United States

Leaked 'Standing Rock' Documents Reveal Invasive Counterterrorism Measures (theintercept.com) 93

An anonymous reader writes: "A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures," reports The Intercept, decrying "the fusion of public and private intelligence operations." Saying the private firm started as a war-on-terror contractor for the U.S. military and State Department, the site details "sweeping and invasive" surveillance of protesters, citing over 100 documents leaked by one of the firm's contractors.

The documents show TigerSwan even havested information about the protesters from social media, and "provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles... The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan's militaristic approach to protecting its client's interests but also the company's profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures... Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as 'an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component' and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters."

The Intercept reports that recently "the company's role has expanded to include the surveillance of activist networks marginally related to the pipeline, with TigerSwan agents monitoring 'anti-Trump' protests from Chicago to Washington, D.C., as well as warning its client of growing dissent around other pipelines across the country." They also report that TigerSwan "has operated without a license in North Dakota for the entirety of the pipeline security operation."
Transportation

New Details On Sergey Brin's Plan For The World's Largest Aircraft (theguardian.com) 105

An anonymous reader shares The Guardian's report on plans for a new aircraft that's two-and-a-half times the size of a 747. Google co-founder Sergey Brin is building a hi-tech airship in Silicon Valley destined to be the largest aircraft in the world, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the project. "It's going to be massive on a grand scale," said one, adding that the airship is likely to be nearly 200 meters [656 feet] long... Brin wants the gargantuan airship, funded personally by the billionaire, to be able to deliver supplies and food on humanitarian missions to remote locations. However, it will also serve as a luxurious intercontinental "air yacht" for Brin's friends and family.

One source put the project's price tag at $100m to $150m. Igor Pasternak, an airship designer who was involved in the early stages of the project, believes airships could be as revolutionary for the trillion-dollar global cargo market as the internet was for communications. "Sergey is pretty innovative and forward looking," he said. "Trucks are only as good as your roads, trains can only go where you have rails, and planes need airports. Airships can deliver from point A to point Z without stopping anywhere in between."

The Guardian quips that while Brin's plans may stay secret for a while, "the good news is that the first flight test of such an enormous aircraft will be impossible to hide."
Government

Investigation Demanded Over Fake FCC Comments Submitted By Dead People (bbc.com) 135

An anonymous reader writes: Fight for the Future has found another issue with the fake comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality. "The campaign group says that some of the comments were posted using the names and details of dead people," according to the BBC. The exact same comment was also submitted more than 7,000 times using addresses in Colorado, where a reporter discovered that contacting the people at those addresses drew reactions which included "I have never seen this before in my life" and "No, I did not post this comment. In fact, I disagree with this comment." Fight for the Future also knocked on doors in Tampa, Florida, where the few people who answered "were shocked to hear that their name and address were publicly listed alongside a political message they did not necessarily understand or agree with." An alleged commenter in Montana told a reporter she didn't even know what net neutrality was.

14 people have already signed Fight for the Future's official complaint to the FCC, which calls for notification of all people affected, an investigation, and the immediate removal of all fake comments from the public docket. "Based on numerous media reports, nearly half a million Americans may have been impacted by whoever impersonated us," states the letter, "in a dishonest and deceitful campaign to manufacture false support for your plan to repeal net neutrality protections."

Fight for the Future says they've already verified "dozens" of instance of real people discovering a fake comment was submitted in their name -- and that in addition, more than 2,400 people have already used their site to contact their state Attorneys General demanding an investigation. They note the FCC has taken no steps to remove the fake comments from its docket, "risking the safety and privacy of potentially hundreds of thousands of people," while a campaign director at Fight for the Future added, "For the FCC's process to have any legitimacy, they simply cannot move forward until an investigation has been conducted."
Facebook

Facebook Bans Sale of Piracy-Enabling Set-Top Boxes 66

Lirodon quotes a report from Variety: Facebook has joined the fight against illegal video-streaming devices. The social behemoth recently added a new category to products it prohibits users to sell under its commerce policy: Products or items that "facilitate or encourage unauthorized access to digital media." The change in Facebook's policy, previously reported by The Drum, appears primarily aimed at blocking the sale of Kodi-based devices loaded with software that allows unauthorized, free access to piracy-streaming services. Kodi is free, open-source media player software. The app has grown popular among pirates, who modify the code with third-party add-ons for illegal streaming. Even with the ban officially in place, numerous "jail-broken" Kodi-enabled devices remain listed in Facebook's Marketplace section, indicating that the company has yet to fully enforce the new ban. A Facebook rep confirmed the policy went into effect earlier this month. In addition, the company updated its advertising policy to explicitly ban ads for illegal streaming services and devices.
Businesses

Sean Parker Is Going To Great Lengths To Ensure 'Screening Room' Is Piracy Free, Patents Reveal (torrentfreak.com) 139

Napster co-founder Sean Parker has been working on his new service called Screening Room, which when becomes reality, could allow people to watch the latest Hollywood blockbusters in their living room as soon as they premiere at the box office. This week we get a glimpse at the kind of technologies Parker is using to ensure that the movies don't get distributed easily. From a report: Over the past several weeks, Screening Room Media, Inc. has submitted no less than eight patent applications related to its plans, all with some sort of anti-piracy angle. For example, a patent titled "Presenting Sonic Signals to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" describes a technology where acoustic signals are regularly sent to mobile devices, to confirm that the user is near the set-top box and is authorized to play the content. Similarly, the "Monitoring Nearby Mobile Computing Devices to Prevent Digital Content Misuse" patent, describes a system that detects the number of mobile devices near the client-side device, to make sure that too many people aren't tuning in. The general technology outlined in the patents also includes forensic watermarking and a "P2P polluter." The watermarking technology can be used to detect when pirated content spreads outside of the protected network onto the public Internet. "At this point, the member's movie accessing system will be shut off and quarantined. If the abuse or illicit activity is confirmed, the member and the household will be banned from the content distribution network," the patent reads. [...] Screening Room's system also comes with a wide range of other anti-piracy scans built in. Among other things, it regularly scans the Wi-Fi network to see which devices are connected, and Bluetooth is used to check what other devices are near.
NASA

NASA To Make Announcement About First Mission To Touch Sun (nasa.gov) 84

NASA published the following media advisory moments ago: NASA will make an announcement about the agency's first mission to fly directly into our sun's atmosphere during an event at 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, May 31, from the University of Chicago's William Eckhardt Research Center Auditorium. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. The mission, Solar Probe Plus, is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2018. Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun's surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work. The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.
Facebook

Facebook's Instant Articles Platform To Support Google AMP, Apple News (techcrunch.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: One of the problems publishers face today in making their content more readable on mobile devices is that there are multiple, competing formats available for this purpose. Facebook has Instant Articles, Google is spearheading the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, and the Apple News Format optimizes content for iOS devices. Facebook is today taking a crack at a solution to this problem by rolling out support for both AMP and soon Apple News as a part of its open source Instant Articles software development kit. The updated SDK will now include an extension that lets publishers build content that's publishable in all three formats, beginning with support for Google's AMP in addition to Facebook's own Instant Articles. In the weeks ahead it will also include support for publishing to Apple News, though the company didn't provide an exact launch date for when that feature would be added.
Censorship

Egypt Blocks 21 Websites For 'Terrorism' And 'Fake News' (reuters.com) 54

Ahmed Aboulenein, reporting for Reuters: Egypt has banned 21 websites, including the main website of Qatar-based Al Jazeera television and prominent local independent news site Mada Masr, accusing them of supporting terrorism and spreading false news. The blockade is notable in scope and for being the first publicly recognized by the government. It was heavily criticized by journalists and rights groups. The state news agency announced it late on Wednesday. Individual websites had been inaccessible in the past but there was never any official admission. Reuters found the websites named by local media and were inaccessible. The move follows similar actions taken on Wednesday by Egypt's Gulf allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which blocked Al Jazeera and other websites after a dispute with Qatar. From a separate report: "This is not the typical Egyptian regime attitude," Lina Attalah, the editor-in-chief of Mada Masr told BuzzFeed News in an interview in Cairo. "We are used to facing troubles with the regime since we have always chosen to write the stories they don't like to hear. We are used to being arrested or have cases filed against us, but blocking us is a new thing." Mada Masr, since its founding in 2013, has regularly published critical stories of the regime in both English and Arabic.
Government

US Intelligence Community Has Lost Credibility Due To Leaks (bloomberg.com) 338

Two anonymous readers and Mi share an article: U.K. police investigating the Manchester terror attack say they have stopped sharing information with the U.S. after a series of leaks that have so angered the British government that Prime Minister Therese May wants to discuss them with President Donald Trump during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Brussels. What can Trump tell her, though? The leaks drive him nuts, too. Since the beginning of this century, the U.S. intelligence services and their clients have acted as if they wanted the world to know they couldn't guarantee the confidentiality of any information that falls into their hands. At this point, the culture of leaks is not just a menace to intelligence-sharing allies. It's a threat to the intelligence community's credibility. [...] If this history has taught the U.S. intelligence community anything, it's that leaking classified information isn't particularly dangerous and those who do it largely enjoy impunity. Manning spent seven years in prison (though she'd been sentenced to 35), but Snowden, Assange, Petraeus, the unknown Chinese mole, the people who stole the hacking tools and the army of recent anonymous leakers, many of whom probably still work for U.S. intelligence agencies, have escaped any kind of meaningful punishment. President Donald Trump has just now announced that the administration would "get to the bottom" of leaks. In a statement, he said: "The alleged leaks coming out of government agencies are deeply troubling. These leaks have been going on for a long time and my Administration will get to the bottom of this. The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security. I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. There is no relationship we cherish more than the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Facebook

How Facebook Flouts Holocaust Denial Laws Except Where It Fears Being Sued (theguardian.com) 308

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Facebook's policies on Holocaust denial will come under fresh scrutiny following the leak of documents that show moderators are being told not to remove this content in most of the countries where it is illegal. The files explain that moderators should take down Holocaust denial material in only four of the 14 countries where it is outlawed. One document says the company "does not welcome local law that stands as an obstacle to an open and connected world" and will only consider blocking or hiding Holocaust denial messages and photographs if "we face the risk of getting blocked in a country or a legal risk." A picture of a concentration camp with the caption "Never again Believe the Lies" was permissible if posted anywhere other than the four countries in which Facebook fears legal action, one document explains. Facebook contested the figures but declined to elaborate. Documents show Facebook has told moderators to remove dehumanizing speech or any "calls for violence" against refugees. Content "that says migrants should face a firing squad or compares them to animals, criminals or filth" also violate its guidelines. But it adds: "As a quasi-protected category, they will not have the full protections of our hate speech policy because we want to allow people to have broad discussions on migrants and immigration which is a hot topic in upcoming elections." The definitions are set out in training manuals provided by Facebook to the teams of moderators who review material that has been flagged by users of the social media service. The documents explain the rules and guidelines the company applies to hate speech and "locally illegal content," with particular reference to Holocaust denial. One 16-page training manual explains Facebook will only hide or remove Holocaust denial content in four countries -- France, Germany, Israel and Austria. The document says this is not on grounds of taste, but because the company fears it might get sued.
The Internet

Manchester Attack Could Lead To Internet Crackdown (independent.co.uk) 380

New submitter boundary writes: The UK government looks to be about to put the most egregious parts of the Investigative Powers Act into force "soon after the election" (which is in a couple of weeks) in the wake of the recent bombing in Manchester. "Technical Capability Orders" require tech companies to break their own security. I wonder who'll comply? The Independent reports: "Government will ask parliament to allow the use of those powers if Theresa May is re-elected, senior ministers told The Sun. 'We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in,' The Sun said it was told by a government minister. 'The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.'"
Facebook

Facebook Signs BuzzFeed, Vox, Others For Original Video Shows (reuters.com) 15

Facebook has signed deals with Vox Media, BuzzFeed, ATTN, Group Nine Media and others to make shows for its upcoming video service, which will feature long and short-form content with ad breaks. The social media company is reportedly set to pay up to $250,000 for the longer, scripted shows. Reuters reports: Facebook is planning two tiers of video entertainment: scripted shows with episodes lasting 20 to 30 minutes, which it will own; and shorter scripted and unscripted shows with episodes lasting about 5 to 10 minutes, which Facebook will not own, according to the sources. For the second tier of shorter shows, Facebook will pay $10,000 to $35,000 for each show and give creators 55 percent of revenue from ads, the sources said. Ads will run during both the long-form and short-form shows.
Social Networks

Imzy, the Kinder and Gentler Reddit By Ex Employee, Is Shutting Down (imzy.com) 200

Imzy, a social media site led by ex-Reddit employee Dan McComas, announced on Wednesday that it will be closing its doors next month. The site was launched last year with much fanfare. Imzy sought to offer a community that didn't have trolls, one of the reasons that led McComas to leave Reddit two years ago. Ever since its launch, Imzy struggled to gain traction. According to web analytics firm SimilarWeb, the website was visited less than 400,000 times last month. McComas didn't elaborate why his service was shutting down, though he wrote: Some of you have been here since our launch into beta and some are brand new. We've loved getting to know all of you and seeing you build communities and make new friends. Unfortunately, we were not able to find our place in the market. We still feel that the internet deserves better and hope that we see more teams take on this challenge in the future.
China

China Censored Google's AlphaGo Match Against World's Best Go Player (theguardian.com) 93

DeepMind's board game-playing AI, AlphaGo, may well have won its first game against the Go world number one, Ke Jie, from China -- but most Chinese viewers could not watch the match live. From a report: The Chinese government had issued a censorship notice to broadcasters and online publishers, warning them against livestreaming Tuesday's game, according to China Digital Times, a site that regularly posts such notices in the name of transparency. "Regarding the go match between Ke Jie and AlphaGo, no website, without exception, may carry a livestream," the notice read. "If one has been announced in advance, please immediately withdraw it." The ban did not just cover video footage: outlets were banned from covering the match live in any way, including text commentary, social media, or push notifications. It appears the government was concerned that 19-year-old Ke, who lost the first of three scheduled games by a razor-thin half-point margin, might have suffered a more damaging defeat that would hurt the national pride of a state which holds Go close to its heart.
Security

Malicious Subtitles Threaten VLC, Kodi and Popcorn Time Users, Researchers Warn (torrentfreak.com) 126

Millions of people risk having their devices and systems compromised by malicious subtitles, according to a new research published by security firm Check Point. The threat comes from a previously undocumented vulnerability which affects users of popular streaming software, including Kodi, Popcorn-Time, and VLC. Developers of the applications have already applied fixes and in some cases, working on it. From a report: While most subtitle makers do no harm, it appears that those with malicious intent can exploit these popular streaming applications to penetrate the devices and systems of these users. Researchers from Check Point, who uncovered the problem, describe the subtitle 'attack vector' as the most widespread, easily accessed and zero-resistance vulnerability that has been reported in recent years. "By conducting attacks through subtitles, hackers can take complete control over any device running them. From this point on, the attacker can do whatever he wants with the victim's machine, whether it is a PC, a smart TV, or a mobile device," they write.
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) 95

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) 469

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) 186

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.

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