Google Assistant, Ryszard Kuklinski, Elsevier, More: Tuesday Afternoon Buzz, January 9, 2018


TechCrunch: Google launches a new directory to help you discover Assistant actions. “Google says you can now perform more than a million actions with the Google Assistant. Those range from looking up photos with Google Photos to starting a meditation session from Headspace. But one problem with voice assistants is that it’s very hard to discover which actions you actually can perform. For many users, that means they use their Google Home or Alexa to set a few timers and maybe play music, without ever realizing what else they can do.”

Wilson Center: Ryszard Kuklinski CIA Documents Available in HAPP Digital Archive. “Ryszard Kuklinski was a Polish colonel and Cold War spy who passed top secret Warsaw Pact documents to the United States Central Intelligence Agency between 1972 and 1981. Kuklinski, a senior officer on the Polish General Staff and aide to Polish prime minister and communist party chief (and later president) Wojciech Jaruzelski, volunteered his services to the United States Army in 1972. For over nine years, Kuklinski provided the CIA with more than 40,000 pages of documents regarding the innermost secrets of the Warsaw Pact, ‘the secrets of the kitchen’ in the words of Jaruzelski. The documents Kuklinski shared included war plans—intelligence that was deemed of ‘truly great strategic significance’ by Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser.”


Nature: Germany vs Elsevier: universities win temporary journal access after refusing to pay fees. “The Dutch publishing giant Elsevier has granted uninterrupted access to its paywalled journals for researchers at around 200 German universities and research institutes that had refused to renew their individual subscriptions at the end of 2017.”

Apparently Google kicking a bunch of publishers off Google News was a glitch. From The Drum: “From late Sunday publishers began finding that their news websites were being removed from the platform, sparking alarm among long-standing contributors. Blaming the silencing on ‘an unintentional technical error’ Google’s engineers worked swiftly to rectify the situation with most issues resolved by the end of the day, although some reported ongoing issues through Monday.”


Global Investigative Journalism Network: Secrets to Searching for Video Footage. “Editor’s Note: Since its founding, London-based Bellingcat has made a name for itself using open source and social media investigation to investigate topics ranging from Mexican drug lords to Russian missiles in Ukraine. We’re pleased to present this piece from Bellingcat’s website on how the group searches and analyzes video clips drawn from a dozen different online platforms.”

Medium: 600 Free Online Programming & Computer Science Courses You Can Start in January. “Six years ago, universities like MIT and Stanford first opened up free online courses to the public. Today, more than 700 schools around the world have created thousands of free online courses. I’ve compiled this list of over 600 such free online courses that you can start this month. For this, I leveraged Class Central’s database of over 9,000 courses. I’ve also included each course’s average rating.”

Nieman Reports: Five Tools to Rebuild Trust in Media. “The low levels of trust in media and the polarization in the U.S. and elsewhere are intertwined with the deterioration of public discourse. Some of the issues at stake may require regulation, but the most powerful forces could be awareness and behavioral changes in the use of technology. And here is where journalists could still play a major role in improving the social conversation while showing why they deserve to be trusted.”


Globes: Israel Tax Authority takes on Google, Facebook. “A long way behind the public debate in Israel and globally on the impact of Internet giants Google, Facebook and others on the economy and society, the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee got around to holding a session on the matter today. Committee chair Eitan Cabel, who initiated the session, chose not to hold separate sessions on the economic and the social issues, and the result was much hot air and very little new information.”


The Verge: James Damore sues Google for allegedly discriminating against conservative white men. “The author of the controversial memo that upended Google in August is suing the company, alleging that white, male conservatives are systematically discriminated against by Google. James Damore was fired as an engineer after the manifesto, which questioned the benefits of diversity programs and suggested women may be biologically inferior engineers, was widely passed around the company. In a new lawsuit, he and another fired engineer claim that ’employees who expressed views deviating from the majority view at Google on political subjects raised in the workplace and relevant to Google’s employment policies and its business, such as “diversity” hiring policies, “bias sensitivity,” or “social justice,” were/are singled out, mistreated, and systematically punished and terminated from Google, in violation of their legal rights.'”

The Daily Beast: Twitter Promoted a Tweet That Steals Your Credit-Card Details. “Twitter has its work cut out when trying to police its sprawling social network: Porn bots, propaganda trolls, and neo-Nazis plague the site every day. But in a novel case, cybercriminals recently leveraged Twitter’s ‘promoted tweet’ feature to push a website designed to steal, funnily enough, a bevy of Twitter users’ personal data.”


Points: Content moderation is not a panacea: Logan Paul, YouTube, and what we should expect from platforms. “There is an undeniable need, now more than ever, to reconsider the public responsibilities of social media platforms. For too long, platforms have enjoyed generous legal protections and an equally generous cultural allowance, to be ‘mere conduits’ not liable for what users post to them. in the shadow of this protection, they have constructed baroque moderation mechanisms: flagging, review teams, crowdworkers, automatic detection tools, age barriers, suspensions, verification status, external consultants, blocking tools. They all engage in content moderation, but are not obligated to; they do it largely out of sight of public scrutiny, and are held to no official standards as to how they do so. This needs to change, and it is beginning to.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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