Monday News: Another book rec site, fake Facebook news, UK surveillance law, and “Hallelujah” in Yiddish
This website recommends novels by making sure you can’t judge a book by its cover – This reminds me a little of DA’s First Page feature, except, of course, that recommendmeabook.com features already-published books. Click on the site and you will see the first page of the book without title or author, to read without any other information. You can click to reveal the title and author at the bottom of the page, and if nothing else, you can turn it into a kind of guessing game.
Designed by developer Givi Phirtskhalava, the site presents you with the first page of a novel as a blank, standalone item without title, author, or cover, allowing you to experience the beginning of a book without coloring it with any preconceived ideas. – The Verge
Here’s How to Fix Facebook’s Fake News – Beyond the individual measures you can take if you think you’ve encountered a fake news story on Facebook, Oliver Luckett and Michael Casey discuss the systemic issue of Facebook’s secret algorithm and the economic incentives built in to curated news feeds. Do we trust Facebook – or any social media platform – to determine the truth? Hasn’t that method already let us down when it comes to mainstream media and press? Anyway, an interesting perspective.
First, let’s talk about what not to do. Fixing the fake news problem—as well as the hate speech problem and the echo chamber problem—cannot be achieved with centralized censorship, however appealing it might seem to anyone who’s been abused by racist trolls. No one person in history has accumulated more undetectable control over our communication fabric than Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. So when he vows to weed out fake news via a non-public methodology, we should worry deeply about a single institution holding such power to unilaterally decide what constitutes the truth. Nor should we impose draconian rules requiring potentially vulnerable people to identify themselves online. . . .
A solution may lie in the system that runs the digital currency bitcoin, whose security model is aimed at the very problem of keeping all actors in the system honest while preserving anonymity and resisting censorship. Bitcoin’s core software forces the computers in its network to undertake an otherwise pointless “proof of work” exercise before they can validate transactions in the “blockchain,” a distributed ledger that’s ostensibly free from manipulation or censorship. That computation task uses up electricity, which means that while it’s relatively cheap to run just one computer node on the network, it quickly gets very costly if you want to run thousands of them. This makes it prohibitively expensive for rogue users to deploy enough computing power to overtake more than 50 percent of the network, the threshold needed to override the ledger and validate fake or fraudulent transactions, even if they act anonymously. The design of a more honest social media news platform could benefit from approaches inspired by this proof-of-work model. Concepts like this could make it proportionately more expensive to build teams of bots or low-paid workers into fake networks of influence that carry out automated replication. – The Daily Beast
UK politicians approve ‘extreme surveillance’ law – Introductory story on the recent passage by the House of Lords of the UK Investigatory Powers Bill, which authorizes broad data collection and includes measures such as “requir[ing] websites to keep customers’ browsing history for up to a year” and “bulk surveillance.” Although the law has already been appealed to the European Court of Justice, a ruling isn’t expected until next year. If you’ve been following the U.S. case, Jewel v. NSA (Carolyn Jewel, Romance author, v. the National Security Agency), you know why “Snoopers’ Charter” is raising the alarm among civil rights and digital privacy experts and organizations.
The bill gives legal footing to existing but murky powers such as the hacking of computers and mobile phones, while introducing new safeguards such as the need for a judge to authorise interception warrants. . . .
Jim Killock, executive director of digital campaigners Open Rights Group, warned that the impact of the legislation would reach beyond Britain.
“It is likely that other countries, including authoritarian regimes with poor human rights records, will use this law to justify their own intrusive surveillance powers,” he said. – Al Jazeera
Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” Lovely Sung in Yiddish: A Tribute – If you can stand it, you can listen to Leonard Cohen’s final interview here. Among other things, he talks about how his grandfather actively supported Jewish life in Montreal, and before that helped refugees escape Eastern European pogroms, adding even more gravitas to this rendition of “Hallelujah.”
Immigrants from Eastern Europe themselves, Leonard Cohen’s family undoubtedly spoke some Yiddish, the language once spoken by 11 million Jews, mostly in central and eastern Europe. (Today it’s spoken by 600,000 people at best.) And that’s what makes this Yiddish rendition of “Hallelujah” so fitting. Translated and performed by Klezmer musician Daniel Kahn, it was posted to YouTube on the night of Cohen’s passing. – Open Culture