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Facebook Begins Rating Users On How Trustworthy They Are At Flagging Fake News

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Facebook has started rating its users’ trustworthiness in order to help the social network know how much to value user reports that a certain news story might be fake. The Washington Post has details on the system and confirmation from Facebook that it’s been put in place. The system certainly sounds a touch dystopian, but Facebook sees it as a valuable tool for weeding out disinformation.

The trust ratings went into place over the last year, according to the Post, and were developed as part of Facebook’s fight against fake and malicious stories. Facebook relies, in part, on reports from users to help catch these stories. If enough people report a story as false, someone on a fact-checking team will look into it. But checking every story that racks up “fake news” reports would be overwhelming, so Facebook uses other information to figure out what it should and shouldn’t bother looking into.

One of those is this trust rating. Facebook didn’t tell the Post everything that went into the score, but it is partly related to a user’s track record with reporting stories as false. If someone regularly reports stories as false, and a fact-checking team later finds them to be false, their trust score will go up; if a person regularly reports stories as false that later are found to be true, it’ll go down.

“People often report things that they just disagree with,” Tessa Lyons, Facebook’s product manager for fighting misinformation, told the Post.

In that sense, this may be less of a “trust” score and more of a “fact-check” score, and the name isn’t likely to do it any favors.

Algorithms are often flawed and can have larger, deleterious effects that aren’t immediately visible, so Facebook will have to be careful about what other information it factors in and how else this score is used, lest it accidentally discount reports from a specific community of people.

Right now, it isn’t clear if the trust score is being used for anything other than reports on news stories, as well as reports on whether another Facebook user has posted something inappropriate or otherwise needing the company’s attention.

If it’s used as advertised, the scores could help Facebook home in more quickly on disinformation that’s spreading around the network. While bad reports can come from all over, President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have made a habit out of calling any story they dislike “fake news,” which could influence others to abuse the term. That could lead to fact-checkers wasting time on stories that are obviously correct.

The real backstop here is the fact-checkers. Facebook largely seems to rely on third-party fact-checking services like Snopes and PolitiFact to determine what is and isn’t real. That means the final determinations ought to be trustworthy, but there’s still a layer of Facebook’s algorithm in the way.

The Columbia Journalism Review published a report back in April that looked at Facebook’s fact-checking efforts. It found that many fact-checkers were frustrated with Facebook’s lack of transparency.

Fact-checkers weren’t clear on how Facebook was determining which stories to show or hide from them and in which order. That means that even though widely accepted fact-checkers have a shot at monitoring these stories — and therefore a direct impact on users’ trust scores — it still comes down to Facebook to pick out the right stories to show them in the first place.

Source: The Verge

 

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Huawei Reportedly Helped North Korea Build Out 3G Network In Secret.

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A new report could ultimately prove another bombshell in Huawei’s on-going conflicts with the U.S. government. New documents obtained by The Washington Post tie the Chinese hardware giant to North Korea’s commercial 3G wireless network.

If proven, the ties would be yet more fodder for the U.S., which has already dinged the company over charges of violating Iran sanctions. The government has also been investigated potential ties between Huawei and North Korea for years, though concrete links have apparently remained elusive.

This latest report arrives by way of a former Huawei employee, with confirmation and supporting documents from other sources who have also requested to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. For its part, Huawei has stated that it has “no business presence” in the embattled country.

“Huawei is fully committed to comply with all applicable laws and regulations in the countries and regions where we operate, including all export control and sanction laws and regulations,” it said in a statement offered to the press. Notably, the statements appear to apply primarily to its current business offerings, while declining to comment on the past.

The specifics of the dealings are a touch complicated. According to the documents, Huawei partnered with Panda International Information Technology, a state-owned Chinese communications company. Huawei reportedly used the firm to send networking equipment to the country in order to launch wireless carrier, Koryolink over a decade ago.

The company has been under additional scrutiny recently as carriers have begun to roll out 5G networks across the globe. We’ve reached out to Huawei for additional comment.

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Instagram Wants Opening Your DMs To Feel Like ‘Walking Into A Party’.

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It’s incredible that Kaitlyn Tiffany and I haven’t yet asked why people slide into other people’s direct messages, but that ends today. On this week’s episode of Why’d You Push That Button?, we want to hear love stories and stories of failed courtship attempts. We ask why people slide into DMs, and then we process how the direct message’s connotation has changed over time. 

We chat with our friend Blake who has slid into multiple DMs, as well as Tasbeeh Herwees, who called DMs the “new little black book” in MEL. Then we talk to a man named Thomas who met his boyfriend on Twitter through the DMs. We love love!

Finally, we take all our questions and thoughts to Connor Hayes, the director of product for Instagram messaging, who explains what the company has seen when it comes to DM behavior and what the future looks like for DMs. Notably, he says that Instagram wants to feel like a cool party where you can talk to all your friends, especially once Facebook merges all its messaging products together. This intimidates me, to be honest. Sometimes I don’t want to be at a party.

“If we do our job well, at the end of the day Instagram, when you open it up, is going to feel a lot more like walking into a party and hanging out with your friends than it is today, and we see messaging as a big part of that,” he says.

Listen to the episode above, and you can subscribe to the show anywhere you typically get your podcasts. To make it easy for you, we’ve also got our usual places linked: Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and our RSS feed.

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Toyota Edges Closer Toward Creating A Space-Traveling Moon Rover.

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Toyota just moved one step closer toward pioneering an RV fit for space travel.

Just days ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing on Saturday, the automaker announced that it has officially signed a three-year commitment agreement with Japan's space agency JAXA to develop a pressurized moon rover set to launch a decade from now. 

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Toyota on July 16 released a timeline detailing its plans to bring the project to life. This comes four months after the automaker announced that it was looking into partnering with JAXA to develop the fuel cell-powered behemoth. 

Slide 2 of 7: Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May 2018. The company's want to launch the vehicle to the moon in 2029.
Toyota and JAXA have been jointly studying the concept of a manned, pressurized rover since May 2018. The company's want to launch the vehicle to the moon in 2029.

The preliminary timetable has Toyota and JAXA finalizing specifications for a prototype during the fiscal year 2019. Manufacturing would begin in 2020 and testing is expected to happen in 2021. 

The plan covers almost every year from now through 2027. In 2022, the partners expect to start testing the prototype's driving systems and by 2024, Toyota wants to start designing the actual flight model. The duo is aiming to launch the rover in 2029.

Slide 3 of 7: The goal is to achieve a sustainable future on the moon, and eventually Mars. JAXA wants to use the rover to find frozen water on the surface of the moon initially.
The goal is to achieve a sustainable future on the moon, and eventually Mars. JAXA wants to use the rover to find frozen water on the surface of the moon initially.

To achieve these goals, Toyota established Lunar Exploration Mobility Works, a department dedicated specifically to the rover. The Japanese car company's new workforce division will grow to about 30 employees by the end of 2019, according to a press release.

A few months back, Toyota unveiled conceptual renderings of the six-wheeled vehicle which calls for enough living space to comfortably support two occupants. 

The spacecraft would also enable astronauts to live inside it without wearing space suits.

Slide 4 of 7: Toyota says its rover is roughly the size of two small shuttle buses. It has 42.6 cubic feet of interior space, enough for a two-astronaut crew, or four in an emergency.
Toyota says its rover is roughly the size of two small shuttle buses. It has 42.6 cubic feet of interior space, enough for a two-astronaut crew, or four in an emergency.

The vehicle is expected to be be at least 20 feet long, 17 feet wide and 12.4 feet high. The electric machine would be powered by fuel cells, which use clean power generation methods and emit only water. The rover would have a lunar surface range of more than 6,200 miles, according to Toyota. 

JAXA wants to use the futuristic mobile home to help astronauts explore the lunar poles in search of frozen water. The agency also sets its eyes on using the technology to explore other planets.

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Instagram Will Notify You Before Deactivating Your Account.

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Instagram is strengthening its moderation policies today and adding a new alert that will warn people who violate rules when their account is close to being deleted.

The alert will show users a history of the posts, comments, and stories that Instagram has had to remove from their account, as well as why they were removed. “If you post something that goes against our guidelines again, your account may be deleted,” the page reads.

Instagram will give users a chance to appeal its moderation decisions directly through the alert, rather than having to go through its help page on the web. Only some types of content will be able to be appealed at first (such as pictures removed for nudity or hate speech), and Instagram plans to expand the available content appeal types over time.

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The change will help clarify for users why they’re in trouble and should remove the shock of suddenly finding that your account has vanished. While it’s likely that a great number of banned accounts are removed for obvious rule violations, Instagram — like its parent company Facebook — has regularly had moderation problems when it comes to nudity and sexuality, where users have had photos removed for posting pictures of breastfeeding or period blood. This update won’t prevent those mistakes (those types of photos are supposed to be allowed), but it would make appealing the decision easier.

In addition to the new alert, Instagram is also going to give its moderating team more leeway to ban bad actors. Instagram’s policy has been to ban users who post “a certain percentage of violating content,” but it’ll now ban people who repeatedly violate its policies within a window of time, too. The specifics here are all as vague as ever, as Instagram doesn’t want to offer details and let bad actors game the system, but it sounds like it could lead to fewer problematic accounts slipping through on a technicality.

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