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First POST: Hank the Cat Returns

BY Miranda Neubauer | Friday, March 2 2012

  • The U.S. Senate yesterday defeated the Republican-supported Blunt Amendment, which would have overturned President Barack Obama's order that most employers or their insurers cover the cost of contraceptives. Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren was one of many rallying against it online, criticizing her opponent, the incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, for supporting the measure.

  • Hank the Cat's Senate run in Virginia is now being met with negative campaigning. The local NBC station reported the following:

    As with Mordor, you cannot just walk into a Senate seat. "He has enemies," an email warned us today...[He] is being branded as a carpetbagger in a new video from an unnamed opposition." Hank has never released his birth certificate or tax returns, and has never responded to allegations that he used catnip," the video also warns.

    NBC also reported that the ad says it was paid for by Canines for a Feline-Free Tomorrow Super PAC, but was uploaded to Youtube by THE BiG HONKIN', a group of writers and filmmakers.

    His campaign manager responded in another article that "Hank is refusing to respond to baseless attack ads. Hank states that this is exactly the type of advertising and wastefulness in Washington that he is running against, and absolute proof that he is scaring those in charge. Hank will not respond to these allegations, and will continue on his positive campaign of job creation, spay/neuter programs, and ridding the Capitol of rats."

    Almost related: In the New Republic, Perry Stein explores why cats are so popular online.

  • Republican Senators, including John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, and Lisa Murkowski, have introduced the SECURE IT Act. The cybersecurity bill would increase prison terms for certain cybercrimes, provide legal protection to entities that share information about cyberthreats, and does not, sponsors say, increase the power of any federal agency to oversee or monitor Internet traffic. The sponsors of the bill claim it is less burdensome and regulatory than the Cybersecurity Act, which was previously introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators.

  • The Romney campaign has released a web video asking for donations to its "One Term Fund," an ongoing fund-raising pitch around making President Barack Obama a one-term president.

  • Newt Gingrich has been increasingly asking his supporters to use social media, but is still struggling a little bit. In Georgia, "he told a packed house in Covington, to "go to hashmark gas 250" - a description that would have sent them searching for the incorrect search term #gas250 on Twitter (instead of #250gas, which the campaign is promoting)." He has also been urging "people to type "Newt (equals) $2.50 a gallon" in their Facebook status lines."

  • EU's Justice Commisioner Viviane Reding said that Google's new privacy policy is in breach of EU law because transparency rules have not been applied. France's data protection authority has called for an EU-wide investigation of the policy. Google responded to some of the criticism in a blog post and emphasized that "the new policy doesn't change any existing privacy settings or how any personal information is shared outside of Google." Department of Commerce General Counsel Cameron Kerry, who is visiting Europe, said, "I do think that Google has been very transparent about these changes. Google has responded to some of the concerns that are out there and is trying to address them." He met with Reding and said he was looking forward to negotiating the "interoperability" of the U.S. and EU's approaches to online privacy. "Google privacy changes" was a trending search on Google for some of the past 48 hours.

  • A federal appeals court ruled that police can search a cell phone for its number without a warrant. Reuters' Terry Baynes explains that having a phone's number allows police to subpoena call histories,

  • Pandodaily profiles Votizen, which aims to run campaigns with an emphasis on social media outreach, instead of the traditional reliance on advertising. We've been tracking Votizen since last year.

  • Foursquare is moving to use OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps.

  • The Guardian explains its approach to open, participatory journalism through use of multimedia and social media with a video on its hypothetical coverage of the fate of The Three Little Pigs.

  • Facebook users with public profiles and who accept friend requests from strangers have a higher incidence of identity fraud, according to a report.

  • A laptop stolen from NASA last year contained command codes used to control the International Space Station, according to an internal investigation.

  • The New York Times looks at continuing education options for professionals who need to build social media skills for their jobs.

  • One piece of commentary in the National Review warns against too much legislative regulation of the Internet, while a response argues that if popular illegal behavior is costing American companies business, it is a law enforcement problem not a innovation problem.

  • More than 50 percent of Americans now have smartphones, although eight percent are not sure what kind of phone they have, according to a new Pew survey.

  • Senators are targeting Facebook with proposed legislation that would close a stock-option loophole, the Washington Post reported.

  • Same-sex couples might find it more difficult to use tax preparation software.

  • Next month, a court in California will hear arguments as to whether a trial judge can compel a former juror to turn over Facebook entries he posted during the trial for review by the court.

  • Trial lawyers seeking plaintiffs "are paying almost three times more for keyword advertising than the Obama campaign spent in 2008," according to a report.

  • The Washington Post looked at how the National Domestic Workers Alliance has been using the success of the film The Help to raise awareness of its legislative priorities.

    Before the film hit theaters, the alliance posted a YouTube video called "Meet Today's Help," featuring real domestic workers. The alliance was encouraged that it got 9,000 hits. Then the film came out and was a box-office success, grossing about $170 million. Participant Media, a producer that helped finance "The Help" and specializes in building "social action" campaigns around its movies, designed one for "The Help." It included inviting nannies to send in their personal stories and producing more short videos featuring real domestic workers. Those videos have gotten 100,000 hits on the campaign's Web site, according to Participant Media

  • A new website announced at the TED Conference will stream radio frequencies that are transmitted from the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Allen Telescope Array in California, and the public is encouraged to search for signs of unusual activity.

  • European Trade Commissioner Karl De Gucht is defending ACTA.

  • A British ethics group is launching a debate on the ethical dilemmas posed by new technologies that could tap into the brain and bring super-human strength, highly enhanced concentration or thought-controlled weaponry.

  • On the urging of Wikipedia, the German Space Agency has decided to release all its videos and images under the Creative Commons license.

  • Ireland has signed a so-called "Irish SOPA bill" into law.

  • Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced on Twitter that he was recovering well from surgery, reportedly for cancer.

  • China's top Tibet official has ordered tighter control of the Internet.

  • The BBC looks at the unexpected role LiveJournal has played in online Russian activism.

  • The Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry have sent a memo outlining Japanese privacy laws to Google's Japan subsidiary.

With Raphael Majma

News Briefs

RSS Feed today >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.


The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.


tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.


Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.


monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.


friday >

In Google Hangout, NYC Mayor de Blasio Talks Tech and Outer Borough Potential

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio followed the lead of President Obama and New York City Council member Ben Kallos Friday by participating in a Google Hangout to help mark his first 100 days in office, in which the conversation focused on expanding access to technology opportunities through education and ensuring that the needs of the so-called "outer boroughs" aren't overlooked. GO

thursday >

In Pakistan, A Hypocritical Gov't Ignores Calls To End YouTube Ban

YouTube has been blocked in Pakistan by executive order since September 2012, after the “blasphemous” video Innocence of Muslims started riots in the Middle East. Since then, civil society organizations and Internet rights advocacy groups like Bolo Bhi and Bytes for All have been working to lift the ban. Last August the return of YouTube seemed imminent—the then-new IT Minister Anusha Rehman spoke optimistically and her party, which had won the majority a few months before, was said to be “seriously contemplating” ending the ban. And yet since then, Rehman and her party, the conservative Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), have done everything in their power to maintain the status quo.


The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery. GO

Boston and Cambridge Move Towards More Open Data

The Boston City Council is now considering an ordinance which would require Boston city agencies and departments to make government data available online using open standards. Boston City Councilor At Large Michelle Wu, who introduced the legislation Wednesday, officially announced her proposal Monday, the same day Boston Mayor Martin Walsh issued an executive order establishing an open data policy under which all city departments are directed to publish appropriate data sets under established accessibility, API and format standards. GO

YouTube Still Blocked In Turkey, Even After Courts Rule It Violates Human Rights, Infringes on Free Speech

Reuters reports that even after a Turkish court ruled to lift the ban on YouTube, Turkey's telecommunications companies continue to block the video sharing site.