Singapore Trees, English Folk Songs, Twitter Bots, More: Monday Buzz, March 19, 2018


Today Online: NParks launches website to help public learn more about trees . “Stumped about a particular tree species spotted in the neighbourhood or by the roadside, and curious to learn more about it? From today, the answers can be found at a new website…featuring over 500,000 trees from more than 1,000 species in Singapore’s urban landscape.”

This is from February but I missed it. From the British Library: Percy Grainger’s collection of ethnographic wax cylinders. “The British Library is pleased to make available online around 350 English folk songs recorded by composer Percy Grainger in different regions of England between 1906 and 1909. Thanks to the generous support of the National Folk Music Fund, these sound recordings have been catalogued and indexed by librarian, researcher and folklorist Steve Roud, author of Folk Song in England (Faber & Faber, 2017). Roud has also married them up with Grainger’s transcriptions of the songs, where these exist, on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website, thanks to their digitisation of the Percy Grainger Manuscript Collection.”


The Intercept: Hackers Are So Fed Up With Twitter Bots They’re Hunting Them Down Themselves. “Even if Twitter hasn’t invested much in anti-bot software, some of its most technically proficient users have. They’re writing and refining code that can use Twitter’s public application programming interface, or API, as well as Google and other online interfaces, to ferret out fake accounts and bad actors. The effort, at least among the researchers I spoke with, has begun with hunting bots designed to promote pornographic material — a type of fake account that is particularly easy to spot — but the plan is to eventually broaden the hunt to other types of bots. The bot-hunting programming and research has been a strictly volunteer, part-time endeavor, but the efforts have collectively identified tens of thousands of fake accounts, underlining just how much low-hanging fruit remains for Twitter to prune.”


Open the Government: Combating Government Secrecy through Freedom of Information. “In response to a growing culture of government secrecy, people are seeking new ways to defend their right to information and combat intensifying threats to transparency and accountability. Openness advocates, journalists, litigators and grassroots organizations working on a range of policy issues are increasingly looking to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to shine light on government actions carried out in our name, but without our knowledge. Today, Open the Government released a Best Practices Guide to FOIA Collaboration, highlighting cases where FOIA collaboration is successfully being used to fuel advocacy campaigns and advance openness policies.”


My Statesman: Residents invited to share stories of discrimination to begin change. “In a project designed to use storytelling to heal the effects of racial discord, the Truth and Reconciliation Oral History Project invites Austin residents of color to share their testimonies of racial discrimination. Students and professors from seven historically black colleges and universities in Texas, including Huston-Tillotson University, will gather at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary on March 24 to interview and video record participants’ testimonies that will be cataloged in an online archive.”

New York Times: How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions. “As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem. The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.”

Washington Post: They were searching for videos. Facebook thought they wanted videos of child abuse.. “Facebook users said Thursday night they were confronted with disturbing and sexually graphic search recommendations on the social network, leading the company to apologize without offering a full explanation. After typing in ‘video of’ into the Facebook search bar, some users said the tool suggested obscene terms that included sex acts and child abuse. Facebook’s search predictions are designed to reflect popular searches, but it’s unclear why the offensive terms appeared.”

Motherboard: Tumblr Has a Massive Creepshots Problem. “A swarm of users on hyper-popular blogging platform Tumblr are uploading, sharing, and trading so-called creepshots: close-up, revealing images of women, typically taken in public and seemingly without their consent. The problem on Tumblr is rampant, with creepshot-focused Tumblr blogs appearing in just a cursory search. Other sites, including Reddit, have cracked down on creepshots, but Tumblr’s community is thriving.”


LiveMint: Govt plans regulatory framework for social media, online content: Smriti Irani. “The government is planning to put in place a regulatory framework for social media and online content, said Union minister of information and broadcasting Smriti Irani on Saturday. Speaking at the News18 Rising India Summit in the capital, Irani said that the current legislation is not very clear with regards to online news and broadcast content material.”


Syracuse University News: Acuna and Team Create Tool to Detect Academic Fraud in Research Papers. “For academic journal editors and research integrity officers at post-secondary institutions, detecting the re-use of images and illustrations in academic papers can be a time-consuming, if not impossible, task. While resources for detecting similarities and plagiarism in text submissions have been in use for several years, up until now there has been no technological solution that could be applied to finding duplicate images across research literature. That may soon change, thanks to work done by School of Information Studies (iSchool) Assistant Professor Daniel Acuna.”

Asahi Shimbun: Splash of color gives new life to old photos in prewar Okinawa. “All black and white photos from The Asahi Shimbun archives of daily scenes in Okinawa Prefecture in 1935 are now being colorized in a joint project with The Okinawa Times and a research team at the Tokyo Metropolitan University.” The photos in the article are so wonderful I can’t wait to see how the entire project turns out.

Ars Technica: US spy lab hopes to geotag every outdoor photo on social media. “Imagine if someone could scan every image on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, then instantly determine where each was taken. The ability to combine this location data with information about who appears in those photos—and any social media contacts tied to them—would make it possible for government agencies to quickly track terrorist groups posting propaganda photos. (And, really, just about anyone else.) That’s precisely the goal of Finder, a research program of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s dedicated research organization.” Good morning, Internet…

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