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Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

In a press release on May 15th, the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon called for better protection of children in cyberspace.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

“As they surf through cyberspace seeking information and entertainment and building social networks, they are also among the most vulnerable to exploitation. Without safeguards, their precious lives are at grave risk in the vicious world of cybercriminals and pedophiles that prey on easy targets.”

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child both recognizes the right to access to information but also accords protection against all forms of inducement to engage in unlawful activities, the Secretary-General said, calling for these provisions to be applied rigorously.

“The virtual world has exciting possibilities for nurturing children and helping them grow into creative, productive adults,” said Ban Ki-moon.

“But we must mind the pitfalls that could scar them for life,” Mr. Ban said, calling on policy-makers and industry leaders to take action to ensure the safety of all in the rapidly-evolving virtual world.

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Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) Internships, announced by Secretary Clinton at the 2009 New York University commencement speech, are part of a growing effort by the State Department to harness technology and a commitment to global service among young people to facilitate new forms of diplomatic engagement. The VSFS Internships will be developed over the next year and will seek to harness the energy of a rising generation of citizen diplomats.

Working from college and university campuses in the United States, American students will partner with our embassies abroad to conduct digital diplomacy that reflects the realities of our networked world.

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The WWF – that’s World Wildlife Federation and not the World Wrestling Federation – has opened up a new campaign aimed at getting China’s young people to be more aware of the fate of wild animals.

“We developed the world’s first mobile application where a virtual bear interacts with real environment, in real time. Through your mobile, you can control wildlife’s fate virtually and for real. Virtually, point your phone anywhere and see the bear bump into walls, trip down stairs, get run over by moving cars, and become defenseless against humans.”

You can download the application at the WWF’s China Biodiversity Program web page.

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“On a plane, on the bus, in a theater. Babies are everywhere you don’t want them to be! They’re always distracting you from preparing for that big presentation at work with their incessant crying. Before Baby Shaker there was nothing you could do about it,”

So went the tag line for Sikalsoft‘s Baby Shaker application, a 99 cent download that ended in Apple having to withdraw it and publish an apology.

For those who missed it, here’s the YouTube video – well, until YouTube are forced to take it down. Warning: It contains scenes of piss-poor graphics.

After watching that, you will either be in the “horrific application” camp or the “it’s only a game” group. Groveling apologies were issued by both Apple and Sikalsoft, although the latter’s at least had a hint of sarcasm about it:

“Yes, the Baby Shaker iPhone app was a bad idea. You should never shake a baby! Even on an Apple iPhone Baby Shaking application. In case you are unaware Baby Shaker was an Apple iPhone application that was greatly lacking in taste. It was approved by Apple for download upon the iPhone. However, it was later taken down because it was a baby shaking video game! While GTA is a video game that pushes the limits, it is still yet to have a baby shaking mini game in it.”

This was also an opportunity for individual and groups involved in promoting awareness of Shaken Baby syndrome to get lots of free publicity. Lots. Here’s one example:

“”It is not enough to take the application off,” said Darryl Gibbs, who advocated for Cynthia’s Law, which in 2006 increased to seven years the prison time for someone convicted in New York State of shaking a baby. “Apple has to explain how it allowed it to be distributed. This has caused irreparable damage to our work to educate people about this abuse and how to prevent it.”

Not enough to pull it? Why, what should Apple do? Mmh, let me guess – fork over some “compensation” money?

And here’s another:

“Marilyn Barr, founder of the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome, in Ogden, Utah, was one who expressed horror over the software.

‘Not only are they making fun of shaken-baby syndrome, but they are actually encouraging it,’ she said. ‘This is absolutely terrible.'”

Encouraging it? Seriously? Show me ONE definitive instance of someone downloading this app and then shaking a baby. This is no more than another manifestation of the old “watching X makes you do X” that has been going on since caveman in Lascaux drew on cave walls to “encourage” their pals to go hunting for deer.

I suppose we should now look forward to the withdrawal of all those apps that encourage people to go to web sites and BUY things – after all, the problem of debt affects more people than there are shaken babies. And how about those games that encourage gambling? And those that show you the nearest pub so you can go drink poisonous alcohol – another killer.

Think that’s stupid? Why? If we can ban an app on the basis it encourages baby shaking, then we can use the same logic to ban any other that encourages anything else.

Why, some might say that the iPhone “encourages” people to download music from iTunes and therefore rack up huge debts. Nah, I bet that never happens.

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Suppose you have a business that is sucking. Then suppose a recession comes along and makes it suck more. What do you do? Well, one solution to sue as many people as you can based on some vague patent from ten years ago.

Welcome to Worlds.com‘s new strategy!

Anyone with access to the Internet (and that includes anyone they can sue) can find the financials for Worlds.com, which, not surprisingly, show a slow decline in stock prices since the middle of the year.

Currently, they are taking aim at a Korean company, NCsoft, owners and creators of the popular on-line games, City of Heroes. In an interesting take on why to choose these folks over any others – and in truth, anyone running a virtual world is a target – has been put forward by Valley Insider. Reporter Eric Krangel argues that first, the claim has been filed in East Texas, which is historically more biased toward the claimants, and second, suing foreigners from Korea is a lot easier than US-based companies, who are less – well – foreign!

Eric Cavalli, blogging for Wired, says that, ” if what Worlds.com claims is entirely true it would mean that the majority (if not all) of NCsoft’s MMO properties are built on (and inextricably linked to) technology that violates a patent.” So, all those people out there working with OpenSim technology are fair game.

In response to Krangel’s Valley Insider article, I offered the following:

“Mmmh, I’d like to offer a suggestion to the publishers, Bantam Spectra, to the effect that THEY should sue Worlds.com. In 1992 – a full three years before the patent listing of 1995, Bantam published a novel by a little-known writer called Neal Stephenson, the title of which was Snow Crash.

I suggest to Bantam that the patent holders of “System and Method for Enabling Users to Interact in a Virtual Space” may have stolen the idea from Snow Crash and that the novel is clearly an example of “prior art” and has a copyright attached to it.

This may not help the folks at NCsoft but there would be a certain pleasure in knowing that the trolls at World.com were having to dig into their coffers to build up a defense.”

Primary Sources: Wired Blog Network, Virtual World News

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Banning words in a virtual world is so gay. Why, I wouldn’t even allowed to talk to my virtual friends about my lesbian daughter unless I referred to her as “my man-hating daughter” or “women-preferring little treasure.” As for mentioning that you can have a gay old time at a virtual dance, that would be verboten.

But according to a number of sources (e.g.  San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, g4tv.com, Silicon Ally Insider) the good people running Sony’s PlayStation Home virtual world have decided that certain words ought not to be used.

This may turn out to be a really tricky one considering the world audience. For example, our smoker friends in the UK may well talk about needing a “fag” to relax; they may also want to ask for one from a friend, which is called “bumming a fag!” and any talk of royalty will be just fine if it refers to the king, but what about the queen? And our Australian gardening enthusiasts may find themselves bleeped when talking about their newly planted pansies.

A quick Google search reveals that other words may have to be banned because they are used as slang for homosexuals. For example, at Easter there will be no talk of chocolate bunnies (black and gay); no mentioning of your restaurant order for a hot enchilada or hot tamale (Hispanic and gay); no ordering of water chestnuts (Asian and gay); and in summer, any mention of a trip to the US ice cream chain, Dairy Queen, is right out (someone looking for a gay encounter).

And with profanities, the list becomes almost endless. Holy shit! I mean, Jesus Christ, that’ll cut down on the fucking evangelicals trying to sell God to the virtual masses!

Primary Source: Pink News

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