Trump planning to launch his own social media #1563



Hi, Kirk is back with you all as guest host for this episode and this upcoming episode on Monday, October 25th for Todd while he is away on travel. Happy to be back in the guest host chair and on this episode. And on this week’s episode, the top story being former President Donald Trump is launching his own social media platform. Will people decide to join its platform? Hmm, time will tell.

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Twitter Unsure Why its Algorithm Amplifies Right-Leaning Politicians



Twitter posted information about an in-depth analysis of whether its recommendation algorithms amplify political content. The study examined Tweets from elected officials in seven countries: Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The study included analysis of millions of Tweets from April 1 to August 15, 2020.

The study examined algorithmic amplification of political content in the Home Timeline (the one that is chronological) by asking the following questions:

  •  How much algorithmic amplification does political content from elected officials receive in Twitter’s algorithmically ranked Home timeline versus in the reverse chronological timeline? Does this amplification vary across political parties or within a political party?
  •  Are some types of political groups algorithmically amplified more than others? Are these trends consistent across countries?
  •  Are some news outlets amplified more by algorithms than others? Does news media algorithmic amplification favor one side of the political spectrum more than the other?

Here is what Twitter found:

  •  Tweets about political content from elected officials, regardless of party or whether the party is in power, do see algorithmic amplification when compared to political content on the reverse chronological timeline.
  •  Group effects did not translate to individual effects. In other words, since party affiliation or ideology is not a factor [Twitter’s] systems consider when recommending content, two individuals in the same party would not necessarily see the same amplification.
  •  In six out of seven countries – all but Germany – Tweets posted by accounts from the political right receive more algorithmic amplification than the political left when studied as a group.
  • Right-leaning news outlets, as defined by the independent organizations [All Sides and Ad Fontes Media] see greater algorithmic amplification on Twitter compared to left-leaning news outlets. However, as highlighted in the paper, these third party rankings make their own, independent classifications and as such the results of the analysis may vary depending on which source is used.

In short, they found that Twitter’s algorithms amplifies right-leaning politicians and right-leaning news outlets. It appears Twitter does not know why that is happening. “Further root cause analysis is required in order to determine what, if any, changes are required to reduce adverse impacts by our Home timeline algorithm,” Twitter stated.

In my opinion, Twitter needs to find out why its algorithms are selecting Tweets from right-leaning politicians and news outlets over Tweets from left-leaning politicians and news outlets. Favoring one side – no matter which side the algorithm chooses – could unfairly influence the result of real-world elections.


U.S. Commerce Department Tightens Exports of Hacking Tools



The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has released an interim final rule that establishes controls on the export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) of certain items that can be used for malicious cyber activities.

Here is a key part of the press release:

The United States Government opposes the misuse of technology to abuse human rights or conduct other malicious cyber activities, and these new rules will help ensure that U.S. companies are not fueling authoritarian practices. U.S. exporters are likewise encouraged to consult the State Department’s Guidance in Implementing the “Guiding Principles” for Transactions Linked to Foreign Government End Users for Products or Services with Surveillance Capabilities to minimize the risk that their products or services are misused by governments to violate or abuse human rights.

The Washington Post eported that this was a long-awaited rule that officials hope will stem the export or resale of hacking tools to China and Russia while still enabling cybersecurity collaboration across borders.

The rule will take effect after 90 days. Here is what it covers:

  • Software such as Pegasus, a potent spyware product sold by the Israeli firm NGO Group to governments that have used it to spy on dissidents and journalists
  • Bars sales of hacking software and equipment to China and Russia, as well as to a number of other countries of concern, without a license from the department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)

According to The Washington Post, The U.S. Department of Commerce already has export controls on products containing encryption, so the new rule applies to products that do not contain encryption. The Washington Post also reported that any intrusion software, even for defensive purposes, being sold to anyone in China or Russia, whether or not they work for the government, will require a license, according to the rule.

In addition, the rule will align the United States with the 42 European and other allies that are members of the Wassennaar Arrangement. This group sets voluntary export control policies on military and dual-use technologies (products that can be used both for civilian ad military purposes).

The Washington Post says that China is not a Wassenaar member. Israel is also not a member but voluntarily adopts its controls. Russia is a Wassenaar member.

In my opinion, the rule seems like a common-sense idea. There is no good reason to sell, transfer, or export tools to other countries that might be inclined to use those tools to hurt people.


Twitter has Acquired Sphere



Sphere announced that it has been acquired by Twitter. In a post on Medium, Sphere wrote, “We’ve joined to accelerate our mission of bringing people closer together through community.” TechCrunch reported that a Twitter spokesperson confirmed the Sphere acquisition news to them.

…We originally built a marketplace of paid experts from all around the world, connecting them through group chat. What we realized is that some of the most helpful and knowledgable conversations came from groups where members felt a strong sense of belonging to one another. In other words, at the heart of our challenge was helping every single person find their community.

According to Sphere, their feed automatically clears out old or irrelevant chats to prevent groups from feeling chaotic. Their chats call out essential messages (like polls, events, and announcements) and make it more likely for people to respond. Sphere has custom appreciations that encourage people to express genuine gratitude. Sphere says that by welcoming participation, they learned groups can become more productive, vibrant, purposeful and close.

In the Medium post, Sphere expressed admiration for “Twitter’s growing investment in community-building with the release of Communities, Spaces, and features that promote safety”. In my opinion, it sounds like the people at Sphere are wonderfully optimistic about what their experience with Twitter will be like. I hope it works out the way they want it to.

Those who are currently using Sphere need to be aware that Sphere will be winding down their standalone product next month. It appears the all 20 of the team of Sphere workers will be working on Twitter’s Communities, Direct Messages and Creators initiatives soon.

Sometimes, companies acquire smaller companies who do not appear to have very much in common with what the bigger company does. In this case, it sounds like Twitter and Sphere are a good match.


PayPal Might Purchase Pinterest



Bloomberg reported that PayPal Holdings Inc. is exploring an acquisition of social media company Pinterest Inc., according to people with knowledge of the matter. Bloomberg wrote that PayPal approached Pinterest about a potential deal in private talks. The companies have discussed a potential price of around $70 a share (according to people who were in private talks and who did not want to be identified).

That would value Pinterest at about $45 billion for the entire company, including its Class B shares. A deal at that level would represent about a 26% premium to Pinterest’s Tuesday closing price of $55.58.

It is not unheard of for a big company, who is interested in acquiring another company, to change its mind and back out. It seems to me that most of the time the companies find a way to complete the acquisition. It could go either way, though.

The Guardian reported that Pinterest has more than 478 million active users. It started as a social media company, offering users a way to store and share favorite images. Since then, Pinterest has expanded into visual search and e-commerce. According to The Guardian, Pinterest signed a deal with Shopify, an e-commerce platform for online retailers, to allow its customers to create catalogs on Pinterest.

I think this is why PayPal is considering acquiring Pinterest. PayPal might want to benefit from those user-created catalogs by connecting them to PayPal’s services. The New York Times reported that PayPal faces increasing competition in digital payments. It appears that one of PayPal’s competitors is Stripe, which The New York Times says has gained ground in recent years, hitting a private valuation of $95 billion.

Personally, I don’t like PayPal or Pinterest. I had a really bad experience with PayPal recently, which was so incredibly frustrating and stressful that I decided to stop using PayPal. In my opinion, Pinterest appears to allow users to grab images from anywhere on the internet without crediting the artist or linking to the source of the image. That’s not good at all for the artists who created those works.


Facebook Settles Claims Over Discrimination Against U.S. Workers



Facebook settled claims that it refused to recruit or hire U.S. workers for positions it set aside for temporary visa holders, CNBC reported. According to CNBC, Facebook settled with not only the Department of Labor, but also the Department of Justice. These were two separate lawsuits.The Department of Justice (DOJ) posted a release on its website that shared information about these lawsuits.

The Justice Department’s settlement resolves its claims that Facebook routinely refused to recruit, consider or hire U.S. workers, a group that includes U.S. citizens, U.S. nationals, asylees, refugees and lawful permanent residents, for positions it has reserved for temporary visa holders in connection with the PERM process. Additionally, the Labor Department’s settlement resolves issues it separately identified through audit examinations of Facebook’s recruitment activities related to its PERM applications filed with the Employment and Training Administration’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC).

PERM stands for “permanent labor certification program.”

Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that, in contrast to its standard recruitment practices, Facebook used recruiting methods designed to deter U.S. workers who applies to the positions, such as requiring applications to be submitted by mail only; refused to consider U.S. workers who applied to the positions; and hired only temporary visa holders.

According to the Justice Department’s lawsuit, Facebook’s hiring for these positions intentionally discriminated against U.S. workers because of their citizenship or immigration status, in violation of the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

Under the DOJ’s settlement, Facebook will pay a civil penalty of $4.75 million to the United States, will pay up to $9.5 million to eligible victims of Facebook’s alleged discrimination, and train its employees on the anti-discrimination requirements of the INA. It also must accept electronic resumes or applications from all U.S. workers who apply.

The DOJ says that this civil penalty backpay fund represents the largest fine and monetary award that the Department of Justice ever has recovered in the 35-year history of the INA’s anti-discrimination provision.

Facebook has been in a bit of trouble lately. The Wall Street Journal reported on Facebook documents that had been leaked to the newspaper. A whistleblower shared what she knew about the behind the scenes of Facebook on “60 Minutes”.

Today, Facebook was fined by the Department of Justice for being less than honest regarding hiring workers. It is a small fine, compared to the vast wealth of Facebook – but it still sends a message to Facebook to stop being awful.


MacBook Pro M1 Pro & M1 Max #1562



If you have been waiting to upgrade to a MacBook Pro with Apple silicon the wait is over as Apple has announced a quite amazing lineup of new computers so impressive that folks placing advanced orders could barely get them ordered as their website was simple slammed.

Note you may start hearing pre-roll ads in front of each program I am testing a new Blubrry Podcasting feature.

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