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Recent Society articles from Daily Dot

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    Looking for a junkyard Ford Explorer in the range of $1,500? John Lindsay's got an '85 Bronco you can take off his hands for $7,500. Manual transmission and the gears don't work so great outside of the fifth. Airbags are a little messed up. “The front one” deployed in Lindsay's last accident, and he hasn't bothered to go and get it replaced.

    $7,500, though, and he's willing to negotiate.

    Maybe it's a microwave you want, and you need it to be white because that's what'll match the color of your kitchen. It's only a matter of time before John Lindsay's in your inbox, pushing a $30 LG microwave on you and calling you a racist.

    Misinterpreted or simply misinformed, John Lindsay is coming after every crack in your most recent Craigslist post. He'll work you over slowly if he has to, even sound like a normal, everyday Craigslist client in need of a translator or a shovel.

    But once he gets ahold of you, you're in for quite the ride.

    John Lindsay started trolling Craigslist on July 8, 2009. A native of West Chester, Pa., was on the enormous classified ad site to buy a car and ended up finding an ad from a woman named Shaniqua who was looking to buy an Explorer—that same Explorer Lindsay later tried to pass off as a Bronco.

    "Just the way that it was worded pissed me off so much that I decided I had to mess with this lady and get under her skin," Lindsay told the Daily Dot.

    So he sent the woman an email, and he hoped to get a rise.

    Shaniqua's first response wasn't drastic: a "That's not what I'm looking for" sandwiched between a "No thanks" and "Have a nice day." But it was something, so Lindsay decided to keep pushing.

    "I'm willing to drop the price to $7,000 and throw in a phil collins cassette tape," he offered. "All fords are built tough."

    It was enough to make the bubble burst. Shaniqua responded with capital letters and exclamations, telling Linday he should probably “give that old ass piece of shit away.”

    "GO AWAY and leave me the hell alone," she wrote. "STOP WASTING MY TIME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

    She didn’t know that Lindsay had all sorts of time—enough for 18 back-and-forth emails, three fake personalities, and one offer on a Jurassic Park car.

    "It was more boredom than anything," Lindsay said. "Nothing spiteful. I just get a kick out of annoying people online."

    Since, Lindsay has logged more than 100 successful Craigslist dupes, with episodes covering everything from Phish tickets to dreamtime getaways to selling enamel kittens. He started a website—Don't Even Reply—that went gangbusters to the tune of 60,000 hits on its first day alone. Now when he goes to Craigslist, he scopes out the entirety of U.S. sites in hopes of finding unique material, and he's sent what must be thousands of emails to unsuspecting parties in search of whatever.

    "I try to pinpoint the person," Lindsay explained. "If they spell their words poorly, they're more often the kind of person who'll keep tailing instead of saying 'You know what? Screw this guy.'

    "You try to string them along as long as possible before they get fed up and can't take it anymore. The more they want something from me, the more I can keep something going."

    He points to last September's Comanche Quest as a prime example of a Craigslister going for the Don't Even Reply ride because he wanted something so badly.

    "Jeep Comanches are a really rare thing these days, so I knew he'd be stoked if I emailed him, because I was probably the first person to offer something like that," he said. "He put up with a lot because he really wanted that truck."

    That week, Lindsay put poor Joel through 48 emails and five handlers. It ended with a man named Mikk Sisask offering Joel a silver Honda Civic. when Sisask finally delivered Joel a photo of a Comanche, he placed the bidding at 5,800 Kroons.

    "What the fuck is a kroon?" Joel asked.

    Joel has likely never been to the Republic of Estonia.

    "Yous comes to Estonia to buy?" Sisask asked.

    Joel never got the truck.

    In 2010, Don't Even Reply hit the literary big time, publishing a book. Titled Emails from an Asshole: Real People Being Stupid, the collection released that March received kind words from the galleries. Amazon users gave it an average of 4.2 stars out of five. CNBC's Jane Wells described it as "Sasha Baron Cohen on the Internet."

    Lindsay's attention to DER has let off since. He says he doesn't have the big ideas that he used to, that he can't find the time to spend an hour scanning Craigslist for crazy requests for cars or cakes.

    Instead, he now mostly uses the site for buying and trading legitimate items—ones that arrive as advertised and without any glaring deficiencies fabricated for the sake of a good joke.

    "People try to scam you," he said of the site. "They'll try to scam you all the time.

    “Sometimes it works out fine, but people trying to scam you gives you that idea of what a bad Craigslist user is like.

    I can incorporate that."

    Illustration by Jason Reed


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    The best spam account on Twitter has a parody on the dark side.

    If that’s not enough meta Twitter to melt your mind, get this: @EvilHorseEbooks has more than 4,400 followers. While that’s someway off the pace of its forebear, @horse_ebooks (which has around 130,000 followers), it’s still a reasonably popular account.

    Since February, the evil alter ego has urged followers to “Worship Satan,” to never wake up,  and, most horrifyingly of all, to go outside. It apes the distinctive ramblings and brilliant accidental poetry of @horse_ebooks impressively well.

    @EvilHorseEbooks is a little disturbing, sometimes funny, occasionally awful, and most certainly weird.

    Photo by lifecreations/Twitter


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    What amazing, earth-shattering, historic discovery did NASA make on the surface of Mars last week? That’s not a rhetorical question. We really want to know what’s up, but NASA isn’t telling anybody yet.

    All we know so far is that the Curiosity rover discovered … something, via chemical analysis of a soil sample. And, as a NASA spokesman said to NPR, “This data is gonna be one for the history books. It's looking really good.”

     

    Scientists are skeptics by nature, so it’s no surprise NASA wants to wait a few weeks before officially announcing the discovery; they must first run repeated tests to ensure whatever they’ve found is genuine, rather than a glitch in their equipment, a mathematical error, or any of the thousand other ways researchers might initially reach a wrong conclusion.

    Still, whatever they think they’ve found looks good enough for NASA professionals to drop on-the-record hints about it to NPR. While the world waits for official confirmation, Twitter’s collective imagination ran wild.

    Photo via NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr


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    Pinterest’s official founding date is sometime in March 2010, when the site first went live. But five months before that came an equally important day. 

    According to a Pinterest spokesperson, CEO Ben Silbermann marks Thanksgiving Day as an important date in the image-sharing community’s history.

    “Ben considers their founding Thanksgiving Day 2009, when his then-girlfriend, now wife, gave Pinterest its name,” she told the Daily Dot.

    This year, Pinterest HQ doesn’t plan to commemorate this more informal birthday (the celebration will be held in March), but acknowledges its importance. 

    “Coming up with the name ‘Pinterest’ was an important milestone for the company,” a second spokesperson told the Daily Dot. “We're humbled that millions of people now use a service that was only beginning just three years ago.”

    Here are some of the reasons why we’re thankful for Pinterest this Thanksgiving:

    1) It makes holiday shopping a cinch.

    Don’t know what to buy your fashionista aunt Milly or trendsetting cousin Mark? No problem—just check out what they’ve pinned to their “wishlist” pinboards. When your friends and family belong to a network whose whole purpose is to archive things users love, you have no excuse for not knowing what they want this year. 

    Just be sure to do them the same favor and neatly organize all the stuff you’d like.

    2) It protects your privacy.

    While many social networks (cough Facebook cough) reveal your every move, Pinterest allows you to hush up about what you want to keep hidden. No, we’re not just talking about the new secret boards feature, which lets you pin in private. 

    On Pinterest, you have the option of verifying your website and identity—or not. You can show people your real name or come up with a pseudonym. You can tie your pinboards to Facebook and Twitter or stay deliciously hidden. Whether you’re an oversharer or just want a place to quietly keep photos of kittens, Pinterest works with you.

    3) It’s an escape from the real world.

    Bad day at work? No worries, you can take a break from everyday problems in the fantasy world of your pinboards. It’s easy to forget about your apartment falling apart while you’re pinning photos of personal bowling alleys to your “dream home” board. 

    Even better: Pinterest therapy is absolutely free! Just don’t get tempted by any of the new commercial accounts. Businesses using this new setup will make it easy for you to purchase everything they pin. 

    4) It’s the least-social social network.

    Pinterest is about interests, not about people. You don’t follow other boards because they belong to your friends—you follow them because you like the stuff you see. If that makes Pinterest the most self-centered social network, we’re not complaining.

    You will never have your pinning interrupted by chat requests or direct messages of any kind. Apart from comments on pins, there is virtually no way to get in touch with any other user. A pinned photo may be worth a thousand words, but it’s a lot quieter than actual text clogging up your profile. 

    This Thanksgiving, if your relatives get to be too much, you can always retire to the white noise of Pinterest. 

    Photo via Elisa Duran/Pinterest


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  • 11/22/12--07:30: Thanksgiving Day in 15 GIFs
  • In case you missed the memo from Nicole Westbrook, the day before Black Friday is something worth celebrating—either by hiding in your room and trawling Pinterest or by going on an extreme bird-and-potato binge. Here are all the GIFs you need—brought to you by Tumblr, Reddit, Friends, Seinfeld, and lots of anonymous animators—to survive the holiday.

    Yep, we all know what day it is.

    It's the one true American tradition: Stuffing our faces until we pass out.

    Before dinner, we're a little impatient.

    No matter how old we are, Thanksgiving turns us all into big babies.

    Then the food comes out.

    It's really good.

    We have seconds.

    Then the desserts come out.

    Even if we feel like this …

    When they try to take our plate away, it's like ...

    But we can't fight it for long. The tryptophan kicks in. We're goners.

    We might gain a little weight.

    But it's Thanksgiving! It's all good.

    Until the day after comes. 


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    Dragons. Cars. Sex. What more do you need?

    Since its January 2012 debut, r/dragonsfuckingcars has grown to over 1,000 subscribers. As its name implies, the NSFW subreddit features little more than drawings of dragons having wild sex with cars.

    “It’s remarkable considering it was just something I made and forgot about for a few months,” moderator James* admitted to the Daily Dot.


    Photo via DRAGONSrUS/imgur

    The subreddit had its origins on the now-defunct site “doodledraw.” Noticing a thread containing not one, but several, sketches of dragons and cars getting it on, James decided to curate them in a subreddit; he has never done a single drawing himself. When another Redditor contacted him, admitting to being the mind behind the doodledraw thread, the subreddit suddenly exploded.

    “Since that message, r/dragonsfuckingcars has grown significantly in both subscribers and contributions,” James revealed. “The subreddit had 54,000 unique visitors in the month of October.”

    Contributions, all of which are naturally NSFW, showcase a wide range of artwork. Some are just simple doodles. Other submissions exhibit amazing attention to detail. Still others show off users’ MS Paint skills. Some submissions even come in GIF format.

    The types of dragons and cars vary from submission to submission. A piece submitted by user b1ane2010, for example, applies a very different definition of “car.”

    This submission was a game changer,” James said. “It added a level of erotic surrealism to an already surreally erotic genre.”

    Obviously, the question had to be asked: Is it OK for cars to fuck dragons?

    “I think dragon/car porn is analogous to human/human porn in the sense that it doesn't necessarily accurately represent real-world relationships,” James said. “I believe there is more content with the dragon being the dominant one because that's what the viewers want to see and not necessarily because that is what the dragons and cars want.”

    “I'm sure there are a lot of cars out there that can make a dragon feel good.”

    While James admits surprise regarding how people find the subreddit, he understands why people keep returning.

    “I think the mystery of who else is there and what their reasons are adds to the effect. For me, this xkcd sums up my appreciation of the great new content that been submitted lately.”

    Ah, to all be connoisseurs of dragons fucking cars.

    *Name has been changed.

    Photo via Dagny Mol/Flickr


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    Each Thanksgiving, as your grandmother slaves over the same genetically-engineered Butterball she’s cooked for years, are you ever tempted to make the holiday a little more modern?

    Are you tempted, say, to order a live turkey to be shipped to your door for you to slaughter for your family on Thanksgiving eve?

    That desire happens all the time to visitors to eFowl.com, one the Internet’s premier sites for ordering living birds to be shipped by mail to Americans for the explicit purpose of consumption. But alas, those orders never ship: eFowl only sends out birds in the spring and early summer.

    “We receive the request quite frequently,” Austin Johnson, eFowl’s founder, told the Daily Dot. “[But] we do not offer grown turkeys around Thanksgiving time.”

    Perhaps that’s for the best. Though birds are cheap, and eFowl encourages users to mix and match turkeys, chickens, and ducks however customers desire, the company requires orders to be a minimum of 15 birds per shipment. That means someone who wants a Broad Breasted Bronze, for instance, and is willing to spend $116 to get one, could end up with an entire gang of turkeys.

    Of course, if you did that, you could play president with the extra 14.

    “I've never heard of a customer pardoning a turkey,” Jackson said. “However, I'm sure it happens quite frequently, as customers can easily become attached to their poultry.”

    Photo via Wikimedia Commons


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    Violence has once again flared up in Israel. There’s nothing new in that: Violence has been flaring in the holy land since, well, even before it became holy. What is new is that this war is being fought as much online as off.

    Carmela Avner, Israel's chief information officer, described the conflict in Gaza thusly: “The war is taking place on three fronts. The first is physical, the second is on the world of social networks and the third is cyber.”

    Two of this war’s three fronts are on the Internet. At first glance, they may seem trivial in comparison to the first front, in which missiles cost actual lives. However, lives are no less at stake in the second two.

    The third front that Avner mentions was opened when Anonymous joined the battle. When violence erupted in Gaza, Israel moved to cut off all communications from Palestine, a typical tactic in any armed conflict. That move included cutting off Internet access in the region, and that was too much for Anonymous. To members of Anonymous, that was an unjust attack on innocent civilians.

    So Anonymous stepped in, attacking 10,000 Israeli websites and successfully hacking, defacing, or taking down 600. To be sure, much of this action is cosmetic. For many government agencies, the loss of a website is of little consequence. Does anyone imagine that the Israeli Defense Force’s homepage is anything more than a public relations and recruiting tool?

    Nevertheless, the interruption of the Internet should not be discounted. Despite Americans’ threats, it is actually next to impossible to bomb anyone into the stone age. However, disrupt the information flow—energy systems, emergency systems, communications systems which coordinate everything from military maneuvers to food delivery—and the stone age returns remarkably fast. And stone-age Earth cannot support anything near the level of population it supports now.

    ***

    In a way, propaganda may seem like something of a sideshow in a war. But it can have surprisingly long effects. We may very well remember @AlqassamBrigade a hundred years hence the way we remember “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” and Tokyo Rose.

    @AlqassamBrigade and @IDFSpokesperson have dispensed with planes dropping pamphlets and are now disseminating their propaganda by tweet. This change of venue has some darkly hilarious consequences, arising particularly from the fact that the two misinformation machines can talk to each other directly now.

    The Israeli Defense Force account recently tweeted, “We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.”

    Hamas responded through its account (Alqassam Brigade): “Our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever they are (You Opened Hell Gates on Yourselves).”

    The U.K. Foreign Office couldn’t stay on the sidelines, tweeting “We continue to call on all sides to exercise restraint to prevent a dangerous escalation that would be in no one’s interests.”

    On the one hand, while people are actually dying, these Twitter accounts are trading puffed up banter like teenagers from rival schools before the big game. Of course, the schoolmarm has to step in to tell the kiddies to save it for recess.

    We all love a good, devil-may-care attitude on the battlefield (at least in movies). But really, on Twitter?!?

    ***

    There’s been a lot of argument about whether social media has actually had any real impact on the Arab Spring.

    We got a pretty big demonstration that, in fact, tweets do matter earlier this week when the United Arab Emirates banned Guy Fawkes masks on their National Day on Dec. 2. The U.A.E. apparently views the mask, which was being sold decorated in the country’s colors in online stores for $13, as a statement of “unrest against its system.”

    That the Guy Fawkes mask, a reference to an early 17th century English Reformation event, popularized by a 2006 Anglo-American movie and taken up as a symbol of resistance by Internet hackers, could become a serious symbol of resistance in the Arabian Peninsula’s U.A.E. was a huge demonstration, to me, of the importance of the Internet in the Arab Spring.

    The role of the Internet as a communications tool that coordinated protests was ultimately minor. It is rather the Internet as a venue of assembly, as a place where people can form communities around certain values and ideas (symbolized by Guy Fawkes masks) that is the true revolutionary power of the Internet.

    With each advance in technology, communications has become an increasingly decisive aspect of war and revolution—both in that technology’s practical application as a tool of war and as an indirect medium of influence. Is it possible that with the Internet, technology has advanced to the point where communications is the decisive front of war and the trenches are the sideshow?

    And if that is possible, what does it mean for war—and for resistance?

    Photo by blahflowers/Flickr


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    @everyone: How often do you see the @ symbol on any given day?

    Probably a lot if you use Twitter. The @username convention is how Twitter users interact with each other, directing conversation to—or perking the interest of—another user with pointed symbol.

    Today marks the sixth anniversary of the first suggestion of the @reply feature. Much like the formation of the hashtag, the feature developed within the community via a conversation between Ben Darlow and Neil Crosby.

    Twitter incorporated the @reply function into its platform in May 2007. Countless @replies, @mentions, and manual retweets containing a @username have since been posted.

    Here are some of our all-time favorite @replies, inspired by Anderson Cooper’s recent takedown of a Twitter heckler.

    1) Oprah joins Twitter

    Back in 2009, Oprah Winfrey signed up to Twitter but made an egregious Internet faux pas by using all caps. NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal was not impressed.

    2) Yahoo spreads the love

    When search behemoth Google joined in February 2009, longtime rival Yahoo was one of the first to welcome it. Imagine Yahoo doing so now after a key Google executive jumped ship to become its CEO.

    3) Rihanna slaps down MTV

    Move over, Lady Gaga: Rihanna is the new queen of Twitter. The R&B singer doesn't show restraint on Twitter and wasn’t afraid of snapping back MTV when the network tweeted about photos of her smoking marijuana in a now-deleted tweet earlier this year.

    4) Mia Farrow’s self-deprecating brilliance

    Celebrities are always better when they aren’t afraid to poke a little fun at themselves over their past. Mia Farrow is expert at this, hopping on the back of a Sarah Silverman joke to make a crack about herself and ex-partner Woody Allen.

    5) Former pro boxers reminisce over an infamous incident

    Evander Holyfield lightly sparred with Mike Tyson on Twitter as the former heavyweight champions of the world marked the anniversary of the 1997 fight in which Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear. Holyfield didn’t pass up the opportunity to plug his BBQ Sauce either. What a pro.

    6) Tyler, the Creator burns Miley Cyrus

    Controversial rapper Tyler, the Creator doesn’t appreciate bad hairstyles.

    7) George Takei wins Internet—again

    We already know how great George Takei is on Facebook (and now Tumblr!), yet he’s an expert tweeter too. In responding to a somewhat gay-bashing tweet from screech-voiced Gilbert Gottfried, Takei made a killer reference to Gottfried being fired as the Aflac Duck voice.

    Bonus sarcasm!

    8) Rob Delaney wipes up with Charmin

    To not include a reply by Rob Delaney here would be to ignore one of Twitter’s funniest voices. The comedian routinely replies to celebrities and brands, with this missive fired at toilet paper company Charmin among his funniest and strangest:

    9) Jose Canseco stuns again

    Jose Canseco is one of the oddest public figures on Twitter. His rambling, often incoherent tweets are the stuff of legend. For some, Canseco’s life updates don’t really matter, as long as he keeps bringing the word mulch.

    10) William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy

    Since Twitter doesn’t show full conversations in a single view for old replies between people, it’s hard to understand the context for this 2010 William Shatner tweet to his old Star Trek buddy Leonard Nimoy. It is both sad and revelatory, as Shatner hints that Nimoy is reluctant to pick up the tab at restaurants. Then again, he could just be trolling.

    11) Chuck Grassley’s self-replies

    Next week will mark five years since Senator Chuck Grassley started his Twitter account. He still hasn’t figured out how to use it properly; he’s still replying to himself.

    Art by Jason Reed


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    Thanksgiving has come and gone, and now that the stomachs are stuffed and the birds are bygones, it's time to get shopping.

    Black Friday is officially in full bloom—in some places and at some stores, the "holiday" actually kicked off last night at 10pm—and all around the country, deals are getting made and many are saving money.

    But at what cost? As a traversing through Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr shows, the fallout from Black Friday often involves way more than 30 percent saved on a TV. Fights are breaking out, kids are getting abandoned by their mothers, and folks are doing whatever they can to save a few bucks on bath towels.

    In some cases, entire families are uprooting from their homes and setting up camp in store parking lots.

    We scanned the depths of the Internet to find the most horrific examples of Black Friday brashness out there.

    1) No chance this kid needs a vacuum cleaner.


    Photo viaJaceAndrews/Imgur

    2) Nobody likes Skechers shoes anyway.


    Photo viaanechroni/Imgur

    3) Oceanside, Calif., native Mark Dice decided to spend the first few minutes of Black Friday ridiculing shoppers for "being the reason that Thanksgiving and holidays are being destroyed."


    Video viaMark Dice/YouTube

    4) Purchased: speakers, toaster oven, child.


    Photo viaSkipzle/Imgur

    5) Downright imperative that we get to the Walmart by midnight to save big on these towels.


    Photo viaChech_Mate/Imgur

    6) Nobody's as excited about saving as the good folks of Moultrie, Ga.


    Video viaWhiteEagleEye5/YouTube

    7) In this kid's defense, that fur does look pretty comfortable.

    8) Absolute mayhem at the Tulsa, Okla., Victoria's Secret.


    Video via24Chadster/YouTube

    9) The sale stops here for this guy.

    10) Nap Friday.


    Photo viamkxstijl/Imgur

    11) Anything for a new phone.


    Video viaForyourinfoM/YouTube

    Photo via Rawdatachicago/Imgur


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    Remember those Kenyan kids who recreated the final out of the 1986 World Series? They’re back and at it again.

    This time around, the children of the Grace Care Orphanage in West Nairobi, Kenya have replayed the famous, final moments of game 5 of the 1987 NBA Eastern Conference Finals between the Detroit Pistons and the Larry Bird-led Boston Celtics in a makeshift basketball court.

    That game ended in dramatic fashion after Bird stole an inbound pass from Isiah Thomas with less than five seconds to go and his team down 107-106. Bird then passed it to a wide open Dennis Johnson, who made the game-winning layup.  The play was immortalized by announcer Johnny Most, whose narration you can hear in the video below.

    Worthy of note in the tribute video is the child holding a sign that reads “future Sports Guy,” a nod to Grantland Editor-in-Chief Bill Simmons, who was present at the historic game.

    The clip, uploaded on Tuesday by Daniel Freiman, has amassed over 15,000 votes and 180 likes. Besides amusing sports fans, it’s meant to double as a fundraiser for the orphanage. In his video description, Freiman provides a link to where viewers can donate money so that the Grace Care Orphanage can build a playing field.

    “GRACE CARE CENTRE is home to over 200 children. There is nowhere for them to safely access a playing field. Please help turn their dreams into reality by contributing to this campaign, so the orphanage can purchase a field they desperately need.”

    The organization hopes to raise $56,000, which will cover the costs of the field, various fees, and taxes.

    Photo via Daniel Freiman/YouTube


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    Redditor slamhead and his wife are expecting their first baby in a matter of weeks.

    The baby—a girl—is expected to grow up happy and healthy, the product of two loving parents who will do anything they can to raise her right.

    That's something on which slamhead and his wife are wholly and intently focused, though it's not the only issue currently on their minds.

    As slamhead points out, his wife is currently suffering from stage two breast cancer. Doctors say the prognosis is good—for both she and the baby—but chemotherapy is in full swing, and the doctors have told Mrs. slamhead that it's only a matter of time before she starts to lose grip of the hair that's attached to her head.

    That sensation started on Tuesday. She stepped into the shower and her hair started to fall out.

    A day later, the two decided that something had to be done.

    And so, shortly after finishing their Thanksgiving meals last night, slamhead and his wife brought a chair and hair clippers into their living room and started to go to town.

    Before the night was over, the two had shaved both of their heads completely bald.

    slamhead documented the shorning and posted his slideshow to Reddit, where it received more than 800 comments in less than two hours.

    "Tell your wife she is a damn hero," redditor MizDocta noted. "I cannot imagine having to undergo chemo with pregnancy. This really puts things into perspective for me … Please tell your wife, even though I'm a random lady on the internet, that she is a real inspiration, and obviously really fucking strong, inside and out. I wish you, your wife, and your baby all the best."

    It's the best that those three deserve, and though the saga's far from over, this story comes with a happy ending. The chemotherapy's working, and the drugs Mrs. slamhead's taking won't cross the placenta. The baby's safe from danger and expected in the next few weeks.

















    Photo via slamhead/Imgur


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    Every day, the Daily Dot finds something that people on Facebook are sharing and, in turn, shares it with you—with a little explanation. Here's today's share.

    It’s a Facebook share so controversial, it’s prompted an investigation by the Israeli Defense Forces.

    16 IDF soldiers, identified as infantry by their red boots, arranged themselves in Hebrew letters to say “Bibi loser”—a knock on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, known as Bibi, who refused to send ground troops into Palestinian territories.

    Though much of the world welcomed news that Israel and Palestine reached a ceasefire agreement on Wednesday, some Israelis were concerned that Netanyahu never sent in ground troops. On several occasions, he ordered infantry groups to cross into Palestinian territories, only to call them back before they crossed the border.

    The eight-day-long conflict consisted largely of rockets fired by Hamas into Israel, and Israel attacking Palestinian targets with air strikes. The U.N.’s Office of Coordination of Human Affairs estimated 55 Palestinian militants were killed by the strikes, as well as 103 civilians, 30 of whom were children. Two IDF soldiers and four Israeli civilians were also reported killed in the conflict.

    It’s unclear who the soldiers are or when the photo was taken, but the IDF told the Times of Israel that it discourages soldiers from expressing political opinions while in military uniform.

    As it’s been shared multiple times on Facebook, it’s unclear exactly how popular the photo is, but at least one iteration has more than 3,000 shares.

    Photo via מבזקי חדשות - עוטף עזה/Facebook


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    Rob Delaney has positioned himself as the Internet’s comedian, thanks in part due to lively Twitter presence.

    He’s been called the “Funniest Person on Twitter,” receives countless retweets and faves from his loyal followers, and is slowly creeping into mainstream popularity. His 600,000 followers think he’s really funny. For some reason that right now is an absolutely mystery to me.

    Simply put, his antics are obnoxious.

    Delaney’s crude jokes have become monotonous, his punchlines unoriginal. And his jokes define the word formulaic.

    In arriving at his comedic perch, Delaney has done three things:

    How are you not bored with that?

    If you are, meet @RobDelanie—an account that finally validates my thoughts.

    Launched Monday, @RobDelanie cleverly spoofs Delaney as the obnoxiously low-brow comedian that he’s devolved into, wonderfully mocking all of Delaney’s tired diatribes and stupid tweets directed at public figures. The account also knocks Delaney’s bizarre adoration of your mom jokes and his constant political jokes that have become particularly labored at this point.

    @RobDelanie encaptures Delaney’s Twitter presence with its perfectly asinine biography: “just a funnie guy who loves to tell a joke! OFFICIAL KING OF TWETER™. Licensed sex haver, DM nudes while my wife is asleep LOL ;)))”  

    The parody has become the master. Here are some of the account’s funniest tweets:

    Photo via TeamCoco.com


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    “Grandmother Accused of Running Toddler Over With SUV.”  “Man Shares Childhood Memory of Seeing Someone Get Shot in the Head.” “Brazil’s Alleged Cannibal Trio Killed Women in Rituals and Sold Pies Made With Their Flesh.”

    For nearly 15 years, one website has been serving up the dregs of the miserable and the macabre in easily digestible, pithily headlined format. With thousands of catalogued information relating to crimes large and small, appalling and bizarre, Crime Library has succeeded for 15 years on a premise that mystery lovers, journalists, and true crime aficionados all know too well: Crime is entertaining.

    But as its founder and former executive editor, Marilyn Bardsley, knows all too well, even on the Internet, investigating violent crime can take its toll.

    Created in 1998 by Bardsley when she was still just an Internet marketing executive who “didn’t know anything about crime,” Crime Library was immediately popular for its well-researched articles and the nonclinical tone with which it described gruesome and shocking real-life crimes throughout history. Bardsley, who wrote many of the early articles on the site, hired professional crime writers to expand the site’s library, including expert forensic psychologist Dr. Katherine Ramsland and crime writer Gary C. King. In 2001, CourtTV bought the site as part of the growing family of Turner Network websites. In 2008, CourtTV became TruTV. Today, Alexa ranks the site among the top 2,000 websites in the U.S.

    Crime Library is an epic, chilling time-suck, with article after gory article leading to a vortex of oft-salacious details. Earlier this month, one popular article on the site was a stomach-churning one-pager, complete with photos, that we probably can’t describe without needing a warning for gore. If reading isn’t your forte, the site has photo galleries, everything from weird crimes including real-life vampirism and zombie attacks to criminal histories and famous crime scenes.

    “When I started the Crime Library in 1998, I made a list of all the cases we simply HAD to include,” Bardsley told the Daily Dot. “They numbered 86. Almost all of them were household names—like Ted Bundy, Jeff Dahmer, Jack the Ripper, etc.—and all were well known like Bonnie & Clyde, the Mafia crime families, bin Laden, Carlos the Jackal, etc."

    Bardsley made an effort to cover stories about other aspects of criminal interests in order to give the site more depth— “stories on organized crime, art forgery, scams and heists, the trials of Jesus, the Shroud of Turin, whether or not Napoleon was murdered, the origin of the Miranda law." She soon learned, however, that the audience’s interest lay in the opposite direction.

    “These stories that gave breadth to the library were hardly ever read,” she said. “Consistently for the decade that I managed it, the top traffic was always from the same well-known serial killers (Jack the Ripper, Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, Gein, etc), Al Capone and Charles Manson. Overwhelmingly the top sections for traffic were first, Serial Killers, and second, Notorious Murders. Some of these stories are the true-life equivalent of a horror show.”

    With so much readily available material to peruse, it’s sometimes worryingly easy to forget that each of the stories on the site are about real people—many of whom are awaiting trial for their crimes even as the articles were being compiled. Victims’ families sometimes read the site along with the rest of us—as Bardsley learned in an early, horrifying wake-up call:

    “For the most part, in the first couple years of Crime Library I was really an armchair historian until I got an email message that knocked me for a loop,” she recalled.

    “On our list of stories that we listed [as] future stories was the name Westley Allan Dodd. I had no idea who he was and there was nothing at that time in those early days of websites about this man. All I knew was that a number of readers wanted a story about him. The author of the email insisted that I send him the story before it was published. My first thought was ‘hell no!’ But instead I wrote back and asked the author of the email what his interest was in that case: Was he one of the cops or defense lawyers? He quickly wrote back that he was the father of 4-year old boy Lee Iseli who was stalked, tortured, and murdered by this friend. I was horrified. I had never really thought about a crime so evil. It's one thing to write about Pretty Boy Floyd and Al Capone, but a child killer! It was my baptism by fire as to the real crime world.”

    Due to the awful nature of many crimes, including Dodd’s, Crime Library has strict rules about what kinds of photos it does and does not publish.

    “Years later, when I had lunch with Dr. Robert Keppel, who was a key part of the Green River task force in Washington state, he told me that Dodd had taken photos and video footage of his torture and murder of that poor child and that the father did not want me to put those photos on the Internet,” Bardsley said. “I can't imagine that I ever would do so.

    “Our policy with photos was to use photos of victims that were family snapshots or yearbook photos or portraits. I can only think of three times I put death scene photos in the hundreds of Crime Library stories: 1) the blurry photo of Jack the Ripper's last victim, Mary Kelly; 2) the shooting of mob boss Paul Castellano; and 3) the dead body of Bugsy Siegel. I deliberately put the deaths of the mob boss photos in Crime Library because I wanted any little snot who thought being a mob boss was cool to see how that career is ended.”

    When asked how she felt Crime Library struck the balance between documentation and entertainment, Bardsley explained that CourtTV had taken this challenge very seriously early on. Their original goal, she stated, was to address “a large segment of the public's (80 to 85 percent female) interest in true crime.”

    “We did a number of focus groups to get a better idea of what the audience found interesting and why,” she said. “Women and children are often victims of crime and that was often cited as a reason for their intense interest, especially in serial killers and their unique personalities. The men in the focus groups tended to be most interested in the psychology of criminals and the police procedures for ensnaring them, although they frequently mentioned that they wanted to understand criminals better so they could protect their girlfriends, wives, children, elderly parents.”

    Bardsley added that there could be another, “rarely mentioned” reason for the public’s fascination with true crime—the intense emotional experience of a violent crime, without any of the real-life horror.

    “Most people, thankfully, have fairly routine lives, not traumatized by violent crime: They go to work, take care of the family, and then watch TV or read and go to bed,” she said.

    “Reading about violent crime or watching stories about it on the news gives them an emotional intensity boost without having to experience the emotion in the lives of their family and friends—whether it be horror, sadness over the tragedy of a murdered child or wife, and joy when the criminal is caught and punished. Or in the Casey Anthony case, unmitigated anger. Take a look on Twitter and see how many women have in their handles or profiles some message of hatred for Casey Anthony. And then there was OJ Simpson, JonBenet, Anna Nicole Smith, Natalie Holloway, and so forth. People really get glued to these cases and become obsessed with them." 

    And on the other end of Crime Library’s servers are the writers of true crime, who have to live with these stories every day. Bardsley, who is still listed as Crime Library’s executive editor but is no longer as involved in the site’s management, explained to us that sometimes, the ones who work with these stories have to detach for their own good.

    In the late summer of 2005, I made a decision to increase our traffic by taking a select group of our authors to do breaking crime news that we could investigate. I think those stories have generally been removed from Crime Library. The first case was a missing 17-year old girl, Taylor Behl, who vanished Labor Day at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. My husband and I were on our sailboat, docked on the Chesapeake Bay. We jumped in the car and drove to Richmond to investigate. In parallel, I hired a blogger named Steve Huff to penetrate the many Myspace accounts this girl, the man who killed her, and her friends had. We were miles ahead of the police and the media and I was interviewing on all the major networks about what we learned. I had the very sad experience of visiting her casket in the funeral home on her 18th birthday.

    Another case I personally became involved in was the murder of a 6-year-old by a family of perverts (mom, dad, adult son) who raped and murdered the child. My investigation was used by the prosecutors of these monsters. Also, I had author Chuck Hustmyre chase down the case of wealthy Alex Midyette who beat to death his infant son in Boulder, Colo., while his law school graduate wife wrapped herself in denial.

    The reason I don't do this stuff any more is that it [is] unbelievably depressing. I simply will not deal with real cases created by monsters and psychopaths. Life is too short. I've done my time on cases like that.

    After finding success with her Crimescape true crime venture with Rosetta Books, Barsley has directed her focus to penning her first crime fiction series. Yet, her story of Crime Library’s founding reminds us that behind the horror stories are real lives, real people, and real pain.

    And if it seems like a website with little room for sincerity, much less sentiment, Bardsley’s simple acknowledgment that she had to walk away says all that can be said about the toll this form of “entertainment” can take.

    Illustration via Jason Reed


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    It’s happened to all of us: We’re curled up on the sofa with our dearest relations, watching holiday programming, when all of a sudden, that commercial comes on. 

    You know the one: “Brother & Sister,” the Folgers commercial responsible for more nervous laughter and sibling-eye-contact avoidance than a White Stripes concert.

    How do you even begin to talk about this with your confused relatives?

    Never fear: The Daily Dot is here to walk you through the basics of incest fandom.

    How to Talk to Your Family About Folgerscest in 5 Easy Steps

    1) Mention the 55,000 people on Tumblr who are totally into it

    Twitter user Nicole James had no idea what a celebration she’d kick off on November 18 when she tweeted about the infamous Folgers holiday commercial that got everyone talking in 2009 and resurfaces every year around Thanksgiving:

    Twitter and Tumblr user JayGabler shared James’ tweet with Tumblr. Though James was far from the first to read incestuous undertones into the Folgers commercial, Tumblr was a bit slow on the uptake. But with JayGabler providing the YouTube link to the commercial, they caught on fast. 

    No accidentally incestuous coffee commercial begins in a vacuum. This one actually began with a purely innocent annual offering from the ’80s titled “Peter Comes Home.” 

    The 2009 reboot ditched the childlike innocence in favor of lengthy soulgazing and intimate shoulder touches. Or, to quote YouTube user Kaity6494:

    At first, I was like "Tumblr has to be blowing this out of proportion. This is stupid." But then I came here and.... yeah. Incest all up and down this bitch. Creepy ass commercial - Folgers should be ashamed. Ya'll need Jesus.

    A confused James, reacting to the news that her tweet was blowing up on Tumblr, tweeted later, “It’s not even that funny,” missing the point entirely. Tumblr is full of members of fandom. And many, many members of fandom love relationships, or “ships,” that are a little (or a lot) incesty—which is why, a week later, JayGabler’s original post has racked up 55,000 notes. 

    2) Talk about how genetic sexual attraction is totally a Thing

    When siblings who were separated in childhood meet again as adults, they’re genetically predisposed to find each other attractive. It’s a phenomenon called “genetic sexual attraction,” in which the similarities of two relatives create an increased draw between them. 

    Humans, even young ones, get weirded out by the idea of finding our brothers and sisters hot. But just like every other form of evolutionary adaptation, there are exceptions, and both fictional and historical texts are laden with cases of accidental incest, from Oedipus onward.

    3) Discuss why coffee makes such good fanfic-fodder:

    In the late ’80s and then again in the ’90s, Taster’s Choice ran an extremely popular set of soap opera–style commercials, first in Britain and then in the U.S. The series explored the twists and turns of a relationship between actors Anthony Stewart Head (a.k.a. Giles from Buffy) and Sharon Maughan (Holby City) as it developed—over coffee.

    The series was so popular that it actually got a work of fanfiction written about it: a now-out-of-print romance written by mystery author Susan Moody under the penname Suzannah James, titled Love Over Gold.

    Generally speaking, there’s something about coffee that brings the fanfic authors out to play. Within the general tropes of fandom, the “Coffeeshop AU” is one of the most well-loved kinds of Alternate Universe (AU) fics out there. One of the most popular ones, an Arthur/Eames Inception AU by Gyzym entitled “I’ve Got Nothing to Do Today but Smile,” has over 20,000 hits on the AO3 alone, and has inspired fanmixes, fanart, GIF sets, and even customized coffee drinks made after the ones in the fic.

    4) Wax academic.

    Don’t just mock the three fics in the Folgers fandom that currently exist on the Archive of Our Own (AO3)—all of which, incidentally, were written as gifts for last year’s Yuletide challenge.  Though you may think that incest fics are just trading on a lurid Flowers in the Attic–style exploitation of the oldest taboo, there’s actually a lot more going on than just fans being edgy.

    Take for instance the thousands of Supernatural fics focusing on the romantic ship of Sam and Dean Winchester—better known throughout fandom as “Wincest.” Wincest is by far the most popular current sibling romantic pairing in fandom—and fans of the pairing will eagerly tell you why.

    “Sam/Dean doesn't push my narrative buttons so much as play them like a game of Whack-a-Mole that can't be lost,” Wincest fan Angelgazing told the Daily Dot:  

    From the start there was the banter, and name calling, and the way no one else will ever be able to understand them like the other. Then you get later in the series, and you see that there is nothing Dean wouldn't give up for Sam. They go through relationships on SPN and show again and again that no one else accepts them for who they are. They know all of their darkest secrets, and they still can't stay away or love anyone more.

    Academic Catherine Tosenberger notes that in the case of Sam and Dean, “[As] brothers, they are given a pass for displays of emotion that masculinity in our culture usually forbids, which intensifies the potential for queer readings.” At a recent panel on incest pairings at WinCon, attendees made the point that often the expression of love between fictional siblings like Sam and Dean allows the reader to experience a catharsis similar to that found in reading slash fic. That is, breaking down the social and psychological obstacles standing between the characters and their love for each other allows the reader to experience the breakthrough and the freedom of forbidden love by proxy. 

    Not bad for an emotional infusion designed to sell you ground coffee.

    5) Pick your own ship and sail away!

    Interested in the fictional love of two siblings but aren’t sure Folgers is right for you? Never fear! There’s plenty more where that came from—such as the 72 works featuring variants on the Pevensie family from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, always a recurring fandom favorite.  Simon/River from Firefly is another winning combination. Anime fans know well the lure of Ed/Al from Fullmetal Alchemist. For an old standby, Fanfiction.net has plenty of Weasleycest; if bandom is more to your taste, Waycest, featuring Gerard and Mike Way of My Chemical Romance, is a staple. And if you want a newer take, sample any of the 1,700 Thor/Loki fics on AO3. As always, in fandom, the possibilities are endless.

    Don’t be afraid to hop on an incest ship this holiday season! After all, since family is forever, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

    Photo via AYearRoundChristmas/YouTube


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    “No one retweets me anymore and it makes me sad,” tweeted a teenager named Taylor Salvatore on November 8th.

    But last night, when Salvatore tweeted that she had attempted suicide by intentional overdose, there was no shortage of retweets from her fellow One Direction fans, who sprang into action to make #prayforTaylor a worldwide trend. Fans of the massively popular boy band also alerted Taylor’s family, who rushed her to the hospital and possibly saved her life.

    In the process, however, they revealed how disturbing and wildly out-of-control the “bravery” trend of suicidal ideation within the 1D fandom actually is.

    Salvatore has a rare condition known as misophonia, a neurological “glitch” where certain everyday sounds can trigger rage responses, suicidal impulses, and other intense reactions. Though Salvatore can do little socializing for risk of exposure to unwanted sound, she finds comfort in music—especially that of her favorite band, One Direction.

    On Sunday, Salvatore tweeted, after learning she would not be attending the band’s Madison Square Garden concert, that she was “D O N E.”  Although later she seemed fine, tweeting about other upcoming concerts and encouraging friends not to self-harm, she also tweeted that she was “genuinely scared of my future like will i be dead will i be in jail will i be happy or sad”.

    Shortly before midnight Eastern time, Salvatore’s tweets took a turn for the grim, and finally she tweeted that she had overdosed:

    Her friends on Twitter immediately urged her to call 911, and when that got no response, they began to RT for help, sending the hashtag #prayforTaylor spiraling upwards to trend at #3 worldwide. Almost immediately, friends who knew her real life contact information stepped in, tweeting her real name and location, and even her phone number, in order to reach police in Salvatore’s vicinity:

    Twitter user @unionziam took the step of messaging Taylor’s sister, Alex Salvatore, and one of Taylor's cousins on Facebook. Salvatore replied in an exchange that Taylor had awakened her parents and that they were probably “headed to the hospital.” When the Daily Dot attempted to contact Salvatore by phone, her mailbox was full.

    Meanwhile, on Twitter, something extraordinary and yet entirely unsurprising occurred: a series of similar tweets from similarly allegedly suicidal fans:




    The “#prayfortaylor” hashtag exploded in a veritable sea of allegedly suicidal Twitter users...

    …prompting at least one Twitter user, ‏@Nialls_Nipple, to lash out at the string of Twitter trends: “NO, STOP IT. NO MORE PRAY FOR SUICIDE BULLSHIT. #PrayForTaylor that's it. She actually attempted to commit, no one else, SO STOP LYING.”

    Her frustration is valid. The One Direction fandom has for a long time been both plagued by online harassment and obsessed with its own predilection for self-harm. It’s not uncommon to see Directioners writing (and sometimes carving) the word “bravery” onto their arms and wrists in solidarity for what many feel is the act of courage it takes to stay alive.

    In September, when One Direction member Louis Tomlinson declared that the rumors of his relationship with bandmate Harry Styles—a relationship that has become an obsession for many fans—was “bullshit,” fans fabricated the idea that nine of their own had taken their own lives. They turned “#RIP9LarryShippers” into a trending topic without any attempt to verify whether anyone had, in fact, died.

    It’s been a recurring pattern in the fandom since at least July, when one fan deleted her Tumblr amid threats of suicide, prompting the fandom to fall into mourning for her demise.

    Salvatore blamed her suicidal tendencies on a “relapse” rather than any One Direction-related harassment or distress. Three hours after her ordeal began, she finally updatedTwitteragain, tweeting a photo of her hospital room to defend herself against allegations of having faked the whole ordeal.

    An exultant fandom rejoiced at its life-saving abilities, while other fans remarked that the outpouring of concern shown for Taylor, Zara, Laura and other fans had given them hope:

    It bears noting that the major difference between Taylor Salvatore’s alleged suicide attempt and those of other Directioners in the past is that this time, fans were able to draw on real-life details that Salvatore had shared and quickly leap in to contact her family. While other alleged suicide attempts within the fandom have been unverified, there aren’t always ways for online communities to verify the real-life identities of those in their midst, which can mean that some people really do disappear without a trace.

    Yet while Salvatore’s story had a happy outcome, the reaction from the Twitter community borders on glamorization of suicide as a means of garnering attention that some fans feel they can’t get any other way. As a byproduct of the outpouring of concern over her well-being, Salvatore gained 7,000 new Twitter followers.

    Though last night the One Direction fandom was able to intervene to help Salvatore and possibly others as well, it seems troubling that the fandom is simultaneously elevating the suicidal in the name of helping them.

    Photo via Taylor Salvatore/Facebook

     


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    The fight for expanding marriage-equality laws across America has a powerful new ally: Morgan Freeman’s voice.

    This 30-second Human Rights Campaign ad, narrated by the iconic actor, intertwines historic civil rights movements, such as women’s suffrage, to provide a context for gay rights as our country’s next milestone.

    The television ad started airing Sunday, but the two versions (the other is a 40-second Web-only “extended” cut) have a combined 107,000 views since their online release Saturday.

    “We’re standing together for the right of gay and lesbian Americans to marry the person they love,” Freeman boomed. “And, with historic victories for marriage, we’ve delivered a mandate for full equality.” 

    Freeman is referencing the results from this month’s elections: Voters in Maryland, Maine, and Washington approved same-sex marriage laws. “The wind is at our back, but our journey has just begun,” Freeman said. 

    Reactions to the video are split between the pro- and anti-gay-marriage camps, but the top-voted comments are supportive.

    “To all of you haters out there, I take refuge in what my father told me when I asked him why so many people were opposed to the Civil Rights Legislation of 1964 and held on to old ways of intolerance and hatred. ‘Don't worry,’ he said. ‘Sometimes the world changes slowly, one funeral at a time. Dinosaurs just need to die.’ I now understand what he meant,” wrote curtispsf.

    Photo via hrcmedia/YouTube


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    There’s no point crying over spilled milk when it’s coming down by the gallon.

    A group of students in Jesmond, Newcastle, U.K., introduced the Internet to the latest craze that makes planking look like a practical side hobby: milking.

    Milking is simple (and has nothing to do with a cow). You go to your local supermarket, buy a gallon of milk, take it outside and—while fully-clothed—pour it on yourself in public.

    And that’s it.

    Tom Morris, 22, who was behind the “legen-dairy” video, came up with the idea while hanging out with his friends.

    “We were just in our kitchen talking about [milking] outside Starbucks in Jesmond and thought it would be really funny,” Morris told Cosmopolitan. “We did that, uploaded the video to Facebook and got a load of likes. So then we thought why not just make a video?”

    Morris and his friends filmed themselves milking around Newcastle to the tune of House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” including the impressive act of balancing on a pole while pouring milk on themselves. One person even manages to multitask and gets his bowl of cereal as well as himself with his gallon.

    The udderly ridiculous video has been watched over 92,000 times since it was uploaded to YouTube on Wednesday, and the meme has already caught on with fellow students in Edinburgh, Nottingham and Cirencester, although it has yet to make the jump to the U.S.

    How long will it take before this new trend turns sour?

    Photo via MilkingNewcastle/YouTube


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    While investigating the privacy implications of retired Gen. David Petraeus’s affair, the Daily Dot encountered several “old wives’ tale” of Internet privacy, especially centered around email security. One was the persistent fiction that by trading draft emails in a shared account, users can avoid both technical detection and legal seizure of their information. The other is that by not putting your name on something, you’ve made it anonymous. Neither of these is true, for the record.

    We wondered if there were any more of these privacy fables, so we contacted several experts in the area of Internet privacy. It turns out there were a few.

    “Are their old wives tales relating to privacy?” asked Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project. “Yes. Hundreds of them.”

    Hanni Fakhoury, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, listed a few of them for us. These were seconded, and expanded, by commenters on Adam Shostack’s New School Security blog.

    • Deleted emails are permanently deleted.
    • There's no way anyone can get their "off the record" instant messaging chats.
    • People can "anonymously" send email without doing anything to obfuscate their IP address.
    • Legal disclaimers at the end of emails are binding.
    • Avoiding email and social networks make you unreadable (companies can build your social map in reverse from your other users).

    What other common myths are out there, being handed down and forwarded across the Web?

    Ye olde times

    Back in the early days of blogging, the major fiction was that no one was reading something as insignificant as a blog. The arrests of bloggers in China, Iran, Egypt, and elsewhere quickly ended that expensive misapprehension. Then, the thought was that if you did not put your name on your blog and, later, signed up for social media tools and networks with a false name, that would protect you.

    It may have for a while, but the security services of various countries quickly figured out that if you mentioned you were a doctor and that you lived in Luxor and that you lived in a house near the river with your aging parents, some door-knocking would turn you out.

    Circumvention tools like Tor and Peacefire/Circumventor came up, proxy sites proliferated and PGP encryption became prevalent. These tools allow Web users to interact with sites without showing the distinct IP addresses of their computers. Some used them but for many, they were using social media because it was easy, they had other things but technology to pay attention to, and felt daunted by anything more difficult than Wordpress or Facebook.

    At the same time, those governments and nongovernmental groups with a vested interest in keeping control over people got much techier, much more quickly than many of the accountants, students, and union leaders using the technology. It is rare that a government does not have a tech-focused investigation unit in their state security apparatus.

    The nature of email

    Much of this is the result of people naturally tending to think of their email (as per the name) as a species of mail. The niceties of the law have not followed that thinking.

    Lewman told the Daily Dot he believed the fulcrum of the issue is the nature of the “third party service” the Web is dependent on. By using nearly any service online, you are giving your information, and that of the person or people with whom you are communicating, into the hands of an entity outside your conversation.

    “In the U.S.,” Lewman said, “the third party doctrine means you've given up all privacy and control of that information.”

    There is some indication of a change starting. Fakhoury notes the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision in U.S. vs. Warshak (PDF), which established some expectation of privacy when it comes to email held by third parties.

    “The challenge for someone wanting to control their identity and facets of privacy,” Lewman said, “is to understand the difference between content and envelope data.”

    Content is the “Dear John” of your email. The envelope data can be thought of as the sender and recipient addresses. From that information alone a dedicated organization can build up a mighty picture of you and your communication.

    “Think of the post office or UPS or FedEx,” Lewman said. “They don't open your packages, but can build a huge profile of you by simply recording the to and from addresses, the size of the package, and frequency of the packages. If they then go one step further and map out the addresses, they can learn more about what you're doing via the mail.”

    Even if those seeking this information are not out to nail you, it is still disconcerting for many.

    Turning the tables

    How easy it to map out that sort of information? Lewman looked at the Daily Dot and shared the following:

    “Your site itself and the media content network is hosted by EdgeCast Networks in California. Your email is handled by Google mail for domains. You have eleven other domains called by the site.

    “If someone started writing harassing comments on your articles, they not only leave a trail on your website, but with 11 other sites around the Internet. Law enforcement isn't stupid; they are going to poll all eleven domains to get information about the post at the exact timestamp of the posts.

    “This may be good if you want the police to do their job and hunt down the person. However, if you're an activist in a hostile regime or an abuse victim trying to discreetly find help, you've leaked info in lots of places inadvertently. All this because you wanted to view an article on sexism at comic cons. ;)”

    “We're not saying 'trust no one,’” Lewman clarified. “But we are saying 'get educated and make your own risk assessments.’”

    Even if and especially when

    According to Bennett Hasselton, director of Peacefire, even if you employ encryption and circumvention software, their mere use can open you up to suspicion.

    “People forget that even though encryption can prevent an adversary from seeing what you're doing,” he told the Daily Dot, “they can still see that you are using an encrypted connection... to hide your documents, and that can draw attention to yourself or arouse further suspicion if you're already being watched.”

    The ultimate solution to that? Shipping computers with built-in encryption, as he argues in an article on Slashdot. Frankly, if you’re waiting for that to happen, you may wait for a long time.

    The short-term solution might be to use... Gmail.

    “If you're in a hostile country that doesn't block Gmail,” Hasselton said, “just connect to Gmail, because all traffic to and from Gmail is encrypted. More importantly, everybody who connects to Gmail, connects over an encrypted connection, which means that your connection to Gmail won't look any different from anyone else's connection to Gmail, so you can avoid attracting attention to yourself.”

    And so, the circle of life is complete.

    The point is not that you cannot be safe, that you cannot maintain privacy online. The point is you cannot be completely safe at all times and there is no such thing as perfect privacy online ever.

    What’s your major malfunction?

    The majority of user errors in regards to personal security, according to Fakhoury, “comes from a fundamental misunderstanding about how technology works.”

    Lewman agrees and carries the implications forward.

    “They cannot assess risks well,” because of this ignorance, “and either give up in some nihilistic vein or just assume someone else has thought about the issues and made smart decisions for them.”

    But Cormac Herley, principal researcher in the Machine Learning Department at Microsoft Research, disagreed strenuously in his paper, “So Long, And No Thanks for the Externalities: The Rational Rejection of Security Advice by Users” (PDF).

    “We argue that users' rejection of the security advice they receive is entirely rational from an economic perspective,” he wrote. “The advice offers to shield them from the direct costs of attacks, but burdens them with far greater indirect costs in the form of effort.”

    Further, the notion that users are being offered security itself is a fiction.

    “Security is not something users are offered and turn down. What they are offered and do turn down is crushingly complex security advice that promises little and delivers less.”

    Most attacks, whether by spam or by FBI, do not cost a user as much money as they cost him or her time. In fact, our lives are all about calculating and leveraging the value of time expenditures. We want to draw dividends that are greater than the time we spend to get them.

    To most people, using a tool like Tor seems confusing, or unnecessary, and above all, time-consuming. To some people, a bit of stylish incantatory techno-magic (like using the draft folder) feels like it ought to do the trick. It’s the “truthiness” of online security.

    The shabby security used by Petraeus is something that drives most people to either haughty disdain, the medicine cabinet for a bicarbonate of soda, or a dark corner to fumble with their consciences. But the notion that the same rinky-dink, duct-tape Frankensteining might have been used on computer files whose loss could cost lives is cause for much greater concern. In much the same way, someone seizing personal information, whether it’s a law enforcement authority or a Russian hacker gang, seems important enough when it happens to you.

    To deal with your own security needs, first you must assess them, realistically. Is your hard-drive full of Dave Atell fanfiction? Swiss bank account numbers? Notes on your patients? Plans for your S&M dungeon? Plans for your D&D dungeon?

    You have to ascertain your level of protection needs and you have to consult responsible, knowledgeable parties to discover the best way to make sure they’re met. You have to be honest about how much time you’re willing to invest and make sure it’s high-value time that delivers substantial returns.

    Illustration by Jason Reed


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