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Let's Bring Digital Liberties into the Big Conversation


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We've been CISPA'd again.

For a second year the US House has passed the embarrassingly vague Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a bill that could scatter your personal information like a tornado hitting a trailer park. Echoing last year, the Obama administration has threatened to veto CISPA if it fails to incorporate privacy controls, but we shouldn't have to rely on presidential intervention or the Senate's questionable wisdom to save us. Though Congress is gifted in the arts of incompetence and believes digital liberties only matter to basement-dwelling teens, we cannot entirely vilify the House, either. If there's one thing our representatives actually represent about us, it is our ignorance of technology.

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Sloppy statistics: Do 50% of Americans really think married women should be legally obligated to change their names?

Jill Filipovic wrote an opinion column for The Guardian yesterday, arguing against the practice of women taking their husbands' names when they get married. It ended up linked on Jezebel and found its way to my Facebook feed where one particular statistic caught my eye. Filipovic claimed that 50% of Americans think a women should be legally required to take her husband's name.

First, some quick clarification of my biases here. Although I write under a hyphenate, I never have legally changed my name. I've never had a desire to do so. In my private life, I'm just Maggie Koerth and always will be. That said, I personally take issue with the implication at the center of Filipovic's article — that women shouldn't change their names and that to do so makes you a bad feminist. For me, this is one of those personal decisions where I'm like, whatever. Make your own choice. Just because I don't get it doesn't mean you're wrong.

But just like I take objection to being all judgey about personal choices, I also take objection to legally mandating personal choices, and I was kind of blown away by the idea that 50% of my fellow Americans think my last name should be illegal.

So I looked into that statistic. And then I got really annoyed.

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Jody Schoger: Livestrong, Armstrong, and why "finding the cure" isn't all that matters for people with cancer

The recent news about Lance Armstrong and the USADA sparked much discussion online about Livestrong, the cancer organization founded by the cancer survivor and cycling champion. As regular Boing Boing readers know, I have cancer. A confession: I wasn't particularly interested in Armstrong or Livestrong before my diagnosis, but have since connected (primarily through Twitter) with a number of people with cancer who are part of the organization, or who have benefitted from its support services.

So, when I read opinion pieces last week criticizing both the man and the organization, I was annoyed to see pundits who do not have cancer slamming Livestrong for not spending money on "finding a cure," and alleging that the organization falsely claimed it was doing just that. Research for "the cure" matters, but it's not all that matters to those of us who may or may not live to see "the cure." I didn't get this before. Now I do. And I'm not just talking about "awareness," a term I loathe. It's this: Navigating the nightmare of treatment, medical bills, and the wreckage cancer makes of relationships and our professional lives—this is the stuff that actually matters more to us, in day-to-day terms. Fighting the disease on behalf of future victims is important. But so is helping the people who have the disease, right now.

Jody Schoger (blog) is a writer, cancer survivor, and advocate for people with cancer. I met her through Twitter, and she has become an important part of my personal cancer support circle.

Jody and I were trading emails about a recent Bob Lefsetz rant. That piece referenced an Outside Magazine article by Bill Gifford. Jody is a longtime supporter of Livestrong (her Twitter avatar reflects this!), so I invited her to share her views on the matter here on Boing Boing.

Jody writes:

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A message for the media from an Aurora shooting survivor: "Give victims and survivors their space"

"Student, writer, and self-identifying geek" A.J. Focht, writing on a Suicide Girls blog, talks about the experience of surviving the recent mass shooting at "The Dark Knight Rises" premiere at an Aurora, CO movie theater— and, how a friend and fellow survivor was hounded by content-hungry television producers:

With only a small charge left in her phone one of the members of my group thought it best to send out a blanket distress beacon via Twitter so she could conserve her battery to call her parents and a ride home. Caitlin tweeted from her account @dingos8myTARDIS informing her family and friends of the chaos and that she was physically alright. Her tweets were some of the first online, and within the hour BBC, CNN, and others were broadcasting her messages on the news. The hundreds of media outlets that contacted her throughout the night were unexpected, but we could understand they were just trying to do their jobs. Once we had been released, Caitlin, not wanting the mass media attention, released these tweets:

dingos8myTARDIS: To the media: I was tweeting earlier because my phone was on 10%batt & I needed to let people know I was okay. I am (in) no shape for interviews.

dingos8myTARDIS: To rephrase: I have no interest in interviews at this time. I was merely sending an emergency beacon.

Despite her requesting to be left alone, she was perpetually bombarded by yet more media requests via Twitter from outlets including FOX News and The Huffington Post. As if the mass attention on Twitter was not enough, other news networks took it upon themselves to get her phone number and start calling her.

While we all sat anxiously awaiting information on the MIA member of our group, phones and email notifications continued go off till all our phones had died. Before even our families and friends had a chance to check in, the overzealous reporters were all but knocking on our doors. Right after our group finally learned our missing member didn't make it, Caitlin's phone began to ring; It was the Today Show on the other end requesting an interview about him. She told them off and asked them not to contact her again. However, her pleas didn't stop them from calling again the next morning, still trying to get an interview.

Focht is among those who wish that media would "stop showing" images of the suspected killer. There's a balance for news outlets to strike in cases like this; there's informing, and there's exploitation. For the record, we at Boing Boing have refrained from publishing the image, because there's no real need for us to.

Read the rest: "Back Row Perspective Part 1: An Aurora Theater Survivor’s Message to the Media."

There's a second piece, well worth reading, with words for the politicians who seek to capitalize on the massacre.