Donald J Trump: "No matter who wins, at least I had fun" (The Onion)

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The Onion is apparently struggling to satirize an election that is so absurd it can only be called "self-satirizing," but they scored a hit with their op-ed by Donald J Trump: "No Matter What Happens Tomorrow, At Least I Had Fun." Read the rest

Twitter killing Vine video service makes the internet worse

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Brian Feldman explains why Twitter's decision to kill the Vine looping video service makes the internet worse.

The point of Vine was never to generate the next Fellini. It was to have dumb, stupid free play on an internet increasingly hostile to that kind of freedom, whether because of surveillance or heavy-handed advertiser presence or trolls. The lack of adult supervision or corporate culture may have made it somewhat impenetrable, but it also made it feel free in a way no other social network really does.

Vine also had what Silicon Valley types describe as a poor "culture fit."

Vine wasn’t just dominated by teenagers — it was dominated by teenagers of color. Especially black teens, who created a disproportionate number of popular Vines and used the social network to demonstrate wit, intelligence, creativity, and comic timing that was rarely given a spotlight elsewhere.

Twitter's decision to kill it is being felt as deep pain on the web. Twitter itself is worse than unpleasant: it's the oxygen keeping the internet on fire, feeding trolls, harassers and white supremacists. Vine, on the other hand, was adorable, funny, impervious to the hate and great because "there were no brands or grown ups or neonazis to ruin it."

But business is interested in at least two of those three things.

People often wonder why Twitter, more than other major social networks, is having so much difficulty figuring out ways to combat abuse. It is already far from a free-speech environment, after all, offering private intellectual property enforcement and (at least in a few cases) region-specific political censorship. Read the rest

Public universities and even the US Navy have sold hundreds of patents to America's most notorious troll

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Researcher Yarden Katz scraped the database of Intellectual Ventures, a giant business that buys up patents, but produces nothing but lawsuits (previously), and discovered that IV claims ownership of nearly 500 patents that were created at public expense by researchers employed by public universities, and another 100 or so patents filed by the US Navy. Read the rest

Racist trolls moot using "google" as a euphemism for the n-word

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Google is downranking websites that use pejorative, racist terms like n*gger, so the awful people of 4chan and /pol/ are replacing that word with "google." Read the rest

Jigsaw: "wildly ambitious" Google spin-out aimed at tackling "surveillance, extremist indoctrination, censorship"

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Technologists have a dismal pattern: when it comes to engineering challenges ("build a global-scale comms platform") they rub their hands together with excitement; when it comes to the social challenges implied by the engineering ones ("do something about trolls") they throw their hands up and declare the problem to be too hard to solve. Read the rest

Patent fighters attack the crown jewels of three of America's worst patent trolls

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Unified Patents raises money from companies that are the target of patent-trolling and then uses it to challenge the most widely used patents in each of its members' sectors: now it's going for the gold. Read the rest

Surprise: Copyright trolls rip off the rightsholders they supposedly "represent"

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The copyright troll business-model: a sleazy lawyer gets copyright holders to one or more films (often, but not always, porn) to deputize them to police those rights; then the lawyer's company uses sloppy investigative techniques to accuse internet users of violating those copyrights; they use deceptive notices to get ISPs to give them contact details for those users (or to get the ISPs to pass notices on to the users); then they send "speculative invoices" to their victims, demanding money not to sue -- usually a sum that's calculated to be less than it would cost to ask a lawyer whether it's worth paying. Read the rest

One of the copyright's scummiest trolls loses his law license

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For more than four years, we've chronicled the sleazy story of Prenda Law, a copyright troll whose extortion racket included genuinely bizarre acts of identity theft, even weirder random homophobic dog-whistles, and uploading their own porn movies to entrap new victims, and, naturally, an FBI investigation into the firm's partners' illegal conduct. Read the rest

Copyright trolls Rightscorp are teetering on the verge of bankruptcy

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Rightscorp, the copyright trolls whose business-model was convincing ISPs to freeze their customers' Internet access in response to unsubstantiated copyright accusations, and then ransom those connections back for $20 each, will be out of money by the end of this quarter. Read the rest

Artists troll Thingiverse with 3D model mashup bot

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Shiv Integer is a bot created by artists Matthew Plummer-Fernandez and Julien Deswaef; it downloads Creative Commons-licensed models from Thingiverse, mashes them up into weird and often amazing new shapes, adds machine-generated titles and descriptions to them, and posts them. Read the rest

Zombie company Atari wants exclusive right to make haunted house games

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Atari was once a giant of video game innovation, but now it's a troll -- a company that produces nothing except legal threats -- and its latest project is to get the US Patent and Trademark Office to give it the right to decide who can make haunted house games, and charge the lucky few for the privilege. Read the rest

Why are people trolls and what can we do about it?

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Adrienne Lafrance's story in The Atlantic about online harassment is an excellent, thought-provoking read. She describes her online conversation with someone who sent a mean tweet to her:

Finally, I asked him if I should have even responded to him at all. His responses were fascinating to me, but was the exchange worthwhile for him?

“Absolutely,” he wrote. “I'm pretty embarrassed by how I acted and being called out on it was extremely helpful. I definitely need to more often step back and think a bit more before. I usually do; sometimes I fail.”

The exchange felt to me like a tiny victory for civility in the Internet age, but it probably doesn’t make sense to try to change the world one commenter at a time. Not only is that approach mentally exhausting, but it’s potentially dangerous. Before I even responded to the man who had insulted me, I scrolled through his tweets to be sure he didn’t seem unhinged. I chatted with coworkers who had seen his tweet. I proceeded with caution. And besides all that, the kinds of tweets and comments that can be considered harassment are in an entirely different, much scarier category than what I faced.

“When we think about problems of harassment or conflict, the overwhelming way we think is to consider ways to deal with that specific conflict, that specific troll and that specific person—and that often leads us to think about reactive responses, things that we can do after we spot something happening,” Matias, the MIT scholar told me.

Read the rest

The future of trollbots

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Hugh writes, "In a post-Tay world, where we've proved the Internet can train a bot to be a plausible shitposter, what's the future of politics, hate, and mob rule? Read the rest

"The world thinks I faked a drone crashing through my office window and into my head"

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On April 7 David Perel posted a video to YouTube, writing: "Drone Smashes Through My 5th Floor Window and Into My Head! While sitting at my desk I heard what sounded like a missile followed by a huge bang and glass all over me. Turns out someone lost control of their drone. Lucky to be uninjured!"

A lot of people didn't believe Perel. On Medium, he wrote about the angry deniers who posted mean comments on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram about the video:

It’s incredible how many glass experts, drone experts, head trauma experts, video experts, psychological experts and experts of any kind exist when the troll nation descends. Experts abound but they all missed a single key fact: I was actually hit in the head by a drone!

The pinnacle of these accusations was a very personal attack from a guy with a ponytail who clearly loves his drones, but not the facts.

It’s now been four days since the incident and I am still fielding calls from news websites, radio stations and Twitter commenters.

Read the rest

Jerks were able to turn Microsoft's chatbot into a Nazi because it was a really crappy bot

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Microsoft Research deployed a tween-simulating chatbot this week, only to recall it a few hours later because it had turned into a neo-Nazi, and the next day, they published a bewildered apology that expressed shock that it had been so easy for trolls to corrupt their creation. Read the rest

Appeals court orders confirms patent troll must pay costs

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Following a 2014 verdict, courts may now punish patent trolls with the defense costs that their litigation incurs. An appeals court has now upheld an attorney fees ruling handed to Lumen View, a company that makes nothing of value, yet behaved as if it owned the abstract concept of matchmaking.

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided, however, that the $300k awarded was too high, and returned the case to district court for another hearing. Joe Mullin writes:

In Friday's decision, the appeals judges agreed with Cote that Lumen View was out of line.

"Even if Lumen View’s litigation conduct was not quite sanctionable, the court reasonably determined that the case was exceptional," wrote US Circuit Judge Alan Lourie on behalf of a unanimous panel. "The allegations of infringement were ill-supported, particularly in light of the parties’ communications and the proposed claim constructions, and thus the lawsuit appears to have been baseless."

However, the judges found that Cote overstepped when she doubled the fees against Lumen View.

Read the rest

A win for copyright trolls: Cox must pay $25M for not disconnecting users

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BMG hired Rightscorp, a publicly traded blackmail company, to send threatening letters to Cox Cable subscribers it accused of infringing its copyrights, demanding cash payments to stay out of court. Read the rest

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