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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — “A website popular with racists that was used by the man charged in the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre was shut down within hours of the slaughter, but it hardly mattered: Anti-Semites and racists who hang out in such havens just moved to other online forums. On Wednesday, four days after 11 people were fatally shot in the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history, anonymous posters on another website popular with white supremacists, Stormfront, claimed the bloodshed at Tree of Life synagogue was an elaborate fake staged by actors. The site’s operator, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, said traffic has increased about 45 percent since the shooting…”
The Verge – Part of Twitter’s broader fake account crackdown: “Twitter has updated a portion of its reporting process, specifically when you report a tweet that you think might be coming from a bot or a fake account masquerading as someone or something else. Now, when you tap the “it’s suspicious or spam” option under the report menu, you’ll be able to specify why you think that, including an option to say “the account tweeting this is fake.” Twitter announced the change through its official safety account today, and it’s now live on both the web version and mobile version of the service. You can see an example of the mobile report flow pertaining to this update below:
Activity that attempts to manipulate or disrupt Twitter’s service is not allowed. We remove this when we see it. You can now specify what type of spam you’re seeing when you report, including fake accounts. pic.twitter.com/GN9NKw2Qyn— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) October 31, 2018“
NPR: “When October Books, a small radical bookshop in Southampton, England, was moving to a new location down the street, it faced a problem. How could it move its entire stock to the new spot, without spending a lot of money or closing down for long? The shop came up with a clever solution: They put out a call for volunteers to act as a human conveyor belt As they prepared to “lift and shift” on Sunday, they expected perhaps 100 people to help. “But on the day, we had over 200 people turn out, which was a sight to behold,” Amy Brown, one of the shop’s five part-time staff members, told NPR. Shoulder to shoulder, community members formed a line 500 feet long: from the stockroom of the old shop, down the sidewalk, and onto the shop floor of the new store. Cafes brought cups of tea to the volunteers. People at bus stops joined in. Passersby asked what was happening, then joined the chain themselves. “We had elderly people, children, and everybody in between,” Brown said…”
A Daily Beast analysis of Twitter data shows the Kremlin troll farm’s English-language propaganda is nine times more effective than its disinformation in Russian: “You don’t need to read the federal indictments to spot the moment Russia began targeting the United States with its army of internet trolls. Just chart the American flag emoji. Best estimates trace the founding of the Internet Research Agency to August 2013, and for eight months of its existence the Saint Petersburg troll farm was focused on influencing citizens in Russia and Russia’s near abroad. Then in April 2014 the Kremlin-linked organization launched “Project Lakhta,” according to federal prosecutors, aimed squarely at the United States. The IRA’s first American flag emoji appeared on Twitter the next month, first a trickle, and then a torrent. Over the next four years the Saint Petersburg troll farm unfurled 70,372 American flags, reaching peak flagness on August 12, 2017 when one IRA sockpuppet crammed 43 flags into a single tweet with the hashtag “MAGA.”
Whether by luck or design, the IRA’s campaign against America worked, and is still working. An examination of Twitter’s new dump of Russian troll data this month shows that the IRA’s tactics worked far better in the U.S. than in Russia or the Eastern European nations where the troll farm cut its teeth. English-language tweets by the IRA’s sockpuppet accounts enjoyed nine times the engagement than tweets in Russian and other languages. And, remarkably, Americans fell for the Russian interference even harder after the 2016 presidential election than before…”
Freedom House: Fake news, data collection, and the challenge to democracy – “The internet is growing less free around the world, and democracy itself is withering under its influence. Disinformation and propaganda disseminated online have poisoned the public sphere. The unbridled collection of personal data has broken down traditional notions of privacy. And a cohort of countries is moving toward digital authoritarianism by embracing the Chinese model of extensive censorship and automated surveillance systems. As a result of these trends, global internet freedom declined for the eighth consecutive year in 2018. Events this year have confirmed that the internet can be used to disrupt democracies as surely as it can destabilize dictatorships. In April 2018, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified in two congressional hearings about his company’s role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which it was revealed that Facebook had exposed the data of up to 87 million users to political exploitation. The case was a reminder of how personal information is increasingly being employed to influence electoral outcomes. Russian hackers targeted US voter rolls in several states as part of the Kremlin’s broader efforts to undermine the integrity of the 2016 elections, and since then, security researchers have discovered further breaches of data affecting 198 million American, 93 million Mexican, 55 million Filipino, and 50 million Turkish voters.
With or without malign intent, the internet and social media in particular can push citizens into polarized echo chambers and pull at the social fabric of a country, fueling hostility between different communities. Over the past 12 months in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, false rumors and hateful propaganda that were spread online incited jarring outbreaks of violence against ethnic and religious minorities. Such rifts often serve the interests of antidemocratic forces in society, the government, or hostile foreign states, which have actively encouraged them through content manipulation…”
Dutton, Yvonne and Ryznar, Margaret and Long, Kayleigh, Assessing Online Learning in Law Schools: Students Say Online Classes Deliver (October 2018). Denver University Law Review, Forthcoming; Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Research Paper Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3242824
“This is the first article to provide empirical data on the effectiveness of distance education in law schools since the ABA this summer approved increasing the total number of credits that law students could earn through online classes from 15 to 30. Our data, composed of law student surveys and focus groups, reveal not only the success of distance education in their experience, but also the methods that are most effective for them.”
CityLab: “On November 6, voters will head to the polls to elect local and state leaders, and their representatives to Congress. All eyes are on the House of Representatives, which many consider more representative of the American public than the Senate, and where a large number of seats are up for grabs. According to the New York Times, Democrats need to flip a minimum of 23 Republican-held spots to retake it. And if they do, they will be in a stronger position to place checks on the rest of Donald Trump’s presidency. Ahead of this high-stakes midterm election comes a deliciously wonky new project called “Electing the House,” put together by the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab (DSL) and Virginia Tech’s history department, which visualizes 200 years of elections to the House.
“Electing the House” makes the most robust and comprehensive dataset to-date of Congressional elections available in a user-friendly format, offering additional dimension of insight into the current political moment. It is the first part of a series, which may include visualizations of historical data on Senate elections in the future. The project features an interactive map, presenting each district color-coded based on the party that won in each Congressional election between 1840 and 2016. Toggling the option in the legend can isolate just the districts that have flipped one way or the other for each election year. (The first Congress was elected in 1788, but the researchers started with 1840 because that’s the year the data become sufficiently reliable.)…”
LifeHacker: “Voter suppression tactics are as old as the United States itself. Limited enfranchisement, poll taxes, gerrymandering and, more recently, voter ID restrictions and targeted polling site closures have all been used throughout our country’s history to deny the vote to targeted populations. Social media and concerted political action have made these voter scams more visible in recent years. Between misleading mailers and fishy phone calls, there’s a lot to look out for—not just to make sure you can vote, but to ensure your private information isn’t stolen in the process. That’s not to suggest voters should be deterred by worries about what they’ll encounter on election day—quite the contrary. “People should exercise their fundamental right to vote, they shouldn’t be intimidated either by the laws they’ve read about or by anyone or anything they encounter on the way to the polls,” says Julie Ebenstein, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Voting Rights Project. But you should know what’s being done to make voting harder and how to rectify it. Here are some of the impediments you may encounter to voting next week—and what to do about them…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Scientific American – When AI Misjudgment Is Not an Accident: “The conversation about unconscious bias in artificial intelligence often focuses on algorithms that unintentionally cause disproportionate harm to entire swaths of society—those that wrongly predict black defendants will commit future crimes, for example, or facial-recognition technologies developed mainly by using photos of white men that do a poor job of identifying women and people with darker skin. But the problem could run much deeper than that. Society should be on guard for another twist: the possibility that nefarious actors could seek to attack artificial intelligence systems by deliberately introducing bias into them, smuggled inside the data that helps those systems learn. This could introduce a worrisome new dimension to cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns or the proliferation of fake news. According to a U.S. government study on big data and privacy (PDF), biased algorithms could make it easier to mask discriminatory lending, hiring or other unsavory business practices. Algorithms could be designed to take advantage of seemingly innocuous factors that can be discriminatory. Employing existing techniques, but with biased data or algorithms, could make it easier to hide nefarious intent. Commercial data brokers collect and hold onto all kinds of information, such as online browsing or shopping habits, that could be used in this way. Biased data could also serve as bait. Corporations could release biased data with the hope competitors would use it to train artificial intelligence algorithms, causing competitors to diminish the quality of their own products and consumer confidence in them…”
Oxford Dictionaries: “Folksonomy, a portmanteau word for ‘folk taxonomy’, is a term for collaborative tagging: the production of user-created ‘tags’ on social media that help readers to find and sort content. In other words, hashtags: #ThrowbackThursday, #DogLife, #MeToo. Because ordinary people create folksonomy tags, folksonomies include categories devised by small communities, subcultures, or even individuals, not merely those by accepted taxonomic systems like the Dewey Decimal System. The term first arose in the wake of Web 2.0 – the Web’s transition, in the early 2000s, from a read-only platform to a read-write platform that allows users to comment on and collaboratively tag what they read. Rather unusually, we know the exact date it was coined: 24 July, 2004. The information architect Thomas Vander Wal came up with it in response to a query over what to call this kind of informal social classification.
Perhaps the most visible folksonomies are those on social-media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and Instagram. Often, people create tags on these platforms in order to gather under a single tag content that many different users have created, making it easier to find posts related to that tag. (If I’m interested in dogs, I might look at content gathered under the tag #DogLife.) Because tags reflect the interests of people who create them, researchers have pursued ways to use tags to build more comprehensive profiles of users, with an eye to surveillance or to selling them relevant ads…”
2018 US congressional midterm elections: case study of third-party tracking scripts on candidate websites
“Of the 1,008 websites we collected (House and Senate candidates for the 2018 midterm elections), we were left with 981 after removing duplicates and invalid links. We found that trackers are present on 87% of all sites considered and that around 13% of all campaign pages assessed were tracker free. 41% of pages assessed had 2 – 5 trackers on them; followed by 26% of pages with 6 – 10 trackers; 13% of pages with 0 trackers; 11% of pages with 1 tracker; and 8% of pages with 11 – 20 trackers. Finally, just under 1% of pages had twenty or more trackers present.
Study Overview – “Over the past two years, we have explored the ecosystem of third-party tracking scripts online. Two recent studies on this topic include “Tracking the Trackers: Analysing the global tracking landscape with GhostRank” (July 2017) and “The Tracker Tax: the impact of third-party trackers on website speed in the United States” (May 2018). These studies led us to ask more specific questions about the presence of online trackers: we sought to understand the prevalence of tracking scripts on campaign websites for the 2018 midterm elections, which will take place on November 6, 2018. All 435 seats of the United States House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 United States Senate seats will be on the ballot. More so than any midterm election in the past, campaign efforts are unprecedentedly digital, and as such, provide a great opportunity for examining the relationship between trackers and political campaigns…”
Washington Post: “The world’s oceans have been soaking up far more excess heat in recent decades than scientists realized, suggesting that Earth could be set to warm even faster than predicted in the years ahead, according to new research published Wednesday. Over the past quarter-century, Earth’s oceans have retained 60 percent more heat each year than scientists previously had thought, said Laure Resplandy, a geoscientist at Princeton University who led the startling study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. The difference represents an enormous amount of additional energy, originating from the sun and trapped by Earth’s atmosphere — the yearly amount representing more than eight times the world’s annual energy consumption…
The higher-than-expected amount of heat in the oceans means more heat is being retained within Earth’s climate system each year, rather than escaping into space. In essence, more heat in the oceans signals that global warming is more advanced than scientists thought…”
Washington Post: “U.S. archivists on Wednesday revealed one of the last great secrets of the Watergate investigation — the backbone of a long-sealed report used by special prosecutor Leon Jaworski to send Congress evidence in the legal case against President Richard M. Nixon. The release of the referral — delivered in 1974 as impeachment proceedings were being weighed — came after a former member of Nixon’s defense team and three prominent legal analysts filed separate lawsuits seeking its unsealing after more than four decades under grand jury secrecy rules. The legal analysts argued the report could offer a precedent and guide for special counsel Robert S. Mueller III as his office addresses its present-day challenge on whether, and if so, how to make public findings from its investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, including any that directly involve President Trump. The legal specialists said they and Watergate veterans sought to have the Jaworski report made public because of the historical parallels they see to the current probe and the report’s potential to serve as a counterexample to independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s report before President Bill Clinton’s impeachment…”
“The Department today released an update on hate crimes and announced the launch of a new comprehensive hate crimes website designed to provide a centralized portal for the Department’s hate crimes resources for law enforcement, media, researchers, victims, advocacy groups, and other related organizations and individuals. The resources include training materials, technical assistance, videos, research reports, statistics, and other helpful information from all of the Department components working on hate crimes. In recent years, the Department has ramped up its hate crimes prosecution program and increased training of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to ensure that hate crimes are identified and prosecuted to the fullest extent possible. The Department of Justice Law Enforcement Roundtable on Improving the Identification and Reporting of Hate Crimes being conducted today and tomorrow through the Department’s Hate Crimes Enforcement and Prevention Initiative is an example of ongoing efforts to spur communication and cohesion among those in the field working on hate crimes. Over the past 10 years, the Department of Justice has charged more than 300 defendants with hate crimes offenses, including 50 defendants in FY 2017 and 2018. In FY 2018, the Department charged 27 defendants in 22 cases, and obtained 30 convictions. Since January 2017, the Department has indicted 50 defendants involved in committing hate crimes and secured convictions of 51 defendants for hate crimes incidents…”
AdWeek – Millennials try speaking their own language to get out the vote: “If you like limited-time pop-ups that make for great Instagram fodder and seem to attract every celebrity in America, then look no further than the Museum of Voting. Happening only on Nov. 6, it has the vibe of an immersive democratic experience where your decisions have highly realistic consequences—because it is, and they do. In fact, the whole thing is better known by its more traditional name “Election Day in the U.S.” Satirical in tone but sincere in its purpose, the Museum of Voting—described as “the world’s most epic pop-up experience” and named as a reference to the trend-setting Museum of Ice Cream—is a get-out-the-vote campaign by San Francisco creative studio Gold Front. Like most snarky generational marketing, it’s likely to rub some the wrong way, but the intent is to cut through the usual civic-duty rhetoric by focusing on some of today’s hottest trends among this year’s most key voting demographic: millennials…”
The RIPS Law Librarian Blog – Duane Strojny: “..Over the past few years, law school worlds have been drastically altered. The number of students attending law school has dropped significantly. Although the number of LSAT takers has increased slightly, no new large wave of law students will materialize. This has alarmed many in legal academia, and rightly so. In addition, bar results are down in many states, baby boomers have not retired as expected, and the big law firms have given way to a more automated world. Taken together, it sounds like gloom and doom. I say the opposite is true. We can reinvent ourselves like never before…”
GreenBiz: “Today, more than 275 brands, retailers, recyclers, governments and NGOs are announcing a shared vision to close the loop on plastic pollution. In a first-of-its-kind collaboration, the signatories to the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment — collectively responsible for producing 20 percent of all plastic packaging globally and represent the full value chain for plastics — have pledged to eradicate plastic waste and pollution. The scale, scope and shared approach of today’s announcement, made at the Our Oceans conference in Bali, makes it one of the most significant actions around plastic pollution to date. The commitment, launched with the social media hashtag #LineInTheSand, is being led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with U.N. Environment. While many signatories had set individual goals prior to today’s announcement, this represents a far broader scale and scope of commitments to meaningfully tackle plastic pollution.
Signatories of the commitment are formally endorsing the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s framework of a circular economy for plastics, which centers on ensuring that plastics never become waste. That vision is defined by six key points:
- Elimination of problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging through redesign, innovation and new delivery models is a priority
- Reuse models are applied where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging
- All plastic packaging is 100 percent reusable, recyclable or compostable
- All plastic packaging is reused, recycled or composted in practice
- The use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources
- All plastic packaging is free of hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety and rights of all people involved are respected…”
“The SPLC is the premier U.S. organization monitoring the activities of domestic hate groups and other extremists – including the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, the neo-Nazi movement, antigovernment militias and others. We track more than 1,600 extremist groups operating across the country. We publish investigative reports, train law enforcement officers and share key intelligence, and offer expert analysis to the media and public. Our work fighting hate and extremism began in the early 1980s, amid a resurgence of Klan violence that began several years after the end of the civil rights movement. Each year since 1990, we have released an annual census of U.S. hate groups. In the mid-1990s, we also began documenting the number of radical, antigovernment militias and other organizations that comprise the far-right “Patriot” movement. Over the years, we’ve crippled or destroyed some of the country’s most notorious hate groups – including the United Klans of America, the Aryan Nations and the White Aryan Resistance – by suing them for murders and other violent acts committed by their members or by exposing their activities.
- Hate Map: There are 954 hate groups currently operating in the US.
- Extremist Files: A database on prominent extremist groups and individuals
- 100 Days in Trump’s America: A report on white nationalists and their agenda to infiltrate the mainstream
- Terror From The Right: A synopsis of radical-right terrorist plots, conspiracies and racist rampages since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. It includes a roster of murdered law enforcement officials…”
Report – astonishing 60% decline in size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years
“The Living Planet Report documents the state of the planet—including biodiversity, ecosystems, and demand on natural resources—and what it means for humans and wildlife. Published by WWF every two years, the report brings together a variety of research to provide a comprehensive view of the health of the Earth.
We are pushing our planet to the brink. Human activity—how we feed, fuel, and finance our lives—is taking an unprecedented toll on wildlife, wild places, and the natural resources we need to survive.
On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% decline in the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018. The top threats to species identified in the report link directly to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and the excessive use of wildlife such as overfishing and overhunting.
The report presents a sobering picture of the impact human activity has on the world’s wildlife, forests, oceans, rivers, and climate. We’re facing a rapidly closing window for action and the urgent need for everyone—everyone—to collectively rethink and redefine how we value, protect, and restore nature.
“This report sounds a warning shot across our bow,” said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF-US. “Natural systems essential to our survival—forests, oceans, and rivers—remain in decline. Wildlife around the world continue to dwindle. It reminds us we need to change course. It’s time to balance our consumption with the needs of nature, and to protect the only planet that is our home.”..
WASHINGTON (AP) — “President Donald Trump says he wants to order the end of the constitutional right to citizenship for babies of non-citizens and unauthorized immigrants born in the United States. Section 1, which contains the Citizenship Clause, of the 14th Amendment guarantees that right for all children born in the U.S. A look at the 14th Amendment:
WHAT CITIZENSHIP CLAUSE SAYS:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”
The second sentence contains two of the most important clauses in the Constitution, the due process and equal protection clauses. They apply to everyone in the U.S., not just citizens:
“No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
- Washington Post – Trump’s proposal to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional
- The New York Times – President Wants to Use Executive Order to End Birthright Citizenship
- The New York Times – Trump’s Birthright Citizenship Proposal Is at Odds With Legal Consensus
- Huffington Post – Paul Ryan Rejects Trump’s Claim He Can End Birthright Citizenship – “Well, you obviously cannot do that,” the House speaker said.