2018-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2018-03-22 14:18:28 UTC
2018-03-23 00:10:51 UTC
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The Guardian has an article about a whistleblower from Cambridge Analytica, who claims to have devised a strategy to "weaponize" Facebook profiles, in order to use those profile for targeted advertising to sway the US elections in 2016.
(The Guardian headline titles are often crap). I read a few older articles, presumably by the same author: she had a series of articles in March--May 2017 about Cambridge Analytica being used as a weapon to convince British voters to vote for Brexit in the referendum. It seems that her investigative journalism encouraged this wistleblower to "come out" and be interviewed by her.
Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others (Churchill), but when does advertising cross the line into psychological warfare against your own population?
Additional coverage at The Register
"The blockchain method primarily used by those engaging in cryptocurrency transactions is a decentralized mechanism where all the information is stored in blocks, can be viewed and altered by registered users. In the case of Sierra Leone elections, allows the votes to be seen by voters who are registered within the system, in the public ledgers, but only allowed authorized persons to make any changes, this, in turn, prevents the chances of fraud since the voting information is available to all the blockchain users."
I would personally like it if they would explain the mechanics of their so-called "blockchain" to us mortals.
As I understand a blockchain, it is an extensible data structure that (when used in a bitcoin context) incorporates sequentially applied, recursively structured self-referential checksum mechanisms to counter efforts at tampering with the contents of the blocks; usually, via recursive encryption.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his close ally, Finance Minister Taro Aso, faced growing pressure on Monday over a suspected cover-up of a cronyism scandal that has dogged the premier for more than a year.
Copies of documents seen by Reuters showed that references to Abe, his wife and Aso were removed from finance ministry records of the discounted sale of state-owned land to a school operator with ties to Abe's wife, Akie.
Abe, now in his sixth year in office, has denied that he or his wife did favors for the school operator, Moritomo Gakuen, and has said he would resign if evidence was found that they had. Excised references seen by Reuters did not appear to show that Abe or his wife intervened directly in the deal.
Suspicion of a cover-up could slash Abe's ratings and dash his hopes for a third term as leader of his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). Victory in the LDP September leadership vote would put him on track to become Japan's longest-serving premier. The doubts are also putting pressure on Aso to resign.
Moritomo Gakuen is the school at the center of the scandal.
Trump commented Tuesday on Twitter after the South Korean government announced that North Korea has agreed to halt tests of nuclear weapons and missiles if it holds talks with the U.S. on denuclearization. South Korea and North Korea have also agreed to hold summit talks in late April.
Trump tweeted: "Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!"
The Associated Press has some additional information:
While the offer of talks could ease tensions, the adversaries will still have to overcome deep mutual suspicion. The U.S. has consistently demanded North Korea give up its nukes, which the reclusive socialist state had previously insisted was off the table until Washington abandoned its "hostile policy" toward it. At a minimum, the Americans wanted a halt in nuclear and missile testing for talks to begin.
"Maybe this is a breakthrough. I seriously doubt it," Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, told a Senate hearing Tuesday. He said his doubts are grounded in what he called failed efforts by previous U.S. administrations to negotiate with North Korea over its nuclear program.
Coats said Kim is "very calculating" and views his nuclear capabilities as "essential to his well-being as well as the well-being of his nation."
[...] Vice President Mike Pence said the U.S. would remain "firm in our resolve" whichever direction talks with North Korea go. "All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable and concrete steps toward denuclearization," Pence said in a statement.
[...] On returning from Pyongyang, Chung Eui-yong, South Korea's presidential national security director, said North Korea expressed willingness to hold a "candid dialogue" with the United States to discuss its nuclear disarmament and establish diplomatic relations. Chung said North Korea "made it clear that it won't resume strategic provocations like additional nuclear tests or test-launches of ballistic missiles" while such talks are underway.
[...] But the administration will have difficult questions of its own as it gauges North Korea's intentions. An initial hurdle could be presented by U.S.-South Korean military drills that were postponed during the Olympics and are due to resume next month. North Korea is likely to push for a suspension of the drills which it views as a provocation and a threat, and may ask for relief from U.S.-led economic sanctions.
We had submissions from three Soylentils with different takes on the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the public response in the wake of an attack at a Parkland, Florida high school.
Common Dreams reports:
In the latest sign that the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida tragedy may be playing out differently than the fallout from other mass shootings, several national companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
[Car rental companies] Alamo, Enterprise, and National--all owned by Enterprise Holdings--announced late on [February 22] that they would end discounts for the NRA's five million members. Symantec, the security software giant that owns Lifelock and Norton, ended its discount program on Friday as well.
The First National Bank of Omaha also said it would stop issuing its NRA-branded Visa credit cards, emblazoned with the group's logo and called "the Official Credit Card of the NRA". The institution is the largest privately-held bank in the U.S., with locations in Nebraska, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, and South Dakota.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai joined the pack at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Friday alongside fellow Republican commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Brendan Carr—the architects of the recent order repealing net neutrality protections passed in the Obama era.
Upon taking the stage, it was announced that Pai was receiving an award from the National Rifle Association: a handmade Kentucky long gun and plaque known as the "Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award."
Fallout continues from the mass murder in Florida. The National Rifle Association is taking it up the wazoo. A national boycott is emerging. If you are old enough, you will remember that this is what brought down Apartheid in South Africa.
From the Huffington Post:
In what may be a pivotal moment for American gun law reform, the National Rifle Association has become the object of intense pushback from anti-gun activists and survivors of last week's mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead.
All the attention prompted the gun-rights group to break from its usual strategy of keeping quiet after mass gun deaths. NRA officials have gone on the attack to rail against the "politicization" of a tragedy, and going so far as to suggest that members of the media "love mass shootings" because of the ratings they supposedly bring.
The uproar has once again presented companies affiliated with the NRA, and its powerful pro-gun lobby, with a question: to cut ties, or to continue a relationship with a large but controversial group?
The NRA partners with dozens of businesses to spread its pro-gun message and provide discounts to its members, who number 5 million, according to the group. But this week, some companies have begun to jump ship.
Facing pressure from consumers, the First National Bank of Omaha said Thursday it would stop issuing NRA-branded Visa credit cards after its contract with the group expires. Enterprise Holdings, which operates the rental car brands Enterprise, National and Alamo, says it will end its discount program for NRA members next month, along with Avis and Budget. Hertz is out, too.
Facebook has removed a virtual reality shoot-em-up experience from a tech demo at a top American conservative conference after recieving criticism for being "tone deaf" following last week's deadly school shooting in Florida. The social network has a presence at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) conference in Maryland, this week, including a booth running a demo of its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. This demo included a first-person shooting game.
People on Twitter have criticised Facebook for running this demo so soon after the deadly shooting attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.
The game, Bullet Train, was just one of a number of standard Oculus games/demos that Facebook has included at public events. In fact, Bullet Train has been around since 2015, and the team that made it released a full game called Robo Recall, funded by Oculus:
The game will be an Oculus exclusive — that company is funding its development — and the five-to-ten-person team that created Bullet Train has ballooned into a full 15 person team at Epic in order to turn this into a real game with a release date in "early 2017." It will include a number of graphical jumps from Bullet Train, and this benefits Epic in other ways as well.
Yet, Facebook still tried to distance itself from the original demo:
The demo for the game, called "Bullet Train," is being developed by a third-party game-maker, not Oculus, the company said.
Why is Facebook at CPAC? Probably as part of an ongoing effort to placate conservatives angry at the platform.
This comes a few months after the Puerto Rico hurricane VR debacle.
Original URL: World leaders abandoning human rights: Amnesty
World leaders are undermining human rights for millions of people with regressive policies and hate-filled rhetoric, but their actions have ignited global protest movements in response, a rights group said.
US President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin, and China's President Xi Jinping were among a number of politicians who rolled out regressive policies in 2017, according to Amnesty International's annual human rights report published on Thursday.
The human rights body also mentioned the leaders of Egypt, the Philippines and Venezuela.
"The spectres of hatred and fear now loom large in world affairs, and we have few governments standing up for human rights in these disturbing times," Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary-general, said.
"Instead, leaders such as el-Sisi, Duterte, Maduro, Putin, Trump and Xi are callously undermining the rights of millions."
[...] The regressive approach to human rights adopted by a number of world leaders has, however, inspired new waves of social activism and protest, Amnesty said, highlighting the example of the Women's March in January last year, which began in the US before becoming a global protest.
Normally, autonomous computer programmes known as bots trawl the internet, for example, to help search engines. However, there are also programmes known as social bots which interfere in social media, automatically generating replies or sharing content. They are currently suspected of spreading political propaganda. Scientists at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have investigated the extent to which such autonomous programmes were used on the platform Twitter during the general elections in Japan in 2014. By using methods taken from corpus linguistics, they were able to draw up a case study on the activity patterns of social bots. At the same time, the FAU researchers gained an insight into how computer programmes like these were used, and recognised that nationalistic tendencies had an important role to play in the election, especially in social media. The results of the investigation have been published in the journal Big Data.
Prof. Dr. Fabian Schäfer, chair of Japanese Studies at FAU, was motivated to study the use of social bots after the general election in Japan in 2014. The conservative Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, led by Shinzō Abe, won the election. Publicly and in the mass media, his election campaign focused predominantly on economic issues. It was a different story in social media. "Our analysis showed that Abe's hidden nationalistic agenda had a very important role to play in these channels," Schäfer explains. "The importance of the hidden agenda in social media is not, however, down to either the prime minister or the LDP itself." Rather, it appears as if social bots were widely used by right-wing internet users, ranging from far-right to more conservative right-wing circles. Prof. Schäfer's initial hypothesis was that the right-wingers used social bots to give indirect online support to Abe's nationalistic agenda, which had slipped into the background during the political campaign.
It seems that future elections will have to deal with such "bots" whether we like it or not. How much influence do you think such bots will have on future election campaigns?
Schäfer Fabian, Evert Stefan, and Heinrich Philipp. Japan's 2014 General Election: Political Bots, Right-wing Internet Activism, and Prime Minister Shinzō Abe's Hidden Nationalist Agenda. Big Data. DOI: 10.1089/big.2017.0049
From The Verge:
Google didn't violate labor laws by firing engineer James Damore for a memo criticizing the company's diversity program, according to a recently disclosed letter from the US National Labor Relations Board. The lightly redacted statement is written by Jayme Sophir, associate general counsel of the NLRB's division of advice; it dates to January, but was released yesterday, according to Law.com. Sophir concludes that while some parts of Damore's memo were legally protected by workplace regulations, "the statements regarding biological differences between the sexes were so harmful, discriminatory, and disruptive as to be unprotected."
Damore filed an NLRB complaint in August of 2017, after being fired for internally circulating a memo opposing Google's diversity efforts. Sophir recommends dismissing the case; Bloomberg reports that Damore withdrew it in January, and that his lawyer says he's focusing on a separate lawsuit alleging discrimination against conservative white men at Google. NLRB records state that its case was closed on January 19th.
There are White House Staff positions open, I hear.
A federal grand jury in Washington, DC has indicted 13 Russian nationals and a Kremlin-linked internet firm on charges that they had meddled in the 2016 presidential election.
The US government said Russian entities began interfering in US political processes, including the 2016 presidential election, as early as 2014, according to a court document.
[...] The charges – which include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft – are the most direct allegations to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.
Link to the Indictment: https://www.justice.gov/file/1035477/download