Category: Internet

Google brings the fact check tag to news

surprised-newspaper-readerSearch engine outfit Google has added a new “Fact check” tag to Google News, which it will apply to stories from select outlets that follow a specific protocol.

The tag will join an array of others that Google already uses to highlight certain types of articles, including “in-depth,” “highly cited,” and “local source”.

Google will not be fact-checking anything, except perhaps the qualifications of publications that would like to make their stories eligible for the tag. To get this particular qualification a site has to demonstrate that it is nonpartisan and that their reporting follows fact-checking conventions.

For those who came in late that means identifying the claims that they’re checking and checking multiple claims in the same article. Eligible stories will also need to be tagged using a markup called ClaimReview.

Only 10 websites are using that markup, according to so we are not talking about many.

At first, it seems to be surfacing stories mainly from dedicated fact-checking organizations, such as Politifact, rather than articles from mainstream news organizations.

Facebook solved its problem of “editorial bias” by laying off the team of human editors responsible for its trending news section and replacing them with software. As a result, the site has been plagued of fake news stories and conspiracy theories.


4Chan broke

cashThe message board 4chan is about to go under unless someone can work out a way for it to make money.

The site’s owner Hiroyuki Nisimura wrote in a post that “4chan can’t afford infrastructure costs, network fee, servers cost, CDN and etc, now”.

Nisimura says ads haven’t been effective enough to support the site, nor have subscriptions offering additional features. “We had tried to keep 4chan as is. But I failed. I am sincerely sorry. Parts of 4chan may have to close”

Three things could keep 4Chan alive. More subscriptions, include “much more” ads, or cut traffic to the site in half. This could be done by closing message boards, slowing down the site, or reducing the size of images that can be posted.

All this will mean an end to the site’s Wild West Culture. 4chan is the land of script kiddies, countless memes, racism, sexism, and otherwise purile discussions and Gamergate which was about hassling women online.

While few people would miss the death of 4Chan, there is an element of “who the hell is able to make any money from the internet these days?” News sites are closing as advertising fails to make any money for anyone other than Google.


Vint Cerf: Regrets, I have a few

Vint_Cerf_-_2010Father of the Internet Vint Cerf says that there are a few things he would do differently if given a second chance to recreate it.

During a press conference at the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany, Cerf said that he would have put in a 128-bit address space so we wouldn’t have to go through this painful, 20-year process of going from IPv4 to IPv6.

IPv4, the first publicly used version of the Internet Protocol, included an addressing system that used 32-bit numerical identifiers which rapidly ran out of addresses.

Cerf would also have added public key cryptography.

Trouble is, neither idea is likely to have made it into the final result at the time. “I doubt I could have gotten away with either So today we have to retrofit.”

Having a 128-bit address space wouldn’t have seemed realistic back then given the effort’s experimental mind-set at the time.

There was debate about the possibility of variable-length addresses, but proponents of the idea were ultimately defeated because of the extra processing power associated with them, he explained.

As for public key cryptography, the notion had only recently emerged around the time the internet protocols were being standardized back in 1978.

“I didn’t want to go back and retrofit everything, so we didn’t include it. If I could go back and put in public key crypto, I probably would try.

Cisco blames comic radiation for router failure

the Cisco kidNetworking giant Cisco has come up with a novel reason why its some of its routers were less than 100 per cent – cosmic radiation.

A Cisco bug report addressing “partial data traffic loss” on the company’s ASR 9000 Series routers contends that a “possible trigger is cosmic radiation causing SEU soft errors.”

A reader of Reddit’s networking section asked if anyone had seen ‘cosmic radiation’ as a cause for software errors in a bug report before?  Since the fix was to reload the line card, how on earth does that stop the radiation of distant stars stuffing up your router?

Some readers confirmed that cosmic radiation might be a thing, but its “gotten a bad rep as it’s not well explained and it’s not the be-all and end-all of outages.”

However most people thought that it was rubbish as cosmic radiation does not home in on a specific part of the router. It would also hit the control plane and other parts. ECC memory tends to make this a non-issue.

Cisco said that it has conducted extensive research, dating back to 2001, on the effects cosmic radiation can have on its service provider networking hardware, system architectures and software designs. Despite being rare, as electronics operate at faster speeds and the density of silicon chips increases, it becomes more likely that a stray bit of energy could cause problems that affect the performance of a router or switch.

Cisco wrote a  blog about the topic  in January 2012. In an effort to minimize the impact of radiation from “Single Event Upsets” (SEUs), it wanted to redesign our technology with custom silicon chips and software, and adopt protocols that use resiliency features.

EU comes up with ruling on picture linking

progboards2The EU courts have come up with a somewhat confusing ruling on picture linking.

The European Union’s top court decided that Playboy was within its rights to stop a website from posting links to images published without permission.

It ruled that such linking infringes copyright when the website doing it is seeking to profit from pictures published without permission.

So in other words it is ok to publish pictures without permission, but your site must not be making any money from it.

Sanoma, Playboy’s Dutch publisher, had sought to get website GeenStijl, which describes itself as one of the most visited news websites in the Netherlands, to remove a web link to photos of a TV celebrity Britt Dekker which were posted illegally.

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) said in a statement that the magazine provided the hyperlinks to the files containing the photos for profit and that Sanoma had not authorised the publication of those photos on the internet.

“When hyperlinks are posted for profit, it may be expected that the person who posted such a link should carry out the checks necessary to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published.”

GS Media insists it is all about press freedom.

“If commercial media companies – such as GeenStijl – can no longer freely and fearlessly hyperlink it will be difficult to report on newsworthy new questions, leaked information and internal struggles and unsecure networks in large companies,” it said.

Creativity Works, an association representing publishers, film and music producers, said: “Taking action against illegal sites is not about preventing access to creative content but to protect consumers and stop pirates who do not contribute to Europe’s cultural diversity while making a business out of exploiting content that’s not theirs.”

The ECJ recognised that the internet “is of particular importance to freedom of expression and of information and that hyperlinks contribute to its sound operation and to the exchange of opinions and information as well.”

It said that the clue for a user posting such links is when the copyright owner complains or he is doing it for profit.

The European Commission, the EU executive, is set next week to propose tougher rules on publishing copyrighted content, including a new exclusive right for news publishers to ask search engines like Google to pay to show snippets of their articles.


Bing angers Saudi Arabia with terrorist slur

Saudi_ArabiaMicrosoft’s translation function on Bing has angered a fair few Saudi Arabians by mistranslating the Arabic word Daesh into English as “Saudi Arabia”.

For those who came in late, Daesh is the name of the Arabic death cult also known as the Islamic State, which is better known for its head lopping antics and tendency to murder innocents in the name of their God.

The news spread on social media and a campaign was quickly organised in Saudi Arabia calling for a boycott of Microsoft products. Redmond fixed the issue and has formally apologised to Saudi officials for the blunder.

According to Dr Mamdouh Najjar, VP and national technology officer for Microsoft in Saudi Arabia, the error occurred because Bing Translator has a crowdsourcing function – if a large group of people suggest a translation, then it becomes listed as a possible answer.

There are enough people in the US who believe that Daesh has been funded by Saudi Arabia and who would think that it would be a laugh to change Bing’s meaning.  However, while there have been cases of Saudi Arabians supporting Daesh, Saudi Arabians fighting for Daesh and a common belief in Wahhabism which is an extreme flavour of Sunni, the Saudis are actually fighting Daesh.


EU’s net neutrality will not stop ISPs throttling

Sam_and_Ralph_chokeWhile there are some good things in the EU’s net neutrality laws, they will not stop ISPs throttling those they think are heavy torrent downloaders.

The Body of European Regulators of Electronic Communication (BEREC) published its final guidelines for Europe’s net neutrality rules.

The rules, which are included in the Telecoms Single Market (TSM) regulation, would still allow targeted throttling of torrents and other traffic, by claiming that it is network management.

It says that internet providers are not allowed to offer a “sub Internet” service, where access to only part of the internet is offered for ‘free’.

ISPs are still allowed to throttle specific categories for “reasonable” network management purposes, as the second subparagraph of article 3 reads.

“In order to be deemed to be reasonable, such measures shall be transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate, and shall not be based on commercial considerations but on objectively different technical quality of service requirements of specific categories of traffic.”

In other words, network management practices, including bandwidth throttling, could possibly target Torrents under a broader file-sharing category, or VPNs as encrypted traffic.

In other words, it would still be possible for ISPs to throttle BitTorrent traffic if that would improve the overall “transmission quality.” This is not a far-fetched argument since torrent traffic can be quite demanding on a network.

Net neutrality activists have said the rules are better than what was being mooted. They were worried that the EU would allow “fast lanes” and these had been banned. This would stop ISPs from throttling everyone and then charging sites or apps for a fast lane.

The new rules mean that ISPs will not have any incentive to throttle and regulators could stop ISPs from throttling in cases where it clearly had nothing to do with preventing future congestion.


Google’s well minging plans to kill Flash

flash_gordon_2From the end of next month Chrome will block that irritating Flash content that loads behind the scenes.

Google claims that this sort of flash rubbish accounts for more than 90 percent of the Flash on the web. In December, Chrome will make HTML5 the default experience for central content, such as games and videos, except on sites that only support Flash.

It is one of the nails in the coffin of Flash as the web slowly moves away from plugins in favor of HTML5. Since last year Chrome 45 began automatically pausing less-important Flash content (ads, animations, and anything that isn’t “central to the webpage”).

As Mozilla and Microsoft are expected to follow.  However it looks like Google is already planning to move ahead. In an email the search engine outfit said:

“The end goal for all these browser makers is to push as many sites as possible to HTML5, which is better for both performance (lowering memory and CPU usage while boosting battery life) and in terms of web standards (which makes life easier for developers). Given Flash’s various vulnerabilities, there are obvious security gains as well.”

Google plans to have Chrome serve HTML5 by default in Q4 2016. Now the timeframe has been narrowed to December.

Facebook kills click bait headlines

what-we-learned-about-facebook-ceo-mark-zucke-L-gl5gYRFacebook has worked out a way of banning click bait headlines with a new algorithm that deletes them on site.

These are not good headlines they are more like those which have phrases like “what happens next is hard to believe”, “I saw this and I was SHOCKED” “This dog bit the postman and his result was priceless.”

Facebook has manually classified tens of thousands of headlines with a clickbaitiness score to train the new algorithm. It scores each one and the higher the scoore the more the algorithm punishes the entire Page that shared them or site they link to by making all their posts or referral links less visible.

Facebook’s VP of Product Management on News Feed, Adam Mosseri was quoted as saying that if you post 50 times a day and post one piece a clickbait, this shouldn’t affect you. If you’re a spammer and post clickbait all day, this is going to hurt.

If a publisher reforms its ways and “they stop posting clickbait, their referral traffic will bounce back.” The algorithm identifies offenders on both the web domain level and the Facebook Page level, spammers can’t build a Page and then just launch new websites with different URLs to elude punishment.

Facebook already made an anti-clickbait algorithm change in 2014, focusing on user behavior. It looked for links that people Liked then clicked, but then immediately bounced back to Facebook and Unliked because they hated what they saw.

In February Facebook started looking more closely at how little time people lingered on clickbait sites, and identified links with lots of clicks but very few subsequent Likes. Today’s change focuses on the source of the problem rather than tracking the symptoms.


Uganda spends cash on a magic internet smut machine

Uganda-flagWhile it is desperate for cash to pay for a cancer diagnostic machine, the Ugandan government is prepared to waste $88,000 on a magic device which is supposed to tell if people are watching porn on their PCs and mobiles.

Having nude photos on mobile and electronic devices in Uganda can land you in jail for up to 10 years as the government is keen to “stamp pornography out of Ugandan society”.

It even has a Minster of Ethics, Simon Lokodo, who thinks it is ethical to waste money on this device while his country’s hospitals are strapped for tech.

He is clearly impressed with the machine which will arrive in Uganda next month.  It is not clear how it will work but Lokodo said that it will be able to “detect, control, and scrutinize porn on mobile handsets and other electronic devices”.

The ethics minister has previously asked telecoms operators in Uganda to track and block public access to pornographic material. To implement the anti-pornography law, a government-funded committee has been set up to look into it, tut, and have another look into it.

We are just amused that some South Korean salesperson managed to convince a government that their device can carry out the “difficult task” of sniffing out porn.  It must be like shooting pigs in a barrel. It would be harder to find an internet connected machine which did not have any porn on it.