Monthly Archives: August 2018
A Chipotle scam, FBI brain drain, and more of the week’s top security news.
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Facebook this morning announced the launch of a new set of educational resources focused on helping young people think critically and behave thoughtfully online. The Digital Literacy Library, as the new site is being called, is aimed at educators of children aged 11 to 18, and address topics like privacy, reputation, identity exploration, security, safety, wellbeing and more.
There are 830 million young people online, the company notes, which is why digital literacy is necessary. We’ve seen the results what can happen when people are lacking in digital literacy – they’re susceptible to believing hoaxes, propaganda and fake news is true; they risk their personal data by using insecure apps; they become addicted to social media and its feedback loop of likes; they bully and/or are bullied; and they don’t take steps to protect their online reputation which can have real-world consequences, to name a few things.
However, many teachers today lack the educational resources that would allow them to teach a digital literacy program in their classroom, or in other less formal environments.
Facebook says the lesson plans in the new library were drawn from the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, where they were released under a Creative Commons license. In other words, the company itself did not design the lessons, it’s only making them more broadly available by placing them on Facebook where they can be more easily discovered and used.
The lessons themselves are based on over 10 years of academic research from the Youth and Media team, who also took care to reflect the voices of young people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, ethnicities, geographies, and educational levels, Facebook says. Initially, the 18 lessons are launching in English, but they’ll be soon available in 45 additional languages.
For educators, the lessons are ready-to-use as free downloads, and state how long each lesson will take. Outside the classroom, parents could use them to teach children at home, or they could be used in after-school programs. Teachers can also modify the lessons’ content to meet their own needs, if they choose.
The courses will be made available in Facebook’s Safety Center and Berkman Klein’s Digital Literacy Resource Platform for the time being. Facebook says it’s also working with other non-profits worldwide to adapt the lessons and create new ones.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has offered educational resources aimed at young people.
The company also recently launched its Youth Portal, which provides educational material directly to teens, not their teachers. However, those resources are focused more on Facebook itself, providing guidance on things like how to navigate the service, how to stay secure, and how to understand how people’s data is used. (Arguably, this sort of information is something a large number of adults could use a refresher on, as well.)
In addition, Facebook has begun to roll out educational guidance into its new app, Messenger Kids, aimed at the under-13 crowd. The app encourages children to be kind and respectful online, by promoting empathy and positive messaging through things like the “Messenger Kids Pledge,” kindness stickers, and other in-app challenges.
At the root of all this is the fact that Facebook, along with most social media, has corrupted the way people interact and navigate the online world. And it is now belatedly is waking up to its role and its responsibilities on that front. These large platforms were built by optimistic engineers who for years only saw the positive side of connecting the online world, and not the potentially negative outcomes – like data theft and misuse, fake news, hacking, attempts to disrupt democracy, bullying, targeted harassment, and even genocide. A literacy program could help the next generation of users, but it has arrived too late for many of Facebook’s users.
Below, are the lesson plans’ description, for reference:
Say what you will about the success or general usefulness of the Moto Mod line — Motorola keeps plugging away. The company currently offers 17 Mods with an 18th on the way, bringing one of the most interesting use cases yet.
Along with the new Moto Z3 handset, Motorola unveiled a Mod that will bring 5G connectivity to the entire line via Verizon’s nascent network. Due out early next year for an undisclosed sum, the new Mod presents an interesting workaround to the pains of introducing a next-generation network to a handset.
With this backdoor approach, the company is able put the Z3 up for sale on August 16th, and work another half-year or so to get its ducks in a row on the 5G front. Perhaps Verizon’s 5G coverage map will be a bit more dense by then, though at present, the company has only announced three cities — Houston, Los Angeles and, oddly, Sacramento. A fourth unnamed city is also on tap to get coverage by the end of the year.
At the very least, this lets Motorola tout the claim of being one of — if not the — first phones to offer the technology to U.S. customers. The company also claims that putting this tech directly into the phone would have been much more resource intensive than just sticking it and an extended battery inside the mod.
I’m not sure how much I buy that line of reasoning, but it certainly helps keep the cost of the handset down — the new Z3 will be available for $ 480 unlocked. The company has long focused on providing budget options for users, and that’s certainly the case here, helped along by some good — but last-generation — silicon like the Snapdragon 835.
Motorola also likely didn’t feel confident that most users would be willing to take the plunge on a 5G phone at this early stage. As for the phone itself, it looks pretty similar to the recently introduced Moto Z3 Play in most respects. There’s a six-inch display, a 3,000mAh battery and dual-cameras with depth sensing and Google lens built in. No word yet on whether Verizon will eventually bundle the phone with that new mod.
Disclosure: Verizon owns Oath, Oath owns TechCrunch.
Unknown midterm election attackers that Facebook has removed were hosting a political rally next month that they pinned on Black Lives Matter, Antifa and other organizations, according to third-party event websites that scraped the now-removed Facebook events.
Facebook provided an image of the deleted “No Unite The Right 2 – DC” event as part of its announcement today that merely showed its image, title, date, location and that a Page called “Resisters” was one of the hosts of the propaganda event. But a scraped event description TechCrunch discovered on Rallyist provides deeper insight into the disruptive information operation. Facebook won’t name the source of the election interference but said the attackers shared a connection through a single account to the Russian Internet Research Agency responsible for 2016 presidential election interference on Facebook.
“We are calling all anti-fascists and people of good conscience to participate in international days of action August 10 through August 12 and a mass mobilization in Washington DC” the description reads. “We occupy ICE offices, confront racism, antisemitism, islamaphobia, xenophobia, and white nationalism. We will be in the streets on August 10-12, and we intend to win.”
But what’s especially alarming is how the event description concludes [emphasis mine, in full below]. “Signed, Black Lives Matter Charlottesville, Black Lives Matter D.C., Charlottesville Summer of Resistance Welcoming Committee Agency, Crimethinc Ex-Workers Collective, Crushing Colonialism, D.C. Antifascist Collective, Future is Feminists, Holler Network, Hoods4Justice, The International, Capoeira Angola Foundation-DC (FICA-DC), Libertarian Socialist Caucus Of The DSA, March For Racial Justice, Maryland Antifa, One People’s Project, Resist This (Former DisruptJ20), Rising Tide North America, Smash Racism D.C., Showing Up for Racial Justice Charlottesville, Suffolk County DSA, Workers Against Racism, 350 DC.”
It’s unclear if the attackers effectively “forged” the signature of these groups, or duped them into signing off on supporting the rally. The attackers were potentially trying to blame these groups for the rallies in an effort to further sow discord in the political landscape.
Facebook initially provided no comment about the description of the event, but then confirmed that it was originally created by the attackers’ since-deleted Page “Resisters,” which then later added several legitimate organizations as co-hosts: Millennials For Revolution, March To Confront White Supremacy – from Charlottesville to DC, Workers Against Racism – WAR, Smash Racism DC and Tune Out Trump. Strangely, those co-hosts have relaunched a new event with a similar name, “Nazis Not Welcome No Unite The Right 2” and similar description, including a similar but expanded “Signed by” list, and now including BLM Charlottesville and D.C. as co-hosts.
Meanwhile, Facebook also shared an image of a November 4th, 2017 “Trump Nightmare Must End – NYC” event, also without details of the description. A scraped version on the site AllEvents shows the description as “History has shown that fascism must be stopped before it becomes too late. There is only one force that can stop this nightmare: we, the people, acting together. On November 4 we’ll take to the streets demanding that Trump regime must go! We meet at Times Square (42 St and Broadway) at 2 PM!”
The co-opting of left-wing messaging and protests is a powerful strategy for the election interferers. It could provide the right-wing with excuses to claim that all left-wing protest against Trump or white supremacy is actually foreign governments or hackers, and that those protests don’t represent the views of real Americans.
For developers, the process of determining whether every new update is going to botch some core functionality can take up a lot of time and resources, and things get far more complicated when you’re managing a multitude of apps.
Test.ai is building a comprehensive system for app testing that relies on bots, not human labor, to see whether an app is ready to start raking in the downloads.
The startup has just closed an $ 11 million Series A round led by Gradient Ventures, Google’s AI-focused venture fund. Also participating in the round were e.ventures, Uncork Capital and Zetta Venture Partners. Test.ai, which was founded in 2015, has raised $ 17.6 million to date.
“Every advancement in training AI systems enables an advancement in user testing, and test.ai is the leader in AI-powered testing technology. We’re excited to help them supercharge their growth as they test every app in the world,” Gradient Ventures founder Anna Patterson said in a statement. “In a couple years, AI testing will be ingrained into every company’s product flow.”
The company’s technology doesn’t just leverage AI to cut down on how long it takes for an app to be tested; there are much lengthier processes it helps eliminate when it comes to developers readying lists of scenarios to be tested. Test.ai has trained their bots on “tens of thousands of apps” to help it understand what an app looks like and what interface patterns they’re typically composed of. From there, they’re able to build their own scenario list and find what works and what doesn’t.
That can mean, in the case of an app like our own, tracking down a bookmark button and then deducing that there are certain process that users would go through to use its functionality.
Right now, the utility is in the fact that bots scale so broadly and so quickly. While a startup working on a single app may have the flexibility to choose amongst a few options, larger enterprises with several aging products having to grapple with updated systems are in a bit more of a bind. Some of Test.ai’s larger unnamed partners that “make app stores” or devices are working at the stratospheric level having to verify tens of thousands of apps to ensure that everything is in working order.
“That’s an easy sell for us, almost too easy, because they don’t have the resources to individually test ten thousand apps every time something like Android gets updated,” CEO Jason Arbon tells TechCrunch.
The startup’s capabilities operate on a much more quantitative scale than human-powered competitors like UserTesting, which tend to emphasize testing for feedback that’s a bit more qualitative in nature. Test.ai’s founders believe that their system will be able to grapple with more nebulous concepts in the future as it analyzes more apps, and that it’s already gaining insights into concepts like whether a product appears “trustworthy,” though there are certainly other areas where bots are trailing the insights that can be delivered by human testers.
The founders say they hope to use this latest funding to scale operations for their growing list of enterprise clients and hire some new people.
In this blog post, we’re going to talk briefly about the benefits of Facebook Lead Ads! Take a look at how we used them to increase lead flow and lower CPL.
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