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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 >

China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.


wednesday >

Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.


tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask for help. GO

Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.


monday >

The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.


The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.