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Medicine

Common Medications Sway Moral Judgment 86 86

sciencehabit sends news that two commonly-prescribed drugs have been shown to influence how the human brain makes moral decisions. Citalopram is an SSRI used to treat depression, and levodopa is often used to combat Parkinson's disease. A new study (abstract) asked subjects to set a monetary value on receiving painful electric shocks — for themselves and for others (e.g. "Would you rather endure seven shocks to earn $10 or 10 shocks to earn $15?"). The study found that subjects on citalopram (which affects serotonin levels) were willing to give up more money to reduce shocks, both for themselves and others. Those on levodopa (which affects dopamine levels) made people just as willing to shock others as they were to shock themselves, when those on a placebo tended to be more reluctant to shock others. [Neuroscientist Molly] Crockett says those effects could suggests multiple underlying mechanisms. For example, excess dopamine might make our brain's reward system more responsive to the prospect of avoiding personal harm. Or it could tamp down our sense of uncertainty about what another person is experiencing, making us less hesitant to dole out pain. Serotonin, meanwhile, appeared to have a more general effect on aversion to harm, not just a heightened concern for another person. Such knowledge could eventually develop drugs that address disorders of social behavior, she says.
Firefox

Firefox 39 Released, Bringing Security Improvements and Social Sharing 94 94

An anonymous reader writes: Today Mozilla announced the release of Firefox 39.0, which brings an number of minor improvements to the open source browser. (Full release notes.) They've integrated Firefox Share with Firefox Hello, which means that users will be able to open video calls through links sent over social media. Internally, the browser dropped support for the insecure SSLv3 and disabled use of RC4 except where explicitly whitelisted. The SafeBrowsing malware detection now works for downloads on OS X and Linux. (Full list of security changes.) The Mac OS X version of Firefox is now running Project Silk, which makes animations and scrolling noticeably smoother. Developers now have access to the powerful Fetch API, which should provide a better interface for grabbing things over a network.
Social Networks

AMAgeddon: Reddit Mods Are Locking Up the Site's Most Popular Pages In Protest 288 288

vivaoporto writes: As reported by CNET and TechCrunch, reddit moderators are locking up the site's most popular pages in protest against the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, a key member of the site's behind-the-scenes team. Taylor, who was the main facilitator for the site's question-and-answer community "Ask Me Anything" (graced by the presence of notables like Barack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld and regular folks like a line cook at Applebee's) was fired yesterday, causing all sorts of problems for Reddit's most mainstream offering.

Taylor's reported departure, which has been dubbed AMAgeddon, led other moderators of the marquee IAmA subreddit to switch the page's settings to private, rendering the Reddit userbase unable to view the page. Since then, dozens of other subreddits including /r/askreddit, /r/videos, /r/gaming and /r/gadgets — each with several million subscribers — have also been made private, instead re-directing readers to a static landing page.

Reddit's cofounder and executive chairman, Alexis Ohanian, said in a post, "we don't talk about specific employees. (...) We get that losing Victoria has a significant impact on the way you manage your community, (...) I'd really like to understand how we can help solve these problems, because I know r/IAMA thrived before her and will thrive after." He later apologized for how communication was handled. A full recap of the situation is available at the site itself, with insights from redditors about the whole situation.

This comes in the wake of other highly controversial events like the response to what became known as The Fappening, and the more recent ban of the controversial but popular FatPeopleHate subreddit.
Crime

San Francisco Fiber Optic Cable Cutter Strikes Again 192 192

HughPickens.com writes: USA Today reports that the FBI is investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California's San Francisco Bay Area dating back to at least July 6, 2014, including one early this week. "When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing," says Special Agent Greg Wuthrich. "We definitely need the public's assistance." The pattern of attacks raises serious questions about the glaring vulnerability of critical Internet infrastructure, says JJ Thompson. "When it's situations that are scattered all in one geography, that raises the possibility that they are testing out capabilities, response times and impact," says Thompson. "That is a security person's nightmare."

Mark Peterson, a spokesman for Internet provider Wave Broadband, says an unspecified number of Sacramento-area customers were knocked offline by the latest attack. Peterson characterized the Tuesday attack as "coordinated" and said the company was working with Level 3 and Zayo to restore service. It's possible the vandals were dressed as telecommunications workers to avoid arousing suspicion, say FBI officials. Backup systems help cushion consumers from the worst of the attacks, meaning people may notice slower email or videos not playing, but may not have service completely disrupted. But repairs are costly and penalties are not stiff enough to deter would-be vandals. "There are flags and signs indicating to somebody who wants to do damage: This is where it is folks," says Richard Doherty. "It's a terrible social crime that affects thousands and millions of people."
Google

Google Apologises For Photos App's Racist Blunder 349 349

Mark Wilson writes: Google has issued an apology after the automatic tagging feature of its Photos apps labeled a black couple as "gorillas". This is not the first time an algorithm has been found to have caused racial upset. Earlier in the year Flickr came under fire after its system tagged images of concentration camps as sports venues and black people as apes. The company was criticized on social networks after a New York software developer questioned the efficacy of Google's algorithm. Accused of racism, Google said that it was "appalled" by what had happened, branding it as "100% not OK".
Classic Games (Games)

18 Years On, Ultima Online Is Still Going 75 75

An anonymous reader writes: Ultima Online was released in September, 1997. It was the game that popularized graphical MMOs, and somehow, it's still running. Rock, Paper, Shotgun took a dive into the game to see how much it's changed, and who still plays it. As the community has shrunk, it's become increasingly tight-knit, and giving up the game now means giving up a social circle for many players. Even though newer MMOs have eclipsed the game's functionality, UO has a dedication to the full adventuring experience that later games haven't replicated. From the article: "While initially I couldn't understand the appeal of Ultima, when I decided to shake off the limitations of an early level character and simply explore for myself, I found a game world with a lot to offer. Player created civilizations, unique monsters, and the sheer mystery of the world combine to keep this ancient MMO compelling. For all the ways in which the genre has improved, Ultima Online remains one of just a few MMOs that let you live an alternative life. That feeling of ownership ... combined with the diversity on offer, keeps players coming back day after day."
Data Storage

Where Facebook Stores 900 Million New Photos Per Day 119 119

1sockchuck writes: Facebook faces unique storage challenges. Its users upload 900 million new images daily, most of which are only viewed for a couple of days. The social network has built specialized cold storage facilities to manage these rarely-accessed photos. Data Center Frontier goes inside this facility, providing a closer look at Facebook's newest strategy: Using thousands of Blu-Ray disks to store images, complete with a robotic retrieval system (see video demo). Others are interested as well. Sony recently acquired a Blu-Ray storage startup founded by Open Compute chairman Frank Frankovsky, which hopes to drive enterprise adoption of optical data storage.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Choosing the Right Open Source License 161 161

NicknamesAreStupid writes: I need to choose an open source license. I am developing an open source iOS application that use a significant number of other open source projects which, in turn, use a number of different open source licenses such as MPL/GPL, MIT, and BSD. I am also using sample code from Apple's developer site, which has their own terms of use. The code dependencies are such that my code would not be of much use without theirs. If this project is used, then it would be nice to pick a license that best fits in with this mashup. I am interested in maintaining the freedom of my code but do not want to create a catch-22 or make life hard for people who need to use this project for personal use or profit. My inclination is to use MIT's, as I have done so before. I asked an IP lawyer about this matter, and she replied (pro bono), "it probably doesn't matter." Of course, that advice was worth every penny. Moving away from legal issues and looking at this from a social perspective, which license would appeal most and offend least? I thought about no license but was warned (pro bono), "If you do not, then someone else may." Any suggestions?
Facebook

FB Reveals Woeful Diversity Numbers 256 256

theodp writes: There's more work to do," said Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who issued a straight-out-of-How-to-Lie-With-Statistics diversity update on Thursday that essentially consisted of a handful of bar charts labeled with only percentages for select measures of the social networking giant's current demographics. In search of real numbers, the Guardian turned to Facebook's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity report filing, which showed that the ranks of black employees swelled by a grand total of seven (7) (1 woman) in the year covered by the filing, during which time Facebook saw an overall headcount increase of 1,231. Comparing Facebook's new bar charts of US tech employees to those issued last year shows the proportion of Hispanic and Black employees remained flat at 3% and 1% respectively, while a decline in the proportion of white employees from 53% to 51% was offset by an increase in the proportion of Asian employees from 41% to 43%.
Social Networks

Are We Too Quick To Act On Social Media Outrage? 371 371

RedK writes: Connie St-Louis, on June 8th, reported on apparently sexist remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt, a Nobel prize winning scientist, during an event organised for women in sciences. This led to the man's dismissal from his stations, all in such urgency that he did not even have time to present his side, nor was his side ever offered any weight. A leaked report a few days later suggests that the remarks were taken out of context. Further digging shows that the accuser has distorted the truth in many cases it seems. This is not the first time that people may have jumped the gun too soon on petty issues and ruined great events or careers.
Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi Router's 'Pregnant Women' Setting Sparks Vendor Rivalry In China 207 207

colinneagle writes: When one Chinese technology vendor, Qihoo, launched a new Wi-Fi router with a safety setting for "pregnant women," a rival vendor took offense to the implication that their routers might be dangerous. Xiamo, which also sells Wi-Fi routers, took to its page on Chinese social media site Weibo to denounce Qihoo's pregnant women mode as a "marketing tactic," and clarify that "Wi-Fi usage is safe."

Zhou Hongyi, chief executive and president of Qihoo, acknowledged in a statement to the South China Morning Post that there is no evidence supporting claims that Wi-Fi routers pose a risk for birth defects. But he said the company is appealing to consumers' beliefs, whether they are supported by science or not.

"We are targeting people who are afraid of radiation," Hongyi said. "We aren't scientists. We haven't done many experiments to prove how much damage the radiation from Wi-Fi can cause. We leave the right of choice to our customers."
Education

New Google and CMU Moonshot: the 'Teacherless Classroom' 89 89

theodp writes: At the behest of Google, Carnegie Mellon University will largely replace formal lectures in a popular introductory Data Structures and Algorithms course this fall with videos and a social networking tool to accommodate more students. The idea behind the multi-year research project sponsored by Google — CMU will receive $200,000 in the project's first year — is to find a way to leverage existing faculty to meet a growing demand for computer science courses, while also expanding the opportunities for underrepresented minorities, high school students and community college students, explained Jacobo Carrasquel, associate teaching professor of CS. "As we teach a wider diversity of students, with different backgrounds, we can no longer teach to 'the middle,'" Carrasquel said. "When you do that, you're not aiming at the 20 percent of the top students or the 20 percent at the bottom." The move to a "teacherless classroom" for CS students at CMU [tuition $48K] comes on the heels of another Google CS Capacity Award-inspired move at Stanford [tuition $45K], where Pair Programming was adopted in a popular introductory CS class to "reduce the increasingly demanding workload for section leaders due to high enrollment and also help students to develop important collaboration skills."
Privacy

Controversial GCHQ Unit Engaged In Domestic Law Enforcement, Online Propaganda 83 83

Advocatus Diaboli writes: Documents published by The Intercept on Monday reveal that a British spy unit purported by officials to be focused on foreign intelligence and counterterrorism, and notorious for using "controversial tactics, online propaganda and deceit,” focuses extensively on traditional law enforcement and domestic activities. The documents detail how the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) is involved in efforts against political groups it considers "extremist," Islamist activity in schools, the drug trade, online fraud, and financial scams. The story reads: "Though its existence was secret until last year, JTRIG quickly developed a distinctive profile in the public understanding, after documents from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the unit had engaged in 'dirty tricks' like deploying sexual 'honey traps' designed to discredit targets, launching denial-of-service attacks to shut down internet chat rooms, pushing veiled propaganda onto social networks, and generally warping discourse online."
Transportation

(Your Job) Is a Video Game 36 36

arctother writes: UberDRIVE—Uber's simulation/video game/recruiting tool—is, at best, just a poor copy of a much more interesting video game – driving for Uber. The main innovation of Uber, and other smartphone-enabled "e-hailing" car services, is the insertion of a new interface into the human-to-human, on-the-street interactions between drivers and passengers. Uber attempts to transform the cab-driving and -riding experience through the deployment of an allegorithm: the productive joining of a framing narrative (or "allegory") and software-mediated control (or "algorithm"). Understanding how allegorithms shape experience will become more and more important as they are increasingly deployed with mobile interfaces to reshape and "augment" social interactions. "Ingress," you are already thinking; but you should really think of "Uber."
Facebook

Facebook's Absurd Pseudonym Purgatory 290 290

An anonymous reader sends a story from a writer whose Facebook account was locked because somebody reported it as using a pseudonym. It doesn't, but Facebook demands a look at identification documents before releasing control over the account. Anyone whose name doesn't sound "real" to Facebook is at risk for this, and the social network doesn't even have a consistent stance on what an "authentic" name is. "Aside from the complexity of identity, the policy is haphazardly enforced at best. At worst, it’s dangerous and discriminatory, and has demonstrably and repeatedly been used to target people who often already are marginalized and vulnerable." Matt Cagle, attorney for the ACLU, says, "By controlling the identity of the speaker with this policy, Facebook has the effect of both reducing speech and eliminating speakers from the platform altogether. This is a particularly concerning move to the ACLU because forums like Facebook serve as the modern-day equivalent of the public square for a lot of communities.
Twitter

Twitter To Introduce Curated Information Stream 37 37

stephendavion writes: Twitter will start curating tweets on live events, the microblogging service said, as it plans major changes to make its real-time news feed more user friendly. Dubbed Project Lightning, the changes will let users follow events instead of just people, and instantly upload photos and videos that can be shared across websites, social news and entertainment website Buzzfeed reported on Thursday. Another reader points out coverage at Wired, which argues that this is a bigger change for Twitter than it sounds: "What Project Lightning represents, more than anything, is the long-overdue death of the Twitter timeline. (Or its demotion, at the very least, in the hope it’ll quietly resign.) With this change, Twitter doesn’t have to look like an endlessly flowing, context-free stream of tweets; instead, you can see a hand-curated set of tweets, links, images, and videos related to what’s happening right now. ... In short, this effort puts a stake through the idea that Twitter is a social network. It’s not. It never should have tried to be. It’s not about people, jokes, and #brands. It’s about information, about news and pictures and stories."
Youtube

Google Launches YouTube Newswire To Verify Eyewitness Videos 22 22

An anonymous reader writes: YouTube has started a video news service to showcase the most interesting clips recorded and posted by eyewitnesses at events unfolding around the world. In partnership with the social news group Storyful, YouTube Newswire will be "a curated feed of the most newsworthy eyewitness videos of the day, which have been verified by Storyful's team of editors," a blog post said. Cnet reports: "In addition to the newswire, YouTube on Thursday announced two other projects that have to do with eyewitness journalism. One of the projects, called the First Draft Coalition, will serve as an educational resource for journalists — helping them to verify eyewitness videos and consider the ethics of using them in stories. The other is a partnership with the Witness Media Lab, focused on eyewitness videos having to do with human rights issues."
Security

Encryption Would Not Have Protected Secret Federal Data, Says DHS 142 142

HughPickens.com writes: Sean Gallagher reports at Ars Technica that Dr. Andy Ozment, Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity in the Department of Homeland Security, told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that in the case of the recent discovery of an intrusion that gave attackers access to sensitive data on millions of government employees and government contractors, encryption would "not have helped" because the attackers had gained valid user credentials to the systems that they attacked—likely through social engineering. Ozment added that because of the lack of multifactor authentication on these systems, the attackers would have been able to use those credentials at will to access systems from within and potentially even from outside the network. "If the adversary has the credentials of a user on the network, they can access data even if it's encrypted just as the users on the network have to access data," said Ozment. "That did occur in this case. Encryption in this instance would not have protected this data."

The fact that Social Security numbers of millions of current and former federal employees were not encrypted was one of few new details emerged about the data breach and House Oversight member Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) was the one who pulled the SSN encryption answer from the teeth of the panel where others failed. "This is one of those hearings where I think that I will know less coming out of the hearing than I did when I walked in because of the obfuscation and the dancing around we are all doing here. As a matter of fact, I wish that you were as strenuous and hardworking at keeping information out of the hands of hackers as you are in keeping information out of the hands of Congress and federal employees. It's ironic. You are doing a great job stonewalling us, but hackers, not so much."
Businesses

More Warehouse Robots Coming To Market As Softbank Invests $20M In Fetch 38 38

Hallie Siegel writes: Japanese Softbank just injected $20M in funding to Fetch Robotics, a Silicon Valley company that is developing robotic solutions for warehouse and logistics. This is one of the first warehouse systems that is coming to market since Kiva. Softbank is also invested in Aldebaran Robotics, producing the Pepper robot — a social humanoid robot that is scheduled to make its debut in Nestle stores later this year as a sales and marketing assistant.