This week, we’re sharing stories from C.J. Chivers, Sheelah Kolhatkar, Libby Copeland, Amanda Petrusich, and Bryan Menegus.
In the week since white supremacists descended on Charlottesville with tiki torches blazing, tech companies have begun to eliminate website hosting or accounts run by neo-Nazis. The decision to kick people off the internet—a world many of us occupy in equal measure, if not more than we do the physical one around us—is not one taken lightly, and these companies have remained cautious until proven complicit.
The CEO of Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, explained in a public blog post why he chose to drop the Daily Stormer, a hate-mongering website that published openly racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist screeds, including a post about Heather Heyer. “Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion,” writes Prince. “The tipping point for us making this decision was that the team behind Daily Stormer made the claim that we were secretly supporters of their ideology.” (ProPublica skewered Cloudfare earlier this year for providing the Daily Stormer with information about people who criticized or complained about the website’s explicitly offensive content.)
Cloudflare is not alone in abandoning Nazi clients. As Adrienne Jeffries reported at The Outline, in the last few days Squarespace has dropped an array of so-called “alt-right” sites, including the think tank of neo-Nazi poster boy Richard Spencer. On Tuesday, Sean Captain at Fast Company noticed that publishing platform WordPress.com (the parent company of Longreads) is no longer hosting the website for the ultra-nationalist organization Vanguard America. (The man who drove the car that killed Heyer and injured 19 other people was allegedly a Vanguard America member, though the organization has tried to disown him.) Read more…
At Gizmodo, Josephine Hüetlin (writing under the pseudonym Emma Lantreev) reports on how Russia’s aversion to harm reduction as a strategy to combat drug addiction has led to an HIV epidemic. In Yekaterinburg — the fourth largest city in Russia, with a population of 1.5 million people — one in 50 are HIV positive. In Russia, addiction is considered a “moral sickness” and methadone is illegal, “a despised ‘narcoliberal’ idea.” The country has gone so far as to assert that drug addiction and homosexuality are notions imported from the West in a bid to corrupt ‘Russia’s “conservative ideology and traditional values.”’ For those who are suffering, the prospects are grim.
The government’s primary strategy for dealing with people struggling with addiction is “making them feel miserable,” Sarang says. “As if the social pressure will make them stop using drugs.”
In a country with the largest population of injection drug users, methadone therapy is illegal. Methadone distribution is punishable with up to 20 years in prison. Heroin addicts— “anti-social elements,” as they’re called—are expected to quit cold-turkey, perhaps in one of the jail-like “treatment” centers.
Those suffering from both addiction and HIV complications face a torturous dead end. According to several reports by the Rylkov Foundation, doctors have often refused to treat HIV patients who use heroin, on the grounds that they won’t be able to follow their treatment regime.
The City Without Drugs organization is still active, as is their YouTube channel. It features hundreds of videos of drug addicts being dragged half-conscious through the street, their faces not blurred, or confessing their alleged worthlessness, their hopelessness, their shame.
Times Square is one big, busy machine. Powered by American ingenuity and more than a few megawatts of electricity, these six square blocks stay bright 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You’ve seen Times Square in movies and on TV a million times. A lot of you have probably seen it in real life, teeming with chaos and glowing with capitalism. But how exactly does all that work? The shops and restaurants are one thing, but what exactly makes Times Square such a functional, perpetual spectacle?
That’s a complicated question. Obviously there are the workers themselves. Times Square supports some 385,000 jobs, a little over half of which are in that bright sliver of Midtown, while the other half are strewn across the country supporting Times Square operations from designing the content on the signs to keeping the power plants that power them on line. All together, they help generate about 11 percent of New York City’s economic output, or about $110 billion annually, according to the latest figures. These are the men and women who man the ticket booths, who sell the T-shirts, who clean the hotel rooms, and who keep everyone safe. And since about 350,000 pedestrians pass through Times Square on an average day—that number jumps to 460,000 on the busiest days—that’s no small task.
—Adam Clark Estes, writing in Gizmodo about how Times Square—”New York City’s biggest gadget”—operates.
Photo: Chalky Lives, Flickr
A look at the women who work as “Internet cam girls,” and the criminal activity that may be occurring behind some of the cam networks:
‘Cam sites are ideal for laundering. The studios are being used to have girls online accepting a financed hand that uses ‘dirty’ money to buy the private time. The studio gets paid for the private session, the girl gets her (very small) part and so the money comes back clean,’ Mila says. As a result, ‘most Russian and Romanian studios are Mafia owned,’ a claim she extends to the wider developing world. The picture becomes clearer when you remember how scattered and obfuscated these networks’ financial structures are—it’d be easier to confusingly launder money through a company that’s somehow simultaneously based in both Hungary and Portugal.
The Eastern Bloc countries that so many cam girls call home are repeatedly mentioned in sex trafficking reports as both sources and conduits of illicit sex work—MyFreeCams has gone as far as banning all models from the Philippines, where conditions are said to be the most brutal.
The reasoning isn’t mentioned, but is easy to surmise. Moving the exploitation online, where girls are under ‘contract’ to stay in a room for half a day at a time with dubious legal recourse, makes criminal sense.
Why do startups struggle after being acquired by giant companies like Yahoo? They’re forced to focus on integration instead of innovation:
When a new startup comes into an established company, the first wall it typically hits is CorpDev, or corporate development: the group within a business that manages change. CorpDev is usually charged with planning corporate strategy—where a business will grow or shrink, the markets it will enter or exit, and what kind of contracts and deals it may strike with other companies. It often oversees acquisitions. It plans them. Approves them. And then it sets the terms.
When a big company gobbles up a smaller one, only a fraction of the money is handed over up front. The rest comes later, based on the acquisition hitting a series of deliverables down the road. It’s similar to how incentives are built into the contracts of professional athletes, except with engineering benchmarks instead of home runs.
An explainer on Google’s challenges with privacy, its competition with Facebook and Twitter, and two big questions: Is search no longer central to its mission? And are Google’s recent moves “evil” by its early company standards?
It’s hard to understand how Google could screw up its core product like that. But there’s a remarkably simple explanation: Search is no longer Google’s core product.
One Googler authorized to speak for the company on background (meaning I could use the information he gave me, but not directly quote or attribute it) told me something that I found shocking. Google isn’t primarily about search anymore. Sure, search is still a core product, but it’s no longer the core product. The core product, he said, is simply Google.