How Social Media Has and Continues to Change Our World

Social Media History
Social Media History

How Social Media Has and Continues to Change Our World

Social media is such an integral part of our everyday lives today, we may not give much thought to how it developed and social media’s impact on our relationships and society in general. Grandparents use it to connect with grandchildren, employees make use of it to connect with potential employers, and couples use it to make romantic connections. We share our thoughts, pictures, videos, and far too often, our political beliefs. It brings us closer together and pulls us apart.

Where is social media today, how did it get here and what’s next?

A History of Social Media

Many understand Mark Zuckerberg’s involvement in Social Media with the introduction of Facebook of in 2004. There has been much written about Zuckerberg and even a major movie that chronicled Facebook’s development. Others will remember it’s predecessor, MySpace, which was introduced a year previously. Social media, however, has roots that precede even MySpace by eight years.

Depending on one’s specific definition of social media, the first site often credited with implementing aspects of social media was Classmates in 1995. Classmates allowed users to create their own profiles and friends lists. Others consider Six Degrees, which first debuted in 1997, as the first social media website. Its title was based on the six degrees of separation theory where we are all connected by six personal connections. While it quickly garnered millions of members, the internet was still relatively young. Six Degrees was ahead of its time and it would take a few more years before the internet’s infrastructure would catch up with the unbridled growth of social media.

Ryze, the precursor to LinkedIn was launched in 2001 with a focus on connecting members for career and business purposes. LinkedIn made its debut a year later in 2002. That was also the year Friendster came online.

The social media website hi5 began in 2003 and quickly grew to involve millions of users, mainly in Latin America and countries like Romania and Tunisia. The site still boasts over 100 million members.

Not all social media sites have been successes. One example is Orkut, which briefly made an appearance in early 2004. Orkut was launched by Google as an invitation-only site and never caught on. Yahoo!360 followed a similar path and suffered a similar fate. Yahoo!360 was also an invitation-only social media site. It launched in 2005 and was shut down in 2009.

Twitter and Instagram began to become widely accepted in 2010 and Google got it right in 2011 when it launched Google+. Today, social media platforms include YouTube, Reddit, VK, Tumblr, Pinterest Flickr, meetup, and a plethora of others.

Social Media History

The Current State of Social Media

Today, Facebook still rules the roost when it comes to social media. Mark Zuckerberg posted recently that the platform now has over 2 billion members. YouTube is second in monthly users with 1.5 billion. Twitter’s unique monthly users have reached 400 million, and Instagram is approaching 300 million. LinkedIn rounds out the top five with 250 million.

If there is power in numbers, social media is a force to be reckoned with. This was evidenced by the 2016 presidential election in the United States. There are still questions on if, and how, the election was influenced by Russian social media users, advertising, and websites. The U.S. President has grabbed the attention of the world with his almost daily tweets on Twitter. Everybody from members of Congress to late night television hosts have made their thoughts known on various platforms.

Careers are being made and others destroyed on social media. Live streaming has shown us crimes and even murders in progress. It has also provided an outlet for people to show abuses of law enforcement officers. Millions of dollars have been raised for good causes with the help of social media.

It has gotten to the point that much of the news of the day is filled not with what is going on in the world but what is going on in social media.

In the meantime, massive amounts of data is being collected from users who voluntarily make their data available via their favorite social media sites. This gathering of “Big Data” is what may ultimately, shape the future of social media.

Social Media History

Where is Social Media Headed?

There are generally three schools of thought when it comes to the future of social media. The first is that social media will continue to go on unbridled and to be self-governed by the companies who control it. When one considers the ramifications of this, it is hard ti imagine social media will continue to go along this path.

The second path is that social media will continue to grow but under more strict regulations, especially when it comes to matters of national security. One should keep in mind that in the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is already charged with keeping on eye on large segments of the media. There are regulations in place to monitor political advertising and being upfront with who is paying for the advertising. Many believe there will also be more steps taken to protect the personal information of social media users.

There is a third school of thought that users will recognize how much information and data they are voluntarily providing. They will tire of the constant bickering, shaming, and political posturing that is rampant today. Some feel large segments of social media users will seek alternatives. These alternatives may be more secure, less confrontational, and offer more privacy. They may or may not be in development now.

In recent years, there has been talk of social media “breaking the internet”. We may be getting to the point where the internet may just break social media. There are certainly some aspects of social media that are in need of attention.

Freedom of Speech, Hate and the Internet. Just What is Legal in the U.S.?

Freedom of Speech in America

Freedom of Speech in America

Freedom of Speech in America

Freedom of Speech in America – Just what is legal?

Much has been written and discussed recently about freedom of speech in the United States. For those who missed a few days in the fifth grade and for others who may be distracted by misinformation on social media, here is a primer on freedom of speech, how it relates to “hate speech”, the internet, and what is and isn’t criminally punishable in the United States.

The Constitution and The Bill of Rights

The original U.S. Constitution was written to outline the powers of the United States government following the revolutionary war. Keep in mind, this document was written in a time when a young United States was emerging from a war against the tyranny from a foreign government. There were those that had concerns that while the Constitution provided an outline for the government, it had no protections for the rights of its citizens. Before the Constitution was ratified, therefore, there were twelve amendments to the Constitution proposed to go along with it. Ten of those twelve received the necessary three-quarters approval of Congress and were passed as the “Bill of Rights”.

Many people think that freedom of speech is its own amendment. In reality, it is part of the first amendment that also protects freedom of religion, the right of assembly, freedom of the press, and the right to petition the government during a grievance. Freedom of speech is, of course, a key point in protecting these other freedoms.

The first amendment specifically states:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Bill of Rights only defines one crime, the crime of treason in Article 3. It doesn’t define hate speech as a crime.

First Amendment Court Cases

Throughout the years, the Supreme Court has ruled on many cases involving the first amendment which has provided more insight into how the courts view its protections. It is clear there are limitations to the freedom of speech, including:

  • Obscenities
  • Libel and Slander
  • Fighting Words
  • Child Pornography
  • Perjury
  • Blackmail
  • Incitement to Create Immediate Lawless Action.
  • True Threats

The court has repeatedly ruled that speech that makes people feel uncomfortable, is offensive or that is contrary to popular opinion IS protected. In other words, with the exception of when hate speech would involve a threat or become an incitement to lawless action, it is protected under the Constitution. In Europe, many countries have what is called” group libel laws” which can protect groups of people from hateful speech.

Freedom of Speech in America

Free Speech in Europe

Many Americans have a point of view that freedom of speech in Europe is similar to that in the United States but that is not the case. Germany, for example, has multiple laws regulating freedoms, including freedom of expression, that have their roots based in the post World War II era. Hate speech in Europe is generally not viewed as a critical freedom. Hate speech is often regulated in the interest of “harmony”. As terrorism becomes more common on the continent, more policies are being enacted throughout the Europe to limit freedom of speech and expression.

Free Speech and the Internet

Many believe that free speech rights extend to the internet but that is not necessarily true. Companies like Google have their own right to set guidelines for posting content on their websites. This is interesting in that today, major websites like Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have more control over your speech through their policies than the U.S. Government. These large corporations generally attempt to operate under the rules and guidelines in the countries they serve but that isn’t always the case. Many have at least have some form of “hate speech” which restrict what may be posted by users. Many of these companies use more of a European model when it comes to freedom of speech, which is more restrictive than the laws we have in the United States.

The power that some tech companies wield over free speech came into focus following the violence in Charlottesville, VA in the summer of 2017. Some tech companies shut down the websites of white-supremacist groups following the incident, raising the eyebrows of freedom of speech advocates. The companies ultimately stated that these websites “violated their terms of service”, allowing them to shut down the websites.

It is interesting to note that freedom of speech is not the only right we voluntarily give up when using the websites of some major companies. Each day we give up more and more of our rights to privacy, freely providing our personal information and even allowing internet-based auto and video recording devices into our homes. While these policies are spelled out, they are often buried in page upon page in the extensive user policies of these websites and devices. The reality is that very few of us thoroughly read these terms of service.

While some groups are aggressively pursuing the protection of our rights and liberties, many of us are simply signing them away in pursuit of convenience, better communication, and the desire for advanced technology.

Whats your opinion on Freedom of Speech in America? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below and if you know someone who might be interested in this article, feel free to share it. Click here for more Articles about Freedom of Speech

Catching Up With Bitcoin Value: Where’s It Been? Where’s It Going?

Bitcoin Value

Catching up with the Bitcoin Value!

Bitcoin Value

Catching Up With Bitcoin Value: Where’s It Been? Where’s It Going?

If you are a late-comer to the world of Bitcoins, don’t be alarmed. There are many who don’t understand how or where this digital currency made its way into our vernacular or our economy. If you’ve been following Bitcoins for years and understand their history and the reasoning behind them, feel free to take a break. This is for the people who need to catch up on what Bitcoins are, how they came into being, why they are perceived as having value, how they are being used today, and their potential purpose in the future.

A Quick History of Bitcoins

Bitcoins have a relatively short history, being first introduced in 2009. They were created as a cryptocurrency, basically a digital asset that is controlled by cryptography. More simply put, Bitcoin is digital money that its users agree to trade for things or services of value.

Bitcoins are earned or traded between users over a block-chain ledger. Block-chain is a network of computers worldwide, where each user is identified by their own address or “wallet.” Unlike traditional “money”, there is no central bank. Instead, users with access to the block-chain ledger verify who has how many bitcoins so the validity of transactions can be determined.

Both block-chain technology and bitcoins were created by a person or persons who went by the pseudonym of Satoshi Nakamoto. Transactions take place as follows:

  1. A transaction is created.
  2. The transaction is broadcast to the peer-to-peer block-chain network.
  3. The transaction is validated and bitcoins are transferred to the verified “wallet”.
  4. The “ledger” maintains a record of the transaction.

Bitcoins and block-chain technology work hand in hand although there are those who are using block-chain technology in more diverse ways.

How do Bitcoins Have Value?

In the early days of money, coins had value because the metal content in them had value. Today, that is generally not the case. A dollar bill is valued at a dollar because we all agree it is worth a dollar. The same is true for those who use bitcoins. Bitcoins have value because those who exchange them believe they have value. To add to the perception of “value” the creator of bitcoin had decided to cap the production of the digital currency to 21 million bitcoins.

You may ask. “If Bitcoins exist only in the digital realm, how is it possible for them to have value or be exchanged?” It is important to note that worldwide, most financial transactions today are already essentially digital. If you are paid through direct deposit, pay bills online, and use a debit card for day to day expenses, you are already trading in the digital realm.

The Rise and Fall and Rise and Fall of Bitcoin

For the first couple of years bitcoins were “collectible” mainly by techies and had little to no value. In 2010, a year after first appearing on the scene, a Jacksonville, Florida pizza shop sold two pizzas for 10,000 bitcoins. In early 2011, the price reached $1 per bitcoin, and soared to $31 by mid-year. By the end of the year it fell back down to $2, In 2012, the value slowly rose, rebounding to $13 by the end of the year.

The year 2013 was a remarkable year for bitcoins as it soared to $266 by mid-April, dropped to $100 by June, and then peaked at $1,232 by the end of November. In 2014, the price bounced between $340 and $1,000 throughout the year.

By 2015, bitcoins value had settled in to the $200-$500 range, and took another leap in value to $500-$700 through much of 2016. But few were prepared for the coming explosion in the value of bitcoins in 2017.

In January of 2017, the value of a bitcoin reached over $1,100 and was just getting started. In May and June the price soared to $2,000 and $3,000 respectively. In August, Bitcoin reached a new peak at $4,600 and briefly reached $5,000 in September. As of the fourth quarter of 2017, the price remained at over $4,000.

Those two pizzas in Jacksonville would be worth about $40 million dollars in today’s value for bitcoins.

Bitcoin Value Graphic

The Future of Bitcoin

Since 2013, Bitcoins have become increasingly accepted, helping to spur its growth and value. Today, many countries acknowledge it as currency and it is the most widely accepted crytocurrency on the planet. In the United States, the IRS refers to bitcoins as an intangible asset subject to taxation.

The cryptocurrency is not without its challenges. Because users store their bitcoins in “wallets” with pseudonyms, the precise identity of each is unknown. This makes bitcoins the perfect currency for nefarious activity, especially on the dark web. Another issue is that the value of bitcoins are extremely volatile and is constantly changing. This is challenging in a currency and even more risky as an investment.

The recent rises and falls in the value of bitcoins has people speculating once again whether bitcoins are the future of currency or a path to financial disaster. An article in USA Today noted two recent challenges to the future of Bitcoin. The first is that one of China’s largest Bitcoin exchanges is closing ahead of reports the country will order all of the cryptocurrency’s exchanges to cease operations. The second was a quote attributed to the CEO of JPMorgan Chase calling Bitcoin a “fraud” and stating that if any of his traders were found dealing in them they would be fired.

Never the less, the trading goes on and Bitcoin popularity continues to grow, especially in internet transactions. Keep in mind, this is a worldwide currency that has only been in existence for less than nine years, half of which it struggled in relative obscurity. If 2017 is any indication, the future of this particular cryptocurrency will be interesting to watch, even if from the sidelines.

OrangeWebsite accepts Bitcoin as a payment method for any and all of our services. For more information about us, please don’t hesitate to contact us here. If you found this article interesting or know someone who might feel free to share it using the social media buttons on your screen.

The Most Internet Restrictive Countries on the Planet

Most Internet Restrictive Countries
Most Internet Restrictive Countries

Top 10 Most Internet Restrictive Countries On the Planet!

Those who live in the United States enjoy exceptional freedom on the internet. Aside from the occasional 404 error, we are pretty much free to surf wherever we want. That’s not to say we should but we certainly have the opportunity. That’s not the case across the globe.

Freedom House is a non-profit organization that has been promoting freedom and democracy planet-wide since 1941. In an annual report on Freedom on the Internet, they found some interesting and somewhat eye-opening facts.

  • Over two-thirds of internet users live in nations where criticism of the government or ruling party is censored and/or punishable.
  • Arrests were made in 38 countries over social media posts in the past year.
  • In 2016, internet freedoms decreased globally for the sixth consecutive year.

In fact, when the Freedom House assessed the internet as a whole, they found only 24% of users had access that they considered a “free” internet.

How do countries restrict freedoms on the internet? They can use technology, blocking what the government believes are divisive or morally corrupt websites. They can essentially create their own national intranet, restricting access to global websites all together. They can also use legislation to restrict what is legal to post and follow up with fines or even prison time. Many monitor and track usage from those on the internet.

There is good news in that 14 countries involved in the survey actually improved internet freedoms, even if it was slight. The United States was among those 14. In fact, the U.S. scored 4th globally when it comes to freedom on the net. Here are the ten top-scoring countries.

  1. Estonia
  2. Iceland
  3. Canada
  4. United States
  5. Germany
  6. Australia
  7. Japan
  8. United Kingdom
  9. France
  10. Georgia

What countries are the most restrictive when it comes to Freedom on the internet? Let’s take a somewhat subjective look.

Most Internet Restrictive Countries

The Ten Worst Rated Offenders For Freedom on the Internet

The specific countries on the list may not be as much of a surprise as the extent they go to in implementing their restrictions.

  1. China – China aggressively monitors internet usage, filtering and redirecting searches, blocking websites and even “erasing” undesirable content. In 2015, the Chinese Wikipedia was blocked to citizens and more than 60 regulations currently restrict the internet. Users are often self-policed as the country creates an atmosphere that individuals are “being watched” when using the internet.
  2. Cuba – Cuba’s government controls the country’s internet access points and a special permit is required for use. The government-sponsored “internet” is highly restricted, employing IP tracking, keyword search term filtering, search history tracking, and emails are closely monitored. Only those friendly to the government have the ability to upload information. International visitors can access the world-wide internet but allowing locals access is illegal.
  3. Ethiopia – The Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Telecommunication Agency control all access in this African nation, including licensing internet cafes. Internet cafes must have all screens visible to the operator of the cafe so content can be better monitored. It is illegal to circumvent their national licensing program. Political dissent is virtually invisible online. Even VoIP services like Skype are restricted. Government surveillance is common and expected.
  4. Iran – Iran has an extensive amount of internet users, with recent estimates reaching approximately 50 million. These users, however, don’t have access to some of the world’s most popular websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Bloggers are required to register and using an email service outside of the government-sponsored one is not allowed. ISPs face heavy fines if they do not follow the government’s restricted list of blocked websites that includes over 15,000 sites that have been blacklisted.
  5. North Korea – While internet access is available in North Korea, only government officials and foreign visitors have access. The North Korean “intranet”, known as Kwangmyong, is available for the general population. North Korean access to the internet has become increasingly restrictive in recent years. The country itself offers very few websites with only about 30 such North Korean websites in existence.
  6. Pakistan – Following a contest on Facebook promoting the submission of drawings of the Prophet Mohammad, Pakistan put in place increasingly restrictive internet regulations and access, including blocking the popular social media website. The country uses Netsweeper type technology to filter both political and social content.
  7. Saudi Arabia – Saudi Arabia blocks hundreds of thousands of websites for what they claim are mainly cultural and religious reasons. Many suspect, however, that many sites are being restricted to re-direct users to government-backed websites to limit commerce outside of the country. Gambling and pornography sites are strictly banned and citizens are encouraged to report other “objectionable” websites. Apparently, much of the population doesn’t mind the censorship as it is estimated 1,200 websites are reported every day to the government.
  8. Syria – Syria controls internet access not only through blocking and filtering but by aggressively punishing violators with arrest. Bloggers who express anti-government sentiments may be arrested for putting national security in jeopardy. Users at internet cafes must show ID and have their usage monitored and reported. For over ten years, Syria has been noted as one of the planet’s worst offenders when it comes to internet freedoms.
  9. Tunisia – All of Tunisia’s internet traffic flows through a central data facility where uploaded material, emails, and personal data is monitored. While still restrictive, access has eased greatly since the Tunisian Revolution.
  10. Vietnam – The government of Vietnam requires large companies like Google and Yahoo to turn over information on bloggers to continue to be available in the country. The government also strictly controls information that may be considered anti-government or pro-democracy.

The next time you encounter a 404 error or a website you are trying to pull up takes just a few extra seconds to load, remember, it could be worse. While our internet freedoms could be better, they could be far worse. In some countries, they are.