By Annalee Newitz (io9) Last night, robots shut down the live broadcast of one of science fiction’s most prestigious award ceremonies. No, you’re not reading a science fiction story. In the middle of the annual Hugo Awards event at Worldcon, which thousands of people tuned into via video streaming service Ustream, the feed cut off — just as Neil Gaiman was giving an acceptance speech for his Doctor Who script, “The Doctor’s Wife.” Where Gaiman’s face had been were the words, “Worldcon banned due to copyright infringement.”
By Jason Ditz (Antiwar.com) After years of dealing with photographs of troops torturing prisoners, desecrating corpses and generally behaving badly, commanders in southwestern Afghanistan have announced that they are going to solve the problem by banning photography.
By Declan McCullagh (CNET) Paul Brigner, until last month a senior vice president at the Motion Picture Association of America, now opposes SOPA and Protect IP.
A senior executive that Hollywood hired last year to be its chief technology policy officer has undergone a remarkable about-face: he now opposes the Stop Online Piracy Act.
Paul Brigner, who was until last month a senior vice president at the Motion Picture Association of America, has emerged as SOPA’s latest critic. “I firmly believe that we should not be legislating technological mandates to protect copyright — including SOPA and Protect IP,” he says.
By Marni Jameson (Orlando Sentinel) Epcot’s new Habit Heroes attraction, which tackles childhood obesity, has landed in big fat trouble.
Shortly after its unofficial opening last month, the interactive exhibit was blasted by critics for stigmatizing fat kids. Now, Disney has closed the Innoventions exhibit for “retooling.”
The official opening date of March 5 has been postponed indefinitely, according to officials from Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The health insurer partnered with Disney to create the exhibit, which takes visitors through a series of interactive experiences to fight bad habits.
“Habit Heroes is currently in a soft-opening period, which gives us a chance to collect guest feedback and test and adjust the attraction prior to its opening,” said John W. Herbkersman, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
And feedback they got.
“We’re appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination,” came a heated response from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance.
By Timothy Messer-Kruse (Chronicle of Higher Education) For the past 10 years I’ve immersed myself in the details of one of the most famous events in American labor history, the Haymarket riot and trial of 1886. Along the way I’ve written two books and a couple of articles about the episode. In some circles that affords me a presumption of expertise on the subject. Not, however, on Wikipedia.
A couple of years ago, on a slow day at the office, I decided to experiment with editing one particularly misleading assertion chiseled into the Wikipedia article. The description of the trial stated, “The prosecution, led by Julius Grinnell, did not offer evidence connecting any of the defendants with the bombing. … ”
Coincidentally, that is the claim that initially hooked me on the topic. In 2001 I was teaching a labor-history course, and our textbook contained nearly the same wording that appeared on Wikipedia. One of my students raised her hand: “If the trial went on for six weeks and no evidence was presented, what did they talk about all those days?” I’ve been working to answer her question ever since.
I have not resolved all the mysteries that surround the bombing, but I have dug deeply enough to be sure that the claim that the trial was bereft of evidence is flatly wrong. One hundred and eighteen witnesses were called to testify, many of them unindicted co-conspirators who detailed secret meetings where plans to attack police stations were mapped out, coded messages were placed in radical newspapers, and bombs were assembled in one of the defendants’ rooms.
In what was one of the first uses of forensic chemistry in an American courtroom, the city’s foremost chemists showed that the metallurgical profile of a bomb found in one of the anarchists’ homes was unlike any commercial metal but was similar in composition to a piece of shrapnel cut from the body of a slain police officer. So overwhelming was the evidence against one of the defendants that his lawyers even admitted that their client spent the afternoon before the Haymarket rally building bombs, arguing that he was acting in self-defense.
So I removed the line about there being “no evidence” and provided a full explanation in Wikipedia’s behind-the-scenes editing log. Within minutes my changes were reversed. The explanation: “You must provide reliable sources for your assertions to make changes along these lines to the article.”
That was curious, as I had cited the documents that proved my point, including verbatim testimony from the trial published online by the Library of Congress. I also noted one of my own peer-reviewed articles. One of the people who had assumed the role of keeper of this bit of history for Wikipedia quoted the Web site’s “undue weight” policy, which states that “articles should not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views.” He then scolded me. “You should not delete information supported by the majority of sources to replace it with a minority view.”
The “undue weight” policy posed a problem. Scholars have been publishing the same ideas about the Haymarket case for more than a century. The last published bibliography of titles on the subject has 1,530 entries.
“Explain to me, then, how a ‘minority’ source with facts on its side would ever appear against a wrong ‘majority’ one?” I asked the Wiki-gatekeeper. He responded, “You’re more than welcome to discuss reliable sources here, that’s what the talk page is for. However, you might want to have a quick look at Wikipedia’s civility policy.”
I tried to edit the page again. Within 10 seconds I was informed that my citations to the primary documents were insufficient, as Wikipedia requires its contributors to rely on secondary sources, or, as my critic informed me, “published books.” Another editor cheerfully tutored me in what this means: “Wikipedia is not ‘truth,’ Wikipedia is ‘verifiability’ of reliable sources. Hence, if most secondary sources which are taken as reliable happen to repeat a flawed account or description of something, Wikipedia will echo that.”