Scientologists’ tweet campaign against ‘Going Clear’ movie was laughably clumsy

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It’s well known that the Church of Scientology takes a “fight fire with fire” approach to people who criticize it, and in the face of the church’s damning portrayal in Alex Gibney’s documentary “Going Clear,” it took to Twitter to mount its defense. With pretty poor results.

The paid tweets come from an account called @FreedomEthics, which the church set up just for the campaign (its regular account is @Scientology). The tweets began before the movie premiered March 29, and are still flowing.

The Church of Scientology is a rich organization, yet is exempt from some taxes because it qualifies as a religious organization. We don’t know if it received any tax breaks on its purchase of thousands of sponsored tweets from Twitter.

Some of the tweets fault the movie for not filling up venues:

Many of the tweets say something like “More people watched X show than watched ‘Going Clear.” And they just fill in the “X” with whatever shows they can think of. Over and over. It sounds like a playground taunt.

I later found out that these tweets were in response to an HBO claim that “Going Clear” had more viewers than a Beyonce documentary. The Scientologists disagreed with that.

Another tweet portrays Gibney as a Stalin-esque figure, with the heading “HBO’s Doctor of Propaganda.” If you click the link, you go to a page where the church has posted videos that attempt to discredit the sources Gibney used in the movie.

The best parts are the titles above the videos. The say the person’s name, then tack on an insult. Like “Mike Rinder — The Wife Beater” and “Sarah Goldberg — The Homewrecker.” Good stuff.

And here’s another tweet about another of Gibney’s sources. This one uses a more direct approach.

And there are many others. If anything, these tweets probably increased interest in Gibney’s movie, as this tweeter suggests:

The fact is, the Church of Scientology is perceived by normal people as a cult-like religion for the weird, the rich, the famous, or all three. That’s why so many people want to hear the truth about Scientology, and why so few on Twitter have any sympathy for its cause.

In one tweet, the church even goes after the soundtrack of Gibney’s film:

Indeed, the @FreedomEthics tweets are inevitably followed by lots of replies criticizing or mocking them. Many of the replies criticized the Scientologists for hiding behind a “fake” Twitter handle to mount its smear campaign against the movie. The main account is @Scientology, and the tweets are much more friendly there.

Just 815 tweets have come from the @FreedomEthics account.

It doesn’t have the look of a popular cause. The account has just 672 followers.

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Twitter cozies up to media outlets with the launch of Curator

Twitter buttons

Twitter today announced the launch of Curator, a tool that will enable media outlets to more easily sift through the social feed’s content in order to highlight collections of tweets and stories.

Some have compared the new feature to Storify, which allows media outlets to pull together curated feeds of social media posts across platforms. Curator is meant to make it easier to search for and filter exactly what you’re looking for and allow real-time vines and tweets to be easily embedded into a variety of formats including television, websites, and mobile apps. The tool caters to the media industry and can be used to point out trends and general consensus on an issue as it’s happening. The real-time component of the feature differentiates it from other analysis tools, which need a longer lead time to generate reports.

Twitter Curator

For now the feature is only available to media outlets.

Ultimately this tool will help Twitter get its content shared in more places, giving its brand more reach. Curator also represents a potential opportunity to show investors that Twitter’s audience isn’t limited to those with Twitter accounts.

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Watch out! All that Meerkating and Periscoping could slam your mobile data limits

Twitter's Periscope is just one of several new live streaming video mobile apps to launch in the last month.
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Josh Miller, who works on Facebook’s product team, thinks red-hot mobile live-streaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat are “cool art projects,” but that we’re a couple years too early for the technology.

And why? For one thing, Miller told VentureBeat on Twitter recently, connection speeds aren’t good enough. And that’s to say nothing of the impact of such apps on “phone and data plan costs.”

Sure enough, you’re already starting to see people report that thanks to using these apps — which allow anyone to easily broadcast live streaming video to the world from their iPhone or Android phone with just a few taps — they’ve gone over their monthly mobile data limits.

Those limits vary from carrier to carrier and plan to plan, not to mention country to country, but the dynamic is very real: It’s so easy to just pull your phone out of your pocket and start shooting live video of anything, from building fires in New York City to conference sessions at South by Southwest to Game of Thrones red carpet premieres, that people may not be aware of how much data they’re using. Or, they may not even care. As The Next Web reporter Owen Williams tweeted Saturday, “Periscope made me blow my [New Zealand] data cap in two days.”

40 percent of Meerkat streams are on carrier networks

The amount of data a stream uses varies from service to service, and of course, if you’re Meerkating or streaming from Periscope on a Wi-Fi network, then it’s probably not an issue. But Ryan Cooley, the co-founder of Meerkat, told VentureBeat that 40 percent of all the streams on the service are broadcast over carrier networks.

Twitter, which owns Periscope, and launched it last week, would not say what the corresponding figure is for that service. But a source with knowledge of the technology told VentureBeat that Periscope’s data demand is roughly equivalent to that of Apple’s FaceTime service.

Again, every live-streaming app uses different technology. But one would have to assume there are some general similarities in how they work, and the amount of data they consume.

Of course, as Jeremy Martin, the CTO of, yet another mobile live-streaming app that launched recently, put it in an email to VentureBeat, There are “quite a few factors that have a direct impact on how much data is consumed while broadcasting or watching.”

Among them? Users’ current network strength. “If we detect that you’re having trouble pushing video over the wire fast enough,” Martin said, “we actually begin to dynamically drop frames to try and keep up. Even over faster networks, the throughput is impacted by the codecs and quality levels that your device is capable of handling, which isn’t consistent either.”

But in the end, Martin said, a rule of thumb is that a livestream broadcast over sucks up about 3.3 megabytes per minute of live video.

That means, on a plan allowing up to 2 gigabytes of data usage per month with no overage fees, you’d be able to shoot about 10.1 hours of video a month on — if you didn’t use any other data at all. Neither Meerkat nor Twitter would say what the corresponding figures were for their services. However, David Gibbons, the vice president of marketing at Ustream, long a leading provider of live-streaming technology, said users of that service could typically expect to safely stream about seven or eight hours of video without going over their caps.

Still, while most people may not ever approach that level of broadcasting, some are clearly starting to think that if live-streaming is here to stay, and not a fad, there’s going to be a bottom line cost. “For sure people are concerned about the cost to your data,” Gibbons said, which you’re “going to consume relatively quickly.”

As TechCrunch reporter Josh Constine pondered on Twitter, “I wonder if we’ll see whiplash reactions to people’s data bills after a month of intense Meerkating/Periscoping. Livestreaming ain’t cheap.”

Although some carriers, like T-Mobile, offer pricey unlimited data plans, most users have limits. It might be 2 gigabytes of data, or it might be more. Typically, if you go over your limit — and you’ll likely get multiple warnings from your carrier before you do — you pay a per-gigabyte fee that can be in the $15 range. But those in the business are hoping that the dynamics surrounding mobile data plans may soon change.

“Mobile bandwidth is becoming more plentiful and accessible, as local network infrastructure improves, and telco models begin to shift to accommodate this,” said Meerkat’s Cooley, pointing to T-Mobile’s unlimited data plan offering. “Things are moving forward in terms of mobile data access, not backward.”

Meerkat has attracted more than 300,000 users in just a month.

Above: Meerkat has attracted more than 300,000 users in just a month.

Image Credit: Meerkat

To Gibbons, it’s all about market pressures. The more people see the need for services like live-steraming apps, the more “people are going to want free access to data everywhere.”

And while we might think that carriers like AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and others are out to squeeze us for every dime, there’s also the reality that they will figure out ways to profit even if they play along. The “carriers are going to go along with it,” Gibbons said. “They will formulate plans that will (allow unlimited data usage) at prices that work for them….I think the mobile carriers will like it, because they’ll be able to get more revenue from consumers.”

At the same time, Gibbons added, as people use more and more video, there will be increasing pressure on the developers of services like Meerkat, Periscope, Ustream, and to come up with more efficient video compression technology. There’s a reason, after all, that the fictional company Pied Piper won TechCrunch Disrupt on the HBO series “Silicon Valley” for its ground-breaking compression algorithm.

When digital cameras became a commodity device, and even more, when most people began to have smartphones, we saw that taking photographs was cheap. We took way more than we could ever process. Although we all love our cats and kids and food, if we’re honest, we know that the vast majority of the pictures we take are poor. Yet the cost is low. Already, we’re seeing that most of the live-streaming that’s going on is hardly going to win a Peabody — a broadcast news award.

But Cooley thinks there’s larger social issues at work. “Introducing Meerkat [was] the beginning of a long play to usher in live video as a social medium,” he said. “There will be adoption pains, but we believe the culture is ripe to embrace this participation-based video medium.”

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Twitter Adds Friend-Finding And Two-Step Authentication To Its Login Service Digits

digits_find_friends_launch Twitter’s Digits, a developer-facing service launched last fall that offers a way to integrate a simpler, password-free login option into third-party mobile applications, has been expanded today with a pair of new features, including a friend finding function and two-step verification. While already Digits was offering a more secure way for users to log into apps by using their… Read More

Twitter Vets Launch OneShot, An App For Highlighting And Tweeting Screenshots Of Text

oneshot A pair of Twitter vets today launched a handy mobile application called OneShot that makes it easier to share screenshots of text to Twitter, along with your comment and a link to the page in question. The new app also optionally allows you to crop the image, highlight a selection of text, and even add a brightly colored background to make your screenshot stand out better when displayed in… Read More

You can now embed Twitter video on your website

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Following the release of new video features, today Twitter is announcing a way for you to embed video created on its platform to your website or blog.

In a blog post the company writes:

“Video embeds are available for videos captured and uploaded through Twitter’s applications for iOS and Android as well as Twitter Amplify partners.”

In late January, Twitter rolled out a set of video features that allows you to shoot, edit, and post video 30-second clips to its micro-blog feed. Adding the option of embeddable video is a small update, but allows Twitter to get content created on its platform visible in more places.

Twitter video embed

Users can click on the “more” icon in a tweet to find the video’s embed code.

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Captain Kirk is answering questions about Spock on Twitter right now

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As you probably know, Spock — Leonard Nimoy — died this week. Now, the man perhaps most associated with him, William Shatner, aka Captain Kirk, is answering questions about his friend on Twitter.

“Which of the original #Star Trek movies was his personal favorite,” Twitter user @GeekToMeRadio” asked Shatner. In his typical sharp wit, Kirk responded, “I would imagine the one he directed.”

For the record, Nimoy actually directed two Star Trek films: 1984’s “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock,” and 1986’s “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.”

Another fan asked what was Nimoy’s most admirable quality. To which Shatner answered, in all earnestness, “His compassion and dedication.”

It’s not clear how long Shatner will be doing this, but if you’ve got a burning question to ask about Spock or anything else Star Trek, now would be the time to send your question to @WilliamShatner.


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13 TechCrunch Stories You Don’t Want To Miss This Week

TC-weekly-roundup This week’s news featured more than just runaway llamas and a Twitter debate over an optical illusion dress. The FCC passed new net neutrality regulations, photos and videos of two new smartphones leaked online, and the new Pebble smart watch flew past its Kickstarter goal. These are our best stories of the week (2/21-2/27). Read More

Flow Kana brings social to the medical pot economy

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This is how much the world has changed in the last few years: Flow Kana, an on-demand medical marijuana delivery platform, has created a system that enables buyers to communicate with growers via social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Flow Kana talk

Flow Kana, which launched today, makes it easy to get convenient deliveries of organic, sustainably grown pot. For now, it is only serving the San Francisco Bay Area, but it says it is hoping to quickly expand to other parts of California and potentially to other states where medical pot is legal.

The company is hardly the only one making discreet marijuana deliver possible. Competitors include The Green Cross, Foggy Daze Delivery, and others. But Flow Kana thinks it’s different because it is specifically making it possible for buyers to communicate directly with the farmers growing their pot.

While that might seem weird, the company thinks some buyers will want to ask the growers what kind of pot will help them with a particular malady, say back pain, or about growing methods so they can feel confident they aren’t going to get any mold in their weed. Other buyers may just want to know a bit about the people who enabled their high, asking, for example, what being a cannabis farmer means to them.

Buyers can use Twitter, Facebook, or email to connect with the growers.

The company hopes that letting buyers talk to their growers will bring a bit of a farm-to-table feel to the pot economy. Especially in places like San Francisco, discerning consumers want the freshest, healthiest produce, and they want to know things about the people growing their eggs, vegetables, and more. Flow Kana clearly believes marijuana fits right into this new dynamic.

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