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Reuters blog archive

from Jack Shafer:

The dangers of deputizing Google to bust child pornographers

Illustration file picture shows a man typing on a computer keyboard in Warsaw

"Don't be evil" -- the first sentence of Google's "Code of Conduct" -- has served as the technology company's corporate motto since its earliest days. But given Google's role in the arrest late last month of a Houston man on child pornography charges, perhaps we've been misreading it. Perhaps the motto is aimed at its customers, as in, "Don't you be evil or we'll have you busted."

Google, obviously, isn't the first Internet company to alert investigators of a user who might be transmitting or be in possession of child pornography images. Since the late 1990s, the law has required service providers to report apparent violations of child pornography laws. In 2004, for example, AOL provided a tip that resulted in a child pornography conviction. In 2007, Yahoo took similar action that helped earn a child pornography defendant a 16-year sentence. So far, the courts have rejected Fourth Amendment challenges to these prosecutions, and are likely to continue to do so. No credible sources have appeared to denounce the prosecutions as overkill, and I doubt if any will.

The Houston bust, in which John Henry Skillern allegedly sent explicit images of a young girl to a friend via email, comes a year after Google Chief Legal Officer David Drummond renewed his company's commitment, which he dated to 2006, to expunge child pornography from the Web and identify its traffickers. As the company's email policies state, "Google has a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery. If we become aware of such content, we will report it to the appropriate authorities. …"

In its efforts, Google has funded groups that search for the images and, with other companies, has built a shared database of digital fingerprints (via "hashing") of the images. These fingerprints allow Google and other companies, such as Microsoft and Facebook, to "trawl" accounts for apparent violations of the child pornography laws. The hashing technology, it should be noted, is only as reliable as the database. If you were to create new child pornography this afternoon and load it on to the Web, Google's algorithms would not automatically detect it as child pornography until somebody identified it, fingerprinted it, and fed it to the database.

from Breakingviews:

Yahoo’s Mayer nears post-Alibaba reckoning

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Yahoo is a big company with a much smaller one struggling to get out. A 22.5 percent stake in Alibaba accounts for well over half the U.S. internet group’s roughly $36 billion market capitalization, according to a new Breakingviews calculator. With the Chinese e-commerce giant likely to go public next month, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer will find out how investors value the businesses she actually runs.

from Breakingviews:

Yahoo’s Alibaba windfall tough to spend wisely

By Richard Beales

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

More than ever in her nearly two-year tenure, Marissa Mayer needs to find the exclamation point in Yahoo’s business. After the company sells something like half of its 22.6 percent stake in Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, the Yahoo chief executive could have $12 billion on hand. Spending it wisely will be tough.

from Stories I’d like to see:

Value of big data, news on Newsweek, White House Correspondents Dinner’s costs

U.S. President Barack Obama is shown on a screen as he speaks during the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner

1. What’s the real value of big data?:

The Obama administration’s report last week on the need to consider restricting how Google, Facebook and other Internet powerhouses collect and use big data reminds me of a story I’ve been hoping to see for a while: How much does this collecting and slicing and dicing of big data actually help advertisers and marketers?

I get the idea that a woman who lives in New Jersey and has accessed information online about baby carriages makes a great target for advertisers selling other baby or maternity products. But do marketers really benefit from data that they buy that goes way beyond that -- that zeroes in on what other websites she has been to, where she buys what online, where a location service says she has physically been lately or whether her Gmails refer to different products or subjects?

from Breakingviews:

Googleization of Yahoo hits pricey speed bump

By Richard Beales and Robert Cyran
The authors are Reuters Breakingviews columnists. The opinions expressed are their own.

The Googleization of Yahoo has hit a pricey speed bump. Chief Executive Marissa Mayer has fired the chief operating officer she lured from her former employer, costing Yahoo as much as $60 million for Henrique de Castro’s 15 months on the job. She may have made the right call, but it’s a reminder that a sprinkling of Googledust won’t on its own get Yahoo growing again.

from Jack Shafer:

If Katie Couric is the answer, what’s the question?

Web publishing -- never a diffident business -- has been calling attention to itself all week long. Yahoo chief executive officer Marissa Mayer, whose forte as boss has been the shimmering acquisition (Summly, Tumblr, Xobni, Rockmelt, et al.) and the high-profile media hire (David Pogue, Megan Liberman, Matt Bai), signed Katie Couric as the site's "global anchor," and promised additional Yahoo News signings, enabling Couric to "lead a growing team of correspondents." Business Insider auteur Henry Blodget, whose enthusiasm for himself approaches the onanistic, responded to Michael Wolff's suggestion that the Insider has peaked and that he should sell with a column saying he wasn't ready to bail. Further down the food chain, Politico, which recently dumped its broadcast TV stations, purchased Capital New York, and PandoDaily (backed by Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen, Tony Hsieh, and others) bought NSFWCORP to, as its Editor-in-Chief Sarah Lacy put it, "double down on investigative reporting."

All this recent activity could be interpreted as the Internet's usual background noise -- prestige hires, quietly dumped in the next business downturn, and the usual activity by sites testing their worth in the marketplace or actually selling out. Or, alongside the global expansion of BuzzFeed, the phenomenal growth of Gawker, and Cheezburger-Circa's blitzkrieg, do these nuggets serve as new markers of the Web ascendency to a place of media dominance?

from Breakingviews:

Dan Loeb’s Yahoo exit hurts investors twice over

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Dan Loeb’s Yahoo exit hurts investors twice over. The Internet company is buying back two-thirds of the hedge fund mogul’s stake, owned by his firm Third Point, for $1.2 billion. That sucks up most of the cash Yahoo reserved for repurchases. It also heralds the departure of three Third Point-approved directors, robbing Yahoo of some much-needed advisers.

from MediaFile:

How about Hightail-ing it?

Silicon Valley startup YouSendIt, which began as a file sharing and storage company, is getting a corporate makeover. YouSendIt comes off, and Hightail gets papered on.  

 And that's not the only change Chief Executive Brad Garlinghouse is making as he competes more directly with larger startups Dropbox and Box. Hightail will now offer unlimited storage for its paying customers, 90 percent of which are corporations and small businesses.

from Breakingviews:

U.S. online spying leak could harm Silicon Valley

By Robert Cyran
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

The latest leak detailing U.S. online spying could harm Silicon Valley. The National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are mining data from Internet giants including Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Microsoft. The publication of some details may provide a privacy selling point for those not cooperating, like Twitter. It could also encourage other governments to engage in what might be called data nationalism.

from Breakingviews:

Marissa Mayer puts exclamation point back in Yahoo

By Jeffrey Goldfarb

The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

Marissa Mayer has made her mark on Yahoo in less than a year. The website chief’s $1.1 billion deal to buy blogging site Tumblr on Monday goes a long way to restoring the faded and vainglorious exclamation point to the company’s name.

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