was threatened with legal action by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD) for participating in discussions that resulted in the organization’s page being deleted for biased editing.

    Benjamin Mako Hill received an email on Feb. 26 from ICD founder Mark Donfried threatening to sue him and other anonymous Wikipedia editors if he did not explain why he was " taking an active role in publicly posting information about the ICD [and] discussing the ICD in the 'talk' pages of Wikipedia," he wrote. Donfried also pressed Hill to explain why he advocated for the deletion of two ICD Wikipedia pages in June 2012 and January.

    In a blog post made Wednesday, Hill states that he voted to have the ICD Wikipedia page deleted because it “reads like an advert, links almost exclusively to of pages on the organizations’ websites and seems very likely to have been written by the organization itself."

    "As Wikipedia editor, I was worried that Wikipedia’s policies on conflict of interest, advertising, neutrality, and notability were not being served by the article in its state," Hill added.

    The ICD is a Berlin, Germany-based non-profit organization which promotes global peace and human rights around the world through educational programs, conferences, and internships. The organization first got on Hill's radar in June after he received an invitation from Donfried to speak at its 2012 International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy & Human Rights. Hill found the offer peculiar since he was not "an expert in (or even particularly knowledgeable about) cultural diplomacy."

    Hill spent time researching the ICD, particularly on Wikipedia, and discovered that an anonymous editor from Berlin had removed ICD criticisms from the page. One deleted link was to a website called “Inside the ICD” which included anonymous posts from people claiming to be former ICD interns. While "Inside the ICD" included positive posts about the organization, any sort of critical comment received backlash. ("Inside the ICD" was ultimately threatened with legal action by the ICD and was forced to shut down in early January.)

    Hill spent the next several months working on the ICD article with other Wikipedia editors, first in an attempt to fix it, and then to delete the organization’s articles (and those it recreated) when it appeared they were too biased to be saved.

    “I know that Wikipedia does not deserve this article, that I don’t know to fix it, and that despite my efforts to address these issues (and I’ll keep trying), the old patterns of editing have continued and the article is only getting worse,” he wrote in one discussion thread.

    Hill hopes the ICD will go through the deletion review process and foster transparency regarding the organization's Wikipedia page.

    "If I can be scared off by threats like these, anybody can," Hill added. "I am concerned by what I believe is the more common case — where those with skin in the game will fight harder and longer than a random Wikipedian. The fact that it’s usually not me on the end of the threat gives me lots of reasons to worry about Wikipedia at a time when its importance and readership continues to grow as its editor-base remains stagnant."

    H/T boingboing | Art by Jason Reed


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    Maybe the Internet won't last forever. To document what online life was like in 2013, six major libraries in Britain and Ireland will have the power to archive the U.K. Web. To mark the occasion, curators have highlighted 100 sites to give a broad sense of current culture.

    As we've seen with Posterous, volunteers often have to step up and archive sites before they vanish permanently. Here are they big names they picked: Facebook, Amazon, the BBC, the National Health Service, and AirBnb. The libraries are following the U.S. Library of Congress by archiving Twitter as well.

    Neverseconds, a school lunch blog run by a 9-year-old girl that raised thousands for charity and forced a school district to offer healthier meals, also made the cut.

    And there are some even odder offerings. Here's a look at the stranger URLs that landed on the list. 

    Unst Bus Shelter

    If ever you've wanted to know how a bus shelter on a Scottish island became a tourist hotspot, this site does a Clarissa and explains it all.


     

    Glamping

    Luxury camping is a thing. This chronicles the fad for those who are above a thin sheet of canvas and a damp, frigid sleeping bag.


     

    Old Bailey Online

    This one details 197,745 criminal trials at London's central criminal court, giving a fascinating insight into normal citizen's lives. The only trouble is it covers the years 1674-1913. Not exactly reflective of life in 2013.


     

    ARRSE

    It's a noble inclusion, a forum for British armed forces members. There's just something about that acronym, though...


     

    Chavtowns

    The British Library describes it as "user generated content exploring themes and social conditions in urban post industrial Britain." Really, it's a way for anyone to blog about chavs/neds/hooligans in their towns. Great Britain, indeed.


     

    Just Eat

    We're not entirely sure why it's necessary to highlight British proclivities for ordering takeout. Maybe the archivists want to retain current U.K. diets for posterity. That's probably not something anyone will want to remember in a hundred years.


     

    McGonagall Online

    A tribute to notoriously awful poet William Topaz McGonagall. While certainly a notable person worthy of discussion, he died over a hundred years ago. He doesn't reflect life in 2013.

    The Dreamcast Junkyard

    Who knew people were still making Dreamcast games in 2013? Well, Kickstarter and indie developers at least. Also this blog, which provides updates on a console that was discontinued (at least in North America and Europe) over a decade ago. Let's hear more about Shenmue 3. Then we'll care.


     

    Argos

    Yeah, Brits still do catalog shopping. WHY. It's 2013, Britain. Stop buying cheap jewellery at Argos and get it on eBay instead.


     

    The Dracula Society

    The British Library promises this is just one of many, many clubs and societies to be included in the archive. Founded in 1973, the Dracula Society is for those interested in the supernatural in literature, particularly in Gothic tomes. As a peek into the weird and wonderful societies Brits are part of, it's as good a starting point as any.


     

    Photo via britishlibrary/YouTube


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    For as long as the Internet has been commonplace, law enforcement agents have found it helpful in catching criminals (and not just the stupid ones who post video evidence of their crimes on YouTube, either). Extremist groups—such as the various American white-supremacist organizations—also find the Internet useful for connecting with like-minded people.

    But it’s intensely time-consuming for police to personally wade through the web’s ever-growing number of white supremacist tweets and other social media postings in search of the relative handful of extremist posts indicating a possible threat.

    Maybe there’s an easier way. Two researchers, J. M. Berger and Bill Strathearn, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) in London, have developed an algorithm with a high rate of success in identifying extremists on Twitter, by analyzing the relationships between Twitter account holders (as opposed to analyzing the actual posted content).

    In a 56-page study (released in pdf form), Berger and Strathearn said:

    “It is relatively easy to identify tens of thousands of social media users who have an interest in violent ideologies, but very difficult to figure out which users are worth watching. For students of extremist movements and those working to counter violent extremism online, deciphering the signal amid the noise can prove incredibly daunting.”

    In other words, not every online follower of an extremist holds extreme views, and even among those who do, not everybody will act violently on them. Consider everybody who might follow a white nationalist Twitter feed, for example. Some will be cops, journalists and other non-racists, who follow for researching, proselytizing or even trolling the bigots. Some followers are self-proclaimed white nationalists who limit their bigotry to legal (though offensive) speech; they might say hurtful things, but won’t commit violent acts or otherwise endanger innocent people.

    But there’s a third group: those who don’t merely profess extremist beliefs but are willing to act violently upon them. If you’re in law enforcement, hoping to identify members of the third group before they hurt anybody, how can you do this?

    Sure, you could read all those individual tweeted postings to determine who’s who—except that’s too time-consuming and labor-intensive to be remotely feasible. Berger and Strathearn’s algorithm can make those determinations mathematically.

    "Our starting data centered on followers of 12 American white nationalist/white supremacist “seed” accounts on Twitter. We discovered that by limiting our analysis to interactions with this set, the metrics also identified the users who were highly engaged with extremist ideology."

    Those 12 accounts had over 3,500 followers between them (who collectively generated over 340,000 different tweets), yet less than half of those followers publicly self-identified as white supremacists or white nationalists. Now suppose you’re stuck with the task of sifting through those thousands of followers and hundreds of thousands of tweets, to find which ones might be dangerous enough to warrant a closer look.

    According to Berger and Strathearn:

    "By measuring interactions alone—without analyzing user content related to the ideology—we narrowed the starting set down to 100 top-scoring accounts, of which 95 percent overtly self-identified as white nationalist. […] A comparison analysis run on followers of anarchist Twitter accounts suggests the methodology can be used without modification on any number of ideologies."

    The researchers identified three key terms used in their algorithms, which they listed and defined as follows:

    • Influence: A metric measuring a Twitter user’s ability to publicly create and distribute content that is consumed, affirmed and redistributed by other users.

    • Exposure: A metric measuring a Twitter user’s tendency to publicly consume, affirm and redistribute content created by other users.

    • Interactivity: A metric measuring a Twitter user’s combined influence and exposure based on their public activity.

    For example: suppose you’re a non-racist person following ex-Klansman David Duke on Twitter, and occasionally sending him a tweet disagreeing with his views. It’s highly unlikely any of Duke’s racist followers will find your comment worth re-tweeting. But a racist Duke follower who sends tweets reinforcing his white power views probably will inspire lots of retweets and conversations in the more bigoted regions of the Twitterverse.

    Thus the algorithm focuses on the connections while paying no attention to the content. However, in the course of the study, the researchers nonetheless did discover certain trends regarding tweeted content; the study also lists which websites self-identified white nationalists were most likely to link to (and which white nationalist sites most often use Twitter as a self-promotion vehicle):

    "The most-linked extremist site was WhiteResister.com, but more than half the links to that site originated with two Twitter accounts, both affiliated with the site. Discounting links from those two accounts, WhiteResister.com would have dropped to sixth."

    The study briefly lists and discusses the most common hashtags used by extremists, before detailing the algorithm’s possible real-world applications in Countering Violent Extremism (CVE), and the importance of separating actual threats from mere Internet Tough Guys:

    "In short, the vast majority of people taking part in extremist talk online are unimportant. They are casually involved, dabbling in extremism, and their rhetoric has a relatively minimal relationship to the spread of pernicious ideologies and their eventual metastasization into real-world violence. Any CVE program must begin by sifting the wheat from this chaff.

    Photo via teamdroid/Flickr


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    You Only Live Once. You might as well spend that life having fun with your standardized tests. 

    That's the logic that Arlington, Texas, student Kyron Birdine applied to his latest statewide knowledge and analytics assessment. Stuck in a classroom with little more than a No. 2 pencil and sheet after sheet of multiple choice bubbles to fill in, the high school junior decided to write "YOLO :)" on his essay sheet and tweet a photo of the paper to his friends and followers.

    YOLO, of course, is the millennial-endorsed, Drake-spawned excuse for doing dumb s**t: "You Only Live Once."

    Now the only thing he's living through is a four-day in-school suspension for a "breach of security." Speaking with Dallas' WFAA News 8, Birdine said that he carried no regrets.

    "It wasn't for a grade," he said. "Colleges don't see it. It didn't benefit my personal life at all."

    Birdine has since deleted the tweet and privatized his account. 

    He also said that he probably wouldn't bother to tweet out a photo of a YOLO essay again. To which we say, come on, Kyron.

    You only live once.

    H/T BetaBeat | Photo via OddNewsHeadlines/YouTube


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