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  • Geebo 8:59 am on July 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
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    Backpage now takes gift cards as payment for trafficking ads 

    Backpage now takes gift cards as payment for trafficking ads

    After having the credit card companies cease doing business with them, forcing them to turn to Bitcoin, Backpage has now made it much easier and more anonymous to purchase sex ads.

    According to an article by the Dallas Morning News, Backpage is now accepting gift cards as payment for their ads for prostitution. The same gift cards you can buy from just about any store in the world, from your high-end retail outlets to your local bargain store.

    How it works is you purchase any one of these gift cards, like iTunes or Starbucks or Target, and give the card number to Backpage. Backpage then allegedly turns around and sells the card number for cash. If this sounds familiar, this is the same way craigslist scammers try to get you to pay them. If they’re not asking you to wire them money, they’re asking you to pay them in gift cards. The obvious problem with this is it breaks a chain in the paper trail. If someone pays for a gift card with cash, that’s a virtually anonymous transaction which makes it more difficult to find the victims of sex trafficking.

    So now it’s even more business as usual at Backpage. Just think, some underage girl is probably going to be sold into sexual slavery by someone who bought an iTunes gift card at Dollar General.

    The devaluation of human life continues at Backpage.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , gofundme, Snopes   

    Hoax busting site Snopes facing financial shutdown 

    Hoax busting site Snopes facing financial shutdown

    The scourge of conspiracy theorists and urban legend believers everywhere, Snopes.com is facing a financial crisis that could result in the website shutting down. Snopes was started in 1994 by the married couple of Barbara and David Mikkelson, who created the site in order to have a resource where people could debunk urban legends. Prior to the internet, urban legends would break out in various pockets of the country and would spread like wildfire with nothing to stop them. Some of these tall tales have gone on to ruin the reputations of prominent regional figures. In 2014, the couple divorced with Barbara Mikkelson selling her half of the site to a digital media corporation and that is where Snopes’ current problems seems to have originated.

    Snopes is accusing this digital media company of cutting off its advertising revenue stream in a power struggle for ownership of the site. According to the website SaveSnopes.com

    Although we maintain editorial control (for now), the vendor will not relinquish the site’s hosting to our control, so we cannot modify the site, develop it, or — most crucially — place advertising on it. The vendor continues to insert their own ads and has been withholding the advertising revenue from us.

    Because of this Snopes is going the crowd funding route by trying to raise $500,000 on the fund-raising site GoFundMe. As of this writing, Snopes has raised close to $350,000 toward its goal.

    If Snopes were to close down, it’s almost a guarantee another site could rise from its ashes. However, none of them would have the cache and credibility Snopes does. Losing Snopes would not only embolden conspiracy theorists and partisan ‘news’ sites, it would also be a great loss of a plethora of investigative information that has had a big hand in trying to prevent ignorance on the internet.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on July 24, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Are internet providers gearing up for the end of net neutrality? 

    Are internet providers gearing up for the end of net neutrality?

    Proponents of net neutrality have almost completely resigned themselves to the idea that the FCC will revoke the Title II status that currently regulates internet providers. Title II treats internet service as a utility, like electricity or water. This means internet providers can only provide a stream of internet and can’t throttle internet speeds for different tiers of service. The President Trump-backed FCC has already stated their intention to remove Title II status in the name of ‘over-regulation’. While Title II has not yet been removed, some customers of a wireless internet provider are claiming speeds for certain services are already being throttled.

    Many Verizon customers are claiming in the past week the wireless company has been throttling speeds to video streaming services like YouTube and Netflix. A number of Verizon customers have gone online to complain and to suggest using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) in order to get around the speed ban. Verizon has said they are testing a ‘video optimization system’, however, the optimization test is said to have resulted in lower quality video streams and excessive buffering for video content.

    While Verizon says its optimization test falls well within net neutrality exceptions, what was the test actually designed to gauge? Was it really designed for video optimization, or was it to test customer reaction to a potential slowdown for tiered data plans? Either way, Verizon didn’t appear to pass the test.

     
  • Geebo 9:52 am on July 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Kennmore, , Sears   

    What does Amazon’s deal with Sears mean? 

    What does Amazon's deal with Sears mean?

    Apparently, Amazon wasn’t happy with raining just on Blue Apron’s parade. Yesterday, they rained on a massive parade led by Home Depot and Lowe’s after they signed a new deal with struggling retailer Sears. Amazon will soon be selling Kennmore appliances, Sears’ flagship brand of appliances that still carries some sway in the retail space.

    According to USA Today, this will be a boon to consumers since Sears Home Service will continue to maintain warranties and replacements for the Kennmore appliances. Amazon also says that Kennmore Appliances will have Alexa connectivity capabilities in the near future. It sounds great on the surface. Not only does this give a lift to the troubled Sears, but it’s another appliance option for consumers online.

    However, and you knew there had to be a however, this feels like another domino falling in Amazon’s trek to become the only retailer both online and in brick and mortar space. It feels like another consumer choice is slipping through our fingers. That’s not even mentioning Sears’ bleak outlook for the future. Sears’ has been on virtual life support for some time now. So will Sears Home Services even be around after Sears takes its inevitable final bow? Is Amazon just placating Sears until they can buy the Kennmore brand for pennies on the dollar? Or are they even pondering gobbling up Sears whole in order to compete with Wal-Mart? This all could be a possible indicator of a retail war of epic proportions.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    No, Backpage is not an anti-trafficking tool 

    No, Backpage is not an anti-trafficking tool

    A week after the Washington Post broke the story about how Backpage was allegedly creating and editing ads for prostitution, they have now published an article where some experts have weighed in claiming Backpage is a tool for anti-trafficking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

    Backpage’s advocates try to say that the controversial website provides a central location for law enforcement to be able to find children who are being trafficked. However that raises the question of how something can be both the cause and solution to a problem. The answer is, it can’t. As has been mentioned several times in the past, Backpage is said to be responsible for 80% of all online sex trafficking. Also, Backpage is not as forthcoming to law enforcement as they reportedly claim to be.

    The reality is, if Backpage shuttered their ads for prostitution, in a real way and not their histrionic claims of government censorship, trafficking would drop by a significant amount. Not only would it be one less major avenue for traffickers but it would also discourage would be pimps from finding an easy entry into the world of sex trafficking through Backpage.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on July 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Blue Apron,   

    The road to Amazon’s retail dominance goes through Blue Apron 

    The road to Amazon's plan for retail dominance goes through Blue Apron

    If you’ve listened to or watched a well-known podcast with any regularity, you may be familiar with Blue Apron. The heavily marketed subscription service provides a meal to customers each week that comes with pre-portioned ingredients and detailed instructions. While they’re not the only game in town, they are the more well-known among the subscription meal services. However, you may want to try them while you can as Amazon seems poised to put the stake through Blue Apron’s heart.

    On the heels of Amazon’s pending purchase of Whole Foods, the online retail leader has not only announced they will be starting their own subscription meal service, but they’ve also filed a patent for a meal-kit delivery service. If this sounds like they’re intentionally targeting Blue Apron, they might just be. If the patent filing wasn’t bad enough Amazon announced the new service and patent shortly after Blue Apron filed its IPO. Suffice to say, Blue Apron’s stock has taken a nosedive.

    As the video mentions, Blue Apron appears to have been having financial trouble for some time. Their marketing investment hasn’t had the returns they had hoped, but that’s not the story here. The real story is whether or not Amazon is conducting predatory business practices. While it could all be a coincidence, Amazon’s timing seems awfully convenient. Businesses constantly come and go, but fewer choices for consumers is never a good thing.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 18, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Facebook to place ads in its ads 

    Facebook to place ads in its ads

    It should go without saying that Facebook loves advertising. It’s no secret the social network tries to cram as much advertising into its products as possible. Sometimes it can be as subtle as a post in your news feed, and others can be as blatant as the ads in the sidebar of the site. They’ve even started recently placing ads within their stand alone messenger. However, Facebook is still not content with its advertisement saturation. They still want to place even more ads within their platform, so they’ve decided to place ads within other ads.

    Facebook has now rolled out a pilot program where they’re testing ads within Facebook Marketplace, the service where users already post ads for items they want to sell. So far, these new sponsored ads are only on the mobile version of Marketplace and advertisers are not being charged during the test program period.

    While advertising pays for much of the internet and allows us to have free services like Facebook, how much advertising is too much? Some say we’ve already reached a tipping point with the proliferation of ad-blockers and the like. If platforms become too reliant on advertising, could we see a return to the days of pop-up and pop-under ads, or will services that were once free start going behind a paywall? It’s up to the platform themselves to balance the fine line between profit and user experience. If you lean too heavily on profit it could drive users away, however, paywalls are notorious for driving users away as many people using the internet feel they shouldn’t have to pay for many of the platforms they use.

    Then again, it is Facebook. It’s not like they’re about to lose a ton of users to Google Plus.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 17, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bees, , ,   

    Camper full of bees 

    Camper full of bees

    This past Friday, we posted about scams involving campers that usually involve trying to steal your money. However, a family in Texas fell prey to an entirely unheard of scam that also involved a camper. The family was desperate to find a housing solution and purchased a pair of campers to live in at an RV park. They found the campers on a less than reputable classifieds site; I’m sure you could guess which one. The seller told them all the electrical work was new and the plumbing was new, but the family couldn’t check that out since the campers weren’t hooked up to anything. They took the seller at his word. When they got the trailers back to the RV park it turned out the water didn’t work at all. That was after they discovered the beehive that filled the trailer with bees overnight.

    Here is a dramatic reenactment of the discovery.

    All joking aside, after the campers were sold to them, the family found themselves with little recourse. The website they used said they wouldn’t intervene since the ad had been deleted. The seller is said to have stopped taking phone calls from the family.

    When inspecting a vehicle or camper from classifieds sites, don’t take the seller’s word at face value. If they say to trust them, you shouldn’t. It sounds very pessimistic, but unfortunately that’s the world we live in today. On unmoderated classifieds sites, there are tons of con artists looking to prey on desperate people who need something that lives may depend on. Also, if you find yourself on the raw end of a deal like this, you should not only contact local law enforcement to see what can be done (use the non-emergency number), but you can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Beware the camper scam this summer 

    Beware the camper scam this summer

    During the summer months, a lot families like to go camping and to do that, a number of families will look online to buy a camper they can tow behind their car or truck. Online fraudsters are acutely aware of this fact and will use their usual tricks of the trade to try to scam you out of thousands of dollars.

    For example a man in Colorado was planning just such a trip and went to the classifieds site most often connected with these scams. He kept making inquiries into various campers that were supposedly for sale and he kept running into similar stories over and over again. The sellers were either claiming they were deployed military personnel, or were getting ready to deploy, or they were getting rid of the camper cheap after the death of a loved one. In every case the seller was looking to get rid of the camper quickly and at a cheaper than normal price. Some sellers even asked him to wire money in order to put a deposit on a camper. This scam is not just limited to the Colorado area and has been going on for some time as this video from two years ago will attest.

    Thankfully, this man was able to recognize the signs of an online scam. In this case the signs were the claims of military deployment, convoluted stories in order to evoke an emotional response, and the wiring of funds. These are scams that have been used since almost the dawn of online retail that you should always look out for. As we and many others always say, trust your instincts. Always walk away from a deal if it doesn’t feel right to you. If you do that, the worst thing that will happen is you get to keep your money. Conversely, if you do fall for these scams, you could find yourself out of money with nothing to show for it.

     
  • Geebo 11:04 am on July 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: broadband internet,   

    Microsoft wants to bring broadband internet to rural areas 

    Microsoft wants to bring broadband internet to rural areas

    If you’ve ever lived in a rural or remote area, you probably know how difficult it can be to get internet service to your home. In many cases, your only options are satellite internet, which is prohibitively expensive, or dial-up internet, which should be classified as crime against humanity. It’s even worse if you have children who need the internet to do school work, or if you’re looking for employment. Without broadband internet, it puts people in rural areas at an educational and financial disadvantage. Enter Microsoft. Microsoft, in a coalition with other foundations are working on perfecting a technology that could bring broadband internet to many people who currently can’t access it.

    When TV broadcasters switched from analog to digital signals, it left swaths of open space in the radio spectrum. Some of those frequencies can be used to deliver broadband internet over the air. While this idea has been proposed before, Microsoft seems to be going full steam ahead. Users of the service would need a special antenna and a special modem required to receive the signal and provide wi-fi to the home. Microsoft says they have no intention of becoming an ISP, but would rather perfect the technology before equipping providers with it.

    While this all sounds great, there are of course industries opposed to this technology. Broadcasters are afraid the internet signal might interfere with their transmissions. Industries that use wireless sound equipment are afraid of interference as well. That’s not even taking existing internet service providers into account. A lot of industries are very protective of their current technologies and business models. Anything that can be seen as a disruption to either of those things will almost always result in legal battles. Years ago, the city of Philadelphia tried providing municipal broadband to its citizens. To combat losing business, Verizon heavily lobbied the state of Pennsylvania to limit municipal broadband and they won. Philly never received municipal broadband and Verizon and Comcast now have a duopoly over The City of Brotherly Love. If broadcasters and ISPs were to use their deep pockets to lobby Congress we may never see this technology get off the ground.

     
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