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Why T-Shirts Promoting the Capitol Riot Are Still Available Online

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Merchandise with phrases like “Battle for Capitol Hill Veteran” could still be purchased on major e-commerce sites, a sign of how the platforms have struggled to remove the goods.

Sapna Maheshwari and

The day after the violent attack on the Capitol, Shopify declared that it had removed e-commerce sites affiliated with President Trump, including his official campaign store. The sites had violated a policy that prohibited the support of groups or people “that threaten or condone violence to further a cause.”
The move was initially lauded but it soon became clear that the technology company, which powers more than one million online shops, was still fueling plenty of other sites with merchandise promoting the president and goods emblazoned with phrases like “MAGA Civil War.” Apparel with similar phrases and nods to QAnon conspiracy theories also remained available on e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy and Zazzle.
Even as the companies scrambled to remove such merchandise, new goods commemorating and glorifying the Jan. 6 attack were proliferating. As of Friday, “Battle for Capitol Hill Veteran” shirts with drawings of the Capitol building could be purchased on Amazon for $20, Etsy was selling a “Biden Likes Minors” shirt that mimicked the look of “Black Lives Matters” signs and Zazzle had a “Civil War 2020” shirt on its site. Etsy and Zazzle have since removed the merchandise; the “Capitol Hill Veteran” shirt was still available on Amazon on Monday.
Just as the violence put new scrutiny on how social media companies were monitoring speech on their platforms, it also highlighted how e-commerce companies have enabled just about anyone with a credit card and an email address to sell goods online.
These companies have largely been built with scale and ease of access in mind, with scant oversight of what vendors were actually selling. But questions about the businesses have emerged as many rioters donned what amounted to a type of uniform that could be purchased online. This included shirts with certain phrases or illustrations printed on them, and flags that not only supported President Trump, but promoted a civil war, conspiracy theories and debunked election claims. One shirt infamously worn by one of the rioters that said “Camp Auschwitz” was later found on Etsy, prompting an apology from the company, which is known for handcrafted goods.
“There’s so much focus on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, but, in our view, the platforms are much, much wider than social media,” said Danny Rogers, chief technology officer and co-founder of the Global Disinformation Index, a nonprofit focused on the spread of falsehoods online. “There’s a broad diversity of platforms that support and enable these dangerous groups to exist, to fund raise, get their message out. It’s not just kicking people off social media, it’s kicking people off merchandising platforms.”
While Shopify, which declined to comment for this article, is not a household name, its technology supports a huge number of vendors from Allbirds to The New York Times. These companies use Shopify’s tools to build sleek online stores, where they can easily upload images of their wares and sell to customers. Shopify, which is valued at more than $100 billion, earns money through subscriptions to its software and other merchant services, and has said it has the second-biggest share of the U.S. e-commerce market after Amazon.
After its removal of TrumpStore.com and shop.donaldjtrump.com, the company was still powering other sites selling Trump-related merchandise, including shirts and banners that featured guns and military equipment. Following complaints, Shopify appears to have removed some sellers and products, including a “MAGA Civil War” shirt with the date Jan. 6, 2021.
Shopify has also run into problems with thousands of online stores selling items that falsely claimed to treat Covid-19, as well as others selling Confederate flag merchandise.
“It’s great that Shopify finally pulled the plug on Trump’s retail store, but what we urgently need is to see a strategy from it and other popular e-commerce platforms about how they will stop profiting from hate as a whole,” said Shannon Coulter, president of the Grab Your Wallet Alliance, a nonprofit that stemmed from a social media boycott of companies with ties to President Trump.
Amazon and Etsy have also rushed to remove merchandise promoting hate and violence from their sites this month, including wares tied to QAnon, the internet conspiracy theory that has become increasingly influential with a segment of President Trump’s supporters.
On Jan. 11, Amazon said that it would remove products promoting QAnon and that third-party vendors who attempted to sell the wares could face bans, according to NBC. But on Monday, hundreds of products from dozens of vendors were still selling QAnon-related merchandise. Some product reviews expressed support for the baseless conspiracy theory in a casual tone. “I got these to support #Qanon … i love them,” one woman commented on a pair of “Q” earrings. “Wish they were a little bigger!”
Other shirts for sale on Amazon promoted misinformation related to election fraud, spreading false claims that the election was “stolen” or rigged and saying, “Audit the vote.” Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.
While some of the sellers appear to be individuals or groups devoted to right-wing paraphernalia, others are peddling a broader array of misinformation, including Covid-19 conspiracy theories. Still others have included the material with a wider variety of internet memes and jokes, apparently looking for whatever might prove to be a hit.
The vendor behind the “Battle for Capitol Hill Veteran” shirts on Amazon, for instance, is called Capitol Hill and appeared to begin selling merchandise on Jan. 1, initially promoting false Covid-19 conspiracy theories like the so-called “plandemic.”
A study by the Global Disinformation Index and the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank that examines extremism, identified 13 hate groups offering products on Amazon in October. Smaller e-commerce platforms like Zazzle, which allow people to customize apparel, also played a role in allowing hate groups to make money through selling products, the report found. “Platforms facilitating on-site retail seem to be plagued by either poor enforcement of their policies, or a complete lack of an adequate framework for governing their use by hate groups,” the groups wrote in the report.
“Platform policy people are still trying to wrap their heads around the concept of risk of harm,” Mr. Rodgers of the Global Disinformation Index said. “When QAnon emerged initially, it was dismissed as a bunch of kooks online, but what we’ve seen increasingly over the years is the apparent and obvious harm that results from this organized online conspiracy activity. The tribalism, the us versus them, and the adversarial narrative is fed by selling everyone a team jersey.”
The riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, followed a rally at which President Trump made an inflammatory speech to his supporters, questioning the results of the election. Here’s a look at what happened and the ongoing fallout:
Zazzle began more than a decade ago as part of a wave of start-ups that gave consumers new, seemingly infinite options for customizing goods to their tastes. Now, the company is struggling to balance its original mission with the darker forces at play online.
“As an open marketplace, we are faced with the opportunity to allow people to express their creativity and sentiments, coupled with the challenge of expression that offends and is intentionally obfuscated,” Zazzle said in a statement.
While Zazzle uses automated filters and algorithms to try to block offensive designs and tags, it said it recognized “that technology is not foolproof,” and did manually remove certain products. The “Civil War 2020” shirt was taken down after questions from The Times, and Zazzle said that it had been identifying and taking down QAnon-related goods since mid-2018.
The challenge of identifying and removing such merchandise — and whether that is done by people or machines — mirrors the issues faced by platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
Josh Silverman, Etsy’s chief executive, said in a Jan. 12 blog post that the company and its human moderators relied on automated tools and reports from users to find merchandise that violated its policies. The company has more than 3.7 million vendors selling more than 80 million items. On Friday, after receiving questions from The Times, Etsy removed the “Biden Likes Minors” shirt, which seemed to nod to QAnon and the #Pizzagate conspiracy.
Etsy and Zazzle also acknowledged that they were trying to quickly make decisions involving certain phrases and symbols, particularly those harnessed by fringe groups.
“While an item may be allowed today, we reserve the right to determine based on evolving context that it is a violation at a later date, for example if it is deemed to cause or inspire real world harm,” a representative for Etsy, said in a statement.
Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University, said that it was hard to imagine established brands carrying these products in stores. But, she said, accountability was difficult to demand online.
“We don’t have the ability to talk back to platform owners,” she said. “We don’t always know who’s responsible for creating the merch, so it enables everyone to evade responsibility for the circulation of these harmful products and messages.”
Contact Sapna Maheshwari at sapna@nytimes.com and Taylor Lorenz at taylor.lorenz@nytimes.com.
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Copying China’s Online Blockade

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How other countries’ efforts to control the internet compare with China’s Great Firewall.

This article is part of the On Tech newsletter. You can sign up here to receive it weekdays.
China’s government commands the “Great Firewall,” an elaborate system of technology and people that blocks foreign websites, contorts online conversations and punishes people for straying.
I spoke with my colleague Paul Mozur, who has written for years about technology and politics in China, about what he called “firewalls great and small” by governments in Myanmar, Russia, Uganda and other countries that are to varying degrees also trying to control online activities.
Shira: Please first explain China’s system of internet control.
Paul: It’s a combination of blocking just about any foreign website you can think of and providing an information environment that reinforces what China’s government and the Chinese Communist Party say about the world.
The controls are comprehensive. A huge government bureaucracy monitors online activity, and an army of volunteers report content to be censored and help spread positive messages about government initiatives. Companies are tasked with pulling material off the internet, and engineering teams are dispatched to build artificial intelligence tools to help. Contractors provide the manpower for industrial scale censorship.
The newest phenomenon is the internet police, which detains or investigates people if they’re found to routinely do things like make fun of China’s leader, Xi Jinping, online or raise sensitive political topics.
Does the firewall work?
Yes. It comes at the cost of the government’s energy and money and the permanent anger of a segment of the population, but it’s extremely effective in shaping what many think.
Most people don’t have time to escape the information environment they live in, so it informs their outlook on the world — especially during crises. The online manipulation during the early coronavirus outbreak was probably the biggest censorship event in history.
How do other countries’ efforts to block some websites or control the internet compare with the Great Firewall?
Iran and North Korea also have nearly complete control over the internet, and Myanmar and Cambodia are potentially trying to do something similar.
But it’s difficult for any country to permanently block major social media sites and censor what people say online — as our colleague Anton Troianovski has reported from Russia. It risks angering citizens and isolating the economy, and the government risks missing its other priorities. It’s also difficult to stay on top of people’s attempts around the internet controls.
How has Myanmar tried to control people’s online activities?
When the coup started last month, the military used brute force tactics to simply blackout the internet temporarily. In some cases, they did it at gunpoint. Now they’re slowly cutting access.
Each morning, people wake up to find new websites they can’t access. For now, it has been fairly easy for people to get around those blocks. The worry is that new technology from China could make the blocks more complete, though we’ve seen no evidence to date of China’s involvement.
How do you explain that in Myanmar people have suffered from too little restraint of the internet and also too much? First, the military spread hatred online against the country’s Rohingya minority group, and now it’s cutting off the internet.
Where democratic institutions are weak and there are challenges over a country’s future, powerful actors will both cut off the flow of information when it suits them and deploy the internet to spread information in their interests. China does both, and so has Myanmar. Though it might seem contradictory, censorship and disinformation go hand in hand.
What’s next?
The fear is that China will make the technology and techniques of its internet manipulation system readily adaptable by other autocratic countries. Myanmar is important to watch because if the generals control the internet without decimating the economy, it may become a model for other authoritarian regimes.
Tip of the Week
Flying cars are great, but sometimes finding technology that tackles small problems can feel amazing. The New York Times personal tech columnist Brian X. Chen has three inexpensive tech helpers for us to try.
Sometimes the most useful technologies are cheap gizmos combined with human ingenuity. Here are three examples in the $15 to $30 range.
Bluetooth trackers like Tile ($25): These tiny tags are meant to be attached to things that you frequently misplace, like your house keys and wallet, so that you can use your phone to pinpoint them. But with a bit of imagination, Bluetooth trackers can do much more.
I attach a Tile to my obnoxiously thin Apple TV remote, which regularly disappears between couch cushions. I leave a Tile in my checked luggage to help me find it at the airport. And a friend who leaves a Tile in her car was able to track down the thieves who stole it and share that information with law enforcement.
We’ve written extensively about the dangers of allowing third parties to track our location, but privacy experts have not found major concerns with Tile’s practices.
MyQ smart garage door opener ($27): This hub, when installed next to your existing garage door opener and connected to a home internet network, lets anyone control the garage door with a phone app.
I’ve found this gizmo surprisingly useful. Once, when I wasn’t home, my neighbor locked himself out of our building, and I was able to let him in by using the app to remotely open the garage door. It’s also great that my wife and I don’t need separate remote controls when we pull our bicycles out of the garage for a ride.
Internet-connected plugs like TP-Link’s Kasa ($17): I use smart plugs to program a bunch of small tasks. I schedule a grow light for my homegrown vegetables to turn off after 16 hours and program an electric kettle to boil water first thing in the morning for coffee.
Must we program JavaScript to get a shot? My colleague Kellen Browning reported that many older Americans are at a disadvantage in tackling the maze of websites, Twitter alerts and other tech know-how that are required to register for coronavirus vaccines.
A middle ground on tech regulation may be possible: Kashmir Hill wrote about Massachusetts, where a civil liberties activist and elected officials struck a balance between banning facial recognition technology used by law enforcement and giving the police complete free rein.
The internet never forgets: Liat Kaplan, who wrote a formerly anonymous celebrity blog in the 2010s, has second thoughts about “vengeful public shaming masquerading as social criticism.” Related, from the internet culture writer Ryan Broderick: “We can’t control how much of our lives exist in near-permanence online, but we can learn to decide what’s worth dissecting and what’s not.”
Sea turtles that had been rescued from the recent freezing weather in Texas were released back into the Gulf of Mexico. There was a sea turtle slide!
We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.
If you don’t already get this newsletter in your inbox, please sign up here.
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Medal of dishonour: why do so many people cheat in online video games?

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Online cheating has become an infestation – but the idea of bending the rules has been part of gaming culture from the start
Last modified on Wed 24 Feb 2021 05.03 EST
Fall Guys had only been online for two days when it started. This bright, silly multiplayer game, in which rotund Day-Glo bean people race toward a finishing line avoiding giant tumbling fruit pieces – a sort of digital equivalent of a school sports day, albeit a slightly hallucinogenic one – had tens of thousands of players, but it didn’t seem like it would attract cheaters. Surely it was too frivolous, too much about the shared joy of slapstick comedy? Yet in they came: players using speed hacks (a type of cheat that increases the speed your avatar can run at) to win races against other Day-Glo bean people. A totally meaningless, seemingly reward-free victory. Why?
For many, cheating utterly ruins the experience of a multiplayer video game. Even if you are not directly affected, it breaks the social contract. “When people play a competitive game together, they conjure the world of that game into existence through mutual agreement: this is the aim, these are the restrictions on how we can achieve that aim,” says game designer Holly Gramazio. “When you realise that someone is cheating, it can disrupt that mutual agreement and call the whole experience into question.”

Unfortunately, there is a chronic cheating problem in online multiplayer games. The servers of first-person shooters such as Call of Duty, PUBG and Counter-Strike are utterly rife with cheaters, most of whom download special software that alters the game in their favour. That might be aimbots, which make it easy for them to shoot other players; wall hacks, which render walls invisible so players can easily spot their opponents; or speed hacks, which allow them to move much faster. Such hacks are largely confined to PC games, where players are able to alter the code in client software, but console games are also vulnerable to exploits (using errors in a game design to get an advantage) and “lag switching” (disrupting the network communication to other players). Now that many multiplayer titles allow cross-platform play, PlayStation and Xbox owners are coming up against PC players who are using hacks to get an advantage.
And this isn’t only in professional and competitive leagues and ranked matches, where there are prizes at stake. This is on public servers against complete strangers with nothing tangible at stake apart from a few stats. Publishers are doing what they can to address the issue, utilising third-party anti-cheat systems such as BattlEye, while working on patches to block cheat programs and remove players who use them. Last week, Activision banned 60,000 players from its battle royale game Call of Duty: Warzone for using cheat software – over 300,000 permanent bans have now been administered. And that’s just one game. The problem is, when one cheat app is blocked another is developed and distributed. Demand is high. Why? Why are people cheating this much?
In her fascinating 2007 book Cheating, Mia Consalvo develops the concept of “gaming capital”, a variation on Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of “cultural capital”, which defines the standing of a gamer within their peer group. Gaming is a subculture, with its own rules, hierarchy and status objects, and achieving success or a higher position within a subculture, is for many, reason enough to cheat.
In multiplayer games such as Call of Duty, Fortnite and Apex Legends, there are cosmetic items, such as outfits and gun decorations, that are only available to players who have reached certain rankings and therefore act as visual signifiers of status within the game world. Attaining these intrinsic status symbols might be enough of a motivation for some players; like stealing fashionable trainers, or buying knock-off branded clothes. The motivation to carry out conscious or unconscious activities in order to gain peer respect, a process known as “impression management”, is a powerful one, especially in an insular, competitive environment.
The psychologist Corey Butler, who has written about cheating in board games, sees this component as a major motivator for cheats – the sheer pressure to maintain self-esteem and social status can be overwhelming. “The motivation is related to self-enhancement and impression management,” he writes. “We all like to feel good about ourselves and look good in front of others. Indeed, self-esteem is a powerful motivation in social psychology, right up there with other core human motives like food and safety.”
For some gamers, there is perhaps also an underlying sense of entitlement. “I wonder whether there’s something around cheating that can come from a sense of deserving the win, of having enough gaming capital that cheating to get the win is alright for you,” says Gramazio. “Maybe you feel that the work you’ve put into figuring out how to cheat makes the action valid. Maybe you just feel like you’re so dedicated and involved in the game that you deserve the win, even if you can’t get it legitimately.”
Cyber-psychologist Berni Good argues that the very nature of video games give tacit permission to cheat. “Players can cheat and not have face to face contact – social norms differ in a virtual world,” she says. “Gamers have always used cheats, tips, previews and walkthroughs, it’s always been part of the culture, it’s just that more people are playing multiplayer than, say, 20 years ago. In fact, if you think about it, the game ‘cheats’ too when for example a player’s character gets defeated and then rejuvenated.” If death does not mean death in a game, then is cheating really cheating?
There are also important moral distinctions to be made between different forms of cheating. Gramazio is the editor of Bernard de Koven’s wonderful book The Infinite Playground about the shared imaginative spaces that games provide and the ways in which rules and regulations can be altered by players to enhance the experience. A good example from board games is Monopoly, where some families agree to stash all the money paid out in fines under the free parking square so that the player who lands there gets to keep it all. It’s a cheat, but it’s one all participants have agreed on and endorsed. An example from video games might be rocket jumping in Quake Arena – it’s cheating, but it is also an accepted tactic, so it’s fine.
There is also a difference between rule-breaking cheats and game-breaking cheats. Some people cheat just to further their own status within a game, but others cheat to break the game itself. This might be to specifically ruin the experience of others – known as griefing – or it might be to test themselves against the game’s creators. In this context of anarchy and sabotage, cheating IS the game. In his GDC talk about multiplayer online cheating, developer Jeff Morris refers to this demographic as Jimbo Jones cheaters, after the vindictive delinquent schoolboy in The Simpsons. “They’re bullies,” he says. “They want to take the game down – their opponent is the developer, from whom they get attention.”
The moral rules of video game participation are complex and ambiguous. We’ve grown up with cheat codes, pokes and exploits as an accepted element of play – designers themselves have often coded these elements into their own products. And the very structure of game worlds, with their hidden shortcuts and secrets, suggests to players that these are negotiable spaces, where law, morality and even geography, can be bent to the will of determined protagonists. Games are also places where victory is paramount, where winning is everything. So should we be surprised that people want to cheat?
When asked about the anthropological meaning of cheating for an NBC feature, the neuroscientist Don Vaughn stated: “The human brain never evolved a mechanism to separate a game from reality. If a lion was chasing one of our ancestors on the savanna, it was real, every time. There were no movies, plays or simulations. Modern neuroscience has revealed that just thinking about imagined situations activates the same brain regions as the actual experience. So when you have to pay $2,000 to your sister for landing on Boardwalk, your brain is really experiencing loss.”
The human brain is a puzzle-solving machine, constructed specifically to find shortcuts and advantages over predators and competitors. Maybe it’s that simple. We think, therefore we cheat.

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Seniors Seeking Vaccines Have a Problem: They Can’t Use the Internet

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Older adults living alone often lack access or an understanding of technology, and many are unsure how to sign up for an appointment.

Annette Carlin feels trapped.
Before the pandemic, Ms. Carlin, who is 84, loved to go on walks in Novato, Calif., with her grandchildren and dance at the senior center. Since March, though, she has been stuck indoors. She has been eager to sign up for a vaccine and begin returning to normal life.
But booking an appointment has been a technological nightmare. Ms. Carlin cannot afford to buy a computer, and would not know how to navigate the internet in search of a shot even if she could. While members of her family might be able to help her there, she avoids seeing them as a safety precaution.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ms. Carlin said on her flip phone. “I feel like everybody else got the vaccine, and I didn’t.”
The chaotic vaccine rollout has come with a maze of confusing registration pages and clunky health care websites. And the technological savvy required to navigate the text alerts, push notifications and email reminders that are second nature to the digital generation has put older adults like Ms. Carlin, who need the vaccine the most, at a disadvantage. As a result, seniors who lack tech skills are missing out on potentially lifesaving shots.
The digital divide between generations has always been stark, but the pandemic’s abrupt curtailing of in-person interactions has made that division even more apparent.
Advocates for older Americans, 22 million of whom lack wired broadband access at home, say it is ridiculous that a program mostly aimed at vaccinating vulnerable seniors is so dependent on internet know-how, Twitter announcements and online event pages.
“We’re running into a crisis where connectivity is a life-or-death alternative for people,” said Tom Kamber, the executive director of Older Adults Technology Services, a nonprofit that trains seniors to use technology. “It couldn’t get much more stark than people being told, ‘If you go outside, you’re likely to be at risk of dying.’”
People in nursing homes, among the first to get vaccines, had staff to assist them. But when vaccines became available to a wider group of older adults in late December and early January, many who lived alone had to navigate the rollout by themselves.
Federal agencies like the Administration for Community Living, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as nonprofits, say they are doing what they can to guide older adults, but they are stretched thin. (Seniors can call the Administration for Community Living’s Eldercare Locator number for assistance at 1-800-677-1116.)
“I don’t know where to go,” said Cheyrl Lathrop, a 74-year-old resident of Richmond, Va., who has watched younger, more tech-literate people nearby find ways to be vaccinated. “I get frustrated with the computer, and then I just give up.”
Some seniors are relying on younger relatives to browse websites and stay up at all hours in hopes of booking a slot. Ms. Lathrop’s daughter, Sheri Blume, got her mother an appointment after weeks of searching.
Terez Mays-Jones of Alpharetta, Ga., had a similar experience looking for shots in Cincinnati, where her 73-year-old mother, Jacqueline Sims, lives.
“It became a secondary job,” Ms. Mays-Jones, 53, said. “I was doing all these searches at all times of the day and evening.”
Ms. Sims knows her way around Facebook and Instagram but still sometimes relies on her daughter for help online, and said older adults often felt “intimidated” by technology.
“At our age, we’re not used to making so many mistakes, or we don’t want to admit to our mistakes,” said Ms. Sims, who eventually secured a shot thanks to a tip from a cousin.
Plenty of seniors do feel comfortable texting, tweeting and surfing the internet. But for those who do not, taking the time to learn a new skill often feels daunting, Mr. Kamber said. Older Adults Technology Services has taught 48,000 people how to get started online since the pandemic began, he said, and operates a tech support hotline. When vaccine sign-ups began, staff on the phones fielded thousands of questions about how to book appointments.
Area Agencies on Aging, part of a national aging network funded by the federal government and overseen by the Administration for Community Living, are also helping out. Local chapters have been calling seniors and helping them register for vaccine appointments over the phone or in person, said Sandy Markwood, the chief executive of the Area Agencies, which include more than 600 nonprofit regional centers that are guided by state governments.
In Akron, Ohio, 78-year-old Lee Freund said every hospital, pharmacy and grocery store she had called in search of a vaccine directed her to a series of confusing web pages. Ms. Freund managed to accidentally sign up for grocery delivery, but had no luck wrangling a shot. She ended up in tears.
“When you’re alone, it’s frustrating, it’s overwhelming, and it’s very emotional,” said Ms. Freund, whose husband died last year. She said she did not call her children for help because she did not want to be a burden. “It almost made me think, ‘I don’t think that this is worth it.’”
Ms. Freund finally found help with the nearby Area Agency on Aging, where a woman secured her an appointment.
As of Thursday, about 24 million Americans ages 65 and older, or about 41 percent, had received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose, according to population and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Senator Tina Smith, Democrat of Minnesota, who has reintroduced a bill from last year that would allocate money to help get older Americans online, said the government had failed to get out ahead of a preventable crisis by not funding senior agencies sooner.
Aging-network organizations “have been overwhelmed by the needs and the demands that they have and are struggling themselves working through the pandemic,” Ms. Smith said in an interview. “We have under-resourced this, and we are seeing the effects of it.”
The coronavirus relief bill passed by the House includes $470 million for supportive services for older Americans, including vaccine outreach. The Administration for Community Living is working with the C.D.C. on a public awareness campaign for seniors, said Edwin Walker, the group’s deputy assistant secretary for aging. But that initiative is still in the planning stage.
In the meantime, volunteer groups have popped up to help. In Miami, Katherine Quirk and her fiancé, Russ Schwartz, started a Facebook group in January to disseminate information about vaccine availability in their area. The group has ballooned into 27,000 members seeking help and offering tips, and the effort has helped thousands get vaccinated.
“It’s amazing, overwhelming,” said Ms. Quirk, 44, a nurse. “We’ve been called vaccine angels.”
For those still waiting for their shot, though, hope seems far away. In Novato, Ms. Carlin spends her time watching the news on television in case there’s a mention of where to get a shot. A granddaughter has been trying to find one for her, but without success.
“I’m used to getting out and going and going and doing everything,” she said. If she were vaccinated, “I could go on with life, but now I feel like I’m on hold.”
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Facebook bans users and publishers from sharing news in Australia – video

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Facebook has made good on its threat to ban Australians from seeing or posting news content on its site in response to the federal government’s proposed news media code. As of Thursday morning, news publishers were unable to post content on pages, while articles were also blocked from being shared. In implementing its new ban, the social media giant also blocked a number of government departments, charities and its own page. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg lambasted the company, saying the social media giant’s ‘actions were unnecessary, they were heavy-handed, and they will damage its reputation here in Australia’

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Colleges That Require Virus-Screening Tech Struggle to Say Whether It Works

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Many schools that use fever scanners and symptom checkers have not rigorously studied if the technology has slowed the spread of Covid-19 on campuses.
Natasha Singer and
Before the University of Idaho welcomed students back to campus last fall, it made a big bet on new virus-screening technology.
The university spent $90,000 installing temperature-scanning stations, which look like airport metal detectors, in front of its dining and athletic facilities in Moscow, Idaho. When the system clocks a student walking through with an unusually high temperature, the student is asked to leave and go get tested for Covid-19.
But so far the fever scanners, which detect skin temperature, have caught fewer than 10 people out of the 9,000 students living on or near campus. Even then, university administrators could not say whether the technology had been effective because they have not tracked students flagged with fevers to see if they went on to get tested for the virus.
The University of Idaho is one of hundreds of colleges and universities that adopted fever scanners, symptom checkers, wearable heart-rate monitors and other new Covid-screening technologies this school year. Such tools often cost less than a more validated health intervention: frequent virus testing of all students. They also help colleges showcase their pandemic safety efforts.
But the struggle at many colleges to keep the virus at bay has raised questions about the usefulness of the technologies. A New York Times effort has recorded more than 530,000 virus cases on campuses since the start of the pandemic.
One problem is that temperature scanners and symptom-checking apps cannot catch the estimated 40 percent of people with the coronavirus who do not have symptoms but are still infectious. Temperature scanners can also be wildly inaccurate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has cautioned that such symptom-based screening has only “limited effectiveness.”
The schools have a hard time saying whether — or how well — the new devices have worked. Many universities and colleges, including prominent research institutions, are not rigorously studying effectiveness.
“So why are we bothering?” said Bruce Schneier, a prominent security technologist who has described such screening systems as “security theater” — that is, tools that make people feel better without actually improving their safety. “Why spend the money?”
More than 100 schools are using a free virus symptom-checking app, called CampusClear, that can clear students to enter campus buildings. Others are asking students to wear symptom-monitoring devices that can continuously track vital signs like skin temperature. And some have adapted the ID card swiping systems they use to admit students into dorms, libraries and gyms as tools for tracing potential virus exposures.
Administrators at Idaho and other universities said their schools were using the new tech, along with policies like social distancing, as part of larger campus efforts to hinder the virus. Some said it was important for their schools to deploy the screening tools even if they were only moderately useful. At the very least, they said, using services like daily symptom-checking apps may reassure students and remind them to be vigilant about other measures, like mask wearing.
Some public health experts said it was understandable that colleges had not methodically assessed the technology’s effectiveness against the coronavirus. After all, they said, schools are unaccustomed to frequently screening their entire campus populations for new infectious diseases.
Even so, some experts said they were troubled that universities lacked important information that might help them make more evidence-based decisions on health screening.
“It’s a massive data vacuum,” said Saskia Popescu, an infectious-disease epidemiologist who is an assistant professor at George Mason University. “The moral of the story is you can’t just invest in this tech without having a validation process behind it.”
Other medical experts said increased surveillance of largely healthy college students seemed unduly intrusive, given that symptom checkers have limited usefulness and the effectiveness of wearable health monitors against Covid-19 is not yet known.
The introduction of campus screening tools has often been bumpy. Last fall, the University of Missouri began requiring all students, faculty and staff to use CampusClear, a free app that asks users about possible symptoms, like high temperature or loss of smell. Users who say they have no symptoms then receive a “Good to Go!” notification that can clear them to enter campus buildings.
The school initially did not enforce the use of CampusClear at building entrances, however, and some students used the app only infrequently, according to reporting by The Missourian, the campus newspaper. In October, the university began requiring people to show their app pass code to enter certain buildings, like the student center and library. The university has promoted the app as a tool to help educate students.
But how effective it has been at hindering coronavirus outbreaks on campus is unknown. A spokesman for the University of Missouri said the school was unable to provide usage data on CampusClear — including the number of students who had reported possible symptoms through the app and later tested positive for the virus — requested by a Times reporter.
Jason Fife, the marketing director at Ivy.ai, the start-up behind CampusClear, said nearly 425,000 people at about 120 colleges and universities used the app last semester, generating about 9.8 million user reports. Many schools, he noted, use data from the app not to follow individual virus cases but to look for symptom trends on their campuses.
Ivy.ai, however, cannot gauge the app’s effectiveness as a virus-screening tool, he said. For privacy reasons, the company does not track individual users who report symptoms and later test positive for the infection.
At some universities, administrators acknowledged that the tech they adopted this school year did not pan out the way they had hoped.
Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, Mass., introduced two tools last semester that recorded students’ whereabouts in case they later developed virus infections and administrators needed to trace their contacts. One system logged students’ locations every time they swiped their ID cards to enter campus buildings. The other asked students to scan printed-out QR codes posted at certain locations around campus.
By the end of the semester, however, only about one-third of the 1,200 students on campus were scanning the bar codes. Ethan Child, a Bridgewater senior, said he had scanned the QR codes but also skipped them when walking by in the rain.
“I think it’s reasonable to ask students to do it — whether or not they’ll actually do it is another thing,” he said. “People might just pass it by.”
Updated March 1, 2021
The latest on how the pandemic is reshaping education.
Administrators discovered that the key to hindering coronavirus outbreaks was not technology but simply frequent testing — once a week, for on-campus students — along with contact tracing, said Chris Frazer, the executive director of the university’s wellness center.
“I’m glad we didn’t spend an exorbitant amount of money” on tech tools, Dr. Frazer said. “We found what we need is tests and more tests.”
The location-tracking tools ultimately proved most useful for “peace of mind,” he added, and to confirm the findings of contact tracers, who often learned much more about infected students’ activities by calling them than by examining their location logs.
Other schools that discovered location tracking was not a useful pandemic safety tool decided not to deploy it at all.
At Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, administrators said they had planned to log students’ locations when they used campus Wi-Fi for possible later use in contact tracing. But the school never introduced the system, said Chris Barlow, the school’s health services director, partly because administrators realized that many students had contracted the virus off campus, in situations where public health measures like mask wearing were not followed.
At the University of Idaho and other schools, administrators described devices like fever scanners as add-ons to larger campus safety efforts involving student testing and measures like social distancing.
Last fall, for instance, the University of Idaho tested its students for the virus at the beginning and middle of the semester, with some random testing as well. The school also used a wastewater testing program to identify an impending virus outbreak at fraternity and sorority houses, proactively quarantining more than a dozen chapters before cases could spread widely through the community.
“We got out in front of it early,” C. Scott Green, the president of the University of Idaho, said. “We were able to isolate those that were sick, and we got back under control.”
Still, there were hiccups. The university required food service employees who worked at the dining hall to undergo temperature checks using hand-held scanners. But several developed virus infections anyway, and the university was forced to temporarily close the dining hall over a weekend for deep cleaning.
As for the free-standing temperature-scanning stations, Mr. Green himself has experienced their limitations. He said one mistakenly stopped him from entering an athletic building right after he got out of a hot car.
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Uber accused of using 'loaded questions' in survey of drivers

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Unions say questions are designed to help get sympathetic changes in employment law
Last modified on Mon 1 Mar 2021 03.21 EST
Uber has been accused of using “loaded questions” in a consultation with drivers, after a landmark court ruling handed workers rights to improved conditions.
The firm may have to pay out over £100m in compensation to 10,000 drivers, after the UK supreme court ruled last week they are entitled to holiday pay, a company pension and the national minimum wage. Uber has previously argued that its 60,000 UK drivers are self-employed independent contractors with limited employment rights.

A questionnaire, sent out via the Uber drivers’ app following the ruling, offers a limited choice of answers on questions about benefits and flexible working without mentioning holiday pay or the national minimum wage – both of which the court found Uber drivers were entitled to.
Steve Garelick, a regional organiser for the GMB union, said: “These are loaded questions to get the answer they need.”
He said the way the questions were posed suggested that Uber could be hoping to lobby government for a change in the rules to suit their existing working practices rather than changing their practices to fit the rules.
James Farrar, one of the lead claimants in the supreme court case and general secretary of the App Drivers & Couriers Union, said: “The driver survey is a crude attempt by Uber to divert attention away from their obligation to abide by the supreme court ruling and immediately implement the statutory protections of worker status for all their drivers.
“Instead, Uber is setting up the cruelly manipulative false choice between fairness and flexibility by loading the survey with bias and leading questions.
“Uber should focus on how it can best quickly implement the ruling rather than set up an alternative set of improvements based on a set of assumptions derived from a biased survey.”
One questions asks, for example: “When deciding to whether to earn on the Uber app which best describes you?
It offers only three possible answers: I value the ability to work flexibly and determine when and where I drive”, “I would value being able to access new benefits and protections such as pension contributions, knowing that this could mean I lose control of when and where I drive” or “neither/don’t know”.
Nigel Mackay, a partner at law firm Leigh Day, is representing more than 1,000 drivers seeking compensation for missed holiday pay in the wake of the supreme court ruling.
He said that the question on flexibility was presented “as there being a binary choice between flexibility or benefits (again, without even mentioning some of the most important benefits), whereas in reality it is not a choice between the two. They could maintain flexibility for drivers and provide the benefits.”
An Uber spokesperson said: “We are currently studying the details of the judgment and listening to all active drivers to help us shape the future of flexible work. We will share the conclusions of this process in the coming weeks.”
A source close to the company said it would respect the supreme court verdict and had discussed issues such as holiday pay at roundtable discussions with small groups of drivers this week.
But Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB, said: “They’re leading drivers up the garden path.
“Worker status does not mean drivers losing flexibility, it means they will get the legal rights the courts have ruled they are entitled to.”
Mackay said individuals’ opinions on benefits were irrelevant as the rules were enshrined in law and the research appeared to be set out for PR purposes.
“For example, where they ask drivers what they would like to see more of, they don’t refer to paid holiday/minimum wage. It seems that this is so that, down the line, they can say that drivers are not interested in holiday pay or the minimum wage because they carried out research and the most popular benefits were other things,” Mackay said.

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Digidog, a Robotic Dog Used by the Police, Stirs Privacy Concerns

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The New York Police Department has been testing Digidog, which it says can be deployed in dangerous situations and keep officers safer, but some fear it could become an aggressive surveillance tool.
Maria Cramer and
Two men were being held hostage in a Bronx apartment. They had been threatened at gunpoint, tied up and tortured for hours by two other men who pretended to be plumbers to get inside, the police said.
One of the victims managed to escape and called the police, who showed up early Tuesday morning at the apartment on East 227th Street, unsure if the armed men were still inside.
The police decided it was time to deploy Digidog, a 70-pound robotic dog with a loping gait, cameras and lights affixed to its frame, and a two-way communication system that allows the officer maneuvering it remotely to see and hear what is happening.
The police said the robot can see in the dark and assess how safe it is for officers to enter an apartment or building where there may be a threat.
In the case of the Bronx home invasion, the police said that Digidog helped the officers determine that there was no one inside. The police said they were still searching for the two men, who stole a cellphone and $2,000 in cash and used a hot iron to burn one of the victims.
“The N.Y.P.D. has been using robots since the 1970s to save lives in hostage situations & hazmat incidents,” the department said on Twitter. “This model of robot is being tested to evaluate its capabilities against other models in use by our emergency service unit and bomb squad.”
But the robot has skeptics.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, described Digidog on Twitter as a “robotic surveillance ground” drone.
“Please ask yourself: When was the last time you saw next-generation, world-class technology for education, health care, housing, etc. consistently prioritized for underserved communities like this?” she said on Twitter, linking to a New York Post story about Digidog.
The City Council passed the Public Oversight of Surveillance Technology Act last June amid efforts to overhaul the police force, many of them triggered by Black Lives Matter demonstrations.
The act requires the Police Department to be more transparent about its surveillance and technology tools, including Digidog, something civil libertarians said had been lacking.
Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst with the American Civil Liberties Union, said empowering a robot to do police work could have implications for bias, mobile surveillance, hacking and privacy. There is also concern that the robot could be paired with other technology and be weaponized.
“We do see a lot of police departments adopting powerful new surveillance and other technology without telling, let alone asking, the communities they serve,” he said. “So openness and transparency is key.”
The New York Police Department did not respond to requests for comment about the civil liberty concerns.
A mobile device that can gather intelligence about a volatile situation remotely has “tremendous potential” to limit injuries and fatalities, said Keith Taylor, a former SWAT team sergeant at the Police Department who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
“It’s important to question police authority, however this appears to be pretty straightforward,” he said. “It is designed to help law enforcement get the information they need without having a deadly firefight, for instance.”
The New York Police Department is among three in the country that have the mechanical dog, which is built by Boston Dynamics, the tech company known for videos of its robots dancing and jumping with eerie, humanlike fluidity.
The company, which calls the robot dog Spot, began selling it last June. Most of the buyers have been utility and energy companies, as well as manufacturers and construction companies, which use it to get into spaces too dangerous for humans, said Michael Perry, vice president of business development at the company.
The robot has been used to inspect sites with hazardous material. Early in the pandemic, it was used by health care workers to communicate with potentially sick patients at hospital triage sites, Mr. Perry said.
Most of the companies rename the robot after they buy it, giving it names like Bolt and Mac and Cheese, he said.
The Massachusetts State Police and the Honolulu Police Department are also using the robotic dog, which has a 90-minute battery life and walks at a speed of three miles per hour.
Other police departments have called the company to learn more about the device, which has a starting price of about $74,000 and may cost more with extra features, Mr. Perry said.
The robotic dog, which bears a resemblance to those featured in the 2017 “Metalhead” episode of “Black Mirror,” was not designed to act as a covert tool of mass surveillance, Mr. Perry said.
“It’s noisy and has flashing lights,” he said. “It’s not something that is discreet.”
The use of robots that can be deployed into dangerous situations to keep police officers out of harm’s way could become the norm.
In Dallas in 2016, the police ended a standoff with a gunman sought in the killings of five officers by blowing him up using a robot.
In 2015, a man with a knife who threatened to jump off a bridge in San Jose, Calif., was taken into custody after the police had a robot bring him a cellphone and a pizza.
The year before that, the Albuquerque police used a robot to “deploy chemical munitions” in a motel room where a man had barricaded himself with a gun, a department report said. He surrendered.
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Best true wireless earbuds 2020: AirPods, Samsung, Jabra, Bose, Beats and Anker compared and ranked

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Our updated list of great Bluetooth truly wireless earbuds – at the best prices right now

It wasn’t long ago that true wireless earbuds, those that don’t need any wires even between the earphones, weren’t very good. Solid connectivity was a challenge, dropouts were infuriatingly common and battery life was woeful.

But they all offered that taste of freedom from wires that is like a ratchet – once you’ve experienced tangle-free listening, you’ll never go back.

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Trump supporters aren't crying and looting. Yeah, we are angry, but we are level-minded and strong. We are resilient and we will fight on, not whine and complain. See you in court, Dems!

We love you, President Trump. Hope you and your family recover quickly. Take care and best wishes. https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1312158400352972800

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