Weekly Digital News Roundup: Nov 12 – Nov 16
Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year Is Not a Word
- According to Newsweek, last year it was vape. The year before that, it was selfie. Every year since 2004, Oxford Dictionaries has selected an official word of the year which, according to its Monday press release is “a word or expression chosen to reflect the passing year in language.” This year, candidates included lumbersexual, on fleek and refugee, but the winner turned out not to be a word at all, at least not in the traditional sense. Instead, Oxford Dictionaries chose an emoji whose verbal description is “face with tears of joy.”
- Casper Grathwohl, president of Oxford Dictionaries, said “Emojis can serve as insightful windows through which to view our cultural preoccupations, so it seemed appropriate to reflect this emoji obsession by selecting one as this year’s ‘word’ of the year.”
- To determine which emoji would be named “word” of the year, Oxford partnered with SwiftKey, the mobile technology company behind the SwiftKey Keyboard app. According to SwiftKey research on emoji usage, the “face with tears of joy” emoji was the most commonly used around the world this year. “The Face With Tears of Joy emoji has been in the top 10 emojis viewed on Emojipedia for the entirety of 2015,” Emojipedia founder Jeremy Burge tells Newsweek via email. “Even with new emojis like the Hugging Face entering the top 10, the laughing-crying emoji seems to be a crowd favorite.”
ISIS reaches new level of sophistication with tech-support ‘help desk’
- According to Mashable, the Islamic State (ISIS) is now an international organization with many layers of complexity and logistical demands. And like any sprawling organization with a digital presence, it needs tech support. According to an NBC News report, ISIS staffs a “24-hour Jihadi Help Desk” designed to support its myriad activities, including but not limited to carrying out terror plots like Friday’s attacks in Paris.
- The help desk members, roughly six jihadists, “answer questions from the technically mundane to the technically savvy to elevate the entire jihadi community to engage in global terror,” counterterrorism analyst Aaron F. Brantly told NBC News. It’s not an entirely surprising revelation when you consider the level of coordination and planning necessary to carry out coordinated attacks like the ones in France. Most analysts now believe that ISIS is using end-to-end encrypted technology for communications, although there are early signs that the planning around Paris also used unencrypted messaging.
- In any case, encryption won’t make a difference if ISIS members do not understand the tools, or if they have issues with their smartphones or forget their passwords. In that respect, their need for tech support is not much different from most people’s. The existence of a help desk gives further credence to the idea that ISIS is using sophisticated and encrypted tools — and instead of relying on individual members to use those tools properly, it has established best practices and centralized tech support.
Operating a music piracy site gets man three years in prison
- According to the Washington Post, Rocky Ouprasith, the operator of a major music piracy site, RockDizMusic.com and RockDizFile.com, was sentenced to three years in prison Tuesday. RockDizFile.com was the second-largest online file-sharing site specializing in pirated music in the United States in 2013, according to the Recording Industry Association of America.
- Federal law enforcement shut down the sites in October 2014, and Ouprasith pleaded guilty to one count of criminal copyright infringement in August. In addition to a 36-month prison term, he will also get two years of supervised release, forfeit over $50,000 and pay nearly $50,000 in restitution, according to a Department of Justice press release.
- As part of his guilty plea, Ouprasith admitted that he obtained digital copies of copyrighted songs and albums online and encouraged others to do the same, then used the music files to populate overseas servers. Visitors could download music via hyperlinks on his sites and Ouprasith made money through online advertising agreements and by selling subscriptions offering faster downloads. He also admitted to ignoring complaints or merely pretending to remove content when copyright holders complained in some cases. Ouprasith didn’t appear to do much to hide his association with the sites. According to a statement of facts connected to his plea agreement, he listed himself as the owner of RockDizMusic.com on his LinkedIn page and conducted business through a company called RPO Productions that was incorporated in North Carolina.