Berkman Buzz: March 14, 2014

March 14, 2014

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Judith Donath delves in to the Twitter handle black market


In September 2012, the Twitter account of Daniel Dennis Jones, with the username @blanket, was hacked. When he logged in, he found that the account hadn’t been touched except that the username had been changed to something obscene.

By following tweets referring to @blanket, he found a black market of stolen Twitter names and was able to follow the conversation, on Twitter, between the new possessor of @blanket and his hacker friends. They were kids, trading and selling stolen names – and giving them to girls they hoped to impress. Their feeds were filled with bragging and put-downs, complaints about school and plans to play Xbox.

From Judith Donath's post for The Conversation, "Joyriders make a black market of prestige Twitter handles"
About Judith | @judithd

Ethan Zuckerman discusses Myanmar's changing media environment


Thankfully, there are few truly despotic societies in the world, but Myanmar was one of them from 1962 until quite recently, ruled by a military junta with a horrific record on human rights. The nation’s media was heavily state controlled, with a policy of pre-publication censorship that turned domestic media into an organ for state propaganda. It was difficult or impossible for international media to report critically on the country, and events in the nation were often wholly invisible to the rest of the world. When Cyclone Nargis hit in 2008, killing over 200,000 people in the Irrawaddy delta, the military government released no information on the crisis for days afterwards and is reported to have obstructed UN relief efforts out of fears relief workers would act as spies. If there were an Olympics for closed societies, Myanmar would have been a steady contender for the silver, behind perennial champion North Korea, but duking it out with Eritrea, Turkmenistan and heavyweight Iran.

That’s all changing, and rapidly.

From Ethan Zuckerman's blog post, "Myanmar, no longer closed, still complicated"
About Ethan | @ethanz

Sara Watson explores the "uncanny valley" of targeted marketing

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Right now we are in an uncanny valley of targeted advertising. Everything feels a little creepy, we can begin to infer how some of this is working, but it turns out what marketers are doing is still remarkably coarse and not nearly as granular and personally tailored as we think or expect it might be. The creepiest ads we see on Facebook are still based on very coarse demographic categorizations or are retargeted from cookies. Still, when we come across a retargeted ad (if we even know for sure that’s what it is) showing us a shirt that we were browsing for on J.Crew, which we already bought in the store with the company’s loyalty credit card, we feel offended and annoyed because we’ve already taken steps to expose our preferences and our loyalty to the brand, and yet they still don’t understand us in a way that feels right.

From Sara Watson's blog post, "The Uncanny Valley of Targeted Marketing"
About Sara | @smwat

Zeynep Tufekci reflects on renewed protests in Turkey

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The protesters I interviewed at Gezi talked about a desire for rule of law, their concerns about growing corruption (which would erupt in a scandal about six month later), their fears that concentration of powers had gone too far and that spaces of freedom and of choice were being constricted by a government that wanted to dictate everything. Those concerns have not gone away; if anything, the last nine months deepened the fault lines.

From Zeynep Tufekci's blog post, "A loaf of bread, a dead child. Turkey’s protest cycle."
About Zeynep | @zeynep

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I talked to the good folks at the @Verge; here's the product of our conversation: boyd (@zephoria)

Russia Blocks Four Opposition Media Portals

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The chickens of Russian Internet censorship are coming home to roost. Over the past year RuNet Echo has written extensively about the slow creep of legislation and regulation that could allow the Russian government to extrajudicially block any online resource through Russian ISPs. On March 13, 2014 the Russian Attorney General's Office requested Roskomnadzor (Russia's mass media regulatory body) to include four websites in its registry of blocked websites, the so-called Internet “blacklist.”

Three of the blocked websites are the opposition news portals (founded by Garry Kasparov),, and

From Andrey Tselikov's post for Global Voices, "Russia Blocks Four Opposition Media Portals"
About Global Voices Online | @globalvoices

This Buzz was compiled by Rebekah Heacock.

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Last updated

March 14, 2014