from the unsolved-problems/mysteries dept
Five Years Ago
There were a couple major points of discussion this week in 2010. The first was the latest Wikileaks document release, which stirred ire from the president who was “considering” legal action as the DOJ tried to figure out how it could twist US law to charge Julian Assange. In the mean time, the government was putting the pressure on others to censor the site, convincing Amazon to refuse to host Wikileaks (though some pointed out Amazon seemed fine with not censoring pedophilia), telling students not to mention the site online if they wanted government jobs, and even blocking access to the site in the Library of Congress in an act of impressive denial. Of course, some were smart enough to see that this sort of freak-out was exactly the reaction Assange hoped to provoke, and that Wikileaks was not only inevitable but also critical to democracy. Even a few within the government were being rational.
The second incident was Homeland Security’s sudden seizure of a bunch of domain names that were supposedly dedicated to piracy. We immediately noticed a bunch of problems with the seizures and put together a list of five important questions for Homeland Security and its ICE division. Then more problems began coming to light, like the fact that some of the seized sites were popular hip-hop blogs used by artists to promote their own music and that the entire incident pushed the law to its breaking point. While explaining/defending the seizures, ICE more or less admitted that it gets its orders directly from Hollywood.
Both these incidents had something in common, too: they showed how private intermediaries get involved in government censorship.
Ten Years Ago
There was upheaval in the world of television this week in 2005. While Americans were showing their disapproval of government regulation of TV and the telcos were struggling to offer TV of fibre and Nielsen was finally admitting DVRs were a thing, the FCC made a surprise reversal and started supporting the idea of a-la-carte cable networks. Suddenly the lines were drawn: AT&T made a strategic play in support of the idea while cable televangelists emerged as an unexpected opponent, and Cablevision stepped out of line with a maverick a-la-carte endorsement of its own.
Meanwhile, the Sony rootkit scandal continued to unfold when it turned out Sony knew about the problem before anyone noticed it. But now the list of people who had noticed it included New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Some stores still had the CDs on shelves, though it wasn’t clear who was to blame, and it turned out Sony’s other copy protection software was similarly evil. A look way back at the beginnings of the rootkit revealed it was begged, borrowed and stolen by desperate programmers.
Fifteen Years Ago
It was a slow week in 2000, but we did see some early glimmerings of big change, like nascent experiments with voice recognition for mobile web surfing. Some plans didn’t pan out so well, like Hollywood’s top secret internet distribution schemes. Reporters were discovering that their web platforms give them power as customers, and Japan was discovering that simulated dating can be a hit. This was also the week that Opera, the other other browser, announced that it would become free.
Sixty-Seven Years Ago
It’s not particularly tech related, but how about a good unsolved mystery? It was on December 1st, 1948 that an unidentified man was found dead on a beach in Australia, with a bunch of bizarre details surrounding the death, like a scrap of the Rubaiyat in his pocket that was then linked to a book with strange ciphers written on it. Dubbed the Taman Shud Case or the Mystery of the Somerton Man, it remains a source of speculation and mystery to this day.