Posts tagged ‘Facebook’

It takes two three to tango

The Prat: Linney House

His “What on Earth were his parents thinking forename” aside, Linney came to the attention of the world over the weekend for posting a picture of himself on Facebook burning a poppy. Assuming that he obtained this poppy by legal means then he is perfectly entitled to dispose of it in any manner he so desires so long as he doesn’t cause harm to other people during the process. People, especially veterans or those involved with veterans’ groups, may find this distasteful and offensive but that does not mean it should be illegal.

The Fall-guys: Kent Police

Acting on a complaint received, officers from this force arrested Linney. Why they felt the need to do this rather than tell the complainant to stop wasting their time, I haven’t the foggiest. No doubt speculation on the subject will throw up the usual ‘answers’ of diversity, targets, political correctness, the need to be seen to be doing something etc etc but regardless of the reason they have hardly covered themselves in glory in this matter.

The Informant(s): @tinacasuals

If it hadn’t been for this person (or perhaps persons given the reoccurring use of the third person in tweets sent by this account) then Linney’s stupidity may have remained his personal shame. Ok, his and anyone who could see his Facebook profile – which would appear to everyone. A lesson in privacy settings for young Linney, me thinks.

It is ‘Tina’ and her like who are the problems here. Gleefully reporting people whose actions they disapprove of to the apparatus of the State – and cheered on by the useful idiots who agree with them but wouldn’t act as informants themselves – each and every one of these willing collaborators assists the State in its ongoing assault on the freedoms and liberties previously enjoyed by the population.

Somewhere the spirit of Erich Mielke is smiling at his posthumous victory.

A quick thought on Corporation Tax ‘avoidance’

There is a (largely constructed by people ignorant of the very basics of tax laws) furore building up around the fact that various (usually American) multinational companies have been ‘dodging’ UK Corporation Tax (CT). Firms such as eBay, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Starbucks have, amongst others, all been ‘outed’ as part of this wave of silliness.

Leaving aside the convenient fiction that companies pay tax, the reason why the UK government has seen (thankfully – they’d only waste it) little money in CT is because these companies do not have their EU headquarters in this country. Under the Single Market (one of the few things about the EU which is actually sensible) only one HQ is necessary to do business in the EU and so any CT on profits made in the EU is paid to the national government in country where it resides.

Why do firms have their EU HQ in other countries? Simple: because CT rates are lower.

How could we get those companies to place their HQ in the UK? Simple: cut CT. Whilst ideally I’d say scrap it, anything in the 10% – 15% range would make the UK more competitive.

The problem (of course) is that those currently foaming at the mouth about so-called CT ‘avoidance’ are those who hate the idea of lower CT rates.

As Spock would say, ‘Illogical, Captain’.

Yet another nail in the coffin

When the CPS declined to prosecute Daniel Thomas for comments made about the diver Tom Daley last month, the Director of Public Prosecutions issued a statement saying he planned to review guidelines for prosecuting comments made on social media:

“Against that background, the CPS has the task of balancing the fundamental right of free speech and the need to prosecute serious wrongdoing on a case by case basis. That often involves very difficult judgment calls and, in the largely unchartered territory of social media, the CPS is proceeding on a case by case basis. In some cases it is clear that a criminal prosecution is the appropriate response to conduct which is complained about, for example where there is a sustained campaign of harassment of an individual, where court orders are flouted or where grossly offensive or threatening remarks are made and maintained. But in many other cases a criminal prosecution will not be the appropriate response. If the fundamental right to free speech is to be respected, the threshold for criminal prosecution has to be a high one and a prosecution has to be required in the public interest.

“To ensure that CPS decision-making in these difficult cases is clear and consistent, I intend to issue guidelines on social media cases for prosecutors. These will assist them in deciding whether criminal charges should be brought in the cases that arise for their consideration. In the first instance, the CPS will draft interim guidelines. There will then be a wide public consultation before final guidelines are published. As part of that process, I intend to hold a series of roundtable meetings with campaigners, media lawyers, academics, social media experts and law enforcement bodies to ensure that the guidelines are as fully informed as possible.

As we all know the CPS suffered two defeats in quick succession over the summer when Paul Chambers and John Kerlen (better know to many as @Sir_Olly_C) had their convictions under s127 of the Communications Act (2003) quashed and the (hopeful) thought was that after Thomas they would call a halt to prosecutions until they had finished their review.

It is ironic then that on the day that the first discussion took place, Matthew Woods was prosecuted for offensive comments about the missing girl, April Jones.

Having read some of the comments he made, I wouldn’t recommend he takes up a career in comedy but they are certainly no more distasteful or offensive than any I heard (and no doubt repeated) after Hillsborough back when I was a pre-teen.

Woods pled guilty to this ‘crime’ – on whose advice I know not as I would have thought that a competent brief would have dug the Chambers and Kerlen verdicts out – and has been sentenced to a total of 12 weeks in a young offenders institution. The presiding magistrate had this to say on passing sentence:

“The reason for the sentence is the seriousness of the offence, the public outrage that has been caused and we felt there was no other sentence this court could have passed which conveys to you the abhorrence that many in society feel this crime should receive.”

Sorry Mr. Hudson but the public being outraged is not a reason to hand a young man, however stupid he is, a criminal record and to waste taxpayers money by sending him to a secure institution for what will be no longer than 6 weeks just for typing words into a box on a social media platform.

I am regularly outraged by a lot stupid things that go on in the world but as abhorrent as I find them, I’m not going to call for the people involved to gaoled simply to fulfil my need to have them punished for their idiotic behaviour.

For the purposes of comparison it is worth noting, as I saw elsewhere, that 12 weeks is what Lord Ahmed got for dangerous driving, and I certainly can’t see how anyone could say that Woods’ actions were in any way dangerous to anyone’s life but his own.

No, the sickest joke of this entire affair is not the behaviour of Woods but that of the justice system. From the decision by the Police to arrest him ‘for his own safety’, to that of the CPS for prosecuting him and finally Mr. Hudson (who gives the impression of accepting the rule of the mob), each step has been an exercise in craven stupidity.

I hope that Matthew Woods appeals this appalling decision and wins.

Falling flat on your Face(Book)

As anyone who has not been spent the last couple of months living off the grid will be aware, social networking giant Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), the brainchild of the hoodie-wearing, university-dropout Mark Zuckerberg, has gone public.

Before it kicked off its Initial Public Offering (IPO) roadshow, FB indicated it would be selling 337.4m shares (12.3% of the company) at somewhere between $28 – $35 a share, valuing the company at $96bn if it achieved the top end of the range.

Subsequently the company raised it’s target price range to $34 – $38 a share, which would value the company at just over $104bn.

Then, on Thursday, once the IPO had closed FB confirmed the final details of its listing: 421,233,615 shares at $38 a pop, raising $16bn and confirming an initial market capitalisation of approx. $104bn.

Given that in 2011, FB made $1bn profit on a revenue of $3.7bn that means it started off trading at over 28 times earnings. Apple at its peak share price of $644 was only trading at 5 1/2 times its eventual 2011 earnings and is now down to about 4.6x. Google is currently valued at just over 5x, Microsoft 3.5x, Intel 2.4x, Amazon 2x…

Facebook makes most of its money through advertising. It is thus concerning that their click through rates are below average. You can add to this their admitted problems with trying to making money on mobile traffic.

Yet, even given what – to me – looked like a company which has been horrendously overvalued, investors and analysts were expecting a first day ‘pop’ with, at the wilder end, estimates of 50% being made.

What they got instead was a fizzle with the shares closing up a paltry $0.23 (0.61%) – having opened at $42.05 (10.6%) and briefly touched $45 (18.4%) – and it seems that the only reason they didn’t close down was that the banks who underwrote the IPO took up their option to buy an additional 63,185,042 shares.

If I’d been silly enough to buy Facebook shares I’d be looking to cut my losses ASAP.

For comparison, here are the IPO and first day close details of some other internet companies:

Company Date Shares Float Price ($) Approx. Mkt Cap ($m) Close Price ($) % rise
Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) 1997-05-15 3,000,000 18 438 23.4 30
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) 2004-08-24 19,605,052 85 23,000 100.34 18
Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) 2011-11-03 35,000,000 20 12,700 26.11 30.6
LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) 2011-05-19 7,840,000 45 4,410 94.25 109.4
Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA) 2011-12-16 100,000,000 10 7,000 9.50 -5

Still, I doubt Zuckerberg will be too worried. Even after selling 30.2m shares in order to satisfy the IRS, his net worth weighs in at approx. $19bn.

Given that then you’d have thought he’d have been able to hire himself a nice suit for his wedding…

Mark Zuckerberg with wife Priscilla Chan

Occupy Southend

Southend town centre, hardly the world’s most salubrious place, did, very briefly, almost find itself on Sunday playing host to the latest outbreak of the ‘Occupy’ disease which is afflicting some of the more affluent* countries of the world.

Started (where else?) via facebook** on 12th November with this fabulous posting:

Occupy Southend starts Sunday 20th November, 2011. For too long now the ordinary people of this country have suffered at the hands of the very few. We are the many, and as such we will occupy Southend. The banks and the corporations have created a world not fit for purpose, and we won’t tolerate their way of greed, and their way of control any more. Each Occupy gathering around the country and around the world has developed its own personality, and we in Southend will naturally create our own. Our aim is to be all inclusive of the people of Southend, to be a receiver of information as well as a giver – to be a beacon of light, and a vehicle for change. As human beings we are amazing. We can create a thousand different systems to live under – and we’ve ended up with this rotten one. No more will we extend power over us to the few. Our power must return to us, and from use of our own power we’ll develop a world centred on the heart and not the corporate bank balance. Come join us at Occupy Southend. Post your views now. Offer your thoughts. We’ll be updating regularly each day from Tuesday. Until then spread the news far and wide. The tents are coming to town!

Now some of that actually makes sense, assuming that it means the crony capitalist system we have and isn’t simply a swipe attack on the whole idea of free-market capitalism in general.

It does rather descend into fantasy though when it starts wittering on about being a beacon of light and a vehicle for change. In Southend? Talk about delusions of grandeur.

That though was probably the high point. From then on it was standard stuff about when and where with cross posts of items from the St. Paul’s camp before the penultimate posting soon after midday on the following Saturday:

URGENT

Late last night Occupy Southend was made aware of a threat, from a known extremist organisation, to hijack tomorrow’s occupation. Since then we have been trying to establish the legitimacy of this threat and we now believe it may well manifest.

The Occupy Movement is peaceful and non-confrontational, and as such refuses to facilitate those who would seek to use violence and confrontation. Occupy Southend would never bring violence and confrontation to this town, and so we give notice that tomorrow’s assembly at 2pm, outside Southend Victoria station, and the ensuing occupation, is regrettably cancelled.

To those who we are not aware of, but who were set to join us tomorrow, we trust you will understand our reasoning. The opportunity will arise again to Occupy Southend. Please contact us through occupysouthend@hushmail.com

Our message remains one of peace, and one of continual respectful debate. We are resolute and strong. We are many. They are few. There’s is a house of cards. It will inevitably fall.

A threat from a well known extremist organisation? Really? What are we talking about here? IRA? ETA? Al-Qaeda? The local Rotary Club? Or just the Southend yoof? Aside from people taking the preverbal I really can’t see what sort of credible threat might possibly exist. Heck, you conveniently planned the thing to start after any alcohol fuelled silliness of a Friday or Saturday night. Or was that because you wanted to get drunk then yourself?

I would suggest that a far more plausible explanation would be that almost no-one was going to turn up, thus resulting in the whole thing being a bit of a damp squib. I await to see if the idea will be raised again but I won’t hold my breath.

* According to Wikipedia a few people in Columbia and Mongolia also appear to have got in on the act/jumped on a passing bandwagon.

** And there was me thinking that twitter was where all the cool people hung out these days.

Guardian press release regurgitation fail

On Tuesday the security firm Unisys released the latest results of what they call their bi-annual global Unisys Security Index, a ‘global study that provides insights into the attitudes of consumers on a wide range of security related issues‘.

Of the two questions that the survey asked, it was the second one about social media, which caught the attention of the MSM – or the Guardian anyway.

What did they ask?

During recent unrest in major UK cities, social networks such as Facebook and Twitter were used to coordinate criminal activity. Do you agree with these statements?

  • The authorities are playing catch up and need more resources to monitor online behaviour?
  • During outbreaks of unrest, providers should temporarily shut down social networks to prevent coordinated criminal activity?
  • The authorities should have open access to data about social network users in order to prevent coordinated criminal activity>
  • Providers of social networks should get more information on the people using their services before they allow use?

The Gruniad’s article on the matter says:

More than two-thirds of adults support the shutdown of social networks during periods of social unrest such as the riots in England this summer, new research has revealed.

A poll of 973 adults carried out for the online security firm Unisys found 70% of adults supported the shutdown of Twitter, Facebook and BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), while only 27% disagreed.

Which, after reading the report proper, only goes to confirm (as if confirmation were needed) that one should never take anything in the press at face value these days (if indeed one ever could).

The report says that the following percentages agreed with the four statements above: 49%, 48%, 46% and 42%.

Almost half I’ll grant you but hardly a majority, let alone 70%. Helpfully the report also gives some idea of how the responses breakdown by age. Not fully but enough to give us more of an idea of the views of each age group. It found that:

[The] desire to take strong measures rises with age:

  • More resources for police: 41% of those 18-24 to 52% of those 50-64 (seniors: 44%)
  • Temporary shut-downs during social unrest: from 28% of those 18-24 to 60% of seniors
  • Police monitoring: from 36% of those 18-24 to 52% of seniors
  • Background checks of new users: from 28% of those 18-24 to 49% of seniors.

Which shows us that a majority only exists as you go up the age scale. No surprises there. As for the 70% figure? The closest we get is for one age group on one statement.

Indeed the figure ’70’ doesn’t feature anywhere in the report, or assuming that the reporter James Ball (whose bio says that he ‘is a data journalist working for the Guardian investigations team. He joined the Guardian from Wikileaks, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’) didn’t get beyond it, the press release either.

About the only useful bit of the Guardian article therefore is the space filling rent-a-quote:

“It’s very worrying that people would believe shutting down social networks would be in any way desirable,” said Padraig Reidy, news editor of Index on Censorship. “The vast majority of social network use during the unrest was people spreading information and helping each other get home safely. These kinds of actions would weaken the UK’s position against authoritarian regimes who censor internet access. As we live more of our lives online, people should be conscious of the amount of power they’re potentially handing over to government.”

None of which I can disagree with at all.

Blame the user, not the tool

We’ve all read newspaper stories about various unfortunate saps who have thrown parties whilst their parents have been away, only to find out that the quiet (in comparision to the outcome) gathering turns into a fairly hefty insurance claim and an indefinite grounding because word of mouth meant that lots of other people turned up as well.

When that word of mouth is the internet the number of uninvited guests can go up by at least one order of magnitude – and perhaps even two or three. But how does news of a social gathering for a smallish group of friends end up on the internet in the first place?

Because it was set up on Facebook of course. As ZDNet reports:

In March 2011, an Australian schoolgirl named Jess had to cancel her sweet 16 birthday party after her Facebook invitation went viral and over 200,000 people said they would show up at her house in Chatswood, New South Wales. She was lucky because Facebook made a point to help her out.

Last month, a young girl made the same mistake by posting a public invitation to her 16th birthday party. Around 1,500 to 1,600 uninvited guests turned up to her party in Hamburg, Germany. 100 police officers had to be deployed, and they detained 11 attendees on charges of aggravated battery and property damage. One police officer was injured, as were dozens of people who wore flip-flops and accidentally stepped on shards of glass from broken bottles. Two small fires had to be extinguished.

Shortly after, a spontaneous party in Wuppertal, Germany attracted some 800 guests, 41 of whom were taken into police custody and 16 of whom were injured. Hamburg authorities are currently preparing for a Facebook party planned for September 30 and are expecting an influx of up to 19,000 partygoers.

However rather than blame the social media behemoth – after all it is all about keeping people in contact – why not look at the person who set the event up in the first place?

Yes, Facebook does display the event creation page with the ‘Anyone can view and RSVP (public event)’ box checked by default but that is hardly a difficult thing to turn off, is it now? Indeed the author, in a spot of quick research (approximate duration one second), learnt that when that that box is unchecked a further, this time unchecked box, ‘Guests can invite friends’ is displayed. Now I realise that inherent laziness and unthinking stupidity doubtedly played a part in all of the incidences mentioned above but is unchecking a box on the internet really that difficult*?

Sadly, in isolated cases it seems so. However bar suggesting that Facebook doesn’t enable the ‘Anyone can view and RSVP (public event)’ box by default I can’t see any way to stop such acts of silliness.

Clearly then I am not cut out for elected office, at least not in Germany anyway:

“If public safety and order are endangered, then Facebook parties will have to be banned beforehand,” Lower Saxony’s Interior Minister Uwe Schünemann told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, according to Deutsche Welle.

He is not an isolated case of stupidity either:

North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Ralf Jäger agreed. “If, in advance of an announced Facebook party, there are concrete indications of a danger to the participants or third parties, then it is the duty of the local authorities to ban the party.”

Whilst yet another apparently wishes to put the cost of any post-party clear-up on to the person whose event it was:

Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann warned that a harmless birthday invitation can quickly turn into a “massive security problem.” For the host that can sometimes lead to “immense costs,” as many simply want to go on a rampage, he claimed. “If there is an investigation into criminal offenses, the initiator should if possible pay for the costs of the police operation,” he told the same newspaper, according to The Local.

Thankfully there does seem to be at least one politician with some common sense:

“The simple fact that excesses happen on the sidelines of such events does not justify a general ban,” Wolfgang Bosbach, the chairman of the domestic affairs committee in parliament, told the daily Kölner Stadt Anzeiger, according to Spiegel. “There are also riots on the sidelines of football games and demonstrations but that does not mean that we should completely ban them.”

Still, if he can’t ban them then Herr Schünemann has a back-up plan: recommending the introduction of an “Internet Driving License” in schools that would explain the dangers of Facebook as he says that “Young people often don’t realize what they are getting into”.

That youngsters often don’t consider consequences of actions is hardly an earth shattering revelation but, unless they are terminally stupid, lessons, such as those taught by self-inflicted stupidity, tend to be learnt.

As one commentator on Slashdot summed it up:

This is all part of the German silly season (“Sommerloch”) – a period in summer when many political institutions are on vacation, so politicians which would normally be ignored can make it into the news – just because nobody important is active.

The statements in the article were all by conservatives in Germany (CDU + CSU). Given that it’s interesting that Dorothee Baer – secretary general of the CSU – has asked that “comments about the Internet should be made only by those who are familiar with it”. Sound advice.

And no, Germany is not considering banning facebook parties, this is just an attempt by some politicians to get noticed.

Seems strangely familiar, doesn’t it?

* I have no idea what Facebook’s accessibility is like so the visual-impaired will have to confirm if it is any more difficult for them than the average sighted user.