India-Pakistan Border, Hollywood Diversity, Google Snippets, More: Monday Evening Buzz, March 5, 2018


The Wire: A New Website Will Monitor Ceasefire Violations Along the India-Pakistan Border. “With ceasefire violations across the India-Pakistan border continuing to escalate, experts are largely pessimistic on whether there will be any drop in the number of incidents, even as they agree that communication could be strengthened at the brigade and division level between the two armies. Experts were discussing the reasons for the rise in ceasefire violations at the launch of a new website, Indo-Pak Conflict Monitor, on Saturday. The website will be monitoring these violations on a daily basis from open source data, study the emerging patterns and act as a valuable repository. It will also be a resource for analysing the larger India-Pakistan conflict.”

Black Enterprise: #OscarsSoWhite Creator April Reign Launches New Initiative To Diversify Hollywood. “…April Reign, the social media mastermind behind the viral #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, created an initiative that pairs Hollywood studios and media networks with talent of color. Just days before the 2018 Academy Awards, Reign announced the launch of Akuarel, an online database for people from underserved groups looking to work in creative spaces. Through the initiative, she aims to dispel the myth that studios can’t find nonwhite talent for hire.”


Search Engine Land: Multifaceted featured snippets begin rolling out in Google search results. “Multifaceted featured snippets will be surfaced for queries that are sufficiently broad enough to allow for more than one interpretation of what was submitted. In these instances, the SERP returned will include more than one featured snippet, with the original query rewritten as the questions the algorithm assumes the user may have intended, and the results displayed in the multifaceted snippet will reflect those new questions.” This article also examines Bing’s changes to its snippets – and while I like what both new features do, I think in our current climate Bing’s is more important.

Sunlight Foundation: In website reshuffle, federal committee makes reports on collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data inaccessible . “If you visit the website for the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology (FCSM), you’ll find that many of the links for reports lead to dead pages or PDFs that say, ‘this page is currently under construction.’ Among the inaccessible resources are statistical policy working papers, as well as reports pertaining to collecting data on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI), which were live on a previous version of the site. Also gone is the FedStats website, which currently redirects to the FCSM homepage. FedStats, which claimed to be ‘a trusted source for federal statistical information since 1997,’ was quietly sunset in February 2018, removing troves of aggregated links to statistical policy documents and statistics websites along with it.”

TechCrunch: Snap reportedly working on new Spectacles, including two-camera version. “Snap, Inc. calls itself a ‘camera company’ so it shouldn’t be all that surprising that it’s working on new versions of its Spectacles hardware (especially since we reported just that last June). But a new report from Cheddar has surprised some with news that Snap is working on a refresh of their hardware´set to launch later this year, as well as a two-camera version planned for 2019.”


The Daily Beast: Russians Used Reddit and Tumblr to Troll the 2016 Election. “A leak of internal data from the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency discovered by The Daily Beast serves as the first confirmation that the Russian troll farm deployed its online agitators on Reddit as part of its campaign to interfere in American politics. The leak also reveals 21 Tumblr accounts, including login credentials, run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA). The listing for the leak offers ‘American proxies’ for Reddit and viral meme site 9Gag. The leak comes after months of speculation from Reddit users that the site had been targeted by a foreign influence campaign.”

Fast Company: Algorithms Are Creating A “Digital Poorhouse” That Makes Inequality Worse. “In Los Angeles, an algorithm helps decide who–out of 58,000 homeless people–gets access to a small amount of available housing. In Indiana, the state used a computer system to flag any mistake on an application for food stamps, healthcare, or cash benefits as a ‘failure to cooperate;’ 1 million people lost benefits. In Pittsburgh, a child protection agency is using an algorithm to try to predict future child abuse, despite the algorithm’s problems with accuracy.”


ZDNet: New LTE attacks can snoop on messages, track locations and spoof emergency alerts . “A slew of newly discovered vulnerabilities can wreak havoc on 4G LTE network users by eavesdropping on phone calls and text messages, knocking devices offline, and even spoofing emergency alerts. Ten attacks detailed in a new paper by researchers at Purdue University and the University of Iowa expose weaknesses in three critical protocol operations of the cellular network, such as securely attaching a device to the network and maintaining a connection to receive calls and messages.”

Washington Post: Why a crackdown on Facebook, Google and Twitter could come from the states before Congress. “Alonzo Washington delivered a dire warning to his fellow delegates in Maryland’s legislature last month: Russia might try to influence their elections, too. So the Democratic veteran set about doing something that’s eluded his federal counterparts in the nation’s capital: advancing legislation to regulate tech giants like Facebook, Google and Twitter.”


Janelle Shane at AI Weirdness: Do neural nets dream of electric sheep?. “If you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably interacted with a neural network. They’re a type of machine learning algorithm that’s used for everything from language translation to finance modeling. One of their specialties is image recognition. Several companies – including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook – have their own algorithms for labeling photos. But image recognition algorithms can make really bizarre mistakes.” Good evening, Internet…

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