Twitter Stands Up Against Terrorism

Last week, Twitter announced that over 235,000 accounts had been suspended for promoting terrorism in the last six months. Since summer of 2015, the total number of terrorism-supporting accounts suspended by the social media mogul clock in at 360,000. Daily suspensions have increased by a factor of over 80 percent since 2015, the major spike having occurred after major terrorist attacks like those that occurred in San Bernardino and Paris.

twitterTwitter has also announced the substantial decrease in response time necessary for the company to suspend reported accounts, limiting the length of time that offending accounts are able to remain active and the number of followers they have a chance to amass. In general, Twitter disclosed that the amount of users following terrorist accounts has decreased dramatically.

Finally, Twitter announced that it has made progress in terms of preventing those who have created suspended accounts from returning to its platform right away.

How exactly has Twitter managed to weed through its immense data bases and catch terrorism-supporters before they can become too influential? Twitter is devoting more teams of personnel to the task of reviewing reports, and those reviewers now have access to more and better tools in terms of language capabilities and proprietary spam-fighting tools. Together these tools alone have helped to identify over a third of the 235,000 newly suspended accounts.

Twitter also attributes its success to its recent expansion of partnerships with organizations also devoted to countering violent extremism online. These organizations include True Islam in the United States, Parle-moi d’Islam in France, Imams Online in the UK, the Wahid Foundation in Indonesia, and the Sawab Center in the UAE. Twitter executives have also become more active in terms of attending government-sponsored summits devoted to countering violent extremism, one of which was hosted by the French Interior Ministry and the Indonesian National Counterterrorism Agency.

Some experts believe that Twitter’s anti-terrorism stance has been more reactive than proactive. According to Chenxi Weng, chief strategy officer at Twistlock, Twitter’s counterterrorism has “been hit and miss, but from [its] standpoint, that’s probably the best they can do without being too draconian.”

twit“You could, perhaps, consider creating a statistical analysis model that will be predictive in nature,” she continued, “but then you are venturing into territories that may violate privacy and freedom of speech.”

Weng went on to reiterate that this kind of violation “is not in Twitter’s best interest,” as the social network’s success relies on its ability to encourage people “to participate rather than be regulated.”

Whether cancelled accounts imply success in counter terrorist accounts is another area of contention.

“How often does Twitter actually influence people who might be violent?” asked Mike Jude, program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan. “How likely is it that truly crazy people will use Twitter as a means to incite violence? And how likely is it that Twitter will be able to apply objective standards to making a determination that something is likely to encourage terrorism?”

Jude went on to wonder what would happen if Twitter’s counter terrorist algorithms were found to be more likely to silence Trump supporters than Hillary supporters, for example.

The age-old competition between freedom of speech and efforts to maintain peace wages on.

Meditech and the Ethics of Tomorrow

Last week the worlds largest gene editing conference to date researcher discussed topics as wide and varied as God, Racism, and the notion of designer babies. The week was a kind of whose who of the big wigs of the industry and there was one thing on their minds gene editing ethics. Gene editing may never be used to create designer babies said some but this is extremely naive to think that once this technology becomes more and more easily accessible and when people can do it more easily for cheaper that it won’t become the new normal. At the very least it may even become the ethical argument in the other direction. This is to assume that if you could eradicate a type of disease such as cyclical cell anemia would it be unethical to not do anything. That is a type of question that is seemingly straight forward, but what about when the questions become less clear, like would it be unethical to let someone be born who is extremely ugly or fat or all mushy mouthed ? This is one that is less clear, for instance we can look at it and say that someone in this predicament would no doubt have a harder life from their beautiful counterpart. Moreover, this poses a legitimate threat to their well being and thus their personal sense of health or well being. Thus we have to take a step back and consider if when we start to open up this Pandora box that it isn’t justification all the way down, and if perhaps there is no right answer.” We must be aware of the hubris that it take for human being to be so smart that we thought we had the ability and the ethical principles to do such a thing, Humanity would be a very good principle to attach to any such discussion.”

They go on to remark that, ” I do believe that humans are in a special way individuals and a species with a special relationship to God, and that requires of a great deal of humility about whether we are possessed of enough love and intelligence and wisdom to start manipulating our own species.”

“I am supposing that such circumstances are extremely rare. I am not aware that any such couple has yet come forward who really wants to take advantage of this; All of the decisions that we’re making around human gene editing are occurring in a context where we are using genetic technologies in new and often pernicious ways.” There is no doubt a dark history surrounding this field in general, and perhaps it is one that cannot be done away with, maybe we are doomed to both fulfill the best and worst aspects of this road and its logical conclusions. However, if we are left to wonder if perhaps it will not be either good or bad necisarily but it may simply be, we can meet this fear with a more realistic and varied outlook on the tomorrow of this field.

The Silicon Valley in Untested Waters

If you were to ask anyone who runs a company in the Silicon Valley, or even any resident of the Silicon Valley who they would want to be president in 2016 their first choice probably wouldn’t be Donald Trump, in fact he is probably as far from a welcomed choice as anyone could imagine in that region, but as election day draws nearer and we are reading the campaign it may very well be the case they are going to have to find a way to work under the Donald and all the insanity that follows there after. 

The Donald has kept beating the drum that he is going to restrict immigration while also bringing back manufacturing to the united states, most notably in his attack on Apple computers by claiming that he would make sure the iPhone was made in the United States if he were president (note this is something he would have no control over).

What is interesting and perhaps alarming for tech companies is the fact that Trump is going after them round after round and hitting them hard, yet has not received any political blow back. probably because the tech industry is one of the most reviled industries in the world right next to cigarette industry or fracking. The reason being is that where ever a new tech hub emerges there is usually a huge influx of high paid engineers who kill the local culture and drive housing prices up to unlivable rates. Thus any local people who were there and anyone they know usually don’t have too many kind things to say about the industry as a whole. Thus when the Donald goes off on a tirade against them, he is meet with little to no blow back.

“Out of the millions of people who work in tech, from engineers to Uber drivers, just 52 have given to Trump. He’ll need many more if he truly intends to build a world class finance organization; Mitt Rommney raised over $8 million from the technology sector in 2012. That’s a lot of money to leave on the table.” said pollster for polemaster.com.

“The Trump we have all witnessed for the past several months is probably not the Trump we will all be thinking about as we go into the voting booth; a general election candidate has always been different than a primary candidate. That Tech is now a flash point in campaign debates is a reflection of the industry’s power and ubiquity in American life. Silicon Valley will need to learn to expect that it won’t be seen as a benevolent actor in every quarter and prepare accordingly.” At any rate as it stands now, the industry insiders, and Washington elites cannot as it were, strump the Trump and he has gotten to where he is in this campaign because of his relationship with  tech, and not in spite of it. When it comes election time we are in for a real interesting coarse of events, and it may very well be the death of American politics as we know it, but hey, that may not be such a bad thing.

Myspace Mega Breach Uncovered

It’s recently been uncovered that Myspace and Tumblr have been the victims of a string of mega breaches that led millions to have their user IDs stolen from them.

“Over the period of this month, we’ve seen an interesting trend of data breaches,” writes security researcher Troy Hunt, operator of the Have I Been Pwned website. “Any of these four I’m going to talk about on their own would be notable, but to see a cluster of them appear together is quite intriguing.”

hacker myspaceThe Myspace breach stands out as the most major loss; over 360 millions records have been offered for sale, according to Hunt.

The LinkedIn data breach led 117 million records to be put on sale, while dark web customers have been invited to purchase up to 50 million records from Tumblr and 40 million stolen from Fling.com.

The vendor operates under the handle “peace_of_mind” and, according to Hunt, is “peddling a quality product.”

It remains unclear just how much data was stolen exactly, but apparently the Myspace breach could have involved up to 427 million records, while Tumblr’s could include 65 million.

Apparently the breaches that actually enabled these highly mediatized sales were actually conducted as early as four years prior. According to Andrew Komarov, chief intelligence officer at InfoArmor, it’s possible that “the people currently selling the data are acting as proxies and aren’t the hackers themselves.”

“We have information that the same hackers are preparing for the sale of data from a big social network from 2011 or 2012, along with many other resources,” Komarov continued.

“It’s not going to stop until we wise up, or until breach information is no longer profitable to hackers for money or leverage,” Jon Rudolph observed. Rudolph is the principal software engineer at Core Security.

“Some organizations [don’t realize] that hackers’ skills and their tools are becoming even more sophisticated,” mused Craig Kensek, security expert at Lastline. “There will undoubtedly be more breaches,” he concluded.

tumblrWhat facilitates these breaches and how are hackers capable of breaking into millions of accounts? According to Core Security Systems Engineer Bobby Kuzma, “The biggest threat… is that people are horrible at choosing unique passwords.”

Rudolph reiterates that the user risk “is largely dependent on the decisions they’ve made online, the direct results of which services they trust, and information they share.”

“I don’t lose as much sleep over a hobby account [like Tumblr],” Rudolph added.

According to Lastline’s Kensek, the risk of having an account hacked and sold could be significantly mitigated if users would consider subscribing to password managers. Kensek claims that these applications “create another layer of protection and are worth the investment.”

Online security companies Courion, Core Security, SecureReset and Bay 31 have all recently joined forces to create Core Security, which will offer a multidisciplinary approach to maintaining enterprise security. Core Security plans to combine dynamic provisioning, identity management, access governance, vulnerability assessment and pen testing, according to Rudolph. Rudolph hopes that this conglomeration will allow Core Security to offer “a variety of tools which can be used to detect weak spots in the entire security chain, including the people and systems- prioritizing them, and showing what’s really possible for attackers.”

 

Musk and Buffet Re-imagine the Future of Power

Nevada is in place to take control as being the battery manufacturing giant of the world. To the tune that when Elon Musk opens his brain child that is the gigafactory next year for his joint ventures of Tesla and Solar City the facility is going to output the production of the rest of the worlds lithium ion battery production combined. Prior to this there was not much money making potential in this arena, but all of that is about to change. What breads success is in the market place in terms of bringing the best product to the people is competition. That’s why Facebook is so crappy. This being the case its actually a welcomed revelation that Warren Buffet has entered the game and is beginning to take the fight to Musk as a legitimate competitor. Elon Musk has big plans for the future of tech. 

The two of these companies and their immense wealth and their immense wealth leaders are now actively clashing over the implementation of solar power in Nevada, as well as the entire world. Both Musk and Buffets think that they alone have the golden ticket to this becoming a reality and in many respects it could honestly be both or neither. Traditionally grid infrastructures for rooftop social panels are the best way to go for a carbon free electricity to consumers in a scalable business model. But in terms of the tech and addressing the issue of power for a larger swath of people is it really the best we can do.

Solar City is in the midst of funding an effort to reverse the utility commission’s decision through an “alliance” with more than 100,000 members. Alternatively Tesla is also beginning to back a Nevada ballot initiative that will effectively end the existing solar monopoly that exists in the state. currently, Solar city isn’t installing any new solar power arrays in Nevada to address this problem. This cause for tension considering Musk founded Solar City, but he is no longer the sitting CEO. Still he has a lot of say and if he wanted it to be different they would likely fall in line. 

Under the old incentive programs in Nevada for solar, the customers would pay 11 cents per kilowatt hour for their excess electricity. This was a great program to get people to make the leap and justify the huge investment that is installing solar at present. But all of that may be changing with the huge production of solar sells and huger capacity batteries that are just on the horizon of the US market.

In all honesty no one will be able to compete with the gigafactory once it is operational. It is going to be the new standard of the world and they will determine where the market goes and how the infrastructure goes there after. So in so far as they are going to nearly monopolize the production and sale of lithium ion batteries they are placing less of an emphasis on the solar cells themselves and this could spell trouble for them.

The Current Status of Data Security

The field of data news is as riddled with stories of malevolent hacking as it is with new technological advances, and IT professionals are beginning to lose confidence in their ability to keep up with the cyber criminals.

A recent survey released by Barkly showed that fifty percent of information technology professionals don’t think that their protective data security measures are adequate when it comes to the onslaught of cyber attacks that corporations and other organizations must face. This high percentage of doubt-filled IT personnel was surprising even to the CTO of Barkly, Jack Danahy:

it por2“Organizations are investing because they know they should be doing something for security, but their expectations are low,” he explained. “For me, that was a surprise because in most areas of business, people know what they’re paying for, so they have reasonable expectations that something is going to be an enhancement to their business.”

And the IT pros didn’t just lack confidence in regards to the effectiveness of their security measures; they weren’t even sure that this effectiveness could be measured at all, especially based on returns from the initial investment.

“Security can be difficult to understand. It’s not as easily measurable as other parts of their business,” Danahy continued. “In security, you’re trying to stop something, as opposed to do something. That makes it hard to quantify the return that you’re getting for the investments you’re making.”

“The difficulty of creating a linear equation between the amount that I’m investing and the protection that I can prove that I’m getting makes it hard for people to be comfortable about whether they’re budgeting either enough or too much for security,” he concluded.

The issue of understanding the returns of an investment in security is further obfuscated by the gap between what the solutions promise and what they actually deliver at the end of the day, as John Prisco, CEO of Triumfant explains:

“The problem is you’ve got a bunch of venture capitalists backing a bunch of technologies with a lot of money that the companies are spending on marketing rather than product development,” he stated. The market is saturated with security companies promising to protect data in different ways and on different levels.

“Many of them use some form of list or signature to protect endpoints, so a lot of those programs don’t work when it comes down to a sophisticated adversary,” Prisco continued. “The type of products that do work have artificial intelligence engines built into them, but the ones that are the yoyomost popular use lists and have the money to spend on ads on drive-time radio.”

The sizable difference between security systems that actually work and security systems that are able to launch effective and all-encompassing marketing campaigns may be yet another reason that IT professionals feel ill-equipped to find the right solutions for their security issues.

“The lack of confidence IT pros express about their security solutions is often a reflection of their growing sense that, as practitioners, they are falling behind the pace of change in the threat landscape,” added Ben Desjardins, director of security solutions for Radware.

Elon Musk Pulls the Reins on AI

When Tesla CEO Elon Musk made an announcement that his subsidiary OpenAI, which is a non-profit artificial intelligence research company and watchdog, he didn’t really lay out what the company would actually do, or how they aimed to achieve their ends. Moreover, we didn’t even really know what the ends were. Today, we are starting to get our first looks inside the mind of Musk and how he aims to keep AI in check.

The company released a beta of OpenAI Gym, which can be understood as a kind of tool kit for reinforcement learning algorithms. On Wednesday, he took this “toolkit” to the media to show how researchers can test their algorithms through playing games, controlling robot simulations, and executing various tasks. It serves a kind of Turing test or, more aptly, an aptitude test for artificial intelligence on a standard scale. This leaves the door open for a lot of assumptions that need to be made before you can begin to move forward with seeing this as a useful tool. For instance, what constitutes intelligence? If we are to grant that intelligence is understood in a relation to the the ability to achieve a set of tasks, then we certainly are already working within an incredibly myopic framework of understanding both the necessary and sufficient conditions for determining artificial intelligence.bjbhb

This is because when we consider what constitutes intelligence or what quality of intelligence exists across multiple examples, it is clear that we really do not have a solid working definition in our own case, when we consider human intelligence. If we are going to get at a working definition of intelligence in the case of artificial means, I find it useful to employ a form of induction wherein we define the terms in our own case and extrapolate from there. For example, we can say that an individual who possesses the ability to achieve this form of A to B task oriented skill certainly possesses something that we commonly associate with the qualities of intelligence. Moreover, we can say that this kind of task-oriented processing is in many respects the basis of our education system and the understanding of grading in many respects. That is to say, the ability to retain a finite set of information and recall the appropriate information in light of the appropriate stimuli or test. This is a fine starting point and does speak to qualities I think we do need when framing a working definition of intelligence, but are we satisfied in saying that this is the whole picture?spok

I think not. When we consider intelligence, or better yet, when we say we recognize the quality of intelligence or even genius for that matter in achievements of others, it seems counter-intuitive to say that the aforementioned starting point is what we are impressed by. That is because what is seriously lacking in this regard, and in the understanding of intelligence in general, is the notion of divergent or creative thinking. That is what is fundamentally lacking in the model being put forth today with the toolkit of Musk, and unless we fundamentally alter the make up of the test, we will continue to hit the bull’s eye on the wrong targets.

Tech Revitalizing Building Industry

When you think building industry you often think of things being done in an old school hard headed way, or at least in a manner that values tradition and is resistant to change or outsider influence telling them a way of doing things better. However, at the end of the day business is business and as the saying goes in construction,”low bid wins.” The tech industries are beginning to navigate this frontier and are finding ways to save money through big data that were never before though possible. One of the heavy hitters in this new trend is Google’s Project Tango, which has the means to change all the norms for tech resistance in construction with its revolutionary 3D mapping software that is becoming impossible to ignore. We are on the cusp of changing construction for ever. Much of the industry is taking notice. i

Project tango should not be understood as a tool, rather it is a system an entirely new way of perceiving the way we navigate the act of construction and has the potential to reduce costs in an astronomical way. The system is equipped with various technologies that allow it to understand space and motion in a synchronized way. The real potential of this feature can only be understood if it is adopted and mastered at the level of everyone from crew foremen all the way up to structural engineer.

The way we can understand the application of this system is as a kit which as a  small device that is equipped with an infrared camera, emitter, as well as a wide-angle lens. It is important to consider that any smartphone or tablet could be equipped to do this as well, so it is not as pie in the sky as we all might think. With these simple components working together you can effectively 3D map a room or space. When you are taking this first leap further, an augmented reality app which is called Through the Wall could potentially allow a user to hold up their device while inside a room and be allowed to see where the pipes and electrical wires are positioned.

mas early as 2014 reported how this tech has the potential to see clear though any walls and to make editable 3D maps with the wave of your hand. All of this is coming on the heels of building information modeling or (BIM) which has changed the buiding world more than anything in the last century. Today everything is trying to work around BIM as the standard because it is for all intensive purposes the normal. What BIM allows you to do in your models is look at the project in layers not just in terms of physical positioning but also in terms of systems. What this means is consider you are looking at a BIM lay out of your house, you could say you wanted to locate just the plumbing of your house and the BIM model would highlight only that and put everything else to the way side.

Tech Magazine Explains Trump Error

Last Wednesday, popular tech news website Wired Magazine posted a correction that drew a lot of attention.

The correction went as follows:

Correction at 9:58 a.m. on 3/09/2016: Due to an oversight involving a haphazardly-installed Chrome extension during the editing process, the name Donald Trump was erroneously replaced with the phrase “Someone With Tiny Hands” when this story originally published. 

Of course, the internet immediately exploded and the correction was repeatedly shared across the web. The feedback was so continuous that the author of the article, Jason Tanz, posted another article titled “SO, ABOUT THAT TINY HANDS TRUMP CHROME EXTENSION…” to explain how the error occurred.

john oliver trumpApparently, the day before writing the article, the writer had installed the “Drumpfinator” Google Chrome extension famously launched by the most recent episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight. Oliver, in an attempt to separate Trump-the-man from Trump-the-brand, created an extension that would replace Trump’s name with his ancestral name “Drumpf” everywhere that it appears in the Chrome browser.

According to the writer, he downloaded the software in an attempt to better his understanding of “the appeal of these extensions, and why they have emerged as a cultural force over the course of the last few weeks.” The author continues to outline the variety of extensions that people can install related to Donald Trump alone; some replace his name with “your drunk uncle at Thanksgiving,” others add real trump quotes every time his name appears, and others remove all mention of him whatsoever.

Apparently the practice of creating text-swap extensions began five years ago as a way to remove celebrity names from people’s daily news. Now there’s more fun ones that change “millennials” to “snake people,” remove all references to Hillary Clinton of Kim Kardashian, or substitute entire lists of words. For example, a browser suggested by xkcd’s Randall Munroe replaces “witnesses” with “these dudes I know” and “allegedly” with “kinda probably.” It’s possible to install extensions that allow you to replace whatever words you like.

wired magazineTanz claimed that he was “puzzled” by the extensions, stating that “they’re essentially jokes that you play on yourself” and that there was “something clubby about them, a way of declaring your anti-Trumpness, for instance. But who are you declaring it to? Nobody knows you’ve installed a Chrome extensions… Sure there’s something inherently fun and culture-jammy about seeing ridiculous phrases dutifully reprinted in the staid fonts of the Wall Street Journal or New York Times, but after a hilw, the joke grows old, right?”

Tanz learned the hard way that the extensions can be more effective than he previously thought possible. A member of the art team worked on his story while an anti-Trump extension was installed on their browser, replacing every instance of Trump’s name with “someone with tiny hands.” The production team assumed that replacement was a purposeful “meta-gag” and the story ran, to the delight of the internet.

That said, Tanz was quick to point out that the humorous accident likely did little to stop Trump’s momentum:

“That’s because Chrome extensions aren’t even preaching to the choir. They’re preaching to the preacher.”

Google May Be Out of Control

With the 2016 campaigns underway, it’s becoming increasingly clear that campaign finance is an important issue to American voters. The rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders at “political outsiders” that are truly starting to sway the populace is sending a very clear message to the political establishment; lobbying does not sit well with the American people, and it’s finally gotten to the point where ignoring it is no longer an option.

Lobbying comes from all sides (obviously big banks and oil companies have a lot to spend and a lot to lose), but as the tech sector bubbles up higher and higher, industry leaders are beginning to make a name for themselves in terms of worrisome lobbying power, namely, Google.

google2Sure, they’re not developing killer robots yet (that we know of) but Google has made generous political donations to over 160 members of the US Congress in the last election cycle, and just a few months ago, the Guardian revealed that Google pressured American politicians whose election campaigns it had funded to urge the European Union in a very carefully coordinated campaign to drop the $6.5 billion antitrust case that threatens its business in Europe.

The entire issue is reminiscent of a similar issue that Google encountered on home soil, when the US Federal Trade Commission began to move forward with an antitrust lawsuit against Google in response to allegations that the company had modified search algorithms in such a way that its for-profit products would be seen before those of eBay or Amazon, for example.

That issue began to boil over in 2011, but Google had contributed generously to President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns in the form of money and technological know-how; months after Obama was reelected the case was dropped and some past Google employees were moved to advisor positions.

The White House’s current chief technology officer is among several ex-Google employees to hold an office in the federal government.

According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, Google’s political action committee (Pac) has donated $1,000 to $10,000 to 34 senators and 128 members of the House of Representatives in the 2016 cycle, making it the company that has spent the most money on federal lobbying since 2012. Donations cross party lines ($78,500 has been allotted to Republicans and $46,500 to Democrats in the Senate, $126,250 to Republicans and $131,500 to Democrats in the House).

goog3Jamie Court is president of the pressure group Consumer Watchdog. He states that “Google’s founders had a motto, ‘Don’t be evil’, but they’re oozing evil these days in the political realm. They’ve gone from neophytes to mobsters in Washington. They’ve become brass knuckle influence peddlers and Obama has been their biggest fan.”

“If you look back a decade, they have gone from having no presence in DC to being the titan on the block,” Court continued. “Now Google is cowrie that like Standard Oil at the turn of the century it will be busted up. It controls more of the internet than any other rUS Company controls nay market except a monopoly, and a vigilant government should be alive to that. But while the EU has been highly aggressive, the US looks amateurish by comparison.”

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