Weekend news round-up: Twitter boycott over trolls; tech firms need to stop moaning about skills crisis

6 Aug 2013

The defining tech news event of the weekend has had to be the boycott of Twitter in the UK over the need to clamp down on trolls who issue threats of rape and murder against female users who dare to express their views. Elsewhere in the tech world, cash-rich tech firms are being urged to quit whinging about the skills crisis and put their hordes of cash to good use in education.

Time to end online misogyny

The defining event of the weekend’s tech coverage has to be the boycott of Twitter in the UK over the attacks on female users by trolls issuing rape and bomb threats across the social network. Labour MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez have received death and rape threats in recent days, as the campaign of attacks on Twitter against women who highlight online abuse continues.

Writing in The Guardian at the weekend, Suzanne Moore summed up the feelings of many on the subject and called for more action from Twitter on the matter. “A conversation has begun that is a long way from over. Women – the majority of social media users – should not be subject to rape and death threats. And yes thanks, I know the difference between disagreement and a description of dismemberment. We want the company hosting these threats to be less lackadaisical and able to respond faster. We provide the content and can it take it elsewhere. There are other platforms out there and Twitter has felt past its peak for a while anyway.”

New invention could be a spy’s best friend

The New York Times tech blog reported on a new invention to come from a 27-year-old security researcher that involves placing a Raspberry Pi in a box with a lot of other sensors that simply scoops up tons of data by simply being near someone’s smartphone or tablet. Scary indeed.

The device is appropriately called CreepyDOL.

“It eliminates the idea of ‘blending into a crowd,’” the researcher Brendan O’Connor said. “If you have a wireless device (phone, iPad, etc), even if you’re not connected to a network, CreepyDOL will see you, track your movements, and report home.”

Stop whining, start investing

Henry Blodget of Business Insider had some interesting advice for Silicon Valley companies with embarrassingly large profit results bemoaning the ongoing skills crisis: stop whinging and do something about it.

“Instead of whining about a tech talent shortage while watching their mountains of cash grow ever higher, why don’t these big tech companies do something about it?

“Specifically, why don’t they invest some of their extra cash in educating and training more engineers?”

It makes sense.

Hashtag inventor goes back to the start-up grind

The hashtag has to be one of the defining symbols of our age. The inventor of the hashtag, Chris Messina, who invented the function in 2007, caused a stir at the weekend when it emerged he is leaving Google to work at a small bootstrapped San Francisco start-up called NeonMob, AllThingsD reported.

“Messina had found the six-person company online, and become fascinated with their efforts to establish the notion of an online art collection. He’ll be head of community and growth, starting next week.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years