Net Neutrality, API Documentation, Google, More: Tuesday ResearchBuzz, December 18, 2018


Wired: A Year Without Net Neutrality: No Big Changes (Yet). “It’s been one year since the Federal Communications Commission voted to gut its net neutrality rules. The good news is that the internet isn’t drastically different than it was before. But that’s also the bad news: The net wasn’t always so neutral to begin with.”

Internet Archive: Documentation for Public APIs at the Internet Archive. “Documentation and examples to use our most important APIs have now been organized at a single location. We invite our community to review and use this documentation to make use of the information and content in the Internet Archive.”

SEO Roundtable: A Google Search Algorithm Update Over December 15th Weekend. “It looks like over the weekend, starting maybe this past Friday or Saturday and picking up speed on Sunday that Google pushed out another search ranking algorithm update. I saw chatter from the SEO community over the weekend and the automated tracking tools are also picking up signs of an update.”


Red Ferret: Gratisography – free, quirky images. “This is a free stock photo site. If you’re looking for basic business shots, this probably isn’t it. But if you’re looking for something to brighten up a project, you’ll probably find it here. It’s not a very big site but there are quite a few fun images to be had.”


Technical University of Denmark: New collaboration addresses marine plastic pollution. “Plastics in the ocean is one of today’s fastest growing environmental problems. Up to 80% of the world’s waste consists of plastic, and 300 million tons of plastic are discharged to the ocean every year. Researchers from five Danish research institutions, including DTU, are now collaborating to develop knowledge about and solutions to marine plastic pollution. The collaboration takes place within the frame of the MarinePlastic research center, headed by Aalborg University and supported by the Velux Foundation with 20 million DKK.”

Reuters: Google to spend $1 billion on new campus in New York. “Google is investing more than $1 billion on a new campus in New York, becoming the second major technology company after Amazon to pick America’s financial capital to expand and create thousands of jobs.”

New York Times: Facebook’s Version of YouTube Takes Shape With Pranksters, Magicians and Cartoons. “A 20-something magician performing on the streets of Thailand and Jamaica. Three Australian brothers who shock bystanders with devious pranks. A conservative commentator in Mississippi who rants about America’s priorities from his car. These are some of the video makers who in recent months have started making serious money from Facebook Watch, the tech giant’s answer to YouTube.”


ZDNet: SQLite bug impacts thousands of apps, including all Chromium-based browsers. “Discovered by Tencent’s Blade security team, the vulnerability allows an attacker to run malicious code on the victim’s computer, and in less dangerous situations, leak program memory or cause program crashes. Because SQLite is embedded in thousands of apps, the vulnerability impacts a wide range of software, from IoT devices to desktop software, and from web browsers to Android and iOS apps.” So we find out about this Chromium vulnerability almost immediately after Microsoft and Brave announce they’re moving to Chromium? Lovely.

The Verge: Doppelgänger accounts are still a powerful tool for cyberstalkers. “Cyberstalking cases offer a strange window into the way online networks are built: how much pain can you cause with unlimited malice and limited technical skill? This wasn’t a case of trained Russian trolls or NSA hackers. [Joel] Kurzynski was an IT professional, but nothing he did required any particular technical skill. The most sophisticated tricks seem to have been triggering password resets and making anonymous phone calls, nothing beyond the reach of the average 4chan troll. But as long as there were doppelgänger accounts, he didn’t need to. All he needed to do was start an account.”


Fstoppers: Nipples Are Banned, but Animal Abuse and Brutal Violence Are OK: Instagram Is Broken. “As a photographer absorbed with curating my profile and admiring the work of some amazing artists, it’s not always apparent how much of Instagram is filled with truly terrible things. I’ve written before about how Instagram is a cesspit of populist content that is driven by clicks as opposed to quality. I’ve also complained at length about Instagram’s clear reluctance to combat freebooting on its platform, happy to see content stolen as long as users stay in the app, consuming its adverts. What I failed to realize was how much of Instagram is violent, graphic, and seemingly free of moderation. Around the world, thousands of 13-year-olds will be receiving new electronic devices this Christmas, many of them no doubt opening new Instagram accounts. Terrifyingly, those children, with all the parental controls in place, could in just a few clicks be watching footage of animals being abused, or, as I just discovered, people being executed. In [Mason] Gentry’s experience, reporting this content seems to make little difference.”

From idw, which is mostly in German but the article was in English: The Data Revolution in the Night Sky. “Astroinformatics is a young discipline that owes its rise to computers: Digital hardware and software have revolutionized astronomy in the last twenty years. Thanks to new detectors and innovative telescopes, astronomers can now observe objects of unprecedented size and at high resolution. ‘With these new technologies, the volume of data is increasing exponentially, but the number of astronomers analyzing the data is not,’ says Dr. Kai Polsterer, leader of the Astroinformatics research group at the Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS). ‘Methods from computer science can help us here.’ Five years ago, Polsterer came to Heidelberg when HITS established the first group in this new research field in Europe. Since then, the physicist and computer scientist and his team developed machine learning methods and tools to enable astronomers to work exploratively – change the searching in researching.”

Phys .org: Fake news vs fact in online battle for truth. “Since US President Donald Trump weaponised the term ‘fake news’ during the 2016 presidential election campaign, the phrase has gone viral. Increasingly it is used by politicians around the world to denounce or dismiss news reports that do not fit their version of the truth. But as news outlets defend their work, false information is saturating the political debate worldwide and undermining an already weak level of trust in the media and institutions.”


Hackaday: Artificial Intelligence Composes New Christmas Songs. “One of the most common uses of neural networks is the generation of new content, given certain constraints. A neural network is created, then trained on source content – ideally with as much reference material as possible. Then, the model is asked to generate original content in the same vein. This generally has mixed, but occasionally amusing, results. The team at [Made by AI] had a go at generating Christmas songs using this very technique.” These aren’t just cute song names. The AI made songs you can listen to on Soundcloud. Good morning, Internet…

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