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News seen on the web and about the web. From Monday to Friday at 8.20 am Paris time.

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Latest update : 2013-02-13

Online reactions to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation

We look at online reactions to the Pope’s surprise resignation. The Father of China’s "Great Firewall" feels the wrath of local web users. And authorities in Lithuania are to use Google Street View to clamp down on tax cheats.

Online reactions to Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation

Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation on Monday, saying he lacked the strength to fulfill his duties and will leave office on the 28th of February: web users from all over the world have been reacting to the bombshell and sharing their thoughts on the Pontiff’s unexpected decision.

Social networkers have been posting under the hashtag #PopeResigns, expressing surprise, even shock upon hearing the news. Web users have also been paying tribute to Benedict XVI, and everything he has achieved since his papacy began April 2005, they will be sorry to see him go.

The news has had a different effect on others however, and inspired some lighthearted fun. This Twitter user for example is wondering what one gives a retired Pope as a leaving present; this other micro blogger is wondering what sort of leaving party will be thrown for him. Others are questioning the official reasons and are wondering what really prompted Benedict XVI to step down, suggesting all sorts of unlikely scenarios like a sudden urge to become a film actor or a desire to make money from public appearances at talks all over the world, just like a great many former heads of state.

One can only wait to find out what he will do once he retires, but on social networks meanwhile speculation is rife over who the next Pontiff will be. Web users have been offering their suggestions, some more plausible than others, like Cardinal Turkson of Ghana or Manila archbishop, Cardinal Tagle.

China: Fang Binxing’s holiday greetings spurned

Fang Binxing is the principal of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, but he is best known for building China’s Internet censorship infrastructure dubbed “The Great Firewall”.

And when he posted his Chinese New Year greetings to social networks over the weekend, tens of thousands of netizens, exasperated with government control over the web, bombarded him with messages telling him to “go to hell”. The Beijing regime blocks access to a number of the world’s most popular sites, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, and uses a keyword system to filter content deemed sensitive.

It’s a nightmare for Chinese web users who have to try and skirt restrictions in order to freely browse the web, and many hold Fang Binxing responsible. They have nothing but contempt for him and he is regularly targeted by anti-censorship activists.

In 2011 for example, he was hit in the face when a student threw a shoe at him during a meeting at a university in central China. The act of protest made the student an online hero.

And more recently, a petition was started on the White House petitioning site calling for the architects of China’s Great Firewall to be denied entry to the US. The document has gathered 12,000 signatures so far, but remains far off the 100,000 required for Washington to officially consider the request. 

Lithuania: tax collectors turn to Street View to catch cheats

Tax collection authorities in Lithuania are to use Google Street View to clamp down on tax cheats. The American giant’s online street mapping service, which only recently launched in Lithuania, will help them identify the true value of property holdings as well land and property that has not been registered by its owners. It will also be used to examine buildings far from tax offices before deciding if further investigation is needed. 

Now trending on social networks

Even when in orbit around earth, Chris Hadfield remains very connected. Since he started his mission back in December, the Canadian astronaut has been sharing his experiences from the orbiting International Space Station online, often with a touch of humour. He has posted several videos showing him clipping his nails for example, or opening a box of peanuts. He has also posted numerous photos of earth seen from space on his Twitter feed: breathtaking, stunning shots that have set social networks abuzz. 

Video of the day

A spot of motocross in a Las Vegas casino, overcoming such obstacles as gambling tables and slot machines… here’s Gain Godfrey from the Nitro Circus team in action… and it's action packed and will no doubt prove very popular with bikers and other two wheeler fans.

By Electron Libre

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