|From: Ron||9/25/2019 3:40:38 PM|
|Hackers Take on Darpa's $10 Million Voting Machine|
At this year's Defcon hacking conference, Darpa brought the beginnings of what it hopes will be impervious hardware.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/9/2019 9:37:12 AM|
|The China Cultural Clash|
Posted onTuesday, October 8, 2019
Author by Ben Thompson
It all started with a tweet:
“It” refers to the current imbroglio surrounding Daryl Morey, the General Manager for the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA), and the latter’s dealings with China. The tweet, a reference to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong,
1 “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people” (a rather frequent occurrence). The Global Times, a Chinese government-run English-language newspaper, stated in an editorial:
Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA team the Houston Rockets, has obviously gotten himself into trouble. He tweeted a photo saying “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” on Saturday while accompanying his team in Tokyo. The tweet soon set the team’s Chinese fans ablaze. It can be imagined how Morey’s tweet made them disappointed and furious. Shortly afterward, CCTV sports channel and Tencent sports channel both announced they would suspend broadcasting Rockets’ games. Some of the team’s Chinese sponsors and business partners also started to suspend cooperation with the Rockets. There’s one rather glaring hole in this story of immediate outrage from Chinese fans over Morey’s tweet: Twitter is banned in China.
China Started ItEarlier this year I wrote about the uneven playing field between the U.S. and China when it comes to technology companies. From China, Leverage, and Values:
This is where I take the biggest issue with Culpan labeling this past week’s actions as the start of a tech cold war: China took the first shots, and they took them a long time ago. For over a decade U.S. services companies have been unilaterally shut out of the China market, even as Chinese alternatives had full reign, running on servers built with U.S. components (and likely using U.S. intellectual property)…This understated the case: not only were Chinese companies allowed into the U.S. while U.S. companies remained locked out of China, Chinese attacks on U.S. tech companies were allowed by China’s censors, and in fact even augmented by the Great Firewall. James Griffiths wrote about the 2015 attack on Github earlier this year:
The truth is that the U.S. China relationship has been extremely one-sided for a very long time now: China buys the hardware it needs, and keeps all of the software opportunities for itself — and, of course, pursues software opportunities abroad.
In a paper coauthored with researchers at Citizen Lab, an activist and research group at the University of Toronto, Weaver described a new Chinese cyberweapon that he dubbed the “Great Cannon.” The “Great Firewall” — an elaborate scheme of interrelated technologies for censoring internet content coming from outside China—was already well-known. Weaver and the Citizen Lab researchers found that not only was China blocking bits and bytes of data that were trying to make their way into China, but it was also channeling the flow of data out of China.The projects China was presumably targeting were Chinese versions of GreatFire.org, which documents censorship by the Great Firewall, and the New York Times, both of which were hosted on Github. Given the importance of Github to software development, China could not block the site completely, so instead they tried to hold it hostage. It was a harbinger of what happened this week.
The attack went on for days. The Citizen Lab team said they were able to observe its effects for two weeks after GitHub’s alarms first went off. Afterward, as the GitHub developers struggled to make sense of the attack and come up with a road map for future incidents, there was confusion within the cybersecurity community. Why had China launched so public an attack, in such a blunt fashion? “It was overkill,” Weaver told me. “They kept the attack going long after it had ceased working.”
It was a message: a shot across the bow from the architects of the Great Firewall, who—having conquered the internet at home—were now increasingly taking aim overseas, unwilling to brook challenges to their system of control and censorship, no matter where they came from.
Dreams Versus RealityThe story about engagement with China, both in terms of the U.S. generally but also tech specifically, has long been a belief that some engagement was better than no engagement, and that the shift to more freedom was inevitable. President Bill Clinton stated when the U.S. established Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China:
The change this agreement can bring from outside is quite extraordinary, but I think you could make an argument that it will be nothing compared to the changes that this agreement will spark from the inside out in China. By joining the W.T.O., China is not simply agreeing to import more of our products; it is agreeing to import one of democracy’s most cherished values: economic freedom. The more China liberalizes its economy, the more fully it will liberate the potential of its people — their initiative, their imagination, their remarkable spirit of enterprise. He added with regards to the Internet:
In the new century, liberty will spread by cell phone and cable modem. In the past year, the number of Internet addresses in China has more than quadrupled, from 2 million to 9 million. This year the number is expected to grow to over 20 million. When China joins the W.T.O., by 2005 it will eliminate tariffs on information technology products, making the tools of communication even cheaper, better, and more widely available. We know how much the Internet has changed America, and we are already an open society. Imagine how much it could change China.In fact, it turned out that China was able to first contain the Internet, blocking sites outside the Great Firewall, then control the Internet, censoring content on social networks like Weibo and WeChat, and, as this New York Times article explains, even leverage the Internet:
Now there’s no question China has been trying to crack down on the Internet. Good luck! That’s sort of like trying to nail jello to the wall. But I would argue to you that their effort to do that just proves how real these changes are and how much they threaten the status quo. It’s not an argument for slowing down the effort to bring China into the world, it’s an argument for accelerating that effort. In the knowledge economy, economic innovation and political empowerment, whether anyone likes it or not, will inevitably go hand in hand.
The Communist Party indeed doesn’t hesitate to use state power to tell the Chinese people how they should think. But the displays of patriotism, especially from young people, also show that the party’s propaganda machine has mastered the power of symbol and symbolism in the mass media and social media era…While imposing tight censorship, the Communist Party has also learned to lean on the most popular artists and the most experienced internet companies to help it instill Chinese with patriotic zeal. It’s propaganda for the Instagram age, if Instagram were allowed in China. The problem from a Western perspective is that the links Clinton was so sure would push in only one direction — towards political freedom — turned out to be two-way streets: China is not simply resisting Western ideals of freedom, but seeking to impose their own. Note this statement from state-owned broadcast CCTV, as it announced that it would not televise NBA games:
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey. “I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear…that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression,” Silver said in an interview with Kyodo News in Tokyo Japan. CCTV did not agree with Silver’s remarks.The lever for this rather radical definition of “freedom of speech” is the China market. The Global Times editorial I linked to above could not have been more explicit on this point:
“We are strongly dissatisfied and we oppose Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its statement in Chinese, which was translated by CNBC.
Respecting customers is a universal business rule. Morey has to choose between safeguarding his individual freedom of speech and protecting the Rockets’ commercial interests by respecting the feelings of Chinese fans. When he opted for the former, the Rockets will have to make a second choice from the perspective of the team. In other words, Morey, a private U.S. citizen posting an image on a social network already banned in China, had to be fired, or the Rockets and the NBA would quite literally pay the price. Abide by China’s standards, or else.
The TikTok QuestionChina’s exportation of its standards goes beyond brute force. Consider TikTok, the short-form video app owned by the $75 billion Chinese startup ByteDance, which has exploded onto Western markets over the last year. The Guardian reported last last month:
TikTok, the popular Chinese-owned social network, instructs its moderators to censor videos that mention Tiananmen Square, Tibetan independence, or the banned religious group Falun Gong, according to leaked documents detailing the site’s moderation guidelines. The documents, revealed by the Guardian for the first time, lay out how ByteDance, the Beijing-headquartered technology company that owns TikTok, is advancing Chinese foreign policy aims abroad through the app.In fact, at least as of this afternoon, there is a hint of unrest on the site: while searches for “Hong Kong” show city views and high school students playing along with the latest TikTok meme, searching for Hong Kong in Chinese (??) brings up a video that shows the protestors as hooligans and vandals (this was the first result as of this afternoon, and the only video relating to the protests):
The revelations come amid rising suspicion that discussion of the Hong Kong protests on TikTok is being censored for political reasons: a Washington Post report earlier this month noted that a search on the site for the city-state revealed “barely a hint of unrest in sight”.
There appear to be similar efforts in the case of the NBA controversy. Searching for the “Warriors”, “Lakers”, and “Rockets” brings up the sort of content you would expect:
However, searching for the same team names in Chinese (“??”, “??”, and “??”, respectively) shows basketball-related results for the first two and nothing related for the third:
This should raise serious concern in the United States and other Western countries: is it at all acceptable to have a social network that has a demonstrated willingness to censor content under the control of a country that has clearly different views on what constitutes free speech?
There is an established route for undoing this state of affairs: earlier this summer China’s Kunlun Tech Company agreed to divest Grindr under pressure from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS); Kunlun Tech had acquired Grindr without undergoing CFIUS review. TikTok similarly acquired Musical.ly without oversight and relaunched it as TikTok for the Western market; it is worth at least considering the possibility of a review given TikTok’s apparent willingness to censor content for Western audiences according to Chinese government wishes.
The NBA’s ExampleAdam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, ultimately did do the right thing. In response to that CCTV cancellation Silver released a new statement that stated:
Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game¬Silver added in a press conference following the statement:
It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.
Part of the reason I issued the statement I did is because this afternoon, CCTV announced that because of my remarks supporting Daryl Morey’s freedom of expression, not the substance of this statement but his freedom of expression, they were no longer going to air the Lakers-Nets preseason games that are scheduled for later this week. Again, it’s not something we expected to happen. I think it’s unfortunate. But if that’s the consequence of us adhering to our values, we still feel it’s critically important we adhere to those values. I am increasingly convinced this is the point every company dealing with China will reach: what matters more, money or values?
China ResponsesI am not particularly excited to write this article. My instinct is towards free trade, my affinity for Asia generally and Greater China specifically, my welfare enhanced by staying off China’s radar. And yet, for all that the idea of being a global citizen is an alluring concept and largely my lived experience, I find in situations like this that I am undoubtedly a child of the West. I do believe in the individual, in free speech, and in democracy, no matter how poorly practiced in the United States or elsewhere. And, in situations like this weekend, when values meet money, I worry just how many companies are capable of choosing the former?
The NBA, to its immense credit, appears to have done just that. Will technology companies be so brave? Certainly Google did so once before, exiting China in 2010 (albeit after both losing share to Baidu and being attacked by Chinese hackers). At the same time, the company appeared eager to reverse its decision, only terminating “Project Dragonfly” earlier this year; similarly, Facebook worked earnestly for approval — its product team built a censorship apparatus and CEO Mark Zuckerberg learned Chinese — only to give up last year. Both decisions appear motivated by the certainty of failure as opposed to core values.
And then there is Apple: the company is deeply exposed to China both in terms of sales and especially when it comes to manufacturing. The reality is that, particularly when it comes to the latter, Apple doesn’t have anywhere else to go. That, though, is where the company’s massive cash stockpile and ability to generate more comes in handy: it is past time for the company to start spending heavily to build up alternatives. Sticking one’s corporate head in the sand, praying that President Trump will not be re-elected and that everything will go back to normal, is deeply irresponsible both to shareholders and to the values Apple claims motivates them.
The government response is also critical: I already argued that CFIUS should revisit TikTok’s acquisition of Musical.ly; the current skepticism around all Chinese investment in the United States should be continued if not increased. Attempts by China to leverage market access into self-censorship by U.S. companies should also be treated as trade violations that are subject to retaliation. Make no mistake, what happened to the NBA this weekend is nothing new: similar pressure has befallen multiple U.S. companies, often about content that is outside of China’s borders (Taiwan and Hong Kong, for example, being listed in drop-down menus for hotels or airlines).
The biggest, shift, though, is a mindset one. First, the Internet is an amoral force that reduces friction, not an inevitable force for good. Second, sometimes different cultures simply have fundamentally different values. Third, if values are going to be preserved, they must be a leading factor in economic entanglement, not a trailing one. This is the point that Clinton got the most wrong: money, like tech, is amoral. If we insist it matters most our own morals will inevitably disappear.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||10/11/2019 9:44:31 AM|
|Grammarly raises $90 million and says it's now a "unicorn"|
Kaveh Waddell and Sara Fischer
October 10, 2019
Grammarly, the company behind the popular AI-powered writing assistant, has raised $90 million to provide more services for business writing. The company would not share its new valuation, but claims it's now a "unicorn" — a privately-held company worth over $1 billion.
Why it matters: That's a lot of money for an announcement without any new product launches, but Grammarly CEO Brad Hoover says the company doesn't face much competition, which could be attractive to investors.
"Ultimately, we're creating a new category for digital writing assistants." - Hoover
Details: The round is led by return investors General Catalyst and IVP. Grammarly did not disclose minority investors.
-- This is the company's second raise. It raised $110 million in a 2017 round that was also led by General Catalyst and IVP, as well as Spark Capital.How it works: Grammarly checks spelling and grammar for free, and paying users get more sophisticated suggestions about accuracy, precision, formality, and style.
-- The company says it has 20 million daily active users on its various services, including users in more than 2,000 businesses and institutions.
Some of the new money will go toward more features for business users, Hoover says — but the company isn't launching any new enterprise products.
-- It currently sells a "Grammarly for Business" subscription, which allows access to the tool for an entire business team, like a sales or customer support group.Yes, but: The renewed focus on business stirs up privacy questions, because Grammarly has to have access to what users write to be able to offer suggestions.
-- One coming feature will help writers follow corporate style guides, Hoover says. He wouldn't say what other changes are planned, beyond a push to "extend the availability of Grammarly within the enterprise."
-- This is especially thorny for legal and health-related writing, which can be subject to HIPAA or attorney-client privilege. (Grammarly, for its part, is pitching its product for roles like HR, marketing and customer service.)
-- Hoover says Grammarly prioritizes security, limits employee access to data, and "never would sell or rent data, including for advertising."
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|From: Ron||10/23/2019 9:28:48 PM|
|Quantum Computing: Google announced Wednesday it has achieved a breakthrough in quantum computing, saying it has developed an experimental processor that took just minutes to complete a calculation that would take the world's best supercomputer thousands of years.|
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|From: Ron||11/1/2019 5:52:12 PM|
|70% of videos watched on Youtube are reportedly from recommendation algorithms. Site by former Google employee tracks recommendations: |
Tech companies have long pitched algorithmic suggestions as giving users what they want, but there are clear downsides even beyond wasted hours online. Researchers have found evidence that recommendation algorithms used by YouTube and Amazon can amplify conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.
Guillaume Chaslot, who previously worked on recommendations at YouTube but now works to document their flaws, says those problems stem from companies designing systems designed primarily to maximize the time users spend on their services. It works— YouTube has said more than 70 percent of viewing time stems from recommendations—but the results aren’t always pretty. “The AI is optimized to find clickbait,” he says.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||11/2/2019 9:37:18 AM|
|Russia just brought in a law to try to disconnect its internet from the rest of the world|
Published Fri, Nov 1 20193:30 AM EDT
Updated Fri, Nov 1 20196:00 AM EDT
Elizabeth Schulze @eschulze9
- Russia’s “sovereign internet” law went into effect on Friday.
- The law tightens Moscow’s control over the country’s internet infrastructure and aims to provide a way for Russia to disconnect its networks from the rest of the world.
- Experts doubt whether such a move is technically possible.
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - 2019/03/10: Participants in an opposition rally in central Moscow protest against tightening state control over the internet in Russia.
SOPA Images | LightRocket | Getty Images
It’s been called an online Iron Curtain.
On Friday, a controversial law went into force that enables Russia to try to disconnect its internet from the rest of the world, worrying critics who fear the measure will promote online censorship.
The Kremlin says its “sovereign internet” law, which was signed by President Vladimir Putin in May, is a security measure to protect Russia in the event of an emergency or foreign threat like a cyberattack. The law will allow Moscow to tighten control over the country’s internet by routing web traffic through state-controlled infrastructure and creating a national system of domain names.
In theory, the measure would allow Russia to operate its own internal networks that could run independently from the rest of the World Wide Web.
Experts doubt whether such a move is technically possible and say the law is, instead, an attempt by the Russian government to censor information online.
“To be able to manage the information flow in their favor, they have to have a system in place beforehand,” said Sergey Sanovich of Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy in a CNBC interview.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Russia to protest the measure earlier this year, while human rights advocates warned the law threatens free speech and media.
“The ‘sovereign internet’ law purports to provide a legal basis for mass surveillance and allows the government to effectively enforce online existing legislation that undermines freedom of expression and privacy,” Human Rights Watch said in a blog post Thursday.
Putin has taken a series of other steps to try to curb online freedoms, such as banning encrypted messaging service Telegram, but many of those attempts have proven to be unsuccessful.
“The goal is to be able to block what they don’t want without harming the network overall,” Sanovich said.
Russia not like China
Unlike China’s Great Firewall, which was built on a tight concentration of state-run network operators, Russia allowed its internet to develop freely over the past three decades. Undoing global network connections is tricky, according to Andrew Sullivan, president and CEO of the Internet Society.
“You can think of the network connectivity like water that is trying to get to the lower ground; it’s going to keep trying to flow,” he told CNBC. “You have to do a whole lot of work to make sure that the traffic won’t flow.”
Sullivan said Russia has tried to carry out tests to block its internet in the past but the networks proved to be resilient. The new law, he said, will end up making the internet less reliable for users in Russia.
“By using this regulatory model for the internet when the internet isn’t really designed to work that way, we risk doing damage,” he said.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||11/2/2019 9:56:29 AM|
|Zuckerberg’s power to hurt Trump|
Mike Allen, Sara Fischer
November 2, 2019
Top Republicans are privately worried about a new threat to President Trump’s campaign: the possibility of Facebook pulling a Twitter and banning political ads.
Why it matters: Facebook says it won't, but future regulatory pressure could change that. If Facebook were to ban — or even limit — ads, it could upend Trump’s fundraising and re-election plan, GOP officials tell Axios.
-- Trump relies heavily — much more so than Democrats — on targeted Facebook ads to shape views and raise money.
Red flag: Kara Swisher, of Recode, the super plugged-in tech writer, predicted on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that Mark Zuckerberg will ultimately buckle on allowing demonstrably false political adds on Facebook: "He's going to change his mind — 100% ... [H]e's done it before."
-- Twitter this week announced a ban on political and advocacy ads. (" Platforms give pols a free pass to lie," by Scott Rosenberg)Why it would hurt Trump: His campaign has mastered the art of using Facebook’s precision-targeting of people to raise money, stir opposition to impeachment, move voters and even sell Trump shirts and hats.
-- Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale ridiculed the decision ("yet another attempt by the left to silence Trump and conservatives"), signaling the wicked backlash that would hit Zuckerberg.
-- The Trump campaign often uses highly emotional appeals to get clicks and engagement, which provides valuable data on would-be voters and small-dollar donors. Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh told Axios: "We’ve always known that President Trump was too successful online and that Democrats would one day seek to wipe him off the Internet."
-- "That’s why we’ve invested so heavily in building up our data to allow us to communicate with millions of voters away from any third-party platforms like Facebook."By the numbers: The Trump campaign has spent $15.7 million dollars on Facebook ads this year, according to data from progressive advertising firm Bully Pulpit Interactive.
-- "Democrats demanding internet platforms shut down political advertising will guarantee Trump’s victory in 2020. They’re idiots."
-- The next closest Democratic spender is billionaire Tom Steyer, who has so far spent less than half of that. Go deeper:
-- Those numbers don't include millions of dollars of additional Facebook ad spending from outside groups. The conservative non-profit Judicial Watch, for example, has spent $2.5 million on issue ads since the beginning of the year.
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|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (6562)||11/4/2019 3:38:20 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|The Internet Archive Is Making Wikipedia More Reliable|
The operator of the Wayback Machine allows Wikipedia's users to check citations from books as well as the web.
November 3, 2019
Photograph: Alexander Spatari/Getty Images
Wikipedia is the arbiter of truth on the internet. It's what settles arguments at bars. It supplies answers for the information snippets you see on your Google or Bing search results. It's the first stop for nearly everyone doing online research.
The reason people rely on Wikipedia, despite its imperfections, is that every claim is supposed to have citations. Any sentence that isn't backed up with a credible source risks being slapped with the dreaded "citation needed" label. Anyone can check out those citations to learn more about a subject, or verify that those sources actually say what a particular Wikipedia entry claims they do—that is, if you can find those sources.
It's easy enough when the sources are online. But many Wikipedia articles rely on good old-fashioned books. The entry on Martin Luther King Jr., for example, cites 66 different books. Until recently, if you wanted to verify that those books say what the article says they say, or if you just wanted to read the cited material, you'd need to track down a copy of the book.
Now, thanks to a new initiative by the Internet Archive, you can click the name of the book and see a two-page preview of the cited work, so long as the citation specifies a page number. You can also borrow a digital copy of the book, so long as no else has checked it out, for two weeks—much the same way you'd borrow a book from your local library. (Some groups of authors and publishers have challenged the archive's practice of allowing users to borrow unauthorized scanned books. The Internet Archive says it seeks to widen access to books in “balanced and respectful ways.”)
So far the Internet Archive has turned 130,000 references in Wikipedia entries in various languages into direct links to 50,000 books that the organization has scanned and made available to the public. The organization eventually hopes to allow users to view and borrow every book cited by Wikipedia, with the ultimate goal being to digitize every book ever published.
“Our goal is to be a library that’s useful and reachable by more people,” says Mark Graham, director of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine service.
If successful, the Internet Archive's project would be a boon to students, journalists, or anyone who wants to check the references of a Wikipedia entry. Google Books also has a massive collection of digitized print books, but it tends to only show small snippets of a text.
"I've tried to verify Wikipedia pages by searching blurbs in Google Books but it's an unpredictable link, and you often don't have enough surrounding context to evaluate the use," says Mike Caulfield, a digital literacy expert and director of blended and networked learning at Washington State University Vancouver. "The ability to read a page or two of context around a quote is crucial to both editors trying to protect the integrity of articles, and to readers who need to get to that next step of verification."
You could, of course, verify the information the traditional way by tracking down a physical copy of a book. But students working late into the night on term papers, or reporters on tight deadlines, might not have time to order a book on Amazon or wait for a library book to become available. In other cases, books might be hard to come by. The Wikipedia entry on the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, for example, cites hard-to-find titles, says Internet Archive director of partnerships Wendy Hanamura. But thanks to the Internet Archive's Digital Library of Japanese-American Incarceration, created with the Seattle-based organization Densho, many of those rare books are now available online.
The Internet Archive embarked on its effort to weave digital books into Wikipedia after the 2016 election. "No matter who you wanted to be president, I would say almost everyone would agree the whole process was a train wreck," Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle said in a speech in San Francisco last week. From fake news and inauthentic social media campaigns waged by foreign nations to concerns about voting systems themselves being rigged, there were plenty of ways that technology and information systems failed the public. So Kahle convened a group of people to discuss how to improve the information ecosystem. One issue that came up was the fragility of Wikipedia citations. Books and academic journals supply some of the best, most reliable information for Wikipedia editors, but those sources frequently are either unavailable online or are behind paywalls. And even freely available internet content often disappears.
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