Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Twitter

Reuters Built An Algorithm That Can Identify Real News On Twitter (popsci.com) 80

Reuters has built an algorithm called News Tracer that flags and verifies breaking news on Twitter. The algorithm weeds through all 500 million tweets that are posted on a daily basis to "sort real news from spam, nonsense, ads, and noise," writes Corinne Iozzio via Popular Science: In development since 2014, reports the Columbia Journalism Review, News Tracer's work starts by identifying clusters of tweets that are topically similar. Politics goes with politics; sports with sports; and so on. The system then uses language-processing to produce a coherent summary of each cluster. What differentiates News Tracer from other popular monitoring tools, is that it was built to think like a reporter. That virtual mindset takes 40 factors into account, according to Harvard's NiemanLab. It uses information like the location and status of the original poster (e.g. is she verified?) and how the news is spreading to establish a "credibility" rating for the news item in question. The system also does a kind of cross-check against sources that reporters have identified as reliable, and uses that initial network to identify other potentially reliable sources. News Tracer can also tell the difference between a trending hashtag and real news. The mix of data points News Tracer takes into account means it works best with actual, physical events -- crashes, protests, bombings -- as opposed to the he-said-she-said that can dominate news cycles.
Facebook

Facebook Knows What You're Streaming (bloomberg.com) 96

Facebook is gathering information about the shows Roku and Apple TV owners are streaming. The company then uses the Facebook profile linked to the same IP addresses to tailor the commercials that are shown to individual users. From a report on Bloomberg: For the past few weeks, the social network says, it's been targeting ads to people streaming certain shows on their Roku or Apple TV set-top boxes. It customizes commercials based on the Facebook profiles tied to the IP addresses doing the streaming, according to a company spokesman. He says Facebook is trying out this approach with the A&E network (The Killing, Duck Dynasty) and streaming startup Tubi TV, selecting free test ads for nonprofits or its own products along with a handful of name brands. This push is part of a broader effort by social media companies to build their revenue with ads on video. Twitter is placing much of its ad-sales hopes on streaming partnerships with sports leagues and other content providers. In October, CFO Anthony Noto told analysts on an earnings call that the ads played during Twitter's NFL Thursday Night Football streaming exclusives had been especially successful, with many people watching them in their entirety with the sound turned on. The participants in these partnerships don't yet have a default answer to questions such as who should be responsible for selling the ads or who should get which slice of revenue.
Republicans

Twitters Says It Will Ban Trump If He Breaks Hate-Speech Rules (qz.com) 1028

Twitter has made a serious effort as of late to limit hate speech on its social media site, especially after Election Day where "biased graffiti, assaults and other incidents have been reported in the news." The company now faces President-elect Donald Trump, who has used Twitter for the past 18 months as a megaphone for his views and rants, which many would consider as "hate speech." According to the American Bar Association, hate speech is "speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or other traits." Quartz reports: While Trump's deceptive tweets may not violate Twitter's rules against harassment, threats and "hateful conduct," Twitter is still keeping an eye on his account for more egregious offenses. This week, the company told Slate it would consider banning key government officials, even the president, if its rules against hate speech or other language were violated. "The Twitter Rules prohibit violent threats, harassment, hateful conduct, and multiple account abuse, and we will take action on accounts violating those policies," a spokesperson wrote. Twitter confirmed with Quartz that everyone, including government officials, were subject to the policy: "The Twitter Rules apply to all accounts," a spokesman wrote. Trump may not have crossed that line yet, but he hasn't exactly refrained from making incendiary claims. Most recently, he claimed that Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who allegedly carried out an attack injuring 11 students at Ohio State University, "should not have been in our country." Artan was a legal permanent U.S. resident, whose family had fled Somalia for Pakistan in 2007. He arrived in the States in 2014.
Firefox

Firefox Zero-Day Can Be Used To Unmask Tor Browser Users (computerworld.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Computerworld: A Firefox zero-day being used in the wild to target Tor users is using code that is nearly identical to what the FBI used in 2013 to unmask Tor-users. A Tor browser user notified the Tor mailing list of the newly discovered exploit, posting the exploit code to the mailing list via a Sigaint darknet email address. A short time later, Roger Dingledine, co-founder of the Tor Project Team, confirmed that the Firefox team had been notified, had "found the bug" and were "working on a patch." On Monday, Mozilla released a security update to close off a different critical vulnerability in Firefox. Dan Guido, CEO of TrailofBits, noted on Twitter, that "it's a garden variety use-after-free, not a heap overflow" and it's "not an advanced exploit." He added that the vulnerability is also present on the Mac OS, "but the exploit does not include support for targeting any operating system but Windows." Security researcher Joshua Yabut told Ars Technica that the exploit code is "100% effective for remote code execution on Windows systems." "The shellcode used is almost exactly the shellcode of the 2013 one," tweeted a security researcher going by TheWack0lian. He added, "When I first noticed the old shellcode was so similar, I had to double-check the dates to make sure I wasn't looking at a 3-year-old post." He's referring to the 2013 payload used by the FBI to deanonymize Tor-users visiting a child porn site. The attack allowed the FBI to tag Tor browser users who believed they were anonymous while visiting a "hidden" child porn site on Freedom Hosting; the exploit code forced the browser to send information such as MAC address, hostname and IP address to a third-party server with a public IP address; the feds could use that data to obtain users' identities via their ISPs.
United States

Trump Will Get Power To Send Unblockable Mass Text Messages To All Americans (nymag.com) 549

President-elect Donald Trump will have access to a system which can send unblockable texts to every phone in the United States once he becomes the president. From a report on NYMag: These 90-character messages, known as Wireless Emergency Alerts (or WEAs), are part of a program put in place after Congress passed the Warning, Alert, and Response Network (WARN) Act, in 2006. WEAs allow for targeted messages to be sent to every cell phone getting a signal from certain geographically relevant cell towers (or, in a national emergency, all of them). While it'd be a true nightmare to get screeching alerts from your phone that "Loser Senate Democrats still won't confirm great man Peter Thiel to Supreme Court. Sad!", there are some checks and balances on this. While President-elect Trump hasn't shown much impulse control when it comes to his favorite mass-messaging service, Twitter, the process for issuing a WEA isn't as simple as typing out a 90-character alert from a presidential smartphone and hitting "Send." All WEAs must be issued through FEMA's Integrated Public Alert Warning System, meaning that an emergency alert from the president still has at least one layer to pass through before being issued. While FEMA is under control of the executive branch (the head of FEMA is selected by the president, and reports to the Department of Homeland Security), the agency would have a vested interest in not seeing their alert system bent toward, uh, non-emergency ends.
Facebook

Social Media Is Killing Discourse Because It's Too Much Like TV (technologyreview.com) 219

Reader Joe_NoOne writes: Like TV, social media now increasingly entertains us, and even more so than television it amplifies our existing beliefs and habits. It makes us feel more than think, and it comforts more than challenges. The result is a deeply fragmented society, driven by emotions, and radicalized by lack of contact and challenge from outside. This is why Oxford Dictionaries designated "post-truth" as the word of 2016: an adjective "relating to circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than emotional appeals." Traditional television still entails some degree of surprise. What you see on television news is still picked by human curators, and even though it must be entertaining to qualify as worthy of expensive production, it is still likely to challenge some of our opinions (emotions, that is). Social media, in contrast, uses algorithms to encourage comfort and complaisance, since its entire business model is built upon maximizing the time users spend inside of it. Who would like to hang around in a place where everyone seems to be negative, mean, and disapproving? The outcome is a proliferation of emotions, a radicalization of those emotions, and a fragmented society. This is way more dangerous for the idea of democracy founded on the notion of informed participation. Now what can be done? Certainly the explanation for Trump's rise cannot be reduced to a technology- or media-centered argument. The phenomenon is rooted in more than that; media or technology cannot create; they can merely twist, divert, or disrupt. Without the growing inequality, shrinking middle class, jobs threatened by globalization, etc. there would be no Trump or Berlusconi or Brexit. But we need to stop thinking that any evolution of technology is natural and inevitable and therefore good. For one thing, we need more text than videos in order to remain rational animals. Typography, as Postman describes, is in essence much more capable of communicating complex messages that provoke thinking. This means we should write and read more, link more often, and watch less television and fewer videos -- and spend less time on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: Has Your Team Ever Succumbed To Hype Driven Development? (daftcode.pl) 332

marekkirejczyk, the VP of Engineering at development shop Daftcode, shares a warning about hype-driven development: Someone reads a blog post, it's trending on Twitter, and we just came back from a conference where there was a great talk about it. Soon after, the team starts using this new shiny technology (or software architecture design paradigm), but instead of going faster (as promised) and building a better product, they get into trouble. They slow down, get demotivated, have problems delivering the next working version to production.
Describing behind-schedule teams that "just need a few more days to sort it all out," he blames all the hype surrounding React.js, microservices, NoSQL, and that "Test-Driven Development Is Dead" blog post by Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson. ("The list goes on and on... The root of all evil seems to be social media.") Does all this sound familiar to any Slashdot readers? Has your team ever succumbed to hype-driven development?
Television

Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died (hollywoodreporter.com) 67

Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information.
Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...")

The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.
PlayStation (Games)

'No Man's Sky' Releases Huge New 'Foundation' Update (thenextweb.com) 111

"No Man's Sky changed a great deal this morning, getting new modes and a ton of gameplay tweaks thanks to update 1.1, the largest one yet," reports Kotaku. Calling it "the first of many free updates," the game's developers introduced a new Minecraft-style Creative Mode which "allows players to explore the universe without limits, and build a huge base," plus a tougher Survival Mode, "creating a much more challenging endurance experience." The Next Web calls it "features that really should have been in the game from Day One." Now, when you stumble upon a desolate outpost, you can build your own base on it, which can be upgraded with new housing, hydroponics, research, and storage buildings. If all goes well, you'll start to attract alien settlers who bring their own skills to your new society. As your stockpiles of resources begin to swell, you'll want to schlep them across the galaxy to other bases and trade terminals. Which is where freighters come in... Oh, and did I mention you can now stack items five times per inventory slot, meaning you can carry more stuff? Handy. "The discussion around No Man's Sky since release has been intense and dramatic," Hello Games announced Friday, describing update 1.1 as "putting in place a foundation for things to come... the first small step in a longer journey." Hello Games founder Sean Murray tweeted "We're getting better as quickly as we can for the players who invested in us," adding "Thank you for sticking with us." At 2 a.m. this morning, he tweeted "If you could have lived our lives over the last months, you'd know how meaningful this is," adding "Here's the update..."
Government

Will Trump Protect America's IT Workers From H-1B Visa Abuses? (cio.com.au) 399

Monday president-elect Donald Trump sent "the strongest signal yet that the H-1B visa program is going get real scrutiny once he takes office," according to CIO. Slashdot reader OverTheGeicoE summarizes their report: President-elect Donald Trump released a video message outlining his policy plans for his first 100 days in office. At 1 minute, 56 seconds into the message, he states that he will direct the Department of Labor to investigate "all abuses of the visa programs that undercut the American worker." During his presidential campaign, Trump was critical of the H-1B visa program that has been widely criticized for displacing U.S. high-technology workers. "Companies are importing low-wage workers on H-1B visas to take jobs from young college-trained Americans," said Trump at an Ohio rally. At other rallies, Trump invited former IT workers from Disney who had been forced to train their H-1B replacements to speak.
"What he didn't say was that he was going to close the door to skilled immigrants," one tech entrepreneur told CNN Money -- although Trump's selection for attorney general has called the shortage of qualified American tech workers "a hoax".
The Media

False Porn-on-CNN Report Shows How Quickly Fake News Spreads (usatoday.com) 158

Slashdot reader xtsigs writes: "No, despite what you read, CNN did not run porn for 30 minutes Thursday, as was reported by Fox News, the New York Post, Variety and other news organizations, several of which later corrected their stories," reports USA Today. The story goes on to explain how the story started (a single tweet), how it was quickly picked up by media outlets (without verifying if CNN actually did, in truth, broadcast porn), how it was then retracted by some outlets (but not others).

Other outlets jumped on the story of the story while, as of early Saturday morning some sites are still running the original story claiming CNN did, in fact, broadcast 30 minutes of porn.

Advertising

Advertising Company AppNexus Bans Breitbart News Over Hate Speech (betanews.com) 434

Mark Wilson quotes a report from BetaNews: Right-wing website Breitbart -- the darling of the so-called alt-right movement (which it defines as being "younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist [and] terribly anti-establishment") -- has been blocked by a leading ad exchange. The site, home to Milo Yiannopoulos (also known as @Nero and banned from Twitter) will no longer be permitted to sell ad space via AppNexus. The move comes after an audit by AppNexus found that Breitbart was in violation of its policies on hate speech and incitement to violence. AppNexus's spokesperson Joshua Zeitz told the BBC: "We use a number of third-party standards to determine what is and isn't hate speech, and if we detect a pattern of speech that could incite violence or discrimination against a minority group, we determine that to be non-compliant and we simply won't serve ads against it. I'm not going to put the examples out there because I'm not going to engage in a tit-for-tat on what is compliant." Bloomberg, which was the first publication to report on the news, noted that AppNexus' investors included Microsoft, News Corp and Sir Martin Sorrell's WPP.
Google

Google Sends State-Sponsored Hack Warnings To Journalists and Professors (ibtimes.co.uk) 69

An anonymous reader shares an IBTimes report: Numerous journalists and professors are taking to social media to report that they have received an alarming message regarding state-sponsored hacking when accessing their Gmail or other sites that use their Google account. Journalists who received the warning include Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, Politico's Julia Ioffe, GQ's special correspondent Keith Olbermann, Vox's Ezra Klein, Yahoo News' Garance Franke-Ruta, and one of President Barack Obama's former speechwriters, Jon Lovett. The warning says, "Google may have detected government-backed attackers trying to steal your password." These warnings are being sent by Google since 2012 but Twitter has erupted with a flurry of people in the media and academic community receiving this in the past 24 hours.
Businesses

Google Quietly Phases Out 'Google Cast' Branding for TVs, Speakers (variety.com) 9

Google can't seem to settle for a good name for its media-streaming device. The company is changing Google Cast branding to Chromecast, it subtly announced this week on Twitter. The tech giant has been jumping around on its branding for Cast, most recently switching from Google Cast to Google Home with the release of the company's smart speaker. From a report on Variety:Google has been phasing put the 'Google Cast' branding for TVs and internet-connected loudspeakers that are compatible with Google's own Chromecast streaming adapters. Instead, the company and its partners have switched to describing these products as having "Chromecast built-in."
Earth

Trump Admits 'Some Connectivity' Between Climate Change and Human Activity (cnn.com) 559

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: President-elect Donald Trump conceded Tuesday there is "some connectivity" between human activity and climate change and wavered on whether he would pull the United States out of international accords aimed at combating the phenomenon, which scientists overwhelmingly agree is caused by human activity. The statements could mark a softening in Trump's position on U.S. involvement in efforts to fight climate change, although he did not commit to specific action in any direction. During the campaign, he vowed to "cancel" the U.S.'s participation in the Paris climate agreement, stop all U.S. payments to UN programs aimed at fighting climate change and continued to cast serious doubt on the role man-made carbon dioxide emissions played in the planet's warming and associated impacts. "I think there is some connectivity. Some, something. It depends on how much," Trump said Tuesday in a meeting with New York Times reporters, columnists and editors. He has previously called climate change a "hoax" invented by the Chinese. Asked if he would withdraw the U.S. from international climate change agreements, Trump said he is "looking at it very closely," according to Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Mike Grynbaum, who were live-tweeting the meeting. He added that he has "an open mind to it," despite explicitly promising to withdraw from at least one climate accord on the campaign trail. The President-elect on the campaign trail repeatedly vowed to slash environmental protection regulations burdening U.S. businesses and said that beyond the consequences to the planet, he is particularly mindful of the economic impact of combating climate change. He said he is considering "how much it will cost our companies" and the effect on American competitiveness in the global market, according to a tweet from Grynbaum.
Businesses

Surveillance Firm 'Geofeedia' Cuts Half of Staff After Losing Access To Twitter, Facebook (chicagotribune.com) 31

In mid-October, an American Civil Liberties Union issued a report accusing police of using Geofeedia -- a CIA-backed social-media monitoring platform -- to track protests and other large gatherings. As a result, Instagram, Facebook and eventually, Twitter cut the company off from its valuable data stream, causing them to cut half of their staff to "focus on a variety of innovations" that will allow them to serve their customers and continue their "rapid growth trajectory as a leading real-time analytics and alerting platform." Chicago Tribune reports: Geofeedia cut the jobs, mostly in sales in the Chicago office, in the third week of October, the spokesman said. It has offices in Chicago, Indianapolis and Naples, Fla. The cuts were first reported by Crain's Chicago Business. An emailed statement attributed to CEO Phil Harris said Geofeedia wasn't "created to impact civil liberties," but in the wake of the public debate over their product, they're changing the company's direction. Harris said Geofeedia's software has been "impactful" for schools, sports leagues, customer service, marketing and event planning, per the statement. He also referred to the company's $17 million funding round in February -- which brought its total funding to nearly $24 million -- and "strong sales and growth" as strengthening the company. "Our strong financial position has allowed us to carefully consider the appropriate areas of focus for our technology going forward," Harris wrote in the statement.
News

Study: Most Students Can't Spot Fake News (engadget.com) 403

Even those who think that the U.S. Presidential election wasn't affected by the swath of fake news articles swirling on Facebook and other social media networks, they tend to agree that there is a lot of misinformation on the web. At Slashdot, it's hard to say that anyone here will not be able to tell fake news from a real one. But what about kids? How is our future generation doing? Not so well, apparently. An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report:A Stanford study of 7,804 middle school, high school and college students has found that most of them couldn't identify fake news on their own. Their susceptibility varied with age, but even a large number of the older students fell prey to bogus reports. Over two-thirds of middle school kids didn't see why they shouldn't trust a bank executive's post claiming that young adults need financial help, while nearly 40 percent of high schoolers didn't question the link between an unsourced photo and the claims attached to it. Why did many of the students misjudge the authenticity of a story? They were fixated on the appearance of legitimacy, rather than the quality of information. A large photo or a lot of detail was enough to make a Twitter post seem credible, even if the actual content was incomplete or wrong. There are plenty of adults who respond this way, we'd add, but students are more vulnerable than most.
China

China Says Terrorism, Fake News Impel Greater Global Internet Curbs (reuters.com) 143

China's ambitions to tighten up regulation of the Internet have found a second wind in old fears -- terrorism and fake news. Chinese officials and business leaders speaking at the third World Internet Conference held in Wuzhen last week called for more rigid cyber governance, pointing to the ability of militants to organize online and the spread of false news items during the recent U.S. election as signs cyberspace had become dangerous and unwieldy. From a report on Reuters: Ren Xianling, the vice minister of China's top internet authority, said on Thursday that the process was akin to "installing brakes on a car before driving on the road." Ren, number two at the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), recommended using identification systems for netizens who post fake news and rumors, so they could "reward and punish" them. The comments come as U.S. social networks Facebook and Twitter face a backlash over their role in the spread of false and malicious information generated by users, which some say helped sway the U.S. presidential election in favor of Republican candidate Donald Trump.
Social Networks

'Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It.' (nytimes.com) 186

The New York Times ran a strong opinion piece that talks about one critical reason why everyone should quit social media: your career is dependent on it. The other argues that by spending time on social media and sharing our thoughts, we are demeaning the value of our work, our ideas. (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source.) Select excerpts from the story follows:In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable. Any 16-year-old with a smartphone can invent a hashtag or repost a viral article. The idea that if you engage in enough of this low-value activity, it will somehow add up to something of high value in your career is the same dubious alchemy that forms the core of most snake oil and flimflam in business. Professional success is hard, but it's not complicated. The foundation to achievement and fulfillment, almost without exception, requires that you hone a useful craft and then apply it to things that people care about. [...] Interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, for example, as I improved my standing as an academic and a writer, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. As you become more valuable to the marketplace, good things will find you. To be clear, I'm not arguing that new opportunities and connections are unimportant. I'm instead arguing that you don't need social media's help to attract them. My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it's engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it's designed to be used -- persistently throughout your waking hours -- the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom. Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won't tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate -- the skill on which I make my living. A dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for many members of my generation who were raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.
Censorship

EFF Report Finds 74% Of Censorship News Stories Are About Facebook (onlinecensorship.org) 74

An anonymous reader writes: OnlineCensorship.org just released a new report "to provide an objective, data-driven voice in the conversation around commercial content moderation." They're collecting media reports about censorship on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr and Google+, and have now analyzed 294 reports of content takedowns -- 74% of which pertained to Facebook. (Followed by Instagram with 16% and Twitter with 7%.) 47% of all the takedowns were nudity-related, while the next two most frequent reasons given were "real name" violations and "inappropriate content".

Noting "a more visible public debate" over content moderation, the report acknowledges that 4.7 billion Facebook posts are made every day. (It also reports the "consistent refrain" from services apologizing for issues -- that "our team processes millions of reports each week...") But the most bizarre incident they've identified was the tech blogger in India who was locked out of his Facebook account in October because he shared a photo of a cat in a business suit. "It might sound stupid but this just happened to me," he told Mashable India, which reports Facebook later apologized and said it had made a mistake.

Their report -- part of the EFF's collaboration with Visualizing Impact -- urges platforms to clarify their guidelines (as well as applicable laws), to explain the mechanisms being used to evaluate content and appeals, and to share those criteria when notifying users of take-downs. For example, in August Facebook inexplicably removed a 16-century sketch by Erasmus of Rotterdam detailing a right hand.

Slashdot Top Deals