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Is Social Media Losing Ground To Email Newsletters?

"My favorite new social network doesn't incessantly spam me with notifications," brags New York Times technology writer Mike Isaac. "When I post, I'm not bombarded with @mentions from bots and trolls. And after I use it, I don't worry about ads following me around the web. "That's because my new social network is an email newsletter." Every week or so, I blast it out to a few thousand people who have signed up to read my musings. Some of them email back, occasionally leading to a thoughtful conversation. It's still early in the experiment, but I think I love it. The newsletter is not a new phenomenon. But there is a growing interest among those who are disenchanted with social media in what writer Craig Mod has called "the world's oldest networked publishing platform." For us, the inbox is becoming a more attractive medium than the news feed... For me, the change has happened slowly, but the reasons for it were unmistakable. Every time I was on Twitter, I felt worse. I worried about being too connected to my phone, too wrapped up in the latest Twitter dunks... Now, when I feel the urge to tweet an idea that I think is worth expounding on, I save it for my newsletter... It's much more fun than mediating political fights between relatives on my Facebook page or decoding the latest Twitter dustup... "You don't have to fight an algorithm to reach your audience," Casey Newton, a journalist who writes The Interface, a daily newsletter for technology news site The Verge, told me. "With newsletters, we can rebuild all of the direct connections to people we lost when the social web came along." The article suggests a broader movement away from Facebook's worldview to more private ways of sharing, like Slack . "We felt this growing sense of despair in traditional social media," says the CEO of Substack, makers of a newsletter-writing software. "Twitter, Facebook, etc. -- they've all incentivized certain negative patterns."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 9:34 pm

'It Took 10 Seconds For Instagram To Push Me Into an Anti-Vaxx Rabbit Hole'

eatmorekix quotes Vice: It only took around ten seconds. On Wednesday, I created a fresh Instagram account, and followed 'Beware the Needle', a user with 34,000 followers which posts a steady stream of anti-vaccination content. I also followed the user's "backup" account mentioned in its bio, the creator clearly aware that Instagram may soon ban them. Instagram's "Suggested for You" feature then recommended I follow other accounts, including "Vaccines are Genocide" and "Vaccine Truth." I followed the latter, and checked which accounts Instagram now thought would be a good fit for me: another 24 accounts that were either explicitly against vaccinations in their profile description, or that posted anti-vaccine content. They included pseudo-scientists claiming that vaccines cause autism; accounts with tens of thousands of followers promising the "truth" around vaccinations through memes and images of misleading statistics, as well as individual mothers spouting the perceived, but false, dangers of vaccinating children against measles, polio, and other diseases. "Instagram told Motherboard it will be looking at different ways to minimize these sorts of recommendations," the article reports, but "did not give a more specific timeframe for this change...." "For the moment, however, Instagram remains a hot bed of easy to discover misinformation on vaccinations."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 9:04 pm

Mueller Report 'Summary' Delivered to US Congress

America's recently-appointed Attorney General William Barr has submitted to Congress his summary of the main conclusions from special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, CNN reports. "While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him," special counsel Robert Mueller says, as quoted in Barr's summary. It does, however, reiterate that there was clear Russian interference in America's 2016 election: The Special Counsel's investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency, to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election.... The second element involved the Russian government's efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. Barr also writes that the report leaves it to him to determine whether president Trump is guilty of obstructing justice, then adds "I have concluded that the evidence...is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense." CNN has the complete text of the four-page summary. Barr's letter concludes by saying he's still "determining what can be released."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 8:05 pm

GoFundMe Bans Anti-Vaccine Campaigns

An anonymous reader quotes SlashGear: Crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has banned campaigns that seek funds for spreading misinformation related to vaccines, the company has revealed. The platform has been used in the past by anti-vaxxers as part of their mission to promote conspiracy theories related to supposed health issues caused by vaccinations. Current campaigns in violation of this new rule will be removed. GoFundMe has previously faced controversy for allowing anti-vax campaigns on the platform, including late last year when a mother sought funds for a custody battle allegedly intending to, in part, prevent her kids from being vaccinated. An increasing number of tech companies have cracked down on anti-vaccination content, including Facebook and Pinterest, and now GoFundMe is among them.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 7:34 pm

Fermi Satellite Clocks Pulsar Going 2.5 Million Miles Per Hour

schwit1 quotes UPI: Astronomers have discovered a pulsar traveling at unprecedented speeds. Observations by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope suggest the star is moving through space at 2.5 million miles per hour.... "Thanks to its narrow dart-like tail and a fortuitous viewing angle, we can trace this pulsar straight back to its birthplace," Frank Schinzel, a scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico, told NASA. "Further study of this object will help us better understand how these explosions are able to 'kick' neutron stars to such high speed...." Scientists named the high-speed pulsing star PSR J0002+6216, or J0002 for short. The star is located in the Cassiopeia constellation, 6,500 light-years from Earth... Analysis of the pulsar's trajectory and pulsing tail suggest the spinning neutron star was ejected by a supernova named CTB 1. Scientists estimated J0002 was expelled from CTB 1 approximately 10,000 years ago. Scientists aren't totally sure how J0002 accelerated to such tremendous speeds. In the wake of the supernova explosion from which the pulsar originated, expelled gas and dust from the exploded companion star likely outraced J0002. Eventually, the shell of stellar shrapnel was slowed by interactions with interstellar gas, but astronomers theorize that some of stellar debris may have coalesced into a region of dense matter, forming a "gravitational tugboat" that is pulling J0002 through space. J0002 was discovered by "citizen scientists" scanning data from NASA's Fermi satellite, according to the article. "Participants in the Einstein@Home project have identified 13 gamma ray pulsars."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 6:34 pm

The Washington Post Asks: Should 8chan Be Considered a Terrorist Recuiting Site?

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: As most of the world condemned last week's mass shooting in New Zealand, a contrary story line emerged on 8chan, the online message board where the alleged shooter had announced the attack and urged others to continue the slaughter. "Who should i kill?" one anonymous poster wrote. "I have never been this happy," wrote another. "I am ready. I want to fight...." The persistence of the talk of violence on 8chan has led some experts to call for tougher actions by the world's governments, with some saying the site increasingly looks like the jihadi forums organized by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda... 8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, said Jim Watkins [8chan's sole administrator] owns other Internet businesses and has built a technical fortress to guard 8chan from potential takedowns: He owns nearly every component securing the site to the backbone of the Web, including its servers, which are scattered around the world. "You can send a complaint, but no one's going to do anything. He owns the whole operation," Brennan said. "It's how he keeps people confused and guessing...." Watkins is content to lose money, Brennan said, because he sees it as a pet project: "8chan is like a boat to Jim. It doesn't matter if it makes money. He just enjoys using it...." 8chan, however, is shielded in another way: the U.S. web-services giant Cloudflare, which helps websites guard against "distributed denial of service," or DDoS, attacks that online vigilante groups have used to target 8chan in the past. The Post reports that Brennan "worries there are no true technical solutions beyond a total redesign of the Web, focused around identification and moderation, that could undermine it as a venue for free expression." Brennan tells the Post that "The Internet as a whole is not made to be censored. It was made to be resilient. And as long as there's a contingent of people who like this content, it will never go away." On Tuesday, 8chan posted tips on Twitter for what to do "If your ISP is blocking a website you'd like to browse" -- a tweet which is now pinned to the top of its feed.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 5:34 pm

Elon Musk Makes Surprise Visit To Flint, Michigan Elementary School

An anonymous reader quotes the Detroit Metro Times: Tech billionaire Elon Musk surprised students at an assembly at Flint's Doyle-Ryder Elementary School on Friday, announcing the creation of a new STEM-focused junior high school and inviting some students to tour his SpaceX rocket factory in California... Students will be selected by the district based on academic merits, with funding for the trip provided by the Musk Foundation. "My hope is to inspire the students of Flint to want to make things, just as I did as a child and as a young engineer," Musk said, according to the statement. "I want students to know that through hard work and a belief in themselves, they can pursue and achieve the unimaginable...." Musk became involved with Flint thanks to Twitter trolls. After Musk tried, and failed, to develop a miniature submarine to rescue a soccer team trapped in a Thailand cave last summer -- Thai Navy SEALs beat him to the punch, rescuing all of the party -- Twitter users goaded him into doing something to help Flint.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 5:04 pm

82-Year-Old Pope Francis Is 'First Pope To Write a Line of Code'

Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: After seeing to it that UK Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau all received (widely-publicized) coding lessons, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi noted in late 2016 that he was "still working on Pope Francis." GeekWire reports that Partovi was able to cross that one off his bucket list Thursday, as he helped Pope Francis become 'the first Pope to write a line of code' at a 'Programming for Peace' event organized by the Pope's foundation, Scholas Occurrentes, in Vatican City (not ready for Twitch.TV video). "In the 21st century, computer science is a fundamental subject that all students should learn," said Partovi, whose tech-bankrolled nonprofit has entered a partnership with Scholas to introduce children to computer science. "Schools should teach computer science to prepare students for the future, empower children with creativity and teach how to harness technology and creativity." The Pontiff's programming lesson comes a month after Partovi's next-door neighbor, Microsoft President and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, had a sit-down with the Pope to discuss the ethical use of AI and ways to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor nations.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 4:34 pm

More Than One Reality Exists (in Quantum Physics)

Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,797) quotes Live Science: Can two versions of reality exist at the same time? Physicists say they can -- at the quantum level, that is. Researchers recently conducted experiments to answer a decades-old theoretical physics question about dueling realities. This tricky thought experiment proposed that two individuals observing the same photon could arrive at different conclusions about that photon's state -- and yet both of their observations would be correct. For the first time, scientists have replicated conditions described in the thought experiment. Their results, published Feb. 13 in the preprint journal arXiv, confirmed that even when observers described different states in the same photon, the two conflicting realities could both be true. "You can verify both of them," study co-author Martin Ringbauer, a postdoctoral researcher with the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, told Live Science.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 3:34 pm

What If Your Electronic Parts Were More Like Legos?

Long-time Slashdot reader beckman101 writes: This week Electric Dollar Store opened its doors, selling interchangeable postage-stamp sized I2C-based modules for prices between $1.00 and $1.80. The modules include lights, buzzers, counters and sensors — the range is aimed at electronic makers. These aren't manufacturing rejects shipping from Asia — they're assembled, tested and shipped from a small farming town in California, where winter labor is cheap. All the code for the project is BSD licensed. The project is a spin-off from the popular open-source I2CDriver hardware debugger.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 2:34 pm

Airline Passenger Walked Past Security With a Loaded Gun Magazine

An airline passenger "passed a security checkpoint with a loaded gun magazine," reports the Associated Press, citing information from an airport duty manager: Bob Rotiski said the passenger who apparently had visited a shooting range packed a loaded magazine in his carry-on bag. He said an officer identified the magazine during security screening, but the wrong bag was pulled from the line. By that time, the passenger had already left the checkpoint with the bag containing the magazine.... Security lines were closed and flights were temporarily grounded at a San Francisco International Airport terminal...for nearly an hour, and United Airline flights out of Terminal 3 were grounded Saturday morning as TSA officers looked for the passenger. "Rotiski said the lines reopened after officers located the passenger and brought him back for re-screening."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 1:34 pm

Facebook Now 'Vulnerable' To Government Regulators, Analysts Warn

Citing new warnings from several analysts, Fortune reports that Facebook's business model now faces threats from "a growing array of bi-partisan criticism and fresh regulatory issues." Analysts are now flagging an opinion piece in The New York Times, by Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat who's chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. Cicilline wrote about the company's "pattern of misconduct" and called for "an investigation into whether Facebook's conduct has violated antitrust laws." "Investors should pay attention to the fact that there are people sitting in some very relevant seats that are attacking Facebook in ways that we have not seen in our almost two decade history of covering internet companies," Stifel's Scott Devitt wrote in a note. Recent issues may be transient, Devitt said, and Facebook shares may prove cheap relative to the company's earnings power, but "something feels very different to us this time." He flagged Cicilline's item as "further evidence that this may be more than a passing fad." He rates Facebook shares hold. Beacon Policy Advisors said in a note that "the potential action that regulators at the FTC could take against Facebook is far more significant" than rhetoric from Congress about reining the company in, whether via forced separation of Instagram or WhatsApp or by taxing companies that collect user data. A "substantial financial penalty," along with other remedies, may be part of a settlement with the FTC in the coming weeks regarding user data provided to Cambridge Analytica, they said.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 11:34 am

'Your AirPods Will Die Soon' -- The Shrinking Charge Capacities of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Some of the same podcasters who first extolled AirPods are now complaining about them, reports the Atlantic: The battery can no longer hold a charge, they say, rendering them functionally useless. Apple bloggers agree: "AirPods are starting to show their age for early adopters," Zac Hall, an editor at 9to5Mac, wrote in a post in January, detailing how he frequently hears a low-battery warning in his AirPods now. Earlier this month, Apple Insider tested a pair of AirPods purchased in 2016 against a pair from 2018, and found that the older pair died after two hours and 16 minutes. "That's less than half the stated battery life for a new pair," the writer William Gallagher concluded. Desmond Hughes, who is 35 and lives in Newport News, Virginia, has noticed a similar thing about his own set: At first, their charge lasted five hours, but now they sometimes last only half an hour. He frequently listens to one while charging the other -- not optimal conditions for expensive headphones. He's now gearing up to plunk down more money on another pair.... The lithium-ion batteries that power AirPods are everywhere. One industry report forecast that sales would grow to $109.72 billion by 2026, from $36.2 billion in 2018. They charge faster, last longer, and pack more power into a small space than other types of batteries do. But they die faster, too, often after just a few years, because every time you charge them, they degrade a little. They can also catch fire or explode if they become damaged, so technology companies make them difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to replace themselves. The result: A lot of barely chargeable AirPods and wireless mice and Bluetooth speakers are ending up in the trash as consumers go through products -- even expensive ones -- faster than ever.... Of the 3.4 million tons of electronic waste generated in America in 2012 -- an 80 percent increase from 2000 -- just 29 percent was recycled. The article notes that Wednesday Apple announced a new generation of AirPods -- but "did not say whether the devices would have longer lives." They also report that Apple "does allow consumers to pay for what it calls a 'battery replacement' for AirPods, but each 'replaced' AirPod is $49."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 7:34 am

How The FBI Easily Retrieved Michael Cohen's Data From Both Apple and Google

Court documents unsealed Tuesday showed just how much information America's FBI was able to gather on Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen -- from both Google and Apple products. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Notably, the FBI made use of Cohen's use of Touch ID and Face ID on his Apple devices, which allow users to quickly log into iPhones and computers by scanning their face or fingerprint rather than typing in a password... But that gives law enforcement an additional means to access those devices. In one warrant application for Cohen, an FBI agent requested authorization "to press the fingers (including thumbs) of Cohen to the Touch ID sensors of the Subject Devices, or hold the Subject Devices in front of Cohen's face, for the purpose of attempting to unlock the Subject Devices via Touch ID or Face ID...." One warrant requested not simply access to three of Cohen's Gmail accounts, as well as other email accounts, but also some of the wide array of information Google keeps for its users by default, including search history, web cookies associated with an account, device information, and a host of other metadata categories. One affidavit describes how the FBI narrowed down Cohen's temporary location at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York through his cell phone location data. Agents then used a "triggerfish" -- a reference to a stingray, or IMSI catcher, a suitcase-sized device that mimics a cell tower to convince a cell phone to connect and reveal its location... Prosecutors also made use of a new law that Trump recently signed. Investigators in the Southern District of New York compelled Google to turn over some documents on Cohen, but the tech giant initially "declined to produce data that it stored on computer servers located outside of the United States," according to an affidavit submitted to the court by an FBI agent working on Cohen's case. Weeks later, Trump signed the CLOUD Act into law, which gave US law enforcement more legal pathways to pursue data stories overseas.... In an April 2018 affidavit, the FBI agent argued that "providers are required to disclose data even if it is stored abroad" under the new law. The judge approved the new search warrant later that day, giving investigators access to additional information from Google, including Cohen's emails, attachments, address book and files stored on Google Drive. One technology law expert told CNN that police now seek access to more and more information. "I think any of the electronic debris that people leave online on these services is all potentially subject to being used against you."

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 4:34 am

Pwn2Own Competitors Crack Tesla, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Windows 10

A research duo who hacked a Tesla were the big winners at the annual Pwn2Own white hat security contest, reports ZDNet. "The duo earned $375,000 in prize money, of the total of $545,000 awarded during the whole three-day competition... They also get to keep the car." Team Fluoroacetate -- made up of Amat Cama and Richard Zhu -- hacked the Tesla car via its browser. They used a JIT bug in the browser renderer process to execute code on the car's firmware and show a message on its entertainment system... Besides keeping the car, they also received a $35,000 reward. "In the coming days we will release a software update that addresses this research," a Tesla spokesperson told ZDNet today in regards to the Pwn2Own vulnerability. Not coincidentally, Team Fluoroacetate also won the three-day contest after earning 36 "Master of Pwn" points for successful exploits in Apple Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, VMware Workstation, and Windows 10... [R]esearchers also exploited vulnerabilities in Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, VMware Workstation, Oracle Virtualbox, and Windows 10.

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Posted on 24 March 2019 | 1:34 am