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Stories from and

It's a Small (Social Media) World, After All

Kyoto resident and Kyoto Journal associate editor Lucinda Cowing experienced a moment of social media serendipity recently.

Cowing wrote on her Facebook page (which is private, but quoted with permission below):

Woaaa, talk about “it's a small world” moment. I had a suspicion the girl opposite me was taking a sneaky phone picture on the Eiden the other weekend. Sure enough, that photo appeared on Instagram, and now, a friend of mine living in Beijing sees it and says he's sitting opposite the Taiwanese girl who took it.

Next stop

A photo posted by tammytu (@tammytu) on

Cowing's friend in Beijing then posted a photo on Facebook of Instagram user tammytu, who snapped the photo during a recent sightseeing trip to Kyoto.

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Photo: Will Wilcox

The two women are now friends, according to Cowing.

Global Voices Checkdesk Tracking Reactions to Morsi's Trial

Faten Bushehri tracks reactions to the trial of former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, who was sentenced to death on May 16, on Global Voices Checkdesk, a project in partnership with Meedan's Checkdesk to verify news.

Morsi is being charged with collaborating with foreign militants to free Islamists during a prison break from the Wadi Natroun prison amid the Egyptian revolution in January 2011. Among his 105 co-defendants were some 70 Palestinians, accused of being members of Hamas, who were charged and tried in absentia. And among the Palestinians sentenced to death, Hassan Salameh has been in an Israeli prison since 1994, and Raed Attar is already dead.

Morsi was the president of Egypt for one year after the revolution, which overthrew Hosni Mubarak early 2011, who ruled Egypt for more than 30 years. Morsi's reign was cut short in July 2013, following massive protests calling for his ouster. Then, the Egyptian Army took command, under the leadership of Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces and Minister of Defence General Abdul Fattah El Sisi, who is now Egypt's president.

The next hearing is set for June 2.

Follow the link to add more stories and help verify them. Please contact me if you are interested in joining the team.

Media Factory Seeks to Invest in New Digital Media in Latin America

Media Factory, a startup accelerator which focuses on the business of online news and journalism, announced the second class of its news acceleration program, seeking to support new digital-only media ventures in Latin America during 2015.

Teams should be based anywhere in the region and have a strong professional network, successful experience generating impact (building audience, having political influence, or creating revenue), experience in journalism and digital content, capacity to produce summaries and to cover breaking news, and a fluid understanding of new technologies related to media. The initial goals will be to work on audience generation, community engagement and defining a business model.

Media Factory invests USD 75,000 in each company and works with founders on editorial efficiency, audience growth, and revenue generation. The second class will be held over three months in Buenos Aires, beginning Sept. 1st, 2015, after the Media Party conference.

After the acceleration period, the teams will return to their countries of origin where they’ll receive the mentoring of Media Factory to scale and achieve new rounds of investment. Furthermore, as part of the acceleration process, the startups will build strong sales and marketing departments so they can monetize their platforms.

For the first class in 2014, Media Factory reviewed 115 entries, interviewed 58 teams and selected 18 finalists, to choose three teams to its first class of entrepreneurs. ElMeme.me from Argentina, El Cambur from Venezuela, and GKillCity from Ecuador spent around 100 days in Buenos Aires, received investment and mentorship from disruptive digital media worldwide like Mic.comVox Media and the Knight Lab at Northwestern University.

Travelling Radio: Sound Postcards and Histories from Cali to Panama

Performers, communicators and scientists are working together on Hacia el Litoral. Acción Colectiva (On the Way to the Littoral: Collaborative Action), an initiative to give voice to the population dwelling in the lands located between Cali (Colombia) and the border with Panama:

Hacia el litoral. Acción colectiva es una práctica artística, una serie de movimientos sobre un territorio, geográfico y mental, un ejercicio de relectura del territorio y de frontera realizado por dos grupos, uno ubicado en Cali y otro en Ciudad de Panamá, conformado por artistas, comunicadores sociales, antropólogos, ingenieros, sociólogos, biólogos, entre diferentes actores que conforman un grupo interdisciplinar llamado a desarrollar proyectos y acciones en un viaje que comprende Ciudad de panamá, Jaqué, Punta Ardita, Juradó, Bahía solano, El Valle, Nuquí, Coquí y Cali. Con el proyecto La Radio Va–llena, Estación Viajera resultaron ganadores de la beca CreaDigital de los Ministerios de las TIC y de Cultura en Colombia, en la categoría cross y transmedia, año 2014.

‘On the Way to the Littoral: Collaborative Action’ is a creative practice, a series of movements over a land, geographically and mentally, an exercise in reinterpretation of the territory and frontiers elaborated by two groups, one located in Cali and the other in Panama City. The project is comprised of performers, social communicators, anthropologists, engineers, sociologists, biologists, creating an interdisciplinary group to develop designs and actions along a journey which takes in Panama City, Jaque, Punta Ardita, Juradom, Bahia Solano, El Valle, Nuqui, Coqui and Cali. With the project La Radio Va-llena and Estación Viajera (Travelling Station) they were winners of the CreaDigital grant awarded by the Ministries of ICT (Ministry of Information Technology and Communications) and Culture in Colombia, in the cross and trans-media categories for 2014.

Radio Va-llena gathers classical music excluded from mass media, sounds, voices and life histories of the region's population and their effects, demarcated by the frontier, allowing them to subvert surroundings marked by conflict and violence through a manifestation of cultural expressions.

Hacia el Litoral. Fotografía de Evelyn Soto, utilizada con autorización

Hacia el Litoral (On the way to the Littoral. Evelyn Soto's photo, used with permission.

The University del Valle (Cali) on May 14, 2015, alongside the Cinemateca of University in the teatrino of the Facultad de Artes Integradas (Integrated Arts Faculty) will be able to hear sound postcards, watch videos of different characters and photos of the travelling, as well as conversations with members of Radio Va-llena.

Are Blogs an Endangered Species?

This text is part of the 46th #LunesDeBlogsGV (#MondayBlogsOnGlobalVoices) on March 23, 2015.

On #LunesDeBlogsGV (#MondayOfBlogsOnGlobalVoices), we work to preserve blogs as an “endangered species”, confronting the challenges that threaten their existence in today's digital jungle. In a similar effort, the blogger Iván Lasso compiles stories about the future of blogging and the problems bloggers face today, when their content runs the risk of being lost in the abundance of different types and quality levels of information on the Internet. The situation bloggers increasingly find online, Lasso argues, is approaching a “David and Goliath” situation.

Lasso says of the biggest issues for bloggers today:

A raíz de la popularización de la web, de unos años para acá hay mucha más audiencia potencial disponible. Pero sospecho que gran parte de esa audiencia nunca podría ser tuya (tuya, mía… de blogs pequeños, vamos). Es audiencia que acude a la red en busca de simple entretenimiento y que si quiere información más “dura”, acude a los medios tradicionales que ahora ya están en la web.

In recent years, following the popularity of the Web, there is a much larger audience available. But I suspect that much of this audience will never be yours. Its's an audience that comes to the Net looking for simple entertainment and when they want more “hard” information, they go to the traditional mainstream media which is also on the Web.

Lasso also offers some solutions for the challenges bloggers face:

Hoy día, para que un blog independiente alcance un cierto grado de éxito (reconocimiento, reputación y visitas) debe convertirse en un rayo láser que apunte a aquello en lo que quiere destacar:
¿Quieres dar noticias? Tienes que darlas lo antes posible, más rápido que nadie.
¿Quieres hacer análisis u opinión? Tienes que profundizar más que nadie.
¿Quieres ser didáctico? Tienes que explicar mejor que nadie. Y también con más detalle que nadie.

Nowadays, for an independent blog to have a certain degree of success (recognition, reputation, and views), you must become a laser beam focused on what readers want:

  • You want to report news? You must give it them as soon as possible, faster than anyone.
  • You want to offer analysis and points of view? You must go deeper than anyone.
  • You want to be instructional? You have to explain things better than anyone. And be more specific than anyone.

Continue reading Ivan Lasso's post here, and follow him on Twitter.

 This text is part of the 46th #LunesDeBlogsGV (#MondayOfBlogsOnGlobalVoices) on March 23, 2015.

Pakistanis Use Twitter To Raise Their Concerns On The Proposed Cybercrime Bill 2015

tweetstormThe proposed Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill in Pakistan has raised concern among local and international human rights organisations as it could put at risk freedom expression and privacy in Pakistan.

Mariam at Catalyst Woman blog reports:

After the dedicated efforts of numerous advocacy groups, ngos and private citizens, the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunication has agreed to a public hearing of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes (PEC) Bill 2015 this Friday, 22 May in Islamabad.

Invitations to the “public” hearing have only been extended to six people to appear before a committee of 20 members. According to the Joint Action Committee on the Pakistan Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 (PECB) & Alliance For Access:

This is contrary to the spirit of a “public hearing.”

The Joint Action Committee members are definitely among the stakeholders, but we are not the only ones. Instead of hand-picking selected invitees, we call upon the NA Standing Committee on IT to conduct the public hearing in a proper manner, by opening it to all concerned members of the public and invite the entire print and electronic media too, in the spirit of transparency and openness.

The Catalyst woman blog proposed a #Tweetstorm to raise awareness of the public’s concerns about the Cyber Crime Bill in its current state. “There should be a public debate on all aspects of the bill,” the blog says.

Venezuela Bans 22 Media Editors and Executives from Leaving the Country

Over 20 members of three Venezuelan media groups, El Nacional and Tal Cual, as well as news site La Patilla, are now prohibited from leaving the country. Caracas judge María Eugenia Núñez ordered the restriction on the opposition media figures, who are “accused of ‘continuing aggravated defamation'”, according to broadcaster NTN24.

The court order was requested on April 28 by the National Assembly president, Diosdado Cabello, seen as one of president Nicolás Maduro’s closest allies in government and member of the ruling PSUV party. It was stated that these media organizations had affected the government's reputation by featuring “unscrupulous” publications from ABC, a Spanish daily newspaper.

The reports published in January alleged that Cabello was connected to drug trafficking in Venezuela.

As a result, Cabello sued for defamation everyone of importance at newspapers El Nacional, La Patilla and Tal Cual; as well as 22 members of the respective boards, including Miguel Henrique Otero, editor-in-chief of El Nacional, Teodoro Petkoff, from Tal Cual, and Alberto Ravell from La Patilla. 

Alberto Ravell and Miguel Henrique Otero found out about the court rulling while travelling outside the country. They declared, respectively, that they will return to Venezuela in a few days to face the charges, and that their editorial lines will not change.

Despite what it seems like a violation of freedom of speech, even international treaties exempt such reproductions of news items from legal liability, except for the source.

Teodoro Petkoff, director of TalCual, and one of Venezuela’s most outspoken government critics, has already been banned from leaving the country because of another defamation lawsuit filed by Cabello last year. Petkoff recently received a prestigious journalism award in Spain, but was unable to collect it in person. The award was instead received on his behalf by former Spanish president Felipe Gonzalez, who spoke about attacks to freedom against expression in Venezuela.

According to Venezuelan law, the Court needs to notify each of the defendants, something that has yet to be done. Also, under no circumstance can a judge rule this prohibition without having talked to them first.

This defamation case had a very timely consideration and resolution, something noticeable in a country where the average prisoner has not seen a Judge in the first few months after its detention, or has spent around two years in prison without sentence, something analyzed in the blog The Devil's Excrement.

Pro-Russian Videos Get Fake Views With Help From Malware

Some pro-Russian videos appear to have gone viral, and not in a good sense. Motherboard reports that a group of unknown hackers has been infecting Internet users’ computers with viruses and using them to inflate views on news videos with a pro-Russian slant, as well as some other content.

New research by security firm Trustwave shows that victims got infected by visiting a compromised website that installed an exploit kit (an off-the-shelf software package allowing for easy attacks) on their computer, along with a trojan virus. The infected computers would then stealthily rack up views on the videos.

The videos identified by the researchers all appear to be pro-Russian, such as a one from the Iranian English-language broadcaster PressTV that quotes a Russian Parliament member justifying the annexation of Crimea. The goal of the operation, according to Trustwave researchers Rami Kogan and Arseny Levin, was to artificially increase the popularity of a video and make it more visible to users of the site Dailymotion.

Trustwave experts say the suspicious videos all share the same traits: they all have a fairly high number of views (around 320K, most of them within minutes of each other) but no social media shares or comments. By artificially inflating the clip's popularity, the fraudsters also make the video more visible to other users of the video site.

Using bots to generate fake traffic to video clips is nothing new. It is a technique to raise a clip's popularity score and achieve higher visibility. However, this is the first time we've observed the tactic used to promote video clips with a seemingly political agenda.

Both Trustwave analysts and independent security researchers told Motherboard that using malware for political aims was new, but that such ‘invisible propaganda’ could be very effective, as only its results were visible,but not the fraudulent mechanisms behind them.

“We have seen hacks that are motivated by money and other ‘hacktivist’ attacks that are motivated by politics,” Karl Sigler, the threat intelligence manager at Trustwave, told Motherboard. “This current campaign shows that those two motivations are starting to evolve and blend together.”

While it is unclear who is behind the campaign, Trustware experts speculate that those who spread the exploit kit and the malware simply aimed to make money, and that someone else paid them to add fake views to pro-Russian propaganda videos.

A Chilean Real-Time Video App Launches at the Boston Marathon

The application RhinoBirdTV, developed by the Chilean Felipe Heusser, who founded the NGO Ciudadano Inteligente, allows users to share video experiences in real time. The makers of RhinoBirdTV hope their product will help facilitate a more democratic world by breaking down boundaries and connecting people through simple-to-distribute live videos.

RhinoBird.TV, imagen extraída de Twitter, utilizada con autorización

RhinoBird.TV. image from Twitter, used with permission.

RhinoBirdTV chose to launch its Android version on April 20, the day of the 119th annual Boston Marathon, allowing users to broadcast and receive live videos from the event, following the hashtag #bostonmarathon.

On Twitter, people welcomed RhinoBirdTV with enthusiasm and high expectations:

Far from the Marathon is a marvel made in Chile the USA.

Chileans in Boston are bosses. Enduring the cold and rain to support.

Bulgaria's First Crowdfunding Journalism Project

Bulgaria, a member of the European Union, has a big problem with freedom of the media. The Balkan country is ranked 106 out of 180 countries in the 2015 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders.

Against this unpleasant background, a new media project was established with the ambitious task of opposing the media empires of local oligarchs and providing an alternative way to access information to the public.

KlinKlin.bg, founded by journalists, designers and bloggers, aims to establish an independent crowdfunding journalist project similar in spirit to those established by colleagues in the Netherlands (decorespondent.nl), Germany (krautreporter.de) and Canada (ricochet.media). But KlinKlin faces a major challenge: 86.5% of the population has no confidence in the local media.

KlinKlin is in the early stage of collecting support and funding. For now, the site is in Bulgarian, but the team is considering an English version too. In less than a week, the Facebook page of KlinKlin has just under 2,700 fans. Below is the group's promo video complete with English subtitles.

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