Fresh of the heels of feeling its own might in the fight against SOPA and PIPA, a civic-minded Redditor who goes by the handle “ajpos” has decided to start a section 527 political action committee.
It’s called Test Pac, it has its own Tax ID number and it purports to represent “the special interest group that represents the views of Reddit’s users,” which we guess means boobs, the free flow of information, weed, and cats. In that order.
However, as Reddit’s general manager Erik Martin informed us, it’s not Reddit’s first “unofficial” PAC. Under the subreddit /r/rpac, you can also find threads about Hive PAC (another recent organization inspired by the SOPA Opera), as well as The OSDF, or Open Source Democracy, an older initiative.
Can I See Some ID
Google+ caught some flak for its strict real-names policy when it launched. Users who tried to sign up under their hip web handles had their profiles shut down; when that caused an uproar, Google+ said it would give users four days of warning. Locally, blogger-veterans Anil Dash and Scott Beale spoke out against the policy. Then Microsoft researcher and blogger Danah Boyd, who prefers to be referred to as danah boyd, or ‘zephoria,’ the name that got her into a tiff with Tumblr, wrote “Real Names’ Policies Are an Abuse of Power,” explaining how anonymity on the web protects important discourse from minorities, victims and those with other incentives not to speak. “Personally, I’m ecstatic to see this much outrage” over Google’s harsh real-name policy on Google+, she said at the time.
Gilt Groupe’s 900-some employees can rest easy, for now. In response to questions from Betabeat, the company confirmed this afternoon that the recent spate of layoffs is over. CEO Kevin Ryan initially estimated that about 50 people would be let go, however, the total number of layoffs across Gilt Groupe’s businesses “ended at 80-90.”
In a statement, the company said, “We don’t foresee additional layoffs at this time.”
Betabeat heard word Friday that part of the restructuring would involved shutting down certain markets for Gilt City, the company’s location-based deals service that offers discounts on luxury events and experiences. In the statement, Gilt Groupe confirmed that it will be closing its offices in six secondary cities “effective immediately,” namely San Diego, Houston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Dallas, and Atlanta. “We have not been as successful in smaller markets and the resources they require take away from growing our core business,” the company said.
Prior to this move, Gilt City operated in thirteen markets, so this represents a significant reduction. Going forward, Gilt Groupe said it will be “servicing those smaller markets through a centralized sales force.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley withdrew his support for the controversial Protect I.P. Act, better known as PIPA, last Wednesday, but that didn't stop an angry PIPA opponent from hacking into his Twitter account today. As of this writing, over 20 Tweets have been sent from Senator Grassley's account this afternoon that appear to be the work of a hacker.
"Yes I was hacked," one of the Tweets said.
A few of the Tweets posted on Senator Grassley's account indicate the hacker is upset over the senator's initial support for PIPA, a bill designed to protect intellectual property and curb piracy that has drawn the ire of internet users.
"Chuck is a supporter of SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, meaning he wants no privacy for private accounts," read another one of the Tweets. Read More
Caught In The Webb
So the troubling anti-piracy bills Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are on the ropes, effectively dead. The celebrations have begun. It’s exciting. What a great, proud week for the internet, for democracy, and for fighting against money in our politics. But that doesn’t mean that we can let our guard down and overlook how the the bill’s defenders glossed over how SOPA and PIPA could be used to target U.S. citizens.
Earlier today Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand lashed out at Marc Cenedella, CEO of The Ladders.com over a story in the New York Times this morning that said that the likely GOP Senate nominee kept a personal blog on the company's website in which he wrote frequently about women, drugs and sex.
"I think it fundamentally shows a lack of judgment," Ms. Gillibrand told reporters after a panel discussion on cyber-crime at NYU today. "And I have concerns because I feel like the nature of the rhetoric is very anti-women and very disrespectful and disregards women. And I think it's a matter of judgment that, and a level of inappropriateness, that's not appropriate for anyone seeking any office." Read More
Mi Casa Es Su Casa
At the Digitial Life Design conference in Munich today, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky gave a talk about the “sharing economy,” another way of describing the peer-to-peer ecosystem that Betabeat has been closely following. In the talk, Mr. Chesky placed Airbnb in the third-wave of the internet. After e-commerce and social connectivity, this new wave is about using online platforms to share online experiences. According to Mr. Chesky, this wave, which could include companies like Skillshare, TaskRabbit, and Zaarly, can also be unexpectedly lucrative.
Take New York City, for example, where Mr. Chesky said you can “literally” find an Airbnb on every single block in the city. (Currently there are 10,068 listings in New York.) As TechCrunch reports, on stage, Mr. Chesky said, “Airbnb hosts in NYC make $21,000 a year on average, and some even up to $100,000 a year, which I think everyone would agree is a decent chunk of cash for anyone.”
Who needs SOPA or PIPA to pull any sites associated with pirated copy asunder when you have a very public federal raid to scare you straight?
Cyberlocker sites have responded with “unprecedented action” to last week’s shutdown of Megaupload and the arrests of its founder and top executives. Since Thursday, TorrentFreak reports, a number of Megaupload’s popular competitors like VideoBB and VideoZer have done away with payment systems that rewarded uploaders when their files were shared. Filesonic (a top-10 site with a billion pageviews per month) and Fileserve took even more drastic action; both sites now forbid users to download any content they didn’t upload themselves.
Anti-piracy rhetoric holds that online piracy is a devastating force on the U.S. economy, responsible for the theft of between $200 billion and $250 billion per year and the loss of 750,000 good American jobs. “These numbers seem truly dire: a $250 billion per year loss would be almost $800 for every man, woman, and child in America. And 750,000 jobs – that’s twice the number of those employed in the entire motion picture industry in 2010,” write the economists over at Freakonomics.
But those numbers are wrong, the authors say, citing a breakdown by the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez.
City of Angels
The Pipeline Fellowship, which trains women philanthropists to become angel investors, has announced the 2012 NYC Pipeline Fellowship class: 20 women in real estate, finance, consulting, media and nonprofits who commit to invest in a woman-led for-profit social venture in exchange for equity and a board seat at the end of the training. “The Pipeline Fellowship aims to diversify the investor pool and connect women social entrepreneurs with investors who get them,” the website says.