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The online political advertising wars rage on.

In late September, Facebook pleased almost no one when it announced that it would exempt posts by politicians, including ads, from its fact-checking system. Almost as if on cue, a few days later the Donald Trump reelection campaign dropped an ad full of conspiratorial claims about Joe Biden. When the Biden campaign requested that Facebook take down the ad, the company declined.

In the wake of the ensuing backlash, other social media companies took the opportunity to distance themselves from Facebook’s decision. Twitter, never a big player in the political ad game, decided to get out of it entirely. In late November, Google announced that it would stop allowing political ads to target users beyond the broad categories of zip code, sex, and age—a reform that would make sure questionable claims get exposed to a wider audience that could rebut them. The company also clarified, in an implicit rebuke to Facebook, that it doesn’t treat ads for politicians differently from ads for anything else: “Whether you’re running for office or selling office furniture, we apply the same ads policies to everyone; there are no carve-outs. It’s against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim.” While Facebook might be happy to let Trump say whatever he wants about Biden and anybody else, that apparently wouldn’t fly in Google’s world.

So it seemed, that is, until Sunday night’s episode of 60 Minutes. In a segment on YouTube’s battle against hate speech and misinformation, correspondent Lesley Stahl asked CEO Susan Wojcicki point-blank whether YouTube, a Google subsidiary, would air the Trump ad attacking Biden:

Stahl: Facebook is facing a lot of controversy because it refuses to take down a President Trump ad about Biden which is not true. Would you run that ad?
Wojcicki: So that is an ad that, um, right now would not be a violation of our policies.
Stahl: Is it on YouTube right now?
Wojcicki: It has been on YouTube.

Wojcicki’s awkward admission that YouTube’s policies allowed the ad was noteworthy given that reports in the (not-right-wing) media are that the ad is false—not misleading, not contested, but false. “Facebook Won’t Pull Ads That Lie” is how one New York Times print headline put it in October. Other mainstream outlets, including The Washington Post, have been comfortable labeling the contents of the video as bunkum. CNN refused to air it at all.

So if Google says it won’t run false political ads, why is YouTube allowing this one?

“There’s a difference, in our minds, between what constitutes political hyperbole versus something that could ‘significantly undermine trust in democracy,’” said Charlotte Smith, a Google spokesperson, referring to language in Google’s November policy announcement. “Political hyperbole is not new. There are politicians that exaggerate claims all the time.” Google’s policy, she explained, is attempting to draw a line between the kind of dishonesty we’ve long grudgingly accepted in politics on the one hand, and out-and-out fraud on the other.

When I asked what would run afoul of the policy, Smith gravitated toward examples of attempts to trick people out of voting. “An ad saying you can vote via text message—that would be disallowed,” she said. “An ad that gives an incorrect time for a polling place would be disallowed.”

But what about lies that aren’t specifically about the electoral process? I asked Smith what would happen if a candidate made a clearly, objectively false claim about an opponent—say, that the opponent had been arrested for selling drugs. In that case, Smith granted, the ad would be prohibited.

“If this ad is making a claim that is clear that, say, Kamala Harris went to jail for dealing drugs—that is demonstrably false,” she said. “In this example, it’s pretty clear that if you made a claim that somebody went to jail, you could very easily find out if they went to jail and for what reason.” (After this interview, Harris announced on Tuesday that she was suspending her presidential campaign.)

The anti-Biden ad, Smith suggested, doesn’t feature claims that are so clearly and plainly untrue. “Joe Biden promised Ukraine a billion dollars if they fired the prosecutor investigating his son’s company,” says the ad’s narrator. Then the video cuts to a clip of Biden at a public event, recalling his interaction with the Ukrainian government: “If the prosecutor’s not fired, you’re not getting the money,” he recounts saying, before triumphantly concluding the story: “Well, son of a bitch—he got fired.” (In the first version of the ad, “bitch” was left unbleeped, prompting Facebook to take it down. CBS also found that Google has taken down hundreds of Trump campaign ads since last year, but the company’s political ads archive does not display the content of those ads or why they were removed.)

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As I obliviously scrolled through my social media feeds last week, every woman I know seemed to be posting angry rants about one thing. My friends were all sharing how hurt and infuriated they were with the brutal gang rape and heinous murder of a 26-year-old veterinary, Priyanka Reddy, who was attacked when she was walking home with her bike, in Hyderabad on November 28.

Seven years after the horrific rape and murder case of Nirbhaya that shook the entire nation, not much seems to have changed in terms of women’s safety in India or even society’s attitude towards rape, which is sadly deeply rooted in the culture.

The gruesome incident has shook the country and sparked nationwide protests. A series of similar attacks followed, further aggravating the situation. People have taken to the streets across different cities demanding justice for the victim and provision of more security for women. Many activists, students, lawyers and others are holding rallies and demonstrations demanding death penalty for the four accused in the case and can be seen carrying placards that read ‘hang the rapists’, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and ‘we want justice’. In the capital, a young girl was also arrested outside Parliament for holding a sign that read, ‘Why can’t I feel safe in my own India?’

How it feels to take your rapist to court

Lifestyle

How it feels to take your rapist to court

A unanimous echo that can be heard across the country is the demand for authorities to reprimand the accused with most severe punishments – death penalty, public lynching or castration of the convicts. In fact, even the family members of the four men accused in the recent rape-murder case in Hyderabad say they believe their sons should suffer a fate similar to the victim’s. The mother of the prime accused in the case thinks her son should also be burnt alive – just like the victim. Many citizens are also infuriated to see the accused being protected and lodged in high-security jail. They are demanding the accused be handed over to the public so the people can decide their fate collectively. They demand the culprits to be named, shamed and punished publicly.

Even Parliament exploded in outrage on Monday during the session. The Defence Minister of India called the crime ‘inhumane’ and said the incident has ‘brought shame to the entire country.’ Member of Parliament and renowned actress, Jaya Bachchan, also spoke on the issue and demanded lynching of the perpetrators. Many other female MPs further supported her plea. Although her statement lead to a huge social media debate, many believe such statements serve as a catchy headline but in a civilised democracy like India, such punishments are impossible.

Women are seeking a definitive answer from the government and not willing to give up. However, the safety of women doesn’t seem to be a priority for the government. While there is rage across the country, it is extremely disappointing to see many government officials making comments that largely blame the victims for the crime. Many political leaders blamed the Hyderabad victim for not calling the police, suggesting that the police could have saved the life of the victim had she called the helpline instead of her sister.

Speaking at a press conference, the Chief Minister of the State of Telangana (Hyderabad is its capital), said he would make sure female employees don’t work after dark. The police of Hyderabad issued a list of advisory dos and don’ts for women. Instead of ensuring a safe environment for women, the police are preaching safety rules and advising women to stay at home when it’s dark. Are they suggesting that they have failed and can’t protect the women citizens of their country? How is any of this helping in security of women in the long run?

Victim blaming and shaming is the usual drill that follows every rape in the country. There is always unsolicited advice for women to change their behaviour, stay at home, not go out in the dark, limit the use of mobile phones, dress ‘appropriately’, not to consume alcohol and more obnoxious statements which are not relevant to the crime in any possible way.
Instead of investing in better infrastructure, street lights, CCTV, helplines and more security for women, the norm in the country is to ask women to be careful, curb their freedom and ask them to stay home.

I travelled to India Afghanistan on a charity mission and the gender-based violence I witnessed will shock you

Activism

I travelled to India Afghanistan on a charity mission and the gender-based violence I witnessed will shock you

Firstly, what needs to stop is this absurd obsession with trying to figure what the victim could have done to avoid rape. Secondly, authorities need to stop asking women to behave and instead focus on policing men.

Unfortunately the important aspect of rape crimes is men and their behaviour, which seems to be largely ignored. No one appears to advise that we need to change the way the men of the country are being brought up. Where are the behavioural decrees for men? Where is the list of advisory dos and don’ts for men? Why are the men not being asked to mind their manners?

Broadly speaking, currently the people are demanding a change in the judicial system, the security, government’s attitude and more. What the citizens are yearning for most is a law and order enforcement body that ensures quick verdict and severe punishment in such cases. They want the perpetrators to fear the capital punishments and believe that this may dissuade them from committing such crimes against women. The justice system needs to exercise quick verdicts within weeks or maximum 6 months while the memory of crime is still fresh. The swelling outrage is pressuring the authorities for quick action to be taken in this case. Many officials have promised swift and forceful justice with stringent punishments for four accused men.

The rape culture is celebrated in India and more popularly in movies. Bollywood is also largely blamed time and time again for objectifying women and normalising casual sexism and harassment of women as romance.

Rape is societal disease that has marred the country for centuries and continues to do so. The country is failing to bring up the men of the country in the right way and sadly it refuses to recognise this as a core problem at all. This incident has brought to light that even after so many years, nothing seems to be changing with regards to protection of women in India.

Virginia Roberts wants us to stand with her… here’s why we should

Feminism

Virginia Roberts wants us to stand with her… here’s why we should

0 0

As I obliviously scrolled through my social media feeds last week, every woman I know seemed to be posting angry rants about one thing. My friends were all sharing how hurt and infuriated they were with the brutal gang rape and heinous murder of a 26-year-old veterinary, Priyanka Reddy, who was attacked when she was walking home with her bike, in Hyderabad on November 28.

Seven years after the horrific rape and murder case of Nirbhaya that shook the entire nation, not much seems to have changed in terms of women’s safety in India or even society’s attitude towards rape, which is sadly deeply rooted in the culture.

The gruesome incident has shook the country and sparked nationwide protests. A series of similar attacks followed, further aggravating the situation. People have taken to the streets across different cities demanding justice for the victim and provision of more security for women. Many activists, students, lawyers and others are holding rallies and demonstrations demanding death penalty for the four accused in the case and can be seen carrying placards that read ‘hang the rapists’, ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ and ‘we want justice’. In the capital, a young girl was also arrested outside Parliament for holding a sign that read, ‘Why can’t I feel safe in my own India?’

How it feels to take your rapist to court

Lifestyle

How it feels to take your rapist to court

A unanimous echo that can be heard across the country is the demand for authorities to reprimand the accused with most severe punishments – death penalty, public lynching or castration of the convicts. In fact, even the family members of the four men accused in the recent rape-murder case in Hyderabad say they believe their sons should suffer a fate similar to the victim’s. The mother of the prime accused in the case thinks her son should also be burnt alive – just like the victim. Many citizens are also infuriated to see the accused being protected and lodged in high-security jail. They are demanding the accused be handed over to the public so the people can decide their fate collectively. They demand the culprits to be named, shamed and punished publicly.

Even Parliament exploded in outrage on Monday during the session. The Defence Minister of India called the crime ‘inhumane’ and said the incident has ‘brought shame to the entire country.’ Member of Parliament and renowned actress, Jaya Bachchan, also spoke on the issue and demanded lynching of the perpetrators. Many other female MPs further supported her plea. Although her statement lead to a huge social media debate, many believe such statements serve as a catchy headline but in a civilised democracy like India, such punishments are impossible.

Women are seeking a definitive answer from the government and not willing to give up. However, the safety of women doesn’t seem to be a priority for the government. While there is rage across the country, it is extremely disappointing to see many government officials making comments that largely blame the victims for the crime. Many political leaders blamed the Hyderabad victim for not calling the police, suggesting that the police could have saved the life of the victim had she called the helpline instead of her sister.

Speaking at a press conference, the Chief Minister of the State of Telangana (Hyderabad is its capital), said he would make sure female employees don’t work after dark. The police of Hyderabad issued a list of advisory dos and don’ts for women. Instead of ensuring a safe environment for women, the police are preaching safety rules and advising women to stay at home when it’s dark. Are they suggesting that they have failed and can’t protect the women citizens of their country? How is any of this helping in security of women in the long run?

Victim blaming and shaming is the usual drill that follows every rape in the country. There is always unsolicited advice for women to change their behaviour, stay at home, not go out in the dark, limit the use of mobile phones, dress ‘appropriately’, not to consume alcohol and more obnoxious statements which are not relevant to the crime in any possible way.
Instead of investing in better infrastructure, street lights, CCTV, helplines and more security for women, the norm in the country is to ask women to be careful, curb their freedom and ask them to stay home.

I travelled to India Afghanistan on a charity mission and the gender-based violence I witnessed will shock you

Activism

I travelled to India Afghanistan on a charity mission and the gender-based violence I witnessed will shock you

Firstly, what needs to stop is this absurd obsession with trying to figure what the victim could have done to avoid rape. Secondly, authorities need to stop asking women to behave and instead focus on policing men.

Unfortunately the important aspect of rape crimes is men and their behaviour, which seems to be largely ignored. No one appears to advise that we need to change the way the men of the country are being brought up. Where are the behavioural decrees for men? Where is the list of advisory dos and don’ts for men? Why are the men not being asked to mind their manners?

Broadly speaking, currently the people are demanding a change in the judicial system, the security, government’s attitude and more. What the citizens are yearning for most is a law and order enforcement body that ensures quick verdict and severe punishment in such cases. They want the perpetrators to fear the capital punishments and believe that this may dissuade them from committing such crimes against women. The justice system needs to exercise quick verdicts within weeks or maximum 6 months while the memory of crime is still fresh. The swelling outrage is pressuring the authorities for quick action to be taken in this case. Many officials have promised swift and forceful justice with stringent punishments for four accused men.

The rape culture is celebrated in India and more popularly in movies. Bollywood is also largely blamed time and time again for objectifying women and normalising casual sexism and harassment of women as romance.

Rape is societal disease that has marred the country for centuries and continues to do so. The country is failing to bring up the men of the country in the right way and sadly it refuses to recognise this as a core problem at all. This incident has brought to light that even after so many years, nothing seems to be changing with regards to protection of women in India.

Virginia Roberts wants us to stand with her… here’s why we should

Feminism

Virginia Roberts wants us to stand with her… here’s why we should

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Instagram has been busy hiding like counts in an effort to make the social media platform less about popularity and more about quality content. For those not ready to give up their precious likes on Instagram, though, The Return of the Likes Chrome extension reportedly restores visible like and comment counts to each post.

The only catch is that the extension is only able to overlay like and comment numbers at the top right corner of posts on Instagram’s website. For now, the feature is not available through the mobile Instagram app. TechCrunch notes that even though the extension only works online at the moment, users can easily send themselves a permalink to a specific post via the Instagram app to then research its like and comment count through The Return of the Likes.

TechCrunch also notes that it has tested The Return Of The Likes and verifies that it is not a scam. The creator of the extension, Socialinsider, is an actual media analytics company that offers software that measures social media stats like engagement. On the bottom of the extension’s download page, Socialinsider notes that “No data is sent to Socialinsider servers.”

Learn more and download The Return Of The Likes over on the Chrome Web Store.

Elsewhere in tech, Pringles has created a self-feeding headset for gamers.

0 0

Instagram has been busy hiding like counts in an effort to make the social media platform less about popularity and more about quality content. For those not ready to give up their precious likes on Instagram, though, The Return of the Likes Chrome extension reportedly restores visible like and comment counts to each post.

The only catch is that the extension is only able to overlay like and comment numbers at the top right corner of posts on Instagram’s website. For now, the feature is not available through the mobile Instagram app. TechCrunch notes that even though the extension only works online at the moment, users can easily send themselves a permalink to a specific post via the Instagram app to then research its like and comment count through The Return of the Likes.

TechCrunch also notes that it has tested The Return Of The Likes and verifies that it is not a scam. The creator of the extension, Socialinsider, is an actual media analytics company that offers software that measures social media stats like engagement. On the bottom of the extension’s download page, Socialinsider notes that “No data is sent to Socialinsider servers.”

Learn more and download The Return Of The Likes over on the Chrome Web Store.

Elsewhere in tech, Pringles has created a self-feeding headset for gamers.

0 0


PlayStation Logo

Getty Images

After seven years of the PlayStation 4, Sony is gearing up to release its aptly-titled successor: the PlayStation 5.

The first verified information about the next-generation console came earlier this year from a Wired interview with system architect Mark Cerny, who spoke of enhanced imagery, speed, sound and backwards compatibility with the PS4. 

More recently, a new image of a prototype that’s reportedly already in the hands of developers offered a very early view of what the PS5 could look like, although Business Insider notes that these kits rarely look the similar to the finished product:

Using the latest interviews and articles gathered by Hi Snobiety about what’s poised to quite literally be a game-changer in the virtual world, here’s everything we know about the PlayStation 5. 

The PS5 will arrive in late 2020

Cerny confirmed in a new Wired article that the PS5 is set a release during the 2020 holidays, and an unconfirmed rumor from anonymous source told BGR that an unveiling is scheduled for February 12 of the same year.  

Technology will be top-notch

In the same Wired article, Cerny revealed that the PS5′s CPU will be based on AMD’s Ryzen line, its GPU will run a new ray-tracing graphics rendering process, physical games will be contained on 100-GB optical discs, and it will boast a high-tech solid-state drive (SSD) that eliminates the need for data duplication, thus substantially lowering graphics load time. Wired has further details on the SSD: 

Think about the hard drive in a game console, spinning like a 5,400-rpm vinyl record. For the console to read a piece of information off the drive, it first has to send out the disk head—like a turntable needle—to find it. Each “seek,” as it’s known, may entail only a scant handful of milliseconds, but seeks add up. To minimize them, developers will often duplicate certain game assets in order to form contiguous data blocks, which the drive can read faster. We’re talking common stuff here: lampposts, anonymous passersby.

The SSD sweeps away the need for all that duping—so not only is its raw read speed dramatically faster than a hard drive, but it saves crucial space. How developers will take advantage of that space will likely differ; some may opt to build a larger or more detailed game world, others may be content to shrink the size of the games or patches.

It could be expensive

Based on known hardware specifications as well as rumors, one expert cited by CCN has priced the PS5 out at an astronomical $800—a significant hike over the PS4′s original $400 debut price. Hopefully they’re wrong.  

The controller will provide unprecedented tactility

Cerny says that the controller, which Wired predicts will be called adjusting resistance based on whether the user is shooting a bow and arrow, machine, gun or shotgun. A haptic feedback motor provides different sensations when moving a character through grass and mud, or driving a vehicle on different surfaces. The controller will also include a USB-C port, a larger battery and a speaker. 

The User Interface will be better 

An improved User Interface (UI) won’t require gamers to load individual titles to see who’s on and what’s happening in real time. 

“Even though it will be fairly fast to boot games, we don’t want the player to have to boot the game, see what’s up, boot the game, see what’s up,” Cerny told Wired. “Multiplayer game servers will provide the console with the set of joinable activities in real time. Single-player games will provide information like what missions you could do and what rewards you might receive for completing them—and all of those choices will be visible in the UI. As a player you just jump right into whatever you like.”

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PlayStation Logo

Getty Images

After seven years of the PlayStation 4, Sony is gearing up to release its aptly-titled successor: the PlayStation 5.

The first verified information about the next-generation console came earlier this year from a Wired interview with system architect Mark Cerny, who spoke of enhanced imagery, speed, sound and backwards compatibility with the PS4. 

More recently, a new image of a prototype that’s reportedly already in the hands of developers offered a very early view of what the PS5 could look like, although Business Insider notes that these kits rarely look the similar to the finished product:

Using the latest interviews and articles gathered by Hi Snobiety about what’s poised to quite literally be a game-changer in the virtual world, here’s everything we know about the PlayStation 5. 

The PS5 will arrive in late 2020

Cerny confirmed in a new Wired article that the PS5 is set a release during the 2020 holidays, and an unconfirmed rumor from anonymous source told BGR that an unveiling is scheduled for February 12 of the same year.  

Technology will be top-notch

In the same Wired article, Cerny revealed that the PS5′s CPU will be based on AMD’s Ryzen line, its GPU will run a new ray-tracing graphics rendering process, physical games will be contained on 100-GB optical discs, and it will boast a high-tech solid-state drive (SSD) that eliminates the need for data duplication, thus substantially lowering graphics load time. Wired has further details on the SSD: 

Think about the hard drive in a game console, spinning like a 5,400-rpm vinyl record. For the console to read a piece of information off the drive, it first has to send out the disk head—like a turntable needle—to find it. Each “seek,” as it’s known, may entail only a scant handful of milliseconds, but seeks add up. To minimize them, developers will often duplicate certain game assets in order to form contiguous data blocks, which the drive can read faster. We’re talking common stuff here: lampposts, anonymous passersby.

The SSD sweeps away the need for all that duping—so not only is its raw read speed dramatically faster than a hard drive, but it saves crucial space. How developers will take advantage of that space will likely differ; some may opt to build a larger or more detailed game world, others may be content to shrink the size of the games or patches.

It could be expensive

Based on known hardware specifications as well as rumors, one expert cited by CCN has priced the PS5 out at an astronomical $800—a significant hike over the PS4′s original $400 debut price. Hopefully they’re wrong.  

The controller will provide unprecedented tactility

Cerny says that the controller, which Wired predicts will be called adjusting resistance based on whether the user is shooting a bow and arrow, machine, gun or shotgun. A haptic feedback motor provides different sensations when moving a character through grass and mud, or driving a vehicle on different surfaces. The controller will also include a USB-C port, a larger battery and a speaker. 

The User Interface will be better 

An improved User Interface (UI) won’t require gamers to load individual titles to see who’s on and what’s happening in real time. 

“Even though it will be fairly fast to boot games, we don’t want the player to have to boot the game, see what’s up, boot the game, see what’s up,” Cerny told Wired. “Multiplayer game servers will provide the console with the set of joinable activities in real time. Single-player games will provide information like what missions you could do and what rewards you might receive for completing them—and all of those choices will be visible in the UI. As a player you just jump right into whatever you like.”

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A white dude with seriously thick hair.

The prominent hacker and Ethereum developer Virgil Griffith was arrested by the US government Friday after he spoke at an April conference on blockchain technologies in North Korea. The US government considers his presentation to be a transfer of technology—and therefore a violation of US sanctions.

But Griffith’s defenders, including Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin, describe the arrest as a massive overreaction. Griffith worked for the Ethereum Foundation, and Buterin called him a friend.

“I don’t think what Virgil did gave the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] any kind of real help in doing anything bad,” Buterin tweeted on Sunday. “He delivered a presentation based on publicly available info about open source software.”

But federal prosecutors argue that Griffith, a US citizen residing in Singapore, knew full well that his trip violated US sanction laws. They say he sought approval for the trip from the US State Department, and his request was denied. Griffith made the trip anyway, traveling through China to evade US travel restrictions.

In a charging document, an FBI agent wrote that Griffith “discussed how blockchain and cryptocurrency technology could be used by the DPRK to launder money and evade sanctions, and how the DPRK could use these technologies to achieve independence from the global banking system.”

Griffith made little effort to hide his travel plans. He tweeted out a photo of his travel documents and voluntarily talked to the FBI after his trip. He even allowed the authorities to inspect his cell phone.

The feds say Griffith’s electronic communications show a clear intention to violate US sanctions laws. When a friend asked why the North Korean regime was interested in cryptocurrency, he wrote: “probably avoiding sanctions… who knows.”

Later, he told a friend of his plan to help send 1 unit of cryptocurrency (presumably ether) between South and North Korea. The friend asked “Isn’t that violating sanctions?” Griffith replied “it is,” according to the US government.

“Minor public-relations disasters”

Griffith was a well-known figure in the hacking world for more than a decade before this year’s trip to North Korea. He was featured by The New York Times in a 2008 article that focused on his creation of WikiScanner—software that helped uncover people and organizations making surreptitious changes to Wikipedia.

He told the Times that he aspires to “create minor public-relations disasters for companies and organizations I dislike.”

In 2003, Griffith was sued by education-software maker Blackboard to stop him from presenting research on security flaws in Blackboard’s software. A 2006 paper demonstrated how easy it was to guess people’s mothers’ maiden names from public records—highlighting the downside of using this information to authenticate consumers.

According to his LinkedIn page, Griffith received a Ph.D. in computation and neural systems in 2014. Since then, he has been involved in a variety of cryptocurrency projects. He has been a research scientist at the Ethereum Foundation since 2016.

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