I’ve been cloned … on twitter. [UPDATED]

[UPDATED 10 March 2015 — After publishing this, I started hearing from other foreigners doing media in China (PR, journos), all of whom had been cloned in precisely the same way – legit twitter handle of another China entity, followed by random numbers and digits (see here, for example). Who’s doing it? What’s it amount to? I have no idea. I’ve reached out to twitter’s media folks, and perhaps they’ll be able to clear it up. In the meantime, one of the other China expats – a journalist – put me in touch with twitter’s spam team, and they helped to clear out the Adam Minter clones. I guess we’ll see if that takes care of the problem.]

[UPDATED 10 April 2015 — Twitter’s media people got back to me with this: “We don’t comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons, and we only share IP addresses with law enforcement in response to valid legal process.” That’s too bad – since writing them, the impersonation accounts started up again, cloning me and several other China-based journos and academics. Oh well.]

A few months ago a friend emailed to say that he’d searched for me on twitter and found twenty accounts using my name, photo, and bio. I looked, and he was right: I was being impersonated. But here’s the thing: the actual twitter handle – the thing that starts with an @ – wasn’t some permutation of @adamminter. Rather, it was always @XHnews plus some random string of letters. As many of my readers know, @XHnews is the official, verified account of Xinhua, China’s state-owned news agency, purveyor of news and propaganda to the world.


Why would someone want to make a mash-up of me and Xinhua? I have no idea. But anyway, Twitter doesn’t make it easy to get rid of these accounts – you have to fill out a form for each one. Still, once I finished complaining about the first, I couldn’t stop, and after 20 minutes or so I’d dutifully complained about each Minter/Xinhua mashup, and a few days later they were gone. Or so I thought.

Because a few weeks later they were back. Only this time, it wasn’t two dozen mashups – there were more than fifty. This time I filed a single impersonation report with twitter and added a note explaining this curious situation, and begging that twitter delete every Adam Minter that starts with a @XHnews. And they did … Continue reading

More iPhone, More Carbon.

Earlier this week, when Apple announced that it was building a solar-powered data center in Mesa, Arizona, I immediately thought of their phones. To be sure, there’s much to admire in Apple’s commitment to reducing its internal carbon footprint. But that admiration needs to be tempered by an equally relevant set of facts: the carbon emissions associated with each generation of the iPhone are actually growing.

More carbon with every bite.

More carbon with every bite.

The trend was brought to my attention in a blog post by the Restart Project, a London-based collective that promotes repair and maintenance of old products. As they point out, Apple laudably discloses carbon emissions for each of its products via publicly available environmental reports. And according to those reports, the carbon emissions associated with an iPhone have been growing with each new model, from 70kg for the 4s, to 75kg for 5s, to 95kg for the iPhone 6 (Apple doesn’t break out respective carbon emission rates for the 6 and the 6 Plus) that was selling –  according to Apple – 34,000 units per hour during its last reported quarter. That’s a whopping 35% increase in per iPhone carbon emissions over three phone generations.

Continue reading

Native advertising?

This morning while browsing the New York Times I came across this stunning full page Apple ad. Terrific collaboration on the part of two of America’s top lifestyle brands.

[and a nice explainer on native advertising, here at the Guardian]



The Environmentally Unfriendly, Pre-Mature Afterlife of the iPhone 5s

What’s the lifespan of an iPhone? Is it measured in the lifespan of the handset? Or is it measured in the lifespan of the battery? Most iPhone users will likely answer that the lifespan is determined by the battery, if only because – unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4 – consumers can’t change an iPhone battery without voiding the warranty. As a result, if you own an iPhone, and your battery is dying, you’re left little option beyond relying upon Apple’s $79 battery replacement service – and the one-week, mail-in wait that it requires. Under that circumstance, most consumers will opt for a new phone. After all, who can wait a week for a battery replacement?

Today at Bloomberg View I take issue with this Apple design choice, in an op-ed entitled, “Eco-Friendly Apple’s Dark iPhone Secret.” As I point out in the piece, the new iPhone 5s is more unfriendly than most, due in no small part to the fact that Apple has chosen to glue the new phone’s battery to the case, making it even more difficult to replace. Below, an image courtesy of ifixit, showing a removed battery and the glue strips that secure it.



Surely Apple – a company that prides itself on reduced packaging – can figure out a way to allow consumers to switch out batteries from its most popular product. At Bloomberg View, I suggest that it might want to start looking for a way sooner rather than later.

Paul Krugman’s Communist Viagra Peddlers

Paul Krugman has seen the enemy, and that enemy is a Communist Viagra salesman. At least, that’s the message conveyed in the esteemed Nobel Prize winner’s Saturday blog post at the New York Times, “The Hacking of Michael Pettis.”

For those who don’t know of him, Michael Pettis is a finance professor at Peking University, and a well-known ‘China bear’ and skeptic. For China critics like Krugman, Pettis  and his blog are inspiration. In any event, a few weeks ago Krugman was amused to find Pettis’ blog filled with Viagra ads; on Saturday, amusement turned to alarm when he returned to Pettis’ blog to read that – due to the power of the Viagra hackers – Pettis has been forced to re-build his blog. There are plenty of conclusions to be drawn from Pettis’ blog predicament. Krugman, notably, chooses the most extreme:

“Commenters over there are suspicious — this sounds awfully persistent for Viagra salesmen, and you have to wonder whether someone doesn’t like frank assessments of Chinese economic prospects. And it makes me grateful that this blog is protected by Times firewalls etc., given the stuff that has happened outside that protection — e.g., fake Google plus, Facebook, and Twitter accounts in my name, to cite just the stuff I know about.”

Let’s be clear about what Krugman is implying here: Michael Pettis, noted skeptic of China’s economic prospects, has been transformed into a Viagra sales platform by “someone” who doesn’t like his economic analysis. .Who is that “someone?” Krugman won’t won’t say, but in this age of state-sponsored hacking it shouldn’t be too hard to connect the dots to … the Chinese Communist Party and its platoon of Viagra salesmen?

This is wacky stuff – black helicopters for the well-heeled Nobel Prize set, in a sense. It’s also baseless stuff: when I posted the story to facebook, my friend Rich Brubaker, founder of the Collective Responsibility consultancy, and an adjunct prof at the China European International Business School in Shanghai, left the following comment:

“Pettis’s blog has had this for three years. Started as a result of widespread WordPress event, and all my blogs had same problem. I sent him fix years ago… Clearly he isn’t bothered.”

That’s a reasonable, fact-based explanation, even if it leaves open the possibility of something far more serious. Krugman, if he hopes to avoid becoming a cartoon of himself, would be well-advised to learn from it.

UPDATE: In another facebook comment, Brubaker expands a bit on his communications with Pettis:

“Here is one of the links that I sent him, which describes the core issue that he was facing in 2011 (when I emailed him). I myself had to go through this for 2 blog sites, both WordPress, and a LOT of sties were reporting the same issue at the time. With many being hosted on Media Temple.”

The link Rich shared is here.


Suspend Me On Twitter (Updated)


On Friday afternoon I logged into my twitter account and was promptly informed that my account had been suspended. I’d been given no notice, no warnings, no indications whatsoever that something might be amiss (for the record: I am not a spammer, an account churner, or a follow-back participant; I don’t engage in personal attacks). Rather, the account was just summarily suspended, and that was that. I was offered a link to a page with possible explanations for the suspension, and a form that I could use to appeal the suspension – which I promptly did.


So far, nobody from twitter has gotten back to me with an explanation, absolution, or further punishment. Of course, twitter isn’t a government, and they’re under no obligation to follow any kind of due process in such matters. But for twitter users like me, who have woven the service into their daily routines, the capricious, totally opaque nature of this account suspension is both disturbing and – in my case at least – a warning that I might want to reconsider how much I depend on it.

In any event, if somebody out there knows somebody at twitter who might be able to help me, I’d be deeply grateful. Having a suspended account isn’t the best PR, and I’d at least like to erase the stigma before people start thinking I’m a spammer or worse.

[UPDATE, SIX HOURS LATER:  So I go to bed suspended, and wake up restored. Yes, that’s right: twitter restored my account. However, in keeping with the opaque nature of this episode, they didn’t bother to send along an explanation. Rather, they just restored me. Were my emails the difference makers? Was I misidentified as a spammer? Did someone at twitter HQ grow tired of my China tweets? Perhaps, like my wife, they feel that it’s time I update my profile photo? Anything is possible, I suppose, in the absence of any kind of explanation. The End.]

What Henry Blodget Didn’t Get About Foxconn

On Friday, China Labor Watch, a New York-based NGO that claims to be “dedicated to promoting workers’ fair redistribution of wealth under globalization,” announced that a “large-scale strike” had shut down a Foxconn factory that manufactures the iPhone 5. The group didn’t cite its sources for the story, but that didn’t stop several major news organizations (the credulous Reuters report was syndicated across multiple platforms) from parroting the press release, often verbatim. It was also picked up by several notable bloggers and commentators, including Henry Blodget, co-founder, CEO, and editor of The Business Insider. Below, a screen grab of Blodget’s Friday afternoon editorial.

On first glance, the photo is the perfect complement to the headline: young Asian women in red sashes marching through a factory zone. If they can’t stop iPhone 5 production, nobody can!

But now, let’s take a closer look at that photo (you can click to the original, here). I’ve blown it up and grabbed a representative sample, below.

Two things to note in this photo. First off, the characters on the red sashes very clearly spell out 奇美電子- Chimei Electronics, a company better known as Chimei Innolux, one of the world’s largest flat panel manufacturers. Now, as it happens, Foxconn is a major shareholder in Chimei Innolux, and it partners with Chi Mei to manufacture touch-screens. But Chi Mei is not Foxconn, and thus the above photo does not show Foxconn employees.

Second, those who read the China Labor Watch press release will note that it describes a work stoppage. Now compare that to the photo: these girls are smiling, walking in lock-step, and wearing red sashes. Nobody is wearing a Foxconn uniform (for a sense of what those look like, see Rob Schimitz’s film taken in the Foxconn Longhua facility a few months ago), or any other kind of worker uniform. Rather, they’re in their civilian clothes, and they appear to be engaging in a kind of parade. Is it a parade in support of Chimei Electronics? Maybe, but admittedly I have no idea.

But here’s the thing: Henry Blodget, or whomever he employs as a photo editor, did have an idea. And that idea, as tweeted by my friend Abe Sauer (who pointed out the photo and headline to me in the first place), goes a little something like this: “group of Asian people all walking in unison = protest action.” It’s not an uncommon way of thinking about China, and Asia, especially among commentators and correspondents with little to no experience interacting with Chinese workers. Nonetheless, common or not, you’d hope that organizations and individuals who aspire to some kind of role in commentating about China and its labor situation would have the good sense if not the dignity to avoid gross stereotypes (based on skin color, no less) and generalizations in their pontificating.

[UPDATE: I was just asked who took the photo in question. Answer: I don’t know. Blodget/BI didn’t run a photo credit.]

[UPDATE 2: Then there’s the matter of the image that China Labor Watch posted with its press release announcing the strike – and which has been widely reproduced (for example, at PC World and Engadget). That image is below, credited – on China Labor Watch’s website – to “Ye Fedao/worker for Foxconn Zhengzhou.”

Does this image strike anyone as depicting a strike or work stoppage? In it, workers appear to be lined up and awaiting something. Note the girl in the foreground idly checking her phone. What is she and the others waiting for so patiently? A bus to the factory? A bus to the dorms? Whatever it is, there’s little evidence in this photo to suggest that she and others are waiting for a strike. But that didn’t stop China Labor Watch and others from running the grainy image. They, like Blodget, appear to be under the impression that when groups of Asian laborers gather, they must be protesting. The truth is far more normal than that – unless, of course, you insist on viewing China’s factory workers as a perpetually persecuted class just waiting for a chance to rise up. But this has never been true, and is even less true now, as amply documented in several recent stories, of which Marketplace’s series, End of the Great Migration, is one of the best.

In any event, over at Forbes, Tim Worstall has done a nice job breaking down the media flubs on what’s increasingly looking like a non-strike, non-story. Way to go, China Labor Watch. For a more nuanced, and humanizing view of Chinese factory workers, see Leslie Chang’s fine essay on the subject that ran last week on CNN.]

[UPDATE 3: Stan Abrams at China Hearsay just posted an excellent run-down and wrap-up of the confused coverage of the non-strike. Well worth reading, here. China Labor Watch, it seems, has much to answer for in this debacle.]

[UPDATE 4 – 12 hours after first post:  Henry Blodget has now replaced the Chimei photo with … the China Labor Watch photo that ran with the press release. That is not progress.]