Law and Legal
“An analysis of every video posted by high-subscriber channels in the first week of 2019 finds that children’s content – as well as content featuring children – received more views than other video”
“The media landscape was upended more than a decade ago when the video-sharing site YouTube was launched. The volume and variety of content posted on the site is staggering. The site’s popularity makes it a launchpad for performers, businesses and commentators on every conceivable subject. And like many platforms in the modern digital ecosystem, YouTube has in recent years become a flashpoint in ongoing debates over issues such as online harassment, misinformation and the impact of technology on children. Amid this growing focus, and in an effort to continue demystifying the content of this popular source of information, Pew Research Center used its own custom mapping technique to assemble a list of popular YouTube channels (those with at least 250,000 subscribers) that existed as of late 2018, then conducted a large-scale analysis of the videos those channels produced in the first week of 2019. The Center identified a total of 43,770 of these high-subscriber channels using a process similar to the one used in our study of the YouTube recommendation algorithm. This data collection produced a variety of insights into the nature of content on the platform: The YouTube ecosystem produces a vast quantity of content. These popular channels alone posted nearly a quarter-million videos in the first seven days of 2019, totaling 48,486 hours of content. To put this figure in context, a single person watching videos for eight hours a day (with no breaks or days off) would need more than 16 years to watch all the content posted by just the most popular channels on the platform during a single week. The average video posted by these channels during this time period was roughly 12 minutes long and received 58,358 views during its first week on the site…”
All Together SWE – Learn how nonprofit “Boolean Girl” is bringing diversity to tech by engaging girls and under-represented groups with meaningful, hands-on instruction and sustained exposure to computer science and engineering.
First, the good news: girls love coding. Now, for the bad news: educators face far too many obstacles in teaching girls to code, and low-income families suffer most of all. I’m co-founder of Boolean Girl, a non-profit whose mission is bringing diversity to tech by engaging girls and under-represented groups in grades three through eight with meaningful, hands-on instruction and sustained exposure to computer science and engineering in a collaborative and welcoming environment. We provide enrichment classes, camps, special events, partnerships and online education. In 2014, our organization got its start teaching girls from the families in our neighborhood in Arlington, Virginia. We paid attention to what the girls liked and didn’t, and we slowly refined our content as we taught larger and larger groups. Since those early days, we’ve taught thousands of girls in camps, schools and online, and we’ve found a couple of broad themes: girls tend to like projects that have a story, they tend to gravitate toward collaborative work, and they tend to be less interested in skill-based video games like ping pong. So we built our teaching content around those interests. (Of course, every child is unique. If a child doesn’t conform to these themes, they have plenty of freedom to code in whatever way works for them. We believe in creativity, not cookie-cutters.)..”
The New York Times – “Facebook has long relied on algorithms to select news stories for its users to see. Now the social network wants to rely on something else for the same task, too: humans. Specifically, Facebook plans to hire a team of editors to work on a news initiative called News Tab, which is its latest venture into the world of publishing. The Silicon Valley company said that journalists would help curate News Tab, a new section inside of the company’s mobile application that will surface the most recent and relevant stories for readers. Facebook said it planned to hire seasoned journalists from various outlets for the roles and would put up job postings on its employment board on Tuesday. News Tab is part of the company’s effort to highlight real-time journalism and news. It will exist outside of the News Feed, Facebook’s never-ending stream of status updates and friend requests… [one two three – got librarians? – if not – hire some – please!]
BuzzFeed News – “…Facebook collects information about its users in two ways: first, through the information you input into its website and apps, and second, by tracking which websites you visit while you’re not on Facebook. That’s why, after you visit a clothing retailer’s website, you’ll likely see an ad for it in your Facebook News Feed or Instagram feed. Basically, Facebook monitors where you go, all across the internet, and uses your digital footprints to target you with ads. But Facebook users have never been able to view this external data Facebook collected about them, until now. Facebook tracks your browsing history via the “Login with Facebook” button, the “like” button, Facebook comments, and little bits of invisible code, called the Facebook pixel, embedded on other sites (including BuzzFeed News). Today the company will start to roll out a feature called “Off-Facebook Activity” that allows people to manage that external browsing data — finally delivering on a promise it made over a year ago when CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at a company event that it would develop a feature then called “Clear History.”
The new tool will display a summary of those third-party websites that shared your visit with Facebook, and will allow you to disconnect that browsing history from your Facebook account. You can also opt out of future off-Facebook activity tracking, or selectively stop certain websites from sending your browsing activity to Facebook. Nearly a third of all websites include a Facebook tracker, according to several studies. Some people in Ireland, South Korea, and Spain will gain access to Off-Facebook Activity first. Facebook said it will continue rolling out the feature everywhere else over the coming months. The tool, found in account Settings > Off-Facebook Activity, includes an option allowing you to “clear” your browsing history…”
See also the related Facebook Newsroom blog posting.
Via LLRX – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: More than 1 million people had their fingerprint data exposed by a huge security hole; IRS Security Summit Series for Tax Professionals: Create a Data Theft Recovery Plan; Hackers Can Turn Everyday Speakers Into Acoustic Cyberweapons; and Facial Recognition Software Prompts Privacy, Racism Concerns in Cities and States.
Please watch this video via the Architect of the Capital – it is a fascinating story about the history of the adorable tiny doors in the Library of Congress. Enjoy.
The New York Times Magazine – “In August of 1619, a ship appeared on this horizon, near Point Comfort, a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia. It carried more than 20 enslaved Africans, who were sold to the colonists. No aspect of the country that would be formed here has been untouched by the years of slavery that followed. n the 400th anniversary of this fateful moment, it is finally time to tell our story truthfully.
The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are…”
Wired – Facebook says it will extend its fact-checking program to Instagram. But the system is already overwhelmed and may not be able to handle more information. “Facebook announced on Thursday that it would expand a fact-checking program to its Instagram image-sharing service. Instagram users in the US can now report content they believe is false, but it’s not clear that the system, which is already overwhelmed, can handle more suspect information. Provocative stories that’ll forever change how you think. “Facebook did not ever scale the fact-checking program on Facebook to be able to reach all users and all information on Facebook,” says Robyn Caplan, a media and information policy scholar at Rutgers who studies social media governance. “I’m not quite certain how they’re going to scale to Instagram effectively.” Instagram was once the land of golden filters, where positivity reigned supreme. More recently, though, the platform has fallen victim to the same hate speech, bullying, and misinformation that plagues just about every social media site. Systems that can respect free speech, and sensitively address complicated and culturally inflected conversations, at Instagram’s monstrous and growing scale, have proved elusive…”
Inside Higher Education – Sci-Hub, a repository for pirated research papers, is widely acknowledged to be illegal. But is sharing a link to the site illegal, too? “There is little dispute that Sci-Hub, the website that provides free access to millions of proprietary academic papers, is illegal. Yet, despite being successfully sued twice by major American academic publishers for massive copyright infringement, the site continues to operate. Some academics talk openly about their use of the repository — a small number even publicly thank Sci-Hub founder Alexandra Elbakyan for her contribution to their research. Most academics who use the site, however, choose to do so discreetly, seemingly aware that drawing attention to their activities might be unwise. Just how careful academics should be about using Sci-Hub has become a topic of concern in recent weeks, with many questioning whether sharing links to Sci-Hub could in itself be considered illegal. The discussion started when the team behind Citationsy, a bibliography management tool based in Europe, tweeted that lawyers for Elsevier, a major publisher of academic journals, had threatened to pursue legal action if Citationsy did not remove a link to Sci-Hub from Citationsy’s website. The link formed part of a blog post titled “Hacking Education: Download Research Papers and Scientific Articles for Free.”…
Secrecy News: “The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is embarking on an ambitious effort to phase out the acquisition of paper records by 2022 and to transition to all-electronic record keeping. The White House Office of Management and Budget has endorsed the initiative and has directed all federal agencies to adopt exclusively electronic formats for managing permanent records. But the move is generating anxiety about the feasibility of the transition and the possible unanticipated consequences for public access to government records. “The most significant part of [the new policy is the provision for NARA] to stop accepting paper records by December 31, 2022,” wrote David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, in a June 28 notice to NARA employees. Accordingly, the Acting Director of OMB directed all agency heads to plan to operate all but exclusively in an all-electronic environment.
“By December 31, 2022, all permanent records in Federal agencies will be managed electronically to the fullest extent possible for eventual transfer and accessioning by NARA in an electronic format,” the June 28 OMB memo stated. After 2022, agencies will be obliged to convert any remaining permanent analog records in their possession to digital formats for transfer to NARA. The new policy shows some signs of carelessness in its formulation. The paragraphs in the OMB memorandum are incorrectly numbered. The text includes reference to a “section 2.2” which does not exist. Meanwhile, several more substantial concerns have been raised by dissenting observers and employees. “There are significant and crucial [paper] records that have not been, and will not be, transferred into the system by 2022,” said one records specialist who is critical of the new policy. These include some original Department of State SCI-level records dating back to the 1940s, as well as many classified original records from CIA, NRO, NSA, DoD/OSD, and FBI that have been withheld from the National Archives…”
Follow-up to previous posting with related links – Elsevier sends copyright threat to site for linking to Sci-Hub – see Torrent Freak – “Elsevier and other academic publishers see ‘pirate’ site Sci-Hub as a major threat to their billion-dollar industries. Many researchers, however, can’t function properly without the notorious site. Since anti-piracy efforts are unlikely to beat the site, perhaps it’s time for the publishers to draw a lesson from Sci-Hub instead?… [h/t Lea Wade]
engadget – Students can proactively use the tool to improve their work. “Google is setting out to make plagiarism harder than ever. The search giant today announced the launch of Assignments, a new grading software for higher education instructors who use G Suite for Education. Formerly known as Coursework, Assignments will allow instructors to create, assign and grade coursework with Google Docs and Drive. To boot, all student work turned in through Assignments and Classroom (its K-12 counterpart) will receive its own “originality report”, a new feature that is essentially a litmus test for plagiarism…”
“Dark patterns are user interface design choices that benefit an online service by coercing, steering, or deceiving users into making unintended and potentially harmful decisions. We conducted a large-scale study, analyzing ~53K product pages from ~11K shopping websites to characterize and quantify the prevalence of dark patterns.
- We discovered 1,818 instances of dark patterns on shopping websites, which together represent 15 types of dark patterns.
- These 1,818 dark patterns were present on 1,254 of the ∼11K shopping websites (∼11.1%) in our data set. Shopping websites that were more popular, according to Alexa rankings, were more likely to feature dark patterns.
- We demonstrate which of the dark patterns that we discovered rely on consumer deception. In total, we uncovered 234 instances of deceptive dark patterns across 183 websites.
- We identify 22 third-party entities that provide shopping websites with the ability to create dark patterns on their sites. Two of these entities openly advertise practices that enable deceptive messages…”
PC Mag – “Whether you’re underground between subway stops, caught in a dead zone, or your internet is out, the most reliable way to catch up on your digital reading is to make sure it’s downloaded and accessible offline. Information overload is real. You don’t always have time to read a 5,000-word feature or juicy interview when it pops up on your Twitter feed, but a number of services let you save it for later—even if you’re without an internet connection. Whether you’re underground between subway stops, caught in a dead zone, or your internet is out, the most reliable way to catch up on your digital reading is to make sure it’s downloaded and accessible offline. Many apps and browsers support offline reading, no matter your device. Here’s how to get started…”
Global Disinformation Index: “Based on our research, we have mapped out how there is an unchecked funding line provided to disinformation domains thanks to online ads automatically placed by ad exchanges on them.”
The world wide web turned 30 years old in 2019. Since its invention, how we live our lives online – and off – has changed in countless ways. The web has brought us closer together, expanded our knowledge, opened up our societies and broken down barriers for billions of people around the world. But being more ‘networked’ and ‘connected’ has come with its own dark sides. Disinformation is one of them. Disinformation has been used as a tool to weaponise mass influence and disseminate propaganda. It has brought extreme fallout for economies, politics and societies around the globe. No country is immune. Disinformation has become public enemy number one in many parts of the world. A wave of regulations to deal with the problem is brewing from Australia to the United States. But the issue is a deep one that regulations alone will not solve. To combat disinformation, we need to understand efforts to disinform – both upstream (where disinformation starts) and downstream (where and how it spreads). This is where the Global Disinformation Index (GDI) has set its focus. For the GDI, financial motivation is a connecting point that links together the upstream and downstream components of disinformation. To substantially reduce disinformation, we need to disrupt its funding and remove the financial incentive to disinform. This means turning our attention to the ad-tech industry. Ad-tech has inadvertently thrown a funding line to disinformation domains through online advertising. Until now, there has been no way for advertisers to know the disinformation risk of the domains carrying their ads. The GDI aims to change this state of affairs. The paper that follows explains why this shift is needed – and how the GDI can trigger it…”
Effects of the Flipped Classroom: Evidence from a Randomized Trial Elizabeth Setren, Kyle Greenberg, Oliver Moore, and Michael Yankovich SEII Discussion Paper #2019.07 August 2019
“In a flipped classroom, an increasingly popular pedagogical model, students view a video lecture at home and work on exercises with the instructor during class time. Advocates of the flipped classroom claim the practice not only improves student achievement, but also ameliorates the achievement gap. We conduct a randomized controlled trial at West Point and find that the flipped classroom produced short term gains in Math and no effect in Economics, but that the flipped model broadened the achievement gap: effects are driven by white, male, and higher achieving students. We find no long term average effects on student learning, but the widened achievement gap persists. Our findings demonstrate feasibility for the flipped classroom to induce short term gains in student learning; however, the exacerbation of the achievement gap,the effect fade-out, and the null effects in Economics suggest that educators should exercise caution when considering the model.”
Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing – A tip on how to keep your name and address off the internet. “There are dozens of free “peoplefinder” sites that buy up commercial databases and combine them with other sources to make your home address searchable. You can find instances where this has happened to you by googling your name and home address, and then you can google the removal forms for each of the services and get yourself delisted. But your name will keep getting re-added: if you set a Google Alert for a search on your name and address, you’ll get a message every time you get caught in these databases and you can remove your name again. This won’t work on the for-pay background check sites that Google doesn’t index, but it will keep your name and address clear of low-level [people] who stick with free sites for their doxing activities.”
See also DeleteMe.com
Fortune: “Microsoft is sounding a red alert to Windows 10 users, warning them to update their operating systems immediately. The company, in a blog post Tuesday, warned of two “critical” vulnerabilities that rival the previous “BlueKeep” crisis. As with that bug, the new issues are described as “wormable,” meaning hackers could use them to spread malware from one machine to another without any interaction from the user. Microsoft said, so far, it has no evidence that the vulnerabilities were known to any third parties.
“It is important that affected systems are patched as quickly as possible because of the elevated risks associated with wormable vulnerabilities like these,” said Simon Pope, Microsoft’s director of Incident Response. “Customers who have automatic updates enabled are automatically protected by these fixes.” If you don’t have automatic updates enabled, you can search for the patch by typing “Windows Update” in the search bar from the system’s start menu search bar.
The vulnerabilities are only present in Windows 10, which runs on more than 800 million devices today. Older systems, such as Windows XP, are not affected…”
Jabotinsky, Hadar Yoana, The Regulation of Cryptocurrencies – Between a Currency and a Financial Product (February 7, 2018). Hebrew University of Jerusalem Legal Research Paper No. 18-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3119591 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3119591 – “As cryptocurrencies gain popularity, the issue of how to regulate them becomes more pressing. The attractiveness of cryptocurrencies is due in part to their decentralized, peer-to-peer structure. This makes them an alternative to national currencies which are controlled by central banks. Given that these cryptocurrencies are already replacing some of the “regular” national currencies and financial products, the question then arises: should they be regulated? And if so, how? This paper draws the legal distinction between cryptocurrencies which are in fact currency and those which are securities disguised as currency. It further suggests that in cases where a token is indeed a security, regular securities regulation should apply. In all other cases anti-fraud measures should be in place in order to protect investors. Further regulation should only be put in place if the cryptocurrency starts increasing systemic risk in the general financial system.”