FTC Finds Explicit Content In The Virtual Worlds: Are Children Protected?

Parents can no longer trust child-oriented virtual worlds as being a safe haven for their children online.  Federal officials have recently declared that parents have to play a more active role in their kids’ virtual lives.  They said that a majority of these worlds failed to adequately protect children from explicit sexual and violent content.

In fact, this study has been congressionally mandated with the Congress tasking the FTC with looking into this matter.

The resulting report released by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) analyzing the policies and content of 27 virtual worlds revealed a lot of interesting information. The commission found 70% of the virtual worlds allowing access to objectionable material.

The researchers investigating on behalf of the agency registered in these virtual worlds as children, teens and adults.  They then recorded the explicitness of the content they found in those places by identifying it as low, moderate or heavy.

The FTC found at least one instance of either violence or sexually explicit content in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds they investigated.  Five of the virtual worlds were graded as displaying heavy amount of explicit content, four offered moderate amount, and ten showed lesser amount of explicit content. Continue Reading →
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How to be a Transparent Blogger, Keep Readers Happy, and Keep the FTC Off Your Back

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ESPN Seeks to Control Employees’ Tweets


How far should a company go to protect its brand? What aspects of the private, off-duty time of its employees can a corporation control in order to guard itself against those who would attempt exploit its trademark and sabotage its image? According to Jennifer Van Grove of Mashable (08/04/2009), the sports world seems to be on the front lines of brand protection from attacks via social media. Earlier this month, ESPN told its employees and players they are not allowed to post to Twitter about any topic other than ESPN when referring to sports. The fallout of the pronouncement came to a noisy, tense resolution after ESPN found it necessary to take to the Twitter boards to defend itself. In response to Van Grove's article, ESPN announced on Twitter it had revamped its original regulations regarding employees' use of Twitter and other social media. ESPN went on to explain its reasons for the latter declaration by asserting the company was engaging in brand protection. Other sports entities such as the Southeastern Conference and the National Football League have taken similar measures to protect their brands and trademarks, as well as the broadcasting rights of the television stations that transmit their sporting events. The SEC banned ticket-holders from using social media applications to post public updates of sporting events from within the event itself. Catalyzed by loud grumbling from fans, the SEC has come to a decision to permit brief updates via such social media applications as Facebook and Twitter. Live video will not be permitted. Continue Reading →
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BMW Quietly Seeking the Greenest Pastures


In a historic era when most car manufacturers are having to re-invent everything short of the wheel, BMW is quietly but stealthily creeping ahead as the luxury car of choice for the environmentally-conscious individual who can afford a BMW. Every car manufacturer in the country is pulling their hair out, just trying to stay in operation. Meanwhile, BMW is modifying its line of luxury sedans to accommodate the demands of a green-thinking consumer public. While some car companies are just trying to keep their businesses from being swallowed up by the federal government, BMW is modestly winning the battle to be the greenest car company around, and possibly setting the stage for a luxury car coup.

According to an August 26th article from Bavarian Motorsports, BMW has gone far above and beyond the required in its drive to reach the admirable goal of being one of the top earth-friendly car manufacturers. The company has taken noteworthy steps to reduce its non-recyclable output as well as its consumption of natural resources. By diverting a methane source near its South Carolina factory, the company is able to harness more than half the energy required to operate the quarter billion square foot plant. The feat will save the company a cool couple of millions of dollars a year and reduce toxic CO2 emissions to equate planting nearly 25,000 acres of trees a year. The corporation is making three quarters of a billion dollars in energy- and cost-efficient  improvements to the plant. Proactive steps are being taken to reduce water consumption and hazardous chemical waste production. BMW has the first sun-powered trash compactor in use in an automobile production factory in the United States.

According to its South Carolina plant's corporate website, the company's commitment to becoming increasingly self-sustaining has led to installation of machinery at the South Carolina plant that has affected a 16% increase in energy efficiency. The nod from the EPA only adds another feather in BMW's cap as recognition of its efforts in the clean-car initiative. The website of the South Carolina plant proudly asserts it recycles nearly all the scrap materials left over after the car manufacturing process. The company has ceased using Styrofoam and has instead begun to use a more earth-friendly padding material.

BMW supports environmental initiatives within the community as well. In South Carolina BMW provides corporate funding to support nature conservancies, cultural reinforcement programs, and wildlife federations. It employs corporate initiatives to promote funding for conservation education, as well as supporting education through grants and scholarships. The company annually awards individuals who show outstanding patronage for the state of South Carolina through proactive work preserving the indigenous culture, history and nature of the state. There is an on-site butterfly farm and numerous birdhouses across the campus. BMW has accomplished the safe preservation of the natural wetlands bordering the land around the South Carolina plant.

You can find more about automobiles and clean cars at professional freelance blogger Trina L. Grant's website. Check out her blog, Destination Freelance, for more samples of her writing.

Image courtesy sxc/pentond

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Ford Hoping to Put a Spark in the Clean Car Initiative

If you build them, they will need a place to re-charge. The race is on to build a car that will satisfy the environmentally-conscious and be family-friendly at the same time. Ford, ever on the forefront of car manufacturing, built its own version of the electric car. Now all the company has to do is figure out where to plug them in. It seems some very brainy person at Ford forgot to plan where the little roadsters are going to get more power from when they are out on the road or in otherwise less-than-ideal locations for charging the cars' batteries. Homeowners with garages and exterior electrical outlets might not be in quite the quandary as those who live in apartments. What about when people take trips away from home? Hence, Ford has to find charging stations. Or build them.

The cars are assembled, now they just need places to recharge. Someone has to pay for charging stations to be constructed. Thus there is a familiar paradox that often plagues the world of business and impedes progress. Someone has to put up the capital for the charging stations to be built, so consumers will feel secure purchasing an electric car knowing there will be readily accessible places where they can plug their cars in. However, no one wants to invest if they are not assured of a solvent return. Now is when we need some Bruce Wayne of the financial world to swoop in and save the day. Well, T. Boone Pickens and Warren Buffet don't exactly bring to mind Bruce Wayne, but they could probably afford to invest in something like electric car charging stations. Would it be worth it to them, though? Would there be cogent remuneration to justify their investments, or would some crazy event like, say, an oil strike in South America have Americans looking to the jungle to see if any relief from interminably high gas prices was forthcoming? Continue Reading →
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SEC Relaxes Regulations About Social Media at Sporting Events


There is a certain irony in watching two American passions, one old and one new, collide and find it difficult to co-exist. Such appears to be the case for social media and the Southeastern Conference. Considered the proud daddy of a handful of powerhouse football teams, the regional United States collegiate sports association has made its mark in university-level athletics, bringing names such as Paul “Bear” Bryant, Bobby and Terry Bowden, and “Shug” Jordan to mind. As devoted as Buckeye fans may think themselves to be, they have nothing on the beef-eating farm boys of Alabama who know the life histories of Jesus and Bear Bryant before they can walk. These die-hard fans wean their babies off the bottle with Georgia Bulldog sippy cups, while some proudly carry their Florida State handbags and wallets. They are serious about their sports. As such, they like to talk about the  SEC a lot. Lifelong season-ticket holders who proudly shout the latest results of the game from the tailgate party to the family member at home with a broken leg have embraced communications technology as a method of being able to exchange information about their team at a moment's notice from their bright orange telephones playing a blaring version of Tennessee's fight song. As Daniel Howell and Sean Garmer reported in College News on August 15th, ticket-holding fans of the Southeastern Conference can still have their phones at games and sports events, but they better not try to use the video camera on them.

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Reawakening an Old Issue for New Technology

The average internet user probably does not give a moment's thought to internet neutrality, or even know what it is, for that matter. It is an incendiary topic causing much fervor on Capitol Hill, in the recording industry and certainly in cyberspace. The most current controversy involves the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009, a proposed amendment to the outdated Communications Act of 1934, archaic legislation that essentially prevented publicly-funded radio from being used for commercial purposes.


Enter the political arena of the late 1990s when legislators began a major overhaul of the Federal Communications Commission. In 1996 began the first real attempt at major modifications of the original bill. The passing of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 began to open the doors for more free-market opportunities in communications. In 2008, Senator Edward Markly, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced more proposed legislation to the original bill of 1934. This proposed amendment contained provisions in it meant to appease opponents of the original plan from 1996. It would greatly expand the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission to cover data transmission by a vast array of media venues. The bill, called HR 5353: The Internet Freedom Protection Act of 2008, was introduced on February 12, 2008. The bill essentially prevented misuse of power by major internet service providers. Proponents asserted the bill would promote fair-market values in the exchange of data transmitted over the internet. The relatively short proposal was succinct and direct in its language, despite the shady areas of opinion of its validity as a plausible, cause-worthy statute. It sought to strengthen the Federal Communications Commission's control over internet data in addition to telephones, television and radio. Opponents cited risk of privacy invasion and the breakdown of capitalism, charging the bill would block the fair market system by putting a strangle-hold on the rights of telecommunications companies to offer exclusive deals to certain advertisers. By June of 2008, the Recording Industry Association of America had voiced its own concerns about piracy in a written letter to Congress that resulted in Senate Hearings on the matter. Despite their concerns, the RIAA was still in full support of the bill. Unfortunately for Senator Markly, the bill failed.

Not to be dissuaded from his cause, Markly began another round of bargaining when he introduced yet another bill proposal on August 1, 2009. The newest bill, and the source of all the current controversy, is HR 3458, otherwise known as the Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2009. The amendment proposes legislative restrictions on internet companies to prevent them from slowing competitors ads on their site, or blocking them all together. Supporters of the amendment assert the protection of capitalism and free market enterprise. This time, Markly has made a few concessions to the amendment, in order to appease opponents of the bill and hopefully change their minds and garner their support. Markly hopes to convince his naysayers passing the bill is a matter of protecting our right to freedom of speech. Opponents say constitutional law covering freedom of speech only covers rights being threatened by the government, not disagreements in business practices. The main point proponents of the bill wish to emphasize is the role of the internet as a part of our integral infrastructure, as important to our continuity as a society as electricity and roads.

The question becomes, then, what is the the extent of the importance of the internet in our lives? How essential to the survival of our society has the internet become? Has the internet, to so much a degree unstoppable (YouTube anyone?), become such a gargantuan entity in and of itself that it no longer falls under the same jurisdiction as other media venues? Will the feds have to move over and let the cyber-geeks drive once the controls are too complicated for politicians to operate?

Trina L. Grant is a professional freelance writer and editor. You can find more samples of her writing as well as more information on legislation and communications on her blog, Destination Freelance and her website.

Image courtesy sxc/fumes

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Wikipedia A Thief?


Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, is without a doubt accepted as one of the most amazing sources of information on the internet. This is where people turn to for any information they need. The English language version was brought out in 2001 and has experienced great popularity since then.

But over the years, Wikipedia has had its share of controversies. There have been academics who deemed suspect some entries, as it is an encyclopedia that can be edited by anyone. Many feel that just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many contributors/editors can also confuse the information.

Wikipedia has fought many battles and the latest one is from Britain’s famous art gallery’s website, “National Portrait Gallery (NPG).” They have threatened to take legal action as they claim that images from their website have been uploaded to Wikipedia. In response to this, the online encyclopedia has accused the National Portrait Gallery of betraying its public service mission.

An image of the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I looks on amusingly from the art gallery and now also the Wikipedia pages, as the two adversaries battle for rights hundreds of years after she was painted. The fact is that 3,300 high-resolution images from the gallery have been uploaded to Wikipedia in April, by a Ph.D. student and volunteer from Seattle, Derrick Coetzee, and the gallery is not too happy with that.

The gallery founded in 1856 said it needs to recoup the 1 million pounds cost of digitalization program and threatened legal action. The gallery has ordered a well-known law firm to sue Coetzee unless the pictures are removed. Gallery officials say that although, the portraits are not in copyright, the photographs are and that they spent around £1m to create high resolution images, which therefore require a license fee. They say Wikipedia has not responded to their letters. Continue Reading →
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Scrapping Of Textbooks – Is This The Right Move?

In what way are bankruptcy and school textbooks related? In a big way, says the Governor of California.

Just the thought of our kids not carrying textbooks to school can be quite scary, as we have over the centuries, gotten used to associating textbooks with education. Textbooks are part of our lives and are considered indispensable – at least until now. Of course, for school-going kids, this could just be their dream coming true – NO MORE TEXTBOOKS!

Now, Arnold Schwarzenegger jokingly says, “I can use these for the (bicep) curls.” Announcing that California will initiate the process of going digital, he said, “Textbooks are outdated, in my opinion. For so many years, we’ve been trying to teach the kids exactly the same way.”

The excessive cost of textbooks is said to be a huge burden on a student who is already paying the cost of education. The average student spends hundreds of dollars on textbooks each year.

It is estimated that California spent about $350 million on textbooks alone last year. With California running out of cash with the $24 billion budget deficit, authorities figure this is one way of tackling the issue. The throwing away of textbooks might just be what the state needs to avoid bankruptcy.

California is the first state in the United States to begin using digital textbooks instead of the “paper” variety, and the Governor feels that this will save hundreds of millions of dollars. With the average cost of a textbook being anywhere from $75 to $100 each, their digital version is going to cost much less. Continue Reading →
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The Benefits of Using SaaS Instead Of An Antivirus!

The anti-virus market which started off slowly, has seen a remarkable growth in the past few years and gave rise to new technologies, to cater to the ever changing user needs. It has transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry with hundreds of companies making the foray into this market, and creating all types of anti-virus products.

The reason for this huge growth is the new threats and malware that keep cropping up on an almost daily basis. An anti-virus product of today may prove to be inefficient tomorrow, creating a new demand. In fact, most vendors find it difficult to keep up with the different viruses that keep surfacing.

This is very clear from the fact that in spite of the numerous anti-virus products out there, there still are so many security incidents that take place, including high-profile ones. The Identity Theft Resource Center, an organization that tracks incidents where confidential information has been compromised, recorded that these incidents have doubled in the first quarter of 2008.

It is also seen that the market that is most affected by these security issues is the small and medium business sector. The problem with these businesses is their small budgets. They cannot afford to have the resources needed to implement and manage a high-security environment, with intricate anti-virus systems in place. Continue Reading →
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