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Daily Archives: November 8, 2023

The new Twitter is changing rapidly – study it before it’s too late

Nature: Social-media researchers overemphasized the platform now called X for years. But now, as it rapidly changes into something new and frightening, we risk paying too little attention. “Last month, my team at the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public in Seattle looked at data from X (formerly Twitter) to find the most influential voices in the discourse surrounding the Israel–Hamas war (see X no longer offers researchers free access to the application programming interface (API), which allowed us to extract and process large amounts of data from the platform. Researchers now have to pay, and the cost is beyond the reach of most. This was one of our first major analyses without the API — and we found it difficult. It took more than a week to answer questions that once took only an afternoon. We had only partial data, collected from a set of content with high engagement that was accessible through the public search interface. In conversations among our team, sentences that began with, “If we still had access to the API …” became a running theme. What we found was extraordinary. A small group of seven accounts, many unknown a year ago, were racking up hundreds of millions of views each day, out-performing standard news accounts by an order of magnitude and exercising significant influence on the discourse around the war. X’s owner, Elon Musk, had interacted with or explicitly recommended six of those posters, potentially bringing them to the attention of his 162 million followers. Reporting that built on our work revealed some of the apparent identities behind these accounts: a London teenager who has posted antisemitic content, a US soldier in Georgia who seemed to have pulled at least some news from pro-Russian propaganda channels, and a right-wing news group in Poland…”

Seeing like a Bank

Bits About Money – Patrick McKenzie Nov 7th, 2023: “The New York Times recently ran a piece on a purported sudden spate of banks closing customer accounts. Little of it is surprising if you have read previous issues of Bits about Money. The reported anecdotal user experiences have a common theme to them. Banks frequently… Continue Reading

How big is science’s fake-paper problem?

Nature: “The scientific literature is polluted with fake manuscripts churned out by paper mills — businesses that sell bogus work and authorships to researchers who need journal publications for their CVs. But just how large is this paper-mill problem? An unpublished analysis shared with Nature suggests that over the past two decades, more than 400,000… Continue Reading

Data broker’s “staggering” sale of sensitive info exposed in unsealed FTC filing

Ars Technica: “One of the world’s largest mobile data brokers, Kochava, has lost its battle to stop the Federal Trade Commission from revealing what the FTC has alleged is a disturbing, widespread pattern of unfair use and sale of sensitive data without consent from hundreds of millions of people. US District Judge B. Lynn Winmill… Continue Reading

Climate data can save lives. Most countries can’t access it.

Grist: “Earth just experienced one of its hottest, and most damaging, periods on record. Heat waves in the United States, Europe, and China; catastrophic flooding in India, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Libya; and outbreaks of malaria, dengue, and other mosquito-borne illnesses across southern Asia claimed tens of thousands of lives. The vast majority of these… Continue Reading