Law and Legal
While most Americans know about social media bots, many think they have a negative impact on how people stay informed – “Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, many Americans have expressed concern about the presence of misinformation online, particularly on social media. Recent Congressional hearings and investigations by social media sites and academic researchers have suggested that one factor in the spread of misinformation is social media bots – accounts that operate on their own, without human involvement, to post and interact with others on social media sites. This topic has drawn the attention of much of the public: About two-thirds of Americans (66%) have heard about social media bots, though far fewer (16%) have heard a lot about these accounts. Among those aware of the phenomenon, a large majority are concerned that bot accounts are being used maliciously, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted July 30-Aug. 12, 2018, among 4,581 U.S. adults who are members of Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel (the Center has previously studied bots on Twitter and the news sites to which they link). Eight-in-ten of those who have heard of bots say that these accounts are mostly used for bad purposes, while just 17% say they are mostly used for good purposes. To further understand some of the nuances of the public’s views of social media bots, the remainder of this study explores attitudes among those Americans who have heard about them (about a third – 34% – have not heard anything about them). While many Americans are aware of the existence of social media bots, fewer are confident they can identify them. About half of those who have heard about bots (47%) are very or somewhat confident they can recognize these accounts on social media, with just 7% saying they are very confident. In contrast, 84% of Americans expressed confidence in their ability to recognize made-up news in an earlier study…”
“The latest available data from the Justice Department show that federal prosecutions for official corruption have dropped sharply. During the first eleven months of FY 2018 the government reported 340 new official corruption prosecutions. If this activity continues at the same pace, the annual total of prosecutions will be down 23.5% over the past fiscal year. Theft or bribery in programs receiving federal funds under Title 18 U.S.C. Section 666 was the most frequent recorded lead charge. The single largest number of prosecutions of these matters through August 2018 was for corruption of local government officials. These accounted for about one-third (32.9%) of all prosecutions. The comparisons of the number of defendants charged with official corruption offenses are based on case-by-case information obtained and analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. View the full report here: http://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/crim/532/.”
Projections of white and black older adults without living kin in the United States, 2015 to 2060. Ashton M. Verdery and Rachel Margolis PNAS published ahead of print October 2, 2017 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1710341114
“Family members provide the majority of social support for most older adults, but not all individuals have living family. Those without living close kin report higher rates of loneliness and experience elevated risks of chronic diseases and nursing facility placement. How the population of older adults without living family, the kinless population, will change in the coming decades merits consideration. Historical racial differences and recent variation in demographic rates imply unequal burdens of kinlessness for white and black Americans. By projecting the US population using demographic microsimulation, we find increases in lacking kin similar in magnitude to projected increases in other important population health burdens such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s dementia. Increasing kinlessness may represent a growing population health concern.”
Cover – New York Magazine: “Women and Power is divided into four chapters that will be published throughout the week. The full list of stories is available here — links will be added as new chapters are published.”
CHAPTER 1: NOW
New York Magazine: “Facial recognition technology has some serious, persistent issues. These were clearly shown earlier this year when Amazon’s “Rekognition” mistakenly identified 28 members of Congress as criminals. The technology as a whole largely suffers both from inaccuracy and systemic bias. Regardless of who wields the technology or for what purpose, the algorithms use raw data pulled from a society hindered by racial and gender predispositions which ultimately yield similarly biased results. In essence, bad data in means biased results out. In places like China, where the national government is already primed with a proclivity for mass surveillance, facial recognition turns the the troubling into the dystopian.
Clearly, surveilling humans comes with an assortment of ethical and moral dilemmas attached. But what about surveilling animals? Until new technologies give us the ability to understand animals’ views on the panopticon, people have been almost disconcertingly audacious about training computers to recognize their faces. Humans don’t have a great track record for not harming animals, even when we know better. But for now, at least, it appears we’re using our technological prowess to keep track of ecosystems and positively manage populations.
A Bloomberg feature this week highlighted how a Norwegian company is using facial recognition to capture and store the faces of millions of Atlantic salmon to help fight disease. That fish-face database will potentially let farmers monitor salmon numbers and detect abnormalities in health, like parasitic sea lice, which could be a boon for farmers around the world. Salmon are just the latest entry in a growing cornucopia of animal faces loaded into databases. For some animals, the biometric data gathered from them is being used to aid in conservation efforts. For others, the resulting AI could help ward off poachers. While partly creepy and partly very cute, monitoring of these animals can both help protect their populations and ensure safe, traceable livestock for developing communities. Here is a list of all the (known) animals currently being surveilled with facial recognition software, and why we are watching them…”
Wired: “In 2013, a young computational biologist named Yaniv Erlich shocked the research world by showing it was possible to unmask the identities of people listed in anonymous genetic databases using only an Internet connection. Policymakers responded by restricting access to pools of anonymized biomedical genetic data. An NIH official said at the time, “The chances of this happening for most people are small, but they’re not zero.” Fast-forward five years and the amount of DNA information housed in digital data stores has exploded, with no signs of slowing down. Consumer companies like 23andMe and Ancestry have so far created genetic profiles for more than 12 million people, according to recent industry estimates. Customers who download their own information can then choose to add it to public genealogy websites like GEDmatch, which gained national notoriety earlier this year for its role in leading police to a suspect in the Golden State Killer case. Those interlocking family trees, connecting people through bits of DNA, have now grown so big that they can be used to find more than half the US population. In fact, according to new research led by Erlich, published today in Science, more than 60 percent of Americans with European ancestry can be identified through their DNA using open genetic genealogy databases, regardless of whether they’ve ever sent in a spit kit.
If you are not checking in on Pete’s weekly column on cyber security issues and privacy on LLRX – please take some time to read about what you are missing! Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, healthcare and medical issues, to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Three significant highlights of this week’s column [October 14, 2018]: Consumer genetic testing that it’s now possible for law enforcement agencies to use genetic data to hunt down virtually anyone of European descent; FBI chief says threats from drones to U.S. ‘steadily escalating’; and Voice Phishing Scams Are Getting More Clever.
See the list below for other recent LLRX articles that can directly benefit your research, work flow and continuous learning:
- Book Review of “Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else)”
- Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues September 29 2018
- Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues September 22 2018
- Text Analysis Systems Mine Workplace Emails to Measure Staff Sentiments
- Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues September 15 2018
- Exploring the global LegalTech ecosystem
- Three TextExpander Snippets You Should Be Using to Save Time Immediately
- A Quick Guide to Searching the Web
Above the Law – “Key data reveals the state of the legal profession. What is the Legal Trends Report and how can this report help law firms better their practice? In this On the Road report from the Clio Cloud Conference 2018, host Laurence Colletti and I welcome George Psiharis to discuss how much time lawyers lose everyday on average, Clio’s three basic components, and why less billing could help a firm earn more money. Psiharis also explains where the data comes from when reporting about lawyers and how that data differs from client expectations. George Psiharis is the chief operating officer at Clio.”
A large new study finds people who grew up in book-filled homes have higher reading, math, and technological skills
Home Libraries Confer Long-Term Benefits – “We’ve known for a while that home libraries are strongly linked to children’s academic achievement. What’s less certain is whether the benefits they bestow have a long-term impact. A new large-scale study, featuring data from 31 countries, reports they do indeed. It finds the advantages of growing up in a book-filled home can be measured well into adulthood. “Adolescent exposure to books is an integral part of social practices that foster long-term cognitive competencies,” writes a research team led by Joanna Sikora of Australian National University. These reading-driven abilities not only “facilitate educational and occupational attainment,” the researchers write in the journal Social Science Research. “[They] also lay a foundation for lifelong routine activities that enhance literacy and numeracy.” The researchers analyzed data from the Programme for the International Assessment of Competencies. Its surveys, taken between 2011 and 2015, featured adults (ages 25 to 65) in 31 nations, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, France, Singapore, and Turkey.
All participants were asked how many books there were in their home when they were 16 years old. (One meter of shelving, they were told, holds about 40 books.) They chose from a series of options ranging from “10 or less” to “more than 500.”Literacy was defined as “the ability to read effectively to participate in society and achieve personal goals.” Participants took tests that “captured a range of basic through advanced comprehension skills, from reading brief texts for a single piece of information to synthesizing information from complex texts.” Numeracy tests measured the “ability to use mathematical concepts in everyday life,” while IT-related tests “assessed the ability to use digital technology to communicate with others, as well as to gather, analyze, and synthesize information.” The results suggest those volumes made a long-term difference. “Growing up with home libraries boosts adult skills in these areas beyond the benefits accrued from parental education, or [one’s] own educational or occupational attainment,” the researchers report. Not surprisingly, the biggest impact was on reading ability. “The total effects of home library size on literacy are large everywhere,” the researchers report…”
Brookings report – Half the world is now middle class or wealthier: “…Our “middle class” classification was first developed in 2010 and has been used by many researchers. While acknowledging that the middle class does not have a precise definition that can be globally applied, the threshold we use in this work has the following characteristics: those in the middle class have some discretionary income that can be used to buy consumer durables like motorcycles, refrigerators, or washing machines. They can afford to go to movies or indulge in other forms of entertainment. They may take vacations. And they are reasonably confident that they and their family can weather an economic shock—like illness or a spell of unemployment—without falling back into extreme poverty. By classifying all households in the world into one of these four groups, using income and expenditure surveys from 188 countries, we are able to derive measures of the global distribution of income. Our social enterprise World Data Lab—the maker of World Poverty Clock—has refined these estimates and created a new interactive data model to estimate all income brackets for almost every country for every point in time until 2030 by combining demographic and economic data. A lot has been written about the world’s progress in reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty, as highlighted in the recent Goalkeepers report put out by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We believe that another story relates to the rapid emergence of the global middle class. This middle class story is probably bigger in terms of the number of people affected. In the world today, about one person escapes extreme poverty every second; but five people a second are entering the middle class. The rich are growing too, but at a far smaller rate (1 person every 2 seconds)…”
Via More in Common – Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape, October 2018, by Stephen Hawking, Daniel Yudkin, Miriam Juan-Torres, and Tim Dixon: “This report lays out the findings of a large-scale national survey of Americans about the current state of civic life in the United States. It provides substantial evidence of deep polarization and growing tribalism. It shows that this polarization is rooted in something deeper than political opinions and disagreements over policy. But it also provides some evidence for optimism, showing that 77 percent of Americans believe our differences are not so great that we cannot come together. At the root of America’s polarization are divergent sets of values and worldviews, or “core beliefs.” These core beliefs shape the ways that individuals interpret the world around them at the most fundamental level. Our study shows how political opinions stem from these deeply held core beliefs. This study examines five dimensions of individuals’ core beliefs:
- Tribalism and group identification
- Fear and perception of threat
- Parenting style and authoritarian disposition
- Moral foundations
- Personal agency and responsibility
The study finds that this hidden architecture of beliefs, worldview and group attachments can predict an individual’s views on social and political issues with greater accuracy than demographic factors like race, gender, or income. The research undertaken for this report identifies seven segments of Americans (or “tribes”) who are distinguished by differences in their underlying beliefs and attitudes. Membership in these tribes was determined by each individual’s answers to a subset of 58 core belief and behavioral questions that were asked together with the rest of the survey. None of the questions used to create the segmentation related to current political issues or demographic indicators such as race, gender, age or income, yet the responses that each segment gives to questions on current political issues are remarkably predictable and show a very clear pattern…”
SSRN – “We are pleased to announce the creation of the Criminal Justice Research Network (CJRN), which focuses on 10 major areas of scholarship. SSRN’s newest network provides a worldwide online community for criminal justice scholars and for the sharing of ideas across a broad spectrum of early-stage research.SSRN had added a new collection of e-journals on criminal law. Subscriptions are currently free. [time period not specified]. You can browse or search the entire CJRN collection of eJournals.”… [h/t Mary Whisner]
“Dozens of new initiatives have launched to confront fake news and the erosion of faith in the media, Axios’ Sara Fischer reports:
- The Trust Project, which is made up of dozens of global news companies, announced this morning that the number of journalism organizations using the global network’s “Trust Indicators” now totals 120, making it one of the larger global initiatives to combat fake news. Some of these groups (like NewsGuard) work with Trust Project and are a part of it.
- News Integrity Initiative (Facebook, Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Ford Foundation, Democracy Fund, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Tow Foundation, AppNexus, Mozilla and Betaworks)
- NewsGuard (Longtime journalists and media entrepreneurs Steven Brill and Gordon Crovitz)
- The Journalism Trust Initiative (Reporters Without Borders, and Agence France Presse, the European Broadcasting Union and the Global Editors Network )
- Internews (Longtime international non-profit)
- Accountability Journalism Program (American Press Institute)
- Trusting News (Reynolds Journalism Institute)
- Media Manipulation Initiative (Data & Society)
- Deepnews.ai (Frédéric Filloux)
- Trust & News Initiative (Knight Foundation, Facebook and Craig Newmark in. affiliation with Duke University)
- Our.News (Independently run)
- WikiTribune (Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales)”
The New York Times – “On this page you will find maps showing almost every building in the United States…Created by Times graphic designer Derek Watkins and former Times editor Tim Wallace, the project relied on a Microsoft database of building footprints that The Times team turned into graphics, in which buildings are black and open space is white…”
“Every black speck on the map … is a building, reflecting the built legacy of the United States.” Explore the interactive map by city or ZIP Code…Today we are inviting you, simply, to look. On this page you will find maps showing almost every building in the United States. Why did we make such a thing? We did it as an opportunity for you to connect with the country’s cities and explore them in detail. To find the familiar, and to discover the unfamiliar. So … look. Every black speck on the map below is a building, reflecting the built legacy of the United States. Use the search bar here to find a place and explore the interactive map…”
The New York Times: “…The [tech] industry’s new goal? Not a computer on every desk nor a connection between every person, but something grander: a computer inside everything, connecting everyone. Cars, door locks, contact lenses, clothes, toasters, refrigerators, industrial robots, fish tanks, sex toys, light bulbs, toothbrushes, motorcycle helmets — these and other everyday objects are all on the menu for getting “smart.” Hundreds of small start-ups are taking part in this trend — known by the marketing catchphrase “the internet of things” — but like everything else in tech, the movement is led by giants, among them Amazon, Apple and Samsung….In a roboticized world, hacks would not just affect your data but could endanger your property, your life and even national security…”
Social Media Adoption by Members of Congress: Trends and Congressional Considerations, Updated October 9, 2018.
“Communication between Members of Congress and their constituents has changed with the development of online social networking services. Many Members now use email, official websites, blogs, YouTube channels, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms to communicate—technologies that were nonexistent or not widely available just a few decades ago. Social networking services have arguably enhanced the ability of Members of Congress to fulfill their representational duties by providing them with greater opportunities to share information and potentially to gauge constituent preferences in a real-time manner. In addition, electronic communication has reduced the marginal cost of communications. Unlike with postal letters, social media can allow Members to reach large numbers of constituents for a fixed cost. This report examines Member adoption of social media broadly. Because congressional adoption of long-standing social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is nearly ubiquitous, this report focuses on the adoption of other, newer social media platforms. These include Instagram, Flickr, and Google+, which have each been adopted by at least 2.5% of Representatives and Senators. Additionally, Members of Congress have adopted Snapchat, Medium, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Periscope, and Tumblr at lower levels. This report evaluates the adoption rates of various social media platforms and what the adoption of multiple platforms might mean for an office’s social media strategy. Data on congressional adoption of social media were collected by an academic institution in collaboration with the Congressional Research Service during the 2016-2017 academic year. This report provides a snapshot of a dynamic process. As with any new technology, the number of Members using any single social media platform, and the patterns of use, may change rapidly in short periods of time. As a result, the conclusions drawn from these data cannot necessarily be generalized or used to predict future behavior..”
“USAFacts Voter Center is a tool where voters can see congressional candidates in their districts, learn about their positions on important issues, and see data about the issues being debated. Learn more about where our data comes from, how we gather stances, and our methodology.“
Pew – Fact Tank: “The #MeToo hashtag first went viral on Twitter a year ago this month. Although the social movement of the same name existed beforehand, the hashtag was popularized on Oct. 15, 2017, when actress Alyssa Milano urged victims of sexual abuse to share their stories on Twitter in the wake of accusations of misconduct against Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein. Amid ongoing discussions about sexual harassment in the workplace and beyond, here are five findings about how these issues have been discussed on Twitter and other social media outlets in the past year:
- The #MeToo hashtag has been used more than 19 million times on Twitter from the date of Milano’s initial tweet through Sept. 30 of this year, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of publicly available English-language tweets. That works out to an average of 55,319 uses of the hashtag per day. The day with the single-greatest number of mentions was Sept. 9, when Leslie Moonves, chairman and chief executive of CBS, resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct…”
EFF: “Earlier this week, Google dropped a bombshell: in March, the company discovered a “bug” in its Google+ API that allowed third-party apps to access private data from its millions of users. The company confirmed that at least 500,000 people were “potentially affected.” Google’s mishandling of data was bad. But its mishandling of the aftermath was worse. Google should have told the public as soon as it knew something was wrong, giving users a chance to protect themselves and policymakers a chance to react. Instead, amidst a torrent of outrage over the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal, Google decided to hide its mistakes from the public for over half a year…”
…What would this bug look like in practice? Suppose Alice is friends with Bob on Google+. Alice has shared personal information with her friends, including her occupation, relationship status, and email. Then, her friend Bob decides to connect to a third-party app. He is prompted to give that app access to his own data, plus “public information” about his friends, and he clicks “ok.” Before March, the app would have been granted access to all the details—not marked public—that Alice had shared with Bob. Similar to Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, a bad API made it possible for third parties to access private data about people who never had a chance to consent…”
The Verge: “A leaked research presentation [note – the Verge includes a link to the entire presentation posted on Scribd] put together by employees of Google shows the extent to which the search giant is grappling with decisions around freedom of speech and censorship. The presentation, leaked to Breitbart News this week and published in full by the organization, is titled “The Good Censor,” and it’s a mix of findings and insights based on interviews and contributions from a number of journalists, academics, and cultural critics. The aim, according to the first slide of the presentation, is to “reassure the world that [Google] protects users from harmful conduct while still supporting free speech.” The slides are a rare and stark look at Google’s ongoing struggles, which are mirrored by many Silicon Valley tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, that now moderate a large swath of human conversation. Essentially, the company is asking itself whether it’s possible to protect against the negative aspects of free speech — violent threats, fake news, bots, trolling, propaganda, and election interference, to name just a few — while promoting a platform that gives everyone a voice. Google says in the presentation that the internet was founded on “utopian principles of free speech,” and that Silicon Valley was largely built under the guiding principles of those ideals…”