China

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

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

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Has Resigned Due To Investor Pressure (recode.net) 59

Travis Kalanick has resigned as chief executive of Uber after pressure from investors, ending eight years of leading the ride-hailing company that has expanded round the globe but became mired in controversies. From a report: Kalanick had become a giant liability to the car-hailing company for a growing number of reasons, from sketchy business practices to troubling lawsuits to a basic management situation that was akin to really toxic goat rodeo. Thus, he had to go, even though some sources said he had the voting power to stay. But big investors also have leverage and a big enough group of them joined to use it. Those investors include Benchmark, Fidelity and Menlo Ventures, all of whom sent Kalanick a joint letter called "Moving Uber Forward" on Tuesday afternoon. Interestingly, Google Ventures was not among the group, even though its parent company Alphabet is now in a major lawsuit with Uber over the alleged theft of self-driving car technology from its Waymo unit.
Programming

Does Silicon Valley Need More Labor Unions? (salon.com) 187

Salon recently talked to Jeffrey Buchanan, who two years ago co-founded a labor rights group "that highlights the plight of security officers, food-service workers, janitors and shuttle-bus drivers in the region." An anonymous reader quotes their report: The situation among Silicon Valley's low-wage contract workers has become so perilous that in January, thousands of security guards working at immensely profitable companies like Facebook and Cisco followed the shuttle-bus drivers and voted to unionize in an effort to collectively bargain for higher wages and better benefits. The upcoming labor contract negotiations between the roughly 3,000 security guards (represented by SEIU United Service Workers West) and their employers is one of the biggest developments in Silicon Valley labor organizing to happen this year. Buchanan says there's also a broader push this year to get tech companies to be proactive in ensuring these workers can make ends meet, even if these companies have to pay more for the services they procure...

A paper published last year by University of California at Santa Cruz researchers Chris Brenner and Kyle Neering estimates between 19,000 and 39,000 contracted service workers are employed in the Valley at any given time... An additional 78,000 workers are at risk of becoming contract employees, according to the study, a number which includes administrative assistants, sales representatives and medium-wage computer programmers. This is part of a larger societal shift in which salaried workers are converted to contractors -- a transition that benefits business owners, in that they don't have to pay benefits and can hire and fire contractors at will.

Buchanan's group represents contractors typically earning "as little as $20,000 a year." But Salon's headline argues that "programmers may be next" in the drive to organize contractors.
Programming

Ask Slashdot: How Does Your Team Track And Manage Bugs In Your Software? 189

Slashdot reader jb373 is a senior software engineer whose team's bug-tracking methodology is making it hard to track bugs. My team uses agile software methodologies, specifically scrum with a Kanban board, and adds all bugs we find to our Kanban board. Our Kanban board is digital and similar to Trello in many regards and we have a single list for bugs... We end up with duplicates and now have a long list to try and scroll through... Has anyone run into a similar situation or do things differently that work well for their team?
The original submission ends with one idea -- "I'm thinking about pushing for a separate bug tracking system that we pull bugs from during refinement and create Kanban cards for." But is there a better way? Leave your own experiences in the comments. How does your team track and manage bugs in your software?
AI

Google Go-Playing A.I. Retires To Focus On Energy Conservation And Medicine (engadget.com) 127

After "narrowly" beating the world's top Go player, what's left for Google's AlphaGo AI? Engadget reports: Now that it has nothing left to prove, the AI is hanging up its boots and leaving the world of competitive Go behind. AlphaGo's developers from Google-owned DeepMind will now focus on creating advanced general algorithms to help scientists find elusive cures for diseases, conjure up a way to dramatically reduce energy consumption and invent new revolutionary materials. Before they leave Go behind completely, though, they plan to publish one more paper later this year to reveal how they tweaked the AI to prepare it for the matches against Ke Jie. They're also developing a tool that would show how AlphaGo would respond to a particular situation on the Go board with help from the world's number one player. While you'll have to wait a while for those two, you'll soon be able to watch 50 games AlphaGo played against itself when it was training
The first ten games that AlphaGo played against itself are already online. Shi Yue, 9 Dan Professional and World Champion, described them as "Like nothing I've ever seen before -- they're how I imagine games from far in the future." Google announced that this week's competition "has been the highest possible pinnacle for AlphaGo as a competitive program. For that reason, the Future of Go Summit is our final match event with AlphaGo... We hope that the story of AlphaGo is just the beginning."
Businesses

Pittsburgh Is Falling Out of Love With Uber's Self-Driving Cars (engadget.com) 82

A worn-out welcome: The city rolled out the red carpet as a host to Uber's driverless car experiments, but nine months later its mayor and residents have built up a list of grievances with the public-private partnership. From a report: While our experience in one of the autonomous vehicles was thankfully pretty safe, it wasn't long before reports of accidents and wrong-way driving began to surface during the first month of the operation. Nine months later, the relationship continues to sour, according to a report in the New York Times. The things Uber promised in return for the city's support -- including free rides in driverless cars, backing the city's $50 million federal transportation grant and jobs for a neighborhood nearby Uber's testing track -- have not materialized. The situation was an issue during the mayoral primary, too, with critics calling out incumbent Bill Peduto for not getting these agreements in writing from the ride-sharing company.
Businesses

Tesla Factory Workers Reveal Pain, Injury and Stress: 'Everything Feels Like the Future But Us' (theguardian.com) 255

Workers at Tesla's California car factory have been passing out and requiring rides in ambulances, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday. The conditions at the factory suggest the lengths the company is going to in order to meet its extremely ambitious production goals, and the tension employees feel between their pride in being part of the company and the stress and exhaustion the company's goals are causing them, according to the report. From the article: Ambulances have been called more than 100 times since 2014 for workers experiencing fainting spells, dizziness, seizures, abnormal breathing and chest pains, according to incident reports obtained by the Guardian. Hundreds more were called for injuries and other medical issues. In a phone interview about the conditions at the factory, which employs about 10,000 workers, the Tesla CEO conceded his workers had been "having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs," but said he cared deeply about their health and wellbeing. His company says its factory safety record has significantly improved over the last year. Musk also said that Tesla should not be compared to major US carmakers and that its market capitalization, now more than $50bn, is unwarranted. "I do believe this market cap is higher than we have any right to deserve," he said, pointing out his company produces just 1% of GM's total output. "We're a money-losing company," Musk added. "This is not some situation where, for example, we are just greedy capitalists who decided to skimp on safety in order to have more profits and dividends and that kind of thing. It's just a question of how much money we lose. And how do we survive? How do we not die and have everyone lose their jobs?" The article also sheds light on the kind of manager Musk is. In early 2016, Musk slept on the factory floor in a sleeping bag "to make it the most painful thing possible. I knew people were having a hard time, working long hours, and on hard jobs. I wanted to work harder than they did, to put even more hours in," he was quoted as saying. "Because that's what I think a manager should do."
Windows

Apple is Bringing iTunes To the Windows Store (theverge.com) 87

Tom Warren, writing for The Verge: Apple is planning to bring its iTunes desktop app to the Windows Store. In a surprise announcement at the Build developer event today, Microsoft revealed it has been working with Apple to get iTunes listed in the Windows Store. It might not sound like an important addition, but iTunes is one of the most searched for apps that's currently missing in the Windows Store. USA Today veteran columnist, summing up the announcement, "Microsoft announces that iTunes (incl Apple Music and full support for iPhone) is coming to the Windows Store. Big get for Microsoft." Microsoft's communication head, summing up the situation, "Didn't see that one coming, did you!"
Government

Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey (washingtonpost.com) 810

The White House said today that President Trump has fired FBI director James Comey. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement: "President Donald J. Trump informed FBI Director James Comey that he has been terminated and removed from office. President Trump acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 'The FBI is one of our Nation's most cherished and respected institutions and today will mark a new beginning for our crown jewel of law enforcement,' said President Trump. A search for a new permanent FBI Director will begin immediately." The Washington Post reports: Earlier in the day, the FBI notified Congress that Comey misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, saying that only a "small number" of emails had been forwarded to disgraced congressman Anthony Weiner, not the "hundreds and thousands" he'd claimed in his testimony. The letter was sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, more than a week after Comey testified for hours in defense of his handling of the Clinton probe. In defending the probe at last week's hearing, Comey offered seemingly new details to underscore the seriousness of the situation FBI agents faced last fall when they discovered thousands of Clinton aide Huma Abedin's emails on the computer of her husband, Anthony Weiner. "Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information," Comey said, adding later, "His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state." At another point in the testimony, Comey said Abedin "forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information." Neither of those statements is accurate, said people close to the investigation. Tuesday's letter said "most of the emails found on Mr. Weiner's laptop computer related to the Clinton investigation occurred as a result of a backup of personal electronic devices, with a small number a result of manual forwarding by Ms. Abedin to Mr. Weiner." The letter also corrected the impression Mr. Comey's testimony had left with some listeners that 12 classified emails were among those forwarded by Abedin to Weiner.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents Flagging Technology For 'Repeat Offenders' Of Pirated Content (torrentfreak.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes TorrentFreak's report on Microsoft's newest patent: Titled: "Disabling prohibited content and identifying repeat offenders in service provider storage systems," the patent describes a system where copyright infringers, and those who publish other objectionable content, are flagged so that frequent offenders can be singled out... "The incident history can be processed to identify repeat offenders and modify access privileges of those users," the patent reads. [PDF] The "repeat infringer" is a hot topic at the moment, after ISP Cox Communications was ordered to pay $25 million for its failure to disconnect repeat offenders...

As far a we know, this is the first patent that specifically deals with the repeat infringer situation in these hosting situations, but it's not uncommon for cloud hosting services to prevent users from sharing infringing content. We previously uncovered that Google Drive uses hash matching to prevent people from sharing "flagged" files in public, and Dropbox does the same.

Australia

IT Contractors In Australia Are Not Being Paid Due To Dispute With Payroll Service (theregister.co.uk) 49

New submitter evolutionary writes: Plutus Payroll, an Australian payroll company, is refusing to pay contractors due to a dispute with companies using their services. Around 1,000 IT workers are unable to receive payment for services rendered. One may ask, "Where are the companies who actually hired the IT workers?" The Register reports: "This story starts with Australia's employment laws, which see lots of contractors officially employed by recruitment companies or payroll companies. The company at which the contractor works likes this arrangement as it means they don't have to put such people on their books. Recruitment companies and payroll companies charge for the service. Contractors generally like the convenience of having one employer even though they hop from gig to gig. The system requires fluid payments. Companies who hire contractors pay the recruiter, which either pays contractors direct or pays the payroll company contractors prefer. If the cash stops flowing, contractors get crunched. That's what's happened to around 1,000 contractors who elected to use Plutus as their paymasters: the company says it is in the midst of a completely unexplained 'dispute' that leaves it unable to pay contractors, or receive money from recruitment companies, but is still solvent. The Register has checked with the bank that Plutus clients say sends them their money -- the bank says it is aware of no dispute. One possible reason for the mess is that Plutus did not charge for its services. How it made money is therefore a mystery. Another scenario concerns the company's recent acquisition: perhaps its new owners are being denied access to some service Plutus could access as a standalone company. Plutus is saying nothing of substance about the situation. A spokesperson tells us the company deeply regrets the situation but won't divulge anything about the dispute and has offered no details about when contractors can expect resolution."
Transportation

Why Elon Musk Doesn't Like Flying Cars (yahoo.com) 183

boley1 quotes Business Insider: According to Elon Musk, the main challenges with flying cars are that they'll be noisy and generate lots of wind because of the downward force required to keep them in the air. Plus, there's an anxiety factor. "Let's just say if something is flying over your head...that is not an anxiety-reducing situation," he said. "You don't think to yourself 'Well, I feel better about today. You're thinking 'Is it going to come off and guillotine me as it comes flying past?'"
Transportation

Apple, Tesla Ask California To Change Its Proposed Policies On Self-Driving Car Testing (reuters.com) 30

Tesla and Apple have asked the state of California to change its proposed policies on self-driving cars to allow companies to test vehicles without traditional steering wheels and controls or human back-up drivers, among other things. Reuters reports: In a letter made public Friday, Apple made a series of suggested changes to the policy that is under development and said it looks forward to working with California and others "so that rapid technology development may be realized while ensuring the safety of the traveling public." Waymo, the self-driving car unit of Google parent company Alphabet Inc, Ford Motor Co, Uber Technologies Inc, Toyota Motor Corp, Tesla Motors Inc and others also filed comments suggesting changes. Apple said California should revise how companies report self-driving system "disengagements." California currently requires companies to report how many times the self-driving system was deactivated and control handed back to humans because of a system failure or a traffic, weather or road situation that required human intervention. Apple said California's rules for development vehicles used only in testing could "restrict both the design and equipment that can be used in test vehicles." Tesla said California should not bar testing of autonomous vehicles that are 10,000 pounds (4,535 kg) or more. Tesla also said California should not prohibit the sale of non-self-driving vehicles previously used for autonomous vehicle testing.
DRM

An Open Letter on DRM To the Inventor of the Web, From the Inventor of Net Neutrality (boingboing.net) 46

Tim Wu, a law professor at the Colombia University, and best known for coining the term "net neutrality," has published an open letter to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the web and director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). In the letter, Wu has asked Berners-Lee to "seriously consider extending a protective covenant to legitimate circumventers who have cause to bypass EME, should it emerge as a W3C standard." Cory Doctorow, writes for BoingBoing: But Wu goes on to draw a connection between the problems of DRM and the problems of network discrimination: DRM is wrapped up in a layer of legal entanglements (notably section 1201 of America's Digital Millennium Copyright Act), which allow similar kinds of anticompetitive and ugly practices that make net neutrality so important. This is a live issue, too, because the W3C just held the most contentious vote in its decades-long history, on whether to publish a DRM standard for the web without any of the proposed legal protections for companies that create the kinds of competing products and services that the law permits, except when DRM is involved. As Wu points out, this sets up a situation where the incumbents get to create monopolies that produce the same problems for the open web that network neutrality advocates -- like Berners-Lee -- worry about.
The Almighty Buck

Computer Program Prevents 116-Year-Old Woman From Getting Pension (theguardian.com) 216

Bruce66423 quotes a report from The Guardian: Born at the turn of the past century, Maria Felix is old enough to remember the Mexican Revolution -- but too old to get the bank card needed to collect her monthly 1,200 pesos ($63) welfare payment. Felix turns 117 in July, according to her birth certificate, which local authorities recognize as authentic. She went three months without state support for poor elderly Mexicans after she was turned away from a branch of Citibanamex in the city of Guadalajara for being too old, said Miguel Castro, development secretary for the state of Jalisco. Welfare beneficiaries now need individual bank accounts because of new transparency rules, Castro said. "They told me the limit was 110 years," Felix said with a smile in the plant-filled courtyard of her small house in Guadalajara. In an emailed statement, Citibanamex, a unit of Citigroup Inc, said Felix's age exceeded the "calibration limits" of its system and it was working to get her the bank card as soon as possible. It said it was adjusting its systems to avoid a repeat of the situation.
Biotech

Can Parents Sue If Their Kid Is Born With the 'Wrong' DNA? (gizmodo.com) 267

Long-time reader randomErr quotes Gizmodo: It's a nightmare scenario straight out of a primetime drama: a child-seeking couple visits a fertility clinic to try their luck with in-vitro fertilization, only to wind up accidentally impregnated by the wrong sperm. In a fascinating legal case out of Singapore, the country's Supreme Court ruled that this situation doesn't just constitute medical malpractice. The fertility clinic, the court recently ruled, must pay the parents 30% of upkeep costs for the child for a loss of 'genetic affinity.' In other words, the clinic must pay the parents' child support not only because they made a terrible medical mistake, but because the child didn't wind up with the right genes...

"It's suggesting that the child itself has something wrong with it, genetically, and that it has monetary value attached to it," Todd Kuiken, a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo. "They attached damages to the genetic makeup of the child, rather than the mistake. That's the part that makes it uncomfortable. This can take you in all sort of fucked up directions."

The Internet

Apple Hires Top Google Satellite Executives For New Hardware Team (theverge.com) 12

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The iPhone maker has recruited a pair of top Google satellite executives for a new hardware team, according to people familiar with the matter. John Fenwick, who led Google's spacecraft operations, and Michael Trela, head of satellite engineering, left Alphabet Inc.'s Google for Apple in recent weeks, the people said. They report to Greg Duffy, co-founder of camera maker Dropcam, who joined Apple earlier this year, the people said. With the recruits, Apple is bringing into its ranks two experts in the demanding, expensive field of satellite design and operation. At the moment, these endeavors typically fall into two fields: satellites for collecting images and those for communications. In a regulatory filing last year, Boeing Co. detailed a plan to provide broadband access through more than 1,000 satellites in low-earth orbit. The aerospace company has talked with Apple about the technology company being an investor-partner in the project, a person familiar with the situation said. It's unclear if those talks will result in a deal. At the annual Satellite 2017 conference in Washington D.C. last month, industry insiders said Boeing's project was being funded by Apple, Tim Farrar, a satellite and telecom consultant at TMF Associates Inc., wrote in a recent blog. A Boeing spokesman declined to comment.
IT

CC'ing the Boss on Email Makes Employees Feel Less Trusted, Study Finds (hbr.org) 148

Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary? Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all. From an article: My collaborators and I conducted a series of six studies (a combination of experiments and surveys) to see how cc'ing influences organizational trust. While our findings are preliminary and our academic paper is still under review, a first important finding was that the more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel (alternative link). In our experimental studies, in which 594 working adults participated, people read a scenario where they had to imagine that their coworker always, sometimes, or almost never copied the supervisor when emailing them. Participants were then required to respond to items assessing how trusted they would feel by their colleague. ("In this work situation, I would feel that my colleague would trust my 'competence,' 'integrity,' and 'benevolence.'") It was consistently shown that the condition in which the supervisor was "always" included by cc made the recipient of the email feel trusted significantly less than recipients who were randomly allocated to the "sometimes" or "almost never" condition. Organizational surveys of 345 employees replicated this effect by demonstrating that the more often employees perceived that a coworker copied their supervisor, the less they felt trusted by that coworker. To make matters worse, my findings indicated that when the supervisor was copied in often, employees felt less trusted, and this feeling automatically led them to infer that the organizational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety.
Piracy

Pirate Bay Founder: 'I Have Given Up' (vice.com) 423

The future of illegal torrent websites doesn't look good. As torrent websites continue to disappear, the founder of The Pirate Bay believes the trend is the just the beginning. From an article: While it might look like torrenters are are still fighting this battle, Sunde claims that the reality is more definitive: "We have already lost." [...] Take the net neutrality law in Europe. It's terrible, but people are happy and go like "it could be worse." That is absolutely not the right attitude. Facebook brings the internet to Africa and poor countries, but they're only giving limited access to their own services and make money off of poor people. [...] Well, I have given up the idea that we can win this fight for the internet. The situation is not going to be any different, because apparently that is something people are not interested in fixing. Or we can't get people to care enough. Maybe it's a mixture, but this is kind of the situation we are in, so its useless to do anything about it. We have become somehow the Black Knight from Monty Python's Holy Grail. We have maybe half of our head left and we are still fighting, we still think we have a chance of winning this battle.

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