An anonymous reader links this article describing a newly installed set of rules affecting the already put-upon Internet users of China, specifically affecting users of social network Sina Weibo: "Sina Weibo users each will now receive 80 points to begin with, and this can be boosted to a full 100 points by those who provide their official government-issued identification numbers (like Social Security numbers in the U.S.) and link to a cellphone account. Spreading falsehoods will lead to deductions in points, among other penalties. Spreading an untruth to 100 other users will result in a deduction of two points. Spreading it to 100-1,000 other users will result in a deduction of five points, as well as a week's suspension of the account. Spreading it to more than 1,000 other users will result in a deduction of 10 points, as well as a 15-day suspension of the account." The article explains (in truth, not very helpfully) the extent to which users' freedom to talk freely will be curtailed; the long list of what not to do "includes using 'nonconforming' or false images to mislead," "exaggerating events," "presenting already [resolved] events as ongoing," "efforts to incite ethnic tensions and violence and hurt ethnic unity" and "efforts to spread cultist or superstitious thinking; spreading rumors to disrupt social harmony." (And of course the catch-all: "other activities stipulated by authorities.")
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Hugh Pickens writes "Megan Garber writes that wireless routers have become the lawn signs of the digital age, particularly in large apartment buildings, where almost every unit has a unique Wi-Fi network that will be detected in turn by all the other unique Wi-Fi networks. SSIDs can be a cheeky, geeky way to broadcast messages to your immediate neighbors. Most of us keep it simple with '275_Elm_Street,' 'Apt23,' or 'my_network,' but some get more creative with names like: 'Apt112IHaveYourMail,' 'PrettyFlyForAWiFi,' or 'WeCanHearYouHavingSex' — a great way to freak out your annoying neighbors without hiding in their bushes or peeping in their windows late at night. Now the team at OpenSignalMaps, which maintains a database of geolocated Wi-Fi access points, analyzed the data they've collected about wireless routers to see whether Wi-Fi names are 'being used to fly political colors' and have found, globally, 1,140 results for 'Obama' and an additional six for 'Romney' — an indication not necessarily of Romney's popularity relative to the president's, but of the attention that four years as president can confer. 'There's something uniquely contemporary and incredibly old-school about that kind of broadcasting: It's messaging meant only for your immediate neighbors,' writes Garber. 'The politicized network names are like lawn signs for people who don't have lawns.'"
DillyTonto writes "U.S. officials have acknowledged playing a role in the development and deployment of Stuxnet, Duqu and other cyberweapons against Iran. The acknowledgement makes cyberattacks more legitimate as a tool of not-quite-lethal international diplomacy. It also legitimizes them as more-combative tools for political conflict over social issues, in the same way Tasers gave police less-than-lethal alternatives to shooting suspects and gave those who abuse their power something other than a club to hit a suspect with. Political parties and single-issue political organizations already use 'opposition research' to name-and-shame their opponents with real or exaggerated revelations from a checkered past, jerrymander districts to ensure their candidates a victory and vote-suppression or get-out-the-vote efforts to skew vote tallies. Imagine what they'll do with custom malware, the ability to DDOS an opponent's web site or redirect donations from an opponent's site to their own. Cyberweapons may give nations a way to attack enemies without killing anyone. They'll definitely give domestic political groups a whole new world of dirty tricks to play."
Bob the Super Hamste writes "The BBC is reporting on a new law in Venezuela that effectively bans the commercial sale of firearms and ammunition to private citizens. Previously anyone with a permit could purchase a firearm from any commercial vendor but now only the police, military, and security firms will be able to purchase firearms or ammunition from only state-owned manufactures or importers. Hugo Chavez's government states that the goal is to eventually disarm the citizenry. The law, which went into effect today, was passed on February 29th, and up to this point the government has been running an amnesty program allowing citizens to turn in their illegal firearms. Since the law was first passed, 805,000 rounds of ammunition have been recovered from gun dealers. The measure is intended to curb violent crime in Venezuela, where 78% of homicides are linked to firearms."
Attila Dimedici writes "The House Appropriations Committee is considering a draft report that would forbid the Library of Congress to allow bulk downloads of bills pending before Congress. The Library of Congress currently has an online database called THOMAS (for Thomas Jefferson) that allows people to look up bills pending before Congress. The problem is that THOMAS is somewhat clunky and it is difficult to extract data from it. This draft report would forbid the Library of Congress from modernizing THOMAS until a task force reports back. I am pretty sure that the majority of people on Slashdot agree that being able to better understand how the various bills being considered by Congress interact would be good for this country."
An anonymous reader writes "NYC residents may soon be unable to buy big gulps. In an effort to curb obesity, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg is seeking a ban on oversized sodas in restaurants, movie theaters and stadiums officials said on Wednesday. 'Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the U.S., public health officials are wringing their hands saying, "Oh, this is terrible,"' Mayor Bloomberg said. 'New York City is not about wringing your hands; it's about doing something. I think that's what the public wants the mayor to do.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier today [Thursday, May 31st], three European Parliament committees studying the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) — all voted against implementing ACTA. Michael Geist reports on how the strength of the anti-ACTA movement within the European Parliament is part of a broader backlash against secretive intellectual property agreements that are either incorporated into broad trade agreements or raise critical questions about prioritizing IP enforcement over fundamental rights including votes and reports opposing these deals in the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Mexico."
We mentioned yesterday Jeremy Hansen's run for the Vermont Senate. There are a lot of political races currently active in the U.S.; what makes Hansen's interesting (besides his background in computer science) is his pledge to use modern communication technology to provide a taste of direct representation within a representative democracy. He makes a claim not many candidates (and probably even fewer elected officials) ever will: "A representative should be elected who would work strictly as an advisor and make all policy and voting decisions based on the will of his or her constituents, regardless of personal opinion." To that end, Hansen says that if he's elected, he'll employ "an accessible online voting platform to allow discussion and voting on bills" for his constituents. He's agreed to answer questions about how such a system could work, and the nature of democracy in today's ultra-connected world, in which distance and communication delays are much smaller than they were even 20 years ago, never mind 200. So ask Hansen whatever questions you'd like about his plans and philosophy; as always, ask as many questions as you please, but please separate them into separate posts, lest ye be modded down.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Global Economic Intersection reports on a project to statistically measure political bias on Wikipedia. The team first identified 1,000 political phrases based on the number of times these phrases appeared in the text of the 2005 Congressional Record and applied statistical methods to identify the phrases that separated Democratic representatives from Republican representatives, under the model that each group speaks to its respective constituents with a distinct set of coded language. Then the team identified 111,000 Wikipedia articles that include 'republican' or 'democrat' as keywords, and analyzed them to determine whether a given Wikipedia article used phrases favored more by Republican members or by Democratic members of Congress. The results may surprise you. 'The average old political article in Wikipedia leans Democratic' but gradually, Wikipedia's articles have lost the disproportionate use of Democratic phrases and moved to nearly equivalent use of words from both parties (PDF), akin to an NPOV [neutral point of view] on average. Interestingly, some articles have the expected political slant (civil rights tends Democrat; trade tends Republican), but at the same time many seemingly controversial topics, such as foreign policy, war and peace, and abortion have no net slant. 'Most articles arrive with a slant, and most articles change only mildly from their initial slant. The overall slant changes due to the entry of articles with opposite slants, leading toward neutrality for many topics, not necessarily within specific articles.'"
New submitter nicoles writes with this quote from an AP report: "The Romney and Obama campaigns are spending heavily on television ads and other traditional tools to convey their messages. But strategists say the most important breakthrough this year is the campaigns' use of online data to raise money, share information and persuade supporters to vote. The practice, known as 'microtargeting,' has been a staple of product marketing. Now it's facing the greatest test of its political impact in the race for the White House. ... The Romney team spent nearly $1 million on digital consulting in April and Obama at least $300,000. ... Campaigns use microtargeting to identify potential supporters or donors using data gleaned from a range of sources, especially their Internet browsing history. A digital profile of each person is then created, allowing the campaigns to find them online and solicit them for money and support."
Cynic writes "Having read pretty heavily on the topic, weighed the pros and cons, and seen a few relevant slashdot articles, I wondered why an elected representative couldn't use online and in-person polling of constituents to decide the way he or she votes. Though we are living in the 'information age' and have rich communications media and opportunities for deep and accessible deliberation, we are getting by (poorly) with horse-and-buggy-era representation. In the spirit of science and because I think it's legitimately a better way of doing things, I recently announced my candidacy for Vermont's State Senate in Washington County." How do you think such polling could be best accomplished? Do you think it's worth trying? Whether or not you buy into it, it's something that's only been made feasible in recent times with modern technology.
New submitter gmfeier writes "An interesting study reported in Nature Climate Change indicates that concern over climate change did not correlate with scientific literacy nearly as much as with cultural polarization. Quoting: 'For ordinary citizens, the reward for acquiring greater scientific knowledge and more reliable technical-reasoning capacities is a greater facility to discover and use—or explain away—evidence relating to their groups’ positions. Even if cultural cognition serves the personal interests of individuals, this form of reasoning can have a highly negative impact on collective decision making. What guides individual risk perception, on this account, is not the truth of those beliefs but rather their congruence with individuals’ cultural commitments. As a result, if beliefs about a societal risk such as climate change come to bear meanings congenial to some cultural outlooks but hostile to others, individuals motivated to adopt culturally congruent risk perceptions will fail to converge, or at least fail to converge as rapidly as they should, on scientific information essential to their common interests in health and prosperity. Although it is effectively costless for any individual to form a perception of climate-change risk that is wrong but culturally congenial, it is very harmful to collective welfare for individuals in aggregate to form beliefs this way.'"
New submitter Peetke writes "The Dutch House of Representatives unanimously accepted a motion to urge the Cabinet to reject ACTA [Dutch original] (if they ever get the change to do so; it may already end in the European Parliament). Additionally, an even stronger motion was accepted to reject any future treaty that may harm a free and open Internet. This is a good day for the Internet."
scibri writes, quoting Nature: "A loose coalition of eco-anarchist groups is increasingly launching violent attacks on scientists. A group calling itself the Olga Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation International Revolutionary Front has claimed responsibility for the non-fatal shooting of a nuclear-engineering executive on 7 May in Genoa. The same group sent a letter bomb to a Swiss pro-nuclear lobby group in 2011; attempted to bomb IBM's nanotechnology laboratory in Switzerland in 2010; and has ties with a group responsible for at least four bomb attacks on nanotechnology facilities in Mexico. Another branch of the group attacked railway signals in Bristol, UK, last week in an attempt to disrupt employees of nearby defense technology firms (no word on whether anyone noticed the difference between an anarchist attack and a normal Wednesday on the UK's railways). A report by Swiss intelligence says such loosely affiliated groups are increasingly working together."
New submitter wirelessduck writes "After some recent complaints from a Labor MP about price markups on software and technology devices in Australia, Federal Government agencies decided to look in to the matter and an official parliamentary inquiry into the issue was started. 'The Federal Parliament's inquiry into local price markups on technology goods and services has gotten under way, with the committee overseeing the initiative issuing its terms of reference and calling for submissions from the general public on the issue.'"