Internet Archive

Facebook has identified ongoing political influence campaign

Facebook announced on Tuesday that it has identified a coordinated political influence campaign, with dozens of inauthentic accounts and pages that are believed to be engaging in political activity around divisive social issues ahead of November's midterm elections.

In a series of briefings on Capitol Hill this week and a public post on Tuesday, the company told lawmakers that it had detected and removed 32 pages and accounts connected to the influence campaign on Facebook and Instagram as part of its investigations into election interference. It publicly said it had been unable to tie the accounts to Russia, whose Internet Research Agency was at the center of an indictment earlier this year for interfering in the 2016 election, but company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved, according to two officials briefed on the matter.

Facebook said that the accounts - eight Facebook pages, 17 Facebook profiles, and seven Instagram accounts - were created between March 2017 and May 2018 and first discovered two weeks ago. Those numbers may sound small, but their influence is spreading: More than 290,000 accounts followed at least one of the suspect pages, the company said.

The reach of Facebook combined with the declining US education system and dreadful media landscape makes it quite easy to influence people. It's very worrying.

What OpenStreetMap can be

Over the past two years, the biggest buzz among the geo chatterati has been Justin O'Beirne's meticulously argued (albeit bizarrely formatted) feature-by-feature comparisons of Google and Apple Maps: their design choices, their data, their production processes.

What fascinates me is how the comparison is implicitly phrased. Apple Maps is fighting on Google Maps' turf, and Justin O'Beirne never questions that. He asks "How far ahead of Apple Maps is Google Maps?". It implies the same direction of travel. They’re going the same place, but Google is getting there quicker.

Meanwhile, OpenStreetMap goes its own way.

I've never actively used OpenStreetMap, but I feel like I should give it a far shot at some point. Are there people in the OSNews audience who use it? What are your experiences?

The 5G standard is finally finished

It's been a long time coming, but there's finally a finished 5G standard. Earlier this week, the 3GPP - the international group that governs cellular standards - officially signed off on the standalone 5G New Radio (NR) spec. It's another major step toward next-generation cellular networks finally becoming a reality.

Now, if you've been paying attention to the cellular industry, this may sound familiar and for good reason: the 3GPP also announced a finished 5G standard in December 2017. The difference is that the December specification was for the non-standalone version of 5G NR, which would still be built on top of existing legacy LTE networks. The agreed-upon specification from this week is the standalone version of 5G, which allows for new deployments of 5G in places that didn’t necessarily have that existing infrastructure.

Looking for life on a flat earth

For days now, I've been pondering whether or not to post a link to this story, but after a talk with my closest friends about how much we despise anti-vaxxers - they just had their first baby - I feel like the story in question highlights a very uncomfortable truth we have to face.

If we can agree on anything anymore, it's that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it's disagreeable, in which case it's fake. Recently, Lesley Stahl, of "60 Minutes", revealed that, in an interview after the 2016 election, Donald Trump told her that the reason he maligns the press is "to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you". Or, as George Costanza put it, coming from the opposite direction, "It's not a lie if you believe it".

This is an article by Alan Burdick, who decided to investigate the "flat earth movement" by going to a flat earth conference and speaking with the attendees and speakers. It's a revealing piece that makes it clear flat earth crackpots are deeply intertwined with virtually every other crazy conspiracy theory, with the "flat earth theory" serving as an umbrella to all other conspiracy theories. Add in large doses of antisemitism, creationism, and Christian extremism, and you've got the general feel of the flat earth movement.

The uncomfortable truth we have to face is not that the earth is flat - don't worry - but that insanity like this used to remain confined, isolated, and harmless. Thanks to the internet, however, this insanity is free to spread and infect others, causing real harm to real people. Whether it's believing that the government is spreading dangerous chemicals through the air in form of "chem trails" or abusing, harming, and even murdering your and other people's children by not vaccinating them - it's the internet that allows this dangerous insanity to spread and cause real harm.

The internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, but it's also having dark, unsettling effects on our society that we need to address. I don't have any solutions, but we better start doing a better job of arming ourselves against the constant barrage of attacks on science, or we risk our society descending into chaos.

The US net neutrality repeal is official.

It’s official. The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, which had required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content, took effect on Monday.

The rules, enacted by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2015, prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites.

Great news. This will enable honest, trustworthy, transparant, and customer-focused companies like Comcast to take control of the internet. This can only mean good things for American consumers, and will ensure that they remain free of the confusing and heavy burden of ISP choice. In turn, the "market" will remain carved up by at best two large monopolies, which is clearly the best type of market in the universe.

Facebook gave device makers deep access to user data

As Facebook sought to become the world's dominant social media service, it struck agreements allowing phone and other device makers access to vast amounts of its users' personal information.

Facebook has reached data-sharing partnerships with at least 60 device makers - including Apple, Amazon, BlackBerry, Microsoft and Samsung - over the last decade, starting before Facebook apps were widely available on smartphones, company officials said. The deals allowed Facebook to expand its reach and let device makers offer customers popular features of the social network, such as messaging, "like" buttons and address books.

Well, that's one way for companies like Apple and Microsoft to claim to care about privacy, while at the same time still getting access to vast amounts of personal data.

Eudora source code released

Computer History Museum (CHM), the world's leading institution exploring the history of computing and its impact on the human experience, today announced the public release and long-term preservation of the Eudora source code, one of the early successful email clients, as part of its Center for Software History’s Historical Source Code. The release comes after a five-year negotiation with Qualcomm.

The source code for both the Mac and Windows versions are released, and there's a post on Medium with more details about this latest work by the Computer History Museum.

I've never used Eudora in any serious manner, so I don't have the kind of connection with it that some others have. Still, I am always happy when 'dead' software's source code is released as open source, so that it effectively never dies.

Twitter to intentionally cripple third-party clients

Twitter has long had a strange disdain for third-party Twitter apps, but it's allowed many of them to pass under the radar for the last several years. That's starting to change this summer, when Twitter will revoke a key piece of access that developers currently have to the service, replacing it with a new access system that limits what they can do. The changes aren't going to make third-party Twitter clients useless, but they are going to make the apps somewhat worse.

The changes, which go into effect August 16th, do two main things: first, they prevent new tweets from streaming into an app in real time; and second, they prevent and delay some push notifications. Neither of these are going to break Twitter apps completely, but they could be very annoying depending on how and where you use it.

As good a moment as any to stop using Twitter altogether. Twitter is actively making Twitter worse for those that use Twitter the most and since the longest time, which seems like a terrible business decision. They want us to use their crappy non-chronological, advertisement-ridden first party clients, which in my case simply isn't going to happen. I use Twitter for fun, and these needless changes suck that fun out of it.

Meanwhile, the Nazis are still on Twitter. Just so you know where the company's priorities lie.

GDPR will pop the adtech bubble

"Sunrise day" for the GDPR is 25 May. That's when the EU can start smacking fines on violators.

Simply put, your site or service is a violator if it extracts or processes personal data without personal permission. Real permission, that is. You know, where you specifically say "Hell yeah, I wanna be tracked everywhere."

Of course what I just said greatly simplifies what the GDPR actually utters, in bureaucratic legalese. The GDPR is also full of loopholes only snakes can thread; but the spirit of the law is clear, and the snakes will be easy to shame, even if they don't get fined. (And legitimate interest - an actual loophole in the GDPR, may prove hard to claim.)

Toward the aftermath, the main question is What will be left of advertising - and what it supports - after the adtech bubble pops?

I'm skeptical of the GDPR actually changing anything, but who knows.

Twitter asks all users to change their passwords after bug

When you set a password for your Twitter account, we use technology that masks it so no one at the company can see it. We recently identified a bug that stored passwords unmasked in an internal log. We have fixed the bug, and our investigation shows no indication of breach or misuse by anyone.

Out of an abundance of caution, we ask that you consider changing your password on all services where you've used this password. You can change your Twitter password anytime by going to the password settings page.

I like how the story is titled "Keeping your account secure".

WhatsApp founder plans to leave after clashes with Facebook

The billionaire chief executive of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is planning to leave the company after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service’s strategy and Facebook's attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption, according to people familiar with internal discussions.

As the most popular messaging application in the world, WhatsApp is one of the largest treasure troves of user data not yet exploited for targeted advertising thanks to its end-to-end encryption. Facebook must be itching to start injecting ads into WhatsApp and to scan messages for optimal targeting.

Facebook turned its two-factor security ‘feature’ into spam

Facebook is bleeding users, with external researchers estimating that the social network lost 2.8 million US users under 25 last year. Those losses have prompted Facebook to get more aggressive in its efforts to win users back - and the company has started using security prompts to encourage users to log into their accounts.

Sometimes, Facebook will send emails to users warning them that they're having problems logging into their accounts, Bloomberg reported last month. "Just click the button below and we'll log you in. If you weren't trying to log in, let us know," the emails reportedly read. Other times, Facebook will ask for a user's phone number to set up two-factor authentication - then spam the number with notification texts.

Raise your hand if you're surprised Facebook would do this.

How WeChat came to rule China

China's most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it's an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor users. Now, WeChat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate WeChat with China's electronic ID system.

WeChat is a remarkably clever move by the Chinese government. Everybody over there is already using it, and by basically co-opting it, they get a free statewide monitoring and control platform. Ban a few western alternatives here and there, and you're done. Western nations are toying with similar ideas - see e.g. Germany's new laws - and it doesn't take a genius to see the dangers here. While you may 'trust' your current government to not abuse such wide-ranging laws and technical capabilities, you might not be so eager with the next one. If Americans can vote for a Trump, Europeans can, too.

DuckDuckGo moves beyond search to also protect you while browsing

Today we're taking a major step to simplify online privacy with the launch of fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app, now with built-in tracker network blocking, smarter encryption, and, of course, private search - all designed to operate seamlessly together while you search and browse the web. Our updated app and extension are now available across all major platforms - Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS, and Android - so that you can easily get all the privacy essentials you need on any device with just one download.

Seems like a natural extension of what DuckDuckGo is already known for. Nice work.

Facebook can now find your face, even when it’s not tagged

Facebook just loosened the leash a little on its facial-recognition algorithms. Starting Tuesday, any time someone uploads a photo that includes what Facebook thinks is your face, you’ll be notified even if you weren't tagged.

The new feature rolled out to most of Facebook's more than 2 billion global users this morning. It applies only to newly posted photos, and only those with privacy settings that make an image visible to you. Facebook users in Canada and the European Union are excluded. The social network doesn't use facial-recognition technology in those regions, due to wariness from privacy regulators.

Just a heads up.

AIM will be discontinued on December 15, 2017

As of December 15, 2017, AOL Instant Messenger products and services will be shut down and will no longer work.If you are an AOL member, AOL products and services​ ​like AO​​L Mail, AOL Desktop Gold an​d Member​ Subscriptions will not be affected.​

Many Americans have memories of AOL Instant Messenger I'm sure - probably memories of talking to your crush late at night, or planning evenings out drinking with friends. Here in The Netherlands we used MSN Messenger - I have those same memories, just from a different client. AOL, ICQ and MSN have long been replaced by WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage, but I'm sure teens of today still use them for the same thing.

FCC releases final proposal to end net neutrality

The FCC has released the final draft of its proposal to destroy net neutrality. The order removes nearly every net neutrality rule on the books - internet providers will be free to experiment with fast and slow lanes, prioritize their own traffic, and block apps and services. There's really only one rule left here: that ISPs have to publicly disclose when they're doing these things.

The US already has absolutely terrible internet compared to most developed nations, and this will only make it worse. What an absolutely and utterly bad proposal - clearly the result of deep-rooted corruption and bribery among US carriers and the US government.