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  • Geebo 9:02 am on July 12, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    New documents show Backpage’s alleged lies about sex trafficking ads 

    New documents show Backpage's alleged lies about sex trafficking ads

    Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer

    Back in May, we wondered what Backpage could possibly be hiding by asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to order Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee to either return, destroy, or refrain from publishing documents the subcommittee received in its investigation into Backpage and its role in the online sex trade. Now, we may have that answer. The Washington Post recently received documents from a lawsuit unrelated to Backpage that allegedly shows Backpage was not only creating and editing the content of their adult ads, but they were copying ads from competing websites and actively soliciting people to post sex ads on Backpage for free.

    The lawsuit was filed against a company in the Philippines named Avion. Avion was being sued by a real estate site for copying their ads. Documents that were seized by the courts in this lawsuit also showed Avion was allegedly copying sex ads from other sites and posting them to Backpage. Avion was also said to contact people who would post sex ads on other sites and promised they could post their ads for free on Backpage. Normally, it costs for anyone to post ads in Backpage’s dating section where the sex trafficking ads are now said to reside.

    So what does this mean for Backpage? Well, for years, Backpage has been protected by the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The CDA protects websites from prosecution when its users post illegal content. However, if Backpage is actively creating, editing, copying and soliciting this content, that makes them de facto publishers which no longer affords them the protection of the CDA. This in turn could lead to any number of state Attorneys General to prosecute the Backpage cabal of CEO Carl Ferrer and co-founders Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. Most importantly, it could lead to an inordinate amount of women and children being freed from sexual slavery.

     
  • Geebo 9:00 am on July 11, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Elon Musk, , X.com   

    X marks the spot for Elon Musk 

    X marks the spot for Elon Musk

    One school of thought in online business is to have the shortest domain name, or URL, possible. This way it’s supposedly easier for customers to remember how to find you online. For example, even large companies like Amazon and Google have the shortcut URLs of a.co and g.co, respectively. What about the top-level domains like .com though? In the early 1990s, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, the non-profit organization that oversees domain names, reserved single character domain names for future use. Only a handful that had already been registered were allowed to remain, one of those was X.com.

    Previously X.com was owned by a newcomer to the tech scene by the name of Elon Musk. Yes, the same Elon Musk who currently runs Tesla Motors and The Space-X program. X.com’s original intent was to be an innovative online banking service. Here is a video of a much younger Elon Musk talking about X.com.

    For the record Mr. Musk admittedly wrecked that McLaren and did not have the car insured, but even back then he was rich enough to not need it. Also, he has never been on the cover of Rolling Stone as far as I can tell, but he has been on the cover of a multitude of other magazines.

    X.com eventually merged with another company that became PayPal. It was at that point that X.com then pointed to PayPal’s website. Musk was PayPal’s CEO until he was ousted in October of 2000. Now it is being reported that PayPal has sold X.com back to Elon Musk for an unspecified amount, and who better to have it than Elon Musk? For example, Tesla Motors makes the Model X which is an electric crossover SUV, and he has the aforementioned and much-lauded Space-X program which is a huge innovator in commercial space flight.

    Currently, X.com will only produce an error message in your browser saying the site can’t be reached, however, it will be interesting, to say the least, to see what Elon Musk will do with it.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 10, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: instant offers, ,   

    Realtors rebelling against Zillow over instant offers 

    Realtors rebelling against Zillow over instant offers

    Hot off of them threatening a blogger over fair use of photos (BTW, they backed down after the EFF told them they have no case), real estate website Zillow is testing a new program called Instant Offers. Zillow says Instant Offers can speed up the process of selling your home and make it a lot easier. Basically how it works is, you register your home with Instant Offers and ideally, within two business days you’ll receive offers from investors who are willing to buy your home. Real estate agents, who already have a contentious relationship with Zillow, are saying not only does this hurt their business, but Instant Offers are also not consumer friendly.

    Even though Instant Offers is only being tested in Las Vegas and Orlando, many members of the National Association of Realtors have seen the writing on the wall. The realtors are saying not only does Instant Offers take away business opportunities from them, but they also say the Instant Offers investors are not offering equitable offers to homeowners. The realtors believe the investors are offering a great deal below market value. One realtor has even taken it upon himself to start a grass-roots movement to try to stop Zillow from becoming the Amazon of real estate by launching the website Stop Zillow.

    However, the question that needs to be asked is, is Zillow looking to corner the real estate market nationwide, or are realtors looking at Zillow like newspapers looked at online classifieds before print media’s decline? Only time will tell.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , OneDrive, Skype,   

    Microsoft takes a page out of Photobucket’s book with updates for Skype and OneDrive 

    Microsoft takes a page out of Photobucket's book with updates for Skype and OneDrive

    Microsoft seems to have taken a page out of Photobucket’s book on how to make customers angry with updates to two of their most popular services. The first isn’t so bad, the second is pretty bad.

    The first problem is with Microsoft’s update to OneDrive, their cloud-based storage system. Microsoft now no longer allows users to store their OneDrive folder on non-NTFS devices. That means you can’t store your OneDrive folder on most external devices such as flash drives without formatting the drives to Microsoft’s proprietary file system. Here’s the difference between NTFS and the other popular file system, FAT32.

    As the video says, NTFS is more secure, but FAT is more universally accepted. The other problem is once you format a device to NTFS, it’s a chore to reformat the device back to FAT. Like Photobucket, Microsoft didn’t warn anybody about this update and just flipped the switch at their discretion. Microsoft is famous for trying to get customers locked into proprietary formats that are Microsoft exclusive. They’ll probably claim they made the change for security purposes but many people find their external devices formatted with FAT32 to be more convenient.

    Then there’s Skype. Skype was originally a desktop-only application that allowed users to make video calls to each other on their computers. When it debuted in 2003, it was considered groundbreaking. Microsoft acquired Skype back in 2011. In more recent years, Skype became an app that can be used on any Android or iOS device. Skype was great because it did what exactly what it was supposed to do, –it made voice and video calls and that was it. With its most recent update Microsoft added humorous filters and a Highlights section. If that sounds a lot like Snapchat, that’s because it is. It’s basically a straight up rip-off from Snapchat. These new features on Skype are being referred to as fixing something that wasn’t broken. Skype’s lack of features was its biggest selling point. Much like Photobucket again, Microsoft is responding to the complaints by thanking customers for their ‘input’.

    Oh well, at least they didn’t try to charge people $400.

     
  • Geebo 9:02 am on July 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: customer service, Photobucket   

    How not to treat your customers, courtesy of Photobucket 

    How not to treat your customers, courtesy of Photobucket

    All businesses want to make money. That’s the entire point of a business. The main thing businesses need to make money is customers. Apparently no one told that to Photobucket.

    Photobucket is a photo sharing website and service that has been around since 2003. A great number of their users used the service in order to post photos of the items they were selling on places like eBay, Amazon, and Etsy. This is a common process called hotlinking or 3rd party hosting. Photobucket allowed their members to use this feature free for years, as the website was making the majority of its revenue from ads. Now with ad revenue being down all over the internet, no one should bear ill will towards Photobucket if they wanted to increase their revenue stream so they could stay in business. The problem is how they went about trying to make this extra revenue.

    Rather than telling their members they would soon start charging for 3rd party hosting, Photobucket just turned off the switch. Everyone who was using Photobucket to post their photos on 3rd party sites were met with the above image, or a variation of it. To make matters worse, Photobucket said they would allow 3rd party hosting for the low, low price of $399 a year. But wait, there’s more. When social media erupted with complaints aimed at Photobucket, all Photobucket did was post a brief note that said users should review their new terms of service. It should go without saying that users are claiming to be leaving Photobucket in droves. Unless the heads of Photobucket made a bet with Uber to see who could lose more customers, the way they handled this is almost inexplicable.

    If you are a former user of Photobucket, here is a list of alternatives. You may have to check with the other services to see if 3rd party hosting is allowed.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on July 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: content moderation, , , Slate   

    Craigslist has nothing to teach Facebook 

    Craigslist has nothing to teach Facebook

    Noted news and opinion website Slate recently published an article entitled “What Facebook Can Learn From Craigslist”. One could assume by the headline that Slate must mean craigslist can teach Facebook something about Facebook Marketplace, but that’s not the point Slate is trying to make. Instead, Slate makes the questionable claim craigslist has ‘conquered’ its own content moderation, which leads to the question, what moderation?

    Granted, Facebook has had its own controversies lately with Facebook Live being used to broadcast a number of crimes and suicides, and the ever-growing problem of hate speech, however craigslist should not be held up as a shining example of how content should be moderated. In researching this post, it took me literally under a minute to see something racist posted in craigslist’s forum section. That’s not even taking into account the number of news stories that go out almost daily that contain the words ‘beware’ and ‘craigslist’.

    Let’s not forget the 115 victims that have been allegedly killed during craigslist transactions.

    If anything, craigslist could learn from Facebook. While craigslist only has 40 employees, Facebook has hired contracted content moderators to at least try to curb some of the material that goes against Facebook’s terms of service. Craigslist wouldn’t even remove their adult ads section until well after CNN’s Amber Lyon famously approached craigslist founder Craig Newmark, as pictured above, about the human trafficking that took place on craigslist.

    The only thing that craigslist can teach is how not to do things.

     
  • Geebo 9:59 am on July 3, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Gas is cheaper this year, but stay safe on the 4th 

    Gas is cheaper this year but stay safe on the 4th

    Gasoline is cheaper for cars this summer than it has been in a long time. Because of that a lot of people will be traveling for the holiday especially since the 4th is close to a weekend. Due to increased travelers, the risk of danger might be at an all time high tomorrow. In case you were unaware, the 4th of July is considered to be the most dangerous holiday of the year when it comes to traveling.

    If you plan on doing any traveling this holiday please buckle up. Also, it should go without saying not to drink and drive. If you do plan on celebrating the holiday with a drink or two, and find yourself incapable of driving, arrange alternative methods of transportation like a ride-sharing service or a taxi. Also as always, alcohol and fireworks are never a good mix. Leave the fireworks to the professionals.

    Boating is also very dangerous during the 4th of July due to increased traffic, but it’s even more dangerous at night. If you’re out boating at night, and an accident or boat failure occurs, it might be difficult to signal anyone with a flare since they may consider the flare as more fireworks.

    Have a safe and fun holiday as we want to see you back here on Wednesday.

     
  • Geebo 10:19 am on June 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: antitrust, EU, , monopolies   

    What the EU’s fine of Google could mean for the US 

    What the EU's fine of Google could mean for the US

    Google has become a victim of its own success. Its name is so synonymous with web search that its brand has become a verb. When someone has a question you don’t say “Why don’t you Bing that?”. Just on search alone, Google possesses close to 80% of the global search engine market share. Google also boasts the most popular webmail client on the internet with their GMail. It has four times as many users as its next closest competitor, Yahoo Mail. While Google has some minor competition to its popular services, for all intents and purposes it is a virtual monopoly. So when the European Union handed down a $2.7 billion fine for violating EU antitrust regulations, you might think it was just because Google is so much bigger than everyone else and that’s sort of true. What lies deeper than that is it appears Google wants to remain the size they are, at the expense of anyone who may get in their way, no matter how small that anyone might be.

    Google is often chided for having the corporate motto of “Don’t be evil” as it has gobbled up competitive services and shut them down. Now, the EU says Google has committed another evil in trying to favor their own services over the services of other companies. Since its inception the EU has had a hardline stance against large corporations that engage in antitrust practices. They famously fined Microsoft for not offering a competing browser and media player with the Windows platform. At the heart of the matter is the belief Google gave top priority to Google Shopping in search results over competitors offering a similar price comparing service. Yet while promoting its own services Google would also allegedly remove the links of competing services claiming they violated Google’s SEO rules, the same SEO rules that are often vague and can change at a whim. Some might even say they change to however it suits Google and not the sites it indexes.

    While the EU has a reputation of combating antitrust practices, the US does not have the same viewpoint that the EU does. In the US Google is in the catbird’s seat. The US hasn’t broken up a major monopoly since it broke up AT&T into the ‘Baby Bells’ back in the 1980s. Since then the Baby Bells have all since merged back into two separate companies in Verizon and AT&T. Cable companies and Internet service providers, which are often one and the same, often have regional monopolies with no real choice for consumers, yet nothing is ever done about that. While the Federal Trade Commission has prevented some mergers from taking place in order to avoid one company having too much of the market, it hasn’t done much in the way of promoting competition, while a company like Google has basically muscled their way into a monopoly.

    We’re not saying Google doesn’t have a right to do business, it should just do business equitably. Think about it for a moment. If Google came up with a version of your business and promoted their version over your business, how long would it be before your business started feeling the pinch? With the vast resources at Google’s command, that could happen to any number of businesses and industries. Just like the banks in the 2008 financial crisis were deemed ‘too big to fail’, Google is too big to succeed without sacrificing a large number of worthy competitors.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on June 29, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CargoPod, Oxbotica,   

    Oxford tests its own autonomous delivery truck 

    Oxford tests its own autonomous delivery truck

    In a similar vein to Moby Mart and Starship delivery robots, comes another self-driving delivery service. Oxford University, yes that Oxford, is in the testing stage of an autonomous delivery van called CargoPod.

    Oxford’s self-driving vehicle lab Oxbotica, is currently test-driving the CargoPod in a small section of London. The van contains eight pods that can hold a small set of packages customers have ordered from a retailer’s website. It still has a long way to go in being a viable service, however it shows a lot of promise. Also, it’s not completely autonomous as UK law requires a human driver to be available in order to take over the wheel if need be. There’s also the matter of security since it does not currently have any form of identifying correct customers.

    Again, once this technology is perfected, it could be a boon to the online classifieds industry as it could eliminate face-to-face meetings between buyer and seller. That means it could discourage a lot of the unsafe aspects of selling something online. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if some startup ends up using this or similar technology to try to ensure the safety of classifieds users.

     
  • Geebo 9:01 am on June 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Petya,   

    New ransomware might not be able to be paid off 

    New ransomware might not be able to be paid off

    Yesterday, a new ransomware attack swept across the globe. The attack first hit the Ukraine before affecting business in Russia, The Netherlands, The UK and the US. The ransomware known as Petya seems to have had an even bigger effect than the recent WannaCry attack. Like WannaCry, Petya asks the victims for money in Bitcoin. While a number of business have started keeping Bitcoin on hand for just such an event, it might not be that simple this time around.

    Petya requires its victims to contact their attackers at a certain e-mail address. The e-mail provider has shut down that address. So now, if the ransom is paid, there’s no way to let the attackers know. Meanwhile your files are still encrypted and you’re also out the money used for ransom. On top of that, the ransomware keeps replicating itself not knowing that it’s been cut off from home.

    Again, even if Petya could call home, there’s never any guarantee that the attackers will release your files even if paid. After all, these are extortionists we’re dealing with. Like their counterparts in the analog world, once these attackers get a taste of your money they may try to squeeze you for more.

    Remember, keep your system updated and patched, and avoid any strange attachments and downloads for best practices.

     
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