Today we start with a story of the sock puppet and the politician that should put us all on alert for digital dirty tricks.
In Britain — as in the U.S. — there is a debate about so-called payday loans: how much is too much to charge, for very short-term lending to people with low incomes.
A British member of parliament pushing to cap these fees found herself getting attacked on Twitter like this:
“Mental. Nuts. Pathetic. A self-serving egomaniac, and all sorts of phrases like these.” says Mark King, a reporter at The Guardian.
King did detective work that traced the tweets back to a company called Wonga. It’s in the business of payday loans, and opposes what the politician was pushing.
When confronted, the company said it was a junior employee gone rogue, acting without authorization. And did I mention the sock puppet? In the Internet parlance of our times, “sockpuppet” generally means an entity using social media in order to deceive someone.
Wonga has apologized “unreservedly.” There was also evidence a Wonga computer had been used to delete the word “usury” from its Wikipedia entry.
It’s Thanksgiving. Instead of nasty tweets, let’s make the world a better place. One Silicon Valley entrepreneur has a plan: he wants startup companies to do… what?
“Philanthropic work,” says Payam Zamani, CEO of Reply.com, a marketplace for local online advertising. “I think that we need to bring about universal philanthropy — we’ve got to get the masses involved. It’s not so much about the amount that is given, but that we all care.”
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