A Neutral Perspective

Net Neutrality is a subject of concern among many avid internet users today. It is a term that means Internet Service Providers shouldn’t be allowed to dictate what pages you surf on the web. They shouldn’t be able to try to persuade you into switching from Google to Yahoo because, for some reason, Google is not loading .And why is that happening? Because your ISP is purposefully making it difficult for you to get on certain pages that they are not affiliated with.

The major companies causing the fuss are Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and the FCC. The companies are attempting to create a monopoly over certain sites that would more or less put an end to surfing freely on the internet. Which would seem like an easy problem to solve, if In 2011, Congress had not rejected the internet neutrality rules.

Like the “Ask a Ninja” man said: “It’s like replacing the girl at Hot Dog on a Stick making lemonade with a hairy man squirting bacon into a cup who looks like Robin Williams, but a less funny version.”
youtube.com/watch?v=H69eCYcDcuQ

So when you put it like that, sure. It seems a lot worse. But I’ve got to ask – Is it really fair to compare alternative search engines such as Bing! and Yahoo to a hairy, less funny version of Robin Williams squirting bacon into a cup?

I may not be picky, but in my experience, they all do the same things.

As Henry Blodget says in the article “All Bits Are Not Created Equal,” try comparing it to a real life scenario. It doesn’t seem as ridiculous.

“Imagine if the Post Office (or FedEx, or UPS, or DHL, or any trucking or transport company) were legally prohibited from charging more for delivering some stuff sooner than other stuff. Ridiculous, right?”
http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/All-Bits-Are-NOT-Created-Equal-You-NET-2385463.php#ixzz19wK8F3RL

Of course, I realize the issue at hand is larger than search engines. It’s about your rights to surf the web, which gets down to the principle of the matter. But even so, I do think that congress may have bigger fish to fry than making sure we only use Google instead of – god forbid – Yahoo, or, dare I say — Bing.

So I’m only going to ask you to consider the unpopular opinion. How do you feel about the regulations? Do you think this is something that congress needs to action on, now?

Net Neutrality: Dividing the Internet

The internet.  It is a place where you can roam from website to website as freely as you choose.  We can browse through social media sites, play games, searching through Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines.  However, what if that became restricted and we had to use what we were told?

Over the past few years, net neutrality has become a big issue among internet users.  For those of you who don’t quite understand what net neutrality is, here are the basic terms.  Net neutrality is basically our right to choose what we view on the internet.   If we want to use Google, we can use Google.  If we want to use Yahoo or Bing, go right ahead.  We choose the content we see, share and browse through and this is because of net neutrality.  However, lately big ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have been going with the flow of the world and have been getting greedy about what kind of an internet experience they provide for their users.  ISPs have been trying to become “gatekeepers” in the business of the internet and control certain aspects of what they provide to their consumers.  As videofreepress’s YouTube video “What is Net Neutrality?” describes, the internet is like a system of pipes.  These big ISPs are allowed to own the pipes, but not mess with the content inside them.  However, they want to create a “fast lane” for people who use their service and their partner’s.  Websites who want to be included in this fast lane to the consumer’s computers must pay a large fee in order to be a part of it.  Otherwise, connections to their websites would be incredibly slow or unable to connect at all.

The FCC has tried to regulate this by putting specific laws in place to try and keep the net neutral for everyone.  There are three specific rules that are in place: Transparency, No Blocking and No Unreasonable Discrimination.  However, according to New Media Rights article “The FCC’s Net Neutrality Rules: A Tale of Two Internets,” these rules aren’t exactly fixing the problem.  Instead they have created a divide in the once whole internet.  The new rules have divided internet users into two categories: DSL/Cable or Wireless (Mobile) Users.  Basically, it breaks down to those who use actual computers and those who access the web via their phones and other mobile devices.  The article states that the transparency rule is the only rule that doesn’t discriminate against its users and that is only because transparency guarantees that consumers will be informed of the ISPs qualities.  Other than that, both the no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination rule are thrown out the window when it comes to mobile/wireless users.  Mobile providers can not only block lawful application, services and content (but only on unlawful websites), but they can also can discriminate and treat certain content differently.  One of the most frequented discrimination factors comes from the “paid priority” service, where they increase and decrease speeds to certain content.

Our internet used to be a place where people could have choice and make their own decisions, now it is slowly being manipulated into what the big name companies want.  It is hard to tell what will happen with the web and how we’re going to regulate it for fair use.  All I know is that I don’t want to be forced to use what somebody else thinks is better for me.

So, I’ll leave everyone with a few questions to think about:

Do you think it’s fair that mobile users don’t always have the same quality or content as DSL/Cable users?

How do you think we can better regulate the laws of net neutrality or do you think it should be left alone?

Do you think ISP providers should be able to create these “fast lanes” for their partners and services?

New Wave Activism

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2013/jun/10/julian-assange-praises-edward-snowden

The link above contains the story of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange giving praise to Edward Snowden the man responsible for uncovering mass surveillance strategies by the United States government.  the name Julian Assange holds special weight, because his site Wikileaks is responsible for uncovering some of the largest injustices and worldwide government secrets for the past decade.  With the impact of actual protest and activism dwindling over the past few decades global citizens are finding new ways to protest the power structure.  The most successful and new form of activism has been given the name “hacktivism”.  A short history of the worlds most influential hacktivist actions are below.

http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/security-it/a-short-history-of-hacktivism-20130510-2jbv0.html

As far as the the every day person is concerned, the internet may be the largest way for normal citizens to make a difference.  The web has made it possible for information to move very quickly.  Just as culture and comedic things can quickly travel through message boards, forums and social networks, so can the details of a global event or development.  Sites such as Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange have been deemed as heroes of this time period.  The release of documents on several key global events such as details of United States governments actions toward terrorist suspects at Guantanamo bay and the recent release of the Kissinger cables (confidential diplomatic documents) are some of the most dynamic pieces of investigative  reporting in recent history.  Many question whether it is morally correct for websites such as Wikileaks to function.  They also question how these sites or hackers may obtain their information.  Regardless of the way in which they acquired their information, many can nt deny the impact or the importance of most of the information they have released.

Hacktivism can cause quite a stir. Hackers are capable of causing a fair amount of mayhem in order to prove a point.  The question is, when is this still considered a new form of activism and when is it considered a crime?

Do you view hacktivism as a positive or a negative aspect of internet culture?

Would you personally view websites such as Wikileaks or other hacktivists to be justified in their actions?

Do you think governments there should be tough law for those caught engaging in hacktivism?

Is there a better way for citizens to engage in protest, rather than online?

 

Julian Assange

Julian Assange (Photo credit: acidpolly)

How can Organizations be trusted to do what they are promising?

“Much to the horror of many human rights activists, Invisible Children is not known for spreading accurate information as much as it’s known for spreading information widely.”

This is a quote I pulled out of an Article in the Huffington Post. It critiques the Invisible Children Organization and shows the way it has spread its message through manipulation of its audiences and by using a youth front to hide their true intentions as an organization.

Here is a link if you wanna read it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/danah-boyd/post_3126_b_1345782.htmli

Something that this article made me think about that is related is how do you know when you can trust a particular organization or charity to do what it claims to and not be a scam. Think of all of those commercials we see with the guilt-tripping guy showing all the starving kids.

I always get sad and want to help and can’t help but wonder if we can trust them and which ones you can trust. How do you really truly know that your money is saving a the kid for a dollar a day. I hate to think the world is that corrupt but when you think that alot of those kinds or organizations in particular are likely out of the country.

Think about those sad Sarah Mclachlan commercials with the dogs that are abused.

Are they taking  advantage or sympathetic people that want to help to a small part in saving dogs or children. or to donate a certain charity/organization?

How can we ever know for certain where our money is going exactly? Do companies  actually do the things they say and what ways can we track our donations to certain organizations?

Are you guys optimistic or cynical when it comes to organizations and charities that claim to help people, animals etc. ? Or do you believe that most are legit programs that help people?

Hacktivism: A Path to Exploitation

hactivism3

In 2013, “over 2.7 million people are using the Internet”. Of those million, there are many who use the Internet as a tool to aid them in manhunts of other people.  These people who participate in human-flesh search engines , which has become an reoccurring instance not only in China but the U.S. as well, search for others (which includes hacking into peoples computers to obtain personal information) who have done something that they did not like and fell as though they need to be punished for their actions.

For example, Netizens searched for Wang Jiao after she stomped a kitten to death.  The location of her home, her phone number, and employer were all made public, and she eventually left town. Wei became top priority to find when it was found out he was cheating on his wife, who had committed suicide.  The human-flesh search found his personal information and “even his brother’s license-plate number”. Or how about the people on 4Chan  who found Mary Bale who threw a kitten into a garbage can. Bale later had to be placed under police protection due to death threats.

Here in the U.S., Jessi  Slaughter (not her actual name), who later attempted suicide, became the target of 4Chan when she posted a video on YouTube threatening “to put a glock in her enemies mouths”  over rumors that were being spread about her. Anonymous people added her as a friend on Facebook and obtained her personal information (which is known as doxxing) and exploited her phone number and home address, sent her death threats, and even sent girls from Craigslist to her house!

In addition to these situations, hacktivism is involved in political movements/ beliefs as well.  When Pakistan blocked the IP address to the Youtube video that was an anti-Islam movie, it caused protest and conflict among Pakistians. The website WikiLeaks, lead by Julian Assange, has been created by the collaborative work of hackers to publish secret information about the government, mostly following the “hacker ethic” which two main premises: “: (1) all information should be free; (2) mistrust authority and promote decentralization.” Hacking has also affected the U.S. economy.  According to Fisher, the Syrian Electronic Army cost Dow’s stock market $136 billion as a result of hacking the Associated Press Twitter account, tweeting that Obama had been injured in an explosion at the White House. Anonymous, which is describe as the “modern-day trickser” Somini Sengupta describes in her article, once hacked into the calls of F.B.I agents and even breached the computer systems of the Federal Reserve and tampered data of the Emergency Communications System.  In May of this year, an individual from Anonymous, known as “AnonTaiwan” hacked into Philippine government websites by tampering with DNS servers, which interfered and delayed the Philippine election, in outrage of a Philippine coast guard killing a Taiwanese fisherman. It is predicted that Anonymous may come back this year as well, but not as a big of a threat they have been.

Hacking has been around since the 1960’s, and has taken over peoples personal information, putting it in public’s view. Not only has it affected peoples’ personal lifes, hackitivism has become an online community which acts as a voice for people, such as Anonymous and the Hong Kong Blondes, to express there support and/or, mostly, opposition against a political or economic situation.

Do you think people have the right to take part in human-flesh searches to punish people for wrong doings or something that they do not agree with?

Should hackers be punished for exploiting other people’s personal information online?

Is it ethical for people, such as Anonymous, to hack personal and classified information to exploit and challenge political/economic order?  Do you agree with the “hacker ethic”?  Why or why not?

Finally, do you think the concept of hatcktivism culture (expressing personal opinions by using digitize media and exploiting personal information) is ethical by the means of freedom of expression?

IMAGE SOURCE as well as detailed information about the different types of hackers: http://www.truthliesdeceptioncoverups.info/2013/05/hacking-classification-test-hackers-vs.html

Detailed information about blocking internet traffic: (http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2008/02/25/how-a-pakistani-isp-briefly-shut-down-youtube/)

More information of the affect of the Pakistan conflict with YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOourQtDuJY

Exponential Spread

http://www.zyvexlabs.com/EIPBNuG/2005MicroGraph.html

                At work I face the idea of Viral video every day. A client will approach us and ask us to make them some kind of viral content.(whether it is video, audio, imagery…) But what most of these people do not get is that you do not just make something viral. There is no set formula to making a viral video. It is an unexpected product. The idea is that you cannot control it, like a virus in the medical world. The content expands at a rate that you cannot control or really influence that much. Now obviously there are ways to help your fledgling video into viral stardom, but it is more like a nudge in a direction not steering down the path.

                Now the things that could help content become viral range massively, much like the content that is considered viral. I personally think that “Viral” is to weak of a definition. The ideas that “Viral” encompasses are to widespread and vague. Think of some examples of viral content, Nyan Cat, Peanut Butter Jelly Time, Key Board Cat, Star Wars Kid. These videos do not share much in common other than humor, and these are not that great of examples. (Just what came to me off the top of my head.) But could you consider a television show or a book viral? Their popularity can spread in almost the same way as the videos that I listed above. How about Harry Potter? The book was written by a no name author that struggled to get the book published. When it finally makes it to the shelves it starts slow but in almost no time it explodes and becomes the number one selling young adults book. That then leads to the highest grossing film series of all time. All this popularity sparked almost overnight.  

                One of the important ideas behind viral video is how it spreads. Not how much it spreads, but how that spread happens. The spread of viral media happens through a “Word of Mouth.” Although users may not actually speak about the media directly the idea that views bring more views is essentially the same. Content on many popular sites are organized by their popularity. More purchases, views, hits, or any other measurement on how popular something is push it to the top of the list. Things at the top of the list become more popular, so the effect is a giant loop. To become more popular you need more hits, but to get more hits you need to be more popular. This loop is what leads to content that soars to the top. The exponential growth, is where the media gets its name. Viruses spread through the body at an exponential rate just as media spreads through the body of consumers.

 

In your mind what is it that makes media viral?

Is their a system to follow to create viral content?

Is this only limited to online media, or could books or other forums of offline media be considered?

The Power of Internet Users

One of the things that makes the internet so great is the ability for people to keep contributing to it. Without the constant and growing users, the internet would be a boring and plain place. Everyday we see videos and articles being published at a substantial rate, contributing to the vast amount of information being readily available for everyone to benefit from. Powerful websites have emerged such as Youtube, Reddit, and Wikipedia (to read up on the history of Wikipedia, check out this article from our reading) where ordinary internet dwellers can contribute, or find the next viral video, amazing photograph, or a unique fact about a famous person. However, with the massive amounts of people who use the internet, there are sure to be a few errors, slip-ups, or misconceptions that occur.

In Nicholas Carr’s blog post titled “The amorality of Web 2.0,” he talks about that good and bad of websites like Wikipedia, where internet users are the main contributors. He says that “in theory, Wikipedia is a beautiful thing.” However, he mainly talks about the problems of Wikipedia in his post. He states “in reality, though, Wikipedia isn’t very good at all. Certainly, it’s useful – I regularly consult it to get a quick gloss on a subject. But at a factual level it’s unreliable, and the writing is often appalling.” It certainly can be unreliable, but one can also check whatever they read has a source to it. This isn’t a full proof way to ensure what one reads is factual correct, but it can add some sort of credibility. Wikipedia can be unpredictable and that’s probably why many high school teachers and college professors don’t let students use it as a source.

Another extremely popular website where ordinary internet users can contribute anything is Reddit. Reddit is a bit more controversial than Wikipedia because users can literally submit any photo, video, article or any other link and other users can give their two cents on it. Here’s a fantastic article on all of the basics of Reddit for someone who maybe confused or never been on Reddit. Earlier this year, the Boston Marathon bombings really caused a storm on Reddit and users were trying to find out who the suspects were before the FBI did. I’m not sure if any Reddit user even considered the actual suspects, but there was a lot of users who were targeting the wrong people unfairly. This article from our reading talks more about how Reddit and another popular website 4Chan, tried to hunt down the suspects, but ended up harming some innocent people. In fact here’s one of the many threads on Reddit where users tried to hunt down the suspects, if anyone is interested in checking it out.

These user oriented websites have many upsides, but also plenty of downsides. On Reddit, Wikipedia and other sites, we can find out amazing things about our favorite famous person, or we may up finding false information. Regular everyday internet users generate almost all the content on these sites, in turn, have a lot of power. Also, it is  really simple to submit or edit something. That’s what makes them so great, but that’s why we should also be cautious when browsing them. With all this said, do you trust reading information off Wikipedia articles? If you were (or maybe are) a teacher, would you let your students use Wikipedia as a source? What do you think of Reddit and do you go on it yourself?