As the director of the upcoming documentary feature “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” I spent several years filming with the rebel artist Ai Weiwei, now internationally known for his 81-day illegal detention by the Chinese government earlier this year. The film offers an inside look at how Weiwei finds creative ways to respond to the challenges of his society and promote freedom of expression. It’s almost finished and headed for a world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
But with a subject as indefatigable as Weiwei, our film’s outreach had to begin long before audiences are actually able to see the movie. On Facebook and Twitter, @awwneversorry has been following the latest breaking news and fan support of Weiwei for about one year now. Through stories like illegal detainment, smears in Party press, release under strict bail conditions, unsubstantiated tax bills, fans sending him online donations and more, we have been covering it all with a close line to both Weiwei’s own studio, as well as other journalists, human rights activists and online followers who are intimately involved with the story.
Last week Chinese police raised the specter of pornography charges again against Weiwei, questioning his assistant about images that have been online for over a year now. HuffPost covered the story here, as well as most major international news outlets. The Guardian even published the photos uncensored.
Since I had these images as part of my film’s archive, I wanted to share them with our Facebook followers so they could judge for themselves whether these are the images of a pornographer. I posted them Friday night, and to underscore Weiwei’s own point, I named the Facebook album “Nudity is Not Pornography.”
By Saturday morning one of the photos was removed and I was sent a warning reminding me about Facebook’s “Community Standards.” I was uncomfortable taking the other images down, considering they are tied with a film about an artist fighting for freedom of expression… but I did not want Facebook to take down the page. So I censored the photos, using Facebook logos to block out the “naughty parts.”
Then Tuesday morning my personal account was disabled without any notice or further details. I appealed the action and a member of the press even made an inquiry to FB on my behalf. Miraculously, a few hours later my account was restored and the fan page itself is still up at www.facebook.com/awwneversorry. I am still waiting for any response or explanation from Facebook.
Nudity is not always pornography, and censorship is not only about government. Considering that I complied with Facebook’s “Community Guidelines” as soon as I was warned, I am left guessing about why my personal account was disabled. Could it be that it was an automatic action that is taken whether or not a warning is heeded? Was it retribution for using Facebook’s logo to highlight their censoring of the images?
Either option doesn’t look great for Facebook. The danger of an unthinking policy, or enacting policy in an unthinking way, is it invites comparisons like these: “Facebook mimicking Chinese censors kills @aliklay’s acct for nudity” – by @jeffjarvis; and “Facebook deleting naked pictures of Ai Weiwei – interesting to see how they agree on censorship with Chinese government.” -by @kinablog (China correspondent for Danish newspaper Berlingske).
Today Ai Weiwei said in a livechat on MSNBC, “In 10 years China will be a very different society.” That will no doubt be in part due to the Internet, technology and social media. But today I’m also left wondering — what kind of social media do we want leading the way?
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Facebook has updated the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory, announcing that a joint study shows that any single person on earth is a mere 4.74 steps away from being introduced to any other person, instead of the believed upon six.
Facebook paired with the University of Milan to approximate the “number of hops,” or degrees of separation, between all pairs of individuals on Facebook. The study found that while 99.6 percent of all pairs of people on Facebook are connected by five degrees of separation (six hops), 92 percent are connected by only four degrees (five hops). According to Facebook, the average distance in 2008 was 5.28 hops.
The study also found that people are much more closely connected to individuals in their own country. (In any single country most people are connected by only three degrees, or four hops.)
Facebook naturally attributes some of this closeness to Facebook itself, as well as social networks in general. “And as Facebook has grown over the years, representing an ever larger fraction of the global population, it has become steadily more connected,” Facebook said in a blog post announcing the study results.
The “Six Degrees” concept was first studied by Stanley Milgram in 1967. Milgram’s study consisted of just 296 volunteers, and determined that the average number of hops between people was about six — or 5.2 degrees of separation.
Facebook acknowledges that its study can’t really be compared with Milgram’s, as Milgram’s subjects had “only limited knowledge of the social network,” while Facebook has “a nearly complete representation of the entire thing.” In other words, it’s possible that a Facebook-esque study in the 1960s would have revealed similar numbers, because Facebook is able to estimate the shortest distance between any two people using its data.
It’s important to note that Facebook and the University of Milan’s findings are taken from Facebook’s data. While this isn’t a bad thing — after all, Facebook has more than 800 million users, it also means that Facebook is extrapolating to find its numbers. It’s likely, after all, that the people on Facebook happen to be the particularly social ones, and so it’s possible that a study of the “Six Degrees” phenomenon might reveal different results if also applied to people who do not use the social network.
commentary OK, so Facebook is reportedly working on a smartphone with HTC. My initial reaction: who cares?
The latest rumor that such a smartphone may be on the drawing boards comes from All Things Digital. The process is in the early stages, and it’s unclear whether the phone would ever advance past that stage. If Facebook is smart, it’ll put this project down as quickly as possible.
A Facebook phone may sound like a great idea, but consumers are accustomed to devices that can handle multiple tasks, access any service, and tap into all social networks–which may not fall in line with the company’s agenda. The core dilemma for such a phone is that few people actually use Facebook enough to justify buying a device solely focused on one social network.
I’ll admit that I’m an avid Facebook user. I spend a nice chunk of the day on Facebook in the office (maybe too much, if you ask my boss). I don’t even spend a lot of time on social games, which I know suck up a massive amount of time.
But when I’m on the go, I barely look at Facebook. I’ll occasionally pop open the app, if there’s an interesting update from a friend, update my own status, or upload a funny photo. I assume that there are a lot of people like me: Facebook campers at work or at home, but casual users when it comes to their mobile devices. Those aren’t the kind of people who would buy a Facebook-centric device.
Remember, there’s a quasi-Facebook phone already on the market. It’s called the HTC Status. The phone was a complete bust, despite ATT’s efforts to push the first phone with an integrated Facebook key. While the advertising campaign could have been better–it highlighted objects in a disturbing glowing-blue color to emulate the glowing Facebook button at the bottom of the device–ATT did, at least, promote the phone. After launching in July, the phone is now given away with a two-year contract.
Granted, the Status was a budget-friendly phone, at $49.99, geared toward a younger social-networking generation, and it represented only modest contributions from Facebook. By contrast, Facebook is expected to weigh in heavily on the new phone–which may not necessarily be a good thing.
If the reports from AllThingsD are correct, Facebook may follow Amazon.com’s path in creating its own highly customized version of Android to power the phone. The problem with such a strategy is, you lose access to the kind of core services Google powers, including
Android Market and Gmail. That may be moot to Facebook, which would want to run its own messaging and e-mail services on the device, anyway. Otherwise, why go through the trouble?
Again, I’m not sure many people would want the whole Facebook–and only Facebook–experience on their phone. For instance, I rely on Gmail for my e-mail, and AIM and Yahoo Messenger for instant messages.
I doubt that many people used Facebook’s failed attempt to create an e-mail service. And while the idea of integrating my Facebook social network into my address book sounds great, it doesn’t work in practice. I’ve used tools provided by the likes of HTC or Samsung Electronics to do so in my Android smartphones, and the result is a labyrinthine list of people with whom I maintain little to no contact.
The smartphone business, despite its growth potential, is incredibly hard to break into. A company looking to jump in needs to work with the carriers, if it wants any sales support or subsidies. It also needs to strike deals with retail outlets, and it needs to be prepared to spend a hefty amount itself on marketing and promotion. Google attempted to circumvent the system and sell its
Nexus One directly to consumers, and it was overwhelmed by customer service issues, despite poor sales of the device.
The only real exception has been Apple, which already had a strong brand, and an expertise in hardware and software in consumer electronics devices. It seemingly came out of nowhere with the
iPhone, and it revolutionized the smartphone market.
Facebook certainly has the brand, but it’s unclear whether it has the chops to handle the other parts of the phone business. HTC, with its long history of solid smartphones and relationships with carriers, retailers, and other wireless players, will be able to help greatly.
One way would be on pricing. Facebook doesn’t charge its users for access to the site. If it does, in fact, offer a phone optimized for its site, it should stick with that strategy and offer the smartphones free with a two-year contract. The device itself also shouldn’t feel like a budget phone like the Status; it would need to be packed with high-quality parts.
As with Amazon’s Kindle strategy, the real money would be made after the customer buys the phone. While Amazon wants to sell more products (such as e-books), Facebook could lean on its roots and make up any loss on the phone with targeted mobile advertising.
But even then, it would come out of the gate with a severe disadvantage. If the development process is just getting under way, a product won’t show up for another 12 to 18 months, giving ample time for Google, Apple, and Microsoft to leap ahead with the next round of innovation on mobile devices. Can Facebook compete in that sea of smartphones? I don’t think so.
Now excuse me while I post another status update…on my laptop.
Rich Rodriguez will be introduced as Arizona’s new football coach and you know it’s true because it was on Twitter.
The announcement came from Athletic Director Greg Byrne, who cheekily tweeted:
“And the new Arizona football coach and his family is …” along with a photo of him and Rodriguez — in an Arizona baseball cap — along with Rodriguez’s wife and two children.
The school has scheduled a press conference for later in the day. Rodriguez, 48, is 120-84-2 in 18 seasons as a head coach. He was 60-26 over seven seasons at West Virginia, his alma mater. He was 15-22 in three seasons at Michigan and was fired after the Wolverines’ Gator Bowl loss.
Arizona fired Mike Stoops last month.
And the new Arizona football coach and his family is……. http://t.co/kiCBPDdO
Shortly after midnight, Byrne added, via Twitter: “We just landed in Tucson w/Coach Rodriguez, his family @wildcatmamma #BearDown
(FYI, @wildcatmamma is Byrne’s wife Regina.)
Tim Tebow’s supporters have lashed out on Twitter against former Denver QB and current Broncos’ VP John Elway, who indicated on Monday that Tebow is not the team’s long-term solution at quarterback.
During his weekly radio show on 102.3 The Ticket in Denver, Elway was asked:
“Are you any closer to feeling that you you have your quarterback on your team than you were for or five weeks ago?”
“Ah, no,” Elway replied.
“We’ve got to get better in the passing game,” he said later.
Elway is an icon in Denver. He spent his entire Hall-of-Fame career with the Broncos and won two Super Bowls. He was hired by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen as VP for football operations to help the team regain its glory.
But some Broncos fans have turned on their hero on Twitter, many suggesting that Tebow is threatening to overshadow Elway’s legacy.
“@johnelway is dumb Tim Tebow is best thing to happen to the #Broncos in 10 years.”
“@johnelway is pretty much an a$$…”
“@johnelway If Tebow goes,so do I and my season tickets. Been a fan since 77 but can’t fathom mistake of letting best winner since you leave.”
“@johnelway you’re a joke. @TimTebow deserves better.”
“@johnelway pimped Tebow out in the off season to sell tickets then turned on him. That’s what bugs me the most.”
While Elway wouldn’t commit to Tebow long-term, he praised the quarterback for his performance against the Jets on Thursday night. Tebow led Denver on a 95-yard game-winning touchdown in the Bronco’s 17-13 win.
Denver is 5-5 this season; 3-1 with Tebow as a starter.
“Tim Tebow did exactly what we thought he could do Thursday night,” Elway told Vic Lombardi and Gary Miller on his radio show. “When you get in a tough situation he’s the guy who can make those plays. He’s got the competitiveness to do the kinds of things you can’t coach. And that’s exactly what he did on Thursday night to win that football game.”
After the initial backlash by Tebowmaniacs, other Broncos fans rallied behind Elway on Twitter.
“@johnelway You’re one of the few sane person on this Tebow’s madness boat. Keep it that way.”
“Tebow is soooo garbage! What is wrong with denver fans??? @johnelway is right to be looking for a QB.”
“@johnelway keep up the good work. As a real bronco fan I am happy u speak the truth. I think you will get the broncos back 2an elite level.”
Tebow and the Broncos play San Diego on Sunday at 4 p.m.
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Researchers at Facebook and the University of Milan reckon that the degrees of separation between any two people in the world have been reduced to 4.7 from social psychologist Stanley Milgram’s “small world experiment” of six back in the ’60s.
The study, which measured how many friends people have on Facebook, found that the notion of six degrees of separation had been shrinking over the past three years at the same time as the dominant social network bumped up its userbase.
It also noted, unsurprisingly, that many of those connections are localised. Which sounds a bit like the long-held scientific FACT that every showbiz star in Hollywood has a link to Footloose actor Kevin Bacon.
“We observed that while the entire world is only a few degrees away, a user’s friends are most likely to be of a similar age and come from the same country,” said Facebook.
The company, alongside the researchers at the University of Milan, said it performed the study earlier this year when it “examined” all 721 million active Facebook users that represent a little over 10 per cent of the world population.
It said that there were 69 billion connections among the entire userbase.
Facebook also offered up an insight into some other metrics about the site, including revealing that half of its users had over 100 “friends” connections. Around 10 per cent, or 72 million people have 10 or fewer links to other users on the network.
The company was keen to stress that friend-shy people on the site needn’t worry about their lack of connections.
“A classic paradox regarding social networks dictates that, for most people, the median friend count of their friends is higher than their own friend count,” said the Mark Zuckerberg-run outfit.
“On Facebook, that’s the case for 84 per cent of our users. Why? Scott Feld wrote about this phenomenon in his 1991 paper ‘Why Your Friends Have More Friends than You Do’, showing that the same phenomenon dictates that college students typically find that their classes to be larger than the average class size, and that when sitting on an airplane, it will typically be more crowded than the average occupancy.
“These effects all arise because for people, classes, and flights to be popular, you must be much more likely to choose them. So you shouldn’t feel bad if it seems like all your friends are more popular than you: it appears this way to most of us.”
So that’s alright then.
Of course, some might question Facebook’s definition of friendship, given that connections are often only made online rather than in person, for example.
Pushing the arguments about the metrics adopted in the study to one side, the company said it used algorithms developed at the University of Milan to conduct the one-month-long test.
“We found that six degrees actually overstates the number of links between typical pairs of users: While 99.6 per cent of all pairs of users are connected by paths with five degrees (six hops), 92 per cent are connected by only four degrees (five hops),” it said.
“And as Facebook has grown over the years, representing an ever larger fraction of the global population, it has become steadily more connected. The average distance in 2008 was 5.28 hops, while now it is 4.74.”
The company added that those hops reduced even more at a local level.
“When we limit our analysis to a single country, be it the US, Sweden, Italy, or any other, we find that the world gets even smaller, and most pairs of people are only separated by three degrees (four hops).”
This isn’t, however, the first such scrutiny of Milgram’s original experiment.
Microsoft’s research arm put it to the test in 2008 when it said it had proved the six degrees phenomenon using its own study.
Wonks at Redmond analysed messages sent by users of its instant messenger service in June 2006, the database for which was apparently stripped of identifying information.
That analysis yielded 180 billion pairs of users. Researchers concluded that 78 per cent of the pairs could be connected in seven hops or less, and that the average number of hops from one individual to another was 6.2. ®
Facebook is working with HTC to develop a phone that has a much deeper integration with the social network than any previous “Facebook phone.” That’s according to a report from All Things D, which says the phone is probably 12 to 18 months away from hitting store shelves.
Codenamed “Buffy” after the vampire slayer of the same name, the phone will run a modified version of Google’s Android, but Facebook is reported to be tweaking the system “heavily.” HTC is known for modifying Android on its phones with its HTC Sense interface, and both Amazon and Barnes Noble have created tablets with highly customized versions of the Android, so it’s possible that Facebook is adopting a similar strategy.
Part of the package would be serving up Facebook apps via HTML5 support. This would allow users to play games like Farmville and Poker directly from the Facebook app. While most developers offer their apps as separate downloads from Facebook, that prevents them from tapping into active Facebook users, while cutting Facebook off from potential revenues. Buffy would presumably bridge the gap.
Buffy will be far from the first Facebook phone. Earlier this year INQ Mobile released two phones, the Cloud Touch and Cloud Q that put the service front and center. Then HTC took it a step further with the Status, which came to the U.S. on ATT this summer and featured a prominent dedicated Facebook button. Finally, Facebook released an app designed specifically for the iPad in October.
Apple, however, hasn’t played as nice with Facebook as the service might have liked, however. When Apple unveiled iOS 5, the latest major update to the software on iPhones and iPads, it featured deeper integration with Twitter — letting users share photos directly from the phone’s camera app, for example. An option for sharing to Facebook was noticeably absent.
Both HTC and Facebook told Mashable that they don’t comment on rumor and speculation, though the Facebook spokesperson added, “Our mobile strategy is simple: we think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.”
The collaborative picture Facebook paints is a far cry from the ultra-competitive war among mobile platforms with Google, Apple, Facebook, and others vying for consumers’ hearts and minds. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the rumored phone is the codename. With a name like Buffy, the Facebook phone’s mission is clear: slay all comers.
Lisa Gesik hesitates to log into her Facebook account nowadays because of unwanted “friend” requests, not from long-ago classmates but from the ex-husband now in prison for kidnapping her and her daughter.
Neither Gesik nor prison officials can prove her ex-husband is sending her the messages, which feature photos of him wearing his prison blues and dark sunglasses, arms crossed as he poses in front of a prison gate. It doesn’t matter if he’s sending them or someone else is — the Newport, Ore., woman is afraid and, as the days tick down to his January release, is considering going into hiding with her 12-year-old daughter.
“It’s just being victimized all over again,” she said.
Across the U.S. and beyond, inmates are using social networks and the growing numbers of smartphones smuggled into prisons and jails to harass their victims or accusers and intimidate witnesses. California corrections officials who monitor social networking sites said they have found many instances in which inmates taunted victims or made unwanted sexual advances.
Like Gesik’s case, it’s often difficult for authorities to determine for sure who’s sending the threatening material and the few people caught rarely face serious consequences.
“The ability to have these kinds of contacts is increasing exponentially. In many ways, the law has not caught up with these changing technologies,” said Rob Bovett, an Oregon district attorney whose office prosecuted Gesik’s ex-husband, Michael Gladney.
Timothy Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, said criminals’ use of social networks to reach witnesses has made his job harder.
“We deal every day with witnesses who are afraid of being identified,” he said. “If there are increased instances where folks who are incarcerated can reach outside the walls of the jail, that’s going to make it more difficult for us to get cooperation.”
In a rare victory, Heaphy’s office successfully prosecuted John Conner and Whitney Roberts after they set up a Facebook account that Conner used to intimidate witnesses preparing to testify against him on charges of burning two houses to punish a girlfriend and collect the insurance.
“How the hell can u b a gangsta when u snitchin and lien…,” said a post from the pair that publicly exposed one witness who cooperated with law enforcement, according to federal court records.
The issue has emerged as cell phones have proliferated behind bars. In California, home to the nation’s largest inmate population, the corrections department confiscated 12,625 phones in just 10 months this year. Six years ago, they found just 261. The number of phones confiscated by the federal Bureau of Prisons has doubled since 2008, to 3,684 last year.
Noting the increase, California legislators approved a law bringing up to six months in jail for corrections employees or visitors who smuggle mobile devices into state prisons, while inmates caught with the phones can now lose up to 180 days of early-release credit. But no additional time is added to their sentence, minimizing the deterrence factor.
In the old days, those behind bars would have to enlist a relative or friend to harass or intimidate to get around no-contact orders. Social networks now cut out the middle man.
In Gesik’s case, Gladney used to harass her the old-fashioned way, sending letters and making phone calls through third parties. The Facebook harassment began in June.
Gesik, 44, got prison officials to contact Facebook to remove that account, only to have another message appearing to be from him in September. This time, there was a different spelling of his last name.
“I figure, if he’s done all this from in prison, what’s he’s going to do when he gets out?” Gesik said.
A gap in state law meant that “no contact” orders like the one Gesik obtained against Gladney were deemed not to apply to anyone in custody, said Bovett, the prosecutor. “So they could do these very creative ways of reaching victims through third parties,” he said.
Last June, Oregon legislators approved a law prohibiting inmates from contacting their domestic violence victims from behind bars.
In California, prison officials are working with Facebook to identify inmate accounts and take them down. But that only generally happens only after the damage is done.
Karen Carrisosa, who lives in a Sacramento suburb, was aghast when officials found Facebook postings from Corcoran State Prison inmate Fredrick Garner. Garner is serving a 22-year, involuntary manslaughter sentence for killing her husband, 50-year-old Larry Carrisosa, outside a church 11 years ago.
“My kids, they go on Facebook, I go on Facebook, and what if they decide to look us up?” Carrisosa said.
She was alerted by a Sacramento television station that Garner was posting messages to his mother and others. Garner was punished with a 30-day reduction in his early release credits for possessing a forbidden cell phone and has since been transferred to Salinas Valley State Prison.
Hector Garcia Jr. used a smuggled smart phone hidden in his cell at Kern Valley State Prison to rally support on Facebook for an inmate hunger strike this summer that sought improved living conditions for gang leaders housed in special secure cellblocks.
“Starving for my better future,” he posted, according a July 1 screen grab from the corrections department. “Let’s do this … statewide…”
The discovery rattled Isabel Gutierrez. Garcia murdered one of her sons and wounded another in January 2005. Now Gutierrez fears her own social-networking left her vulnerable.
“I panicked,” she said. “My photos are up of my family and my grandkids. I felt like they can see into my world.”
Guards found Garcia’s phone, punishing him with a 30-day cut in early-release credits and 30 days’ loss of yard, TV and radio privileges.
Attorneys who represented Garcia and Gladney in their previous criminal trials did not return phone calls seeking comment on behalf of their former clients.
Article source: http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9R50LS00.htm
One Twitterer, @HRH_Nombuso, was glad that Twitter was showing its solidarity against the Secrecy Bill: “I love how everyone’s involved with Black Tuesday the Secrecy Bill. Good to know that Twitter’s good for things other than pushing terror.”
Tweeters who supported the cause gave their reasons for doing so.
Said @i_am_jobarrow: “Because this country has worked too hard and come too far to see history repeating itself.”
Twitterer @KhulekaniMag wrote: “For the people living [in] municipalities that are slowly fading into ghost towns because of maladministration…”
Tweeted @Niquifruit: “You’ve gotta love SA. As a nation, we’ve seen too much injustice so we love our freedom and democracy. Don’t mess with it.”
@Brettpentland_s tweeted: “Metaphorically standing together against the POIB on Black Tuesday! This bill cannot be passed by a government strife with corruption!!!”
Some chose to quote the words of others, such as @Selina_dF, who tweeted: “‘To limit the press is to insult a nation’ – Claude-Adrien Helvétius.”
Nelson Mandela was quoted by @hfourie146: “‘A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy’”, while Albert Camus’ words were quoted by @JackHammerEH: “‘A free press can be good or bad, but without freedom the press will never be anything but bad’”.
Even an animated spoof was quoted, with @Julienfievez tweeting: “As they say in Team America, ‘Freedom isn’t free. Freedom costs a buck-o-five and if you don’t chip in, who will?’”
Tweeters opposed to the implementation of the Protection of Information Bill made were out in full force.
Tweeted @RobPrice58: “ANC masking its institutionalisation of oppression of the public as protection of the public.”
Another user, @khanyaMbali, agreed that the issue affected people beyond the media: “The POIB doesn’t only affect journalists and whistle blowers, but affects all citizens of South Africa. Don’t be ignorant.”
Also in a similar vein, @JennieGreenhill said: “I am sure we voted for a government for the people and NOT a government for the government.”
The threat to media freedom bothered @ScribalGoddess, who tweeted: “Dark day for South Africa: There can be no freedom if the media is not free.”
@Nee_poh was rather harsh, tweeting: “If the POIB is passed, I’m taking my flag and putting it in the bin: don’t dare call me South African again.”
Tweeter @KopanoMashishi had some words for the ruling party: “Dear ANC, I don’t like a lot of SA media’s tjatjarag tendencies either. But we need a less biased media, not a censored one.”
Tweeted @AbsaJabza: “The government is corrupt and that is of public interest.”
@SwaGummy summed it up as such: “I hear the bill is being renamed the Protection of Corruption, Incompetence, and Other Embarrassing Acts bill.”