# 'Game of Thrones' algorithm finds Jon Snow should not have died

Students in Munich have crunched data on every Game of Thrones character to predict their likelihood of death – turns out Jon Snow’s was a statistical shocker

• Spoiler alert! This story about people being killed off in Game of Thrones

It is 2016, and so nothing can escape data analysis. Not even Game of Thrones.

Students at the Technical University of Munich have applied their skills to helping us understand the likelihood of a character’s death over the course of Game of Thrones, the sixth series of which begins on 24 April.

Their project A Song of Ice and Data analyses as much online data as it can find about both the book and the TV series, regularly scraping and updating information from the vast, fan-based Wiki of Ice and Fire , the Game of Thrones wiki , Wikipedia and Twitter. The algorithm categorized each character by more than 20 features including age, title, gender, number of dead relations and their popularity according to incoming and outgoing links on the Wiki of Ice and Fire.

There are 2,028 characters in the full Game of Thrones world, with typically more than 30 characters in each episode of the TV show and more than twice the number of male to female characters.

Men are more likely to play noble characters, whereas women are more likely to play peasants – but are are also less likely to be killed off. The Munich team said they developed a machine-learning algorithm to predict the likelihood of death for characters, and found it is 33% for men and 23% for women.

They extended the analysis to the age of characters killed, which only really tails off at the age of 70 and is most likely between 31 and 40. Identifying various other predictors of risks, the tool could then predict which characters are most likely to be, quite literally, axed. And some have already been axed, not least the beautiful Jon Snow who - and perhaps we didn’t need data to tell us this - was an unexpected death. He didn’t deserve to die!

## Tommen Baratheon - 97%

The boy king currently sitting on the Iron Throne looking slightly vulnerable and very easy to kill.

## Stannis Baratheon - 96%

The wannabe king who murdered his own daughter in his desperation to make it to the throne. Not a very nice man, and actually already dead. And deservedly so.

## Daenerys Targaryen - 95%

Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Shackles/Chains, Queen of Meereen, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Mother of Dragons. (Friends call her Dany .)

## Davos Seaworth - 91%

Former smuggler and Stannis’ right hand man, it might be a shame to kill off Davos as he’s been doing so well with his reading homework.

## Petyr Baelish - 91%

Snakey Petyr Bealish is a master spy whose ruthless ambition has earned him many enemies. Also his accent has changed quite a lot, so maybe kill him off for that?

## And as for Jon Snow?

Please oh please Lord of Light – could Jon Snow be, like, not dead? Let’s cling to the hope that producers may have acknowledged his popularity on Twitter, which showed a huge spike of outrage on the night his death was broadcast.

And there is computer-determined reason why, it says here, because their system has determined he only had an 11% likelihood of death. What were they thinking?!

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2016

# Inventor of the World Wide Web working to develop an online 'Magna Carta'

Exclusive: web's inventor warns neutrality under sustained attack from governments and corporations

The inventor of the world wide web believes an online "Magna Carta" is needed to protect and enshrine the independence of the medium he created and the rights of its users worldwide.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee told the Guardian the web had come under increasing attack from governments and corporate influence and that new rules were needed to protect the "open, neutral" system.

Speaking exactly 25 years after he wrote the first draft of the first proposal for what would become the world wide web, the computer scientist said: "We need a global constitution – a bill of rights."

Berners-Lee's Magna Carta plan is to be taken up as part of an initiative called "the web we want", which calls on people to generate a digital bill of rights in each country – a statement of principles he hopes will be supported by public institutions, government officials and corporations.

"Unless we have an open, neutral internet we can rely on without worrying about what's happening at the back door, we can't have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It's not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it."

Berners-Lee has been an outspoken critic of the American and British spy agencies' surveillance of citizens following the revelations by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the light of what has emerged, he said, people were looking for an overhaul of how the security services were managed.

His views also echo across the technology industry, where there is particular anger about the efforts by the NSA and Britain's GCHQ to undermine encryption and security tools – something many cybersecurity experts say has been counterproductive and undermined everyone's security.

Principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity would be explored in the Magna Carta scheme. "These issues have crept up on us," Berners-Lee said. "Our rights are being infringed more and more on every side, and the danger is that we get used to it. So I want to use the 25th anniversary for us all to do that, to take the web back into our own hands and define the web we want for the next 25 years."

The web constitution proposal should also examine the impact of copyright laws and the cultural-societal issues around the ethics of technology.

While regional regulation and cultural sensitivities would vary, Berners-Lee said he believed a shared document of principle could provide an international standard for the values of the open web.

He is optimistic that the "web we want" campaign can be mainstream, despite the apparent lack of awareness of public interest in the Snowden story.

"I wouldn't say people in the UK are apathetic – I would say that they have greater trust in their government than other countries. They have the attitude that we voted for them, so let them get on and do it.

"But we need our lawyers and our politicians to understand programming, to understand what can be done with a computer. We also need to revisit a lot of legal structure, copyright law – the laws that put people in jail which have been largely set up to protect the movie producers ... None of this has been set up to preserve the day to day discourse between individuals and the day to day democracy that we need to run the country," he said.

Berners-Lee also spoke out strongly in favour of changing a key and controversial element of internet governance that would remove a small but symbolic piece of US control. The U.S. has clung on to the Iana contract, which controls the dominant database of all domain names, but has faced increased pressure post-Snowden.

He said: "The removal of the explicit link to the US department of commerce is long overdue. The U.S. can't have a global place in the running of something which is so non-national. There is huge momentum towards that uncoupling but it is right that we keep a multi-stakeholder approach, and one where governments and companies are both kept at arm's length."

Berners-Lee also reiterated his concern that the web could be balkanised by countries or organisations carving up the digital space to work under their own rules, whether for censorship, regulation or commerce.

We all have to play a role in that future, he said, citing resistance to proposed copyright theft regulation.

He said: "The key thing is getting people to fight for the web and to see the harm that a fractured web would bring. Like any human system, the web needs policing and of course we need national laws, but we must not turn the network into a series of national silos."

Berners-Lee also starred in the London 2012 Olympics, typing the words "this is for everyone" on a computer in the centre of the arena. He has stuck firmly to the principle of openness, inclusivity and democracy since he invented the web in 1989, choosing not to commercialise his model. Rejecting the idea that government and commercial control of such a powerful medium was inevitable, Berners-Lee said it would be impossible: "Not until they prise the keyboards from our cold, dead fingers."

Creator of web free to use for everyone

As a boy growing up in south-west London, Tim Berners-Lee was a keen trainspotter, which led to his interest in model railways and then electronics.

But computers were already familiar concept in the family home – both his parents worked on the creation of the world's first commercially built computer, the Ferranti Mk1.

Berners-Lee got a first in physics at Oxford and then worked in a series of engineering roles. But it was at Cern, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva where he embarked on projects which would lead to the creation of the world wide web.

His aim was to allow researchers all over the world to share documents and his first proposals were judged as "vague but interesting" by a manager at Cern.

He combined existing technology such as the internet and hypertext and combined them to produce an immense interconnected document storage system. Berners-Lee labelled it the world wide web, although his Francophone collaborators found it difficult to pronounce.

The web was first open to new users in 1991, and in 1992, the first browser was created to scan and select the millions of documents which already existed.

Although the web has seen the creation and loss of countless fortunes, Berners-Lee and his team ensured that it was free to use for everyone.

Berners-Lee now works through various organisations to ensure that the web is accessible to all and that the concept of the neutrality of the net is observed by governments and corporations. Conal Urquhart

© Guardian News and Media 2014

[Image: Tim Berners-Lee speaking at the launch of the World Wide Web Foundation, September 2008, via Wikipedia Commons]

# Study finds parents make teenagers 'embarrassed to even be associated' with Facebook

Facebook is 'dead and buried' to older teenagers, an extensive European study has found, as the key age group moves on to Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat.

Researching the Facebook use of 16-18 year olds in eight EU countries, the Global Social Media Impact Study found that as parents and older users saturate Facebook, its younger users are shifting to alternative platforms.

"Facebook is not just on the slide - it is basically dead and buried," wrote Daniel Miller, lead anthropologist on the research team, who is professor of material culture of University College London.

"Mostly they feel embarrassed to even be associated with it. Where once parents worried about their children joining Facebook, the children now say it is their family that insists they stay there to post about their lives."

Teens do not care that alternative services are less functional and sophisticated, and they also unconcerned about how information about them is being used commercially or as part of surveillance practice by the security services, the research found.

"What appears to be the most seminal moment in a young person’s decision to leave Facebook was surely that dreaded day your mum sends you a friend request," wrote Miller.

"It is nothing new that young people care about style and status in relation to their peers, and Facebook is simply not cool anymore."

In part of the study's research with Italian Facebook users, 40% of users had never changed their privacy settings and 80% said they "were not concerned or did not care" if their personal data was available and accessed, either by an organisation or an individual.

Information that people choose to publish on Facebook has generally been through a psychological filtering process, researchers found - unlike conversations, photos and video shared through more private tools such as Skype, or on mobile apps.

"Most individuals try to present themselves online the way they think society is expecting them to," wrote contributing anthropologist Razvan Nicolescu on Thursday.

"It seems that social media works not towards change – of society, notions of individuality and connectedness, and so on – but rather as a conservative force that tends to strengthen the conventional social relations and to reify society as Italians enjoy and recognise it.

"The normativity of the online presence seems to be just one expression of this process."

["Unhappy Teenage Girl Sending Text Message Whilst Lying In Bed" on Shutterstock]

# Google and Facebook may be our best defenders against Big Brother

The big online companies are calling for urgent reforms to protect us from having data intercepted

Over a few weeks' worth of bedtimes in the summer of 1984, my dad read me Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. Though the dystopian context would have been lost on nine-year old me, the pervasive malevolence and the futility of the struggle was not.

References to Orwell are never far off today, whether to Big Brother and the surveillance society, or doublethink and Room 101. The Orwellian dystopia is so familiar now to us – and so astonishingly real – that we might need a new cultural reference, a new literary vision to warn of what lies ahead.

It's the relentless creep of progress and development that inevitably makes our worst nightmares and most brilliant visions a reality. Fifty years ago, security expert Eugene Kaspersky told a conference last week, the public would have been protesting on the streets at the idea that cameras would be surveilling every public placeacross the country, all day, every day. Today, we just accept it.

At the same conference, Dublin's Web Summit, the vast audience in the hangar-sized hall was asked how many had abandoned consumer web companies in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations. Three people put up their hands – and this among well-informed, technologically confident people.

The gap between the shock of these revelations and the call to action is perverse. The story is huge, multifaceted and complex, which excludes all but the most committed. For others, the truth about services on which they are utterly dependent – we are all utterly dependent – is too inconvenient to want to act; far easier to declare, "I'm not doing anything wrong," and, "I don't care if I'm being watched."

In truth, the call to action is not that we consumers abandon our online lives and seek out anonymity tools such as Tor, or start encrypting all our email using PGP. It's no bad thing that more sophisticated security techniques are seeping into the mainstream consciousness; gleeful pub conversations about our how mobile phones double as microphones and how even the subtle differences in the sound of typewriter keys can be decoded. Kaspersky has his own currency of expertise to maintain, and he too recounts how he won't store any compromising data on a computer at all.

This is borne out by the testimony of the tech investors at Web Summit too. "We're just not looking for privacy-aware services," said Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures. "There are so many compelling examples of value being created by sharing data, from traffic jams to healthcare. The problem isn't privacy but trust. We can't retreat into the dark ages." That means spending time influencing policy, he concluded. Entrepreneurs were falling over themselves to testify to their fierce protection of customer data; taxi-app Hailo is building up records of payment details combined with location data for account holders, while Evernote records increasingly extensive personal notes covering everything from bank statements to work meetings. Both say they have not handed over customer data outside of specific warrants but as we now know, the NSA doesn't need permission – it will help itself. What are you sharing online?

The crisis is in public trust of both our governments – who, when it suits them, will seize the opportunity to criticise oppressive regimes who restrict free speech — and corporations whose reputation depends on credibility and trust. European nations have generally set up rigorous laws to protect their citizens from business, while its governments rely on the trust and goodwill of the public. In the US that situation is reversed, with citizens protected from government through the constitution, and business commercially dependent on trust, among other things. The lack of oversight and accountability has meant the security services never had to draw the line about what is acceptable, necessary, moral and legal.

This dynamic of corporate autonomy may end up creating the strongest fightback against the over-reaching security services, with Google and Yahoo's fury at the intercepts of their data networks and heavy lobbying in Washington. "We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fibre networks," said Google's chief legal officer David Drummond. "It underscores the need for urgent reform."

Surveillance is the undercurrent in every tech conversation now, a lens for understanding our vulnerability and exposure to every part of the online world. This is not a choice between catching terrorists and what David Cameron astonishingly described as some "la-di-da, airy fairy" views on free speech and the right to privacy. If we are happy to accept that our online lives are best represented by Google, Skype, Yahoo, Facebook and all the rest, despite the compromises we make on those commercial platforms, then we have to hope they have the best chance of clawing back our right to free expression and privacy, our right to relate the world around us without being watched.

Returning to Orwell, what will the state of our surveillance nation be in 2031? The worst that can happen is that the whole lot comes true.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

# Google Glass looks silly now, but we'll all be wearing mini-computers soon

An open-mind about new technology will help lead us to discover endless possibilities for its use in our daily lives

I have a nostalgic memory from my childhood that conjures up that youthful sensation of limitlessness, of the feeling that the day will be so long and full of opportunity that it couldn't possibly be filled.

It was a full hour until my best friend was due to arrive and, I'd spent a restless minute or two fidgeting by the front door in anticipation. To an eight-year-old, an hour seemed like waiting until the end of time.

Then, time seemed elongated, as if without all that assumed knowledge and the prejudices of experience, the perception of time was changed. This is a blissful, open-mindedness with which to view the world, learning by doing, getting stuck in. But that openness of mind seems extremely hard to retain into adulthood.

There is an easy currency in the curmudgeonly tradition of dismissing anything new, a default superiority given to wry scepticism over youthful enthusiasm and intrigue. In other words, technologists have to work damn hard to get ideas accepted by the mainstream and there's a tediously charted route through uninterest and scepticism, the ridicule and hype of early adopting, the undulation of that scrutiny and eventual, often reluctant, acceptance. And then before you know it, everybody has a mobile phone!

This is not to be confused with the vital scrutiny of new technologies and their place in our lives; one such example is the personal privacy implication of the Memoto lapel camera, which automatically takes nearly 3,000 pictures throughout the day. And then there are the Guardian's revelations that the US National Security Agency has systemised access to swaths of our online activity – nothing less than a devastating crisis of trust for the consumer web and deserving of a separate analysis. That crisis also illustrates how vital it is that we understand the risks of the technologies we rely on daily, rather than absolving ourselves of responsibility for our online lives to others who allegedly know better.

Often under-considered in our attitude to new technologies is that the human side of engaging and improving that technology is half the point. Technologists present us with the tool and we help work out what it can do; the shopfront for mobile apps was built by the technologists, but their success was down to hundreds of thousands of developers and designers who had ingenious ideas about useful or entertaining things to build. Google Glass, another of a swath of wearable technologies slowly drifting into the public consciousness, is an exciting, challenging case in point.

There is no app store for the life-augmenting tech of Google Glass yet, but its success depends on it. So what can our open-minded imaginations – to recall that sensation of limitlessness and exploration – conjure up? A speaker by our ear, a camera for stills and video, voice commands and a small, basic screen in our peripheral vision. Forget that you'll feel silly wearing them (because you felt silly and unsure when you first used your pager/mobile/Skype) and think of the opportunity. It could be great for sport, with live radio coverage playing into your ear and statistics displayed. Or maybe for travel, where the headset will translate everything you see and hear instantly. Boom! Another industry disrupted. All in a day's work for Google.

Rethinking the mini-computer that is our smartphone makes sense. Our mobile lozenge is a legacy format that started with the candlestick telephone, a format determined by the size of the technology and the dimensions of the human body. We deserve better! We are comfortable with a watch format because we know it and Samsung's Galaxy Gear or the Apple iWatch combine that format with the success of wearable fitness devices, like FitBit. But add new sensors, as well as imaginative software, into these mini-computers and the impact could be significant. Non-invasive blood testing will soon be a reality, transformative for diabetics who will no longer have to puncture themselves several times a day, as well as those who have to monitor cholesterol.

To scratch the surface of what's possible: health apps will be able to monitor those blood test results, and sync with the restaurant as the wearer walks in, to suggest the most suitable low-GI or low-cholesterol meal. The behavioural implications could be profound, but we need to be interested in understanding and exploring the potential so that we are ready for the debate about who has access to this data, and whether it could ever be shared with a health insurance provider.

Picasso reportedly said computers were useless because they could give only answers. It's a beautiful idea that without human inspiration, without knowing the questions we need to solve, we can't create anything really powerful. But he also told his lover and fellow artist Françoise Gilot he saw painting "as a form of magic, designed as mediator between this strange hostile world and us". Perhaps that's the best way to see technology, and with the limitless possibilities of an open mind.

Breaking the mold

Free with every purchase of Sugru is the wonder of what you ever did without it. It looks like play-dough, but dries as a flexible, silicon rubber. The real delight is the playful, hack-it-better mentality of users, who have created glow-in-the-dark tent pegs, a kettle for the visually impaired and camera housing on a helium balloon that took photographs of the Earth from 100,000ft. Its appeal is the ethos of modifying and personalising mass produced products, and in repairing rather than throwing them away.

The magic of old tech

Technology of an even older kind at the Proms recently, where I was mesmerised by Janine Jansen of the Orchestre de Paris leading Benjamin Britten's Violin Concerto. Whatever the technological secrets behind that Stradivarius sound – wood infused with potassium borate, or an unidentified music – it was the elemental technology of a 286-year-old violin and the manipulation of horsehair, gut and precious metal that created all that magic. With more than a touch of artistic genius, too.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

# Irish man battles U.S. extradition request for running largest child porn network on the planet

Man alleged to be behind Freedom Hosting, service provider for many hidden sites, battles FBI request for extradition to US.

Freedom Hosting, described by an FBI special agent as "the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet", has been taken down as part of a year-long operation to extradite a 28-year-old Irish man to the US.

Eric Eoin Marques is the subject of a US arrest warrant for distributing and promoting child abuse material online.

He has been refused bail by the high court in Dublin, reported the Irish Independent, until the extradition request is decided. Marques, who is both a US and Irish national, will face the high court again on Thursday.

If extradited to the US, Marques faces four charges relating to images hosted on the Freedom Hosting network, including images of the torture and rape of children. He could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Freedom Hosting hosted sites on the The Onion Router (Tor) network, which anonymises and encrypts traffic, masking the identity of users.

Whistleblowers, journalists and dissidents too?

On Sunday, Tor's official blog posted a detailed statement confirming that a large number of "hidden service addresses", or servers anonymised using the network, had unexpectedly gone offline.

Tor was quick to distance itself from Freedom Hosting, which has been claimed to be a hub for child abuse material as well as Silk Road – the eBay of hard drugs, saying "the persons who run Freedom Hosting are in no way affiliated or connected to the Tor Project Inc, the organisation co-ordinating the development of the Tor software and research."

"Anyone can run hidden services, and many do," said the statement. "Organisations run hidden services to protect dissidents, activists, and protect the anonymity of users trying to find help for suicide prevention, domestic violence, and abuse recovery.

"Whistleblowers and journalists use hidden services to exchange information in a secure and anonymous way and publish critical information in a way that is not easily traced back to them. The New Yorker's Strongbox is one public example."

Security blogger and former Washington Post reporter Brian Krebs wrote on Sunday that users were identified using a flaw in Firefox 17, on which the Tor browser is based.

Rik Ferguson, vice-president of security research at Trend Micro, said he was awaiting further details to be made public as Marques is brought to trial, but that the takedown and related law enforcement "is great news for the campaign against child exploitation".

"The malicious code made a 'victim machine' which visited one of the compromised hidden sites, and requested a website on the 'visible' web, via HTTP, thereby exposing its real IP address. As the exploit did not deliver any malicious code, it is highly unlikely that this was a cybercriminal operation.

"It is a legitimate concern that users of child abuse material may simply go elsewhere, and as such the individual users should continue to be targeted by law enforcement globally. However, going after the people and organisations that really enable this content to be made available at all is a much more effective strategy."

In 2011, hacking collective Anonymous took down Freedom Hosting with a targeted DDos attack as part of an anti-paedophile campaign. Anonymous also published details of the accounts of 1,500 members of Lolita City, claiming Freedom Hosting was home to 100GB of child abuse material.

FBI conspiracy?

Users on the Tor sub-Reddit were suspicious about the news, dissecting the details of the vulnerability and pointing to a previous case where the FBI had taken over and maintained a site hosting child abuse material for two weeks in order to identify users.

"FBI uploads malicious code on the deep web sites while everyone is off at Defcon. Talk about paying dirty," commented VarthDaTor. Defcon is an annual event in the US for security experts and hackers.

"The situation is serious," said gmerni. "They got the owner of FH and now they're going after all of us. Half the onion sites were hosted on FH! Disable Javascript in your Tor browser for the sake of your own safety."

© Guardian News and Media 2013

["Stock Photo: Hands Of The Man In Handcuffs On The Laptop Keyboard" on Shutterstock]

# Britain set to ban Google Glass for drivers

Google's smart glasses will distract drivers, says Department of Transport.

Google Glass is the highest profile product in a wave of new wearable technologies, promising to display everything from restaurant reviews to directions and allow automated video and photos wherever we go. But the internet-connected eyewear looks set to be banned on the UK's roads even before the product's 2014 launch, according to the Department of Transport.

A spokesman for the department told Stuff, a gadget magazine, that the device could distract drivers while they are behind the wheel, defining Glass as a similar distraction to a mobile phone.

"We are aware of the impending rollout of Google Glass and are in discussion with the police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving," said the spokesman.

"It is important that drivers give their full attention to the road when they are behind the wheel and do not behave in a way that stops them from observing what is happening on the road."

He pointed to offences including driving without due attention and careless driving, which is due to become a fixed penalty offence in late 2013. Since a ban on using mobile phones while driving was introduced in 2003, more than one million drivers have been convicted – typically issued with a £60 fixed penalty notice and three points on their driver's licence.

The statement by the Department for Transport indicates that Google Glass users would be subject to the same penalty under the 1988 Road Traffic Act. It reflects similar concerns in the US, where Glass has been launched to a small trial group of "explorers". Politicians in Delaware and West Virginia have introduced bills that ban drivers wearing computing technologies while driving.

"We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues," said Google in a statement. "Our Glass Explorer programme, currently only launched in the US, reaches people from all walks of life and will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology."

Technology fans argue that Glass, which displays simple, monochrome information in the wearer's peripheral vision, is less distracting than satellite navigation tools that include a visual interface designed to be used while driving.

Developers have already begun exploring applications for Glass, including GlassTesla, which allows owners of the high-end electric cars to remotely control the car's air conditioning, mileage and battery information as well as directions.

© Guardian News and Media 2013

# Reuters' Twitter account hacked, apparently by Syrian Electronic Army

Syrian Electronic Army suspected of attack in which cartoons in support of Bashar al-Assad were posted on feed

The Twitter account of Thomson Reuters was hacked on Tuesday in another apparent attack by the Syrian Electronic Army.

The hackers used the account to post seven images , mostly explicit cartoons in support of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, before the account was suspended 35 minutes later.

The attack began at 2.30am BST.

Thomson Reuters is the latest victim among global media firms that have been targeted by the campaign, including the Guardian, Associated Press and CBS in April and the Financial Times and Daily Telegraph in May.

It also hacked the account of satirical news site The Onion, which promptly published a piece called How to prevent your major media site from being hacked.

Twitter has been working with media organisations to secure their accounts, including a rapid response tool that suspends accounts until the hackers are locked out.

Thomson Reuters was contacted for comment.

The Syrian Electronic Army first appeared in 2011 at the start of the anti-Assad revolution, though it is thought to operate from Dubai and be controlled by the Syrian government. Its campaigns have included uploading footage of dead insurgents to YouTube and it briefly wiped \$130bn (£85.5bn) off the US stock market when it used a hacked AP Twitter account to claim President Barack Obama had been injured in an explosion.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

# Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales explains its new mission to be 'mainstream'

Wikipedians plan more outreach for teachers, better tools for developers and simpler editing tools to increase their audience

Wikipedia is expanding its major new 'open data' initiative, expanding tools that allow developers to use its content on other websites and simplifying its editing tools to appeal to more mainstream web users.

The 12-year-old website is also planning more outreach work to educate teachers and students, as well as those in museums and libraries, how to use the site.

Speaking in London on Monday, co-founder Jimmy Wales said Wikipedia was part "of the edutech gold rush" and that students would learn not by reading but by editing the site. New editing tools being introduced later this year will make editing simpler, he said, and encourage more people to get involved in editing articles.

Wales, who has been advising the UK government on open access, said there had been huge progress in the understanding of sourcing material online. "This is a community that will digest and then repurpose information to people in interesting ways – we have a lot to teach on that front … Communities are working to encode more of this information in machine readable ways."

Most public institutions now interact positively with the site, he claimed. "Eight years ago I got a nasty letter from a British museum over an image in an Wikipedia article … the new way to react, as a public institution devoted to sharing knowledge, is that you need to engage. Wikipedia is the information platform of choice for the entire world – from a business perspective they are much better off making sure they have well written information on Wikipedia."

Wales said he wanted developers to have a better understanding of the site's tools, including an extensive API (the system through which external developers can use the site's content) and through community of approved bots, which perform automated tasks including signing an editor's name at the end of a post and correcting common errors made by autocorrect.

Other projects underway include improved editing in the mobile version of the site, which is being worked on by a team in San Francisco, and a notifications system called "Flow" for editors. Wales said the new user interface for editing tools would encourage more diverse editors, broadening its community beyond the largely young, computer-centric and 80% to 90% male editors that dominate its volunteer base.

Wikipedia was the eight most visited website in the US in July, according to web measurement firm comScore. Wikipedia's own data shows the site records 21.3bn monthly page views globally, has 30.7m pages in English and publishes in 286 languages.

Wales described Wikipedia's mission to be "the sum of all human knowledge available to all in their own language" and said it had worked with regional partners in the developing world to provide Wikipedia Zero, a low-bandwidth mobile version of the site that would be free to users.

About 410 million people now have access to Wikipedia Zero, he claimed. "It is our mission to provide free access to everyone in the world. This is one of the most exciting things we are doing and we're only just getting started."

Wikipedia is run almost entirely by volunteers along with other free-to-access websites including Wikimedia and Wikidata. The small, not-for-profit Wikimedia Foundation employs 150 staff to manage the site's servers, administration and legal issues.

Wikipedia's annual conference Wikimania will be held in London for the first time next year, where about 10,000 fans, editors and volunteers are expected to attend the free event at the Barbican in August 2014.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013

# Yahoo joins bidding war for web broadcaster Hulu

Reports link tech giant to online video service which is also coveted by Time Warner, William Morris and more

The online video service Hulu is at the centre of a frenzied bidding war, according to US media reports, with the tech giant Yahoo rumoured to have made an offer for the second time in its history.

With the ink is barely dry on its \$1.1bn deal to buy the lite-blogging platform Tumblr, Yahoo made a formal proposal to buy Hulu on Friday morning, according to the tech news websiteAllthingsD.com and the news agency Reuters.

Yahoo told the Guardian it "would not comment on rumour or speculation" in regards to the reported offer.

A deal would confirm Yahoo's fresh drive into "native" advertising – branded or sponsored editorial content – led by chief executive Marissa Meyer. Yahoo made an earlier, unsuccessful attempt to buy the French video site Daily Motion; the move was vetoed by the French government in April.

Yahoo faces some hefty competition for Hulu, which is co-owned by Disney, News Corp and Comcast. Offers are reported to have been made by Time Warner, News Corp executive Peter Chernin, satellite operator DirecTV, talent agency William Morris and two investment firms, Guggenheim Digital Media and KKR.

Yahoo first approached Hulu in 2011 under Carol Bartz, when Hulu had recruited Morgan Stanley to find a buyer – without success.

© Guardian News and Media 2013

# Analysts value Twitter at \$11 billion as it prepares to go public in 2014

Analysts base estimate on trading in secondary markets and Apple interest in the social networking firm

Twitter is preparing to take the company public in 2014, and could already be worth as much as \$11bn, according to a report by specialist financial researchers Greencrest.

The rough valuation of \$11bn is based on trading in secondary markets, where shares unofficially trade hands privately. But a funding round in 2011 valued Twitter at \$8bn, after which the value rose to \$10bn on secondary markets before Facebook's shambolic IPO pushed the value back down to \$9bn.

Greencrest analyst Max Wolff said Twitter's value has also been swollen by speculation that Apple is interested in acquiring the company. "Using the secondary market for shares to mark enterprise value is a very difficult and opaque process," he said.

"It is a rumour rich and special share class soup. That said, Twitter is up since the Facebook IPO and is now valued at northward of \$11bn. This makes sense as growth in users and new monetisation efforts are both yielding fruit and pointing toward a good 2013 for Twitter."

Backing up comments made late last year by chairman Jack Dorsey that Twitter would IPO "when we feel the company is ready for that milestone," the research claims Twitter will start preparing for the flotation this year, and has already started firming up its management structure, noted Forbes.

Chief financial officer Mike Gupta joined from Zynga last month after Ali Rowghani was moved to chief operating officer, and Newsvine founder Mike Davidson was taken on as vice president of design in October.

Twitter had been widely speculated to float this year, but will not have been encouraged into a hasty move by the high-profile, disappointing performances of both Facebook and Zynga. Both have struggled to convince investors that in Facebook's case, the business is ready to make money as consumers shift to mobile, and in Zynga's case that they are capable of producing enough hit games. Facebook's shares are down 26% since the IPO, while Zynga's value has dropped by 75%.

© 2013 Guardian News and Media

Comments to replace user voting attracted 'quantity over quality' of feedback

Facebook has become so large that a system allowing users to vote on policy changes has become ineffective, the company's head of communications announced on Wednesday.

The site's three-year old experiment allowing users to vote on corporate policy changes was introduced in 2009 in response to user outrage over Facebook's terms of use which gave the site licence over users' photos, videos and posts.

Elliot Schrage, vice president of communications, public policy and marketing, wrote that the system had to change since the site grew to more than one billion users, and since it became a public company in May.

"The voting mechanism, which is triggered by a specific number of comments, actually resulted in a system that incentivized the quantity of comments over their quality," wrote Schrage. "Therefore, we're proposing to end the voting component of the process in favor of a system that leads to more meaningful feedback and engagement."

Organised chiefly around commenting, the new systems will include submitting questions directly to the chief privacy officer Erin Egan through a privacy page and live webcasts, though users have until 28 November to push the new proposal to a vote. Other proposed changes include settings that will filter incoming email and share data with Instagram.

Until now, proposed policy changes had automatically been put to a vote by users if they attracted more than 7,000 comments.

By Thursday morning, the announcement had attracted more than 3,000 comments and was overrun with users objecting to changes and demanding a vote on Facebook campaign site our-policy.org. A detailed 1100-word manifesto on the site demands clearer language in Facebook's data use policy, a list of retained personal data available to users and a ban on Facebook keeping data after an account has been closed.

© Guardian News and Media 2012

# Google, Amazon and Starbucks facing British inquiry over tax evasion

Campaigners, MPs and Taxpayers' Alliance agree large companies are exploiting loopholes in international tax regimes.

Google, Amazon and Starbucks will face aggressive and detailed questioning by MPs on Monday over their decision to base their European businesses outside the UK to avoid paying full UK tax.

Responding to a growing public anger over corporate tax avoidance and heightened by high-profile government cuts to public services, the public accounts select committee will be asking Google, Amazon and Starbucks to explain structures such as Ireland- and Luxembourg-registered offices which incur lower tax rates, and also how they charge their own subsidiary companies for services, a practice known as transfer pricing.

The session begins at 3.15pm, with Google UK chief executive Matt Brittin and Amazon public policy director Andrew Cecil due to appear. Starbucks chief financial officer Troy Alstead and UK managing director Kris Engskov will also give evidence.

The companies' tax avoidance methods have been criticised by MPs, while even the Taxpayers' Alliance – which usually criticises the levels of tax demanded by government – told the Guardian that "some big companies with clever accountants can exploit loopholes to minimise their bills" with the result that "families are left feeling short-changed."

Economist and tax campaigner Richard Murphy said there is strong and consistent evidence that even if companies haven't acted illegally, they have conspired to pay less tax. "These are legal artifices created to result in paying less tax," he said. "The avoidance is in setting up the structure and they chose to set it up that way."

Charlie Elphicke MP told the Commons on 5 November that Amazon had paid an effective UK tax rate of 2.5% on 2011 earnings of £309bnGoogle paid 0.4% on £2.5bn. Starbucks paid nothing, though its UK earnings were £365m.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge told the Guardian that the movement against corporate tax avoidance had huge bipartisan support across the House of Commons as well as growing public awareness, and could ultimately damage the reputation of the companies concerned.

"Most of these companies proclaim a strong corporate responsibility ethos, yet the most basic responsibility they have is to pay their fair share into the common purse," she said. "The fact that they create jobs is an absurd argument. We have to ensure that where companies are making money in the UK, they pay their fair share, and there is a duty on HMRC to do all it can to ensure those rules are strictly and fairly adhered to."

Hodge conceded that international regulation is needed to prevent companies choosing to locate their profits in low-tax zones, but said there is also growing appetite across Europe for action, not least because of a new and ambitious tax director at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Pascal Saint-Amans. The OECD has been asked by G20 finance ministers to strengthen standards around tax for multinationals.

The French government has been bullish about tax avoidance, with unconfirmed reports that authorities sent a \$1bn (£629m) a tax bill to Google for a four-year period of financial transfers to its Ireland holding. Google told the Guardian no bill had been received. Since then it has lost an appeal in a Paris court to invalidate the search and seizure of documents by the French tax authorities, and was forced to pay costs.

"Google has not received any tax assessment from the French tax administration," the company said. "We have and will continue to co-operate with the authorities in France. Google complies with tax law in every country in which the company operates and with European laws."

Amazon is under particular scrutiny because of its registered base in Luxembourg, which allowed it to generate £3.3bn of sales in the UK last year yet pay no corporation tax. It has also been able to pay 3% VAT on UK book sales, rather than the 20% UK rate, though last month the European Commission ordered that Luxembourg close that loophole.

Amazon did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Murphy said tax avoidance has become a mainstream electoral issue, though any reform would be long-term rather than sudden and radical. He noted significantly more co-ordination and interest at national and international levels, and that it is beginning to dawn on ministers that companies should not be able to divide themselves into different legal entities and "pretend to charge each other".

"There is no requirement in law to maximise profit for shareholders, and it is very unclear in US law too," Murphy said. "But there is a legal duty to act in the best interest of shareholders and that doesn't necessarily mean minimising the tax bill – it might mean operating a business that is attractive to customers."

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said in a statement that the UK tax system has lost its legitimacy. "Britain's hideously complex tax code means some big companies with clever accountants can exploit loopholes to minimise their bills," he said. "Others can take advantage of how HMRC are busy trying to administer an unwieldy set of rules, instead of chasing down those who try to abuse the system. Families are left feeling short changed and let down by their politicians.

Sinclair added: "We need serious tax reform to ensure everyone pays no more or less than their fair share."

During the first hearing with HMRC officials last Monday, Hodge said that individuals and small businesses in her constituency complained of feeling harassed over tax collection, while larger corporates were invited in for coffee and able to sign up to tax efficiency schemes offered by the largest four accountancy firms.

"The corporate sector has grown since 2004-05, even despite the events of 2008-09 and a double-dip recession," said Hodge, questioning Lin Homer, chief executive and permanent secretary of the HMRC. "It has grown, yet you are taking more from … hard-working individuals paying their PAYE than you are from corporations … You are saying you are doing that deliberately because government wants to make this an easy place to be."

Homer replied: "The government's position on multinationals is that we do want them to see the UK as competitive… We do expect everybody to pay their fair share. Corporation tax has been coming down, but not to those [5.5% advertised to KPMG clients] levels."

The committee could eventually recommend a change in regulation to end the practice of transfer pricing, advise that tax returns are made public or increase HMRC resources.

HMRC has already said that budget cuts will make it difficult to prioritise corporate tax avoidance. It faces real-terms budget cuts of £2.1bn, despite the government pledging an extra £917m to combat corporate tax avoidance, and is also expected to lose 15,000 of its 65,000 staff over the next five years.

© Guardian News and Media 2012

# Reddit blocks Gawker in controversy over 'creepshot' photos

Free speech row after journalist sought to reveal identity of man running forums featuring extreme adult content

Blog network Gawker has found itself engaged in a vicious exchange with users of content sharing and recommendations website Reddit's sleazier sub-forums after a journalist began investigating extreme adult content on the site.

One Reddit politics forum has banned links to Gawker after what the moderator described as "an attack on the site and its users", in an escalating row over free speech versus privacy and the publication of offensive material on the web.

The focus on Reddit's less salubrious content will be an embarrassment for owner Condé Nast, publisher of Vanity Fair and Vogue, which bought the site in 2006.

Gawker journalist Adrian Chen began investigating one prolific Reddit user, Violentacrez, who has set up hundreds of sub-forums where users post links and images including bestiality, rape fantasy, under-age porn and upskirt photos.

Violentacrez most recently joined "Creepshots", a forum of stalking-style pictures of women taken without their consent. The forum was taken down last night and has now been banned.

The same user posted last week's email exchange with Chen on a Reddit forum seeking advice, but was apparently so concerned that his identity would be revealed that he later deleted his account.

In response, the Reddit forum's volunteer moderator PoliticsMod on Thursday published a statement about Gawker's "intolerable" behaviour, characterising Chen's investigation as an attack on the site's users.

"We volunteer our time on Reddit to make it a better place for the users, and should not be harassed and threatened for that. We should all be afraid of the threat of having our personal information investigated and spread around the internet if someone disagrees with you. Reddit prides itself on having a subreddit for everything, and no matter how much anyone may disapprove of what another user subscribes to, that is never a reason to threaten them.

"As a result, the moderators of /r/politics have chosen to disallow links from the Gawker network until action is taken to correct this serious lack of ethics and integrity."

The post triggered thousands of comments on the site and a slew of lengthy defences by PoliticsMod, who claimed that Gawker has previously attempted to reveal the identities of Reddit posters, undermining their safety.

The Guardian has asked Reddit for comment and to clarify its user guidelines for content posting. It has deleted previous sub-forums including r/jailbait.

The Creepshots controversy has triggered a backlash among Reddit users defending the right to post freely, and those who object to offensive, invasive and threatening content objectifying women.

Jezebel has reported that Creepshots included content posted by a teacher of "a hot senior girl in one of my classes".

One new Tumblr project, Predditors, is now identifying and naming Reddit contributors behind objectionable content, according to BetaBeat.

Traffic tool Alexa lists Reddit as the 65th most popular site in the US. Some of its mainstream sub-forums, such as r/funny, have reached peaks of 9m impressions in one day. Alexa characterises Reddit's user base as predominantly male, between 18 and24, with no children and still in education.

In August, President Obama triggered a surge of traffic to the site when he joined a late night Q&A on internet freedom.

"We will fight hard to make sure that the internet remains the open forum for everybody," Obama wrote. "Sure thing," replied a user. "Do you like cats?"

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