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posted by takyon on Monday August 21, @12:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the internet-hate-cycle dept.

Propublica: Despite Disavowals, Leading Tech Companies Help Extremist Sites Monetize Hate

Most tech companies have policies against working with hate websites. Yet a ProPublica survey found that PayPal, Stripe, Newsmax and others help keep more than half of the most-visited extremist sites in business.

Very interesting:

Because of its "extreme hostility toward Muslims," the website is considered an active hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League. The views of the site's director, Robert Spencer, on Islam led the British Home Office to ban him from entering the country in 2013.

But either not their job, or they just didn't know:

Traditionally, tech companies have justified such relationships by contending that it's not their role to censor the Internet or to discourage legitimate political expression. Also, their management wasn't necessarily aware that they were doing business with hate sites because tech services tend to be automated and based on algorithms tied to demographics.

ProPublica goes on to say:

The sites that we identified from the ADL and SPLC lists vehemently denied that they are hate sites.

"It is not hateful, racist or extremist to oppose jihad terror," said Spencer, the director of Jihad Watch. He added that the true extremism was displayed by groups that seek to censor the Internet and that by asking questions about the tech platforms on his site, we were "aiding and abetting a quintessentially fascist enterprise."

Business is business. IG Farben said much the same when it had exclusive contracts with the (then current) German government.

See also: After Backing Alt-Right in Charlottesville, A.C.L.U. Wrestles With Its Role

Fighting Neo-Nazis and the Future of Free Expression

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has weighed in on the recent controversy surrounding Charlottesville and the effective removal of certain sites from the internet for expressing vile views. This entire incident and our response has an enormous implication on the future of internet freedoms as we know them.

In the wake of Charlottesville, both GoDaddy and Google have refused to manage the domain registration for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is "dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism." Subsequently Cloudflare, whose service was used to protect the site from denial-of-service attacks, has also dropped them as a customer, with a telling quote from Cloudflare's CEO: "Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn't be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation agrees. Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today's protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP's voice was the one attacked.

Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn't.

It's notable that in GoDaddy and Google's eagerness to swiftly distance themselves from American neo-Nazis, no process was followed. Policies give guidance as to what we might expect, and an opportunity to see justice is done. We should think carefully before throwing them away.

It might seem unlikely now that Internet companies would turn against sites supporting racial justice or other controversial issues. But if there is a single reason why so many individuals and companies are acting together now to unite against neo-Nazis, it is because a future that seemed unlikely a few years ago—where white nationalists and Nazis have significant power and influence in our society—now seems possible. We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love.

Part of the work for all of us now is to push back against such dangerous decisions with our own voices and actions. Another part of our work must be to seek to shore up the weakest parts of the Internet's infrastructure so it cannot be easily toppled if matters take a turn for the (even) worse. These actions are not in opposition; they are to the same ends.

We can—and we must—do both.

We're at a very fortunate point in history where most of society is still reasonably just, but people forget how rapidly change can come. Rosa Parks chose to not yield her seat in the United States just 62 years ago. Legally enforced racial segregation ended only 53 years ago. Living at a time with overt segregation feels like a time centuries past. However, many living today were still alive when it was the status quo. And things going in the opposite direction just as rapidly is entirely possible as well. Actions and policies should not be guided by the here and now, but by the justness of said policy. In other words policy should be decided based not on who it effects, but on the justness of the said policy. Is it more just to live in a world where people have the right to say things that others may find distasteful, or where people can be effectively removed from society by the [transitory] powers that be? We should answer these questions in a period of just times, not when we desperately need them resolved to restore justness.

As the EFF's statement reminds us, if certain groups are successful organizations such as Black Lives Matter may end up being characterized as a hate group. Radical left organizations such as Antifa have already been declared a domestic terrorism group by at least one state. And this is just on a government level. Nestle, Bayer, BMW, General Electric, Coca Cola (rebranded just for Nazi Germany as Fanta), Standard Oil (now Exxon/Chevron/BP ), IBM, Random House Publishing, and many more are some companies that cooperated and collaborated with the Nazis. To think that the supercompanies of today somehow would never possibly consider going down the wrong path is simply naive. And in a world where just a handful of companies now have a practical monopoly on information access - that's something that I think should give people pause before jumping to silence even the most vile of speech.

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posted by takyon on Sunday August 20, @10:03PM   Printer-friendly

Jerry Lewis: US comedian dies aged 91 in Las Vegas

Entertainer Jerry Lewis, one of Hollywood's most successful comedians, has died aged 91. A family statement said he had died of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas on Sunday morning. Lewis's 10-year partnership with Dean Martin saw them star in 16 films and achieve huge box office success. He became the highest paid actor in Hollywood, chalking up hits such as The Bell Boy, Cinderfella and The Nutty Professor.

takyon: Also at Variety, IMDB, Wikipedia, and NYT:

As a spokesman for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Mr. Lewis raised vast sums for charity; as a filmmaker of great personal force and technical skill, he made many contributions to the industry, including the invention in 1960 of a device — the video assist, which allowed directors to review their work immediately on the set — still in common use.

Or did he?

I don't want to be remembered. I want the nice words when I can hear them.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @08:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the up-in-the-air-about-this dept.

Blimps and drones: a combination made in logistics heaven?

Amazon isn't the only retailer that's looking into drone delivery. Walmart appears to be working on a similar concept but its solution might be a bit different compared to Amazon's. Walmart has filed for a US patent for a floating blimp warehouse which will make delivers via drones. The idea is to have a floating warehouse up in the sky from where Walmart can instantly ship products to customers using drones.

According to the patent filing, the blimp-style floating warehouse would fly at heights between 500 and 1,000 feet. It will have multiple launch bays for sending drone deliveries. The blimp itself will either fly autonomously or be remotely controlled by a human pilot. This solution could help Walmart lower the cost of fulfilling online orders, cutting down on "last mile" costs to a customer's house which is normally handled by a logistics company.

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Sunday August 20, @06:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the get-out-of-my-solar-system dept.

NASA's Voyager mission was launched 40 years ago:

NASA's historic Voyager mission has now been exploring the heavens for four decades.

The Voyager 2 spacecraft launched on Aug. 20, 1977, a few weeks before its twin, Voyager 1. Together, the two probes conducted an unprecedented "Grand Tour" of the outer solar system, beaming home up-close looks at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and many of the moons of these giant planets.

This work revealed a jaw-dropping diversity of worlds, fundamentally reshaping scientists' understanding of the solar system. And then the Voyagers kept on flying. In August 2012, Voyager 1 became the first spacecraft ever to reach interstellar space — and Voyager 2 is expected to arrive in this exotic realm soon as well.

The rest of the article is a Q&A with Voyager project scientist and former director of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Ed Stone.

Also at BBC and NBC. Image gallery at Ars Technica. A PBS special about the mission will air on August 23.

No missions have been sent to Uranus or Neptune since Voyager 2 visited them in 1986 and 1989.

Related: Pioneer and Voyager Maps to Earth: How Much of a Mistake?
Voyager's 'Cosmic Map' Of Earth's Location Is Hopelessly Wrong

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @05:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the What's-up,-Doc? dept.

Wired has a story about the challenging (and largely unexplored) area of surgery and traumatic injury in space.

Currently shorter term, near earth missions concentrate training on how to stabilize and restrain injured astronauts, and then contact a specialist on the ground and work out a plan to get them home for treatment.

However as longer term Moon and Mars missions become a more realistic prospect this is an area where the need to deal with major injuries in space, and handle the communications lag to specialist support, introduce a new set of problems.

Over decades of Apollo, Mir, Skylab, space shuttle, and International Space Station missions, astronauts have had medical concerns and problems—and, of course, there have been deadly catastrophes. But no astronaut has ever had a major injury or needed surgery in space. If humans ever again venture past low Earth orbit and outward toward, say, Mars, someone is going to get hurt. A 2002 ESA report put the chances of a bad medical problem on a space mission at 0.06 per person-year. As Komorowski wrote in a journal article last year, for a crew of six on a 900-day mission to Mars, that's pretty much one major emergency all but guaranteed.

The article also contains a link to an article on the ISS medical equipment, obtained by Vice through a Freedom Of Information request.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @02:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the waiting-on-a-pull-request dept.

Three and a half years after his return, Chris Wanstrath will step down as CEO of popular developer platform GitHub after leading the search to find his own replacement.

Wanstrath will continue as chief executive until the new leader is found, at which time he'll move into an executive chairman role, he told employees at an all-hands meeting on Thursday [August 17]. Staff had convened at GitHub's San Francisco headquarters to celebrate the company passing $200 million in annualized revenue and reaching new user highs for its popular code repository site valued by investors at $2 billion.

The decision to step down was one that Wanstrath has been considering for months, he told Forbes in an interview. The beginning of 2017 marked the ten-year anniversary of the first commit of code getting pushed to GitHub (the company was formally founded in February 2008). Around that time, Wanstrath began speaking with investors, advisers and friends about the long-term future of the company. "GitHub has a great brand and we have a great community," Wanstrath says. "We could find someone really seasoned to take the CEO role and lead us for the next ten years, and we wouldn't need to lose me."

Source: [Javascript essential]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @12:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the TLA-Approved? dept.

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

Since the launch of AMD Ryzen, a small piece of hardware that handles basic memory initialization as well as many security functions has been the center of some controversy. Called the Platform Security Processor (the "PSP" for short) it is essentially an arm core with complete access to the entire system. Its actions can be considered "above root" level and are for the most part invisible to the OS. It is similar in this regard to Intel's Management Engine, but is in some ways even more powerful.

Why is this a bad thing? Well, let's play a theoretical. What happens if a bug is discovered in the PSP, and malware takes control of it? How would you remove it (Answer: you couldn't). How would you know you needed to remove it? (answer, unless it made itself obvious, you also wouldn't). This scenario is obviously not a good one, and is a concern for many who asked AMD to open-source the PSPs code for general community auditing.

Bit late to the reporting but we haven't covered it yet, so here it is. And I was so looking forward to a new desktop too. Guess this one will have to stay alive until ARM becomes a viable replacement.


The Intel Management Engine, and How it Stops Screenshots
Intel x86 Considered Harmful
Of Intel's Hardware Rootkit
Intel Management Engine Partially Defeated
EFF: Intel's Management Engine is a Security Hazard
Malware uses Intel AMT feature to steal data, avoid firewalls

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @09:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the removing-watermarks-is-a-dry-research-topic dept.

Google trained a watermark-removal algorithm and then came up with a countermeasure:

Google's research division today detailed just how easy it is for computer algorithms to bypass standard photo watermarking practices, stripping those images of copyright protection and making them vulnerable to reposting across the internet without credit. The research, presented at a leading computer vision conference in Hawaii back in July, is described in detail in a paper titled, "On the Effectiveness of Visible Watermarks."

"As often done with vulnerabilities discovered in operating systems, applications or protocols, we want to disclose this vulnerability and propose solutions in order to help the photography and stock image communities adapt and better protect its copyrighted content and creations," Tali Dekel and Michael Rubinstein, Google research scientists, explain in a post published on Google's research blog earlier today.

[...] To fix this, and create stronger copyright protections for images on the web, the team suggests adding elements of specific randomness to the watermark. However, you can't simply change the location, or make changes to the opacity of the watermark, Dekel and Rubinstein explain. Instead, you need to make changes that will leave visible artifacts after the removal process. This includes adding "random geometric perturbations to the watermark" — effectively warping the text and logos being used. That way, when algorithms like the one Google uses try to scrub the watermark out, they'll leave outlines of the image because these systems are trained to look for consistency and work by targeting the vulnerabilities inherent in that consistency.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @07:13AM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

On Sept. 12th, Amazon will lose the patent to its 1-Click feature it filed almost 20 years ago. According to thirtybees, it will be a game changer in e-commerce as any vendor will have access to the feature and will shape the future of e-commerce in the coming years . Amazon applied for the patent back 1997, but was granted the rights in 1999. The company has gone to court defending the validity of patent over the years. Plenty of web retailers are preparing for the expiration. My advice hide your wallets.

What next? The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is in the process of drafting a set of specifications for consistently implementing one-click purchases. Involved with the drafting are Google, Apple, and Facebook. This would involve storing credit card numbers and address information in your browser and having your browser communicate directly with the payment gateway. Some of the standards have already been implement in Google's Chrome and Chrome Mobile browsers.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @04:46AM   Printer-friendly
from the customer-loses,-again dept.

Several sites are reporting on the decision in the case of Uber versus Spencer Meyer that the terms of service attached to a mobile application are legally binding, even when the terms are only available via a hyperlink, and you don't actually see them or need to read them to register the application.

In this case Uber argued that Spencer Meyer, who filed an antitrust lawsuit against Uber, had agreed to a mandatory arbitration process as part of the terms of service when registering with the Uber application, and could not enter litigation as a result.

From The Register:

On Thursday, the US Second Court of Appeals decided [PDF] that when customers installed Uber's ride-hailing app and agreed to the terms and conditions – even though virtually none of them actually read the details – they were obliged to go through arbitration if they had a dispute with the company.

The Independent has a similar summary on the judgement:

The argument underpinning the decision revolved around a scenario familiar to anyone with a smartphone: what happens when a customer assents to the often-dense terms of service attached to using a new app.

In directing the case to arbitration, the United States District Court of Appeals for the Second District, vindicated Uber and other tech firms who argued customers should be expected to be bound by what they agreed to - even if that would mean wading into a thicket of text.

"While it may be the case that many users will not bother reading the additional terms, that is the choice the user makes," the Second Circuit's decision says.

Further coverage at Business Insider and Courtroom News.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday August 20, @02:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the I-always-wanted-to-be-a-VJ dept.

Reddit will allow video uploads on certain subreddits:

Social news site Reddit today [August 17] announced the official launch of its video hosting feature, meaning users of certain pre-approved communities can now upload video directly to the site. The feature is already in place as part of a beta testing phase the company began conducting in late June with around 200 existing subreddits. Reddit says it's now ready to expand the feature to other communities, and that those interested can work directly with site moderators and the company's video team to enable the feature.

"We wanted to make sure we controlled the video experience, so we built this from the ground up with our in-house team," says Emon Motamedi, Reddit's product manager for video. "One of the big motivations of doing this was bringing more cohesion around the content and conversations."

Motamedi points to how most videos on Reddit are just YouTube links, or videos chopped up into GIFs hosted by third-party tools like Gfycat. This is usually a cumbersome process, and it's unfriendly to less media savvy internet users. A bigger problem is that it fractures discussion between where the content is hosted and where a user wants to discuss. Usually, Motamedi says, "you go to YouTube to watch the video and you come back to Reddit to comment." That's not ideal. "Because our platform has the best comments on the internet and because it's such a big use case for our users, we wanted to build that in-house," he adds.

The "anti-evil" team will have their work cut out for them.

Also at Reddit's blog and Ars Technica.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @11:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the Politics dept.

The lawmakers in Wisconsin voted in favor of an incentives package worth up to $3B for Foxconn. The total value of the package depends on the number of jobs that Foxconn creates in the state, so, effectively, the state is paying about $500,000 for each new job.

Most of the incentive is in the form of cash payments from the state to Foxconn, not just tax waivers. The cost to the residents of the state is about $1,200 per household.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @09:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the chew-on-this dept.

Scientists have solved the puzzle of the so-called "Frankenstein dinosaur", which seems to consist of body parts from unrelated species. A new study suggests that it is in fact the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus, and carnivorous dinosaurs, like T. rex. The finding provides fresh insight on the evolution of the group of dinos known as the ornithischians. The study is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters [open, DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2017.0220] [DX].

[...] The Frankenstein dinosaur, more properly called Chilesaurus, puzzled experts when it was first discovered two years ago. It had the legs of an animal like a Brontosaurus, the hips of a Stegosaurus, and the arms and body of an animal like Tyrannosaurus rex. Scientists simply did not know where it fitted in the dino family tree. In the currently accepted family tree, the ornithischian group was always thought to be completely unrelated to all of the other dinosaurs. Palaeontologists regarded these creatures as an odd-ball group. But a reassessment by Mr Baron published in March in the journal Nature [DOI: 10.1038/nature21700] [DX] indicated that ornithischians were more closely related to the meat-eaters, such as T.rex, than previously thought.

Also at Science Magazine.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @07:55PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-the-difference-is? dept.

Nestle is being sued over the origins of Poland Spring Water:

Nestle's marketing and sales of Poland Spring water has been "a colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers," 11 people claim in a federal class action. Filing their suit Tuesday in Connecticut, where Nestle is based, the lead plaintiffs are from the Nutmeg State as well as New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. They say they would not have paid a premium for the water had they known it did not actually come from eight purported natural springs in Maine.

Rather than being "100% Natural Spring Water," the "products all contain ordinary groundwater that defendant collects from wells it drilled in saturated plains or valleys where the water table is within a few feet of the earth's surface," lead plaintiff Mark J. Patane says in the complaint. "The vast bulk of that groundwater is collected from Maine's most populous counties in southwestern Maine, only a short distance from the New Hampshire border," the complaint continues.

As required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, all bottled spring water must be collected either at the source of a naturally occurring spring or from a well that draws from a natural spring. "In hydro-geological parlance, all such well water must be 'hydraulically connected' to a genuine spring," the complaint states. But the class says that's not the case for defendant Nestle Waters North America's eight sites in Maine.

Nestle rebuttal.

People will pay for water in a bottle?!

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Saturday August 19, @06:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the slurp-slurp-slurp dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Oxford researchers [...] (Vincent Taylor, Alastair Beresford and Ivan Martinovic) [...] [looked] at how the same library in two different apps could expose information from a higher-privilege app to one with lower privilege.

They write that this “intra-library collusion” (ILC) happens “when individual libraries obtain greater combined privileges on a device by virtue of being embedded within multiple apps, with each app having a distinct set of permissions granted”.

As the paper explains, shared libraries can borrow permissions an app doesn't have [...] That's a threat, because library re-use across different apps isn't a bug, it's a feature: it makes app development more efficient and keeps apps small by letting them use code pre-loaded to a device.

While noting that attackers are standardising their own libraries, the researchers focussed their effort on advertising libraries [...] handling location, app usage, device information, communication data like call logs and messages, access to storage (including, for example, a user's files which can indicate their interests), and the microphone.

Of more than 15,000 apps with more than a million downloads, the researchers went to work decompiling apps to identify the libraries they linked to. Those they successfully decompiled, they analysed for their intra-library collusion potential.

The 18 most popular libraries include familiar names:

Library% of apps

“The main catalyst that allows ILC to happen is the failure of the Android permission system to separate the privileges of libraries and their host apps”, they write, and this at least offers opportunities for an underhanded ad network to improve their data collection without seeking extra permissions from users.

[...] Digging deeper into how advertiser libraries behaved, they found on average those libraries “leak sensitive data from a device up to 2.4 times a day and that the average user has their personal data sent to 1.7 different ad servers per day”.

-- submitted from IRC

Original Submission