Thursday, 17 May 2012

Weibo - What Do You Know About It?

If you've recently downloaded the latest version in the series of “Angry Birds” games, ‘Angry Birds: Space’, then you may have noticed that during the level select stage, there is an option to share on Facebook & Twitter, but there is also a new option – to share on Weibo.

I'd never heard of this site before and, after some research, it's likely that you haven't either if you're reading this from anywhere other than China. I found that Weibo is in fact a Chinese Micro-blogging website, similar to Twitter. However, the only language it's available in at the moment is Chinese, though if you were to visit the site and use Google's “translate” feature, you'd see a very poorly translated English version:

 So why has the creator of Angry Birds, Rovio, bothered including an option for English speaking people to share on a Chinese website? Well, to understand that, you'll need to know a little more about Weibo.

A basic version of Sina Weibo, otherwise known as simply “Weibo” (微博) was launched by SINA Corporation on 14 August 2009 after Sina's CEO saw an opportunity after websites such as Facebook & Twitter had been blocked in China following the Ürümqi riots in July 2009.

The basic functions of this new site only included messages, private messages, comment and repost where possible, but was so successful that the site continued to expand, and, as of February 2012, had more than 300 million users. It also has plans to launch an English version of Sina Weibo, to grow worldwide, however the contents will still be controlled by Chinese law.

Like Twitter, Weibo uses many of the same features, such as users only updating posts with a 140 character limit, and talking to other users using the “@UserName” format.. However, unlike Twitter, unregistered users can only browse a few posts by verified members (normally verified users are, like on Twitter, famous people who have proven their identity), and cannot see ANY posts by unverified members including those sent to verified members. Also unlike Twitter, Weibo is moderated.

So, although this seems like a nice idea in theory, the site will still have to abide and be controlled by Chinese laws in which users are not allowed freedom of speech. Weibo and many websites like it in China are heavily monitored as the internet has been censored in China, and has the largest recorded number of imprisoned journalists and cyber-dissidents in the world. It is rumoured that there are over 30,000 members belonging to secret policing organisations to not only monitor and block website content, but also monitor the internet access of individuals. The following is a list of rules for anyone (including tourists) wishing to access the internet in China to follow:

“No unit or individual may use the Internet to create, replicate, retrieve, or transmit the following kinds of information:
  1. Inciting to resist or breaking the Constitution or laws or the implementation of administrative regulations;
  2. Inciting to overthrow the government or the socialist system;
  3. Inciting division of the country, harming national unification;
  4. Inciting hatred or discrimination among nationalities or harming the unity of the nationalities;
  5. Making falsehoods or distorting the truth, spreading rumours, destroying the order of society;
  6. Promoting feudal superstitions, sexually suggestive material, gambling, violence, murder;
  7. Terrorism or inciting others to criminal activity; openly insulting other people or distorting the truth to slander people;
  8. Injuring the reputation of state organizations;
  9. Other activities against the Constitution, laws or administrative regulations.”
- Wikipedia

For these reasons, I'm not sure whether or not opening a Weibo site for English users would necessarily be a good idea, or even take off in Western countries such as the UK, since people generally don't like being told what they can/can't post in their “private” online space. The majority of my Facebook & Twitter feeds are regularly full of quite a few things on the above list, and if users were forced to comply with Chinese law on a moderated site I'm not sure if disobeying the rules would end up resulting in legal consequences.

Thanks for reading, I think maybe we'll just have to wait and see what happens with this site, but i'd love to know your thoughts on this too!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

ForMums Chiswick

Hi all,

Well things have been picking up in work recently, we've had quite a few schools interested in working with us, and we've also had some positive feedback from! was set up by a Chiswick mum and is a “unique directory of information for Chiswick mums with children of all ages, from bump to leaving home. Covering activities, classes, children's services, shopping, events and more, it's everything a Chiswick mum needs to know!”

Looking around the site, it's clear to see that it really does have everything a Chiswick mum would need to know, it's a professional and dedicated resource centre! It includes sections on children’s parties, kids’ activities, sport, education and a detailed shopping guide to local outlets.

The ForMums “Feature” section is particularly useful. It contains a monthly item called “Introducing...” rwhereForMums will introduce a business or services for parents (e.g. local fitness centres such as The Park Club) & children (e.g. Gymboree Play & Music), which they think will really add to the local community. It also has its own blog which provides information on activities in the local area, such as skiing, fetes, ideas to keep the kids entertained during school holidays and also helpful advice such as “Baby on a budget”. The latest post informs parents about various ways of reducing the cost of bringing a newborn into the world, which is very handy as I know how the cost soon adds up. I was shocked when one of my friends told me last year she was having twins, and after she showed me some of the items she had to buy – obviously being double the cost, I decided that I should probably start saving...five years ago!

One of the ways in which you can help to reduce the cost in bringing up a child, is to buy items second hand. The site offers a section called “Pre-Loved” where local mums can register (which is free) and advertise the items they want to sell/buy. Items include:
  • Clothes
  • Equipment
  • Furniture
  • Indoor Toys & Hobbies
  • Maternity
  • Outdoor Toys & Hobbies

To add to the community spirit, there's a member newsletter which is currently sent to over four-hundred mums to keep them informed of information and events in the area. There's also a Community section, where local mums can look for and request help and advice on a range of topics from pregnancy to teenagers, and work to holidays and travel. This is really useful as it provides information that is localised to the area such as the going rate for babysitting in Chiswick. It also has a nice feeling of empathy as its members are able to convey their thoughts to people in similar situations to themselves – almost as friendly agony aunts!

All in all, I think it's a very good site, and it's nice to see such a dedicated team providing this information too. Even if you're not from Chiswick, it's still worth having a look as you still may find some good ideas for activities to do with your own kids!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Are you committing a crime by sharing the things you love? My research into Pinterest

I've recently heard about a fairly new social website called Pinterest & also heard that they are having a few potential legal problems regarding copyright issues.

What is Pinterest?

Currently, you can only gain access to use the site by receiving an invite from a current member or requesting an invite to be placed onto a waiting list by the website itself.

The theory behind the site seems pretty good; you have the option to add images from web pages you visit by “pinning” them to your virtual board to create collages of things you love. E.g. you can create a collage to help plan a wedding or ideas to decorate your home.

So what's the problem?
Well, websites such as Flickr are comprised of users who upload photos they have taken themselves. Users on Pinterest who are browsing through Flickr may see a picture they like and pin it to their board without having the photographers’ permission.

After two days my request for an invitation to join Pinterest was accepted and I was sent an email inviting me to join. Once I'd signed up by linking my Facebook account, I was told that I was automatically following other users who were on my Facebook list that were also members. I performed a quick search on the site for “dreadlocks”. Even though I combed mine out, I still admire them (I’m even considering getting mine back in the near future but i'm still undecided!).

 The search returned quite a large result for images that other users had recently pinned. The image I've circled above is of a regular person whose image gets banded around a lot on the Internet – particularly when dreadlocks are involved. She is from Denmark and goes by the alias of Galapril. She takes her own pictures herself and posts them onto her blog or her Facebook page where they are forwarded on.

Like hers and many of the other images I discovered on that search, they are professionally taken and have more than likely been used without the owner’s consent. Although Pinterest should be covered by Copyright Law in the same way that websites such as Facebook & Twitter are protected from being sued if their users share copyrighted material, it may be excluded as none of the sources of the pictures are being informed that the images are being shared unlike it's predecessors.

In the eyes of the law, Pinterest may be similar to illegal peer-to-peer file sharing software such as LimeWire, Kazaa etc. in that the people sharing the music/video files have not asked the original owners permission to distribute the media for free of charge. While images shared on Facebook are not necessarily always direct from the owner, a disclaimer when trying to upload images states that they must be your own and not copyrighted in any way, if anyone wants to share your photo, then you're notified and if you want to limit who can see and share your uploads then you can change your options too – from friends, to public or even customise a list so only preferred contacts will be able to see your activity.
*image taken from Google images

 Pinterest however, does not currently have that option; users are free to roam the Internet to find their own pictures to add to their boards to show other Pinterest users.

It seems like the owners are trying to work on solving this issue though, as they've introduced a “Pin Etiquette” for their site, created a copyright policy where copyrighted images can be reported and removed and they have also introduced an opt-out button for Flickr users should they want to protect their own images.

This quiz from website shows just how easy it can be to accidentally commit a crime on the Internet without realising.

I hope you've found this information useful and maybe I've even educated you a little (I certainly learnt a few new things myself!). Why don't you take a look for yourself & test your knowledge on this subject?


Monday, 27 February 2012

SafeSearch settings, are they really that safe?

If you've got children who can access a computer, then you more than likely have SafeSearch settings on search engines such as Google or Yahoo set to “Strict” which will filter out any adult content. Theoretically anyway.

The search filters work by searching for key words linked to the image when performing a search, however if there aren't any objectionable words on the website where the image is stored then the filter will not work and adult images will be shown. For example:

I typed “fox” into Google with the SafeSearch settings set to strict and as expected, I was shown pictures of foxes, however I was also shown images of the actress Megan Fox:

Not too bad, but on page 8:

I also tried the same search on Yahoo with the search settings also set to strict which should filter out adult content. The results were worse:

I also tried the same search settings with the word “melons”:

I can’t actually show you the “SafeSearch” results for Yahoo as they’re not safe for work, but I’m sure you get the idea. However if you do want to see how bad it can be, have a search around for yourself with different words.

There is an option to report the inappropriate pictures which is demonstrated in this video:

 However not all images are guaranteed to be removed.

So is simply relying on SafeSearches (which many parents do) enough to protect your children from seeing inappropriate content online? Even if you wanted to check what they were looking at after using the computer by checking the internet history, you’re likely to not realise if they are. Admittedly though, you’d probably realise something wasn’t quite right if you had quite a few page views of “melons”. Obviously, you can’t sit with your child every time they’re using the computer but you can try to keep on top of what they’re doing to keep them safer online. Here are a few useful tips & warning signs to look out for:

  • Keep the computer or laptop in a communal room and if possible, in an area which is easily viewable by you. Be aware if they quickly close or minimise windows when you enter a room or walk nearby and question the reason why.
  • Turn the internet off when everyone should be in bed.
  • Set up parental controls through your admin account on your PC so that the computer will limit internet usage for your child’s account during specific hours – you can also choose to prevent them from playing on certain age restricted games etc.
  • Use pop-up blockers for your browser to stop children being able to click through to other sites.
  • Be aware of ALL computers your child has access to – including smart phones and check them every once in a while – make them aware that the same rules apply to those as when using a regular PC.  
  • Check your child’s internet history frequently – if it is being deleted often then question why
  • Still make use of SafeSearch settings but sit with your child when looking for vague search phrases or explore the idea of lettings them use child friendly search engines such as AskKids or KidsClick.

I hope you’ve found some useful information here. I may look into the parental controls for PCs in my next post – thanks for reading!


Monday, 13 February 2012

Back In My Day...

I've found myself saying this more and more lately, (in fact, i'm starting to get on my own nerves – i'm only 22!) the way technology is advancing and the amount of different ways people can communicate with each other is getting crazy!

I suppose, if I think it's bad for me, I can't fathom how different everything is for my parents since they were younger.  back in their day:

There were no emails, just letters, so if you  happened to do something wrong and wanted to tell a friend about it, then that would be the only convicting evidence you'd have. There were no camera phones, or digital cameras so if there were ever any inappropriate photos taken, they would most likely only stay with the intended recipient – it would have taken more of an effort to try and get copies to pass around!

I recently watched a programme on BBCthree called “Websex: what's the harm?”, it's no longer available on the iPlayer, but i'm sure there will be clips on YouTube or somewhere on the internet as most things are these days (see, there I go again!). The programme followed Nathalie Emmanuel (@missnemmanuel) as she investigated the youth culture's attitude towards online sex and also a trend among young people called “sexting”.

Nathalie spoke to one young girl who said that she had been picked on in school because of her looks, and although she was a naturally pretty girl, it still knocked her confidence significantly. The only place she found solace was online where she could meet new friends and boys would tell her that she was beautiful. Talking online with someone can sometimes create a false feeling of security with another person and over time this can develop into the passing on of phone numbers and this is generally where sexting occurs.

Sexting is worrying trend that more and more young people are taking part in. It involves sending illicit messages or photos/videos of yourself to share with another person. Sadly, more and more young girls are sending these sort of images to new boyfriends only to split up a few weeks later and then the image is passed on (if it hadn't already been) to others or even posted online. Once online the images can be very difficult to remove.

Uploading images and videos to websites aren't just exclusive to mobile phones either, Nathalie also visited a lady who makes a living out of “performing” on webcams and she explained that on quite a few occasions, she has found her performances on pornographic websites without any knowledge she was being recorded. There are certain software programmes available to download, which records the screen without the person you're video chatting to knowing they are being filmed.

A lot of children will end up stumbling on websites such as ChatRoulette with their friends as a bit of fun or even just chatting with their new online friends via webcams. The danger of this can be explained with this video:

The young girls in this video wouldn't have known that they were being filmed, and thought they were genuinely talking to their idol, Justin Bieber – however this was just a loop of film.
This could be potentially done with anyone though. What if the purpose of the loop of film wasn't just for a laugh? What if it was being used to trick young kids into doing other things on webcam by pretending to be someone else? As seen in the video above, the whole thing can be recorded and posted online for everyone to see. Sometimes there are dedicated websites to these sorts of videos, although they're normally disguised as something else.

Last year CEOP took down a paedophile ring who were doing just that:

I know I seem to be repeating myself a lot on these blogs at the moment, but the only way to tackle problems like these with your kids is to be a lot more active within their online lives as well as their offline lives. 

  • Keep internet use confined to a family room if possible, or turn internet routers off during times when they are supposed to be in bed to limit their activity. 
  • Check what websites or programmes your child are visiting or using so you can monitor their use and check their friend lists if possible. Some programmes such as Skype will also keep a log of messages sent and received as well as any video calls sent/received. Check these regularly to see who your child is chatting to and the content (bear in mind they may use acronyms so visit my other post to see a list of common acronyms used).
  • Chat to your kids and explain the dangers of whatever they do online can be seen by more than the intended recipient and can be very difficult, if not impossible to remove.

For more information on ways to speak to kids of different age groups about this subject or for other hints and tips to keep your kids safe online – visit CEOP's ThinkUKnow website.

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Safer Internet Day 2012

 Hi all,

Just a quick post to mention Internet Safety Day (SID) which will take place on the 7th February 2012.

The day has been organised by The UK Safer Internet Centre which is co-funded by the EC and brought to you by a partnership of three leading organisations, Childnet International, the South West Grid for Learning and the Internet Watch Foundation. CEOP's is helping to raise awareness to this day via their ThinkUKnow website and it's aim is to educate parents about how to keep their kids safer online. The ThinkUKnow website will host The Parents & Carers Guide to the Internet and will have interviews from experts including Dr Tanya Byron and Dr Linda Papadopoulos, industry players like Facebook and Moshi Monsters and, most importantly, children themselves - this guide aims to answer all of the tricky questions parents may be afraid to ask. It will be a short TV style programme which will be a light hearted and entertaining approach to show what it's like bringing up kids in today's online world.

A new page has been launched for parents on the ThinkUKnow site too which can be found here:  it has new content and from 7am on the 7th of February will also contain the new video guide mentioned above. (The video can also be found on CEOP's YouTube channel too at ).

If you have any questions you want to ask the CEOP team – you can do so by posting questions via their facebook page ( or by joining the conversation on twitter by using #parentsguide between the hours of 6pm and 9pm.

Hope to see you there!


Thursday, 2 February 2012

CEOP – What do they do?

As CEOP has provided support and advice for the company I work for and are all over the flyers and leaflets in work, i've often wondered what exactly it is they do, I thought i'd create a post while I found out!. Although I've heard of CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) as it's a pretty well known name now e.g. i've heard it quite a lot on the news, I don't know a great deal about them, apart from when they were in the news a year or two ago, trying to persuade websites such as Bebo & Facebook to install “panic buttons” on their webpages, and i'm sure many people have roughly the same amount of knowledge.

CEOP's main objective is to eradicate the sexual abuse of children. The organisation consists of police officers who have specialist experience of tracking and prosecuting child sex offenders and are working towards their objective with seconded staff from organisations such as the NSPCC, sponsored by companies such as VISA and SERCO as well as experts from government and corporations such as Microsoft who offer specialist advice and guidance.

CEOP's work is far more in depth than just tracking convicted and potential sex offenders both at home and abroad though, they study how offenders operate and think, how children and young people behave and how technological advances are developing. Which is well needed in today's modern world.

As i've already mentioned (and this may also be how you've heard of CEOP),  A “ClickCEOP” panic button was created to help protect vunerable kids online which has been installed on several websites that young people use including, Facebook, Bebo to name a few. The idea first came from CEOP's former CEO Jim Gamble who called for the panic button to be installed in March 2010. The idea behind it is that if a child felt uncomfortable or at risk online, they could simply click a button and it would be reported to the police via their ThinkUKnow website where it could then be investigated by police officers.

So what actually happens when the button is pressed? Well...


CEOP first came together in 2006 and there's no denying that the work they continue to do is invaluable, just take a look at these statistics:

CP = Children Protected due to the help of CEOP
A = Arressts made thanks to intelligence passed on from CEOP
SO = High risk sex offender networks disrupted and dismantled. 

Looking forward, CEOP has three priorities this year:

  • Prevent – to make it more difficult to exploit children.
  • Protect – Identify and safeguard children who are at risk.
  • Pursue – Identify offenders and stop or disrupt their activity.

And they will also be dealing with six high threats this year which is what they will be mainly focusing on:
  •  How children behave online which is putting them at risk online.
  •  Children who are particularly vunerable to abuse.
  •  Use of developing technology by offenders and those who are vulnerable
  •  Offenders who exploit children
  •  Offenders who make, distribute or access child abuse material; and 
  •   The trafficking of children. 

If you would like to know more about CEOP then visit their website. It has information on Most Wanted lists and the child sex offender disclosure scheme.

This website contains information for parents, carers, teachers and trainers, but it also contains useful information for different age groups of kids too. The 8-10 section has information about how to stay in control on different devices that many young kids have today, such as mobiles and online games. It's worth a look if you're a parent too – just to keep yourself updated!

Hope you've found this post useful. Thanks for reading! CEOP are also hosting a “Safer Internet Day” on the 7th of Feb 2012, so i'll be looking into what they've got planned in my next post.


NB: CEOP suggest that if a child is in immediate danger and anyone is concerned then they need to contact 999.