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The Courts

Techdirt Asks Judge To Dismiss Another Lawsuit By That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email (arstechnica.com) 71

Three months ago Shiva Ayyadurai won a $750,000 settlement from Gawker (after they'd already gone bankrupt). He'd argued Gawker defamed him by mocking Ayyadurai's claim he'd invented email, and now he's also suing Techdirt founder Michael Masnick -- who is not bankrupt, and is fighting back. Long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd quotes Ars Technica: In his motion, Masnick claims that Ayyadurai "is seeking to use the muzzle of a defamation action to silence those who question his claim to historical fame." He continues, "The 14 articles and 84 allegedly defamatory statements catalogued in the complaint all say essentially the same thing: that Defendants believe that because the critical elements of electronic mail were developed long before Ayyadurai's 1978 computer program, his claim to be the 'inventor of e-mail' is false"...

The motion skims the history of e-mail and points out that the well-known fields of e-mail messages, like "to," "from," "cc," "subject," "message," and "bcc," were used in ARPANET e-mail messages for years before Ayyadurai made his "EMAIL" program. Ayyadurai focuses on statements calling him a "fake," a "liar," or a "fraud" putting forth "bogus" claims. Masnick counters that such phrases are "rhetorical hyperbole" meant to express opinions and reminds the court that "[t]he law provides no redress for harsh name-calling."

The motion calls the lawsuit "a misbegotten effort to stifle historical debate, silence criticism, and chill others from continuing to question Ayyadurai's grandiose claims." Ray Tomlinson has been dead for less than a year, but in this fascinating 1998 article recalled testing the early email protocols in 1971, remembering that "Most likely the first message was QWERTYIOP."
Security

Trend Micro's Own Cybersecurity Blog Gets Hacked (silicon.co.uk) 17

Mickeycaskill quotes Silicon: Just to illustrate that you can never be too careful, cybersecurity specialist Trend Micro has confirmed that one of the blogs it uses to communicate with customers was itself the victim of a content spoofing attack. The culprits exploited a vulnerability in WordPress to inject fake content onto the blog before it was removed by Trend Micro and the bug fixed... "Unfortunately there are many different URLs attackers can use to carry out the same attack, so a couple of fake 'articles' ended up posted on CounterMeasures," head of security research Rik Ferguson told Silicon. "We have responded and shut down the vulnerability completely to resolve the issue."
The chairman of Trend Micro claimed in 2011 that open source software was inherently less secure than closed source -- but instead of blaming Wordpress, Ferguson "said it goes to show how breaches are an unfortunate fact of life and that companies should be judged on how they respond... 'Of course technology and best practice can mitigate the vast majority of intrusion attempts, but when one is successful, even one as low-level as this, you are more defined by how you respond than you are by the fact that it happened.'"
Blackberry

The Brief, Bumbling Tech Careers of Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, and Will.i.am (backchannel.com) 97

"Four years ago this week, Blackberry named Alicia Keys its global creative officer... Keys was really going to work for Blackberry -- to participate in weekly calls addressing product development; develop ideas and content for the Keep Moving Projects, which targeted artists and athletes; and of course, promote the brand during her upcoming tour... It didn't work." Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: For a minute in history, it was oh-so-cool for legacy tech companies to hire pop stars... In 2005, HP brought Gwen Stefani on as a creative director. In 2010, Lady Gaga landed the job of creative director at Polaroid. In 2011, Will.i.am was the director of creative innovation at Intel. In 2012, Microsoft brought on Jessica Alba as creative director to promote its Windows Phone 8.

These roles were all touted as far more involved than the mere celebrity pitchman: The artists promised, to varying degrees, to dive into the business. But in all of these cases, the strategy failed. At Backchannel, Jessi Hempel dives into why that is, and how big names in entertainment are now finding other ways to harness the momentum of tech.

Lady Gaga left Polaroid in less than a year after "collaborating" on video camera sunglasses that offered playback through LCD lenses. While they weren't popular, this article argues most of these tech companies "faced structural business issues too significant to be addressed through celebrity branding and artistic energy." One digital ad agency even tells the site that "It's always been a flawed strategy," and calls the hiring of a celebrity "a press cycle hack."
The Media

A Super Bowl Koan: Does The NFL Wish It Were A Tech Company? (siliconvalley.com) 126

Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes: The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones.

But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology?

Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.
Government

Running For Congress, Brianna Wu Criticizes The FBI's GamerGate Report (venturebeat.com) 760

An anonymous reader shares this update about programmer/game developer Brianna Wu as well as the FBI's recently-released report on their GamerGate investigation:Wu has officially unveiled the web site for her campaign for a seat in the U.S. Congress, and says if elected she'll confront the FBI over their "appalling failure" when investigating members of the controversial GamerGate coalition. "Wu catalogued more than 180 death threats that she said she received because she spoke out against sexism in the game industry and #GamerGate misogyny," according to VentureBeat, which quotes Wu as saying "only a fraction of a fraction of the information we gave them was ever looked into."

The article says the FBI did investigate -- even asking Google to "preserve records" for several email addresses and YouTube accounts, and making a similar request to Microsoft. And the FBI also interviewed one minor who admitted to making at least 40 threatening phone calls, but after turning over that information learned that the state of Massachusetts had declined to prosecute. In the end the FBI's 173-page report ultimately concluded that there were no actionable leads.

Wu's response? "All this report does for me is show how little the FBI cared about the investigation."
Windows

CNET Editor Rails Against Non-Consensual Windows Updates (cnet.com) 498

schwit1 shares this angry commentary from a CNET senior editor: Maybe you're delivering a presentation to a huge audience. Maybe you're taking an online test. Maybe you just need to get some work done on a tight deadline. Windows doesn't care. Windows will take control of your computer, force-feed it updates, and flip the reset switch automatically — and there's not a damn thing you can do about it, once it gets started.

If you haven't saved your work, it's gone. Your browser tabs are toast. And don't expect to use your computer again soon; depending on the speed of your drive and the size of the update, it could be anywhere from 10 minutes to well over an hour before your PC is ready for work. As far as I'm concerned, it's the single worst thing about Windows. It's only gotten worse in Windows 10. And when I poked around Microsoft, the overarching message I received was that Microsoft has no interest in fixing it.

The editor recalls rebooting his Windows laptop while listening to a speech by Steve Jobs in 2010. (The reboot locked his computer for 20 minutes while updates were installed, "the first of three occasions that a forced Windows update would totally destroy my workflow at a critical moment.") He shares stories from other frustrated Windows users, urges readers to send him more anecdotes, and argues that Microsoft has even begun "actively getting rid of ways to keep users from disabling automatic updates."
Facebook

Germany Considers Fining Facebook $522,000 Per Fake News Item (heatst.com) 333

"The government of Germany is considering imposing a legal regime that would allow fining social networks such as Facebook up to 500,000 euros ($522,000) for each day the platform leaves a 'fake news' story up without deleting it," according to a story shared by schwit1. PC Magazine has more details: The law would reportedly apply to other social networks as well. "If after the relevant checks Facebook does not immediately, within 24 hours, delete the offending post then [it] must reckon with severe penalties of up to 500,000 euros," Germany's parliamentary chief of the Social Democrat party Thomas Oppermann said in an interview with Germany's Der Spiegel magazine, according to a report from Heat Street. Under the law, "official and private complainants" would be able to flag news on Facebook as fake, Heat Street reported. Facebook and other affected social networks would have to create "in-country offices focused on responding to takedown demands," the report says. The bill, slated for consideration next year, is said to have bipartisan support. According to the article, "Lawmakers in the country are reportedly hoping it will prevent Russia from interfering in Germany's elections next year."
The Internet

David Pogue Calls Out 18 Sites For Failing His Space-Bar Scrolling Test (yahoo.com) 309

An anonymous reader quotes Yahoo Finance's David Pogue: You know this tip, don't you? When you tap the Space bar, the web page you're reading scrolls up exactly one screenful... But in recent years, something clumsy and unfortunate has happened: Web designers have begun slapping toolbars or navigation bars at the top of the page. That's fine -- except when it throws off the Space-bar scrolling! Which, most of the time, it does.

Suddenly, tapping Space doesn't scroll the right amount. The lines you were supposed to read next scroll too high; they're now cut off. Now you have to use your mouse or keyboard to scroll back down again. Which defeats the entire purpose of the Space-bar tip. Over the last few months, I've begun keeping track of which sites do Space-bar scrolling right -- and which are broken. I want to draw the public's attention to this bit of broken code, and maybe inspire the world's webmasters to get with the program.

Pogue's article announces "the world's first Space-Bar Scrolling Report Card," shaming sites like the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The New Yorker, and Scientific American for their improperly-scrolling web sites. (As well as, ironically, Yahoo -- the parent company of the site Pogue is writing for.) Pogue writes that web programmers "should get their act together so that the scroll works as it's supposed to. (And if you work for one of those sites, and you manage to get the scrolling-bug fixed, email me so I can update this article and congratulate you.)"
The Media

Are We Seeing Propaganda About Russian Propaganda? (rollingstone.com) 335

MyFirstNameIsPaul was one of several readers who spotted this disturbing instance of fake news about fake news. An anonymous reader writes: Last week the Washington Post described "independent researchers" who'd identified "more than 200 websites as routine peddlers of Russian propaganda" that they estimated were viewed more than 200 million times on Facebook. But the researchers insisted on remaining anonymous "to avoid being targeted by Russia's legions of skilled hackers," and when criticized on Twitter, responded "Awww, wook at all the angwy Putinists, trying to change the subject -- they're so vewwy angwy!!"

The group "seems to have been in existence for just a few months," writes Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, calling the Post's article an "astonishingly lazy report". (Chris Hedges, who once worked on a Pulitzer Prize-winning team at the New York Times, even found his site Truthdig on the group's dubious list of over 200 "sites that reliably echo Russian propaganda," along with other long-standing sites like Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.) "By overplaying the influence of Russia's disinformation campaign, the report also plays directly into the hands of the Russian propagandists that it hopes to combat," complains Adrian Chen, who in 2015 documented real Russian propaganda efforts which he traced to "a building in St. Petersburg where hundreds of young Russians worked to churn out propaganda."

The Post's article was picked up by other major news outlets (including USA Today), and included an ominous warning that "The sophistication of the Russian tactics may complicate efforts by Facebook and Google to crack down on 'fake news'."
The Media

Crowdsourced Volunteers Search For Solutions To Fake News (wired.co.uk) 270

Upworthy co-founder Eli Pariser is leading a group of online volunteers hunting for ways to respond to the spread of fake news. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: Inside a Google Doc, volunteers are gathering ideas and approaches to get a grip on the untruthful news stories. It is part analysis, part brainstorming, with those involved being encouraged to read widely around the topic before contributing. "This is a massive endeavour but well worth it," they say...

At present, the group is coming up with a list of potential solutions and approaches. Possible methods the group is looking at include: more human editors, fingerprinting viral stories then training algorithms on confirmed fakes, domain checking, the blockchain, a reliability algorithm, sentiment analysis, a Wikipedia for news sources, and more.

The article also suggests this effort may one day spawn fake news-fighting tech startups.
Education

Science Journals Caught Publishing Fake Research For Cash (vice.com) 137

Tuesday a Canadian journalist described his newest victory in his war on fake-science journals. An anonymous reader writes: In 2014, journalist Tom Spears intentionally wrote "the world's worst science research paper...a mess of plagiarism and meaningless garble" -- then got it accepted by eight different journals. ("I copied and pasted one phrase from a geology paper online, and the rest from a medical one, on hematology...and so on. There are a couple of graphs from a paper about Mars...") He did it to expose journals which follow the publish-for-a-fee model, "a fast-growing business that sucks money out of research, undermines genuine scientific knowledge, and provides fake credentials for the desperate."

But earlier this year, one such operation actually purchased two prominent Canadian medical journals, and one critic warns they're "on a buying spree, snatching up legitimate scholarly journals and publishers, incorporating them into its mega-fleet of bogus, exploitative, and low-quality publications.â So this summer, Spears explains to Vice, "I got this request to write for what looked like a fake journal -- of ethics. Something about that attracted me... one morning in late August when I woke up early I made extra coffee and banged out some drivel and sent it to them."

He's now publicizing the fact that this formerly-respectable journal is currently featuring his submission, which was "mostly plagiarized from Aristotle, with every fourth or fifth word changed so that anti-plagiarism software won't catch it. But the result is meaningless. Some sentences don't have verbs..."
The Media

False Porn-on-CNN Report Shows How Quickly Fake News Spreads (usatoday.com) 158

Slashdot reader xtsigs writes: "No, despite what you read, CNN did not run porn for 30 minutes Thursday, as was reported by Fox News, the New York Post, Variety and other news organizations, several of which later corrected their stories," reports USA Today. The story goes on to explain how the story started (a single tweet), how it was quickly picked up by media outlets (without verifying if CNN actually did, in truth, broadcast porn), how it was then retracted by some outlets (but not others).

Other outlets jumped on the story of the story while, as of early Saturday morning some sites are still running the original story claiming CNN did, in fact, broadcast 30 minutes of porn.

Social Networks

Snopes.com Editor on Fake News: Social Media Is Not the Problem (backchannel.com) 624

"Honestly, most of the fake news is incredibly easy to debunk because it's such obvious bullshit..." says Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of the fact-checking at Snopes.com. "It's not social media that's the problem. People are looking for somebody to pick on." mirandakatz shared this article from Backchannel: The problem, Binkowski believes, is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly -- therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer. The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly. "When you're on your fifth story of the day and there's no editor because the editor's been fired and there's no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don't have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up," she says.
I found this article confusing. Snopes seemed to be trying to steer the conversation back to erroneous stories from "legitimate publications," which erode the public trust in all mainstream outlets. (Which I guess then over time hypothetically makes people more susceptible to fake news stories on Facebook.) But her earlier remarks suggest it's not really credibility that's lacking there -- it's the absence of someone convenient to pick on. So what is the problem? Is it the news media's lack of credibility? Algorithms that disproportionately reward alarming stories? A human tendency to seek information that confirms our pre-existing biases? What do Slashdot readers think is causing what this article describes as "our epidemic of misinformation"?
The Media

Mark Zuckerberg Announces Facebook Will Fight Fake News -- Next To An Ad With Fake News (facebook.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes: "We take misinformation seriously," Facebook's CEO announced in a late-night status update Friday. "Our goal is to connect people with the stories they find most meaningful, and we know people want accurate information. We've been working on this problem for a long time and we take this responsibility seriously. We've made significant progress, but there is more work to be done."

But you know what's funny? The ad to the right of Zuck's post is fake news. It has the headline "Hugh Hefner Says 'Goodbye' at 90" and a quote from his wife saying "I can't believe he is actually gone," even though Hugh Hefner isn't dead. And clicking through, it's just another lame ad for erectile dysfunction -- on a site that's been tricked up to look like Fox News.

I saw it too. (Here's my screenshot... And yes, it did link to an advertising site with a fake "Fox News" banner across the top.) Oh, the irony. "The CEO said that Facebook is working to develop stronger fake news detection, a warning system, easier reporting and technical ways to classify misinformation," reports CNN, adding "Zuckerberg did not say how quickly the measures would be in place." They also quote Zuckerberg as saying "Some of these ideas will work well, and some will not." But apparently it's pretty easy to get fake news onto Facebook. You just have to pay them.
The Media

Gawker Pays $750,000 To That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email (gizmodo.com) 121

Shiva Ayyadurai still claims he invented email -- rather than the late ARPANET pioneer Ray Tomlinson. Now Gizmodo reports that Ayyadurai "will receive a $750,000 settlement from Gawker Media, the bankrupt publisher that he sued for defamation earlier this year." As part of the settlement, Gawker Media has agreed to delete three stories from the archive of Gawker.com, including one about Ayyadurai. Univision, which purchased most of Gawker Media's assets [including Gizmodo] out of bankruptcy in September, deleted two Gizmodo posts concerning Ayyadurai -- over the objections of the editorial staff -- immediately after closing the transaction... The offending Gizmodo articles made the case that "a lot of people don't believe that Ayyadurai invented email," and that "networked communication actually predates [his] computer program by a few years." As Tomlinson told Gizmodo in one of the stories Ayyadurai succeeded in getting unpublished, the email formats that are so familiar today -- to:, from:, etc. -- were in use years before Ayyadurai "invented" them.
The third post was titled, "If Fran Drescher Read Gizmodo She Would Not Have Married This Fraud."
The Media

More NFL Players Attack Microsoft's $400M Surface Deal With The NFL (yahoo.com) 236

An anonymous reader writes; "These tablets always malfunction," complained one NFL offensive lineman in January, foreshadowing a growing backlash to Microsoft's $400 million deal with the NFL to use Surface tablets. Friday the coach of the San Francisco 49ers and their controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick both complained they've also experienced problems, with Kaepernick saying the screen freezes "every once in a while and they have to reboot it."

Friday Microsoft called their tablet "the center of the debate on the role of technology in the NFL," saying they deeply respect NFL teams "and the IT pro's who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help them succeed." It included quotes from NFL quarterbacks -- for example, "Every second counts and having Microsoft Surface technology on sidelines allows players and coaches to analyze what our opponents are trying to do in almost real time." But Yahoo Finance wrote that "The quotes read like they were written by the Microsoft public relations team," arguing that Microsoft's NFL deal "has been a disaster... The tablets failed to work during a crucial AFC Championship game last January -- again for the New England Patriots... sports media interpreted that the malfunction benefited the Broncos on the field, giving the team an unfair advantage -- the very last thing Microsoft's tablets, meant to aid coaches in their play calling, should be doing."

The NFL issued a statement calling Microsoft "an integral, strategic partner of the NFL," adding "Within our complex environment, many factors can affect the performance of a particular technology either related to or outside of our partner's solutions."
Sci-Fi

Why Is Science Fiction Snubbed By Literary Awards? (galacticbrain.com) 252

Slashdot reader bowman9991 quotes an essay from GalacticBrain: Science fiction authors have long been outcasts from the literary world, critics using the worst examples of the genre as ammunition against it. Unfortunately though, at times even science fiction authors themselves can turn on their own kind: "Science fiction is rockets, chemicals and talking squids in outer space," mocked Margaret Atwood, one of her many attempts to convince people that she is not a science fiction author, even though one of her most famous novels, A Handmaid's Tale, is exactly that...

Considered by the literary establishment, and frequently by non-SF award-giving institutions, to be trashy, pulpish, commercially driven lightweight gutter fiction, it's no surprise that very few works of science fiction have won major literary awards... Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the award-winning (not "literary" awards obviously) Mars novels, [in 2009] hit out at the literary establishment, accusing the Man Booker judges of "ignorance" in neglecting science fiction, which he declared was "the best British literature of our time".

The article ends with a simple question. "Will science fiction authors ever escape the publication ghetto?"
Google

Unofficial Answers: Why Does YouTube Seem So Biased? (vortex.com) 178

Lauren Weinstein writes with some insight on an frustrating aspect of YouTube's video hosting service: "Why does Google's YouTube seem so biased against ordinary users who upload videos? I've unfairly had my videos blocked, received copyright strikes for my own materials, and even had my account suspended — and it's impossible to reach anyone at YouTube to complain!" No, YouTube isn't biased against you — not voluntarily, anyway. But it could definitely be argued that the copyright legal landscape — particularly in the mainstream entertainment industry — is indeed biased against the "little guys," and Google's YouTube must obey the laws as written. What's more, YouTube exists at the "bleeding edge" of the intersection of technology and law, where there's oh so much that goes bump in the night ...
The Almighty Buck

Infamous French Hacker Calls Internet a "Digital Shantytown" (medium.com) 82

An anonymous reader writes: French hacker and security expert Anthony Zboralski calls social media networks a "digital shantytown" in his most recent blogpost. While fellow members of hacker collective w00w00 have formed successful billion dollar startups, he claims that the rewards for creating content and use are unfair and suggests a better solution would be like the successful creation of land title for slum dwellerspartial ownership for users on social media.
United Kingdom

UK Gov't Launches Anti-Adblocking Initiative, Compares It To Piracy (thestack.com) 317

An anonymous reader writes: UK culture secretary John Whittingdale has announced that the British government will set up a 'round-table' between online publishers and adblocking companies to discuss the 'problem' of adblocking. He described the practice of charging companies to be whitelisted as a 'modern day protection racket', and said: "Quite simply – if people don't pay in some way for content, then that content will eventually no longer exist And that's as true for the latest piece of journalism as it is for the new album from Muse." The issue has largely been left to the market to self-regulate until now, although Germany's courts ruled adblocking legal in 2015.

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