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Twitter

Twitter Will No Longer Count Usernames Against a Tweet's 140-Character Limit (phonedog.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PhoneDog: Last year, Twitter updated its service so that photos, videos, and other media wouldn't count against your 140-character limit. Now it's excluding another feature from that limit. Twitter is now rolling out an update that excludes usernames from your tweet's 140-character limit. This means that you can tag as many people in your tweet as you'd like, but still have 140 characters for your actual message. With this change, Twitter is also tweaking how usernames are shown when you're @ replying to people. Now you'll see "Replying to" followed by user names at the top of your tweet, rather than a long string of user names in the tweet itself. Tapping this will show you exactly who you're replying to. This update is now rolling out to Twitter.com as well as the Twitter apps for Android and iOS.
Social Networks

Facebook Announces Crowdfunding Service To Back Causes Such As Medical Needs (androidandme.com) 55

Facebook said today it is introducing a crowdfunding feature to help users back causes such as education, medical needs, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergencies and funerals. The new tool, which appears to offer similar features as GoFundMe, allows users 18 or older to "raise money for themselves, a friend or someone or something not on Facebook." From a report: Personal Fundraisers are available in several specific categories, and require a 24-hour review process. Here are the covered categories for now:
Education: such as tuition, books or classroom supplies.
Medical: such as medical procedures, treatments or injuries.
Pet Medical: such as veterinary procedures, treatments or injuries.
Crisis Relief: such as public crises or natural disasters.
Personal Emergency: such as a house fire, theft or car accident.
Funeral and Loss: such as burial expenses or living costs after losing a loved one.

The Internet

Trolling Will Get Worse Before it Gets Better, Study Says (mashable.com) 184

If you thought that the internet had a chance of becoming a nicer place at any point in the near future, it might be time to give up hope. From a report: "Harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust" will stay the norm on the internet over the next decade, experts told the Pew Research Center in a new report. The Pew Research Center and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University surveyed about 1,500 technology experts, scholars, corporate practitioners and government leaders in July and August 2016 for the study, and the results are pretty demoralizing. Forty-two percent of respondents thought the internet would stay the same sometimes less-than-pleasant place over the next 10 years, while another 39 percent said they thought the internet would become a more negative environment. Just under 20 percent of experts thought the internet had any chance of getting better over the next decade when it comes to harassment and trolling.
The Internet

UW Professor: The Information War Is Real, and We're Losing It (seattletimes.com) 373

An anonymous reader writes: It started with the Boston marathon bombing, four years ago. University of Washington professor Kate Starbird was sifting through thousands of tweets sent in the aftermath and noticed something strange. Too strange for a university professor to take seriously. "There was a significant volume of social-media traffic that blamed the Navy SEALs for the bombing," Starbird told me the other day in her office. "It was real tinfoil-hat stuff. So we ignored it." Same thing after the mass shooting that killed nine at Umpqua Community College in Oregon: a burst of social-media activity calling the massacre a fake, a stage play by "crisis actors" for political purposes. "After every mass shooting, dozens of them, there would be these strange clusters of activity," Starbird says. "It was so fringe we kind of laughed at it. "That was a terrible mistake. We should have been studying it." Starbird argues in a new paper, set to be presented at a computational social-science conference in May, that these "strange clusters" of wild conspiracy talk, when mapped, point to an emerging alternative media ecosystem on the web of surprising power and reach. There are dozens of conspiracy-propagating websites such as beforeitsnews.com, nodisinfo.com and veteranstoday.com. Starbird cataloged 81 of them, linked through a huge community of interest connected by shared followers on Twitter, with many of the tweets replicated by automated bots. Starbird is in the UW's Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering -- the study of the ways people and technology interact. Her team analyzed 58 million tweets sent after mass shootings during a 10-month period. They searched for terms such as "false flag" and "crisis actor," web slang meaning a shooting is not what the government or the traditional media is reporting it to be. Then she analyzed the content of each site to try to answer the question: Just what is this alternative media ecosystem saying? Starbird is publishing her paper as a sort of warning. The information networks we've built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor. "Your brain tells you 'Hey, I got this from three different sources,'" Starbird says. "But you don't realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn't know how to vaccinate for it." The report goes on to say that "Starbird says she's concluded, provocatively, that we may be headed toward 'the menace of unreality -- which is that nobody believes anything anymore.'"
The Internet

Scientists Discover Way To Transmit Taste of Lemonade Over Internet (vice.com) 90

schwit1 quotes a report from VICE: With the use of electrodes and sensors -- and zero lemons -- a group of researchers at the University of Singapore have announced that they can convince you that you're drinking lemonade, even if it's just water. Plus, they can send you a glass of lemonade virtually over the internet. In an experiment that involved 13 tasters, the subjects' taste buds were stimulated using electricity from receiving electrodes; LED lights mimicked a lemony color. Some were convinced that the water they were drinking was, in fact, almost as sour as lemonade. According to researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe, the experiment proved that taste can be shared online: "People are always posting pictures of drinks on social media -- what if you could upload the taste as well? That's the ultimate goal." Each of the subjects was given a tumbler filled with a liquid that was either cloudy white, green, or yellow. They were told to place their tongues on the rim of the tumbler before sipping. Then they took a taste and rated the beverage on appearance and taste. Some of the liquids were plain water and some were lemonade. "We're working on a full virtual cocktail with smell, taste, and color all covered. We want to be able to create any drink." Why would anyone want to drink a virtual lemonade? Advocates of virtual eating say that virtual foods can replace foods that are bad for you, that you may be allergic to, or that you shouldn't eat because of a medical condition.
Android

App Store Sales For Android To Overtake Apple's iOS, Research Firm Says (sfgate.com) 51

An anonymous reader shares a report: For years, Apple's App Store, the place where people download apps for games and social networking services on their iPhones, has generated far more revenue worldwide than its Android competitors. This year, things are changing: The App Store will fall second to the amount of revenue generated by Android app distributors, predicts analytics firm App Annie. In 2017, the App Store will generate $40 billion in revenue, while Android app stores run by Google and other parties will generate $41 billion, App Annie said. That gap is expected to widen in 2021, with Android app stores generating $78 billion in revenue and Apple's App Store at $60 billion in revenue, according to App Annie's report released on Wednesday. The surge in revenue for Android comes from a growing number of consumers in China who are buying Android phones and are willing to pay for apps. In 2021, App Annie expects there to be eight Android smartphone users to every single iPhone user in China.
Privacy

Activist Starts a Campaign To Buy and Publish Browsing Histories of Politicians Who Passed Anti-Privacy Law (searchinternethistory.com) 322

On Tuesday, Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump that wipes away landmark online privacy protections. In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. Now call it a poetic justice, online privacy activist Adam McElhaney has launched an initiative called Search Internet History, with an objective of raising funds to buy browsing history of each politician and official who voted in favor of S.J.Res 34. On the site, he has also put up a poll asking people whose internet history they would like to see first.

Update: The campaign, which was seeking $10,000, has already raised over $55,000.
Communications

Yes, You've Still Got Mail (recode.net) 140

Veteran technology columnist Walt Mossberg, writes: Like radio, email isn't dying, it's just changing. Over the past decade or so it's become much more like postal mail. It's not the place you expect to find a greeting from a friend or even a timely update from a professional colleague. Instead, it's a mix of junk mail you hate and discard, plus bills and missives from businesses you also hate but can't discard. [...] Still, despite all signs to the contrary -- and many predictions -- email is not dead. In fact, some analyses suggest that it's growing. Few people can afford to be without it. It hasn't expired; it has morphed. There are lots of reasons email persists, even as faster and simpler forms of communication proliferate and your personal communications likely have mostly migrated elsewhere. But one big one is that new types of media channels rarely totally kill off old ones, even though everyone predicts they will. The old ones just adapt and change. Back in the day, television was supposed to kill off radio, but radio gradually saved itself by dropping the programming TV did better (like dramas and variety shows) and starting to focus on playing hit songs and hosting political and sports talk shows. I think something similar is going on with email. Once the king of digital discourse, email has surely been dethroned by an army of alternatives: Vast and numerous messaging services; photo- and video-oriented sharing on social networks or the photo apps of Apple and Google; business tools like Slack. I get the latest pictures of my granddaughter through iCloud photo sharing. I get the latest discussions of how we plan to cover stories on The Verge or Recode through Slack. My editor and I collaboratively edit my stories inside Google Docs. Ten years ago, all those things would have been done via email. Back then, when a reader wanted to tell me I was an idiot (or worse) for something I wrote, I got an email. Now, they tell me on Twitter.
Businesses

Bay Area Tech Executives Indicted For H-1B Visa Fraud (mercurynews.com) 250

New submitter s.petry quotes a report from The Mercury News: Two Bay Area tech executives are accused of filing false visa documents through a staffing agency in a scheme to illegally bring a pool of foreign tech workers into the United States. An indictment from a federal grand jury unsealed on Friday accuses Jayavel Murugan, Dynasoft Synergy's chief executive officer, and a 40-year-old Santa Clara man, Syed Nawaz, of fraudulently submitting H-1B applications in an effort to illegally obtain visas, according to Brian Stretch, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California. The men are charged with 26 counts of visa fraud, conspiracy to commit visa fraud, use of false documents, mail fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to prosecutors. Each charge can carry penalties of between two and 20 years in prison. Prosecutors say the men used fraudulent documents to bring workers into the U.S. and create a pool of H-1B workers to hire out to tech companies. The indictment charges that from 2010 to 2016, Dynasoft petitioned to place workers at Stanford University, Cisco and Brocade, but the employers had no intention of receiving the foreign workers named on the applications. Nawaz submitted fake "end-client letters" to the government, falsely claiming the workers were on-site and performing jobs, according to the indictment.

Slashdot reader s.petry adds: "While not the only problem with the H-1B Visa program, this is a start at investigating and hopefully correcting problems."

Social Networks

Facebook Copied Snapchat a Fourth Time, and Now All Its Apps Look the Same (recode.net) 85

Facebook is copying Snapchat again. From a report on Recode: Today it launched Stories, the 24-hour photo and video montages that ultimately disappear, inside of its core Facebook app. This is the fourth time Facebook has cloned the key Snapchat feature in the past nine months; the social giant has already copied it into Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. On the surface, Facebook's move simply looks like an unabashed defense strategy against Snapchat, the company's most obvious threat since 2011, when Google tried to dive into social with a service that turned out to be much more like a bellyflop. This is getting serious. What many people don't realize is that even if Facebook manages to get half a percent of its users to use its copycat tools, Snapchat will lose a substantial number of potential customers that could have joined its service. With Facebook, which has over 1.8 billion users (+ the possibly tens of millions of people that use WhatsApp, Instagram, or Messenger app and don't have a Facebook account), increasingly offering all of Snapchat's features on its apps, the future of Evan Spiegel's company doesn't look all that good.
Transportation

Dutch Scientist Proposes Circular Runways For Airport Efficiency (curbed.com) 331

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Fast Company: While airport terminal architecture has a solid history of style and innovation, rarely is a proposal put forth to utterly redesign the runway. But that's precisely the aim of Henk Hesselink, a Dutch scientist working with the Netherlands Aerospace Center. Dubbed the "endless runway," Hesselink's brainchild is a 360-degree landing strip measuring more than two miles in diameter. Since airplanes would be able to approach and take off from any direction around the proposed circle, they wouldn't have to fight against crosswinds. And three planes would be able to take off or land at the same time. Hesselink's team uses flight simulators and computerized calculations to test the unconventional design, and have determined that round airports would be more efficient than existing layouts. With a central terminal, the airport would only use about a third of the land of the typical airport with the same airplane capacity. And there's an added benefit to those living near airports: Flight paths could be more distributed, and thereby making plane noise more tolerable. BBC produced a video detailing Hesselink's circular runway concept. The concept is fascinating but there are many questions the video does not answer. Phil Derner Jr. from NYC Aviation writes via Business Insider about some of those unanswered questions in his article titled "Why the circular runway concept wouldn't work." The fundamental issues discussed in his report include banked runway issues, curved runway issues, navigation issues, and airspace issues. What do you think of Hesselink's concept? Do you think it is preposterous or shows promise?
Facebook

Facebook Launches 'Town Hall' For Contacting Government Reps, Adds Local Election Reminders (techcrunch.com) 60

Facebook has officially launched their "Town Hall" feature that allows users to locate, follow and contact their local, state and federal government representatives. The social media company also announced that they will be launching local election reminders in an effort to get more users to vote in state, county, and municipal elections. TechCrunch reports: The feature was recently made available in the "More" menu on mobile and on desktop to a subset of users. When you launch it, you would be presented with a list of reps at the local, state and federal level, and you could click to visit their Facebook page or send them a message, call them, or email. Not all reps offer their contact information via Facebook, however. And Facebook doesn't yet pull in the missing phone numbers or emails from off-site sources, like official government websites, for example. The company tell us that's something it wants to address in time, though. Today, Town Hall is available to all U.S. Facebook users and some of its features will now be integrated in the News Feed. If you like or comment on a post made by one of your elected officials, a new feature below the comments will invite you to call, message or email the rep. After doing so, users will then be prompted to share a post saying that they contacted the rep, as a means of encouraging their friends to do the same. Facebook says that this Contact Your Rep post is not shown to everyone, but only to those who are also already engaging with an elected official's post, through a like or comment. Additionally, Facebook says it will now offer Election Reminders for local elections. The new, local election reminders will appear for all state, county, and municipal elections in the U.S. in areas with a population of over 10,000 people, and will include both primaries and general elections.
Microsoft

Microsoft Yanks Docs.com Search After Complaints of Exposed Sensitive Files (zdnet.com) 55

Microsoft has quietly removed a feature on its document sharing site Docs.com that allowed anyone to search through millions of files for sensitive and personal information. From a report on ZDNet: Users had complained over the weekend on Twitter that anyone could use the site's search box to trawl through publicly-accessible documents and files stored on the site, which were clearly meant to remain private. Among the files reviewed by ZDNet, and seen by others who tweeted about them, included password lists, job acceptance letters, investment portfolios, divorce settlement agreements, and credit card statements -- some of which contained Social Security and driving license numbers, dates of birth, phone numbers, and email and postal addresses. The company removed the site's search feature late on Saturday, but others observed that the files were still cached in Google's search results, as well as Microsoft's own search engine, Bing.
Government

Terrifying Anti-Riot Vehicle Created To Quash Any Urban Disturbance (boingboing.net) 195

"Are you an urban police force thinking about how to control your fellow humans?" jokes Cory Doctorow. "Look no farther! Your pals at Bozena have an all-new RIOT system, a crowd-control killdozer for all your protest-suppressing needs!" He's one of several web commentators marveling at the marketing copy for a Slovakian company's new anti-riot machinery, also spotted by Slashdot reader drunkdrone. Some quotes from the BOZENA RIOT SYSTEM site about the device's features:
  • Easy attachable bulldozer blade.
  • The [6,600 pound] shield comes equipped with launching ports designed for use of guns or other rubber projectiles launchers.
  • The trailer is capable of displacing the water/foam or its mixtures (available additives: pepper or painting substances) under the high pressure into the distance of several dozen meters.
  • Communication with rioters through the loudspeakers.
  • Designed to control riots in streets and urbanized areas...intended predominantly for the special military and police units responsible for the CROWD CONTROL during the violent political/social demonstrations, against football hooligans, etc.

Businesses

App That Lets People Make Personalized Emojis Is the Fastest Growing App In Past Two Years (axios.com) 36

From a report on Axios: Bitmoji is the fastest-growing app in America, per comScore, with a more than 5000 percent increase in monthly unique visitors over the past two years. E-commerce apps OfferUp and Letgo are the 2nd and 3rd fastest-growing apps. The findings from comScore's latest study highlight three of the fastest-growing mobile market trends:

E-commerce: Letgo (3), OfferUp (2), Flipp (4), Venmo (5) and Wish (7), are facilitating real-world marketplace transactions.

Travel: Uber (6), Waze (8) and Lyft (9) all help users travel from one point to another via auto.

Social connectivity: Tinder (10), Bitmoji (1) and GroupMe (11) all facilitate gatherings and social interaction.
FastCompany wrote a profile of Bitmoji and why so many people seem to be a big fan of it.
Government

US Ordered 'Mandatory Social Media Check' For Visa Applicants Who Visited ISIS Territory (theverge.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has ordered a "mandatory social media check" on all visa applicants who have ever visited ISIS-controlled territory, according to diplomatic cables obtained by Reuters. The four memos were sent to American diplomatic missions over the past two weeks, with the most recent issued on March 17th. According to Reuters, they provide details into a revised screening process that President Donald Trump has described as "extreme vetting." A memo sent on March 16th rescinds some of the instructions that Tillerson outlined in the previous cables, including an order that would have required visa applicants to hand over all phone numbers, email addresses, and social media accounts that they have used in the past. The secretary of state issued the memo after a Hawaii judge blocked the Trump administration's revised travel ban on citizens from six predominantly Muslim countries. In addition to the social media check, the most recent memo calls for consular officials to identify "populations warranting increased scrutiny." Two former government officials tell Reuters that the social media order could lead to delays in processing visa applications, with one saying that such checks were previously carried out on rare occasions.
Twitter

Twitter Considers Premium Version After 11 Years As a Free Service (reuters.com) 84

Twitter is considering whether or not to build a premium version of its site for select users. It's unclear what the cost would be at this time, but it's very possible it could be in the form of a subscription. Reuters reports: Like most other social media companies, Twitter since its founding 11 years ago has focused on building a huge user base for a free service supported by advertising. Last month it reported it had 319 million users worldwide. Twitter is conducting a survey "to assess the interest in a new, more enhanced version of Tweetdeck," which is an existing tool that helps users navigate the network, spokeswoman Brielle Villablanca said in a statement on Thursday. She went on: "We regularly conduct user research to gather feedback about people's Twitter experience and to better inform our product investment decisions, and we're exploring several ways to make Tweetdeck even more valuable for professionals." There was no indication that Twitter was considering charging fees from all its users. Word of the survey had earlier leaked on Twitter, where a journalist affiliated with the New York Times posted screenshots of what a premium version of Tweetdeck could look like. That version could include "more powerful tools to help marketers, journalists, professionals, and others in our community find out what is happening in the world quicker," according to one of the screenshots posted on the account @andrewtavani.
Businesses

A Lithuanian Phisher Tricked Two Big US Tech Companies Into Wiring Him $100 Million (theverge.com) 129

According to a recent indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice, a 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million. He was able to perform this feat "by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer," reports The Verge, citing court documents, "and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries." From the report: What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas' particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it's the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it. The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is "multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States," the documents read. The second company is a "multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services." Both apparently worked with the same "Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware," a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late '80s. What's more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money. Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted -- each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years. The court documents don't reveal the names of the two companies. Though, one could surely think of a few candidates that would fit the descriptions provided in the court documents.
Social Networks

Reddit To Transform Into a Social Network With New Profile Pages (digitaljournal.com) 130

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Journal: Reddit has announced it has begun trialling a radical new profile page design that's reminiscent of Facebook and Twitter. It will evolve the discussion board site towards being a social network by enabling users to post directly to their new profile page. At present, posts on Reddit have to be directed into a specific sub-Reddit community. You can't simply write a post and have it appear across the network which can make it difficult to get your voice heard. Unless you've got some reputation in a relevant sub-Reddit, your posts may end up going unnoticed. That could soon change. Last night, Reddit announced it's working on a drastic revision of its user profile page experience. The site has commenced testing of an early version of the design. According to a report from Reuters, just three "high-profile" users currently have access to the feature. When the new pages are eventually opened up to all, they'll showcase the user's profile picture and description. Below the header, posts from the user will be publicly displayed. The user will be able to add new posts to their page, without submitting to a sub-Reddit. Users will be able to follow each other to stay informed of new posts, effectively creating a social network atmosphere above the discussion boards.
Twitter

Twitter Suspended Hundreds of Thousands of Accounts Amid 'Violent Extremism' (fortune.com) 202

Twitter said on Tuesday it had suspended more than half a million accounts since the middle of 2015 as the company steps up efforts to tackle "violent extremism" on its microblogging platform. From a report: The company shut down a total of 376,890 accounts in the last six months of 2016, Twitter said in its latest transparency report.

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