theEweekly Wrap: Sarah Palin, COD and Onions
|The power of suggestion||The Ballymascanlon Hotel defamation case was resolved out of court this week on undisclosed terms. The Irish hotel brought a defamation lawsuit against Google in June 2011 for allowing the word ‘receivership’ to appear in Autocomplete suggestions, implying the business was in trouble. TheJournal.ie reported that a payment was not made, and Google has not agreed to remove any terms from Autocomplete. Google released a statement commenting: “Google does not manually select these terms, and all of the millions of queries shown in Autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users.”
Just as one controversy appears to be resolved, another has surfaced. The Washington Post reported this week that searching for ‘Is Sarah Palin retired?’ would return the result ‘Did you mean: Is Sarah Palin retarded?’. The suggested correction was removed on Tuesday, although it and several similar options still appear in the Autocomplete results. Google is famed for its Easter eggs and search pranks, which have in the past included manipulation of search results, but the company denied any part in this particular suggestion.
|COD in the Commons||A debate in the House of Commons has arisen this week over the popular video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. Labour MP Keith Vaz has tabled a motion condemning the game, saying he is “deeply concerned” about the violent content. His aim is to persuade the British Board of Film Classification to take “further precautions” with Call of Duty and similar games. Vaz has been campaigning against violence in video games since February 2004, when the murder of a teenage boy was linked to a violent game. Police later dismissed this claim.
Following Vaz’s motion against Call of Duty, MP Tom Watson came to the game’s defence. He added an amendment to the motion, drawing attention to the fact that the BBFC had given the game an 18 rating, and had ruled that the controversial London Underground mission “bore no resemblance” to the July 7th 2005 terrorist attacks. He added: “There may be disturbing or unsettling content in that game, but adults should have the choice as to whether they want to play those sorts of games or not.” Only 9 MPs have so far backed Vaz’s concerns.
|Amazon-onymous||An unlikely use was found for the Amazon Cloud service this week, as a bridge to a secret network. The Onion Router (Tor) Project is a non-profit organisation that aims to create an anonymous layer to the internet, allowing private communication and browsing that cannot be tracked. It will do this by “bouncing your communications around a distributed network of relays run by volunteers all around the world”.
Now, developers working on the Tor Project have urged these volunteers to set up relays in the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, using the anonymous bandwidth it provides to set up bridges to the network, that will “improve the safety and speed at which users can access the Internet”. Tor hopes its service will be of use to those interested in confidentiality, including the military and business strategists, as well as activists who want to avoid censorship; it receives much of its funding from the US government. Amazon has not commented on this potential use for its Cloud.