The Internet

Craigslist Personals, Some Subreddits Disappear After FOSTA Passage ( 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In the wake of this week's passage of the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) bill in both houses of Congress on Wednesday, Craigslist has removed its "Personals" section entirely, and Reddit has removed some related subreddits, likely out of fear of future lawsuits. FOSTA, which awaits the signature of President Donald Trump before becoming law, removes some portions of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The landmark 1996 law shields website operators that host third-party content (such as commenters, for example) from civil liability. The new bill is aimed squarely at Backpage, a notorious website that continues to allow prostitution advertisements and has been under federal scrutiny for years. In a bizarre turn of events, the Department of Justice also warned the House in February 2018 that the bill "raises a serious constitutional concern," as it would apply retroactively -- a seeming violation of the Constitution's ex post facto clause. Congress passed it anyway. The Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in a blog post: "It's easy to see the impact that this ramp-up in liability will have on online speech: facing the risk of ruinous litigation, online platforms will have little choice but to become much more restrictive in what sorts of discussion -- and what sorts of users -- they allow, censoring innocent people in the process."
Social Networks

My Cow Game Extracted Your Facebook Data ( 35

Ian Bogost, writing for The Atlantic: Already in 2010, it felt like a malicious attention market where people treated friends as latent resources to be optimized. Compulsion rather than choice devoured people's time. Apps like FarmVille sold relief for the artificial inconveniences they themselves had imposed. In response, I made a satirical social game called Cow Clicker. Players clicked a cute cow, which mooed and scored a "click." Six hours later, they could do so again. They could also invite friends' cows to their pasture, buy virtual cows with real money, compete for status, click to send a real cow to the developing world from Oxfam, outsource clicks to their toddlers with a mobile app, and much more. It became strangely popular, until eventually, I shut the whole thing down in a bovine rapture -- the "cowpocalypse." It's kind of a complicated story.

But one worth revisiting today, in the context of the scandal over Facebook's sanctioning of user-data exfiltration via its application platform. It's not just that abusing the Facebook platform for deliberately nefarious ends was easy to do (it was). But worse, in those days, it was hard to avoid extracting private data, for years even, without even trying. I did it with a silly cow game. Cow Clicker is not an impressive work of software. After all, it was a game whose sole activity was clicking on cows. I wrote the principal code in three days, much of it hunched on a friend's couch in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I had no idea anyone would play it, although over 180,000 people did, eventually. And yet, if you played Cow Clicker, even just once, I got enough of your personal data that, for years, I could have assembled a reasonably sophisticated profile of your interests and behavior. I might still be able to; all the data is still there, stored on my private server, where Cow Clicker is still running, allowing players to keep clicking where a cow once stood, before my caprice raptured them into the digital void.


'What's Facebook?', Elon Musk Asks, As He Deletes SpaceX and Tesla Facebook Pages 159

It is unlikely that Facebook will see a significant drop in its mammoth userbase following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But on Friday, the #DeleteFacebook campaign, which is seeing an increasingly growing number of people call it quits on the world's largest social network, found its biggest backer: Elon Musk. Responding to WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton's "#DeleteFacebook" tweet, Musk asked "What's Facebook?" That was the beginning of a tweetstorm, which saw journalists asking Musk why his companies -- SpaceX and Tesla -- maintained their Facebook pages. Shouldn't Musk, they asked, delete them? Musk agreed. As of this writing, the official Facebook pages of SpaceX and Tesla, both of which had more than two million followers, are nowhere to be found. The Facebook page of SolarCity is gone too, if you were wondering.

The move comes months after Musk said Zuckerberg's understanding of AI was limited.

Man Starts 'Gunbook' Social Media Site After His Gun-Loving Friends Were Kicked Off Facebook ( 422

CaptainDork shares a report from BuzzFeed: A British gun enthusiast whose friends were banned from Facebook for posting pictures of firearms has started his own version of the site for gun lovers. Called Gunbook, it was set up by David Scott, a 57-year-old shooting instructor who lives in Kilsyth, 20 miles from Dunblane. It went live three weeks ago and he says it already has more than 1,000 members, around 60 of whom are from the U.S. Scott admitted that part of the attraction of the site for members was that they could post about their love of deadly weapons without being judged by family and friends. "Quite a lot want to talk about guns and shooting and target shooting and their families can see and often people comment. Gunbook is the place where people can talk about guns without their families seeing because a lot of people have got anti-shooting and anti-hunting friends on these sites."

Many of the profile pictures on the site show people standing in striking poses with guns -- or are simply a picture of their arsenal. And just like any other social media platform, much of the content that has quickly populated the Facebook clone ends up being videos and memes. In contrast, his site is loosely controlled and encourages a community around gun ownership. It has two admins but reassures users in a Q&A on the site that "they will generally just leave you all to get on with things." It adds later that "they will never interfere [in a group] unless a post gets reported and even then only racist and really dodgy ones will get looked at if reported. Please do NOT upload porn videos to our servers though ;0."


World's Largest Animal Study On Cell Tower Radiation Confirms Cancer Link ( 211

capedgirardeau shares a report from Digital Journal: Researchers with the renowned Ramazzini Institute (RI) in Italy announce that a large-scale, lifetime study (PDF) of lab animals exposed to environmental levels of cell tower radiation developed cancer. The RI study also found increases in malignant brain (glial) tumors in female rats and precancerous conditions including Schwann cells hyperplasia in both male and female rats. A study of much higher levels of cell phone radiofrequency (RF) radiation, from the U.S. National Toxicology Program (NTP), has also reported finding the same unusual cancer called Schwannoma of the heart in male rats treated at the highest dose.

The Ramazzini study exposed 2448 Sprague-Dawley rats from prenatal life until their natural death to "environmental" cell tower radiation for 19 hours per day (1.8 GHz GSM radiofrequency radiation (RFR) of 5, 25 and 50 V/m). RI exposures mimicked base station emissions like those from cell tower antennas, and exposure levels were far less than those used in the NTP studies of cell phone radiation. "All of the exposures used in the Ramazzini study were below the U.S. FCC limits. These are permissible exposures according the FCC. In other words, a person can legally be exposed to this level of radiation. Yet cancers occurred in these animals at these legally permitted levels. The Ramazzini findings are consistent with the NTP study demonstrating these effects are a reproducible finding," explained Ronald Melnick PhD, formerly the Senior NIH toxicologist who led the design of the NTP study on cell phone radiation now a Senior Science Advisor to Environmental Health Trust (EHT). "Governments need to strengthen regulations to protect the public from these harmful non-thermal exposures."

The Internet

FCC's New 5G Rules Favor Fast Setup Over Federal Reviews ( 51

In a 3-2, party-line vote Thursday, FCC commissioners passed a measure that exempts small cell radio deployments from federal environmental and historical preservation reviews originally meant for large cell phone towers. The vote didn't affect reviews from towns and cities, but the agency may consider exemptions for those reviews later this year. CNET reports: Republican FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr has been leading the agency's charge in promoting 5G. He said the exemptions are sorely needed because reviews have been costing wireless operators too much and have slowed deployments. In 2017, these federal reviews cost providers $36 million. He anticipates that as 5G deployments increase in the coming year they could cost providers as much as $241 million. Meanwhile, he said FCC records show that less than 1 percent of cases reviewed resulted in any changes to planned deployments.

"The disproportionate fees are the product of a broken and outdated system," Carr said. "This threatens to hold us back in the race to 5G or limit the business case to densely populated or affluent areas." He added that with Thursday's rule change, the FCC "can flip the business case for thousands of communities." Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, however, said that though the current reviews process does involve red tape, Thursday's change "misses the mark" and also runs afoul of key environmental and historic preservation values.


South Korea To Shut Off Computers Past 19:00 Hours To Stop People Working Late ( 101

dryriver shares a report from the BBC: The government in South Korea's capital is introducing a new initiative to force its employees to leave work on time -- by powering down all their computers at 20:00 on Fridays. It says it is trying to stop a "culture of working overtime." South Korea has some of the longest working hours in the world. Government employees there work an average of 2,739 hours a year -- about 1,000 hours more than workers in other developed countries. The shutdown initiative in the Seoul Metropolitan Government is set to roll out across three phases over the next three months. The program will begin on March 30, with all computers switched off by 20:00. The second phase starts in April, with employees having their computers turned off by 19:30 on the second and fourth Friday that month. From May on, the program will be in full-swing, with computers shut off by 19:00 every Friday. According to a SMG statement, all employees will be subjected to the shutdown, though exemptions may be provided in special circumstances. However, not every government worker seems to be on-board -- according to the SMG, 67.1% of government workers have asked to be exempt from the forced lights-out. Earlier this month, South Korea's national assembly passed a law to cut down the maximum weekly working hours to 52, down from 68.'

Experts Say Video of Uber's Self-Driving Car Killing a Pedestrian Suggests Its Technology May Have Failed ( 298

Ever since the Tempe police released a video of Uber's self-driving car hitting and killing a pedestrian, experts have been racing to analyze the footage and determine what exactly went wrong. (If you haven't watched the video, you can do so here. Warning: it's disturbing, though the actual impact is removed.) In a blog post, software architect and entrepreneur Brad Templeton highlights some of the big issues with the video:
1. On this empty road, the LIDAR is very capable of detecting her. If it was operating, there is no way that it did not detect her 3 to 4 seconds before the impact, if not earlier. She would have come into range just over 5 seconds before impact.
2.On the dash-cam style video, we only see her 1.5 seconds before impact. However, the human eye and quality cameras have a much better dynamic range than this video, and should have also been able to see her even before 5 seconds. From just the dash-cam video, no human could brake in time with just 1.5 seconds warning. The best humans react in just under a second, many take 1.5 to 2.5 seconds.
3. The human safety driver did not see her because she was not looking at the road. She seems to spend most of the time before the accident looking down to her right, in a style that suggests looking at a phone.
4.While a basic radar which filters out objects which are not moving towards the car would not necessarily see her, a more advanced radar also should have detected her and her bicycle (though triggered no braking) as soon as she entered the lane to the left, probably 4 seconds before impact at least. Braking could trigger 2 seconds before, in theory enough time.)

To be clear, while the car had the right-of-way and the victim was clearly unwise to cross there, especially without checking regularly in the direction of traffic, this is a situation where any properly operating robocar following "good practices," let alone "best practices," should have avoided the accident regardless of pedestrian error. That would not be true if the pedestrian were crossing the other way, moving immediately into the right lane from the right sidewalk. In that case no technique could have avoided the event.
The overall consensus among experts is that one or several pieces of the driverless system may have failed, from the LIDAR system to the logic system that's supposed to identify road objects, to the communications channels that are supposed to apply the brakes, or the car's automatic braking system itself. According to Los Angeles Times, "Driverless car experts from law and academia called on Uber to release technical details of the accident so objective researchers can help figure out what went wrong and relay their findings to other driverless system makers and to the public."

KeepVid Site No Longer Allows Users To 'Keep' Videos ( 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: For many years, KeepVid has been a prime destination for people who wanted to download videos from YouTube, Dailymotion, Facebook, Vimeo, and dozens of other sites. The web application was free and worked without any hassle. This was still the case earlier this month when the site advertised itself as follows: "KeepVid Video Downloader is a free web application that allows you to download videos from sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitch.Tv, Vimeo, Dailymotion and many more." However, a few days ago the site radically changed its course. While the motivation is unknown at the time, KeepVid took its popular video download service offline without prior notice. Today, people can no longer use the KeepVid site to download videos. On the contrary, the site warns that using video download and conversion tools might get people in trouble. "Video downloading from the Internet will become more and more difficult, and KeepVid encourages people to download videos via the correct and legal ways," the new KeepVid reads. The site now lists several alternative options to enjoy videos and music, including Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and Pandora.
Social Networks

Instagram Will Show More Recent Posts Due To Algorithm Backlash ( 28

Instagram announced today that it will show more new posts and stop suddenly bumping you to the top of the feed while you're scrolling. "With these changes, your feed will feel more fresh, and you won't miss the moments you care about," Instagram writes. TechCrunch reports: Instagram switched from a reverse chronological feed to a relevancy-sorted feed in June 2016, leading to lots of grumbling from hardcore users. While it made sure you wouldn't miss the most popular posts from your close friends, showing days-old posts made Instagram feel stale. And for certain types of professional content creators and merchants, cutting their less likable posts out of the feed -- like their calls to buy their products or follow their other social accounts -- was detrimental to their business. Instagram and Facebook moved to hide these posts over time because they can feel spammy.
Social Networks

Reddit Bans Subreddits Related To Selling Guns, Drugs, Sex, and More ( 254

New submitter cornholed writes: Yesterday, Reddit updated their Content Policy forbidding transactions for certain goods and services. From the formal announcement on Reddit: "As of today, users may not use Reddit to solicit or facilitate any transaction or gift involving certain goods and services, including: firearms, ammunition, or explosives; drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, or any controlled substances (except advertisements placed in accordance with our advertising policy); paid services involving physical sexual contact; stolen goods; personal information; falsified official documents or currency." Bloomberg has an interesting write-up on how Reddit is wading into the gun control debate. See this post on Reddit for a full-list of all subreddits banned. "Reddit has been something of a Wild West for users building communities by curating and commenting on content in subreddits," reports Bloomberg. "Sometimes, as in the case with gun sales, marketplaces emerge in the course of conversations within specific communities. With Reddit's increased popularity -- the site is the sixth-most-visited in the world -- has come introspection and stricter content guidelines. The company recognizes its responsibility for having provided a platform for hate groups to flourish and, more recently, the possibility that Russian propaganda on the site may have played a role in influencing the 2016 presidential election."

Human Driver Could Have Avoided Fatal Uber Crash, Experts Say ( 389

An anonymous reader shares a report: The pedestrian killed Sunday by a self-driving Uber SUV had crossed at least one open lane of road before being hit, according to a video of the crash that raises new questions about autonomous-vehicle technology. Forensic crash analysts who reviewed the video said a human driver could have responded more quickly to the situation, potentially saving the life of the victim, 49-year-old Elaine Herzberg. Other experts said Uber's self-driving sensors should have detected the pedestrian as she walked a bicycle across the open road at 10 p.m., despite the dark conditions. Herzberg's death is the first major test of a nascent autonomous vehicle industry that has presented the technology as safer than humans who often get distracted while driving. For human driving in the U.S., there's roughly one death every 86 million miles, while autonomous vehicles have driven no more than 15 to 20 million miles in the country so far, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. "As an ever greater number of autonomous vehicles drive ever an ever greater number of miles, investors must contemplate a legal and ethical landscape that may be difficult to predict," the analysts wrote in a research note following the Sunday collision. "The stock market is likely too aggressive on the pace of adoption."

Atlanta City Government Systems Down Due To Ransomware Attack ( 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The city of Atlanta government has apparently become the victim of a ransomware attack. The city's official Twitter account announced that the city government "is currently experiencing outages on various customer facing applications, including some that customers may use to pay bills or access court-related information." According to a report from Atlanta NBC affiliate WXIA, a city employee sent the station a screen shot of a ransomware message demanding a payment of $6,800 to unlock each computer or $51,000 to provide all the keys for affected systems. Employees received emails from the city's information technology department instructing them to unplug their computers if they noticed anything suspicious. An internal email shared with WXIA said that the internal systems affected include the city's payroll application. "At this time, our Atlanta Information Management team is working diligently with support from Microsoft to resolve the issue," a city spokesperson told Ars. "We are confident that our team of technology professionals will be able to restore applications soon." The city's primary website remains online, and the city government will continue to post updates there, the spokesperson added.

Online Piracy Is More Popular Than Ever, Research Suggests ( 70

An anonymous user writes: A broad and detailed report from piracy tracking outfit MUSO shows that visits to pirate sites went up last year. The company recorded more than 300 billion visits in 2017, which suggests that "piracy is more popular than ever." TV remained the most popular category and most pirates prefer streaming over torrents or direct downloading.

Facebook Gave Data About 57 Billion Friendships To Academic ( 113

Before Facebook suspended Aleksandr Kogan from its platform for the data harvesting "scam" at the centre of the unfolding Cambridge Analytica scandal, the social media company enjoyed a close enough relationship with the researcher that it provided him with an anonymised, aggregate dataset of 57bn Facebook friendships. From a report: Facebook provided the dataset of "every friendship formed in 2011 in every country in the world at the national aggregate level" to Kogan's University of Cambridge laboratory for a study on international friendships published in Personality and Individual Differences in 2015. Two Facebook employees were named as co-authors of the study, alongside researchers from Cambridge, Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. Kogan was publishing under the name Aleksandr Spectre at the time. A University of Cambridge press release on the study's publication noted that the paper was "the first output of ongoing research collaborations between Spectre's lab in Cambridge and Facebook." Facebook did not respond to queries about whether any other collaborations occurred. "The sheer volume of the 57bn friend pairs implies a pre-existing relationship," said Jonathan Albright, research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. "It's not common for Facebook to share that kind of data. It suggests a trusted partnership between Aleksandr Kogan/Spectre and Facebook."

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