AI

How AI Can Infer Human Emotions (oreilly.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes OReilly.com's interview with the CEO of Affectiva, an emotion-measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. We can mine Twitter, for example, on text sentiment, but that only gets us so far. About 35-40% is conveyed in tone of voice -- how you say something -- and the remaining 50-60% is read through facial expressions and gestures you make. Technology that reads your emotional state, for example by combining facial and voice expressions, represents the emotion AI space. They are the subconscious, natural way we communicate emotion, which is nonverbal and which complements our language... Facial expressions and speech actually deal more with the subconscious, and are more unbiased and unfiltered expressions of emotion...

Rather than encoding specific rules that depict when a person is making a specific expression, we instead focus our attention on building intelligent algorithms that can be trained to recognize expressions. Through our partnerships across the globe, we have amassed an enormous emotional database from people driving cars, watching media content, etc. A portion of the data is then passed on to our labeling team, who are certified in the Facial Action Coding System...we have gathered 5,313,751 face videos, for a total of 38,944 hours of data, representing nearly two billion facial frames analyzed.

They got their start testing advertisements, and now are already working with a third of all Fortune 500 companies. ("We've seen that pet care and baby ads in the U.S. elicit more enjoyment than cereal ads -- which see the most enjoyment in Canada.") One company even combined their technology with Google Glass to help autistic children learn to recognize emotional cues.
Data Storage

Endless OS Now Ships With Steam And Slack FlatPak Applications (endlessos.com) 85

An anonymous reader writes: Steam and Slack are now both included as Flatpak applications on the Endless OS, a free Linux distribution built upon the decades of evolution of the Linux operating system and the contributions of thousands of volunteers on the GNOME project. The beauty of Flatpak is the ability to bridge app creators and Linux distributions using a universal framework, making it possible to bring this kind of software to operating systems that encourage open collaboration...

As an open-source deployment mechanism, Flatpak was developed by an independent cohort made up of volunteers and contributors from supporting organizations in the open-source community. Alexander Larsson, lead developer of Flatpak and principal engineer at Red Hat, provided comment saying, "We're particularly excited about the opportunity Endless affords to advance the benefits of open-source environments to entirely new audiences."

United States

Is Russia Conducting A Social Media War On America? (time.com) 444

An anonymous reader writes: Time magazine ran a cover story about "a dangerous new route for antidemocratic forces" -- social media. "Using these technologies, it is possible to undermine democratic government, and it's becoming easier every day," says Rand Waltzman of the Rand Corp., who ran a major Pentagon research program to understand the propaganda threats posed by social media technology." The article cites current and former FBI and CIA officials who now believe Russia's phishing emails against politicians were "just the most visible battle in an ongoing information war against global democracy." They cite, for example, a March report by U.S. counterintelligence which found "Russians had sent expertly tailored messages carrying malware to more than 10,000 Twitter users in the Defense Department." Each message contained links tailored to the interests of the recipient, but "When clicked, the links took users to a Russian-controlled server that downloaded a program allowing Moscow's hackers to take control of the victim's phone or computer -- and Twitter account...

"In 2016, Russia had used thousands of covert human agents and robot computer programs to spread disinformation referencing the stolen campaign emails of Hillary Clinton, amplifying their effect. Now counterintelligence officials wondered: What chaos could Moscow unleash with thousands of Twitter handles that spoke in real time with the authority of the armed forces of the United States?" The article also notes how algorithms now can identify hot-button issues and people susceptible to suggestion, so "Propagandists can then manually craft messages to influence them, deploying covert provocateurs, either humans or automated computer programs known as bots, in hopes of altering their behavior. That is what Moscow is doing, more than a dozen senior intelligence officials and others investigating Russia's influence operations tell Time."

The article describes a Russian soldier in the Ukraine pretending to be a 42-year-old American housewife. Meanwhile, this week Time's cover shows America's White House halfway-covered with Kremlin-esque spires -- drawing a complaint from the humorists at Mad magazine, who say Time copied the cover of Mad's December issue.
Government

UK Conservatives Pledge To Create Government-Controlled Internet (independent.co.uk) 184

Martin S. writes: Theresa May, the leader of the UK Conservative Party has pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government on re-election. An early lead in the polls appears to be slipping but not slowly enough to change the result. Social Media has rapidly become an intense political battlefield. Known as #Mayhem in some circles, but seemingly able to command significant support from new and old media. Also, applying new social media analytics. According to the manifesto, the plans will allow Britain to become "the global leader in the regulation of the use of personal data and the internet." It states, "Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet... We disagree."
Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter 'Harm Young People's Mental Health' (theguardian.com) 120

Instagram and Snapchat are really bad for young people's mental health, according to research by two health organisations. Virtually all major social media platforms have a negative impact on the well-being of 14-24-year-olds, the study adds. Instagram was the worst -- followed by Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter. From a report on The Guardian: Instagram has the most negative impact on young people's mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young people's feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact. The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate children's and young people's body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.
Firefox

Firefox 55: Flash Will Become 'Ask To Activate' For Everyone (bleepingcomputer.com) 112

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BleepingComputer: Starting with the release of Firefox 55, the Adobe Flash plugin for Firefox will be set to "Ask to Activate" by default for all users. This move was announced in August 2016, as part of Mozilla's plan to move away from plugins built around the NPAPI technology. Flash is currently the only NPAPI plugin still supported in Firefox, and moving its default setting from "Always Activate" to "Ask to Activate" is just another step towards the final step of stop supporting Flash altogether. This new Flash default setting is already live in Firefox's Nightly Edition and will move through the Alpha and Beta versions as Firefox nears its v55 Stable release. By moving Flash to a click-to-play setting, Firefox will indirectly start to favor HTML5 content over Flash for all multimedia content. Other browsers like Google Chrome, Brave, or Opera already run Flash on a click-to-play setting, or disabled by default. Firefox is scheduled to be released on August 8, 2017.
Wireless Networking

Comcast's New Wireless Service Goes Live For Current Xfinity Subscribers (digitaltrends.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Comcast already pipes internet into millions of homes, and now it wants to take its service to the airwaves. In April, the media giant announced the details of a new service, Xfinity Mobile, that will compete toe-to-toe with Google Fi, US Cellular, and incumbents like AT&T and T-Mobile. Now it appears the company is in the initial stages of launching the service nationwide. If you're already an Xfinity subscriber, you can head to the company's new mobile website now to get started. The service is available in all markets in which Comcast already operates. Xfinity Mobile features an unlimited data, talk, and text plan starting at $65 a month for up to five lines ($45 per line for customers with Comcast's top X1 TV packages), or $12 per GB a month a la carte. The unlimited option has been reduced to $45 a month through July 31 for the network's first customers. A combination of Comcast's 16 million Wi-Fi hot spots and Verizon's network will supply coverage, and, as with Google's Fi technology, phones will automatically switch between Wi-Fi and cellular depending on network conditions. Xfinity Mobile customers have their choice of the iPhone, 7, 6S, and SE series, the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S7 series, and the LG X Power.
Android

Amazon Refreshes Fire 7 and Fire HD 8 Tablets (betanews.com) 28

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Amazon's tablets have needed a refresh for a while now, and today it happened. The company announced two newly updated models -- the Fire 7 ($49) and the Fire HD 8 ($79). They both feature Alexa support, of course, and are designed for a quality experience with all types of media, such as movies, music, and books. The 7-inch has a 1024 x 600 resolution, while the 8-inch variant has 1280 x 800. Best of all, they are extremely affordable. At these insanely low prices, you might expect anemic performance, but both come with a respectable Quad-core 1.3 GHz processor. The Fire 7 has 1GB of RAM, while the HD 8 has 1.5GB. Regardless of which model you select, you will also get both front and rear cameras. The low cost might make you think they will be cheaply made, but Amazon claims they are more durable than Apple's newest iPad.
China

Chinese State Media Says US Should Take Some Blame For Cyberattack (cnbc.com) 82

An anonymous reader shares a CNBC report: Chinese state media on Wednesday criticized the United States for hindering efforts to stop global cyber threats in the wake of the WannaCry ransomware attack that has infected more than 300,000 computers worldwide in recent days. The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) should shoulder some blame for the attack, which targets vulnerabilities in Microsoft systems and has infected some 30,000 Chinese organisations as of Saturday, the China Daily said. "Concerted efforts to tackle cyber crimes have been hindered by the actions of the United States," it said, adding that Washington had "no credible evidence" to support bans on Chinese tech firms in the United States following the attack. The malware attack, which began on Friday and has been linked by some researchers to previous hits by a North Korean-run hacking operation, leveraged a tool built by the NSA that leaked online in April, Microsoft says.
United States

The Tech Sector Is Leaving the Rest of the US Economy In Its Dust (theverge.com) 155

Yesterday afternoon, the S&P 500 closed at a record high, and is up over $1.5 trillion since the start of 2017. "And the companies doing the most to drive that rally are all tech firms," reports The Verge. "Apple, Alphabet, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft make up a whopping 37 percent of the total gains." From the report: All of these companies saw their share prices touch record highs in recent months. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the U.S. economy, which grew at a rate of less than 1 percent during the first three months of this year. That divide is the culmination of a long-term trend, according to a recent report featured in The Wall Street Journal: "In digital industries -- technology, communications, media, software, finance and professional services -- productivity grew 2.7% annually over the past 15 years...The slowdown is concentrated in physical industries -- health care, transportation, education, manufacturing, retail -- where productivity grew a mere 0.7% annually over the same period." There is no industry where these players aren't competing. Music, movies, shipping, delivery, transportation, energy -- the list goes on and on. As these companies continue to scale, the network effects bolstering their business are strengthening. Facebook and Google accounted for over three-quarters of the growth in the digital advertising industry in 2016, leaving the rest to be divided among small fry like Twitter, Snapchat, and the entire American media industry. Meanwhile Apple and Alphabet have achieved a virtual duopoly on mobile operating systems, with only a tiny sliver of consumers choosing an alternative for their smartphones and tablets.
Security

Hackers Aligned With Vietnam Government Are Attacking Foreign Companies (cnbc.com) 19

A hacker group "aligned with Vietnamese government interests" carried out attacks on corporate companies, journalists and overseas governments over the past three years, according to a report from cyber security firm FireEye. FireEye, which works with large companies to secure their assets from cyber threats, said it has tracked at least 10 separate attacks from the group -- referred to as OceanLotus, or APT32 -- since 2014. Targets included members of the media, and private and public sector organizations from across Germany, China, the U.S., the Philippines, the UK and Vietnam itself, according to the report. From an article: APT refers to advanced persistent threat -- one that involves a continuous hacking process using sophisticated techniques that exploit vulnerabilities within a network. Nick Carr, a senior manager at FireEye's Mandiant team that responds to threats and incidents, told CNBC what set APT32 apart from other groups was the kind of information the hackers were looking for within a company's breached network. "Several cases here, it appears APT32 was conducting intrusions to investigate the victims' operations and assess their adherence to regulations," Carr said. "That's where it starts to be really unusual and is a significant departure from the wide-scale intellectual property theft and espionage that you see from a Chinese group, or political espionage or information operations from a Russian group." To be clear, the attacks carried out by APT32 are unrelated to the WannaCry ransomware that has hit 200,000 victims in at least 150 countries since Friday.
Businesses

UploadVR Had a 'Kink Room,' Pressured Female Employees To 'Microdose,' Alleges Lawsuit (gizmodo.com) 444

The virtual-reality company UploadVR is being sued by the company's former Director of Digital and Social Media for rampant sexual harassment. According to Gizmodo, "the lawsuit alleges that the company's employees and founders created a hostile work environment in which sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation occurred on a regular basis." From the report: In the suit documents, the former Director of Digital and Social Media for UploadVR claims that the office environment was a "boy's club" that employees expressly referred to as a "boy's club." From the suit: "Specifically, the male employees of UploadVR, including Mason and Freeman, would discuss their sexual exploits in graphic detail at the workplace in front of Plaintiff and other female employees. For instance, UploadVR employee [name redacted]'s sex life was a frequent topic of conversation. The other male employees would talk about how he 'refuses to wear a condom' and 'has had sex with over 1000 people.'" The documents also claim that employees were engaged in Silicon Valley's hot new trend of "microdosing" and "using Marijuana in the office." When female employees didn't want to participate, they would be ostracized by the male employees and excluded from important meetings and lunches.
Communications

FCC Suspends Net Neutrality Comments, As Chairman Pai Mocks 'Mean Tweets' (gizmodo.com) 184

An anonymous reader writes:Thursday the FCC stopped accepting comments as part of long-standing rules "to provide FCC decision-makers with a period of repose during which they can reflect on the upcoming items" before their May 18th meeting. Techdirt wondered if this time to reflect would mean less lobbying from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, but on Friday Pai recorded a Jimmy Kimmel-style video mocking mean tweets, with responses Gizmodo called "appalling" and implying "that anyone who opposes his cash grab for corporations is a moron."

Meanwhile, Wednesday The Consumerist reported the FCC's sole Democrat "is deploying some scorched-earth Microsoft Word table-making to use FCC Chair Ajit Pai's own words against him." (In 2014 Pai wrote "A dispute this fundamental is not for us five, unelected individuals to decide... We should also engage computer scientists, technologists, and other technical experts to tell us how they see the Internet's infrastructure and consumers' online experience evolving.") But Pai seemed to be mostly sticking to friendlier audiences, appearing with conservative podcasters from the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, the AEI think tank and The Daily Beast.

The Verge reports the flood of fake comments opposing Net Neutrality may have used names and addresses from a breach of 1.4 billion personal information records from marketing company River City Media. Reached on Facebook Messenger, one woman whose named was used "said she hadn't submitted any comments, didn't live at that address anymore and didn't even know what net neutrality is, let alone oppose it."

Techdirt adds "If you do still feel the need to comment, the EFF is doing what the FCC itself should do and has set up its own page at DearFCC.org to hold any comments."
United Kingdom

British PM Candidate Promises Social Media Crackdown (politico.eu) 217

Theresa May's party "is expected to win a majority at the June 8 election," reports Reuters -- and she's promising they'll pass new social media laws. An anonymous reader quotes Politico: They want to introduce a new measure that could fine or punish internet firms which fail to adequately flag and take down content harmful to minors or "direct users unintentionally to hate speech, pornography or other sources of harm," according to a press release. "The internet has brought a wealth of opportunity but also significant new risks which have evolved faster than society's response to them," May said. "We want social media companies to do more to help redress the balance and will take action to make sure they do"... The Conservative digital platform also promises to better protect Brits' personal information, compelling social media companies to trash user records from before the age of 18. The party plans to encourage the development of digital by default government and business services, as well.
Music

The Failed Experiment of the Digital Album Booklet (theoutline.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: Before the ubiquity of MP3s and streaming platforms, one of the many small joys of buying a new album on CD was slipping the booklet out of the jewel case and reading the liner notes, credits, and lyrics while the music played for the first time. These days, the biographical information, album production notes, promotional photos, and printed lyrics that fans once relied on physical literature for have found homes in other areas online. Artist websites, social media accounts, and sites like Genius and WhoSampled offer a patchwork of album information, like credits and clues to what happened behind the scenes. But those details rarely exist in one place, and production and songwriting credits seem less and less important. Meanwhile, the form that was intended to replace the traditional booklet, the digital booklet, remains a rarity when it comes to new releases. The idea of digital album booklets may appeal to only the nerdiest of music fans, for whom having everything in one place is a ritualistic way to listen to music and for whom album credits are crucial. But in an age where branding is often as important as skill, the lack of digital booklets feels like a wasted opportunity for artists wanting to communicate directly to fans without a social network as a middleman.
Google

German Publishers' Lawsuit Against Google May Backfire (npr.org) 29

jowifi writes: VG Media, a German publishing company, filed a lawsuit against Google claiming Google's use of snippets in their search results infringed the publishers' copyrights. However, the suit may backfire because the Berlin court is now reviewing the law itself to determine if it is even valid. The question arose because Germany did not submit the rule for review by the EU before enacting it, violating an EU Directive. If the law is invalidated, the decision could present problems for a proposed EU-wide directive that is similar to the German rule. Germany's rule had a rough start when it was implemented in 2014. Google refused to pay fees to publishers, instead allowing them to opt in to having snippets shown. One publisher declined to opt in, but changed their mind after traffic from Google dropped 40% and traffic from Google News dropped 80%. Handelsblatt Global explains why Germany decided not to notify the EU about the draft of this law: "While typically a formality, notification reviews of national laws by Brussels can take up to two years or more. In 2013, Germany did not submit the copyright law for notification, citing a Justice Ministry argument that the law's scope was so limited, it didn't fall under the E.U.'s notification requirement."
Google

'Google Is As Close To a Natural Monopoly As the Bell System Was In 1956' (promarket.org) 248

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ProMarket: In terms of market share and profit margins, the big digital platforms, particularly Google and Facebook, enjoy an astounding level of dominance. Google, in effect the world's largest media company, has an 88 percent market share in search advertising. Facebook (including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp) controls over 70 percent of social media on mobile devices. Together, the two firms received 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising in the first quarter of 2016. Amazon has an over 70 percent share in the e-book market. Along with Apple and Microsoft, they are now the most valuable companies (in terms of market capitalization) in the world. The rise of digital platforms has had profound political, economic, and social effects, not least of which on the creators of content. While the internet brought immense benefits to consumers of content, the so-called "creative class" -- authors, journalists, filmmakers, musicians, artists -- has been particularly ravaged by the digital economy. This ravaging, and its roots in the monopolization of content delivery and data in the hands of a few digital giants, are at the heart of the new book Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy by media scholar Jonathan Taplin. In the book, Taplin explores the way in which the internet came to be dominated by a handful of monopoly platforms, and the subsequent capturing of regulators that has since all but ensured their dominance would not be challenged in court. In an interview with ProMarket, Taplin said in response to a question: "I would say Google is as close to a natural monopoly as the Bell System was in 1956. If you came to me and said 'Hey, I want to start a company to compete with Google in search,' I would say you're out of your mind and don't waste your energy or your time or your money, there's just no way. Classic economics would say that if there's a business in which there are 35 percent net margins, that would attract a huge amount of new capital to capture some of that, and none of that has happened. That tells you there's something wrong."
Facebook

Did A Billionaire Harvest Big Data From Facebook To 'Hijack' Democracy? (theguardian.com) 452

Long-time Slashdot readers walterbyrd and whoever57 both submitted the same article about the mysterious data analytics company Cambridge Analytica and its activities with SCL Group, a 25-year-old military psyops company in the U.K. later bought by "secretive hedge fund billionaire" Robert Mercer. One former employee calls it "this dark, dystopian data company that gave the world Trump." Facebook was the source of the psychological insights that enabled Cambridge Analytica to target individuals. It was also the mechanism that enabled them to be delivered on a large scale. The company also (perfectly legally) bought consumer datasets -- on everything from magazine subscriptions to airline travel -- and uniquely it appended these with the psych data to voter files... Finding "persuadable" voters is key for any campaign and with its treasure trove of data, Cambridge Analytica could target people high in neuroticism, for example, with images of immigrants "swamping" the country. The key is finding emotional triggers for each individual voter. Cambridge Analytica worked on campaigns in several key states for a Republican political action committee. Its key objective, according to a memo the Observer has seen, was "voter disengagement" and "to persuade Democrat voters to stay at home"... In the U.S., the government is bound by strict laws about what data it can collect on individuals. But, for private companies anything goes.
A branch of this company reportedly also received half the campaign budgets of four pro-Brexit campaign groups, and there's some dark talk about "military-funded technology that has been harnessed by a global plutocracy...being used to sway elections in ways that people can't even see." The article notes the two firms have plied their services in Russia as well as Lithuania and the Ukraine, and suggests that "we are in the midst of a massive land grab for power by billionaires via our data. Data which is being silently amassed, harvested and stored."
Social Networks

Social Media Giants Sued For Helping ISIS (torontosun.com) 135

Long-time Slashdot reader nnet quotes the Toronto Sun: Social media giants Twitter, Google and Facebook are being sued by the families of victims of the San Bernardino terror attacks. The lawsuit claims those companies aided ISIS by letting them build their online profile and bolster recruitment. Fourteen people were killed in the December 2015 attacks by twisted husband-wife Islamist extremists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. "Without defendants Twitter, Facebook and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of IS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," the suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, alleges.
EU

'Weaponized' Twitter Bots Spread Info From French Campaign Hack (recode.net) 255

"The French media and public have been warned not to spread details about a hacking attack on presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron," writes Slashdot reader schwit1, with the election commission threatening criminal charges. But meanwhile, "the leaked documents have since spread like wildfire across social media, particularly on Twitter," reports Recode. Nicole Perlroth, a cybersecurity reporter with the New York Times, pointed out that an overwhelming amount of the tweets shared about the Macron campaign hack appear to come from automated accounts, commonly referred to as bots. About 40% of the tweets using the hashtag #MacronGate, Perlroth noted, are actually coming from only 5% of accounts using the hashtag. One account tweeted 1,668 times in 24 hours, which is more than one tweet per minute with no sleep... Twitter appears not to have done anything to combat what is obviously a bot attack, despite the fact the social media company is well aware of the problem of bot accounts being used to falsely popularize political issues during high-profile campaigns to give the impression of a groundswell of grassroots support.
The Times reporter later tweeted "This could be @twitter's death knell. Algorithms exist to deal with this. Why aren't you using them?" And one Sunlight Foundation official called the discovery "statistics from the front lines of the disinformation wars," cc-ing both Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg. In other news, the BBC reports France's president has promised to "respond" to the hacking incident, giving no further details, but saying he was aware of the risks because they'd "happened elsewhere"."

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