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- The Small, Small World of Facebook’s Anti-VaxxersLook up “vaccinations” on Facebook, as Representative Adam Schiff did last week, and the results will show a rich supply of anti-vaccination posts, pages, and groups. Such propaganda appears to be flourishing online, drawing the uninitiated into a tangled web of sources through algorithmic recommendations and human shares.Facebook, for its part, laments the reach of such “health-related misinformation.” But the company can also use the presumed complexity for cover. If the anti-vaccination posts are widely distributed, then fixing this misinformation problem becomes massively more difficult. Imagine that hundreds of thousands of people are responsible for the anti-vaccine chatter: To take action against such a network could cause massive ripples in the fabric of the network. Sensitive to cries of censorship, Facebook would shy away from interveningHowever, while Facebook’s scale might as well be infinite, the actual universe of people arguing about vaccinations is limited and knowable. Using the web-monitoring tool… ..... Read More.3 weeks ago
- The Microphones That May Be Hidden in Your HomeGoogle apologized Wednesday to customers who purchased its Nest Secure home-security system. The device is equipped with a microphone that has gone unmentioned since it went up for sale in 2017. Earlier in February, Google announced on Twitter an upcoming software update that activated the microphone, making the Nest Guard responsive to voice commands and Google Assistant technology. The tweet startled users, who were never told the system could pick up sound.“Have I had a device with a hidden microphone in my house this entire time?” one user asked. Missing from the Nest account’s response was the word “yes,” but to be clear: Yes.“We included a microphone in the Nest Guard with features such as the Google Assistant in mind. It has not been used up to this point, and you can enable or disable it at any time using the Nest app,” the company wrote on Twitter.Google has since… ..... Read More.4 weeks ago
- The Reason Conspiracy Videos Work So Well on YouTubeCataloging the conspiracies on offer on YouTube is a fool’s errand, but let’s try: fake moon landing, flat earth , 9/11 stuff, the illuminati, anti-vaxxer propaganda, medical quackery, Qanon, Nikola Tesla and the pyramids, fiat currency, global cooling, lizard people, robot overlords, time travel, and many even odder things you’ve probably never heard of.Last month, YouTube said it would stop recommending “content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”But the conspiracy videos continue to burble up in the great seething mass of moving pictures. Earlier this week, in a report on the continued success of conspiracy videos on the platform, The New York Times’ Kevin Roose observed, “many young people have absorbed a YouTube-centric worldview, including rejecting mainstream information sources in favor of platform-native creators… ..... Read More.4 weeks ago
- When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already OnlineFor several months, Cara has been working up the courage to approach her mom about what she saw on Instagram. Not long ago, the 11-year-old—who, like all the other kids in this story, is referred to by a pseudonym—discovered that her mom had been posting photos of her, without prior approval, for much of her life. “I’ve wanted to bring it up. It’s weird seeing myself up there, and sometimes there’s pics I don’t like of myself,” she said.Like most other modern kids, Cara grew up immersed in social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all founded before she was born; Instagram has been around since she was a toddler. While many kids may not yet have accounts themselves, their parents, schools, sports teams, and organizations have been curating an online presence for them since birth. The shock of realizing that details about your life—or, in some cases, an entire… ..... Read More.4 weeks ago