Toxic Chemicals, Science Paper Converter, Facebook, More: Monday ResearchBuzz, September 20, 2021

This is really late because I spent a couple of hours today exploring a big WordPress installation spam problem I found via Google Alerts. I find hacked/compromised sites often this way, but this time I found about a dozen at one go. The sites were advertising male “performance pills,” if you get me. They were all Web sites of non-profits because of the Google Alert syntax. One of them was a high school PTSA Web site. I spent about two hours taking screen shots, checking for additional problems via cached Google results, and sending out email notifications.

If you maintain a WordPress site, please make sure someone is keeping it up to date: themes, plugins, everything. The hackers don’t care if you’re a humane society in Indiana. They just want to get their spam on. And if you don’t have a big IT team, please consider using hosted WordPress. That’s what I do; I do not have time to go looking for database goodies and keep up with WP security issues at the same time. Anyway, sorry RB’s so late.


Chemical & Engineering News: EU releases database of toxic chemicals in products. “The new database contains information provided by about 6,000 companies, which are required to notify [European Chemicals Agency (ECHA)] if they market products that contain ‘substances of very high concern’ at concentrations of more than 0.1% by weight. Lead compounds, found in products such as batteries, automotive parts, and crystalware, are the most common substances in the database.”

Boing Boing: A web tool that converts PDF scientific papers into HTML. “The folks at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence just released an intriguing tool — ‘Paper to HTML’, which lets you upload a scientific paper and it turns it into an HTML web page. The goal, as they wrote in their email, is to improve accessibility: Screen-readers and accessibility tech usually finds it a lot easier to parse HTML than PDFs.” Ooo!


Business Insider: Facebook fires back at damning Wall Street Journal reports that accuse the company of being ‘riddled with flaws’. “Facebook fired back at the Wall Street Journal following the newspaper’s multi-part series that outlined employee concerns about a litany of issues at the social media giant, from the trafficking of humans through the site to turning a blind-eye to the mental health of teenagers.”

Ghacks: Firefox Experiment is testing Bing as the default search engine. “Mozilla is running an experiment on 1% of the Firefox desktop population currently, which sets the default search engine to Bing in the web browser. Firefox ships with different search engines by default, and one of these is set as the default search engine. The default search engine is used when users type into the browser’s address bar or use the search field on the browser’s new tab page.”


Gothamist: Lou Reed’s Archives To Become Major NYPL Exhibit With “Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars” . “After acquiring Lou Reed’s archives in 2017, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts opened them up in 2019 for fans and historians interested in sorting through a massive amount of his personal effects, recordings, and business papers. But starting next year, the NYPL will curate those materials into Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars, the first large-scale exhibition featuring ‘previously unseen and unheard work from Reed’s incredible archive.'”

Sarasota Tribune: Sarasota special-needs mom goes viral on TikTok, sparks positive gamer movement. “A Sarasota mother and a dog food factory worker from Pennsylvania have teamed up to create a safe haven for children with disabilities to play video games online. Fed up with her special-needs son being ignored, Linda Espada sparked the movement after a TikTok rant went viral.”


CNBC: The FCC is trying to stop robocalls, but the scammers won’t disappear. “For decades, robocall scammers have graced phones and voicemails across the nation. Between June 2020 and 2021 these scams affected more than 59 million people who lost a combined $29.8 billion, according to phone number identification app Trucaller. Some robocallers look to sell legal products like a car warranty or new roof through illegal means, while others will steal your social security number or credit card.”

CNET: Fake or for real? How to know if a text from your bank is legit. “In a world in which fraudsters are increasingly finding new ways to steal from our accounts, my guard’s instantly up when I receive a text from my bank. But hackers are becoming much savvier at their game. So much so, that I almost fell for a scam this month. Here’s what happened — and the (somewhat embarrassing) lessons I learned.”


University of Hawaii: $350K to research redescribing archives for social change, justice . “Library and Information Science (LIS) Program Assistant Professor Tonia Sutherland is the recipient of the Institute of Museum and Library Services’s Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian award. Sutherland will receive $357,536 over three years for her research proposal ‘Premised on Care: Redescription as Restorative Justice in American Archives.’ Sutherland will identify existing—and make recommendations for future—professional practices for culturally responsive decision-making about archival redescription.”

Cornell Chronicle: ‘Dislike’ button would improve Spotify’s recommendations. “Spotify’s whole business model relies on keeping you listening and being able to predict what songs you’ll want to hear next. But Cornell researchers recently asked the question: Why do they still not let you vote down a song? The research team recently developed a recommendation algorithm that shows just how much more effective Spotify would be if it could, in the style of platforms like Pandora, incorporate both likes and dislikes.” I wish they would let you block songs. Surely I’m not the only one who has bad memory songs they never want to hear again?

MIT Political Science: Data flow’s decisive role on the global stage. “In 2016, Meicen Sun came to a profound realization: ‘The control of digital information will lie at the heart of all the big questions and big contentions in politics.’ A graduate student in her final year specializing in international security and the political economy of technology, Sun vividly recalls the emergence of the internet ‘as a democratizing force, an opener, an equalizer,’ helping giving rise to the Arab Spring. But she was also profoundly struck when nations in the Middle East and elsewhere curbed internet access to throttle citizens’ efforts to speak and mobilize freely.”


Castanet: Spot the historical photos: Summerland historical photos decorate electrical boxes around town. “The Summerland Museum & Archives Society and the District of Summerland teamed up to decorate electrical boxes around town with photos from the Museum’s collection.” This is cool! Good afternoon, Internet…

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