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Monday, February 28, 2011

LinkedIn Access Returns To China

David Makarewicz
Chinese access to LinkedIn has apparently been restored.  As of last Thursday, representatives of the career networking site had confirmed that Chinese censors had blocked LinkedIn access in parts of China.  By Sunday, the site was accessible again.

With Twitter and Facebook already on the Chinese blacklist, pro-democracy protestors had set up groups in LinkedIn to discuss the "Jasmine Revolution" occuring in the Middle East.  Citizens created a LinkedIn user group discussing bringing a Jasmine Revolution to China called "Jasmine Voice" shortly before the site was blocked.

Although there was no official statement from the Chinese government confirming that it was responsible for the LinkedIn blockage, China has a demonstrated history of restricting the online access of its citizens.  Reporters Without Borders named China one of its twelve "Internet Enemies."

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Would $1 Billion In Revenue Convince You Groupon Is Not Just A Fad?

David Makarewicz

Will Groupon become the latest internet company to reach $1 billion in revenue?  CEO Andrew Mason is confident that it will happen this year.   

Last year, Groupon's revenue increased to $760 million from $33 million in 2009.  With year-over-year numbers jumping like that, Mason's decision to turn down Google's $6 billion offer last December makes more sense.

The Wall Street Journal uncovered a memo that Mason sent to his staffers last month.  In it, the 30 year old netrepeneur expresses unbridled ambition, while trying to motivate his team.  He tells them that "By this time next year, we will either be on our way to becoming one of the great technology brands that define our generation, or a cool idea by people who were out executed and out innovated by others that were smarter and harder working." 

This year, Groupon will be taking two enormous steps toward becoming such a generation-defining internet brand.  For starters, Groupon is preparing for an IPO as soon as this fall.  Additionally, Groupon is reportedly planning on going live with Groupon China as soon as the next few weeks.  Although China presents enormous challenges because of strict governmental control over the internet, by 2014, the country will hold 42% of internet users.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Iranians Use Their Own Technology To Battle Internet Censorship

David Makarewicz

Iranians are finding ways to get around "The Great Firewall of Iran."  Despite increasingly oppressive government internet filtering and censorship, tech-savvy  Iranian citizens are accessing social media and downloading games and western movies.

The Iranian government has a sophisticated system for censorship and monitoring, using Nokia and Siemens technology.  In March 2010, Reporters Without Borders named Iran one of twelve "Internet Enemies," a distinction reserved for countries that restrict online access and harass their netizens. 

To circumvent the blockades, Iranians are employing systems like Freegate and Virtual Private Network.  Unfortunately, though, these techniques have crippled Iran's internet speed.

Earlier this month, Iran demonstrated its seriousness about internet control, when the country sentenced a 35 year old web programmer to death for designing an adult website. 

Morning Rundown

  • Internet-radio giant Pandora is going public.  Pandora makes over 86 percent of its more than $100 million annual revenue from advertising.

  • Have critics focused too much on the Internet Kill Switch?  Some say that the real threat is that the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act would create in the White House the Office of Cyberspace Protection, headed by a Senate-confirmed director, who would, according the bill's language, "oversee, coordinate and integrate all policies and activities of the federal government across all instruments of national power relating to ensuring the security and resiliency of cyberspace."

  • Not everyone is in love with Netflix's business model.  Critics say subscribers who use the streaming service are happy now, but will eventually tire of being able to stream less than fifteen percent of Netflix's DVD offerings.

  • Arianna Huffington's gain is David Eun's loss.  Eun announced he will step aside as AOL Media president when Huffington joins AOL and takes over his position.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Court Rules Retransmitting Broadcast Television Violates Copyright Laws

David Makarewicz

Screenshot of ivi TV Pro
A New York federal judge has ruled that a company can not retransmit broadcast television programming over the internet. 

The defendant, ivi, Inc. had been charging suscribers $4.99 per month to stream programming simultaneously being offered by the networks’ affiliates in Seattle, New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  A group of broadcasters, including NBC, ABC, CBS and Major League Baseball, brought suit objecting to the unsanctioned public performance of their copyrighted works.

Although the case has not been ultimately decided, Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an injunction, barring ivi from streaming the broadcasters' programming without consent.  Judge Buchwald determined that ordering ivi to cease its activities pending trial was warranted because she found that the broadcasters have a sufficient likelihod of succeeding in their case.

Morning Rundown

  • Want a WikiLeaks messenger bag?  Julian Assange's secrets depository is launching an online store to raise revenue.

  • A Cisco study shows that mobile data traffic from tablets will increase more than 200 times by 2015.

  • Has the US government contracted private intelligence firms to develop software to create fake social media profiles to promote propoganda and surveil subversive points of view?  More on this troubling story to come.

  • Porn studio Pink Visual has decided not to file lawsuits against suspected pirates of its adult films.  Instead, it plans to try to out-market, out-promote, and out-innovate illegal file-sharing services.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blogger Hits Back Against Wisconsin Governor

David Makarewicz

Following up on our earlier story about the accusations that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's administration blacklisted a website dedicated to protestors of his policies.  Governor Walker's day got even worse as liberal blogger Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast, prank called Walker, pretending to be David Koch, a major conservative fundraiser.  Following the prank call, the Buffalo Beast experienced so much traffic that the website was producing an error message (assuming the technical issues are not due to Governor Walker's blacklist increasing its reach.)

In the call, believing he was talking to a wealthy ally, Walker outlines some of the procedural tricks he plans to employ to ensure passage of his anti-union legislation.  He also explains some of the tactics he is using to "crank up more pressure" on organized labor.  One troubling example is the five to six thousand layoff at-risk notices that he said he plans to send to state workers next week.

Murphy, who initiallly considered pretending to be Hosni Mubarak, told the Huffington Post he was shocked that he was able to get to Walker simply by posing as a donor.  "Fifteen minutes in, I wanted to almost stop it and say, 'Are you so dumb, I'm not David Koch. How can your staff be so incompetent and how could I get on the phone with you so easily."

The following is the two-part audio of the fake phone call.

Wisconsin Governor Blocks Protestor Website

David Makarewicz
Governor Scott Walker

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is being accused of blocking a website set up by protestors of his administration.  If true, this would be a stunning violation of the constitutional rights of the citizens of Wisconsin.

The website at issue,, was launched last week by the University of Wisconsin Teaching Assistants' Association assist volunteers who are organizing protests of the Governor's attempts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public sector workers.  Critcs of the Republican Governor have argued that his proposed cuts have more to do with his hostility toward labor unions than it does with any budget shortfall.

Did that hostility toward unions motivate the Governor to blacklist the protestors' website?

Morning Rundown

  • Parents don't want blogger/teacher Natalie Munroe to return to the classroom.  Not surprising since Munroe unleashed a series of profanity-laden blog posts calling their children "lazy" and "rude."

  • Is Google's growth slowing because of competition from specialized search sites and social media (as well as growing concern that its algorithm can be gamed)?

  • Copyright assassin Righthaven LLC forgot to renew its Nevada state business license, which expired on January 31.  Its status is currently listed as "default."

  • Amazon Prime members can now stream movies and televison shows.  Amazon will not increase its $79 annual membership cost.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Some Former Employees Make Google Regret Letting Them Go

David Makarewicz
It is amazing how quickly a technology family tree can grow.  Business Insider has an interesting survey of startups that have come from ex-employees of Google.  Google's offspring includes:
  • Twitter, the brain-child of Evan Williams, who also sold Blogger to Google

  • Aardvark, which Google subsequently purchased for $50 million

  • Instagram, a photo sharing application growing in popularity

  • Foursquare, which is presently valued over $100 million

  • Image Shack, the parent company of yFrog

Will Russia Impose Internet Controls Like China?

David Makarewicz
Russian Prime Minister Igor Sechin

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin has publicly accused Google executives of causing the Egyptian revolution by manipulating the energies of the people.  Although he did not specifically address internet freedom in Russia, these statements may signal growing concern among Russian hardliners about the Internet's role in global unrest.

The Russian government does not control the internet the way it controls other forms of media.  However, analysts say there are close allies of Putin who would like to impose controls similar to China's in order to silence the criticism of the Russian establishment that flows freely on the internet.

Google garnered a great deal of attention during the Egyptian revolution.  A Google executive, Wael Ghoneim, was hailed as "The Man Who Inspired the Egyptian Revolt."

Since the unrest broke out in the Middle East, China has tightened its control of the internet even further.  The Chinese government recently censored online discussions in which its citizens were attempting to organize a large protest in Shanghai.  Additionally, the Chinese government has launched its own censored search engine as a response to Google pulling out of China last year.

The United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, Michael Posner, characterizes the present state of chinese censorship as intensifying but unsustainable.

Morning Rundown

David Makarewicz
  • The Bloggies have announced their nominees for the best blogs on the web.  The winners will be revealed on February 27.
  • The New York Times predicts blogging will decline as social media grows in influence.  Bloggers disagree because (a) the Times is still getting many of its stories from blogs, (b) some people will want to write and read more than 140 characters, and (c) the Times article is based on an outdated Pew study.
  • A Kuala Lumpur blogger has been granted time to file a defense against a defamation lawsuit brought by the Malaysian Information Communication and Cultural Minister.  The blogger had posted an article claiming that the public official had raped and possibly murdered his maid.
  • An online repository of the scores of the world's great symphonies has some music publishers complaining about copyright issues.  The Internet Music Score Library Project was founded by a 19 year old student, who has since moved on to Harvard Law School, where he will hopefully learn how to defend himself from the inevitable lawsuits.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rick Santorum Still Suffering Effects of 2003 Googlebomb

David Makarewicz

When former Sen. Rick Santorum publicly likened homosexuality to pedophilia and bestiality in 2003, he had to know there would be some blowback.  Little did he know that eight years later, he would still be unable to escape that blowback. 

Because of the actions of a columnist who was offended his anti-gay comments, Santorum is now forced to figure out how you run for president while praying nobody Googles your name.  The problem comes from the fact that if you type "Santorum" or "Rick Santorum" into Google, many of the websites that appear at the top of your search results are sites that use the word "Santorum" as a vulgar sexual neologism.

At the time he made his anti-homosexual comments, Santorum was commenting on the Lawrence v. Texas case, which asked the courts to consider the constitutionality of a state anti-sodomy law.  Columnist Dan Savage responded to Santorum's comments by running a contest aking his readers to redefine the word "Santorum."  Savage also published the website, which is Google's top search result for the word "Santorum." contains the following, winning definition:

Google Search Engine Optimization In The Wake Of JC Penney

David Makarewicz

When the New York Times uncovered that a black hat SEO agency had been hired by JC Penney to boost its rankings, the retailer was punished and its Google search engine rankings have suffered.  Now, other websites are left to wonder whether their search engine optimization techniques could backfire and invite similar penalties.

Probably the most important lesson of this saga is that your company can not simply hire an SEO agency and hope for the best.  It is critical for someone within your organization to understand the techniques, especially with regard to paid links, being employed by the agency.

So what types of paid links are permissible and what types will vanish your web address?  The first resource should be the search engine's posted policies, such as Google's paid links guidelines.  Generally, the line is that paid links may be permissible if the links are topically relevant to the page.  Where Google identifies out-of-context paid links, often placed through techniques like reciprocal linking, link networks or triangular linking, punishment will often follow.

This scandal has created new headaches for Google as well.  In the case of JC Penney, Google claimed it was instituting "manual penalties."  This puts Google in an awkward position.  Anytime Google does anything manually it flies in the face of Google's typical claims that their search engine is completely objective--driven by an algorithm, not human intervention.  Google will lose its considerable mojo if the public starts to believe that Google's search engines are driven by favoritism rather than math.

There are also new concerns that a devious company could use Google's penalties to its advantage by hiring a black hat SEO agency to break Google's rules with its competitors links.  Google would detect the abuse and punish the competitor's rankings.  This brand of search engine sabotage would create additional headaches for Google.

.xxx and .gay Domains Headed For Controversial Introductions

David Makarewicz
If the domain name sold for $13 million last October, I wonder what will be worth.  Network solutions is advertising that it is getting ready to launch the .xxx domain extension.  It is being marketed as a responsible choice for adult websites because it will prevent internet users from accidentally exposing coming into contact with pornographic images.  When a user types .xxx into their browser, it is probably no accident that they end up staring at an adult site. 
The Bush administration fought to prevent the .xxx domain for six years.  Despite America's protests, the proposal for the .xxx top-level domain was initially approved by ICANN in 2005, but then ICANN reversed itself and denied approval the following year.  Ultimately, .xxx got new life when the ICM Registry successfully appealed the denial.
Another controversial top-level domain about to enter the pipeline is the .gay extension.  Championed by dotGAY, LLC, the .gay domain will be submitted for ICANN approval when the application period opens. 
The .gay application coincides with President Obama seeking power for the United States, as well as foreign governments, to obtain the right to veto top-level domain names.  These new proposed powers could mean that certain anti-gay, Middle Eastern countries will veto .gay.  On the other hand, dotGAY CEO Scott Seitz told CNET he thinks it is possible that these anti-gay governments might welcome the extension so that it will be easier for them to use filter technology to censor all gay-themed websites in their country.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

As Hulu Expands, Streaming Television's Relationship With Traditional TV Grows Murky

David Makarewicz
A few weeks ago, Jason Kilner, the CEO of Hulu, outlined his reasoned belief that streaming services such as Hulu will dominate traditional TV in the future.  Sounds like bold, forward-looking leadership.  Unfortunately for Kilner, Hulu is still very dependent on relationships with traditional TV and his corporate bosses from News Corp.’s Fox, Disney’s ABC and Comcast/NBCUni’s NBC were reportedly enraged by his comments.  They are considering firing Kilner.  This stand-off will be interesting to watch as it is the first significant public battle between those who believe that streaming television is destined to replace traditional TV and those who believe that streaming television will merely serve as a complement to traditional TV.
While the battle for Hulu's soul rages on in its board room, Hulu continues to extend its offerings and ability to reach customers.  First, in a move that shows that it is serious about cutting into Netflix's share of the streaming movie market, Hulu has acquired hundreds of films from the Criterion collection.  Criterion was motivated to move some of its movies from Netflix to Hulu, in part, because of Hulu's ability to give Criterion a dedicated page, which Netflix's interface does not currently offer.
Additionally, Hulu has begun the process of extending to Android phones.  PlayOn software allows Android devices to stream Hulu videos (as well as others streaming video services, including Netflix).  However, the software is not free.  The PlayOn software, which also streams programming to XBox 360, PS3, Wii, iPhone and iPad, is available for either a one-time fee or subscription payments. 

Five Key Questions About America's Proposed Internet Piracy Laws

David Makarewicz

Despite America's "two-faced" calls for global internet freedom, this week, the Senate revived two controversial bills designed to give the U.S. government unprecedented powers to control internet property and activities.  First, the Senate rearranged and reintroduced the Internet Kill Switch bill, now called the Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act, which would empower the government to issue emergency orders to private companies if it declares a cyberemergency. 

While America's first declared cyberemergency may still be years away, the proposed Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Acts (COICA) threatens to have the most immediate impact on internet businesses.  This week, the Senate held a new round of hearings on COICA.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, would grant the Department of Justice broad new powers to control privately-owned websites, including the ability to order ad networks, payment transaction companies, and Internet service providers to cut financial ties with sites accused of infringement, or in the case of ISPs, block the sites from being accessed in the United States.

This proposal to empower the government with this an internet black list remains controversial.  However, most experts believe that Senate passage of the bill is a near certainty.  COICA is being pushed by major companies with major lobbying budgets, including the Ford Motor Co., the Motion Picture Association of America and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

As the debate about COICA's likelihood to decrease both copyright infringement and internet freedom rages on, here are five issues key to the conversation:

1. Does COICA ask Americans to trade freedom for limited, short-term benefits?  Even if COICA makes sense to combat today's technology, there is no reason to believe that it will it still make sense in five years.  If, instead, COICA is merely a mechanism to fight a war against technology that will evolve so quickly that the laws are rendered ineffective, the bill's infringements on civil liberties become even less tolerable.  Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, who derailed the previous incarnation of the bill, testified before the COICA Committee this week and reminded them that "the primary uses of the Internet are activities protected by the First Amendment, not civil or criminal violations."  Wyden also pointed out that not long ago, legislators were calling on the Senate to save the American music industry by banning digital audio tapes.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Morning Rundown

David Makarewicz
  • Does Congress believe that American's civil rights are better protected by a series of smaller kill switches rather than a single, master Internet Kill Switch?  Maybe they think nobody will notice now that they have snuck the words "internet freedom" into the text of the revised bill.

  • A California court has denied Google's motion to dismiss a previously rejected "false association" claim in a keyword advertising case brought by Jurin.  Legal blogger Eric Goldman believes the court got it wrong.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Should States Tax Online Retailers?

David Makarewicz
Picture of Rep. Dan Lungren
Congressman Dan Lungren

As some are calling on Congress and state legislators to tax online retailers such as Amazon, California Congressman Dan Lungren introduced a “Supporting the Preservation of Internet Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses” resolution.  The resolution is aimed at preventing Congress from allowing states to impose these new taxes on online retailers.

Where states have adopted online retailer taxes, Amazon has terminated its contracts with its third-party affiliates in those states.  The same would likely happen in any state that passed a law like Colorado's, which expands the definition of "nexus" to include in-state affiliates.  Without a nexus between the retailer and the state, a state is normally prevented from taxing the retailer. 

The Washington Post's Ezra Klein argues that "online retail is starving states" by costing the states sales tax revenue they would have raised if consumers had bought products at a brick and mortar retailer within their borders. 

Huffington and Colbert Repost Each Other's Reposts

David Makarewicz
On the lighter side of the debate about internet copyright and content piracy, Steven Colbert has launched The Colbuffington Re-Post.  Claiming that he is irate about missing out on his share of the "huffbucks" that Ariana makes by reposting clips from The Colbert Report, Colbert has simply taken the entirety of The Huffington Post and retitled it.

Today's post on the Huffington Post about The Colbuffington Re-Post, which was then reposted on The Colbuffington Re-Post is a fascinating snapshot in time that Talking Points Memo fears could "have ripped a hole in time itself."

Another take on the recent HuffPo news comes from The Republic, which analyzes whether Huffington's cachet can survive a corporate monster like AOL.  The article raises legitimate concerns about leaked AOL documents, which "emphasized search engine optimization and profitability, not journalism or the public interest."

Blogger Targetting Closeted Indiana Legislators That Voted Against Gay Marriage

David Makarewicz
Gay blogger Gil Browning plans to use his blog, The Bilerico Project, to punish Indiana legislators by outing their dirty secrets.  He has asked his readers to out closeted gay legislators, share the details of rumours of homosexual acts with staffers and has requested reports on "who's a philanderer, a kink fiend, a drug addict, a porn addict, or had a divorce, an abortion or even a stay in rehab."

The Bilerico Project Logo
His call for damaging gossip comes in response to the Indiana House's overwhelming passage of a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Regardless of your position on gay marriage, do you believe it is appropriate to use a blog to blackmail or punish politicians with the threat of revealing such significant personal information?  On one hand, the blogosphere can be a powerful answer to hypocrisy that would not have been possible even as recently as the 1990s.  However, recall the criticism of Perez Hilton's 2006 "gay witch hunt" that targeted celebrites such as Neil Patrick Harris. 

Browning's attempt to embarass gay politicians for perceived hypocrisy is not without precedent.  Since 2004, blogger Michael Rogers has aimed his site, squarely at closeted Republicans, though he gave up the word "outing" in 2006 (claiming he is now "reporting" rather than "outing").

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Is YouTube Readying To Pay Celebs To Create Channels?

David Makarewicz
There is some buzz that YouTube is planning to pay as much as $5 million each to a handful of celebs, who will each produce their own YouTube channel.  If this is true, it would speak volumes about the level of income that YouTube forecasts a popular channel will generate.

New Site Tips

We've added five new articles to our Site Tips page to help you netrepeneurs build and protect your website or blog:

Drudge and RightHaven Settle Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

David Makarewicz
Matt Drudge has settled the copyright infringement lawsuit filed by RightHaven.  The amount of the settlement is undisclosed, though it is presumably substantially less than the absurd $150,000 and forfeiture of the domain name (worth millions) that RightHaven was seeking. 

The case was filed in December 2010 after Drudge posted a picture depicting a TSA agent giving an overly intimate pat-down to an airline passenger.  The photo had originally appeared in the Denver Post, one of RightHaven's partners.

In other RightHaven news, the copyright lawsuit machine is appealing the big loss it suffered last October, in which a judge ruled that using 8 sentences out of a 30-sentence article is a "fair use."

First Blogger To Lose Defamation Suit Still Speaking His Mind

David Makarewicz

David Milum is a Forsyth County activist and blogger driven partially by revenge. He blogs here from his kitchen. Nine years ago he was arrested and jailed after a local politician complained that he scared her during a confrontation outside the administrative building in Cumming.The Atlanta Journal Constitution has an interesting piece on blogger David Milum.  Milum is believed to have been the first blogger to lose a libel suit.  The lawsuit, decided in 2006, was brought by Milum's former attorney after Milum published a blog entery entitled "Polo Fields Residents Don’t Know About Attorney Rafe Banks?" that claimed, among other things, that Banks delivered bribes on behalf of a drug dealer.  The post was apparently Milum's  response to Banks' refusal to return a $3,000 retainer. 

An overview of the case, in which a jury found Milum liable for defamation and awarded Banks $50,000 can be found here.  In 2007, the award was upheld by the Court of Appeals of Georgia, who found that posting statements on your website is a sufficient "publication," to support a defamation claim.

Are American Calls For Internet Freedom Two-Faced?

David Makarewicz

It was so nice to hear Hillary give a speech, claiming that America stands against global internet oppression.  Words, words, words.  But aren't her words empty if America is going to act like a digital dictatorship itself? 

CP bannerDutch blogger Willemien Groot calls the Secretary of State's words "two-faced."  Recent evidence suggests that she has a point. 

Congress is once again considering modeling itself after bastions of freedom like Egypt by arming the government with an internet kill switch that continues to draw the ire of free speech advocates.  Also, the Department of Homeland Security has also been on quite the rampage lately, seizing domain names and shutting down websites for merely linking to sites accused of infringing copyright.  Then, as recently as this past weekend, DHS mistakenly suspended 84,000 websites when the government cast too wide a net as it seized domain names accused of child pornography.  No decent person is in favor of child porn, but if the U.S. government continues to play it fast and loose with due process rights, American warnings about internet oppression will continue to crumble under the weight of their own hypocrisy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Canadian Blogging Contest Includes $65,000 Annual Salary As Prize

David Makarewicz

Unlike HuffPo, an Ajax, Ontario BMW dealer is willing to pay an impressive salary and perks to its new blogger. 

The dealership is hosting a blogging contest where the winner gets a package that includes a $65,000 salary, a new BMW every six months and use of a downtown Toronto condo for a year.  Click here to read the details and entry information for the ENDRAS BMW Ultimate Blogger Contest 2011. 

How Much Does HuffPo Make Off Its Unpaid Bloggers?

David Makarewicz

On the heels of the debate over the Huffington Post's army of unpaid bloggers, check out statistician Nate Silver's interesting piece on the economics of blogging based on his analysis of HuffPo.  He concludes that HuffPo's average blog post, averaging a couple thousand page views, are each worth about $13 in advertising revenue.  A median blog post, with several hundred views, is worth only $3 or $4. 

Based on this low revenue per blog post, Silver believes that the bloggers' "slave ship" allegation might be overblown.  However, he suggests that HuffPo should consider a revenue sharing scheme or flat fee to compensate writers.  

Even if writers have donated their words for the promise of exposure to a broad audience for the past few years, does Arianna believe that her site will continue to grow if she is counting on volunteer bloggers 3 years from now?  10 years from now?  If other sites are willing to pay bloggers, common sense says that the good writers will migrate to paying sites and the Huffington Post will be left with an army of writers that are both unpaid and untalented.

Sherrod Sues Breitbart For Defamation

David Makarewicz

Shirley Sherrod filed a Complaint in the D.C. Superior Court, alleging that conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart defamed her by posting an unfairly edited video of her, along with defamatory text.  Read a copy of Sherrod's Complaint here.

Andrew Breitbart Every blogger should pay close attention to this potential landmark case on the legal standards that will be applied to internet publishers.  Powerline blog points out that it will be difficult for Sherrod to prove actual malice against Breitbart.  Typically, actual malice requires proof of actual knowledge that published information was false or reckless disregard for the truth.  This is a high standard that should protect bloggers from lawsuits if they unintentionally publish incorrect information about a person, even if they are negligent about the truth of that information.

Beyond the substance of the complaint, the most interesting aspect of the case may be that Sherrod's attorney is Thomas D. Yannucci, "one of the most preeminent plaintiffs defamation attorneys in the United States," who has claimed significant legal victories against media giants such as Dateline NBC and the Cincinati Enquirer.

Google Conned By JC Penney

David Makarewicz

The fallout from this weekend's New York Times piece exposing JC Penney's manipulation of Google's search engine algorithm has begun.

The head of Google's webspam team linked to the story and tweeted that "manual action" has been taken against JC Penney.  Penney has fired SearchDex, its search optimization firm, and Google has demoted the retailer in its rankings. 

At least one CEO claims that the blackhat SEO techniques that are incurring Google's wrath can happen without the company knowing.  He claims that his company was blindsided in 2000 when its Google rankings suddenly dropped as a result of a blackhat SEO firm that was manipulating search engines by exchanging links with unrelated websites.

PC World questions whether we can trust Google's search rankings at all.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cuba Fears "Cyberdissidents"

David Makarewicz

Has the cold war gone digital?  A leaked video (Spanish language) of a Cuban intelligence expert warning interior ministry officials of the threat to Cuba posed by social networks brings attention to the debate about the effectiveness of social networking as a revolutionary tool.  Bloggers critical of Cuban policy, such as Octavo Cerco, claim that the Cuban government wants to stifle social networks and blogs because "they are aware of the danger that poses to a totalitarian government which hides the truth from its people."  The Cuban government has unleashed its own state-sanctioned bloggers, such as Manuel Henriquez, who claim that the United States is using the internet to attack Cuba by financing the critics and smuggling internet equipment to Cuban citizens.

According to Reuters, experts believe that the effectiveness of any cyber-revolution will depend greatly on Cuba's ability to improve connectivity levels, which remain poor.  Only a small percentage of Cubans have internet access and that access is typically limited to the government-controlled intranet that does not allow connection to social media such as Twitter or Facebook.