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The Almighty Buck

The Only Thing, Historically, That's Curbed Inequality: Catastrophe (theatlantic.com) 429

ColdWetDog writes: The Atlantic has an interesting article on how societies have decreased economic equality. From the report: "Calls to make America great again hark back to a time when income inequality receded even as the economy boomed and the middle class expanded. Yet it is all too easy to forget just how deeply this newfound equality was rooted in the cataclysm of the world wars. The pressures of total war became a uniquely powerful catalyst of equalizing reform, spurring unionization, extensions of voting rights, and the creation of the welfare state. During and after wartime, aggressive government intervention in the private sector and disruptions to capital holdings wiped out upper-class wealth and funneled resources to workers; even in countries that escaped physical devastation and crippling inflation, marginal tax rates surged upward. Concentrated for the most part between 1914 and 1945, this 'Great Compression' (as economists call it) of inequality took several more decades to fully run its course across the developed world until the 1970s and 1980s, when it stalled and began to go into reverse. This equalizing was a rare outcome in modern times but by no means unique over the long run of history. Inequality has been written into the DNA of civilization ever since humans first settled down to farm the land. Throughout history, only massive, violent shocks that upended the established order proved powerful enough to flatten disparities in income and wealth. They appeared in four different guises: mass-mobilization warfare, violent and transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic epidemics. Hundreds of millions perished in their wake, and by the time these crises had passed, the gap between rich and poor had shrunk."

Slashdot reader ColdWetDog notes: "Yep, the intro is a bit of a swipe at Trump. But this should get the preppers and paranoids in the group all wound up. Grab your foil! Run for the hills!"

Government

Wyden To Introduce Bill To Prohibit Warrantless Phone Searches At Border (onthewire.io) 178

Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A senator from Oregon who has a long track record of involvement on security and privacy issues says he plans to introduce a bill soon that would prevent border agents from forcing Americans returning to the country to unlock their phones without a warrant. Sen. Ron Wyden said in a letter to the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security that he is concerned about reports that Customs and Border Patrol agents are pressuring returning Americans into handing over their phone PINs or using their fingerprints to unlock their phones. DHS Secretary John Kelly has said that he's considering the idea of asking visitors for the login data for their various social media accounts, information that typically would require a warrant to obtain. "Circumventing the normal protection for such private information is simply unacceptable," Wyden said in the letter, sent Monday. "There are well-established procedures governing how law enforcement agencies may obtain data from social media companies and email providers. The process typically requires that the government obtain a search warrant or other court order, and then ask the service provider to turn over the user's data."
Education

University Offers Course To Help Sniff Out and Refute 'Bullshit' (engadget.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: There's now a course at the University of Washington, "Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data" that helps you find bad information and show others why it's bad. The instructors, Professors Jevin D. West and Carl T. Bergstrom, jokingly write that "we will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful ... that you acquire during the course of your college education." They add that the intention is not to be political, as "both sides of the aisle have proven themselves facile at creating and spreading bullshit." The intention, then, is to arm students (and the public if they want) with the tools to combat a scourge of misinformation that's aided and abetted by social media.
Businesses

TransferWise Launches International Money Transfers Via Facebook (reuters.com) 33

Money transfer company TransferWise has launched a new service that allows users to send money internationally through Facebook's Messenger, as competition in the digital payments landscape intensifies. From a report on Reuters: The London-based startup said on Tuesday that it had developed a Facebook Messenger "chatbot", or an automated program that can help users communicate with businesses and carry out tasks such as online purchases. TransferWise's chatbot enables customers to send money to friends and family to and from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and Europe from Facebook Messenger. It can also be used to set up exchange rate alerts. Facebook already allows its users to send money domestically in the United States via its Messenger app, but has not yet launched similar services internationally. TransferWise said its service will be the first to enable international money transfers entirely within Messenger.
China

China's Millennials Are Hustling For Part-Time Gigs Instead of Traditional Jobs (bloomberg.com) 143

Bloomberg has a report today in which it underscores a growing trend among millennials in China who are looking for part-time jobs. From the article: Hopping from one short-term stint to another isn't the sort of aspiration an earlier generation had in China, where the middle-class dream has long been university degrees followed by a stable job -- preferably one backed by the government. In a 2016 poll of 13,000 college students, 48 percent said they didn't want to enter the traditional labor market. Hardly any of these part-time jobs pay well, but it doesn't matter to millennials. The report adds: "The money is little," Zhang Chen, a 21-year-old accounting student said of the short gig that pays about 240 yuan ($35). "But I want a more interesting life." Chen was lined up for the work through DouMi, a startup that focuses exclusively on part-time positions and blends elements of a temp agency with an internet jobs board and marketing service. For around 130 yuan a day, DouMi users can sort crates of milk at a supermarket or hand out pamphlets on frozen sidewalks. Those considered "beautiful women," and between the ages of 18 and 28, can make four times as much plus tips by working as live-streaming models to keep mostly-male viewers entertained. Many of the roles run for mere days or weeks at a time, a flexibility that suits those juggling social lives and university studies. "Every month we have between 300,000 and 400,000 jobs," said Chief Executive Officer Zhao Shiyong.
Facebook

Of Course Facebook Is Putting a Snapchat Clone Inside WhatsApp (mashable.com) 75

Karissa Bell, writing for Mashable: Facebook is about to start pushing its next Snapchat clone on a new set of 1 billion+ users. WhatsApp is now starting to roll out its own version of Stories with an update to its Status feature. Launching now in the Netherlands and France, the feature will eventually be live in all the countries where the messaging app is available. [...] The update, which coincides with the chat app's eighth birthday, makes WhatsApp the last of the major Facebook services to get the Snapchat treatment. (The company started with Instagram last year before adding Snapchat-like features to Messenger and the main Facebook app.) Journalist Casey Newton sums up the situation with this sarcastic tweet, "Honestly whatever you think of Evan Spiegel, it's impressive that he's taking Snap public while serving as Facebook's chief product officer."
Businesses

The Death of the Click (axios.com) 129

Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: For the past 10 years, we've operated on the premise that the most important digital metric is the click that refers a person to a website. That click usually comes from a social distribution channel, like Facebook or Twitter, or a search engine, like Google or Bing. But according to industry experts, the click referral is becoming an idea of the past, soon to be replaced by content exposure. [...] Most publishers have designed their websites to measure user interaction through clicks, not scroll rates or time spent on stories. As the industry moves away from click-through rates (CTR's) as the most meaningful marketing metric, those publishers will have a difficult time justifying the effectiveness of their platforms for marketers.
First Person Shooters (Games)

'Counter-Strike' Gets Invaded By An Unblockable Chat-Bot (kotaku.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes: "At least one intruder is taking advantage of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive exploit to flood lobbies (even private ones) with text from chat bots that can't be kicked," writes Engadget. The attack "allegedly comes from one person," according to Kotaku, which reports that "It's a similar exploit to one found a few weeks ago, where typing messages into a lobby allowed users to rank up and down as they chose." The chat bot's text includes various complaints about Counter-Strike which it claims motivated the attack, including cheaters, hackers and "bugs that break the game," and it urges a one-day boycott "to proof [sic] them that we care about the game and want them to fix it."
Cellphones

Should International Travelers Leave Their Phones At Home? (freecodecamp.com) 508

Long-time Slashdot reader Toe, The sums up what he learned from freeCodeCamp's Quincy Larson: "Before you travel internationally, wipe your phone or bring/rent/buy a clean one." Larson's article is titled "I'll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you." All the security in the world can't save you if someone has physical possession of your phone or laptop, and can intimidate you into giving up your password... Companies like Elcomsoft make 'forensic software' that can suck down all your photos, contacts -- even passwords for your email and social media accounts -- in a matter of minutes.... If we do nothing to resist, pretty soon everyone will have to unlock their phone and hand it over to a customs agent while they're getting their passport swiped... And with this single new procedure, all the hard work that Apple and Google have invested in encrypting the data on your phone -- and fighting for your privacy in court -- will be a completely moot point.
The article warns Americans that their constitutional protections don't apply because "the U.S. border isn't technically the U.S.," calling it "a sort of legal no-man's-land. You have very few rights there." Larson points out this also affects Canadians, but argues that "You can't hand over a device that you don't have."
Businesses

Thousands Of Disabled People Are Living In 'Virtual Utopias' In Second Life (backchannel.com) 54

"For many disabled residents, who may spend 12 hours a day or more in Second Life, the most important moments and relationships of their lives happen inside the virtual world," reports Backchanel. "For them, the fevered fantasies of a decade ago have become reality: Second Life is where they live." mirandakatz shares this article: Wagner James Au, who has written extensively about Second Life, estimates they may account for roughly 20 percent of users. Some active members estimate the number higher -- at as much as 50 percent... Abundant research shows imagining movement, without actually moving the body, can have positive effects on motor skills, balance, and learning... Studies suggest the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality extend beyond movement disorders -- to chronic pain, cognitive functioning in people with ADHD and PTSD, and social skills for people on the autism spectrum.
The article describes a 90-year-old former nurse, now living in a retirement community, who's spent eight years living in a Second Life archipelago called "Virtual Ability Island" with over a thousand other members. "Watching her avatar hike trails and dance gave her the confidence to try things in the physical world that she hadn't tried in a half decade -- like stepping off a curb or standing up without any help."
Transportation

GM Plans To Build, Test Thousands of Self-Driving Bolts In 2018 (reuters.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: General Motors Co plans to deploy thousands of self-driving electric cars in test fleets in partnership with ride-sharing affiliate Lyft Inc, beginning in 2018, two sources familiar with the automaker's plans said this week. It is expected to be the largest such test of fully autonomous vehicles by any major automaker before 2020, when several companies have said they plan to begin building and deploying such vehicles in higher volumes. Most of the specially equipped versions of the Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicle will be used by San Francisco-based Lyft, which will test them in its ride-sharing fleet in several states, one of the sources said. GM has no immediate plans to sell the Bolt AV to individual customers, according to the source. In a statement on Friday, GM said: "We do not provide specific details on potential future products or technology rollout plans. We have said that our AV technology will appear in an on-demand ride sharing network application sooner than you might think."
The Courts

Your Personal Facebook Live Videos Can Legally End Up on TV (thememo.com) 142

Kitty Knowles, reporting for the Memo: Think you control what happens to your personal videos? Think again. One father who live-streamed his partner's labour on Facebook last May, has found out the hard way: he saw the birth of his son replayed on Good Morning America and numerous other media outlets. This week, he lost a high-profile court battle against the broadcasters. If you don't want this to happen to you, don't make the same mistakes. It's one thing wanting to share a life-changing moment with friends and family. But most would understand why Kali Kanongataa didn't want his child's birth aired for all to see. That hasn't however, stopped a US judge throwing out Kanongataa's copyright infringement case against the likes of the ABC, Yahoo, and Rodale, the company that publishes Women's Health. Apparently, the father-to-be realised his film was streaming publicly on social media about 30 minutes into recording, but decided to leave it that way. Media outlets broadcasting the clips have defended doing so on the terms of "fair use." Legally, "fair use" means that when pictures or videos are the focus of a major news story, selected footage can be used.Heads up, Facebook will soon release a video app for set-top boxes by Apple and Amazon to broadcast Live videos on the big screen.
Communications

PewDiePie Calls Out the 'Old-School Media' For Spiteful Dishonesty 914

New submitter Shane_Optima writes: After losing his Youtube Red show and his contract with Disney, the owner of the most subscribed channel on Youtube, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (aka "PewDiePie"), has released a video response to the Wall Street Journal and other mainstream news outlets, who have labeled his comedy videos variously as racist, fascist or anti-semitic. In it, he accuses the mainstream media of deliberately fabricating and misrepresenting the evidence used against him because they are afraid of independent content producers such as himself. In the video, PewDiePie discusses the recent actions of the Wall Street Journal, whose reporters sent nine cherry-picked and edited videos to Disney, which led directly to Disney's decision to terminate their relationship with him. These video clips and others used to "prove" PewDiePie's guilt have been edited (he claims) to remove all context, to the extent of using a pose of him pointing at something as a Nazi salute and using a clip where other players are creating swastikas in a game and editing out the part where he is asking them to stop. The most-cited video in the controversy involves seeing if he can use the site Fiverr to hire someone to create a video containing an over-the-top message for a mere $5. After a couple of laughing males unfurl a sign saying "Death to All Jews," he recoils with widened eyes and sits, apparently dumbfounded, for another thirty seconds before the video ends, without him uttering another word.

PewDiePie's video comes several days after a Tumblr post where he attempted to clarify that the videos were intended to be comedy showing "how crazy the modern world is." He has not yet used the phrase "fake news" in his response to the controversy, but given the current trends surrounding that phrase, it isn't surprising that his supporters are resorting to it frequently. Is this all just another unfortunate instance of collateral damage in the war against far-right political movements, is it a campaign of malicious retaliation by old media that is terrified of new media (as Felix claims), or was J.K. Rowling correct when she called out PewDiePie as a Death Eater? Err, I mean, ...as a fascist?

Update: Apparently, canceling his Youtube Red series was deemed an insufficient response. Youtube has now removed the mirror of PewDiePie's "Death to All Jews" video because it "violates Youtube's policy on hate speech." The original posting of the video had already been marked private by PewDiePie shortly after the controversy erupted. A quick check of Vimeo and Daily Motion came up empty, so you're on your own if you wish to find out for yourself what the controversy was all about.
Businesses

Check Your Privacy Filters: Facebook Wants To Be the New LinkedIn (cnet.com) 85

From a report on CNET: Facebook isn't just for wasting time in the office. It can now help you find a new job entirely. The social network has unveiled a Jobs page, which allows businesses to list all kinds of work for you to find. You can even apply for the job and make contact with recruiters directly through Facebook. This could be seen as a challenge to competing services such as LinkedIn, the recruiting network acquired by Microsoft last December. But while LinkedIn is entirely focused on business, Facebook's social aspects could make it easier for potential employers to trawl your profile for details of your personal life.
Facebook

Facebook To Autoplay Videos With Sound On By Default (androidandme.com) 116

Currently, Facebook videos autoplay on your News Feed as you scroll up and down. While they eat data and various resources, the saving grace is that they are silent -- that is, until now. Facebook has announced several new changes to its video platform today, including a setting that will autoplay videos with sound turned on by default. Android and Me reports: The audio of videos will fade in and out as you're scrolling through your feed. Fortunately, Facebook will at least make it so that audio won't autoplay if your phone is set to silent. If you're not a fan of this change, there will be a setting to turn audio autoplay off. The change is that it will now be on by default for everyone. Other feature introductions are larger previews for vertical videos, a picture-in-picture mode for videos so you can watch and continue scrolling (and even exit the app without interrupting the video on Android), and a Facebook Video app coming to smart TVs.
Facebook

Facebook is Bringing Its Social Network To TV, Video App Announced For Apple's and Amazon's Set-Top Boxes (recode.net) 21

Facebook is making perhaps its biggest push yet to turn the social network into a destination for watching video with a new Facebook Video app for smart TVs. From a report on Recode: The social network on Tuesday announced a new app for set-top boxes, including Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and the Samsung Smart TV. The app will let you watch the same kinds of video you can already find on Facebook, but (presumably) on a much larger screen. Dan Rose, Facebook's VP of Partnerships, announced the new app at the Code Media conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, Calif. The new app, which will launch "soon," gives Facebook yet another way to reach consumers interested in videos and, most likely, another platform to sell video ads.
Facebook

Getting All Your News From Facebook Is Like Eating Only Potato Chips, Flipboard CEO Says (recode.net) 139

In a wide-ranging interview, Mike McCue, CEO of news curator app Flipboard, talked about how -- and from where -- people get their news nowadays and how it shapes their worldview. From a report: McCue said getting all your news from either friends or algorithms is "challenging and semi-dangerous" because today's social platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, favor content that people engage with, driving "extremist" content to the top. Hence, he argues, the "fake news" epidemic, which McCue believes had an effect on the 2016 election. "Sometimes I think of news feeds as the 'mystery meat' of your information diet," he said. "It's not like you finish reading your Facebook feed, after half an hour, and feel like, 'That was a great use of time!' It's like if you ate potato chips all day long."
EU

Finland's Universal Basic Income Called 'Useless' By Trade Union Economist (bloomberg.com) 722

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: Finland's basic income experiment is unworkable, uneconomical and ultimately useless. Plus, it will only encourage some people to work less. That's not the view of a hard core Thatcherite, but of the country's biggest trade union. The labor group says the results of the two-year pilot program will fail to sway its opposition to a welfare-policy idea that's gaining traction among those looking for an alternative in the post-industrial age. "We think it takes social policy in the wrong direction," said Ilkka Kaukoranta, chief economist of the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, which has nearly one million members.

Since January, a group of unemployed Finns aged between 25 and 58 have been receiving a stipend of 560 euros ($600) per month. The amount isn't means-tested and is paid regardless of whether the recipient finds a job, starts a business or returns to school... Advocates say it eliminates poverty traps and redistributes income while empowering the individual and reducing paperwork... While limited in scope (it's conditional on the beneficiary having received some form of unemployment support in November 2016) and size (it's based on a randomly-selected sample of 2,000 jobless people), the Finnish trial may help answer questions like: "Does it work"? "Is it worth it"? And the most fundamental of all: "Does it incite laboriousness or laziness...?"

The trade union argues this UBI program would cost 5% of Finland's entire gross domestic product, making it "impossibly expensive."
Twitter

Twitter Announces (More) Hate-Speech Fighting Tools (Again) (cnn.com) 340

Building on anti-harassment tools announced in November, Twitter is now "trying to shake its reputation as a haven for online harassment" with still more new internal algorithms and features, reports CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The changes include preventing serial abusers from creating new accounts, a new "safe search" function and blocking potentially abusive and "low-quality" tweets from appearing in conversations, Twitter's engineering chief Ed Ho said in a blog post. Twitter is working on identifying users that have been permanently suspended and prevent them from creating new accounts, Ho said. This new measure specifically targets "accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others," he said, a problem that has long plagued the platform.

The new safe search function prevents tweets that are abusive, or from blocked and muted accounts, from appearing in users' search results. Those tweets can still be found if people want to see them, but they "won't clutter search results any longer," Ho said. And Twitter will now collapse tweet replies that are potentially abusive or low quality -- like duplicate tweets or content that appears to be automated. But those tweets "will still be accessible to those who seek them out," Ho said.

The blog post announces Twitter's ultimate goal is "a significant impact that people can feel," arguing that freedom of speech for all viewpoints is "put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices."
Facebook

How Tech Ate the Media and Our Minds (axios.com) 82

From a report: On average, we check our phones 50 times each day -- with some studies suggesting it could three times that amount. We spend around 6 hours per day consuming digital media. As a result, the human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds since 2000, while the goldfish attention span is nine seconds. And we just mindlessly pass along information without reading or checking it. Columbia University found that nearly 60 percent of all social media posts are shared without being clicked on.

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