Sunday, May 3, 2015

Aaron Swartz's Suicide Brings to Light a Troubling Issue with Our Internet Law

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Aaron Swartz Faced Fifty Years in Jail for Stealing Academic Journals

Swartz, perhaps best described as an advocate of online activism, was prosecuted based on multiple felonies, two of which involved violating US Code 1030, also known as the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA). During his fellowship at Harvard, Swartz used his computer to hack the academic journal service JSTOR and illegally download over two million articles with the intent to share these journals on multiple filesharing websites. Swartz's case gained widespread attention because of the nature of his crime; he faced as much time as some murderers for stealing non-harmful, intellectual property 
Wikipedia protests SOPA by hosting a "blackout" on January 18, 2012
that he knowingly could not have possibly sold for personal gain. 
His motive, instead, was to 
share academic information with those who did not have the 
opportunity to access such articles by attending a college or university. Swartz was an Internet activist, a term that has 
come to define someone who uses the world wide web to connect and share information with people in pursuit of free speech, human rights, and the freedom of knowledge. He was openly opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a highly controversial bill with the intent of prosecuting copyright infringement on the web by restricting access to piracy websites, punishing illegal streaming by up to five years in prison, and other overzealous methods. This was seen by many, including large corporations like Google and Wikipedia, as infringing on inherent rights that users of the web deserve, and its defeat in late 2012 was considered a huge step in protecting the democratization of the 21st century brought forth by the rapid growth of the social internet. The freedom of information and ideas by people across all walks of life that the internet is helping foster is seen by many as one of the largest global triumphs currently happening. Aaron Swartz's crimes were in further pursuit of the freedom of information, and it troubled the vast majority of the public that he faced such harsh punishment for it. His suicide five days after his arraignment was harrowing, and many people were angry at the power that the United States' government had tried to wield against him and therefore the sanctity of online freedom. 

The CFAA Was Created a Hundred Years Ago in "Internet Years"

A key element of Swartz's prosecution, the law under which they attempted to try him, goes all the way back to 1986. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was enacted as a revision of a previous bill, introduced two years prior, that was considered "a shot in the dark" by one academic on the subject. The reason for this was down to the fact that there was very little computer usage and very few known incidents of hacking at the time to conduct adequate research on the crime it was attempting to prevent. In 1986, the CFAA came into place with more specific laws than sentencing up to twenty years for "knowingly accessing a computer without authorization." To put it plainly, using a computer to access things that you shouldn't or obstructing its proper usage was punishable by prison. The narrative of "shot in the dark" had kept up with the law; to give
an impression of just how vast the growth of the personal computer and internet was and how the CFAA struggled to keep up with evolving computer crimes, it was amended eight times in the following 22 years, five times from 1988 to 1996. As of now, the CFAA is pretty exhaustive and defines well many different types of computers and computer crimes. The current draft of the bill identifies seven types of activity that range from trespassing on Government computers and obtaining national security information to trafficking in passwords and damaging computers by hacking. When people think of the most nefarious computer crimes that can occur in today's society,
The number of CFAA civil and criminal cases
has increased dramatically. Source: CNET
for example, hacking bank records to obtain personal and financial information or exposing national security details, they are reminded of why the CFAA exists. 
In the modern world, almost all information and data is stored on a computer and with this transition brings many new risks that makes the CFAA arguably more important than ever in its twenty year lifespan. This fact is supported by the dramatic increase in civil and criminal cases involving the law in recent years. But the CFAA was the very law that prosecutors were under when trying Aaron Swartz, and its shortcomings and need for reform are now more present to the public than ever in light of what happened. 

Not All Hackers Are the Same

The prosecution and untimely death of Aaron Swartz got national attention and introduced many people to the conundrum that is ethical hacking versus hacking, a dilemma that the CFAA does not attempt to solve. To just about everyone in the public, Aaron was one of the "good guys". He was an activist and fought for the people in the conflict of internet piracy and freedom of information. He fit the description of an ethical hacker with his crimes, and although he was undoubtedly guilty of violating important clauses within the CFAA, after his death the prosecution admitted that Swartz "merely" committed "civil disobedience." It has become clear to the public that the prosecution of hackers should rely heavily on the motive in order to determine the proper course of due process, analogous to how the charge of murder is sub-divided into degrees, manslaughter, and self-defense. But the shortcoming of the CFAA is that it does not have such a clause within its body. Cyber-terrorists, identity thieves, and ethical hackers such as Swartz are all blanketed under the CFAA without differentiation, leaving the prosecution to pursue disproportionate prison time at will in order to pressure defendants into a plea deal (Swartz rejected a plea deal offered to him by prosecutors). 

From a psychological standpoint, placing the blame for Aaron's tragic suicide squarely on the shoulders of the United States Government is irresponsible and misleading. It is, however, clear that the overzealous prosecution which used the incompleteness of the CFAA to intimidate Swartz left him with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness in the days leading up to his last one. To any civilized person, facing fifty years in prison will impose such dread. Aaron left a legacy in the form of Aaron's Law, a bi-partisan bill, affectionately nicknamed after Swartz, which attempts to patch up the holes in the CFAA that ultimately drove Aaron to take his own life. Just as computerized society needs the CFAA to protect it, pursuers of freedom of information need Aaron's Law as complement. 

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Adult Online Instagram users


This chart is based off of data calculated from adults across the U.S who use the online application Instagram. 26% percent of adult internet users use the platform. The highest percent of Instagram users are Black, calculated at 38%. While most of the users are in college, calculated at 31%. Most of the adult Instagram users are within the age range of 18-29, while the least amount of users are within the age group of 50 and higher.

America's report that most find their News from Television

study done by the the American Press Institute is visualized to show what form of technology American's use to find the news. They utilized 1,492 Americans to conduct this study to find out where they were going to find the news, using what medium, and how often they checked the news.

This study was conducted from January to February 2014 citing that this information is current by using a random digit dialing program that uses all 50 states. The findings were that around 87% of the participants in this study use their television to find there news sources with computers and radio coming directly after at 69% and 65. This study also found that 45% of American's are indifferent with what technology they use for their media consumption and use whatever device is closest or in the immediate area to find their news. Suggesting that many American's utilize many sources rather than just one over another to maintain accuracy of the news they hear.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Study shows that most adult users on Instagram have an Education Level at 'Some College'

A 2014 study done by the Pew Research Center shows several statistics of not only users on Instagram, but also Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. The study done in 2014 showed several categories for Instagram users ranging far and wide. The statistics chosen to graph was the level of education in the adult users of Instagram. They divided the adults into three categories, 'college education and up', 'some college', and 'high school graduate or less'. The education level of 'some college' had the most users at 40 percent, followed by 'college education level and up' at 31 percent, and with the least amount of users at 'high school graduate or less' at 29 percent. Seeing that the category with the most users on Instagram was 'some college', it can be concluded that the majority of adult Instagram users are currently in college, or have some college education.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Business Insider Shows That More Money Means Less Facebook

 Percentage of Facebook Users by Income
 Business Insider  found that as users make more money, the amount of time they spend on social networks continues to decrease. On average, 76% percent of people who make less than $50,000 a year are on Facebook, while 68% of those with salaries in between $50,000 and $74, 000 are on Facebook. After a $75,000 salary, the percentage of users with that salary only slightly increases by 1% at 69%. I can guess from this graph that when people make more money, they spend a little more with their work instead of being distracted by other factors such as social media. 

Study Indicated that older social media teenage users(age 14-17) share their personal information more frequently.

A study conducted by Pew research center suggested that older teenage social media users(14-17 years old), Fackbook users in this case, are sharing their personal information more frequently than younger teenage users. As the chart shows above,94% older teenagers would post a picture of themselves on their profiles, compare to 82% younger teenagers would do so. Moreover,76% Older teenager Facebook users would share their school name, while only 56% younger teens share such information. Similar trend appears on sharing their relationship status and their cell phone numbers. In short, teenagers are more open to share personal private information than younger teenagers. During the research, 802 teens took an online survey which examine their privacy management on social media sites.


From 2008 to 2015, Music remains the number one Category for most uploaded videos on Video sharing website, Youtube




A 2008 study by Xu Chang, Cameron Dale and JiangChuan Liu examined the most popular categories on Video Sharing website, YouTube. The were 14 categories analyzed which included Unavailable and Removed videos. Unavailable representing videos which are private and Removed representing videos deleted by the uploader or Youtube moderator. The study showed that on YouTube, there are about 77 Million video uploads. Out of the 77 Million uploads, 23% of those uploads were of music. Second most uploaded videos were in the Entertainment category and third was Comedy. Although the study was done about 7 years ago, YouTube's number one category still today is music videos

Study From September 2014 Suggests that the Highest Percentage of Online American Adult Users Use Facebook the Most Compared to Other Social Networking Websites



This study illustrates the % of online adult users that use each social media website respectively. As shown above, Facebook is the most popular website used by online adults. This graph also shows that other social media websites, such as Twitter, Instragram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, do not compare to the percentage of adults who use Facebook. Since my final project is on the effects “fake profiles” have on individuals and how prevalent they are quickly appearing in our society, this chart is extremely useful to me as I can look more into research as to why Facebook is the most popular and how many “fake profiles” currently exist on Facebook today. This chart also helped create an accurate visualization on how popular Facebook truly is compared to other social networking websites. 

Study Suggests the Use of Social Networking Sites on Mobile Devices Decreases with Age


A 2014 study researched the use of social networking sites across different types of demographics. The results I focused on were related to social networking site usage compared to age. The results of this research suggests that younger people (from ages 18-29 and ages 30-49) tend to use social networking websites on their mobile devices more than older people. 67% of people in the age 18-29 demographic use a social networking site on their mobile device. The next age group looked at was from ages 30-49. 50% of people in this category use a social networking site on their mobile device. Following this age group, there was a significant drop-off, with only 18% of people from ages 50-64 and 5% of people from ages 65+ using a social networking site on their mobile device.

Study Suggests the Percentage of Cochlear Implants Addressed on Television Shows Featuring Deaf Characters Has Increased Over the Past Four Decades


A 2014 study examined representations of deafness in entertainment television throughout that last four decades. The study aimed to conclude whether the representations of deafness and Deaf culture on television has changed over the last 26 years. In order to find deaf-featured television shows, the word "deaf" was entered into DirectTV's search every two weeks for three years, and then these programs where analyzed. The data table that was presented stated the name of the program, the year it ran, the first episode on record with a deaf character, the number of episodes with the deaf character, the genre of the show, the type of character the deaf person played, whether the deaf person presented ASL in the show, whether the deaf person read lips, whether a cochlear implant was addressed, the name of the deaf actor, and the storyline. Because there was such an overwhelming amount of data, I decided to graph (by decade) the percentage of all deaf-featured shows measured in this study that addressed Cochlear Implants. I found based on the visual graphic that, over time, a higher percentage of Cochlear Implants have been addressed in deaf-featured television shows.

Students Still Prefer Handwriting Notes Over Typing Notes Even After it is Proven that Typing Notes Helps Retain Information Better Over Hand Writing Them



A study conducted by Ian Schoen consisted of college students either reading a section of a textbook or listen to a filmed lecture. Both groups were randomly assigned to take either handwritten notes or typing them while completing these activities. Afterwards, they took a retention test to see which style of note taking provided the most retention. Typing notes yielded higher retention rates. However, participants completed a questionnaire after the study and 68% of the participant said they still prefer to hand write notes compared to only 17% who said they would rather type them up. 15% preferred to do an equal mix of both.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Teens are choosing to engage in social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram over other platforms like Twitter and Vine

study done by Pew Research Center in 2015 has found that teens (aged 13-17) engage in multiple platforms of social media, with Facebook usage as the highest percentage at 71 percent.  Instagram, at 52%, is a close second, with Snapchat in third place at 41 percent of teen usage.  Twitter and Vine come in at both 33 percent and 24 percent of teen usage respectively.  This research was conducted through surveys done online. Older teens (aged 15-17) said Facebook was the platform they visit most often, while younger teens (aged 13-14) said Instagram was the platform they visited most often.  Instagram usage has risen, compared to 2012 data, that showed teen usage at 11 percent, while Facebook usage has remained pretty steady at the top of the chart.      

Since the Start of 2010, Mobile Device Usage Has Been Increasing Significantly in Comparison to the Use of Other Digital Devices


          A study done by eMarketer found that mobile devices, such as tablets and phones, have been steadily becoming more popular in the past few years. From 2010 to 2013, the percent of time using digital media spent on mobiles devices has increased by about 10% each year on average, changing from 12.6% to 44.6%. This is in comparison to desktops, laptops, and other mobile devices. This increase suggests that mobile formats of websites and applications will become very important over the course of the next decade. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The market for social media marketing continues to grow as world Internet usage climbs over 40% in 2014




In 2014, the global rate of Internet usage rose to over 40% for the first time. Now, over 2.9 billion people are online every year. This means that social media marketing can reach more consumers than ever before. If the growing trend continues, social marketing will become a very powerful tool for marketing professionals. The chart above shows a consistent rate of growth from the early years of the internet in 1995 to present.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A Quote, Featured on the New Maya Angelou Forever Stamp, Unveiled Tuesday, Actually Originated from Joan Walsh Anglund

"A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." This quote, featured on the late author and poet's new forever stamp, is often associated with and attributed to Maya Angelou. It actually belongs to the author Joan Walsh Anglund. It is featured in her 1967 book "A Cup of Sun."
Anglund informed the Washington Post on Monday that the quote was, in fact, hers and that in it's original context it reads "A bird doesn't sing because he has an answer, he sings because he has a song."

This quote is so heavily associated with Maya Angelou that even President Obama, mistakenly, gave her credit for the quote at a 2013 presentation of the National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal.

Although Anglund's quote is well known for being another woman's quote, she does not seem to be too upset about the situation. She mentioned to the Post that she loves "her [Angelou] and all she's done. I think it easily happens sometimes that people hear something, and it's kind of going into your subconscious, and you don't realize it."

CNN provides five quotes that are actually Maya Angelou's original words. These quotes are just as well known as the one by Anglund.

Three Photographs on Social Media's Influence on Major Events


The three pictures above give a glimpse of how the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Twitter are related, and aim to explain the incredible influence that Twitter had in influencing nation-wide action and a national conversation about the shooting. Of the three, the bottom is the most explanatory. The data chart shows how much Twitter activity was occurring on the topic of Michael Brown, timelined with key events that unfolded. This is in juxtaposition to Trayvon Martin's death which was a similar instance in nature, but focusing on the orange Twitter metric we get a good idea of how much Twitter had influenced people to pay attention to the community of Ferguson, and one wants to investigate further how Twitter possibly prompted the President to speak on this issue. It does not, however, imply causation; Twitter could have reached high levels of activity by simply observing the massive protests that took place across the country. The chart cannot conclude of Twitter was cause or effect. The second photograph shows a protest with a sign that incorporates "Black Lives Matter," a popular hashtag used throughout Twitter in the midst of this event (#blacklivesmatter). One cannot tell if the protest is actually in Ferguson from the photo however; and it turns out this took place in Seattle. The final picture has everything that the previous two lack. On the poster, there is a hashtag and two different Twitter handles (indicated by "@" preceding the title), indicating that the in person protest and discussion prompted extends to Twitter, and that Twitter has caused this level of exposure and outrage on the shooting death of Mike Brown. In the background as well, there is a heavily armored Police presence, indicating that this is indeed Ferguson, MO during the protests.




Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jurors Rule That Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" Copied Marvin Gaye's "Got To Give It Up"

On March 10th, 2015, a federal jury announced a guilty verdict in the case between the writers of “Blurred Lines” and the family of Marvin Gaye. Since August 2013, jurors have been attempting to confirm whether or not the writing of “Blurred Lines” is similar enough to Gaye’s “Got To Give It Up” that it warrants a copyright infringement conviction. Lawyers for Thicke and fellow writer Pharrell Williams claimed that the similarities between the two songs were more of an homage to a similar time period as Marvin than an explicit copying of his work. The lawyers for the other side didn’t buy it however, as Gaye family lawyer Richard S. Busch made clear when he stated, “Throughout this case they made comments about how this was…about an era. It wasn’t….It was about copyright infringement.”

Throughout the case, jurors had a plethora of methods to help determine whether the similarities went too far. This included studying the sheet music of both songs, and also included help from music theorists. At one point, Thicke played a medley of “Blurred Lines” mixed with also popular music in an attempt to show how easy it was to portray songs as sounding alike.
In the end, the jury sided with the Gaye family, and the writers of “Blurred Lines” have been ordered to pay over $7.3 million to the Gaye family, with $4 million coming from damages and the rest coming from the profits received from the track, which, according to court documents, earned more than $16 million in profit.


Overall, this case has many implications on the future of the music industry. People may become more wary to bring styles in from the past out of fear that they may be accused of copyright. Whether or not this is a good or bad thing is up to the listeners. But, for now, take a listen to both "Blurred Lines" and "Got To Give It Up", and see how you feel about the issue.

Google Has Received Over 100 Millions Page Takedown Requests from Copyright Owners in 2015

Reports show that, just four months into the 2015 calendar year, Google has received over 100 million requests to have pages removed from their search engine due to copyright infringement violations. Compared to statistics from Google activity in 2014, it took about 30 less days to reach the 100 million request milestone this year. This indicates that the number of page takedown requests has been increasing significantly as websites become easier to create and more difficult for regulatory agencies to monitor. In fact, compared to data from 2011, the number of page takedown requests submitted to Google has jumped from hundreds of requests to over a million requests per day.


To respond to this surge of requests to protect copyrighted material, Google has modified their search algorithm to downrank sites that link to unauthorized copyrighted material. However, with such a large number of requests coming in per day, there has been an increase legitimate sites being mistakenly removed from Google’s search engine. For example, a file hosting site called rapidgator.net had their homepage taken down from Google three separate times, despite the fact that the page did not link to any illegal or copyrighted material. Although mistakes like this are bound to happen with such a large volume of takedown requests, legal websites are demanding that Google have a system in place to quickly restore sites that were taken down in error.

The original article can be found here.

Nintendo creates program to make money off Youtube videos with Nintendo content in them, video creators believe they deserve all available revenue generated by their videos and that Nintendo's program is creatively stifling

An example of a copyright claim on a Youtube video
According to the CBC, Youtube videos from around the world with Nintendo content in them are getting hit with copyright claims from Nintendo, if the creators of the videos chose not to participate in Nintendo's new "Creator's Program." These claims let Nintendo place ads on the claimed videos, and those ads redirect any future money the videos could make for the creator to Nintendo. This program allows Nintendo to split ad revenue with those creators, provided the creators make videos that Nintendo approves of, using content from a list of approved Nintendo titles.

Video creators aren't satisfied with Nintendo's solution. They have three main issues with the program: They believe they have the right to keep all the money they make off of their video-game-related content, that their videos don't infringe on copyright laws, and that Nintendo's program is too much of a hassle to pursue.

Video creators argue that they're doing all video game publishers like Nintendo a service by giving their games more exposure than they would through traditional media. They also say that their videos don't infringe on Nintendo's copyright, instead that their videos fall under Fair Use provisions, meaning their videos are parodies, satires, research, news reports, or reviews. Though there has been no legal basis for these video creators' claims, a copyright lawyer from Toronto believes the video creators might win in court if it came to that. The video creators who did participate in Nintendo's program found that their videos took several weeks to be approved. Many video creators, especially those who make videos full time and love Nintendo's games, are moving to different video hosting websites to avoid what they feel is unwarranted trouble with Nintendo.

Oracle Sues Google for Legal Right to Java Code

A lawsuit is currently pending in the nation’s highest court between two large and powerful software companies. The battle is over Google’s use of the renown Java programming language for the creation of the popular Android operating system. Java, owned by Oracle and protected by copyright law, was allegedly used by Google in the form of 37 packages of pre-written series.

The copyright case’s procedural history has become complex and tumultuous. The conflict began in 2010 when Oracle sought $1 billion in damages from Google. They originally lost their claim, but after Oracle appealed the decision, the appeals court decided to support their legal right to the code. Now, Google has appealed, with other large tech companies such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Yahoo, Inc. on their side.

Google’s central argument is that basic, elementary lines of code should not be exclusive to Oracle—citing that much of the innovation that has occurred in the evolution of software products is owed to open, unrestricted rights to the underlying programming language sequences. Oracle disagrees, asserting the strenuous, prolonged, and expensive effort of the company expended in designing the segments of code, and says Google should have either written its own code or acquired permission to use the code through copyright licensing.

The Supreme Court wants an opinion from the Justice Department on whether it should consider Google’s appeal to the decision from the Northern California District Court.

Given how popular computer programming has become, this decision’s precedent could have consequential effects on how far copyright laws extend to protect certain parts of programming code—which have arguably become almost as customary as phrases in the English language.