"Russia has been working on incorporating elements of China’s Great Firewall into the “Red Web”, the country’s system of internet filtering and control, after unprecedented cyber collaboration between the countries. A decision earlier this month to block the networking site LinkedIn in Russia is the most visible in a series of measures to bring the internet under greater state control... In the summer, a measure known as Yarovaya’s law was introduced, which requires Russia’s telecoms and internet providers to store users’ data for six months and metadata for three years... On 7 November, China adopted a controversial cybersecurity law that revived international concerns about censorship in the country. In a sign that collaboration between the countries is mutually beneficial, the legislation echoes Russia’s rules on data localisation and requires “critical information infrastructure operators” to be stored domestically – the law LinkedIn fell foul of. It seems the exchange of ideas has already borne fruit."
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, Guardian; Putin brings China's Great Firewall to Russia in cybersecurity pact:
James Fallows, The Atlantic; China’s Great Leap Backward:
"China’s internet, always censored and firewalled, is now even more strictly separated from the rest of the world’s than ever before, and becoming more so. China’s own internet companies (Baidu as a search engine rather than Google, WeChat for Twitter) are more heavily censored. Virtual private networks and other work-arounds, tolerated a decade ago—the academic who invented China’s “Great Firewall” system of censorship even bragged about the six VPNs he used to keep up on foreign developments—are now under governmental assault. When you find a network that works, you dare not mention its name on social media or on a website that could alert the government to its existence. “It’s an endless cat-and-mouse,” the founder of a California-based VPN company, which I’m deliberately not identifying, recently told me. “We figure out a new route or patch, and then they notice that people are using us and they figure out how to block it. Eventually they wear most users down.” On a multiweek visit to China early last year, I switched among three VPNs and was able to reach most international sites using my hotel-room Wi-Fi. On a several-day visit last December, the hassle of making connections was not worth it, and I just did without Western news sources. China’s print and broadcast media have always been state-controlled and pro-government. But a decade ago I heard from academics and party officials that “reasonable” criticism from the press actually had an important safety-valve function, as did online commentary, in alerting the government to emerging problem spots. Those days are gone. Every week or two the Chinese press carries warnings, more and more explicit, by President Xi Jinping and his colleagues that dissent is not permissible and the party’s interests come first."
Nicky Woolf, Guardian; How to solve Facebook's fake news problem: experts pitch their ideas:
"...[A] growing cadre of technologists, academics and media experts are now beginning the quixotic process of trying to think up solutions to the problem, starting with a rambling 100+ page open Google document set up by Upworthy founder Eli Pariser... “The biggest challenge is who wants to be the arbiter of truth and what truth is,” said Claire Wardle, research director for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. “The way that people receive information now is increasingly via social networks, so any solution that anybody comes up with, the social networks have to be on board.”... Most of the solutions fall into three general categories: the hiring of human editors; crowdsourcing, and technological or algorithmic solutions."
Fake news and a 400-year-old problem: we need to resolve the ‘post-truth’ crisis; Guardian, 11/29/16
Luciano Floridi, Guardian; Fake news and a 400-year-old problem: we need to resolve the ‘post-truth’ crisis:
"In April 2016, the British government agreed with the recommendation of the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee that the government should establish a Council of Data Ethics. Such an open and independent advisory forum would bring all stakeholders together to participate in the dialogue, decision-making and implementation of solutions to common ethical problems brought about by the information revolution. In September 2016, Amazon, DeepMind, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft and Google (whom I advised on the right to be forgotten) established a new ethical body called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society. The Royal Society, the British Academy and the Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science, are working on regulatory frameworks for managing personal data, and in May 2018, Europe’s new General Data Protection Regulation will come into effect, strengthening the rights of individuals and their personal information. All these initiatives show a growing interest in how online platforms can be held more responsible for the content they provide, not unlike newspapers. We need to shape and guide the future of the digital, and stop making it up as we go along. It is time to work on an innovative blueprint for a better kind of infosphere."
David Ignatius, Washington Post; In today’s world, the truth is losing:
"How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth? Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers, but he’s right that this isn’t really a job for Uncle Sam. The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms. “They see this information war as an existential threat,” says Stengel. The tech companies have made a start: He says Twitter has removed more than 400,000 accounts, and YouTube daily deletes extremist videos. The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a “global ombudsman for information.”"
Liz Spayd, New York Times; How Much Disclosure About an Op-Ed Author Is Required? :
"Who is this woman brave enough to come forward in Facebook’s defense? Lessin’s tagline identifies her as the founder of a technology website, The Information. And near the end of her piece, she mentions in passing that her husband briefly worked at Facebook. What neither Lessin nor The Times’s opinion editors told readers is that Lessin and her husband, Sam, have close ties to Facebook and its founder, Mark Zuckerberg. Sam Lessin is a long-time friend of Zuckerberg since their days at Harvard. When young Zuckerberg was shopping for money to start his business, Sam took him around to meet investors. When Sam had a business of his own, Zuckerberg bought it, and then Sam went to work at Facebook. He became the social media giant’s vice president overseeing product, and one of a handful of top executives who reported directly to Zuckerberg. The Facebook founder was even reported to be in the wedding party when Sam and Jessica got married. I wouldn’t expect Times editors to necessarily put all that information in a piece explaining Jessica Lessin’s connections to a company she’s writing about. But simply saying her husband “worked at Facebook for a brief period” doesn’t cut it."
Jessica Lessin, New York Times; Facebook Shouldn’t Fact-Check:
"If you don’t believe that Facebook’s policies could sway the news industry, you haven’t been paying attention over the past five years. Publications have been suckered into tweaking their content and their business models to try to live off the traffic Facebook sends them. They’ve favored Facebook clicks over their core readers, and are no closer to addressing plummeting print revenues. What would happen if the distribution of their articles on Facebook was tied to submitting data about their sources or conforming to some site-endorsed standards about what constitutes a trustworthy news source? My fellow reporters and editors will argue that I am letting Facebook off too easy. While my husband did work there for a brief period, my position isn’t a defense of the company, which I have covered critically for years. I simply don’t trust Facebook, or any one company, with the responsibility for determining what is true."
Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times; Summer Project Turns Into Leukemia Testing Breakthrough:
'Gleevec, which made almost $5 billion for Novartis last year, has been at the center of a long battle between pharmaceutical companies and activists fighting price increases. The drug cost about $26,000 per year in 2001, and Novartis repeatedly raised the price even as competitors emerged; early this year, it was more than $120,000. Those who support broader access to medicines argue that poor countries should reject patents and make generic versions of leukemia drugs. In 2013, India’s highest court struck down Novartis’s patent application for Gleevec, opening the way for generics. They now cost about $400 a year in India and about $9,000 in Canada."
Monday, November 28, 2016
Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy, New York Times; Facebook Runs Up Against German Hate Speech Laws:
"In Germany, more than almost anywhere else in the West, lawmakers, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, are demanding that Facebook go further to police what is said on the social network — a platform that now has 1.8 billion users worldwide. The country’s lawmakers also want other American tech giants to meet similar standards. The often-heated dispute has raised concerns over maintaining freedom of speech while protecting vulnerable minorities in a country where the legacy of World War II and decades under Communism still resonate. It is occurring amid mounting criticism of Facebook in the United States after fake news reports were shared widely on the site before the presidential election. Facebook also has been accused of allowing similar false reports to spread during elections elsewhere."
Matthew Ingram, Fortune; What a Map of the Fake-News Ecosystem Says About the Problem:
"As debate continues over the extent to which “fake news” helped Donald Trump win the presidential race, many have talked about a network of loosely-affiliated, right-wing sites that distributed this content through social media platforms. But few have tried to describe it in scientific terms. Jonathan Albright, a professor at Elon University in North Carolina, is an expert in data journalism who has worked for both Google and Yahoo. He specializes in media analytics and social networks, and he has created a network map or topology that describes the landscape of the fake-news ecosystem... More than anything, the impression one gets from looking at Albright’s network map is that there are some extremely powerful “nodes” or hubs that propel a lot of the traffic involving fake news. And it also shows an entire universe of sites that many people have probably never heard of... With the landscape of the fake-news ecosystem outlined in terms of the connections between the various nodes, it may be easier for platforms like Google and Facebook—or even for other media outlets—to track the spread of the problem and come up with potential solutions."
Michael P. Lynch, New York Times; Fake News and the Internet Shell Game:
"Almost everything that we encounter online is being presented to us by for-profit algorithms, and by us, post by post, tweet by tweet. That fact, even more than the spread of fake news, can be its own sort of shell game, one that we are pulling on ourselves. As the late-19th-century mathematician W. K. Clifford noted in his famous essay, “The Ethics of Belief,” ambivalence about objective evidence is an attitude corrosive of democracy. Clifford ends the essay by imagining someone who has “no time for the long course of study” that would make him competent to judge many questions. Clifford’s response is withering: “Then he should have no time to believe.” And we might add, tweet."
Lisa Peet, Library Journal; Campus Libraries See Increase in Discriminatory Incidents:
"Within the libraries, administrators have used these events to highlight ongoing issues such as how to spot and respond to fake news. On a wider scale, they have stepped up their mission to support various campus communities and interest groups, particularly when it comes to student welfare. Said Hutto, “We, like a lot of colleges, have been very proactive about increasing diversity on campus. I think especially for those students, they definitely… are thinking of Reed as being a safe place. And to find out that it’s kind of like any other place is not a pleasant thing for them. We’re really concerned about them.” In a statement released by the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Chris Bourg, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and ARL Diversity and Inclusion Committee chair, stated, “While ARL libraries and archives work hard to be inclusive in their hiring, collections, services, and environments, the Association and its members will not claim neutrality in the face of discrimination, sexism, ableism, racism, homophobia, religious persecution, or other forms of oppression. We support freedom of speech and the open exchange of ideas and opinions, but we will not tolerate hate speech, silencing, inflammatory rhetoric, or any other speech or action that threatens the safety or dignity of any member of our community.” Addressing the proactive role campus libraries can play post-election, Bourg wrote in a statement from MIT Libraries, “This election has highlighted the urgent need for open, enduring, and equitable access to credible sources of news, data, and knowledge. At the MIT Libraries we will redouble our efforts to provide not only credible sources of information to our communities, but also the expertise, services, collections, tools, and spaces that facilitate and promote the critical assessment of information. We will also continue to document and provide access to the ideas, knowledge, and perspectives of our communities, as we did by archiving the post-election posters containing the immediate reactions of MIT students and community members.”"
Peter J. Henning, New York Times; Congress May Hold Key to Handling Trump’s Conflicts of Interest:
"The key to dealing with conflicts — whether actual or potential — is transparency about any decision that could have an effect on Mr. Trump’s business interests if he decides not to divest his holdings or create a truly blind trust. Unlike the approach of many teenagers, who believe that it is easier to beg forgiveness than permission, in business the advance notice of a potential issue can lessen its impact. The challenge is coming up with a mechanism for dealing with questions that might arise from Mr. Trump’s business interests rather than relying on the good faith of the parties involved or deflecting the issue with claims that any criticism is only political, especially in foreign countries in which the president-elect has investments, as The New York Times points out... Some critics have pointed to potential problems Mr. Trump’s business interests could present under the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. That obscure provision provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”"
Trump has already defeated the news media. And it’s unclear what we can do about it.; Washington Post, 11/28/16
Paul Waldman, Washington Post; Trump has already defeated the news media. And it’s unclear what we can do about it. :
"The entire sequence of events enables Trump to create a meta-message, which is that there’s no such thing as truth and no such thing as genuine authority. Think about it: the president-elect is claiming that an election that he won was beset by fraud, because he heard it from a lunatic radio host who thinks that the Sandy Hook massacre was staged using child actors and the 9/11 attacks were carried out by the U.S. government. At the same time, the conspiracy-theorist-in-chief is turning away the intelligence briefers who are prepared to deliver him daily updates on the world’s hotspots and potential dangers to the United States — what one might call the actual conspiracies we have to be worried about. Trump has revealed that the entire journalistic system is based on the assumption that political actors will stay within certain parameters of truth and sanity. Some are more dishonest than others, but there’s a limit. “The President said this today” coverage can be problematic, but much of the time it’s perfectly reasonable, since he’s the most important person in the political world and his words and beliefs have a profound effect on what happens not just here but around the globe. Trump realizes that when you step outside those limits, you can manipulate the media at will because their normal ways of doing things are inadequate to the task. You can take any idea, no matter how preposterous, and make half the country believe it. And when journalists push back, it’ll only make your supporters more firm in their loyalty. This is part of a broader assault Trump is mounting on almost every institution of public life in America — the government, the media, the education system, even democracy itself. He’s been doing it from the beginning, not only spreading lies in a volume that had never been seen before, but continually arguing that established authority couldn’t be trusted."
Richard C. Paddock, Eric Lipton, Ellen Barry, Rod Nordland, Danny Hakim, and Simon Romero, New York Times; Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President:
"In an interview with The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Trump boasted again about the global reach of his business — and his family’s ability to keep it running after he takes office. “I’ve built a very great company and it’s a big company and it’s all over the world,” Mr. Trump said, adding later: “I don’t care about my company. It doesn’t matter. My kids run it.” In a written statement, his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said Mr. Trump and his family were committed to addressing any issues related to his financial holdings. “Vetting of various structures and immediate transfer of the business remains a top priority for both President-elect Trump, his adult children and his executives,” she said. But a review by The Times of these business dealings identified a menu of the kinds of complications that could create a running source of controversy for Mr. Trump, as well as tensions between his priorities as president and the needs and objectives of his companies."
Ross Todd, Inside Counsel; Twitter Beats Back Lawsuit Over Killing of U.S. Contractors by ISIS:
"In a ruling that should bolster a law giving social-media companies broad immunity from liability for user-generated content, Twitter Inc. on Friday beat back a lawsuit from families of two American contractors killed in an attack in Jordan inspired by the Islamic State group. The decision from U.S. District Judge William Orrick III highlights the difficulty plaintiffs face when trying to hold social-media companies liable for allegedly providing material support to terrorists... In a blog post on the decision published Monday, Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law, wrote that the decision bodes well for companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. that have faced a recent uptick in claims under the Anti-Terrorism Act raising allegations that they provided material support for terrorists."
E.J. Dionne, Washington Post; An ethical double standard for Trump — and the GOP? :
"Republicans did an extraordinary job raising doubts about Clinton — helped, we learned courtesy of The Post, by a Russian disinformation campaign. Does the GOP want to cast itself as a band of hypocrites who cared not at all about ethics and were simply trying to win an election?... If Trump wasn’t ready to put his business life behind him, he should not have run for president. And if Republicans — after all of their ethical sermons about Clinton — do not now demand that the incoming president unequivocally cut all of his and his family’s ties to his companies, they will be fully implicated in any Trump scandal that results from a shameful and partisan double standard."
Adam Taylor, Washington Post; Before ‘fake news,’ there was Soviet ‘disinformation’ :
"In the parlance of 2016, we would probably refer to the Patriot's front page story as “fake news.” It's not so dissimilar to the flimsy or outright false stories that spread online in the United States this year. There may be a shared Russian link too: This week, a number of groups alleged that a Russian propaganda effort had helped spread these “fake news” stories to hurt Democrat Hillary Clinton's chances in the 2016 presidential election. But during the height of the Cold War, these false stories were referred to as something else: “disinformation.” That term came into use in the early 1960s, and came into widespread use in the 1980s. It is based upon a Russian word: Dezinformatsiya. According to Ion Mihai Pacepa, a high-ranking official in Romania's secret police who defected in 1978, the French-sounding word was invented by Joseph Stalin after World War II. A definition from the 1952 Great Soviet Encyclopedia called it the “dissemination (in the press, on the radio, etc.) of false reports intended to mislead public opinion” and suggested that the Soviet Union was the target of such tactics from the West."
Turning Promises Of Marrakesh Treaty For Visually Impaired Into Reality; Intellectual Property Watch, 11/21/16
Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch; Turning Promises Of Marrakesh Treaty For Visually Impaired Into Reality:
"With the recent entry into force of the Marrakesh Treaty providing copyright exceptions for persons with visual impairments, a panel convened alongside last week’s World Intellectual Property Organization copyright committee meeting explored ways to transform the treaty’s promises into reality. The WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) met from 14-18 November. The 15 November side event was organised by the Accessible Books Consortium (ABC), which is hosted by WIPO. Recently appointed WIPO Deputy Director General for the Copyright and Creative Industries Sector Sylvie Forbin said at the event that 25 countries have now ratified the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, which entered into force on 30 September..." Chris Friend, representing the World Blind Union, in the audience, presented the World Blind Union Guide to the Marrakesh Treaty: Facilitating Access to Books for Print Disabled Individuals, to be published by Oxford University Press in February. The guide is intended to provide an analysis of the treaty to multiple audiences including parliamentarians and policymakers who adopt domestic legislation and regulations to give effect to the treaty, judges and administrators who interpret and apply those laws, and to disability rights organisations and other civil society groups who advocate for the treaty’s implementation and effective enforcement, according to the guide executive summary."
Adam Smeltz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Ethics board aiming to build trust in the city:
"Since the legislation passed, several organizations designated under the measure — including the Allegheny County Bar Association, the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh and the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership — nominated volunteer board members. City council finished the confirmation process in recent months. “The board is designed to assure an open and transparent government. That’s part of our mission statement,” said Linda A. King, a lawyer hired to be the board’s executive manager on a part-time basis... The full text of the Ethics Code is available through the board’s website at http://pittsburghpa.gov/mayor/group?id=28. Anyone who suspects that a city worker, former worker, vendor or would-be vendor has broken the code can reach Ms. King at 412-255-8882 or email@example.com, Mr. Peduto’s administration has said."
Saturday, November 26, 2016
FAQ: What you need to know, but were afraid to ask, about the EU Open Science Cloud; Science Business, 11/24/16
Science Business Staff, Science Business; FAQ: What you need to know, but were afraid to ask, about the EU Open Science Cloud:
"Will the data in the EU science cloud be available for free? Some of it, yes; some of it, no. The EU says that not all data ‘will necessarily be free’, due to the legitimate rights of IP holders, so there will be an opportunity for some organisations to sell access to some of their data through the cloud. Private publishers, such as Elsevier and Springer, are also keen to be able to maintain charges for access to some of their services – but have also been unexpectedly enthusiastic about exploring the possible new business models that a very large, very active cloud could permit. On the other hand, some universities and research councils – among the most active proponents of free open access for research reports and text and data mining – are pushing to make the new cloud a tariff-free zone. It’s difficult to predict yet how this issue will be resolved... What about privacy or ethical concerns? Differing privacy and ethical policies and regulations in Europe, the US, and elsewhere could become sticking points which would prevent the cloud becoming fully global. There are legal restraints on where research data can be stored – essentially it has to be located in countries, and under the control of organisations, that are subject to EU data protection legislation, and that should make US-based commercial providers a little wary. Rules will need to be established to clarify the roles and responsibilities of the funding agencies, the data custodians, the cloud service providers and the researchers who use cloud-based data. The Commission has said these legal issues will be resolved as part of its broader rule-making efforts under its Digital Single Market – for privacy, copyright, and security of data. But it may not be so simple. The last time science and data rules collided was in 2014/15, when the EU was rewriting its data-privacy regulation; the original, EU-wide proposal would have had an unintended impact on medical research – leading medical universities across the EU to scream loudly that the EU was about to kill drug research. A muddled compromise resulted. Expect similar surprises in cloud regulation."
Charles M. Blow, New York Times; No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along:
"[Donald Trump] ended the meeting by saying: “I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”... You slammed Clinton for destroying emails, then Newsweek reported last month that your companies “destroyed emails in defiance of court orders.” You slammed Clinton and the Clinton Foundation for paid speeches and conflicts of interest, then it turned out that, as BuzzFeed reported, the Trump Foundation received a $150,000 donation in exchange for your giving a 2015 speech made by video to a conference in Ukraine. You slammed Clinton about conflicts of interest while she was secretary of state, and now your possible conflicts of interest are popping up like mushrooms in a marsh. You are a fraud and a charlatan. Yes, you will be president, but you will not get any breaks just because one branch of your forked tongue is silver. I am not easily duped by dopes. I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so. I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, but rather to speak up for truth and honor and inclusion. This isn’t just about you, but also about the moral compass of those who see you for who and what you are, and know the darkness you herald is only held at bay by the lights of truth."
Jared Kushner Considers Losing Democratic Friends “Exfoliation.” But What Kind of Exfoliation?; Slate, 11/23/16
L. V. Anderson, Slate; Jared Kushner Considers Losing Democratic Friends “Exfoliation.” But What Kind of Exfoliation? :
"Asked by Forbes’ Steven Bertoni about the friends who have cut ties with Kushner since he began advising the Trump campaign, Kushner sounded blasé. “I call it an exfoliation,” he replied. “Anyone who was willing to change a friendship or not do business because of who somebody supports in politics is not somebody who has a lot of character.” Exfoliation is an apt choice of metaphor for Kushner, who was recently described by a journalist as having “an eerily flawless complexion.” Surely someone with such glowing skin has ample firsthand knowledge of removing dead surface cells to boost skin’s health and appearance. But Kushner’s metaphor raises more questions than it answers. If losing friends and associates who value equality, tolerance, and inclusion more than social climbing is akin to exfoliation, what kind of exfoliation is it?"
Rebecca Schuman, Slate; Oh Good, a “Professor Watch List” :
"This Monday, an organization called Turning Point USA launched a website called the Professor Watchlist, which provides the full names, locations, offenses—and sometimes photographs—of liberal academics it has singled out for ignominy. In any other year in recent memory on this continent, these would be two unrelated events. But in the United States in late 2016, as the president-elect’s surrogates cite Japanese internment as a “precedent” for what may come, any “watch list” of any sort is worrying. One that targets outspoken intellectuals with views that oppose a mercurial future president who spent the weekend tweeting petulantly at the cast of a Broadway play? Abjectly terrifying.The mission of the watch list, according to its website, is to “expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students, promote anti-American values, and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” The site invites users to nominate candidates, asking that they “submit a tip” about the nefarious pinkos who teach them (that’s S-C-H-U-M-A-N with one n, by the way). Some of the professors on the list have responded thoughtfully to their inclusion; others on social media have trolled the list with complaints about Indiana Jones and Jesus... Don’t misunderstand me. The answer is not to take the site down altogether, for that would be censorship, and censorship is not the solution, just like it isn’t the solution when the 45th president of the United States gets his fee-fees hurt. But in this time of national reckoning, responsible conservatives need to pay attention to context. Why not, for example, a site that indexes classroom bias by incident and date, instead of by the professor’s name?"
Friday, November 25, 2016
Mark Hannemann, Thomas R. Makin, Matthew G. Berkowitz, Patrick Colsher, Joseph Purcell and Eric Lucas, Mondaq; United States: Lee v. Tam: Disparaging Trademarks At The Supreme Court:
"On April 20, 2016, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (the "PTO") petitioned for a writ of certiorari on the following question: Whether the disparagement provision in 15 U.S.C. 1052(a), which provides that no trademark shall be refused registration on account of its nature unless, inter alia, it "[c]onsists of... matter which may disparage... persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute," is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment."
Jordana Williams, Slate; Have I Got a Play for You:
"Flipping now through our patchwork golem of a script, aghast, I estimate that 80 percent of what we performed actually appears in the original Company. We left lengthy passages essentially unaltered, but fully rewrote others. Even when the lines and lyrics were unchanged, we took subtler liberties, like converting “Being Alive,” Bobby’s solo meditation on loneliness and longing, into a full company number featuring three-part harmony... So, where were the grown-ups when all of this was happening? Why didn’t they stop us, or at least advise us that our violations of copyright ranged from artistically disastrous to legally actionable? Now that I have kids of my own, I can guess why they stepped back and let us go hog wild. They knew we’d have the rest of our lives to question and edit ourselves (and acquire permission before monkeying with someone else’s art). The heedlessness we displayed would be repellent in an adult, but is arguably kind of awesome in a bunch of kids. My son is working on his first musical, the soon-to-be smash hit Army Chickens. He’s a very practical boy, so early on, he came to my husband and me with a bunch of questions about budgets and ticket prices and actor pay and set construction needs. “No!” I shouted, probably too vehemently. “Just write the thing however you like.” And why not? He’ll never know what his wildest dreams are if he doesn’t start out as if nothing is impossible."
Beth Mole, Ars Technica; Beyond business: Disgraced Theranos bloodied family, friends, neighbors:
"If you think your Thanksgiving dinner conversation will be awkward and stressful this year, just be glad you and your family weren’t involved with Theranos. As the once highly regarded blood-testing company crumbles under technological scandals and regulatory sanctions, the death toll of relationships among neighbors, friends, families, and long-standing partners is mounting. With lawsuits, investigative reports, and new accounts from a whistleblower, the company’s culture and inner-workings—which Theranos worked hard to obfuscate—are finally becoming clear. And what’s emerged are patterns of dishonesty, callousness, and litigiousness—if not outright belligerence. Test of blood Perhaps most startling of the recent revelations is the identity and family drama of one Theranos whistleblower: Tyler Shultz, grandson of George Shultz, the former secretary of state, who also happens to be a Theranos advisor. An exposé by The Wall Street Journal lays out how in the course of eight months, Tyler Shultz went from a bright-eyed Theranos employee to disgruntled whistleblower, personally disparaged by Theranos’ then-president and desperately trying to convince his grandfather to wash his hands of the doomed company."
John Carreyrou, Wall Street Journal; Theranos Whistleblower Shook the Company—and His Family:
"After working at Theranos Inc. for eight months, Tyler Shultz decided he had seen enough. On April 11, 2014, he emailed company founder Elizabeth Holmes to complain that Theranos had doctored research and ignored failed quality-control checks."
A short history of fake news: Conservatives believed all sorts of crap long before Facebook; Salon, 11/25/16
Matthew Sheffield, Salon; A short history of fake news: Conservatives believed all sorts of crap long before Facebook:
"Conspiracy theories have long been popular in book form among conservatives as well. Since the 1950s literally scores of books have been published that promoting the theory that former president Dwight Eisenhower was a secret communist or revealing the liberal plan to force all children to become gay and they managed to sell millions of copies over the years. Most famous of these were probably John A. Stormer’s “None Dare Call It Treason” and Gary Allen and Larry Abraham’s “None Dare Call It Conspiracy,” which spread the John Birch Society’s paranoid message about a worldwide conspiratorial elite of bankers, socialists and Jews. (One could hear strong echoes of the Birch message in Donald Trump’s campaign.) “These books circulated far more widely than traditional conservative media — there were millions of copies,” said historian Nicole Hemmer, author of the new book “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics.” Like the fake news sites of today, the conspiracy-theory literature that was so popular in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, Hemmer said, adopted many of the trappings of more credible publications. “People saw things as having validity if they had footnotes,” she told Salon, noting “there was a validity in things that were presented as news that’s different from other sources of opinion or entertainment.”"
Alex Hern, Guardian; Facebook doesn't need to ban fake news to fight it:
"Those examples are the obvious extreme of Facebook’s problem: straightforward hoaxes, mendaciously claiming to be sites that they aren’t. Dealing with them should be possible, and may even be something the social network can tackle algorithmically, as it prefers to do. But they exist at the far end of a sliding scale, and there’s little agreement on where to draw the line. Open questions like this explain why many are wary of pushing Facebook to “take action” against fake news. “Do we really want Facebook exercising this sort of top-down power to determine what is true or false?” asks Politico’s Jack Shafer. “Wouldn’t we be revolted if one company owned all the newsstands and decided what was proper and improper reading fare?” The thing is, Facebook isn’t like the newsstands. And it’s the differences between the two that are causing many of the problems we see today."
Amar Toor, The Verge; Germany is worried about fake news and bots ahead of election:
"Angela Merkel this week warned that fake news and bots may influence Germany’s national elections next year, days after she announced plans to seek a fourth term as the country’s chancellor. In a speech to parliament on Wednesday, Merkel said that fake news and bots have “manipulated” public opinion online, adding that lawmakers must “confront this phenomenon and if necessary, regulate it," the AFP reports. "Something has changed — as globalization has marched on, [political] debate is taking place in a completely new media environment. Opinions aren't formed the way they were 25 years ago," Merkel said. "Today we have fake sites, bots, trolls — things that regenerate themselves, reinforcing opinions with certain algorithms and we have to learn to deal with them." Donald Trump’s victory in this month’s presidential elections has sparked a debate over the role that fake news played in the US campaign, with some critics saying that Facebook and Twitter should do more to curb misinformation on its platforms. Facebook and Google this month announced that they will exclude fake news sites from their ad networks, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week that the social network is taking steps to limit the spread of misinformation online."
Andrew Smith, Guardian; The pedlars of fake news are corroding democracy:
"With misinformation being incentivised in this way, who could be surprised when Buzzfeed found a group of young Macedonians copying the most outlandish fabrications to more than 140 specially created pro-Trump websites and sexing up the headlines to gain clicks and go viral on Facebook? This is important, because a recent study by the Pew Research Centre found a majority of American adults using Facebook as a source of news (which means Britain is sure to follow). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been resistant to the notion that his company, social media, or the web in general are undermining democracy (“a pretty crazy idea”), even after dozens of his own staff formed a covert taskforce to address the problem post-election. It’s easy to see why he bridles too, because if he accepts the truth that his algorithms function no more objectively than a human editor, then he bears responsibility for their choices. And once he does that, he allows the equally obvious truth that Facebook, whether it wants to be or not, is now a media organisation and must vouch for the information it disseminates... What can be done? O’Neil champions the idea of a Hippocratic oath for the “quants”, people who create and nurture algorithms, and of regular algorithmic audits to assess their effects. More fundamentally, it would be easy for us to decide as a society and legislate accordingly that Facebook et al should be treated as media organisations, and held accountable for the information from which they profit. And it’s important that we act now, because the same truth trolls who disgraced the US election are turning their fire on the socially minded entrepreneur Elon Musk, perhaps fearful that he might go into politics – and rest assured that it won’t end there."
Andrew Higgins, Mike McIntire, Gabriel J.X. Dance, New York Times; Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: ‘This Is All About Income’ :
"Mr. Latsabidze, who apparently has broken no laws, said that any crackdown on fake news might work in the short term but that “something else will come along to replace it.” “If they want to, they can control everything,” he said, “but this will stop freedom of speech.” For now, the postelection period has been bad for business, with a sharp fall in the appetite for incendiary political news favoring Mr. Trump."
Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say; Washington Post, 11/24/16
Craig Timberg, Washington Post; Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election, experts say:
"The flood of “fake news” this election season got support from a sophisticated Russian propaganda campaign that created and spread misleading articles online with the goal of punishing Democrat Hillary Clinton, helping Republican Donald Trump and undermining faith in American democracy, say independent researchers who tracked the operation. Russia’s increasingly sophisticated propaganda machinery — including thousands of botnets, teams of paid human “trolls,” and networks of websites and social-media accounts — echoed and amplified right-wing sites across the Internet as they portrayed Clinton as a criminal hiding potentially fatal health problems and preparing to hand control of the nation to a shadowy cabal of global financiers. The effort also sought to heighten the appearance of international tensions and promote fear of looming hostilities with nuclear-armed Russia. Two teams of independent researchers found that the Russians exploited American-made technology platforms to attack U.S. democracy at a particularly vulnerable moment, as an insurgent candidate harnessed a wide range of grievances to claim the White House. The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on “fake news,” as they have vowed to do after widespread complaints about the problem. There is no way to know whether the Russian campaign proved decisive in electing Trump, but researchers portray it as part of a broadly effective strategy of sowing distrust in U.S. democracy and its leaders."
Camila Domonoske, NPR; Students Have 'Dismaying' Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds:
"Middle school, high school and college students in 12 states were asked to evaluate the information presented in tweets, comments and articles. More than 7,800 student responses were collected. In exercise after exercise, the researchers were "shocked" — their word, not ours — by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of that information. The students displayed a "stunning and dismaying consistency" in their responses, the researchers wrote, getting duped again and again. They weren't looking for high-level analysis of data but just a "reasonable bar" of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles... The solution, they write, is to teach students — or, really, all Internet users — to read like fact checkers. That means not just reading "vertically," on a single page or source, but looking for other sources — as well as not taking "About" pages as evidence of neutrality, and not assuming Google ranks results by reliability. "The kinds of duties that used to be the responsibility of editors, of librarians now fall on the shoulders of anyone who uses a screen to become informed about the world," Wineburg told NPR. "And so the response is not to take away these rights from ordinary citizens but to teach them how to thoughtfully engage in information seeking and evaluating in a cacophonous democracy.""
Laura Sydell, NPR: We Tracked Down A Fake-News Creator In The Suburbs. Here's What We Learned:
"Coler is a soft-spoken 40-year-old with a wife and two kids. He says he got into fake news around 2013 to highlight the extremism of the white nationalist alt-right. "The whole idea from the start was to build a site that could kind of infiltrate the echo chambers of the alt-right, publish blatantly or fictional stories and then be able to publicly denounce those stories and point out the fact that they were fiction," Coler says. He was amazed at how quickly fake news could spread and how easily people believe it."
Jason Mittell and Chuck Tryon, Vox; America's fake news problem predates Facebook:
"What these examples suggest is that there is a large infrastructure in place that allows conservative media to circulate and disseminate false information framed as fact. While Facebook can serve as an easy target because of its hypervisibility and its faltering response to the controversies over its newsfeed, it is too simplistic to blame our partisan media culture on a faulty algorithm alone. As Daniel Kreiss argues at Culture Digitally, decades of fake news emerging from right-wing sources have actively and strategically built toward this moment, each helping to make such circulation of misinformation more and more acceptable. And as Jeet Heer contends at the New Republic, the rise of fake news is meeting a demand from right-wing voters looking for reasons to support their team, rather than information to guide their actions — a demand that has been cultivated by decades of conservative news striving to confirm the beliefs of its consumers. Which brings us to today, where, as opponents of Trump’s candidacy and eventual presidency rally to avoid “normalizing” his ideas and approach, the mainstreaming of conservative fake news is a clear case of the dangers of such normalization. As we increasingly accept inaccurate peddlers of politicized misinformation as “news,” we allow our citizenry to be horrifically misinformed as part of this new normal."
I’ve Been Making Viral Fake News for the Last Six Months. It’s Way Too Easy to Dupe the Right on the Internet.; Daily Beast, 11/21/16
Marco Chacon, Daily Beast; I’ve Been Making Viral Fake News for the Last Six Months. It’s Way Too Easy to Dupe the Right on the Internet. :
"For moderates, I think it’s a bit easier to avoid pitfalls: The mainstream news may not always be accurate on everything but there is a lot of it and they get the main points right. For conservatives there is no trusted media. There are only trusted positions. Breitbart, World Net Daily, even InfoWars now count as on-my-side places where they believe the real truth lies. When the only news you are willing to believe is partisan news, you are susceptible to stories written “in your language” that are complete, obvious, utter fabrications."
Michael Casey, Oliver Luckett, Daily Beast; Here’s How to Fix Facebook’s Fake News:
"[...W]e must demand transparency in the algorithms with which Facebook and other companies curate our newsfeeds. The software should be open to scrutiny and stripped of the secretive distortions with which it creates captive pools of like-minded users. The way Facebook’s software has evolved, it is now relentlessly, iteratively steering human beings into ideology camps, reinforcing groupthink and building an uncompromising liberal-versus-conservative divide. Let’s be clear: This is no accident; this is a business model. Algorithmic curating allows social media platforms to deliver clearly defined, niche markets—Facebook’s ad marketers call them “look-alike audiences”—to advertisers who pay a “boost” fee to gain prominent placement with those targeted feeds."
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Finally Details Fake News Countermeasures; Reuters via Huffington Post, 11/19/16
Reuters via Huffington Post; Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Finally Details Fake News Countermeasures:
"[Mark Zuckerberg] also said Facebook would make it easier to report false content, work with third-party verification organizations and journalists on fact-checking efforts, and explore posting warning labels on content that has been flagged as false. The company will also try to prevent fake-news providers from making money through its advertising system, as it had previously announced. Zuckerberg said Facebook must be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content. “We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties,” he said."
Thursday, November 24, 2016
‘Fraud is not a trade secret’: How a 27-year-old blew the whistle on Theranos; MarketWatch, 11/17/16
Barbara Kollmeyer, MarketWatch; ‘Fraud is not a trade secret’: How a 27-year-old blew the whistle on Theranos’ :
[Kip Currier: Ethics instructors of all stripes were served up a whopping good case study with the story of Tyler Schultz (grandson of former Secretary of State George Schultz) exposing the dazzlingly fraudulent actions of health tech powerhouse, Theranos, Inc. and its now-disgraced CEO Elizabeth Holmes. This is one that should and will be studied in MBA programs and ethics courses for years.] "‘Fraud is not a trade secret. I refuse to allow bullying, intimidation and threat of legal action to take away my First Amendment right to speak out against wrongdoing.’"
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Greg Satell, Harvard Business Review; Teaching an Algorithm to Understand Right and Wrong:
[Kip Currier: This thought-provoking Harvard Business Review article by Greg Satell marks the 1,000th post to this blog in 2016--more than I've posted in the entire previous 6 years since starting the Ethics blog in 2010. Anecdotally, and unsurprisingly, much of this year's posted corpus was plucked from the avalanche of ethics-related content generated via the most tumultuous Presidential Election in U.S. history. Ethics issues in Cyberhacking, Email and Social Media usage, Cyberbullying, Sexual Harassment, Diversity and Inclusion, Surveillance, Privacy, Censorship, "Truth" (Aside #1: Oxford Dictionaries recently declared "post-truth" the Word of the Year!), Fact-checking, Media responsibility, Self-driving cars (Aside #2: I passed an Uber test car on the way to the University of Pittsburgh campus this morning, giving a nod and a thumbs up to the two people sitting in the front seats of their metallic grey-hued autonomous vehicle wending the curves of Bigelow Boulevard's bluffs), and AI ethics provided a glut (and at times, like this summer, what felt like an unrelenting information-tsunami) of postable fodder. Last week's post-2016 election White-Hot-Topic, "Fake News"--with first-hand accounts of cringe-worthy click-incentivized content crafted by transparently unrepentant fake news scribes--remains a still-smoldering one for the blogosphere this week, vying with Conflicts of Interest for the #1 spot at the top. Or bottom, as it were. No risk in predicting that all of these thorny topics will continue to be dissected and debated in 2017. And that ethics issues--both in general and those with an information twist--are more relevant and wide-ranging than ever in our wired world. ] "In his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle states that it is a fact that “all knowledge and every pursuit aims at some good,” but then continues, “What then do we mean by the good?” That, in essence, encapsulates the ethical dilemma. We all agree that we should be good and just, but it’s much harder to decide what that entails. Since Aristotle’s time, the questions he raised have been continually discussed and debated. From the works of great philosophers like Kant, Bentham, and Rawls to modern-day cocktail parties and late-night dorm room bull sessions, the issues are endlessly mulled over and argued about but never come to a satisfying conclusion. Today, as we enter a “cognitive era” of thinking machines, the problem of what should guide our actions is gaining newfound importance. If we find it so difficult to denote the principles by which a person should act justly and wisely, then how are we to encode them within the artificial intelligences we are creating? It is a question that we need to come up with answers for soon."
NPR Staff, NPR; Scholars Delve Deeper Into The Ethics Of Artificial Intelligence:
"This month, a law firm gave Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University $10 million to explore the ethics of artificial intelligence — or AI. This comes after industry leaders recently joined together to form the group called the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society. Peter Kalis is chairman of the law firm, K&L Gates. He says technology is dashing ahead of the law, leading to questions that were never taken seriously before. Such as what happens when you make robots that are smart, independent thinkers — and then try to limit their autonomy?... The issues go beyond self-driving cars and renegade robots. Inside the next generation of smartphones, in those chips embedded in home appliances, and the ever-expanding collection of personal data being stored in the "cloud," questions about what's right and wrong are open to study."
Jim Rutenberg, New York Times; Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook Must Defend the Truth:
"Today’s fake news is limited only by the imaginations of its inventors and the number of shares it can garner on Facebook or Twitter. (To wit: The one million shares of the preposterous notion that Mrs. Clinton secretly sold weapons to ISIS. BuzzFeed News — which has excelled at illuminating the fake news problem — highlighted that example in its alarming analysis showing that during the campaign cycle fake news was shared among Facebook users more often than real news was.) That’s why people who care about the truth — citizens, journalists and, let’s hope, social media giants like Facebook, too — will have to come up with a solution to this informational nihilism, fast. It’s easier said than done. The combination of attacks seeking to delegitimize serious news organizations and a drop in overall trust in the news media has made many people wary of legitimate fact-checking."
Monday, November 21, 2016
Laura Hautala, CNet; How to avoid getting conned by fake news sites:
"How to flag fake news sites The best tool at your disposal, of course, is common sense. No matter what your political bent, if a story serves only to reinforce your beliefs, it's best to be extra skeptical before sharing it. If a report is purportedly based on other news stories, find the original source of the information. You might find some of the quotes are correct, but the rest may have been taken out of context or fabricated. If the potentially false story you're reading doesn't link to an original source, well, that's a bad sign. Use a search engine to look for the keywords in the story to see if that "news" is being reported by any other outlets."
Mark Hachman, PCWorld; Just how partisan is Facebook's fake news? We tested it:
"We decided to test who’s seeing this partisan fake news, who’s supplying it, and just how obvious it is. We began our investigation last Monday, as the fake-news controversy gained momentum—and Facebook and Google began blocking sites that traffic in disinformation from their respective advertising networks. We set up two Facebook accounts, one favoring Hillary Clinton, and the other supporting Trump, then let Facebook recommend a series of news pages. In effect, we were asking Facebook to be our news service. Then we sat back and watched the news roll in. We looked closely at each post to determine whether it was real news, fake news, or something in between."
Adam Smeltz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; City ethics board opens an office:
"Pittsburgh officials opened an office last week for the city’s reconstituted Ethics Hearing Board. The board held its first public meeting in several years on Nov. 3, following new ethics legislation approved by Mayor Bill Peduto in October 2015. Board members will receive and investigate complaints under the reworked city Ethics Code, which requires independent and impartial conduct by city workers... The board, which also can offer advice on ethical conduct, has a website."
Gregory Korte, USA Today; Obama: Trump should follow my example on ethics:
"Obama said the approach he's taken is to "not just meet the letter of the law but to go well beyond the letter to the spirit." And he said those ethical standards need to extend to top administration officials, even on questions about travel and gifts. He quoted his first White House counsel, Greg Craig: "'If it sounds like it would be fun, then you can't do it.' That's a general test. 'If it sounds like something you would enjoy or appreciate, no go.' "And as a consequence, and I'll knock on some wood here, because we've got two months left, I am extremely proud of the fact that over eight years we have not had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations," he said."
Beware of imported contacts, social media statements on legal issues, ethics opinion says; ABA Journal, 11/21/16
Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal; Beware of imported contacts, social media statements on legal issues, ethics opinion says:
"The ethics committee of the District of Columbia Bar is advising lawyers about some social media dangers in two ethics opinions released this month... One “apparently novel warning” is about lawyers who take positions on legal issues when blogging or tweeting, according to the ABA BNA Lawyer’s Manual. The ethics opinion says a lawyer’s positions on social media could be adverse to the interest of a client, inadvertently creating a conflict... Another new topic addressed is about the danger of allowing social media websites such as LinkedIn to access email contacts."
Gold Star Family Says It Was Booed By First-Class Passengers On Flight To Pick Up Son’s Body; Huffington Post, 11/20/16
Ed Mazza, Huffington Post; Gold Star Family Says It Was Booed By First-Class Passengers On Flight To Pick Up Son’s Body:
"Sgt. John Perry was killed on Nov. 12 in a suicide attack inside Bagram Airfield, a NATO base in Afghanistan. Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt of Tamaroa, Illinois, and two civilian contractors were also killed, and 17 others wounded. Perry said his son was able to stop the bomber before he reached his target, a 5K race held inside the base... Perry, himself a veteran, called on the public to be more empathetic to the military and their family members. “Generally, as Americans, we need to be more compassionate to each other and to understand and listen and just stay calm,” he told the Army Times."
Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times; How Fake News Goes Viral: A Case Study:
"While some fake news is produced purposefully by teenagers in the Balkans or entrepreneurs in the United States seeking to make money from advertising, false information can also arise from misinformed social media posts by regular people that are seized on and spread through a hyperpartisan blogosphere. Here, The New York Times deconstructs how Mr. Tucker’s now-deleted declaration on Twitter the night after the election turned into a fake-news phenomenon. It is an example of how, in an ever-connected world where speed often takes precedence over truth, an observation by a private citizen can quickly become a talking point, even as it is being proved false."
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Oliver Staley, Quartz; Retired NBA commissioner David Stern went off about cheating and ethics:
"Cheating and ethical lapses are pervasive, from soccer stars evading taxes and state-sanctioned doping in the Olympics, to companies giving lip-service to social responsibility while gouging customers, Stern said Nov. 18 at a forum about business ethics and leadership hosted by Columbia Business School... “It’s too easy,” he said. “Every company has a head of corporate responsibility, you form a foundation, you give all your employees Friday off to do charity, blah, blah, blah. Then you fix prices at a business association meeting.” He took aim at Facebook, which said it has misreported how many people view its ads, and allowed the spread of fake news on its platform. The directors of venture-capital backed companies need to speak up, he said. “Where are the boards?” he said."
Azim Shariff, Iyad Rahwan and Jean-Francois Bonnefon, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Whose life should your car save?; Whose life should your car save? :
"The widespread use of self-driving cars promises to bring substantial benefits to transportation efficiency, public safety and personal well-being. Car manufacturers are working to overcome the remaining technical challenges that stand in the way of this future. Our research, however, shows that there is also an important ethical dilemma that must be solved before people will be comfortable trusting their lives to these cars. As the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted, autonomous cars may find themselves in circumstances in which the car must choose between risks to its passengers and risks to a potentially greater number of pedestrians. Imagine a situation in which the car must either run off the road or plow through a large crowd of people: Whose risk should the car’s algorithm aim to minimize? This dilemma was explored in studies that we recently published in the journal Science... This is why, despite its mixed messages, Mercedes-Benz should be applauded for speaking out on the subject. The company acknowledges that to “clarify these issues of law and ethics in the long term will require broad international discourse.”"
Lee Moran, Huffington Post; ‘SNL’ Says Target Is Your Safe Space This Thanksgiving
Alice Ross, Guardian; Tim Berners-Lee warns of danger of chaos in unprotected public data:
"Asked about whether open data could have security vulnerabilities, Berners-Lee said criminals could manipulate open data for profit, for example by placing bets on the bank rate or consumer price index and then hacking into the sites where the data is published and switching the figures. “If you falsify government data then there are all kinds of ways that you could get financial gain, so yes,” he said, “it’s important that even though people think about open data as not a big security problem, it is from the point of view of being accurate.”... Berners-Lee said during a presentation that a key challenge, particularly in the era of Brexit and Donald Trump, was making reliable data available to people who felt disenfranchised: “How can we help everyone in the country feel that they have access to good quality information … whether they get it on the web or not – maybe they get it through TV and radio? How can we restore a culture and civilisation based on knowledge … and a democratic system based on knowledge, based on facts and truth?”"
Bill Camarda, Naked Security; Berners-Lee raises spectre of weaponized open data:
"Whether data is coming from governments or corporations – and whether it’s formally “open” or simply “widely available” like AP’s Twitter feed – it’s increasingly vulnerable to deliberate falsification. But, for governments and others who believe in the open data movement, it’s no longer enough to protect privacy when they release data, or even to ensure its quality and consistency – already significant challenges. From now on, they’ll need to protect it against deliberate sabotage, too."
Saturday, November 19, 2016
Paul Mozur and Mark Scott, New York Times; Fake News in U.S. Election? Elsewhere, That’s Nothing New:
"Well before last week’s American election threw Facebook’s status as a digital-era news source into the spotlight, leaders, advocacy groups and minorities worldwide have contended with an onslaught of online misinformation and abuse that has had real-world political repercussions. And for years, the social network did little to clamp down on the false news... Some governments are pushing back, sometimes with undemocratic consequences. Ms. Merkel has said she is considering plans to force social networks to make public how they rank news online. Some African countries have banned the use of Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter before elections. Indonesia’s government has closed sites that it says promote fake news, though experts say some portals were also targeted for political reasons. Facebook said on Thursday that the social network was a place for people to stay informed and that what people saw in their news feed was overwhelmingly authentic. The Silicon Valley company previously denied that it failed to deal with misinformation and said it continues to monitor the social network so that it meets existing standards."
Mike Isaac, New York Times; Facebook Considering Ways to Combat Fake News, Mark Zuckerberg Says:
"“The problems here are complex, both technically and philosophically,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. “We believe in giving people a voice, which means erring on the side of letting people share what they want whenever possible.”... Mr. Zuckerberg made it clear that Facebook would take care to avoid looking or acting like a media company, a label it has frequently resisted. “We need to be careful not to discourage sharing of opinions or mistakenly restricting accurate content,” Mr. Zuckerberg wrote. “We do not want to be arbiters of truth ourselves, but instead rely on our community and trusted third parties.”"
John Herrman, New York Times; Fixation on Fake News Overshadows Waning Trust in Real Reporting:
"Media companies have spent years looking to Facebook, waiting for the company to present a solution to their mounting business concerns despite, or perhaps because of, its being credited with causing those concerns. Some have come to the realization that this was mistaken, even absurd. Those who expect the operator of the dominant media ecosystem of our time, in response to getting caught promoting lies, to suddenly return authority to the companies it has superseded are in for a similar surprise."
60 percent of Russians think Internet censorship is necessary, poll finds; Washington Post, 11/18/16
Adam Taylor, Washington Post; 60 percent of Russians think Internet censorship is necessary, poll finds:
"Russian President Vladimir Putin has said the country does not have the legal authority to ban websites. Though some smaller websites have been blocked at some points, experts doubted Russia had the capability to implement more widespread online censorship. There have been a number of recent signs that the country may be rethinking its approach, however. In April, Konstantin Malofeev, a wealthy businessman with links to the Kremlin who runs the pro-censorship lobbying group Safe Internet League, traveled to China to meet with the architects of that country's notorious “great firewall.”... Polling by Levada and other organizations in Russia has long shown widespread support for Internet censorship. According to a study conducted in May 2014 by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM), 59 percent of Russians believed that websites that showed gay pornographic content should be censored by the government, while 46 percent said social networks that allowed people to organize anti-government protests should be censored and 45 percent said the videos by the anti-government art group Pussy Riot should be banned."
Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Verge; In the war on fake news, school librarians have a huge role to play:
"On top of Facebook’s issues, the first Google search result for election results for several hours on Monday was a tiny conspiracy blog that wrongly showed Trump winning the popular vote. Google and Facebook both announced on Monday that they would block fake news sources from using their ad networks (one of the key ways that small to moderately sized websites make money), but the issue of fake news creeping up in search results and news feeds is still an urgent one. All of this is compounded by the reality that a lot of people don’t know fake news when they see it, sensationalized reports are more likely to go viral on social media than sane ones, and distrust of traditional (and genuinely more reliable) media sources is rising. To get a better idea of how we can fight misinformation, The Verge talked to Professor Nicole A. Cooke of the University of Illinois. Professor Cooke works in the University’s top-ranked School of Information Sciences, focusing on human information behavior, information literacy, and diversity in librarianship. We discussed why it seems to be getting harder and harder for people to keep track of the truth, what libraries are doing to help them, and what we all need to do going forward."
Friday, November 18, 2016
Kathleen Parker, Washington Post; 2016’s biggest loser:
"What’s clear is that news consumers must be extra-vigilant in selecting news sources, while also being self-critical about those choices. The mainstream media need to work harder at presenting balanced reporting to rebuild trust. And education programs aimed at teaching students how to evaluate news, such as those created by the News Literacy Project, need greater public support and an accelerated timeline."
Nicky Woolf, Guardian; As fake news takes over Facebook feeds, many are taking satire as fact:
"Facebook has a serious fake news problem, a major contributor to what has been called the “post-truth” era... In a way, the problem is not a new one. Publications such as the National Enquirer in the US have long bent the truth, often shamelessly. But now, a fake story can much more easily masquerade as real because in Facebook’s walled garden all the posts look largely the same. Even the most savvy news consumers can be tricked this way."
Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’; Washington Post, 11/17/16
Caitlin Dewey, Washington Post; Facebook fake-news writer: ‘I think Donald Trump is in the White House because of me’ :
"You’ve been writing fake news for a while now — you’re kind of like the OG Facebook news hoaxer. Well, I’d call it hoaxing or fake news. You’d call it parody or satire. How is that scene different now than it was three or five years ago? Why did something like your story about Obama invalidating the election results (almost 250,000 Facebook shares, as of this writing) go so viral? Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it. You mentioned Trump, and you’ve probably heard the argument, or the concern, that fake news somehow helped him get elected. What do you make of that? My sites were picked up by Trump supporters all the time. I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything."
Aarti Shahani, NPR; From Hate Speech To Fake News: The Content Crisis Facing Mark Zuckerberg:
"Some in Silicon Valley dismiss the criticisms against Facebook as schadenfreude: Just like taxi drivers don't like Uber, legacy media envies the success of the social platform and enjoys seeing its leadership on the hot seat. A former employee is not so dismissive and says there is a cultural problem, a stubborn blindness at Facebook and other leading Internet companies like Twitter. The source says: "The hardest problems these companies face aren't technological. They are ethical, and there's not as much rigor in how it's done." At a values level, some experts point out, Facebook has to decide if its solution is free speech (the more people post, the more the truth rises), or clear restrictions."
Nick Wingfield, Mike Isaac, Katie Benner, New York Times; Google and Facebook Take Aim at Fake News Sites:
"Google kicked off the action on Monday afternoon when the Silicon Valley search giant said it would ban websites that peddle fake news from using its online advertising service. Hours later, Facebook, the social network, updated the language in its Facebook Audience Network policy, which already says it will not display ads in sites that show misleading or illegal content, to include fake news sites. “We have updated the policy to explicitly clarify that this applies to fake news,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “Our team will continue to closely vet all prospective publishers and monitor existing ones to ensure compliance.” Taken together, the decisions were a clear signal that the tech behemoths could no longer ignore the growing outcry over their power in distributing information to the American electorate."
Gardiner Harris and Melissa Eddy, New York Times; Obama, With Angela Merkel in Berlin, Assails Spread of Fake News:
"...[I]t was on the subject of false information coursing through social media and television that Mr. Obama was most impassioned, so much so that at one stage he lost track of the question he was answering... “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media when so many people are getting their information in sound bites and off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.””
Amy B. Wang, Wahington Post; ‘Post-truth’ named 2016 word of the year by Oxford Dictionaries:
"Oxford Dictionaries has selected “post-truth” as 2016's international word of the year, after the contentious “Brexit” referendum and an equally divisive U.S. presidential election caused usage of the adjective to skyrocket, according to the Oxford University Press. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”"
Deep Dive: Open Access and Transforming the Future of Research; Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), 11/4/16
Gennie Gebhart, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); Deep Dive: Open Access and Transforming the Future of Research:
"Open access depends on more than removing cost barriers. It also means giving the public freedom to use research. Under the current academic publishing model, even the simple act of sharing can be a crime. When Diego Gomez, a Master’s student in Colombia, shared a colleague’s thesis with other scientists over the Internet, he was doing what any grad student would do: sharing research he found useful so others could benefit from it. But the author of the paper filed a lawsuit, and Diego’s act of sharing became a copyright violation punishable by four to eight years in prison. In the U.S., activist Aaron Swartz also met unjust charges on 13 criminal counts for downloading millions of articles from academic journal database JSTOR. The charges would have put him in jail for years under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If other users see Diego’s or Aaron’s cases and fear the consequences that can come with copyright infringement allegations, everyday activities like sharing academic resources can become intimidating. These cases remind us that sharing and building on existing research is integral to the open access vision. That could mean anything from translation to remixing to large-scale analysis. In an open access world, these innovative, collaborative actions would not be criminal."
Peter Sciretta, Slashfilm.com; Jonathan Nolan Responds To That Westworld Location Theory:
Minor spoilers re "Westworld" plot themes [Kip Currier: Viewers of Season 1 of the popular new HBO series "Westworld"--a reimagined reboot of the 1973 film, based on Michael Crichton's eponymous novel--have increasingly seen the protect-at-all-costs value of Westworld's Intellectual Property, as well as privacy concerns. Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan touch on these issues below:] "In regards to the computer terminals where the Delos staff communicate to their loved ones back home, [Lisa Joy Nolan] says: Regardless of where they are, the park is very, very vast, and you don’t rotate home often. You don’t have open communication where you can just pick up a phone. Even senior people have to go to the coms room – because [the park is] protecting their intellectual property. We’re hoping to paint a portrait of the culture of the corporation. [Jonathan] Nolan (who was a showrunner on Person of Interest, a series about a computer system that could analyze all forms of public and private data to predict the future) seems to be very interested in the aspect of big brother looking in on our communications. As for how it relates to Westworld, he says the Delos corporation wants to protect its intellectual property and the privacy of the park’s guests: In Westworld, the value of the park is all in its intellectual property, it’s all in the code. So regardless of the park’s location, they would be extremely careful with that code and making sure its virtually impossible to smuggle it out of the park. And there’s the privacy of the guests – you’re not going to have a good time in Westworld if somebody is Instagramming your activities. I’m amazed [th]at [sic] Las Vegas has survived the Instagram age. In episode 2, when the guests come in, we don’t see this, but we assume these guys have cell phones that they’re not allowed to bring in the park. We very much think this is a path where culture may be going – that we’ll get over-exposed and sick of the interconnectedness of our lives that we’ll hunger for places [that offer disconnected privacy]. We’ll hunger for a moment where we can go back toward having some privacy."
Thursday, November 17, 2016
Sarina Locke, ABC; Cattle researchers fight 'extraordinary' patent of bovine genome:
"In a move which has shocked cattle researchers and breeders, two American companies are trying to patent the bovine genome in Australia. Meat and Livestock Australia has lodged action in the Federal Court against the Australian Patent office for granting the patent to Cargill and Branhaven. Researchers fear it could spread to other livestock research. Livestock Professor Rob Banks, said he was appalled that a private company could be granted rights over genes that had been publicly available since the 1980s."
Vivian Yee and Jesse McKinley, New York Times; Cuomo, Stung by a Scandal, Offers Ethics Reforms:
"Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced on Wednesday a set of ethics reforms that would affect the State Legislature, the State University of New York, the City University of New York and his own office — all of which have been soiled within the last year by corruption scandals and allegations of slipshod management. Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, announced that he would appoint a procurement officer to review all contracts and agreements involving state funds “with an eye towards eliminating any wrongdoing, conflicts of interest or collusion,” a clear nod to the revelation this fall that three of his former aides and advisers had orchestrated a yearslong bribery and bid-rigging scheme in which lucrative state economic development contracts were steered to a few favored developers. All three, along with several development executives, have pleaded not guilty to federal corruption charges."
Elise Viebeck and Lisa Rein, Washington Post; The ethics rules that apply — and don’t apply — to Trump’s children:
"There’s been a lot of talk since Friday about President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to give his three eldest children formal positions on his transition team. Readers have wondered: Is the decision legal? Is it ethical? Does it signal Trump’s intention to involve his children in his administration? And what does it mean that Trump’s children have transition roles just as they are poised to take over the family business? Let’s clear up some of the confusion. To put it simply, Trump has a lot of flexibility when it comes to staffing his transition. He has less flexibility when it comes to staffing his administration, though ethics experts said it will not be hard for him to bend rules."
Lisa Rein and Elise Viebeck, Washington Post; Trump gets to decide if his transition team will have a code of ethics:
"With questions swirling around potential conflicts of interest for lobbyists and family members on Donald Trump’s transition team, ethics experts say it’s crucial that the team building the new administration have a formal code of principles. But here’s a little-understood fact about presidential transitions: They don’t have to follow a code of ethics unless they want to, and even if they do, they come up with the terms themselves. When Trump communications director Jason Miller was asked whether one existed Monday, he said he was not sure about the existence of an ethics code, but said he would get back to us."
Isaac Arnsdorf, Politico; Trump transition appears to have flouted internal ethics rule on lobbyists:
"Donald Trump’s transition team appears to have deviated from its own ethics rule barring lobbyists whose work for Trump would overlap with any matters on which they lobbied in the previous year. According to a copy of Trump for America Inc.’s Code of Ethical Conduct obtained by POLITICO, a member of the transition team must pledge to “disqualify myself from involvement in any particular transition matter if I have engaged in regulated lobbying activities with respect to such matter, as defined by the Lobbying Disclosure Act, within the previous 12 months.” But at least eight transition team members have done work that appears to flout that internal rule, Senate records show."