For as long as the Internet has been commonplace, law enforcement agents have found it helpful in catching criminals (and not just the stupid ones who post video evidence of their crimes on YouTube, either). Extremist groups—such as the various American white-supremacist organizations—also find the Internet useful for connecting with like-minded people.
But it’s intensely time-consuming for police to personally wade through the web’s ever-growing number of white supremacist tweets and other social media postings in search of the relative handful of extremist posts indicating a possible threat.
Maybe there’s an easier way. Two researchers, J. M. Berger and Bill Strathearn, from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR) in London, have developed an algorithm with a high rate of success in identifying extremists on Twitter, by analyzing the relationships between Twitter account holders (as opposed to analyzing the actual posted content).
Before the Steubenville verdicts had even been announced, a hauntingly similar case was already emerging in the small town of Torrington, Connecticut. Two high school football players were arrested on charges of sexual assault, but the 13-year-old alleged victim’s ordeal was far from over. Instead, she quickly became became the target of horrifying online harassment, much of which seemed to originate from her school-age peers.
The two 18-year-old alleged rapists, Edgar Gonzalez and Joan Toribio, have received a surprising amount of support from students at Torrington High School. In a photo posted (and now deleted) by Instagram user aalyahhx, a group of Torrington students posed in cheerful support of Gonzalez, using hand gestures to spell out his jersey number: 21.
Since then, the number 21 has become a symbol of solidarity for friends of Gonzalez, along with the #FreeEdgar hashtag on Twitter. [READ MORE]
Aly Monique spends her days studying nursing in Chicago, but at night she plays a stylist online. At the social-shopping site Polyvore, she creates fashionable ensembles with chic bags and cute designer dresses and sexy shoes. She has no training in the art of style, but the numbers prove her talent. Every time one of her sets gets posted to Facebook, tens of thousands of people like and share it. They gush with praise. They beg to know where they can buy every single item, right down to the accessories.
But Monique is completely clueless of her popularity.
Her images are being stolen by a Facebook page called Dresses and shared with its 2.9 million followers—without permission and without credit.
Every day, Facebook users talk about Dresses more than just about any other page on the social network. The “talking about this” statistic, which you can see at the top of every Facebook page, is perhaps the network’s most meaningful metric of success. It shows popularity, but also engagement. It’s about who shares you and who talks about you. Lady Gaga, with her 55 million subscribers, only manages to muster about 500,000 people talking about her at any given time. Dresses, by contrast, routinely pulls in a far more monstrous 2 million, and nearly every day, the page hits the top 30 most-talked-about pages, according to data provided by independent social analytics firm PageData.
The page’s success comes from stealing collages created by Monique, and others like her, and turning them into an endless stream of eye candy for style lovers. If you subscribe to Dresses, your Facebook page becomes a fashion catalog, barraged with cute pictures of ready-made outfits. It’s Facebook window shopping.
But it’s also spam. Each photograph serves as a vehicle to deliver links to either another Facebook page owned by the same group or, more commonly, to an external site called Stylish Eve—a self-proclaimed “online magazine” that consists of little more than boilerplate text, more stolen images, and huge Google ads.
Facebook is designed to capture the story of our lives. Our friends, important life announcements, our interests, reading habits, and shared viral videos: It’s all there—a digital thumbprint of how we spend our time online.
Researchers at the University of Missouri believe that activity “Reveals Clues to Mental Illness.” According to a recent psychological study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, researchers found high levels of correlation between peoples’ questionnaire results and Facebook activity, leading them to conclude that Facebook postings can reveal a variety of symptoms.
“Some study participants showed signs of the schizotypy condition known as social anhedonia, or the inability to experience pleasure from usually enjoyable activities, such as communicating and interacting with others. In the study, people with social anhedonia tended to have fewer friends on Facebook, communicated with friends less frequently and shared fewer photos.”
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Tumblr curated by Fernando Alfonso III (@fernalfonso), Aja Romano (@ajaromano) Gaby Dunn (@gabydunn), and Logan Youree (@loganwtf).