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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Book covers—the thing you inevitably judge a book by, for better or worse—occupy a central and crucial role in the growing push for greater diversity in publishing. Now, thanks to one young adult fiction author's Twitter challenge to "genderswap" the covers of books, the debate around how covers stifle representation may take on a whole fascinating new layer: the question of how cover designs themselves promote sexist stereotypes.

    Popular Twitter celeb and YA author Maureen Johnson threw out a casual challenge to her 80,000 Twitter followers on Monday, mainly as a social experiment to explore gender bias in cover design. Instead, "Coverflip" sparked an Internet-wide discussion about general reader biases, gender issues in literary criticism, publishing and marketing trends, and more.

    When the results began pouring in, the social commentary at work was immediate, insightful, and often gorgeous

    Photo via dubiousculturalartifact/Tumblr

    Why go to all this trouble to "flip" the covers of books and imagine redesigns marketed to the opposite gender? Because at a core level that many authors, book bloggers, readers, and industry insiders are working to uproot, gender bias plagues publishing.

    Photo via solemnlyswear22/Tumblr

    The issue of covers being whitewashed, "thinwashed," and otherwise modified to misrepresent or erase the marginalized characters featured inside them has long been a hot point of debate and discussion. Several notable Young Adult authors including Johnson and Cassandra Clare have been outspoken for a while on the subject of featuring more representative characters on covers. In an October interview with media advocacy website Racebending, Clare outlined the central difficulty with cover representation in the world of publishing:

    A cover is not chosen by the author, but it also isn’t even chosen entirely by the publisher. It is dictated in part by booksellers. If booksellers don’t like your cover, they can choose to not carry the book, effectively sinking the book. There is enormous crushing pressure to produce a cover that big booksellers will think is marketable.

    There is a lot of received wisdom in publishing, just like there is in movies... In movies, people believe that girls and women characters cannot carry films unless that film is a romantic comedy. When a movie like Aeon Flux comes out and doesn’t do well, it’s because “no one wants to see a woman carry an action movie.” When Battleship fails, it’s never because “people don’t want to see men carry an action movie.”

    Clare's point is twofold: the most pervasive myths in publishing are that men and boys won't read things written by women, and white people won't read anything written by a non-white author. That we can see these myths being visibly enacted in cover designs is a debate about sexism and racism that transcends the publishing industry. 

    But rarely do those conversations actually happen outside of the book blogosphere. Coverflip proved an unexpectedly viral way to take that discussion outside of its usual circles—even if, for now, it is largely only focused on the issue of gender biases, not of race, queerness, or other issues that frequently haunt discussions of book covers and marketing.

    And what a conversation it's been. 

    Photo via capnflynn/Tumblr

    The simple act of repackaging a cover seems to be exploding preconceived notions right and left, as readers doubletake at books they would normally have avoided. "For years, I have probably been part of the problem," wrote bestselling YA author Amanda Hocking in response to the trend. 

    Instead of standing up for the girly things I did like - like the color pink and glitter and teen romance novels - and pointing out that's [it's] perfectly okay to like these things, that there's never been anything inferior about glitter, and most people of both genders hope to fall in love - I dismissed them and surrounded myself with the "boy" interests that I do have, wearing Jurassic Park and Batman and Star Wars like armor, listening to Korn and Marilyn Manson in high school to prove that I wasn't some girl, I was as tough and as valuable as any boy.

    And the bias didn't only go in the direction of being anti-romance or anti-pink covers.

    Photo via psaronius/Tumblr

    On Twitter, and later in a blog post for the Huffington Post, Johnson spoke about the need to challenge and think critically about the perceptions we have surrounding covers and who a book's target audience actually is.

     

    Photo via oxymoron0-o./Tumblr

    Still, not everyone felt that Coverflip went far enough.

    I don’t think I’m a fan," wrote itscustomtaylored on Tumblr. 

    I feel like a lot of the entries aren’t just illustrating the sexism in cover design, but are also mocking the type of literature that usually merits “female” book covers. Look at the entries for Coverflip: how many do you think intend for the “female” cover to be better than the “male” cover? 

    I think the challenge also generalizes what men and women authors write, via tropes in cover design. All the female-gendered covers look like Danielle Steel novels, and the implication is that female-gendered covers are frivolous; I know the point Coverflip is trying to make is that female authors are not frivolous, by extension, but I don’t know how much that translates.

    Judging by the number of readers who have been discussing how to create actual change in the industry, the point seems to have come through loud and clear. 

    Long after discussion over Coverflip has quieted, the covers themselves will remain a lightning rod for debate within the book blogosphere. Covers are most often the biggest factor in a book's success or failure, and no matter how much debate Coverflip may have sparked, the publishing industry is unlikely to overhaul its design practices—much less its marketing practices—as a result. 

    As long as book covers continue to serve as the most visible sign of the publishing industry's sociocultural biases, there will be readers and writers for whom simply photoshopping the covers to prove a point isn't enough.

    Photo via justthatgirl/Tumblr


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  • 05/10/13--05:00: Are we becoming our avatars?
  • People get involved when they watch sports, almost as though they’re experiencing those things themselves. But what about when we’re observing something we know isn’t “real”—virtual reality, for instance?

    Anyone who’s played any kind of video game knows we feel some vicarious involvement when we’re playing. But researchers at the University of Michigan and Penn State have taken that notion a step further, illustrating just how little our brain distinguishes between what we’re experiencing and what’s on the screen.

    According to a study released today, our assumptions about what our avatars are “feeling” may actually alter our perception of that virtual world—similar to the way our bodily experiences can affect perception in the real world.

    Most of us are familiar with real life examples of how bodily experiences like emotion and physical strain can affect our perception. Legal anecdotes and ample research show that eyewitness testimony is famously unreliable, in part because memory can be distorted by emotion and prejudice.

    study published in 2009 suggested that people view heights as being significantly greater when viewed from above (the riskier view) than from below (the safer view). Likewise, previous studies suggest that the incline of a hill, for example, appears steeper when we’re wearing a heavy backpack than when we aren’t—a phenomenon known as “embodied perception.”

    An avatar, as Michigan State University’s Frank Biocca argued in 1997, is “the representational medium for the mind.” Taking a cue from the kinds of virtual reality training undertaken in the military and by athletes, researchers for the new study guessed that the links between what’s going on in these outward representations of our minds would be intimately linked with this phenomenon of embodied perception.

    Turns out they were right, but only under certain conditions.

    Read the full story on Motherboard

    By Austin Considine


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    Here at the Daily Dot, we swap GIF images with each other every morning. Now we’re looping you in. In the Morning GIF, we feature a popular—or just plain cool—GIF we found on Reddit, Canvas, or elsewhere on the Internet.

    Love is not an easy thing to figure out. Sometime you have to really work at it. Or in the case of Tumblr-based artist Cindy Suen, you need to repeat the word over and over until something good or bad comes out.

    That's exactly what Suen did recently for her Design for Motion class at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). 

    "I had some trouble in coming up with interesting concepts for this common theme, so I just kept writing the word 'love' over and over again in my sketchbook," Suen told the Daily Dot. "Then I started to write it backwards, and I found something interesting. Love spelled backwards sounded like evil. From there, the remaining two words, live and like, just came to me naturally as I repeatedly wrote them out."

    Using programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Suen transformed her discovery into an 11 framed typographical GIF animation that reveals how much real life crossover there is between the feeling of love and the act of being evil.

    Suen posted her GIF on Tumblr Wednesday where it collected more than 150 notes and was featured on the GIF tag page.

    "I got so hyper for the rest of the night and even today that I could hardly concentrate on anything else! (as it is my first time ever to receive over a hundred notes on tumblr)," Suen said. "This will definitely push me to keep working harder to create cooler GIFs in the future."

    GIF via Cindy Suen/Tumblr


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    The stereotype that gamers are all straight, white men is slowly changing as other members of the gaming community risk criticism and harassment to make their voices heard. A new Kickstarter-funded documentary focuses on one group not often in the spotlight: queer gamers.

    Gaming in Color will explore the queer side of the gaming community and shed light on the challenges LGBT gamers face.

    “For too long gamers have been painted in a very specific light, and the mosaic of gamers have lacked the diversity of minorities, queers, women, and members of LGBT communities,” the project’s organizers wrote on Kickstarter. “We want to create this film in order to take a closer look at the challenges and the growth of these communities in the gaming world.”

    Launched March 24, the campaign is hoping to reach a goal of $50,000 by May 11. As of May 9, it has raised over $46,000 from hundreds of backers.

    “We all have our own personal reasons why gaming is important to us, and our goal with this project is to bring a voice to those stories, not just to hear what others have to say but to let others know they’re not alone. That there’s a strong community of people out there with amazing stories that need to be told,” director David Gil said.

    The documentary will highlight the bullying many LGBT members of the gaming community face at the hands of fellow gamers, and how few video games deal with or even recognize queer issues.

    When producer Anne Clements first started investigating the gay gaming community, she was surprised by how large a subculture it had become and how much bullying queer gamers face, both online and in real life.

    “If kids are having trouble in school and are being bullied, they tend to focus on games to escape, but now online games have become so interactive that they can go on there and get bullied too,” Clements said.

    Last August, another Kickstarter campaign raised over $91,000 to run the first LGBT gaming convention, GaymerX, which will take place August 2013 in San Francisco. The convention will focus on issues important to LGBT geek culture. Matt Conn and Kayce Brown, founders of GaymerX, were interviewed for the Gaming in Color trailer and invited to take part in the documentary.

    “I hope that young people can watch this film and if they are queer or questioning, that they realize that hey, there's nothing wrong with being a gay dork or a lesbian...There are thousands upon tens of thousands of other people out there just like me and that there is nothing wrong [with that] or that they aren't alone,” Conn told the Daily Dot.

    According to Brown, the current climate makes it especially hard to be a gay gamer. Within minutes of logging onto a game server, you can hear insults and slurs that make LGBT gamers feel like they can’t be themselves. The bullying and harassment isn’t just within the gaming community, though. It’s also sometimes uncomfortable for gay gamers to admit to non-gamers in the LGBT community that they’re geeks.

    “It’s like you’re coming out of the closet twice, first that you’re gay and then that you’re a gamer,” Brown said.

    Conn admitted that if there had been a growing community for gay gamers like there is now, it would have helped him come out of the closet sooner, because he would have known there was a community supporting him.

    But as the LGBT gaming community has grown and become more vocal, queer gamers have drawn attention and criticism from those that don’t want to see the culture change. GaymerX has been the focus of a Westboro Baptist Church video and has even been attacked by other gamers.

    Both GaymerX and Gaming in Color have been accused of trying to segregate the gaming community, but they see their mission as precisely the opposite.

    “When it comes to gaming, be they gay, straight, men, women, black, white, etc a player is a player. What we want to do is portray the struggles that people have gone through just to try and be treated the same as everyone else within the gaming sphere,” Gaming in Color’s organizers wrote.

    Conn and Brown of GaymerX both argued that their project isn’t segregating the gaming community, because they’re not excluding other gamers from their activities. They are just pushing for more acceptance and tolerance of queer themes in gaming culture.

    “We should be able to get to the point where treating people in a game is a matter of common courtesy, and that words like faggot are not thrown around as common nouns and accepted as normal,” Conn said. “I want to get to a point where I know I can log in to any game and be openly gay—and by that I mean, casually mention my boyfriend is in the room—and not be harassed or banned or sent nasty notes or worse.”

    Clements was disturbed by the number of Internet commenters attacking Gaming in Color by asking “Why do they need their own documentary?”

    “I think we’ve come so far in gay culture in general but there’s obviously still a lot of homophobes and people scared out there,” she said. “I don’t see the harm in there being a documentary about gay gamers out there. If you don’t want to watch it, just don’t watch.”

    The hostile environment and casual homophobia of online gaming aren't the only challenges LGBT gamers face, though. They’re also fighting for representation in the games they play. Straight male game fans may take it for granted that the heroes of their games will look and act like them, but queer characters are still few and far between in mainstream, big-budget titles.

    And when they do appear, they’re extremely controversial. When BioWare let players of the 2012 blockbuster Mass Effect 3 choose same-sex romances, the company was hit with a massive onslaught of homophobic comments and negative reviews. The same story played out earlier this year in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

    “It feels like gaming, which should be at the heart of exploration and the forefront of rights, is still back in the early ‘90s, just barely getting used to the idea that they won't lose customers if they allow users the option for a same-sex relationship,” Conn said.

    “We know it’s extra dollars to include other choices,” added Matthew Brown, another gamer who appears in the documentary, “But those choices mean the world to us.”

    Clements said she hopes to have Gaming in Color wrapped up by September, in time to submit it to the Sundance Film Festival.

    With the release of the documentary and GaymerX taking place in the summer, Brown hopes game companies will hear the LGBT voice and start to include more choices within their games, so that men can rescue a prince and women can rescue a princess if they want to. Clements wants the documentary to show companies that there is an audience out there for games incorporating gay culture.

    Whether or not companies take notice, Clements hopes the documentary will touch people of all different backgrounds.

    “If you’re straight, gay or bisexual, from Los Angeles, New York, or a big city or the Midwest, hopefully you’ll find some heartfelt stories to follow,” she said.

    Photo via Gaming in Color/Kickstarter


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    Thanks to the power of the Internet, a terminally ill patient in suburban Philadelphia will get to interact with one of her idols.

    Marie Fowler is a 19-year-old twin from Oaklyn, New Jersey. According to her YouTube video, she has been battling leukemia since 2011 and underwent a transplant in January in order to stave off the cancer. Unfortunately, the transplant did not take; her leukemia returned, forcing her into hospice care.

    Her family says Fowler has only days to live. With the help of her sister, she posted a video to YouTube in which she expresses a desire to meet Kellin Quinn, lead singer of post-hardcore band Sleeping With Sirens.

    The video, which received over 12,000 views in less than two days, quickly made its way to Reddit. On r/pics, a neighbor of the family created the account KellinMeetMarie on May 10 and told Fowler's story to the subreddit's 3 million subscribers.

    "This is 19 year old Marie Fowler. She's a girl from my town. Yesterday she found out that her cancer has returned and it is now deemed terminal and she is already in Hospice Care. Her final wish is to meet Sleeping with Siren's vocalist Kellin Quinn. Reddit, can you please help us?" read KellinMeetMarie's post, accompanied by a photograph of Fowler.

    The post was soon flooded with condolences, upvotes, and attempts to unite Fowler and Quinn.

    "Tweeting him may be the best way to get his attention," redditor tw3nt suggested.

    "I know the guitarist, Jack. His Dad is a friend of mine. I'll call him right now," redditor ptoomey offered.

    Fowler's story then made its way onto Twitter and Facebook, where fans and sympathetic parties alike pleaded for the musician to meet his dying fan.

    "@Kellinquinn make someone's dream come true please? #kellinmeetmarie" Twitter user @glampire98 tweeted to Quinn

    Facebook user Oaklyn Rec Hockey pleaded on the singer's Facebook fan page:

    I know your getting a ton of posts about a girl in Oaklyn NJ that is dying, I dont know if you can do anything to visit this poor kid before the inevitable happens but If I can do anything to help you should you be able to. My home is at your disposal, home cooked dinner, bbq, use my car... I dont know man whatever you would need.

    Supporters also created the Facebook fan page Kellin Meet Marie for the cause, earning over 3,000 likes in less than a day.

    According to r/defaultgems, a subreddit dedicated to collecting notable moments from the site's default communities, it took less than 20 minutes for word to reach Quinn.

    "OFFICIAL UPDATE FROM MARIE MEET KELLIN FACEBOOK: Unfortunately Kellin is unable to meet Marie at the time due to touring schedule. HOWEVER he is skyping with Marie and Michelle tonight. Thank you to all 2000 +[Who liked the page] and everybody else who helped. Without you this would not of happened. It makes me so happy knowing there are so many incredible and loving people in our world who are even willing to help a stranger," KellinMeetMarie posted on May 10.

    Quinn himself took to Twitter to spread the word about Fowler's story.

    "Hey guys thank you so much for your support in rallying for Marie :) she's my hero! So grateful to have such caring fans," he tweeted.

    Photo via KellinMeetMarie/Imgur


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    Many people think of video games as epic projects born in the hallways of huge gaming companies like Nintendo and Blizzard. But could the next big game have its roots in a Reddit thread full of unemployed gaming enthusiasts?

    On May 8, redditor myrtg3 posted an example of his realistic art style to the hugely popular subreddit r/pics.

    "I'm an unemployed games artist. I made this. It's my first try at realism. Hope you like it," myrtg3 wrote.
     

    Photo via myrtg3/Imgur

    The expert artistry of the piece won over the community, earning myrtg3 more than 2,000 karma points. It also earned him an unintended side benefit: offers from other unemployed—or under-employed—redditors interested in helping him bring a video game to life.

    "Dude, I'm an unemployed writer," redditor MrYurrita posted. "If we got some unemployed coders and unemployed directors, we could make an unemployed game."

    One by one, other redditors began joining in on the project—even though there was nothing concrete.

    "Employed - but less-than-happily, coder here. Send me a message if you're legitimately interested in this. I know another guy who would be down, too," immramma87 offered.

    "Unemployed and not sure what I want to do really. Capable of programming in basically whatever language/platform you'd want me to. 19, UK, experience writing both game clients and game servers," Eviarfairy wrote.

    "I'm an employed but still interested marketer. Hit me up if you're interested in starting an idea," SomeSortOfPlan wrote.

    The conversation prompted redditor rageplatypus to take charge of the situation and begin arranging interested redditors under the collective goal of making a video game. He explained to the Daily Dot that the response so far has been encouraging.

    "Over 50 people have messaged me on Reddit as well as a dozen or so responses from people I initially contacted," he said. "The majority of people have described themselves as unemployed but there are also some people who are just unhappy in their current job and looking for new opportunities."

    While he’s the key coordinator of the efforts, rageplatypus admits that he is not the solo driving force behind what could be the first major video game born on Reddit.

    "MrYurrita was a huge help in gaining attention to this effort and it never would have got off the ground without myrtg3's excellent post gaining popularity," he admitted.

    So far, no official crowdfunding effort has been announced.

    "This is still very early stages, right now it is really about sifting through the messages and making contact with any interested people who could contribute," rageplatypus explained. "The next step will be getting us all together and seeing if we can make something unique and exciting happen."

    Illustration by myrtg3/Imgur


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    Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka is a premium grapefruit-infused vodka, handcrafted in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about Deep Eddy Vodka's distillation process here

    Do you yearn for the days of Leave it to Beaver, a simpler time when people knew how to mind their manners? Well jeepers, do we have some videos for you!

    Scouring the depths of YouTube, we’ve found 10 educational film reels from the 1940s and 1950s. These videos teach viewers everything from table manners and sportsmanship to even the benefits of popularity.

    Granted, the films attempt to accomplish these lessons using horrible actors, unbelievable dialogue, and terribly outdated social constructs. But that’s a small price to pay, however, for the skill of being able to write a much better "social letter."

    1) How to choose a date

    Forget browsing OKCupid or stalking Facebook relationship statuses. Learn how to ask a girl out over the phone, with proper punctuality and by "leaving your boyfriend with enough money so he will ask you out again."

    2) How to be well-groomed

    Forget mimicking style blogs or "Outfit of the Day" photos. Learn from siblings Don and Sue such lessons as "pressing" your clothes, the best shade of nail polish to use ("Sue avoids red nail polish because it would call attention to her stubby fingers"), and the importance of taking a bath, which the narrator calls a "good daily habit."

    3) How to act your age

    Forget the behavior of redditors and YouTube commenters. Learn from well-groomed troublemaker Jim and his school principal about the "problem of growing up" and the cons of showing off to gain attention. You'll also learn how to bottle up your frustration right before asking a janitor to borrow his penknife.

    4) How to better use your leisure time

    Forget passing your time with endless Internet browsing. Learn from Ken Michaels—and historical variations of his father—about how to reduce your moping, spy on your friends, and acquiring skills that can "help you socially," like playing the piano. We all know that at parties everyone gravitates to the piano player in the room.

    5) How to have better table manners

    Forget wolfing down Chinese take-out in front of the TV. Learn from Chuck—and his future self, who still prefers to wear ugly Christmas sweaters—the importance of behaving at the dinner table. Tips include how to "park your fork" on the plate when you are done eating.

    6) How to be popular

    Forget basing your self-worth on your Facebook friend count or number of Twitter followers. Learn from high school student Carolyn that true popularity is based on a good combination of "appearance and personality." Do not learn from Jenny, the student who "parks in cars with the boys at night."

     

    7) How to drive a truck

    Forget passively operating your milk delivery truck, expecting other drivers to yield to your bad decisions! Learn all the rules of the road, such as proper passing, shifting, and giving the "right a' way," with a series of still photos taken from the driver's perspective. Apparently, using a circa-1950s camera while driving is A-OK. Remember your goal: drive safely so that you "don't have to dynamite your brakes."

    8) How to write better letters

    Forget emailing and texting. Learn from a pair of siblings the differences between letter styles and how to craft the perfect thank-you note. After all, you wouldn't want your aunt and uncle to look at your letter and remark, "I do hope Nora enjoyed her visit here; it's pretty hard to tell from her letter."

    9) How to have good sportsmanship

    Forget showing off and temporary anger, whether you're on the field or not. Learn from students Bill and Joe—and a series of silhouettes—how to share, lose gracefully, and not to smack your kid sister over the head.

    10) How to get around

    Forget clicking your way through Google Street View. Learn from actress Gale Storm (yes, seriously) and her family how to wisely pack luggage, ask for directions, and using your wristwatch as a compass.

    Photo via Wikipedia

     


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    Last June, in the wake of his sister’s suicide, Eric Lim didn’t know how to deal with the fallout: the broken pieces, the confusion, and lingering regret. He tried to write her a letter, something to try and put his thoughts in order.

    “Dear Tanya,” he reads in a YouTube video, “The Forge,” the pain still present in his voice. “I love you. I wish I could have told you that it’d be OK and that you didn’t have to be alone, because we all get knocked down. We all face bad things. I wish I could have told you to fight through it.”

    As Lim delivers his spoken message, the viewer also gets a strong visual to underscore the the message of "The Forge." Amidst a hellish backdrop of fire and molten rock, we see him battling a demonic creature, representing the pain and trauma life throws at all of us.

    “I didn’t tell you what I should have, so I’ll tell everyone else. So that one tragedy to one person can forge a message that can do a lot of good for a lot of people. Stand your ground. See the hits for what they really are: a blacksmith, who through fire and trauma can turn the broken into the amazing. Something that just doesn’t take the hits, but hits back.”

    “The Forge” is Lim’s own attempt to create something meaningful from a difficult personal circumstance. The powerful four-minute video, released through SoulPancake, was financed by the money his late sister Tanya left behind and aims help others still battling the same issues.

    "She was just this amazing person who everyone loved," Lim told the Daily Dot. "She moved around a lot and all these people who met her seemed touched by her."

    Tanya's suicide took all her friends and family by surprise. Lim was particularly devastated. He grew up idolizing his older sister. Her travels around the world and the impact she had on others helped give him the courage to pursue his own interest in filmmaking.

    "You have no idea what it meant to see my sister out there taking chances and seizing the moment," Lim said

    The central metaphor for the film—that rocks and discarded scrap metal could, through the trauma of heat and force, be turned into something beautiful—came from Lim's collaborator, filmmaker Stephen Reedy. As a young man, Reedy worked in a metal shop using an actual forge.

    "I remembered doing this work and thought, it's such a great metaphor for life," Reedy said.

    With such an intense emotional underpinning, Reedy and Lim were determined to see this project through to the end, even as they and the rest of the video's core creative team continued to work regular jobs during the week. Although the video only required two-and-a-half days of principal photography, the entire project took nearly a year of working nights and weekends.

    "This was a purely artistic endeavor on everyone's part," Reedy said. "And in Hollywood that's rarely the case that you get to work on a project like that."

    The filmmakers reached out to SoulPancake, the YouTube channel created by The Office star Rainn Wilson, whose mission is  present art, culture, and humor that will "open your mind, challenge your friends and feel damn good."

    "The entire SoulPancake family was moved by Eric Lim's story and his love for his sister," Wilson said in an email to The Daily Dot. "Death is such a universal experience, but when a life ends too soon, it can be hard to express that grief. This film expresses those feelings beautifully."

    Since its launch Wednesday, the video has already attracted more than 170,000 views. But the creators say the number of views matter less than the impact it's having on those watching. The comments left on the video reveal a number of viewers who have felt a deep connection.

    "This made me cry, but it really is helping me understand. Thank you. You just saved a life," wrote YouTube user YellowDaisyMadeline.

    Such comments, along with emails that have already been received, give Lim and Reedy hope that Tayna's death can help prevent others from taking their own life, to see the potential in their own pieces of scrap metal.

    "That's why we did this," Reedy said. "We wanted people to know they are not alone in this. These are battles everyone struggles with at one point."

    Photos via SoulPancake/YouTube


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    There's a new app that fulfills some of your darkest (or perhaps most liberating) social media fantasies. Social Roulette gambles with your Facebook life. Every time you play, there's a one in six chance your Facebook page gets nuked.

    Well, not exactly.The site's creators—a trio of coders and artists—explain:

    While it's very difficulty to "permanently delete" a Facebook account, we can completely remove all your posts, friends, apps, likes, photos, and games before completely deactivating it.

    Deactivating your account isn't really deleting it, so the promised social suicide is a little incomplete. To reincarnate on Facebook after deactivation, you need only login again with your original email and password. Facebook has a very wide safety net for people who want to jump ship, and while it does allow you personally to permanently delete your account, it won't allow any app to do it for you.

    Chatter on Twitter and Hacker News indicates the thing really works for a few unlucky/lucky individuals—or, at least, it did work. Shortly after launching, Social Roulette hit a snag with Facebook's API, which stopped it from working properly.

    On Twitter, the site referred to the bug as a "political problem," and others wondered if perhaps Facebook had grown wise to the app. As easy as it may be to reactivate your account, the last thing Facebook wants is a social suicide app spreading virally across its network. Indeed, while there's a one in 6 chance your account will disappear, there's a five in six chance you survive, and Social Roulette will post an ad to your Facebook page that looks like this:

    Photo via Social Roulette

    The site's creators say they're "working hard" to fix the API problem. In the meantime, try to play the game yourself. Open up the "Delete account" page on Facebook, close your eyes, and swing your cursor wildly around the screen as you click the mouse. Maybe you'll get lucky.

    Photo by 2TOP/Flickr


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    After more than 60 homicides and 214 nonfatal shootings this year, Detroit police is partnering with federal law enforcement officials to do anything they can to get gun violence under control.

    Hopefully in a few weeks, this crime-fighting team will also include RoboCop—sort of.

    More than two years ago a group of diehard RoboCop fans launched a Kickstarter project to build a life-size monument of the cyborg after Detroit Mayor David Bing shot down the prospect on Twitter. The group ended up raising more than $67,000, and as of Sunday has lifted the 10-foot-tall statue to its feet.

    "So far he's passed from you, the backers, to Fred Barton's expert custom sculpting, to Across The Board Creation's 3D scanning, digital enlarging, physical fabrication, and assembly in foam, wax, clay, and steel (pictured below), and now he's headed to Venus Bronze Works in Detroit for casting and manufacturing in bronze," wrote the RoboCop team on Kickstarter. "We bow to all parties for going above and beyond."

    The statue does not have a definite home yet, but fans hope it will be place near Detroit's historic Michigan Central Station.

    Check out the following GIF of RoboCop in all his glory.


     

    Images via Kickstarter


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    Toupee-wearing 70-year-old government man Liu Xiaozhen hates porn. It gets him all red in the face, causes his heart to skip a beat. Yet the purity of his soul is but a small price to pay for the good of the country. At the Hunan provincial anti-pornography office, Liu spends all day combing through hours of porn footage and classifying what he sees as either "pornography," "obscene," or "other."

    A few weeks ago we introduced you to a very special line of work in available only in China: The porn identification officer. A non-profit devoted to "public safety" had placed an ad for the position on the country's largest social network, and thousands of eager young men soon applied. But now, thanks to a report by a Hunan news station, we've had a glimpse behind the curtain, and it ain't pretty

    "You have to watch even if you don't want to watch," Liu said. "But when you're in this job, you have to watch very closely, and once you've watched, you classify."

    Once you watch, you classify. You can almost see the mantra playing in behind the glazed-over eyes of the other men in the office, as the camera pans to reveal a cadre of middle-aged dudes slouching in front of computer screens, clicking mouse buttons with all the enthusiasm of a data entry analyst. Once you watch, you classify.

    Liu is no ordinary anti-porn foot soldier. He apparently won an award back in 2008 for an essay he penned on his profession, and his provincial crew has looked over 13,000 confiscated videos in the first quarter alone.

    Porn in China has a tendency to intersect with politics and the Internet in strange ways. Following a spate of sex scandals involving Chinese officials last year, most of which were exposed on social media, enterprising criminals used photo editing software to superimpose local officials' faces into porn clips, then blackmail them.

    H/T Beijing Cream | Photo via Nandu


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    By MOXIE MARLINSPIKE

    Last week I was contacted by an agent of Mobily, one of two telecoms operating in Saudi Arabia, about a surveillance project that they’re working on in that country. Having published two reasonably popular MITM tools, it’s not uncommon for me to get emails requesting that I help people with their interception projects. I typically don’t respond, but this one (an email titled “Solution for monitoring encrypted data on telecom”) caught my eye.

    I was interested to know more about what they were up to, so I wrote back and asked. After a week of correspondence, I learned that they are organizing a program to intercept mobile application data, with specific interest in monitoring:

    • Mobile Twitter
    • Viber
    • Line
    • WhatsApp

    I was told that the project is being managed by Yasser D. Alruhaily, Executive Manager of the Network & Information Security Department at Mobily. The project’s requirements come from “the regulator” (which I assume means the government of Saudi Arabia). The requirements are the ability to both monitor and block mobile data communication, and apparently they already have blocking setup. Here’s a sample snippet from one email:

    From: Yasser Alruhaily <…….. .. .@mobily.com.sa>

    Date: Thursday, May 2, 2013 1:04 PM

    Subject: Re: As discussed last day .further discussion

    we are working in defining a way to deal with all such requirements from regulator and it is not only for Whatsapp, it is for whatsapp, line, viber, twitter etc..

    So, what we need your support in is the following:

    • is there any technical way that allow for interception these traffic?
    • Is there any company or vendor could help us on this regard?
    • is there any telecom company they implement any solution or workaround?

    One of the design documents that they volunteered specifically called out compelling a CA in the jurisdiction of the UAE or Saudi Arabia to produce SSL certificates that they could use for interception. A considerable portion of the document was also dedicated to a discussion of purchasing SSL vulnerabilities or other exploits as possibilities.

    Their level of sophistication didn’t strike me as particularly impressive, and their existing design document was pretty confused in a number of places, but Mobily is a company with over 5 billion in revenue, so I’m sure that they’ll eventually figure something out.

    What’s depressing is that I could have easily helped them intercept basically all of the traffic they were interested in (except for Twitter – I helped write that TLS code, and I think we did it well). They later told me they’d already gotten a WhatsApp interception prototype working, and were surprised by how easy it was. The bar for most of these apps is pretty low.

    In The Name Of Terror

    When they eventually asked me for a price quote, and I indicated that I wasn’t interested in the job for privacy reasons, they responded with this:

    I know that already and I have same thoughts like you freedom and respecting privacy, actually Saudi has a big terrorist problem and they are misusing these services for spreading terrorism and contacting and spreading their cause that’s why I took this and I seek your help. If you are not interested than maybe you are on indirectly helping those who curb the freedom with their brutal activities.

    So privacy is cool, but the Saudi government just wants to monitor people’s tweets because… terrorism. The terror of the re-tweet.

    But the real zinger is that, by not helping, I might also be a terrorist. Or an indirect terrorist, or something.

    While this email is obviously absurd, it’s the same general logic that we will be confronted with over and over again: choose your team. Which would you prefer? Bombs or exploits. Terrorism or security. Us or them. As transparent as this logic might be, sometimes it doesn’t take much when confirming to oneself that the profitable choice is also the right choice.

    If I absolutely have to frame my choices as an either-or, I’ll choose power vs. people.

    Culture Over Time

    I know that, even though I never signed a confidentiality agreement, and even though I simply asked questions without signaling that I wanted to participate, it’s still somewhat rude of me to publish details of correspondence with someone else.

    I’m being rude by publishing this correspondence with Mobily, not only because it’s substantially more rude of them to be engaged in massive-scale eavesdropping of private communication, but because I think it’s part of a narrative that we need to consider. What Mobily is up to is what’s currently happening everywhere, and we can’t ignore that.

    Over the past year there has been an ongoing debate in the security community about exploit sales. For the most part, the conversation has focused on legality and whether exploit sales should be regulated.

    I think the more interesting question is about culture: what do we in the hacker community value and prioritize, and what is the type of behavior that we want to encourage?

    Let’s take stock. One could make the case that the cultural origins of exploit sales are longstanding. Since at least the 90’s, there has been an underlying narrative within the hacker community of not “blowing up” or “killing” bugs. A tension against that discipline began with the transition from a “hacker community” to a “security industry,” and the unease created by that tension peaked in the early 2000’s, manifested most clearly by the infamous AntiSec movement.

    Fundamentally, AntiSec tried to reposition the “White Hat” vs “Black Hat” debate by suggesting that there are no “White Hats,” only “Green Hats” – the color of money.

    As someone who also regretted what money had done to the hacker community, I was largely sympathetic with AntiSec. If I’m really honest with myself, though, my interest in the preservation of 0day was also because there was something fun about an insecure internet at the time, particularly since that insecurity predominately tended to be leveraged by a class of people that I generally liked against a class of people that I generally disliked.

    In short, there was something about not publishing 0day that signaled affiliation with the “hacker community” rather than the “security industry.”

    The Situation Today

    In many ways, it’s possible that we’re still largely operating based on those original dynamics. Somewhere between then and now, however, there was an inflection point. It’s hard to say exactly when it happened, but these days, the insecurity of the internet is now more predominantly leveraged by people that I dislike against people that I like. More often than not, that’s by governments against people.

    Simultaneously, the tension between “0day” vs “publish” has largely transformed into “sell secretly” vs “publish.” In a sense, the AntiSec narrative has undergone a full inversion: this time, there are no “Black Hats” anymore, only “Green Hats” – the color of money.

    There are still outliers, such as Anonymous (to the extent that it’s possible to be sympathetic with an unguided missile), but what’s most significant about their contribution is that they’re not using 0day at all.

    Forgetting the question of legality, I hope that we can collectively look at this changing dynamic and perhaps re-evaluate what we culturally reward. I’d much rather think about the question of exploit sales in terms of who we welcome to our conferences, who we choose to associate with, and who we choose to exclude, than in terms of legal regulations. I think the contextual shift we’ve seen over the past few years requires that we think critically about what’s still cool and what’s not.

    Maybe this is an unpopular opinion and the bulk of the community is totally fine with how things have gone (after all, it is profitable). There are even explicitly patriotic hackers who suggest that their exploit sales are necessary for the good of the nation, seeing themselves as protagonists in a global struggle for the defense of freedom, but having nothing to do with these ugly situations in Saudi Arabia. Once exploits are sold to US defense contractors, however, it’s very possible they could end up delivered directly to the Saudis(egegeg), where it would take some even more substantial handwaving to think that they’ll serve in some liberatory way.

    For me at least, these changes have likely influenced what I choose to publishrather than hold, and have probably caused me to spend more time attemptingto develop solutions for secure communication than the type of work I was doing before.

    It’s Happening

    Really, it’s no shock that Saudi Arabia is working on this, but it is interesting to get fairly direct evidence that it’s happening. More to the point, if you’re in Saudi Arabia (or really anywhere), it might be prudent to think about avoiding insecure communication tools like WhatsApp and Viber (TextSecure andRedPhone could serve as appropriate secure replacements), because now we know for sure that they’re watching.

    For the rest of us, I hope we can talk about what we can do to stop those who are determined to make this a reality, as well as the ways that we’re already inadvertently a part of that reality’s making.

    This piece originally appeared on Moxie Marlinspike's website, thoughtcrime.org, and is republished with permission.

    Photo via Google Earth


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    A tool aimed at figuring out gender bias on Twitter has trouble figuring out users' identities.

    Twee-Q, which just launched a U.K. version after starting last summer in Sweden, is an attempt to figure out how often people retweet women compared to how often they retweet men. The goal: to highlight gender bias. 

    Picking out the gender of a Twitter user isn't straightforward. The service does not ask you to denote your gender, and so Twee-Q opts for a database of names to determine each user's gender. The database uses names from Statistics Sweden, and U.S. Census data.

    That can lead to misidentification, especially when it comes to unisex names. 

    Here's the skinny: When a unisex name pops up, Twee-Q chooses the gender that's most common. 

    Because Twee-Q originated in Sweden, there are certain regional quirks that skew the popularity of each name. For instance, the name Jan is likely more commonly female in the U.S. (think Jan Brady) whereas the opposite is true in much of Europe (think Jan Magnussen). On Twee-Q, Jan is male. (Tough luck if your female friends are all named Jan and you retweet them and only them.)

    Also, Twee-Q does not index retweets of brands or any other accounts where the username does not match up with names in its database. That should cut out many nonsense results.

    However, omitting those skews the findings anyway. If you were to retweet 99 women who use pseudonyms that do not appear in the database and one man who uses his real name, it would appear that you have a strong bias toward retweeting men—which wouldn't be true.

    Further muddying the results, the tool doesn't account for those who identify as neither male nor female.

    While Twee-Q is certainly an admirable stab at highlighting gender bias, it's already running at a handicap thanks to the difficulty in establishing users' identities.

    H/T The Independent| Illustration by Fernando Alfonso III


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    Want to feel depressed about the state of humanity and kindness?

    Geography of Hate is a new project by Floating Sheep, a group of geography academics at Humboldt State University, that maps racist, homophobic and ableist tweets by region in the U.S.

    Between June 2012 and April 2013, students combed through tweets with slurs to determine if the word was used in a negative, positive, or neutral way, according to Mashable.

    In total, over 150,000 geotagged tweets contained a hateful slur that was deemed negative.

    The group then compared the number of hateful tweets to overall tweets by county, in order to show the disproportionate amount of hateful tweets compared to overall tweeting activity in that county.

    Orange County, Calif., for example, has the highest absolute number of tweets containing slurs, but due to its high level of overall Twitter activity, the hateful tweets are less prominent, and therefore are not that conspicuous on the map.

    The tweets they determined to be racist and homophobic included uses of the n-word, the derogatory use of “homo” and “gay” and the ones that were ableist included “cripple.” There is, of course, room for error. Some commenters have pointed out that spellings like “fa99ot” might be used to avoid being caught in the group’s research, or that sexist tweets should also be included in a “hate map.” It’s also hard to know if one individual who tweets a lot of terrible things isn’t just messing up the stats for the rest of their county. But either way, the Hate Map is a great start in discussing hateful speech on social media.

    Last November, the same group created a similar map to show racist responses to President Barack Obama’s re-election, which you can view here. For extensive posts on their findings, you can read Floating Sheep’s blog here. To see the actual map of hate, separated by “homophobia,” “racism” and “ableism,” go here.

    Sigh. You know what? Just blow this whole Earth up and start over. We clearly don’t deserve to exist.

    Screengrab via Geography of Hate


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    The Internet's favorite astronaut is about to head home.

    Cmdr. Chris Hadfield has won our hearts (and the Internet) with his active social media presence throughout his mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS) for the past five months. He's allowed us to see our planet like we've never seen it before through photographs, become a redditor, interacted with some of sci-fi TV's best, tweeted live updates about the ammonia leak last week, and showed us that he's a talented musician.

    The Canadian astronaut is departing for Earth with U.S. astronaut Tom Marshburn and Russian cosmonaut Roman Romanenko at 7:08 p.m. EDT Monday, ending his stay on the ISS.

    "Who'da thought that five months away from the planet would make you feel closer to it?" Hadfield reflected. "And not closer because I miss them. Just closer because seeing this this way, being able to share it through all of the media that we've used has allowed me to get a direct reflection back immediate from so many people that makes me feel like I'm actually there with people more. That we're having a conversation, that this experience isn't individual but it's shared and it's mutual and it's worldwide."

    Along with sharing his view outside his window, he's also given us a look at something that very few of us will ever see: what daily life is like in space.

    Hadfield and his fellow astronauts have had to do certain activities differently in zero gravity than they do on planet Earth. With his series of tutorials and demonstrations of life aboard the ISS, he has managed to teach us what we never knew we needed to know about life in space.

    1) Nail Clipping

    Whenever we normally cut our fingernails, they'll just fall to the ground. In zero gravity, you could breathe them in or the nail clippings can get into your eyes if you're not careful. Hadfield heads to an air duct so that the nail clippings will get pulled into the vent.

    2) Hand Washing

    Water acts differently in space (when you squirt it out of a container, it stays in a ball shape), so astronauts wash their hands with a small amount no-rinse body wash and dry them off with a towel.

    3) Making a Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich

    Since crumbs won't fall to the ground, they can be another issue on the ISS. The crew uses tortillas as an alternative to bread, and with a little honey and peanut butter, Hadfield has a delicious sandwich to eat in no time.

    4) Cleaning Up Spills

    Even the most skilled astronauts can make a mess on the ISS, and any spill will float away until it runs into something. Just grab a rag so that it can capture the spill if it's something like water or use baby wipes if it's sticky. If it's something more toxic, they use a contamination cleanup kit.

    5) Getting a Haircut

    If you can't wait five months for a haircut, head over to the International Space Salon for a buzz using a razor with a vacuum device so that the stray hairs don't float away.

    6) Exercising

    Astronauts are required to work out two hours every day in order to maintain bone and muscle mass. Good thing there's plenty of equipment for Hadfield to get through his routine. He's strapped in so he can run on a treadmill and uses the machinery to lift weights and perform lunges.

    7) Brushing Your Teeth

    Without running water and a sink, brushing your teeth is one of the simpler tasks to perform in space. Get your toothbrush wet with a squirt of water, add toothpaste, brush your teeth, and swallow the toothpaste. At least toothpaste is edible.

    8) Crying

    We already know that water floats in a circular shape, but what would happen to your tears? Since there's no gravity, they’ll just sit on your face until they get into your nose or other eye, or until you wipe them with a towel.

    9) Shaving

    Unless you plan to grow out your facial hair for five months, you'll need to shave. Use special shaving cream, wipe your razor with a towel, and make sure no stray hairs get away. But if you have a mustache like Hadfield, you'll have to use a vacuum cleaner to groom it.

    10) Sleeping

    There are two sleep stations where the astronauts sleep without gravity. Put on your pajamas, zip yourself up in a sleeping bag, and let your body relax as you head to dreamland.

    11) Water Recycling

    There's only a limited amount of water on the ISS, and 93 percent of the station’s distilled water is reused. Filters and distillers create artificial gravity in order to recycle water for the station (even urine), which is usually more pure than the water we drink at home.

    12) Getting Sick

    Getting sick is normal when you first arrive, so if you need to vomit, get your barf bag open, push the used bag into an attached zip-lock bag, and dispose of it in the wet trash.

    Photo via canadianspaceagency/YouTube


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    What's the quickest way to crowdfund your independent short film without a lot of hassle?

    Make sure it stars someone with one of the most intense fanbases on the planet.

    If, before the U.S. opening of Star Trek Into Darkness, one had any doubt about the enormous star power of its resident villain, Sherlock and Hobbit star Benedict Cumberbatch, then Indiegogo has sealed it. Through the crowdfunding website, 500 zealous Cumberbatch fans—part of the "Cumbercollective," as they are sometimes called—have so far raised more than $115,000 to fund a short film, Little Favours, starring the posh Brit and fellow U.K. actor Nick Moran.

    The film's original fundraising goal was £25,000 ($38,000), which they easily exceeded once news of the star made the rounds within fandom. Cumberbatch fans more than doubled the average donor amount for an Indiegogo campaign, contributing an average of $230 each to the film. While many of the donors confessed they were contributing out of love for fellow actor Moran and Cumberbatch's fellow producer and bestie Adam Ackland (grandson of famed British actor Joss Ackland), most of the fans were eager to see their favorite otter back in front of a camera.  

    From the Indiegogo campaign page, here's the film summary: 

    LITTLE FAVOUR follows the story of WALLACE (Benedict Cumberbatch) when he is contacted by a former colleague to help him out with a deal gone wrong.

    It's been 7 years since he left Her Majesty's service and 10 years since the American Counter part who became his friend, saved his life on a joint mission in Iraq. He's migrated his skill set into a lucrative business while managing to keep his secret battle with PTSD under wraps. One day, while finally deciding to try his hand at a functional relationship, his old friend JAMES cashes in his chip and asks a LITTLE FAVOUR. How could he refuse when he owes the man his life?

    The project is a first from novice writer/director and former Marine Patrick Monroe, better known to fandom as "P-Nut," the fitness and weight trainer responsible for creating Tom Hardy's impressive physique in Bronson, Warrior, and The Dark Knight Rises. Monroe worked as Cumberbatch's personal trainer on the set of Into Darkness. (There's a considerable irony in the fact that Monroe's directorial debut is being crowdfunded by Cumberbatch's fanbase and not Hardy's; while Hardy and Monroe were once inseparable, Hardy's rising fame seems to have led to a cooled friendship, though Monroe remains hugely popular with Hardy's fans.)

    Monroe's only previous directorial credit is another short film called Oscar's Escape. But with a production budget with a $75,000 windfall, heads will undoubtedly be turned in Monroe's direction.

    Since Veronica Mars' $5.7 million Kickstarter film and the successful funding of Zach Braff's Garden State sequel, many critics of crowd funding have been hotly debating the negative consequences of asking fans to fund popular projects without the benefit of investorship. But with the advent of fandom as an organized, mainstreamed Internet community, to those creators and actors who have cultivated their fanbases, Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns are theirs for the funding. Though few actors are lucky enough to win the intense fannish love that Cumberbatch has won through Sherlock, loyal fanbases for projects like Homestuck and The Lizzie Bennet Diaries have paid off for the creators, raising $2.5 million and $460,000 respectively for the projects in massive shows of fan loyalty and love.

    Though Cumberbatch has come on board as producer as well as actor, Little Favours is likely to remain a small-scale production. But with four days remaining in the Indiegogo campaign, there's plenty of time for the Sherlockians and the Cumbercollective to throw in their hand.

    And who knows? Maybe the film itself will end up being as memorable as the campaign that funded it.

    Photo by Aja Romano


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    When the iPad first came out, some poor woman got duped into buying a cardboard box she thought contained a shiny new Apple product. Now, thanks to 3-D printing and Google Glass, scammers have a way more sophisticated method of hawking fake tech.

    During a hackathon in Shanghai, a Chinese entrepreneur named Sunny Gao has successfully used a 3-D printer to create a look-alike version of the wearable technology. Of course, the glasses don’t actually work. 


    Image via Baidu

    Cool, I guess. But Glass looks dorky enough without the $1,500 functionality, so what's the point of imitation Glass that does nothing? The only reason I could think of for making fake Google Glass is to start selling it to rubes on the Internet or on the street. The lesson is this: Don’t buy black-market Glass from some guy in a trenchcoat without first checking if it works.

    If you want to run your own scam, and have a working 3-D printer, go nuts with the design. Gao has released it here. Enjoy it while you can, though: Google is currently patenting the Glass design, probably to prevent this exact thing from happening. 

    H/T The Next Web | Image via Quora

     


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    Three teens were suspended over an explicit photo showing two brothers having sex with a high school freshman.

    The photo of the girl and brothers, both star athletes at Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds, Wash., was taken months ago, according to mynorthwest.com. Last week, a senior at King's High School in Shoreline tweeted the photo. 

    Though the tweet was deleted within minutes, the image spread among the community. The three teenagers are nude in the photo, though no genitalia is shown, an Edmonds Police spokesperson said. 

    The brothers, aged 17 and 18, and the student who shared the photo on Twitter were all suspended.

    It was suggested the photo was taken using the Snapchat smartphone app, which deletes photos a few seconds after they're viewed by recipients. However, users can take a screenshot of the photo so they can have a copy for themselves. There's also an expensive way to recover those photos from smartphones.

    Police are looking into whether the girl had reached the age of consent (16 in Washington) and, by extension, whether the photo would be considered child pornography. In that case, sharing the image on Twitter would be a Class C felony.

    Photo via Mike Burns/Flickr


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    Angelina Jolie is being lauded by many today after openly discussing her decision to have a preventative double mastectomy after discovering she was at high risk of breast cancer. Her honesty in her New York Times op-ed has drawn praise from many quarters.

    However, her story has also brought the Internet's sexists and misogynists crawling out of their dark corners to have their say.

    Twitter appeared to have the largest contingent of sexists lamenting the loss of Jolie's breasts in what is clearly a very sad day for them.

    Elsewhere, a French politician asked if Jolie had the procedure "to look more like men?" Former minister Christine Boutin was criticized for her tweet, with one describing her sarcastically as the "queen of good taste."

    Some redditorsshared photos of Jolie with messages such as "RIP Angelina Jolie's boobs."

    As vitriolic and sexist as some were, many, many more showed support for Jolie and her decision to talk about what she went through.

    Reddit had manyotherdiscussions in which users were grateful for Jolie's words.

    "For the public I see it like this. Angelina Jolie is beautiful. Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy. Angelina Jolie is still beautiful," wrote FrankManic. "Therefore I can allay at least some of my fears that my mastectomy has made me less beautiful, or less of a woman."

    Jolie had many supporters on Twitter, too.

    A thread about the op-ed hit the front page of Hacker News, and not just because Oscar-winner Jolie was in a movie about hackers. Users had a respectful and reasoned discussion about preventative surgery and Jolie’s efforts to raise awareness.

    The comments sections on the New York Times and ReutersFacebook posts about Jolie were largely in praise of her.

    Any time someone steps up to discuss an important issue that's affected them personally, there will always be trolls. But this time, Jolie seems to have drawn more support than criticism for discussing a very personal decision that may help many others.

    Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr


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    It looks like one of Reddit's most controversial subgroups is being targeted by the site administrators.

    On Friday, ChuckSpears, one of the moderators of r/n***ers, alerted members of the white supremacist subreddit that administrators were systematically targeting and shadowbanning them, a practice in which an account is still active on the site but any submission or comments remain invisible to other users.

    According to screengrabs of conversations between the subreddit's top moderator and Reddit employees, the bans were the consequence of r/n***ers subscribers acting as a "downvote brigade," systematically going to another subreddit whose views they disagree with—most likely r/shitRedditsays and  r/subredditdrama—and downvoting their submissions and comments.

    Reddit Programmer Logan Hanks (Intortus on the site) also accused ChuckSpears and the other moderators of directly linking to comments made on other subgroups.

    For his part, ChuckSpears responded with a lengthy defense of r/n*****s and its moderators, claiming that he had done everything in his power to curb this offending behavior. Yet, despite these actions, Reddit administrators were still shadowbanning his members for no apparent reason other than they frequented r/n***ers, and were not providing concrete answers as to why.

    He then concludes his tome with an impassioned plea asking Reddit to stop oppressing the members of r/n***ers for their racist views.

    "We don't want trouble," he writes.

    "Likewise, we don't want you to unfairly single out our community and persecute us for our beliefs. We don't want our members to be victims of a shadowban witch-hunt just because they happen to share our ideology."

    ChuckSpears employs language oftentimes used by actual persecuted minorities, something that was not lost on members of r/SubredditDrama.

    "Oh! The Irony! It's delicious," wrote user WhyDoIHaveToHaveaNam in reference to a comment made on r/n*****s' thread. "See: Civil Rights Movement."

    "First they came for the paedophiles, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a paedophile," snarked Miss_Gender, alluding to pastor Martin Niemöller's overused statement about the Nazis' rise to power.

    "Then they came for the doxxers, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a doxxer. Then they came for the racists, and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a racist. Then it was a bit better actually, and nobody missed the ones they'd come for."

    To ChuckSpears's credit, he does appear to be doing everything he can to protect his bigoted subscribers from being shadowbanned. His assertion that Reddit administrators are stonewalling him is somewhat valid, as evidenced by Hanks' flippant response to his pleas.

    This incident also sheds a light on how Reddit appears to target some while largely ignoring others. r/ShitRedditSays, r/Subredditdrama, and r/Bestof are comprised solely of posts that link to comments made in other subreddits—something r/n***ers was accused of—yet its members are not singled out.

    The Daily Dot reached out to both Reddit administrators and moderators of the subreddit but neither party has returned our request for comment. We also reached out to Scopolamina, a once prominent Redditor who has firsthand knowledge of dealing with a seemingly fickle Reddit staff. In January 2013, he was unceremoniously booted from the site for allegedly partaking in a pay-to-post scandal and for voter manipulation, something he's admitted to doing.

    "The voting manipulation accusation is such a powerful weapon for the admins to use because there's really no way to refute it. The rules are left vague so they can say you broke them at any time," he told us via Google Talk. "There's absolutely no consistency to how they enforce them and they have different rules for different people."

    For better or worse, when Reddit’s admins decide you're a bad apple, there's very little you can do to convince them otherwise. You're on their turf, and they can kick you out whenever they feel like it.

    Photo via borkazoid/Flickr


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