April 12, 2016
The article on MotherBoard titled How The FBI Located Suspected Administrator of the Dark Web’s Largest Child Porn Site provides a comprehensive overview of the events that led to the FBI being accused of “outrageous conduct” for operating a child pornography site for just under two weeks in February of 2015 in order to take down Playpen, a dark web child porn service. The article states,
“In order to locate these users in the real world, the agency took control of Playpen and operated it from February 20 to March 4 in 2015, deploying a hacking tool to identify visitorsof the site. The FBI hacked computers in the US, Greece, Chile, and likely elsewhere.
But, in identifying at least two high ranking members of Playpen, and possibly one other, the FBI relied on information provided by a foreign law enforcement agency (FLA), according to court documents.”
Since the dial-up era, child pornographers have made use of the Internet. The story of comedian Barry Crimmins exposing numerous child pornographers who were using AOL’s early chat rooms to share their pictures is a revealing look at that company’s eagerness to turn a blind eye. In spite of this capitulation, the dark web is the current haven for such activities, and the February 2015 hacking project was the largest one yet.
Chelsea Kerwin, April 12, 2016
March 28, 2016
Does the presence of a major news site lend an air of legitimacy to the Dark Web? Wired announces, “ProPublica Launches the Dark Web’s First Major News Site.” Reporter Andy Greenberg tells us that ProPublica recently introduced a version of their site running on the Tor network. To understand why anyone would need such a high level of privacy just to read the news, imagine living under a censorship-happy government; ProPublica was inspired to launch the site while working on a report about Chinese online censorship.
Why not just navigate to ProPublica’s site through Tor? Greenberg explains the danger of malicious exit nodes:
“Of course, any privacy-conscious user can achieve a very similar level of anonymity by simply visiting ProPublica’s regular site through their Tor Browser. But as Tigas points out, that approach does leave the reader open to the risk of a malicious ‘exit node,’ the computer in Tor’s network of volunteer proxies that makes the final connection to the destination site. If the anonymous user connects to a part of ProPublica that isn’t SSL-encrypted—most of the site runs SSL, but not yet every page—then the malicious relay could read what the user is viewing. Or even on SSL-encrypted pages, the exit node could simply see that the user was visiting ProPublica. When a Tor user visits ProPublica’s Tor hidden service, by contrast—and the hidden service can only be accessed when the visitor runs Tor—the traffic stays under the cloak of Tor’s anonymity all the way to ProPublica’s server.”
The article does acknowledge that Deep Dot Web has been serving up news on the Dark Web for some time now. However, some believe this move from a reputable publisher is a game changer. ProPublica developer Mike Tigas stated:
“Personally I hope other people see that there are uses for hidden services that aren’t just hosting illegal sites. Having good examples of sites like ProPublica and Securedrop using hidden services shows that these things aren’t just for criminals.”
Will law-abiding, but privacy-loving, citizens soon flood the shadowy landscape of the Dark Web.
Cynthia Murrell, March 28, 2016
March 25, 2016
I read “Proposed Truthfulness Law Spooks Russian News Aggregators.” I came away a little puzzled. My perception is that the “news,” regardless of country, is a weird amalgam of infotainment, bias, and theater (political, social, and William Wycherley fare). Whenever the notion of “real,” “accurate,” “objective,” and “true” enter from stage right or left, I wonder what these folks’ definition of the glittering generalities are.
According to the write up, “Russia has tight media controls that include a requirement to make sure all print, broadcast and online news is true.”
A new bill (not yet a law, gentle reader) “would effectively say that news aggregators are the same as mass media operations.” News aggregators like Yandex and the Alphabet Google thing:
would become liable if they spread false information and state agencies complain about it.
The write up, a “real” journalism outfit observes:
Although the law would create a handy way of further restricting information flows, when the bill came out, the Russian communications ministry indicated it was not keen on the idea. That said, the Kremlin has already been making life hard for big online players, particularly by mandating that they store users’ personal data on servers in Russia.
May I suggest a quick romp through Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes?
Stephen E Arnold, March 25, 2016
March 22, 2016
The article on Beyond the Book titled Data Not Content Is Now Publishers’ Product floats a new buzzword in its discussion of the future of information: infonomics, or the study of creation and consumption of information. The article compares information to petroleum as the resource that will cause quite a stir in this century. Grace Hong, Vice-President of Strategic Markets & Development for Wolters Kluwer’s Tax & Accounting, weighs in,
“When it comes to big data – and especially when we think about organizations like traditional publishing organizations – data in and of itself is not valuable. It’s really about the insights and the problems that you’re able to solve,” Hong tells CCC’s Chris Kenneally. “From a product standpoint and from a customer standpoint, it’s about asking the right questions and then really deeply understanding how this information can provide value to the customer, not only just mining the data that currently exists.”
Hong points out that the data itself is useless unless it has been produced correctly. That means asking the right questions and using the best technology available to find meaning in the massive collections of information possible to collect. Hong suggests that it is time for publishers to seize on the market created by Big Data.
Chelsea Kerwin, March 22, 2016
March 17, 2016
I love it when universities reinvent stuff. Imagine an academic journal without fees. Instead of peer review, the journal features peer to peer review. You can get the scoop in “MIT Media Lab’s Journal of Design and Science Is a Radical New Kind of Publication.”
The idea is that the journal will combine design (phones that look like blocks of metal and science software which permits a self driving auto to collide with a bus). I learned:
Science, design, art, and engineering, long considered their own areas of focus, are no longer domains to be explored in isolation, but together, in the hopes of expediting progress and discovery.
Knock down those artificial walls between disciplines. Innovate with a new journal.
I am okay with this type of publication.
However, once the journal model is migrated from the warm, fuzzy, and endowed confines of the MIT womb, what’s the business model?
My hunch is that the “new” will have to work with the “old”; that is, subscribers have to pay and then renew, authors will grouse if some nag suggests that compensation is appropriate, vendors will want hard cash for bandwidth, and even sciencey Web programmers may want some money.
Interesting idea, but the business model remains the problem for new publications which have to survive in the present economic environment. Now if there is a friendly check writer who will provide a not for profit environment, there may be more publishing innovations like MIT’s. Until then, it looks like there will be blogs with comments allowed.
But the benefits to the innovator and his ability to publish information in an important “new” journal may be substantial. But that’s what universities are for today. Oh, universities also facilitate student loans. Great stuff higher education.
Stephen E Arnold, March 17, 2016
March 14, 2016
I recall the good old days at Forbes. The outfit has a stellar information professional. The company decided it did not need a stellar information professional. At that point, I realized that the “real” journalists knew how to formulate questions, obtain information from online resources, winnow the results, and deliver on point summaries germane to the topics the “real” journalists were writing about. That’s when I dismissed Forbes as a source of high value, accurate information. Now when I flip through a copy at the still open Barnes & Noble I have a tough time figuring out what’s fact, what’s opinion, and what’s content marketing or what I am now considering content spam.
Is this Yahoo’s new headquarters?
I did read “The Seven Lessons of Marissa Mayer.” I suppose the information created by a person who describes himself as “the unwritten contract at work” is a “real” journalist, a person with opinions, or a creator of content spam. Let’s look at the analysis of the wild and crazy place which houses the remaining Yahooligans.
The write up makes this point via a quote from Vanity Fair, another “real” journalism publication:
“Most people in (Silicon) Valley want to see Yahoo succeed, if only out of respect for its legacy,” the magazine reported. “And they generally believe that, if anyone can fix Yahoo, it is Mayer. She is an engineer, and engineers are revered in the Valley. She is also a ‘product person,’ which means that she has a track record of designing Internet-based products that people want to use.”
The worm hath turned. I learned a factoid from the New York Times, which is reproduced in the capitalist tool:
“Yahoo is likely to sell for less than all of the money Ms. Mayer spent,” wrote Berkeley Professor Steven Davidoff Solomon in his recent New York Times column. “If she had sought to liquidate Yahoo as soon as she took over and distributed the proceeds, Yahoo shareholders would have fared much better than they will now.”
Let me cut to the cob. Mayer is a loser. But, according to the article, there are lessons to be learned from the Mayer “voyage” to the heart of darkness. Poetry doesn’t make it into the “real” journalism stuff. May I highlight three of the lessons which are, I presume, worth the shareholder value which the current management team has tossed on the bonfire of vanities. (Yikes, there I go again. Poetry.)
Lesson 2 of the seven: Just because there’s a new captain doesn’t mean the ship’s not going to sing. I understand. A flawed design for the Titanic is likely to present some challenges to any captain who sails into iceberg infested seas. (Does this suggest that Ms. Mayer failed to evaluate her engineered RMS Titanic? Quite an error in judgment from the git go, right?)
Lesson 5 of the seven: Rank and yank makes a company tear itself up from the inside. I don’t understand. What’s a rank and yank? Perhaps this is a “real” journalist’s way of explaining that employee reviews resulted in firing people? I understand the jargon “stack ranking,” but the “rank and yank” phraseology is a trigger for some other associations. IBM tries to hide its firing people with the phrase “resource allocation.” Although unseemly, it lacks the connotations of the “yank and rank” lesson. (Does this mean that Ms. Mayer lacks management expertise?)
Lesson 7 of the seven: Employees will support a CEO who has their best interests at heart and turn on one who doesn’t. Yikes, Ms. Mayer, if I understand the lesson, managed to alienate some of the folks who worked for her. So much for the leadership capability of Ms. Mayer. (Does this tell me more about Ms. Mayer than about Yahoo? It sure does.)
I love the capitalist tool and “real” journalism. Ms. Mintz, Ms. Mintz, how badly does Forbes need you?
Stephen E Arnold, March 14, 2016
March 13, 2016
I read “Google Ordered to Hand Over Names of Fake Reviewers in Dutch Court Case.” Let’s assume that the story is accurate. For me, the notion of Google providing the names of individuals who created “fake” reviews is interesting. For the affected small business, the victory is not likely to generate a jump to the top 25 sites in traffic. For the Google, the court decision is another indication of the legal hurdles Google may face in the present day European community.
The write up said:
While the case appears to be a landmark ruling — it’s the first time that Google has been required to provide contact details and IP addresses for Google reviewers — it also highlights the challenges for a search platform like Google when navigating questions of freedom of speech and more recent developments that touch on user privacy. The ongoing “right to be forgotten” mandate in Europe, where Google and other search engines are removing links that people request to be removed if “inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant or excessive, and not in the public interest,” have proven to be tricky waters for the company amid its default position of making the world a more searchable place.
My thought is that Google is likely to find itself under increasing legal scrutiny to deal with alleged abuses carried out within its content generating functions; for example, people or robots which generate fake reviews.
Sometimes I wonder if the Google we once knew and loved is going to become a much less exciting search and retrieval service.
Stephen E Arnold, March 13, 2016
March 10, 2016
I read “This Renowned Mathematician Is Bent On Proving Academic Journals Can Cost Nothing.” If you are not an academic, you may not know that some folks pay the publisher to publish one’s research report, journal article, or wild and crazy summary of non reproducible results.
You betcha. I remember a meeting a decade ago at the Cornell Theory Center. I asked if a faculty member who published in an online journal would be recognized for the work. The answer, not surprisingly, was, “No.” Flash forward to today. Many institutions like the estimable University of Louisville prefer their wizards’ write ups to be in prestigious paper journals. Sure, maybe a short item in the Harvard Business School blog will get some blue or green stars. The gold ones, from what I have heard, go to the expensive, paper journals like those from the ever savvy Elsevier outfit.
The write up states:
Despite a decades-old “open access” movement — which aims to put research findings in the public domain instead of languishing behind expensive pay walls — the traditional approach to publishing remains firmly entrenched.
The Cambridge math whiz is launch Discrete Analysis. Sorry, no snaps of the new Bugatti Chiron or Maserati SUV.
The write up points out some of the realities of academic publishing. The arguments are somewhat tired. I highlighted this passage:
So far, these alternative ventures have had little success dismantling the knowledge fiefdoms like Elsevier. The ArXiv (which launched in 1991) and open-access publishers like PLoS (established in 2000) still haven’t displaced traditional journals. But maybe, as more and more mini ventures chip away at the incumbent publishers, the revolution will take shape.
The fellow leading the charge for no cost or low cost academic publishing may find the task more difficult than tackling one of Hilbert’s unsolved problems.
Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2016
March 7, 2016
For evidence that the dark web is not all about drugs and cybercrime, check out this article at Motherboard: “The Dark Web Now Has a Literary Journal.” As it turns out, anonymity is also good for people who wish to freely explore their creativity and private thoughts.
The new journal, the Torist, was just launched by a professor at the University of Utah, Robert W. Ghel, and a person known simply as GMH. Inspired by the free discussions on their dark-web-based social network, Galaxy, they have seized their chance to create something unexpected. The journal’s preface asks:
“If a magazine publishes itself via a Tor hidden service, what does the creative output look like? How might it contrast itself with its clearweb counterparts? Who indeed will gravitate towards a dark web literary magazine?”
So, why is one of the Torist’s creators anonymous while the other is putting himself out there? Writer Joseph Cox tells us:
Gehl, after being pitched the idea of The Torist by GMH, decided to strip away his pseudonym, and work on the project under his own name. “I thought about that for a while,” Gehl said. “I thought that because GMH is anonymous/pseudonymous, and he’s running the servers, I could be a sort of ‘clear’ liason.”
So while Gehl used his name, and added legitimacy to the project in that way, GMH could continue to work with the freedom the anonymity awards. “I guess it’s easier to explore ideas and not worry as much how it turns out,” said GMH, who described himself as someone with a past studying the humanities, and playing with technology in his spare time.
Gehl and GMH say part of their reasoning behind the journal is to show people that anonymity and encryption can be forces for good. Privacy furthers discussion of controversial, personal, and difficult topics and, according to GMH, should be the default setting for all communications, especially online.
Submissions are currently being accepted, so go ahead and submit that poem or essay if you have something to get off your chest, anonymously. If you dare to venture into the dark web, that is.
Cynthia Murrell, March 7, 2016
February 20, 2016
I read in McPaper this article: “Wolff: Print’s Dead — but So Is Digital.” Okay, I learned from Dr. Francis Chivers (Duquesne University professor in the 1960s) that God is dead. I learned from Francis Fukuyama (assorted universities) that history is dead. Now I learn from McPaper that print and digital are dead. A two’fer! That is what makes McPaper so darned compelling.
The article informed me:
the effort to compete with native digital news outlets like BuzzFeed means traditional news organizations, with traditional share price values, must, like the venture-capital supported natives, pay more for traffic than can ever hope to be made back from advertisers. In this model, the digital natives can yet hope to sell to deep-pocket buyers, whereas the traditionals can only go out of business.
Where does McPaper land in this business scenario?
I noted this passage and its nod to the recently acquired yellow orange newspaper, the Financial Times:
At present, the FT concludes, there is no viable economic model for a written news product. Hence, in some ever-increasing existential darkness, it’s back to the drawing board in search of one.
Question: How many trips to the drawing board do traditional newspaper publishers get to make? I thought the digital revolution kicked off 40 or 50 years ago. I wonder if the drawing board is okay, but the folks visiting it are in a digital version of Sartre’s No Exit.
Well, well, I dare say one gets used to it in time.
Stephen E Arnold, February 20, 2016