Tag Archives: independent

Censorsh*p

We’ve read about censorship before- in books like Fahrenheit 451 and 1984– and it was based partially on experiences. Now we see the same issue cropping up in the internet. It would be very convenient for many people, for governments, for dictators, and for corporations to only show us what they want us to see on the internet. This happened recently in 2010 when Google agreed to censor certain sites in China that the Chinese Industry and Information Technology’s Telecoms Development Department  didn’t approve of. Essentially, China’s “Information Department” is acting here as a ministry of propaganda. There’s no way to sugarcoat good old fashion censorship of information from the masses. Omission of information is just as bad as falsified information. There are hackers and people who are able to find ways around such internet restrictions, but not every Chinese citizen can be expected to do this. And while this agreement with Google may have started to prevent the dissemination of  pornographic or “subversive” material, who is to say where the line is drawn? Who decides at that point what is considered “subversive” or threatening to national security? The scary part is that citizens might not even know what is being kept from them. Who is to say that opinionated articles on the censorship of free speech won’t be censored next?

This isn’t just happening on search engines in communist countries, either. It’s happening here in the US and even on our cell phones. In 2008 Common Dreams reported on instances of Verizon blocking subscription text messages from the pro-choice group NARAL. Verizon cited reasons of censorship of texts that, in their opinion, “promote an agenda or distribute content that, in its discretion, may be seen as controversial or unsavory to any of our users.” Not only did this block the free exchange of information between an organization to people, but prevented those supporters from being able to organize amongst each other and efficiently rally support. Verizon was basically suppressing information that they didn’t like that could POSSIBLY stir up change.

The Common Dreams piece also cited the example from 2007 of Comcast blocking peer-to-peer file sharing sites. Are some of these sites pushing copyright laws? Yes. But that’s not all they’re used for. And the act of slowing down certain sites like this is data discrimination. While these sites may take up more bandwidth, it’s crucial to maintain equal treatment of internet traffic- net neutrality– if we want to keep the internet an open and egalitarian place for intelligent discussion and growth. Net neutrality is essential for independent media sources to be heard in a sea of mainstream media (who can afford the more expensive bandwidth for heavy traffic). If we lose this, we’re truly spiral into a nation of state-approved media, with the power of the media in the hands of the few and the rich.

R.I.P. Megavideo, you were dearly loved.

 

In this video, internet veterans Hank and John Green (of Vlogbrothers fame) explain the importance of free speech and expression on the internet through preserving net neutrality. They also get some help from other famous Youtubers. Hank and John Green have been spreading stimulating and educational content for years now on Youtube, as of lately through their educational project ‘Crash Course’. John Green will use his channel to explain to his subscribers everything from the economic futility of pennies to the current Syrian crisis. They are successful because they are funny and dedicated to their fans, but also because they are capable of explaining things as complex as net neutrality to their young viewers.

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I can has my cheezburger and eat it too

I was happy to see an article about I can has cheezburger  recently in Business Week. I knew about the site years ago, probably in middle school. It was back in the day where internet nerds like myself could communicate in the new language of LOLCAT speak, as invented by founder Eric Nakagawa. In a way, Nakagawa practically invented the modern meme. A meme is a reoccurring joke/image/saying online, that users share to communicate specific feelings or inside jokes about things. Examples include rage comics, trolling, nyan cat:

and characters to relate to like the Socially Awkward Penguin:

His site is successful not only because it’s so funny, but because people are allowed to share jokes and submit their own to the blog. It became participatory and easy. Anyone can upload a picture of their pet and put a funny caption on it to share with friends.

See, I made my own just now:

I love sloths. No joke.

While his website may have been started as a joke without the intention of growing so much, it has. Cheezburger, as it’s now shortened to, now owns various other hilarious websites. If you visit the original site, you will see links to Know Your Meme (a website dedicated to just explaining memes), The Daily What (a popular new short-form news and entertainment blog that I personally read every day), Failblog and more. These sites were all strong and popular on the web independently, but are even stronger linked to Cheezburger in a collective community. According to the aforementioned article,  “Cheezburger now gets 500,000 page views a day from between 100,000 and 200,000 unique visitors”, which is also great traffic for partner sites. And with all the best sites in one place, why would internet users go anywhere else?

Another great element about I can has cheezburger, that it has also passed onto The Daily What, is posting at key times of the day. Posts in the morning, during lunch breaks, and in the evening, make sure readers don’t feel too far behind on the blog — whether it’s funny cats or serious news. The Daily What calls its first post “the Early Bird Special of the Day”, often followed at some time by the “This X That of the Day” with categories of links titled “Read This”, “Look at this” and “Know this.” The “OMG! Adorbz! of the Day” is the random post with something cute to cheer readers up. But the site isn’t all giggles. The Daily What also covers “Hate Crime Investigation of the Day” (the “of the day” title is used loosely) and the site is often known for calling out media and internet gaffs. There’s no faster way to critique and correct incorrect stories or call out people on lies than on a blog. TDW jumps on stories, updates them quickly if changes are made, and keeps its following by reporting honestly and ethically. This is an excerpt from an interview I did with creator Neetzan Zimmerman last year:

“I believe accuracy in news is more important now than ever. There is a rush to get content up as soon as possible, and often times accuracy is sacrificed in the name of celebrity,” said Zimmerman.

Zimmerman, a professional full-time blogger, strives for accuracy in his blog, which constantly competes with other news blogs and the new trend of dissemination of information through social media.

            “With Twitter taking over as the main source of news reporting for many fast-paced stories such as the popular uprisings in the Middle East, sifting through the rumors to find the truth is fast becoming a very arduous task. Unfortunately, at a time when people need to be increasingly vigilant in their information intake, they are, for a variety of reasons, becoming increasingly negligent in discerning between fact and fiction,” said Zimmerman.

Neetzan and Zimmerman’s success gives me hope that someday I can also create a successful blog. People are creating new genres through independent media sources and filling niches that people didn’t know needed to be filled. These two examples have gone about creating and monetizing their blogs very successfully, though they had no idea how far their audience would reach. New journalists and people with great ideas can learn from these movers and shakers so that they may also have cheezburgers one day.

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The New Press Pass

Perhaps it’s the newest tool for journalists and a sign of times to come. I heard about Press Pass on a great tumblr I recently discovered called The Future Journalism Project.  I’m finding out every day more and more that tumblr is actually a great tool for news, photojournalism, and sharing information. Besides the personal, art, photography, cute animals, music, and fashion blogs I follow- I’m now starting to follow more news sources.[[ It might surprise people to hear that I first read about President Mubarak resigning and other major world events through tumblr.]] No site will ever compete with the passion and timeliness that tumblr uses have when it comes to world news, media, and pop culture. Twitter has these same users but doesn’t provide the proper space to elaborate on stories as much. The FJP tumblr recently posted:

From The Next Web:

Press Pass, a ’live directory’ of journalists from major publications, is a brand new Dubai-based site that comes to us courtesy of co-founders David Haddad, a product manager and software engineer, and Valencio Cardoso, an interactive designer.

The site lists journalists by region, beat or by publication, making it incredibly easy to find the journalist who can cover your story. Not only can you find out which journalists work at major publications and sites, you can connect with them through Twitter. You can also find out what they’re personally interested in, as Press Pass highlights the stories that they’re sharing through their Twitter feed.

The site analyzes each journalist’s tweets, creating a profile based on that content – including what they’re reading, topics they’re interested in and who they’re talking to. Each journalist is ranked based on the number of followers they have and their number of tweets.

I can’t wait to see what this leads to for independent internet journalism. Maybe we’ll even be using it soon!
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