A mom in Brazil became concerned as she watched the viewing numbers on innocent backyard clip her daughter posted to YouTube suddenly climb hundreds of thousands of views. The child posted a video of herself and a friend playing in the family pool. YouTube's recommendation engine had been suggesting the video as recommended content to viewers who'd just watched other videos that contained sexually oriented video content. YouTube's AI sexualized her kid and pushed her image to pedophiles. This happens a lot, apparently. Read the rest
Writing in Wired, Zeynep Tufekci (previously) echoes something I've been saying for years: that the use of Digital Rights Management technologies, along with other systems of control like Terms of Service, are effectively ending the right of individuals to own private property (in the sense of exercising "sole and despotic dominion" over something), and instead relegating us to mere tenancy, constrained to use the things we buy in ways that are beneficial to the manufacturer's shareholders, even when that is at the cost of our own best interests.
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Zeynep Tufekci (previously) says that Big Tech's "engagement maximization" algorithms meant that any time you talked about Alex Jones critically, the algorithms would start relentlessly recommending that you watch some Alex Jones videos, because they were so well designed to please the algorithms by sucking up our attention.
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We are watching Facebook unravel in real time. I hope. Read the rest
Zeynep Tufekci (previously) leads Tech Review's politics issue with the best overview of the forces that have combined to make the internet so hospitable to totalitarians and racist pigs.
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Zeynep Tufekci was researching Trump videos on Youtube back in 2016 when she noticed something funny: Youtube began recommending and autoplaying increasingly extreme right-wing stuff -- like white-supremacist Holocaust-denial videos.
So she did an interesting experiment: She set up another Youtube account and began watching videos for the main Democratic presidential contenders, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. The result? As Tufecki writes in the New York Times:
Before long, I was being directed to videos of a leftish conspiratorial cast, including arguments about the existence of secret government agencies and allegations that the United States government was behind the attacks of Sept. 11. As with the Trump videos, YouTube was recommending content that was more and more extreme than the mainstream political fare I had started with.
Intrigued, I experimented with nonpolitical topics. The same basic pattern emerged. Videos about vegetarianism led to videos about veganism. Videos about jogging led to videos about running ultramarathons.
It seems as if you are never “hard core” enough for YouTube’s recommendation algorithm. It promotes, recommends and disseminates videos in a manner that appears to constantly up the stakes. Given its billion or so users, YouTube may be one of the most powerful radicalizing instruments of the 21st century.
This is an incredibly interesting and subtle point: That the problems of Youtube's recommender algorithms might be that they overdistil your preferences. Since they're aiming for "engagement" -- a word I am beginning to loathe with an unsettling level of emotion -- the real problem with these algorithms is they're constantly aiming to create an epic sense of drama and newness. Read the rest
UC Berkeley economist J Bradford DeLong's wide-ranging Reinvent interview covers a lot of ground, but is especially fascinating on the long-term trajectory of small businesspeople who bet their commercial futures on platforms -- he uses Uber drivers as an example, but this has implications in lots of sectors.
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Zeynep Tufekci (previously) is one of the most consistently astute, nuanced commenters on networked politics and revolutions, someone who's been literally on the front lines around the world. In a new book called Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, she sets out a thesis that (as the title suggests) explores the trade offs that political movements make when they use fluid, improvisational networks to organize themselves, instead of hierarchical, traditional organizations. Read the rest
The Echo Look is the next version of the Alexa appliance: it has an camera hooked up to a computer vision system, along with its always-on mic, and the first application for it is to watch you as you dress and give you fashion advice (that is, recommend clothes you can order from Amazon). Read the rest
When the government of Romanian PM Sorin Grindeanu announced that they would gut the country's anticorruption statutes, removing criminal sanctions for official corruption, the country erupted into mass protests. Read the rest
The Obama administration asserted the power to raid the massive databases of peoples' private, sensitive information that ad-based tech companies have assembled; the Trump administration has promised to use Obama's powers to effect the surveillance and deportation of 11 millions undocumented migrants, and the ongoing, continuous surveillance of people of Muslim heritage. Read the rest
Earlier this month, Wikileaks published a database of six years' of email from AKP, Turkey's ruling party -- but as outside experts have plumbed that database, all they can find is archives from public mailing lists, old spam, and some sensitive personal information from private citizens. Read the rest
The failed military coup in Turkey was bizarre, even (especially) by the standards of Turkish military coups (which is a surprisingly large data-set), and in the wake of the coup, 6,000 people were promptly rounded up and arrested including respected judges, powerful military leaders, prosecutors, and a whole list of others whose names seem to have been put on an enemies list long before any coup. Read the rest
Turkey is in the throes of an attempted military coup at the time of this post.
Military officials aligned with the junta tried took over CNN Turk in Istanbul, minutes after the news network reported the death toll from Parliament, and word that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was flying back to the city after being briefly (?) sort of ousted from control. Read the rest
An attempted coup is underway in Turkey. Earlier today, barricades were erected on bridges in Istanbul and jets were spotted flying low in Ankara; by 11:30 p.m., the Prime Minister said that the government remained in charge; shortly before midnight, the military—or at least part of it—said it was. Read the rest