Coronavirus Data, Online Censorship, Google, More: Sunday ResearchBuzz, July 30, 2023


University of California San Francisco: COVID Tracking Project Records and Resources Now Available. “The UCSF Library Archives and Special Collections is pleased to announce that the COVID Tracking Project (CTP) records are available for research. The CTP is a crowdsourced digital archive that was managed by a group of journalists at The Atlantic and approximately 500 volunteers. This committed group gathered, cataloged, and published state-level COVID-19 data over the first fifteen months of the pandemic.”


New York Times: Russia’s Online Censorship Has Soared 30-Fold During Ukraine War. “To compile its findings, Citizen Lab analyzed more than 300 court orders from the Russian government against Vkontakte, one of the country’s largest social media sites, demanding that it remove accounts, posts, videos and other content. Before the war, Russia’s government issued internet takedown orders to Vkontakte, known as VK, once every 50 days on average. After the conflict began, that number jumped to nearly once a day, according to Citizen Lab.”

Search Engine Journal: Google Officially Rolling Out New Search Settings Interface. “Ashwarya, Google Search Community Manager, posted that Google Search will soon roll out ‘a new experience to make access to key items easier on the Search Results Page on the web.’ In short, it is a new way to access Google Search Settings on desktop and mobile.”


NPR: ‘X’ logo installed atop Twitter building, spurring San Francisco to investigate. “The city of San Francisco has opened a complaint and launched an investigation into a giant ‘X’ sign that was installed Friday on top of the downtown building formerly known as Twitter headquarters as owner Elon Musk continues his rebrand of the social media platform. City officials say replacing letters or symbols on buildings, or erecting a sign on top of one, requires a permit for design and safety reasons.”

Deutsche Welle: Watchdog wants Russia out of UNESCO Heritage Committee. “It was time for humanity to take a stand against this barbarism, Stephan Dömpke, chairman of World Heritage Watch, told DW. Russia had forfeited any right to play a role in international bodies that advise or decide on the protection of cultural property, he said.”


The Record: Irish court ruling over Google ad practices could have global impact. “An Irish civil liberties group went to court late this week to accuse the Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC) — the national independent authority responsible for upholding data privacy rights across Europe — of failing to properly investigate Google’s online advertising system, which it says is responsible for the biggest data breach ever recorded. Because of the DPC’s position as an arbiter for data privacy practices across Europe, the court’s decision in the case, expected later this year, could potentially have a significant impact on online advertising practices worldwide.”

Radio Poland: EU sanctions Russian entities, individuals for propaganda in support of war on Ukraine . “The European Union has imposed sanctions on seven Russian individuals and five entities for disseminating propaganda in support of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, officials have said.”

9to5 Mac: App Store to require developers to describe why their apps use certain APIs. “The App Store review process is very strict to ensure that apps comply with Apple’s guidelines. And soon, this whole process will get even more strict. That’s because Apple recently announced that developers would be required to detail why their apps use certain APIs before submitting them to the App Store.”


Carnegie Mellon University: Researchers Discover New Vulnerability in Large Language Models. “Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Computer Science(opens in new window) (SCS), the CyLab Security and Privacy Institute(opens in new window), and the Center for AI Safety in San Francisco(opens in new window) have uncovered a new vulnerability, proposing a simple and effective attack method that causes aligned language models to generate objectionable behaviors at a high success rate.”

WIRED: The AI-Powered, Totally Autonomous Future of War Is Here. “Autonomous systems with the capacity to kill already exist around the globe. In any major conflict, even one well short of World War III, each side will soon face the temptation not only to arm these systems but, in some situations, to remove human oversight, freeing the machines to fight at machine speed. In this war of AI against AI, only humans will die. So it is reasonable to wonder: How do these machines, and the people who build them, think?”

University of Oxford: Researchers successfully train a machine learning model in outer space for the first time . “For the first time, researchers have trained a machine learning model in outer space, on board a satellite. This achievement could enable real-time monitoring and decision making for a range of applications, from disaster management to deforestation.”


Los Angeles Times: California’s free prison calls are repairing estranged relationships and aiding rehabilitation. “At a time when most consumers enjoy free or low-cost calling, prison phone calls at their peak in California cost more than $6 per 15 minutes via a private telecommunications provider. That allowed only hurried, superficial conversations between the siblings — with one eye always on the clock. This year California became the second state in the nation, and the largest to date, to mandate free calls in state prisons.” Good morning, Internet…

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