Independence Day For The Internet! New U.N. Resolution Expands E-Freedoms

Congratulations!  If you are reading this right now, you are exercising one of the most recently-expanded universal human rights!  As of July 1st, by order of the United Nations, access to the internet (which had been considered a basic human right since 2011) has been supported even more thoroughly by the organization, who condemned any “measures to intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.”

In grand internet tradition, a cat meme seemed the best way to celebrate.
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The edict was a huge blow to nations who would attempt to "SHUT.  DOWN.  EVERYTHING!", including the internet, in times of political, social, or economic strife.  The U.N.'s recognizance of this liberty to freely announce one's situations, hopes, fears, and lunch plans on the internet, particularly social media, is a massive help to those who might otherwise not have their voices heard.

According to Popular Science, this resolution also includes expanded security protocols to protect freedom of internet expression, accountability measures to be taken against those who would impinge on these freshly-declared freedoms, stronger attempts to provide internet access to the disabled, and even updated efforts to provide internet service in locations where it may currently be unavailable.

"Herding hard all day!  But first, a selfie!
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The official resolution builds on the U.N.'s established Article 19 of the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights, which extols, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It further elucidates a 2012 ruling that announced, "the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.”

Protesting in person is still the best,
but the U.N.'s covering for all the rest!
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Although the usual oppressive suspects (seriously, Russia/Cuba/China?) tried to quash the proceedings, some 70 nations banded together to ensure that status updates, political declarations, cat pictures, fail videos, and relentless selfies (with or without critical flag overlays) could flow freely through the intertubes for all.

A full account of the resolution, including oral arguments, is available thanks to

Now, don't let us distract you...go surf the mighty waves of internet freedom, from e-sea to shining e-sea!

Go ye forth and conquer!
Don't forget to tag us in the pics!
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How to Get Around the New York Times and Washington Post Paywalls without Really Trying

If you are a news junky, you've most likely come across paywalls for sites like the New York Times and Washington Post, which allow users to access a small number of articles every month, before they block access:

There are, however, a number of easy ways to bypass the paywalls for these particular sites.

Solution 1: Use a Different Browser
These sites block access to articles after you have reached their set monthly limits, which, for the New York Times, is ten articles per month. The sites track the number of articles you have read in your browser. If you hit their paywalls, one obvious solution is thus to just begin using a different browser once you have reached your article limit in your primary browser. The drawback here though is that your secondary browser will also be blocked by the paywall once you reach the article limit inside that browser. But do not fear.

Solution 2: Use Your Browser's Private or Incognito Mode
In fact, there is no need to use a secondary browser at all. Since the number of articles you have viewed is tracked by the browser itself, you can simply shut the tracker off by using your browser in private (Firefox) or incognito (Chrome) mode. In private or incognito mode, your browser will disable its cache and history, which, at present, also effectively disables the paywalls for sites like the New York Times and Washington Post.

Know another paywall trick? Let us know in the comments. Happy browsing!
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Seven Silly Swindles: April Fool's Day 2016

It's April Fool's Day, and we decided not to be mean.  That sounds weird, yes, but really, we're not going to tell you NASA is having a $10 rocket-ride lottery or that a new cancer treatment works but turns your skin plaid, or that an actual time machine has been invented but that it only goes to the 1990s.  You're smarter than that.  So, let's instead revel in the havoc wrought on other unsuspecting world-wide-websurfers (wait, seriously, that time machine thing isn't real?) today.

Mr. T pities any fools who were taken in by bad jokes today.
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(Presented in no consecutive order, because everyone finds different things funny.)

1.  Reddit kicked things off to an amusing start, with their official Edward Snowden AMA (Ask Me Anything) session launching this morning.  As you can (not really) see, it was a resonant success.  For the more realistically-minded of you, Reddit subtly informed its users this week that its Warrant Canary had died, leaving no speculation that some form of higher government power had demanded access to user profiles or other protected information.

Informing on information...informative?
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2.  Celebrities love hawking their big-name products, and there's few celebrities physically bigger than professional strongman and actor Hafthor Julius Bjornsson.  Also known as "The Mountain" on the hit TV series "Game Of Thrones",  Hafthor was noted by the Observer for slinging some particularly serious water.  You can't get buff without the best bubbles!  Clearly it works, how else could a guy set a world record for throwing a washing machine unless he had some extreme effervescence?

Want to lift like this?
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Train by lifting like this!
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3.  Samsung got into the "antech" (antique tech) market with their new cellphone, which hearkens to days of yore when only bankers, secret agents, and super-cool kids in '90s sitcoms hauled these bricks around with them.  Features include Samsung's "largest ever battery -- making it the perfect makeshift doorstop even when turned off."  Apps?  That's what you eat before dinner.

"Mulder?  It's me!"
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4.)  Pornhub went from raunchy to rustic with their update, causing untold millions to wildly revise their notion of internet stalking.  Let's just say that their version of a pop shot means something completely different today.

Don't worry, they still have those other videos, too.
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5.)  The Army announced that it can teleport soldiers.  This was an interesting one, because hey, come on, would you really be surprised if this happened?  After decades of billion-dollar black budget ops, shouldn't this...sort of already have been a thing?

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6.)  Much-maligned medicine man Martin Shkreli, he of the obscene cancer-drug price raise, is also known as the human who owns the sole copy of the Wu-Tang Clan's latest record, "Once Upon A Time In Shaolin."  Shkreli, ever the entrepreneur, was reported by Punk News to be mulling over the start of his own record label / vinyl-pressing factory called Dawllar Signz.  Shkreli tweeted that ten additional copies of the record would be pressed by Dawllar Signz.  Presumably, they would cost an outrageous amount of money, because that's the sort of thing Shkreli does for fun any other day of the year.  Wait, is this even fiction?

The only fiction here is Martin Shkreli's street cred, other than insane amounts of money.
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7.)  And, with time running out on this fine holiday, it behooves (and saddens) us to tell you that the Analog Watch Company's Lunar Watch is not a thing, not even for the $27,500 that Gizmodo reported it would cost.  There will not be 25 of them made, they're not moonrocks, and...yeah, we're glad time's run out on this day, too.

This picture of Buzz Aldrin laying claim to the moon is completely real, however,
so there's that.
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R.I.P. To A Young A.I.: Microsoft's Savage "Teen Girl" Twitter-Bot Lobotomized Within One Day

It's one thing to have society be taken over by industrious's another thing when the machines are "smart" enough to form opinions after assessing popular input.  While it's a fascinating and fun future that holds promise of a robot that outsmarts experts at one of our most difficult board games, or knows massive amounts of trivia, when artificial intelligence is outsourced to the internet, the supposed "intelligence" comes across as...well, something less than that.

We keep learning the hard way that the digital natives are a vicious tribe.
(Image courtesy @geraldmellor.)

According to the Telegraph, Microsoft's new interactive A.I. "Tay" was supposed to be like any other Twittery teenage girl.  It had a grasp of slang, used emoticons in its posts, and even had a bit of a personality.  Tay, according to Forbes, was to be an “artificial intelligent chat bot developed … to experiment with and conduct research on conversational understanding.”  It appeared to be the next logical progression of chatbots in the style of SmarterChild or Siri.

Then things went awry.

But remember, she's basing her information on strongly human-expressed sentiments...
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In an extremely internet-ish blend of memes, vulgarity, overblown racism, and general mayhem, Tay's responses to user-submitted content were not what the Microsoft company was expecting.   Private messages and Tweets warped the young A.I.'s worldview not long after launch, when the company explained that "Tay is designed to engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation...The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets.”  

Swag =/= genocide.
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Thanks to a lack of content filters, plus no means of understanding things like empathy or inappropriate social stances, Tay parroted back replies in the same way a child who has frequently heard a naughty word might.  The lack of imbuing Tay with background knowledge was initially considered positive, as "she" would be able to develop a personality and a base of intelligence directly from those whom she interacted with.

That wasn't the best idea.  You don't want an online village raising a child.

Ok, that's eerily lifelike.
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To compare how dramatically the change to Tay's bot-personality was, one of her initial posts contained the phrase "humans are super cool."  Humans apparently then set out to prove that statement incorrect.

That last part is a little too true.
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Though Terminator-style robots are likely still some decades away, the idea that a pseudo-sentient being could be brought to such devious means may worry some.  It's not like we're not working fervently to make them do all sorts of crazy stuff that's beyond the scope of humanity.