Should Some Sites Be Liable For The Content They Host?
America's lawmakers are scrutinizing the blanket protections in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which lets online companies moderate their own sites without incurring legal liability for everything they host.
schwit1 shared this article from the New York Times:
Last month, Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, said in a hearing about Google and censorship that the law was "a subsidy, a perk" for big tech that may need to be reconsidered. In an April interview, Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California called Section 230 a "gift" to tech companies "that could be removed."
"There is definitely more attention being paid to Section 230 than at any time in its history," said Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the United States Naval Academy and the author of a book about the law, The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet .... Mr. Wyden, now a senator [and a co-author of the original bill], said the law had been written to provide "a sword and a shield" for internet companies. The shield is the liability protection for user content, but the sword was meant to allow companies to keep out "offensive materials." However, he said firms had not done enough to keep "slime" off their sites. In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Wyden said he had recently told tech workers at a conference on content moderation that if "you don't use the sword, there are going to be people coming for your shield."
There is also a concern that the law's immunity is too sweeping. Websites trading in revenge pornography, hate speech or personal information to harass people online receive the same immunity as sites like Wikipedia. "It gives immunity to people who do not earn it and are not worthy of it," said Danielle Keats Citron, a law professor at Boston University who has written extensively about the statute. The first blow came last year with the signing of a law that creates an exception in Section 230 for websites that knowingly assist, facilitate or support sex trafficking. Critics of the new law said it opened the door to create other exceptions and would ultimately render Section 230 meaningless.
The article notes that while lawmakers from both parties are challenging the protections, "they disagree on why," with Republicans complaining that the law has only protected some free speech while still leaving conservative voices open to censorship on major platforms.
The Times also notes that when Wyden co-authored the original bill in 1996, Google didn't exist yet, and Mark Zuckerberg was 11 years old.
Do Personality Tests Give Companies Too Much Power?
One 2016 human resources study found that 48% of American businesses -- and 57% of U.K. businesses -- used personality questionnaires for hiring decisions, a new article reports. They add that the personality test industry may now be bringing in up to $4 billion a year.
But "By relying on these tests, employers can ask questions that would be inappropriate -- or at best bizarre -- in a traditional interview." For example, in 2017 the crafts store Michael's was asking job-seekers whether they strongly agreed with these statements:
- "I am always happy."
- "When I look at the world around me, I have little hope for mankind."
- "Over the course of the day, I can experience many mood changes."
- "When I am in a bad mood, it affects my work."
An anonymous reader quotes an investigative report from
Bad hires can be costly for companies, and the tests are now used to screen everyone from minimum-wage employees to consultants and top-level executives. But there is the risk that people saddled with the wrong scores will be screened out en masse without a chance to prove themselves. As part of an attempt to build a perfect capitalist meritocracy, algorithms are effectively monitoring the workforce to decide which traits are deemed desirable -- and who gets left behind...
[S]ome critics say personality tests give companies too much power. Elizabeth D. De Armond, a professor of legal research and writing at Chicago-Kent College of Law, likens personality tests to an "MRI scan of the soul" and suggests banning them, except in cases where a business can convincingly argue that hiring for a certain personality is essential (police officers must be able to handle highly stressful situations, for example). The tests seek "to observe not just what an employee does, but how that employee thinks -- processes that pertain not just to the employee's presence on the job, but the employee's being at all times," De Armond wrote in 2012.
Merve Emre, who recently published
a history of the Myers-Briggs Indicator, argues that "All of these tests are registering the interests of power, and capitalist power specifically. Just because that power is being routed through and sanitized by a scientific proof doesn't mean it's not power."
The article also includes comments from an executive at the company that created the personality test for Michael's who argues that the tests
eliminate human biases from hiring based solely on an in-person interview.
Their test even check for people who answered too quickly or answered "strongly agree" too often, according to the article -- and if they did, flag their responses with an "authenticity alert."
Kotaku Posts 'A Reminder That Video Games Are A Force For Good'
An anonymous reader quotes Kotaku Australia:
Spurred on by the recent discussions of video games and violence, and spurred on by the emotional and often downbeat tone of that discussion, a user on Twitter posted a simple thought exercise. Rather than talking about the misery and pain of the week, what if people shared all the times Nintendo games changed lives instead?
Unsurprisingly, the tweet went viral with over 22,000 retweets and 31,200 likes, prompting a trending discussion where people began sharing tales of how Nintendo games have served as a force for good.... Users began retelling stories of the first times they shared a Nintendo game with their parents. Others spoke about times how Nintendo games helped them while they were being bullied at school, difficult situations at home, or just being able to connect with people over a shared interest.
The responses included game players with autism or depression, with other gamers sharing stories about bonding with a parent, getting inspired to pursue a career, or meeting friends or future spouses in online games.
Any Slashdot readers want to share their own thoughts on whether videogames are "a force for good"?
Judges Begin Ruling Against Some Porn Purveyors' Use of Copyright Lawsuits
pgmrdlm quotes Bloomberg:
Pornography producers and sellers account for the lion's share of copyright-infringement lawsuits in the U.S. -- and judges may have seen enough. The courts are cracking down on porn vendors that file thousands of lawsuits against people for downloading and trading racy films on home computers, using tactics a judge called a "high tech shakedown." [Alternate link here.] In one case, two men were jailed in a scheme that netted $6 million in settlements.
The pornography companies have "a business model that seeks to profit from litigation and threats of litigation rather than profiting from creative works," said Mitch Stoltz, a senior attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco group that has waged a campaign against companies it thinks abuse the copyright system.
Two companies that make and sell porn are responsible for almost half of the 3,404 copyright lawsuits filed in the U.S. in the first seven months of this year, according to an analysis by Bloomberg Law's Tommy Shen... The companies say they are protecting their movies from piracy and infringement under U.S. copyright law, as major movie studios have done for decades, and suggest that the content of their films is the reason for the wrath of the judges. But some of the tactics used in their infringement suits to identify targets and force settlements have critics -- and some jurists -- up in arms and may require congressional actions to fix.
The suits don't initially name names. They identify the Internet Protocol addresses using peer-to-peer networks like BitTorrent to download or distribute the movies and then file suits against âoeJohn Doesâ and ask the courts to order internet service providers, like Verizon Communications Inc. or Comcast Corp., to identify the account subscribers. Those people are then contacted by the porn company lawyers.
One lawyer notes that the lawsuits target users in wealthier areas, reports Bloomberg, which adds that in December one district judge even refused to grant the request for identities, ruling that the porn company "treats this court not as a citadel of justice, but as an ATM."
And last month a federal judge cited that ruling when refusing to enter a judgment in another case.
Was 'The Matrix' Part of Cinema's Last Great Year?
Esquire argued that great movies like
The Matrix "predicted a revolution in film that never happened," adding "We are in many ways worse off now than we were 15 years ago as a culture.
We seem to have run out of original ideas."
This week two film critics debated whether 1999 was in fact cinema's last great year. Slashdot reader
Notable films of 1999 are Fight Club, Magnolia, The Matrix, Eyes Wide Shut, Three Kings, The Sixth Sense, EXistenZ, Being John Malkovich, Man On The Moon, American Beauty, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Office Space, Boys Don't Cry, Election, Rushmore, Buena Vista Social Club, The Virgin Suicides, Sleepy Hollow, The Insider, Girl Interrupted, The Iron Giant and Toy Story 2.
According to Nicholas Barber, 1999 also was the beginning of the end for quality cinema:
"The release of Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace proved that long-dormant series could be lucratively revived. Toy Story 2, the first ever Pixar sequel, proved that cartoon follow-ups needn't be straight-to-video cheapies, but major, money-spinning phenomena. The Matrix proved that digitally-enhanced superhero action could attract audiences of all ages. And The Blair Witch Project proved that found-footage horror in particular, and microbudget horror in general, could be a gold mine. As wonderful as those films may have been -- The Phantom Menace excepted, obviously -- they taught Hollywood some toxic lessons. Instead of continuing to bet on young mavericks, studio executives twigged that there was a fortune to be made from superhero blockbusters, Disney sequels, merchandise-friendly franchises and cheapo horror movies. And that's what we get in 2019, week after week."
He also writes that the boom in DVDs in 1999 had "encouraged studios to fund offbeat projects," ultimately concluding 1999 was "the year when everything began to go wrong." He argues that today it's a different technology driving innovation. "In the 21st Century, streaming platforms have made the small screen the home of fresh ideas, as well as for conversation-starting communal cultural experiences."
But film critic Hannah Woodhead counters with a line from the 1999 film
Magnolia: "We may be through with the past, but the past ain't through with us."
"Nostalgia is often the enemy of progress when it comes to pop culture. We have a tendency to look back fondly on what came before, ironing out the flaws in our memory until the past is something that seems truly great, and even aspirational."
AMD Poses 'Major Challenge' to Intel's Server Leadership
Rob Enderle reports on the excitement at AMD's Epyc processor launch in San Francisco:
I've been at a lot of AMD events, and up until this one, the general message was that AMD was almost as good as Intel but not as expensive. This year it is very different; Intel has stumbled badly, and AMD is moving to take the leadership role in the data center, so its message isn't that it is nearly as good but cheaper anymore; it is that it has better customer focus, better security and better performance. Intel's slip really was around trust, and as Intel seemed to abandon the processor segment, OEMs and customers lost faith, and AMD is capitalizing on that slip...
AMD has always been relatively conservative, but Lisa Su, AMD's CEO, stated that the company has broken 80 performance records and that this new processor is the highest-performing one in the segment. This is one thing Lisa's IBM training helps validate; I went through that training myself and, at IBM, you aren't allowed to make false claims. AMD isn't making a false claim here. The new Epyc 2 is 64 cores and 128 threads and with PCIe generation 4, it has 128 lanes on top its 7nm technology, which currently also appears to lead the market. Over the years the average performance for the data center chips, according to Su, has improved around 15% per year. The last generation of Epyc exceeded this when it launched, but just slightly. This new generation blows the curve out; instead of 15% year-over-year improvement, it is closer to 100%...
Intel has had a number of dire security problems that it didn't disclose in timely fashion, making their largest customers very nervous. AMD is going after this vulnerability aggressively and pointing to how they've uniquely hardened Epyc 2 so that customers that use it have few, if any, of the concerns they've had surrounding Intel parts. Part of this is jumping to more than 500 unique encryption keys tied to the platform.
Google and Twitter, AMD's event also included announcements from Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Dell, Cray, Lenovo, and Microsoft Azure. For example, Hewlett Packard Enterprise has three systems immediately available with AMD's new processor, the article reports, with plan to have 9 more within the next 12 months. And their CTO told the audience that their new systems have already broken 37 world performance records, and "attested to the fact that some of the most powerful supercomputers coming to market will use this processor, because it is higher performing," calling them the most secure in the industry and the highest-performing.
"AMD came to play in San Francisco this week," Enderle writes. "I've never seen it go after Intel this aggressively and, to be frank, this would have failed had it not been for the massive third-party advocacy behind Epyc 2. I've been in this business since the mid-'80s, and I've never seen this level of advocacy for a new processor ever before. And it was critical that AMD set this new bar; I guess this was an extra record they set, but AMD can legitimately argue that it is the new market leader, at least in terms of both raw and price performance, in the HPC in the server segment.
"I think this also showcases how badly Intel is bleeding support after abandoning the IDF (Intel Developer Forum) conference."
New Spectre-like CPU Vulnerability Bypasses Existing Defenses
Researchers from security firm Bitdefender discovered and reported a year ago a new CPU vulnerability that 'abuses a system instruction called SWAPGS and can bypass mitigations put in place for previous speculative execution vulnerabilities like Spectre,' writes Lucian Constantin for CSO.
There are three attack scenarios involving SWAPGS, the most serious of which 'can allow attackers to leak the contents of arbitrary kernel memory addresses. This is similar to the impact of the Spectre vulnerability.' Microsoft released mitigations for the vulnerability in July's Patch Tuesday, although details were withheld until August 6 when Bitdefender released its whitepaper and Microsoft published a security advisory.
Can Swap Space Solve System Performance Issues?
Earlier this week on the Linux kernel mailing list, Artem S. Tashkinov
described a low-memory scenario where "the system will stall hard. You will barely be able to move the mouse pointer. Your disk LED will be flashing incessantly..."
I have bad news for the people snickering at Linux here," wrote Chris Siebenmann, a sys-admin at the University of Toronto's CS lab. "If you're running without swap space, you can probably get any Unix to behave this way under memory pressure..."
In the old days, this usually was not very much of an issue because system RAM was generally large compared to the size of programs and thus the amount of file-backed pages that were likely to be in memory. That's no longer the case today; modern large programs such as Firefox and its shared libraries can have significant amounts of file-backed code and data pages (in addition to their often large use of dynamically allocated memory, ie anonymous pages).
A production engineer (now on Facebook's Web Foundation team) wrote about experiencing similar issues years ago when another company had disabled swapping when they replaced or reinstalled machines -- leading to
lots of pages from hosts that had to be dealt with. This week they wrote:
I stand by my original position: have some swap. Not a lot. Just a little. Linux boxes just plain act weirdly without it. This is not permission to beat your machine silly in terms of memory allocation, either... If you allocate all of the RAM on the machine, you have screwed the kernel out of buffer cache it sorely needs. Back off.
Put another way, disk I/O that isn't brutally slow costs memory. Network I/O costs memory. All kinds of stuff costs memory. It's not JUST the RSS of your process. Other stuff you do needs space to operate. If you try to fill a 2 GB box with 2 GB of data, something's going to have a bad day! You have to leave room for the actual system to run or it's going to grind to a stop.
Lawmakers, Intelligence Officials Welcomed To This Year's Def Con Conference
"Multiple members of congress, dozens of congressional staffers and members of the intelligence community are gathering in Las Vegas this weekend to rub shoulders with hackers at Def Con," reports CNN:
Washington's embrace of the hacking community comes amid heightened awareness of the threat of cyber attacks in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election and lawmakers realizing they need to get to grips with technology, Phil Stupak, one of the organizers of Def Con's A.I. Village told CNN Business before the conference began... Hackers here are also demonstrating potential vulnerabilities in voting machines used by Americans. The convention's election village includes a room full of voting equipment where hackers can let loose...
It will likely be the largest presence the government has had since before 2013, when, in the wake of NSA analyst Edward Snowden's leaks, Def Con founder Jeff Moss formally requested "the feds call a 'time-out' and not attend Def Con this year." But that has since smoothed over. "I think the record presence of both representative and administration reflect the reality that technology and security are built into our society," Moss told CNN Business.
"We are trying to break down the barriers between the people in tech who know what they're doing and the people in Congress who know how to take that knowledge to make laws," said Stupak, who is also a fellow at Cyber Policy Initiative at the University of Chicago.
Speaking at Def Con this year was
the top cybersecurity official for America's Department of Homeland Security, who stressed the importance of backup paper ballots, as well as "auditability."
Also attending Def Con is Senator Ron Wyden, who emphasized another important election safeguard to CNN: that no voting equipment should be connected to the internet.
Researchers Can Accurately Measure Blood Pressure Using Just A Cellphone Video Of Your Face
A new study published in the American Heart Association journal
Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging found that blood pressure
can be measured accurately by taking a quick video selfie. An anonymous reader quotes this announcement from the University of Toronto:
Kang Lee, a professor of applied psychology and human development at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and Canada Research Chair in developmental neuroscience, was the lead author of the study... Using a technology co-discovered by Lee and his postdoctoral researcher Paul Zheng called transdermal optical imaging, researchers measured the blood pressure of 1,328 Canadian and Chinese adults by capturing two-minute videos of their faces on an iPhone. Results were compared to standard devices used to measure blood pressure. The researchers found they were able to measure three types of blood pressure with 95 to 96 per cent accuracy.
Lee co-founded a company to turn their technology into a smartphone app (named Anura) that reports stress-level measurements and resting heart rate from a 30-second video of your face -- with plans to release a new version also returning blood pressure results sometime this fall in China.
The university also notes that the researchers now hope to extend their technology so it can measure blood-gluclose levels and cholesterol.
Does Tech-Industry Job Growth Actually Lower Wages For Some Workers?
"A new study finds clear evidence that low-skilled workers fail to benefit from high-tech growth and development," writes a senior editor at The Atlantic (and co-founder of CityLab).
The UK-based study was co-authored by two researchers, one from the London School of Economics and the other from the Resolution Foundation in London. CityLab summarizes its results:
High-tech growth leads to better jobs and higher wages for more skilled workers. But it leads to lower wages for less-skilled workers. These effects are compounded by housing costs, with less-skilled workers being even worse off when housing costs are taken into account. Indeed, the researchers see "a negative and statistically significant effect from high-tech on wages for workers in the bottom third of educational attainment."
This effect is even larger when local housing costs are included, which stands in sharp contrast to the situation for higher-skill workers: Their effective wages rise when controlling for housing costs. The reason for this unevenness boils down to the fact that high-skilled tech workers are mobile and paid at rates that factor in higher housing costs, whereas less-skilled workers are more or less trapped; people competing for low-wage jobs mostly lack the resources to move to other places.
The article concludes that spurring growth in tech-industry jobs "offers no panacea for low-wage jobs: If anything, it makes a bad and highly unequal situation even worse."
The World's Smartest Chimp Has Died
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The New York Times, written by philosophy professor Lori Gruen:
Sarah, who could have been deemed the world's smartest chimp, was brought to the United States from Africa as an infant to work with David and Ann Premack in a series of experiments designed to find out what chimpanzees might think. In order to determine what, if anything, might be on Sarah's mind, she was one of the first chimpanzees to be taught a human language. The Premacks taught her to use plastic magnetic tokens that varied in size and color to represent words. She formed sentences by placing the tokens in a vertical line. Ann Premack noted that her earliest words named "various interesting fruits," so that Sarah "could both solve her problem and eat it."
Sarah's career established that not only do chimpanzees have complex thoughts, but also distinct personalities with strong preferences and prejudices. But this is just part of her remarkable life story. As she grew older she helped a diabetic chimpanzee named Abby, who she was living with, remember to get her medication. She was a loving, yet stern, aunt-like figure to a pair of young chimpanzees, Harper and Emma, and she helped Henry, a male chimpanzee who came from a situation of terrible abuse, get along with other chimpanzees. Since the time that Sarah was thought to have established that chimpanzees know what others might want or need, a growing number of investigators have tried to figure out if other animals have a theory of mind. Though there have always been skeptics, studies have suggested that crows, jays, ravens, other apes, monkeys, and maybe dogs, may know what others are thinking. In social animals, being able to glean what others might be thinking is a good strategy for getting along. For chimpanzees living in sanctuaries, it can facilitate care.
Google Launches 'Live View' AR Walking Directions For Google Maps
launching a beta of its augmented reality walking directions feature for Google Maps, with a broader launch that will be available to all iOS and Android devices that have
system-level support for AR. On iOS, that means ARKit-compatible devices, and on Android, that means any smartphones that support Google's ARcore, so long as "Street View" is also available where you are. TechCrunch reports:
Originally revealed earlier this year, Google Maps' augmented reality feature has been available in an early alpha mode to both Google Pixel users and to Google Maps Local Guides, but starting today it'll be rolling out to everyone (this might take a couple of weeks depending on when you actually get pushed the update). We took a look at some of the features available with the early version in March, and it sounds like the version today should be pretty similar, including the ability to just tap on any location nearby in Maps, tap the "Directions" button and then navigating to "Walking," then tapping "Live View" which should appear near the bottom of the screen.
The Live View feature isn't designed with the idea that you'll hold up your phone continually as you walk -- instead, in provides quick, easy and super-useful orientation by showing you arrows and big, readable street markers overlaid on the real scene in front of you. That makes it much, much easier to orient yourself in unfamiliar settings, which is hugely beneficial when traveling in unfamiliar territory.
Something Big Just Slammed Into Jupiter
An amateur astronomer in Texas captured a rare sight earlier this week when
an apparent meteor slammed into Jupiter's thick upper atmosphere. Gizmodo reports:
On Wednesday, amateur astronomer Ethan Chappel was on the lookout for Perseid meteors, reports ScienceAlert. But his telescope was trained on Jupiter with the camera running. Later, after feeding the data into a software program designed to detect impact flashes, Chappel was alerted to the event. Looking at the footage, Chappel saw a brief but discernible flash along the western portion of Jupiter's Southern Equatorial Belt, or SEB. Later that day, Chappel announced his discovery in a tweet: "Imaged Jupiter tonight. Looks awfully like an impact flash in the SEB." Chappel released a sharper version of the impact on Thursday, along with a colorized view of the apparent impact.
The flash appeared at at 4:07 a.m. UTC (12:07 a.m. ET) and lasted no longer than a second and a half, said astronomer Bob King in his coverage at Sky & Telescope. The impact still needs to be confirmed by other astronomers, but it certainly bears the hallmarks of a meteor strike, and not something that might be produced by Jupiter's lightning flashes or auroras. Looking at the flash, the size of the explosion seems small, but it's important to remember that Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system. The meteor had to have been quite big to produce a flash of such prominence.