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The Media

Journalist Cleared of Riot Charges in South Dakota ( 72

Her video went viral, viewed more than 14 million times, and triggering concerns online when she was threatened with prison. But a North Dakota judge "refused to authorize riot charges against award-winning journalist Amy Goodman for her reporting on an attack against Native American-led anti-pipeline protesters." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes NBC News: Goodman described the victory as a "great vindication of the First Amendment," although McLean County State's Attorney Ladd Erickson told The New York Times that additional charges were possible. "I believe they want to keep the investigation open and see if there is any evidence in the unedited and unpublished videos that we could better detail in an affidavit for the judge," Erickson told the newspaper.
The native Americans "were attempting to block the destruction of sacred sites, including ancestral burial grounds," according to a new article co-authored by Goodman about her experiences, which argues that "Attempts to criminalize nonviolent land and water defenders, humiliate them and arrest journalists should not pave the way for this pipeline."

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban On Personally Identifiable Web Tracking ( 151

Fudge Factor 3000 writes: Google has quietly changed its privacy policy to allow it to associate web tracking, which is supposed to remain anonymous, with personally identifiable user data. This completely reneges its promise to keep a wall between ad tracking and personally identifiable user data, further eroding one's anonymity on the internet. Google's priorities are clear. All they care about is monetizing user information to rake in the big dollars from ad revenue. Think twice before you purchase the premium priced Google Pixel. Google is getting added value from you as its product without giving you part of the revenue it is generating through tracking through lower prices. The crossed-out section in its privacy policy, which discusses the separation of information as mentioned above, has been followed with this statement: "Depending on your account settings, your activity on other sites and apps may be associated with your personal information in order to improve Google's services and the ads delivered by Google." ProPublica reports: "The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer. The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on your name and other information Google knows about you. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct. The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry's longstanding contention that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of web tracking data with people's real names. But until this summer, Google held the line." You can choose to opt in or out of the personalized ads here.

Facebook Employees Tried To Remove Trump Posts As Hate Speech ( 223

An anonymous reader quotes a report from USA Today: Facebook employees pushed to remove some of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's Facebook posts -- such as one proposing the ban of Muslims from entering the U.S. -- from the service as hate speech that violated the giant social network's policies, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The decision not to remove the Trump posts was made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the newspaper reported. Employees complained that Facebook was changing the rules for Trump and some who review content on Facebook threatened to quit. "When we review reports of content that may violate our policies, we take context into consideration. That context can include the value of political discourse," Facebook said in an emailed statement. "Many people are voicing opinions about this particular content and it has become an important part of the conversation around who the next U.S. president will be. For those reasons, we are carefully reviewing each report and surrounding context relating to this content on a case by case basis." Senior members of Facebook's policy team posted more details on its policy on Friday: "In the weeks ahead, we're going to begin allowing more items that people find newsworthy, significant, or important to the public interest -- even if they might otherwise violate our standards."

43 Million Weebly and 22 Million Foursquare Accounts Stolen ( 15

LeakedSource is reporting that the web design platform Weebly was hacked in February, affecting more than 43 million accounts. They have also reported a smaller hack involving 22.5 million Foursquare accounts, which were compromised in December 2013. TechCrunch: "We do not believe that any customer website has been improperly accessed," Weebly said in the notice to users. The company also said that it does not store credit card information, making fraudulent charges unlikely. LeakedSource said it received the Weebly database from an anonymous source and notified Weebly of the breach. In addition to the customer notification emails, LeakedSource claims that password resets are being issued -- but, if you're a Weebly user and you don't receive a password reset, you probably want to change your password anyway. Meanwhile, LeakedSource also identified data from Foursquare, claiming that 22.5 million accounts were compromised in December 2013. The social media company disputes the findings, claiming that email addresses were simply cross-referenced with publicly available data from Foursquare. The data includes emails, usernames and Facebook and Twitter IDs, which could have been scraped from Foursquare's API or search.
Social Networks

Steve Ballmer Says Microsoft Tried To Buy Facebook For $24 Billion ( 66

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told CNBC on Friday that his company tried to buy Facebook when it was "itsy-bitsy" for $24 billion. BusinessInsider adds: Facebook fielded a lot of offers in its early days. When CNBC on Friday asked Ballmer how much Microsoft offered back then, he said, "Oh I think $24 billion when the company was itsy-bitsy and he said no. And I respect that." Zuckerberg clearly made the right choice. He currently has a net worth of $57 billion and Facebook's market cap is $374 billion.

Facebook Bans Animated Breast Cancer Awareness Video Showing Circle-Shaped Breasts ( 98

Last month, Facebook deleted a historic Vietnam war photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, claiming it violated Facebook's restrictions on nudity. Now it appears that the company has removed a video on breast cancer awareness posted in Sweden after deeming the images offensive, the Swedish Cancer Society said on Thursday. The Guardian reports: The video, displaying animated figures of women with circle-shaped breasts, was aimed at explaining to women how to check for suspicious lumps. Sweden's Cancerfonden said it had tried in vain to contact Facebook, and had decided to appeal against the decision to remove the video. "We find it incomprehensible and strange how one can perceive medical information as offensive," Cancerfoden communications director Lena Biornstad told Agence France-Presse. "This is information that saves lives, which is important for us," she said. "This prevents us from doing so." The Guardian went on to report in a separate article that the the Swedish Cancer Society decided to make the round breasts square to evade Facebook's censorship of female anatomy. The group issued an open letter to Facebook featuring the pair of pair of breasts constructed of pink squares as opposed to pink circles. Facebook did apologize for banning the video, saying in a statement to the Guardian: "We're very sorry, our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads. This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ads."

Mark Zuckerberg Defends Peter Thiel's Trump Ties In Internal Memo ( 548

Soon after it was announced that Project Include, a community for building meaningful, enduring diversity and inclusion into tech companies, would no longer work with Y Combinator startups, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended Thiel's status as a Facebook board member in a message to employees. "We can't create a culture that says it cares about diversity and then excludes almost half the country because they back a political candidate," Zuckerberg wrote. "There are many reasons a person might support Trump that do not involve racism, sexism, xenophobia, or accepting sexual assault." The Verge reports: A screenshot of the memo was posted to Hacker News yesterday, and it later surfaced on Boing Boing. A Facebook spokesman confirmed the authenticity of the five-paragraph memo to The Verge. It appears to have been posted on Facebook for Work, the enterprise version of Facebook that the company recently made available to other companies. Thiel's endorsement of Trump has put those CEOs in a difficult position. On one hand he is a close adviser; on the other, his support for an erratic, racist demagogue has outraged many of their employees and partners. Like Y Combinator's Sam Altman before him, Zuckerberg defended the company's ties to Thiel by saying that the company has a moral obligation to consider a variety of viewpoints, no matter how abhorrent. "We care deeply about diversity," Zuckerberg wrote. "That's easy to do when it means standing up for ideas you agree with. It's a lot harder when it means standing up for the rights of people with different viewpoints to say what they care about. That's even more important." Of course, as the designer Jason Putorti wrote on Medium this week, Thiel already has an outsized capacity to stand up for ideas he agrees with: he spent $1.25 million to promote them. Zuckerberg's memo reads as if he is defending Thiel's right to post on Facebook. In fact, the question is whether someone who promotes opposition to gender and racial equality should be allowed to serve as a steward for a company whose stated mission is to connect the world.

'Cultlike' Devotion: Apple Once Refused To Join Open Compute Project, So Their Entire Networking Team Quit ( 234

mattydread23 writes: Great story about the Open Compute Project from Business Insider's Julie Bort here, including this fun tidbit: "'OCP has a cultlike following,' one person with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider. 'The whole industry, internet companies, vendors, and enterprises are monitoring OCP.' OCP aims to do for computer hardware what the Linux operating system did for software: make it 'open source' so anyone can take the designs for free and modify them, with contract manufacturers standing by to build them. In its six years, OCP has grown into a global entity, with board members from Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Intel, and Microsoft. In fact, there's a well-known story among OCP insiders that demonstrates this cultlike phenom. It involves Apple's networking team. This team was responsible for building a network at Apple that was so reliable, it never goes down. Not rarely -- never. Building a 100% reliable network to meet Apple's exacting standards was no easy task. So, instead of going it alone under Apple's secrecy, the Apple networking team wanted to participate in the revolution, contributing and receiving help. But when the Apple team asked to join OCP, Apple said 'no.' 'The whole team quit the same week,' this person told us."

CIA-Backed Surveillance Tool 'Geofeedia' Was Marketed To Public Schools ( 41

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Dot: An online surveillance tool that enabled hundreds of U.S. law enforcement agencies to track and collect information on social media users was also marketed for use in American public schools, the Daily Dot has learned. Geofeedia sold surveillance software typically bought by police to a high school in a northern Chicago suburb, less than 50 miles from where the company was founded in 2011. An Illinois school official confirmed the purchase of the software by phone on Monday. In the fall of 2014, the Lincolnshire-Prairie School District paid Geofeedia $10,000 to monitor the social media posts of children at Adlai E. Stevenson High School. "We did have for one year a contract with Geofeedia," said Jim Conrey, a spokesperson for Lincolnshire-Prairie School District. "We were mostly interested in the possibility of trying to prevent any kind of harm, either that students would do to themselves or to other students." Conrey said the district simply wanted to keep its students safe. "It was really just about student safety; if we could try to head off any potential dangerous situations, we thought it might be worth it," he said. Ultimately, the school found little use for the platform, which was operated by police liaison stationed on school grounds, and chose not to renew its subscription after the first year, citing cost and a lack of actionable information. "A lot of kids that were posting stuff that we most wanted, they weren't doing the geo-tagging or making it public," Conrey said. "We weren't really seeing a lot there." The school's experience, added Conrey, was that more often than not students would approach school administrators with sensitive issues, as opposed to the school unearthing problems affecting students using Geofeedia. "Quite frankly, we found that it wasn't worth the money," Conrey said.

Ethiopia's State of Emergency Makes Posting To Facebook a Crime ( 38

Due to anti-government protests occurring in the country, Ethiopia has declared a state of emergency that, among other things, makes it a crime to post updates on Facebook about the current status of the country. "The military command will take action on those watching and posting on these social media outlets," Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia's minister of defense, said on state television. Those who violate the terms of the state of emergency may be subject to prison for up to five years. Quartz reports: Ethiopia's largest ethnic groups, the Oromo and the Amhara, are protesting what they see as the marginalization of their rights and freedoms by the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), dominated by the Tigray minority. After a week of intensified protests that left businesses and government property destroyed, prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn declared a state of emergency on Oct 9 for the next six months. Under the state of emergency, all expressions or communication that could incite violence have been banned, including the now famous protest gesture of raised hands, crossed at the wrist. Authorities can search and detain citizens without prior approval. Discussing issues with foreigners that could incite violence or communicating with groups deemed terrorists is also illegal.

Tomorrow's Wars Will Be Livestreamed ( 75

Something unique and (in some way) unprecedented happened earlier today. The start of the invasion of Mosul, a city held by ISIS in Iraq, was live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, and thousands of people around the world watched it. There were several streams that got popular, but one shared by Kurdish outlet Rudaw was getting the most traction -- it was re-posted by major outlets like the Washington Post and Channel 4 in the United Kingdom. Motherboard adds: While some viewers commented on the merits of the offensive, for others, the livestream itself was the most startling thing. As angry cartoon faces and "Wow!" emoticons floated over top of live images of war, viewers noted that it all seemed like a bit too much like a sci-fi fever dream about a war-obsessed culture. For most English-language viewers watching these streams, there was no explanation, no given context, no subtitles or translation -- merely images of a mostly-barren foreign landscape peppered with men and trucks, idling and standing around, sparsely punctuated by violence. But in 2016, decades after Lessons of Darkness was completed and on social media instead of in a darkened arthouse theatre, the void spits out something other than deep, metaphysical understanding about human nature. Instead, in the comments, people ask for money. They talk about porn. They quote Green Day lyrics. They call people "cucks." To be fair, however, not everyone reacted this way. But a lot of people did. "There's journalistic value in the livestream,"

Journalists Face Jail Time After Reporting on North Dakota Pipeline Protest ( 357

Investigative reporter and co-founder of Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman, is now facing riot charges in the state of North Dakota after her report on a Native American-led pipeline protest there went viral on Facebook. From a TechCrunch report:Democracy Now! issued a statement about the new charges against Goodman late Saturday. Goodman's story, posted to Facebook on September 4th, has been viewed more than 14 million times on the social media platform, Democracy Now! said, and was picked up by mainstream media outlets and networks including CBS, NBC, NPR, CNN, MSNBC and The Huffington Post. Additionally, documentary filmmaker Deia Schlosberg, is facing felony and conspiracy charges that could carry a 45-year sentence for filming at the protest, IndieWire reports.

No One Wants To Buy Twitter ( 313

At one point, it seemed that many were interested in purchasing the micro-blogging social platform (which now calls itself a news service) Twitter, but its fate is quickly drying up. Salesforce (which couldn't buy LinkedIn) showed the most interest in Twitter, but this week its CEO Marc Benioff said his company has "walked away" from making a bid to buy it. The Verge sums up the situation: If you're keeping track, that's now... pretty much everyone who's said they're not interested in buying Twitter. Neither Google nor Disney plan to bid on Twitter, despite reports saying both were interested. Recode says that Apple is likely also out of the picture. And Verizon immediately dismissed speculation that it was considering a bid. Facebook is also said to be uninterested, according to CNBC. And while Microsoft's name has been tossed around, no one seems to think the acquisition would make any sense for an increasingly enterprise-focused company.The situation is so bad that as soon as the news of Salesforce withdrawing its name from the bidding race broke, its stock quickly went up by 6 percent, while Twitter's stock registered a 6 percent drop.

The White House Open Sources President Obama's Facebook Messenger Bot To 'Bring the Gov't To You' ( 37

The White House has open sourced the code for President Obama's Facebook Messenger bot in a hope that this will help other governments and developers build similar services. These services will ideally foster similar connections with their citizens with significantly less upfront investment. From the official post: It's also an important part of furthering our mission to "meet the public where they are." Millions of people contact their friends and family using Facebook Messenger. Why shouldn't they be able to contact the White House, too? And President Obama really reads these messages. Since 2009, he's made it part of his daily routine to read 10 letters sent to him by citizens -- something he refers to as the best part of his day. [...] To be specific, we are open-sourcing a Drupal module, complete with easy steps and boiler plate code. This will enable Drupal 8 developers to quickly launch a Facebook Messenger bot. We also left a few lines in the repository describing our hopes for the future of the code and encouraging members of the developer community to get involved.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Co-Founder Announces Benefit Concert to Pay His Medical Bills ( 195

An anoymous Slashdot reader reports: "I was dead for about 8 mins. on Wed. eve," EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow posted last year on Facebook. "total cardiac arrest...sad to report, no Ascending Light." The cyber-rights activist told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had gone "down the tunnel of eternity and it turned out to be a cheap carnival ride." He paused for a moment. "Probably not cheap, though."

Yesterday Barlow posted a Twitter update announcing a big benefit concert in Mill Valley, California to help pay his mounting medical bills on Monday, October 24th. Performers will include Bob Weir (also of The Grateful Dead), Jerry Harrison (of The Talking Heads), Lukas Nelson, Members of The String Cheese Incident, Sean Lennon and Les Claypool, plus 85-year-old folk singer Ramblin' Jack Elliott, as well as "special guests."

Barlow's family describes the last 18 months as a "medical incarceration" with "a dizzying array of medical events and complications" that has depleted his savings and insurance benefits. They've also set up a site for donations from "his fellow innovators, artists, cowboys, and partners-in-crime, to help us provide the quality of care necessary for Barlow's recovery."

Android Trojan Asks Victims To Submit a Selfie Holding Their ID Card ( 25

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Softpedia: Untrained and gullible Android users are now the target of an Android banking trojan that asks them to send a selfie holding their ID card. The trojan, considered the most sophisticated Android trojan known today, is named Acecard, and this most recent version has been detected only in Hong Kong and Singapore for now. The purpose of requiring a selfie of the victim holding his/her ID card is for the crook to prove himself when making fraudulent bank transactions, calling tech support posing as the victim, or for taking over social media accounts for Facebook or Twitter, which often require ID scans in the case of account takeover disputes. The report adds: "A previous version of the Acecard trojan hid inside a Black Jack game delivered via the official Google Play Store. In the most recent version of this threat, security experts from McAfee have found a new version of the Acecard trojan hidden inside all sorts of apps that pose as Adobe Flash Player, pornographic apps, or video codecs. All of these apps are distributed outside of the Play Store and constantly pester users with permission requirement screens until they get what they want, which is administrator rights. Once this step is achieved, the trojan lays in hiding until the user opens a specific app. McAfee experts found that when the user opens the Google Play app, the trojan springs a new social engineering trap."

Facebook Now Lets You Use Google Cast or AirPlay To Stream Video On Your TV ( 31

Facebook has made it a high priority over the years to improve its video platform so that it can better compete with the monolithic video service that is YouTube. Today, the company has added another feature, one that allows users to stream Facebook video content to the Apple TV via AirPlay and to various Google Cast-enabled devices. Digital Trends reports: The feature is available on the Facebook iOS app and, according to Facebook, it will be available on Android soon. The best thing about it, however, is how easy it is to use. Simply find a video you want to watch, then tap the TV button and select which device the app should stream to. Another highlight of the feature is that it is truly built for Facebook -- that is to say, when you are watching a video on the big screen, your phone is not on lockdown until the video is over. Instead, you can keep scrolling through the News Feed, treating your TV as more of a second screen than simply a mirror of your phone.

Beijing Said Facebook and Google Are Welcome Back To China as Long as They 'Respect China's Laws' ( 77

Will Facebook and Google come back to China? The Chinese government says they can, as long as they "respect China's laws." From a Quartz report: Yesterday at a press conference held in preparation for the upcoming World Internet Conference, a Bloomberg reporter asked Ren Xianliang, deputy director of the Cyberspace Administration of China (which oversees internet governance) if the government would permit the two American internet giants to re-enter China. Both companies still have business-facing services in China, but Google effectively closed its consumer-facing search engine there in 2010, and authorities have blocked Facebook's social network since 2009. To this, Ren said, "China's internet development has always maintained a policy of openness. As for foreign internet companies, as long as they respect China's laws, don't harm the interests of the country, and don't harm the interests of consumers, we welcome them to enter China, where they can together share the benefits of China's developing internet."

The Washington Post Tracked Facebook's Trending Topics For 3 Weeks, Found 5 Fake Stories and 3 Inaccurate Articles ( 113

An alarming number of people rely on social media, including and especially Facebook, for news. Over the past few months, we have seen how Facebook's Trending Topics feature is often biased, and moreover, how sometimes fake news slips through its filter. The Washington Post monitored the website for over three weeks and found that Facebook is still struggling to get its algorithm right. From the report: The Megyn Kelly incident was supposed to be an anomaly. An unfortunate one-off. A bit of (very public, embarrassing) bad luck. But in the six weeks since Facebook revamped its Trending system -- and a hoax about the Fox News Channel star subsequently trended -- the site has repeatedly promoted "news" stories that are actually works of fiction. As part of a larger audit of Facebook's Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source). On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended. Facebook declined to comment about Trending on the record. "I'm not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended," one former member of the team that used to oversee Trending told the Post. "It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code."The Post adds that "there's no guarantee" that it was able to catch every hoax, since it looked at Trending feature only once every hour.

Google and Facebook Are Building the Fastest Trans-Pacific Cable Yet ( 42

Google and Facebook are working together to lay a nearly 8,000-mile fiber-optic cable between Los Angeles and Hong Kong. The cable will have a bandwidth of 120 terabits per second, Google said, adding that this makes it the highest-capacity route between the United States and Asia. TechCrunch adds: Once the new 12,800 km cable is at full capacity, it'll be the highest-capacity trans-Pacific cable yet. Until now, that record was held by the FASTER cable, which Google also has a stake in. Google tells TechCrunch that all parties participating in building the cable will have their own portion of the cable and that the company will have its own fiber pair to keep its own traffic private. The new cable will become the sixth submarine cable that Google has a stake in (the others are Unity, SJC, FASTER, MONET and Tannat). While it may seem unusual for Google to partner with Facebook on this kind of project, submarine cables often feature these kind of partnerships. Facebook and Microsoft recently teamed up to build a trans-Atlantic cable, for example, which at 160 Tbps is even faster than the Pacific Light cable (but also only half as long). Amazon, too, is starting to invest in its own submarine cables, but so far, the company has not partner with other industry giants to do so.

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