The porn industry is known for driving innovation online. After the live-streamed trial on pornography charges of four Chinese Internet executives went viral over the weekend, it’s now driving an unusually vigorous debate in China over how the Internet should be managed.
“We believe there’s nothing shameful about technology.”
— Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology
At the center of the debate is Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology Co. Ltd., which is best known for running the widely used online video player called Kuaibo. Mr. Wang spirited self-defense in the face of allegations he helped disseminate thousands of sex videos has turned him into something of a Chinese Larry Flynt.
Similar to the Hustler publisher, who famously used his pornographic publishing empire to test the legal bounds of free speech in the U.S., Mr. Wang used the popularity of his company’s video platform to try to turn the tables on China’s Internet censorship regime.
Prosecutors alleged in the two-day trial in Beijing late last week that Qvod executives knew their video platform, Kuaibo, was a popular tool for watching porn and did nothing to stop it. They said porn videos, which are illegal in China, made up 70% of the 30,000 files police had pulled from servers connected to Kuaibo. Mr. Wang’s argument, delivered in a spirited and well-prepared defense that drew applause online: The company was responsible for producing the platform, not policing what people did with it.
Efforts by governments to hold the creators of online platforms responsible for the content their users post are hardly new. In early days of the Internet, U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo and America Online faced a slew of lawsuits — and a piece of legislation known as the Communications Decency Act — that attempted to hold them legally liable for hosting vulgar, misleading or illegal content. Generally, those efforts ended in failure.
In China, the outsourcing of censorship to the websites themselves is a central part of authorities’ strategy in trying to keep tight control over 650 million Internet users and the hundreds of news, video and social media sites they visit. Some technology companies consider the requirement a costly measure that stifles innovation.
Beijing has also increasingly tried to use criminal courts to regulate behavior online and quash rumors and criticisms of the government while also cracking down on porn and other illicit content. Read the rest of this entry »
Inside Job: ‘Hate Crime’ Narrative Interrupted; Man Charged with Setting Houston Mosque Afire Turns Out To Be a Devout AttendeePosted: December 30, 2015
Carol Christian and Leah Binkovitz report: A Houston man has been arrested in connection with a suspected arson at a mosque on Christmas Day, but the motive for the crime remains a mystery, with the suspect maintaining he was a regular at the mosque.
“Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times.”
A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives confirmed that the suspect, 37-year-old Gary Nathaniel Moore of Houston, was arrested early Wednesday. Moore appeared in court at 7 a.m., spokeswoman Nicole Strong said, and bond was set at $100,000.
According to a charging instrument released by the Harris County District Clerk, Moore told investigators at the scene that he has attended the storefront mosque for five years, coming five times per day to pray seven days per week.
“Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records.”
Moore said he had been at the mosque earlier on Dec. 25 to pray, and had left at about 2 p.m. to go home, according to authorities and court papers. Moore said he was the last person to leave the mosque and saw no smoke or other signs of fire when he departed, authorities said. He maintained he had returned to the scene after hearing about the fire from a friend.
“A search warrant of his home was conducted, and investigators recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.”
MJ Khan, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, which operates the mosque, said he was unfamiliar with Moore. “We are just looking into it ourselves,” he said Wednesday morning after learning of the arrest.
“We are really very surprised and saddened by this whole thing,” said Khan.
Using surveillance video from multiple businesses nearby, investigators were able to identify Moore, according to records. A search warrant of his home was conducted, and investigators recovered a backpack and clothing similar to that which was seen in surveillance footage, as well as half of a two-pack of charcoal lighter-fluid bottles that seemed to match another lighter fluid bottle found inside the mosque.
A team of 30 investigators worked around the clock investigating the cause of the fire, which was found to have multiple points of origin. Moore was even interviewed by investigators at the mosque the day of the fire. He had attended services there earlier that day, according to Ruben Hernandez, chief arson investigator with the city’s fire department. Read the rest of this entry »
FBI Director James Comey appeared to refute a report that said that Tashfeen Malik had pledged her support for Islamic jihad on Facebook messages and saying she hoped to join the fight one day.
At a press conference in New York on Wednesday, FBI Director James Comey said that no evidence had been found to indicate that the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on December 2 were members of a terrorist cell or had any contact with overseas militant groups. Most notably, he said that Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his 29-year-old wife, Tashfeen Malik, had expressed support for “jihad and martyrdom” in private communications but never did so on social media.
“We have found no evidence of a posting on social media by either of them at that period of time or thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom. I’ve seen some reporting on that. That’s a garble. Alright?”
The statement appeared to contradict a report that appeared in the Los Angeles Times citing two unnamed federal law enforcement officials who said that Malik “sent at least two private messages on Facebook to a small group of Pakistani friends in 2012 and 2014, pledging her support for Islamic jihad and saying she hoped to join the fight one day.” The messages were reportedly written in Urudu, a common language in Pakistan. One of the officials was quoted as saying the messages were “her private communications.”
“The investigation continues, but we have not found that kind of thing. These communications are private, direct messages, not social media messages.”
— FBI Director James Comey
“We have found no evidence of a posting on social media by either of them at that period of time or thereafter reflecting their commitment to jihad or to martyrdom,” Comey said. “I’ve seen some reporting on that. That’s a garble. Alright? The investigation continues, but we have not found that kind of thing. These communications are private, direct messages, not social media messages.”
It remains unclear whether Malik had declared loyalty to the Islamic State on Facebook on the morning that she and Farook killed 14 people who were attending an employee holiday party at a state-run facility for individuals with developmental disabilities.
A report first appeared on CNN and later circulated elsewhere citing unnamed US officials who said that Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State using a Facebook account that was registered under a different name. The sources did not say how they knew for certain that Malik made the post. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been around for decades, but virtual reality has been anything but real for most people. That’s about to change as a slew of new virtual-reality technologies get set to tempt your wallet. Some of them are even available in time for this year’s holidays.
This is Scientific American’s 60-Second Science. I’m Larry Greenemeier. Got a minute? Virtual reality started off as a way for scientists to visualize their research. Ken Perlin, a computer science professor and pioneer in the field of virtual reality, explains:
[Ken Perlin:] The first people who seriously developed virtual reality were Ivan Sutherland and his student Bob Sproull back in 1968. They built a very large device, which they nicknamed the “Sword of Damocles” because it was a very large contraption that hung over your head and carried the headset with it as it moved around on a giant boom arm.”
New gadgets expected to launch in 2016 will be a bit more sophisticated.
[Perlin:] “The major commercial releases of virtual reality that will appear in the first half of 2016 track your head, and they track your two hands.
[Perlin:] “In order to have a full social experience with other people of being in a world together, you also need to know where your feet are. Once you know your head and your hands and your feet, then you can build a computer graphic representation of everybody.”
This version promises to address a major problem the technology faced in the past.
[Perlin:] “Motion sickness was a problem when the delay between my head movement and the graphics that I saw exceeded a certain threshold, generally about a 10th of a second. Modern technologies that make use of these inertial trackers in the headsets have pretty much gotten rid of that.”
Virtual reality will first invade our homes offices and classroomsthrough games and educational tools. But Perlin thinks the technology will become much more than that over time. Read the rest of this entry »
‘I will have to shoot you before election day’
Alex Pappas reports: The co-chairman of the Colorado Springs American Civil Liberties has resigned after being criticized for a Facebook post that said to supporters of Donald Trump: “If you are voting for him, I will have to shoot you before election day.”
“The ACLU of Colorado does not condone the recent personal Facebook post of regional volunteer Loring Wirbel.”
The Daily Caller drew attention to the posts on Loring Wirbel’s Facebook account this week.
— ACLU of Colorado (@ACLUofColorado) December 11, 2015
The ACLU of Colorado tweeted Friday that it “has accepted Loring Wirbel’s resignation as chapter representative to our state board.”
“The ACLU of Colorado does not condone the recent personal Facebook post of regional volunteer Loring Wirbel,” the group said. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Yet another example of such activists faking racist incidents.’
Richard Lewis reports: On Nov 17 Kean University students engaged in a rally to raise awareness for racial issues. The rally was entirely peaceful and was without incident until the group was informed of some threatening messages aimed at them via Twitter.
These messages included threats to shoot black students and a bomb scare. With an air of panic rising, things had the potential to turn hostile, and the police were notified. The twist? Their resulting investigation found that it was one of the activists who reportedly issued the threats.
24-year old Kayla-Simone McKelvey allegedly left the protest to use a work station in the campus library to create the Twitter account that issued the threats. Following that she returned to the group and notified the group about them. McKelvey will now face one charge of creating a public alarm with the case scheduled to start in two weeks.
In light of the revelation, Kean University issued the following public statement:
As a diverse academic community, we wholeheartedly respect and support activism, however, no cause or issue gives anyone the right to threaten the safety of others. We hope this information will begin to bring a sense of relief and security to the campus community.
This is yet another example of such activists faking racist incidents in a bid to generate sympathy and further their agenda. Read the rest of this entry »
Cuckoo Bananas ‘Star Wars’ Fans Issue Death Threats to National Review Writer and Fox News Contributor Katherine TimpfPosted: November 25, 2015
Death Threats for Mocking ‘Star Wars‘
“A lot of people are clearly a lot of upset. But guess what? I’m not apologizing. Why? Because the all-too-common knee-jerk reaction of apologizing for harmless jokes after overblown hysteria is ruining our culture. This political-correctness obsession threatens free speech, and I absolutely refuse to be a part of it.”
Andrea Towers reports: Not everyone is excited about seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens in theaters this holiday season.
Nice that he at least gives an exact time! pic.twitter.com/K8DlC0C42R
— Katherine Timpf (@KatTimpf) November 25, 2015
I told a joke on a satire show at 3am a month ago so yes I actually am surprised I’m being threatened with murder https://t.co/4UWyUCQl3K
— Katherine Timpf (@KatTimpf) November 25, 2015
Last month, Fox News contributor Katherine Timpf jokingly insulted fans who were excited for the newest trailer during a guest stint on the late-night political comedy show Red Eye w/ Tom Shillue. Now, Timpf has revealed she’s recieving death threats for her comments.
“You people are crazy. You Star Wars people are crazy. Yesterday I tweeted something, and all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars…You’re not really branding yourself in a way that makes me want to join your life-threatening club.”
“I have never had any interest in watching space nerds poke each other with their little space nerd sticks, and I’m not going to start now,” Timpf shared on the original broadcast. “You people are crazy. You Star Wars people are crazy…”
- Video of Star Wars fan bashing National Review’s Kat Timpf goes viral
- Katherine Timpf: No Apology for Star Wars Joke
- Fox News commentator receives death threats for Star Wars joke
- Fox News Contributor Gets Death Threats For Mocking ‘Star Wars’ Fans
- ‘Go get ’em’! NRO’s Kat Timpf is ‘NOT SORRY’ for pissing off ‘totally insane’ Star Wars fans
- Fox News Contributor Gets Death Threats After ‘Star Wars’ Joke
“…Yesterday I tweeted something, and all I said was that I wasn’t familiar with Star Wars because I’ve been too busy liking cool things and being attractive — people threatened my life. You’re not really branding yourself in a way that makes me want to join your life-threatening club.”
— Pundit Planet (@punditfap) November 25, 2015
With the South China Morning Post, Jack Ma’s personal politics will move into a global spotlight, for anyone to see and read in English.
Josh Horowitz writes: After lengthy negotiations, Alibaba founder Jack Ma may be close to an investmentin the publisher of the South China Morning Post, according to reports in Bloomberg, the New York Times, and Caixin.
Neither party has commented publicly about a deal, and it is unclear whether Ma would buy all or some of the SCMP Group. He already has a media empire that rivals Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and has invested in two US-based social media apps—Tango and Snapchat. But the maybe-pending SCMP bid has already attracted nearly as much attention as any of those done deals.
That’s because with the SCMP, Ma’s personal politics will move into a global spotlight, for anyone to see and read in English.
The SCMP was once the English-language paper of record for reporting on China. Founded in 1903 as the “printing house for the Chinese revolution,” it covered far more than just Hong Kong. Throughout the fifties and sixties, it was often the first source for information about the famines and political clashes of the Mao era. After the country opened up, its multi-national staff would regularly break stories about political scandals and human rights abuses on the mainland, even after Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997.
Its reporting was rewarded financially. In 1997 it earned HK$805 million (over $200 million) in net profits, about $420 in profit per-reader. Read the rest of this entry »
The right to privacy is usurping the public right to know in Asia’s financial hub.
Financial hubs depend on the free flow of information, and nowhere more so than in Hong Kong, gateway to the opaque China market. So a recent case in which an appeals board upheld the censorship of a court judgment to protect the supposed privacy rights of the litigants sets a bad precedent. The territory is following Europe’s lead toward extreme privacy protection at the expense of access to information.
“The right to be forgotten affects more than media freedom. It prevents investors and entrepreneurs from conducting due diligence and managing business risks, and helps people hide from public scrutiny. That may be good for the reputations of the rich and powerful, but it will hurt Hong Kong’s reputation for transparency.”
Luciana Wong Wai-lan, who now serves on several government advisory panels, participated in a matrimonial case in the early 2000s. In 2010 Ms. Wong requested that the court remove the judgments from its online reference system. The court made them anonymous, but hyperlinks to the judgments placed on the website of local shareholder activist David Webb still revealed her name.
Ms. Wong wrote to Hong Kong’s privacy commissioner for personal data in 2013, and the commissioner ordered Mr. Webb to remove the links pursuant to Data Protection Principle 3 (DPP3) of the Personal Data Privacy Ordinance. Read the rest of this entry »
[PHOTOS] French Artist Miguel Chevalier’s Projection Mapping Fills Cambridge’s 16th-Century King’s College Chapel with StarsPosted: November 17, 2015
Attendees to a recent fundraising event inside University of Cambridge’s 16th-century chapel were treated to a spectacular display far above. The Gothic arches of King’s College Chapel were transformed into a canvas for mesmerizing views of stars, foliage, psychedelic clouds and university crests. The work was created by French projection artist Miguel Chevalier.
The visuals were generated in real-time, contributing to the theme of each speaker. During a presentation on black holes by Stephen Hawking, the room was transformed into a vision of deep space. Other topics touched on subjects ranging from health, to Africa, biology and physics.
Michael Barone writes: “‘Shut up,’ he explained.” Those words are from Ring Lardner‘s short story “The Young Immigrunts.” They’re an exasperated father’s response from the driver’s seat to his child’s question, “‘Are you lost, Daddy?’ I asked tenderly.”
They also can be taken as the emblematic response of today’s liberals to anyone questioning their certitudes. A response that at least sometimes represents the uneasy apprehension of the father in the story that they have no good answer.
“We are told that speech codes are necessary because some students may be offended by what others say. In recent years we have been warned that seemingly innocuous phrases may be ‘microaggressions’ that must be stamped out and that “trigger warnings” should be administered to warn students of possibly upsetting material.”
It was not always so. Today’s liberals, like those of Lardner’s day, pride themselves on their critical minds, their openness to new and unfamiliar ideas, their tolerance of diversity and differences. But often that characterization seems as defunct as Lardner, who died at an unhappily early age in 1935.
“Beyond the campus, liberals are also eager to restrict free speech. This is apparent in some responses to those who argue that global warming may not be as inevitable and harmful as most liberals believe, and that while increased carbon emissions would surely raise temperatures if they were the only factor affecting climate, some other factors just might be involved.”
Consider the proliferation of speech codes at our colleges and universities. The website of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education sets out the speech codes at 400 of the nation’s largest and most prestigious institutions of higher learning. The liberals who run these institutions — you won’t find many non-liberals among their faculties and administrations — have decided to limit their students’ First Amendment right of freedom of speech. Read the rest of this entry »
For the first time ever, a virtual reality recording system will be flown in space. The project, announced by Deep Space Industries (DSI), will use a spherical video capture system to create a virtual reality float-through tour of the International Space Station‘s science lab.
Feeding into the exciting growth of VR systems created by Oculus Rift, Sony, and Samsung, this project, initiated by DSI, is a cooperative effort with Thrillbox, and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), managers of the ISS U.S.
National Laboratory. This innovative partnership will allow, for the first time, anyone with a VR headset to have a fully immersive astronaut experience aboard the International Space Station. Additionally, CASIS will use the spherical video to familiarize potential researchers with the scientific facilities on the ISS National Lab.
“The space station is packed with equipment, literally in every direction. Gear is built into the walls, embedded in the floor, and tucked into the ceiling,” said
David Gump, DSI Vice-Chair. “The spherical video captured during a float through will enable people to look everywhere, as they would if they were up in the station themselves.”
Deep Space Industries began the project as an early step in developing VR systems to be used for exploring and mining asteroids, and brought in Thrillbox to focus on distributing the captured images to the greatest number of people.
The partnership between Thrillbox and DSI provides the right combination of expertise in space operations and virtual reality, creating a successful project that provides value for CASIS and offers a unique experience to consumers.
The ISS Floating Tour, in addition to being an amazing experience for high-end devices such as the upcoming retail Oculus Rift and PlayStation headsets, also will be viewable on high-resolution smartphones and tablets.
“As excitement about spherical video spreads to more people, Thrillbox is providing a universal player for web sites and personal computers that delivers a sophisticated way to handle this new format,” said Benjamin Durham, CEO of Thrillbox. “The partnership with DSI will allow us to distribute this unique space experience to consumers around the world.”
A video capture rig with multiple cameras covering a spherical field of view will provide a “you-are-there” experience never before available. In addition to entertaining consumers, this detailed video will be used by CASIS for educating potential researchers and potentially by NASA for familiarizing future ISS crews with the ever-changing internal arrangement of the station’s gear and supplies. Read the rest of this entry »
The mysterious shift in venue took place the week before China’s president, Xi Jinping, is scheduled to make a state visit to Britain, the first by a Chinese leader in a decade.
HONG KONG — Michael Forsythe reports: China’s leaders have long behaved as if nothing could daunt them. But an 800-year-old document written in Latin on sheepskin may have them running scared.
“Magna Carta is widely considered a cornerstone for constitutional government in Britain and the United States, and such a system is inimical to China’s leaders, who view ‘constitutionalism’ as a threat to Communist Party rule.”
Magna Carta — the Great Charter — is on tour this year, celebrating eight centuries since it was issued in 1215 by King John of England. It is regarded as one of the world’s most important documents because of language guaranteeing individual rights and holding the ruler subject to the law.
“They fear that such ideology and historical material will penetrate deep into the students’ hearts.”
— Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident
One of the few surviving 13th-century copies of the document was to go on display this week from Tuesday through Thursday at a museum at Renmin University of China in Beijing, the British Embassy said last week on its WeChat account. But then the exhibit was abruptly moved to the British ambassador’s residence, with few tickets available to the public and no explanation given. (The document is also set to go on display at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou and at a museum in Shanghai, the embassy said.)
It is not clear why the public showing was moved off the Renmin University campus. But Magna Carta is widely considered a cornerstone for constitutional government in Britain and the United States, and such a system is inimical to China’s leaders, who view “constitutionalism” as a threat to Communist Party rule.
In 2013, the party issued its “seven unmentionables” — taboo topics for its members. The first unmentionable is promoting Western-style constitutional democracy. The Chinese characters for “Magna Carta” are censored in web searches on Sina Weibo, the country’s Twitter-like social media site.
Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident, said he was not surprised that the exhibit was moved off the campus. He said that Renmin University had close ties to the Communist Party’s training academy and that the principles the document stood for were contrary to the party’s. More important, he said, Chinese leaders may have been concerned that the exhibit would be popular and that “many students would flock there.” Read the rest of this entry »
The truth? The number of guns in the United States has increased by 62% since 1994 but gun violence has decreased by 49% since 1993.