My Facebook newsfeed was a strange sight yesterday. People both in and outside India were sharing links to India’s Daughter, an unsettling BBC documentary that aired on Wednesday about the brutal gang-rape of a young woman on a Delhi bus in 2012. India had banned the film, but people had put it on YouTube and were sharing it on social media. As the hours went by, the Indian government (and later the BBC itself, for copyright reasons) chased down the stray links, and my timeline transformed from a long sequence of video previews of the film to a wall of disappointed YouTube emoticons announcing that it was blocked.
That sight of the government trying to suppress India’s Daughter may have done as much damage to India’s reputation as the film itself. You don’t see it when customs officials cover up maps of India that don’t include Kashmir. You don’t—unless you live in India—see the magazines with politically incorrect pages torn out of them. But internet censorship, besides being increasingly ineffective in a world where people use VPNs and file-sharing sites to find forbidden content, can sometimes be highly visible. It made the film—which, I’ve argued, had its flaws—a much bigger deal outside the country than it might otherwise have been.
Narendra Modi may have enthusiastically embraced social media, but his government is still stuck in the past when it comes to dealing with it. China’s government, too, has been very adept at manipulating online discussion, but panicked and took down an environmental documentary this week that had already gained 300 million views. Governments in general are getting ever better at controlling the internet. But it can still turn around and bite them.—Annalisa Merelli
Five things on Quartz we especially liked
Hollywood’s new nemesis. Popcorn Time has been called the “Netflix for piracy”—a file-sharing service that’s as user-friendly as anything commercial. And the Wall Street analysts who cover the movie industry are starting to notice. John McDuling explains why, unlike its shadier predecessors, this one might be hard to stamp out.
China’s unlikely gay activists. By one estimate, 80% of Chinese gay men will marry a woman—and the outcome can be miserable for both partners. As Zheping Huang reports, some of those wives are now starting to campaign for gay rights so that fewer women end up in loveless marriages.
Four ways to feel good about fur. Despite the ethical objections, the fur industry has rebounded recently. But you can wear a dead animal’s pelt without guilt, says Jenni Avins. She surveys some of the companies and projects working on ways to market wild fur, second-hand fur, and fur from invasive species or roadkill.
What Israel really has to fear from Iran. It’s not, as Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu declared this week, a nuclear bomb, argues Bobby Ghosh. Rather, if a nuclear deal is reached, the relief from sanctions will free Iran up to meddle in the Middle East, causing trouble for Israel as well as its Arab neighbors.
Why ISIL is growing. The debate over whether the Islamic State group is really “Islamic” is beside the point, writes Sunny Hundal. To understand the group’s appeal and how to fight it, you have to understand the political forces of the past few decades that have increased demand among some Muslims for the revival of the caliphate; dismissing them as ”apostates” won’t help.
Five things elsewhere that made us smarter
The education of Alexis Tsipras. Greece’s new prime minister may have started in politics with the Communist Youth, but as Nick Malkoutzis explains in MacroPolis, during his short time in power he has defied the stereotype of a leftwing ideologue. The “dogged but moderate” leader is proving a shrewd, pragmatic operator—particularly next to his “verbose and erratic” finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis.
A most troublesome rock. It all started with a Brazilian prospector finding a 180,000-carat emerald (weighing 840 lbs, or 380 kg) on a Bahia farm in 2001. The stone has since been involved in the collapse of a high-definition TV company, millions of dollars of fraud, and a heist via Cadillac Escalade. The years-long saga of con men and lawsuits surrounding the Bahia Emerald is still going on, Brendan Borrell writes at Bloomberg.
Finding one’s humanity with the help of a hawk. The New Yorker’s Kathryn Schulz reviews H is for Hawk, Helen McDonald’s true story about grieving the loss of her father while attempting to train a goshawk. This unexpected gem will teach you as much about birds of prey—who knew, for example, that a happy hawk will “rouse” itself into a “frothy mop of feathers?”—as the human condition.
How much is an arm worth? Two young American men living 75 miles apart, but in different states, lost their left arms in work accidents. One got a flat $45,000 in compensation. The other’s benefits could add up to $740,000. A ProPublica/NPR investigation reveals one of the glaring disparities that results from allowing US states to set their own rules.
When do we start engineering babies? Thanks to recent advances in precise DNA editing, it might not be too long before we can engineer people with anything from resistance to certain diseases, to bones as hard as steel. For MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado talks to the scientists scrambling to work out whether or not there’ll be a medical—let alone ethical—case for such interventions.
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