Monthly Archives: September 2016

Social Media Minefield

Mainly because of the amount of money they bring in, many people expect celebrities and other prominent figures to have thicker skins than the average Jane or Joe. However — as evidenced by the numbers of celebrities who’ve forsaken social media, or who have handed the keys to their accounts to their PR teams — fame and fortune are not effective defenses against an all-out assault by faceless trolls.

Saturday Night Live cast member Leslie Jones temporarily unplugged her Twitter account after being bombarded by racist and sexist attacks. Girls star Lena Dunham quit Twitter after being body shamed and verbally abused. Filmmaker Joss Whedon fled Twitter last year, after being targeted with verbal abuse for his portrayal of Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Count the likes of Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Jennifer Lawrence among the celebs who simply don’t care to join social network, as least not using their given names. And Sia doesn’t even want the public to get a good look at her face.

Some of the prominent celebs to speak about social media’s potential for inflicting harm include Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and Keira Knight, who has said that sharing with the public opens you up to “a lot of criticism and a lot of people telling you they hate you.”

 

No One Is Safe

While attacks on private individuals can be more personal and more targeted, they’re typically much less numerous. Anyone who is visible to large numbers of people — from business owners to YouTube stars — is vulnerable to a massive onslaught due to the sheer volume of people who flock to their accounts.

Cary Peterson, an American federal lobbyist and UN delegate, has experienced decades of online abuse. Bullying, slander and defamation have cost him job promotions, business deals, friendships, millions of dollars in legal fees, and a marriage, he said.

“These online mobs are real, and the general public needs to be aware of it, and how serious it is,” Peterson told TechNewsWorld.

Almost daily, Peterson finds himself battling faceless accounts, and when people start to believe the allegations posted from such accounts, that’s when things can spiral out of control.

“I’ve been rather fortunate in these instances to still be alive and well, but I’ve seen many people and businesses over my past 20 years doing business online, wiped out and terminated,” he said. “Nonetheless, it’s quite fascinating what can be done from a laptop and Internet connection these days — and cost little to nothing to execute.”

 

Nowhere Is Safe

Despite all the good they do in keeping family and friends connected, social media sites have a dark side. They quickly can become breeding grounds for harassment, noted Scott A Spackey, a career coach and family counselor.

“Social media has become a forum for intimidation, abuse and shaming because of its lack of accountability,” he told TechNewsWorld. “Virtual reality is remote and has the illusion of being impersonal, which encourages people to behave in ways they would NEVER do in person or public.”

Massive Twitter campaigns can be sparked by people using fake names and profiles, noted Wendy Lewis, president of Wendy Lewis & Co. Recently, much of it stemmed from divisive politics, fueled by the unrestrained comments of certain politicians.

“If it’s OK for a presidential candidate to practice name calling — like ‘the devil’ — or making comments about his dissenters’ physique …, then it may seem more acceptable to others who are so inclined,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Business and public figures have a bit more recourse at Facebook, compared to Twitter. The page owner can remove posts, report harassment, and possibly prompt the banning of the user, Lewis noted.

“If they are aggressive, you may see that they attempt the same posts under a different fake profile name, and keep going by commenting on every post on the page,” Lewis said. “As a last resort, you can reset your Facebook page privacy settings, and even set your page up to have all comments approved before they go live.”

Regardless of the forum or format, it doesn’t take much searching to find an online thread littered with the type of language rarely used in public places offline.

While the reporting and banning tools help, it’s up to humanity to try harder to be more human online, suggested parent advocate Sue Scheff, author of the upcoming book Shame Nation.

“It’s time for all of us to start being an upstander, reaching out to those that are struggling,” she told TechNewsWorld.

Project Evo Ups the PC Game

Microsoft and Intel on Wednesday announced Project Evo, their highly anticipated collaboration to create the next generation of personal computers. The project aims to expand on new advances in artificial intelligence, mixed reality, advanced security and gaming,

Terry Myerson, executive vice president of the Windows and Devices Group at Microsoft, unveiled some of Project Evo’s ambitious plans at the Windows Hardware Engineering Community (WinHEC) event in Shenzhen, China.

Through the collaboration, the companies will push the boundaries of a personal computer’s capabilities in the near future, he said. Technologies under development include far-field speech and wake-on-voice enabled through Cortana, biometrics and voice authentication in Windows Hello, spacial audio, and HDR support for gaming.

Project Evo — particularly its expanded use of Cortana — invites comparisons to the digital assistant tools found in Amazon Echo and Google Home, standalone speakers that use Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. Though their capabilities differ, each uses voice communications to interact with the automated home.

However, Project Evo seems geared toward making the personal computer into a much more sophisticated device — one that can be accessed and operated in ways never before seen.

 

Home Hub Connection?

Essentially, users will be able to wake up a PC, whether it’s open or shut, simply by saying “Hello Cortana.” Through voice commands, users will be able to access the information they need either directly from their personal computing device or from the cloud.

“This is going to make the PC way more intuitive than it is today,” Intel SVP Navin Shenoy, general manager of the Client Computing Group, told WinHEC attendees. “You no longer need to be directly in front of your PC to activate Cortana.”

“There are certainly aspects of Project Evo that are likely to compete directly with Amazon Alexa and Google Home,” noted Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

However, it’s likely that “Intel and Microsoft are after a fundamentally bigger game,” he told TechNewsWorld.

In the case of Project Evo, the companies are working with much more powerful computing capabilities than Amazon and Google are using with their home hubs.

“Microsoft has the technology in the cloud, not the home,” noted Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research.

“The problem is that the PC is not the center of the home or the consumer experience,” he told TechNewsWorld.

While there is room for improving the PC experience, this project is not going to push Microsoft into a direct competition with Amazon, McGregor said.

Team to Battle Terrorism Online

Facebook has teamed up with Twitter, YouTube and Microsoft to fight the proliferation of terrorist content on the Web. The tech giants will create a shared industry database of hashes for violent terrorist imagery, terrorist recruitment videos, or images they have removed from their services.

They may use these shared hashes to help identify potential terrorist content on their platforms. Hashes to be shared will apply to content that’s most likely to violate all the companies’ content policies.

“Each one of the companies that is part of this agreement has its own specific definitions, practices and processes in place for governments to make requests to them for user data and to remove content,” YouTube explained in policy notes provided to TechNewsWorld by company rep Stephanie Shih. “Any such requests for information will be routed through each company to handle as they normally do per its individual policies and procedures.”

No personally identifiable information will be shared. There will be no automated takedowns of terrorism-related content. Each company will retain its own process for dealing with appeals against its removal of content.

The four will apply their own transparency and review practices when responding to any government requests.

 

Magnitude of the Problem

ISIS, or ISIL, has used the Web to great effect for the purpose of broadcasting its ideology and recruiting fighters, the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee said last year, noting that it then had 30,000 fighters, drawn from more than 100 countries.

All four of the tech participants that teamed in the latest initiative already have launched separate efforts to counter terrorist activities online, in some cases through other partnerships.

“Our existing efforts to counter extremism and terrorist content will continue,” Facebook said in comments provided to TechNewsWorld by spokesperson Alec Gerlach. “This agreement means that there will be more operational efficiency as we try and stop terrorist content from easily migrating between platforms.”

 

Each Player’s Battle

Twitter earlier this year outlined its policy, which includes deactivating accounts linked to terrorism groups, cooperating with law enforcement entities when appropriate, and partnering with organizations working to counter extremist content online.

Facebook earlier this year began offering advertising credits to some users combating terrorism online, and it began collaborating with the U.S. State Department to develop antiterrorist messaging from college students.

YouTube’s content policies strictly prohibit terrorist recruitment and content intending to incite violence, the company said. YouTube terminates any account if it has reason to believe that the account holder is an agent of a foreign terrorist organization.

Google parent company Alphabet this summer partnered with Facebook and Twitter to sponsor three experiments using videos to combat the spread of terrorist propaganda on their sites.

Google think tank Jigsaw this summer launched Redirect, a pilot project that aims to redirect people searching for jihadist information online toward counterterrorism content. Project Redirect is not involved in YouTube’s partnership with Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter.

The new for smartwatch OS debuts

Can a new smartwatch operating system based on Linux breathe some new life into the smart wearables market? Florent Revest hopes so.

Revest, a French computer science student, on Wednesday announced the alpha release of AsteroidOS, an open source operating system that will run on several Android smartwatch models.

“Many users believe that the current proprietary platforms can not guarantee a satisfactory level of control over their privacy and hardware,” noted Revest, who has been working on his OS for two years. “Hence, I noticed a need for an open wearable platform and AsteroidOS is my attempt to address this issue.”

The alpha edition of AsteroidOS contains some basic apps: agenda, for scheduling events to remember; an alarm clock; a calcuator; music, for controlling the music player on a phone; a stopwatch; a timer and a weather app.

The OS will run, more or less, on the LG G Watch, LG G Urbane, Asus ZenWatch 2 and Sony Smartwatch 3, Revest noted. Bluetooth works only on the G Watch, though.

 

Uphill Battle

Launching an open source mobile operating system can be a daunting and seemingly futile task.

“This has been tried repeatedly in the past and has failed,” said Jack E. Gold, principal analyst at J.Gold Associates.

So far there’s only been one open source success story in the mobile market, and that’s been Android — which eventually was consumed by Google and closed off, noted Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy.

“Firefox, Meego and Ubuntu have tried this and, unfortunately, haven’t met with success,” he told LinuxInsider.

 

Breaking From Past

However, Revest’s focus on smartwatches may give his OS a better chance of success than past open source efforts had, said Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“There’s certainly no guarantee that AsteroidOS can breathe life into so stagnant a market — but at the same time, the new OS won’t encounter the barriers it would in more mature markets, such as smartphones,” he told LinuxInsider.

“There’s a hole in the market for this,” said Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticle Research.

“Unlike the phone and tablet market, where you can use the Android open source platform and build something based on that, there really hasn’t been much for smartwatches,” he told LinuxInsider.

Google offers a form of Android for wearables, but it can’t be modified the way the open source version of Android can.

 

Narrow Appeal

While Revest envisions growth of AsteroidOS as an open source community builds around it and it becomes compatible with more devices, broad adoption may be a long shot.

Manufacturers who produce custom phones for target markets, such as low cost phones for emerging markets, might be interested in AsteroidOS, suggested Gold.

However, “you can do this with Android-Linux already,” he told LinuxInsider, “and with a new OS, there will be no availability of apps, so the devices will be very unattractive.”

Chinese phone makers who use open source Android may use AsteroidOS to produce very inexpensive smartwatches, said Rubin, “but inexpensive smartwatches haven’t been driving the market. Pebble was an inexpensive smartwatch, and look what happened to it.”

The early adopters of the OS will be Linux enthusiasts and hobbyists, King said. Since the OS can work on older watches, early users likely will run the software on second-hand hardware.