California Wildfires, Pokémon, James Billington, More: Friday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, November 23, 2018


Google Blog: California fires: how we’re providing aid and ways you can help. “Over the last week, three wildfires have devastated communities in California, and there’s been a tremendous effort—on the part of firefighters, first responders, local officials and NGOs—to contain the flames and help thousands of displaced families. Since the start of the fires, we’ve deployed resources to help those affected in our own backyard. Here’s a bit more on that, and how you can help.”

The Verge: Twitch is streaming a Pokémon marathon on Thanksgiving. “Twitch is offering a break from holiday madness and too much family time with a Pokémon marathon that kicks off on Thanksgiving. The platform is airing the first five seasons of the animated show, starting at 1PM ET on November 22nd. The marathon will continue until 8PM ET on December 3rd.”

Boston Globe: James Billington, librarian of Congress for expansive, tumultuous tenure, dies at 89. “James Billington, an eminent American scholar of Russian culture who reigned for three decades as librarian of Congress, propelling the expansion of the world’s largest library but struggling to lead it into the digital age, died Nov. 20 at a hospital in Washington. He was 89.”

Bloomberg Quint: Ahead of EU Vote, Google Unveils New Policy for Election Ads. “Google said it will roll out new policies in Europe to provide more transparency around political ads, ahead of European Union elections in the spring. The announcement Thursday by the Alphabet Inc. division follows a year of intense global scrutiny over how popular internet services were used to spread misinformation during elections. A lack of disclosure about who pays for political ads has been a particular sore point.”


Mozilla Blog: Translate the Web. “With 100+ languages at the ready, Google Translate is the go-to translation tool for millions of people around the world. But for folks who need to make frequent translations on the web, it’s a hassle to copy text from a web page, navigate over to, paste it in, return to your page, etc. Fortunately there are a number of Firefox browser extensions that streamline the translation process, and in some cases even add new features. Here are two exceptional examples…”


The Hill: Facebook says it asked Definers to do work on Soros. “Facebook admitted Wednesday it hired consulting firm Definers to investigate Democratic donor and hedge fund billionaire George Soros’ criticisms of the tech behemoth.”

AFP: EU turns eye to ‘fake’ Google shopping rivals. “The EU’s top competition enforcer said Brussels was taking a closer look at allegations that Google had helped introduce false price comparison sites to answer a historic ruling against the search engine giant.”

Quartz: YouTube’s autoplay function is helping convert people into Flat Earthers. “The first time I watched a Flat Earther YouTube video, I was entranced. The theory was that Earth used to be populated by giant trees, and so any change in elevation on Earth was actually just giant tree stumps. It made so little sense that I needed to know more about the theory, so when YouTube automatically started playing another video after the first was complete, I continued watching. Then I sat through a third, and decided I should stop. Apparently, this is the path that has led many people towards believing flat earth theories.”

Schneier on Security: Information Attacks against Democracies. “Democracy is an information system. That’s the starting place of our new paper: ‘Common-Knowledge Attacks on Democracy.’ In it, we look at democracy through the lens of information security, trying to understand the current waves of Internet disinformation attacks. Specifically, we wanted to explain why the same disinformation campaigns that act as a stabilizing influence in Russia are destabilizing in the United States.”


Search Engine Journal: Popular AMP for WordPress Plugin Patches Critical Security Flaw. “The top AMP plugin for WordPress, AMP for WP, has released a released a patch for a critical security vulnerability. AMP for WP, which currently has 100,000+ downloads, was pulled from the official plugins section last month.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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