Authoritarians used to be scared of social media, now they rule it

A new report from the Institute For the Future on "state-sponsored trolling" documents the rise and rise of government-backed troll armies who terrorize journalists and opposition figures with seemingly endless waves of individuals who bombard their targets with vile vitriol, from racial slurs to rape threats. Read the rest

Google launches a DRM-free audiobook store: finally, a writer- and listener-friendly Audible alternative!

A decade ago, when Amazon acquired Audible, the two companies promised that they'd phase out their DRM, which locked listeners into using their proprietary software and devices to enjoy the books they purchased. Audible never made good on that promise, and stonewalled press queries and industry requests about when, exactly, this fairtrade version of their industry-dominating audiobook store would finally emerge.

Google Translate's deep dream: some translation requests yield weird religious prophesies

Feed 19 repetitions of the word "dog" to Google Translate and ask it for a Maori conversion and you get this: "Doomsday Clock is three minutes at twelve. We are experiencing characters and a dramatic developments in the world, which indicate that we are increasingly approaching the end times and Jesus' return." Read the rest

Gmail rolls out DRM for email and office documents, calls it "Confidential Mode"

Google has rolled out a "Confidential Mode" for Gmail and Google Docs attachments, promising users that they'll be able to send emails to their contacts that can't be shared, printed or copied. Read the rest

YouTube plans to spend $25 million fighting 'fake news.' Here's how.

YouTube just unveiled a plan to combat phony conspiracy videos intended to manipulate or defraud viewers. Read the rest

After London builders' bid to remove a complaint from Mumsnet failed, a mysterious Pakistani-American copyright claim did the job

Annabelle Narey hired a London construction firm called BuildTeam to do some work, which she found very unsatisfactory (she blames them for a potentially lethal roof collapse in a bedroom); so she did what many of us do when we're unhappy with a business: she wrote an online complaint, and it was joined by other people who said that they had hired BuildTeam and been unhappy with the work. Read the rest

Googlers' ethical refusal to build airgap systems curtailed Google's ability to bid on sensitive military contracts

A group of elite Google Cloud engineers simply refused to put any work into an airgap system designed to let the company bid on sensitive military contracts, which undermined the company's ability to seek military work. Read the rest

Microsoft employees pissed over company's connection to ICE

Back in January, Microsoft announced that they were "proud" to support ICE. Honestly, what company wouldn't be? A U.S. federal contract, no matter how large your coffers and corporate reach might be, is a good get, due both to the amount of American lucre you'll pocket and the visuals that come from being trusted by one of the most powerful countries in the world to meet their cloud computing needs.

But hey: it isn't January anymore and Microsoft in June, 2018 is looking a little bit like IBM back in the 1930s.

Under the Trump Administration's direction, ICE and other Homeland Security entities have been busy breaking up families, emotionally scarring thousands of innocent kids, and driving their anguished caretakers into cages, or worse, to suicide. That Microsoft's Azure cloud computing services are helping such villainy along, in any capacity, might be good in the short-term, for the company's bottom line, but the optics are shit. More than this, the company's association with ICE is raising the hackles of some of their their most important assets: not their shareholders or board, but their employees.

According to Gizmodo, a number of Microsoft employees, who prefer to remain anonymous in the interest of protecting their careers, have stepped forward to report that the computer technology company's relationship with ICE has led to growing dissent among the company's workforce. When Giz questioned Microsoft's PR team on the matter, the response was a bit wishy-washy:

From Gizmodo:

Microsoft condemned family separation by ICE in a statement to Gizmodo but declined to specify if specific tools within Azure Government, like Face API—facial recognition software—were in use by the agency.

Read the rest

Here are 15 privacy settings you should change from defaults, from Linkedin to cellphones to smart TVs

The Washington Post rounds up 15 privacy defaults that no one in their right mind would want to leave as-is, and provides direct links to change 'em (hilariously and predictably, Verizon/Oath/Yahoo's privacy settings dashboard times out when you try to load it) -- once you're done with that, go back and follow his links to unfuck the privacy defaults for Google, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and #DeleteFacebook. (via Reddit) Read the rest

Alternatives to Google products

Restore Privacy collects alternatives to Google products: "It’s been fun Google, but it’s time to say goodbye." And it's not just Firefox, DuckDuckGo and Tutanota; privacy-oriented options include NextCloud for storage, Matomo for web anaytics, Etar for calendars, and HookTube for relaying YouTube videos. Read the rest

Google Sheets' hidden Pride Easter egg

June is Pride month. What better time to spruce up your rows and columns with the colors of the rainbow?

David Murphy of Lifehacker shares an oldie-but-goodie Easter egg in Google Sheets that turns them into the colorful spreadsheets we all need.

To check it out, simply pull up a new spreadsheet in Google Sheets. In cell A1, enter a “p”—the case doesn’t matter. Scroll right one cell (B1) and enter an “r.” You can probably guess where this is going. Basically, you’ll be spelling out pride, one letter per cell, from cells A1 to E1. And as soon as you tap that final “e” and hit Enter (or Return), your entire spreadsheet will turn into a giant rainbow to match the six colors most commonly associated with Pride.

The only bummer is that if you delete any letter from the word "pride," the colors disappear. Murphy suggests hiding the first row (1) to keep the fun going. Read the rest

Google promises no more use of its artificial intelligence tech in weapons

Alphabet, Google's parent company, promises not to allow use of its artificial intelligence technology in weapons and in certain forms of surveillance. Read the rest

Youtubers with millions of followers are dropping out, citing stress and burnout from algorithm kremlinology

Youtube allows people -- some of them not very nice -- to earn incredible livings by performing stunts, playing videogames, creating sketches, anything that attracts an audience. Read the rest

Citing bad publicity and internal dissent, Google announces it won't renew contract to supply AI for US military drones

Google knew that Project Maven, its contract to supply AI to US military drones would be unpopular, but they were chasing hundreds of millions of dollars in follow-on contracts, and even though dozens of engineers quit over the project, at least they got a snazzy mission patch. Read the rest

Former Tory chancellor takes over newspaper, sells "money-can't buy" coverage to Uber, Google and others

George Osborne was David Cameron's Chancellor of the Exchequer, the architect of UK austerity; he was fired by Theresa May when she became Prime Minister and he did not run for re-election in the disastrous election of 2017, instead taking a job as editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard. Read the rest

Leaks show that Google expected its modest AI-for-drones business to expand exponentially

While leaked memos show that Google execs perceived a real risk of internal backlash from their $9 million Pentagon contract to supply AI for US military drones, they were willing to risk it because they expected the business to quickly grow to $250,000,000. Read the rest

No, seriously, THIS is the mission patch for Google's drone warfare AI contract with the Pentagon

JWZ: "Which probably translates to, 'Take your ad-targetting snake-oil and repurpose it to execute brown people with drones'. You know, kind of like how Wehrner von Braun aimed for the stars, but mostly hit London." Read the rest

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