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Last Week Online #38 – Facebook, the Frankenstein of our time

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus
2 min read

If solving disinformation online is harder than scaling a start-up, who's up for the challenge?

Political disinformation campaigns by government or political parties have more than doubled in the last two years

The number of countries with political disinformation campaigns more than doubled over the previous two years now reaching 70. Democracies like Austria, Sweden, and the Netherlands are accompanying authoritarian states like North Korea, Venezuela and United Arab Emirate. At least one political party or government entity in each of the 70 countries have been engaging in social media manipulation.

While Facebook and other platform is increasing its efforts to battle disinformation, a report from Oxford University show that governments around the world are increasingly using these techniques. The main reason for governments to spread disinformation is to undermine political opponents, bury contradicting views or to interfere in foreign affairs.

Facebook is the primary social network for disinformation, according to the report. Out of the 70 countries using social media platforms for propaganda, Facebook was used in 56 cases. Another interesting statistic is that 87% of the countries used "human" accounts, 80% used bots, 11% used cyborg accounts and 7% used stolen accounts.

Facebook is failing to meet its promises to Congress about protecting the 2020 election from interference

Last year in April, Mark Zuckerberg told the US Congress about his plan to share a vast amount of Facebook posts, links, and other types of user data with researchers. The goal was to make it easier to study and flag disinformation on the site. But now, researchers say there's little more insight into disinformation campaigns on Facebook heading into the 2020 presidential election than they had in 2016.

When launching the initiative, Zuckerberg said: "Our goal is to focus on both providing ideas for preventing interference in 2018 and beyond, and also for holding us accountable." He also said some early results would arrive by the end of 2018.

But nearly 18 months later, Facebook says it has struggled to share the information while also protecting its users' privacy and much of the data still remain unavailable to academics. The information eventually released is also expected to be far less comprehensive than they first stated. Even, seven nonprofit groups that have helped finance (!) the project are now threatening to end their involvement.

The worlds encryptions are threatened when Google claims they achieved "quantum supremacy"

Researchers at Google have used a quantum computer to run a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today's most advanced supercomputer, known as Summit, around 10,000 years. The findings were published in a paper posted to a NASA laboratory website – presumably mistakenly, since it soon after disappeared.

The calculation has no real use, but the result indicates that scientists have now passed the milestone known as "quantum supremacy." Quantum machines are powerful because they, unlike classical – which represent either a 1 or a 0, uses qubits which can be kind of a combination of both at the same time.

This marks the start of quantum computers outperforming classical supercomputers. This is important since the security of our networked world depends on encryption that one needs a lot of calculation power to crack. With quantum computers, the basic encryption algorithms protecting communications, bank accounts and other sensitive data might be quick to break. However, it seems likely that the encryption methods are getting more advanced over time as well, so no need to worry just yet.

Tool of the week: Figure it Out

Are you working with people spread out over different time zones? A nifty little helper for Google Chrome is Figure it Out or FIO. It makes it possible to use an empty tab to keep track of the time zones you need at hand or to calculate any times you might need. I find it a lot easier than using my calendar.

Not rocket science, but still helpful to me personally multiple times a week. Go ahead and check it out.

Last Week Online

Anna Loverus Twitter

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

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