The far right is dominating the information wars through "keyword signaling"

It's an old story: someone searches Google for a common keyword -- "jews," "women," "black people" -- and gets back a bunch of far-right conspiracist/genocidal garbage; Google gets embarrassed, twiddles some search-weighting knobs, and the results change. Read the rest

A plugin to force Twitter to respect your settings and stop showing you "top" tweets

Twitter has a setting that (nominally) allows you to turn off its default of showing you "top" tweets (as selected by its engagement-maximizing, conflict-seeking algorithm), but periodically, Twitter just ignores that setting and starts nonconsensually eyeball-fucking you with inflammatory headlines. Read the rest

Demetrification: improving social media by removing public like/follower/repost counts

When social media was young, it was obvious that it had some pathologies -- perverse incentives that drove people toward antisocial behaviour. Back in those days, a company named Flickr did some radical things that made it (briefly) the best social network on the internet (until Yahoo bought it and all but destroyed it): among other things, Flickr did not publicly display follower or favorite counts, and it would allow you to export all of your data to any rival service, provided that the rival service would implement an export function that let you change your mind and switch back to Flickr, creating a kind of mutual network of anti-lock-in services. Read the rest

Gawker's new owners demand right to search journalists, ban encrypted email and institute dress code

After Deadspin's Laura Wagner published an incredible, brave, detailed look at how her new private equity masters -- Jim Spanfeller/Great Hill Partners -- were running Gawker now that they'd acquired it from Univision, the company (now called "G/O Media") struck back. Read the rest

Major corporations blacklist ads on news stories that include the words "Trump," "racism," "gun," "Brexit," "suicide" and more

The Wall Street Journal investigates major corporations' ad buyers' practice of blacklisting of ads on news stories that deal with the world's most urgent issues, including any news story that contains the word "Trump" or "racism" or "gun" or "Brexit" or "suicide" (so much for reporting on the opioid epidemic). Read the rest

Adblocking: How about nah?

For more than a decade, consumer rights groups (including EFF) worked with technologists and companies to try to standardize Do Not Track, a flag that browsers could send to online companies signaling that their users did not want their browsing activity tracked. Despite long hours and backing from the FTC, foot-dragging from the browser vendors and outright hostility from the big online media companies mean that setting Do Not Track in your browser does virtually nothing to protect your privacy. Read the rest

Chrome is patching a bug that lets sites detect and block private browsing mode, declares war on incognito-blocking

The next version of Chrome will patch a bug that lets websites detect users who are in incognito mode by by probing the Filesystem API; they've also pledged to seek out and block any other vulnerabilities that will let servers detect users in incognito mode. Read the rest

Interoperability: Fix the internet, not the tech companies

Everyone in the tech world claims to love interoperability—the technical ability to plug one product or service into another product or service—but interoperability covers a lot of territory, and depending on what's meant by interoperability, it can do a lot, a little, or nothing at all to protect users, innovation and fairness.

Let's start with a taxonomy of interoperability: Read the rest

Independent audit finds Facebook activity has fallen by 20% since Cambridge Analytica

The "business analytics" firm Mixpanel has released its figures estimating the total usage of Facebook (liking, sharing and posting) since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke; they showed usage falling off 10% in the first month following from the news of the scandal, and continuing to fall, with overall usage down by 20% since April 2018. Read the rest

Traverse City, MI braves the wrath of telcoms lobbyists, pushes ahead with municipal fiber network

Municipal broadband is pretty much the telco monopolists' worst nightmare: it's a cheaper, faster alternative and it's the only internet service that customers express high levels of satisfaction for, so it's no wonder that telcoms lobbyists have convinced 26 states to ban cities from providing internet access, sometimes literally drafting the legislation and handing it off to lawmakers. Read the rest

Mary Meeker's 2019 Internet Trends: stalled growth, security dumpster-fires, more online education and fear of regulation

Every year, VC Mary Meeker (previously) publishes her must-read Internet Trends Report, which comes as a powerpoint deck with hundreds of slides (you can watch her power through them in 30 minutes flat at the Re-Code conference). Read the rest

Google's API changes mean only paid enterprise users of Chrome will be able to access full adblock

Since January, Google has been pushing for a change to its extensions handling in Chrome; one casualty of that change is ability to block unwanted content before its loads, something that would effectively kill privacy tools and ad-blockers. Read the rest

Remembering the pre-Netscape browsers

Young ones, gather round, and let Ole Grampa Doctorow tell you about the glory days, before the creation and deprecation of the <blink> tag, when tables were still a glimmer in a data-structure's eye, when a DOM advertised in the back pages of your weekly freesheet and CSS was a controversial DVD-scrambling system. Read the rest

Massive, careful study finds that social media use is generally neutral for kids' happiness, and sometimes positive

In Social media’s enduring effect on adolescent life satisfaction, a pair of Oxford psych researchers and a colleague from Stuttgart's University of Hohenheim review a large, long-running data-set (Understanding Society, the UK Household Longitudinal Study, 2009–2016) that surveyed 12,672 adolescents at eight points over seven years. Read the rest

Reddit's wonderful "Change My View" forum launches its own independent website

Change My View (previously) is a wonderful subreddit founded by a Scottish highschooler named Kal Turnbull as a forum where people can conduct honest inquiry and debate, where the house-rules ensure that there is an open-minded willingness to have your views changed, and where those changes are marked with a Δ (delta) symbol. Read the rest

Facebook's year-old "improvements" to the newsfeed have elevated enraging Fox News posts to the service's dominant form

A year ago, smarting over public criticism of its role in promoting division and stoking racism, Facebook announced a major shift in its newsfeed algorithm which would downrank posts from media organizations and uprank the things sent by your friends on the network, in the name of promotion a gentler form of "engagement" that would emphasize discourse over clickbait, which founder Mark Zuckerberg promised would be "time well spent." Read the rest

Millions of Americans have left Facebook, led by young people aged 12-34

A new report from Edison Research finds Facebook's American user-base contracted for the second consecutive year in 2018, shrinking by 15,000,000, and that the biggest declines have come from the coveted 12-34 year old group. Read the rest

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