Online reports of "Black Bloc” members joining protests in Egypt. Kenya’s online community working to ensure peaceful elections. And Kim Dotcom posts real time updates as his helicopter makes an emergency landing.
A "Black Bloc" emerges in Egypt
The Egyptian media and local web users covering the ongoing violence that erupted in several Egyptian cities over the weekend, have also reported the presence of a new type of protester joining the crowds of demonstrators: wearing hoods, covering the face, and generally dressed from head to toe in black; they belong to a “Black Boc” anarchist group, experts in destabilizing actions and misleading the authorities during rallies.
A number of people who took part in the recent demonstrations across Egypt have been posted about them on Twitter, claiming to have seen numerous young men and even some women, their faces covered, blending in with other protesters and quite openly admitting their affiliation to the “Black Bloc” movement.
And their presence is not only felt on the street, black bloc members also make great use of social networks to make a name for themselves and boost their reputation. A number of Facebook groups have been set up, identifying themselves as Egyptian branches of the Black Bloc movement and sharing pictures of their members in action. They also post messages warning the authorities they will make their life hell if they do not meet the expectations of the Egyptian people.
And although there is little information regarding their exact number, these Black Bloc revolutionaries have raised serious concerns online. This Twitter user for example says although members probably have good intentions, the tactics they employ will be more of hindrance than a help and will end up working against the revolution.
Kenyan bloggers click away to ensure peaceful elections
The people of Kenya will be heading to the polls on March 4 for the presidential and parliamentary elections, amid fears of outbreaks of renewed violence. Five years ago, inter-community violence brought bloodshed across the country following President Mwai Kibaki’s controversial re-election. Local bloggers developed an interactive map at the time, accessible to all, pinpointing reports of violence sent in by ordinary citizens via SMS or email.
The crowd mapping platform, "Ushahidi" which means witness in Swahili has since become a useful tool for NGOs and activists the world over. When Haiti was struck by an earthquake in 2010, an Ushahidi map was used by search and rescue teams to find survivors. The platform has also been used in Syria since the start of the uprising to document cases of sexual harassment.
And the system will be resuming service for the upcoming elections in Kenya, where access to mobile phones and the internet has become more widespread in recent years. The new platform will relay information posted to social networks. Dozens of volunteers will be analyzing and checking the information so that law enforcement authorities can coordinate their interventions as effectively as possible.
And researchers have also started monitoring social networks for hate speech or messages inciting violence. Back in 2007 SMS messages spread rumours at an astonishing rate fueling the post-election violence, and the team at Ushahidi is intent on preventing the same thing from happening again.
US researchers tracking flu through Twitter
Researchers in the United States have devised a way to track real time cases and the spread of influenza using Twitter. Scientists and computer specialists at John Hopkins University in Baltimore have been monitoring the micro blogging site for posts about flu, producing an algorithm that allows them to separate messages from people who have actually fallen ill, from simple tweets about flu. The researchers have tested their system, with success, by comparing their results with data from the health authorities.
Now trending on social networks
On Monday morning, Kim Dotcom was on his way to see New Zealand radio and television broadcaster Sir Paul Holmes when his helicopter encountered some technical problems forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in the middle of nowhere. The infamous founder of illegal download site Megaupload which was shut down by the FBI in January 2012, commented on the incident in real time, posting updates and photos to his Twitter account, which has some 280,000 followers. The pilot was able to fix the technical issue and Kim Dotcom was able to spend the day with his friend as planned.
Video of the day
Tommy Caroll is not just any skateboarder; he has been blind since the age of two. But as we can see in this video recently posted online, his disability has not stopped him practicing his favourite sport. The clip is available to view in its entirety on all good sharing sites and is a wonderful example of courage and determination.