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Social media companies fight against fake news

Mockup of fake news on social media

As I wrote about last year, social media and search companies were blamed for the perpetuation of fake news. Many Americans, some of whom disliked the election result, believe this was a major contributor to Hillary Clinton’s loss.  Many of the social media companies deflected blame, and were hesitant to interfere.  As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it, he did not want his company to become “Arbiters of truth”.

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Equifax breach response, inept and slow

As has been widely reported, credit reporting and financial data power house Equifax announced early last that a data breach occurred. The breach affected a potential 143 million people, with credit, financial, and personal information stolen.

As an outside observer I have to say that the company’s response has been lackluster at best. They setup a website this week for people to find out they’re affected. I ran my info and it says that I am one of the people who the breach affected. They offered me their in-house identity protection service and insurance for free, but only for a year. When the website first launched they had a clause where by accepting the free offer you surrender your rights to sue. This decision was later reversed amidst pressure, but a serious fax pas none the less. Another problem with the monitoring service offer is that it is not immediately available. That’s right when you click to enroll you get a later date to come back to finish your enrollment. Again not a great look for Equifax. To have users data possibly floating around, but not having an immediate solution is rather aggravating.

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Are we giving up privacy for convenience?

Amazon Alexa
Photo Credit: Cort S./jageekblog.com

While watching the NBC Nighty News today and I saw an a story about authorities in Bentonville, Arkansas seeking the recordings from an Amazon Echo unit in connection with a murder. The authorities seem to believe that the Echo may have recorded something relevant to the murder. They have issued a warrant for Amazon to turn over the recordings. Amazon for their part is holding firm on the side of privacy, and has not yet turned over anything. The legal bar has not been met, in their opinion.

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South Carolina’s Chumley files bill to create law to block porn

Image Credit: © Diana Eller | Dreamstime.com

South Carolina state representative Bill Chumley (R-Spartanburg), has introduced a bill designed to fight human trafficking by blocking pornography on any device sold in the state. According to GoUpstate.com, the bill will require manufacturers of devices to install digital blocking on all computers and phones sold within the states borders. The manufacturers of the devices would be able to remove the block by paying the state $20 per device sold. The end users of the products would also be able to get the blocks removed by proving their age, confirming they have received a written warning of the dangers, and paying the $20. The proceeds of the fees will go to the states fund to combat human trafficking. It should be noted that Rep. Chumley represents South Carolina’s upstate region, which according to authorities is a “hotbed” of human trafficking activity.

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AT&T in FCC crosshairs over net neutrality, and the debate continues.

Net Neutrality

The FCC now has AT&T in is crosshairs over violating net neutrality rules by allowing its users to use its new DIRECTV Now video streaming service, without charging them any data, a practice known as “zero rating”. According to an article on Cnet the FCC sent a letter on Thursday informing AT&T that they believe, through a preliminary investigation, that this zero rate offer is in violation of net neutrality rules. It should be noted that zero rating is not specifically prohibited, but the FCC can take action on a case by case basis. The FCC is also investigating Verizon over claims that it is doing the same with access to its GO90 service.

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Snap, Inc’s (Snapchat) Spectacles….Why do we need this?

Image Credit: spectacles.com
Image Credit: spectacles.com

Back in September Snapchat made two rather large announcements, the first of which being that they are changing their name to Snap, Inc, dropping the chat from their name. The second announcement is that they are Introducing a new product called “Spectacles”. This new product is essentially a pair of sunglasses with a camera built in, the device will enable users to take hands free videos, or “snaps” and upload them to their Snapchat accounts.  If this sounds like it had been done before, that is because it has. Google made a limited release of a product that had similar features called “Google Glass”. Google’s attempt was not very successful.  They had issues with pricing, privacy and a general negative image, primarily brought on by Glassholes. While Snap has the mistakes of Google to learn from, I am still asking the same thing about Spectacles that I asked about Glass, why in the hell do we need this.

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Some good tips for spotting fake news

Fake News
Image Credit: someecards.com

Recently the issue of fake and inaccurate news, also called junk news, has found its way in to public discussion. This is not a new problem, but with the amount of fake news relating to the most recent election, the issue is receiving much broader attention. Many are putting the blame fully on the social media companies like Facebook, or search and news aggregators such as Google. While these companies do have a responsibility to help address the problem, the blame is not entirely at their doorstep. The users of those services are also in part to blame, as they are the ones who visit and worse yet share the offending material. As news consumers, social media users, and even as bloggers, we share in the responsibility to mitigate the negative effects of fake news. It starts with being able to identify fake news; here are some tips for spotting a fake news story.

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The fake news problem facing Social Media (..were looking at you Facebook)

On November 8th, 2016 something that many thought was impossible happened, NYC business mogul and reality TV star Donald J. Trump was elected as the President of the United States of America. President-Elect trump has had a widely controversial campaign. His often belligerent words and actions and his unpredictability make many in this country nervous, or in some cases even down right scared. Whether this distaste for and fear of the President-Elect is warranted, only time will tell, but one thing Americans who didn’t vote Trump want right now is someone to blame. It seems they found many things to blame, bad polling, poorly timed FBI investigations, poor voter turnout, and so on. But there is one target of blame that keeps coming up, and with increasing volume, “fake news”

Social media platforms as Facebook and search platforms like Google are facing widespread criticism for providing an avenue for inaccurate, and often down right fabricated news stories to become widely disseminated, and sometimes even viral.  Anybody who has been on the internet for any period of time has come across these types of stories, and sometimes they can be hard to tell from legitimate news. Many of the fake news websites look like legitimate news sources, and in many cases this is by design, to make it look like their false information has some authority. When these stories fit the narrative that someone already believes, they have a tendency to share these articles, further perpetuating false story. In today’s world where people get much of their news from social media, and the news shapes public opinion, this is a big problem; a problem that many feel swayed the last election to favor the Republicans.

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Microsoft joins The Linux Foundation..Did Hell freeze over?

Microsoft <3 Linux
Image Credit: Microsoft

In what many will consider shocking news Microsoft has not only been on a path of embracing Linux, but now they have  joined the Linux Foundation as a Platinum member, as reported by TechCrunch. To me this news is not at all surprising, as Microsoft has been making friendly overtures towards open source for the last few years, not only contributing to many Open Source projects, but releasing some of its once propriety code to the Open Source community, which they have been slowly doing for over a decade, but only recently have they been taking it seriously. In recent months they have also collaborated with Canonical, makers of Ubuntu, to include some Linux functionality right inside of Windows. In addition to this there has been a concerted push to get Microsoft products onto other platforms, including its SQL Server, Visual Studio for Mac, and Office mobile for Android to name a few.

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