Twitterbot experiment suggests that public disapproval by white men can reduce harassers' use of racist language

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NYU PhD candidate Kevin Munger made a set of four male-seeming twitterbots that attempted to "socially sanction" white Twitter users who habitually used racial epithets (he reasons that these two characteristics are a good proxy for harassment): the bots could be white or black (that is, have names that have been experimentally shown to be associated with "whiteness" or "blackness") and could have 2 followers or 500 of them. Read the rest

Statcheck: a data-fakery algorithm that flagged 50,000 articles

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Michèle B. Nuijten and co's statcheck program re-examines the datasets in peer-reviewed science and flags anomalies that are associated with fakery, from duplication of data to internal inconsistencies. Read the rest

Dennis the Dentist: on the unkillable wrongness of nominative determinism

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In 2002, a peer-reviewed article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology claimed that men named "Dennis" were more likely to become dentists; people named "George" or "Georgina" were apt to become geologists; and people with surnames like "Diamond" and "Ricci" were more likely to become bankers. Read the rest

The internet's core infrastructure is dangerously unsupported and could crumble (but we can save it!)

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Nadia Eghbal's Roads and Bridges: The Unseen Labor Behind Our Digital Infrastructure is a long, detailed report on the structural impediments to maintaining key pieces of free/open software that underpin the internet -- it reveals the startling fragility of tools that protect the integrity, safety, privacy and finances of billions of people, which are often maintained by tiny numbers of people (sometimes just one person). Read the rest

Researchers trick facial recognition systems with facial features printed on big glasses

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In Accessorize to a Crime: Real and Stealthy Attacks on State-of-the-Art Face Recognition, researchers from Carnegie-Mellon and UNC showed how they could fool industrial-strength facial recognition systems (including Alibaba's "smile to pay" transaction system) by printing wide, flat glasses frames with elements of other peoples' faces with "up to 100% success." Read the rest

Why are license "agreements" so uniformly terrible?

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An excerpt from The End of Ownership: Personal Property in the Digital Economy, by Aaron Perzanowski and Jason Schultz, coming this Friday from MIT Press.

Sneaky ultrasonic adware makes homes vulnerable to ultrasonic hacking

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Earlier this year, companies like Silverpush were outed for sneaking ultrasonic communications channels into peoples' devices, so that advertisers could covertly link different devices to a single user in order to build deeper, more complete surveillance profiles of them. Read the rest

Devil's Dictionary: the ed-tech edition

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I've been noting humorous updatings of Ambrose Bierce's 1906 humor classic The Devil's Dictionary for years -- there was the publishing edition, and this corker on copyright -- but the Educational Technology edition, by New Storytelling author Bryan Alexander has a currency and an urgency that scores an acerbic bullseye. Read the rest

Audit reveals significant vulnerabilities in Truecrypt and its successors

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Veracrypt was created to fill the vacuum left by the implosion of disk-encryption tool Truecrypt, which mysteriously vanished in 2014, along with a "suicide note" (possibly containing a hidden message) that many interpreted as a warning that an intelligence agency had inserted a backdoor into the code, or was attempting to force Truecrypt's anonymous creators to do so. Read the rest

Using Machine Learning to synthesize images that look NSFW but aren't

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Yahoo has released a machine-learning model called open_nsfw that is designed to distinguish not-safe-for-work images from worksafe ones. By tweaking the model and combining it with places-CNN, MIT's scene-recognition model, Gabriel Goh created a bunch of machine-generated scenes that score high for both models -- things that aren't porn, but look porny. Read the rest

Projection mapping on a moving surface with a high-speed projector

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Projection mapping is one of the most profound visual effects that computers can generate; themepark fans will have seen it in effect on the revamped opening scene to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland and in the night-time shows that involve painting the whole castle with light (projection mapping is also used to generate the rear-projected faces of the animatronic figures in the new Snow White ride). Read the rest

Rich people can afford to buy more sleep than poor people

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In Rich do not rise early: spatio-temporal patterns in the mobility networks of different socio-economic classes, a group of transportation engineers analyze an open data-set about the commutes of people in the Colombian cities of Medellín and Manizales, concluding that the rich and the poor commute the furthest distances, but that the rich have much shorter commutes, thanks to private transport and superior routing, which translates to substantially more sleep for the wealthy. Read the rest

AI's blind spot: garbage in, garbage out

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Social scientist Kate Crawford (previously) and legal scholar Ryan Calo (previously) helped organize the interdisciplinary White House AI Now summits on how AI could increase inequality, erode accountability, and lead us into temptation and what to do about it. Read the rest

Using the science of group conflict to understand Trump's campaign

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In Five Beliefs That Propel Groups Toward Conflict, published in American Psychologist, a pair of researchers lay out the five beliefs that, when transmitted by leaders to their followers, creates a "group conflict" that propels the group forward. Read the rest

The Credible Hulk

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A Reddit user says, "My English teacher has this posted outside her office." Read the rest

Think like a computer scientist: free, interactive textbook

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Runestone's Interactive Python project has adapted 2012's classic How to Think Like a Computer Scientist textbook, updating it to cover recent programming advances, and creating a fully interactive version with quizzes, code examples, and coding challenges. Read the rest

How to: Criticize technology

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Sara writes, "This new report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University explores the current state of technology criticism and argues to recognize a wider range of contributors and approaches to the popular critical discourse about technology. The report also advocates for a more constructive approach to technology criticism that fosters conversation and poses alternative visions for a more inclusive technological society. Following this constructive approach, the project offers resources including an extensive reading list and a practical style guide for better technology writing." Read the rest

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