Archive for the ‘US News’ Category

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Facebook logo UK police will be able to force US-based social media platforms to hand over users’ messages, including those that are end to end encrypted, under a treaty that is set to be signed next month.According to a report in The Times, investigations into certain ‘serious’ criminal offenses, will be covered under the agreement between the two countries.

The UK government has been imploring Facebook to create back doors which would enable intelligence agencies to gain access to messaging platforms for matters of national security.

The news of the agreement between the US and UK is sure to ramp up discussion of the effectiveness of end to end encryption when implemented by large corporations. If this report is confirmed and Facebook/police can indeed listen in on ‘end to end encryption’ then such implementations of encryption are worthless.

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Poster Hunt 2019 Craig Zobel The Hunt is a 2019 USA action horror thriller by Craig Zobel.
Starring Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank and Emma Roberts. YouTube icon IMDb

Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen – for a very specific purpose – The Hunt.

The film was also originally titled Red State vs Blue State.

The film had earlier been MPAA R rated for crude and sexual content, nudity, language throughout, comic violence and drug use.

The movie The Hunt has been withdrawn prior to release by the US distributors after two US shooter incidents echoed the politically charged allegory of elites vs red caps underpinning this film.

Hollywood studio Universal distributing an action satire depicting a dozen supposedly red state Americans who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals, is to scrap the movie’s release. The company had already announced that it would not promote or market the film.

The Hunt, produced by Blumhouse, the independent film house known mostly for low-budget horror films such as Paranormal Activity and The Purge as well as also the Oscar winner BlacKkKlansman, was due to come out on 27 September. But gun massacres in Ohio, Texas and California which resulted in more than 30 deaths has reignited a debate about gun control legislation. Blumhouse and distributor Universal Pictures have now said it would no longer release the movie.

Donald Trump inevitably had his say and tweeted about Hollywood liberals:

They like to call themselves ‘Elite,’ but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!

Universal said in a statement.

We stand by our film-makers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.

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FBI logo A few days ago Donald Trump responded to more mass shooters by calling on social networks to build tools for identifying potential mass murderers before they act. And across the government, there appears to be growing consensus that social networks should become partners in surveillance with the government.So quite a timely moment for the Wall Street Journal to publish an article about FBI plans for mass snooping on social media:

The FBI is soliciting proposals from outside vendors for a contract to pull vast quantities of public data from Facebook, Twitter and other social media to proactively identify and reactively monitor threats to the United States and its interests.

The request was posted last month, weeks before a series of mass murders shook the country and led President Trump to call for social-media platforms to do more to detect potential shooters before they act.

The deadline for bids is Aug. 27.

As described in the solicitation, it appears that the service would violate Facebook’s ban against the use of its data for surveillance purposes, according to the company’s user agreements and people familiar with how it seeks to enforce them.

The Verge comments on a privacy paradox:

But so far, as the Journal story illustrates, the government’s approach has been incoherent. On one hand, it fines Facebook $5 billion for violating users’ privacy; on the other, it outlines a plan to potentially store all Americans’ public posts in a database for monitoring purposes.

But of course it is not a paradox, many if not most people believe that they’re entitled to privacy whilst all the ‘bad’ people in the world aren’t.

hyp3r logo Commercial interests are also very keen on profiling people from their social media postings. There’s probably a long list of advertisers who would love a list of rich people who go to casinos and stay at expensive hotels.

Well As Business Insider has noted, one company Hyp3r has been scraping all public postings on Instagram to provide exactly that information:

A combination of configuration errors and lax oversight by Instagram allowed one of the social network’s vetted advertising partners to misappropriate vast amounts of public user data and create detailed records of users’ physical whereabouts, personal bios, and photos that were intended to vanish after 24 hours.

The profiles, which were scraped and stitched together by the San Francisco-based marketing firm Hyp3r, were a clear violation of Instagram’s rules. But it all occurred under Instagram’s nose for the past year by a firm that Instagram had blessed as one of its preferred Facebook Marketing Partners.

Hyp3r is a marketing company that tracks social-media posts tagged with real-world locations. It then lets its customers directly interact with those posts via its tools and uses that data to target the social-media users with relevant advertisements. Someone who visits a hotel and posts a selfie there might later be targeted with pitches from one of the hotel’s competitors, for example.

The total volume of Instagram data Hyp3r has obtained is not clear, though the firm has publicly said it has a unique dataset of hundreds of millions of the highest value consumers in the world, and sources said more than of 90% of its data came from Instagram. It ingests in excess of 1 million Instagram posts a month, sources said.

See full article from businessinsider.com

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8chan logo 8chan is a forum website that has become a home for the far right and those otherwise discontented by modern society for various reasons. There’s nothing special about it that cannot be easily replicated elsewhere.And as Buzzfeed notes:

Pull the plug, it will appear somewhere else, in whatever locale will host it. Because there’s nothing particularly special about 8chan, there are no content algorithms, hosting technology immaterial. The only thing radicalizing 8chan users are other 8chan users.

However in the past six months is has been used to distribute racist and white nationalist manifestos prior to mass shootings.

It has now been refused service from Cloudfare which offers security services, most notably defending against denial of service attacks. Cloudflare announced in a blogpost the company would be terminating 8chan as a client.

This represents a reversal of Cloudflare’s position from less than 24 hours earlier, when the co-founder and chief executive, Matthew Prince, defended his company’s relationship with 8chan as a moral obligation in an extensive interview with the Guardian. Prince explained the change:

The rationale is simple: they have proven themselves to be lawless and that lawlessness has caused multiple tragic deaths. Even if 8chan may not have violated the letter of the law in refusing to moderate their hate-filled community, they have created an environment that revels in violating its spirit.

While removing 8chan from our network takes heat off of us, it does nothing to address why hateful sites fester online. It does nothing to address why mass shootings occur. It does nothing to address why portions of the population feel so disenchanted they turn to hate. In taking this action we’ve solved our own problem, but we haven’t solved the Internet’s.

You’d have though the authorities would be advised to keep an eye on public forums so as to be aware of any grievances that are widely shared. Maybe to try and resolve them, and maybe just to be aware of what people are thinking. For example, if David Cameron had been better aware of what many people thought about immigration, he might have realised that holding the EU referendum was a disastrously stupid idea.

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twitter honour for donald trump Twitter has announced a new punishment for Donald Trumps’ tweets that it considers politically incorrect. Twitter will mark such tweets as ‘abusive’ and try and hide them away from being found in searches etc. However they will not be taken down. Twitter explains who its new censorship method will work:In the past, we’ve allowed certain Tweets that violated our rules to remain on Twitter because they were in the public’s interest, but it wasn’t clear when and how we made those determinations. To fix that, we’re introducing a new notice that will provide additional clarity in these situations, and sharing more on when and why we’ll use it.

Serving the public conversation includes providing the ability for anyone to talk about what matters to them; this can be especially important when engaging with government officials and political figures. By nature of their positions these leaders have outsized influence and sometimes say things that could be considered controversial or invite debate and discussion. A critical function of our service is providing a place where people can openly and publicly respond to their leaders and hold them accountable.

With this in mind, there are certain cases where it may be in the public’s interest to have access to certain Tweets, even if they would otherwise be in violation of our rules. On the rare occasions when this happens, we’ll place a notice — a screen you have to click or tap through before you see the Tweet — to provide additional context and clarity. We’ll also take steps to make sure the Tweet is not algorithmically elevated on our service.

Who does this apply to?

We will only consider applying this notice on Tweets from accounts that meet the following criteria. The account must:

  • Be or represent a government official, be running for public office, or be considered for a government position (i.e., next in line, awaiting confirmation, named successor to an appointed position);
  • Have more than 100,000 followers; and
  • Be verified.

That said, there are cases, such as direct threats of violence or calls to commit violence against an individual, that are unlikely to be considered in the public interest.

What happens to the Tweet that gets this notice placed on it?

When a Tweet has this notice placed on it, it will feature less prominently on Twitter, and not appear in:

  • Safe search
  • Timeline when switched to Top Tweets
  • Live events pages
  • Recommended Tweet push notifications
  • Notifications tab Explore
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the donald forum logo The Donald Forum is a Reddit forum, or subreddit, and is one of the internet’s most popular forums where Donald Trump fans congregate for a chat.

It has now been shunted out of sight up an unsearchable backwater. Users must now click an opt-in button to access The_Donald forum, and its content no longer appears in Reddit’s search results or recommendations.

The move seems to be part of general trend for US social media companies to censor politics that they do not like, particularly when it leans towards the US right.

The Donald forum has more than 760,000 subscribers and once hosted an ask me anything session with Donald Trump in which he replied to questions from the public before the presidential election.

One of the forum’s moderators initially shared a message Reddit had sent explaining its reasons for the quarantine. The post was subsequently deleted, but its contents have been copied and posted elsewhere. It said the move had been prompted by threats made on the subreddit against the authorities in Oregon.

Last week, 11 Republican state senators staged a walkout in protest at a climate change bill. State troopers were then told to bring the senators back, which in turn prompted claims that militia groups opposing such an intervention might show up in the state capital Salem raising a threat of violence .

It seems a little weak that a heated argument can be cited as a reason for political censorship particularly when it can be seen as interefring with upcoming presidential elections.

Over mature and ripe for improvement…The US Communications Regulator publishes a report criticising the TV ratings system

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us tv ratings America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has published a report about the US TV rating classification system.The familiar TV ratings, TVY, TV7, TVG, TVPG, TV14, TVMA are essentially self administered by the TV companies but there is an overview body called The TV Parental Guidelines (Oversight) Monitoring Board. The board describes itself:

The TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board is responsible for ensuring there is as much uniformity and consistency in applying the Parental Guidelines as possible. The Monitoring Board does this by reviewing complaints and other public input and by facilitating discussion about the application of ratings among members of the Board and other relevant industry representatives. The Monitoring Board typically meets annually or more often, if necessary, to consider and review complaints sent to the Board, discuss current research, and review any other relevant issues. The Board also facilitates regular calls among industry standards and practices executives to discuss pending and emerging issues in order to promote ratings consistency across companies.

In addition to the chairman, the Board includes 18 industry representatives from the broadcast, cable and creative communities appointed by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), NCTA 203 The Internet and Television Association, and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and five public interest members, appointed by the Board chairman.

The chairman id Michael Powell and the board representatives are from

  • 21st Century FOX
  • ABC
  • A+E Networks
  • AMC Networks
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America
  • Call for Action
  • CBS
  • Discovery, Inc.
  • Entertainment Industries Council
  • HULU
  • Lifetime Networks
  • National PTA
  • NBC Universal
  • Sony Pictures Entertainment
  • Turner Broadcasting System
  • Univision
  • Viacom Media Networks

The TV ratings are frequently criticised, at least by morality campaign groups and recently the FCC responded by undertaking a review of the TV rating system. The FCC has just published its findings and concurs with much of the criticism. The FCC writes:

fcc logo After reviewing the record as a whole, our primary conclusion is that the Board has been insufficiently accessible and transparent to the public. For example, when the Bureau began its work on this report, the Board’s website did not even include a phone number that someone could call to reach it. We are pleased that this problem was recently fixed. But in our view, additional steps should be taken to increase awareness of the Board’s role and the transparency of its operations. Below are suggestions along those lines that we submit for Board and industry consideration.

First, we urge the Board and the video programming industry to increase their efforts to promote public awareness of the Board and its role in overseeing the rating system. We urge the Board and the industry to increase their outreach efforts concerning the existence of the rating system and consider additional ways in which they can publicize the ability of the public to file complaints, along with instructions on how complaints can be filed. In this regard, as noted, the Board recently reactivated a telephone number for use in contacting the Board and also provides a post office box where physical mail can be sent.

Second, we suggest that the Board consider ways to inform the public regarding the number of complaints it receives, the nature of each complaint, the program and network or producer involved, and the action taken, if any, by the network/producer or the Board in response to the complaint. For instance, the Board could consider issuing an annual report on the complaints it has received about the ratings of programs, how those complaints were adjudicated, and whether complaints led to the rating of a program being changed in future airings.

Third, we suggest that the Board hold at least one public meeting, that is publicized with adequate notice, each year. This would permit the public to express their views directly to the Board and help the Board better understand public concerns regarding program ratings.

we suggest that the Board consider doing random audits or spot checks analyzing the accuracy and consistency of the ratings being applied pursuant to the TV Parental Guidelines. This information could be used, in addition to the survey data already collected by the Board, to help assess, and if necessary, improve ratings accuracy. Such information would also allow the Board and the industry to consider whether any changes are needed to the guidelines themselves to ensure that they are as helpful as possible to today’s viewers, consistent with the Board’s commitment.

We note the ratings system has not changed in over 20 years and, despite its longevity, many commenters contend that the rating system is not well-understood or useful to parents.