Cash to tweet: How much can we trust our celebrities?

Cobrapost's latest sting operation, called Operation Karaoke, exposes about three dozen Bollywood celebrities for their willingness to post tweets favorable to particular political parties, on a monetary consideration. Some of even tweeted without having been paid, to show their eagerness to Coprapost reporters posing as PR persons on behalf of these political parties!

Who are the celebs? Cobrapost reveals that the celebs in question include actors, singers, stand-up comedians and dancers: 
  • Playback singers: Abhijeet Bhattacharya, Kailash Kher, Mika Singh and Baba Sehgal 
  • Actors: Jackie Shroff, Shakti Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi, Sonu Sood, Amisha Patel, Mahima Chaudhry, Shreyas Talpade, Puneet Issar, Surendra Pal, Pankaj Dheer and his son Nikitin Dheer, Tisca Chopra, Deepshikha Nagpal, Akhilendra Mishra, Rohit Roy, Rahul Bhat, Salim Zaidi, Rakhi Sawant, Aman Verma, Hiten Tejwani and spouse Gauri Pradhan, Evelyn Sharma, Minissha Lamba, Koena Mitra, Poonam Pandey, Sunny Leonne 
  • Comedians: Raju Srivastava, Sunil Pal, Rajpal Yadav, Upasana Singh, Krushna Abhishek and Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar 
  • Choreographer: Ganesh Acharya 
  • Dancer: Sambhavana Seth
How much money did they want? Cobrapost says: These celebrities did not blink an eye before saying “Aye” to the proposition, asking for a fee which ranged from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 50 lakh per message. Some even quoted a fee of Rs. 20 crore for an eight-month contract, and almost none of them said no to black money when we told them a bulk of their fee would be paid in cash.

What all would they do for the fee? I quote Cobrapost again:
  • Celebs agreed to promote the party in question to create a favourable environment before 2019 general elections.
  • Some of them even tweeted without having been paid any money to show their eagerness to our reporters.
  • Most of them were willing to accept the bulk of their fee in cash, which in other words means black money.
  • Celebs would tweak the content on various issues to be provided to them before posting the same on their social media profiles to make it look as their own.
  • They would defend the government even on controversial issues such as rapes and fatal accidents such as a bridge collapse here and there.
  • They were willing to sign a dummy contract for endorsement of products to disguise the real nature of the proxy political campaigning.
  • They agreed to send us their PAN and banking details, and many actually did so.
  • They swore to keep the entire exercise a secret, and the agenda hidden.
  • Some actors even proposed that they would proxy promote the political party in their press briefings during the promotion of a film or an event.
  • Some even proposed to post videos on social media and make them go viral with the help of their followers.
Only a few celebrities refused to fall for the lure. They are: Vidya Balan, Arshad Warsi, Raza Murad and Saumya Tandon

cobrapost-operation-karaoke

You can visit the Cobrapost post at the given link.

What are 'web host' and 'web hosting' ? Is webhosting same as having a 'domain name' ?

When you open a blog or website, you need to keep it on some computer/ server where it is available all the time. When someone types your site or blog's address, it searches the world wide web (www) for that address, and if that address is found, your web browser shows your website or blog to him. This is how websites are kept on the world wide web.

So, it is very basic that your website or blog is 'hosted' somewhere on the www. There are big internet companies that do this job for you either free or on payment. Sure, you get better services when you pay.

From bloggers' point of view, web hosting is of great importance. If you open a free blog on Blogger (example.blogspot.com) or Wordpress (example.wordpress.com), that blogging platform does three things for you:
  • It gives you a domain name or web address (e.g. example.blogspot.com).
  • It hosts your blog on its own servers.
  • It gives you the facility to write content on the blog and make the blog beautiful.
Blogger, Wordpress and some other blogging platforms do it for free. They do so with some other business in mind, but as a blogger you need not bother as long as the blog comes free to you.

However, these platforms cannot keep providing you free services even when your website or blog grows very big. As you grow, you need more space, you also need a way to make money from the blog. For these, you need something more than the free platforms can provide you. You also do not want to be limited by their terms and conditions. This is the time, you look for web hosting services. These services are provided by companies with huge computers that are connected to the web and are properly maintained and secured all the time..

Web hosting has a price. That depends upon the type of hosting you buy: shared hosting or exclusive hosting or... There are also variations according to what extra facilities you want. You have to pay for hosting your blog - year after year.

Web hosting is a big business as millions of websites are to be made available all the time. That requires huge infrastructure in the form of servers, networks, web security systems and a series of software that cannot afford to shut down even for a second or go slow due to traffic.


web hosting and blogging

Let me remind you that web hosting is not enough for your blog or website's presence on the web. You need a domain name. When you are not on a free platform such as Blogger, you need to buy a domain name and renew it year after year. We'll talk about that sometime later

If you are new to blogging or are an established blogger but do not understand the technical details about how blogs and websites are hosted and maintained, subscribe to the blog so that you are updated from time to time.

Google Plus is going away: how will it impact your blog, especially if it is on Blogger?

Google is deprecating its popular Google Plus platform as well as a number of APIs it had created for integrating your accounts on Google. So, you could have comments on your blog theough Google Plus, people could upvote your posts directly through a Google Plus button at the bottom of your posts and so on.

google plus

Google Plus is no longer be available for free. Google is thinking of an enterprise-level version that will be useful for large firms for internal socialization.

So, how will Google Plus deprecation affect your blog? 


If you have a Blogger blog and you have activated commenting through Google+, all your comments will evaporate soon and the commenting will be made into the default Blogger commenting.

  • Your profile will also revert to your Blogger profile. 
  • The widgets based on Google+, e.g. “+1 Button”, “Google+ Followers” and “Google+ Badge” will no longer be available. If you have applied any of these widgets, they will disappear. That may lead to slight rearrangement of your widgets on the blog's sidebar.
  • The tiny Google Plus buttons for quick sharing at the bottom of your posts will disappear. However, other social share buttons like Fb will still be available.
  • If you have given link to your Google+ profile on any other webpage or social media space, those will lead to broken links.

If you are not on Blogger but you have links to your Google Plus account, profile, individual posts or communities, the links will turn 'broken links'.

What actions you need to take as a blogger so that Google Plus's demise does not hurt you?


If your blog is on Blogger platform:

  • Spruce up your Blogger profile. Give necessary links, tell about your interests and so on. 
  • Check your blog for any design changes due to removal of Google Plus widgets, If something is amiss, go to Layout and rearrange the remaining widgets.
  • If you had manually placed your profile/ About Us details on the blog, check them. Make necessary changes.
  • If you had applied Google Plus based commenting, Google would automatically convert that to Blogger based commenting. However, please check by commenting on your own post.
  • If you have manually given stats about your Google Plus account, e.g. number of followers, remove that information.
  • Use a link checker to find whether there are any broken links in your blog that have resulted from Google Plus deprecation. This would have happened only if you manually gave your Google Plus link on the blog or any post. Obviously, you need to remove such links.
  • Similarly, if you have links to Google Plus on any of your social networking entity, remove them.

If your blog is on some other platform:

  • Check for broken links as mentioned above - on your blog or on your social networking entities - and remove them. 

In addition, your Google Plus account is live for some time (up to early April 2019). If you have posted something exclusively on the Google Plus platform, save that elsewhere. You can download all of your Google Plus data or some specific data through this link: How to save Google Plus data

80 year old lady's blog on modern life and sex!

Blogging does not care for age, and this 80+ year old British blogger, Joyce Williams, is a living example of that.

On her blog Grandma Williams, Joyce writes thus about herself: I've travelled the world, written books, been a Physio & TV Presenter. Now I'm 80+ and I'm blogging about the fun and nonsense of being ancient in a modern world and experiencing everyday ageism in all its glory!

A television presenter for some time in her younger age, Joyce as a blogger has been featured in print, electronic and web media, including BBC.


blogging in old age

On the blog, she has written how she started blogging. It is quite interesting and so I am pasting it in full below:
It was a challenge!
I had heard of blogs, but didn’t know what they were. Asked my 25 year old grandson how you did them, and he couldn’t tell me. So when I spotted a class called ‘Blogging for Beginners’ I was there.  Me, the only 80 year old, in a class of the 20 to 30 generation….
That took me through the technicalities. So then I had to write. The usual travel waffle at first and childhood memories. Then enlightenment! 
“Find a niche and a voice” they said. And Grandma Williams was born… a quirky commentator on life as seen when you are ancient.
The fun, the enjoyment, the evolving serenity of later years was a great topic. But an increasing anger at the sad image of old age being portrayed by the media became an underlying theme.  Old age is a happy period of life, and for most people one of the best! This media image is so wrong, so stereotyped and unhelpful to everyone.
Later years are the bonus years of good life, they aren’t to be feared!  And someone needed to say so.
I have always loved thinking and writing. Many were the unpublished “ Dear Sir “ letters. Though some made it. But Blogging, it dawned:  I could write and publish to the whole world!
Haven’t stopped since.  I was determined to have a go at that stupid image of later years. Take out the fear and get some recognition of what a great, if different period of a normal life it is.
…and challenge Ageism.
I had to learn to tweet to promote the blog. As a result I have lovely contacts with people from dozens of countries. But most important, I am being heard and recognised by the key influencers in the fields of ‘Better Ageing’ and the media.
What about sex?

Her latest post is - you read that right - on sex! She tries to break the stereotype of aged people as those counting their days and lacking in jest for life, and she quite succeeds. 

The story of Vietnamese blogger 'Mother Mushroom'

If you are a blogger for long and have been interested in knowing how bloggers are faring globally, you must have heard about 'Mother Mushroom'. If you missed, read on...

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh is a prominent Vietnamese blogger who started blogging in 2006 when she was pregnant. She wanted to blog, but on her pregnancy and the would-be child. 

During a visit to the hospital, she witnesses poor patients braving a hot sun for their turn only because they could not bribe the hospital staff for entry. That changed the subject of the blog from motherhood to activism.

She started taking part in protests against environmentally sensitive projects. Her reports on corruption in government offices, environmental hazards (including a massive fish kill)  and also her stand against China-backed projects that she saw as exploitative, Quynh caught the attention of the government. She was imprisoned in 2009 for writing about land grabbing by a China-backed bauxite mine. She had to shut down the blog in return for being released.

But she continued with blogging and activism. She was again arrested in 2016 while trying to meet an imprisoned political activist. This time her charge was rather serious in Vietnamese system of governance: conducting propaganda against the Vietnamese socialist government. For that, in 2017 a court awarded her a jail sentence of ten years. 

mother mushroom

Under pressure from international civil rights organizations, Quynh was suddenly and quietly released on October 17, 2018 on the condition that she leave Vietnam. 

Quynh, 39, now lives in the US with her mother and two children. 

Mother Mushroom has received accolades and awards for her standing for human rights in the face of state repression. In 2015, she received an award from the Sweden-based Civil Rights Defenders. In 2017, she was awarded the International Women of Courage Award by the US state department. The latest one is the International Press Freedom Award, given to her in November 2018. 

In an interview to VOAnews after her release, she said on blogging for social change: We are not alone, because freedom is something that all of us, each and everyone of us, aspires to. Because of that common factor, because we all dream of the same dream, we are not alone and so if you can just overcome the personal fear of yours, you will find many, many other supporters out there. The minute that you speak out, thousands of other voices will join you. That is what we will draw our strength and force from.
  
But why Mushroom?

Quynh's blog indeed was supposed to be a motherhood blog. So she gave it the Vietnamese name Me Nam (Mother Mushroom) after her daughter's pet name, Nam, meaning mushroom.