How we ruin social networks, Facebook specifically | Ars Technica

“The advent of the Internet has changed the traditional conditions of identity production,” reads a study from 2008 on how people presented themselves on Facebook. People had been curating their presences online for a long time before Facebook, but the fact that Facebook required real names and, for a long time after its inception, association with an educational institution made researchers wonder if it would make people hew a little closer to reality.

As the study concluded, “identity is not an individual characteristic; it is not an expression of something innate in a person, it is rather a social product, the outcome of a given social environment and hence performed differently in varying contexts.” Because Facebook was so susceptible to this “performance,” so easily controlled and curated, it quickly became less about real people and more about highlight reels.

We came to Facebook to see other real people, but everyone, even casual users, saw it could be gamed for personal benefit. Inflicting our groomed identities on each other soon became its own problem.

via How we ruin social networks, Facebook specifically | Ars Technica.

Spy games: behind Russia’s massive Olympic surveillance program | The Verge

Amid heightened security concerns and terrorist threats, Russian security forces have constructed a powerful surveillance system designed to monitor the movements and communications of virtually everyone on the ground at Sochi. The aim is to deter attacks and unrest through blanket monitoring, though there are fears that the Kremlin is going too far.

“The Russian secret services are just obsessed by the idea of … total control,” says Irina Borogan, an investigative journalist for Moscow-based watchdog Last year, Borogan and Agentura editor-in-chief Andrei Soldatov published a series of reports on the surveillance programs that Russia is implementing for the Winter Olympics, which run from February 7th through the 23rd.

Their investigation shed light on a security system of remarkable breadth — one capable of gathering not only metadata, but actual phone conversations and internet activity. In an interview with The Guardian, one security expert described the program as “PRISM on steroids,” referring to the controversial data-gathering system used by the US National Security Agency NSA.

via Spy games: behind Russia’s massive Olympic surveillance program | The Verge.

Stealth marketing: Microsoft paying YouTubers for Xbox One mentions | Ars Technica

This weekend, word started leaking of a new promotion offering Machinima video partners an additional $3 CPM i.e., $3 per thousand video views for posting videos featuring Xbox One content. The promotion was advertised by Machinima’s UK community manager in a since-deleted tweet, and it also appears on Machinima’s activity feed on Poptent, a clearinghouse for these kind of video marketing campaigns. The Poptent page also mentions an earlier campaign surrounding the Xbox One’s launch in November, which offered an additional $1 CPM for videos “promoting the Xbox One and its release games.”

According to a leaked copy of the full legal agreement behind the promotion, video creators “may not say anything negative or disparaging about Machinima, Xbox One, or any of its Games” and must keep the details of the promotional agreement confidential in order to qualify for payment. In other words, to get the money, video makers have to speak positively or at least neutrally about the Xbox One, and they can’t say they’re being paid to do so.

via Stealth marketing: Microsoft paying YouTubers for Xbox One mentions | Ars Technica.

Net neutrality is half-dead: Court strikes down FCC’s anti-blocking rules | Ars Technica

The Federal Communication Commission’s net neutrality rules were partially struck down today by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which said the Commission did not properly justify its anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules.

Those rules in the Open Internet Order, adopted in 2010, forbid ISPs from blocking services or charging content providers for access to the network. Verizon challenged the entire order and got a big victory in today’s ruling. While it could still be appealed to the Supreme Court, the order today would allow pay-for-prioritization deals that could let Verizon or other ISPs charge companies like Netflix for a faster path to consumers.

The NSA Spies On America’s Favorite Device—Time To Get Angry – ReadWrite

Security researcher Jacob Applebaum gave a talk at the 30th Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany yesterday outlining how the NSA has had the capability to break into an iPhone and siphon off of all the communications and activity on the device since 2008. German publication Der Spiegel also has its own extensive report showing that the NSA has a program called DROPOUTJEEP that is the codename of the iPhone hack.

In addition to the iPhone hack, the NSA has a unit called TAO—Tailored Access Operations—that has the primary duty of intercepting and bugging hardware phones, laptops, servers that various reports have stated HP and Cisco servers. Basically, the NSA can get at whatever it wants just about anywhere it wants. Der Spiegel also reports that the NSA has successfully tapped undersea fiber optics cables running from Europe, through the Middle East to Asia.

via The NSA Spies On America’s Favorite Device—Time To Get Angry – ReadWrite.

Facebook introduces Graph Search, a tool that lets people sift through its social graph

Facebook has announced a new search feature dubbed Graph Search, a service which is built atop the network’s Social Graph. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company has been working on Graph Search for years, and claims it offers something that no other service can. It is available as a limited preview right now for English audiences only.

Zuckerburg made it clear that this isn’t a Web search service, and that user privacy has been taken into concern. Graph search is designed to take a precise query and deliver an answer. While Facebook says users can only search for content that has been shared with them, it is possible to search for things such as “TV shows watched by doctors” or “Music liked by people who like Mitt Romney” or even “Languages my friend speaks”.

Facebook’s CEO says that every piece of content on Facebook has its own audience with most of it not available to the public. Currently, you can only search for content that has been shared with you.

Can Andrew Sullivan make post-industrial journalism pay?

The state of journalism as described by the Tow authors — media theorist Clay Shirky, journalism professor Chris Anderson and Tow Center head Emily Bell — is a landscape where the major media entities in virtually every field are being disrupted and unbundled, and where smaller players targeted at specific niches stand the best odds of success. It’s an almost Darwinian view of the industry, with slow-moving giants who are gradually replaced by more nimble and flexible species. And it’s also a more personal and human-sized approach, one that Sullivan clearly sympathizes with:

“We believe in a bottom-up Internet, which allows a thousand flowers to bloom, rather than a corporate-dominated web where the promise of a free space becomes co-opted by large and powerful institutions and intrusive advertising algorithms.”

The model Sullivan is banking on — which features a $19.99-per-year subscription, free incoming links from blogs and social media, as well as a “pay whatever you want” donation option — is similar in many ways to the freemium or membership models other sites have staked their future on, including Mike Masnick’s tech-opinion and analysis site Techdirt and Josh Marshall’s political news and opinion network Talking Points Memo. But while those sites are offering extra features for members (such as member-only discussion forums and access to extra content, etc.) Sullivan says non-paying readers who merely follow links to his content will get exactly the same thing paying readers do.


I love his point about the ‘free media’ we consume coming with the invisible pricetag of institutional/corporate perspective. It’s sad to see how ‘revolutionary’ it appears to ask people to pay for excellent content.

Daniel Ellsberg: Crowd Funding the Right to Know

“A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, an ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know.” — Judge Murray Gurfein, Pentagon Papers case, June 17, 1971

When a government becomes invisible, it becomes unaccountable. To expose its lies, errors, and illegal acts is not treason, it is a moral responsibility. Leaks become the lifeblood of the Republic.

Whatever one’s opinion of WikiLeaks, every American should be offended that two elected officials, merely by putting pressure on corporations, could financially strangle necessary expression without ever going to court. What happened to WikiLeaks is completely unacceptable in a democracy that values free speech and due process.


These people are doing great work. In an era of unparalleled person-to-person communication, it’s simply unacceptable that much of our government is invisible to the average person.