• Illegal armsU.S. weapons main source of trade in illegal arms on the Dark Web

    New report, based on first-ever study, looks at the size and scope of the illegal arms trade on the dark web. European purchases of weapons on the dark web generate estimated revenues five times higher than the U.S. purchases. The dark web’s potential to anonymously arm criminals and terrorists, as well as vulnerable and fixated individuals, is “the most dangerous aspect.”

  • Surveillance“Stalking software”: Surveillance made simpler

    The controversial Snap Map app enables Snapchat users to track their friends. The app makes it possible for users to monitor their friends’ movements, and determine – in real time – exactly where their posts are coming from (down to the address). Many social media users expressed their indignation, referring to the app as “stalking software.” This is the latest in a series of monitoring tools to be built on social media platforms. A new study assesses the benefits and risks associated with their use.

  • SurveillanceThe real costs of cheap surveillance

    By Jonathan Weinberg

    Surveillance used to be expensive. Even just a few years ago, tailing a person’s movements around the clock required rotating shifts of personnel devoted full-time to the task. Not any more, though. Governments can track the movements of massive numbers of people by positioning cameras to read license plates, or by setting up facial recognition systems. Private companies’ tracking of our lives has also become easy and cheap too. Advertising network systems let data brokers track nearly every page you visit on the web, and associate it with an individual profile. It is worth thinking about all of this more deeply. U.S. firms – unless they’re managed or regulated in socially beneficial ways – have both the incentive and the opportunity to use information about us in undesirable ways. We need to talk about the government’s enacting rules constraining that activity. After all, leaving those decisions to the people who make money selling our data is unlikely to result in our getting the rules we want.

  • First responders“Social media triangulation” to help emergency responders

    During emergency situations like severe weather or terrorist attacks, local officials and first responders have an urgent need for accessible, reliable and real-time data. Researchers are working to address this need by introducing a new method for identifying local social media users and collecting the information they post during emergencies.

  • Hate speechTo curb hate speech on social media, we need to look beyond Facebook, Twitter: Experts

    Germany has passed a new controversial law which requires social media companies quickly to delete hate speech or face heavy fines. The debate over the new law has focused on the most common social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, or Youtube. Experts say that placing Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube at the center of the debate over hate speech on social media websites is understandable, but it could undermine monitoring less widely known social media players. Some of these smaller players may present more problematic hate speech issues than their bigger rivals.

  • The Russian connectionFake news: Studying cyber propaganda and false information campaigns

    Dr. Nitin Agarwal of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock will use $1.5 million grant from the Office of Naval Research to study the sources of false information on the Internet, how it is spread through social media, and how people and groups strategically use this false information to conduct cyber propaganda campaigns.

  • Terrorists & social mediaCan the world ever really keep terrorists off the internet?

    By Shontavia Johnson

    After London’s most recent terror attacks, British Prime Minister Theresa May called on countries to collaborate on internet regulation to prevent terrorism planning online. May criticized online spaces that allow such ideas to breed, and the companies that host them. Internet companies and other commentators, however, have pushed back against the suggestion that more government regulation is needed, saying weakening everyone’s encryption poses different public dangers. Many have also questioned whether some regulation, like banning encryption, is possible at all. As a law professor who studies the impact of the internet on society, I believe the goal of international collaboration is incredibly complicated, given global history.

  • Online profilesNew tool spots fake online profiles

    People who use fake profiles online could be more easily identified, thanks to a new tool developed by computer scientists. Researchers have trained computer models to spot social media users who make up information about themselves — known as catfishes. The system is designed to identify users who are dishonest about their age or gender. Scientists believe it could have potential benefits for helping to ensure the safety of social networks.

  • Terrorism & social mediaEmpowering ISIS opponents on Twitter

    A new RAND report draws on earlier RAND research on how to leverage social-media influencers and tailor messages to design a data-driven, actionable strategy to counter ISIS on Twitter. While social media is still relatively new, many of the best practices for using it are based on well-understood marketing approaches – and countering ISIS on social media should be informed by these best practices.

  • Disasters & social mediaBig data study of disaster-related social media language helps first responders

    Researchers explore how the properties of language style used in social media — particularly on Twitter — can help first responders quickly identify areas of need during a disaster. The researchers analyzed several hundred thousand tweets from social media users located in and around the areas where Hurricane Sandy, the Oklahoma tornadoes, and the Boston Marathon bombing occurred.

  • The Russian connectionFacebook targets 30,000 fake-news accounts ahead of French election

    Facebook was the subject of harsh criticism for allowing itself to be used by two Russian intelligence services – the GRU and the FSB – in their broad campaign of fake news in the summer and fall 2016, undertaken to help Donald Trump win the November election. The company has taken action to prevent Russia and other actors from engaging in a similar campaign in France, where the first round of the presidential election is to be held on Sunday, 23 April. Facebook said it has targeted 30,000 fake accounts linked to France as part of a global effort against misinformation.

  • Hate groups & social mediaHow online hate infiltrates social media and politics

    By Adam G. Klein

    In late February, the headline of a news commentary website that receives more than 2.8 million monthly visitors announced, “Jews Destroy Another One of Their Own Graveyards to Blame Trump.” With only a headline, this site can achieve something no hate group could have accomplished twenty years ago: It can connect with a massive audience. Looking at the most-visited websites of what were once diminished movements – white supremacists, xenophobic militants, and Holocaust deniers, to name a few – reveals a much-revitalized online culture. To whom, and how many, this latest conspiracy may travel is, in part, the story of “fake news,” the phenomenon in which biased propaganda is disseminated as if it were objective journalism in an attempt to corrupt public opinion. Today’s radical right is also remaking its profile, swapping swastikas and white-power rock for political blogs and news forums. The trappings may have changed, but the bigotry remains. Hate rhetoric repackaged as politics and housed in websites that look just like any other online blog can attract, or even persuade, more moderate ideologues to wade into extremist waters. This “user-friendly” hate community is joining forces in a way that could never happen in the offline world. Thanks in part to this connectedness, these poisoned narratives are now spreading well beyond racist websites.

  • Hate groupsADL to build Silicon Valley center to monitor, fight cyberhate

    The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has secured seed funding from Omidyar Network to build a state-of-the-art command center in Silicon Valley to combat the growing threat posed by hate online. The center will employ the best technology and seasoned experts to monitor, track, analyze, and mitigate hate speech and harassment across the Internet, in support of the Jewish community and other minority groups.

  • PrivacyTech coalition fights DHS proposal to collect social media passwords

    Earlier this week, the Center for Democracy & Technology announced the creation of a coalition of tech companies, NGOs, and privacy advocates to oppose efforts by DHS to collect social media passwords from individuals entering the United States. The coalition focuses on visa applicants who might be compelled to share their passwords under new DHS policies.

  • Fake newsHow science should respond to fake news

    The rise of fake news has dominated the world of politics since the last U.S. election cycle. But fake news is not at all new in the world of science. “Fake news about science has always existed,” says one expert. “What has changed now is social media and the potential to disseminate this kind of news much faster among social networks.”