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First POST: Sarcasm

BY Miranda Neubauer | Monday, March 19 2012

    Must Reads

  • In an e-mail, the Obama campaign asked supporters to "share how health care reform has helped you or someone you know" either as text or video testimonial. Meanwhile, Politico looked at how the Obama campaign is aggressively working on combining databases of voters and gathering data from Facebook, even as he advocates for online privacy. The story also highlights the work of the company Bully Pulpit Interactive in online marketing for the campaign. The Obama campaign has been advertising heavily on, the Washington Post and CBS News sites with one ad geared to working families and one with the message "It's time to join Barack's campaign," both featuring the First Family. Last night, the Obama campaign also responded on Twitter and Tumblr, writing that "Earlier today, Mitt Romney asked why any young person would vote for President Obama. Here are some reasons."

  • Mitt Romney has dismissed criticism over the fact that Bain Capital, the firm he has ties to, has purchased a Chinese video surveillance company.

  • Asked about his website’s position regarding pornography, Rick Santorum said that "Under the Bush administration, pornographers were prosecuted much more rigorously than they are under existing law, than they [are] under the Obama administration. So you draw your conclusion.”

  • On Twitter, the Obama campaign announces that another 348,000 people gave over $45 million in February, including first time donors.

  • Kansas Republican Governor Sam Brownback's Facebook page has become a target after he has vowed to sign a No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act. In what is being called "sarcasm bombing," his critics have been writing on his Facebook wall addressing him as an expert for women's issues. It's not unlike what happened to a Virignia legislator the other week. And this is not the first time Governor Brownback has had some issues with social media. Last fall he experienced blowback online when his office contacted a high school after a student there had posted a critical comment about him on Twitter.

  • This American Life aired its special Retraction episode in which host Ira Glass and Marketplace Reporter Rob Schmitz confronted Mike Daisey, creator of “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” about apparent fabrications in his one man show about working conditions in Apple's supplier factories in China. Daisey has now changed his performance somewhat after the revelations. Felix Salmon from Reuters had the following comments:

    At the end of Daisey's show, every member of the audience is given a sheet of paper with the heading "CHANGE IS POSSIBLE". It includes [Apple CEO] Tim Cook's email address, and urges the audience to, among other things, "think different about upgrading". And one of the reasons why Daisey's show has proved so popular - his This American Life episode was the most downloaded in the show's history, even more than the squirrel cop - is that it combined great storytelling with a feeling that this is happening now and we should do something about it. It's exactly the same formula used by Kony 2012, a project which is equally problematic.

  • Meanwhile, the maker of the Kony 2012 video, Jason Russell, was hospitalized Friday after exhibiting bizarre behavior such as running through the streets of San Diego in his underwear, screaming and masturbating. The Kony 2012 video has has reached over 112 million views. The Ugandan Prime Minister has also responded to the campaign with his own video.

  • As Occupy Wall Street protesters marked the six month anniversary of their movement in Manhattan Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported on how the movement's supporters have been working on developing technological tools over the winter to coordinate protests this spring, including “mapping, high-definition live-stream video, mass email list-serves and secure mobile Wi-Fi networks.” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told a City Council hearing that the police force gathered most of its intelligence about Occupy Wall Street from the Internet. Meanwhile, City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, an OWS supporter, has posted a letter condemning police violence against protestors, signed by four other council members, on his Facebook page. Presumably because that’s where Kelly will read it.

  • Mitt Romney's Digital Director Zac Moffat spoke with All Facebook about how the candidate approached the upgrade to Facebook Timeline and also discussed interactions with the Facebook page in general:

    There are a lot of other metrics that define success. My only concern is to be cognizant of what people are saying on Facebook. We have the most engaged groups, and we saw high engagement figures with our recent Birthday Note to Mitt, which literally resulted in tens of thousands of fans signing the card. The rest are just gotcha numbers. We know who we are engaging with, we monitor feedback and on any given day have 30-plus posts and that's good engagement to me.

  • Notable

  • The FAA is reportedly reexamining its longstanding policy against electronic gadgets on airplanes.

  • In the United States, attorneys general including New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman are looking into recent reports that Google circumvented the Safari web browser's privacy settings. European authorities are also looking into the issue.

  • Jurors who convicted Rutgers student Dharun Ravi of spying on his roommate Tyler Clementi with malicious intent with a webcam said that the digital evidence in Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, text messages, e-mails and elsewhere played a major role in their decision.

  • Pro Publica has published a music video to explain Super PACs.

  • Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning will have more pre-trial hearings at the end of April after two days of motions hearings last week. A judge denied a motion by his defense attorney that would have required military officials and State Department officials to testify whether the material Manning allegedly leaked was classified and what impact its leak had on national security. In addition, Politico reported that the prosecution had not received several e-mails from the defense and the judge on the case because their e-mail account was blocking messages with the word "Wikileaks" for security.

  • Wikileaks announced on Twitter that Julian Assange plans to run for an Australian Senate Seat. Last week, he participated in a debate on the legalization of drugs that was livestreamed on Youtube and hosted by Google + and the organization intelligencesquared. Other participants included former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and the former head of the London police force Lord Ian Blair.

  • An unknown technology company is resisting FBI directions not to tell a customer that he or she is being targeted and wanted to give the customer the chance to fight such a request in court. Paidcontent had also recently reported on a similar request involving Google in an unknown, but likely high profile, case. In another case, the FBI served Google with a warrant after it was unable to unlock an Android phone.

  • The National Security Agency is building a $2 billion spy center in remote Utah, expanding its capacity to listen in on and analyze world-wide communications, including those of American citizens, in real-time. Writes James Bamford:

    Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

  • Two Democratic Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, are expressing concerns that some intelligence gathering operations under the Patriot Act are going too far.

  • According to Think Progress, 10 companies were still advertising on Rush Limbaugh's radio show aired on a New York City ABC affiliate. Meanwhile, Glenn Beck says his online TV network will soon become 24 hours, and that he is working on a documentary on Occupy Wall Street.

  • There were more than 225,000 signatures on an online petition started on by a food blogger against the Agriculture Department including so-called Pink Slime, a ground beef byproduct, in school lunches. The USDA announced last week that schools would be able to choose whether to use the product.

  • Digg Founder Kevin Rose has joined Google. In addition, DARPA director Regina Dugan will also go work for Google.

  • A new government anti-smoking campaign will also incorporate Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

  • The New York legislature has passed a bill that doubles the size of the state's DNA database.

  • In a report, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) criticized the Obama Administration for how it processes and responds to Freedom of Information Act requests. The New York World reported on its challenges in requesting the records from Governor Andrew Cuomo's time as State Attorney General.

  • A federal prosecutor in New Orleans was removed from cases after he admitted he had been anonymously posting comments on a newspaper's website about targets of federal probes, politicians, judges and his colleagues. He made hundreds of posts at, the companion website of The Times-Picayune, under the username Henry L. Mencken1951, according to a U.S. attorney.

  • The NYPD used an iPhone tracking application to locate a man who had been accused of assaulting his wife and leaving with their baby.

  • An American Airlines flight attendant is fighting his termination for posting YouTube videos that made fun of the airline's financial difficulties.

  • Guys, Spring Break has become tamer because students are worried about appearing inappropriate online, and The New York Times is on it

  • An “Anonymous-OS” toolset that is advertised to contain a number of DDoS tools is purported to contain Trojan malware.

  • After complaints, Paypal has reversed a decision that would have blocked payments through its service for some kinds of erotica fiction.

  • In New York Times commentary, a writer and a pilot sharply criticizes the the U.S. Electronic System for Travel Authorization for visitors from overseas:

    ESTA asks for basic personal data, like your name and birth date. It also asks whether you are guilty of "moral turpitude," whether you're planning crimes or "immoral activities" and whether you suffer from "lymphogranuloma venereum" (don't ask). If you're involved in terrorism or genocide - and for some reason you've decided to take this opportunity to inform the United States government - there's a box for that....Aesthetically, ESTA's Web site - America's digital front porch - is a disaster: uninviting and embarrassingly inconsistent with America's information technology pre-eminence. Ten dollars of ESTA's fee is earmarked for "visit America" ad campaigns. Tourism promotion is common sense. But we might reconsider the wisdom of requiring travelers to subsidize it in exchange for a grilling about their sexual health and genocidal activities.

  • International Headlines

  • EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht called on the EU's member countries to await the outcome of the decision of the European Court of Justice before definitively backing out of ACTA. He said the commission would in "a matter of days" file its request for an opinion from the EU court, which is expected to take up to 20 months to be delivered. He also said he had received "thousands and thousands of emails," but with the ECJ deferral, he wanted to "bring this discussion back, let's say, to the rational part."

  • Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's cash, cars and property were seized using a court order which should never have been granted, a judge in New Zealand has decided, the New Zealand Herald reported. She declared the order null and void due to a "procedural error" made in the filing documents.

  • Der Spiegel profiled the growing influence of the Pirate Party in Germany. In addition to the two upcoming state elections mentioned in the article, the party is also gearing up to compete in the most recently announced state parliament election in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the biggest state in the country, after the government there collapsed over a budget dispute. Two members of the Pirate Party were also part of the special assembly that this Sunday elected former pastor and East German human rights activist Joachim Gauck as the new German president, however the two Pirate representatives abstained from voting for Gauck, the candidate who had been chosen by a consensus of most of the major parties.

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined an invitation from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey to join Twitter when he visited Berlin. However, her spokesperson held a first official Q & A session on Twitter.

  • Organizers behind an official party Facebook page for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were building on a successful campaign to recruit an additional 20,000 fans for his page when they posted a link to the political page on a new Facebook page for the Israeli Defense Forces, which has also gained 93,000 fans since it was created about a month ago. However, an IDF editor of that page decided that the comment violated the page's comments policy, which forbids "curse words and improper messages", including political messages, and deleted it. Then he wrote about it on his personal Facebook page, "Today Bibi left a comment on the IDF's [Facebook] page asking people to 'like' him. I banned him for expressing a political message on the page."

  • A photo showing Israeli President Shimon Peres writing on a blackboard while he visited with Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook headquarters has gone viral, with an Israeli company creating an application where users can write their own presidential message from Peres.

  • Syrian activists said they were sickened but not shocked by leaked e-mails from President Bashar al-Assad and his wife that show them living in luxury during the violent crackdown in the country. Meanwhile, the EFF warned that some Syrian activists could be targeted by a fake YouTube site with malware.

  • The Iranian government has blocked access to the UK government’s recently launched “ UK for Iranians,” site. The site was meant to act as a virtual embassy for the UK government to “explain UK policy and engage with Iranians.”

  • A Russian documentary that alleges the protest movement against the March 4th presidential election has faced a backlash online. After the documentary aired on NTV, the hashtag “NTV tells lies,” became the number one trending topic on Twitter in Russia.

  • China's new rules requiring identification on microblogs have gone into effect for users in Beijing.

  • The British Election Commission is expressing concerns that offering information for mayoral and police chief elections only on a central website would disadvantage voter groups with low levels of Internet access.

  • The European Parliament passed a resolution urging the Dutch prime minister to condemn an anti-immigration website run by the Dutch Freedom Party.

  • In Morocco, women's rights activists have been protesting a law that allows a rapist to marry his victim if she is a minor after a 16-year old killed herself a week ago after being severely beaten during a forced marriage to her rapist. Groups have started an online campaign to have the law - Article 475 - repealed and have started a Facebook page called "We are all Amina Filali." In Lebanon, after an Ethiopian housemaid killed herself following a video where she was seen being dragged along the streets by a man and forced into a car, activists posted the man's contact information on internet social media sites and called for action against him.

With Raphael Majma and Micah L. Sifry