Science

The Environmental Cost of Internet Porn (theatlantic.com) 188

An anonymous reader shares a report (condensed for space): Online streaming is a win for the environment. Streaming music eliminates all that physical material -- CDs, jewel cases, cellophane, shipping boxes, fuel -- and can reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 40 percent or more. Scientists who analyze the environmental impact of the internet tout the benefits of this "dematerialization," observing that energy use and carbon-dioxide emissions will drop as media increasingly can be delivered over the internet. But this theory might have a major exception: porn. Since the turn of the century, the pornography industry has experienced two intense hikes in popularity. In the early 2000s, broadband enabled higher download speeds. Then, in 2008, the advent of so-called tube sites allowed users to watch clips for free, like people watch videos on YouTube. Adam Grayson, the chief financial officer of the adult company Evil Angel, calls the latter hike "the great mushroom-cloud porn explosion of 2008." Precise numbers don't exist to quantify specifics, but the impression across the industry is that viewership is way, way up. Pornhub, the world's most popular porn site, provides some of the only accessible data on its yearly web-traffic report. The first Year In Review post in 2013 tabulated that 14.7 billion people visited the site. By 2016, the number of visitors had almost doubled, to 23 billion, and those visitors watched more than 4.59 billion hours of porn. And Pornhub is just one site. Using a formula that Netflix published on its blog in 2015, Nathan Ensmenger, a professor at Indiana University who is writing a book about the environmental history of the computer, calculates that if Pornhub streams video as efficiently as Netflix (0.0013 kWh per streaming hour), it used 5.967 million kWh in 2016. For comparison, that's about the same amount of energy 11,000 light bulbs would use if left on for a year. And operating with Netflix's efficiency would be a best-case scenario for the porn site, Ensmenger believes.
Facebook

Russia-Linked Accounts Were Active on Facebook Ahead of Brexit (ft.com) 210

The Russia-linked troll farm that used Facebook to target Americans during last year's election was also active in the UK ahead of the Brexit vote (Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source), the social media company has admitted. From a report: In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Facebook said accounts associated with the Internet Research Agency spent $0.97 for three ads in the days before the EU referendum. These ads appeared on approximately 200 news feeds in the UK before the country voted to leave the EU last year. For months the social media company has sidestepped questions from MPs and journalists about Russian interference through its platform in the UK. The concerns were fuelled by revelations this summer that Facebook had been weaponised by Russian entities before the election of US President Donald Trump. France and Germany have said their elections were also targeted. "We strongly support the Commission's efforts to regulate and enforce political campaign finance rules in the United Kingdom, and we take the Commission's request very seriously," Facebook said in the letter.
AI

What Does Artificial Intelligence Actually Mean? (qz.com) 112

An anonymous reader writes: A new bill (pdf) drafted by senator Maria Cantwell asks the Department of Commerce to establish a committee on artificial intelligence to advise the federal government on how AI should be implemented and regulated. Passing of the bill would trigger a process in which the secretary of commerce would be required to release guidelines for legislation of AI within a year and a half. As with any legislation, the proposed bill defines key terms. In this, we have a look at how the federal government might one day classify artificial intelligence. Here are the five definitions given:

A) Any artificial systems that perform tasks under varying and unpredictable circumstances, without significant human oversight, or that can learn from their experience and improve their performance. Such systems may be developed in computer software, physical hardware, or other contexts not yet contemplated. They may solve tasks requiring human-like perception, cognition, planning, learning, communication, or physical action. In general, the more human-like the system within the context of its tasks, the more it can be said to use artificial intelligence.
B) Systems that think like humans, such as cognitive architectures and neural networks.
C) Systems that act like humans, such as systems that can pass the Turing test or other comparable test via natural language processing, knowledge representation, automated reasoning, and learning.
D) A set of techniques, including machine learning, that seek to approximate some cognitive task.
E) Systems that act rationally, such as intelligent software agents and embodied robots that achieve goals via perception, planning, reasoning, learning, communicating, decision-making, and acting.

Social Networks

Instagram Will Now Let You Follow Hashtags In Your Main Feed (theverge.com) 22

"Up until now, there were two ways to interact with a hashtag," reports The Verge. "You could click through a hashtag on a post, or you could search for a specific tag in the Explore section of the app." Today, Instagram is adding a new way to interact with a hashtag: the ability to follow hashtags so you can see top posts and Stories about a topic on your home page. From the report: You can now "follow" a hashtag the same way you would follow an account. Instagram's algorithms will then pick and choose some of the highlights from that collection and surface them in your main feed. It's a fundamental change to one of the largest social media platforms in the world, elevating your interest in adorable dogs or expensive automobiles to equal status with your friends and family. By contrast, the posts injected into my main feed based on the hashtags I chose to follow (#modernart, #bjj, #ancient) felt carefully curated. There is a lot of variety, even within those categories, but you can train the algorithm on what you do and don't like. Engage with the post by leaving a heart or a comment, and Instagram will assume you want more. Click the menu button on the top right of the post, and you can downvote the offending image by asking Instagram not to show you similar content for that hashtag again. After a few days of this, the art in my feed, both martial and modern, felt fine-tuned to my taste.
Twitter

Twitter Officially Launches 'Threads,' a New Feature For Easily Posting Tweetstorms (techcrunch.com) 40

New submitter FatdogHaiku writes: For those people that must use multiple tweets to rant (or educate) on Twitter, a feature called "Threads" is being rolled out to aid in creating "tweetstorms" (i.e. gang tweets). Given how tweetstorms are normally used, how about we call them twitphoons? TechCrunch explains just how easy to use the new threads feature is: "There's now a new plus ('+') button in the composer screen where you can type out your series of tweets. Each line represents one tweet, with a character limit of 280 as per usual. You can also add the same amount of media -- like GIFs, images, videos, and more -- to any individual tweet in the thread, as you could on Twitter directly. When you're finished with one tweet, you just tap in the space below to continue your thread. While writing out your tweetstorm, you can go back and edit the tweets at any time as they're still in draft format. When you're ready to post, you tap the 'Tweet all' button at the top to send the stream to Twitter. (Twitter will pace the tweets' posting a bit so they don't all hit at once.)"

"In addition, another handy feature allows you to go back and update a thread by adding new tweets after it already posted," adds TechCrunch. "To do so, you'll write out the new tweet after tapping the 'Add another Tweet' button. This lets you continue to update a thread forever -- something Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey already does with his own threads, for example. Twitter tells us there's currently a limit of 25 entries in a thread, but that number may be subject to change depending on how the feature is adopted by the wider user base."
Facebook

We've Toned Down the 'Destroying Society' Shtick, Facebook Insists (theregister.co.uk) 102

Facebook has taken the unusual step of responding to comments by former VP Chamath Palihapitiya that the social media giant was "destroying how society works." Palihapitiya said that executives ignored cautionary instincts when creating Facebook, and he now regretted the consequences. In a statement, Facebook said: Chamath has not been at Facebook for over 6 years. When Chamath was at Facebook we were focused on building new social media experiences and growing Facebook around the world. Facebook was a very different company back then, and as we have grown, we have realized how our responsibilities have grown too. We take our role very seriously and we are working hard to improve. We've done a lot of work and research with outside experts and academics to understand the effects of our service on well-being, and we're using it to inform our product development. We are also making significant investments more in people, technology and processes, and -- as Mark Zuckerberg said on the last earnings call -- we are willing to reduce our profitability to make sure the right investments are made.
Facebook

Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media is Ripping Apart Society (theverge.com) 404

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: Another former Facebook executive has spoken out about the harm the social network is doing to civil society around the world. Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and became its vice president for user growth, said he feels "tremendous guilt" about the company he helped make. "I think we have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works," he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business, before recommending people take a âoehard breakâ from social media. Palihapitiya's criticisms were aimed not only at Facebook, but the wider online ecosystem. "The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we've created are destroying how society works," he said, referring to online interactions driven by "hearts, likes, thumbs-up." "No civil discourse, no cooperation; misinformation, mistruth. And it's not an American problem -- this is not about Russians ads. This is a global problem." Also read: Sean Parker Unloads on Facebook 'Exploiting' Human Psychology
NASA

Google's Machine Learning Is Analyzing Data From NASA's Kepler Space Telescope (nasa.gov) 27

NASA writes: NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EST Thursday, Dec. 14, to announce the latest discovery made by its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope. The discovery was made by researchers using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence, and demonstrates new ways of analyzing Kepler data... When Kepler launched in March 2009, scientists didn't know how common planets were beyond our solar system. Thanks to Kepler's treasure trove of discoveries, astronomers now believe there may be at least one planet orbiting every star in the sky.
Space.com adds: Kepler spots alien worlds by noticing the tiny brightness dips they cause when they cross the face of their host star from the spacecraft's perspective. Kepler is the most accomplished planet hunter in history. It has found more than 2,500 confirmed alien worlds -- about 70 percent of all known exoplanets -- along with a roughly equal number of "candidates" that await confirmation by follow-up observations or analyses. The vast majority of these discoveries have come via observations that Kepler made during its original mission, which ran from 2009 to 2013. Study of these data sets is ongoing; over the past few years, researchers have used improved analysis techniques to spot many exoplanets in data that Kepler gathered a half-decade ago or more.
Space.com describes Thursday's announcement as an exoplanet discovery. (Earlier they reported on the discovery of "a possibly habitable alien world" about 2.2 times the size of earth orbiting a dwarf star "within the range of distances where liquid water could exist on a world's surface".)

Slashdot reader schwit1 points out that other less-credible sites speculate NASA's announcement will be "a major discovery about life beyond earth."
Security

Touting Government/Industry 'Partnership' on Security Practices, NIST Drafts Cybersecurity Framework Update (scmagazine.com) 15

Remember NIST, the non-regulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce? Their mission expanded over the years to protecting businesses from cyberthreats, including a "Cybersecurty Framework" first published in 2014. "The original goal was to develop a voluntary framework to help organizations manage cybersecurity risk in the nation's critical infrastructure, such as bridges and the electric power grid," NIST wrote in January, "but the framework has been widely adopted by many types of organizations across the country and around the world." Now SC Media reports: The second draft of the update to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's cybersecurity framework, NIST 1.1, is meant "to clarify, refine, and enhance the Cybersecurity Framework, amplifying its value and making it easier to use," according to NIST. Specifically, it brings clarity to cybersecurity measurement language and tackles improving security of the supply chain. Calling the initial NIST CSF "a landmark effort" that delivered "important benefits, such as providing common language for different models" of standards and best practices already in use, Larry Clinton, president and CEO of the Internet Security Alliance, said "it fell short of some of the most critical demands of Presidential Executive Order 13636, which generated its development...

"To begin with, the new draft makes it clear that our goal is not some undefined metric for use of the Framework, but for effective use of the Framework. Moreover, this use-metric needs to be tied not to some generic standard, but to be calibrated to the unique threat picture, risk appetite and business objective of a particular organization"... Clinton praised the process used by NIST as "a model 'use case' for how government needs to engage with its industry partners to address the cybersecurity issue." The internet's inherent interconnectedness makes it impossible for sustainable security to be achieved through anything other than true partnership, he contended.

Slashdot reader Presto Vivace reminds you that public comments on the draft Framework and Roadmap are due to NIST by 11:59 p.m. EST on January 19, 2018. "If you have an opinion about this, NOW is the time to express it."
Debian

Updated Debian Linux 9.3 and 8.10 Released (debian.org) 49

An anonymous reader writes: The Debian project is pleased to announce the third update of its stable distribution Debian 9 (codename stretch). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories have already been published separately and are referenced where available. The Debian project also announces the tenth update of its oldstable distribution Debian 8 (codename jessie).

Please note that the point release does not constitute a new version of Debian 9 or 8 but only updates some of the packages included. There is no need to throw away old jessie or stretch DVD/CD media. After installation, packages can be upgraded to the current versions using an up-to-date Debian mirror. This stable update adds a few important corrections to packages. New installation images will be available soon at the mirrors. Those who frequently install updates from security.debian.org won't have to update many packages, and most such updates are included in the point release. One can use the apt command or apt-get command to apply updates. A step-by-step update guide is posted here.

Businesses

Patreon Hits Donors With New Fees, Angering Creators (venturebeat.com) 143

Patreon's changing their fee structure to make donors cover payment-processing fees (standardized to 2.9%) -- plus an additional 35 cents for every pledge. Long-time Slashdot reader NewtonsLaw reports that Patreon's users are furious: Despite Patreon's hype that this is a good thing for creators, few of these actually seem to agree and there's already a growing backlash on social media... many fear that their net return will be lower because the extra fees levied on patreons are causing them to either reduce the amount they pledge or withdraw completely... For those patrons supporting only a few creators the effect won't be large, but for those who make small donations to many creators this could amount to a hike of almost 40% in the amount charged to their credit cards. Without exception, all the content creators I have spoken to would have:

a) liked to have been consulted first

b) wanted the option to retain the old system where they bear the cost of the fees.

As a content creator, I've already seen quite a few of my patreons reducing their pledge and others canceling their pledges completely -- and I understand why they are doing that.

"Everyone hates Patreon's new fee," writes VentureBeat, adding "Many creators are saying it's unfair for patrons to have to pay transaction fees. In addition to that, most people support multiple creators and not just one, and they'll have to pay the extra fee for each pledge they make."

Tech journalist Bryan Lunduke is already soliciting suggestions on Twitter for an open source or Free Software solution that accepts donations from multiple payment systems, and while the change doesn't go into effect until December 18th, NewtonsLaw writes that "it's starting to look as if many content creators will be getting a slightly larger percentage of a much smaller amount as a result of this lunacy by Patreon -- something that will see them far worse off than the were before."
The Internet

EU Urges Internet Companies To Do More To Remove Extremist Content (reuters.com) 79

Internet groups such as Facebook, Google's YouTube and Twitter need to do more to stem the proliferation of extremist content on their platforms, the European Commission said after a meeting on Wednesday. From a report: Social media companies have significantly boosted their resources to take down violent and extremist content as soon as possible in response to growing political pressure from European governments, particularly those hit by militant attacks in recent years. But Julian King, EU security commissioner, said that while a lot of progress had been made, additional efforts were needed. "We are not there yet. We are two years down the road of this journey: to reach our final destination we now need to speed up our work," King said in his closing speech at the third meeting of the EU Internet Forum, which brings together the Commission, EU member states, law enforcement and technology companies. The EU has said it will come forward with legislation next year if it is not satisfied with progress made by tech companies in removing extremist content, while a German online hate speech law comes into effect on Jan. 1.
Security

NiceHash Hacked, $62 Million of Bitcoin May Be Stolen (reddit.com) 79

New submitter Chir breaks the news to us that the NiceHash crypto-mining marketplace has been hacked. The crypto mining pool broke the news on Reddit, where users suggest that as many as 4,736.42 BTC -- an amount worth more than $62 million at current prices -- has been stolen. The NiceHash team is urging users to change their online passwords as a result of the breach and theft.
Facebook

Health Secretary Hits Out at Facebook's New App, Says 'Stay Away From My Kids' (theguardian.com) 113

Jeremy Hunt has publicly attacked Facebook for releasing a version of its Messenger app aimed at children, and called on the social media company to "stay away from my kids." From a report: The health secretary accused the company of "targeting younger children" after Facebook announced on Monday that it was conducting trials of an app called Messenger Kids in the US, which is designed to be used by pre-teens. He said the company was failing to act responsibly despite having assured the government that it would not target its service at children, who can only use the main social media website if they are over 13.
The Courts

State Board Concedes It Violated Free Speech Rights of Oregon Man Fined For Writing 'I Am An Engineer' (oregonlive.com) 178

According to Oregon Live, "A state panel violated a Beaverton man's free speech rights by claiming he had unlawfully used the title 'engineer' and by fining him when he repeatedly challenged Oregon's traffic-signal timing before local media and policymakers, Oregon's attorney general has ruled." From the report: Oregon's Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying unconstitutionally applied state law governing engineering practice to Mats Jarlstrom when he exercised his free speech about traffic lights and described himself as an engineer since he was doing so "in a noncommercial'' setting and not soliciting professional business, the state Department of Justice has conceded. "We have admitted to violating Mr. Jarlstrom's rights,'' said Christina L. Beatty-Walters, senior assistant attorney general, in federal court Monday. The state's regulation of Jarlstrom under engineering practice law "was not narrowly tailored to any compelling state interests,'' she wrote in court papers. The state has pledged the board will not pursue the Beaverton man any further when he's not acting in a commercial or professional manner, and on Monday urged a federal judge to dismiss the case. The state also sent a $500 check to Jarlstrom in August, reimbursing him for the state fine.

Jarlstrom and his lawyers argued that's not good enough. They contend Jarlstrom isn't alone in getting snared by the state board's aggressive and "overbroad'' interpretation of state law. They contend others have been investigated improperly and want the court to look broader at the state law and its administrative rules and declare them unconstitutional. In the alternative, the state law should be restricted to only regulating engineering communications that are made as part of paid employment or a contractual agreement.

Businesses

NYTimes Editorial Board: The FCC Wants To Let Telecoms Cash In on the Internet (nytimes.com) 268

The New York Times' Editorial Board writes: The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission wants to let Comcast, Verizon and other broadband companies turn the internet into a latter-day version of cable TV, in which they decide what customers can watch and how much they pay for that content. That's essentially what would happen under the proposal by the chairman, Ajit Pai, to abandon the commission's network neutrality rules, which prevent telecom companies from interfering with how their customers use the internet. Net neutrality prevents those companies from having companies like Amazon pay a fee to get their content delivered more quickly than their rivals', and from having the firms throttle other services and websites, even blocking customer access to, say, Netflix or an online newspaper. Under Mr. Pai's proposal, telecom companies would effectively be allowed to sell you a basic internet plan that might include only limited access to Google and email. For Facebook and Twitter you might need a slightly more expensive deluxe plan. The premium plan might include access to Netflix and Amazon. Oh, and by the way, media businesses eager to gain more users could pay broadband companies to be included in their enhanced basic or deluxe plans. Further reading: Associated Press fact check: Net-neutrality claims leave out key context; The death of the Internet.
It's funny.  Laugh.

Elon Musk Trolls the Media With a Clip From 'Spaceballs' (twitter.com) 134

An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk is having fun on Twitter, where he's either promoting the new line of $20 "Boring Company" hats or trolling the media. "To preserve the transcendent majesty & specialness of The Boring Company cap, we are capping cap orders at 50,000 caps," Musk tweeted Sunday, adding "Almost there ..." Responding to a user who asked, "Is this really how you're funding the boring company??" Musk answered "Yes."

An hour later he tweeted that "Every 5000th buyer of our boringly boring hat will get a free hat signed by the delivery guy. That special hat delivery will take place deep within the real, but fictional (of course), tunnel we are building under LA while you drive the giant machine blindfolded. This will actually happen."

And then hours later, Musk shared a fresh insight into his thought process. "The *real* money comes from merchandising," he tweeted, adding "I learned it from this documentary," sharing a video titled "merchandising" which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a clip from the 1987 comedy "Spaceballs" starring Mel Brooks.

Ironically, George Lucas had only blessed Mel Brooks' parody of Star Wars with one condition: that no Space Balls action figure merchandise ever be produced.
Transportation

Drone Pilot Arrested After Flying Over Two Stadiums, Dropping Leaflets (cbslocal.com) 108

"A man with an anti-media agenda was arrested in Oakland after he flew a drone over two different stadiums to drop leaflets" last Sunday, writes Slashdot reader execthis. A local CBS station reports: According to investigators, [55-year-old Tracy] Mapes piloted his drone over Levi's Stadium during the second quarter of the 49ers-Seattle game and released a load of pamphlets. He then quickly landed the drone, loaded it up and drove over to Oakland. He flew a similar mission over the Raiders-Broncos game. Santa Clara Police Lt. Dan Moreno said after Mapes was apprehended he defended the illegal action as a form of free speech.
USA Today reports there's now also an ongoing federal investigation "because the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits the flying of drones within five miles of an airport. Both Levi's Stadium and Oakland Coliseum are within that range."

"The San Francisco Chronicle added that the drone was a relatively ineffective messenger because 'most of the drone-dropped leaflets were carried away by the wind.'"
Businesses

US 'Orchestrated' Russian Spies Scandal, Says Kaspersky Founder (theguardian.com) 141

Alex Hern, writing for The Guardian: Eugene Kaspersky, chief executive and co-founder of the embattled Russian cybersecurity firm that bears his name, believes his company is at the centre of a "designed and orchestrated attack" to destroy its reputation. Over a short period in the summer of 2017, Kaspersky Labs was the subject of multiple media reports alleging that the company had helped Russian intelligence agencies spy on the US, a number of FBI raids on staff members, and a nationwide ban on the use of its software by federal government agencies. "This media attack and government attack from the United States, it was designed and orchestrated," Mr Kaspersky said at a press conference in London. "Because at the same time, there was government, there was FBI, there was media attack. That is expensive ... I mean all kinds of resources: political influence, money, lobbyists, the media etc." When asked directly whether he had ever been asked to help Russian intelligence agencies spy on the US, Kaspersky vehemently denied any such conversations had ever happened saying: "They have never asked us to spy on people. Never." "If the Russian government comes to me and asks me to do anything wrong, I will move the business out of Russia," he added. "We never helped the espionage agencies, the Russians or any other nation."
Social Networks

Vine Co-Founder Dom Hofmann Says He's Working On 'a Follow-Up To Vine' (theverge.com) 54

Last year, the six-second video social media app called Vine was shut down by Twitter. The Verge reports that Vine's co-founder, Dom Hofmann, says he's working on "a follow-up to Vine," where he will be funding the project himself outside of his current company, Interspace. "I'm going to work on a follow-up to vine. i've been feeling it myself for some time and have seen a lot of tweets, dms, etc.," Hofmann tweeted.

Unfortunately, he didn't elaborate on his plans. It's possible the follow-up site could be another short-term video app similar to the original Vine, or some other project that will look to build on the foundation Vine started. Would you be interested in a new Vine-like social media app, or did Vine never really appeal to you to begin with?

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