Boing Boing 

Use Facebook while in South Carolina jail, go to solitary for 37 years


Prisons have a legitimate interest in controlling contraband, but in South Carolina, using social media from behind bars is a Class I offense, carrying stiffer penalties than murder, escape and hostage-taking.

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Teens' use of social media is significantly shaped by race, class, geography, cultural background


danah boyd responds to A Teenager’s View on Social Media (written by an actual teen), pointing out that what white, affluent boys do with social media is not a full account of "how teens use the Internet.

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Stats-based response to UK Tories' call for social media terrorism policing


David Cameron wants social media companies to invent a terrorism-detection algorithm and send all the "bad guys" it detects to the police -- but this will fall prey to the well-known (to statisticians) "paradox of the false positive," producing tens of thousands of false leads that will drown the cops.

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Twitter funds MIT Laboratory for Social Machines

Twitter committed $10 million to the MIT Media Lab to create a Laboratory for Social Machines that will study social systems, build tools for "social engagement and change," and deploy "social machines — networked human-machine collaboratives."

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The apology letter Google SHOULD have used to announce the end of G+ "Real Names"

The sudden reversal of Google's years-long insistence on "real names" for G+ users came after a long fight about the biases inherent in such a policy.

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Google Plus drops "Real Names" policy

After years of criticism, Google Plus has finally dropped its controversial, Facebook-alike "Real Names" policy.

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New Mexico threatens inmate with 90 days' solitary because his family made him a Facebook page

The New Mexico Corrections Department has a policy prohibiting inmates from "accessing the Internet through third parties," which they've interpreted to mean that prisoners whose families maintain Facebook pages for them can be punished with solitary confinement.

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Bffbot1 loves you as only an algorithmic entity can


@bffbot1 is the latest weird-ass crazy awesome Twitterbot from Shardcore.

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A day of Yik Yak hell in high school

Mean girls cast

Yik Yak is a social app that's basically an anonymous, hyperlocal bulletin board. Over at New York Magazine, Will Haskel, a senior at Staples High School in Westport, Connecticut, wrote about the day this social media product fueled incredibly antisocial and brutally nasty behavior among his classmates. To illustrate, just a few of the endless stream of posts from the day:

“L. M. is affiliated with Al Qaeda.”

“The cheer team couldn’t get uglier.”

“K. is a slut.”

“J. N. is a fag.”

“The fact that O. P. has diabetes makes me happy.”

“S. D. + 10 years = trailer park.”

“Nobody is taking H. to prom because nobody has a forklift.”

“J. T.’s gonna get lynched at SMU.”

"A Gossip App Brought My High School to a Halt" (Thanks, DMD!)

Is that cool news true? Here's how you judge.

Love this list of 20 rules of thumb to help you analyze the validity of science news. A lot of it boils down to statistics and common sense (hey, you guys, scientists are human), but it's also stuff that easy to lose sight of when you're excited or scared or totally fascinated. Print this out and read it before you click "share".

Science in 6 seconds: The best of Vine

GE hosted a contest to make super-short science videos for Vine and the results feature some really clever, nifty little clips.

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Evolutionary psychologist mocks fat people, devours own foot

On June 2, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller declared on Twitter that fat Ph.D. students who didn't have the willpower to stop eating carbs wouldn't have the willpower to finish a dissertation, either. He later went on to claim that the tweet — and presumably, the negative reactions to it — was actually part of his research, not a reflection of his actual beliefs. (In other words, it was a social experiment, as the kids used to say on LiveJournal.) And now, the shocker: Yesterday, Miller's superiors at The University of New Mexico told The Daily Mail that the tweet was not, in fact, part of any research project Miller was working on. This is probably going nowhere good for him.

A marine biologist's guide to determining whether floodwaters really are shark-infested

This is an older piece, but given that we're into hurricane season, I expect it will come up again. How do you tell if the photo you've been forwarded, showing sharks swimming through flooded urban landscapes, is real or fake? Marine biologist (and shark expert) David Shiffman has a simple 5-step process. In fact, it's so simple that I'm sure many of you will already be familiar with these tricks. But, here's the thing, it's helpful to be reminded that the tricks are necessary. They're very easy to forget when a hurricane is crashing into shore and social media is blowing up. Besides which, this will make a handy link to forward to friends and family passing questionable photos of all sorts.

How London cops use social media to spy on protest movements

Juha sez, "If you're going to build a protest movement, it might be better to stay off Facebook and Twitter because the cops are fully tuned into social media these days. The Open Source Intelligence Unit at London's Metropolitan Police Service has a staff of seventeen who work seven days a week - to track social media feed back and to monitor community tension. Having a sense of humour and understanding of slang gives humans the edge over social media surveillance software, UK cops reckon. The British cops are worried about 4G mobile broadband though because it'll generate much more data such as video."

The unit monitored some 32 million social media articles during the Olympics, with 10,300 tweets being posted every second during the opening ceremony.

“Companies will tell your that sentiment analysis from a piece of software is about 56 percent accurate … we would say it's lower, because it doesn’t pick up humour or slang,” Ertogral said.

In addition to looking at trends, he said the unit was also exploring association to establish influencers, particularly for protest movements.

“So we’re trying to build friend lists on Facebook, who’s connected to who, who are the influencers out there etc.”

Police tap social media in wake of London attack [Charis Palmer/IT News]

(Thanks, Juha!)

Social steganography: how teens smuggle meaning past the authority figures in their lives

Danah boyd has a great summary of the new Pew report on Teens, Social Media, and Privacy. The whole thing is worth a read -- especially her thoughts on race and social media use -- but the most interesting stuff was about "social steganography" -- smuggling meaning past grown-ups through the clever use of in-jokes and obscure references (this is also something that Chinese net-users do to get past their national censors):

My favorite finding of Pew’s is that 58% of teens cloak their messages either through inside jokes or other obscure references, with more older teens (62%) engaging in this practice than younger teens (46%). This is the practice that I’ve seen significantly rise since I first started doing work on teens’ engagement with social media. It’s the source of what Alice Marwick and I describe as “social steganography” in our paper on teen privacy practices.

While adults are often anxious about shared data that might be used by government agencies, advertisers, or evil older men, teens are much more attentive to those who hold immediate power over them – parents, teachers, college admissions officers, army recruiters, etc. To adults, services like Facebook that may seem “private” because you can use privacy tools, but they don’t feel that way to youth who feel like their privacy is invaded on a daily basis. (This, btw, is part of why teens feel like Twitter is more intimate than Facebook. And why you see data like Pew’s that show that teens on Facebook have, on average 300 friends while, on Twitter, they have 79 friends.) Most teens aren’t worried about strangers; their worried about getting into trouble.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched as teens have given up on controlling access to content. It’s too hard, too frustrating, and technology simply can’t fix the power issues. Instead, what they’ve been doing is focusing on controlling access to meaning. A comment might look like it means one thing, when in fact it means something quite different. By cloaking their accessible content, teens reclaim power over those who they know who are surveilling them. This practice is still only really emerging en masse, so I was delighted that Pew could put numbers to it. I should note that, as Instagram grows, I’m seeing more and more of this. A picture of a donut may not be about a donut. While adults worry about how teens’ demographic data might be used, teens are becoming much more savvy at finding ways to encode their content and achieve privacy in public.

thoughts on Pew’s latest report: notable findings on race and privacy

Abusive restaurateurs stage spectacular social media meltdown


Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro is Scottsdale, AZ gained some small notoriety when it became the first restaurant that Gordon Ramsey gave up on in his show Kitchen Nightmares, in which the restaurateur helps failing businesses reform their ways. The Ramsey segments show the owners of the restaurant, Samy and Amy Bouzaglo, screaming obscenities at customers, taking servers' tips, and generally behaving very badly.

But that was just for warmup. After the episodes aired and showed up on YouTube, the Bouzaglos took to Facebook to condemn their critics on Reddit and Yelp with a mix of profanity, Bible-thumping, spurious legal threats, and, finally, a claim that it wasn't them at all, all the crazypants stuff had been the work of hackers who took over their Facebook account.

In a world with innumerable social media hissyfits and bun-fights, the Bouzaglos' meltdown stands out as a world-beater. Truly, this is an exceptional episode of bad behavior.

This is the Facebook page for Amy’s Baking Company Bakery Boutique & Bistro, a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Community Memory: a social media terminal from 1973


Wired's gallery of the paleolithic antecedents of today's social media technologies is a bit mismatched (some really interesting insights into today's media lineage, but mixed with some silliness), but the lead item, the Community Memory terminal from 1973, is pure gold. I wrote half an unsuccessful novel about this thing when I was about 25, and it's never stopped haunting me.

Three decades before Yelp and Craigslist, there was the Community Memory Terminal.

In the early 1970s, Efrem Lipkin, Mark Szpakowski and Lee Felsenstein set up a series of these terminals around San Francisco and Berkeley, providing access to an electronic bulletin board housed by a XDS-940 mainframe computer.

This started out as a social experiment to see if people would be willing to share via computer -- a kind of "information flea market," a "communication system which allows people to make contact with each other on the basis of mutually expressed interest," according to a brochure from the time.

What evolved was a proto-Facebook-Twitter-Yelp-Craigslist-esque database filled with searchable roommate-wanted and for-sale items ads, restaurant recommendations, and, well, status updates, complete with graphics and social commentary.

"This was really one of the very first attempts to give access to computers to ordinary people," says Marc Weber, the founding curator of the Internet History Program at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

Holy shit, that is a thing of beauty.

Facebook?! Twitter?! Instagram?! We Did That 40 Years Ago [Daniela Hernandez/Wired]

Modern Seinfeld Twitter account pitches episodes for the Facebook age

What's the deal with texting? Are you being sarcastic? Are you mad at me? Are you typing this while on the toilet? I don't wanna be a meme! Did you ever stop to think about how incredibly perfect Seinfeld would be in today's social media-crazed world? Thanks to the newly formed Modern Seinfeld Twitter account, you can get a 140-character (or less) idea at what a current episode of the "Show About Nothing" would cover. And when you consider all the "nothing" we do all day and how much awkward human behavior it causes, Seinfeld could probably find enough material to last twenty years. (via Twitter)

Pennsylvania police post perp pix on Pinterest

The Pottstown Mercury, a newspaper in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, recently started posting police mugshots of wanted criminals on Pinterest. Sounds crazy, right? Well, the novel use of a social networking site known best for nail art, cupcakes, and motivational posters with bad typography has become quite a success for local law enforcement. As you can see by scrolling through the board, users are sharing comments on where police might look for each wanted man or woman. Here's an interview with one of the paper's "Pinners," and more context on Poynter. According to an interview with police in the Pottstown Mercury, the project has resulted in a 58% increase in arrests.

New social media horror movie XOXO will be directed by George Nolfi

Every once in a while, a new project comes along that makes you go "Hmmmmmm." Like a horror movie in which the method of terror is social media. Good news! Such a movie is now in the works! George Nolfi, who wrote and directed The Adjustment Bureau, is on board to direct XOXO, and he'll be supervising the screenplay by Mark Heyman, who co-wrote Black Swan.

Billed as "Fatal Attraction for the digital age," XOXO will follow "an engaged executive who begins a virtual relationship with a mysterious woman on Facebook," whose interactions in real life turn deadly. It obviously won't be the first movie to turn social media into a monster (see: Catfish and Hard Candy), but when you think about how effectively Scream made us jump every time the phone rang late at night, I feel like we're ready for a straight-up horror movie that will elicit the same reactions when we get a Facebook notification. (Maybe we'll spend that much less time on Facebook when we could be doing something productive.)

I think on some level, we all think social media is a little scary. Suddenly, we live in a time when people, strangers, can see and read nearly everything we're doing, because we're (oddly) trusting enough to put it all out there voluntarily. And sometimes, horrible things happen as a result of being a little too trusting. To say nothing of the paranoia, mind games, and mixed messages involved with such a passive-agressive and often anonymous form of communication. So actually, social media is a perfect part of current pop culture to turn into a psychological thriller! And that's what XOXO is going to be.

‘Adjustment Bureau’ director George Nolfi takes social media thriller ‘XOXO’ [Screen Rant]

Image from ViralBlog

#Twitter is #changing its #logo

"Our new bird grows out of love for ornithology, design within creative constraints, and simple geometry. This bird is crafted purely from three sets of overlapping circles — similar to how your networks, interests and ideas connect and intersect with peers and friends."

Yes, it's true: The #Twitterbird had some work done.

On Twitter, shared stories of moms, cancer, and loss

Yesterday was Mother's Day in the US. I spent the day at home in Los Angeles, still recuperating from chemo, gearing up for the next phase of my cancer treatment. After I called my mom on the East Coast to wish her a happy Mother's Day and thank her for all she has done, I shared a few thoughts on Twitter about moms and cancer. I invited my followers to do the same.

One by one, 140-character-length tributes came in about moms who survived cancer, moms who helped their kids through cancer, and kids who lost their moms to cancer. I retweeted a few, then a few more, but—they did not stop. A flood of personal testimonies to the power of motherhood in relation to cancer followed. I read every single one, and tried to share every single one with my followers.

Josh Stearns kindly collected many of them into a Storify: Mother's Day Memories of Love, Loss and Living With Cancer. It's embedded below.

Above, a photograph of me and my mom, the day before one of my chemo infusions. I draw a lot of strength from my mom. And you need all the strength you can get to get through this thing.

She adds a tribute of her own today:

My Mom died of melanoma (skin cancer) at 54. Her doctor never knew it was cancer until the autopsy. All of us (3 girls, 3 boys) still carry her spirit in our hearts.

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School-issue laptop fitted with anti-social-networking censorship/surveillance software that operates off school networks, too

Laptops issued to students by the Portland, Maine school boards will come with censorware that watches all their clicks and attempts to prevent them from visiting social media sites, even when working from home or other non-school premises, and even after school hours. Tom Bell's article in the Kennebec Journal quotes Peter Eglinton, chief operating officer, stating that this is a legal requirement. He's almost certainly incorrect; the law in question states that school networks must be filtered as a condition of receiving federal funding, but doesn't explicitly extend this to school-issued laptops used on non-school networks.

By taking this aggressive approach to censorship and surveillance of its student body, I fear that the Portland school board is compromising its students' network and media literacy, ensuring that they can't be supervised and mentored through positive use of the Internet services most widely used by their cohort. I also believe that close, continuous surveillance of students' network activity, with the concomitant prohibition on the use of privacy tools, sends absolutely the wrong message about how to manage your private information online. How can students learn to use technology to prevent their personal information from leaking out online if we spy on everything they do and punish them if they try to stop us?

There is debate nationally about whether schools should integrate social media in the classrooms, said Rebecca Randall, vice president of education programs for Common Sense Media, based in San Francisco. She said she is not aware of any school district that has blocked access to social media sites from school computers that are used at home.

She said the debate over filtering policies can be summed up into two approaches: the "walled playground" or the "open sandbox."

Her organization advocates the latter approach, allowing broad access and teaching children how to safely navigate the Internet.

"Simply shielding students from social media is not going to stop them from seeing it," she said, because teenagers will have access to unfiltered Internet on home computers and other devices, such as smartphones and tablets. "We have a saying: 'You can't always cover kids' eyes. You have to teach them how to see it.' "

While federal law requires school districts to take measures like creating an Internet safety policy and blocking sexually explicit content, there is no requirement that social media sites be blocked, said Doug Levin, executive director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association, based in Maryland.

Portland school district to beef up online filters

Pinterest Bingo

[Large size] Thanks to everyone who contributed "square" ideas. I'm no hater, by the way; you can follow me and Boing Boing there.

* 'shooped by yours truly.

Governor, school district offended by 18-year-old's cranky tweet

Kansas high school student Emma Sullivan took a field trip to see Governor Sam Brownback speak. She didn't like what he had to say, and tweeted about what she wished she could do: "just made mean comments at gov brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot." Clearly, this kind of insubordination could not stand. Someone from Brownback's office sent the tweet to someone from the Shawnee Mission School District who sent it to Sullivan's principal, who has demanded that Sullivan write the governor an apology. (Via Chad Manspeaker)

ThinkUp: open/free app lets you harvest your social media activity

Andy Baio sez, "After 20 months in development, ThinkUp is out of beta and hitting 1.0. ThinkUp is the first free app to allow you to archive your Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ activity, a powerful open-source tool for analyzing and searching through the activity of your social networks. More than most, Boing Boing readers understand the need to control your own network. The terms of service allow any of these services to delete everything you've ever created without any notice; ThinkUp can keep you from being caught off-guard."

English cops arrest man for planning water-fight via Blackberry Messenger

Police in Essex, England have charged a 20-year-old man with "encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offence" (under the 2007 Serious Crime Act) because he used Blackberry Messenger to encourage people to attend a public water fight. It's not clear whether the police were working from an informant or whether they have developed the capability to wiretap Blackberry's notionally encrypted messaging network (I'm not clear whether Blackberry has the capacity to decrypt and read messages, or whether the encryption is end-to-end.)


In 2008 there was a spate of mass water fights in British towns and cities that were organised through social networks. Most remained peaceful.This month a water fight attended by thousands of young Iranians attracted the attention of Tehran's morality police and led to a series of arrests.

Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a national censorship regime to block or filter the Internet to prevent social unrest (this despite the failure of the Chinese government to effectively manage the trick with vastly more resources and expertise and vastly fewer legal constraints). One week before this proposal, Cameron's government rejected the Digital Economy Act's provisions for censoring the Internet to prevent copyright infringement, having concluded that such censorship regimes were easy to evade and would not be effective.

Essex police charge man over water fight planned on BlackBerry Messenger

(Thanks, Richard!)

(Image: COOT FIGHT!!!, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from squeakywheel's photostream)

David Cameron's net-censorship proposal earns kudos from Chinese state media

UK prime minister David Cameron (who is reported to have rioted himself and then fled police while at university) has proposed a regime of state censorship for social media to prevent people from passing on messages that incite violence. This proposal has been warmly received by Chinese state media and bureaucrats, who are glad to see that Western governments are finally coming around to their style of management.
The British Government’s wariness of the Internet and Blackberry Messenger – symbols of freedom of speech – is a forced reaction, which might upset the Western world. Meanwhile, the open discussion of containment of the Internet in Britain has given rise to a new opportunity for the whole world. Media in the US and Britain used to criticize developing countries for curbing freedom of speech. Britain’s new attitude will help appease the quarrels between East and West over the future management of the Internet.

As for China, advocates of an unlimited development of the Internet should think twice about their original ideas.

On the Internet, there is no lack of posts and articles that incite public violence. They will cause tremendous damage once they are tweeted without control. At that time, all governments will have no other choice but to close down these websites and arrest those agitators.

Riots lead to rethink of Internet freedom (Thanks, Juha!)

(Image: General Chu Teh, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from thomasfisherlibrary's photostream and David Cameron - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2011, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from worldeconomicforum's photostream)