Category: Internet

Facebook says it will reduce fake news

funny-pictures-auto-news-france-387930Facebook said  it will update its social media platforms in Germany within weeks to reduce the dissemination of fake news.

German Justice Minister Heiko Mass has repeatedly called on Facebook to respect laws against defamation in Germany that are stricter than those in the United States.

The Germans are worried that fake news and “hate speech” on the internet could influence a parliamentary election in September in which chancellor Angela Merkel will seek a fourth term in office.

Now a Facebook note said the company would make it easier to report items suspected to be fake news and work with external fact-checking organisations.

“Last month we announced measures to tackle the challenge of fake news on Facebook,” the U.S. technology company’s German-language newsroom said.

“We will put these updates in place in Germany in the coming weeks.”

Its partners will be required to sing the U.S. Poynter International Fact-Checking Code of Principles, it said. Warning signs would be attached to reports identified as noncredible, and the reasons for the decision given.

Facebook would also make it impossible for spammers to forge the websites of reputable news agencies, it said.

 

US senators investigate Russian hacking

russian-villagersWhile Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump is denying his chum Tsar Vladimir Putin unleashed his team of hackers to help him win the election, senior U.S. intelligence officials will testify in Congress on Thursday on Russia’s alleged cyber-attacks during the 2016 election campaign.

Trump has not been briefed on the hacks yet, but that has not stopped him denying they took place.  He is apparently going to receive details on the DMC hack today.

He is already heading for a spat with Democrats and fellow Republicans in Congress, many of whom don’t like Putin and distrust Trump’s praise of the chap.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Marcel Lettre are expected to appear before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Republican John McCain, a vocal critic of Putin.

Their testimony on cyber threats facing the United States will come a week after President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their alleged involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 election.

US intelligence agencies say Russia was behind hacks into Democratic Party organizations and operatives before the presidential election, a conclusion supported by several private cybersecurity firms. Moscow denies it.

US intelligence officials have also said the Russian cyber-attacks aimed to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Several Republicans acknowledge Russian hacking during the election but have not linked it to an effort to help Trump win.

Documents stolen from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager, were leaked to the media in advance of the election, embarrassing the Clinton campaign.

Trump and top advisers believe Democrats are trying to delegitimize his election victory by accusing Russian authorities of helping him.

However, he has not helped his case by nominating Moscow-friendly types to senior administration posts, including secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson, who while Exxon Mobil chief executive, was awarded the Order of Friendship, a Russian state honour, by Putin in 2013.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will also hold a closed-door hearing today to look at Russia’s alleged hacking and harassment of US diplomats.

 

Telly catches Fire

old-school-tvA separate Fire TV device might become a thing of the past as telly makers are starting to integrate the streaming technology.

Seiki, Westinghouse and Element Electronics are launching a series of 4K sets with Fire TV technology built-in. They all include Amazon’s current interface, including a wide range of Alexa voice commands thanks to a microphone-equipped remote. If you use an over-the-air TV antenna, you’ll have access to both a channel guide and favourite individual channels on the home screen.

The first lot are appearing at CES and so far, none of the companies are saying when.  There will be 43-, 50-, 55- and 65-inch models. These are budget telly makers so adding Fire into your telly will not cost much more.  It is also likely that other cheaper manufactures will follow suit.

Samsung, LG and Sony already have highly developed smart TV platforms (whether in-house or Android TV), and it’s doubtful they will bother.

Google changes algorithms of hate

KKK-1000x600Search engine Google has changed its algorithms after discovering that users using search terms related to the Holocaust or ethnic minorities were being pointed to hate sites.

The new algorithms are said to prioritise high-quality information, bumping down sites associated with racial hate speech, and to remove anti-Semitic auto-fill queries.

In the past, Google has shown reluctance to change its algorithms in the past, preferring to prioritize whatever pages generated the most online sharing and discussion. But it discovered that hate groups were manipulating the algorithms to amplify misinformation and hate speech.

Auto-fill suggestions to complete the search query “are Jews” included “are Jews evil?” Also, the top search for “did the Holocaust happen” linked to a page by Stormfront, an infamous white supremacist group, and searches related to various ethnic minorities would often bring up other sites espousing racist views.

A spokesGoogle said that judging which pages on the web best answer a query is a challenging problem and it did not always get it right.

“We recently made improvements to our algorithm that will help surface more high quality, credible content on the web. We’ll continue to change our algorithms over time to tackle these challenges.”

The algorithm now takes the browser away from Stormfront and replaces it with the United States Holocaust Museum. However, the white supremacist group still holds the number one spot in the Google search engine.

All this is caused by the sudden increase in hate speech and the glut of fake news. A Pew Research poll, four out of ten Americans now get news online, underscoring the influence such sites can yield.

 

Instagram grows its user base

Leica cameraPhoto-based social notworking site Instagram’s user base rose to more than 600 million.

The Facebook owned company said that its new features had helped it gain popularity and it had added 100 million users since June, when it last announced its 500 million user milestone.

Writing in the company bog,  the company said that products like Instagram Stories, its picture and video slideshow feature, identical to the signature function of rival Snap Snapchat had done rather well.

Instagram in September updated its safety tools by allowing users to control the comments posted on their pictures and videos to combat increasing cases of online trolling.

The company, which is expected to add to Facebook’s revenue, is on track to generate $1.5 billion in advertising revenue this year, according to research firm eMarketer.

Cisco has another victory against Arista

the Cisco kidCisco’s long running court battle against Arista appears to be going the networking giant’s way.

A US trade judge ruled that Arista used Cisco’s network device technology in its ethernet switches without permission.

Judge Mary Joan McNamara of the US International Trade Commission in Washington, said that Arista had infringed two patents owned by Cisco. The ruling could lead to an order banning the import of Arista’s products into the United States.

Cisco filed the complaint at the ITC in December 2014, alleging that Arista was infringing six of its patents, which relate to improving the speed and performance of networked computers and devices.

The products accused of infringement include Arista’s 7000 series of switches, which generate most of that company’s revenues.

Arista general counsel Marc Taxay said the company looks forward to presenting its case to the full commission as it strongly believes that its products do not infringe any of the patents under investigation.

Cisco’s general counsel, Mark Chandler, said: “Our goal has always been to protect technological innovation, and stop Arista from using our patented technology.”

In June, the ITC ordered an import ban on Arista’s products that infringed several other Cisco patents.

The US Trade Representative allowed that order to go ahead in August, but US customs officials last month ruled that Arista could resume imports of its redesigned switches because they were not within the scope of the ban.

There is a trial currently underway in California, where Arista is defending against claims of copyright and patent infringement brought by Cisco.

 

Romans say embedding is not piracy

roman-mattressA Roman court has ruled that embedding does not constitute a copyright infringement.

The move overturns one of the 152 website blocks another court imposed last month, and ruled that that allowed the Italian site Kisstube to carry on as normal.

Kisstube is a YouTube channel, which also exists as a standalone website that does not host any content itself, linking instead to YouTube. Both the channel and website arrange content by categories for the convenience of users.

The Italian court’s decision was influenced by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) into an outfit called BestWater. In that case, the CJEU held that embedding or framing a video or image from another website is not copyright infringement if the latter is already accessible to the general public.

Another CJEU judgment, ruled that posting hyperlinks to pirated copies of material is only legal provided it is done without knowledge that they are unauthorised versions, and it is not carried out for financial gain.

The judge has assessed that there was no evidence of illegality of the link on Kisstube’s site, because it had received no “notice and takedown request”.

YouTube has a notice system based on the US DMCA, it was not interested in acting against Kisstube because there was no indication that the hyperlinks were to illegal material. Therefore it was not a pirate site and the BestWater ruling applied.

Internet Archive fears Trump library burnings

library-alexandria-destructionThe Internet Archive is building a backup archive in Canada after the election of Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump because it fears it is too vulnerable to court orders and destruction.

The archive is a digital library nonprofit unit that preserves billions of webpages for the historical record, Today, it began collecting donations for the Internet Archive of Canada, intended to create a copy of the archive outside the United States.

Brewster Kahle said that the election of Trump was a wake up call for institutions like his, built for the long-term, and needs to design for change.

“For us, it means keeping our cultural materials safe, private and perpetually accessible. It means preparing for a web that may face greater restrictions. It means serving patrons in a world in which government surveillance is not going away; indeed it looks like it will increase,” he said.

The San Francisco-based Internet Archive is comprised of several different preservation efforts, spanning nearly every medium. As of 2012, the entire archive held 10 petabytes of data – for reference, Facebook’s entire photo and video collection totaled 100 petabytes around the same time. Alongside films and books, the archive holds thousands of early software programs and video games that can be emulated on modern systems. It’s particularly known for the Wayback Machine, which continuously crawls the web to archive pages over the course of decades.

Kahle estimates it will cost “millions” of dollars to host a copy of the Internet Archive in Canada, but it would shield its data from some American legal action.

Trump has shown support for greater law enforcement surveillance powers and legal censorship, including “closing that internet up in some ways” to fight terrorism”.

Kahle said that  moving the internet archive would both insulate it from efforts to take down specific content, and make it harder to request data on user activity — something that more traditional librarians fought when American surveillance powers expanded under George W. Bush.   The Internet Archive  sees it as a big libary which is vulnerable to the same sort of book burning craze that flattened the Libary in Alexandria.

Microsoft’s Chinese AI is clever enough to censor itself

beijing cybercafeSoftware King of the World has admitted that its Chinese flavoured AI chat bot will not talk about anything that the authorities behind the bamboo curtain don’t want them to talk about.

Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state including the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or “Steamed Bun Xi,” a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Am I stupid? Once I answer you’d take a screengrab,” read one answer to a question that contained the words “topple the Communist Party.”

Mentioning Donald “Prince of Orange” Trump also drew an evasive response from the chat bot. “I don’t want to talk about it,” Xiaoice says. Fair enough who does?

Microsoft has admitted that there was some filtering around Xiaoice’s interaction.

“We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice,” a Microsoft spokesperson said. “With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics.” The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.

Microsoft says that Xiaoice engages in conversations with over 40 million Chinese users on social media platform like Weibo and WeChat.

Reporter uses bots to tackle racists

Dancing Racists-2The Washington Post’s Kevin Munger used Twitter bots, one “white” and one “black” to tackle racism and appears to have worked out a strategy which reduces racist slurs.

Munger used Twitter accounts to send messages designed to remind harassers of the humanity of their victims and to reconsider the norms of online behaviour.

He sent every harasser the same message:

@[subject] Hey man, just remember that there are real people who are hurt when you harass them with that kind of language

He then used a racial slur as the search term because it was the strongest evidence that a tweet might contain racist harassment. He restricted the sample to users who had a history of using offensive language, and only included white subjects or anonymous people.

He bought followers for half of the bots — 500 followers, to be specific — and gave the remaining bots only two followers each (see screenshot above). This represents a large status difference: a Twitter user with two followers is unlikely to be taken seriously, while 500 followers is a substantial number.

Only one of the four types of bots caused a significant reduction in the subjects’ rate of tweeting slurs – the white bots with 500 followers.

Generally, though he found it is possible to cause people to use less harassing language and it is more most likely when both individuals share a social identity. Unsurprisingly, high status people are also more likely to cause a change.

Munger thinks that many are already engaged in sanctioning bad behaviour online, but they are doing it in a way that can backfire. If people call out bad behaviour in a way that emphasises the social distance between themselves and the person they’re calling out then telling people off is less likely to be effective.