Syria Chemical Attacks, Hurricane Harvey, Instagram, More: Wednesday Afternoon Buzz, April 25, 2018


ABC News: Activist group publishes database of Syria chemical attacks. “An activist group on Tuesday published a database of information on suspected chemical attacks in Syria , adding to a growing collection of videos and images documenting alleged war crimes during the seven-year conflict. The Syrian Archive, which works with human rights groups such as Amnesty International, said it has verified 861 videos covering some 212 attacks — most of them believed to have been carried out by government forces.”

Rice University: Creating a Community-Driven Digital Archive: The Harvey Memories Project. “Between August 17 and 30, 2017, Tropical Storm Harvey — later Hurricane Harvey — crisscrossed the Southeast corner of Texas, killing 88 Texans, damaging or destroying more than 119,000 homes in Harris County, and causing as much as $190 billion dollars in damage. Behind these numbers are thousands of stories of loss, trauma, recovery, and resilience. Soon after the flooding, a dialogue developed between Rice University, the University of Houston Libraries, Harris County Public Libraries, and Houston Public Libraries about how we might build a digital archive that enables people to share their stories about Harvey. Funded through a Rice University Houston Engagement and Recovery Effort (HERE) grant, the Harvey Memories Project (HMP) aims to to collect personal narratives, photos, audio, and video about the experience of Harvey in a digital archive.”


BetaNews: Instagram launches Data Download tool so you can grab the contents of your account. “A couple of weeks ago, Instagram said that it was working on a tool that would enable users to download everything from their accounts. Now the tool has been launched ahead of the roll out of GDPR in Europe.”


The Next Web: Nifty new site warns you which games have microtransactions. “Microtransactions, paid DLC, free-to-play-but-pay-to-win: all thorny topics for gamers as they involve having to fork over hard-earned money for dubious gains. Now there’s a community-built site where you can check your games ahead of time to see if they have microtransactions, and if so, how they work. The site…launched a few days ago. It has a relatively diverse, if limited library of games at the moment — site creator ‘igrat’ said on Reddit all content would be manually verified.”


Washington Post: How merchants use Facebook to flood Amazon with fake reviews. “On Amazon, customer comments can help a product surge in popularity. The online retail giant says that more than 99 percent of its reviews are legitimate because they are written by real shoppers who aren’t paid for them. But a Washington Post examination found that for some popular product categories, such as Bluetooth headphones and speakers, the vast majority of reviews appear to violate Amazon’s prohibition on paid reviews. Such reviews have certain characteristics, such as repetitive wording that people probably cut and paste in.”


Bloomberg Quint: Google Aims at Privacy Law After Facebook Lobbying Failed. “While Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg were publicly apologizing this month for failing to protect users’ information, Google’s lobbyists were drafting measures to de-fang an Illinois law recognized as the most rigorous consumer privacy statute in the country. Their ambition: to strip language from a decade-old policy that regulates the use of fingerprints, iris scans and facial recognition technology, and insert a loophole for companies embracing the use of biometrics.”

CNET: Company formerly known as Yahoo to pay $35M over massive breach. “Yahoo’s cybersecurity failures continue to haunt the company — now to the tune of $35 million. The US Securities and Exchange Commission said Tuesday that Altaba, the company formed from the ashes of Yahoo’s sale to Verizon, has agreed to pay a penalty of that amount to settle charges that Yahoo failed to disclose a massive data breach from December 2014.”


EurekAlert: 2.7 billion tweets confirm: Echo chambers on Twitter are very real . “A recent study of more than 2.7 billion tweets between 2009 and 2016 confirms that Twitter users are exposed mainly to political opinions that agree with their own. It is the largest study to characterise echo chambers by both the content in them and the networks they comprise. The findings indicate a strong correlation between biases in the content people both produce and consume. In other words, echo chambers are very real on Twitter.”

GadgTecs: US Army Getting Training in Virtual Environments Created From Actual Cities. “The U.S. Military can now prepare soldiers for combat in specific, challenging settings with the push of a button. That’s because of virtual reality. Satellite imagery, street view data, and other readily-available information about our world rapidly generate these Synthetic Training Environments (STE), based on a US Army white paper. Artificial intelligence renders the digital worlds based on the available information, analyzes soldier performance to make the trainings more effective, and introduces variability into the simulations to keep troopers on their toes.”


Irish News: You can relive last year’s solar eclipse thanks to Google Maps. “Google Street View is an endless treasure trove of unintentional discoveries, but this one might eclipse them all. A Google Street View car driving through a Missouri road captured the otherworldly scenes of last year’s solar eclipse. The vehicle’s 360-degree camera travelled through McKelvey Hill Drive in Maryland Heights, Missouri, as the sky briefly turned to night during last year’s phenomenon.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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