Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

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This week, Dedicated Denial of Service, or DOS attacks hit the mainstream media big time, with the news that supporters of the WikiLeaks website were, as they saw it, fighting back against companies which had dared shun the site.

I’m no ‘hacker’, as large parts of the press like to term these armchair activists, but I have been familiar with the concept of what a denial of service attack is for a number of years. I had the pleasure of attending the Chaos Computer Club’s Easter Hack in Cologne back in 2008, and have watched these shadowy free-speech absolutists with admiration for years.

To perform a DOS attack such as operation payback, or #payback, you get as many people, or simply computers, to head for the same website at once, and hey presto, said website can’t cope with the requests.

So today, I thought I’d look at how to join operation payback, indeed how to join in a DOS attack, from a technical point of view. There’s no immediate masking of IP addresses with the software in question, so you can get caught pretty easy if your ISP wanted to assist your local authorities in this legal grey-area, but as a journo, it’s my right to find out ;)

It’s hilariously simple – although not as simple as the the most simple method, basically visiting the site in your browser. First, it seems most of the ‘anonymous’ peeps and others are using LOIC – or Low Orbit Ion Cannon – a very easy to operatre desktop client that fires off requests to a certain website. It’s a tongue-in-cheek name for a very 21st century form of conflict – although I’d hesitate to call it war as ‘the media’, which I’m a part of, has done. Activism, it certainly is.

There are plenty of places hosting LOIC for download. There may be other pieces of software for DOS attacks for the not-too-tech-savvy punter out there, but this could not be easier. You load it up, put your URL in (in this case, Visa, Mastercard, Amazon et al), and press the big button which says something along the lines of ‘Imma fire mah lazer’, and hey presto, you’re sending oodles of requests to the servers, along with your comrades, who’ve presumably used Twitter or chat rooms to all do it at the same time.

It’ll be fascinating to watch this sort of activism develop in the coming years.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about using the wires lately, and the good and bad that come from them.

In my current role as an online news producer I use them a lot more than I did in my previous role with More4 News, where I worked on longer-form, longer lasting projects.

Since reading Flat Earth News, and having it change my whole outlook and all, I’ve been looking more critically at certain aspects of the modern news media that may have slipped my attention before.

The wires are a case in point. All news organisations rely too heavily on the ‘news’ as agencies such as Reuters and AP, and in Australia’s case, Australian Associated Press, deem fit to report it. This is obviously well documented, but in the online age it leads to cock ups, such as mine the other day.

This brings me to Twitter. I tend to use it as a kind of feed when I’m at work (@SBSNews) but I saw for myself the clear problem of relying on someone else’s reporting the other day, matched with the desire to be first (take that, ABC Online), only compounded by using Twitter.

The issue arose with the ‘abduction’ of children from Haiti last Sunday.

“Just in on the wires: Haitian police holding 10 US citizens on suspicion of trafficking children” I tweeted.  I absolved myself somewhat by crediting it to the agency at hand – but how foolish.

It was made quite clear to me a few minutes later I’d made a mistake.

“Update: The 10 US citizens held on suspicion of ‘trafficking’ children members of a charity called New Life Children’s Refuge”, I was forced to backtrack.

So clearly, no evil trafficking of children for the purpose of kidney harvesting.

More likely a bureaucratic cock-up.

More spurious news organisations (I’m thinking of Australia’s only 24 hour news channel) were quite happy to run with the misleading ‘trafficking’ tag for a few more hours, even once it was abundantly clear, but I’d learnt a lesson: Put your trust in the wires at your peril – Twitter won’t be your friend when you make a howler.

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video editing makes me cry
Image by Rakka via Flickr

I recently complained that one of the finest newspapers in the English-speaking world, despite being a leader in new technological developments, from embracing Comment is Free’s UGC element, to providing APIs, cannot sort its video offering out.

Admittedly, this all comes down to monetisation and having enough qualified staff around to do the job. But just watch this clip on the Iranian elections. The editing is so poor, you’d have to fail a high-school media student if they had the audacity to submit it. The journalism, the insight, the voiceover and the shots are all fine. We can ignore the fact that full-screen videos on the Guardian are still not available (full-screen videos on the Guardian might never be available at this rate), but this is clearly an example of ‘journalists’ having too much work on their plate.  Five or six times in the clip, there are flash frames where one edit starts, and another bit finishes, just as a new part of the roughcut supplied by Reuters appears. And you can tell it’s Reuters, as I’m pretty sure the branding that comes at the start of their wires’ roughcuts flashes up for a frame or two on several occasions.

One day, I envisage a place on the web where the journalism will be as good as the production value. I guess until content is properly monetised, getting their will be quite challenging.

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