Category Archives: The Web

“Women Are Being Driven Offline”: Feminist Anita Sarkeesian Terrorized for Critique of Video Games

‘Anita Sarkeesian, a prominent feminist critic of video games, was forced to cancel a speech at Utah State University last week after the school received an email threatening to carry out “the deadliest shooting in American history” at the event. The email sender wrote: “feminists have ruined my life and I will have my revenge.” The sender used the moniker Marc Lepine, the name of a man who killed 14 women, most of them female engineering students, in a mass shooting in Montreal in 1989. Sarkeesian canceled the talk after being told that under Utah law, campus police could not prevent people from bringing guns. We speak to Sarkeesian about the incident, the “Gamergate” controversy, and her campaign to expose misogyny, sexism and violence against female characters in video games despite repeated physical threats. “Online harassment, especially gendered online harassment, is an epidemic,” Sarkeesian says. “Women are being driven out, they’re being driven offline; this isn’t just in gaming, this is happening across the board online, especially with women who participate in or work in male-dominated industries.”‘ (Democracy Now!)

UK police use loophole to hack phones and email

Dominic Kennedy reports for The Times:

‘Police are hacking into hundreds of people’s voicemails, text messages and emails without their knowledge, The Times has discovered.

Forces are using a loophole in surveillance laws that allows them to see stored messages without obtaining a warrant from the home secretary.

Civil liberties campaigners reacted with concern to the disclosure that police were snooping on personal messages so often, without any external monitoring and with few safeguards.

Surveillance laws protect the public from having live phone messages, texts and emails accessed by police unless a warrant is granted by the home secretary.’

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Citizenfour: Laura Poitras on the Crypto Tools That Made Her Snowden Film Possible

Andy Greenberg writes for Wired:

‘As a journalist, Laura Poitras was the quiet mastermind behind the publication of Edward Snowden’s unprecedented NSA leak. As a filmmaker, her new movieCitizenfour makes clear she’s one of the most important directors working in documentary today. And when it comes to security technology, she’s a serious geek.

In the closing credits of Citizenfour, Poitras took the unusual step of adding an acknowledgment of the free software projects that made the film possible: The roll call includes the anonymity software Tor, the Tor-based operating system Tails, GPG encryption, Off-The-Record (OTR) encrypted instant messaging, hard disk encryption software Truecrypt, and Linux. All of that describes a technical setup that goes well beyond the precautions taken by most national security reporters, not to mention documentary filmmakers.

Poitras argues that without those technologies, neither her reporting on the Snowden leaks nor her film itself would have been possible. In an interview ahead of the October 24th opening of Citizenfour in theaters, she talked about the importance of those crypto tools, how to make a film in the shadow of the NSA, and a new era of high-level whistleblowing.’

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National Crime Agency director general: UK snooping powers are too weak

Vikram Dodd reports for The Guardian:

Keith Bristow‘Britons must accept a greater loss of digital freedoms in return for greater safety from serious criminals and terrorists in the internet age, according to the country’s top law enforcement officer.

Keith Bristow, director general of the National Crime Agency, said in an interview with the Guardian that it would be necessary to win public consent for new powers to monitor data about emails and phone calls.

Warning that the biggest threats to public safety are migrating to the internet and that crime fighters are scrambling to keep up, the NCA boss said he accepted he had not done a good enough job explaining to the public why the greater powers were necessary.’

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Turkish President Erdogan: ‘I am increasingly against the internet every day’

Heather Saul reports for The Independent:

‘The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has defended his government’s efforts to control online speech, telling a press freedom conference: “I am increasingly against the Internet every day.” Mr Erdoğan’s comments came during an “unprecedented” meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).

The meeting, which also included Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ, took place as the Turkish parliament voted on military action in Syria. Turkey’s leaders “aggressively” defended its record on press freedom during the 90-minute conference, and criticised various media outlets for “polarising and distorting coverage of recent events” such as the Gezi Park anti-government rallies.’

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The US government vs The Internet

Anne Flaherty reports for The Associated Press:

‘Should the company that supplies your Internet access be allowed to cut deals with online services such as Netflix, Amazon or YouTube to move their content faster?

The United States Federal Communications Commission is tackling that question right now after the public submitted a record 3.7 million comments on the subject – more than double the number filed with the regulatory agency after Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl.

The FCC’s chairman, former industry lobbyist and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler, says financial arrangements between broadband providers and content sites might be OK so long as the agreement is “commercially reasonable” and companies disclose publicly how they prioritise internet traffic.

But not everyone agrees, with Netflix and much of the public accusing the FCC of handing the internet over to the highest bidders.’

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What are Theresa May’s new ‘extremism disruption orders’?

Alan Travis writes for The Guardian:

‘“Theresa May will also announce that the Conservative manifesto will contain pledges to introduce banning orders for extremist groups and extremism disruption orders for extremists who spread hate but do not break existing laws.” Conservative briefing note.

The home secretary’s manifesto plan to silence extremists by banning their access to the web and television is cast far wider than the Islamist “preachers of hate” of tabloid headlines. As David Cameron pointed out, the Conservatives now want to look at the “full spectrum of extremism” and not just the “hard end” of that spectrum that counter-terrorism policy has focused on up to now.

The difference is spelled out in the detail of the policy, where it says that it is intended to catch not just those who “spread or incite hatred” on grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake “harmful activities” for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.’

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Thought Crime: UK Leadership Wants To Ban Predicted ‘Extremists’ From Social Media, TV, Events

Mike Masnick writes for Techdirt:

Theresa May, the current UK Home Secretary, has announced that, if re-elected, her party (the Conservatives) will push for “extremist disruption orders” which would effectively ban people declared “extremist” (using a very broad definition) from using social media or appearing on TV.

Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives.

They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, under the new Extremist Disruption Orders.

The broad definitions here matter. Part of the plan is to make such rules cover a wide variety of groups and individuals, based on what the government “reasonably believes” they may be up to.’

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Apple Still Has Plenty of Your Data for the Feds

Micah Lee writes for The Intercept:

Featured photo - Apple Still Has Plenty of Your Data for the Feds‘In a much-publicized open letter last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook pledged to protect user privacy with improved encryption on iPhones and iPads and a hard line toward government agents. It was a huge and welcome step toward thwarting the surveillance state, but it also seriously oversold Apple’s commitment to privacy.

Yes, Apple launched a tough-talking new privacy site and detailed a big improvement to encryption in its mobile operating system iOS 8: Text messages, photos, contacts, and call history are now encrypted with the user’s passcode, whereas previously they were not. This follows encryption improvements by Apple’s competitors Google and Yahoo.’

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Inventor of World Wide Web warns of threat to internet

AFP reports:

‘The British inventor of the World Wide Web warned on Saturday that the freedom of the internet is under threat by governments and corporations interested in controlling the web.

Tim Berners-Lee, a computer scientist who invented the web 25 years ago, called for a bill of rights that would guarantee the independence of the internet and ensure users’ privacy.’

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Tired of Being Demonized, Muslims on Twitter Apologize for Algebra, Coffee, and Soap

Kristina Bravo reports for Takepart:

‘To counter prejudice, some followers of Islam have taken to Twitter with a new hashtag: #MuslimApologies.

Muslims this week began apologizing on social media for algebra (named after a book by mathematician Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi), shampoo (first brought to England by a Muslim merchant), “amazing architecture,” and other innovations made possible by members of the Islamic faith throughout history. The point? That Muslims, of whom there are about 1.6 billion, shouldn’t be blamed for the heinous crimes of a few.’

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Alabama high schools secretly monitoring students’ social media accounts ‘after tip-off from the NSA?

Annabel Grossman reports for The Daily Mail:

student1.jpg‘A secret surveillance program has been running in an Alabama high schools after a phone call from the National Security Agency alerted the district to a ‘violent threat’. School officials claim the system began monitoring students’ social media accounts in Huntsville City Schools 18 months ago, when the NSA tipped them off that a student was making violent threats on Facebook

The schools began scanning Facebook and other sites for signs of gang activity, watching for photos of guns, photos of gang signs and threats of violence, as part of a program called SAFe, or Students Against Fear. Internal documents explaining the program were obtained by AL.com, showing four different students – three males and one female – posing on Facebook with handguns.’

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U.S. Navy Routinely Spies on Citizens Then Helps the Police Prosecute Them

Jason Koebler reports for VICE Motherboard:

It’s not just the NSA: A Federal Appeals Court has just noted a disturbing and “extraordinary” trend of the Navy conducting mass surveillance on American civilians, and then using what they find to help local law enforcement prosecute criminals.

In this specific case, a Navy Criminal Investigative Service agent in George scanned the computers of every civilian in Washington state who happened to be using the decentralized Gnutella peer-to-peer network, looking for child pornography. The agent, Steve Logan, found child porn on a computer owned by a man named Michael Dreyer.’

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FBI: New Apple, Google phones too secure, could put users ‘beyond the law’

Jacob Axelrad reports for Christian Science Monitor:

‘The FBI director James Comey has expressed concern that Apple and Google are making phones that cannot be searched by the government.

Speaking to reporters in a briefing Thursday, Mr. Comey said he is worried that such phones could place users “beyond the law,” The Wall Street Journal reported. He added that he’s been in talks with the companies “to understand what they’re thinking and why they think it makes sense.”

Major tech companies recognize the marketing potential of selling products that make consumers feel their data is as secure as can be. Both Apple and Google have made recent announcements emphasizing their new products will make it more difficult for law enforcement to extract customers’ valued data.

But Comey’s remarks raise questions of what, exactly, the government wants.’

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The Left and the New Media

Jeffrey St. Clair writes for CounterPunch:

‘Chomsky taught two generations how to read the paper of record, how to detect the warps in its stories, the subtle biases and false constructions, the decisive elisions of context, and servility toward elite power. What Chomsky could do not was toteach us how to stop reading the New York Times. As a result, thousands of activists around the globe reach for the Times (or the Guardian or the Washington Post) each morning, with red pens in hand, begin marking it up and grinding the enamel off their teeth.

Being Luddites, Cockburn and I were late-comers to the web. Our journal CounterPunch didn’t go online until the late 1990s, as the sun was going down on the Clinton administration. But it wasn’t long before we realized the web offered an exit from what we called the Chomsky Paradox, an existential dilemma that often keeps the Left mired in a hostile environment fight phantoms—namely, political reality as constructed by the editors of the elite media.’

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Australia’s anti-terror laws propose data retention and ‘no-knock warrant’ powers

Claire Reilly reports for CNET:

‘[...] The Bill introduces the concept of a “delayed notification search warrant” — often referred to in the United States as a ‘no-knock warrant’ — which would allow Australian Federal Police to search premises without prior warning and “without having to produce the warrant at the time of entry and search”.

In addition to defining these new search powers, the Counter-Terrorism Bill sets out measures for accessing digital data held by potential terror suspects. Specifically, it stipulates that this may include “data not held at the premises” which can be accessed by police executing a warrant.’

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Laos becomes latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls

Reuters reports:

‘Communist Laos has issued a decree outlawing online criticism of policies of the ruling party or government, state media reported, the latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls. According to legislation approved by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong last week, web users will face criminal action for spreading “false” information aimed at discrediting the government, the official KPL news agency said.

[...] The decree comes as cellphone and internet usage climbs in tandem with economic growth, a reduced poverty rate and greater electricity access in the country of 6.4 million people. The new laws bear similarities to those of its Communist neighbor Vietnam, which commands strong influence over Laos and has a near identical political system… Thailand has [also] closed hundreds of thousands of websites and jailed people who have used the internet to post critical comments about its monarchy under its 2007 Computer Crimes Act.’

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Study: Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths, and Sadists

Jennifer Golbeck, Ph.D. reports for Psychology Today:

‘In this month’s issue of Personality and Individual Differencesa study was published that confirms what we all suspected: internet trolls are horrible people.

Let’s start by getting our definitions straight. An internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

What kind of person would do this? Canadian researchers decided to find out.’

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‘Dotcom brand is poisoned’: Internet Party crashes in NZ elections

RT reports:

Kim Dotcom (Reuters/Nigel Marple)‘A coalition of anti-establishment politicians and internet freedom advocates led by entrepreneur Kim Dotcom – who promised to shake up New Zealand politics – suffered a humiliating defeat at the country’s parliamentary elections.

The Internet-Mana party gained just 26,500 votes – 1.3 percent of the total, and short of the five percent needed to cross the parliament threshold. With half the parliament seats contested through proportional representation, and half in a first-past-the-post local election, the party also lost its only previous locally elected MP, Hone Harawira, who couldn’t hold onto his seat.’

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Kremlin to consider plans which could remove Russia from global Internet ‘in an emergency’

Kashmira Gander reports for The Independent:

‘Russia may remove itself from the global Internet to protect itself against perceived threats from the West, a Kremlin spokesman suggested on Friday. The Kremlin dismissed accusations it aims to isolate the Russian Internet, and insists it is merely concerned with protecting its national security – particularly as relations with the West have reached their lowest since the Cold War.

However, the country has recently passed several laws targeting Internet use, which include making popular bloggers register as media outlets, and forcing websites to store the personal data of Russian users… The moves come as Russia attempts to reduce its use of American technology, fearing that its communications are vulnerable to US spying. Earlier this year, President Vladimir Putin called the web a “CIA special project”.’

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New ‘Facebook for Rich People’ Costs Just $9,000 to Join

Chloe Albanesius reports for PC Mag:

‘Don’t you just hate it when you want to talk about is your latest all-nighter in Ibiza or how Jeeves packed the wrong Rolex for last weekend’s Hamptons excursion, but your Facebook friends are all “Help me, I’m poor!”

Not to worry, Netropolitan is here to save you from having to hob-knob with undesirable 99 percenters. And it will only cost you $9,000 a year. Netropolitan is a new social network that bills itself as “the online country club for people with more money than time.” It launched today and organizers insist that it’s not a joke.’

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Snowden Leaks Didn’t Make Al Qaeda Change Tactics, Says Report

Mike Brunker reports for NBC News:

‘There is no evidence that Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA spying inspired Islamic terror groups to hide their electronic communications behind more sophisticated encryption software, according to a new analysis that challenges other recent research and assertions by U.S. officials about the impact of the leaks.

The analysis by Flashpoint Global Partners, a private security firm, examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups and mentions of encryption in jihadi social media forums to assess the impact of Snowden’s information. It found no correlation in either measure to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public beginning June 5, 2013.’

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The NSA and GCHQ Campaign Against German Satellite Companies

Andy Müller-Maguhn, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Michael Sontheimer and Christian Grothoff report for The Intercept:

‘Treasure Map is a vast NSA campaign to map the global internet. The program doesn’t just seek to chart data flows in large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. Rather, it seeks to identify and locate every single device that is connected to the internet somewhere in the world—every smartphone, tablet, and computer—”anywhere, all the time,” according to NSA documents. Its internal logo depicts a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eyeholes glowing demonic red.

The breathtaking mission is described in a document from the archive of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden provided to The Intercept and Der Spiegel. Treasure Map’s goal is to create an “interactive map of the global internet” in “almost real time.” Employees of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance—England, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand—can install and use the program on their own computers. It evokes a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.’

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New Zealand Launched Mass Surveillance Project While Publicly Denying It

Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher report for The Intercept:

Featured photo - New Zealand Launched Mass Surveillance Project While Publicly Denying It‘The New Zealand spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), worked in 2012 and 2013 to implement a mass metadata surveillance system even as top government officials publicly insisted no such program was being planned and would not be legally permitted.

Documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show that the government worked in secret to exploit a new internet surveillance law enacted in the wake of revelations of illegal domestic spying to initiate a new metadata collection program that appeared designed to collect information about the communications of New Zealanders. Those actions are in direct conflict with the assurances given to the public by Prime Minister John Key, who said the law was merely designed to fix “an ambiguous legal framework” by expressly allowing the agency to do what it had done for years, that it “isn’t and will never be wholesale spying on New Zealanders,” and the law “isn’t a revolution in the way New Zealand conducts its intelligence operations.”’

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Dropbox Reports 80% of Gov’t Subpoenas Contain Gag Request

Michael Mimoso reports for Threat Post:

dropbox1‘Most U.S. government subpoenas for data on Dropbox users are accompanied with a request not to inform the user in question. Dropbox legal counsel Bart Volkmer said those gag orders are repelled unless there is a valid court order.

The revelation accompanied the release of the cloud storage service’s Transparency Report, which going forward will be released twice a year. Yesterday’s report covered January to June of this year, a period during which Dropbox received 268 requests for user information from law enforcement agencies. There were zero data request for Dropbox for Business users, the company said.’

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Yahoo $250,000 daily fine over NSA data refusal was set to double ‘every week’

Dominic Rushe reports for The Guardian:

‘The US government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it refused to hand over user data to the National Security Agency, according to court documents unsealed on Thursday.

In a blogpost, the company said the 1,500 pages of once-secret documents shine further light on Yahoo’s previously disclosed clash with the NSA over access to its users’ data. The size of the daily fine was set to double every week that Yahoo refused to comply, the documents show.

The papers outline Yahoo’s secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle to resist the government’s demands for the tech firm to cooperate with the NSA’s controversial Prism surveillance programme, revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden last year.’

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Tech industry signs on to USA Freedom Act, gets expansive immunity for aiding US gov’t spying

Marcy Wheeler (@e) reports for Salon:

‘President Obama just announced war (of sorts) in the Middle East — but he’s not going to wait for Congressional authorization to go to war. But that’s not the only area where the president is threatening to make Congress an afterthought.

In spite of  reports that the bill may not get a vote before November’s elections, supporters of the  USA Freedom Act have done several interesting things to push its passage in the last weeks.

Last week, the bill’s author, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy released a letter from James Clapper and Eric Holder. A number of news outlets incorrectly  reported the letter as an unambiguous endorsement of Leahy’s bill.

It wasn’t.’

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Proposed Anti-Terror Law in France Would Erode Civil Liberties

Jillian York reports for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

‘A proposed anti-terrorism law in France has freedom of expression advocates concerned.  The bill, as our friends at La Quadrature du Net frame it, “institutes a permanent state of emergency on the Internet,” providing for harsher penalties for incitement or “glorification” of terrorism conducted online.  Furthermore, the bill (in Article 9) allows for “the possibility for the administrative authority to require Internet service providers to block access to sites inciting or apologizing for terrorism” without distinguishing criteria or an authority to conduct the blocking.

Apart from specific concerns that the bill treats online speech as distinct from other speech, other provisions are just as problematic.’

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Get Ready for the ‘Internet Slowdown’

Amy Goodman writes for Common Dreams:

‘Next Wednesday, Sept. 10, if your favorite website seems to load slowly, take a closer look: You might be experiencing the Battle for the Net’s “Internet Slowdown,” a global day of grass-roots action. Protesters won’t actually slow the Internet down, but will place on their websites animated “Loading” graphics (which organizers call “the proverbial ‘spinning wheel of death’”) to symbolize what the Internet might soon look like. As that wheel spins, the rules about how the internet works are being redrawn. Large Internet service providers, or ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T and Verizon are trying to change the rules that govern your online life.

The fight over these rules is being waged now. These corporate ISPs want to create a two-tiered Internet, where some websites or content providers pay to get preferred access to the public. Large content providers like Netflix, the online streaming movie giant, would pay extra to ensure that their content traveled on the fast lane. But let’s say a startup tried to compete with Netflix. If it couldn’t afford to pay the large ISPs their fees for the fast lane, their service would suffer, and people wouldn’t subscribe.’

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Pew: Social Media Fosters a ‘Spiral of Silence’ on Controversial Issues

Angela Washeck reports for PBS:

Photo by mkhmarketing on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.‘Two years ago, the Pew Research Center reported that more than a third of social media users have used networking sites to post their own thoughts or comments on political and social issues. Simultaneously, nearly 20 percent of those polled said social networking sites were so powerful that their personal views on a political issue had been changed after “discussing or reading posts” about the issue on these platforms. But a recent study from Pew reveals that the tides may be turning when it comes to talking about political issues online — a truth that could hold significant implications for both the social web and America’s political future.

Based on the communication theory introduced by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, the spiral of silence theory translates to the digital world, too, Pew found in the report“Social Media and the ‘Spiral of Silence.’” The idea is this: Those who might have an opinion on an issue decide not to share with their close communities — such as family and friends — due to fear of taking the opposing view and being isolated, leading to a monopoly on public opinion. According to Pew, the news about Edward Snowden revealing mass surveillance by the NSA didn’t get the traction on social media many may have expected. That’s right — no matter how opinionated you perceive your Facebook friends and Twitter followers as being, in general, those social websites were not a source of widespread discussion about Snowden or NSA troves of phone and email surveillance.’

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