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Last Week Online #24 – Internet is Politics

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
3 min read

Internet is politics. And, the latest tactics for Capture The Flag might be a tad challenging for the kids at camp.

U.S. State Department begins social media screening for almost everyone applying for a visa

On Saturday the U.S. State Department started to implement the requirement that almost everyone applying for a visa to the U.S. must submit social media usernames, previous email addresses and phone numbers as part of the application process. This could affect up to 15 million would-be travellers looking to enter the United States.

The new screening process was first proposed in March 2018. But the application forms to request the added information was just updated by the State Department. Previously, additional screening information – including email, phone numbers and social media accounts – have only been required for applicants identified for extra scrutiny. About 65,000 applicants per-year have fallen into that category, primarily people who have travelled to areas with a high degree of terrorist activity.

"National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening," the department said in a statement to the Associated Press. "We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect U.S. citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States."

DeepMind's A.I. beats human players in Quake III's Capture the Flag

After conquering Go and chess, Google-owned DeepMind started tackling multiplayer games – a category of games usually requiring teamwork. In a paper published by Science, DeepMind researchers have described how they designed an A.I. system mastering capture the flag mode in Quake III.

The DeepMind players are all "A.I. agents", which can play with or against human opponents. These agents were trained with 450,000 rounds of capture the flag, (four years of gameplay), completed over a few weeks. The A.I. agents started out doing random movements but figured out the strategies and techniques that work over time.

The agents successfully competed against human players even when their reaction times were slowed down to imitate the reaction times of a human. They "clearly exceeded the win-rate of humans in maps that neither agent nor human had seen previously," the paper states.

The skills DeepMind's A.I. picks up from complex games could be used by warehouse robots that need to work together. They could also lead to a solution that would allow self-driving cars to navigate heavy traffic. However, A.I. agents are only responding to whatever is happening in the game – they are not communicating with each other like groups of humans or other animals.

U.S. Tech giants are increasingly involved in international relations – and it's getting messy

Twitter suspended a large number of Chinese user accounts, including those belonging to critics of China's government. "They 'happen' to be accounts critical of China, both inside and outside China." wrote Yaxue Cao, founder and editor of the U.S.-based publication China Change. The move seems to be particularly ill-timed, occurring just days before the thirtieth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4.

"These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part," Twitter said. "Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors. We apologize. We're working today to ensure we overturn any errors but that we remain vigilant in enforcing our rules for those who violate them."

Facebook, on the other hand, removed 51 accounts, 36 Pages, seven Groups and three Instagram accounts involved in "coordinated inauthentic behaviour" originated in Iran. Facebook claims that the individuals behind the activity — which also took place on other internet platforms and websites — misled people about who they were and what they were doing.

Tool of the week: Bullet

Bullet is a nifty little way to share content from podcasts in social media. It can be your own podcast or someone else's. By creating a video snippet with captioned video from any podcast app, Bullet makes the podcast easy to share.

Podcasts are hard to share since there are no intuitive ways to capture and share the snippets you really like. This is also a significant obstacle for creators trying to grow their podcasts. Bullet works on top of almost any podcast app on iOS - simply share the link to Bullet from your podcast app of choice.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

Thinker and doer. Loves running, wine, and human behaviour.


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