Earth

Reid Hoffman, Bill Gates, Others Ante Up Another $30 Million To Change.org the World (fortune.com) 56

theodp writes: Fortune reports that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman is "leading a $30 million funding round in Change.org, a for-profit petition and fundraising website focused on social and political change." Joining Hoffman in this round, as well as an earlier $25 million round in 2014, is Bill Gates. Change.org, Hoffman explained in a Friday LinkedIn post, "helps enable a world where you don't need to hire a lobbyist to have real impact on the issues and policies that matter to you." He added, "In its decade of existence, Change.org petitions have resulted in more than 21,000 victories, i.e., instances in which a government agency, corporation, or other entity has changed a regulation or a policy in the face of a Change.org petition urging it to do so." Last year, Hoffman joined Gates and some of the biggest names in tech and corporate America who threw their weight behind a Change.org petition that tried to get Congress to fund K-12 Computer Science education. The Change.org petition fell short of its 150,000-signature goal despite claims of support from 90% of the parents of the nation's 58 million K-12 schoolchildren (based on a Google-funded survey of 1,685 parents), widespread press coverage (including a full-page ad in petition signer Jeff Bezos's Washington Post), lobbying efforts by the tech coalition that organized the petition (which counts LinkedIn and Microsoft among its members), and even some free PR from Change.org.
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 63

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
Businesses

Mark Zuckerberg Calls for Universal Basic Income in His Harvard Commencement Speech (fortune.com) 713

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has become the latest major tech figure to call for universal basic income as a solution for inequality, joining a growing chorus from Silicon Valley. From a report: "Every generation expands its definition of equality. Now it's time for our generation to define a new social contract," Zuckerberg said during his commencement speech at Harvard University. "We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," he said. Zuckerberg told the class of 2017 that he was able to pursue his passion in Facebook because he knew he had a safety net to fall back on.
Facebook

How Facebook Flouts Holocaust Denial Laws Except Where It Fears Being Sued (theguardian.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook's policies on Holocaust denial will come under fresh scrutiny following the leak of documents that show moderators are being told not to remove this content in most of the countries where it is illegal. The files explain that moderators should take down Holocaust denial material in only four of the 14 countries where it is outlawed. One document says the company "does not welcome local law that stands as an obstacle to an open and connected world" and will only consider blocking or hiding Holocaust denial messages and photographs if "we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk." A picture of a concentration camp with the caption "Never again Believe the Lies" was permissible if posted anywhere other than the four countries in which Facebook fears legal action, one document explains. Facebook contested the figures but declined to elaborate. Documents show Facebook has told moderators to remove dehumanizing speech or any "calls for violence" against refugees. Content "that says migrants should face a firing squad or compares them to animals, criminals or filth" also violate its guidelines. But it adds: "As a quasi-protected category, they will not have the full protections of our hate speech policy because we want to allow people to have broad discussions on migrants and immigration which is a hot topic in upcoming elections." The definitions are set out in training manuals provided by Facebook to the teams of moderators who review material that has been flagged by users of the social media service. The documents explain the rules and guidelines the company applies to hate speech and "locally illegal content," with particular reference to Holocaust denial. One 16-page training manual explains Facebook will only hide or remove Holocaust denial content in four countries -- France, Germany, Israel and Austria. The document says this is not on grounds of taste, but because the company fears it might get sued.
The Internet

Manchester Attack Could Lead To Internet Crackdown (independent.co.uk) 380

New submitter boundary writes: The UK government looks to be about to put the most egregious parts of the Investigative Powers Act into force "soon after the election" (which is in a couple of weeks) in the wake of the recent bombing in Manchester. "Technical Capability Orders" require tech companies to break their own security. I wonder who'll comply? The Independent reports: "Government will ask parliament to allow the use of those powers if Theresa May is re-elected, senior ministers told The Sun. 'We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in,' The Sun said it was told by a government minister. 'The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.'"
Facebook

Facebook Signs BuzzFeed, Vox, Others For Original Video Shows (reuters.com) 15

Facebook has signed deals with Vox Media, BuzzFeed, ATTN, Group Nine Media and others to make shows for its upcoming video service, which will feature long and short-form content with ad breaks. The social media company is reportedly set to pay up to $250,000 for the longer, scripted shows. Reuters reports: Facebook is planning two tiers of video entertainment: scripted shows with episodes lasting 20 to 30 minutes, which it will own; and shorter scripted and unscripted shows with episodes lasting about 5 to 10 minutes, which Facebook will not own, according to the sources. For the second tier of shorter shows, Facebook will pay $10,000 to $35,000 for each show and give creators 55 percent of revenue from ads, the sources said. Ads will run during both the long-form and short-form shows.
Medicine

Study Finds Magic Mushrooms Are the Safest Recreational Drug (theguardian.com) 198

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs people take recreationally, according to this year's Global Drug Survey. Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016, just 0.2% of them said they needed emergency medical treatment -- a rate at least five times lower than that for MDMA, LSD and cocaine. Global Drug Survey 2017, with almost 120,000 participants in 50 countries, is the world's biggest annual drug survey, with questions that cover the types of substances people take, patterns of use and whether they experienced any negative effects. Overall, 28,000 people said they had taken magic mushrooms at some point in their lives, with 81.7% seeking a "moderate psychedelic experience" and the "enhancement of environment and social interactions."
Social Networks

Imzy, the Kinder and Gentler Reddit By Ex Employee, Is Shutting Down (imzy.com) 200

Imzy, a social media site led by ex-Reddit employee Dan McComas, announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its doors next month. The site was launched last year with much fanfare. Imzy sought to offer a community that didn't have trolls, one of the reasons that led McComas to leave Reddit two years ago. Ever since its launch, Imzy struggled to gain traction. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, the website was visited less than 400,000 times last month. McComas didn't elaborate why his service was shutting down, though he wrote: Some of you have been here since our launch into beta and some are brand new. We've loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends. Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.
China

China Censored Google's AlphaGo Match Against World's Best Go Player (theguardian.com) 93

DeepMind's board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China -- but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live. From a report: The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday's game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency. "Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream," the notice read. "If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it." The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications. It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.
Social Networks

Mark Zuckerberg Is Working On a Way To Connect You To People You 'Should' Know (recode.net) 140

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Sunday shared some of what he has learned from his early trips around the country. Recode adds: The actual crux of the post comes later when Zuckerberg writes why he's taking on this new challenge. Basically: He's not running for office, he wants to find ways to strengthen Facebook's "community." Mark said, "I also think this is an area where Facebook can make a difference. Some of you have asked if this challenge means I'm running for public office. I'm not. I'm doing it to get a broader perspective to make sure we're best serving our community of almost 2 billion people at Facebook and doing the best work to promote equal opportunity at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In many ways, relationships are the most important things in our lives -- whether we're trying to form healthy habits, stay out of trouble, or find better opportunities. And yet, research shows the average American has fewer than three close friends we can turn to for support." To make that difference Zuckerberg is talking about, he said that Facebook is helping people find people they already know but is also working on a way to connect you with people that you should know like mentors.
Social Networks

Facebook Flooded With 'Sextortion' and Revenge Porn, Files Reveal (theguardian.com) 54

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook had to assess nearly 54,000 potential cases of revenge pornography and "sextortion" on the site in a single month, according to a leaked document. Figures shared with staff reveal that in January Facebook had to disable more than 14,000 accounts related to these types of sexual abuse -- and 33 of the cases reviewed involved children. The company relies on users to report most abusive content, meaning the real scale of the problem could be much greater. But the Guardian has been told that moderators find Facebook's policies on sexual content the hardest to follow. "Sexual policy is the one where moderators make most mistakes," said a source. "It is very complex." Facebook admitted this was a high priority area and that it was using "image-matching" software to stop explicit content getting on to the site. It also acknowledged it was difficult to draw a line between acceptable and unacceptable sexual content.
Science

'Science Must Clean Up Its Act' (scientificamerican.com) 668

Our science community still struggles with diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, including systemic bias, harassment, and discrimination among other things, writes Heather Metcalf, mathematician, computer scientist, social scientist, and also the director of research for the Association for Women in Science. From her piece, in which she has shared both personal anecdotes and general examples, for the Scientific American: [...] Take the recent March for Science. Nearly two weeks ago, scientists and science supporters gathered in Washington, D.C, and around the globe to stand up for "robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity" and put forth a vision of science that "serves the interests of all humans, not just those in power." However, in its attempts to remain apolitical and objective, the march focused primarily on funding and communication aspects of its mission while losing sight of the need for a science that addresses human freedom and prosperity for all, not just the privileged. [...] In the early days of its organizing, the march offered up a strong statement of solidarity acknowledging the complacency with which the scientific community as a whole has handled issues that primarily impact marginalized communities: "many issues about which scientists as a group have largely remained silent -- attacks on black and brown lives, oil pipelines through indigenous lands, sexual harassment and assault, ADA access in our communities, immigration policy, lack of clean water in several cities across the country, poverty wages, LGBTQIA rights, and mass shootings are scientific issues. Science has historically -- and generally continues to support discrimination. In order to move forward as a scientific community, we must address and actively work to unlearn our problematic past and present, to make science available to everyone." This messaging was removed and replaced after much pushback, largely from white men, about the need to remain apolitical and objective. These debates resulted in many women, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ scientists, and their allies feeling ostracized and even receiving disrespectful and hateful messages about their place in science generally and in M4S specifically. Rather than standing up for a science that is available to everyone, these conversations and the march itself merely served represent an exclusionary science by reinforcing longstanding, divisive norms within the scientific community, all in the name of objectivity..
United States

Is Russia Conducting A Social Media War On America? (time.com) 469

An anonymous reader writes: Time magazine ran a cover story about "a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces" -- social media. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it's becoming easier every day," says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology." The article cites current and former FBI and CIA officials who now believe Russia's phishing emails against politicians were "just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy." They cite, for example, a March report by U.S. counterintelligence which found "Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department." Each message contained links tailored to the interests of the recipient, but "When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow's hackers to take control of the victim's phone or computer -- and Twitter account...

"In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States?" The article also notes how algorithms now can identify hot-button issues and people susceptible to suggestion, so "Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior. That is what Moscow is doing, more than a dozen senior intelligence officials and others investigating Russia's influence operations tell Time."

The article describes a Russian soldier in the Ukraine pretending to be a 42-year-old American housewife. Meanwhile, this week Time's cover shows America's White House halfway-covered with Kremlin-esque spires -- drawing a complaint from the humorists at Mad magazine, who say Time copied the cover of Mad's December issue.
Government

UK Conservatives Pledge To Create Government-Controlled Internet (independent.co.uk) 186

Martin S. writes: Theresa May, the leader of the UK Conservative Party has pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government on re-election. An early lead in the polls appears to be slipping but not slowly enough to change the result. Social Media has rapidly become an intense political battlefield. Known as #Mayhem in some circles, but seemingly able to command significant support from new and old media. Also, applying new social media analytics. According to the manifesto, the plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet." It states, "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet... We disagree."
AT&T

About 37,000 AT&T Workers Go On Three-Day Strike (reuters.com) 23

Roughly 37,000 AT&T workers -- less than 14 percent of the company's total workforce -- began a three-day strike on Friday after failing to reach an agreement with the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier over new contracts. Reuters reports: This is the first time that AT&T wireless workers are on strike, which could result in closed retail stores during the weekend, according to the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union. The workers on strike are members of the CWA. The workers are demanding wage increases that cover rising healthcare costs, job security against outsourcing, affordable healthcare and a fair scheduling policy. Slightly over half of the workers on strike are part of the wireless segment and the rest wireline workers, including a small number of DirecTV technicians, AT&T spokesman Marty Richter told Reuters. The CWA had said on Wednesday that wireless workers across 36 states and Washington, D.C. would walk-off their jobs if an agreement was not reached by Friday 3 p.m. ET.
China

A Tip for Apple in China: Your Hunger for Revenue May Cost You (wsj.com) 57

Li Yuan, writing for the WSJ: Apple's latest predicament centers on its App Store. Last month, Apple told several Chinese social-networking apps, including the wildly popular messaging platform WeChat, to disable their "tip" functions to comply with App Store rules (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), according to executives at WeChat and other companies. That function allows users to send authors and other content creators tips, from a few yuan to hundreds, via transfers from mobile-wallet accounts. Those transfers are offered by the social-networking apps free of charge, as a way to inspire user engagement. Now, those tips will be considered in-app purchases, just like buying games, music and videos, entitling Apple to a 30% cut. For Apple, which has been observing slowing growth in mature markets, China is increasingly becoming important. But the company's my way or high-way approach might hurt the company's image in China. And that image as well as fortunes of local companies, is what the Chinese authorities deeply care about. As Yuan adds, "while it's understandable that Apple wants to tap the App Store for more money, its pressure on the app platforms risks alienating powerful Chinese companies, turning off Chinese iPhone users and drawing unnecessary attention from the regulators." Executives of these IM messaging apps tell WSJ that Apple has threatened that it would kick their apps out of the App Store if they don't comply. The problem is, WeChat is way more popular in China than Apple -- or its iPhones or its services or both combined, analysts say. WeChat is insanely popular in China, and people love to use the app to pay for things they purchase and send money to friends. Apple's greed could end up resulting in millions of new Android users, analysts said.
Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health' (theguardian.com) 120

Instagram and Snapchat are really bad for young people's mental health, according to research by two health organisations. Virtually all major social media platforms have a negative impact on the well-being of 14-24-year-olds, the study adds. Instagram was the worst -- followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. From a report on The Guardian: Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children's and young people's body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.
Social Networks

Facebook Now Battles Clickbait On a Post-by-Post Basis (engadget.com) 45

Facebook is taking further steps to decrease the reach and prevalence of clickbait headlines on its social network. Facebook says it will target clickbait on an individual post level and not just by analyzing the bulk posts of a page. It will also look at two distinct signals: whether a headline "withholds information or if it exaggerates information separately." From a report: This should "more precisely" downplay the number of misleading stories cluttering your timeline, the social network says. Moreover, it's promising a more exacting approach when it looks at individual headlines. Until now, Facebook examined clickbait titles in a holistic way: it looked for both the exaggerated language ("you have to see this!") and deliberate attempts to withhold info ("eat this every day").
Twitter

Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone Is Returning to the Company (techcrunch.com) 35

After leaving Twitter in 2011 to pursue new projects, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone has announced that he's returning to the company to "guide company culture." Stone said in a statement: "It's important that everyone understands the whole story of Twitter and each of our roles in that story. I'll shape the experience internally so it's also felt outside the company." TechCrunch reports: About a month ago Stone sold his most recent startup, Jelly, to Pinterest. He said at the time that he wasn't required to stay on with Pinterest, so was available for new opportunities. Stone said he was recently back at Twitter as a "special guest" for an event open to employees, where current CEO and fellow co-founder Jack Dorsey -- another founder who left and then returned -- asked him onstage if he wanted to come back and work at Twitter. After some employee cheers, and a private clarification that Jack was in fact being serious, he accepted. Twitter diehards are reacting positively to the news -- many think that Twitter needs to get back to its roots, and what better way to do it than bringing back a co-founder? The market also seems to be happy. TWTR stock immediately jumped 2 percent on the news, reaching a three-month high of $19.62.
Businesses

UploadVR Had a 'Kink Room,' Pressured Female Employees To 'Microdose,' Alleges Lawsuit (gizmodo.com) 444

The virtual-reality company UploadVR is being sued by the company's former Director of Digital and Social Media for rampant sexual harassment. According to Gizmodo, "the lawsuit alleges that the company's employees and founders created a hostile work environment in which sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation occurred on a regular basis." From the report: In the suit documents, the former Director of Digital and Social Media for UploadVR claims that the office environment was a "boy's club" that employees expressly referred to as a "boy's club." From the suit: "Specifically, the male employees of UploadVR, including Mason and Freeman, would discuss their sexual exploits in graphic detail at the workplace in front of Plaintiff and other female employees. For instance, UploadVR employee [name redacted]'s sex life was a frequent topic of conversation. The other male employees would talk about how he 'refuses to wear a condom' and 'has had sex with over 1000 people.'" The documents also claim that employees were engaged in Silicon Valley's hot new trend of "microdosing" and "using Marijuana in the office." When female employees didn't want to participate, they would be ostracized by the male employees and excluded from important meetings and lunches.

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