Mitt Romney goes to Scamworld: Prosper, Inc. and its powerful friends

Last month, Joseph L. Flatley wrote a phenomenal article on The Verge entitled ‘Scamworld: ‘Get rich quick’ schemes mutate into an online monster‘ and it is one of the finest pieces of investigative journalism that I have ever read. If you haven’t already, I highly encourage you to read all 11,000+ words of it, either on the site or in the £0.77 Kindle edition. Fast forward to June, and Flatley has published a kind of follow-up post entitled ‘Mitt Romney goes to Scamworld: Prosper, Inc. and its powerful friends‘ which exposes the links between some of the scamming organisations and senior figures in American politics, including Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for President of Amercia. I thought the post was outstanding, but some people didn’t agree. By didn’t agree, they labelled it a disingenuous piece of journalism with a strong leftist bias that was intended to generate nothing but page views and was as thinly veiled an attack on the GOP as would be found on MSNBC. People complained that The Verge was a tech site and it should stay away from politics at all costs, but what is wrong with a website trying to break the mould?

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Birdwatching: Porn, privacy and problems with hackers

Birdwatching is a column by Eddie King. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Yet again those suits in London who get paid to write stuff and put it on some of the biggest, most influential and most widely read websites on the internet have decided to take a sledgehammer to our subconscious, dulling it to the point where we will be soon living in a nanny state wrapped in bubble paper and drooling over the sacred book of political correctness. The bird has yet again been consumed with anger and will be doing his best to knock ten bells out of the foundations of stupidity. Luckily this time around I have, like Eminem, the ‘antidote‘ i.e. porn.

Yes, I mentioned the P word, but we must understand that we are one of the only species that actually has sex merely for fun and it shows intelligence. Unfortunately most people won’t admit this because it is a touchy subject, and there is nothing wrong with this, but subsequently as a youngster you will start discovering the world of puberty through some of the shadier corners of the internet. Why? Because it isn’t embarrassing, other people have said it is good and it is free and easily accessible. Why then has our illustrious Prime Minister deemed it necessary to call together a meeting with the biggest ISPs to block porn in all services unless you ask for it in the first place? Three massive problems with this:

  • Firstly, if you are in any form of relationship at all and your partner found out that you specifically requested porn to be allowed on your media it will be a basis for accusations of cheating, as for some reason girls don’t seem to understand that even if you were going out with a gorgeous specimen and love them very much, it doesn’t stop you being curious about what Tulisa looks like naked and at the height of pleasure. (No link there, but if you want to find out, Google’s a thing.)
  • Secondly, it will prevent young boys from truly entering teenagehood, as at the end of the day before you turn 13 you are not in the least bit interested in girls so you won’t go looking for videos of them with no cloths on and after that you don’t mind finding them so at what point are you protecting anybody?  Yes, there are some very dark corners of the internet where the adult industry takes advantage of people in ways which are truly sick and twisted, but the thing is not only is this a niche market but these bastards generally want money for their hard work and so that is a natural buffer against us ‘stumbling’ over it.
  • Lastly, you are starting to make choices for people based on the fact you have more power than them. You are now swimming in very dangerous waters as in places where the internet is available it prides itself on being the model of freedom. And after centuries of perfecting various ways of taking lives that don’t belong to them, humans are kind of protective of freedom because it works rather well.

They say that they want to limit this to protect children, but who asked them to protect them? Was it some cow in a horrible pink frock at a garden party in the Cotswolds? Do you really think this will help society in any way? If you channelled that same time and effort into making the darker streets of London not quite so dark, then children and their guardians might feel a little more protected. Parents have more software options than hair follicles to save their children from the sight of someone getting banged, but they don’t have the same options in the real world as muggings, murder and rape are just a few of the things that you can’t download safeguards for but Mr Cameron can help with.

This brings me onto the subject of that brilliant yet totally arsehole-ish crowd who call themselves ‘hackers‘. These are the true lords of the internet who do not steal your money by building up databases on you and slowly taking over your life (like Google) but simply roll in and strip your card of all its value and then forget to tell you about it until they buy a car in Mexico. To be honest it is a far more comfortable way to get mugged and frankly shows how soft the 21st century really is. But the rascals have been rumoured to have designs on the Olympic opening ceremony. The question is where to draw the line. Generally I will say that people should be show how to not care about things that don’t really matter and to stick it to the man, but at this level I am talking about the same man every time – a man that I am proud to stick it to in the first place and one that I want no help in sticking it to. Turning the lights off at the opening ceremony in London and pasting a massive picture of someone’s breasts on the board may be a good laugh and it certainly would both stick it to the man and show just how free the little people can get, but then other people will no longer respect the man I stick it to. I think that hackers should continue with their 21st century muggings and displays of the innermost workings of top secret organisations, but the people who keep your Alienware desktops running are the same ones you will be attacking on this occasion so please reconsider and piss someone else off.

Technophobia: Orwell was 28 years too early

Technophobia is a column by James Hardy. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

Welcome to China everybody! Yep, renowned file-sharing site The Pirate Bay is being blocked in the UK by five of Britain’s biggest internet service providers: O2, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk and Everything Everywhere (aka T-Mobile and Orange or T-Morange). BT requested ‘a couple more weeks’ before announcing their position on blocking the website, but they are under no obligation to do so.

I can’t help but think that this is the beginning of a slippery slope. The government won’t know when to stop. They’ll block all file sharing sites, websites which have links to them, any search engines through which you can access these sites and, while they’re at it, why don’t they just block any anti-government websites? Oh snap, they just killed free speech!

They say that these sites take millions of pounds from the entertainment industry, but the truth is the money the industry loses is minimal. I download American TV shows from file sharing sites. Why? Because I can’t get them here in the UK. Show them over here, get more views, get more money from advertising, everyone wins. Simples.

Often the reason people download games from these websites is because they come out earlier in the US. People want things ASAP. Say a game is released in the US two weeks before Europe, and someone across the pond uploads to The Pirate Bay. So, if you live in the UK, you can have it now, or you can wait a fortnight to get it. I wonder what you’re going to choose? The same goes for films and music – release at the same time around the world and more people will pay for them. Fact.

The movies I download from file sharing sites are ones I wouldn’t go to the cinema to see. They’re ones I would wait to see on TV. I’m going to see The Avengers in the cinema because it’s going to be awesome. If I can be bothered, I might even write a review on STR. But other movies, ones which tend to get a resounding ‘meh’ from critics, I would download. So, film industry: make good movies and I will pay to see them. Cinemas are overpriced, too. It can cost me £20 for a movie and some popcorn. That’s too much.

The entertainment industry needs to get with the times. Services like iTunes, Netflix and Spotify are doing brilliantly for themselves. That is what the people want. Whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want. The entertainment industry wants you to go to a real shop and buy a DVD. Sad though it is, human beings are lazy. They don’t want to do that. The entertainment industry needs to make things downloadable. Why not have file sharing sites where you have to pay some money which the industry gets to download something? Everyone wins.

Blocking The Pirate Bay won’t work. People will use things like proxies, *insert more technological terms here* etc. to get round it. And blocking it will just mean more sites like it will appear. It isn’t the answer.

File sharing sites aren’t losing the entertainment industry money. It’s bringing about its own downfall.

Another news story that came out last month was that of the government introducing a new law so they can monitor our email, phone and web use. Whenever they feel like it. Just like that. Which, according to the Home Office, will be used to tackle crime and terrorism. Of course. It’s interesting to note that Labour tried to introduce similar plans when they were last in power, but they failed due to massive opposition to the proposals, mainly from the Tories. But it’s fine now they’re in power, erm, why exactly, Mr Cameron?

The government will be able to look at any website you’ve visited, group you’re in contact with or email, text or phone call you have made from the last two years. Without needing permission from anyone. And to those people who make the ‘I have nothing to hide’ argument, you are unbelievably naïve. Would you want someone to be able to open your post and reseal it? I think not.

So while the government criticises China, Iran and other countries with similar regimes for taking similar measures, they do exactly the same back here. That’s fair. At this rate, it won’t be long before they control exactly what we can and can’t do with the internet. They’re not far away from controlling our thoughts.

Anyway, seeing as how the government could block this site if they wanted to, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to call them lying, hypocritical bastards. Turns out George Orwell predicted what was to come pretty damn well.

Enjoy the future, people!

This article was originally published on Stuff Things Rants

Technophobia: Yes, Newt, a moon base

Technophobia is a column by Rowan Dinwoodie. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Digixav.

I know that this is a technology blog, but there’s only so much I can rant about that is technological. Anyway, sci-fi is a bit technology-y, right?

About a month ago, Newt Gingrich, one of the Republican candidates running for election said, and I quote: ‘By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.’

I’m sorry, but what?

Call me a cynic, but that to me seems a little bit far-fetched. It seems as though Newt has decided that his slogan this election is going to be ‘to infinity and beyond’.

Hey, maybe I’m wrong, maybe in eight years time we will find ourselves with a permanent base on the moon. JFK’s vision in the early 1960s that by the end of said decade America would have put a man on the moon would have seemed pretty mad at the time. And look what happened.

And while we’re on the topic, to all those people out there who think otherwise, yes, Neil Armstrong did set foot on the moon. NASA didn’t just film it in a studio to trick the whole world.

Anyway, skip forward through some stuff about America being streets ahead of China and Russia, how you shouldn’t vote Romney because he can speak French (how is that bad?) and Newt finishes:

‘Does this mean I’m a visionary? You betcha!’

Or not. Maybe you’re just, I don’t know, crazy?

So yeah. If you vote Gingrich, America will build a moon base. Of course. Not that I’m politically biased.

It’s just, if any of the current Republican candidates becomes president, the world is pretty much screwed.

Image from Sacramento Bee

Anonymous bring down the CIA site

Anonymous are at it again, and this time the CIA are in the firing line.

Tech

Hacking group Anonymous has apparently claimed credit for knocking the Central Intelligence Agency’s website offline. An update at the YourAnonNews Twitter account reads:

CIA TANGO DOWN: https://www.cia.gov/#Anonymous (via @RT_America)

Sure enough, as of 4:16pm ET on Friday, the CIA.gov website isn’t loading. RT.com reports that the site was initially taken down around 3:10pm ET.

Anonymous has recently claimed takedowns of sites belonging to the Boston Police Department, the FBI, the DOJ, the U.S. Copyright Office and two of Brazil’s largest banks.

The group also recently intercepted a conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard, which entailed cybercrime investigators discussing Anonymous’ activities.

[via AFP]

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Protesting ACTA and TPP

This Saturday, activists worldwide will take to the streets in protest of ACTA. Like SOPA and PIPA, ACTA would criminalize users, encourage internet providers to spy on you, and make it easier for media companies to sue sites out of existence and jail their founders. TPP goes even farther than ACTA, and the process has been even more secretive and corrupt. Last weekend (we wish this was a joke) trade negotiators partied with MPAA (pro-SOPA) lobbyists before secret negotiations in a Hollywood hotel, while public interest groups were barred from meeting in the same building.

Please help the internet by standing up for your rights.

Thank you.

Kill ACTA

6 Reasons to oppose ACTA

  1. ACTA locks countries into obsolete copyright and patent laws. If a democracy decides on less restrictive laws that reflect the reality of the internet, ACTA will prevent that.
  2. ACTA criminalizes users by making noncommercial, harmless remixes into crimes if “on a commercial scale” (art 2.14.1). Many amateur works achieve a commercial scale on sites like YouTube. ACTA, like SOPA, could mean jail time for the Justin Biebers of the world.
  3. ACTA criminalizes legitimate websites, making them responsible for user behavior by “aiding and abetting”. (art 2.14.4). Like SOPA, the founders of your favorite sites could be sued or (worse) thrown in jail for copyright infringement by their users.
  4. ACTA will let rightsholders use laughably inflated claims of damages (based on the disproven idea that every download or stream is a lost sale) to sue people. As if suing amazing artists, video makers and websites for millions wasn’t hard enough!
  5. ACTA Permanently bypasses democracy by giving the “ACTA Committee” the power to “propose amendments to [ACTA]” (art 6.4). In other words, voting for ACTA writes a blank check to an unelected committee. These closed-door proceedings will be a playground for SOPA-supporters like the MPAA.
  6. Trade agreements are a gaping loophole, a backdoor track that, even though it creates new law, is miles removed from democracy. It’s a secretive process that’s tailor-made to serve politically connected companies. And the movie studios behind SOPA? They’re experts at it. If we can’t make secretive trade agreements harder to pass than US law, our internet’s future belongs to the lobbyists behind SOPA.