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Internet censorship in India?

Did the New York Times report a comment from India’s telecom minister out of context, or has Kapil Sibal backtracked following public backlash on initial indications that he’d like to see social media content pre-screened?

Last Monday, the New York Times revealed that Sibal, India’s acting telecom minister, was attempting to pre-screen social media content in that country. But since then, Sibal said in an interview with NDTV that his comments were misconstrued.

The Times alleged that Sibal was talking with execs at Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook about a way to use a system to verify all content before it appeared online.

While Sibal admitted India is seeking to have certain content removed, Sibal said the his comments were taken out of context.

Jon Russell, Asia Editor of The Next Web wrote, “This is without a doubt the most significant aspect of the issue. Though the NYT article does not quote him directly, the sources at the Internet companies clearly believe that he is pushing for pre-screening, but his comment is a flat out denial of this.”

Russell continued, “Ultimately, it is difficult to know what to believe. There is little accountability of the source comments, as they are anonymous, while there is no evidence of exactly what Sibal’s intentions initially were before the issue becoming an international talking point.”

Meanwhile, at The Hague, world leaders gathered to talk about the responsibility of governments to protect online freedom. Some 179 journalists worldwide, nearly half of them online journalists, sit in jail cells, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. That’s the highest level since the mid-1990s.

Danny O’Brien, Internet advocacy coordinator for CPJ said, “What we see with bloggers is a deliberate attempt to silence them by throwing them in jail. They don’t have any support, so it’s an effective approach.”

The Internet’s decentralized architecture creates an unprecedented global platform for free expression. For example, look at the role social networks played in organizing the Arab Spring.

Fearful and easily offended governments around the world are cracking down on those freedoms in ways large and small.

A published report reveals that “Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan last month introduced a U.N. draft resolution that would grant nations greater authority over the workings of the Internet within their boundaries. That would undermine the de facto oversight of the United States, which correctly opposes the measure.

“Fortunately, there were some positive developments in recent days, too,” the report continues. “On Thursday, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., introduced legislation that would ban the export of censorship or surveillance technology to repressive regimes.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called upon Internet companies to refrain from selling surveillance capabilities to authoritarian regimes.

Blogger uses social media to galvanize Russian discontent

International newspaper headlines blared about one of the largest gatherings in Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, when crowds amassed last weekend in the tens of thousands in protest of Vladimir Putin’s 12-year rule.

Two things made this event remarkable. First, the Kremlin did nothing to stop the demonstrations of dissatisfaction, which were even covered by state-controlled television.

Second, the anti-government rallies were coordinated in large measure by Russia’s most famous blogger, Aleksei Navalny, a 35-year-old who used his blog and Twitter to call thousands to the public square and succeeded in mobilizing a generation of young Russians through social media.

“It was he who united us with the idea: all against ‘the party of swindlers and thieves,’” said one of the activists.

According to a published report, “A week ago, Mr. Navalny, 35, was famous mainly within the narrow context of Russia’s blogosphere. But after last Sunday’s parliamentary elections, he channeled accumulated anger over reported violations into street politics, calling out to “nationalists, liberals, leftists, greens, vegetarians, Martians” via his Twitter feed (135,750 followers) and his blog (61,184) to protest.”

Earlier last week, Navalny was arrested on charges of resisting the police and sentenced to 15 days in prison.

View crowd photos taken from a remote-controlled helicopter. Andrew Osborn, Moscow correspondent for The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph newspapers, tweeted the developments.

So, what happened? Obama’s ‘ATTACKWATCH’ silent

David Freddoso notes that the “AttackWatch” Twitter feed and website launched by President Obama’s campaign to counter political attacks has gone silent.

“The push … received instant ridicule from conservatives and inspired a satirical introduction video that quickly went viral. The whole thing brought back memories of the Obama White House searching for ‘fishy’ emails about Obamacare,” Freddoso writes. “But it looks like the false attacks either aren’t coming in or haven’t been a priority. The Twitter feed has been silent now for nearly three weeks, and the website hasn’t been updated for the same amount of time.”

Going the way of the buggy whip?

Reuters’ media editor explains how the world of Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, live blogs, video and other Internet social media platforms are challenging him to keep up with a constant information river. The relevance and control of news flow by daily newspapers and evening newscasts are diminishing rapidly due to real time news delivered by Twitterers, et al.

This related piece takes a fascinating look at the future of news gathering and dissemination.

Why Hollywood should be concerned too

Variety, the entertainment industry bible, reports that things are changing for showbiz in a way that could make that business obsolete.

“Before a critical mass of households had Internet connections robust enough to watch video,” Variety reports, “an artist had no choice but to put their product through the usual TV networks or film studios, which were the only ones that had the capital to fund production but the marketing crucial to getting the word out about that production.”

But that’s not the case anymore. Read why.

Putting one’s best face forward with Google

Google unveiled its ‘Find My Face’ tool last week. Implemented in Google+ social network, the tool uses tagging, much like Facebook does, to identify facial features, but – and that’s a huge BUT – there are a couple of big differences that help insure users’ privacy.

Unlike Facebook, Google requires the subject of a suggested tag to approve it before it goes public if the tagger isn’t in the tagee’s “circles.” Facebook allows all tags to go live before notifying the subject.

And Google asks you to opt into the service before it starts automatically suggesting your friends be tagged in photos. Only after a Google+ user opts into Find My Face will Google construct a face model of that person.

Facebook, take heed.

Expand your iPad’s uses

This is a cool list of all the add-ons you can buy to enhance the productivity of your iPad. For example, a wireless keyboard that doubles as a protective case; word and spreadsheet processing software; up to 500 gigabytes more memory and an adapter that lets you mirror your iPad onto an Apple TV screen.

Finger lickin’ good!

“#KFCScholar Hey Colonel! Your scholarship’s the secret ingredient missing from my recipe for success! Got the grades, drive, just need cash!”

For the second year in a row, the Kentucky Fried Chicken Foundation is inviting eligible high school seniors to tweet why they deserve a scholarship – in 140 characters or less! The KFC Colonel’s Scholars winner, to be announced December 15, will receive up to $5,000 per year to pursue a bachelor’s degree at a public university in his or her home state.

Remember when students had to write an essay if they wanted to win a scholarship? Now, they can just tweet like a bird!

Come “Fly” with me …

A major redesign at Twitter is making it easier to use. The changes? Twitter’s Fly now has large “home,” “connect” and “discover” buttons at the top of the homepage (or the bottom, if you’re using an iPhone). On the screen’s left side, a smaller box invites users to Tweet, and below that, trending topics and Twitter’s “who to follow” suggestions.

#LetsFly will roll out over the next few weeks, but already is available on Twitter’s iPhone or Android apps.

Speaking of Twitter, TweetSmarter says learn these tips and follow this procedure if your account is suspended.

Let the games begin!

Good news for iPhone users. Microsoft has released an Xbox Live app for iOS devices. Now Apple devices users can join their Windows Phone users in editing their 3-D avatars and chatting with Xbox Live friends. iOS Xbox Live users will get a screen similar to a Windows Phone-style user interface.

Games people play

Are you playing “Words with Friends” yet? I have seven games going and am looking for more players to challenge my word-making ability on this Scrabble-like game.

Words with Friends” is an online word game usually played on smart phones or Facebook. Players get a random assortment of tiled letters and use them to form words on a crossword puzzle-like grid, competing against each other for the highest score.

Words with Friends” has 12.5 million active monthly users, according to tracking service AppData, and the popular pastime made news last week when a certain actor with an obvious anger-management problem was thrown off a flight for refusing to stop playing the game when instructed by flight attendants to turn off “all electronic devices.”

What’s so addictive about a Scrabble-like online game that it can get you kicked off an airplane? Here’s the story.

It takes a thief

Imagine having the audacity to heist a pallet of iPads? That’s exactly what happened at a California Best Buy electronics store last week when thieves stole a pallet loaded with at least 125 of the Apple tablets.

Suspects pried open the store’s front doors and a security roll-up, slid underneath it, dragging a large locked steel rack containing the tablet computers through a fire exit door and onto a vehicle. The loss to the store is estimated to be more than $100,000. The thieves have yet to be apprehended. Inside job?

Journalist? Or Blogger?

What’s the difference between a journalist and a blogger? About $2.5 million, according to a U.S. district court judge in Portland, Ore.

Despite the fact that blogger Crystal Cox was writing what she claimed to be the truth about an investment firm, the judge imposed the multi-million-dollar judgment on her.

According to a report published in the Seattle Weekly – a blog: “Cox runs several law-centric blogs, like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com and obsidianfinancesucks.com, and was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick.”

Cox argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion and moved to have the case dismissed. After throwing out all but one of the blog posts cited by Obsidian Financial, the judge ruled that one post defamed Obsidian and awarded $2.5 million to the investment firm.

Now here’s where the case gets more important: Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information. And since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.

But without revealing her source, Cox couldn’t prove that the statements she’d made in her post were true and therefore not defamation, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability.

“Speaking to Seattle Weekly, Cox says that the judgment could have impacts on bloggers everywhere: “This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet.”

Indeed.

How many more shopping days?

With less than two weeks until Christmas, if you haven’t yet figured out what to give someone on your list, here are some online shopping suggestions:

  • Giftly: You choose the dollar amount and up to three places the giftee can redeem your gift. Send the Giftly via Facebook or email. Giftlys are redeemed via a smart phone app – tap a button and your credit card is credited with the gift amount.
  • Giftiki is another online gifting alternative.
  • For the epicureans on your list, there’s Treatful.
  • WND’s Superstore has a wide selection of good reads (I purchased a half dozen books to give as Christmas gifts to my family members).
  • America’s Mighty Warriors offers “Tea Are the World,” a two-CD set of patriotic songs. Proceeds go to the America’s Mighty Warriors Foundation for Gold Star families.
  • Patriot Post has great gifts for American patriots, and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library & Museum offers items fit for an executive.
  • Wreaths Across America, the non-profit organization from Maine that decorates thousands of grave sites at Arlington National Cemetery and veterans cemeteries across America each December with donated red-ribboned wreaths, offers “Let Freedom Ring,” a fragrant balsam fir wreath adorned with pine cones, flags and silver bells.

The Time Capsule

1799 – George Washington dies at Mount Vernon

1915 – Francis Albert Sinatra born

1941 – Germany, Italy declare war on U.S.

1972 – Apollo 17, last moon mission headed home

1985 – 101st Airborne loses 248 in Arrow Air crash

2003 – Saddam Hussein captured – $25 million bounty

Now playing at the Princess Theater, Urbana, Ill.

Congratulations to WND readers George Holler of Ft. Wayne, Ind., and Robert Ayer, Jr. of Bensonville, Ark., who were among the first to correctly guess actor Kirk Douglas in his portrayal of Cmdr. Paul Eddington Jr. in the 1965 movie “In Harm’s Way.”

The quote was: “Old Rock of Ages, we’ve got ourselves another war. A gut bustin’, mother-lovin’ Navy war.”

The movie selection was tied to last week’s Time Capsule event marking the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

This week’s quote: “Mister Secretary, I’m kind of new at this job, but I don’t think it’s good public relations to speak that way to a U.S. Senator, even if he is an idiot.”

Name the movie, the actor and the character. Send your answer to me at the email address below. Please be sure to add your town and state. Good luck!

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