MediaFile

What we can learn from the “Gay Girl in Damascus” hoax

From the Free Amina Facebook group.

Turns out that young, lesbian blogger in Syria was actually a middle-aged, Georgia-born, married white man, studying in Scotland. Tom MacMaster was on vacation in Turkey this weekend when he confessed to posing as Amina Arraf for five years on the Internet, and for five months on damascusgaygirl.blogspot.com.

The story began to unravel when the invented blogger’s “cousin” posted that Amina had been abducted by security forces. Several organizations snapped into action–The State Department launched an investigation, Avaaz started a letter writing campaign demanding her release, and major newspapers published word of her arrest. But all the attention also brought scrutiny and the pictures of Amina on her site were quickly found to be stolen photos from a London woman’s Facebook page. As The Washington Post points out, sources in Syria contacted NPR’s Andy Carvin, who has been one of the strongest social media forces during this Arab Spring. Carvin asked his nearly-50,000 followers if anyone had actually met Amina. Not a single person had. The Post chronicles the rest of the story–how a man looking to send Amina Christmas cards was given a Georgia address which eventually led to MacMaster. When confronted by what he’d done, MacMaster denied his involvement over and over, until the overwhelming evidence forced a confession.

His first “apology,” was upsetting:

I never expected this level of attention. While the narrative voıce may have been fictional, the facts on this blog are true and not misleading as to the situation on the ground. I do not believe that I have harmed anyone — I feel that I have created an important voice for issues that I feel strongly about…

This experience has sadly only confirmed my feelings regarding the often superficial coverage of the Middle East and the pervasiveness of new forms of liberal Orientalism.

The hubris of this makes it almost laughable. Not only does he defend lying to people and organizations that wanted nothing more than to help a woman in trouble, but he–a white married man–had the gall to allude to the “pervasiveness” of “liberal Orientalism” while pretending to be a lesbian woman from Syria.

Tech wrap: Spain makes Sony attack arrests

Spanish police arrested three men suspected to be members of the hacker group Anonymous, charging them with organizing cyber attacks against the websites of Sony, Spanish banks BBVA and Bankia, and Italian energy group Enel SpA– but not the recent massive hacking of PlayStation gamers. Anonymous responded by threatening to retaliate for the arrests: “We are Legion, so EXPECT US,” the group said on its official Twitter feed.

EU countries agreed on tougher sanctions against people conducting cyber attacks. Under the new rules, which have to be agreed by the European Parliament, hackers would face a sentence of at least five years if found guilty of causing serious damage to IT systems.

Nokia was expected to report a loss for this quarter and next as it cuts prices to try to prevent more customers defecting to rivals’ smartphones, a Reuters poll found. Analysts also forecast a meager profit in the normally buoyant fourth quarter, as the once-undisputed leader in mobile phones loses the initiative to smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and devices based on Google’s Android software.

Tech wrap: Myspace sale saga nears end

An investor group involving Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick is in final talks to take a controlling stake in News Corp’s social network site Myspace, according to a source familiar with the matter. Kotick’s involvement is personal and nothing to do with Activision at this stage, the source said.

News Corp, which paid $580 million for Myspace in 2005, had hoped to do a deal valuing Myspace at about $100 million, but sources said it was unlikely to achieve that target.

Major U.S. banks came under growing pressure from banking regulators to improve the security of customer account information after Citigroup became the latest high-profile victim of a large-scale cyber attack. While Citigroup insisted the breach had been limited, experts called it the largest direct attack on a major U.S. financial institution, and forecast it could drive momentum for a systemic overhaul of the banking industry’s data security measures.

Yahoo’s Ross Levinsohn: We’re still No. 1

As Yahoo’s Executive Vice President of the America’s region, Ross Levinsohn’s task is to transform the image of the lumbering Internet giant to one with a passing resemblance to the darling of the 1990s dotcom era when it called the shots. Though, investors ascribed virtually all of Yahoo’s market value to its prized Asian assets – a major stake in China’s hot Alibaba Group and Yahoo Japan – brushing aside Yahoo’s core U.S. business.

A long time Internet player, Levinsohn, who also headed News Corp’s Fox Interactive Media, sat down with me and Kenneth Li during Internet Week in New York and explained how Yahoo needs to fix its image problem, how much of a distraction the tussle in Asia over Alipay was, and how he expects advertising dollars to continue to migrate to Yahoo.

Reuters: What’s working and not working at Yahoo?

Levinsohn: What is clearly working is hundreds of millions of people interact with our properties. Do you know that we have over 700 million people? Do you know that we have the No.1 or No. 2 positions in 19 categories — sports, news, finance, and entertainment news? OMG is our entertainment news gossip site and we are twice the size of TMZ. We’re bigger than ESPN in sports, we’re bigger than the Wall Street Journal, Fox News and Bloomberg combined in finance. The numbers are astounding and, for some odd reason, Yahoo doesn’t get that credit. It’s an easy story for me to tell that you are able to aggregate huge audiences around premium experiences and we should double down on those things.

How my e-book became a physical book

By Tyler Cowen

The views expressed are his own.

“Can you sign my Kindle?” I guess authors on publicity tours are assuming this line is a joke, but it soon won’t be. Clever entrepreneurs are developing ways that authors can electronically sign a fan’s Kindle, Nook, iPad, or any such device, sometimes together with a photograph of the author and reader, ready for posting on Facebook and Twitter. One version of this new idea is called Autography.

That’s a neat trick, but it’s not yet for everyone. One of the core messages of my latest book The Great Stagnation is that innovations take a long time to work their way through society. They can take decades to spread and to transform our daily practices, and in the meantime a lot of the gains of those innovations go unexploited. Many of the potential gains from “eReading” are still sitting on the proverbial shelf, just as it took electricity many decades to transform the U.S. economy. As both producers and consumers, we haven’t been nearly as radically innovative as we often like to think.

The original publication of The Great Stagnation was in eBook form only, and I meant for that to reflect an argument of the book itself: The contemporary world has plenty of innovations, but most of them do not benefit the average household. After all, the average household does not own an eReader. It’s not even clear whether the average household buys and reads books. So I viewed the exclusive electronic publication, somewhat impishly, as an act of self-reference to the underlying problem itself. It was therefore a bit amusing when some critics suggested that the new medium of the eBook itself refuted the book’s stagnation theory—quite the contrary.

E3: Strauss Zelnick dishes on Wii U, Zynga and why foie gras tastes better than chewing gum

Take-Two Interactive occupies a massive booth at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where it’s showing off its new games and serving beer at the elaborate sports bar it constructed on the show floor.  Under its CEO, Strauss Zelnick, Take-Two has been showing renewed financial health in recent quarters. In February, it posted its first profitable year in nearly a decade without a new release of its blockbuster video game franchise “Grand Theft Auto.”  Zelnick sat down with Reuters for an in depth chat touching on everything from Nintendo’s new console to Zynga’s business model, and the difference between foie gras and chewing gum.

Reuters: Are publishers on board more than ever before with Nintendo on the Wii U?

Zelnick: Well, It’s hard to know, right? At E3, there’s always a great deal of enthusiasm, as there should be. It remains to be seen what the releases schedules look like. We do think it’s pretty interesting. What they are doing with one display in your hands and the other display that’s wireless in front of you and the ability to have them work independently as well as together, creates a lot of interesting creative opportunities and that’s what we’re looking for. We’ll see how our creative teams feel but right now it looks pretty interesting.

Tech wrap: Apple “spaceship” to tackle “weed” problem

Apple plans to build a circular “spaceship” building in hometown Cupertino — and be the best office building in the world, CEO Steve Jobs said. The ailing Jobs, formally on leave from the company, made his second public appearance in two days late on Tuesday to show off plans to the Cupertino city council. Apple has grown “like a weed” Jobs said, and needs a place to put roughly 12,000 people. The massive new structure would be in addition to the main campus at 1 Infinite Loop.

Facebook is providing European regulators with information about its use of facial recognition technology, in response to concerns about the company’s roll-out of the technology’s availability outside of the U.S.. Facebook said there was no “formal investigation” under way. The move comes after comments by Gerard Lommel, a Luxembourg member of the so-called Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, who said the group would study Facebook’s use of facial recognition technology for possible rules violations, according to a report in Bloomberg earlier on Wednesday.

EBay is hunting for acquisitions to speed up its development of image recognition and augmented reality features as the online retailer and auctioneer seeks to capitalize on the potential of mobile phones to help consumers make impulse purchases. Steve Yankovich, head of eBay mobile, told Reuters his division had the company’s full support to spend money on innovative technology, as the fastest growing part of eBay which is helping to renew the 15-year-old company’s image.

Steve Jobs’s biggest gadget yet

“Apple’s grown like weeds” begins Apple CEO Steve Jobs at a presentation to the Cuptertino City Council. Jobs rocked the PC industry with the Mac. He’s roiled the music industry with the iPod. Then back again to the PC industry with the iPad. Now, he wants his own UFO/HQ. Business Insider summarizes.

Here are some images of illustrations included in the proposal for the new Apple Campus, courtesy of Cupertino City Hall:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tech wrap: Nintendo debuts Wii U

Nintendo took the wraps off a high-definition version of its hit Wii, with a 6.2-inch touchscreen-equipped controller that the leading videogame hardware maker hopes will appeal to a more hardcore audience. Early reviews of the Wii U were mixed, with analysts saying the device stopped short of being game-changing. But some liked the innovation in the controller, a device slightly larger than Apple’s iPhone and whose touchscreen, video-call capability and extra functions may appeal to gamers who play longer and more intensely.

The new device will go on sale between April and December 2012, the company told reporters in LA without saying how much it would cost.

Data storage firm EMC offered to replace millions of potentially compromised “SecurID” electronic keys after hackers used data stolen from its RSA security division to break into Lockheed Martin’s network. RSA, which makes the SecurID keys, said in a letter published on its website that it had confirmed information taken from it in March was used in the attack on Lockheed Martin.

Rule Britannia? FT fires warning shot at Apple

The release of a Financial Times app that bypasses Apple’s App Store is a warning shot at the iPad maker’s quest to rule the high seas of digital publishing.

Launched just hours after Apple announced Newsstand, the iPad maker’s destination to access digital versions of mags and rags, FT made clear why it created the app:

“We are determined to make it as accessible as possible for the user,” John Ridding, chief executive of the FT told Reuters. “Readers will be able to get our journalism through whatever device or channel they may choose.”