Security

UK.gov To Treat Online Abuse as Seriously as Hate Crime in Real Life (theregister.co.uk) 238

The UK's Crown Prosecution Service has pledged to tackle online abuse with the same seriousness as it does hate crimes committed in the flesh. From a report: Following public concern about the increasing amount of racist, anti-religious, homophobic and transphobic attacks on social media, the CPS has today published a new set of policy documents on hate crime. This includes revised legal guidance for prosecutors on how they should make decisions on criminal charges and handle cases in court. The rules officially put online abuse on the same level as offline hate crimes -- defined as an action motivated by hostility or prejudice -- like shouting abuse at someone face-to-face. They commit the CPS to prosecuting complaints about online material "with the same robust and proactive approach used with online offending." Prosecutors are told to consider the effect on the wider community and whether to identify both the originators and the "amplifiers or disseminators."
Education

After 15 Years, Maine's Laptops-in-Schools Initiative Fails To Raise Test Scores (npr.org) 157

For years Maine has been offering laptops to high school students -- but is it doing more harm than good? An anonymous reader writes: One high school student says "We hardly ever use paper," while another student "says he couldn't imagine social studies class without his laptop and Internet connection. 'I don't think I could do it, honestly... I don't want to look at a newspaper. I don't even know where to get a newspaper!'" But then the reporter visits a political science teacher who "learned what a lot of teachers, researchers and policymakers in Maine have come to realize over the past 15 years: You can't just put a computer in a kid's hand and expect it to change learning."

"Research has shown that 'one-to-one' programs, meaning one student one computer, implemented the right way, increase student learning in subjects like writing, math and science. Those results have prompted other states, like Utah and Nevada, to look at implementing their own one-to-one programs in recent years. Yet, after a decade and a half, and at a cost of about $12 million annually (around one percent of the state's education budget), Maine has yet to see any measurable increases on statewide standardized test scores."

The article notes that Maine de-emphasized teacher training which could've produced better results. One education policy researcher "says this has created a new kind of divide in Maine. Students in larger schools, with more resources, have learned how to use their laptops in more creative ways. But in Maine's higher poverty and more rural schools, many students are still just using programs like PowerPoint and Microsoft Word."
Google

Google Explains Why It Banned the App For Gab, a Right-Wing Twitter Rival (arstechnica.com) 524

AmiMoJo shares a report from Ars Technica: When right-wing trolls and outright racists get kicked off of Twitter, they often move to Gab, a right-wing Twitter competitor. Gab was founded by Andrew Torba, who says it's devoted to unfettered free expression online. The site also hosts controversial right-wing figures like Milo Yiannopoulos, Andrew 'weev' Auernheimer and Andrew Anglin, editor of the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer. On Thursday, Gab said that Google had banned its Android app from the Google Play Store for violating Google's ban on hate speech. The app's main competitor, Twitter, hosts accounts like the American Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the virulently anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, yet the Twitter app is still available on the Google Play store. Apple has long had more restrictive app store policies, and it originally rejected the Gab app for allowing pornographic content to be posted on the service -- despite the fact that hardcore pornography is readily available on Twitter. In an email to Ars, Google explained its decision to remove Gab from the Play Store: "In order to be on the Play Store, social networking apps need to demonstrate a sufficient level of moderation, including for content that encourages violence and advocates hate against groups of people. This is a long-standing rule and clearly stated in our developer policies. Developers always have the opportunity to appeal a suspension and may have their apps reinstated if they've addressed the policy violations and are compliant with our Developer Program Policies."
Software

'Surkus' App Pays Users To Line Up Outside New Restaurants (chicagotribune.com) 114

A new app called Surkus allows restaurants to manufacture their ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. The app reportedly uses "an algorithmic casting agent of sorts" to hand-pick people according to age, location, style and Facebook "likes." All of this is done to create the illusion that a restaurant is busy and worthy of your hard-earned money. Chicago Tribune reports: They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their "reputation score," an identifier that influences whether they'll be "cast" again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won't be paid -- their movements are being tracked with geolocation. Welcome to the new world of "crowdcasting." Surkus raises new questions about the future of advertising and promotion. At a time when it has become commonplace for individuals to broadcast polished versions of their lives on social media, does Surkus give businesses a formidable tool to do the same, renting beautiful people and blending them with advertising in a way that makes reality nearly indiscernible? Or have marketers found a new tool that offers them a far more efficient way to link brands with potential customers, allowing individuals to turn themselves into living extensions of the share economy using a structured, mutually beneficial transaction? The answer depends on whom you ask.
The Internet

Cloudflare Stops Supporting Neo-Nazi Site The Daily Stormer (arstechnica.com) 484

Timothy B. Lee reports via Ars Technica: All week, the infamous hate site Daily Stormer has been battling to stay online in the face of a concerted social media campaign to shut it down. The site lost its "dailystormer.com" domain on Monday after first GoDaddy and then Google Domains blacklisted it from their domain registration services. The site re-appeared online on Wednesday morning at a new domain name, dailystormer.ru. But within hours, the site had gone offline again after it was dropped by Cloudflare, an intermediary that defends customers against denial-of-service attacks. Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin reported Cloudflare's decision to drop the site in a post on the social media site Gab. His post was first spotted by journalist Matthew Sheffield.
Businesses

Snap Sold Fewer Than 42K Spectacles, Down 35% In Q2 (androidheadlines.com) 50

The hype surrounding Snap's Spectacles appears to be dwindling. Their sales have decreased by 35 percent in the second quarter of the year, with the company's latest consolidated financial report revealing that its "Other" revenue amounted to $5.4 million over the three-month period ending June 30. Android Headlines reports: With Spectacles being the company's only miscellaneous endeavor at this point in time and sporting a $130 price tag that has yet to see any discounts, it seems that the Venice, Los Angeles-based social media giant managed to only sell approximately 41,500 units of its first wearable in Q2 2017. During the first quarter of the year that also disappointed investors, Snap's "Other" business category recorded a revenue of $8.3 million, suggesting that the firm managed to sell around 64,000 units. The overall commercial performance of Spectacles may still improve during the current quarter as Snap just recently made the smart sunglasses available on Amazon, in addition to partnering with a number of physical retailers. Likewise, the Snapbot vending machines selling Spectacles only started appearing in Europe in June and are still popping up in a number of major cities on the Old Continent, which is another factor that could help improve the sales figures of Snap's camera-equipped pair of sunglasses. Regardless, the current state of affairs is unlikely to please investors, especially in light of the fact that Snap recently proclaimed itself to be "a camera company," noting how Snapchat is just one aspect of its product vision that's meant to incorporate a wide variety of photography-oriented hardware.
The Courts

Judge Says LinkedIn Cannot Block Startup From Public Profile Data (reuters.com) 165

A U.S. federal judge on Monday ruled that LinkedIn cannot prevent a startup from accessing public profile data, in a test of how much control a social media site can wield over information its users have deemed to be public. Reuters reports: U.S. District Judge Edward Chen in San Francisco granted a preliminary injunction request brought by hiQ Labs, and ordered LinkedIn to remove within 24 hours any technology preventing hiQ from accessing public profiles. The dispute between the two tech companies has been going on since May, when LinkedIn issued a letter to hiQ Labs instructing the startup to stop scraping data from its service. HiQ Labs responded by filing a suit against LinkedIn in June, alleging that the Microsoft-owned social network was in violation of antitrust laws. HiQ Labs uses the LinkedIn data to build algorithms capable of predicting employee behaviors, such as when they might quit. "To the extent LinkedIn has already put in place technology to prevent hiQ from accessing these public profiles, it is ordered to remove any such barriers," Chen's order reads. Meanwhile, LinkedIn said in a statement: "We're disappointed in the court's ruling. This case is not over. We will continue to fight to protect our members' ability to control the information they make available on LinkedIn."
Republicans

Trump Can Block People On Twitter If He Wants, Administration Says (arstechnica.com) 214

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The administration of President Donald Trump is scoffing at a lawsuit by Twitter users who claim in a federal lawsuit that their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle. "It would send the First Amendment deep into uncharted waters to hold that a president's choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter -- a privately run website that, as a central feature of its social-media platform, enables all users to block particular individuals from viewing posts -- violate the Constitution." That's part of what Michael Baer, a Justice Department attorney, wrote to the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuit Friday. In addition, the Justice Department said the courts are powerless to tell Trump how he can manage his private Twitter handle, which has 35.8 million followers.

"To the extent that the President's management of his Twitter account constitutes state action, it is unquestionably action that lies within his discretion as Chief Executive; it is therefore outside the scope of judicial enforcement," Baer wrote. (PDF) Baer added that an order telling Trump how to manage his Twitter feed "would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns by intruding directly into the president's chosen means of communicating to millions of Americans."

Security

Password Power Rankings: a Look At the Practices of 40+ Popular Websites (helpnetsecurity.com) 127

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: Nothing should be more important for these sites and apps than the security of the users who keep them in business. Unfortunately, Dashlane found that that 46% of consumer sites, including Dropbox, Netflix, and Pandora, and 36% of enterprise sites, including DocuSign and Amazon Web Services, failed to implement the most basic password security requirements. The most popular sites provide the least guidance when it comes to secure password policies. Of the 17 consumer sites that failed Dashlane's tests, eight are entertainment/social media sites, and five are e-commerce. Most troubling? Researchers created passwords using nothing but the lowercase letter "a" on Amazon, Google, Instagram, LinkedIn, Venmo, and Dropbox, among others. GoDaddy emerged as the only consumer website with a perfect score, while enterprise sites Stripe and QuickBooks also garnered a perfect score of 5/5. Here's a screenshot of how each consumer/enterprise website performed.
Businesses

Watch Out Ticketmaster: Amazon In Talks To Offer Event Ticketing In US (reuters.com) 67

According to Reuters, Amazon is seeking to partner with U.S. venue owners to sell event tickets -- a move that could loosen Ticketmaster's powerful grip on the lucrative ticketing business. From the report: The Seattle-based company sees the U.S. ticketing market as ripe for attack. Consumers dislike ticket fees, and venue owners, sports leagues and teams want more distributors for their tickets as they seek to boost sales. Access to tickets could be another means to lure members to the Amazon Prime shopping club. For music acts and sports teams, selling tickets through Amazon could help sell their merchandise. Currently Ticketmaster, owned by Live Nation Entertainment, is the exclusive seller of primary tickets for many top venues in the United States. Would-be challengers have struggled to compete in the face of Ticketmaster's strong relationships with the operators of major U.S. sports stadiums, arenas, concert halls and other venues. Amazon has had success with ticketing in Britain, where it has been selling seats to West End shows since 2015, even outselling Ticketmaster for some events, according to one of the sources, who owns venues in that country. It is less common for venues in Britain to have an exclusive ticket provider.
Facebook

Facebook Launches Watch Tab For Video Shows, Uses TV's 75-Year-Old Marketing Pitch (marketwatch.com) 40

From a report: Facebook's push toward original video content will take a big step forward Thursday with the launch of a new section, dubbed Watch. The new tab, which Facebook FB, said late Wednesday will launch for a limited number of U.S. users for now, will feature about 40 original series, with plans to eventually scale up to hundreds of shows. Facebook said it will become available to more users in the coming weeks. The Mountain View, Calif., social network is hoping to tap into lucrative TV advertising revenue to boost its ever-expanding bottom line. If successful, Watch could stem the ad-load slowdown for the rest of the year that Chief Financial Officer David Wehner warned about last month when Facebook filed its quarterly earnings. Facebook also hopes the Watch tab will open up a new method of advertising that doesn't clutter users' News Feeds, and keep its 2 billion users on its site longer. Company's founder Mark Zuckerberg is understandably very excited about the move. He says the company believes "it's possible to rethink a lot of experiences through the lens of building community -- including watching video. Watching a show doesn't have to be passive. It can be a chance to share an experience and bring people together who care about the same things." If that pitch sounds familiar to you, it's because TV has been doing it for more than 75 years.
Facebook

Facebook Is Cracking Down On Deceptive Ads For Porn, Diet Pills (adweek.com) 90

According to Adweek, the next target in Facebook's efforts to keep its News Feed clean is cloaking -- a technique used by "bad actors" to circumvent Facebook's review processes and show content to people that violates Facebook's Community Standards and Advertising Policies. For example, they will set up web pages so that when a Facebook reviewer clicks a link to check whether it's consistent with Facebook's policies, they are taken to a different web page than when someone using the Facebook app clicks that same link. "Facebook product management director Rob Leathern and software engineer Bobbie Chang described in a Newsroom post how 'bad actors' -- such as those promoting diet pills, pornography or muscle-building scams -- attempt to game the social network's review processes," reports Adweek. From the report: Leathern and Chang said Facebook has removed "thousands" of offenders from its platform over the past few months, and any advertisers or pages that are caught cloaking will be banned, as well. Facebook is using artificial intelligence in its anti-cloaking efforts, expanding efforts by human reviewers to identify, capture and verify incidents of cloaking and revising its policies. Pages that are not engaging in these practices should see no impact in their referral traffic.
Google

Google's Other Ugly Secret: Some Managers Keep Blacklists (inc.com) 754

Last week a controversial internal memo written by a concerned Google employee was going viral within the company. The memo, titled "PC Considered Harmful" and since dubbed "the Google manifesto" on social media, argued two points: First, that Google has become an ideological echo chamber where anyone with centrist or right-of-center views fears to speak their mind. Second, that part of the tech industry's gender gap can be attributed to biological differences between men and women. The person who wrote the memo has since been fired, but the internal tussle has revealed one more thing. The Inc reports: The contentious internal discussion revived a concern dating back to 2015: An unknown number of Google managers maintain blacklists of fellow employees, evidently refusing to work with those people. The blacklists are based on personal experiences of others' behavior, including views expressed on politics, social justice issues, and Google's diversity efforts. Inc. reviewed screenshots documenting several managers attesting to this practice, both in the past and currently, explicitly using the term "blacklist." The screenshots were shared by a Google employee who requested anonymity due to having signed an NDA. In additional screenshots, one Google employee declared his intent to quit if Damore were not fired, and another said that he would refuse to work with Damore in any capacity. A Google spokesperson told Inc. that the practice of keeping blacklists is not condoned by upper management, and that Google employees who discriminate against members of protected classes will be terminated. It's not clear whether that principle applies in Damore's case. Although political affiliation is a protected class according to California labor law, the views expressed in the manifesto and echoed by others who oppose political correctness do not seem to merit legal protection.
Social Networks

First Evidence That Social Bots Play a Major Role In Spreading Fake News (technologyreview.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington provide an answer for how social bots play a major role in spreading fake news. MIT Technology Review reports: "At issue is the publication of news that is false or misleading. So widespread has this become that a number of independent fact-checking organizations have emerged to establish the veracity of online information. These include snopes.com, politifact.com, and factcheck.org. These sites list 122 websites that routinely publish fake news. These fake news sites include infowars.com, breitbart.com, politicususa.com, and theonion.com. 'We did not exclude satire because many fake-news sources label their content as satirical, making the distinction problematic,' say researcher Chengcheng Shao and co. Shao and co then monitored some 400,000 claims made by these websites and studied the way they spread through Twitter. They did this by collecting some 14 million Twitter posts that mentioned these claims. At the same time, the team monitored some 15,000 stories written by fact-checking organizations and over a million Twitter posts that mention them. Next, Shao and co looked at the Twitter accounts that spread this news, collecting up to 200 of each account's most recent tweets. In this way, the team could study the tweeting behavior and work out whether the accounts were most likely run by humans or by bots. Having made a judgment on the ownership of each account, the team finally looked at the way humans and bots spread fake news and fact-checked news.

'Accounts that actively spread misinformation are significantly more likely to be bots,' say Shao and co. 'Social bots play a key role in the spread of fake news.' Shad and co say bots play a particularly significant role in the spread of fake news soon after it is published. What's more, these bots are programmed to direct their tweets at influential users. 'Automated accounts are particularly active in the early spreading phases of viral claims, and tend to target influential users,' say Shao and co."

Google

Google Grapples With Fallout After Employee Slams Diversity Efforts (npr.org) 546

An anonymous reader shares a report from NPR: In a 3,300-word document that has been shared across Google's internal networks, an engineer at the company wrote that "biological causes" are part of the reason women aren't represented equally in its tech departments and leadership. The document also cited "men's higher drive for status." The engineer's criticism of Google's attempts to improve gender and racial diversity has prompted two Google executives to rebut the lengthy post, which accused the company of creating an "ideological echo chamber" and practicing discrimination. Wide sharing of the document has highlighted struggles with gender equality and the wage gap in the tech industry and particularly at Google, which was sued by the federal government earlier this year for refusing to share compensation amounts and other data.

But in contrast, the document's author -- whose identity hasn't been publicly released but who claims to work at the company's Mountain View, Calif., headquarters -- accused Google of having "a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence." Not enough has been done, the engineer said, to encourage a diversity of viewpoints and ideologies at Google. The author also faulted the company for offering mentoring and other opportunities to its employees based on gender or race. The engineer began the document by stating, "I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don't endorse using stereotypes." The message ended with a similar sentiment -- but with the added notion, "Stereotypes are much more accurate and responsive to new information than the [company's] training suggests."
In addition to the responses made from Google's VP of Diversity, Integrity and Governance, Danielle Brown, former engineer Yonatan Zunger, and Google VP of Engineering Ari Balogh, senior developer Sarah Mei wrote: "This guy almost certainly thinks of himself as a 'computer scientist,' but he does exactly what you're not supposed to do as a scientist. He draws a conclusion favorable to his ego, and then works backwards from there, constructing an argument to justify it. [...] This google dude literally works at the company that made it _trivially easy_ to locate relevant social science research."
Games

Ask Slashdot: Are Interactive Computing Devices Addictive? 98

This question came from two things noticed by Slashdot reader dryriver:

"Myself and just about every other kid I was friends with in the 1980s were definitely addicted to computers when we were young, and stayed that way until we reached college."

"There is increasing concern about everybody from young kids to people 60+ staring into smartphone, tablet computer and laptop screens for hours and hours every day and not partaking in other activities they used to before the "glowing screen" hooked them."

His question: Are interactive computing devices, whether networked or not, addictive in nature? What kind of applications appear to be the most addictive? (AAA games? Casual games? Social media? Texting?) And could the addiction have something to do with "Neuroplasticity", the fact that doing an activity over and over again each day that you place great importance in, and pay great attention to, can actually rewire the neurons in your brain?
Nicholas Carr once argued that "We're training ourselves, through repetition, to be facile skimmers, scanners, and message-processors -- important skills, to be sure -- but, perpetually distracted and interrupted, we're not training ourselves in the quieter, more attentive modes of thought." Slashdot readers seem uniquely qualified to address this, so leave your own attentive thoughts in the comments. Are interactive computing devices addictive?
Social Networks

FBI Tracked 'Fake News' Believed To Be From Russia On Election Day (cnn.com) 352

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The FBI monitored social media on Election Day last year in an effort to track a suspected Russian disinformation campaign utilizing "fake news," CNN has learned. In the months leading up to Election Day, Twitter and Facebook were the feeding grounds for viral "news" stories floating conspiracies and hoaxes, many aimed at spreading negative false claims about Hillary Clinton. On Election Day, dozens of agents and analysts huddled at a command center arrayed with large monitoring screens at the FBI headquarters in Washington watching for security threats, according to multiple sources. That included analysts monitoring cyber threats, after months of mounting Russian intrusions targeting every part of the US political system, from political parties to policy think-tanks to state election systems. On this day, there was also a group of FBI cyber and counterintelligence analysts and investigators watching social media. FBI analysts had identified social media user accounts behind stories, some based overseas, and the suspicion was that at least some were part of a Russian disinformation campaign, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
The Courts

NotPetya Ransomware Victims Preparing Lawsuit Against Ukrainian Software Firm (bleepingcomputer.com) 25

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Bleeping Computer: The Juscutum Attorneys Association, a Ukrainian law firm, is rallying NotPetya victims to join a collective lawsuit against Intellect-Service LLC, the company behind the M.E.Doc accounting software -- the point of origin of the NotPetya ransomware outbreak. The NotPetya ransomware spread via a trojanized M.E.Doc update, according to Microsoft, Bitdefender, Kaspersky, Cisco, ESET, and Ukrainian Cyber Police. A subsequent investigation revealed that Intellect-Service had grossly mismanaged the hacked servers, which were left without updates since 2013 and were backdoored on three different occasions. On Tuesday, Ukrainian Cyber Police confirmed that M.E.Doc servers were backdoored on three different occasions in an official document. The company is now using this document as the primary driving force behind its legal action. Juscutum says that victims must pay all court fees, must provide evidence or help with the collection of evidence, and agree to a 30% cut in the case of any awarded damages. The lawsuit is in its incipient stages. Juscutum representatives are currently spreading their message and encouraging victims to join the lawsuit via social media posts and articles in local Ukrainian press.
Facebook

Facebook Fights Fake News With Links To Other Angles (techcrunch.com) 157

Facebook is rolling out "Related Articles" that appear below news links to stories lots of people are posting about on Facebook, or that are suspected to be false news and have been externally fact checked by Facebook's partners. "Appearing before someone reads, Related Articles will surface links to additional reporting on the same topic to provide different view points, and to truthiness reports from the fact checkers," reports TechCrunch. From the report: If users see drastically different angles when they compare a story to its Related Articles, they might deem it suspicious and skip it, be less likely to believe or share it, or could click through the Related Articles and make up their own mind. That could reduce the spread and impact of false news without Facebook itself having to be the honesty police. Related Articles could also balance out some of the radical invective that can subtly polarize the populace. Pre-click Related Articles are rolling out in the U.S., Germany, France, and Nederlands today. These countries were chosen to get the roll out first because Facebook has established fact checking partnerships there. "We don't want to be and are not the arbiters of the truth. The fact checkers can give the signal of whether a story is true or false" says Facebook News Feed integrity product manager Tessa Lyons. Meanwhile, Facebook's machine learning algorithm has improved its accuracy and speed, so the social network will now have it send more potential hoaxes to fact checkers.
Science

Slashdot Asks: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (theatlantic.com) 330

Teens today are more likely to be lonely, depressed and immature than any previous generation, according to analysis published in The Atlantic. According to the professor of psychology who did the analysis, who also has been researching generational differences for 25 years, the culprit is the smartphone. From the article: The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of "screen time." But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers' lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone. What do you folks think?

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