In a matter of days, the new social network Ello, described as the “anti-Facebook” for its …
Washington (AFP) - In a matter of days, the new social network Ello, described as the “anti-Facebook” for its stand on privacy and advertising, has become perhaps the hottest ticket on the Internet.
Created last year as a “private” social network, Ello (www.ello.co) recently opened its doors on an invitation-only basis.
Because of the limited supply and strong demand, the invitations have been selling on eBay at prices up to $500. Some reports said Ello is getting up to 35,000 requests per hour as a result of a viral surge in the past week.
Ello appears to have caught on with its simple message which seems to take aim at frustrations of Facebook users.
“Ello doesn’t sell ads. Nor do we sell data about you to third parties,” the company says.
Its “manifesto” states: “We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life. You are not a product.”
Ello’s policy states that the practice of collecting and selling personal data and mapping your social connections for profit “is both creepy and unethical.”
“Under the guise of offering a ‘free’ service, users pay a high price in intrusive advertising and lack of privacy.”
Based in Vermont, Ello was launched by a group of artists and programmers led by Paul Budnitz, whose previous experience include designing bicycles and robots.
Budnitz says on his page that Ello was designed to be “simple, beautiful and ad-free.”
- ‘Different politics’ -
Nathan Jurgenson, a social media researcher at the University of Maryland, welcomed Ello’s fresh approach.
“I love these moments of new social media when conversation explodes, moved to imagine how social media can be different, questioning core assumptions instead of just fretting and complaining — all before this paint even dries,” he said on his Ello page.
“Ello is getting so much attention precisely because it promises social media of a different politics. We’ve collectively come to the realization that the rise of social media has been accompanied by handing far too much power to far too few people, and there’s energy to shake things up, even if just a bit.”
Ello’s rise also comes amid complaints against Facebook from the gay community that the world’s biggest social network began disabling accounts using stage names instead of real names.
A San Francisco protest is planned against Facebook supporting “drag queens” who lost their Facebook accounts. Ello does not require real names.
- Business plan? -
It remains unclear if Ello will end up being a flash in the pan, or if it will develop a profitable business plan.
Ello states it plans to remain “completely free to use,” but that it could start offering some premium features for a fee.
Some question if Ello can succeed on this kind of model and keep its principles.
But former Ello collaborator Aral Balkan said Ello has already been compromised by taking $435,000 in venture capital funding.
A designer and founder of ind.ie, a privacy advocacy group, Balkan said he worked briefly for Ello but left when he learned of the venture investments.
“When you take venture capital, it is not a matter of if you’re going to sell your users, you already have,” says a blog post from Balkan.
“It’s called an exit plan. And no investor will give you venture capital without one. In the myopic and upside-down world of venture capital, exits precede the building of the actual thing itself. It would be a comedy if the repercussions of this toxic system were not so tragic.”
Source: Anthony Gucciardi & Mikael Thalen | Infowars.com |
While hospitality and charity remain a cornerstone of American society, a recent history of social media-driven donation campaigns show the tactic has often been used to scam well-meaning people.
Although more than $94 million in donations have been raised through the viral “ice bucket” social media campaign, the actual amount going towards the non-profit ALS Association’s research is strikingly different.
According to the ALS Association’s own 2014 financial breakdown, only 27 percent of funds make their way to researching a cure for the disease. Despite its non-profit status, six figure salaries are bestowed upon the group’s top 11 executives.
As Sayer Ji of GreenMedInfo points out in his breakdown of the ice bucket phenomenon, even the smaller portions spent on research for ALS are actually going towards pharmaceutical interventions and the pharmaceutical industry at large.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation, known for its pink ribbon breast cancer campaign, has received similar condemnation as well after the company’s expenditures were found to be less than charitable. According to Charity Navigator, the company’s 2010 revenue reached nearly $312 million. Of that, only 20 percent was used for research, with former CEO and president Hala G. Moddelmog making as much $550,000 per year.
“Komen receives over $55 million in annual revenue from corporate sponsorships, from such health-minded companies as Coca Cola, General Mills, and KFC,” noted AlterNet’s Emily Michelle. “Buy a bucket of junk food, and pretend as though you’re helping to save lives while you slowly take your own.”
Following the devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the “Hope for Haiti” telethon brought countless celebrities out to raise awareness and funds for those hit hardest in the country. Shortly after, it was learned that much of the cash would be given to several foundations such as one run by former presidents Bush and Clinton. Donations were also funneled to United Nations operations as well as foundations with absurdly high administrative costs.
Most famously, the Kony 2012 campaign ran by the Invisible Children organization, was allegedly used to gather funds for children affected by Joseph Kony, war lord and leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda.
Called ”misleading” and “dangerous” by former Yale political science professor Chris Blattman, Invisible Children only used $2.8 million of $8.8 million raised to directly help Ugandan children according to a 2010-2011 expenditure report.
Beyond the financial aspect, further research revealed the campaign to be part of an undeniable attempt to create support for military intervention into Africa.
Although Kony 2012 did eventually experience a major backlash from the public, the attempt to push war through social media campaigns has only continued. A video published earlier this year entitled “I am a Ukrainian” attempted to push the American public into supporting US policy in the region after so called “grass roots” protests arose in the country.
“The origins of the video are not quite as ‘grass roots’ as is portrayed. The clip was produced by the team behind A Whisper to a Roar, a documentary about the ‘fight for democracy’ all over the world, which was funded by Prince Moulay Hicham of Morocco,” Infowars writer Paul Joseph Watson noted. “The ‘inspiration’ behind the documentary was none other than Larry Diamond, a Council on Foreign Relations member. The Council on Foreign Relations is considered to be America’s ‘most influential foreign-policy think tank’ and has deep connections with the U.S. State Department.”
Amid all of the social media madness when it comes to charitable organizations like Susan G. Komen and now the ALS Association, it remains true that the key element necessary for real change is the spread of information. And when financial abilities allow for it, supporting real charities with a proven track record of directly supporting its stated goals with the bulk of its financial power.
Growing movement to sway public opinion through social media and even Wikipedia
Speaking from direct experience, and with refreshing honesty, a former CBS correspondent openly confirmed that the mainstream media is being covertly manipulated by well-financed political forces who are also trying to sway public opinion through social media and by editing Wikipedia articles.
Sharyl Attkisson, who also served as a correspondent with CNN, suggested that real investigative journalism is disappearing in mainstream media due to the current editorial trend to push stories in an unnatural direction in order to serve establishment agendas.
“What I hope to do with ‘Stonewalled’ [her book], is explain to the public how images that they see every day – not just on the news, but including in the news – but on social media; on television; on billboards – how these images are manipulated in covert and surreptitious ways by political forces and financially-backed forces that they have no idea about,” she told The Daily Signal. “If you can become savvy to this manipulation, and sometimes, outright propaganda, you can learn to recognize it and, sort of, filter through it – which, I think, helps people make up their own mind about what’s really going on in the world.”
Attkisson also indicated that there’s a growing movement inside Washington D.C. to affect public opinion outside of direct lobbying.
“Now, there’s a whole industry set up around manipulating public opinion or swaying public opinion in other ways – through social media; maybe, setting up blind accounts or accounts through pseudonyms; through editing Wikipedia in certain ways; through posting on Twitter and Facebook,” she stated. “There all kinds of ways that people’s opinions are being shaped through forces that they don’t know are behind the shaping of those opinions, and I really think it’s important that people know who’s behind the efforts.”
And this movement is expanding at a breakneck speed. Just a few months ago, for example, social media giant Facebook began offering “public education ad space” with content written by anti-gun groups targeted at users interested in firearm-related content.
Fortunately, in contrast to this rising propaganda, an increasing number of former mainstream journalists such as Attkisson are now heading to alternative media where investigative stories, such as how the federal government used extremely premature babies in a dangerous study, won’t be buried in favor of false narratives intended to paint the Obama administration – and the over 500 federal bureaucracies which operate with little oversight – in a positive light.
Although it’s been well-documented that the mainstream media has practically been a government mouthpiece since at least the early 1950s, when the CIA’s Operation Mockingbird began, it is refreshing and revealing to see that a former network correspondent is not only openly talking about media control, but she also views the alternative media as the solution to the controlled press that is rapidly losing influence.
“More Americans than ever are losing faith in the establishment-controlled media and are seeking out alternative sources of information,” Michael Snyder of the Economic Collapse Blog wrote. “Is this a trend that the big media companies are going to be able to reverse at some point?”
The Secret Service is purchasing software to watch users of social networks in real time, according to contract documents.
In a work order posted on Monday, the agency details information the tool will collect — ranging from emotions of Internet users to old Twitter messages.
Its capabilities will include “sentiment analysis,” “influencer identification,” “access to historical Twitter data,” “ability to detect sarcasm,” and “heat maps” or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said.
The automated technology will “synthesize large sets of social media data” and “identify statistical pattern analysis” among other objectives, officials said.
The tool also will have the “functionality to send notifications to users,” they said.
A couple of years ago, the Homeland Security Department, the agency’s parent, got in trouble with lawmakers and civil liberties groups for a social media program that would work, in part, by having employees create fake usernames and profiles to spy on other users.
A House Homeland Security Committee panel called DHS officials into a hearing after reports the department tasked analysts with collecting data that reflected negatively on the government, such as content about the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to a Michigan jail. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has sued DHS for more information on the program.
Employees within the Secret Service’s Office of Government and Public Affairs will be using the new system, agency officials said.
Here is a full list of the software’s required functions:
- Real-time stream analysis;
- Customizable, keyword search features;
- Sentiment analysis;
- Trend analysis;
- Audience segmentation;
- Geographic segmentation;
- Qualitative, data visualization representations (heat maps, charts, graphs, etc.);
- Multiple user access;
- Functionality to have read-only users;
- Access to historical twitter data;
- Influencer identification;
- Standard web browser access with login credentials;
- User level permissions;
- Compatibility with Internet Explorer 8;
- Section 508 compliant;
- Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives;
- Functionality to send notifications to users;
- Functionality to analyze data over a given period of time;
- Ability to quantify the agency’s social media outreach/footprint;
- Vendor-provided training and technical/customer support;
- Ability to create custom reports without involving IT specialists; and
- Ability to search online content in multiple languages.
Police are increasingly turning to social media to help solve crimes and nab bad guys, but some officers are urging departments to utilize services like Twitter as tools for pre-crime prevention.
In a presentation titled, “Leveraging Social Media to Provide Actionable Intelligence,” given at a GovSec conference in Washington DC last week, two officers described how they are taking the guesswork out of policing by relying on social media, namely Twitter,to investigate and “prevent” crimes.
“One quote out there is that Twitter is seen as the new police scanner,” said Jamie Roush, Crime Analysis Unit Manager for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.
The lecture’s presentation materials contain statistics noting that “3 out of every 4 law enforcement professionals are relying on social media for crime investigation and prevention,” but retired police chief Rick Graham says still not enough effort is being undertaken in the area of “pre-emptive strikes.”
“We do a pretty good job in law enforcement solving crimes after the fact,” Graham said, according to Government Security News. “But what about the proactive — the preemptive strike. Do you have 150 officers to infiltrate different locations and have the intel analyzed after the fact. I don’t think so.”
Former Sheriff Graham also asserted that officers who snoop through Twitter feeds should have no reservations about violating people’s privacy, as all information is uploaded voluntarily by users. We’re “not sabotaging people’s privacy,” he said, adding, “They’re throwing it out there.”
Statistics also showed that courts favor social media evidence when provided as justification for probable cause, with up to 87% of search warrants holding up in court.
Roush also recommended police leverage social media not only to field intelligence from citizens, but to also develop “marketing” strategies to put forth a more likable public persona, similar to how companies wage online media campaigns, stating that “in law enforcement we must do brand marketing as well.”
“Unless law enforcement gets on board…with social media then we are truly missing the boat,” Roush concluded.
Of course, the flip side of the coin is the potential for police to abuse the tools at their disposal, one such example being last year’s discovery that NSA workers were “using secret government surveillance tools to spy on the emails or phone calls of their current or former spouses and lovers,” according to Reuters.
Embarking on the prevention of future crimes also carries the inherent risk for police to misinterpret messages, extrapolate erroneous leads or target enemies of the state, leading to the arrest ofpeople who have committed no crimes, as depicted in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report.
As evidenced by last year’s arrest of Afghanistan and Iraq war veteran Brandon Raub, there is a slippery slope that follows once authorities begin policing social media. In Raub’s case, he was only making anti-establishment comments on Facebook using colorful metaphors, yet somehow this was enough to earn him forcible incarceration and a trip to the psych ward.
In March, a Twitter user in Saudi Arabia was arrested for expressing opinions critical of the state on charges that he incited protests, mocked the Saudi king and dared voice criticism of police.
But earlier this year, police in the UK demonstrated how “proactive police work” also translates to overzealous policing when they arrested a man for merely making distasteful remarks, claiming he was engaged in “malicious communications,” when all he did was insult someone on Twitter.
Source: Joseph Marks
The Food and Drug Administration is looking for a contractor to monitor social media chatter about the drugs and other products it regulates and how that chatter shifts as a result of FDA risk warnings, solicitation documents show.
The agency is looking for a contractor that can provide historical information about the sorts of conversations consumers are having on blogs, message boards and social media sites about the product classes FDA regulates — such as drugs, medical devices, food and tobacco — and then track when the sentiment or volume of those conversations shifts, according to the sources sought notice posted on Tuesday.
FDA wants to track what makes those conversations spike, rise slowly or trend downward, the notice said, and to gather information about “about social media buzz volume over time, top sources of buzz, most popular forums of online discussion, most-cited news stories, major themes of discussion, sentiment analysis, word clouds and/or message maps, and a sample of verbatim consumer comments.”
A sources sought notice doesn’t obligate FDA to purchase any goods or services.
Source: Elizabeth Harrington
The National Library of Medicine (NLM) is “mining” Facebook and Twitter to improve its social media footprint and to assess how Tweets can be used as “change-agents” for health behaviors.
The NLM, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will have software installed on government computers that will store data from social media as part of a $30,000 project announced last week.
“The National Library of Medicine is the world’s largest biomedical library and makes its stored information available online at no charge to consumers, health professionals, and biomedical scientists through a diverse suite of resources,” the agency said in a contract posted on Oct. 23. “Evaluating how its databases and other resources are utilized is an important component of continuing quality improvement and has long been an on-going program of NLM management through a potpourri of monitoring tools.”
“The world-wide explosion in the use of social media provides a unique opportunity for sampling sentiment and use patterns of NLM’s ‘customers’ and for comparing NLM to other sources of health-related information,” the agency said.
“By examining relevant tweets and other comments,” the contract said, “NLM will gain insights to extent of use, context for which information was sought, and effects of various health-related announcements and events on usage patterns.”
Specifically, NLM will look at the “value of tweets and other messages as teaching tools and change-agents for health-relevant behavior.”
“The overarching objective of these studies is to obtain a richer understanding of how consumers, clinicians, researchers actually look for the health-related information they seek, and what they do with what they find,” NLM said in a response to frequently asked questions about the project.
OhMyGov Inc., a media company that specializes in the promotion of government agencies, will be paid $30,660 to monitor social media for NLM for one year.
The company will install software on computers at NLM headquarters in Bethesda, Md. to “maintain a comprehensive ‘universe’ of social media data.” Government bureaucrats will be trained on the software so they can search the database for health-related content.
“Content from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, news sites, discussion boards, video and image sharing sites will be maintained by the Contractor and kept up-to-date in a timely manner and made available for query by Government,” the contract said.
When asked by a vendor if they are interested in storing the data for “historical analysis,” NLM said “Yes.”
The project will also track NLM’s impact on social media in comparison to its “competitors,” which they define as Google, Mayo Clinic, and WebMD.
“Demographic characteristics” of Facebook and Twitter posts will be noted “to the extent permitted by privacy regulations.” NLM said they are interested in the location, number of followers, and academic degrees held by users.
The contractor OhMyGov Inc. is partially funded by the National Science Foundation, and a member of President Obama’s “Startup America Initiative,” a public-private partnership designed to spur entrepreneurship.
“The OhMyGov Media Monitoring and Policy Analysis system is the first and only business intelligence software completely politically focused,” according to the company’s website. “It provides real-time data mining, analysis, and visual analytics to uncover patterns in message uptake and critical insights into how issues are being characterized by Congress as well as the media, public, and key stakeholders.”
Requests for comment from NLM were not returned.
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