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On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission issued an “Enforcement Advisory” stating that blocking W-Fi in hotels is unequivocally “prohibited." "Persons or businesses causing intentional interference to Wi-Fi hotspots are subject to enforcement action,” the FCC bluntly stated, referencing a dispute between Marriott and its customers who said the hotel chain had blocked their personal hotspots to force them to pay for Marriott’s Wi-Fi services. "The Enforcement Bureau has seen a disturbing trend in which hotels and other commercial establishments block wireless consumers from using their own personal Wi-Fi hot spots on the commercial establishment’s premises,” the FCC wrote. "As a result, the Bureau is protecting consumers by aggressively investigating and acting against such unlawful intentional interference.” Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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If you're anything like us, when you get a hankering to play a game, you want to play it right now. Unfortunately, if you're playing on an Xbox One, you currently have to wait upwards of four or five seconds between the moment you press the button to turn on the controller and the time the controller syncs with the system. What a trial! Microsoft feels your pain, and it's working to fix this travesty to rapid gaming. Last night, members of the Xbox Preview Program got their hands on a controller firmware update that reduces that controller syncing wait time to a zippy two seconds. The update also brings unspecified "stability improvements." Regular Xbox One owners will be getting the update soon, but until then, they can gaze longingly at this video of the speed difference. Updating the controller firmware requires digging out a USB cable to connect the controller to the console and diving down into the bowels of the Xbox One menu to download and install the new feature. The inconvenience is worth it in the long run, though, when you add up all those extra seconds you'll spend gaming every time you turn on the console. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Google just announced that Google Fiber will be coming to Atlanta, Charlotte, Nashville, and Raleigh-Durham, with the gigabit Internet service hitting 18 cities across those four metro areas. That brings the total number of Google Fiber metro areas to seven, including previously announced locations Kansas City; Provo, Utah; and Austin, Texas. Another five are still being considered; Google promised updates on Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, and San Jose later this year. "Bringing Google Fiber to these cities is a long-term investment. We’ve been working closely with city leaders over the past year on a joint planning process to get their communities ready for Google Fiber—and now the really hard work begins," Google Fiber VP Dennis Kish wrote today. "Our next step is to work with cities to create a detailed map of where we can put our thousands of miles of fiber, using existing infrastructure such as utility poles and underground conduit, and making sure to avoid things like gas and water lines. Then a team of surveyors and engineers will hit the streets to fill in missing details. Once we’re done designing the network (which we expect to wrap up in a few months), we’ll start construction." Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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An extremely critical vulnerability affecting most Linux distributions gives attackers the ability to execute malicious code on servers used to deliver e-mail, host webpages, and carry out other vital functions. The vulnerability in the GNU C Library (glibc) represents a major Internet threat, in some ways comparable to the Heartbleed and Shellshock bugs that came to light last year. The bug, which is being dubbed "Ghost" by some researchers, has the common vulnerability and exposures designation of CVE-2015-0235. While a patch was issued two years ago, most Linux versions used in production systems remain unprotected at the moment. What's more, patching systems requires core functions or the entire affected server to be rebooted, a requirement that may cause some systems to remain vulnerable for some time to come. The buffer overflow flaw resides in __nss_hostname_digits_dots(), a glibc function that's invoked by the gethostbyname() and gethostbyname2() function calls. A remote attacker able to call either of these functions could exploit the flaw to execute arbitrary code with the permissions of the user running the application. In a blog post published Tuesday, researchers from security firm Qualys said they were able to write proof-of-concept exploit code that carried out a full-fledged remote code execution attack against the Exim mail server. The exploit bypassed all existing exploit protections available on both 32-bit and 64-bit systems, including address space layout randomization, position independent executions, and no execute protections. Qualys has not yet published the exploit code but eventually plans to make it available as a Metasploit module. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Tuesday, Josh Tillman, the lead singer and songwriter of the band Father John Misty, announced a phony, satirical music-streaming service called Streamline Audio Protocol, or, better put, SAP. As of now, it only streams Father John Misty's sophomore LP, which will debut in stores on February 10. However, the streaming version is a peculiar release of the album that sounds almost entirely rerecorded compared to its source material—and that's part of the joke. On the site, Tillman calls his music-delivery system "a new signal-to-audio process by which popular albums are 'sapped' of their performances, original vocal, atmosphere, and other distracting affectations so the consumer can decide quickly and efficiently whether they like a musical composition, based strictly on its formal attributes, enough to spend money on it." As such, SAP's version of the album I Love You, Honeybear has replaced all of Tillman's vocal tracks with obnoxious MIDI while still using a full band—though a different, smaller one than on the album—to play the rest of the parts. (The site jokes that this audio "contains just enough meta-data to be recognized by sophisticated genre aggregation software.") SAP's launch site includes a smattering of cheesy stock imagery, along with sarcastic compliments about the likes of Pandora ("discovery algorithms guarantee that we never accidentally discover any [music] we might not like") and Spotify ("some artists have discovered that sharing their music for free can be tough financially"). The text makes sure to take complaining musicians themselves down a peg too: "Though artists are widely documented as being reactionary and self-centered, they do have a point, buried down somewhere beneath the alarmist rhetoric and obtuse royalty breakdowns." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Since at least 2010, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) has been expanding a regional license plate reader (LPR) program to the entire United States. Previously the program was only known to be concentrated in the border region of the American Southwest. The revelation comes from new documents obtained and published late Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents also show the DEA captured over 793 million license plates from May 2009 through May 2013 with the stated goal of drug-related asset forfeiture. LPRs scan plates at very high speed—often 60 plates per second—and record the date, time, and precise location that a given plate was seen. On a patrol car, that plate is then immediately compared to a list of wanted or stolen cars, and if a match is found, the software alerts the officer. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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We had a lot of good things to say about Dell’s XPS-13 Developer Edition when we reviewed it in April 2013—in fact, the best thing about it was how normal it was. Dell took the time to do Linux on an Ultrabook correctly, and the resulting platform was a slim Linux-powered portable that just worked, Cupertino-style. This morning, Dell has announced that their Developer Edition line of Linux-powered laptops is getting a pretty significant revamp. In addition to an upgraded XPS-13 Developer Edition based on Dell’s 2015 XPS-13 refresh, the line is adding a piece of workstation-class hardware: the Dell Precision M3800 mobile workstation, Developer Edition. The branding is a bit of a mouthful, but the hardware to back it up is substantial. Built around Dell’s M3800 workstation-class laptop, the Developer Edition ships with what Dell Web Vertical Director Barton George calls "the vanilla image of the most recent LTS release (14.04)." The workstation’s default configuration includes a 15.6" 1920x1080 display, 8GB of RAM, and a 500GB 7200 RPM hard drive, but it can be customized with up to 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 RAM, a 1TB mSATA SSD, and a 15.6 UltraSharp IGZO UHD Touch display with 3840x2160 pixels. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Apple has just released the final build of OS X 10.10.2, the second major update for OS X Yosemite since its release. Version 10.10.1, published just a month after Yosemite's release, focused mostly on quick fixes for the new OS' most noticeable problems. Apple has been issuing betas for 10.10.2 since November, though, and a longer testing period usually implies that there are more extensive fixes. First up, the new release is supposed to fix more of the Wi-Fi problems that some users have been experiencing since Yosemite's launch. 10.10.1 also included Wi-Fi fixes, though it apparently didn't resolve the problems for all. The new update will also address "an issue that may cause webpages to load slowly" and improve general stability in Safari, all of which should go a long way toward improving Yosemite's network and Internet performance. Several privacy and security problems that we've reported on have been resolved in 10.10.2, as well. Though Apple will still share limited search and location information with Microsoft to enable Spotlight's Bing-powered Web searching feature, the company has fixed a bug that caused Spotlight to "load remote e-mail content" even when the setting was disabled in Mail.app itself. Our original report describes why this is a problem: Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Apple has just released iOS 8.1.3, the third patch for iOS 8.1 and the sixth update to iOS 8 since its release. The most significant problem addressed by the new update is that it reduces the amount of free space that you need to install software updates, a problem which has proven especially irritating for owners of 8GB and 16GB iDevices. Currently, users who are using most of their storage either need to delete stuff or connect their phones to iTunes to perform updates, a throwback to pre-iOS 5 releases of the operating system. The update squashes a few other bugs too: it fixes problems keeping some users from entering their passwords for Messages and FaceTime; fixes a problem where Spotlight would stop showing locally installed apps among its search results (this is one we've run into); and fixes multitasking gestures for iPad users. Finally, 8.1.3 adds a few configuration options to limit iDevices' functionality during standardized tests. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Comcast has been going across the country seeking city-by-city support of its Time Warner Cable acquisition, giving local governments a chance to ask for favors in exchange for approving a franchise transfer. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, the process turned up an unpaid bill of $40,000, so Comcast will have to pay the city money it already owed in order to get the franchise transfer. Comcast will also throw in $50,000 worth of free service and equipment. "Thirty Minneapolis city buildings will get free basic cable for the next seven years as part of a package of concessions the city wrung out of Comcast in exchange for blessing its proposed merger with fellow cable giant Time Warner," Minnesota Public Radio reported. "Comcast has also agreed to pay Minneapolis $40,000 in overdue franchise fees after an audit found it underpaid the city for its use of the public right of way over the last three years." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The last time I remember having this much fun jumping around a bunch of little video game planets was in Super Mario Galaxy. Arguably Nintendo's best game of the 21st century, Galaxy asked players to contend with outer-space gravity while doing the usual 3D-Mario things like jumping on goombas and collecting stars. It shined thanks to small, smart levels, but like most Mario games, it didn't have much in the way of heart (Rosalina sequences notwithstanding). Over seven years later, we haven't really seen a substantial platforming game that mined from Super Mario Galaxy's best gravity-based twists (unless you count the sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2). That means this week's modest, adorable Gravity Ghost doesn't have many peers. It too asks players to hop around a bunch of little video game planets while contending with gravity—and, hey, it even asks players pick up stars along the way. I make the Mario Galaxy comparison not because Gravity Ghost is a once-in-a-generation masterpiece, but rather to blow up any assumptions that this smaller game is just an "arty" throwaway. First-impression attributes like crayon-styled images and a sad, family-obsessed story are quickly married with a simple, solid gameplay mechanic and a surprising amount of platforming depth. Bittersweet storytelling and kid-friendly twitch-platforming come together in a game that, at its best, can be enjoyed equally by parents and their children. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Apple's holiday quarter is usually its biggest, and it looks like this year will be no exception. Q1 of 2015, which runs from October to December of calendar 2014, was the first full quarter of availability for the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. This time also saw the introduction of several new and reduced-price iPads and the Retina 5K iMac. Apple announces its results at 5pm Eastern today, and as usual Senior Reviews Editor Lee Hutchinson and I will be there to report on the results and the Q&A session with Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri. Most predictions about Apple's numbers call for healthy growth in revenue and profit on the back of healthy iPhone sales—we're probably still seeing a bit of pent-up demand from buyers who were waiting for larger phones. We'll also be looking to see whether some trends established in fiscal 2014 will continue into the new year. We've had three straight quarters of slumped iPad growth, and Mac sales have been growing at a higher-than-usual rate all year. Finally, this quarter's report will be the first one in years not to mention the iPod as a separate product—not much of a surprise, given its sharply declining year-over-year sales figures last year. It will be rolled into a new category called "Other Products" along with Beats headphones, the Apple TV, and other accessories like AirPort routers and cases and adapters sold in Apple's stores (the Apple Watch will eventually appear in this category as well). Revenue generated from Apple Pay, which also launched in Q1, will be reported along with iTunes/Software/Services revenue, while the iPhone, iPad, and Mac will remain separate line items. Apple will be republishing data from older quarters to reflect the new reporting divisions, and we'll be updating our charts to account for it too. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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Why do car companies go racing? First and foremost, they do it for marketing. Almost as soon as the first cars turned a wheel, they were being raced against each other to show the world—and all those potential customers—who built the fastest and most reliable motor car. Bob Tasca, a Ford dealer and leading figure in drag racing, articulated it best. "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." Whether that still holds true 50 years later in an age of far greater competition for our interest isn't clear, but today salesmanship certainly isn't the only reason to race. Take another quote, this time from Soichiro Honda, founder of the Japanese auto giant that bears his name: "Racing improves the breed." Considering the source, maybe that's just post-hoc marketing justification. Or... perhaps racing really makes our cars, our day-to-day vehicles, better. Read 24 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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SpaceX has dropped a lawsuit filed over the US Air Force's $11 billion Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) contract with United Launch Alliance (ULA), the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The move comes after SpaceX reached an agreement that will allow the company to compete for some of the Air Force's business. This new agreement, reached in a court-mandated mediation, will allow the Air Force to still honor the terms of its existing contract with ULA. It could also open the door to other emerging space companies to bid for Air Force business. According to a statement from SpaceX, "The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations. Going forward, the Air Force will conduct competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers." That means that the Air Force will still guarantee ULA will get at least the minimum number of launches specified in the contract. But the Air Force is developing a "new entrant" certification process, and it's using SpaceX's certification as a model for allowing other commercial space launch providers to be certified for military space payloads. SpaceX filed the suit last spring over the ULA contract for 36 launch boosters, and the company won a temporary injunction against the Air Force and ULA to prevent them from purchasing the engines for those boosters from Russia's NPO Energomash. Another Russian engine, rebuilt and repurposed from an aborted Russian moon mission, was used by Orbital Sciences' attempted Cygnus resupply mission to the International Space Station. That effort exploded shortly after launch. Read on Ars Technica | Comments

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The National Football League's official iOS app puts users at risk by leaking their usernames, passwords, and e-mail addresses in plaintext to anyone who may be monitoring the traffic, a just-published report warned. As Ars has chronicled in the past, large numbers of people use the same password and e-mail address to log into multiple accounts. That means that people who have used the NFL app on public Wi-Fi hotspots or other insecure networks are at risk of account hijackings. The threat doesn't stop there: the exposed credentials allow snoops to log in to users' accounts on http://www.nfl.com, where still more personal data can be accessed, researchers from mobile data gateway Wandera warned. Profile pages, for instance, prompt users to enter their first and last names, full postal address, phone number, occupation, TV provider, date of birth, favorite team, greatest NFL Memory, sex, and links to Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks. Combined with "about me" data, the personal information could prove invaluable to spear phishers, who send e-mails purporting to come from friends or employers in hopes of tricking targets into clicking on malicious links or turning over financial data. Adding to the risk, profile pages are transmitted in unencrypted HTTP, making the data susceptible to still more monitoring over unsecured networks, the researchers reported. "Wandera's scanning technologies have discovered that after the user securely signs into the app with their NFL.com account, the app leaks their username and password in a secondary, insecure (unencrypted) API call," a report published Tuesday warned. "The app also leaks the user’s username and e-mail address in an unencrypted cookie immediately following login and on subsequent calls by the app to nfl.com domains." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Tuesday morning at the annual State of the Net conference in Washington DC, Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez gave a keynote address announcing the FTC's latest initiative: watching the Internet of Things for privacy violations. The commission recently voted four to one to issue a report pointing out a number of best practices that the FTC expects the nascent Internet of Things industry to follow. The report, released today (PDF), included some softer recommendations as well. Although the report largely reiterates most of the statements Ramirez made at CES three weeks ago, the official backing from the FTC's commissioners is an important step toward keeping a more watchful eye on companies out to make a quick buck without a corresponding consumer protection plan. "I think it's important to understand how an Internet of Things world changes the landscape,” Ramirez told the audience this morning. “You're now in a world where data is being collected all the time... we're bringing these devices into our homes, into what used to be private sphere.” Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ars Technica is coming to the United Kingdom, and in a big way—we're opening a new office in Hanover Square, London! During my 16 years as Editor-in-Chief of Ars, I've been convinced that technology journalism is often myopic, obsessing about money and Silicon Valley without always looking beyond the United States for stories that matter. We're proud of the work we do here at Ars (which has always had an international flavor), but it's the fulfillment of a long dream to announce that Ars Technica is finally, officially expanding into the United Kingdom. We truly believe that there are important stories to tell in the UK, from the Silicon Roundabout to the R&D labs at Oxbridge to the startups bubbling in Edinburgh, Belfast and beyond (and that includes the Republic of Ireland and even continental Europe). Someone asked me at a November party in London, "Has expanding to the UK always been your plan?" Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The evolution of human culture is often compared to biological evolution, and it’s easy to see why: both involve variation across a population, transmission of units from one generation to the next, and factors that ensure the survival of some variants and the death of others. However, sometimes this comparison fails. Culture, for instance, can be transmitted “horizontally” between members of the same generation, but genes can’t. “Little is known about whether human demographic history generates patterns in linguistic data that are similar to those found in genetic data,” write the authors of a recent paper in PNAS. Both linguistic and genetic data can be used to draw conclusions about human history, but it's vital to understand how the forces affecting them differ in order to be sure that the conclusions we're drawing are accurate. By conducting a large-scale analysis on global genetic and linguistic data, the researchers found that languages sometimes behave in ways very unlike genetics. For instance, isolated languages have more, not less, diversity, and languages don't retain the echo of a migration out of Africa—unlike our genomes. Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Microsoft revealed its quarterly earnings today for the second quarter of the 2015 financial year. Overall revenue was up, and sales of the Surface Pro 3 computer were strong according to the company. But the Windows market declined and operating income was down, as the Nokia integration and reorganization continues to cost money. Revenue for the quarter was $26.47 billion, up eight percent on the same quarter a year ago. Gross margin was also up, climbing by one percent to $16.33 billion. Operating income, however, fell two percent to $7.78 billion, and earnings per share dropped nine percent to $0.71. The lower operating income is attributed in part to $243 million in expenses incurred by Microsoft's reorganization and by the integration of Nokia's Devices and Services division. Earnings per share were also hit by an income tax bill as a result of an IRS audit. Read 23 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Each year, January brings a new legislative calendar and, with it, a new round of bills that attempt to interfere with science education. Typically, these bills target evolution and/or climate change and are based on boilerplate text, but each year brings some intriguing variations on the theme. This year's haul is impressive with several states already active. Missouri saw the introduction of House Bill 486, which specifically targets evolution education. This is a typical "strengths and weaknesses" bill, much like the Louisiana Science Education Act. These bills prohibit any educational authority from the state level down from interfering with teachers who want to make spurious attacks on the science of evolution. In this case, teachers will be allowed to "review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of the theory of biological and hypotheses of chemical evolution," and they're encouraged to "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues, including biological and chemical evolution." Rest assured, the controversies we have regarding these subjects are not scientific, and therefore they do not belong in a science class. And although the wording doesn't indicate as such, the bills are intended to provide legal cover for teachers who bring in material that promotes creationist arguments, such as textbooks and other literature produced by creationist movements. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Verizon agreed to a $5 million settlement after admitting that it failed to investigate whether its rural customers were able to receive long distance and wireless phone calls. The settlement is part of the Federal Communications Commission's attempt to fix the rural call completion problem, which extends beyond just Verizon's network. "Rural call completion problems have significant and immediate public interest ramifications," the FCC said in its order on the Verizon settlement today. "They cause rural businesses to lose customers, impede medical professionals from reaching patients in rural areas, cut families off from their relatives, and create the potential for dangerous delays in public safety communications." The settlement arises from Verizon's "failure to investigate" rather than from actual call completion problems. Verizon has been collecting weekly samples of call answer rates in rural areas and reporting the data to the FCC. Over an eight-month period during 2013, low call answer rates in 39 rural areas should have triggered an investigation, the FCC said. The FCC asked Verizon what steps it took, and Verizon said in April 2014 that it investigated or fixed problems in 13 of the 39 areas but did nothing in the other 26. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Police officials have lobbied for the right to conduct a variety of unfettered electronic surveillance tactics on the public, everything from being able to affix GPS trackers on vehicles to acquiring mobile phone cell-site location records and deploying "stingrays" in public places—all without warrants. Some law enforcement officials, however, are frightened when it's the public doing the monitoring—especially when there's an app for that. Google-owned Waze, although offering a host of traffic data, doubles as a Digital Age version of the police band radio. Authorities said the app amounts to a "police stalker" in the aftermath of last month's point-blank range murder of two New York Police Department officers. That's according to the message some officials gave over the weekend during the National Sheriffs Association meeting in Washington. Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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NEW YORK—Prosecutors in the Silk Road drug-trafficking trial have shown heaps of evidence from the laptop they seized from Ross Ulbricht, the man they say was the kingpin behind the world's biggest drug-trafficking website. What hasn't been known, until this morning, is what exactly led them to Ulbricht. A Homeland Security agent who testified last week had been investigating the site since it became famous in mid-2011, but it wasn't until September 2013 that he heard the name "Ross Ulbricht." Days later, Ulbricht had been arrested. Today, IRS Special Agent Gary Alford took the stand and explained how he got onto Ulbricht's trail using one of the most basic tools on the Internet: a simple Google search. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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On Friday, Anita Sarkeesian, host of the Feminist Frequency YouTube series and frequent target of GamerGate-related online harassment, published a year-end financial report as per the requirements of operating FF as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The report included an open letter to supporters, a boatload of stats, and a detailed list of the non-profit's plans for the new year—including an expected slew of videos but also an official pivot to focus on "gendered online harassment." After describing FF's genesis as a video project meant to "bring discussions of feminist theory to a wider audience"—a pitch she used in her successful 2012 Kickstarter campaign—Sarkeesian wrote that her experiences over the past two years, full of "daily vitriol" from online commenters, have forced her to reexamine her organization's purpose. "As a result, we have expanded Feminist Frequency’s mission to include advocacy around ending online hate and abuse, analyzing and advancing awareness of how gendered harassment operates online," she wrote. The letter said that current efforts include consulting gigs with "tech and game companies" regarding online harassment within their communities, along with helping other active online feminists come up with "long-term solutions to deal with the epidemic of online abuse and create mechanisms for support." The report's list of plans for 2015 doesn't specify exactly how that mission might change or grow, other than hoping to create "a network with a variety of different programs and hosts analyzing media from a systemic/intersectional/anti-oppression lens." Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Facebook has complied with a Turkish court order that demanded the site to locally block access to several pages showing materials said to be insulting to the Prophet Muhammad. According to Turkish media, the Gölbaşı Criminal Court of Peace in Ankara issued the order on Sunday, and it threatened to order a complete ban of the social network if Facebook did not comply. This same court has led previous bans or blocks of other sites, including YouTube and Twitter. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu recently appeared with a number of other world leaders in Paris at a rally for freedom of expression in the wake of the shooting at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine. But Amnesty International reported that earlier this month, a leading daily newspaper, Cumhuriyet, is facing a criminal investigation for reprinting some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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