As you may be aware, recently a student at Grand Valley State University was identified and confessed to sending out emails as part of a hoax that classes were canceled. The Ottawa County Prosecutor’s office investigated the situation and has declined to file charges.
This is the curious part:
“‘We searched high and low and there was no criminal statute that we were aware of that was being violated,’ said Prosecuting Attorney Ron Frantz.”
Typically email hacking (as this appears to be a case of given that the email was purportedly sent from the professor’s email account) can constitute a variety of crimes:
- Computer Fraud: Unauthorized Access to a Protected Computer is a crime if that computer system belongs to a bank or a governmental entity (which presumably GVSU is the latter).
- Wire Fraud: GVSU uses Microsoft Exchange for faculty email, so it’s possible that this could constitute wire fraud if the server housing the email system is located outside of the state of Michigan (which is ever more common as we increasingly move to cloud-based data systems).
Even if the student didn’t actually access protected email accounts to send the emails (rather he spoofed the account information when sending the emails) I would think this violates identity theft laws.
Whenever a business gets too large, it ceases innovating and begins looking for ways to put a boot in the face of anyone who wishes to climb past them up the mountain.
Unfortunately the Associated Press enlisted the help of [tech-illiterate] US District Court Judge Denise Cote and put a boot in the face of content aggregators and successfully sued Meltwater (a San Francisco-based digital clipping service that notifies clients when news references keywords relevant to them).
Here’s just an example of the ripple effect of problems this ruling creates just in Judge Cote’s world:
- The US District Court for the Southern District of New York publishes a “News and Events” section on its website (with an RSS feed). Some of the content in that feed violates this ruling.
- The New York Bar Association (of which, presumably, Judge Cote is a member) also publishes news on a variety of its blogs and other presences which could be in violation of the precedent set by this ruling as they contain “relevant” excerpts of stories by publishers with links.
- Judge Cote’s alma mater, Columbia University, routinely violates the standard set in the ruling.
…and on and on.
Hilariously, one of the sticking points in the lawsuit is that Meltwater caches news content going back to 2007 that is no longer available online and offers it to customers. The AP literally doesn’t offer a competing product and wants to someone else for making the information available when they won’t. It’s the equivalent of a record company suing me for giving a friend a pirated copy of an album that is no longer in print.
It’s the same thing the music industry did over a decade ago when it sued into bankruptcy the file-sharing platforms (and even attempted to sue the manufacturers of MP3 players) that allowed music enthusiasts to trade MP3s – which the industry was not willing to offer despite the overwhelming demand.
This should be instructive for the AP. After its decade-plus crusade – the music industry won itself widespread hatred, lost its oligopoly, and was entirely unsuccessful at stopping file-sharing. Even now they’re still in the trenches trying to hold back innovation by attacking their customers and technology companies (see: “six strikes”) and losing billions of revenue in the process.
The Associated Press already sued “Moreover,” “All Headline News,” and even Google before taking on Meltwater. So far they’ve been satisfied with licensing fees (likely much-needed income as the quality and breadth of their output declines along with the rest of the dinosaurs of traditional media), but what will be next?
For more – I recommend reading the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s response to the ruling:
AP v. Meltwater: Disappointing Ruling for News Search
MARCH 21, 2013 | BY CORYNNE MCSHERRY AND KURT OPSAHL | Electronic Frontier Foundation
UPDATE 2 – 3/25/13: See Below
Mark Twain once said “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”
Let’s test that hypothesis in the era of social media.
Right now, students at Grand Valley State University are circulating the image above which appears to be a screen capture from a mobile phone showing an email from a GVSU faculty member describing in elaborate detail why classes will be canceled tomorrow (3/20/13).
Some of my students forwarded it to me and inquired if I’d heard anything. To date (7:50 pm on 3/19/13) I’ve received no emails from the administration, and there are no announcements on the college’s website, nor any messages pertaining to a cancellation on the college’s Facebook or Twitter pages. Moreover, there are no cancellations for GVSU in the news media.
So it’s probably false.
What also makes me think the image is a fake is that there’s no date in the email (and I’m not aware of any version of the Gmail client that doesn’t at least show the date or time in the header information of an email). I’m betting it was probably photoshopped. To test my suspicions I ran the photo through Photoshop Killer, an online tool that detects when changes have been made to images. The report seems to indicate photoshopping; in addition to the lack of EXIF data about the image, it appears to have possibly been sharpened (possibly to hide traces after blurring out some portions to edit them).
It’s true, the weather hasn’t been optimal today – but it’s hardly bad enough for GVSU to cancel all of its classes at all of its campuses.
It’s also true that there was a bus accident on campus today A student was struck by a bus at GVSU a month ago – however the female student who was struck by a Rapid bus only suffered minor injuries. Also definitely not reason enough to cancel all classes.
I sent an email to Dr. Kevin Cole, the professor from whom the email purportedly originates.
Updates to follow. It would be great if we could debunk this in real time.
UPDATE: 9:40pm 3/19/13
Dr. Cole returned my email in record time confirming that, indeed, the email is a hoax. Here’s his response:
It’s going to be interesting to see what GVSU’s Computing and Technology Support department finds when they go through the digital trail that this email likely left behind. Unless this person was seriously savvy, it’s likely they will have left multiple bits of identifying information behind as a result of sending this message.
UPDATE: 12:45pm 3/52/13
A couple of days after this blog post, GVSU responded to the situation; apparently there were several instances of these fraudulent emails being sent. Today they announced that they were able to track down the student who was responsible (who may now be charged criminally and possibly disciplined by GVSU).
Talking Points Memo noted this morning that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign today released a Harlem Shake meme video featuring college students re-enacting the format of a lone dancer dancing until the beat drops in the song and all hell breaks loose. As I’m fairly certain they’ll pull the video as soon as they notice how badly it’s faring in the public space, here’s a cached version:
Ignoring the fact that the voc-over that starts the song is from a reggaeton artist named Héctor Delgado and declares “Con Los Terroristas” which is Columbian/Spanish for “With the Terrorists,” there are a number of problems with the effort.
- Know Your Publics: The video is ostensibly to appeal to a younger audience, and campaign spokesperson told CNN that college students actually contacted the campaign and offered up the idea. I don’t have the data in front of me, but I’m betting McConnell’s base doesn’t have much to do with Harlem, Youtube or college given that the legislator led the effort to cut Pell Grant funding recently and stands at odds with younger voters on a wide range of issues. Moreover, Kentucky lags behind the rest of the country in broadband Internet access penetration (coming in at 45th in the US) which doesn’t bode well for HD streaming video content as a delivery method.
- Social Media Means Participation: As of right now, both comments and ratings are disabled for the video on YouTube. Not only that, but comments are disabled for four of the six videos Team McConnell has uploaded in the last year. When you disable the participatory elements of social platforms – you run the risk of driving people to other spaces where they can participate beyond your ability to join the conversation.
- Timing is Everything: The video was published today, but I remember seeing pitches to corporate clients about jumping on the Harlem Shake bandwagon weeks ago, and the phenomenon peaked on February 10 when as many as 4,000 videos were being uploaded to Youtube per day. The speed at which social media moves means most organizations are completely incapable of responding in time to actually appear in-tune and actually risk appearing clueless and out-of-sync with the times.
On that third point, I leave you with a video the Minnesota Timberwolves shot that encapsulates the sentiment toward the Harlem Shake by an increasingly larger portion of the public (which includes a font-based jab at their rivals the Miami Heat in the close):
Today I noticed in my social stream on Facebook that Budweiser was using ads to fight back against the accusations that they are watering down their beer.
This little advertisement popped up humorously takes a jab at the plaintiffs in a lawsuit by offering the possibility that they mistakenly tested one of the cans of water Anheuser-Busch has produced to meet the emergency needs during one of the recent crises like Hurricane Sandy (a practice that dates back to the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906):
Other than the ads BP blanketed the socialsphere with following the Deep Water Horizon disaster, I don’t think I’ve seen much of this practice by major corporations. I actually think it’s a smart and effective strategy (particularly in the budget department). It simultaneously addresses the lawsuit while reminding the public of its social good campaigns.
The only criticism I have of the ad as a public relations move is that it doesn’t send those who click on it to a page addressing the accusations, rather it goes to Budweiser’s main fan page (which likely won’t help address the crisis among people who aren’t familiar with it). There’s print on the ad that likely explains this, but it’s far too small to read in the tiny dimensions of a Facebook ad.
As I write this, Burger King’s Twitter Account (@burgerking) has been hacked by Anonymous and turned into a McDonald’s account with the parody storyline that BK has been acquired by McDonald’s. It’s still posting updates (including photos of drug use and links to rap videos on YouTube) unabated.
What’s particularly amazing about this situation is that it’s now almost an hour into the hack and no one has taken action (neither Twitter, nor Burger King), though that may attest to the resourcefulness of LulzSec – the security wing of the unofficial hacker collaborative Anonymous.
After careful observation the six-second videos uploaded to Twitter Vine (courtesy of VinePeek.com which aggregates a live, unmoderated feed of everything into one stream) for several hours straight, my content analysis is as follows:
"...and you shall have no pie."As my parents tell it, when I was an infant my first word wasn't a word - it was an entire sentence. Very little has changed.
- The Less Than Definitive Guide to Grading Student Blogs
- The Most Important Aspect of the WikiLeaks Debate
- Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Over 25*
- Update - Burger King's Twitter Account Hacked; Finally Suspended 1 1/2 Hours Later
- The Presidential Race may be Close but Google is Winning Election Reporting