Indian police have busted an internet scam in which around 650,000 people lost a combined 3700 crores rupees ($549 million) after sending money to a company that promised they would earn cash by clicking on web links, police said on Friday.

Police, who described the pyramid-style scheme as one of India’s biggest ever, said they had arrested three ringleaders on the outskirts of New Delhi, the capital, and seized more than 500 crore rupees ($74 million) from bank accounts.

“They learned that if you give some money back to members, the investments would go up exponentially,” Amit Pathak, head of a police cyber crime unit in India’s populous northern state of Uttar Pradesh, told Reuters.

The men ran a series of websites that promised would-be subscribers a chance to earn five rupees ($0.07) each time they clicked or liked web links sent to their mobile phones, police said.

The unsuspecting investors each paid thousands of rupees into the company’s bank accounts to join the scheme, but the web links they received were fake.

The company running the alleged scam had operated for years, but earned almost all the money over a few months from last August, after it began to distribute some of the proceeds, using the beneficiaries to draw in more investors.

Police said the ringleaders had not yet appointed lawyers as the chargesheet was still being prepared.

When police raided the company’s head office in the city of Noida they found 250 passports of employees and members who had been rewarded with a holiday to Australia.

The scammers planned to film the holiday and then post it online as promotional material to lure more subscribers.

The alleged mastermind spent some of the proceeds on houses, cars and celebrity parties. Pathak said it would take time to trace most of the money, and several bank employees were believed to be involved.

“It’s a very big task for us. We have brought in the income-tax department, and other government agencies, to trace the money,” Pathak said.

Cyber crime in India, home to the world’s second largest number of internet users, jumped 350 percent in the three years to 2014 as criminals exploited booming smartphone use, a study by auditing services firm PwC and industry lobby group Assocham showed last year.

Source : http://tech.firstpost.com/news-analysis/indian-police-have-busted-3700-crore-pyramid-scheme-style-internet-scam-360854.html?utm_source=rhs_most_commented

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Angela Lawrence, senior lecturer in marketing in Staffordshire Business School at Staffordshire University, reflects on how the internet has not only changed our day-to-day working lives, but the way we live, and how it is important to be connected.

"I remember the first time I accessed the internet. It was 1996 and I worked as a research executive for a market research company.

Today I'll show you how to access the worldwide web," said my manager. I watched as she connected a strange looking plug to the phone socket, then opened a 'window' on the computer, clicked the mouse and dialled up a connection.

Suddenly a high-pitched sequence of beeping and screeching noises erupted from the speakers. It sounded like something was seriously wrong, but as silence returned she exclaimed “that's it, we're connected!"

We opened a search engine called Alta Vista (in those days Google wasn't a verb), typed in the search term “viewing facility London" and proceeded to search for a suitable location to conduct some focus groups. There weren't many results; a page or two at most. There were no sponsored results at the top of the page, nor advertisements down the side either. In fact, there were so few companies with a web presence.

Shortly afterwards the postman arrived with a pile of post, held together with several thick elastic bands and dropped it onto my desk. Invoices, letters from suppliers, bank statements, bills, CVs from job hunters.

It took me an hour or so to sift through the mail, filing documents appropriately in the rickety wire trays stacked on the corner of my desk – In, Out and Pending.

I loved my job and the amazing new world it opened up for me. I talked enthusiastically about it to my friends and family on long, lazy, work-free weekends. Let's face it, those were the days when nothing was done from the moment you left the office on a Friday until the moment you walked back through the door on Monday morning.

In the past two decades technology has revolutionised the way we work. We are a wireless, paperless, fast-moving, connected, global workforce which, like the Big Apple, never sleeps.

We are in touch with the whole of the world, twenty-four-seven. Business communications have never been easier or quicker; isn't it fantastic?

Well yes, it absolutely is, but it comes at a cost. The connected workforce is less tangible. It's possible to go for whole days or more without even seeing or speaking to business contacts.

Instead we message them, email them, tweet, post, blog, Google, we Skype and run webinars, we send information and documents electronically. And we're still messaging, emailing, tweeting and posting once the office doors are shut.

From our trains, buses, sofas and, sadly, sometimes even our beds. Work can invade our personal lives and the long, lazy weekends become brief gaps in time. We've not just changed the way we do business; we've changed the way we live.

You could argue that this is inevitable progression in society, much the same as Alexander Graham Bell's telephone revolutionised both business and personal communications. Personally, I love being part of the connected university.

The fact that we are becoming paperless that has huge benefits to the environment. I love the fact that I can allow my students the luxury of attending a virtual lecture, a webinar, so that they don't have to fight through traffic and pollute the atmosphere to get in to university for that day.

But I couldn't do it every day because I still need that face to face interaction with them. We are human beings after all. We can embrace technology and all that it represents, but I still want to do business with people, not machines.

I love to bump into my students in the corridor, say 'hi', catch up over a coffee. But like many, I like my personal time away from work too and the struggle to protect this is real.

Technology has indeed revolutionised the way we do business, but a word of warning; don't forget the human touch. I remember being taught that 'people buy people' and despite the digitally connected world that we live in, I still believe this to be true.

I also believe that you work to live, not live to work. Technology has allowed work to invade our precious and much needed personal time and we are the only ones who can police that (I have to admit that I am guilty as charged in that respect).

So switch off your laptop, phone, iPad once in a while. Switch them off when work is done. Roll back twenty-plus years, talk to people... and connect in person.

Author : The Sentinel

Source : http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/business-matters/story-30114928-detail/story.html

Categorized in Science & Tech

Youngsters are using social media and streaming content without supervision

NEARLY half of six-year-olds surf the web alone in their bedrooms, shock research shows.

The youngsters are now as internet savvy as ten-year-olds were in 2013.

Forty-four per cent are browsing the internet, on social media and streaming without adult supervision.

A study for Internet Matters to mark Thursday’s Safer Internet Day found a third of six-year-olds also use WhatsApp — despite its minimum age limit of 16.

A quarter are now on social media, up from 19 per cent in 2013, and three in five use sites such as YouTube.

A quarter of six-year-olds are on social media

A quarter of six-year-olds are on social media

Six year olds are using Facebook and Whatsapp despite the 16 age limit
ALAMY

Six year olds are using Facebook and Whatsapp despite the 16 age limit

Some even upload their own videos, according to the survey of 1,500 parents.

Almost half of six-year-olds can download apps and 47 per cent regularly use services such as iPlayer and Netflix.

Carolyn Bunting, of Internet Matters, said: “It’s vital for parents to set up devices safely and understand risks involved.”

Psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos added: “Parents need to set boundaries and arm children with the tools to stay safe online.

Parents need to set boundaries with their kids’ internet use
ALAMY

Parents need to set boundaries with their kids’ internet use

“Issues that a six-year-old may encounter can range from stranger danger to viewing inappropriate content such as violence or pornography.

“It’s vital you have parental controls in place and to ensure the websites and apps they are using are suitable for their age group.”

Internet safety checklist for young children

  • Agree boundaries
    Be clear what your child can and can’t do online – where they can use the internet, how much time they can spend online, the sites they can visit and the type of information they can share.
  • Explore together
    The best way to find out what your child is doing online is to ask them to tell you about what they do and what sites they like to visit.
  • Put yourself in control
    Install parental controls on your home broadband and any internet-enabled devices.
  • Use airplane mode
    Use airplane mode on your devices when your child is using them so they can’t make any unapproved purchases or interact with anyone online without your knowledge.
  • Stay involved
    Encourage them to use their tech devices in a communal area like the lounge or kitchen so you can keep an eye on them.
  • Talk to siblings
    It’s also a good idea to talk to any older children about what they’re doing online and what they show to younger children.
  • Search safely
    Use safe search engines such as Swiggle or Kids-search. Safe search settings can also be activated on Google and other search engines, as well as YouTube.
  • Check if it’s suitable
    The age ratings that come with games, apps, films and social networks are a good guide to whether they’re suitable for your child.

Author : JEN PHARO

Source : https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2802345/nearly-half-of-six-year-olds-are-browsing-the-internet-alone-in-their-rooms-shocking-research-reveals/

Categorized in Internet Search

This week, I didn’t just want to quit Facebook. I wanted to quit the internet.

The outpouring of vitriol surrounding President Donald Trump and the media’s response was endless. My Facebook page was overwhelmed with angry statuses (or depressed statuses). My aunt chose to share a picture of firefighters holding puppies, and several friends shared the latest “Beauty & the Beast” preview, so there were some moments of humor and non-political friendship. But they were few.

Twitter proffered an endless onslaught of fear and anger. Every newspaper and magazine I read was overflowing with Trump-centric news. And everyone seemed to be shouting at someone else.

How Do We Combat Our Depressing Dialogue?

Regardless of one’s stance on partisan issues, the past several days have been frustrating. This isn’t about Trump’s executive order, its goodness or badness. This is about the way we’ve responded to it, and the way our feelings have prompted us to act toward each other.

Some people—those who aren’t active on social media, say, or those who’ve selected their friend group carefully—may have felt safe and sheltered from all of this.

But many others have felt this same sense of depression and lowness. As Bethany Mandel wrote yesterday, it’s tempting to just get off Facebook and leave the drama behind. It’s tempting to leave the news alone, turn off the computer, and do something else.

But as a journalist, my job is to read. And to analyze. And to write. This week, I assure you, I wanted to do anything but.

The Internet Prevents Us From Truly Seeing Each Other

The internet sets up a sort of emotional veil. It enables us to respond in ways we would not if we were meeting in person. As one friend put it, “We’re a society untethered by the restraints of what used to be considered propriety. No longer is there the interactional stability that once existed in … public discourse, where you were forced to realize the human being across from you at any moment could burst into tears or laughter so you’d better speak accordingly.”

When we can’t see each other, we needn’t love each other—at least, not in the same way.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We Need To Talk In Person, Not On Facebook

Perhaps the first step to take is the simplest one: meet. With real people, in real time. Have actual conversations—political and apolitical. Over coffee, or Friday night pizza. While walking the dogs in the park, or playing with our kids at the playground. During lunch breaks at work, or after the Super Bowl. While we pass around the wine, or drop a plate of cookies off at a friend’s house. Meet. Don’t “post.”

Because what happens when we meet with people is that we see their particularities, their differences, their unique beauty and feeling. As Aldous Huxley puts it in “Brave New World,” “For particulars, as everyone knows, make for virtue and happiness; generalities are intellectually necessary evils.”

Things are a lot easier when we see peoples as mass groupings of “good” and “evil”—when Obama or Trump can be our arch-nemesis, and their followers a group of fiends that we can castigate and condemn. It’s easier when we can forget etiquette and propriety. When we can spew words without seeing their effect.

But physicality demands respect. It shows us the particulars, the details that differentiate and illuminate.

It Won’t Be Perfect—But We Need To Have These Conversations

That doesn’t mean the conversations will always be easy and simple in real-time, either. There will still be differences and disagreements. As someone who doesn’t seem to fit party definitions or stereotypes easily, I find myself disagreeing with people more often than I’d like. Too often, I hide behind a mask of nodding and smiling, avoiding conflict at every turn.

But this is sometimes—often—a copout. I’m trying to figure out how to explore disagreements in a civil and loving manner, in a way that entices people to dig deeper into their beliefs. In a way that prompts me to dig deeper into my own.

I’m still figuring it out. But it’s vital that we extend grace with our truth, and truth with our grace—that we do not shirk one or the other when we talk to those outside our bubbles of comfort. It’s important that we bring our true selves to the table, and are willing to be both vulnerable and loving, kind and truthful.

We Should Break Bread Together

It’s also important that food be part of these equations, more often than not. That sounds like a funny statement. Perhaps it is. But something happens when we break bread together—when we offer food or drink to those different from us. It break downs barriers, and helps us to connect. It enables us to serve each other in an exceedingly practical and meaningful way. The table connects us, when little else does or can. We can all agree that a good bottle of wine and a plate of chocolate chip cookies are good. We can all join together around a bowl of popcorn and a fun movie. We can set aside our differences and grievances to enjoy a breakfast of pancakes and bacon.

When we make room for each other around the table, we open up opportunities for generosity and understanding that might not exist otherwise.

Hospitality is often the virtue that fosters and makes room for all the others. If so, it’s more important than ever before that we extend it in our day-to-day lives.

It’s Time To Stop Living On The Internet

It’s time to stop living on the internet. It’s easy to do: checking news, reading stories, browsing our news feed, catching up on Instagram. The hours disappear before we realize. But the internet is not real life. It’s visceral emotion and mind dumps. It’s vibrant pixels and pictures.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m thankful for the internet. It enables me to do my job, as a mom. But it is not—it cannot be—my life. It cannot be my basis for social interaction. In order for it to cease having such a strong presence in my day-to-day existence, I’m going to have to change: to be more proactive, to seek people out, to open my doors with increasing regularity.

But the point is, the world is more deep, poignant, and meaningful outside the drama of Facebook. And in order to combat the worst tendencies of our Trump-centric news cycle, I think I’m going to have to spend more time out there, and less time on here.

Gracy Olmstead is associate managing editor at The Federalist and the Thursday editor of BRIGHT, a weekly newsletter for women. Her writings can also be found at The American Conservative, The Week, Christianity Today, Acculturated, The University Bookman, and Catholic Rural Life.
Author : Gracy Olmstead
Categorized in Science & Tech

What’s that thing Bill Gates said? “The Internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” When Robert Kahn and Vincent Cerf laid the bedrocks to what we call the modern cyberspace in 1973, they envisioned the Internet to be a storehouse of information, a massive, decentralized library that housed the collective brainchild of every great thinker in the free world. It was supposed to be the one solution to every problem. Have a question? Well, here’s your answer. Unfortunately, though, the reality has never been that simple. The internet is no magic wand, it can offer no single solution to all of life’s problems. Instead, just like all of humanity’s greatest inventions, it’s a very complicated and highly precise mechanism. One with exceeding capability and admirable outreach. However, as with any other mechanism, the internet is shaped by the people who use it, for better or for worse. In the last decade, we saw this beast take center stage in much of the world’s greatest events, socially, economically and politically. From human rights crusaders to advocates of political reform, from scientific visionaries to cancer patients in need of funds, everyone made use of the internet as a podium for sharing concerns and asking for assistance. In inventing the internet, we unleashed a hydra. What remains to be seen is whether we can control it.

“It’s not honest to roll that answer off as saying we didn’t have any idea what we had done, or what the opportunity was.” - Vincent Cerf in an interview with Wired Magazine, 2012.

“The internet is deep waters,” said Cassandra, mother of three and my next-door neighbour for the last six years, “I could never trust my kids around it until they are older”. She is a good parent, Cassie, but her concerns for her children’s safety sometimes extend to the point of paranoia. In this case, though, her concerns are quite genuine. From pedophiles lurking behind false social media accounts to cyber-bullies looking for easy prey, the last few years showed us just how dangerous certain places on the internet can be for the underaged. The keyword here is ‘certain places’. “This is something I think about every day as a parent”, said Denelle Dixon, Chief Business and Legal Officer at the Mozilla Foundation, while also making known that her own approach was that of teaching her children to use the internet responsibly rather than having them shut out of the system altogether. The reason? As parents, we often think it best to keep our kids away from the web until they are a certain age. The problem with this attitude, however, is that teaching someone to use the internet sensibly while they are still young goes a long way towards making them responsible netizens when they are older. By shutting them out of the cyber-scenario altogether, parents raise ignorant children who have no idea how the internet works and are unfit to participate in it even when they are old enough. In fact, as evidence would suggest it, a recent report found that two-thirds of teenagers in the UK can’t even tell the search results away from the advertisements on Google.

The aforementioned is one of the many points brought forth by the Internet Health Report released by the Mozilla Foundation on January 19, a comprehensive document that chronicles the failing health of the internet as we know it. A quick web search reveals that the number of websites currently live on the internet is as many as 1.1 billion. While that sounds like a great victory for free speech champions, dig deeper and you will find that about 60% of the traffic that goes into these 1.1 billion websites is essentially directed towards behemoths such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, while only 40% of the web traffic goes to the rest of the internet. For the average user, ‘surfing the internet’ consists of nothing but performing a search on Google, updating their status on Facebook and uploading a picture on Instagram. It is sad how the internet, which is supposed to be a gladiator of free speech, is essentially controlled by a few large content providers with their own corporate agendas. What’s more, content providers aren’t the only ones fighting to take control over the internet. Network companies such as AT&T and Verizon have long opposed the free and open environment that has made the internet such a great medium of communication.

When I spoke to retired FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, now a senior fellow at the Aspen Institute, he expressed clear concerns over the imminent collapse of the structures and regulations that he put in place during his tenure at the FCC to keep the internet free from the grasp of network overlords. The new administration’s largely corporate outlook, combined with their public dissent over the current ‘net neutrality’ regulations, are a strong indication of troubled times according to Mr. Wheeler. He expressed his obvious distaste for the duplicitous ways of net neutrality opponents such as AT&T, going above and beyond to say that the free internet is something that must be protected at all costs. As for reducing the corporate hold over the internet, Mozilla Director Mark Surman recommended implementing open source standards for programming and design on the web, something that his organization has already taken great interest in lately.

“If we have proper legislation in the networks, the rest will fall into place on its own.” - Tom Wheeler, Senior Fellow at the Aspen Institute and Retired Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

When it all started out, the Internet was heralded as the one platform where everybody could open up to each other secured by a veil of anonymity. However, the way corporate interests have been using the internet as a weapon for surveillance has presented it as a threat to the very privacy it was supposed to defend. Just last December, the widely used note sharing app Evernote made a seemingly innocuous change to their privacy policy, one which basically allowed its executives to snoop around people’s private notes in order to improve its machine learning technology. In the meantime, almost every website that you visit today inserts a delicious cookie into your web browser that allows it to track your every moment, from the sites you visit to the location you are in, and in some extreme cases, even the sensitive data you share online. Adwords, the interest-based advertising giant from Google, is especially known for its behavioral targeting technology, which now uses personally identifiable information in an attempt to shove more lucrative advertisements down your throat as you surf the web each day. When it comes to safeguarding user privacy, the internet clearly lacks the necessary legislation and infrastructure required to secure the activities that occur as a result of the myriad new opportunities offered by the infobahn.

The last five years haven’t been all bad for the internet. Several educational programs such as the EU Code Week and the New York Public Library TechConnect have sprung up in support of web literacy. Intense activism has led to the formulation of net neutrality laws in the US, UK and India. More and more instant messaging applications are offering ‘end-to-end encryption’ technology as an initiative towards securing privacy. However, if we were to just sit down and compare the ups and downs, we would find that the bad greatly outweighs the good for the internet in the last half-decade. The internet may be the ultimate platform for personal expression, but it isn’t entirely self-sufficient. Every now and then, it requires careful guidance to shove it in the right direction. While the last few years have clearly shown us that such guidance has been inadequate, it may not be too late to get behind these issues while there is time, at least, that is what I would like to believe.

Author : Harold Stark 

Source : http://www.forbes.com/sites/haroldstark/2017/02/03/mozilla-thinks-that-the-internet-is-under-attack-they-are-not-wrong/#6eaeb9e8e6df

Categorized in Internet Ethics

In 1995, some 40 million people all over the world were connected to the Internet. By 2000 that had grown to around 400 million, and by 2016 it reached 3.5 billion. That means almost half the global population is connected to a single technology.

That’s an extraordinary statistic and one that raises an interesting possibility. With so many people connected in this way, it should become possible to use this technology as a kind of demographic sensor that measures human behavior on an almost unimaginable scale.

Today, Klaus Ackermann at the University of Chicago and a couple of pals say they have done just this by studying how devices connected to, and disconnected from, the Internet between 2006 and 2013. They have done this on a global scale at a time resolution of every 15 minutes to produce a truly mind-boggling number of observations—one trillion of them.

So what does this enormous data set reveal about humanity?

Ackermann and co built their data set by combining information from two sources. The first is a set of scans between 2006 and 2012 in which every IP address was periodically probed to see whether it connected to a device or not. The second is a commercial database of IP geolocations which reveals the location of each device. Together this information produces a vast database covering Internet use in 122 countries every 15 minutes between 2006 and 2012.

The researchers start out by studying how Internet connectivity grows and eventually becomes saturated in societies all over the world. It turns out that Internet growth follows the same pattern everywhere.

Growth starts slowly, ramps up at dizzying rates, and eventually levels off as almost everyone gains access. This creates an S-shaped curve, as the researchers expected. Saturation occurs when there is about one IP address for every three-person household in a country.

More surprising is that it takes about 16 years on average for Internet use to saturate in any given country. That’s significantly faster than other technologies that have revolutionized societies, such as steam power, which took about 100 years, and electrification, which took about 60 years.

Curiously, only four countries had reached full saturation by 2012. These were Germany, Denmark, Estonia, and South Korea.  Others, such as Turkey, have growth rates so slow that saturation will take decades.

Ackermann and co also look at the link between IP connectivity and economic productivity. They say that GDP per capita is positively correlated with IP connectivity per capita. In other words, countries with greater Internet penetration grow faster economically.

And the correlation is not trivial, either. They estimate that a 10 percent increase in IP per capita corresponds to an 0.8 percent increase in GDP per capita.

But they also point out that growth depends on the industry involved. “Broadly speaking, we find that service sectors amenable to digital competition through outsourcing (publishing, news, film production, administrative support, education) have suffered with increasing local IP concentration,” say Ackermann and co. “Whilst location-constrained sectors have prospered from higher Internet concentrations (wholesale, retail, real estate, repairs, hairdressing, mining, transportation, accommodation).”

The new database also allowed the team to study global sleep patterns. They did this by assuming that the switch from a device being online to offline corresponds with a person going to sleep (and vice versa). “The association need not be exact, instead a systematically leading or lagging relationship carries the required information,” say Ackermann and co. They then crunch the data for people in more than 600 cities around the world (having calibrated it against data gathered by the American Time Use Survey).

The result is the first global estimate of overnight sleep duration in 645 cities over seven years, and it makes for interesting reading. “In general, major cities tend to have longer sleeping times compared to surrounding satellite cities,” say the team.  

But they say there is evidence that sleep patterns are changing, perhaps due to technology use. “Whilst North America has remained largely static over the study window, Europe sleep duration has declined, and East Asian sleep duration has grown,” they say. By this reckoning, global sleep patterns are converging. Exactly why is a fascinating open question.

That’s interesting work with significant potential. Of course, it’s not the first time that researchers have crunched big data sets to reveal insights about human behavior. These big data sets generally fall into three categories. The first comes from mobile phones but can only be studied by agreement with phone companies who choose whether or not to reveal it.

Other big data sets come from online services such as Google search, Twitter, and Facebook. However, these data sets have significant limitations, not least of which is that they are not representative of the general population.

And then there are satellite data sets, showing nighttime luminosity on the Earth’s surface, for example. These are certainly global but limited in geographical and temporal resolution.

But Ackermann and co’s data set is yet another approach on a truly global scale. “We view node-to-node online/offline scan data of the kind used in the present work as complementary to these other passive data sources,” they say. “It provides a first glimpse of the potential of global Internet activity to change profoundly the way research in this realm is conducted.”

We’ll look forward to seeing what other insights they can reveal.

Source : https://www.technologyreview.com/s/603541/the-trillion-internet-observations-showing-how-global-sleep-patterns-are-changing/

Categorized in Science & Tech

Next week, if all goes well, someone will win the presidency. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. Will the losing side believe the results? Will the bulk of Americans recognize the legitimacy of the new president? And will we all be able to clean up the piles of lies, hoaxes and other dung that have been hurled so freely in this hyper-charged, fact-free election?

Much of that remains unclear, because the internet is distorting our collective grasp on the truth. Polls show that many of us have burrowed into our own echo chambers of information. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, 81 percent of respondents said that partisans not only differed about policies, but also about “basic facts.”

For years, technologists and other utopians have argued that online news would be a boon to democracy. That has not been the case.

More than a decade ago, as a young reporter covering the intersection of technology and politics, I noticed the opposite. The internet was filled with 9/11 truthers, and partisans who believed against all evidence that George W. Bush stole the 2004 election from John Kerry, or that Barack Obama was a foreign-born Muslim. (He was born in Hawaii and is a practicing Christian.)

Sign off from Twitter and Facebook and you instantly divorce yourself from loads of this junk; life without those sites is easy and gives... 

Of course, America has long been entranced by conspiracy theories. But the online hoaxes and fringe theories appeared more virulent than their offline predecessors. They were also more numerous and more persistent. During Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, every attempt to debunk the birther rumor seemed to raise its prevalence online.

In a 2008 book, I argued that the internet would usher in a “post-fact” age. Eight years later, in the death throes of an election that features a candidate who once led the campaign to lie about President Obama’s birth, there is more reason to despair about truth in the online age.

Why? Because if you study the dynamics of how information moves online today, pretty much everything conspires against truth.

You’re Not Rational

The root of the problem with online news is something that initially sounds great: We have a lot more media to choose from.

In the last 20 years, the internet has overrun your morning paper and evening newscast with a smorgasbord of information sources, from well-funded online magazines to muckraking fact-checkers to the three guys in your country club whose Facebook group claims proof that Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump are really the same person.

A wider variety of news sources was supposed to be the bulwark of a rational age — “the marketplace of ideas,” the boosters called it.

But that’s not how any of this works. Psychologists and other social scientists have repeatedly shown that when confronted with diverse information choices, people rarely act like rational, civic-minded automatons. Instead, we are roiled by preconceptions and biases, and we usually do what feels easiest — we gorge on information that confirms our ideas, and we shun what does not.

This dynamic becomes especially problematic in a news landscape of near-infinite choice. Whether navigating Facebook, Google or The New York Times’s smartphone app, you are given ultimate control — if you see something you don’t like, you can easily tap away to something more pleasing. Then we all share what we found with our like-minded social networks, creating closed-off, shoulder-patting circles online.

That’s the theory, at least. The empirical research on so-called echo chambers is mixed. Facebook’s data scientists have run large studies on the idea and found it wanting. The social networking company says that by exposing you to more people, Facebook adds diversity to your news diet.

Others disagree. A study published last year by researchers at the IMT School for Advanced Studies Lucca, in Italy, found that homogeneous online networks help conspiracy theories persist and grow online.

“This creates an ecosystem in which the truth value of the information doesn’t matter,” said Walter Quattrociocchi, one of the study’s authors. “All that matters is whether the information fits in your narrative.”

No Power in Proof

Digital technology has blessed us with better ways to capture and disseminate news. There are cameras and audio recorders everywhere, and as soon as something happens, you can find primary proof of it online.

 

You would think that greater primary documentation would lead to a better cultural agreement about the “truth.” In fact, the opposite has happened.

Consider the difference in the examples of the John F. Kennedy assassination and 9/11. While you’ve probably seen only a single film clip of the scene from Dealey Plaza in 1963 when President Kennedy was shot, hundreds of television and amateur cameras were pointed at the scene on 9/11. Yet neither issue is settled for Americans; in one recent survey, about as many people said the government was concealing the truth about 9/11 as those who said the same about the Kennedy assassination.

Documentary proof seems to have lost its power. If the Kennedy conspiracies were rooted in an absence of documentary evidence, the 9/11 theories benefited from a surfeit of it. So many pictures from 9/11 flooded the internet, often without much context about what was being shown, that conspiracy theorists could pick and choose among them to show off exactly the narrative they preferred. There is also the looming specter of Photoshop: Now, because any digital image can be doctored, people can freely dismiss any bit of inconvenient documentary evidence as having been somehow altered.

This gets to the deeper problem: We all tend to filter documentary evidence through our own biases. Researchers have shown that two people with differing points of view can look at the same picture, video or document and come away with strikingly different ideas about what it shows.

That dynamic has played out repeatedly this year. Some people look at the WikiLeaks revelations about Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and see a smoking gun, while others say it’s no big deal, and that besides, it’s been doctored or stolen or taken out of context. Surveys show that people who liked Mr. Trump saw the Access Hollywood tape where he casually referenced groping women as mere “locker room talk”; those who didn’t like him considered it the worst thing in the world.

Lies as an Institution

One of the apparent advantages of online news is persistent fact-checking. Now when someone says something false, journalists can show they’re lying. And if the fact-checking sites do their jobs well, they’re likely to show up in online searches and social networks, providing a ready reference for people who want to correct the record.

But that hasn’t quite happened. Today dozens of news outlets routinely fact-check the candidates and much else online, but the endeavor has proved largely ineffective against a tide of fakery.

That’s because the lies have also become institutionalized. There are now entire sites whose only mission is to publish outrageous, completely fake news online (like real news, fake news has become a business). Partisan Facebook pages have gotten into the act; a recent BuzzFeed analysis of top political pages on Facebook showed that right-wing sites published false or misleading information 38 percent of the time, and lefty sites did so 20 percent of the time.

“Where hoaxes before were shared by your great-aunt who didn’t understand the internet, the misinformation that circulates online is now being reinforced by political campaigns, by political candidates or by amorphous groups of tweeters working around the campaigns,” said Caitlin Dewey, a reporter at The Washington Post who once wrote a column called “What Was Fake on the Internet This Week.”

Ms. Dewey’s column began in 2014, but by the end of last year, she decided to hang up her fact-checking hat because she had doubts that she was convincing anyone.

“In many ways the debunking just reinforced the sense of alienation or outrage that people feel about the topic, and ultimately you’ve done more harm than good,” she said.

Other fact-checkers are more sanguine, recognizing the limits of exposing online hoaxes, but also standing by the utility of the effort.

“There’s always more work to be done,” said Brooke Binkowski, the managing editor of Snopes.com, one of the internet’s oldest rumor-checking sites. “There’s always more. It’s Sisyphean — we’re all pushing that boulder up the hill, only to see it roll back down.”

Yeah. Though soon, I suspect, that boulder is going to squash us all.

Author : Farhad Manjoo

Source : https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/03/technology/how-the-internet-is-loosening-our-grip-on-the-truth.html?_r=1

Categorized in Online Research

Back in 1995, everyone’s favourite astrophysicist, Carl Sagan, published a book called The Demon-Haunted World, which warned against the dangers of pseudoscience and scientific illiteracy, and encouraged its readers to learn critical and skeptical thinking.

Pretty standard stuff for a socially conscious scientist, but one passage in particular has been blowing up on Twitter this week, and it’s not hard to see why. 

Somehow, (we’re not saying time machine, but probably time machine) Sagan managed to predict the state of things as they are today - and it’s unnervingly accurate.

We’re talking the decline in manufacturing jobs; people feeling hopeless about politics; politicians refusing or unable to represent the public interest; and brilliant, revolutionary technologies that never seem to change the lives of anyone but the 1 percent.

The result? Sagan predicts people will opt for superstition and pseudoscience over reality - and even more concerning, he says the public will be intellectually incapable of distinguishing between what makes us feel good, and what’s actually true. Fake news, anyone?

Yep, this passage has got it all:

View image on Twitter 

So did Sagan somehow know enough about society in 1995 that he could accurately predict what life would be like in a couple of generations, or are we all reading too much into it?

Oddly enough, the way we interpret this kind of prediction actually has a lot to do with how we interpret horoscopes - one of Sagan’s biggest bugbears. 

Horoscopes have nothing to do with reality, but they owe their enormous success to the fact that humans tend to see what they want to see.

So while we can be pessimistic about the future of society as a whole, humans are generally pretty optimistic about their individual future prospects - a concept known as optimism bias.

It's actually an evolutionary survival tactic - and that's something horoscopes directly tap into.

As Tali Sharot, a cognitive neuroscientist from University College London, explains for TIME:

"You might expect optimism to erode under the tide of news about violent conflicts, high unemployment, tornadoes and floods and all the threats and failures that shape human life. Collectively we can grow pessimistic - about the direction of our country or the ability of our leaders to improve education and reduce crime. But private optimism, about our personal future, remains incredibly resilient."

Thanks to humanity's optimism bias, you could show someone all the statistics related to divorce, cancer, and average lifespan, and more often than not, they'll choose to believe that those negative experiences won't happen to them.

So when we see horoscopes that tell us we're going to meet our soulmate or get a big promotion this month, we choose to believe it, and don't tend to go back and fact-check it - the horoscope has already done its job by making us feel good.

A similar thing goes on when we're presented with a spookily accurate prediction of the future - part of the cognitive bias that's wired into all humans is that we are drawn to details that confirm our existing beliefs.

As Matt Novak points out over at Gizmodo: "[I]t’s important to remember that the 'accuracy' of predictions is often a Rorschach test. An interpretation of a particular prediction’s accuracy usually says a lot about the people interpreting them, and their own hopes or fears for the future."

We also need to put these predictions into context, because once you read past the viral passage, you'll see that Sagan is kinda trying to blame the state of things in the future on... Beavis and Butthead?

"The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30-second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.

As I write, the number one video cassette rental in America is the movie Dumb and Dumber. Beavis and Butthead remains popular (and influential) with young TV viewers. The plain lesson is that study and learning - not just of science, but of anything - are avoidable, even undesirable."

How delighted Sagan would be to know that in 2016, more young people were watching David Attenborough than The X Factor. Mind-numbing television is actually the least of our problems right now.

But even with all that said, we do have to give props to Sagan for coming up with a really cracking prediction for the beginning of 2017. Let's hope for better things to come in the months and years ahead.

Author : BEC CREW

Source : http://www.sciencealert.com/the-internet-is-freaking-out-over-this-spooky-prediction-by-carl-sagan-about-the-future

Categorized in Others

With the advancement of technology, we have become more connected with each other. Yet the current estimates say only 40 percent of the global population is connected to the Internet. That is why more and more innovations are being created to bring the Internet even to the places which are very difficult to access. Here are some of the new Internet technologies that will revolutionize how we connect with each other in the distant future.

Light Fidelity or Li-Fi 

Oledcomm, a French startup company introduced Li-Fi last year during the Mobile World Congress. As opposed to Wi-Fi, Li-Fi is based on LED, specifically, it uses the flicker rate of LED lamps, which are much faster than the radio waves used in Wi-Fi connections. However, since it uses the power of light, it cannot pass through walls like the radio waves. Its biggest advantages are security and speed because it is confined at a specific place.

Solar-Powered Drone Routers

Mark Zuckerberg dreams of connecting the world using solar-powered drones equipped with internet technology. His Connectivity Lab is developing such technology. They began tests for the first phase when they launched Aquila, a solar-powered drone with a wing span as big as the Boeing 747. The test flight lasted 93 minutes which is faster than the team's projected 66 minutes.

Satellite "Routers"

If Facebook is looking into solar-powered drones to bring the Internet to the world, Samsung is proposing a network of 4,600 satellites to connect all of us globally. These satellites have the capacity to send out 1 zettabyte a month. In case you have no idea how much a zettabyte is, that is 1 trillion gigabytes.

MegaMIMO 2.0 

The MegaMIMO is MIT's breakthrough technology for a faster Internet connection. According to the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab at MIT, the MegaMIMO is 330 times faster than the regular Internet connection we have now.

Author : Chris Brandt

Source : http://www.universityherald.com/articles/59400/20170109/internet-technologies.htm

Categorized in Science & Tech

To put it bluntly: There’s an art to Internet lurking. It goes beyond a simple Google search or typing a name into Facebook. A master Internet lurker knows how to find intel on those hard to find unicorns who don’t have social media accounts, or have them so secured, it’s impossible to find any trace of their existence. However, if you use a little ingenuity and know your Internet it’s possible to dig up something. Think you’re good at lurking? Check out these seven signs you should probably be working for the CIA.

1. You understand that just looking for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts is for amateurs.

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2. It’s a no brainer to never look at their LinkedIn profile or Snapchat…there will be notification.

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3. You always search for an online portfolio or website for photos and links that are buried in the world wide web.

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4. You don’t just search their name, but their friend’s names. You then scour their profiles for photos, check ins, hangs etc. with your subject’s name tagged.

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5. You figure out the kind of things they like and Google search their name, plus keywords that might turn something up.

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6. No one ever thinks to lurk YouTube, but you do.

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7. You can find virtually ANYONE in under 15 minutes.

Categorized in Online Research

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