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Hackers prank Tupac hoax on PBS website

Business news from the Ascentive team

PBS officials say hackers have cracked the network’s website and posted a fake story claiming dead rapper Tupac Shakur was alive in New Zealand. LulzSec, the hacker group that claimed responsibility for the prank, are said to have acted in response to a recent “Frontline” investigative news program focusing on the whistleblower site WikiLeaks. PBS confirmed Monday that the website had been hacked. The phony story had been taken down as of Monday morning. It had been posted on the site of the “PBS NewsHour” program, which is produced by WETA-TV in Arlington, Va.

Anne Bentley, PBS’ vice president of corporate communications, said in an email that erroneous information posted on the website has been corrected. The hackers also posted login information for two internal PBS sites: one that media use to access the PBS pressroom and an internal communications website for stations, she said. She said all affected parties were being notified.

David Fanning, executive producer of “Frontline,” said he was learning of the hacking early Monday, nearly a week after the program aired its “WikiSecrets” documentary about the leak of U.S. diplomatic cables to the WikiLeaks website. The documentary, produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, generated criticism and debate on the program’s website in recent days from those sympathetic to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and from those who thought the program was fair, Fanning said. “Frontline” producers hear impassioned responses all the time, Fanning said. Having a group attack the PBS website over a news program was unusual but “probably not unexpected,” he said. “From our point of view, we just see it as a disappointing and irresponsible act, especially since we have been very open to publishing criticism of the film … and the film included other points of view. This kind of action is irresponsible and chilling.”

A group calling itself LulzSec (aka The Lulz Boat on Twitter) claimed responsibility and posted links to other hacks, including a video apparently taunting the network. Taunting messages were also posted on the group’s Twitter page targeting the PBS program “Frontline.” One message said the group recently saw the “WikiSecrets” show and was “less than impressed.”

PBS ombudsman Michael Getler wrote about the “WikiSecrets” documentary in his weekly column Thursday, saying it had generated only a handful of complaints, though he had expected more mail from viewers. “This may be a good thing for Frontline if it suggests that most viewers found the program to be in keeping with Frontline’s reputation for fair yet tough reporting,” Getler wrote. Getler raised some questions about the reporting in the program but said he found the questioning by interviewer Martin Smith to be “tough but proper.”


Peter Stern joins Bit.ly as CEO

Business news from the Ascentive team

Three years after founding bit.ly as a home-grown startup inside betaworks, John Borthwick is passing the reigns to a Bit.ly’s first actual CEO, Peter Stern. Borthwick will remain CEO of betaworks and concentrate on new products and investments. Borthwick helped hatch Bitly as one of his incubator’s projects and has overseen it since, while juggling lots of other balls at the same

Stern comes most recently from Zenbe, a webmail platform and mobile that went through a Facebook talent acquisition last November. Stern, who was a co-founder, didn’t go to Facebook. He’s more a New York kind of guy. Back in the 1990s, Stern founded Datek, one of the original online brokerages. Stern led its growth to one of the four largest online brokerage firms before merging with Ameritrade in 2002. Prior to Datek, Stern helped build “cool electro-optic sensors and devices, most of which are classified.”

bit.ly allows users to shorten, share, and track links (URLs). Reducing the URL length makes sharing easier. bit.ly can be accessed through our website, bookmarklets and a robust and open API. bit.ly is also integrated into several popular third-party tools such as Tweetdeck. A more full list of third party tools can be found on the bit.ly blog. Unique user-level and aggregate links are created, allowing users to view complete, real-time traffic and referrer data, as well as location and metadata. Tracking stats are available after users shorten their long links with bit.ly by clicking on the “Info+” link on bit.ly, or just adding a “+” sign to the end of any bit.ly link

Although bit.ly started out as a link-shortener – and that is still primarily what it is used for- all of that realtime data about the links people are sharing is very valuable and can give rise to other products. For instance, bitly data is at the core of its News.me reader for the iPad. “You can expect bit.ly to build on its strengths,” says Stern, “enabling people to explore and share content in other ways beyond url shortening.”

Bit.ly has raised $14 million in a few years, and shrinks more than 8 billion Web addresses a month. Late last year, bitly raised $10 million, which it is putting towards new product development and hires (including Flickr’s former product chief).

Stern says a version for Apple’s iPhone is also in the works.

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