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Wikipedia

Study Reveals Bot-On-Bot Editing Wars Raging On Wikipedia's Pages (theguardian.com) 75

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: A new study from computer scientists has found that the online encyclopedia is a battleground where silent wars have raged for years. Since Wikipedia launched in 2001, its millions of articles have been ranged over by software robots, or simply "bots," that are built to mend errors, add links to other pages, and perform other basic housekeeping tasks. In the early days, the bots were so rare they worked in isolation. But over time, the number deployed on the encyclopedia exploded with unexpected consequences. The more the bots came into contact with one another, the more they became locked in combat, undoing each other's edits and changing the links they had added to other pages. Some conflicts only ended when one or other bot was taken out of action. The findings emerged from a study that looked at bot-on-bot conflict in the first ten years of Wikipedia's existence. The researchers at Oxford and the Alan Turing Institute in London examined the editing histories of pages in 13 different language editions and recorded when bots undid other bots' changes. While some conflicts mirrored those found in society, such as the best names to use for contested territories, others were more intriguing. Describing their research in a paper entitled Even Good Bots Fight in the journal Plos One, the scientists reveal that among the most contested articles were pages on former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf, the Arabic language, Niels Bohr and Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of the most intense battles played out between Xqbot and Darknessbot which fought over 3,629 different articles between 2009 and 2010. Over the period, Xqbot undid more than 2,000 edits made by Darknessbot, with Darknessbot retaliating by undoing more than 1,700 of Xqbot's changes. The two clashed over pages on all sorts of topics, from Alexander of Greece and Banqiao district in Taiwan to Aston Villa football club.
Censorship

Tor's Ooniprobe, Now Available On Android and iOS, Helps People Track Internet Censorship (cnn.com) 27

In 2012, researchers at Tor announced Ooniprobe, an open-source tool to collect data about local meddling with the computer's network connections, and also whether the government was censoring something. The team has now released a new app, available for Android and iOS, which makes it easier than ever to tell what your government is up to on the web. From a report on CNN Money: The Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), which monitors networks for censorship and surveillance, is launching Ooniprobe, a mobile app to test network connectivity and let you know when a website is censored in your area. The app tests over 1,200 websites, including Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. You can decide how long to run the test, but the default is 90 seconds and would test between 10 and 20 websites depending on bandwidth. Links to blocked websites are listed in red, while available sites are green. Service providers, sometimes controlled by the government, don't always shutdown the internet entirely -- for instance, Facebook.com might be inaccessible while CNN.com still works. "Not only we will be able to gather more data and more evidence, but we will be able to engage and bring the issue of censorship to the attention of more people," Arturo Filasto, chief developer for the Ooniprobe app, told CNNTech.
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Bans Daily Mail As 'Unreliable' Source (theguardian.com) 405

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Wikipedia editors have voted to ban the Daily Mail as a source for the website in all but exceptional circumstances after deeming the news group "generally unreliable." The move is highly unusual for the online encyclopaedia, which rarely puts in place a blanket ban on publications and which still allows links to sources such as Kremlin backed news organization Russia Today, and Fox News, both of which have raised concern among editors. The editors described the arguments for a ban as "centered on the Daily Mail's reputation for poor fact checking, sensationalism and flat-out fabrication." The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia but does not control its editing processes, said in a statement that volunteer editors on English Wikipedia had discussed the reliability of the Mail since at least early 2015. It said: "Based on the requests for comments section [on the reliable sources noticeboard], volunteer editors on English Wikipedia have come to a consensus that the Daily Mail is 'generally unreliable and its use as a reference is to be generally prohibited, especially when other more reliable sources exist. This means that the Daily Mail will generally not be referenced as a 'reliable source' on English Wikipedia, and volunteer editors are encouraged to change existing citations to the Daily Mail to another source deemed reliable by the community. This is consistent with how Wikipedia editors evaluate and use media outlets in general -- with common sense and caution."
Privacy

72% of 'Anonymous' Browsing History Can Be Attached To the Real User (thestack.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Researchers at Stanford and Princeton have succeeded in identifying 70% of web users by comparing their web-browsing history to publicly available information on social networks. The study "De-anonymizing Web Browsing Data with Social Networks" [PDF] found that it was possible to reattach identities to 374 sets of apparently anonymous browsing histories simply by following the connections between links shared on Twitter feeds and the likelihood that a user would favor personal recommendations over abstract web browsing. The test subjects were provided with a Chrome extension that extracted their browsing history; the researchers then used Twitter's proprietary URL-shortening protocol to identify t.co links. 81% of the top 15 results of each enquiry run through the de-anonymization program contained the correct re-identified user -- and 72% of the results identified the user in first place. Ultimately the trail only leads as far as a Twitter user ID, and if a user is pseudonymous, further action would need to be taken to affirm their real identity. Using https connections and VPN services can limit exposure to such re-identification attempts, though the first method does not mask the base URL of the site being connected to, and the second does not prevent the tracking cookies and other tracking methods which can provide a continuous browsing history. Additionally UTM codes in URLs offer the possibility of re-identification even where encryption is present. Further reading available via The Atlantic.
Programming

Developer Argues For 'Forgotten Code Constructs' Like GOTO and Eval (techbeacon.com) 600

mikeatTB quotes TechBeacon: Some things in the programming world are so easy to misuse that most people prefer to never use them at all. These are the programming equivalent of a flamethrower... [But] creative use of features such as goto, multiple inheritance, eval, and recursion may be just the right solution for experienced developers when used in the right situation. Is it time to resurrect these four forgotten code constructs?
The article notes that the Linux kernel uses goto statements, and links to Linus Torvalds' defense of them. ("Any if-statement is a goto. As are all structured loops...") And it points out that eval statements are supported by JavaScript, Python, PHP, and Ruby. But when the article describes recursion as "more forgotten than forbidden," it begs the inevitable question. Are you using these "forgotten code constructs" -- and should you be?
Stats

Massive Study Links IP Addresses Per Capita To GDP (itnews.com.au) 64

Three researchers "decided to scan the entire IPv4 address range every 15 minutes between 2006-2012 to work out what insights they could gain from humanity's mass connection to the internet," reports ITnews. The study...analysed data from 411 large regions from middle to high-income countries and found a positive correlation between GDP per capita and the number of IP addresses per head. A 10% increase in IP addresses per capita was associated with an 0.8% hike in GDP, the analysis found. The researchers cautioned that the output and productivity growth they noted when the number of IP address increased was correlation rather than causation. Service-oriented sectors -- such as publishing, news, film production, administrative support, and education -- appear to have suffered a negative effect from increasing internet penetration [PDF]. The researchers believe these sectors were susceptible to competition from cheaper outsourcing providers.
Slashdot Bismillah pointed out that the researchers also measured sleeping patterns over seven years, assuming IP addresses of internet-connected devices generally correlated to people who were awake. According to the article, "They found that sleep patterns may be changing and converging around the world: Europeans slept less, East Asians more, while Americans' sleeping patterns remained static over the seven-year period."
Security

Hacker Dumps iOS Cracking Tools Allegedly Stolen From Cellebrite (vice.com) 86

Last year, when Apple refused to unlock the security on an iPhone 5c belonging to the San Bernardino shooter, the FBI turned to an Israeli mobile forensics firm called Cellebrite to find another way into the encrypted iPhone. Now Motherboard reports that a hacker has released files allegedly from Cellebrite that demonstrate how cracking tools couldn't be kept private. From a report: Now the hacker responsible has publicly released a cache of files allegedly stolen from Cellebrite relating to Android and BlackBerry devices, and older iPhones, some of which may have been copied from publicly available phone cracking tools." The ripped, decrypted and fully functioning Python script set to utilize the exploits is also included within," the hacker wrote in a README file accompanying the data dump. The hacker posted links to the data on Pastebin. It's not clear when any of this code was used in the UFED. Many of the directory names start with "ufed" followed by a different type of phone, such as BlackBerry or Samsung. In their README, the hacker notes much of the iOS-related code is very similar to that used in the jailbreaking scene -- a community of iPhone hackers that typically breaks into iOS devices and release its code publicly for free.
Advertising

Google Bans 200 Publishers From Its Ad Network (recode.net) 161

Since it passed a new policy against fake news, Google has banned 200 publishers from its AdSense network, an ad placement service that automatically serves text and display ads on participating sites based on its audience. "The ban was part of an update to an existing policy that prohibits sites that mislead users with their content," reports Recode. From the report: Not all 200 publishers were swept up as part of the effort to root out fake news sites. Publishers were banned in November and December and included sites that impersonate real news organizations through shortened top-level domains, according to Google's 2016 "bad ads" report, normally released at the beginning of each year. So-called fake news publishers will sometimes take advantage of ".co" domains by appearing similar to legitimate news sites that would normally end in ".com." Google declined to provide a listing of the banned sites. Separately, the annual report on violations of advertising policy also included data on ads removed by Google. The company reported that in 2016 it took down 1.7 billion ads for violations, compared to 780 million in 2015. Google attributes the increase in ad removals to a combination of advertiser behavior and improvements in technology to detect offending ads. Also among those the removed ads were what Google calls "tabloid cloakers." These advertisers run what look like links to news headlines, but when the user clicks, an ad for a product such as a weight loss supplement pops up. Google suspended 1,300 accounts engaged in tabloid cloaking in 2016.
Google

The Problem With Google AMP (80x24.net) 56

Kyle Schreiber has raised some issues about Google's AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), an open source project unveiled by the company in 2015 with which it aims to accelerate content on mobile devices. He writes on his blog: The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some form of https://wwww.google.com/amp/ before showing a URL to the AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL is. This usually involves removing either a .amp or ?amp=1 from the URL to get to the actual page. Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are displayed prominently in Google's news carousel. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google's implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google's implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn't limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.
Google

Sensitive Data Stored On Box.com Accounts Accessible Via Search Queries (threatpost.com) 29

msm1267 writes: Last week Box.com moved quickly and quietly to block search engines from indexing links to confidential data owned by its users. That is after security researcher Markus Neis surfaced private data belonging to a number of Fortune 500 companies via Google, Bing and other search engines. Box.com said it's a classic case of users accidentally oversharing. Neis isn't convinced and says Box.com's so-called Collaboration links shouldn't have been indexed in the first place. Box.com has since blocked access to what security researchers say was a treasure trove of confidential data and fodder for phishing scams.
Google

Google Mobile Search Shows Recipe Suggestions When You Look For Food (engadget.com) 26

In the past few years, Google has used its so-called "knowledge graph" to make search results far more useful than just a list of links -- you can get lots of info on a variety of topics right in Google without having to click on any search results. The latest addition to Google search is something foodies should take note of. Now, when you search for food on mobile, you'll see a carousel of recipes at the top of the results page. From a report on Engadget: Google also added some filters to those recipe results -- right below the search bar are additional suggestions you can use to refine your results. Searching for "fried chicken" gave me the option to add "oven-fried," "buttermilk," and "southern fried" filters to narrow down the recipes. You can also tap "view all" to move out of the standard search page and see bigger, more detailed recipe cards that show a picture and quick preview of the recipe.
Data Storage

Dropbox Kills Public Folders, Users Rebel (ndtv.com) 158

New submitter rkagerer writes: Dropbox unleashed a tidal wave of user backlash yesterday when it announced plans to eradicate its Public folder feature in 2017. Criticism from users whose links will break surfaced on Reddit, HackerNews and its own forums. Overnight, customers up-voted a feature request to reverse the decision, skyrocketing it to a "Top 10" position on the company's tracker. joemck explains: "There are countless users who have been using the public folder to post images and files in blogs and forums. These aren't just worthless jokes and memes that nobody will miss if you flip the switch and break all of them. These are often valuable resources that users have created and entrusted to you to retain and keep online." One user even created a comic strip for the occasion, with another concerned the URL he registered with the Coast Guard containing potentially lifesaving information will go dark. Although the feature was deprecated in 2012, it remained in place for existing users. The company provides an alternative sharing method, but some users claim it's not as convenient and doesn't provide direct links. According to the announcement, free accounts have until March 15 to update their links, while the lights will go out for paid accounts on September 1. UPDATE 12/17/16: Slashdot reader rkagerer notes, "Dropbox quietly killed the feature request after this story hit the front page, but the original content can still be found interleaved in the forum discussion."
Facebook

Facebook Discloses New Measurement Errors, Continues To Hone Its Math (marketingland.com) 36

An anonymous reader shares an article on MarketingLand: For the third time since September, Facebook is disclosing new measurement errors. The two new errors affected the reaction counts Facebook reports on Pages' Live videos, as well as the engagement figures Facebook reports for off-Facebook links; the latter link engagement metrics were recently used in investigations by BuzzFeed and The New York Times into fake news articles' performance on Facebook. In addition to acknowledging the two new errors -- of which one has been corrected and one is still being inspected -- Facebook has refined a measurement marketers may reference when buying ads through the social network. None of the aforementioned metrics had any impact on how much money Facebook charges advertisers for their campaigns. But they may have informed brands' Facebook ad-buying strategies as well as brands', publishers' and others' Facebook-related content-publishing strategies.
Open Source

Devuan's Systemd-Free Linux Hits Beta 2 (theregister.co.uk) 338

Long-time Slashdot reader Billly Gates writes, "For all the systemd haters who want a modern distro feel free to rejoice. The Debian fork called Devuan is almost done, completing a daunting task of stripping systemd dependencies from Debian." From The Register: Devuan came about after some users felt [Debian] had become too desktop-friendly. The change the greybeards objected to most was the decision to replace sysvinit init with systemd, a move felt to betray core Unix principles of user choice and keeping bloat to a bare minimum. Supporters of init freedom also dispute assertions that systemd is in all ways superior to sysvinit init, arguing that Debian ignored viable alternatives like sinit, openrc, runit, s6 and shepherd. All are therefore included in Devuan.
Devuan.org now features an "init freedom" logo with the tagline, "watching your first step. Their home page now links to the download site for Devuan Jessie 1.0 Beta2, promising an OS that "avoids entanglement".
Communications

Reddit To Crack Down On Abuse By Punishing Hundreds of 'Toxic Users' (reuters.com) 233

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: Social media website Reddit, known for its commitment to free speech, will crack down on online harassment by banning or suspending users who target others, starting with those who have directed abuse at Chief Executive Steve Huffman. Huffman said in an interview with Reuters that Reddit's content policy prohibits harassment, but that it had not been adequately enforced. "Personal message harassment is the most cut and dry," he said. "Right now we are in an interesting position where my inbox is full of them, it's easy to start with me." As well as combing through Huffman's inbox, Reddit will monitor user reports, add greater filtering capacity, and take a more proactive role in policing its platform rather than relying on community moderators. Reddit said it had identified hundreds of the "most toxic users" and will warn, ban or suspend them. It also plans to increase staff on its "trust and safety" team. On Reddit, a channel supporting the U.S. Republican party's presidential candidate Donald Trump, called r/The_Donald, featured racist and misogynistic comments, fake news and conspiracy theories about his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton, along with more mainstream expressions of support for Trump. Many of those supporting Trump were very active, voting up the r/The_Donald conversations so that they became prominent across Reddit, which is the 7th-most-visited U.S. internet site, according to web data firm Alexa. Last week, Reddit banned Pizzagate, a community devoted to a conspiracy theory, with no evidence to back it up, that links Clinton to a pedophile ring at a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor, after it posted personal information in violation of Reddit policy. Huffman then used his administrative privileges to redirect abuse he was receiving on a thread on r/The_Donald to the community's moderators -- making it look as if it was intended for them. Huffman said it was a prank, and that many Reddit users, including some Trump supporters, told him they thought it was funny, but it inflamed the situation.
Google

Google Asked to Remove a Billion 'Pirate' Search Results in a Year (torrentfreak.com) 68

Copyright holders asked Google to remove more than 1,000,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine over the past twelve months, TorrentFreak reports. According to stats provided in Google's Transparency Report for the past one year, Google was asked to remove over one billion links -- or 1,007,741,143 links. From the article: More than 90 percent of the links, 908,237,861 were in fact removed. The rest of the reported links were rejected because they were invalid, not infringing, or duplicates of earlier requests. In total, Google has now processed just over two billion allegedly infringing URLs from 945,000 different domains. That the second billion took only a year, compared to several years for the first, shows how rapidly the volume of takedown requests is expanding. At the current rate, another billion will be added by the end of next summer. Most requests, over 50 million, were sent in for the website 4shared.com. However, according to the site's operators many of the reported URLs point to the same files, inflating the actual volume of infringing content.
The Internet

Delete Yourself From Many Internet Sites By Pressing This Button (thenextweb.com) 46

Two Swedish developers have created a site offering a way to wipe your entire existence off the internet in a few clicks. schwit1 quotes The Next Web: When logging into the website with a Google account it scans for apps and services you've created an account for, and creates a list of them with easy delete links. Every account it finds gets paired with an easy delete link pointing to the unsubscribe page for that service. In a few clicks you're freed from it, and depending on how long you need to work through the entire list, you can be account-less within the hour.
I'm a little uncomfortable giving a stranger's web site access to my personal information - even if it is for the purpose of deleting it altogether. But the original submission ends with an interesting question. "Can we get this for government databases too?"
Open Source

Apple Releases macOS 10.12 Sierra Open Source Darwin Code (9to5mac.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes:Apple has released the open source Darwin code for macOS 10.12 Sierra. The code, located on Apple's open source website, can be accessed via direct link now, although it doesn't yet appear on the site's home page. The release builds on a long-standing library of open source code that dates all the way back to OS X 10.0. There, you'll also find the Open Source Reference Library, developer tools, along with iOS and OS X Server resources. The lowest layers of macOS, including the kernel, BSD portions, and drivers are based mainly on open source technologies, collectively called Darwin. As such, Apple provides download links to the latest versions of these technologies for the open source community to learn and to use.
Businesses

Samsung Group Offices Raided By Korean Prosecutors (reuters.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: South Korean prosecutors raided the offices of Samsung Group on Wednesday, a prosecution official said, after media reports of alleged links with a confidante of President Park Geun-hye who has been indicted in an influence-peddling scandal. Prosecutors also raided South Korea's largest pension fund, the National Pension Service (NPS), an NPS spokeswoman said. The Yonhap news agency reported that investigators were probing NPS's decision to approve the $8 billion merger of Samsung CT Corp and Cheil Industries last year. The raids signaled that prosecutors are expanding their investigation into allegations of influence-peddling in the corruption scandal that has rocked Park's presidency over the relationship between the government and big businesses. NPS, the world's third-largest pension fund, has come under scrutiny by the media and civic groups over its approval as a major shareholder of the merger between two affiliates of Samsung Group, South Korea's largest family-run conglomerate. Its backing was seen as crucial to the success of the merger and some South Korean media reports said its approval came under mysterious circumstances. Prosecutors raided four locations -- the NPS headquarters, NPS Investment Management office headquarters, Samsung Group offices and the office of a former NPS investment management official -- said a prosecution official who was not authorized to speak to the media and declined to be identified. Park and her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, are under investigation for allegedly improperly pressuring major conglomerates, including the Samsung Group, to raise funds for foundations that backed Park's policy of promoting the cultural and sports communities.
Democrats

Google Search Results Have Liberal Bias, Study Finds (thedenverchannel.com) 385

According to a new study reported by The Wall Street Journal, Google's search results tend to lean liberal. "An analysis by online-search marketer CanIRank.com found that 50 recent searches for political terms on Google surfaced more liberal-leaning webpages than conservative ones, as rated by a panel of four people." The Denver Channel reports: "Minimum wage" tended to yield more liberal results, while "does gun control reduce crime" resulted in more conservative ones. Searches for "financial regulation" and "federal reserve" found mostly nonpartisan links. CanIRank used the opinions of four people to determine how liberal or conservative each website was. For 16 percent of the political search terms studied, no right-leaning results showed up at all on the first page of results. CanIRank noted this could be a problem for democracy. A different study found most people click on one of the first five search results. Users rarely move on to the second page. A Google spokesperson said in an email to the WSJ: "From the beginning, our approach to search has been to provide the most relevant answers and results to our users, and it would undermine people's trust in our results, and our company, if we were to change course." According to Google, their results are "determined by algorithms using hundreds of factors" and "reflect the content and information that is available on the internet."

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