Entries in Online (14)


Shooter May Have Posted Online Before Va. Community College Attack

Hemera/Thinkstock(CHRISTIANSBURG, Va.) -- An 18-year-old college student may have posted messages online that detailed the weapons and ammunition he planned to use before allegedly shooting two women at a Virginia community college on Friday.

"I'm nervous because I've never really handled a shotgun but a few times with the Christiansburg police," Neil MacInnis, of Christiansburg, Va., reportedly posted just minutes before he opened fire at the satellite campus of New River Community College at New River Valley Mall, police said.

"Stevens 320 shotgun. Buck shots and slugs," MacInnis reportedly posted before the attack.

Investigators could not confirm if the information in the post matched the details of Friday's attack.

Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson said MacInnis had participated in the town's Police Department Citizens Academy program in 2012.

The 12-week course allowed participants to ride along with police officers, tour the officers' training facility, as well as practice with firearms at the firing range, the Associated Press reported.

The type of weapon, how it was obtained and how many shots were fired during the incident were not being released due to the ongoing investigation, Sisson said at a news briefing on Friday night.

MacInnis was charged with two counts each of malicious wounding and using a firearm in the commission of a felony. He is being held without bail in Montgomery County Jail.

MacInnis, who is a student at the community college, wounded one student and one school employee in the attack. One of the victims was airlifted to the hospital for medical attention, while the other was taken by ambulance, Sisson said at the news briefing.

MacInnis was subdued by an off-duty security guard less than 10 minutes after the shooting began on Friday.

Authorities have not yet established the shooter's motive.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Online Activist Aaron Swartz, 26, Found Dead

Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Aaron Swartz, a precocious web pioneer who advocated for free online content, was found dead in his Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment of an apparent suicide.

Swartz, 26, was discovered hanged in his apartment on Friday, according to The New York Times.

Swartz’s federal trial on computer fraud charges was scheduled to begin next month. In 2011, Swartz was arrested after prosecutors alleged he illegally downloaded millions of scientific journals from an online archive within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology network.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

When Swartz was 14 years old, he helped create RSS software, revolutionizing the way people subscribed to and consumed information online.

As an adult, he co-founded Reddit, a social news website, and rallied against Internet censorship through the political action group Demand Progress.

Technology bloggers paid tribute to the the man who “had more work to do, and who made the world a better place when he did it.”

“Aaron had an unbeatable combination of political insight, technical skill, and intelligence about people and issues,” Cory Doctorow posted on Boing Boing.

And in true Aaron Swartz fashion, Doctorow’s lengthy tribute came with a disclaimer: “To the extent possible under law, Cory Doctorow has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to ‘RIP, Aaron Swartz.’”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


'Annoying, Offending' Language Online Would Be Crime Under Arizona Bill

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(PHOENIX) -- Distasteful comments and online insults are a mainstay of many social networks and online comment boards, but a new bill passed in Arizona could send people who "annoy or offend" to jail for up to six months.

House Bill 2549, which had bipartisan support, passed in the state's legislature and is awaiting one final vote on a minor "technical change" before the bill is sent to Gov. Jan Brewer.

The bill's sweeping language would severely inhibit First Amendment rights, David Horowitz, executive director of the Media Coalition in New York City, told ABC News.

"Even in talk radio, saying, 'I know this will offend my listeners' is a common practice. It's a tradition, speech that challenges the status quo," he said.

The bill states it would be a class one misdemeanor for anyone to "terrify, intimidate, threaten, harass, annoy or offend" through electronic and digital devices. It does not provide definitions of the terms and what would be considered annoying or offensive.

In a letter to the governor, Horowitz urged a veto "to allow legislators to craft a narrower bill that addresses their concerns without infringing on the right of free speech."

He said her office acknowledged receiving the letter and said it would include it in a pack of materials for the governor to review before she makes her decision.

The governor's office said it would not comment until the legislation reached Brewer's desk.

State Rep. Steve Farley, one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said the intention is not to stifle free speech, but to protect victims of stalking and bullying.

"It doesn't mean that the person is instantly going to be fined or put away," Farley told ABC News. "But if the judge determines it relates to other circumstances in the case then they can use this as another tool to make that decision."

Including Arizona's existing law, 38 states have enacted legislation against electronic bullying, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center.

"I'm a defender of the Constitution like anyone else, but the First Amendment doesn't give you the right to harass or terrorize someone," said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center. "This certainly doesn't or wouldn't restrict one's freedom of speech. If it does, it will be overturned."

Patchin, who primarily studies cyberbullying in the adolescent community, said he has heard from an increasing number of adults who have been victims too and welcomes the legislation.

"We need to step back and realize there is some harmful stuff that is said out there," he said. "And it really needs to be stopped."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


CIA and NSA Websites Encourage Childs' Play

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Worried about what your children are getting into while surfing the Web? Well, how about organizations involved in intelligence gathering and espionage?

Despite their very adult missions, both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency have sections specifically for youngsters.

On the CIA’s site -- the same one that hosts definitions of cannabis, meningococcal meningitis and maternal mortality rate -- children and teens can visit the Kids’ Page where a cubist cartoon spy using her high heel as a phone presides over a “welcome” telling readers they can “learn more about the CIA, our employees, and what we do every day.”

The NSA page is called America’s CryptoKids and looks more like a B-level animated movie than a government organization PR campaign. The NSA has games, puzzles and a cast of animal security officers, including Rosetta Stone the multilingual fox, Crypto Cat, who learned code breaking from an elderly Navajo nanny, and Cy and Cyndi, the cybersecurity twins welcomed into the CryptoKids family last year.

So how do the CryptoKids fit into the NSA’s mission “to protect U.S. national security systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information?” And why would the CIA offer a word find and coloring book?

Communication expert Joanne Cantor said having games indicates that an organization wants kids to have a positive image of them.

Cantor said companies that see children as a target audience, such as fast-food chains or sweetened cereal producers, “have all sorts of games on their websites to make the kids like them and to sort of recruit them at young ages, and that’s very controversial among people who consider marketing to kids as unfair.”

Cantor did not see the CIA’s and NSA’s websites’ messages as inherently harmful, but said they could be subtle recruiting tactics.

“I think, particularly with character biographies, they want you to feel like you identify with the people who work there. Like this is something you could do,” Cantor said.

But Vanee’ Vines of the NSA Public Affairs Office denied that the agency uses its site as a recruiting tool.

“We’re aiming to raise awareness about cybersecurity, our mission, and how STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math] skills are needed in a global society that increasingly relies on information technology,” Vines wrote in an email.

“We realize the importance of helping to educate the nation’s youth and raise awareness about the National Security Agency’s core values, vision, and critical mission.”

All federal agencies are strongly encouraged to have kids’ sections on their websites, thanks to a memo former President Bill Clinton released in 1997, but few are as elaborate as the NSA’s efforts. The memo does not specify how detailed the website must be or how much money should be allocated to the project.

While Vines said the NSA kids’ page has been reviewed frequently since the new design opened in 2005, she would not say how much it costs to keep the page “fresh and relevant.”

Kids can see more from the NSA’s cadre of cartoon characters at the agency’s museum.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


'Facebook Law': Injunction Granted Against Limits on Online Contact 

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, Mo.) -- A Missouri judge has granted an injunction against a new state law meant to protect children from sexual predators at school. Teachers said the law was so broadly worded it would stop them from using the Internet to contact kids -- even their own -- for the most innocent of reasons.

The law, called the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, was scheduled, until Friday's injunction, to take effect Sunday. It states, among its other provisions, that teachers may not contact their students through electronic communications, such as instant messages or Facebook posts, that cannot be seen by others.

"The breadth of the prohibition is staggering," said Cole County Circuit Judge Jon Beetem in granting the request for injunction by the Missouri State Teachers Association. "It clearly prohibits communication between family members and their teacher parents using these types of sites. The court finds that the statute would have a chilling effect on speech."

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon joined in, calling Friday for the state legislature to repeal the provisions of the law concerning student-teacher communications.

"I will ask the General Assembly to repeal that particular section, while preserving other vital protections included in the bill," he said in a statement. "In addition, I will be asking for input on this issue from teachers, parents and other stakeholders."

The law was sponsored by State Sen. Jane Cunningham, a Republican from the St. Louis suburbs, who argued that all she wanted to limit was "hidden communications" between teachers and students that could not be monitored by third parties, such as parents or school administrators.

"This gives everyone time to debate and discuss the issue to come to a proper resolution rather than rushing to piece together language that doesn't resolve the concerns of educators or allow time for teacher input," said Gail McCray, counsel for the teachers' association.

In Missouri, the debate over what has often been referred to as the "Facebook Law" has taken on a life of its own, with several education and civil liberties groups calling for its language to be clarified.

On Friday, after the injunction, Cunningham said she was disappointed that the state teachers association had not joined with other groups to modify the wording of the law. "They're wasting their members' dues," she said, "fighting in court over something that's simple to fix."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Woman Accused of Assaulting Son for Having Facebook Page

Florida police say Althea Ricketts, 62, beat her son with a computer cable for being on Facebook. (Orange County Jail)(APOPKA, Fla.) -- A Florida woman, told that her teenage son had posted a message on Facebook suggesting he might harm himself, allegedly beat him with a computer cable because he wasn't supposed to be on Facebook in the first place, police said.

The woman, 62-year-old Althea Ricketts of Apopka, Fla., was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse. The name and age of her son were not made public.

Officer Josean Velez, who handled the case, said Ricketts volunteered that she had hit her son.

"Althea stated to me that hitting a child with a cable is a common way of disciplining kids where she comes from," Velez said.

According to police, an acquaintance called Ricketts Friday night to tell her about an upsetting post on her son's Facebook page. Police say Ricketts called back, said she had hit her son and that he had run off.

The police report, provided to ABC News, said the boy had updated his Facebook status Friday night to say, "I broke a glass on purpose and kept a piece to play with it later." A neighbor said the boy had a history of cutting himself, and called his mother after receiving a text message from a church friend about his Facebook status.

The neighbor said Ricketts hit her son with a computer cable, raising red welts on his arms, according to the police report. Police were called after the boy ran to a friend's house and said he was afraid he would be hit again if he went home.

Another neighbor, according to police, quoted Ricketts as saying the boy "deserved everything he got for lying to her." The neighbor answered, "There are ways to discipline a child without bruising them up," according to the police report.

A call to the Ricketts' home was not answered. Ricketts was released without bond Sunday from the Orange County Jail. Pending trial, she was ordered not to have contact with her son.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Happy Birthday Twitter! Microblogging Site Celebrates 5th Birthday

SAEED KHAN/AFP/Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- It's been five years since Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of sent out the first experimental tweet: "Inviting coworkers."

That's all it said.

This July 15 marks the five-year anniversary since became a public website, and like every Tweet since, Dorsey's was limited to 140 characters.

Since then, celebrities from Lady Gaga to Charlie Sheen to President Obama (or the staffers tweeting on his behalf) have mastered the highly truncated form of language that Twitter has made popular; others (think of Rep. Anthony Weiner) have been less adroit.

Twitter is now the 9th-most-visited site worldwide, according to the Web-tracking service Alexa. Google, Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo may get more users, but they can't top Twitter for the sheer number of messages sent.

As of last week, Twitter said users were sending 200 million tweets per day, up from 2 million in January 2009. If you printed that on paper, at a rate of 20 tweets per page, it would fill the equivalent of 8,163 copies of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, the company said.

Despite the flighty name and the forced brevity of the messages, Twitter has become a major, and often serious, medium. From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the uprising in Egypt, it has been a way for people to connect, share links to pictures and news stories, or watch what is collectively on the world's mind.

And of course, it's become the gathering place for the rabid followers of pop culture icons.

Ashton Kutcher won the race to become the first Twitter member to 1 million followers, but he's since been passed by a few pop stars, a reality TV queen, and one commander in chief.

Twitter's San Francisco staff has not done much publicly to mark the day; they had more of a celebration in March, the five-year mark from when they put the site online for so-called beta testing. That kind of thing is common with tech startups; Google says it celebrates its anniversary on different days in September, "depending on when people feel like having cake."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Osama Bin Laden Dead: Web Users Celebrate With Fake Twitter, Facebook Accounts

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Even before President Obama pronounced Osama bin Laden dead, the Internet was buzzing with the news -- and in the hours that followed, the Web exploded as people celebrated and satirized the demise of public enemy No. 1.

As people around the world tweeted their excitement about bin Laden's death, Twitter said it had its highest sustained rate of tweets ever.

From 10:45 p.m. to 2:20 a.m. ET, Twitter users generated about 3,000 tweets per second, with a peak of 5,106 tweets per second at 11 p.m. ET, Twitter said in a tweet Monday.

On Facebook, the page "Osama Bin Laden Is DEAD" attracted more than 300,000 "likes" as people worldwide shared comments and links to stories and video.

The Facebook page went viral in the aftermath of Obama's announcement but, as Mashable notes, the page appears to have been created before the official announcement of the big news.

"Osama bin Laden has not been found and will never be found because he died a long time ago. This may be news to you because it wasn't in the news," the description of the page says. "His death is critical to the CIA because they want you to believe in this so called 'War on terror' which has made the world a more dangerous place. If Osama bin Laden was alive, he would've been found -- just like Saddam Hussein."

Within hours of the announcement, fake Twitter accounts for bin Laden attracted thousands of followers.

Twitter Account @OsamaInHell: 'Bedrooms Are Called 'Sleeper Cells' Here.' The account @GhostOsama got more than 25,000 followers. Its tweets pretended to be from a man who "was once the best Terrorist of all time!" One of the tweeter's first posts said, "Obama is using my death to assure his reelection." Later, the account posted, "Was just granted my 72 virgins, YES!"

Google Maps was flooded with enthusiasts using the popular mapping tool to find the exact spot bin Laden was killed. According to the Google Earth Blog (which is not officially affiliated with Google), the location is especially difficult to find online because the newest imagery from the area is only from 2005.

Though map users may have had a tough time locating the place of bin Laden's death online, they still had a good time mocking it. More than 30 people have posted fake reviews for "Osama bin Laden's Compound" on Google Maps.

On Yahoo, searches for Osama bin Laden spiked 98,550 percent Sunday. Searches for September 11 jumped 1,009 percent. Among the top questions being searched for on Yahoo! are "How did Osama bin Laden die," "How old was Osama bin Laden," "Is it Usama or Osama?" and "Is Osama Really dead?"

"Osama bin laden dead" was among the top rising terms on YouTube Sunday night, Google said in its YouTube Trends blog.

But Google said video watchers were also hungry for songs, including Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue," "God Bless America," and Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." Another top trending video on Twitter was President George W. Bush's 2001 bullhorn speech from Ground Zero. Between 7:30 and 8:30 p.m. PT Sunday, there was a one million percent increase in Google searches for "bin laden," compared to earlier in the weekend, a company spokeswoman said.

Keynote Systems, a leading mobile and Internet performance monitoring company, said that soon after the announcement of bin Laden's death, top news sites (as well as their mobile sites) began to buckle under the strain of the unexpected traffic load. The company said that in the first 15 minutes after the news broke, it was as if a "flash mob" descended on mobile news sites. Unprepared for the onslaught of traffic, news sites slowed down and returned error messages, but they recovered quickly, Keynote said.

Akamai Technologies, Inc., a leading Web services company that monitors Internet traffic, said news of bin Laden's death led to a spike in Web traffic 24 percent above normal. On Sunday night around 11:40 p.m. ET, traffic peaked at about 4.1 million page views per minute, the company said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Kama Sutra Malware Puts You in Position for Hack Attack

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Kama Sutra may help you score points in the bedroom, but a new PowerPoint file on the ancient guide to sex will only raise your chances of scoring something else: a rendezvous with computer hackers.

According to the security research firm Sophos, an illustration-heavy PowerPoint presentation demonstrating more than a dozen different sexual positions is actually a vicious piece of malware in disguise.

The file, called "Real kamasutra.pps.exe," masquarades as a legitimate PowerPoint deck. But as you click through slides describing various sexual positions, with such names as "The Frog," "Wheelbarrow," and "Lyons Stagecoach," your computer runs a program that lets hackers remotely control your computer.

Graham Clulely, a senior technology consultant at Sophos, said the malware was spotted for the first time earlier this week, but isn't particularly widespread.

"It's interesting, obviously, because of the rather old-school technique of trying to get you to click on the file by appealing to the cave man inside everybody," he said.

Once downloaded, he said the PowerPoint deck serves as a decoy while malware quietly installs itself in the computer. The malicious code gives hackers a backdoor to your PC, which they can they use to execute any number of unwanted tasks.

They could access your every computer file, watch your every key stroke, steal your passwords to online bank accounts and steal your identity.

"The ball is in the court of the hacker," he said.

Clulely said that while computer users may be well-schooled in the ways of computer security, they still often fall victim to techniques that use sex and money as bait.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Net Neutrality: FCC Adopts Rules for Open Internet 

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A narrowly divided Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved bold new rules Tuesday aimed at preventing broadband service providers from censoring how individuals and organizations can surf the Internet's fastest pipes. 

The so-called "net neutrality" regulations prohibit the suppliers of Internet connections to millions of American homes and offices from blocking access to certain websites, applications or services so long as they are legal.

Companies will also be required to publicly disclose information on their practices, performance characteristics and commercial ties.

But the rules do allow Internet providers to engage in "reasonable network management," meaning they can take steps to regulate traffic and congestion over their connections.

Critics warn those steps could include implementation of usage-based pricing for accessing the Internet at home and preferential treatment for companies that pay extra for "fast-lanes." They say service providers could also begin to pick and choose which websites can run faster than others over their networks.

Opponents of the FCC's new authority also cite that back in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington D.C. ruled that the agency lacked the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all Internet traffic on their networks.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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