Authors Announce Top Ten Digital Assassinations of 2012

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The Top Ten Digital Assassinations of 2012

The Top Ten Digital Assassinations of 2012 highlighted below are notable for underscoring relevant trends. “Some are dangerous and disturbing. Others amusing. A few are both”, stated Richard Torrenzano.

10. A New Kind of “Kill Switch”

Perhaps the greatest danger is the threat digital assassination will blur into actual physical assassination of large numbers of people by making infrastructure go haywire. In the aftermath of the malware attack that utterly disrupted Saudi Aramco in August, the U.S. Department of Homeland Defense warned that hacktivists and other groups are growing in their interest and skill in gaining control of industrial control systems.

9. Social Media Sickness

In the aftermath of this year’s saddest story from Newtown, Connecticut, wretched souls polluted the news stream with bogus social media posts rife with disturbing and misleading information purportedly from the police, and the shooter himself.

[Source: CBS News, 12/16/12]

8. Facebook Disclosure

In addition to all the starlets who are publicly humiliated because they somehow have not yet internalized the news that nude photos are like dandelions—they want to go everywhere—add Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who also might have disclosed too much. In fact, he might have made the day of some naked short traders.

Hastings told his 200,000 Facebook fans that Netflix viewing “exceeded 1 billion hours” of videos in June. The shares jumped 6.2 percent that day.

We can argue back and forth whether or not the information was “material.” The problem is that you have to be a “friend” to be in the know.

Perhaps the deeper issue: When will the SEC catch up to reality and adjust its regulations to explicitly include social media?

7. 47 Percent Less Likely to Win

Robin Williams observes that with so many cameras and cellphones floating around, “It’s not Big Brother any more. It’s Little Snitch.”

The list of people burned this year by Little Snitch would be a redundant replay of the year’s entertainment news.

The biggest victim of all was Mitt Romney, who, after being portrayed as rich and callous by President Barack Obama, did all he could to say, “I resemble that remark,” by telling an audience of rich donors that 47 percent of the American people are freeloaders. Not realizing that no remarks are private in the presence of Little Snitch, Romney’s snark was caught by a cellphone and in the end he received—you got it—47 percent of the vote.

6. Mindless Spiders

Sometimes, a digital assassination is not the result of a cunning adversary, but the result of a horribly insensitive juxtaposition from ad-spamming automatons.

Ying Ma’s memoir, Chinese Girl in the Ghetto, describes her family’s plight—their escape from Mao’s China, their efforts to make it in Oakland terrorized by gangs.

What ads do Google’s spiders link to her book on Amazon?

Girls in China—100s of Girls in China

Download Asian Teen Images for Free

She writes in The Weekly Standard:

When I first saw these, I winced. Then I realized that the words “Chinese Girl” must have caused Amazon’s ad technology to identify my book as a product that might appeal to people who also had a crass interest in Asian women.

She called for a “smarter, more discerning Internet.”

5. Tibetan Twitter Spam Pollution

The Twitter feeds of international activists concerned with China’s maltreatment of Tibet were temporarily disrupted by bots that polluted their feeds with spam—nonsense posts that repeated over and over. Russian democracy activists have suffered similar attacks—a childish form of interruption, like standing in the middle of a political debate and loudly shouting, “nah-nah-na-na-nah.”

4. Gingrich Goes Greek

A pro-Democratic SuperPac “Google-bombed” Newt Gingrich (substituting his search results with satirical results). During the primary, searchers who clicked on were sent to a Tiffany’s ad and travel agencies specializing in Greek Cruises. Incredibly, other major candidates also overlooked locking up their digital real estate.

One would have thought—given the longtime prominence of another Google bomb that linked another presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, to a scatological reference since 2003—that locking up one’s URLs in all reasonable permutations to prevent Digital Assassination would, by now, be Campaign 101.

[Source: Forbes, 7/18/12]

3. Oily Impersonators

The “Yes Men” activist trope staged a fake Shell Oil press conference in which a model rig went haywire and sprayed oil on a crowd of VIPs. While Shell was quick to deny ownership of the mishap—the prank acquired YouTube viral fame. Activists followed up with a look-alike digital campaign that had the look and feel of a Shell-branded “Arctic Ready” site, but with jarring propaganda (“Narwhals are the unicorns of the ocean. We provide the rainbows via oil slicks.”)

2. Burned Bagged

When WikiLeaks (which never seems to have the guts to go after a really dangerous target, like the Putin regime in Russia or the PLC) broke into Stratfor’s system, it found a wittily, but cynically, written “Glossary of Useful, Baffling and Strange Intelligence Firms” by the private, Austin-based intelligence firm.

Stratfor takes on the CIA: “Imagine the Post Office with a foreign policy.”

On the “craft” of intelligence, the Glossary says: “A man with good craft can go into a bar, meet a beautiful woman assigned to seduce him, get seduced and wake up in the morning with the woman working for him. That’s great craft.”

Funny, but not the best advertising for a firm that does business with the government. On the other hand, Stratfor says that some details of its’ material may have been altered or forged. Or could that be disinformation (see “Barium Leaks” under said Glossary)?

[Source: Time World, 2/28/12)]

1. Best Public Interest Hack

When Anonymous, the Hacker’s collective, went after the Assad regime, it found juicy advice from a press aide in advance of a Barbara Walter’s interview, telling the president’s office that “the American psyche can be easily manipulated,” and that President Assad should compare the mass murder committed by his forces to the action of New York police in evicting Occupy Wall Street. The president’s secure password? 12345. What, Asma doesn’t have a poodle with a cute name?

[Source:, 2/7/12]

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