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Peggy Graves

Peggy Graves

Security researchers from Nightwatch Cybersecurity have discovered a way of crashing Chromium and Firefox browsers on mobile and desktop devices.

Their method relies on using the search suggestions feature that these browsers support. The issue is not a software bug, but a design implementation that allows their attack to be executed.

Most of today's browsers have a search field or allow users to search via the URL address bar. Based on the search engines supported inside the browser, search suggestions can be shown as the user types their query.

2GB search suggestion reply

Nightwatch security experts say that if the browser's search engine provider doesn't protect these search suggestions via an encrypted HTTPS channel, an attacker on the local network can intercept search suggestions queries and answer before the search provider.

An attacker can insert large chunks of data inside this response, which can lead to the browser or the operating system exhausting memory resources and eventually crashing.

The good news is that researchers weren't able to execute malicious code during these crashes, which would have caused more problems for browser makers.

During their tests, researchers managed to crash the Android stock browser on Android 4.4, Chrome 51 on Android 6.01, and Firefox 47 on Ubuntu 16.04. Additionally, they also crashed the entire Ubuntu 16.04 OS when running Chrome 51.

Not a security issue, so a bugfix is coming later during the year

In order for this crash to occur, as mentioned above, users need to use a browser built-in search provider that doesn't employ HTTPS. The list includes Ebay on Firefox, AOL and Ask.com on Chrome, and Bing and Yahoo on Android's stock browser.

Internet Explorer, Edge, and Safari aren't affected by this issue. Safari had to deal with its own search-induced crash at the start of the year, so its reputation is not as clean as you might think.

The Android, Chrome, and Firefox teams declined to classify this bug as a security issue, since it actually isn't, meaning that a fix will be coming later rather than sooner.



The Internet of Shit is a column about all the shitty things we try to connect to the internet, and what can be done about it. It’s from the anonymous creator of the Internet of Shit Twitter account.If you pay any attention at all to technology news right now, you might be led to believe that "smart" devices are here to liberate you from your old, dumb objects around your home. Over the last few years the Internet of Things craze has slowly but surely taken hold — and every company you can imagine wants to bring your stuff into a Jetsons-esque future.

I started the Internet of Shit Twitter account a year ago, sensing a trend in the rush to desperately add Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to everything: nobody really knew why any of this stuff was being put online.

The future, when bins need instruction

Not only are the customers buying smart devices cluelessly roped in, if you ask the companies behind the devices you’ll almost always get a vague pipe dream that doesn’t match the reality of connecting your home’s most crucial devices.

Fridges, washing machines, ovens, thermostats, mattresses, light bulbs, shoes, and even umbrellas: our glorious future of flying cars and convenience was somehow switched out for umbrellas that tweet us when it’s going to rain, and a fridge that live streams its contents. How did the Jetsons become so lame?

When put on a store shelf in front of you, the IoT trap is obvious. If you’re shopping for a thermostat you’ll see two choices: the boring but reliable Honeywell that doesn’t do much more than turn on your heaters, or the slick, shiny iPhone-esque Nest that promises to change the way your home is heated forever by just connecting to the internet.


What would you choose? I can almost guarantee that you’ll end up with a Nest, or at least something similar. It’s only logical, but therein lies the trap: the unsaid things that come hand-in-hand with an internet-connected widget. They weren’t written on the shiny box and you won’t know about them until years down the track.

Consider this: when you bought your humble "dumb" thermostat 10 years ago, you connected it to the wall, programmed it and probably forgot about it. Sure, it was inefficient since it’d sometimes heat your house when you weren’t there, but it worked. Now imagine that same thermostat suddenly stopped working after five years, the LED display blinking back at you "thermostat no longer compatible." So you sit in the cold.

Wifi's down so the cat is stuck outsideInternet of Shit added,

It's a WiFi pet door that will only open if your dog/cat has a passport key... 

That’s a reality that will unfold one day with internet-connected versions of everything. You’ve heard the horror stories about Samsung Smart TVs slowing down to uselessness with every update, or suddenly getting ads all across the menus before obsolescence, but what happens when it’s actually part of your house?

Well, for one, it means things are less reliable. More than once I’ve come home to an icy house because the internet had gone down, then spent hours trying to fix it only to have the thermostat jammed on 86 degrees until tech support reset my account.

Say Google someday decides that Nest’s drama is a little bit too much for the company to deal with and it offloads it to a company without such deep pockets. That company’s going to look for ways to either reduce costs or extract more money from you — and with smart devices there are plenty of ways to do that.


Firstly, that company could cut support for older devices — turn off the servers that keep those old thermostats running, or simply change the endpoint it connects to so it doesn’t function anymore. Alternatively, the new owner could try to monetize you further by selling what your thermostat knows about you to an advertiser.

You probably think that data is meaningless, but it’s enough to make an advertising network salivate: knowing how warm or cold your house is and how often you’re home is enough information to change the ad-personalization game and tailor some incredibly specific advertising on Facebook.

These scenarios aren’t some far-fetched fantasy, it already happened when Nest acquired a home automation company called Revolv, then decided to quietly leave its customers out in the cold when it couldn’t be bothered servicing its devices anymore.

The hidden costs of running these operations are immense. There are servers to rent, bandwidth to pay for, and salaries to pay. But none of that is mentioned when you buy a gadget off a shelf, and in the majority of cases there’s no way to actually pay for your ongoing use of the product. How are those costs going to be recaptured when you’re paying a one-time fee for the hardware? I can’t wait until my Nest starts asking for an in-app purchase to heat my house one day.

When household gadget makers discover in-app purchases

When you’re sitting in front of a computer and find yourself signing up to a free new service, clicking past some long-winded terms and conditions screen, it’s easy to at least understand the implicit contract: I’m giving something about myself away for free in exchange for this, and this service might eventually just go away.

Unlike that scenario, buying something that’s attached to your wall, in your light sockets, or even on your person is far more intimate and you expect longevity, but there’s almost no chance it’ll work for as long as your offline gadget did. The tech world moves so fast it’ll be forgotten before the decade is out.

I’m no saint. I run a parody account that pokes fun at the ever-escalating hilarity of these devices, yet I’ve bought into them frivolously. I have smart speakers, online lightbulbs that need firmware updates, an internet-connected thermostat that’s repeatedly left me freezing in the winter, and smart plugs that apparently can’t figure out how to turn themselves on.

Embarrassingly, as a result, a good chunk of my grown-up life has been spent standing in my living room, cursing at my lights as they refuse to update (or even turn on) while trying to show people who visit just how cool my internet house is.

What we really need from those building the Internet of Things is commitment. Companies should step up and guarantee the longevity of their products, no matter the cost or bind it might put them in. If I buy a thermostat, it should last at least five years — at least enough time for me to start lusting after something else.

Unfortunately so far nobody’s made any such claim. No promises that your Nest, Sonos, Philips Hue, or Amazon Echo will work any longer than Myspace was in fashion, and that’s the biggest concern. When everything’s connected and nobody’s responsible for the consequences, what happens? I can’t wait for awkward sex ads to start appearing on Facebook because of what my connected mattress company sold to some other business.


The lure of these devices when presented against the backdrop of old, offline devices is obvious: they could change your whole life and in some ways for me, they have, but the headaches are only beginning, and selling them as life-changers without commitment is irresponsible, and there’s no transparency about how they could change in the future.

My old devices were so dumb, but in hindsight, that was kind of charming. They didn’t do much, and perhaps that simplicity is really what we need.As we face the bold new world of every inanimate object coming online, ask yourself this: do you need this now, or can it wait? Until there are commitments or infrastructure to keep it working forever, it’s nothing more than a fad, with bad actors and those seeking short-term profit piling on endlessly.


With time, things will improve and the market will shake out, just as it did with cellular networks and FM radio, but right now the Internet of Things is an awkward teenager, and the simple fact is this: everything you buy is no longer your own.

Source:  http://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2016/7/12/12159766/internet-of-things-iot-internet-of-shit-twitter

If your website is all about news, there’s quite a lot that can be done to optimize your news site for search engines (and your users in the process). In this post, I’ll address a number of things you need to consider for your news website.

First of all, if you have a construction business and a news section on your website, that isn’t a news website. It will be a lot harder to get into Google News and your news might not be indexed as quickly as news on a website that is focused on news alone, like the Huffington Post or The Guardian. Google says this about it: “Google News is not a marketing service.” Send your press releases elsewhere.

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

This goes for every website, but with the huge amount of people checking news on their mobile devices, you want to make sure this is done right on your news site. AMP’s goal is to show articles instantly on a mobile device, instead of loading the full-blown desktop site or all the fancy things we created in our responsive website. AMP strips all the design and fancy stuff and focuses on delivering the main content ASAP.

There’s a WordPress plugin by Automattic to create Accelerated Mobile Pages. This plugin by PageFrog is a nice extra for that. Be sure to read our latest recaps and definitely read this post Joost did about Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for WordPress if you want more information about the subject.

Crawl Speed

You want your news indexed and indexed fast by Google. There are a number of things that can help with this. You obviously optimize site speed, but also make sure that XML sitemaps are available. Note that a news sitemap isn’t like your regular XML sitemap. Google has some guidelines for that:

Your news sitemap can only contain news from the last two days (and articles will remain in the news index for 30 days).

Update your news sitemap continually with fresh articles as they’re published.
The limit for URLs per news sitemap is 1,000 URLs.
Don’t create a new sitemap per new article, but rather update your existing sitemap.
More information about Google News sitemaps here.

Crawl speed will also be improved if you consistently post new articles on your news website. If Googlebot finds new stuff on your website with every crawl, it’ll come to your website more often. This also means you need to have a solid hosting server, so your website is up every time Googlebot visits your site. That very Googlebot might actually cause downtime, in case it visits your site too often and your server is crappy. Read more about fixing this here.

One more thing. If you serve excessive, unneeded content to that Googlebot, it’ll waste valuable crawl budget on less valuable pages. Optimize site structure, be sure to block unwanted pages via robots.txt or robots meta, and obviously avoid duplicate content at all times.

Site Structure of Your News Site

We’ve done a post on site structure for blogs that works pretty similar for news websites. In your news website, you’ll have articles on one side, and taxonomies like categories and tags on the other. Be aware of that second structure, as it might be more important than your articles that come and go. Optimize these taxonomy pages to your very best effort with these steps:

Evaluate your categories
Add sub-categories and tags
Add pagination
And again: Get rid of outdated content
Standout and News_keyword Tags
There are a few extra tags you can add to your news articles that will help you get indexed properly by Google: the standout tag and the news_keywords tag.

Standout Tag

The standout tag can be used to highlight your original reporting. It’s for news that you, as a news organization, have created yourself. This might lead to Google listing it as “featured” in the news results.

News_keywords Tag

We said goodbye to meta keywords a while back, but Google is still using a variation of that tag: meta news_keywords. Just for Google News, by the way. It’s not something magic that’ll make you rank better, but helps Google News to determine what your article is about. No use using this tag when you’re not in Google News already.

Update Your Article as News Comes In

You want to publish news as soon as you find it. Be sure to do so, and update your article during the day to make sure you’re bringing the right, current news. You don’t need to add a new article per update – please don’t. Google News wants you to keep a permanent link for your news article. What you should do, is update the title of your article, as that will tell Google your article is updated.

This will allow you to grow for instance a news article about an event during the event itself, so you’ll always have the latest news in the article that is already in Google News by then.

Let’s Ask the Expert

I asked Martijn Schreijbeler, Director of Marketing at The Next Web, what he considered the most important thing when it comes to running a decent news website. This is what he told me:

ou ever wondered what makes SEO different for publishers than it is to, for example e-commerce stores? We have the same issues as they have, increasing search traffic, making sure pages don’t have duplicate content. Although our lives are a little bit easier as we don’t have to worry about content marketing with a 15-people strong editorial team.

In our case, we have to worry even more about the speed of our users with new supporting technologies coming up, like Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News which all have their ways to support content on another platform.

These are interesting times. I totally agree that it’s not just speed or structure that matters. You should always be aware that your audience uses a wide variety of apps, on multiple devices, to read your news. Martijn already mentioned a number of these, but what about Flipboard, smartwatches, and Nuzzel. You have decisions to make. Do you want to serve the full article on all these apps and devices, or would you rather have people click to your website?

Do you have sufficient social reach to leverage the ever-growing number of apps that recommend news based on your social followers and influencers? You just have to keep up with developments and find out what your target audience wants you to optimize for.

In Conclusion

There are a lot of things to consider when you’re running a news website and want to use Google News to the fullest. In this article we’ve told you about AMP, crawl speed, updating your titles, site structure, and our News SEO plugin.

Technological developments go fast. I am sure as soon as we all fix AMP for our websites, something new will come along. It pushes us to think about our websites and news sites in particular, as (speaking for myself) these are the sites we visit most on mobile devices.

Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/optimize-news-site/162095/

Einstein once said, “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”


The same could be said of intelligence. What they don’t tell you is that the “smart” people of the world are, in most cases, just better at researching and learning things than everyone else.
But researching is a learned skill, not something you’re born with.


And while some people might be predisposed to learn things more easily than others, it’s generally not enough to make a measurable difference.


By learning how to research, you can quickly and fairly easily become knowledgeable about just about anything. And with the Internet, almost anything you could ever want to know is at your fingertips. You just have to learn how to access it.

It’s all there, online, for free. Here are the techniques I’ve used to find pretty much anything online.



Start with Wikipedia

Whenever you try to learn something new on the Internet, start with Wikipedia. A wealth of information is there, covering practically every subject in an easy-to-use, easy-to-understand format.




The main reason to start with Wikipedia is that it gives a good overview of most topics.
Sure, any given page is bound to have some inaccuracies (as is the case on most user-generated websites), but most of the content is generally reliable. And when the accuracy of certain information is questionable, it’s usually tagged as such.

The key to using Wikipedia as a source, though, is in how you make use of the information. You have to pay attention to a number of things on a Wikipedia page aside from the main content.
First of all, read the introduction to the page. This is where you’ll usually find a quick description of the topic, along with alternate and related terms.

Skim the content to find the parts of the article that you need to know about most. Some articles are short and don’t have a list of contents. Others are several thousand words long. Reading the entire thing is usually unnecessary. Just skip to the sections that are relevant to you.

Next, check the references and related resources. The references is a great place to get in-depth information on your topic. These links often include scholarly journals and articles and other respected sources.
The related sources section includes external links to in-depth information. These websites often include professional associations and organizations devoted to the topic as well as general websites with good topical information.



Move on to Google

Once you’ve built a good foundation through Wikipedia, move on to a Google search (or whatever search engine you prefer).
Having read a bit on Wikipedia, you should know the main terms and keywords associated with the subject you’re researching. Start your general search with these terms.
When researching something, I always open a new window in Firefox. For each link I visit in a Google search, I open a new tab so that I can keep my original search results page open.
And if I click on additional links on pages that I have opened, I don’t have to go back through 10 or more pages to return to my original search.

Go Multimedia


Text isn’t the only educational content on the web. Video, podcasts and slideshows are out there to explain pretty much anything you can imagine.

The advantage of so much multimedia content being available is that it caters to people with different learning styles.
Some people learn well by reading. Others learn better by hearing an explanation or seeing a demonstration. And still others learn by doing (which is where step-by-step tutorials—either video, audio or text—come in handy).
If you learn best by watching demonstrations, then head on over to YouTube, Odeo, Vimeo or any of the many other video websites and start typing the keywords that you found on Wikipedia.





Make sure, though, whenever you deal with user-generated content to verify the information against reputable sources.

One often-overlooked resource for videos is the archive from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences.



TED videos are available for free on the official website and cover (as you might expect) technology, entertainment and design.


While many of the videos focus on broad concepts rather than the nitty-gritty, they’re still a great resource to expand your horizon. And the lectures are given by leaders in their fields, so the information is generally reliable.


Check Out Free Educational Resources


A ton of colleges are now putting their course materials online, accessible for free.

MIT offers its entire catalog as open courseware, with lecture notes, resources and syllabi. Other two- and four-year colleges are following suit.


You’ll also find purely web-based open education initiatives that cover subjects you might not find at a traditional college. These free courses offer a ton of organized information on any given subject.


Some colleges offer their lectures in audio and video format. Princeton, for example, offers some of its lectures through iTunes, as does the University of Virginia, Duke, Emory, Yale and Stanford.





In fact, iTunes has an entire section devoted to educational podcasts called iTunes U. Non-educational organizations are also represented, including the Library of Congress and Wall Street Journal.


The educational podcast market isn’t monopolized by iTunes, though. Odeo has an education category with 466 channels and more than 67,000 episodes. Participating colleges and universities include Oxford University, the University of Melbourne and MIT.





Look for Tutorials

Depending on your topic, you may be able to find tutorials. For pretty much any practical skill (and a whole lot of unpractical ones), you can find an online tutorial that teaches you how to do it.

You can find tutorials through search engines (just add “tutorial” or “instructions” to the end of your keyword search). You can also find them on these websites:

Instructables is a general tutorial website that offers step-by-step instructions on projects in categories such as arts, crafts, food, kids, music, outdoors and pets. Every tutorial has photos and/or diagrams to illustrate the process.





eHow offers categorized instructions and tutorials created by users. They include both text and video tutorials on a variety of topics, including law, health, food and drink, electronics and computers.


WikiHow is a user-editable how-to manual that covers a ton of different topics. Because of its wiki format, tutorials and instructions are constantly being improved.


The Tuts+ Network offers tutorials on a variety of tech topics, including Photoshop, web design, Flash and photography. Its tutorials are split into separate blogs based on topic and are written by experts.





Tutorialized offers tech tutorials for a variety of software programs, including Photoshop, GIMP, Flash, Blender and Illustrator.


Good-Tutorials offers up tech-related tutorials, covering CSS, Flash, HTML, Photoshop, PHP and more. Tutorials are categorized and searchable.


Use Tools Available to You


A ton of tools are out there to make online research a bit (or a lot) easier.

Some help by organizing your sources, others let you save snippets of pages for later reference, and others do pretty much everything you could ask for from a research app. They make tracking your research and organizing it for later reference a much easier process.


Zotero is a Firefox add-on that acts like a research assistant. It lets you collect links and whole pages, organize them into folders and tag them. It even generates a “Works cited” list from them. You can jot down notes on anything you save, which makes it much easier to remember why you included it in the first place or to remind yourself later how you ended up using it.





Zotero has a ton of features. It automatically captures citations; it cites from within MS Word and OpenOffice; it accesses your library from anywhere; it searches PDFs and notes instantly; and it lets you create group libraries.


It’s also compatible with thousands of bibliographic styles, so when it comes time to create a “Works cited” list, you don’t have to spend hours reformatting the whole thing. The best part is that Zotero is free and open source, so you can extend and modify it to meet your needs (or find others who have already done the work).


Wired-Marker is a permanent highlighting tool for Firefox. You can highlight sections of a web page to refer to later on. It’s a great app if you want to be able to easily refer to a specific section of a website that you’ve bookmarked. Wired-Marker is itself also a bookmark organizer.


iCyte is a note-taking and bookmarking app that works with Firefox and Internet Explorer 7 and 8. It saves any pages that you highlight or bookmark, so that even if the page changes or is deleted, you still have the original version. You can save sections of a website or the whole thing. You can also invite others to join your projects, share information and access information that others have shared.






Similar Web is a great Firefox extension for finding websites related to the one you’re on. There’s also a web-based version for people who don’t use Firefox. The add-on is particularly useful if you’re on, say, Odeo and want to see other websites that offer podcasts.


Notefish is an online note-taking app that lets you custom-save content from any pages on the web. You can organize and share pages based on a specific subject. The app has many customizable features, including ones that let you annotate and color your notes. The downloadable Firefox add-on helps you use Notefish more efficiently.


Diigo lets you highlight and share pages all over the web. You can add sticky notes to pages for later reference and can access notes from your computer or iPhone. Saved pages can be organized with tags or lists. You can create groups to share resources for a project, and you can even enforce tagging rules among group members to keep things organized. Free and premium accounts are available (educators get a free premium account).


Concierge is a Safari plug-in that replaces the browser’s bookmark management scheme with an easier-to-use bookmark and information management tool. You can bookmark links and save links from email, Address Book cards, and folder and file links from Finder. It puts all of your relevant information in one place.




Information overload is a common problem when researching a new subject online. Great Summary helps combat the problem by summarizing the content of a web page, document or section of text for you. It identifies key topics on a page and presents relevant information without duplicating content.


EagleFiler is an information management app for Mac OS X that lets you archive and search PDF files, word-processing documents, images, web pages, mail and more. It has a three-pane interface similar to that of most email programs. Files are stored in a universal format, so they’re accessible from any application. Files can be encrypted, and you can add notes, tags, labels and meta data to them.





When you download something in Safari, no record is kept of where it came from. This can be a problem if you need to refer to it in a “Works cited” list or just want to know where to get similar content. DownloadComment adds a note in the file’s Spotlight Comments field with the URL of the original file.


HistoryHound lets you search the content of every web page and RSS feed that you’ve visited recently in Safari, as well as any bookmarked page. It ranks results by relevance. It’s a great way to track down information in resources that you’ve already discovered.





Reference Tracker is an app for Mac OS X that lets you store documents in one place for later reference and citation. It automatically creates a “Works cited” list in Harvard, APA, MLA or Chicago/Turabian format. It has built-in search and one-click referencing of web pages (in Safari or Firefox) and email (from Apple Mail).


Selenium is a research application for Mac OS X that combines a browser, PDF manager, word processor, bibliography manager and outliner in a single window. Research is much simpler because you don’t have to switch back and forth between different applications.


Evernote is an online note-taking application that lets you save just about anything, from notes to images to web pages. And it stores everything online, so you can access your notes from anywhere. There’s even an iPhone app.


Springnote is a free wiki-based online notepad. You can create personal or group notebooks and access them either online or through the iPhone app.





Google Notebook is a free online note-taking app that lets you create an unlimited number of notebooks and save notes, web pages and other information in a single place, accessible from anywhere. You can organize your notes by adding tags to them, as you would with Google Bookmarks.


Specialized Websites

Specialized online libraries exist for a ton of different subjects. Anything from language to science to technology to history has its own dedicated resource library somewhere on the Internet.

These collections can speed up your research, and they sometimes include only reliable websites. Here are some to get you started.




If you’re looking for information on art, whether museums, individual artists or art movements, Art Cyclopedia is the place to go. It lists 9,200 artists and has 140,000 links from 2,600 different art websites.


IMDb is a database of movies and television programs, dating as far back as film itself. You can search by cast member or title. Individual listings include all previous and upcoming roles. Movie results include cast and production crew, plot synopsis and other production information (often photos).





Medical and Scientific


BioMed Central publishes 200 open-access peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals. And you can search all 200 of them on the website.


History and Humanities


The Internet History Sourcebooks Project collects public domain and copy-permitted historical texts in one place. The collection includes ancient, medieval and modern texts, as well as ones of specific groups, regions and religions.


Digital History offers historical texts and resources from American history. It is run through a partnership with a variety of educational and historical organizations, including the University of Houston, the Chicago Historical Society and the National Park Service. It has resources for researchers and teachers, including multimedia resources.




The Perseus Digital Library is a resource of mostly historical texts from Tufts University. The digital collection includes material from Greek and Roman, Renaissance and 19th-century American history.


Project Gutenberg offers public domain books and written material for free. The collection includes fiction, non-fiction and poetry and is both searchable and browsable. Most of the content dates to the 19th century and earlier.





General and Scholarly


Intute helps individuals find the best websites on which to conduct their research. You can search or browse by category. It even offers free training on using the web for research and education.




Infomine is a search engine for scholarly resources. The categories, which are browsable, include the following: bio, agricultural and medical sciences; business and economics; cultural diversity; e-journals; government info; maps and GIS; physical sciences, engineering, computer science and math; social sciences and humanities; and visual and performing arts. It also includes general reference and advanced search functionality.


The Librarians’ Internet Index is a searchable directory of content from all over the Internet, broken down by category. It includes only reputable websites, making it easier to trust the information you find.


The IPL is another collection of resources from all over the web, broken down by category. The collections are targeted at children, teens, adults and educators. The collection covers art and the humanities, social science, law and government, computers and much more.





Find Articles from BNET lets you search articles from a wide range of consumer and trade magazines and newspapers. The articles are searchable and browsable by category.


The Library of Congress offers a ton of information, including digital collections. Its online collection includes history, performing arts, legislative information and international resources. It’s a particularly good source of government information, because its THOMAS system lets you search the full text of congressional records, bills and more.


You can learn just about anything with the resources and techniques mentioned here. As you research more topics and become accustomed to learning in this manner, learning new things will become easier.


Pretty soon, you’ll be able to gain a working knowledge of practically any subject after just a couple of hours of research.


Source:  http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2009/12/how-to-find-anything-online-become-an-internet-research-expert/


Make sure, though, whenever you deal with user-generated content to verify the information against reputable sources.

One often-overlooked resource for videos is the archive from the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conferences.

The company behind two of the most highly rated smartphones (big and small), the leading smart thermostat, a super high-end laptop, a 2-in-1 tablet, a Wi-Fi camera, streaming audio and video players, a sexy router and a smart smoke detector ... is Google?


It's strange but true. Google (GOOGL, Tech30) is synonymous with search and Internet apps, but it has quietly built itself a very respectable gadget business. Google has come a long way since its first Nexus smartphone launched in 2010.


The Nest is a top-seller. The Chromecast is a big hit. The Nexus 6P is one of the best-reviewed smartphones ever. And Chromebooks are quickly becoming the standard education laptops for K-12 students.

Google appears unsatisfied, however.

Its portfolio of gizmos is expected to expand at the Google I/O developers conference next week. Google is rumored to be unveiling two brand new gadgets at I/O: A virtual reality headset and an Amazon Echo competitor.

Google's new virtual reality gizmo is expected to be a standalone gadget, running Android (no smartphone required).

VR isn't new to Google, though its current offering is kind of a joke. "Cardboard" is its $15 VR viewer that is literally made out of cardboard, Velcro and plastic lenses. It doesn't do anything on its own: You have to stick your smartphone inside a cardboard flap.

Google's new Echo competitor is expected to be a tall Internet-connected speaker that can play music, read your emails out loud, tell you the weather and do all the tasks that virtual assistants do. Like Amazon's Echo, it will respond to voice commands ("OK Google," not "Alexa"), but it will have Google's giant search engine to pull information from.


Why the big gadget push?

Google thrives on data. Its mission, after all, is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

There's a tremendous amount of information that can be learned from Google's gadgets: how you use energy, connect to the Internet, and what media you stream. By better understanding its customers' behaviors, it can offer ads and services that are tailored to them.

Plus, VR and the Internet of Things are the buzzy, potentially groundbreaking ways we might interact with the Internet in the future. Google wants to ensure it isn't left out. If Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook or any other competitor beats Google to the punch, Google could lose out on a massive amount of important information about their customers.

And if Google doesn't control the gadgets that you use, there's no guarantee you'll use its services. For example, Android promotes Gmail, YouTube, Google search and Google Maps at launch (something the company is currently being investigated for by the European Union).

By making gizmos and devices that its customers want to use, Google can continue to lock people into its services and searches, collecting their data and serving up more relevant ads.


Source:  http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/12/technology/google-gadget/index.html

It was only last year that Google turned its links from red to blue, but during that time searchers have grown quite accustomed to the blue links. So much so that when Google recently turned them black, outrage ensued.


In an A/B test, Google has changed its blue link titles to black. According to the reactions so far, it’s unlikely this change will become permanent any time soon. A Google spokesperson has confirmed the test, while stating they’re not quite sure if the black links are here to stay.





Here’s a quick screenshot of comments from Reddit regarding this news:

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 8.48.48 PM



If you empathize with the commenter at the bottom and are looking for a way to “fix” this, you’re in luck! There are a few ways you can go about changing the links back to blue. Keep in mind your mileage may vary, but here are some of the fixes people have reported so far.


How to Turn Black Links Back to Blue


A sure fire way to get blue links back is with the Chrome extension called Stylist, which lets you manipulate the style sheet of any website, even Google.
Some searchers have reported that logging in and out of their Google account will return the links back to blue.
Other users have reported seeing the blue links again after manipulating certain settings in Chrome.
In order to do this, navigate to the Google home page and click on the grid icon in the top left corner. Select “My Account”.


When in your account settings, go to “Personal info & privacy”. Within that section you can turn off “Your searches and browsing history”, which allegedly can turn the links back to blue.
Alternatively, you can live with the black links until the test inevitably runs its course. Or, on the other hand, maybe black is the new blue?


Source:  https://www.searchenginejournal.com/google-turns-links-black-get-back-blue/163495/




Wednesday, 11 May 2016 01:37

6 Tips and Tricks to Master Google Search

Millions of internet users access Google’s search engine at least once a day to view all sorts of information.

Though, besides the rectangular search box, with the Google logo placed above, there is a slew of hidden tips and tricks underneath the surface, that even the average Joe web user can learn and master the Google Search within minutes.

Here we have listed six of them.



Specific Phrase


If you would like to look for a specific content based on a particular phrase, you can enclose the phrase in double quotes.

For example, if you search with “Software Engineering“, Google will solely return information which contains this term.

Site Specific Search



If you would like to fetch information from a specific site based on a specific content, you can make use of the following statement.

"samsung galaxy" site: theusbport.com

As you can see above, Google displays only those results which contain the specific term from a provided website.

Stock symbol


Nowadays, stock market fluctuates daily. If you are curious to know about the performance of the company, you simply need to input the company symbol like MSFT. Google will display the stock details in real time.

In addition to stock related details in graphical format, Google also displays related news and information.

Document Type Searching


If you would like to fetch information in a particular document type, like PowerPoint, you can search using the below-mentioned format.

"artificial intelligence" filetype:ppt

As you can see, Google only searched for PowerPoint slides which contain the topic artificial intelligence.

Time Identification


If you would like to know the time of a specific place, you need not have to make use of Time and Date related websites. Hit Google and search using the following format.

 - time panama

In this case, Google lists the correct time of Panama island.

In addition to time, Google also lists the latest information related to the searched location.

Usage of OR keyword


Sometimes, you come across a situation where you need to provide two keywords. In such a case, you can separate them with OR and Google will return results based on a random keyword

printed notebooks OR laptops

The above search parameter will either search for printed notebooks or laptops.

In this way, you can extend Google and perform search based on your requirements and preferences.

Source : http://theusbport.com/tips-and-tricks-master-google-search/8461

While in college, psychologist Eleanor Longden sought help from a psychiatrist as she tried to deal with symptoms of schizophrenia. When one appointment ran very late, she excused herself, telling the doctor, “I’m reading the news at six.” The psychiatrist duly recorded that Ms. Longden had “delusions of being a television news broadcaster.”

In fact, Longden really did have to read the news on a student-run TV station, as she describes in Scientific American Mind. This story is both amusing and appalling, all the more so because one wouldn’t expect a trained psychiatrist to make assumptions or jump to unwarranted conclusions.

The gross misinterpretation by the psychiatrist is an example of confirmation bias. She was expecting to find evidence of mental illness in her patient, and as a result viewed the slightly improbable news-reading comment as a delusion. The psychiatrist made no effort to clarify the statement. One quick question to explore the topic, or even a shrink-talk, “Oh?” would have revealed the simple, factual explanation.

If a skilled psychiatrist, trained to look for small nuances in patient statements, can make this kind of egregious mistake, do you think marketers, could, too?

Indeed, we can and do make errors at least as bad as the one by Longden’s doctor. When we interpret customer feedback, or data from surveys and focus groups, it’s our natural tendency to interpret the data in a way that is consistent with what we believe ourselves. As the data rolls in, we want to blurt out, “I knew it!” or, “I told you so!” Rarely do we look for other ways of viewing the data, particularly explanations that might prove us wrong.


There are lots of ways that market research can go wrong, but this one is particularly insidious because it exploits a flaw in the way most of us think.

In Why So Much Market Research Sucks, I describe a brush with this phenomenon early in my marketing career. The CEO had achieved past success in selling commodity products at higher prices by differentiating with service and quality. He was convinced that the same strategy would work in our market, too. When a customer survey showed that “price” ranked behind multiple other factors in importance, nobody asked, “Why?” Nobody suggested that the question be asked in a different way, or that this surprising result be explored in more detail.

Instead, confirmation bias kicked in. The survey was viewed as proof that price wasn’t all that important, and that a differentiation strategy would allow at least a modest price premium over less skilled competitors.


The new strategy lasted just a few short weeks. Sales fell, and recovered only when prices were rolled back to competitive levels. In retrospect, price was critically important to our customers but was never an issue because everyone charged the same price. The survey results were accurate, but were taken to imply something that wasn’t true.

If you are doing market research or analyzing customer feedback, be very careful to look for alternate ways of interpreting the information. Look for dissenting voices within your team or company when you analyze customer data, and don’t be afraid to follow up on important data points. In my pricing example, there were a few experienced people who questioned the findings and strategy, but their objections were summarily dismissed as mere resistance to change.

In both of the examples above, just a little more exploration would have revealed that the initial assumptions were incorrect. But, since the statements seemed to confirm what was already thought to be true, nobody took that extra step.

In the coming years, Big Data, behavior metrics, and other quantitative measurements will give us more data than we’ve ever had before. This wealth of information won’t help the bottom line, though, if we use it to support our current beliefs instead of viewing it thoughtfully and seeking alternative ways to interpret it.

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/rogerdooley/2013/08/21/market-research-mistake/



Tuesday, 23 June 2015 14:53



Censorship of information on the Internet has become a much publicized debate that currently has no resolution in sight. There is a great controversy as to whether or not censorship is a necessity in order to maintain a particular moral standard. In the case that there should be a standard, what information should people have access to? Even if there is no single answer that everyone agrees to, it is an issue that has been confronted and is being dealt with. The amount of material generated by this debate alone is huge, but the addition of the world-wide network known as the Internet only makes it grow. During the past several years the Internet has expanded the abilities of the common person to gain information on a global scale. As the Internet industry grows and expands almost daily, new issues of censorship and freedom of expression are arising. Issues such as the exposure of pornography to children as well as the censoring of material to students have caused enormous amounts of controversy. However, these topics are just a few of the problems with the material available over the Internet. This paper combines the issues, debates and ideas of Internet censorship from the papers of 15 individuals.

A Small History of Censorship

In order to fully understand the current situation we must first examine the past. Censorship has been an issue before with a tragic outcome. It seems like when new technology arrives the government tries to rush in and regulate it. This was the case with the US. Postal Service literature in public schools and libraries. Recently the government tried to regulate the telephone companies, and now laws have been written about the Internet. The first reported government censorship was back in 1864 when a postmaster general discovered a large amount of nude pictures were being sent to the Civil War troops. Laws were quickly passed to ban sending "[any] obscene book[s], pamphlet[s], picture[s], print[s], or other publication[s] of vulgar and indecent character" through the US. mail.

This was just the beginning. An influential figure, Anthony Comstock, who lived at the same time, took measures to have literature in America censored. Many classics with passages that may have been "racy" or deemed "offensive" to some were quickly banned from publishing, some were even recalled and destroyed. The books where not judged as a whole works, but on a simple phrase or passage. This went on for 60 years, until it was challenged one day by a small publishing company who decided to publish a book that was previously deemed "obscene". The case was taken to court and the book was ruled not to be obscene because of the couple passages that had previously qualified it as being such. The ruling was that the book with its few obscene passages did not make the entire book obscene. As a result of this ruling, the guidelines of what is considered obscene have been modified.

Other issues about censorship have been raised in the past decade concerning books read by high school seniors. The issue of censorship was brought into English classes in high schools. It was debated whether Huckleberry Finn was an appropriate piece of literature to be read and discussed in the classrooms. Some parents were outraged that a book that used one racial word and one passage that had an adult male and a younger male together nude on the river, was going to be read in the classroom. They judged the whole book by one word and a single passage. Luckily for the students, they were given a chance to read the classic and other books that raise the same issues. 

The Development and Growth of the Internet

Now that we have talked a little about the history of censorship, lets talk about the history of the Internet and its growth. The Internet grew out of developments in packet switching and distributed computer networks designed to be secure in time of war - distributed systems are less susceptible to damage, because transmissions can be routed around the damage. Standard protocols ensure that any platform can be connected to this network, and this meant that local area networks could be linked while retaining all the advantages of LANs, specifically the need not to rely on a single timesharing computer. These developments continued throughout the 1970s and 1980s until we arrived at the Internet we now know - an informal network of networks spanning the globe with almost 4 million hosts, each of which may be serving anywhere between one and 2 million users. It has been suggested that, at current growth rates, everyone on the planet could be connected to the Internet by the year 2003! Alongside this astonishing growth, which is aided, of course, by the ready availability of low-cost computers, free software, and inexpensive telecommunications, is the singularly important fact that the Internet is not controlled by any single authority. The Internet Society (ISOC) is a voluntary organization responsible for technical standards, etc., while the Internet Engineering Task Force (ITF) handles operational and technical problems. No single body, however, can be said to control the Internet and more importantly what is distributed over it.

The Internet has had massive growing within the last few years. Four years ago, many computer literate individuals were not exposed to the Internet nor aware of the existence of the term. Today, the Internet is mentioned almost daily within many newspapers. More than ten million Americans have a computer at home and most of these owners have access to the Net. It has become so effortless to sit down at a computer and just click from one page to another for hours. This leisure activity, more commonly referred to as "Internet surfing," can be amusing no matter what the age of the individual. There are many children that have access to a computer either at home or in their schools and they know how to use it to surf the net. However, college students have more exposure than most age groups for several reasons. First and foremost, most universities issue an e-mail address to every student that is registered for classes. Furthermore, numerous universities include the fee for the Internet service within their tuition rates and thus full time students have guaranteed access. In addition, many professors urge students to use the Net (i.e. to get information for reports) to keep students updated with the technology that is available to them. Nevertheless, the use of the Internet is expanding rapidly. It is indisputable that there will be more growth within the future. With all this traffic on the Internet, there must be an adequate variety of material available for all of these "surfers".

Background To the Censorship Debate

Last year's original Exon legislation was prompted in part by the use of electronic mail to stalk a Michigan schoolteacher. Among other cases: 

  • Prosecutors in Tennessee won convictions, now on appeal, for material they obtained from a computer bulletin board in Milpitas, Calif., based on Memphis standards of what is obscene. 
  • The Church of Scientology has tried to silence a critic by asking a Los Angeles bulletin board operator as well as Netcom On-Line Communications Services to screen electronic messages. 
  • A New York investment bank -- showing the kind of money that is at stake -- is seeking $200 million in damages from Prodigy Services Corp. for "negligently" allowing libelous statements to appear on one of its bulletin boards. 
  • The Jewish Defense League has demanded that America Online begin to monitor neo-Nazi recruiters on its network. 

The Rising Demand of Cyberporn

In the Time[email protected]/time/magazine/domestic/1995/950703/950703.cover.html" style="font-family: 'Times New Roman'; font-size: medium;">"Cyberporn" article, Elmer-De Witt tells us: "It is clear that pornography is being vigorously marketed in increasingly sophisticated ways and has now found a receptive audience in a wide variety of computer environments. According to industry experts and the pornographers themselves, there are at least five factors in addition to an increased focus on paraphilic content which account for this recent explosion of pornography via computer networks. First, consumers enjoy considerable privacy on computer networks and can easily avoid the potential embarrassment of walking into an "adult" store to acquire pornography. Second, consumers have the ability to download only those images that they find most sexually arousing. Previously, a consumer had to purchase an entire magazine or video in order to gain access to a few desired depictions. Third, easy, discrete storage of pornographic images on a computer enables consumers to conceal them from family members, friends, and associates. Fourth, the prevalence and fear of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases has helped pornographers to successfully market "modem sex" and autoeroticism as "safe" and viable alternatives to the dangers of "real" sex. Finally, new and highly advanced computer technologies are quickly being absorbed into the mainstream, permitting an ever-expanding audience to gain access to digitized pornography available on the "Information Superhighway."

Pornography is a major market that is rocketing itself into today's society, however, it is not the only controversial topic that has found a place cyberspace. Both public and private interest groups have shown great concern for the content of material available via the Internet. They are driven by deeply rooted religious and ethical beliefs. They feel that the Internet is a medium that is being abused to allow extremists, unethical, and immoral individuals to corrupt society.

Freedom of Speech Issue

Let's discuss the Freedom of Speech as it is enforced in the U.S. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the U.S. states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

As can be seen from above, The First Amendment includes the Freedom of Speech. The censorship and pornography along with other controversial topics are all intertwined within the First Amendment. The Founding Fathers acted with premeditation and forethought when in adopting the Bill of Rights they placed the freedom of information at the top of the first ten amendments to the Constitution. However, every generation since 1790--in fact, virtually every decade--has redefined and reinterpreted the First Amendment. Yet freedom of speech is not absolute; laws exist regarding libel, obscenity, national security, access to government information, and regulation of electronic mass communications.

Today the United States faces the significant challenge of restoring the traditions of free speech and diversity of information. Free speech involves the use of the Internet to express the mass quantities of ideas across the nation and across the globe. To many people, new information and communications technologies are the link between the problems of yesterday and the possibilities of tomorrow. The gulf between the computer fluent and nonfluent will become more serious as more and more information is available only through computerized databases and information services.

What is Not Protected by the First Amendment

Are any forms of expression not protected by the First Amendment? The Supreme Court has established several limited exceptions to the First Amendment's protection:

FIGHTING WORDS: In the 1942 case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, the Supreme Court held that so-called "fighting words...which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace" are not protected under the First Amendment and can be punished. The Court based its decision on the concept that such utterances are of "slight social value as a step to truth."

LIBEL: In the 1964 case of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held, in a ground breaking decision, that defamatory falsehoods published about public officials are not protected by the First Amendment and can be punished if the offended official can prove that his/her accuser published the falsehoods with "actual malice" -- that is, with "knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not." While the Court's decision addressed a particular type of common law libel, other kinds of "libelous statements "are also punishable.

COMMERCIAL SPEECH: In the 1976 case of Virginia Pharmacy Board v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, the Supreme Court struck down a state ban on prescription drug advertising on First Amendment grounds. However, commercial speech -- which includes advertising, financial and credit reports, and the like -- still has far less First Amendment protection than other speech. Generally, it can be banned if it is, on the whole, misleading or takes undue advantage of its audience.

OBSCENITY: "Obscene" material has historically been excluded from First Amendment protection which has led to the official banning of such classics as James Joyce's Ulysses and D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, as well as the criminal prosecution of countless publishers, book distributors, storekeepers, film distributors and artists.

Cases In Which the First Amendment Did Not Protect

The First Amendment has been one of the great laws of the land in which U.S. citizens are guaranteed individual rights by the government. However, there are several cases where this constitutional right has been overridden. One historical example involves Eugene Debs , a pioneer of the Socialist movement in the United States in the early 1900's. He took an anti-war position during World War I and was thrown into prison for publicly expressing this idea. His imprisonment was upheld by the Supreme Court led by Justice Wendell Holmes. 

There are in addition to case law, several laws that contradict the freedom of speech. Libel, slander, defamation of character, hate speech, and sexual harassment are common examples. Pornography laws and the freedom of expression also fall in the category of speech. This is not to say that any of these laws are necessary or to argue the moral value of these laws but to establish that laws already exist against the first amendment. So we agree that, although it is plainly stated in the Constitution, there are several laws restricting speech in the U.S.

Now, the question remains about how the Internet affects the protection of speech. The Internet is a medium of communication like television, periodicals, and radio. The Internet has the added complication of serving people from all over the world on one medium. So whose laws apply? Pornography is illegal in the Middle East, so can an American posting images on the Internet that someone in Saudi Arabia downloads be held liable? If a person in Japan posts a message that someone in the US finds offensive or demeaning, can the American sue according to US law, or does the case fall under Japanese jurisdiction? Or, if this type of offense is not illegal according to Japanese law, is there any basis at all for judicial intervention? So, if there was to be a universal Freedom of Speech law, it would have to encompass all participating countries' interpretations of Freedom of Speech, as well as define what is and what is not allowed under such a law. Is such a compromise possible? 

These and other questions are still to be answered by society as the Internet develops throughout the globe. More issues are evolving as different events occur because of the wide spread and inevitable use and abuse of the Internet.

A Closer Look at Obscenity

It seems as if the key to this whole argument over censorship are the words "freedom of speech". If one considers the Internet to be a medium which allows for the free expression of ideas and if one additionally allows that the Internet can be considered a 'borderless' marketplace, then it is certainly worth considering that perhaps free speech is already protected on the Internet? At least speech would be protected in this country. While it is true that certain parts of the Internet (news groups and the World Wide Web, for example) seem to be mostly given over to the distribution of adult materials, the general spirit of the Internet as espoused by groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation is that of a medium for the free exchange of ideas. Throughout the years the Supreme Court has ruled many times on that issue. Each time, it defended the right to free speech as long as the speech was not "obscene". In the 1973 case of Miller v. California, the Court re-examined the issue and established a standard for determining whether material is obscene. The Court ruled that material is legally obscene if:

  1. the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would conclude that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interests;
  2. it depicts sexually explicit conduct, specifically defined by law, in a patently offensive manner; and
  3. it lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

After the case of Miller v. California, the courts ruled that all ideas having any social worth, be it controversial or hateful, must be protected by the First Amendment. All this really means is that you might not like what the person is saying but you must still respect their right to say it. The Miller test is still the law today.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's long-standing unwillingness to strike down all obscenity laws as unconstitutional infringements on freedom of expression has allowed censorship to flourish at various times in our history because of public officials' tendency to apply the Court's narrow limits in over board ways. This remains a problem with all of the limited exceptions to the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court decided that there was a class of material called obscenity which is not covered by the First Amendment. It was odd that there was a category which was not clearly defined. This means that an image or document may be illegal due to obscenity in one community and may be perfectly legal and protected by the First Amendment in another community. This would seem to indicate that what the Supreme Court calls obscenity is nothing more than the thinly veiled prejudice of the governing bodies in those communities.

The Communications Decency Act

On February 1, 1996 Congress enacted the Communications Decency Act. This act entails the prohibition of providing access of pornographic material through the use of various communication devices including the Internet. The first versions of this act only included the prohibition of providing access to minors, however, the version that was passed included access to all individuals. This act has stirred various reactions from Net users. Many are shocked and believe that their First Amendment rights have been violated. Others feel that this Act will benefit society by reducing the amount of immoral material that people will be exposed to.

With the passing of this act, it would be obvious that news groups such as alt.binaries.erotica would immediately be removed. However, to this date these sites and others still exist. There are still many brave soles that post their material, even though the Communication Decency Act is being fully enforced. The controversy still continues today.

For more information on the Communication Decency Act click here.

The Carnegie Mellon University Situation

Recently there has been an attempt to limit the types of news groups that can be view by particular sites. This issue has met with a strong opposition in a much publicized case at Carnegie Mellon University. The university planned on withdrawing student access to all news groups under the alt.sex hierarchy and a few other news groups that were deemed to have obscene content. The university claimed to have several reason for restricting the student access to certain user groups. One reason behind their decision was to avoid possible legal action against them for providing sexually explicit materials to minors, since some of their first year students were not yet eighteen years of age. Another reason that influenced their decision was a study by Marty Rimm about pornography on the Internet and in particular on news groups at the university. This study claimed to have found that about 84 percent of all news groups at Carnegie Mellon were explicitly used for accessing pornographic pictures and other sexually explicit material. With the unleashing of the results of this study, the decision of Carnegie Mellon to limit the access of news groups to their students came shortly afterwards. 

Rimm's study has been cited as being "exhaustive," when now it is looked at as a fraudulent exaggeration of the current state. The study was said to examine over 900,000 images, 83.5 percent of which were pornographic. An article written about the Rimm report and subsequent hysteria said that the article is fraudulent and based on the description of "slightly more than 4,000 images."

The main argument against the action taken by CMU to restrict access to the news groups that had sexually explicit content was that the "discussion of sexual matters of any sort is Constitutionally protected speech" under the First Amendment to the Constitution. This argument has no effect on the alt.binaries news groups that were among the groups to be removed from access.

Carnegie Mellon reacted to Rimm's study in accordance to Pennsylvania state censorship laws which prohibit the distribution of sexually explicit materials to minors. The law states that "No person shall knowingly disseminate.. explicit sexual materials to a minor." When the news of the University's decision reached the student body, a rally was organized to address the students' concerns and ideas on the subject. The students claimed that it was not that they wanted to be able to have access to pornography but that it was their right to make their own decisions guaranteed by the First Amendment. Vic Walczk, the Pittsburgh ACLU executive director who was a speaker at that rally, stated that "For well-established reasons of free speech, this type of censorship is not only wrong, but very dangerous. The Internet is analogous to a library and libraries are protected from obscenity prosecutions under Pennsylvania law." The Pennsylvania state censorship laws exempt "any library of any school, college, or university" from this law. However, the statement that the Internet and particularly Usenet news groups are analogous to a library appears to be weak. This statement is only supported by the later statement which says, "by providing wide access to the Internet, the University is, in effect, functioning as an electronic librarian." 

For more material on this topic refer to the following sites:
CMU Concerns.

Censorship for Children

In this society more and more emphasis is being placed on technology and the Information Superhighway. More concern is arising among parents about the availability of pornography to children over the Internet. First of all, in many public and private schools and in many homes, children are being connected to the Internet. A thought must be paid to the safety of children on the Internet. Children are gaining more access to the Internet and there are some problems that need to be considered, such as the "risk that a child may be exposed to inappropriate material of a sexual or violent nature." Several web search sites exist allowing anyone to perform a keyword search. Performing such a search on Yahoo, a popular search engine, provided 290 matches to the keyword sex. This provided many links to sexually explicit materials that could be easily followed.

One side argues that it is difficult to supervise their children at all times. Due to this fact, there must be some other way to censor the material that is available on the Net. The Internet should not be a place where children can have easy access to sexually explicate material. After all, movies have ratings and now a television chip is being developed to censor what can be viewed on television by children. Therefore, the Internet should also have a way for censoring the pornography.

Others argue that parents are responsible for the activity of their children and therefore should also be held responsible when their children are misusing a computer. This would eliminate any need for government involvement in the issue. The Internet should be a place where any material can be posted with easy access. It should be able to be used by anyone with a connection to the Net. Some support the argument with the fact that most pornography sites have a cover page that warns all individuals who accidentally stumble upon the location. Children stumble upon these sites but many cannot download them. They must be knowledgable in order to download the files and use a viewer for the pornography.

Alternatives to Governmental Censorship

For those who wish to control what their children or students access on the Internet, there are several alternatives to governmental censorship.

Voluntary ratings

Several individuals and organizations have suggested methods whereby information providers rate themselves, or are rated by other organizations, just as U.S. films are rated now. The best known plan is PICS, announced in October 1995 by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3). In this proposal, any organization could assign ratings and parents could use them to filter incoming Web pages. Internet Filtering Systems, Inc. (IFSI) creates a product claiming to promote the PICS system.

Filtering based on origin

Certain news groups such as the alt.binaries.pictures.erotica set are dedicated to sexual material. By blocking these well-known sites you can keep your children from seeing the vast majority of sexual discussion. Surf Watch is an example of an existing product that contains a set of sites where access is denied; you can add your own list of sites to it.

Filtering based on keywords and key phrases

Another approach is to make a list of obscene words and phrases or ones that herald the coming of content you find objectionable. Then you force the system to stop downloading material when these are found. The technology can be applied to both public postings and private email. Net Nanny is an existing product that uses this approach.

Subscription to an approved service

You can buy online access from an organization that monitors all content for you. Prodigy was originally set up to operate this way but it loosened its policy after complaints (and many people also claimed that it never succeeded in blocking objectionable messages). Religious or commercial organizations can offer lists of approved sites, and you can limit your access to those.

Prosecution of child pornographers

Laws already exist against child pornography and have been used on electronic networks. No new laws are needed that single out electronic media regarding this particular issue.

Guidance and discussion

This is ultimately the least coercive and most positive approach. Just as you caution children in how to act when they go out in public, you can talk to them about what's online and help them protect themselves. It is also felt that morals and ethics should be taught in the home because children are exposed to all sorts of material.

The Adult BBS Concern

The only thing readily comparable to the web pages providing pornographic and sexually explicit materials are Adult Bulletin Board Services (BBS's). Adult BBS's require proof of age to allow access to such materials. For what reason would Internet sites have weaker restrictions? Some news- based web pages require registration to determine who is using their web site. A similar system could be adopted to prevent minors from gaining access to sites providing explicit materials. One could argue that forcing registration of this sort would be a violation of privacy. It is similar to materials that are distributed in a real-world setting where proof of age is required. Just because access is via an electronic medium does not change the nature of the material or the responsibilities of the distributor. This is evident by the Adult BBS's that were previously mentioned.

As with the Internet, much debate and many problems have to resolved concerning the topic of adult bulletin boards. Consider the tale of the Robert and Carleen Thomas. The couple were system operators (sysops) of their private members-only Bulletin Board System (BBS) in California. The BBS provided for its members sexually explicit pictures and chat groups. One day a web-surfer from Memphis Tennessee happened to cross the Thomases's BBS and found the material offensive. The Tennessee man reported to the U.S. Postal service his findings. After an investigation the Thomases were indicted, tried in a Memphis federal court and convicted on the charge of distributing obscene materials in interstate commerce. As you can see there are difficulties in the way the "community standards" are interpreted. Although in their home state of California the materials that they offered to their users were not considered obscene, they were in Tennessee. It has always been that the individual's right to own obscenity in their own home is protected as long as they: 1) do not sell it, 2) display it publicly, 3) or show it to children.

The Thomases have appealed the case and have offered in their defense that if the same Memphis man had come to California and purchased the same type of sexual explicit material and transported it back to Tennessee that he would not have broken any laws. They feel that on the same grounds the Memphis man traveled virtually through the Internet to their BBS. Unfortunately, in the past the Courts have thrown out arguments involving such a defense.

Anonymous Re-mailers

Anonymity is another issue which can be linked to the freedom of speech on the Internet. Much like accountability, it relates to the feeling of freedom. Some services on the Internet provide ways for users to become anonymous. This creates the freedom to make comments without revealing their identity. 

A good example that relates to anonymity on the Internet is the usage of the phone and caller identification (ID). Before caller ID, phone calls were always anonymous. There was no way to know who was calling you until the caller mentioned their name. Caller ID identifies each caller with the phone number they are calling from which limits the amount of anonymity. The Internet is a lot like a caller ID because each person on the Internet has a user name which is displayed. Now there are services that allow for users to become anonymous which are like a phone without the caller ID.

An anonymous remailer is one of the services allowing anonymity. Andre Bacard, author of anonymous remailer FAQ, defines anonymous remailers as, " a free computer service that privatizes your e-mail " and it " allows you to send electronic mail to a Usenet news group or to a person without the recipient knowing your name or your e-mail address"

There are some advantages to anonymity. For example, users can post messages without being identified. Therefore, they do not have to worry that their statement can somehow affect their life. Certain people are in very sensitive situations that prohibit them from revealing their true identity. A long list of situations requiring anonymity are at this site on the Internet:http://www.oberlin.edu/~brchkind/cyphernomicon/chapter8/8.4.html

A disadvantage to anonymity is that users will take advantage of the freedom. Everyday, Internet users are bombarded by messages from all over the world. Most of the messages are harassing and obtrusive. Some users will post these message under the anonymous user name. An example of this happening in the real world is slanderous graffiti. However, messages on the Internet are broadcast to everyone in the world while graffiti is localized. It is the people who are taking advantage of this freedom of speech and causing the Internet to become a virtual world filled with hate. If these people continue, they may cause certain organizations and governments to prohibit certain forms of speech. In essence, the abusive senders of messages will cause the Internet to become regulated, something that everyone fears.

While we as U.S. citizens may enjoy protection from the actions of other governments, it is difficult to know what would happen to citizens of other governments committing the same actions. There are ways to avoid the question. With the availability of both anonymous remailers and PGP software, computer users in foreign countries with more restrictive laws regarding free speech could be able to express themselves more freely, at least in the online world. This possibility could lead to greater freedom for those in less open societies. 

The idea that the Internet could be a liberating force is an exciting one. While the U.S. government has attempted to curtail and prevent the exportation of cryptographic technology such as Pretty Good Privacy by Phil Zimmerman, given the dynamics of the Internet, and the rapidity with which data may be transferred online, it is almost certain the programs like PGP are in wide distribution globally. Rather than attempting to prevent foreigners from acquiring programs that encrypt data (disregarding for the sake of argument the very real and valid assertion that hostile governments could gain our encryption technology and use it for their own ends), perhaps the U.S. government should encourage the distribution of such programs. If such programs were available, the encouragement to democracy and dissidents would be immense. Dissidents living in oppressively governed countries could discuss issues of relevance to them openly on a news group. Simply by using existing cryptography software (i.e. PGP), such people would be safe from the prying eyes of their government. Dissidents using such encryption would be secure from the governmental agencies that would hope to scan all electronic message traffic passing through gateways. Anonymous remailers could also assist those who would hope to post "dangerous" messages in news groups. In fact, this use can be seen in many USENET news group postings.

Who is the Responsible?

In the case of Stratton Oakmont vs Prodigy , "Stratton Oakmont, a brokerage firm based in Lake Success, N.Y., brought charges against the Prodigy online service. Individuals sent a series of postings accusing Stratton Oakmont of criminal behavior and violations of Securities and Exchange Commission rules to Prodigy's "Money Talk" forum. Last year, Stratton Oakmont sued Prodigy for $200 million in libel damages. Prodigy lawyers argued that the server is a passive carrier of information like the telephone company. Stratton Oakmont countered that Prodigy is in the business and is therefore responsible for all communication on its service.

A New York state judge ruled that Prodigy, which routinely screens postings for obscene or potentially libelous content, does in fact exert a form of editorial control over content on its system and could be sued as a publisher. Prodigy is appealing the state court's decision."

After taking a close look at the case mentioned above, it is obvious that it is unreasonable to expect a service to physically read every message for content. This is exactly what would be required. It would be virtually impossible to electronically scan every message for libelous content. Also, as can be seen from a recent Virginia Tech case, the point of origin of the message may effect a person's right to post that message. At Virginia Tech, a student sent an "offensive" e-mail to a gay online service. The university took action against this student because he used a "vt.edu" suffix for his return address. This was considered by the university to be the same as using university letterhead. In a recent local PBS special, the director of communication services for Virginia Tech stated that for the most part, "Virginia Tech considers network access to students to be a pay service, but that when users post messages with a return address of "vt.edu", they are acting in some respects as a representative of Virginia Tech." The director went on to state, "the university has the right to take action against those who make statements while acting as an electronic "spokesman" for the college." This would imply in some sense, that Virginia Tech is saying that it will attempt to control the content of messages which originate from its service. Again, the difficulty which Prodigy faced comes into play.


With the discussion of various issues concerning the Internet, it is easy to see that the topic has no clear cut resolution. With the passing of the Communication Decency Act, one would believe that much of the controversy would be resolved. However, this is far from reality. Many individuals are now stepping forward to voice their opinions about this topic. It is left to the reader to make their own decision on Internet censorship, given the various debates throughout this paper. Hopefully the reader feels more educated about the current problems and issues with Internet censorship that have to be dealt with in the future.  

Written By: Usman Qazi


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