The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.
It's a tough call which accidental placement of Mitt Romney's online campaign ads, as reported by the New York Times, is funnier: The irony of the same-sex marriage-opposing former governor unintentionally urging readers of Gay.com to "Join Team Mitt!" is pretty strong.
But in the end we're going to have to go with the Mormon family man, desperate for Americans not to perceive his religion as some kind of weird cult, advertising on FanFiction.net. In case you're not familiar, that's where users can write their own plots about their favorite fictional characters or read the work of others "including pornographic scenes between Harry Potter and Hermione Granger."
The Times chalks all this up to campaigns having very little idea what they're doing when they advertise online. It takes them until the ninth paragraph, but they do, inevitably, compare the Web to the "Wild West."
Romney isn't the only one to have trouble with online context recently. Earlier this year, Barack Obama removed an ad from an Amazon.com screen dedicated to the book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," which has upset Jewish groups who view it as anti-Semitic. He found out it was there only after he was contacted by The New York Sun.
A former aide to John McCain said he was surprised to see his candidate's ads show up on the Huffington Post. And an ad for Rudy Giuliani showed up on the DailyKos last week.
Politicians have decades of experience advertising on television, where they have reams of research to help guide them to the audiences they want. But things like the online "ad networks" that got Romney into trouble are new. But the Times suggests that the political sector seems to be learning the online media game much slower than their corporate peers.
According to Jon Gibs, a vice president at Nielsen Online, "Corporate media consultants don't make mistakes like this."
Yahoo Gets Congressional Scolding For Kowtowing To Chinese Government
Yahoo got a fierce public shaming before Congress yesterday for handing the Chinese government information that led to the imprisonment of a journalist, reports the Los Angeles Times.
At a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Yahoo's conduct in China, Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-Burlingame) "pilloried" Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Jerry Yang for providing the Chinese government with journalist Shi Tao's identity from his e-mail address in 2004.
"While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies," Lantos scolded. He asked Yang to apologize to Shi's mother, which he did, bowing three times.
Chinese authorities had demanded to know the owner of the Yahoo e-mail address from which a government memo had been forwarded to an international human rights group. The memo had forbidden news coverage of the anniversary of the Tianenmen Square massacre. After Yahoo disclosed the identity, Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for divulging what China considered a state secret.
In 2006, Yahoo officials testified before Congress that the company "had no information about the nature of the investigation" the Chinese authorities were conducting, but a Chinese police document made public last fall showed the Chinese government had told Yahoo the information it wanted was connected to "illegally providing secrets."
The controversy over Yahoo's testimony and its role in Chinese police investigations led the committee last month to approve the Global Online Freedom Act, which calls for fines of as much as $2 million for disclosing information that identifies a particular Internet user to officials from an "Internet Restricting Country" except for legitimate law purposes.
The bill faces tough opposition from large Internet companies, including Yahoo. Despite yesterday's bows and apologies, Yahoo does not support the legislation.
M.I.T. Has Second Thoughts About Frank Gehry's "Drunken Robots"
If you order up a building that looks like a crumpled can, chances are it's going to act like, well, a crumpled can.
So it's not exactly shocking to read the New York Times report that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is suing uber-ubiquitous architect Frank Gehry over his designs for the university's Stata Center, considering that the architect himself said the building "looks like a party of drunken robots got together to celebrate."
The lawsuit claims the $300-million building has "design and construction failures" that resulted in pervasive leaks, cracks and drainage problems that have required costly repairs.
But it is always fun to hear what Frank has to say for himself. In an interview, Gehry, whose firm was paid $15 million for the project, said construction problems were inevitable in the design of complex buildings.
"These things are complicated," he said. "And they involved a lot of people, and you never quite know where they went wrong. A building goes together with seven billion pieces of connective tissue. The chances of it getting done ever without something colliding or some misstep are small."
Especially, apparently, when there are drunken robots involved.
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