The internet is amazingly robust, but like any complex network is still prone to the occasional failure. A new analysis using network theory explains why the dark net – the hidden underbelly of the regular internet, invisible to search engines – is less vulnerable to attacks. The lessons learned could help inform the design of more robust communications networks in the future.

The regular internet’s design is deliberately decentralised, which makes it very stable under normal circumstances. Think of each site or server as a node, connected to numerous nodes around it, which in turn connect to even more nodes, and so on. Take out a node or two here or there and the network continues to function just fine. But this structure also makes it more vulnerable to a coordinated attack: take out many nodes at once, as happens during a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, and the result can be catastrophic failure that cascades through the entire network.

The dark net is much less vulnerable to such directed attacks, thanks to its unique structure. Manlio De Domenico and Alex Arenas at Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, Spain, used data from the Internet Research Lab at the University of California, Los Angeles, to build their own model of the dark net. They ran simulations to see how it would react to three failure scenarios: random node failures, targeted attacks on specific nodes, and cascading failures throughout the network.

They found that an attack on the dark net would need to hit four times as many nodes to cause a cascading failure as on the regular internet. This stems from its use of “onion routing”, a technique for relaying information that hides data in many layers of encryption. Rather than connecting a user’s computer directly to a host server, onion routing bounces the information through various intermediary nodes before delivering it to the desired location. This stops an attack from spreading so widely.

Powerful connections

Another reason for the dark net’s resilience is its lack of something called the “rich-club effect”. In the regular internet, powerful nodes connect more readily with other powerful nodes, creating what Simon DeDeo at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, terms a “smoky back room” of “network elites”. An attack on one such node can trigger the failure of others, which can in turn lead to cascading failure across the network. The dark net doesn’t have this high level of connectivity between powerful nodes.

“This is [another] one of the things that make it more robust to attack,” says DeDeo. “The network elites are more spread out. In fact, the elites appear to be avoiding each other.”

This model of the dark net somewhat resembles a so-called “small-world network”, in which several heavily connected nodes link clusters of smaller local nodes – similar to how major air traffic hubs connect smaller local airports. Both systems exhibit similar resilience to catastrophic failure, although in-depth comparisons have yet to be completed.

Reconfiguring the entire internet to make it as robust as the dark net would be prohibitively expensive, but De Domenico thinks the pair’s work could still offer practical insights. “It is possible to rethink next-generation upgrades and the design of more localised communication networks, like the intranets of large companies,” he says.

Author : Jennifer Ouellette

Source : https://www.newscientist.com/article/2123354-why-the-dark-net-is-more-resilient-to-attack-than-the-internet/

 

Categorized in Deep Web

Personal data, misinformation (or as it's now been dubbed, fake news) and online political advertising: these are the three major problems of the modern internet that keep the inventor of the World Wide Web up at night.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has shared his thoughts on the 28th anniversary of the day he submitted his proposal for the web.

The three new trends are something he's become increasingly worried about in the last 12 months, and which he believes "we must tackle in order for the web to fulfil its true potential as a tool which serves all of humanity".

1. Personal data

Berners-Lee warned that we have lost control of our personal data online and that companies and governments are increasingly using it to watch our every move online. He pointed toward the UK's Investigatory Powers Bill as an example of extreme laws that "trample on our rights to privacy".

"Even in countries where we believe governments have citizens’ best interests at heart, watching everyone, all the time is simply going too far," he said.

It comes just days after a huge leak of information claiming to detail the methods and tools used by the CIA to spy on people.

2. Fake news

Misinformation can spread like wildfire, Berners-Lee warns, putting it down to the dominance of just a few social media and search engines.

"These sites make more money when we click on the links they show us. And, they choose what to show us based on algorithms which learn from our personal data that they are constantly harvesting. The net result is that these sites show us content they think we’ll click on – meaning that misinformation, or ‘fake news’, which is surprising, shocking, or designed to appeal to our biases can spread like wildfire."

3. Political advertising

Also connected to the idea of fake news and personal data, Berners-Lee says the sophisticated industry that has sprung up around these two things is being used unethically.

"The fact that most people get their information from just a few platforms and the increasing sophistication of algorithms drawing upon rich pools of personal data, means that political campaigns are now building individual adverts targeted directly at users.

"One source suggests that in the 2016 US election, as many as 50,000 variations of adverts were being served every single day on Facebook, a near-impossible situation to monitor. And there are suggestions that some political adverts – in the US and around the world – are being used in unethical ways – to point voters to fake news sites, for instance, or to keep others away from the polls."

He added: "Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?"

It comes after concerns have been raised around the US election and in the UK MPs have launched an inquiry into the issue and its threat to democracy. Meanwhile the UK data regulator is investigating the use of data in Brexit campaigning.

But. the computer programmer is also taking action to help fix these things as head of the Web Foundation, and is calling on others to help. "It has taken all of us to build the web we have, and now it is up to all of us to build the web we want – for everyone," he said.

He also made several suggestions as to how action can be taken:

  1. Work with companies on putting greater data control in the hands of people, including new technology, and alternative revenue models such as subscriptions and micropayments.
  2. Fight against surveillance laws.
  3. Encourage gatekeepers such as Google and Facebook to to continue fighting misinformation, but avoid the formation of a single body deciding on what is "true".
  4. Berners-Lee wants more transparent algorithms.
  5. Close the "internet blind spot" in regulating political campaigning. 

Author : Lynsey Barber

Source : http://www.cityam.com/260739/three-major-problems-modern-internet-keeping-tim-berners

Categorized in Science & Tech

Who is your preferred source for health advice? Gwyneth Paltrow? Pete Evans? Or qualified medical practitioners – like Dr Oz?The Conversation

I hate to break it to you, but if you’re getting advice from any of these people, you’re quite likely being misled.

For example, contrary to Gwyneth Paltrow’s website, experts advise inserting jade “eggs” into your vagina is a very bad idea.

And last time I checked, Facebook wasn’t a peer-reviewed medical website, but that doesn’t seem to matter to 20 per cent of people using it for health advice.

The sheer volume of online health information now at our fingertips is both a blessing and a curse. How do you determine what is right and what is outright dangerous?

Should you get a “V-steam” to keep your lady parts looking young and healthy? Should you whip up a batch of paleo bone broth for your bub? (the answer to both these questions is no).

It used to be that a medical degree was a pretty good measure of reliability, until the likes of TV doctor Mehmet Oz and Dr Andrew Wakefield, the scientist responsible for publishing fraudulent research linking vaccines to autism, came along.

Related Post: 

Even published peer-reviewed literature is no longer guaranteed to be untarnished – the rise of predatory publishing has muddied the waters to the point where an advanced degree in science or medicine is needed to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Facebook wasn’t a peer-reviewed medical website, but that doesn’t seem to matter to 20 per cent of people using it for ...Facebook wasn’t a peer-reviewed medical website, but that doesn’t seem to matter to 20 per cent of people using it for health advice. 

Never mind that most peer-reviewed information is locked away behind pay-walls, meaning the average person has to fork out anything upwards of US$35 just for the privilege of reading it.

Where are we getting health advice?

The proliferation of misleading health advice online is worrying because a recent survey reported almost four out of five Australians (78 per cent) now use the internet to source health information.

Slightly more frightening is that three out of five people (58 per cent) admitted they Google health information to avoid seeing a health professional.

Which should come as no surprise to anyone – just about all of us now walk around with the internet in our pockets. Googling health information is cheaper, faster, more convenient and importantly (for some), discreet. And a quick search from the work bathroom avoids the embarrassment of providing intimate details to a stranger.

Google knows this.

Which is where Dr Google’s symptom checker and health condition cards come in.

New and improved Dr Google

The symptom checker is available on the Google app and works by you typing or talking in a string of symptoms. For example, I typed “hacking cough, headache” and Google returned “flu, common cold, upper respiratory infection” under a tab called “health conditions related to this search”. You can then click on those headings to be taken to a health card.

The health cards, launched in Australia last month, cover around 900 conditions, such as asthma, measles and flu, and provide basic information about the condition under three tabs – “about”, “symptoms” and “treatment”. They have been welcomed by doctors in the US and Australia alike, with the former reportedly downloading them to present to patients.

The interface has a share button, the option to download the information to a PDF (to print out and take to your doctor), and a “related conditions” tab. You can access the symptom checker from the Google app and the health cards from both the app and browser.

These innovations are in response to the proliferation of pseuodo-scientific and downright shonky advice that exists on Google. And while the tools are constantly being improved, they’re not perfect.

For example, given symptoms can be vague, and are often shared across several conditions, Google suggested I either had “cold, flu, meningitis or Yellow Fever” when I typed in “backache, fever, headache”. So clearly, some level of discretion is advised.

The search engine giant is mindful of the potential for these tools to falsely reassure people about their health or, on the contrary, alarm them unnecessarily. They emphasise the advice returned is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your general practitioner.

What’s important here is the reliability of the information returned by Google, and it seems to have that covered. Symptom checker is informed mostly by Knowledge Graph, the Google-made database tool that aggregates information from a swathe of sources and transforms it into an easily understood format.

But Google has gone one step further – it has collaborated with Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic in the USA to check the accuracy of returned results. In addition, the curation effort will soon extend further to ask people who use symptom check how its results can be improved.

All of which combines to return significantly better results than those retrieved by a standard, non-curated, Google search.

Whether we like it or not, people are going to continue to search for health information and advice online. This move by Google to provide accurate, reliable health advice on page one of search results should be applauded.

At the least, consumers can now find curated information from the Mayo Clinic rather than Dr Oz or Pete Evans.

Rachael Dunlop is a honorary research fellow at Macquarie University.

Author : Rachael Dunlop

Source : http://www.smh.com.au/comment/dr-google-isnt-the-most-dangerous-doctor-on-the-internet-20170312-guwlmt.html

Categorized in Search Engine

The internet doesn't have an off switch. While it's interesting to imagine pressing a big red button and -- poof! -- the internet goes out around the world, it's actually much more complicated than that.

It is possible, however, for people, companies and governments to turn off certain parts of the internet. There are countrywide blocks in places like Egypt and Gabon during political unrest, and temporary outages in India when the government turns off the internet while students take exams.

Facebook (FBTech30) tracks these kinds of outages. Both internal monitoring and people on the ground contribute to this effort.

Matt Perault, global head of policy development at Facebook, started there in January 2011 -- around the time Egypt conducted widespread internet outages to quell protests. Over the next few years, he noticed that internet blocks were still happening with some frequency, just on a smaller scale.

"We felt they weren't getting the attention they deserved," Perault said during a panel at the SXSW Interactive festival on Friday. "So we work with a bunch of organizations to try and bring attention to this issue."

It's not just about losing access to Facebook. For instance, he referenced a recent Brookings report that found that temporary internet shutdowns cost $2.4 billion in 2015.

You can think about the internet in three different layers: There's the actual infrastructure that powers the internet -- think cables and satellites. There's the protocol, which includes things like web hosts and providers, and then there are applications, like Facebook.

Each of these layers have different responsibilities, as Perault and his fellow panelists explained, and countries or governments can target them differently. An internet service provider could stop serving a country, or a government could block specific services like Facebook or WhatsApp.

In China, the "great firewall" blocks all kinds of content, including Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Times. In Gabon last year, nightly outages prevented people from connecting to any website.

"The problem is not the technology from a 'turn off the entire internet perspective,'" Perault said. "But the technology has gotten more advanced in creating methods to impose a less costly block."

Facebook's internal group works with organizations like the Global Network Initiative to track these outages, and communicate them to a wider audience. Four out of five Facebook users are outside of the U.S., so many of them could be impacted by these blocks. For Facebook, figuring out where blocks happen is just good for business.

Facebook said it is "aware of at least 48 times in 2016 when access to Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram was disrupted. This includes both targeted disruptions, as well those impacting the entire Internet."

The company said one of the most significant outages that it's tracking right now is in certain regions of Cameroon, where it said internet connectivity has been down for 50 days.

"My main concern right now is moving to a world where there's increasingly sophisticated small-scale blocks," Perault said.

Author : Selena Larson

Source : http://money.cnn.com/2017/03/12/technology/facebook-internet-blocks-kill-switch/

Categorized in Social

One of the men accused of running the Hamilton Ponzi scheme is no stranger to criminal probes.

In January, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged Joseph Meli and Matthew Harriton with perpetrating a $97 million Ponzi scheme involving tickets for Hamilton and the planned Broadway run of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Over 138 individuals, including billionaires Paul Tudor Jones and Michael Dell, invested in the suspected scam.

According to the government, the defendants claimed to have an agreement with Jeffrey Seller, the producer of Hamilton, to procure 35,000 tickets to the Tony Award-winning musical. Investor funds were sought in order to purchase the block of tickets, which the two men said would be resold at a profit. The backers were promised the return of their investments within eight months, as well as a 10% annualized return and 50% of residual profits.


In addition, federal authorities allege, the defendants purported to have a similar agreement to buy 250,000 tickets to the planned Broadway production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Cash was raised in order to purchase the block of tickets for $62.5 million, and investors were promised the return of their investments and a pro rata share of certain profits.

However, federal authorities insist that the defendants never had a deal with either show, and no investor money was ever used to purchase blocks of tickets. Instead, less than 14% of the funds were used to pay entities engaged in the ticket sales or live entertainment business, and over $74 million was diverted to “to perpetuate a Ponzi scheme and to enrich themselves and certain family members and others.”

The complaint indicates that the entrusted funds were spent on expensive jewelry, private school tuition, summer camps, automobiles, private club memberships, travel expenses and casino bills. One of the men also bought a $3 million house in East Hampton using cash from the scheme.

Paul Ryan, a former government lawyer, told Bloomberg that “the idea that there were blocks of Hamilton tickets available for purchase should have been a giveaway.” No one could get their hands on a large set of tickets.

But, exercising simple due diligence should have revealed another potential red flag. One of the defendants, Matthew Harriton, was reported to be a subject in a large white-collar criminal investigation two decades ago.

His father, Richard Harriton, was banned from the securities sector back in 2000 for helping a boiler-room business stay afloat while evading its net capital requirements. He served as the president of Bear Stearns' clearing subsidiary firm, and the government found that, “[t]o protect [the subsidiary] from having to absorb large losses, [the subsidiary], at Harriton's direction, charged unauthorized trades to [A.R.] Baron customers, liquidated property in customer accounts to pay for unauthorized trades, refused to return customer property that had been liquidated to pay for unauthorized trades and disregarded customer instructions.” But, like most defendants, Richard Harriton did not admit or deny the findings in his settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

One of the other brokerage firms which cleared its trades through Richard Harriton at Bear Stearns was Sterling Foster, which defrauded thousands of customers, and inspired the popular crime film Boiler Room. Rooney Pace, an old friend of Richard Harriton who was banned from the securities business, secretly controlled the firm and crafted illegal arrangements that allowed insiders to sell their restricted shares in small companies when the firms went public.

The government also alleged that Sterling Foster engaged in rampant stock manipulation, and The New York Times reported that “Mr. Harriton's son Matthew was closely involved in three of the five companies whose shares, prosecutors say, were manipulated by Mr. Pace and his colleagues.” One of the firms, where Matthew Harriton served as the Chief Financial Officer, for instance, raised $5 million in its initial public offering before its stock price plunged from $13.25 to $0.03.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office launched an investigation into Matthew Harriton. “One question has been whether Mr. Pace and some associates granted business favors to the younger Mr. Harriton as part of an effort to get Bear Stearns, through the elder Mr. Harriton, to clear trades for Sterling Foster,” observed The Wall Street Journal.

Nothing ever came of the investigation, and Matthew Harriton was never charged with a crime.

Yet, some of the most sophisticated investors on Wall Street should have taken a moment to peek into his past. Reports of the probe might have made them more skeptical of him and his investment offer that apparently was too good to be true.

Author : Marc Hershberg

Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/marchershberg/2017/03/13/internet-search-would-have-revealed-past-probe-into-alleged-broadway-scammer/2/#ac98c23691fd

Categorized in Search Engine

NETRALNEWS.COM - The number of internet users world-wide has roughly doubled in the past eight years to around 3.5 billion. The people who have come aboard in the past few years are spending their time in something that was overshadowed long ago in developed countries by apps: the mobile web browser.

Single-purpose apps like Facebook and Snapchat are the product of markets where monthly data plans and home Wi-Fi are abundant. App stores require email addresses and credit cards, two things many new phone owners just don’t have.

In places like India, Indonesia and Brazil, it’s easy to buy an Android phone for as little as $25—even less for older second-hand (or third-hand) refurbished phones. But there’s likely to be little onboard storage, and the pay-as-you-go data plan is too precious to waste on apps, especially those that send and receive data even when you aren’t using them.

Browsers are popular again, not just because typing a URL has become simpler, but also because they work harder to compensate for the nature of wireless access in emerging markets.

Southeast Asia, South Asia, South America, Mexico and Africa are all areas where the dominant browsers—Alibaba’s UC Browser, Opera Mini by Opera Software and Google Chrome from Alphabet Inc.—have the ability to compress browsing data, by up to 90% in some cases, so people burn up as little as possible. UC Browser and Opera Mini also have robust built-in ad blocking, further cutting down on data costs.

On Friday, Jana, a mobile-ad company, entered this browser market with another incentive: free daily data. By delivering 10 megabytes (or about 20 minutes) of free data a day through its mCent Browser, Jana hopes to build a following and pay for it by charging for conventional ads and sponsorship of the browser. It also intends to charge partners to be their browsers’ default search engine.

In terms of the scale of the users they have accumulated—UC Browser had more than 400 million users as of last April—these browser businesses are making a virtue out of the constraints of mobile-telecom systems in rural areas and emerging markets, where infrastructure is generations behind what it might be in richer countries.

As the global middle class continues to rise in emerging markets, browser makers are racking up users nearly as fast as Facebook did in its highest-growth period. And they are figuring out how to keep their users occupied while monetizing them through mobile advertising.

Google, Facebook and other internet giants are well aware of these trends. Two-thirds of Facebook’s users are in emerging markets, and while the company’s Free Basics program—part of Internet.org —was banned in India for favoring some websites over others, it is available in many countries in Africa and South America. And Facebook says it has upward of 200 million users on Facebook Lite, an app for low-bandwidth users.

As for Google, it benefits inherently from rapid global internet adoption, which would be impossible without Android. And while Google’s mobile Chrome browser remains dominant in many emerging markets, it also pays Opera, among others, to direct search traffic to ad-supported Google services.

It’s logical that as people in emerging markets become wealthier and their mobile infrastructure becomes better, they’ll follow the same trends as their richer peers, and their internet consumption will shift to apps. India, with its 1.3 billion people, is projected to increase its per-capita income by 125% by 2025, according to Morgan Stanley.

But for the foreseeable future, Opera, UC Browser and Jana are all betting that the ranks of these “next billion” people coming onto the internet will continue to refresh themselves—and experience constraints that mobile browsers are uniquely capable of alleviating.

“In India, the raw growth numbers are just huge—it’s both a lot more people coming online but also usage, because data is getting cheaper,” says Nuno Sitima, an executive vice president and head of mobile business at Opera Software, founded in 1995 and based in Oslo, Norway; it was sold last year to a consortium of Chinese investors for $575 million.

In terms of new downloads, Africa is growing fastest, Mr. Sitima says, while Southeast Asia, with more than 600 million people, is another huge market for these browsers. For Alibaba, which acquired UCWeb in 2014 for north of $1.9 billion, UC Browser isn’t just a browser, but a beachhead.

The company is rolling out ways to make its browser sticky, like a sprawling, aggregation-fueled news site in India, where it is the No. 1 browser. While mCent Browser is just launching in beta, Nathan Eagle, Jana’s chief executive, says the prospect of free internet is extremely appealing to users in the developing world.

To date, Jana’s core product has been an ad-powered payment system, also called mCent, on which its new browser depends. Basically, mCent pays for the airtime of users who watch ads or redeem promotions. Through relationships with 311 mobile operators in 90 countries, Jana is connected to the billing back-end of more than 4 billion mobile accounts and has leveraged that access for 30 million mCent payment users so far.

Mr. Eagle says he wants to bring a billion more people online. Google and Facebook have been working on the same problem, in part by launching balloons and drones to create airborne communication networks. “The way we’re trying to go about solving the free internet problem is a lot less sexy,” says Mr. Eagle. But by leveraging existing mobile infrastructure, along with the desire of brands like Unilever, a client of Jana’s, to reach customers in emerging markets, he argues his solution is more viable.

After all, which is more likely—getting another billion people online by flying cellular radios over their heads, or by making it more affordable to connect to cell towers that are already in range but whose cost is out of reach?

Source: http://www.en.netralnews.com/news/business/read/2500/web.browsers..not.apps..are.internet.gatekeepers.for.the....next.billion

Categorized in News & Politics

Legislators in Russia have seemingly had enough of major technology firms trying to skirt around its tough domestic data laws, threatening a controversial new penalty for noncompliance: forcing the loading speeds of their websites to a crawl.

Multiple sources, including employees of internet firms and telecommunications providers in the region, told the Vedomosti newspaper today (13 March) the aim of the proposal is to crack down on companies bypassing Russian courts because they are registered abroad.

 

Insiders said the threat to throttle internet access would not only apply to foreign companies, leading some Russian tech chiefs to issue statements – albeit anonymously – pushing back against the plans.

The penalty could have a dramatic impact on services that rely on streaming to operate. The Moscow Times reported the law could be introduced via amendments to "anti-terror" legislation.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) is said to be one of the federal agencies drafting the proposal – the same department which handed Google a fine of 438 million rubles (£6.5m, $7.4m) for allegedly breaking laws about pre-installed smartphone apps.

Google refused to pay, instead challenging the ruling through the courts.

A source close to the FAS told Vedomosti that Roskomnadzor – Russia's main communications regulator – is participating in developing the new law. Some critics, however, maintained the law is unlikely to be accepted in its current form as it would be difficult to develop and enforce.

"There are a number of foreign internet companies that make money in Russia but do not comply with our laws," complained an unnamed contact reportedly close to the State Duma, which is a section of the nation's parliament, who also said its scope stretched far wider than just Google.

Google logoGoogle is embroiled in ongoing litigation with the Russian government Reuters

Vedomosti reported that a "top manager" at Yandex, the most popular search engine and web portal in Russia, slammed the initiative.

"The consequence of the adoption of such a law could be a violation of net neutrality, which will affect all resources, including us," he told the newspaper.

Over the past 12 months, as tensions between the US and the Kremlin escalated amid tit-for-tat accusations over cybercrime, the Russian government made moves to punish LinkedIn for allegedly failing to comply with data laws.

Later, other US-headquartered services, including Google and Apple, were hit with demandsto remove the LinkedIn smartphone application from app stores in Russia.

As previously reported, Roskomnadzor – which is also known as the Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications – claimed LinkedIn broke laws by transmitting user data "without consent".

On 7 March, Reuters reported the ban was still in full effect.

"While we believe we comply with all applicable laws, and despite conversations with Roskomnadzor [...] we have been unable to reach an understanding that would see them lift the block on LinkedIn in the Russian Federation," a LinkedIn spokesman told Reuters via email.

In response, Roskomnadzor said LinkedIn's refusal to change its ways only confirmed its "lack of interest in working on the Russian market".

Author : Jason Murdock

Source : http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/russia-may-deliberately-slow-internet-access-foreign-websites-ignoring-its-data-laws-1611284

Categorized in News & Politics

Visitors from all over the world will soon be collecting in Southern Illinois for a few minutes of darkness. No, I’m not talking about Ozzy Osbourne. Of course, like the rest of this month’s SBJ, I’m talking about the 2017 solar eclipse that will have its longest point of duration right here in Southern Illinois.

Make no mistake, while these visitors won’t be physically here for another 174 days, that doesn’t mean they aren’t already here.

You may be asking, “But Nathan, how can someone in London be here already? The eclipse isn’t until August.”

The answer: the internet.

What once took a phonebook, a map or a willingness to risk a bad restaurant or crummy hotel room now takes common internet access. Visitors are already visiting Southern Illinois through their computer screens and smartphones. Visitors are already sampling the food through reviews and pictures and they’re requesting rooms with softer or stiffer pillows. Visitors are pre-planning their driving routes, and when they get to Southern Illinois, their navigator is just a button away.

Visitors sure as heck are not using a phone book.

What these visitors are using is TripAdvisor, Facebook and a plethora of other digital resources that will set expectations that we, as a region, need to be ready to fulfill when these visitors arrive. For business owners in the hospitality industry, this means tidying up your digital storefront before visitors start walking through your actual storefront. This means representing your business accurately online so when visitors do walk through your front door their expectations are met, not mauled.

Now that you know the concept of why, let’s talk about how.

Start by searching your business. Regardless of what search engine you personally prefer, search your business on Google. With more than two-thirds of search traffic in the U.S. occurring through Google, it is the undisputed search champion. Additionally, Google offers a lot of free tools to help your business be a champion. Sign up for Google My Business and make sure all of the information for your business is accurate. Are your operating hours correct? Is that address your actual address? Is the first picture you see when you search your business one that best represents your facility?

If your answer to any of these questions is no, then take 20 minutes and claim your listing. Also, and I hear the opposite of this from clients all of the time, answer Google’s telephone call and follow their instructions. When Google calls it’s usually for your benefit, not to sell you something.

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Once you’ve got your Google listing claimed, start focusing on the listing that come up first when you search your business. If Yelp is the first link that displays when you search your business, but there’s not a TripAdvisor link until the second search page, it’s best to focus on Yelp first, but don’t forget to claim your listing on all of the premier listing sites you can think of. While some visitors will be searching using broad sweeping search engines, others will use the site they already belong to to plan their trip. It’s is important for you to be organized and presentable on all of these sites because of this.

Finally, after you’ve claimed these business listings and filled them with accurate information that represents your business honestly, it’s time to show activity. If you’re using Facebook, make sure you’re posting often enough that visitors to your page will know that you’re open. Even though your hours may say you’re open, if you’ve not posted since March 2016, visitors may assume that you’re closed and not visit.

You should also be monitoring customer communications with your business that use any sites that display your business’ information. You don’t have to respond to these reviews or comments if you do not feel confident in your abilities to politely engage your customers, but if you regularly update review sites and other sites that display your business’ information then visitors will know that you’re monitoring your online presence and that you are (hopefully) working to fix any shortfalls that may be outlined in customer reviews or comments.

As a bonus, there are many tourism sites that are providing business listings. Get in touch with Williamson County, Southernmost or Carbondale tourism bureaus and ask about what listing services they have available to local businesses. Some may cost money, but some of these tourism organizations offer services that will cost your business nothing out-of-pocket.

These aren’t just listings, they’re opportunities. They will not only help your business, but our region. Like the old saying goes, a rising tide lifts all ships.

Nathan Colombo is a Carbondale native, stand-up comedian, and marketing professional. His small business, Brand Advocacy Group, Inc, provides digital media services for other small, local businesses in and around Southern Illinois.

Author : NATHAN

Source : http://thesouthern.com/business/southern-business-journal/social-media-and-business-get-internet-ready-for-eclipse/article_7d12e081-ca02-5d72-8bac-9a38ea04f07a.html

Categorized in News & Politics

The internet can be a harsh place. It seems like for every feel-good story or picture of a puppy playing with a kitten, there are 1,000 trolls rummaging through the depths of their minds to post the most vile comments they can imagine. And if you’re a woman or person of color, well, multiply that troll army by 10.

But hey, that’s the internet, right? Except it doesn’t have to be that way. And it might not be for much longer if the folks at Google (GOOG, GOOGL) subsidiary Jigsaw have their way. A kind of high-powered startup inside Google’s parent company Alphabet, Jigsaw focuses on how technology can defend international human rights.

The toxicity of trolls

The company’s latest effort is called the Perspective API. Available Thursday, Feb. 23, Perspective is the result of Jigsaw’s Conversation AI project and uses Google’s machine learning technologies to provide online publishers with a tool that can automatically rank comments in their forums and comments sections based on the likelihood that they will cause someone to leave a conversation. Jigsaw refers to this as a “toxicity” ranking.

“At its core, Perspective is a tool that simply takes a comment and returns back this score from 0 to 100 based on how similar it is to things that other people have said that are toxic,” explained product manager CJ Adams.

Jigsaw doesn’t become the arbiter of what commenters can and can’t say in a publisher’s comment section, though. Perspective is only a tool that publishers use as they see fit. For example, they can give their readers the ability to filter comments based on their toxicity level, so they’ll only see non-toxic posts. Or the publisher could provide a kind of feedback mechanism that tells you if your comments are toxic.

The tool won’t stop you from submitting toxic comments, but it will provide you with the nudge to rethink what you’re writing.

Perspective isn’t just a bad word filter, though. Google’s machine learning actually gives the tool the ability to understand context. So it will eventually be able to tell the difference between telling someone a vacuum cleaner can really suck and that they suck at life.

Perspective still makes mistakes, as I witnessed during a brief demo. But the more comments and information it’s fed, the more it can learn about how to better understand the nuances of human communication.

Jigsaw’s global efforts

In its little over a year of existence, Jigsaw has implemented a series of projects designed to improve the lives of internet users around the world. Project Shield, for example, is a free service that protects news sites from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. Redirect Method uses Adwords targeting tools to help refute ISIS’ online recruitment messages, while Montage helps researchers sort through thousands of hours of YouTube videos to find evidence of potential war crimes.

“We wake up and come to work everyday to try to find ways to use technology to make people around the world safer,” Jigsaw President Jared Cohen said. “We are at this nexus between international security and business.”

Cohen said Jigsaw’s engineers travel around the world to meet with internet users vulnerable to harassment and other online-based rights abuses, such as individuals promoting free speech or opposing authoritarian regimes, to understand their unique challenges. And one of the biggest problems, Cohen explained, has been online harassment.

Trolls aren’t always just cruel

Dealing with trolls is par for the course in the US. But in other countries, harassment in comment sections and forums can have political implications.

“In lots of parts of the world where we spend time [harassment] takes on a political motivation, sectarian motivation, ethnic motivation and it’s all sort kind of heightened and exacerbated,” Cohen explained.

But with Perspective, Jigsaw can start to cut down on those forms of harassing comments, and bring more people into online conversations.

“Our goal is to get as many people to rejoin conversations as possible and also to get people who everyday are sort of entering the gauntlet of toxicity to have an opportunity to see that environment improve,” said Cohen.

The path to a better internet?

Jigsaw is already working with The New York Times and Wikipedia to improve their commenting systems. At The New York Times, the Perspective API is being used to let The Gray Lady enable more commenting sections on its articles.

Prior to using Perspective, The Times relied on employees to manually read and filter comments from the paper’s online articles. As a result, just 10% of stories could have comments activated. The Times is using Perspective to create an open source tool that will help reviewers run through comments more quickly and open up a larger number of stories to comments.

Wikipedia, meanwhile, has been using Perspective to detect personal attacks on its volunteer editors, something Jigsaw and the online encyclopedia recently published a paper on.

With the release of Perspective, publishers and developers around the world can take advantage of Google technologies to improve their users’ experiences. And the conversation filtering won’t just stop hateful comments. Cohen said the company is also working to provide publishers and their readers with the ability to filter out comments that are off-topic or generally don’t contribute to conversations.

If Perspective takes off, and a number of publications end up using the technology, the internet could one day have far fewer trolls lurking in its midst.

Author : Daniel Howley

Source : http://finance.yahoo.com/news/how-google-is-fighting-the-war-on-internet-trolls-123048658.html

Categorized in Search Engine

News in the section ‘Context’ are not fakes. We publish them in order to provide you with a deeper understanding of the techniques and methods used by the Russian government in its information war.

This research project by Aric Toler, a contributor at RuNet Echo and Bellingcat, offers a series of guides, tutorials, and walkthroughs on understanding and conducting open-source research on the Russian-language Internet (RuNet). The primary focus of the project is providing instruction on the nuances of Russian-language research relating to the conflict in eastern Ukraine by using contemporary case studies. To show how these methods are useful in other conflicts, this project will also explore some similar open-source work being done on the Syrian conflict. The finished product will help readers learn how to understand and conduct such research.

There are more Internet users in Russia than any other European country, yet there are no detailed guides or tutorials available to guide non-Russian speakers on navigating the wealth of open-source information on the RuNet. Many, if not most, of the guides will be accessible to those with little-to-no Russian skills, giving non-Russian speakers the tools and confidence to access information on the RuNet.

The project helps researchers, journalists, and anyone interested in understanding more about the Russian Internet to verify sources and understand information found on Russian social media. It also provides some techniques for media forensics involving images and videos, including the different levels of verification needed for different uses: journalistic, evidentiary, as well as other avenues.

The motivation for carrying out this project is to satisfy a demand among English-speakers for learning materials about carrying out and verifying open-source research on the RuNet. There is a wealth of information on the RuNet that is of interest to specialists, journalists, and the general public in the English-speaking world. There are currently no guides, however, that provide instruction for navigating and verifying these sources that differ from English-language counterparts. Important sources for research data include exclusively Russian-language social networks like Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, along with others that function in Russian-language pockets on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Open-source research can complement traditional journalism by generating leads and supplementing on-the-ground reporting. For example, the author of this project, Aric Toler, provided open-source research on a particular Russian soldier who fought in Ukraine to VICE News journalist Simon Ostrovsky to assist him in following his “journey” from his hometown to the battlefields of Ukraine (see “Selfie Soldiers: Russia Checks Into Ukraine”). In another example, open-source research from Bellingcat into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 provided material for a 60 Minutes Australia investigation at the site of the tragedy.

Each installment of RuNet Echo’s guidebook includes a detailed tutorial, accompanied by case studies, teaching readers how to conduct a particular kind of open-source research.

How to Conduct Open-Source Research on the Russian Internet

This entire guidebook is also available as a PDF. Download it. Print it. Share it with your research buddies and students. If you start using the methods described here, help RuNet Echo report on the Russian Internet! Contact our editors and let us know what stories you’d like to write about!

Read

By Global Voices

Global Voices reporters cover how citizens use the Internet and social media to make their voices heard, often translating from and to different languages.

Source : http://www.stopfake.org/en/how-to-conduct-open-source-research-on-the-russian-internet/

Categorized in Online Research

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