Firefox, Facebook, Google Maps, More: Monday Afternoon ResearchBuzz, January 14, 2019


Neowin: Firefox 69 will have Flash disabled by default. “According to Mozilla’s plugin roadmap, the firm planned to disable Flash by default in Firefox sometime this year. Now, a new bug filing has revealed that the plugin will be disabled as of Firefox 69 which is due for release on September 3, 2019. Mozilla will disable Flash beginning with the Nightly builds before it works its way down to the Stable channel.”


Mother Jones: Facebook Isn’t Making Any Friends on Capitol Hill. “Facebook aggravated officials on Capitol Hill during a set of year-end conference calls meant to help contain fallout from a bombshell New York Times report detailing previously undisclosed deals allowing outside companies access to user data, including private messages.”

ABC News (Australia): Google Maps’ ‘incorrect’ outback travel times could be deterring tourists, businesses say. “From dinosaurs in Winton and Eromanga to the world’s most remote racing event in Birdsville, it’s understandable why the Queensland Government has dubbed 2019 as the year for outback tourism. But business owners in the state’s south-west say travel times on Google Maps are inaccurate and could deter tourists from making the trip.”

Washington Post: Searching for news on RBG? YouTube offered conspiracy theories about the Supreme Court justice instead.. “Conspiracy theories about the health of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg have dominated YouTube this week, illustrating how the world’s most popular video site is failing to prevent its algorithm from helping popularize viral hoaxes and misinformation. More than half of the top 20 search results for her initials, ‘RBG,’ on Wednesday pointed to false far-right videos, some claiming doctors are using mysterious illegal drugs to keep her alive, according to a review by The Washington Post.”

Ubergizmo: University of California Warns Students Against Using WhatsApp In China. “The University of California has warned its students and faculty both to not use messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat in China. It expressed concern that their communications could be used against them in the country so the students and faculty should exercise caution and not use the apps when they’re in China.”


Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Do social media bots have a right to free speech?. “While the Kremlin agents who interfered in the US election likely wouldn’t be beholden to a state-level law in the United States, or deterred by it, domestic political campaigns and businesses might. For at least one constitutional scholar, that possibility raises this question: Do bots, like citizens, have that most sacred right enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution, the right to free speech? Laurent Sacharoff, a law professor at the University of Arkansas, thinks the people programming bots may want US courts to answer that in the affirmative.”

CBR: US TLS Certificates Left to Die As 20th Day of Shutdown Passes. “As 400,000 federal staff are furloughed and many received a pay check this week that had zero dollars in it, government employees are remaining at home, while essential staff are calling in sick in protest. This is causing the day-to-day maintenance and upkeep of department websites to lag into dangerous territory. It is estimated that over 80 websites with the .gov domain now have expired TLS certificates as no IT staff are currently being paid to maintain the .gov websites.”


Tuscon: University of Arizona College of Science: Lum. AI. “Researchers worldwide publish 2.5 million journal articles each year, adding to the tens of millions of scholarly articles in circulation. For a researcher or clinician, developing a holistic understanding of a field — for example, the systematic matching of genomic alterations in a tumor with proper drug treatments — is an immense task. Now imagine that those researchers, faced with trying to understand the various mechanisms and cellular processes involved in a specific tumor type, had a new tool: an automated system that could review all that literature — analyzing each academic paper in seconds — and extract key information that could help them generate easily interpretable answers and conclusions.”

Nieman Lab: Old people are most likely to share fake news on Facebook. They’re also Facebook’s fastest-growing U.S. audience.. “Elderly Americans were most likely to share fake news around the election, even after controlling for political affiliation and ideology. Only a small percentage of people shared fake news in the first place, but those who did were likely to be over 65.”

MIT Technology Review: A neural network can learn to organize the world it sees into concepts—just like we do. “As good as they are at causing mischief, researchers from the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab realized GANs [Generative Adversarial Networks] are also a powerful tool: because they paint what they’re ‘thinking,’ they could give humans insight into how neural networks learn and reason. This has been something the broader research community has sought for a long time—and it’s become more important with our increasing reliance on algorithms.” Good afternoon, Internet…

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