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Spyware firm Gamma failed on human rights, says OECD (David Meyer/Gigaom)

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has for the first time found a surveillance software company to be in violation of human rights guidelines, following a complaint about the notorious British-German spyware outfit Gamma International. Gamma allegedly sold its FinFisher spyware tool to the Bahraini regime, which is a big-time human rights abuser that seems to have used the software to persecute activists. The complaint to the OECD’s U.K. national contact point (NCP – an agency operated by the British government) was made by the right group Privacy International, which has also made a criminal complaint about Gamma, along with Reporters Without Borders and other groups. However, the OECD’s guidelines for businesses are voluntary, so apart from calling out the fairly shameless Gamma, not much can come directly from this particular decision. In addition, the Gamma Group is these days operating out of Munich rather than the U.K. The case involved three Bahraini dissidents, two of whom were living outside the country at the time they were apparently targeted using FinFisher. Gamma refused throughout the investigation to confirm whether it supplied the tool to Bahrain’s government, but the evidence indicated pretty clearly that the activists were targeted with Gamma’s product, and it was reasonable to assume it was the Bahrainis behind it. The big problem, from the OECD’s point of view, is that Gamma doesn’t have human rights policies and due diligence processes to stop its products being used in an abusive way, and had been uncooperative during the investigation: The UK NCP has concluded that Gamma International UK Limited has not acted consistently with provisions of the OECD Guidelines requiring enterprises to do appropriate due diligence… to encourage business partners to observe Guidelines standards… to have a policy commitment to respect human rights… and to provide for or co-operate through processes to remediate human rights impacts… Through its legal representative, the company has raised obstacles to the complaint’s progress, whilst failing to provide information that would help the NCP make a prompt and fair assessment of these. The NCP considers that this does not have the appearance or practical effect of acting in good faith and respecting the NCP process. In a statement, the complainants said they were disappointed that the NCP had not taken “a more pro-active investigatory role” that would have confirmed that Gamma really did sell FinFisher to Bahrain – this would have allowed more strenuous condemnation of the company, they said

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Net neutrality’s next chapter: How experts saw today’s milestone and next steps (Stacey Higginbotham/Gigaom)

Pardon me while I catch my breath after all the celebratory dancing I’ve been doing in the wake of the FCC’s historic vote to reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act in order to preserve true network neutrality. We’ve explained what this means for the average consumer here , and why the whole thing was so improbable in this story . But really, today is like the end of a romantic comedy that actually started out all semi-tragic like a Wes Anderson movie and then became something light and fluffy starring Drew Barrymore and restored your faith in humanity. So yes, I’m thrilled and having written probably a million words on the topic in the last eight years, I could do a victory lap a mile long, but I’d rather share some of the awesome stuff that other people on the web are writing. Because this time, in addition to the 4 million people who commented before the FCC, many thoughtful legal scholars, rarely heard from tech leaders and others have added their voices to the discussion on the FCC’s historic vote today. So outside of Verizon’s 1930s-era Morse code commenting on the news , or the industry’s whining (which we’ll see parroted in every article), I’ll focus on some very thoughtful points that we should be thinking about as these rules are finally shared and then inevitably head to court. Let’s start with Stanford legal scholar Barbara van Schewick, who had written an excellent analysis about the upcoming rules. (You should seriously go read it .) She is optimistic about the chances that the FCC will prevail in court once one of the ISPs or affiliated organizations such as the National Telecommunications and Cable Association decides to sue. From her blog : The good news is that the FCC’s rules will likely be upheld in court. The agency’s decision to reclassify Internet service as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act puts the rules on a solid legal foundation. By coupling reclassification with forbearance, the FCC has adopted a light regulatory touch that preserves Internet service providers’ incentives to invest

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Net Neutrality day is here: a guide to today’s vote (Jeff John Roberts/Gigaom)

What is the right way to run the internet? After months of pitched debate over so-called net neutrality, the FCC will finally vote on a proposal that will prevent  broadband providers from slowing down or speeding up certain websites. While there’s little doubt about the outcome of the vote, Thursday’s FCC hearing could still bring some surprises. Here’s an overview of how the process will unfold, key issues to watch, and what will happen next. When is the vote taking place? The hearing begins at 10:30am ET at the FCC in Washington, where the five Commissioners will vote on two items. The net neutrality proposal is the second item (the first is about municipal broadband ), and a vote is expected to occur in the early afternoon. What are they voting on? The crux of the proposal is new regulations that will replace the net neutrality rules that a court struck down in early 2013. The new rules themselves (contrary to recent rhetoric) are rumored to be 8 pages long and, under FCC convention, are an appendix to a larger document that contains the Commissioners’ positions. The FCC staff will summarize the key parts of the new rules, but the document itself is not likely to be available to the public for several weeks. This is due to agency protocol, which gives the Commissioners time to add final comments (though the substance of the rules will not change between now and when they appear). How exactly does the vote take place, and what will be the outcome? After the staff summaries, each of the five Commissioner will offer their comments in order of seniority.

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Broadcom has an Android Wear platform with 3G, NFC and more (Kevin C. Tofel/Gigaom)

Broadcom wants to make it easier for hardware makers to build an Android Wear smartwatch, complete with features that Google’s software doesn’t even support yet, notes PhoneScoop . The chip company introduced its watch platform that pairs a power efficient quad-core processor with mobile broadband radio, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, wireless charging and optional camera support. Indeed, the hardware is far ahead of the software in a few ways, much like the Sony Smartwatch 3 I bought last year is . My Android Wear watch, for example, includes both GPS and Wi-Fi radios but the software only works with the former; Wi-Fi support isn’t yet included with Android Wear. I anticipate it will be at or before this May’s Google I/O event. That would let you untether the watch from a phone; data could be sent over a local Wi-Fi network. Broadcom is clearly thinking beyond Wi-Fi in Android Wear, however. Adding a 2G/3G radio would make such a device work without a phone, even outside the range of a Wi-Fi network. It would also challenge battery life, which is already a downer for many who are considering an Android Wear smartwatch. I can eke out two days of run time on my Smartwatch 3, for example, but often charge it nightly, just as most Android Wear owners do. The addition of wireless charging support adds convenience but does nothing to improve battery life, of course. The new Broadcom platform for Android Wear is available to hardware makers to sample, and the company will be showing off its platform focused on smartwatches at next week’s Mobile World Congress.

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Yo Tries To Make Itself Useful With Photo And Link Alerts From 150 Sources (Josh Constine/TechCrunch)

“It was just a way to annoy your friends” Yo co-founder Or Arbel tells me. His minimalist messenger hit 3.5 million users at its peak thanks to the mainstream press’ sudden fascination with an app that only let you send people the word “Yo”. Most of those users quickly evaporated because Yo wasn’t very useful. Yet. But today Yo launches what Arbel says was the plan all along, a way to subscribe to photos and links but no words from sources you might not care enough about to download a whole separate app. The Yo Store is free, and offers alerts from 150 services including BuzzFeed, NBA, Coinbase, TechCrunch, MTV, and weird-looking cat Lil Bub. So while Yo started as the quintessential unessential app, it’s now saving you from installing others you’ll rarely use. Arbel refused my repeated requests for any stats about Yo’s active user count, but after its meteoric rise and fall in June, Yo was able to raise $1.5 million. That gave it the resources to build out its real puporse: the Yo API. In August it released the Yo Index to help users discover services to get Yo with links or photos from, but it was clunky and relatively uncurated. By contrast, the revamped Yo Store only features services that will abide by rules demanding they only send high-quality, infrequent alerts or ones users specifically requested

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Google Play increases free music storage limit from 20,000 to 50,000 songs (Kevin C. Tofel/Gigaom)

Google just made its Play Music service a bit more appealing, even if you don’t use a Google Android phone. You can now upload 50,000 songs to your Google Play Music account at no charge ; the previous limit was 20,000. Google announced the storage boost in a blog post on Wednesday, pointing out that once your tunes are uploaded, you can stream or download them on Android devices, an Apple iPad or iPhone, a Chromebook or from a computer via the browser. Music tracks can also be streamed through Google’s Chromecast device. The increased storage is a noticeable jump over what Apple offers with its iTunes Match service. There you get 25,000 track uploads but you have to pay $24.99 a year to get them. And you can’t get at those tunes from anything other than iTunes or an Apple TV, so Android device owners need not apply. For a while, I was a fan of iTunes Radio , which is ad-free with an iTunes Match account, but later opted to use Google Play Music. The main reason? The portability. I have one foot firmly in both camps — that is, iOS and Android — and I prefer cross-platform services that work regardless of the device I’m using; including a smartwatch. It helps that Google recently made its Play Music app for iOS universal so that it has a true iPad interface now . That’s just personal preference on my part though, and Amazon ‘s own music storage is a worthy contender in this space too. Which of these (or other) cloud music services are you using to store your albums and why? Maybe you’ll convince me to reconsider my approach.

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Google turns annual Pwnium bug-hunting contest into year-round program with unlimited rewards (Dennis Fisher/Threatpost)

Google is expanding its successful Pwnium vulnerability reward program–which has run at various security conferences for a couple of years now–to run continuously and offer an unlimited pool of financial rewards. Pwnium originally was established as an alternative to the Pwn2Own hacking contest at CanSecWest every spring. The Pwn2Own contest has been the origin of some high-profile vulnerabilities and attack techniques for the last decade, and the rules of the contest require winners to disclose the details of the vulnerability and the crash that leads to it. Google’s Pwnium has a different set of rules that ask winners to disclose all of the details of a vulnerability in Chromium along with the exploit. Related Posts Google Broadens Scope of Unwanted Software Warnings February 24, 2015 , 11:38 am Katie Moussouris on Starting a Bug Bounty Program February 23, 2015 , 11:02 am Trey Ford on Mapping the Internet with Project Sonar February 20, 2015 , 11:28 am That difference kept some researchers away from the Pwnium contests, but Google got its share of entrants and high-risk vulnerabilities. Now, the company is opening the program up on a continuous basis and placing no limit on the amount of money available for qualifying vulnerability submissions. The goal is to help prevent researchers from hoarding bugs until the next iteration of the contest and open the program up to more people. “If a security researcher was to discover a Pwnium-quality bug chain today, it’s highly likely that they would wait until the contest to report it to get a cash reward. This is a bad scenario for all parties. It’s bad for us because the bug doesn’t get fixed immediately and our users are left at risk. It’s bad for them as they run the real risk of a bug collision. By allowing security researchers to submit bugs all year-round, collisions are significantly less likely and security researchers aren’t duplicating their efforts on the same bugs,” Tim Willis of the Chrome security team said in a blog post Tuesday. In past years, Google has allocated a set amount of money for potential Pwnium rewards, but with the change in the program there is now no upper limit on how much money is available to researchers. “For those who are interested in what this means for the Pwnium rewards pool, we crunched the numbers and the results are in: it now goes all the way up to $∞ million,” Willis said

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Google says Chromebook Pixel 2 is coming soon, pulls video of announcement made at an event (Joey-Elijah Sneddon/OMG!)

Google has confirmed that a second generation Chromebook Pixel will go on sale ‘soon’. Speaking at the Team Work 2015 event this week, Google’s Renee Niemi announced that a successor to the high-end 2013 model is on the way, but stressed that Google will only be making a small number of them.  As before, the Chromebook Pixel 2 will be a development machine  primarily aimed at developers . It won’t be pitched at, much less priced for, regular consumers. Niemi’s snippet in full: “We do have a new Pixel coming out and it will be coming out soon. We will be selling it but I just have to set your expectations. This is a development platform…This is really a proof of concept. We don’t make very many of these — we really don’t. And our developers and our Googlers consume 85% of what we produce. But yes, we do have a new Pixel coming out.” Reading between the lines it is easy to leap, as  we did earlier in the month , and see the Pixel 2 retaining both the look and design of the original. It saves on costings, design, manufacture and tooling. What we know about the Chromebook Pixel 2 is that it has a 12.85-inch screen at an eye-popping resolution, has board references to built-in fans and will feature new reversible ‘Type-C’ USB ports. But ‘proof of concept’ sounds interesting — could this be the first device to sport the new “Freon” pseudo-display server replacement? There’s been plenty of chatter, and quickly hidden bug references, to a Chromebook that ‘docks’ with a keyboard — might this be it? Could it be using Intel’s new Skylake processors

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HP reorgs cloud biz as Marten Mickos cedes key responsibilities (Barb Darrow/Gigaom)

Marten Mickos, the former Eucalyptus CEO who became HP’s top cloud guy in September when HP  bought Eucalyptus , is turning over key responsibilities to three other HP executives, according to an internal email message viewed by Gigaom. Mickos, who carried the title of senior vice president and general manager of HP cloud, will now focus on “customer engagement and advocacy,” according to email he sent to staff on Monday. HP had no comment for this story. As for day-to-day cloud operations, Bill Hilf will take on product strategy, Kerry Bailey will lead sales, and Mark Interrante will head up engineering. And this triumvirate will also work with HP CTO Martin Fink, according to the memo. In addition, Ning Wang who was CFO at Eucalyptus before moving on to HP, is leaving her job in cloud operations to take on another as-yet-unnamed role. This looks like the HP-ization of Eucalpytus, a company whose claim to fame was offering a private cloud that supported key Amazon Web Services APIs. Given those roots, it remains unclear just how much HP Helion will carry over that AWS API support. Before buying Eucalyptus, HP said it was pulling that support  from its public cloud. It also bears mentioning that in late January, HP included Mickos on the list of key execs that would be part of the HP Enterprise entity once the company breaks itself into two parts. Some have wondered how long Mickos would stick around at HP. He was also CEO of MySQL and helped  sell that company to Sun Microsystems in 2008 and left the company a year later .

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Snapchat launches Safety Center website offering advice to parents and teachers, links to community guidelines telling teens not to share nudes…

When Snapchat first hit the scene, many people assumed that it was primarily a “safe sexting” app and that users were flocking to it to send nude photos that would disappear after being viewed. That it was a digital version of ‘7 Minutes Seconds in Heaven’ was an interpretation reinforced by this iTunes Store image of two teen girls with a timer placed where their clothes would be. Since then, Snapchat has proven itself to be an app that’s about much more than sexting, as ephemerality freed users to be more prolific and creative in photo-sharing and the app moved into bigger markets, including its new media-centric Discover platform. The nearly-nude models no longer front the app’s download page (thanks to a lawsuit the sisters filed against the company) and Snapchat now has an explicit “no nudes” policy for its younger users. Last week, the $19-billion app launched a “ Snapchat Safety Center ” aimed at flummoxed parents and teachers who worry kids could ruin their lives by, say, snapping a photo of sex in a football stadium on Valentine’s Day that then goes viral . The center includes a six-page “ Parents Guide to Snapchat ” and a reminder to check out Snapchat’s community guidelines , which say quite explicitly, ‘Don’t send nude photos, y’all': Keep it legal: Don’t use Snapchat for any illegal shenanigans and if you’re under 18 or are Snapping with someone who might be: keep your clothes on! What not to Snap: Pornography Nudity or sexually suggestive content involving minors (people under the age of 18) Minors engaged in activities that are physically dangerous and harmful Invasions of privacy Threats Harassment or Bullying Impersonation Self-Harm It’s clear that Snapchat doesn’t want young people sending nudes; after all, any photo of a person under 18 is technically “child pornography” and thus legally toxic. Snapchat is a little ambiguous as to whether it’s cool with the olds stripping down. Technically, that selfie you took of your headless, scantily-clad body could be considered “pornography,” which is forbidden by the guidelines. If you do use Snapchat to send sexually-explicit contraband, the guidelines warn that you may get booted from the app. The guidelines have been in place since October of 2013, according to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine ; that’s six months after a scandal at a New Jersey high school where nude photos sent by teen girls through Snapchat and Instagram were posted online by a male recipient, and a year after the Internet freaked out over “Snapchat Sluts,” a Tumblr that compiled screenshotted Snapchat nudes. Whether Snapchat’s users actually read these guidelines—which are only available on its website, and not within the app—or take them seriously if they do is doubtful. Last week, yet another Snapchat nude scandal broke out at a middle school in Georgia, reports WSB-TV : School officials say a girl at one of the schools sent a nude photo of herself to a male student. On the Snapchat app, the photos are meant to disappear in a matter of seconds, but someone took a picture of the screen. Rather the usual cycle of shame that happens after a young woman is digitally exposed, it sounds like the nude photo set off a sexting frenzy at the school: The image quickly spread by cell phone and soon after, investigators say other students started taking and sending inappropriate pictures of themselves. Whether it was actually a sexting solidarity movement isn’t clear from the article, which is scant on details as school officials weren’t eager to discuss the incident

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How the JOBS Act, investor demand, and private securities markets allow Uber to stay private (Fusion)

Yesterday, Uber announced that its latest round of venture capital financing will total $2.8 billion dollars . These kinds of enormous funding rounds seem to be happening almost weekly—just this week, we’ve had Snapchat raising $500 million at a $19 billion valuation, and Pinterest also raising $500 million at an $11 billion valuation—and they raise a big question: do these companies ever have to go public? Or could they raise money in the private markets forever? First, a little basic background: in the first dot-com era, there was a predictable life cycle for hot tech companies. First step, have an idea—say, Pets.com. Then, hype the website, get some users, maybe generate some revenue (this step was very optional), and then hold an initial public offering, taking the company public so that its stock could be bought and sold by average investors. After the IPO, insiders often sold some or all of their shares, and the founders often got fabulously wealthy. Meanwhile, the poor schmucks who bought shares on the public exchanges often got left holding the bag when the companies went bust. One reason these companies loved IPOs is simple: they allowed insiders to turn hypothetical money into real money without requiring profits. But the other reason that IPOs were so popular was that the law encouraged it. In the aftermath of the stock-market crash that touched off the Great Depression, Congress passed the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, which included a provision that companies above a certain size and “whose securities are held by more than 500 owners must file annual and other periodic reports.” In other words, if you had 20 or 200 or 400 shareholders, your financial secrets—profits, revenue, executive compensation, things like that—could stay private. But the moment you got your 501st shareholder, you were forced to release this information publicly, whether your stock was publicly traded or not. You also had to register your equity securities with the SEC—and, as Felix Salmon explained back in 2011, that meant that “your shares can be traded by anybody at all in the public over-the-counter markets, even if you haven’t had an IPO.” So for companies approaching the 500-shareholder mark, the choice often became obvious. Your competitors are going to see your company’s innards anyway, and the public will be able to buy your stock if it wants to—so why not have a proper IPO? The 500-shareholder rule was grounded in the idealistic principle that larger companies should provide investors with greater transparency so that they couldn’t snooker the public.

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Verizon is laying down 400 tiny cells in SF to boost LTE capacity (Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

In the coming months, workers and visitors along San Francisco’s major tech corridors may notice some very big improvement in Verizon’s 4G network speeds in some very specific places. The carrier plans to blanket the city’s SOMA, Financial District, Market Street and North Beach neighborhoods with 400 pint-sized transmitters called small cells . You can think of small cells as a big tower-mounted macro cell shrunken down to size of your dorm-room space heater. They’re mounted on utility and light poles, and while they carry the exact same amount of capacity as a big macro cell, that capacity is concentrated in a much smaller area — in Verizon ’s case, a 250 to 500-foot radius. Small cells are intended to be surgical tools in the network: Carriers use them to layer significant amounts of capacity in high-traffic and high-demand places. And in the case of San Francisco, there’s probably no more high-demand area than downtown, where the city’s tech industry is concentrated and everyone always seems to be surfing on smartphone or tablet, said Eric Reed, VP of entertainment and tech policy at Verizon. A rendering of what two small cells (on different frequencies) would look like on an SF light pole. Verizon is using small cells in other cities — New York, Chicago and Phoenix to name a few — but the San Francisco network in particular is an apt proving-ground for the technology because Verizon’s customers scarf down mobile data there like few other places in the country, Reed said. Specifically, Verizon anticipates a three-fold boost in capacity in the areas covered by these Ericsson -designed transmitters, and customers should also notice some big increases in average speed as tinier cells split their capacity among fewer users. There have been other small cell deployments in the U.S. — AT&T is in the middle of a big one — but Verizon’s is particularly notable because of its extent. It’s packing a lot of cells into a limited area to create a very dense network, rather than just plopping cells down here or there to fill a coverage or capacity hole.

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Google Inbox comes to iPad and Android tablets, supports Firefox and Safari as well as Chrome (Taylor Kourim/Gmail Blog)

Posted by Taylor Kourim, Software Engineer It’s always hard to know when it’s time to share a new product, because there’s always just a _few_ more things you want to do. Today we’re happy to check off some of these to-dos for Inbox, making it easier to use on more devices and browsers. If you're a big fan of tablets, you'll be excited to learn that Inbox has come to iPad and Android tablets. Download the app from the App Store and Google Play . In addition, Inbox now supports Firefox and Safari, as well as Chrome. You can sign in at inbox.google.com . As always, if you aren't using Inbox yet, now's a perfect time to jump in. Email inbox@google.com to request an invite and we'll email you as soon as more invites are available.

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Ethertronics unveils active steering chip that helps Wi-Fi navigate obstacles, boosting range (Kevin Fitchard/Gigaom)

Smart antenna maker Ethertronics is taking active antenna technology it originally developed for mobile phones and applying it to Wi-Fi routers and gadgets. Its hope is to create consumer wireless networks that can make that leap to the furthest reaches of your home where Wi-Fi signals typically never penetrate. Ethertronics unveiled a new chip on Tuesday that will bring its active steering algorithms to Wi-Fi antennas, increasing their range and boosting their throughput in less than optimal conditions. Active steering essentially creates multiple radiation patterns around the same antenna and then selects the ideal pattern to hit its targeted device with best signal. Ethertronics developed the technology to overcome the frenetic movements and rapidly mutating radio conditions of a topsy turvy mobile world, but with the newest version of its EtherChip, active steering helps signals navigate the multiple walls and ceilings that often separate a router from a Wi-Fi device, Ethertronics Chief Scientist Jeff Shamblin told me. Furthermore as newer 802.11ac Wave 2 routers can now use their multiple antennas to simultaneously connect to different devices, active steering select a different radiation pattern for each antenna. That means every device connecting to the router would get the optimal signal even if they’re spread throughout different places in the house. Ethertronics has designed the antenna technology that has gone into more than a billion mobile devices (if you own a Samsung Galaxy device chances are you’re talking and surfing through an Ethertronics rig), but its active steering technology hasn’t yet made it into a mobile device, though it is engaged in several trials with carriers. Shamblin, however, thinks that that the technology stands a good shot in the Wi-Fi market as we increasingly hook more devices into home wireless networks from TVs and stereos, to wearables and smart home appliances. This issue of whole–home coverage is a problem other companies like Eero are also trying to solve . In Ethertronics tests it has demonstrated a 20 percent to 45 percent increase in throughput between access points and devices living on the fringes of a network, Shamblin said. For an ISP or a cable provider that offers Wi-Fi as a service that could be considerable selling point as it means a single self-installed home router is more likely to cover every room in a home.

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Reddit opens voting for users to choose 10 charities to receive 10% of 2014 $8.2M ad revenue (Ryan Merket/reddit)

Here at reddit, one of the things that gets us out of bed every morning is knowing that we have the ability to help the world at a scale that was, until very recently, only imaginable. Remember that time we challenged Digg to see who could donate the most to Haiti earthquake victims through Direct Relief (spoiler: we won, raising over $185,000 )? We’ve also been one of the most major participants in Extra Life’s annual gaming marathon for the past four years, where we have helped raise $278,604 to date. Thanks to all of you, we've been able to raise exponentially more funds since our first-ever attempt at fundraising back in 2008 in conjunction with xkcd . And it’s not only monetary donations, we also facilitate good as a platform through subreddits like /r/probono , /r/assistance , /r/favors , and /r/randomactsofpizza . For 2014 we decided to “decimate” our ad revenues to support the goals and causes of the entire community. That means for every $10 in ad revenue we received, we would be splitting $1 equally between 10 charities selected by our community. We closed the books on 2014 and our total ad revenue was $8,276,594.93. Meaning we are donating $827,659.49! 10 charities chosen by our community will each receive $82,765.95. We have partnered with Charity Navigator , who has graciously given us access to their charity database. This database includes all charities they have reviewed, as well as all charities that have a US tax identification number (EIN)

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