June 30th, 2014
TechDirt / by Mike Masnick
As you may have heard (since it appears to have become the hyped up internet story of the weekend), the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) recently published a study done by Facebook, with an assist from researchers at UCSF and Cornell, in which they directly tried (and apparently succeeded) to manipulate the emotions of 689,003 users of Facebook for a week. The participants -- without realizing they were a part of the study -- had their news feeds "manipulated" so that they showed all good news or all bad news. The idea was to see if this made the users themselves feel good or bad. Contradicting some other researchwhich found that looking at photos of your happy friends made you sad, this research apparently found that happy stuff in your feed makes you happy. But what's got a lot of people up in arms is the other side of that coin: seeing a lot of negative stories in your feed appears to make people mad.
There are, of course, many different ways to view this: and the immediate response from many is "damn, that's creepy." Even the editor of the study, admits to the Atlantic, that she found it to be questionable:
"I was concerned," she told me in a phone interview, "until I queried the authors and they said their local institutional review board had approved it—and apparently on the grounds that Facebook apparently manipulates people's News Feeds all the time... I understand why people have concerns. I think their beef is with Facebook, really, not the research."
Law professor James Grimmelmann digs deeper into both the ethics and legality of the study and finds that there's a pretty good chance the study broke the law, beyond breaking standard research ethics practices. Many people have pointed out, as the editor above did, that because Facebook manipulates its news feed all the time, this was considered acceptable and didn't require any new consent (and Facebook's terms of service say that they may use your data for research). However, Grimmelmann isn't buying it. He points to the official government policy on research on human subjects, which has specific requirements, many of which were not met.
While those rules apply to universities and federally funded research, many people assumed that they don't apply to Facebook as a private company. Except... this research involved two universities... and it was federally funded (in part) [Update: Cornell has updated its original story that claimed federal funding to now say the study did not receive outside funding.]. The rest of Grimmelmann's rant is worth reading as well, as he lays out in great detail why he thinks this is wrong.
While I do find the whole thing creepy, and think that Facebook probably could have and should have gotten more informed consent about this, there is a big part of this that is still blurry. The lines aren't as clear as some people are making them out to be. People are correct in noting that Facebook changes their newsfeed all the time, and of course Facebook is constantly tracking how that impacts things. So there's always some "manipulation" going on -- though, usually it's to try to drive greater adoption, usage and (of course) profits. Is it really that different when it's done just to track emotional well-being?
As Chris Dixon notes, doing basic a/b testing is common for lots of sites, and he's unclear how this is all that different. Of course, many people pointed out that manipulating someone's emotions to make them feel bad is (or at least feels) different, leading him to point out that plenty of entertainment offerings (movies, video games, music) also manipulate our emotions as well -- though Dixon's colleague Benedict Evans points out that there's a sort of informed consentwhen you "choose" to go to see a sad movie. Though, of course, a possible counter is that there are plenty of situations in which emotions are manipulated without such consent (think: advertising). In the end, this may just come down to being about what people expect.
If anything, what I think this does is really to highlight how much Facebook manipulates the newsfeed. This is something very few people seem to think about or consider. Facebook's newsfeed system has always been something of a black box (which is a reason that I prefer Twitter's setup where you get the self-chosen firehose, rather than some algorithm (or researchers' decisions) picking what I get to see). And, thus, in the end, while Facebook may have failed to get the level of "informed consent" necessary for such a study, it may have, in turn, done a much better job of accidentally "informing" a lot more people how its newsfeeds get manipulated. Whether or not that leads more people to rely on Facebook less, well, perhaps that will be the subject of a future study...
- Facebook Fighting Against Massively Broad Warrant From NY District Attorney For All Information From 381 Accounts
- European Union's Highest Court To Consider PRISM's Impact On EU Data Protection Laws
- Former CIA, NSA Boss Says Senator Feinstein Is Too Emotional To Judge CIA Torture Fairly
- The Fact That The US Intelligence Community So Readily Admits To Fantasies Of Killing Ed Snowden Shows Why They Can't Be Trusted
- Cops Subject Man To Rectal Searches, Enemas And A Colonoscopy In Futile Effort To Find Drugs They Swear He Was Hiding
June 29th, 2014
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the new Caliph, interestingly enough, was released as a US prisoner from Camp Bucca, Iraq in 2009, according to numerous accounts, however, some sources indicate that he was actually released in 2004.
Either way, the new Caliph, was not considered a high-level threat, ironically enough, at the time and was released into Iraqi custody.
Upon his release he indicated to his US captors "I'll see you guys in New York"
BAGHDAD (TheBlaze/AP) — The Al Qaeda breakaway group that has seized huge tracks of Iraq and much of neighboring northern Syria has named the leader of the new caliphate and formally declared the creation of an Islamic state in the territory under its control.
The spokesman for the group, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, made the announcement in an audio statement posted online Sunday.
Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is the head of the new caliphate — a term used to describe a medieval Islamic state. Al-Adnani called on those living in the area under the group’s control to swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
Islamic extremists have long dreamed of recreating the Islamic caliphate that ruled over the Middle East for hundreds of years.
It was unclear what immediate practical impact the declaration would have on the ground in Syria and Iraq, or among the jihadi community.
Other Must-Read Stories from The Blaze
June 29th, 2014
Fox News First / By Chris Stirewalt
• Stunner: 44 percent not proud to be American
STUNNER: 44 PERCENT NOT PROUD TO BE AMERICAN
For all of the red white and blue on display in honor of America’s soccer exploits this week, an exhaustive new Pew poll shows that actual patriotism is in the dumps. An amazing 44 percent of all respondents said they didn’t often feel proud to be American. Only 28 percent said that America was the greatest nation on earth. So how do you unite people to save the country if they’re not invested in its success? And how do you reverse a belief that is searing in its self-fulfillment? We talk a lot in America about economic, demographic and other “tipping points,” but the patriotism gap is arguably the most important of all.
Liberals care less - Pew divided their sample into different categories across the left-right political spectrum. When asked if respondents “often feel proud to be American,” a majority of strong liberals, 60 percent, said no. The only group that solidly agreed with the statement was conservatives, ranging from 72 percent to 81 percent. About half of the respondents in the middle of the spectrum – essentially libertarians to socially conservative fiscal liberals – said they were proud to be American.
Taking exception with exceptionalism - When asked if the United States ranks above other countries, fewer than three in 10 overall said the U.S “stands above all other counties” while 58 percent said the U.S. “is one of the greatest countries, along with some others.” And 12 percent of respondents definitively said “there are other countries that are better than the U.S.” When broken down into groups, conservatives are tops on exceptionalism at 46 percent. Close behind are members of the ethnically diverse ranks of socially conservative, fiscally liberal Americans who formerly made up the Democratic base before the Obama era at 39 percent Strong liberals and libertarian-leaning young adults were least likely to see America as the greatest, 11 percent and 16 percent respectively. And 19 percent of strong liberals, the leader in this ranking, said other countries were better.
Why it matters - If the individuals in a disagreement don’t at least agree that they are trying to preserve a common endeavor, spirited debate turns into acrimony. Splitsville, man. If America is just another country with a soccer team, the extraordinary doses of patriotic grace, forbearance and sacrifice that have been required of citizens since our country’s founding don’t make sense. It’s not that the 44 percent who aren’t proud are all moving to Costa Rica, it’s that they feel less obliged to do the hard work necessary to make a system this demanding work. Politicians and public figures who intentionally exploit and deepen divisions and resentments are doing more than just creating gridlock, they’re undercutting the very idea that has lit the lamp of America’s greatness for nearly three centuries.
Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Want FOX News First in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he serves as the host of "Power Play" on FoxNews.com and makes daily appearances on the network including "America Live with Megyn Kelly," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace." Most recently, Stirewalt provided expert political analysis during the 2012 presidential election.
June 29th, 2014
So, new data indicates that Antarctic ice volume has now set a new historical record.
But climate hoax "researchers" are actually stating that the "new ice" is not the issue--it's the loss of "old ice" which proves their verifiably questionable global warming fiction....To me it sounds like perhaps, the researchers are merely sentimental and prefer the "old-timey" ice as opposed to that more disrespectful, younger, "whipper-snapper" ice of today....~Barry S.
Talking About The Weather
By Harold Ambler
The sea ice surrounding Antarctica, which, as I reported in my book, has been steadily increasing throughout the period of satellite measurement that began in 1979, has hit a new all-time record high for areal coverage.
The new record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice, the ice encircling the southernmost continent, is 2.074 million square kilometers and was posted for the first time by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s The Cryosphere Today early Sunday morning.
It was not immediately apparent whether the record had occurred on Friday or Saturday. Requests for comment to Bill Chapman, who runs The Cryosphere Today, were not immediately returned.
The previous record anomaly for Southern Hemisphere sea ice area was 1.840 million square kilometers and occurred on December 20, 2007.
Global sea ice area, as of Sunday morning, stood at 0.991 million square kilometers above average. (The figure was arrived at by adding the Northern Hemisphere anomaly and the Southern Hemisphere anomaly. A graph provided by The Cryosphere Today showed the global anomaly as 1.005 million square kilometers.)
Although early computer models predicted a diminishment of both Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere sea ice due to anthropogenic global warming, subsequent modeling has posited that the results of warming around Antarctica would, counter-intuitively, generate sea ice growth.
A freshening of the waters surrounding the southernmost continent as well as the strengthening of the winds circling it were both theorized as explanations for the steady growth of Antarctica’s sea ice during the period of satellite measurement.
A number of prominent climatologists have discounted the growth of Antarctic sea ice, arguing that it is less significant to global circulation than ice in the Arctic basin.
Walt Meier, formerly of the National Snow and Ice Data Center and currently of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has previously said that Antarctic sea ice, which has little ice that survives year to year, is less significant than Arctic sea ice to the climate system.
“While the Arctic has seen large decreases through the year in all sectors, the Antarctic has a very regional signal – with highs in some areas and lows in others,” Meier said in 2013. “And of course, the Arctic volume is decreasing substantially through the loss of old ice. The Antarctic, which has very little old ice, hasn’t much of a volume change, relatively speaking.”
The new Antarctic record anomaly was more than 10 percent greater than the previous record.
The steady growth of Antarctic sea ice and its influence on global sea ice appeared to provide a public relations problem, at a minimum, for those warning of global warming’s menace. According to Meier and some other climatologists, global sea ice area is simply not a metric to consider when examining the climate system (More)
Related at TalkingAboutTheWeather
June 29th, 2014
The media has been on slandering duty with this particular story from day one, but now a man is dead and the tone coming from police is not one of confident certainty.
But why, exactly, were these individuals being singled out by media and law enforcement, or was it that a career of garnering political favors were finally being paid back in full?
Nor can most people remember a chain of individuals being locked up for conspiracy charges over the taking of a picture regarding a political player's wife, by an out of control blogger.
(CNN) -- A tea party leader that rattled estabishment Republicans in Mississippi and beyond is dead -- shot once in the head in an apparent suicide, according to police.
A handgun was found "nearby."
Police officers in Ridgeland, Mississippi, found Mark Mayfield's body shortly after 9 a.m. Friday on the floor of a storage room in his garage.
"Because all of the indications, it appears to be suicide, but we still got some things to look into," Ridgeland police Chief Jimmy Houston told CNN. "He left a suicide note, and we are verifying its validity."
Authorities haven't disclosed the contents of that note or why Mayfield might have taken his life.
Yet the lawyer and Mississippi Tea Party leader has been under fire for the past month, having been charged with three others -- according to The Clarion-Ledger newspaper -- in connection to a blogger accused of taking a picture of Sen. Thad Cochran's wife in her nursing home bed. This came a week after the blogger, Clayton Kelly, was himself charged.