Facebook

Facebook's Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children (propublica.org) 76

Sidney Fussell from Gizmodo summarizes a report from ProPublica, which brings to light dozens of training documents used by Facebook to train moderators on hate speech: As the trove of slides and quizzes reveals, Facebook uses a warped, one-sided reasoning to balance policing hate speech against users' freedom of expression on the platform. This is perhaps best summarized by the above image from one of its training slideshows, wherein Facebook instructs moderators to protect "White Men," but not "Female Drivers" or "Black Children." Facebook only blocks inflammatory remarks if they're used against members of a "protected class." But Facebook itself decides who makes up a protected class, with lots of clear opportunities for moderation to be applied arbitrarily at best and against minoritized people critiquing those in power (particularly white men) at worst -- as Facebook has been routinely accused of. According to the leaked documents, here are the group identifiers Facebook protects: Sex, Religious affiliation, National origin, Gender identity, Race, Ethnicity, Sexual Orientation, Serious disability or disease. And here are those Facebook won't protect: Social class, continental origin, appearance, age, occupation, political ideology, religions, countries. Subsets of groups -- female drivers, Jewish professors, gay liberals -- aren't protected either, as ProPublica explains: White men are considered a group because both traits are protected, while female drivers and black children, like radicalized Muslims, are subsets, because one of their characteristics is not protected.
Businesses

A New Kind of Tech Job Emphasizes Skills, Not a College Degree (nytimes.com) 157

Steve Lohr, writing for the New York Times: A few years ago, Sean Bridges lived with his mother, Linda, in Wiley Ford, W.Va. Their only income was her monthly Social Security disability check. He applied for work at Walmart and Burger King, but they were not hiring. Yet while Mr. Bridges had no work history, he had certain skills. He had built and sold some stripped-down personal computers, and he had studied information technology at a community college. When Mr. Bridges heard IBM was hiring at a nearby operations center in 2013, he applied and demonstrated those skills. Now Mr. Bridges, 25, is a computer security analyst, making $45,000 a year. In a struggling Appalachian economy, that is enough to provide him with his own apartment, a car, spending money -- and career ambitions. "I got one big break," he said. "That's what I needed." Mr. Bridges represents a new but promising category in the American labor market: people working in so-called new-collar or middle-skill jobs. As the United States struggles with how to match good jobs to the two-thirds of adults who do not have a four-year college degree, his experience shows how a worker's skills can be emphasized over traditional hiring filters like college degrees, work history and personal references. [...] On Wednesday, the approach received a strong corporate endorsement from Microsoft, which announced a grant of more than $25 million to help Skillful, a program to foster skills-oriented hiring, training and education. The initiative, led by the Markle Foundation, began last year in Colorado, and Microsoft's grant will be used to expand it there and move it into other states. "We need new approaches, or we're going to leave more and more people behind in our economy," said Brad Smith, president of Microsoft.
Facebook

The Guardian Backtracks On WhatsApp 'Backdoor' Report (theguardian.com) 47

Five months after The Guardian published an investigative report, in which it found a "backdoor" in the Facebook-owned service, the publication is finally making amendments. The January report immediately stirred controversy among security experts, who began questioning The Guardian's piece. Weeks later, Zeynep Tufekci, a researcher and op-ed writer for the New York Times, published an open letter with over 70 major security researchers working at major universities and companies like Google condemning the story, and asking the publication to retract it.. Paul Chadwick, The Guardian's reader's editor, said "The Guardian was wrong to report last January that the popular messaging service WhatsApp had a security flaw so serious that it was a huge threat to freedom of speech." From his article: In a detailed review I found that misinterpretations, mistakes and misunderstandings happened at several stages of the reporting and editing process. Cumulatively they produced an article that overstated its case. The Guardian ought to have responded more effectively to the strong criticism the article generated from well-credentialled experts in the arcane field of developing and adapting end-to-end encryption for a large-scale messaging service. The original article -- now amended and associated with the conclusions of this review -- led to follow-up coverage, some of which sustained the wrong impression given at the outset. The most serious inaccuracy was a claim that WhatsApp had a "backdoor", an intentional, secret way for third parties to read supposedly private messages. This claim was withdrawn within eight hours of initial publication online, but withdrawn incompletely. The story retained material predicated on the existence of a backdoor, including strongly expressed concerns about threats to freedom, betrayal of trust and benefits for governments which surveil. In effect, having dialled back the cause for alarm, the Guardian failed to dial back expressions of alarm.
Communications

August Solar Eclipse Could Disrupt Roads and Cellular Networks 86

GeoGreg writes: On August 21, 2017, the contiguous United States will experience its first total solar eclipse since 1979. According to GreatAmericanEclipse.com's Michael Zeiler, approximately 200 million people live within one day's drive of the eclipse. Zeiler projects that between 1.85 to 7.4 million people will attempt to visit the path of totality. As the eclipse approaches, articles are appearing predicting the possibility of automobile traffic jamming rural roads. There is also concern about the ability of rural cellular networks to handle such a large influx. AT&T is bringing in Cell On Wheel (COW) systems to rural locations in Kentucky, Idaho, and Oregon, while Verizon is building a temporary tower in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The disruption could be frustrating to those trying to get to the eclipse or share their photos via social networking. If cellular networks can't handle the data, apps like Waze won't be much help in avoiding the traffic. If communication is essential near the eclipse path, Astronomy Magazine recommends renting a satellite phone.
Social Networks

Facebook Crosses 2 Billion Monthly Users (theverge.com) 97

Facebook has announced that it now has over 2 billion monthly active users. From a report: That's up from the 1.94 billion total that the company cited as part of its most recent earnings report in May. Mark Zuckerberg shared the news directly, and Fast Company has a story on Facebook's constant efforts to keep pushing growth upward. "It's an honor to be on this journey with you," Zuckerberg wrote. Facebook's other apps are faring well, too: Messenger has over 1.2 billion monthly users and Facebook-owned WhatsApp tallies a similar figure. Twitter, by comparison, has 328 million monthly active users. Instagram has over 700 million.
China

China's All-Seeing Surveillance State Is Reading Its Citizens' Faces (wsj.com) 104

China's government is using facial-recognition technology to help promote good behavior and catch lawbreakers, reports the WSJ. From the article: Facial-recognition technology, once a specter of dystopian science fiction, is becoming a feature of daily life in China, where authorities are using it on streets, in subway stations, at airports and at border crossings in a vast experiment in social engineering (alternative source). Their goal: to influence behavior and identify lawbreakers. Ms. Gan, 31 years old, had been caught on camera crossing illegally here once before, allowing the system to match her two images. Text displayed on the crosswalk screens identified her as a repeat offender. "I won't ever run a red light again," she said. China is rushing to deploy new technologies to monitor its people in ways that would spook many in the U.S. and the West. Unfettered by privacy concerns or public debate, Beijing's authoritarian leaders are installing iris scanners at security checkpoints in troubled regions and using sophisticated software to monitor ramblings on social media. By 2020, the government hopes to implement a national "social credit" system that would assign every citizen a rating based on how they behave at work, in public venues and in their financial dealings.
The Internet

Social Media Giants Step Up Joint Fight Against Extremist Content (reuters.com) 171

Social media giants Facebook, Google's YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft said on Monday they were forming a global working group to combine their efforts to remove terrorist content from their platforms. From a report: Responding to pressure from governments in Europe and the United States after a spate of militant attacks, the companies said they would share technical solutions for removing terrorist content, commission research to inform their counter-speech efforts and work more with counter-terrorism experts. The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism "will formalize and structure existing and future areas of collaboration between our companies and foster cooperation with smaller tech companies, civil society groups and academics, governments and supra-national bodies such as the EU and the UN," the companies said in a statement.
The Almighty Buck

Who Americans Spend Their Time With (theatlas.com) 113

Data scientist Henrik Lindberg has a series of fascinating charts based on data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that show who people in the United States spend their time with over the course of their lifetime. Check out the charts here. From a report on Quartz: Some of the relationships Lindberg found are intuitive. Time with friends drops off abruptly in the mid-30s, just as time spent with children peaks. Around the age of 60 -- nearing and then entering retirement, for many -- people stop hanging out with co-workers as much, and start spending more time with partners. Others are more surprising. Hours spent in the company of children, friends, and extended family members all plateau by our mid-50s. And from the age of 40 until death, we spend an ever-increasing amount of time alone. Those findings are consistent with research showing that the number of friends we have peaks around age 25, and plateaus between the ages of 45 and 55. Simply having fewer social connections doesn't necessarily equal loneliness. The Stanford University psychologist Linda Carstensen has found that emotional regulation improves with age, so that people derive more satisfaction from the relationships they have, whatever the number. Older people also report less stress and more happiness than younger people.
Security

Anthem To Pay $115 Million In The Largest Data Breach Settlement Ever (cnet.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: Anthem, the largest health insurance company in the U.S., has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit over a 2015 data breach for a record $115 million, according to lawyers for the plaintiffs. The settlement still has to be approved by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, who is scheduled to hear the case on August 17 in San Jose, California. And Anthem, which didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment, isn't admitting any admitting any wrongdoing, according to a statement it made to CyberScoop acknowledging the settlement.

But if approved, it would be the largest data breach settlement in history, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers, who announced the agreement Friday. The funds would be used to provide victims of the data breach at least two years of credit monitoring and to reimburse customers for breach-related expenses. The settlement would also guarantee a certain level of funding for "information security to implement or maintain numerous specific changes to its data security systems, including encryption of certain information and archiving sensitive data with strict access controls," the plaintiff attorneys said.

The breach compromised data for 80 million people, including their social security numbers, birthdays, street addresses (and email addresses) as well as income data. The $115 million settlement averages out to $1.43 for every person who was affected.
EU

Germany Cracks Down On Illegal Speech On Social Media. (smh.com.au) 531

ArmoredDragon writes: German police have raided 36 homes of people accused of using illegal speech on Facebook and Twitter. Much of it was aimed at political speech. According to the article, "Most of the raids concerned politically motivated right-wing incitement, according to the Federal Criminal Police Office, whose officers conducted home searches and interrogations. But the raids also targeted two people accused of left-wing extremist content, as well as one person accused of making threats or harassment based on someone's sexual orientation."

This comes just as a new law is being debated that can fine social media platforms $53 million for not removing 70% of illegal speech (including political, defamatory, and hateful speech) within 24 hours of it being posted, which Facebook argues will make it obligatory for them to delete posts and ban users for speech that isn't clearly illegal.

Open Source

Linus Explains What Surprises Him After 25 Years Of Linux (linux.com) 178

Linus Torvalds appeared in a new "fireside chat" with VMware Head of Open Source Dirk Hohndel. An anonymous reader writes: Linus explained what still surprises him about Linux development. "Code that I thought was stable continually gets improved. There are things we haven't touched for many years, then someone comes along and improves them or makes bug reports in something I thought no one used. We have new hardware, new features that are developed, but after 25 years, we still have old, very basic things that people care about and still improve... Our processes have not only worked for 25 years, we still have a very strong maintainer group... And as these maintainers get older and fatter, we have new people coming in."

Linus also says he's surprised by the widespread popularity of Git. "I expected it to be limited mostly to the kernel -- as it's tailored to what we do... In certain circles, Git is more well known than Linux." And he also shares advice if you want to get started as an open source developer. "I'm not sure my example is the right thing for people to follow. There are a ton of open source projects and, if you are a beginning programmer, find something you're interested in that you can follow for more than just a few weeks... If you can be part of a community and set up patches, it's not just about the coding, but about the social aspect of open source. You make connections and improve yourself as a programmer."

Linus also says that "I really like what I'm doing. I like waking up and having a job that is technically interesting and challenging without being too stressful so I can do it for long stretches; something where I feel I am making a real difference and doing something meaningful not just for me."
The Almighty Buck

The People GoFundMe Leaves Behind (theoutline.com) 242

citadrianne shares a report from The Outline: President Donald Trump's proposed budget seeks to slash $54 billion from social services including programs like Medicaid and Meals on Wheels. As these resources dry up, crowdfunding websites will further entrench themselves as extra-governmental welfare providers in order to fill the gap. For a lucky few, these sites are a lifeline. For most people, they are worthless. Crowdfunding's fatal flaw is that not every campaign ends up getting the money it needs. A recent study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that more than 90 percent of GoFundMe campaigns never meet their goal. For every crowdfunding success story, there are hundreds of failures. "As many happy stories as there are in charitable crowdfunding, there are a lot of really worthy causes when you browse these platforms that nobody has given a cent to," Rob Gleasure, professor at the business school of the National University of Ireland, Cork told The Outline. "People haven't come across them." Feller and Gleasure's report highlighted how fickle crowdfunding can be. Of all the Razoo campaigns started in 2013, they found, more than a third didn't receive any funding at all. According to their report, donors are more likely to give to campaigns that feature lots of pictures and accompanying text.
Businesses

'Chiropractors Are Bullshit' (theoutline.com) 323

From an article on The Outline, submitted by two readers: If you're one of the approximately 80 percent of Americans who have suffered from back pain, you may have been referred to a chiropractor for medical help. In the modern-day internet landscape, you'll find chiropractic celebrities like Dr. Josh Axe (1.7 million Facebook followers), Dr. Billy DeMoss (20,000 Facebook followers), and Dr. Eric Berg (472,000 YouTube subscribers) giving advice that goes beyond managing spinal issues. Both in their offices and on social media, chiropractors have adapted to a marketplace that's demanding more than just pain management: they extol the virtues of an "alkaline diet," tell you how to manage stress with detoxing, and wax scientific about the adrenal gland. [...] Chiropractic care, I'm sorry to say, is little more than the buffoonery of a 19th-century lunatic who derived most of his medical theory from seances. It has not evolved much since its creation. Chiropractic beliefs are dangerously far removed from mainstream medicine, and the vocation's practices have been linked to strokes, herniated discs, and even death. Chiropractors can't replace your doctor, and I'm amazed that they're still even allowed to practice. [...] Though some chiropractors are now making an effort to introduce evidence-based practices into their treatment, chiropractic as a whole hasn't evolved like other areas of medicine -- with hypotheses, experimentation, and peer review. Instead, it was birthed by a strange combination of hocus pocus, guesswork, and strongly held religious beliefs.
China

Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument (cnet.com) 69

Abstract of a study: The Chinese government has long been suspected of hiring as many as 2,000,000 people to surreptitiously insert huge numbers of pseudonymous and other deceptive writings into the stream of real social media posts, as if they were the genuine opinions of ordinary people. Many academics, and most journalists and activists, claim that these so-called "50c party" posts vociferously argue for the government's side in political and policy debates. As we show, this is also true of the vast majority of posts openly accused on social media of being 50c. Yet, almost no systematic empirical evidence exists for this claim, or, more importantly, for the Chinese regime's strategic objective in pursuing this activity. In the first large scale empirical analysis of this operation, we show how to identify the secretive authors of these posts, the posts written by them, and their content. We estimate that the government fabricates and posts about 448 million social media comments a year. In contrast to prior claims, we show that the Chinese regime's strategy is to avoid arguing with skeptics of the party and the government, and to not even discuss controversial issues. From a CNET article, titled, Chinese media told to 'shut down' talk that makes country look bad: Being an internet business in China appears to be getting tougher. Chinese broadcasters, including social media platform Weibo, streamer Acfun and media company Ifeng were told to shut down all audio and visual content that cast the country or its government in bad light, China's State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television posted on its website on Thursday, saying they violate local regulations. "[The service providers] broadcast large amounts of programmes that don't comply with national rules and propagate negative discussions about public affairs. [The agency] has notified all relevant authorities and ... will take measures to shut down these programmes and rectify the situation," reads the statement.
Facebook

Facebook Has a New Mission: Bring the World Closer Together (cnn.com) 106

Facebook CEO believes the company's primary purpose is a social one -- the same it has had for year -- but he's ready to update this mission for the first time. From a report: "We used to have a sense that if we could just do those things, then that would make a lot of the things in the world better by themselves," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech. "But now we realize that we need to do more too. It's important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together." The company even has a new mission statement: "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." This marks the first time the company has overhauled its mission, which had previously been "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Zuckerberg believes he has just the tool for the job: Facebook Groups, which are now used by a billion people. "A lot of what we can do is to help create a more civil and productive debate on some of the bigger issues as well," Zuckerberg told CNN Tech.
Privacy

California May Restore Broadband Privacy Rules Killed By Congress and Trump (arstechnica.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A proposed law in California would require Internet service providers to obtain customers' permission before they use, share, or sell the customers' Web browsing history. The California Broadband Internet Privacy Act, a bill introduced by Assembly member Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park) on Monday, is very similar to an Obama-era privacy rule that was scheduled to take effect across the US until President Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress eliminated it. If Chau's bill becomes law, ISPs in California would have to get subscribers' opt-in consent before using browsing history and other sensitive information in order to serve personalized advertisements. Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent at any time. The opt-in requirement in Chau's bill would apply to "Web browsing history, application usage history, content of communications, and origin and destination Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of all traffic." The requirement would also apply to geolocation data, IP addresses, financial and health information, information pertaining to minors, names and billing information, Social Security numbers, demographic information, and personal details such as physical addresses, e-mail addresses, and phone numbers.
Android

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android (venturebeat.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
  • Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
  • Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Launches New AI Progress Measurement Project (eff.org) 48

Reader Peter Eckersley writes: There's a lot of real progress happening in the field of machine learning and artificial intelligence, and also a lot of hype. These technologies already have serious policy implications, and may have more in the future. But what's the ratio of hype to real progress? At EFF, we decided to find out.

Today we are launching a pilot project to measure the progress of AI research. It breaks the field into a taxonomy of subproblems like game playing, reading comprehension, computer vision, and asking neural networks to write computer programs, and tracks progress on metrics across these fields. We're hoping to get feedback and contributions from the machine learning community, with the aim of using this data to improve the conversations around the social implications, transparency, safety, and security of AI.

Advertising

Time Warner Will Spend $100 Million On Snapchat Original Shows, Ads (techcrunch.com) 40

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Time Warner and Snap Inc. have announced a new deal that will bring increased ad spending and the development of new made-for-Snapchat shows. People familiar with the deal tell TechCrunch that it is valued at about $100 million spent over the next two years. The newly created shows will span a variety of genres, including scripted drama, daily news shows, documentaries and comedy. The shows will be similar to those already released by other networks on Snapchat, and run 3-5 minutes in a vertical format. Right now there is about one new show airing per day -- this deal will push that to about three news shows per day, varying between the different genres outlined above. Snap will take 50 percent of the ad revenue generated by these shows and the content partners will keep the other half, according to the WSJ.
Social Networks

Supreme Court Rules Sex Offenders Can't Be Barred From Social Media (gizmodo.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: In a unanimous decision today, the Supreme Court struck down a North Carolina law that prevents sex offenders from posting on social media where children might be present, saying it "impermissibly restricts lawful speech." In doing so, the Supreme Court asserted what we all know to be true: Posting is essential to the survival of the republic. The court ruled that to "foreclose access to social media altogether is to prevent the user from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights." The court correctly noted that "one of the most important places to exchange views is cyberspace." The North Carolina law was ruled to be overly broad, barring "access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge."

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