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Media Bits & Bytes - Who Is Watching Edition

Bombing in Boston: Social Media Got It Wrong; Digital Surveillance Got It Right; Cell Service Could Have Gotten Shut Down; Organizing Against CISPA Ramps Up; Crowdsourcing the Gun Control Bill; YouTube Shoots Down Viacom Again; The Orwellian Potential of Google Glass; NY Post Circles the Drain; A Virtual Newsroom Wins a Pulitzer; The Ongoing Gender Gap of the Global Internet; Bringing E-books to Third World Phones

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Boston Bombings: Social Media Spirals Out of Control

By Ken Bensinger and Andrea Chang
April 20, 2013
Los Angeles Times

Within seconds of the first explosion, the Internet was alive with the collective ideas and reactions of the masses.  But this watershed moment for social media quickly spiraled out of control. Legions of Web sleuths cast suspicion on at least four innocent people, spread innumerable bad tips and heightened the sense of panic and paranoia. Once the FBI released images of the actual suspects, things really got out of hand. 

Experts say that the role of social media in crisis situations is only bound to grow as smartphones proliferate further and the public continues to clamor for instantaneous information.

Digital Evidence Mounting in Boston after Marathon Bombing

By Jessica Meyers
April 19, 2013
Politco.com

The Boston Marathon’s crowded finish line meant greater tragedy Monday, but it also proved key to identifying the suspects in the bombing.  Thanks to the ubiquity of security cameras and smartphones, authorities were able to release photos Thursday implicating two suspects in the Monday marathon blasts.
Hundreds of shutters snapped and cameras rolled before and after the two explosions ripped through the city’s downtown, unintentionally capturing the moment and maybe even the culprits. Faced with this deluge of images, law enforcement officials combined facial recognition technologies, digital enhancements and old-fashioned detective work to sift for clues.

The Government Didn't Shut Down Cell Service in Boston. But With SOP 303, It Could Have.

By Adam Serwer and Nick Baumann
April 17, 2013
Mother Jones

Shortly after the horrific explosions that interrupted the Boston Marathon Monday, the Associated Press reported that the government had shut down cellphone service in the area. That wasn't true—but it's not impossible.

Although there's no physical kill switch, there is Standard Operating Procedure 303, a secret agreement between telecommunications giants and the government that outlines how it would be done.   

Press Release: As CISPA Passes House, FFTF Announces Plans to Organize Largest Online Privacy Protest In History

Fight for the Future
April 18, 2013

CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, passed the House of Representatives, 288-127. Within minutes after the bill passed, digital rights leaders Fight for the Future announced that they would organize the largest online privacy protest in history to stop the bill before it could get further.

Privacy and civil liberties groups are joined by very large technology companies, such as Mozilla, Reddit, Imgur, Namecheap, Craigslist, and many others in opposing CISPA. Fight for the Future will be working to organize a protest for the latter part of spring 2013.

ProPublica Crowdsources Gun Control Bill With #TrackTheVote

By Lauren Hockenson
April 9, 2013
Media Bistro

ProPublica is shining a light on the battle for gun control by reporting on every Senator’s position on the issue. Of course, individually tracking down 100 offices for comment is outside the resource capabilities for a typical newsroom, so ProPublica is relying on the power of the people to help them #TrackTheVote.    

The process is simple: users can find the contact information for their local senator’s office using ProPublica’s extensive Senate office database, find a statement or contact the office to get a comment on the bill, and fill out a quick survey on ProPublica’s website. After some vetting and fact-checking, the information is fully available to the public through the same contact directory available on the page.

Court Sides With YouTube for Second Time in Major Viacom Copyright Case

By Jeff John Roberts 
April 18, 2013
paidContent.org

In the latest twist in a long and closely-watched copyright case brought by Viacom, U.S. District Judge Louis Stanton granted summary judgment to YouTube after finding executives at the video site did not have “red flag” knowledge that made them liable for content uploaded by users.

On its surface, the case turned on whether YouTube had to pay damages to Viacom for thousands of unauthorized clips of shows like South Park and Seinfeld that appeared on the site. But on a deeper level, the case is significant because it is helping to determine what digital technology companies must do to protect copyright.  Under a law known as the DMCA, online services like YouTube are not responsible for the copyright infringement of their users, so long as the site is not complicit in users’ copyright violations.

Google Glass and the Emerging Glasshole  Culture

By Jason Perlow for Tech Broiler
April 17, 2013
Zdnet.org

There's a not-so-flattering descriptor that has already been applied to this group of digital cognoscenti who have been seen wearing the Google Glass device: Glassholes.   

While Glass is a mobile technology platform just like a smartphone or a tablet, it differs in that it is "always-on" , a feature called lifelogging.  With Glass, because the device is being worn and there's no indication of when it is being used, one has to assume that the wearer is recording everyone all of the time. And that is an Orwellian chilling effect that I think could be very harmful to the development of our society as a whole.   

The New York Post: The Game is Up for Murdoch's Plaything

By Michael Wolff
April 15, 2013
The Guardian (UK)

The power vacuum in New York City that will be left by Michael Bloomberg's departure from public office will likely be compounded by another unfillable hole: the loss of the New York Post.       

It's been Murdoch's money-losing personal instrument for all manner of trouble-making, political power-brokering, and punishment and reward. To say the Post is self-serving would be beside the point. It is the last of the great bully-boy newspapers.  Now, as Murdoch gets ready to separate his newspapers from his richer entertainment holdings in a move that will force the papers to pay their own way, the Post's day of reckoning nears.    

A Pulitzer Prize, but Without a Newsroom to Put It In

By Brian Stelter
April 16, 2013
New York Times

When three reporters for InsideClimate News found out they won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting on Monday, none were in the same city — Elizabeth McGowan was in Washington, Lisa Song was in Boston and David Hasemyer was in New York.  “We’re a virtual organization,” said the publisher of the six-year-old Web site, David Sassoon, from his office in New York.

Sig Gissler, the administrator of the Pulitzers, which are under the auspices of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, said the Web site’s win “indicates the way journalism as we’ve always known it and loved it is being reconfigured.”

The Internet’s Ongoing Gender Gap

By Isobel Coleman
March 22, 2013
Democracy in Development / Council on Foreign Relations

Although the Internet seems ubiquitous, for many people in the developing world it is barely a reality—and women are left behind at greater rates than men.  An extensive report from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, “Women and the Web,”  estimates “that 21 percent of women and girls in developing countries have access to the Internet, while 27 percent of men have access. This represents 600 million women and girls online—200 million fewer than men and boys.” Because of the spread of the Internet, an additional 450 million women and girls will likely become connected in the next few years, but the report’s authors believe that with the right interventions, an additional 150 million women could get connected.   

One of the report’s most valuable contributions is its work on the non-technological factors preventing women from using the Internet. In much of the developing world, basic access to the Internet is a significant problem—which is why developments like undersea cables and less expensive smartphones are particularly exciting.   

This Simple App Could Put E-Books On Millions Of Phones In The Third World

By Parmy Olson
April 9, 2013
Forbes

More than one in three adults cannot read in sub-Saharan Africa, yet almost every home there has access to at least one mobile phone, according to USAID. Developing nations are among the fastest growing mobile markets in the world, but literacy is still a big problem.

David Risher, a former executive at Amazon and co-founder of non-profit organization Worldreader, thinks there’s an obvious answer here: offer free books through all those cell phones.  The books they’re reading are short, typically taking up 150 screenshots. Though men are early adopters, women are the “power readers,” Worldreader says, reading an average 17 books a month.