July 27th, 2011
11:02 AM ET

Ai Weiwei joins Google+, along with '100,000 Chinese netizens'

From Ai Weiwei's Google+ account

China's dissident artist Ai Weiwei was an avid social media user before his recent two-month detention by Chinese authorities. On Twitter, he frequently interacted with followers which now number more than 92,000 on his now-silent Twitter page.

It's been widely speculated that one of the conditions of Ai's release was a self-imposed ban on social media. So, this came as a big surprise.

The "online godfather of the Chinese art world" returned to the networked fold with a message on Google+. Posted on July 25, it simply reads: "I'm here, greetings."

That was followed by a photograph of himself, shirtless, with the caption: "Here's proof of life." (Consider it Ai's way of proving his authenticity since Google+, unlike Twitter, does not offer verified accounts.)

Ai has also a posted a gallery of black and white photographs from his time in New York as a young artist in the '80s and early '90s. Aside from a profile description of himself as a "suspected pornography enthusiast and tax evader" (a reference to the two charges against him), Ai Weiwei's Google+ page is not likely to stir controversy. For now, it seems his few updates are his way of reuniting with his online fans.

The Google+ community has quickly taken notice. As of today, more than 9,000 users have added Ai into their circles, including influential Chinese blogger Isaac Mao. Mao is also a fellow with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, and a Google+ user in Ai Weiwei's inner G+ circle.

Mao calls the artist's digital return a "reincarnation."

"I have no idea on the details between Ai and authorities," Mao says, when asked about any social media conditions attached to the artist's release. "But I believe (Google+) is not part of the agreement. As one G+ user commented on his G+ stream, 'They don't allow Ai to speak on Twitter, but didn't expect there to be a newcomer.'"

Google+ has been mostly inaccessible from inside Mainland China since its launch. The site has been reported blocked from various locations and ISPs throughout the country. Chinese users of Google+ access the site with a variety of circumvention tools like Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) or tunneling protocols.

China is home to nearly half a billion Internet users. Mao believes there are over 100,000 Chinese netizens on Google+. "It's not a big number compared to the huge internet population in China," says Mao. "However, I see that those top G+ users are influential geeks, bloggers and Twitter users."

Mao believes the number of Google+ users in China already surpasses the number of active Chinese Twitter users (less than 20,000). "There are still millions of Google fans in China," says Mao. "So they rushed to try this new service as its accessibility dimmed."

The digitally reincarnated Ai may find that Google+ is not just a convenient Twitter alternative. Given its popularity in China and growth trajectory, it may offer him a more far-reaching and thus powerful platform for his message.

July 7th, 2011
11:13 AM ET

In China, censors on overdrive to stop Jiang Zemin rumor mill

Beijing is insisting that reports of the death of Jiang Zemin are "pure rumor." Xinhua issued a terse denial that the former Chinese President had passed away.  A ministry of foreign affairs spokesperson curtly refused to comment on the talk.

The rumors began on Friday when Jiang failed to attend the 90th anniversary celebration of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, and speculation has been swirling on Sina Weibo, the popular Chinese microblog.

Weibo is doing its part to quell the speculation.  As of 4:30pm HKT, the following words have been banned on the site:

• Names of Chinese leaders including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao
• The words "breaking news" in Chinese
• "Jia beng" – the honorific used by Chinese to describe the death of an emperor or king
• "Three represents" is also banned. The term refers to the political roadmap drafted by Jiang Zemin

When you search for any of the above terms, you get the following message: "According to the relevant laws, regulations and policies, the results of this search cannot be displayed."

Interestingly, a number of related terms are still searchable on other top Chinese Internet destinations like Baidu, the search engine giant.

On Baidu,  you can search for the following:

• "River" or "jiang" in Chinese, which sounds like Jiang Zemin's last name
•  "Jiang Zemin." Chinese Netizens can still search his name and information related to the former Chinese leader, even access reports about the rumors of his death.

In Hong Kong, broadcast ATV led last night's newscast  with a report that Jiang died citing unspecified sources.  The report did not mention key details like the time or cause of death.  ATV has since issued a statement apologizing to viewers and the Jiang family about the report.

The news is also leading today's local papers with The Standard saying "Jiang 'Critically Ill' and the Apple Daily showing, above the fold, a photo of both Jiang and current president Hu Jintao

Such speculation is unlikely to end anytime soon, unless Jiang Zemin makes a public appearance.

June 23rd, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Accio Pottermore!

Pottermore.com preview

Hold onto your wizard's hats Harry Potter fans, Hogwarts creator JK Rowling has unveiled a new project: Pottermore.

The author kept geeks like me guessing for a week what the website could hold, all the while taunting us with a countdown clock on YouTube populated by an increasing number of animated owls. Rumors were rampant across the web: could it be a new book? An encyclopedia of the wizarding world? A video game? The Pottermore teaser webpage – bearing nothing but a title, JK Rowling's signature and the words "Coming Soon" – racked up a million hits within 36 hours of its launch.

Then the countdown clock stopped, the website was revealed, and a video message from Rowling herself appeared. FULL POST

June 10th, 2011
08:20 PM ET

Twitter and today's media

Get it first, but first get it right. It's the mantra of many a journalist. But it seems we now need to tag on, "And make sure it's real."

Here's a quick recap of the week that wasn't:

Officials were outside of this one-story house in Hardin, Texas, on Tuesday

1) Texas mass murder scene discovered (untrue)

2) Blogger goes missing in Syria (authenticity doubted)

3) Syrian ambassador to France resigns (apparent impersonation)

4) Woman tattoos 152 Facebook friends on arm (publicity stunt)

These stories illustrate the difficulties facing today's news gatherers and news consumers. Technology lets us all get information quickly... almost instantly. But sometimes, you just need to pause and think for a moment.


June 9th, 2011
11:41 PM ET

Anthony Weiner proves innuendo is rarely below the belt

Like his near-namesake sausage, we’ve wolfed down Anthony Weiner’s sorry saga with relish. It’s puerile. But the story was like a gift from the fifth-grade gods.

Monday’s inevitable apology led some to suggest that the famously flashy Weiner was shrinking. Others strove to get the view of his staff on the view of his 'staff'. How we chortled when one tweeter bemoaned the fact that Boehner wouldn’t stand up for Weiner.

Should we be surprised at this outburst of adolescence, arguably belonging in the schoolyard but rife everywhere from news outlets to late night comedy shows? Probably not.

Innuendo is as old as the hills. While some human phenomena, such as cave painting, letter writing, cassette recording and Mel Gibson have fallen by the wayside, innuendo just keeps hitting our giggle spot. FULL POST

May 25th, 2011
02:27 AM ET

Zombies, space & social media success

Most of the time you don't want to hear "viral" and "CDC" in the same sentence. Unless we're talking in non-medical terms.

By now you've probably read the CDC's blog on surviving a zombie apocalypse. An agency spokesman told the NYT, “A typical post gets 1,000 hits. We got 10,000 (on Monday), then 30,000 on Tuesday, and then it crashed the server.”

The blog has given @CDCEmergency a big bounce on Twitter. The account is now approaching 1.3 million followers. It reportedly had just 12,000 as of Thursday.

Now that the CDC has captured our attention online, will it be able to keep it? Not unless something changes. The newly popular @CDCEmergency tweets less than once a day on average. It would to do well to look at another government agency for lessons. NASA has the most successful social media presence. Yes, there's a study to back up that claim.


Post by: ,
Filed under: General • Social networking • Space • Technology
May 17th, 2011
05:29 PM ET

Don Lemon's Dignity Must Set Example for Media at Large

[cnn-video url="http://cnn.com/video/?/video/living/2011/05/16/behar.don.lemon.hln"%5D

We’ve had about 36 hours to digest the news that Don Lemon is gay. Across the web, everyone’s talking about it...

“CNN News Anchor Comes out of the Closet”. Type that phrase into your search engine. See how many times it comes up. It’s a whole lot of closet. 

A human being has demonstrated a human trait. In doing so, he has inspired vocabulary-deficient writers  from London to LA to dust off the world’s most woefully hackneyed item of furniture. We’re clearly not ready to dismantle it quite yet. 

The discussion must therefore continue. And that discussion is proving riling and refreshing in equal measure. 


May 13th, 2011
11:05 PM ET

Top Gun Day

I'm not sure what's harder to believe: That "Top Gun" is 25 years old, or that there's a whole day dedicated to the movie.

Either way, being the 80s movie buffs that we are, News Stream just had to join in the fun and celebrate Top Gun Day... which we did with a little help from our good friends at iReport. And aviator sunglasses.

Why "Top Gun"?

There's something about that movie that's struck a chord with people that makes it memorable 25 years on. It's hard to say it's a great film - but it's inspired so many to send us a ton of great iReports.

It is intensely cheesy. And yet it is incredibly enjoyable. It's extremely clichéd, but also eminently quotable.

It simultaneously panders to both sexes: Men get gratuitous shots of fighter jets set to rock music; women get that volleyball scene.

And while most movies have one iconic song associated with them, Top Gun has four: Danger Zone, Take My Breath Away, You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin', and Great Balls of Fire. (And I'm not including the theme!)

There is something strangely compelling about Top Gun that endures to this day, proving that it's always a good time to buzz the tower.

April 21st, 2011
10:50 PM ET

iPhone: My pocket spy

How does it feel to know that your every movement for the last nine months has been tracked and recorded? You'd think that the revelation that the iPhone (and iPad 3G) is secretly storing your whereabouts would unnerve me. That it's not is a sign of how the old barriers protecting your privacy don't exist anymore.


April 18th, 2011
06:53 AM ET

Social Media Reaction to End Slavery

If you follow myself or any of the News Stream team on twitter, you'll have noticed a lot of this hashtag–#Endslavery
We've been encouraging you to use it in your tweets too – to spread awareness of slavery in the 21st century, and encourage others to act to stop the practice.
Eddie Byun from Seoul did just that.
His church in South Korea is praying, fasting and giving money during lent to #Endslavery.

Twitter user Reach97 has been moved by our stories of child labor. Reach 97 tweeted this "Children are supposed to be cherished and nurtured not used for any selfish or immoral reasons"

Joan Cho tweeted her reaction to Justin Dillon's Call + Response Campaign that we featured here on CNN.
She says "Leveraging your consumption is the best way you can start. I'm trying to consume fairtrade coffee to get involved in #Endslavery".

The hashtag has also been picked up by the OATH Coalition. It's an NGO dedicated to increase awareness of human trafficking, based in Oklahoma.
Their tweet says, "There are twice as many slaves today as there were during Abraham Lincoln's time - and that's not right!"

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