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The Media

Are We Seeing Propaganda About Russian Propaganda? (rollingstone.com) 131

MyFirstNameIsPaul was one of several readers who spotted this disturbing instance of fake news about fake news. An anonymous reader writes: Last week the Washington Post described "independent researchers" who'd identified "more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda" that they estimated were viewed more than 200 million times on Facebook. But the researchers insisted on remaining anonymous "to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers," and when criticized on Twitter, responded "Awww, wook at all the angwy Putinists, trying to change the subject -- they're so vewwy angwy!!"

The group "seems to have been in existence for just a few months," writes Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, calling the Post's article an "astonishingly lazy report". (Chris Hedges, who once worked on a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the New York Times, even found his site Truthdig on the group's dubious list of over 200 "sites that reliably echo Russian propaganda," along with other long-standing sites like Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.) "By overplaying the influence of Russia's disinformation campaign, the report also plays directly into the hands of the Russian propagandists that it hopes to combat," complains Adrian Chen, who in 2015 documented real Russian propaganda efforts which he traced to "a building in St. Petersburg where hundreds of young Russians worked to churn out propaganda."

The Post's article was picked up by other major news outlets (including USA Today), and included an ominous warning that "The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on 'fake news'."
The Media

Crowdsourced Volunteers Search For Solutions To Fake News (wired.co.uk) 270

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser is leading a group of online volunteers hunting for ways to respond to the spread of fake news. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: Inside a Google Doc, volunteers are gathering ideas and approaches to get a grip on the untruthful news stories. It is part analysis, part brainstorming, with those involved being encouraged to read widely around the topic before contributing. "This is a massive endeavour but well worth it," they say...

At present, the group is coming up with a list of potential solutions and approaches. Possible methods the group is looking at include: more human editors, fingerprinting viral stories then training algorithms on confirmed fakes, domain checking, the blockchain, a reliability algorithm, sentiment analysis, a Wikipedia for news sources, and more.

The article also suggests this effort may one day spawn fake news-fighting tech startups.
Education

Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash (vice.com) 137

Tuesday a Canadian journalist described his newest victory in his war on fake-science journals. An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote "the world's worst science research paper...a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble" -- then got it accepted by eight different journals. ("I copied and pasted one phrase from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology...and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars...") He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, "a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate."

But earlier this year, one such operation actually purchased two prominent Canadian medical journals, and one critic warns they're "on a buying spree, snatching up legitimate scholarly journals and publishers, incorporating them into its mega-fleet of bogus, exploitative, and low-quality publications.â So this summer, Spears explains to Vice, "I got this request to write for what looked like a fake journal -- of ethics. Something about that attracted me... one morning in late August when I woke up early I made extra coffee and banged out some drivel and sent it to them."

He's now publicizing the fact that this formerly-respectable journal is currently featuring his submission, which was "mostly plagiarized from Aristotle, with every fourth or fifth word changed so that anti-plagiarism software won't catch it. But the result is meaningless. Some sentences don't have verbs..."
The Media

False Porn-on-CNN Report Shows How Quickly Fake News Spreads (usatoday.com) 158

Slashdot reader xtsigs writes: "No, despite what you read, CNN did not run porn for 30 minutes Thursday, as was reported by Fox News, the New York Post, Variety and other news organizations, several of which later corrected their stories," reports USA Today. The story goes on to explain how the story started (a single tweet), how it was quickly picked up by media outlets (without verifying if CNN actually did, in truth, broadcast porn), how it was then retracted by some outlets (but not others).

Other outlets jumped on the story of the story while, as of early Saturday morning some sites are still running the original story claiming CNN did, in fact, broadcast 30 minutes of porn.

Social Networks

Snopes.com Editor on Fake News: Social Media Is Not the Problem (backchannel.com) 624

"Honestly, most of the fake news is incredibly easy to debunk because it's such obvious bullshit..." says Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of the fact-checking at Snopes.com. "It's not social media that's the problem. People are looking for somebody to pick on." mirandakatz shared this article from Backchannel: The problem, Binkowski believes, is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly -- therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer. The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly. "When you're on your fifth story of the day and there's no editor because the editor's been fired and there's no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don't have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up," she says.
I found this article confusing. Snopes seemed to be trying to steer the conversation back to erroneous stories from "legitimate publications," which erode the public trust in all mainstream outlets. (Which I guess then over time hypothetically makes people more susceptible to fake news stories on Facebook.) But her earlier remarks suggest it's not really credibility that's lacking there -- it's the absence of someone convenient to pick on. So what is the problem? Is it the news media's lack of credibility? Algorithms that disproportionately reward alarming stories? A human tendency to seek information that confirms our pre-existing biases? What do Slashdot readers think is causing what this article describes as "our epidemic of misinformation"?
The Media

Mark Zuckerberg Announces Facebook Will Fight Fake News -- Next To An Ad With Fake News (facebook.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes: "We take misinformation seriously," Facebook's CEO announced in a late-night status update Friday. "Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We've been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We've made significant progress, but there is more work to be done."

But you know what's funny? The ad to the right of Zuck's post is fake news. It has the headline "Hugh Hefner Says 'Goodbye' at 90" and a quote from his wife saying "I can't believe he is actually gone," even though Hugh Hefner isn't dead. And clicking through, it's just another lame ad for erectile dysfunction -- on a site that's been tricked up to look like Fox News.

I saw it too. (Here's my screenshot... And yes, it did link to an advertising site with a fake "Fox News" banner across the top.) Oh, the irony. "The CEO said that Facebook is working to develop stronger fake news detection, a warning system, easier reporting and technical ways to classify misinformation," reports CNN, adding "Zuckerberg did not say how quickly the measures would be in place." They also quote Zuckerberg as saying "Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not." But apparently it's pretty easy to get fake news onto Facebook. You just have to pay them.
The Media

Gawker Pays $750,000 To That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email (gizmodo.com) 121

Shiva Ayyadurai still claims he invented email -- rather than the late ARPANET pioneer Ray Tomlinson. Now Gizmodo reports that Ayyadurai "will receive a $750,000 settlement from Gawker Media, the bankrupt publisher that he sued for defamation earlier this year." As part of the settlement, Gawker Media has agreed to delete three stories from the archive of Gawker.com, including one about Ayyadurai. Univision, which purchased most of Gawker Media's assets [including Gizmodo] out of bankruptcy in September, deleted two Gizmodo posts concerning Ayyadurai -- over the objections of the editorial staff -- immediately after closing the transaction... The offending Gizmodo articles made the case that "a lot of people don't believe that Ayyadurai invented email," and that "networked communication actually predates [his] computer program by a few years." As Tomlinson told Gizmodo in one of the stories Ayyadurai succeeded in getting unpublished, the email formats that are so familiar today -- to:, from:, etc. -- were in use years before Ayyadurai "invented" them.
The third post was titled, "If Fran Drescher Read Gizmodo She Would Not Have Married This Fraud."
The Media

More NFL Players Attack Microsoft's $400M Surface Deal With The NFL (yahoo.com) 236

An anonymous reader writes; "These tablets always malfunction," complained one NFL offensive lineman in January, foreshadowing a growing backlash to Microsoft's $400 million deal with the NFL to use Surface tablets. Friday the coach of the San Francisco 49ers and their controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick both complained they've also experienced problems, with Kaepernick saying the screen freezes "every once in a while and they have to reboot it."

Friday Microsoft called their tablet "the center of the debate on the role of technology in the NFL," saying they deeply respect NFL teams "and the IT pro's who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help them succeed." It included quotes from NFL quarterbacks -- for example, "Every second counts and having Microsoft Surface technology on sidelines allows players and coaches to analyze what our opponents are trying to do in almost real time." But Yahoo Finance wrote that "The quotes read like they were written by the Microsoft public relations team," arguing that Microsoft's NFL deal "has been a disaster... The tablets failed to work during a crucial AFC Championship game last January -- again for the New England Patriots... sports media interpreted that the malfunction benefited the Broncos on the field, giving the team an unfair advantage -- the very last thing Microsoft's tablets, meant to aid coaches in their play calling, should be doing."

The NFL issued a statement calling Microsoft "an integral, strategic partner of the NFL," adding "Within our complex environment, many factors can affect the performance of a particular technology either related to or outside of our partner's solutions."
Sci-Fi

Why Is Science Fiction Snubbed By Literary Awards? (galacticbrain.com) 252

Slashdot reader bowman9991 quotes an essay from GalacticBrain: Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, critics using the worst examples of the genre as ammunition against it. Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: "Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space," mocked Margaret Atwood, one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid's Tale, is exactly that...

Considered by the literary establishment, and frequently by non-SF award-giving institutions, to be trashy, pulpish, commercially driven lightweight gutter fiction, it's no surprise that very few works of science fiction have won major literary awards... Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning (not "literary" awards obviously) Mars novels, [in 2009] hit out at the literary establishment, accusing the Man Booker judges of "ignorance" in neglecting science fiction, which he declared was "the best British literature of our time".

The article ends with a simple question. "Will science fiction authors ever escape the publication ghetto?"
Google

Unofficial Answers: Why Does YouTube Seem So Biased? (vortex.com) 178

Lauren Weinstein writes with some insight on an frustrating aspect of YouTube's video hosting service: "Why does Google's YouTube seem so biased against ordinary users who upload videos? I've unfairly had my videos blocked, received copyright strikes for my own materials, and even had my account suspended — and it's impossible to reach anyone at YouTube to complain!" No, YouTube isn't biased against you — not voluntarily, anyway. But it could definitely be argued that the copyright legal landscape — particularly in the mainstream entertainment industry — is indeed biased against the "little guys," and Google's YouTube must obey the laws as written. What's more, YouTube exists at the "bleeding edge" of the intersection of technology and law, where there's oh so much that goes bump in the night ...
The Almighty Buck

Infamous French Hacker Calls Internet a "Digital Shantytown" (medium.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: French hacker and security expert Anthony Zboralski calls social media networks a "digital shantytown" in his most recent blogpost. While fellow members of hacker collective w00w00 have formed successful billion dollar startups, he claims that the rewards for creating content and use are unfair and suggests a better solution would be like the successful creation of land title for slum dwellerspartial ownership for users on social media.
United Kingdom

UK Gov't Launches Anti-Adblocking Initiative, Compares It To Piracy (thestack.com) 317

An anonymous reader writes: UK culture secretary John Whittingdale has announced that the British government will set up a 'round-table' between online publishers and adblocking companies to discuss the 'problem' of adblocking. He described the practice of charging companies to be whitelisted as a 'modern day protection racket', and said: "Quite simply – if people don't pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist And that's as true for the latest piece of journalism as it is for the new album from Muse." The issue has largely been left to the market to self-regulate until now, although Germany's courts ruled adblocking legal in 2015.
Books

Scribd To Change Its 'Unlimited' E-book Subscription Plan To Semi-Unlimited 55

Robotech_Master writes: Subscription service Scribd has announced that it will change its unlimited e-book and audiobook-reading plan to a hybrid limited/unlimited model starting next month. It will offer a rotating selection of thousands of titles for unlimited reading, plus up to 3 books and 1 audiobook per month from the entire Scribd catalog. The particularly interesting thing to come out of this is that only 3% of Scribd's subscribers actually read more than 3 books per month--so the effect for the other 97% will actually be to give them access to a wider selection of titles.
Piracy

Sci-Hub, a Site With Open and Pirated Scientific Papers 146

lpress writes: Sci-Hub is a Russian site that seeks to remove barriers to science by providing access to pirated copies of scientific papers. It was established in 2011 by Russian neuroscientist Alexandra Elbakyan, who could not afford papers she needed for her research and it now claims to have links to 48 million pirated and open papers. I tried it out and found some papers and not others, but it provides an alternative for researchers who cannot afford access to paid journals. After visiting this site, one cannot help thinking of the case of Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide as a result of prosecution for his attempt to free scientific literature.
Advertising

Why Stack Overflow Doesn't Care About Ad Blockers 287

Press2ToContinue writes: Forging a bold step in the right direction, Stack Overflow announced today that they don't care if you use an ad blocker when you visit their site. "The truth is: we don't care if our users use ad blockers on Stack Overflow. More accurately: we hope that they won't, but we understand that some people just don't like ads. Our belief is that if someone doesn't like them, and they won't click on them, any impressions served to them will only annoy them-- plus, serving ads to people who won't click on them harms campaign performance. ... Publishers can't win by forcing ads — especially low-quality ads — in people's faces. Think scantily-clad women selling flight deals, weight-loss supplement promos or wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube-men promoting car dealerships." It's possible that this declaration by SO might help to clarify to advertisers that it is the overabundance of low quality ads that practically force the public to seek out ad blockers. But seriously, what is the likelihood of that?
Advertising

Wired To Block Ad-Blocking Users, Offer Subscription (wired.com) 675

AmiMoJo writes: In a blog post Wired has announced that it will begin to block users who block ads on its site: "On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it's important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going," wrote the editors. The post goes on to offer two options for users blocking ads: whitelist wired.com or subscribe for $1/week.
Businesses

Price Dispute Means 800k Customers Lose TV Channels In Sweden (telecompaper.com) 164

Z00L00K writes: Due to a conflict between the cable operators and the channel providers, 800,000 to 900,000 customers will lose some of the most-viewed TV channels in Sweden, among them Eurosport, Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. Additional customers in Norway will also lose channels. This is caused by a considerable hike in price for the channels from the provider Discovery Networks. However the amount of money involved is still kept secret for negotiation and business reasons. "Telenor Broadcast arm Canal Digital said Discovery Networks has told it that it will withdraw its channels from Canal Digital Sweden and sister company Bredbandsbolaget from 01 February. This follows Discovery's attempts to raise prices and pay for a number of channels that viewers had not chosen. This will affect their approximately 800,000 customers while a new contract is negotiated. Telenor Sweden customers will not able to watch Kanal 5 or the other Discovery channels until a deal is reached." Considering that Sweden has a population of almost 10 million the impact is noticeable.
Social Networks

Why Does Twitter Refuse To Shut Down Donald Trump? (vortex.com) 832

Lauren Weinstein writes: The conclusion appears inescapable. Twitter apparently has voluntarily chosen to 'look the other way' while Donald Trump spews forth a trolling stream of hate and other abuses that would cause any average Twitter user to be terminated in a heartbeat. There's always room to argue the proprietary or desirability of any given social media content terms of service — or the policy precepts through which they are applied. It is also utterly clear that if such rules are not applied to everyone with the same vigor, particularly when there's an appearance of profiting by making exceptions for particular individuals, the moral authority on which those rules are presumably based is decimated, pointless, and becomes a mere fiction. Would you rather Twitter shut down no account ever, apply a sort of white-listing policy, or something in the middle?
Wikipedia

Arnnon Geshuri, Newest Wikimedia Trustee, Forced To Resign 104

New submitter Mdann52 writes: Following an earlier vote of no confidence, it was announced that the recent appointee, Arnnon Geshuri, had stepped down from the board. This was following community criticism into his background. Says the announcement: The Board Governance Committee is working to improve and update our selection processes before we fill the vacancy left by Arnnonâ(TM)s departure. We are sorry for the distress and confusion this has caused to some in our community, and also to Arnnon.
Businesses

Slashdot and SourceForge Sold, Now Under New Management (bizx.info) 1310

kodiaktau writes with a link to today's announcement that DHI Group, Inc. (which you might know better as Dice, the company that bought Slashdot and sister site SourceForge in 2012) today announced that it completed the sale of its Slashdot and SourceForge businesses (together referred to as 'Slashdot Media') to BIZX, LLC in a transaction that closed on January 27, 2016. Financial terms were not disclosed. DHI first announced its plan to sell Slashdot Media in July 2015 as part of its strategy to focus on its core brands, as Slashdot Media no longer fits within the Company's core strategic initiatives. KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc. served as the Company's exclusive financial advisor for the transaction. (FOSS Force has a short article with some more info BIZX and the sale.)

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