Sarah Jeong reports on how Twitter has begun to take control of the hatred, harassment and general horseshit posted on its site.
Twitter talked some big talk, but it has buckled under both lawsuits and media outrage, tweaking and changing the Rules around speech whenever something threatened its bottom line. For a business, free speech can only be a meaningful value if it doesn’t really cost anything. … The Twitter of today strikes an uneasy balance between its old self and the unapologetic, ideologically-unburdened censoriousness of Facebook and Instagram. It remains yet to be seen whether the company has the vision and creativity to live out its new identity.
The "free speech wing of the free speech party" couldn't have done this but two years ago. They had to wait until the issues at hand were understood (at least by and large) not as abstractions to be dealt with on principle, but as practical issues of everyday human suffering. Read the rest
When artist and pop star David Bowie launched an Internet service provider firm in the heady dot-com runup days of 1998, a guy named Ron Roy helped Bowie run the ISP. Days after the music icon's death from cancer at age 69, Ars Technica interviews Roy about how "BowieNet" came to life, and why Bowie wanted to be in the ISP business in the first place.
Tor, the internet anonymity network you can use to hide your activity from prying eyes, is beautiful in blue. Torflow is a visualization of the vast amounts of traffic streaming between its many nodes, delineating a map of the internet as it can't otherwise be seen.
You can add and remove activity associated with different components of the Tor network, and then watch as thousands of on-screen particles rapidly drain your mobile device's batteries.
Paul Ford mounts a defense of the Internet’s absence of meaning
The most meaningful experiences I have, the experiences that give me the greatest insight into the operation of culture over time—something over which historians used to hold a monopoly—are the results of database queries. I go in, I search for a term, I click some links, and the resulting stream of options is not even a narrative, just a bag of odds and ends. Then I begin a gentle pawing-through. What I like most is to skim through things that were intended to be transient. The ads, the newsy bits from beekeeping journals, the announcements of 1940s automobiles. You could call me an ephemeralist.
Life is ephemeral, and so is the Internet. But the internet has advantages… Read the rest
“Plasma ball destroys the web.”
Yes, friends, Tanner's latest creation is the answer to unfriendly YouTube comments, harassing or abusive Facebook posts, douchey viral ads, you name it. Whatever on the internet is wrong. Read the rest
"Eternal September" refers to the Internet as it has been since 1993, when AOL began providing access to USENET. The flood of newbies made the newsgroups feel like the first month of school—but this time, the flood never ceased. Though USENET is a thing of the past, Jason Koebler remembers what it felt like to be a member of a group that saw itself as a deserving incumbent elite, but wasn't really any of those things.
"My memories of early 90s Usenet are of a vibrant, enlightened world of serious discourse. But I was a confused arrogant geek in my early 20s, so that's mostly heavy rose-tinting and confirmation bias," Fischer said. "When you're deeply immersed in an elitist clique, it often feels like you're in an open welcoming community. From your perspective, everything's great."
"People look back on it like it was some kind of CyberAthens," he added.
It wasn’t, of course.
The same techniques used to exclude and assimilate outsiders are still in use. Now, as then, they're failing under the sheer weight of numbers. Read the rest
Traffic is for sale. You can buy "good" traffic and "bad" traffic. But much of it is, as they say, "nonhuman"—and amounts to the normalization of click fraud on an epic scale.
During the interview, ["Boris"] freely admits he buys many of the visitors to his websites. He spends about $50,000 per year buying high-quality traffic … Bloomberg Businessweek asked two traffic-fraud-detection firms to assess recent traffic to MyTopFace; they agreed on the condition that their names not be used. One found that 94 percent of 30,000 visitors were bots; the other put the bot traffic at 74 percent. Boris didn’t dispute the findings or appear at all concerned. “If I can buy some traffic and it gets accepted, why not?” he says. And if advertisers don’t like it, he adds, “they should go buy somewhere else. They want to pay only a little and get a lot of traffic and results. If they want all human traffic, they should go direct to the publisher and pay more.”
The trick appears to be to game the ratios of good (eyeballs bought from Facebook) and bad (botnets bought from dodgy forums) to keep everyone unsure.
If God's up there, he just loves it. Typhoid and swans, it all comes from the same place. Read the rest
Chris Poole sold the sprawling image boards to their own inspiration, reports the New York Times.
“Hiroyuki [Nishimura] is literally the only person in the world with as much if not more experience than myself in running an anonymous, large destination community that serves tens of millions of people,” Mr. Poole said in an interview. “He’s the great-grandfather of all of this.”
Mr. Poole declined to disclose the terms of the acquisition, and he does not expect to serve an active role in 4chan’s future development. He stepped down from daily maintenance of the site in January, handing over the reins to a handful of part-time deputies who moderate and manage the site.
Even with its outside impact of web culture, 4chan was not a moneyspinner, the Times reports, though it "has at times been profitable."
Here's Poole's own post on the sale.
4chan sits on the eve of two great milestones—its 2 billionth post and 12th birthday. It has been a great privilege to serve as 4chan's founder and steward for almost twelve years, and I can't wait to see what lays in store under Hiroyuki's experienced leadership.
Nishimura is, incidentally, the editor of Variety Japan. In another, better world, Poole just sold 4chan to Variety. In the best world, he sold it to Reader's Digest. Read the rest
Matt Locke writes, "It's the 30th anniversary of the .uk domain this week, so here's an oral history of the internet pioneers who made it happen, and how they fought with the US internet gurus to make it .uk, not .gb" Read the rest
A NSFW excerpt from "How To Have Cybersex On The Internet." Read the rest
I'm fascinated by conspiracy theories and their origins. I'm also fascinated by the real people behind click-bait and spam email scams. This story brings them both together.
Reporter Zack Beauchamp went looking for Frank Bates, the face of a "FEMA hates this!"/"The secret Obama doesn't want you to know!"-style online ad campaign that sells overpriced dehydrated food (and lots and lots of fear) to middle-aged conservatives. He quickly discovered that Bates doesn't actually exist. Instead, the company Food4Patriots is the work of a salesman named Allen Baler who was just tired of working in an office and wanted to run his own business.
Unlike Bates, Baler doesn't live off-the-grid. He doesn't appear to be under any threat from FEMA and/or the Obama administration. It's not even clear that he's particularly conservative. But Baler is making an awful lot of money pretending to be Bates.
I wouldn't normally link to ThinkProgress, which generally seems to exist for the sole purpose of getting liberal people outraged about things. (I'm not particularly fond of the Outrage-Industrial Complex, no matter which side is participating.) But this story is a fascinating look at what goes on behind the scenes of scammy ad links you see all over the Internet and I think it's worth reading.
Read the rest
Baler started dabbling in this field in his free time after work. His first foray — a campaign he refers to as “How To Train Your Pug Dog” — got noticed by his boss, who told him to choose between making cheapo pug training videos and his “multiple six figures” salary.