Tag Archives: Social networks

Tech Vs. Democracy

By Guy Verhofstadt – In an age when most people get their news from social media, mafia states have had little trouble censoring social-media content that their leaders deem harmful to their interests. But for liberal democracies, regulating social media is not so straightforward, because it requires governments to strike a balance between competing principles.

After all, social-media platforms not only play a crucial role as conduits for the free flow of information; they have also faced strong criticism for failing to police illegal or abusive content, particularly hate speech and extremist propaganda.

These failings have prompted action from many European governments and the European Union itself. The EU has now issued guidelines for Internet companies, and has threatened to follow up with formal legislation if companies do not comply. As Robert Hannigan, the former director of the British intelligence agency GCHQ, recently observed, the window for tech companies to reform themselves voluntarily is quickly closing.

In fact, Germany has already enacted a law that will impose severe fines on platforms that do not remove illegal user content in a timely fashion. more>


Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities’

Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.
By Bruce Sterling – The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

The digital techniques that smart-city fans adore are flimsy and flashy—and some are even actively pernicious—but they absolutely will be used in cities. They already have an urban heritage. When you bury fiber-optic under the curbs around the town, then you get internet. When you have towers and smartphones, then you get portable ubiquity. When you break up a smartphone into its separate sensors, switches, and little radios, then you get the internet of things.

However, the cities of the future won’t be “smart,” or well-engineered, cleverly designed, just, clean, fair, green, sustainable, safe, healthy, affordable, or resilient. They won’t have any particularly higher ethical values of liberty, equality, or fraternity, either. The future smart city will be the internet, the mobile cloud, and a lot of weird paste-on gadgetry, deployed by City Hall, mostly for the sake of making towns more attractive to capital.

“Smart cities” merely want to be perceived as smart, when what they actually need is quite different. more>


Updates from Adobe

Maya Patterson and the Craft of UX
By Jordan Kushins, Maya Patterson – I’m a product designer at Facebook. If I could rename this kind of job, I would call it “digital product designer” because we’re not building tangible things—we’re focusing on web experiences; it all started with desktop, then laptop, then mobile devices, and then on to AR and VR and all of these developing spaces.

But essentially my job is to take care of users, to dig into their needs and behaviors, and build a digital system that helps them accomplish their goals. Depending on who I’m working for, that could be anything from intense data infographic systems to designing a way to get a trunk of clothes sent to your house (which was my last job). Now it’s designing different pieces of the Facebook experience.

I actually think that soft skills are more important than technical ones for UX designers. The biggest two assets in my opinion are the ability to communicate and a sense of empathy.

So I watched people who could communicate very well. Writing is important because it helps you to think in a structured manner and articulate yourself and your ideas. Speaking, presenting, storytelling: these are all essential. People who can tune in, listen, read body language, and get down to the core of how people are responding and reacting to something they’ve created—and who are able to receive feedback—are going to excel. more>



Automating Influence: The Manipulation of Public Debate

By Andrew Trabulsi – While the application of influence campaigns for the purposes of altering public discourse and politics are rapidly gaining prominence, it’s a field, as discussed in previous writings, with a detailed past.

Tasked with winning the moral high ground during World War I, the famed British propaganda unit, Wellington House, distributed evocative, explicit reports of German barbarism to bolster public opinion in favor of the Allies. At a time before the interminable ubiquity of Internet communications, this tactic proved invaluable in securing the attention and support of the Allies’ war effort, improving recruiting and persuading neutrals.

Today, we see such tactics—albeit in different, non-traditional fashions—show up across case studies, for both political and commercial purposes. In a similar vein to the manipulation of public commentary on net neutrality, when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed adjusting its rules to stunt abuse within payday lending markets, it too was berated with an abnormal number of duplicate and semantically similar comments.

As political and economic issues become increasingly influenced by technological engagement, it’s becoming more and more important to understand the limitations and vulnerabilities of such systems. more>


Local links run the world


Ant Encounters: Interaction Networks and Colony Behavior, Author: Deborah M Gordon.

By Deborah M Gordon – We live enmeshed in networks. The internet, a society, a body, an ant colony, a tumor: they are all networks of interactions, among people, ants or cells – aggregates of nodes or locations linked by some relation. The power of networks is in their local connections. All networks grow, shrink, merge or split, link by link. How they function and change depends on what forms, or disrupts, the connections between nodes.

The internet dominates our lives, not because it is huge, but because each of us can make so many local links. Its size is the result, not the cause, of its impact on our communication.

A tacit recognition of the power of a well-connected network underlies a widespread fear of ants. What is scary about ants on the kitchen counter? A moment’s reflection should reassure anyone that they are indeed much bigger and stronger than even hundreds of ants. What is alarming is the sense that the ants are all connected and working together.

But ants function using networks of interactions, not as they do in horror movies, urged on to attack by malevolent leaders. Their effectiveness is not due to powerful individuals who are situated to influence the behavior of others. more>


The Internet of Things Is Going to Change Everything About Cybersecurity

By Yevgeny Dibrov – Despite increased spending and innovation in the cybersecurity market, there is every indication that the situation will only worsen. The number of unmanaged devices being introduced onto networks daily is increasing by orders of magnitude, with Gartner predicting there will be 20 billion in use by 2020.

Traditional security solutions will not be effective in addressing these devices or in protecting them from hackers, which should be a red flag, as attacks on IoT devices were up 280% in the first part of 2017.

In fact, Gartner anticipates a third of all attacks will target shadow IT and IoT by 2020.

This new threat landscape is changing the security game. Executives who are preparing to handle future cybersecurity challenges with the same mindset and tools that they’ve been using all along are setting themselves up for continued failure.

There is much debate over the effectiveness of security and awareness training, centered on competing beliefs that humans can either be the most effective or weakest links in security chains. It can’t be denied, however, that in the age of increased social-engineering attacks and unmanaged device usage, reliance on a human-based strategy is questionable at best.

It is time to relieve your people (employees, partners, customers, etc.) of the cybersecurity burden. more>


Fake news and botnets: how Russia weaponized the web

By Hannes Grassegger and Mikael Krogerus – Estonia boasts the most technologically advanced system of government in the world.

Every citizen possesses a digital identity – an identification number and login code for access to completely digitized interactions with the state. Estonians can vote online, file their taxes, check medical records, access the national health care system, and receive notifications of most government attempts to access their personal records. About 97% of the country uses digital banking. The Estonian national ethic is built on the idea that every citizen is transparent and the state is too. This makes Estonia extremely efficient – and extremely vulnerable.

“We live in the future. Online banking, online news, text messages, online shopping – total digitization has made everything quicker and easier,” Jaan Priisalu said. “But it also creates the possibility that we can be thrown back centuries in a couple of seconds.”

The question is how the west can maintain its core values of freedom of speech and the free flow of information while protecting itself from malevolent geopolitical actors? For centuries, eastern European countries such as Estonia relied on walls, watchtowers, and fortresses to keep out invaders. The US became the world’s most powerful country in part because it was insulated from foreign threats by vast oceans on two sides. In the internet age, traditional borders are less effective.

To survive in the era of information warfare, every society will have to create ways of withstanding cyber-attacks. more>


Updates from GE

The Heat Camera Is On: Retailers Turn To Sensors For Insight
By Bruce Watson & Dorothy Pomerantz – Online retailers have been tracking their customers and their web habits with cookies for years. No wonder their brick-and-mortar rivals are looking for new ways to play the big-data game.

The French startup IRLYNX believes it can help them set sales on fire. The company developed small heat sensors, each just 1 centimeter in diameter, that retailers can place on walls, ceilings and even in light fixtures around a store to track customers.

Picking up customers’ body heat, each sensor can monitor movement as far as 15 meters away and within a 120-degree sweep. They can detect heat variances of less than 1 degree Fahrenheit, which helps them tell a human from, say, a hot computer or a fresh cup of coffee.

The sensors can also detect the size and postures of shoppers and distinguish an adult from a child or someone who is sitting down to try on a pair of shoes. The sensors are a big upgrade from the way stores typically track shoppers — with cameras.

While the images on a camera may be clearer, it’s very difficult to use those images to track data about how people are using a store. “Video-analysis software can be easily confused by mirrors, photographs, televisions, posters — almost any images of humans,” says Guillaume Crozet, IRLYNX’s vice president for sales and marketing.

Training algorithms to disregard these false images can be time-consuming and costly. more>


How Americans became vulnerable to Russian disinformation

By Kent Harrington – Last week, Congress unveiled legislation that http://blogs.strategygroup.net/wp2/economy/?p=63300&preview=truewould force Facebook, Google, and other social media giants to disclose who buys online advertising, thereby closing a loophole that Russia exploited during the election.

Strip away the technobabble about better algorithms, more transparency, and commitment to truth, and Silicon Valley’s “fixes” dodge a simple fact: its technologies are not designed to sort truth from falsehoods, check accuracy, or correct mistakes. Just the opposite: they are built to maximize clicks, shares, and “likes.”

Despite pushing to displace traditional news outlets as the world’s information platforms, social media’s moguls appear content to ignore journalism’s fundamental values, processes, and goals. It is this irresponsibility that co-sponsors of the recent advertising transparency bill are seeking to address.

Still, Russia’s success in targeting American voters with bogus news could not have succeeded were it not for the second problem: a poorly educated electorate susceptible to manipulation. The erosion of civics education in schools, the shuttering of local newspapers – and the consequent decline in the public’s understanding of issues and the political process – conspire to create fertile ground for the sowing of disinformation. more>


Using “public interest algorithms” to tackle the problems created by social media algorithms

By Tom Wheeler – Technology and capitalism have combined to deliver us to a decidedly undemocratic outcome. The internet was once heralded as the great democratizing tool. That vision was smashed by the algorithms of the social media platforms. By fracturing society into small groups, the internet has become the antithesis of the community necessary for democratic processes to succeed.

This is bigger than the current discussion of political advertising rules for the internet. The questionable ads and postings are the result of the problem, not the cause of it. That problem is how the software algorithms that determine what you see on social media prioritize revenue over veracity.

In social media parlance, identifying users who like similar content is described as assembling a community. In reality, these groups are the un-community. Algorithms deliver only what they want to see, creating silos of prejudices and preferences that tear at the collective fabric required for a representative democracy. As the Russians demonstrated, organizing Americans into self-reinforcing echo chambers is ripe for exploitation.

Today, public interest groups of all political stripes monitor the mainstream media. With a public interest API they could also built public interest algorithms to accomplish the same for social media. To date, algorithms have been problem-creators.

It’s time for social media open APIs to enable problem-solving through public interest algorithms. more>