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Vakantieblog: Internet als drukpers van de informatiemaatschappij

IusMentis - 3 uur 3 min geleden

Vanwege mijn zomervakantie heb ik een blogpauze tot 7 augustus. Deze week trakteer ik dan ook op een longread afkomstig uit hoofdstuk 2 van mijn boek ICT & Recht.

Dat internet tegen een nucleaire aanval bestand is, of ongrijpbaar voor kwaadwillende overheden, is een hardnekkige mythe. Het internet is in de praktijk niet eens in staat een onoplettende eekhoorn te weerstaan. Maar het idee was goed: een volledig decentraal netwerk waarmee academische instellingen gemakkelijk informatie konden uitwisselen. Na een commercialisatieslag die begon in 1995 kon werkelijk iedereen zijn mening uiten. Het centrale thema daarbij werd toegang: wat mag je zeggen, wie mag bepalen wie wat zegt, en is er daarbij onderscheid tussen overheden en private partijen?

“Internet is de drukpers van de informatiemaatschappij”, zo formuleerde Netscape-directeur James Barksdale het in de zomer van 1996. Webstekbladeraar Netscape was in die vergelijking dan de bladwijzer, het hulpmiddel om te navigeren in die enorme explosie van informatie. Barksdale zei dat niet zomaar: in februari had de Amerikaanse overheid de Communications Decency Act aangenomen, een hele brede wet die het een ieder verbood om personen onder de 18 jaar online “obscene of onfatsoenlijke” inhoud te laten zien. De ophef was enorm: dit zou alle websites treffen, ongeacht of die zich richtten op kinderen en ongeacht de legaliteit van de inhoud – “onfatsoenlijk” is heel wat vager immers dan “onrechtmatig”. Van drukpers naar website Gelukkig voor Barksdale en alle andere internetters vernietigde de Supreme Court een jaar later deze fatsoensregel: ouders moeten zelf kunnen beslissen wat kinderen kunnen zien op internet, deze overheidsbemoeienis beperkt hun informatievrijheid te zeer. De uitspraak was een opsteker voor de internetgemeenschap, die al ruim tien jaar het wereldwijde communicatiemedium zag als de nieuwe, ware “marktplaats voor ideeën”, vrij van de dwang van massamedia. Net als hoe de drukpers sinds 1450 de maatschappij onherroepelijk had veranderd.

Overheden hebben sinds de opkomst van het gedrukte boek flink geworsteld met grip op dit nieuwe medium. Met allerlei regelingen en verboden op het drukken of verkopen van bepaalde werken – censuur – werd geprobeerd dingen nog enigszins binnen de perken te houden. Maar echt haalbaar bleek dat vaak niet. En waar men het al te hard probeerde, was de kritiek niet mals. De Nederlandse geleerde Dirck Coornhert formuleerde het in 1582 al als: “Goede boeken verbieden om de waarheid te onderdrukken … dat is echt tirannie”. Dat van de waarheid was trouwens nog een lastige: het begrip fake news is zeker niet uniek voor internet. Al in de 18e eeuw werd een Nederlandse uitgever (Gerard Lodewijk van der Macht) tot vier maal toe gestraft met verbanning voor het publiceren van verzonnen berichten.

De drukpers was hét middel om informatie te verspreiden: per boek, per krant of per pamflet. Daarom kreeg de vrijheid van drukpers al sinds de Franse Revolutie (1789) in vele landen een centrale plaats tussen de grondrechten. In Nederland is eigenlijk sinds de 19e eeuw een brede formulering gehanteerd (art. 7 Grondwet): geen voorafgaande censuur bij de drukpers, wel kan de rechter achteraf toetsen aan strafwetbepalingen zoals over smaad. De Amerikaanse Grondwet (opgesteld in 1787) kent in het First Amendment een vrijwel absolute bescherming voor free speech. Weliswaar is ook hier een achteraftoets mogelijk bij de rechter, maar de lat ligt – zeker voor Europese begrippen – buitengewoon hoog. Het is belangrijk te beseffen dat het deze norm is die zich heeft geworteld in informatiegemeenschappen zoals op internet. Ook hun oorsprong is Amerikaans, de eerste voorvechters voor online vrijheden zijn Amerikaans en alle vroege literatuur over online rechten is gebaseerd op Amerikaanse opvattingen. De opkomst van de radio In 1880 vond Alexander Graham Bell de telefoon uit. Kort daarna (1895) introduceerde Guglielmo Marconi de draadloze telegraaf. Beide media waren nog gericht op één-op-één communicatie tussen een specifieke zender en een ontvanger. Maar de draadloze telegraaf groeide in de dertig jaar daarna uit tot iets fundamenteel nieuws: de radio. Inherent aan draadloze communicatie is namelijk dat iedereen met de juiste ontvanger het kan opvangen, mits het signaal sterk genoeg is. Dat was een probleem met de originele telegraaf: die was alleen geschikt om Morse-codeberichten via een draad te versturen.

De introductie van de vacuümbuis in 1906 maakte veel krachtiger transmissies mogelijk. De Nederlandse uitvinder Hanso Idzerda wist als eerste in 1919 een werkend systeem te realiseren waarbij de menselijke stem en omgevingsgeluid direct van zender naar ontvanger verstuurd kon worden. In de jaren twintig werden radio-uitzendingen snel populair. Het ging met name om muziek en nieuwsberichten, die al vanaf het begin werden voorzien van reclameberichten: de commercials. Althans, door bedrijven die geld wilden verdienen met radio.

Radio zien we namelijk vandaag als een van de massamedia, maar ook dit medium begon vrijwel volledig organisch, door enthousiaste amateurs die diep in de techniek zaten en tot laat in de avond de ether vol kletsten. En ondertussen aan hun apparatuur sleutelden, want een goede ontvangst tussen al die andere zendamateurs was niet eenvoudig. (Wellicht ligt hier een analogie met de car tuning hobbygemeenschap, de zelfbouw-pc enthousiasteling of de hacker community.) Sommigen zagen zelfs een utopie ontstaan waarin individuele burgers direct contact konden leggen, afspraken konden maken of zelfs hun bestuur met elkaar konden regelen.

Het geweld van het grote geld – de commerciële radiozenders – wist aan dit alles een eind te maken. De amateurzenders verstoorden nogal eens overheids- of militaire uitzendingen, al dan niet opzettelijk, wat een goed argument gaf voor regulering: radiofrequenties zijn een schaars goed en moeten worden beschermd tegen overlast en misbruik. De amateurs werden snel verdreven naar ‘vrije’ frequentiebanden met weinig bereik, maar bleven knutselen en hun enthousiasme delen. Hier werden de zaadjes geplant voor de hacker-gemeenschappen die bbs’en en later internet groot maakten.

Arnoud

Het bericht Vakantieblog: Internet als drukpers van de informatiemaatschappij verscheen eerst op Ius Mentis.

Animals use physics? Let us count the ways

Ars Technica - 14 juli 2024 - 1:13pm
kitten latches on to a pole with its two front paws

Enlarge (credit: Fernando Trabanco Fotografía via Getty Images)

Isaac Newton would never have discovered the laws of motion had he studied only cats.

Suppose you hold a cat, stomach up, and drop it from a second-story window. If a cat is simply a mechanical system that obeys Newton’s rules of matter in motion, it should land on its back. (OK, there are some technicalities—like this should be done in a vacuum, but ignore that for now.) Instead, most cats usually avoid injury by twisting themselves on the way down to land on their feet.

Most people are not mystified by this trick—everybody has seen videos attesting to cats’ acrobatic prowess. But for more than a century, scientists have wondered about the physics of how cats do it. Clearly, the mathematical theorem analyzing the falling cat as a mechanical system fails for live cats, as Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek points out in a recent paper.

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In the South, sea level rise accelerates at some of the most extreme rates on Earth

Ars Technica - 13 juli 2024 - 1:13pm
Older man points to the rising tide while standing on a dock.

Enlarge / Steve Salem is a 50-year boat captain who lives on a tributary of the St. Johns River. The rising tides in Jacksonville are testing his intuition. (credit: Amy Green/Inside Climate News)

This article originally appeared on Inside Climate News, a nonprofit, independent news organization that covers climate, energy, and the environment. It is republished with permission. Sign up for their newsletter here

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.—For most of his life, Steve Salem has led an existence closely linked with the rise and fall of the tides.

Salem is a 50-year boat captain who designed and built his 65-foot vessel by hand.

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NATO allies pledge $1 billion to promote sharing of space-based intel

Ars Technica - 13 juli 2024 - 2:25am
Heads of state pose for a group photo at an event Tuesday celebrating the 75th anniversary of NATO.

Enlarge / Heads of state pose for a group photo at an event Tuesday celebrating the 75th anniversary of NATO. (credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

During their summit in Washington, DC, this week, NATO member states committed more than $1 billion to improve the sharing of intelligence from national and commercial reconnaissance satellites.

The agreement is a further step toward integrating space assets into NATO military commands. It follows the bloc's adoption of an official space policy in 2019, which recognized space as a fifth war-fighting domain alongside air, land, maritime, and cyberspace. The next step was the formation of the NATO Space Operations Center in 2020 to oversee space support for NATO military operations.

On June 25, NATO announced the establishment of a "space branch" in its Allied Command Transformation, which identifies trends and incorporates emerging capabilities into the alliance's security strategy.

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Google makes it easier for users to switch on advanced account protection

Ars Technica - 13 juli 2024 - 12:45am
Google makes it easier for users to switch on advanced account protection

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

Google is making it easier for people to lock down their accounts with strong multifactor authentication by adding the option to store secure cryptographic keys in the form of passkeys rather than on physical token devices.

Google’s Advanced Protection Program, introduced in 2017, requires the strongest form of multifactor authentication (MFA). Whereas many forms of MFA rely on one-time passcodes sent through SMS or emails or generated by authenticator apps, accounts enrolled in advanced protection require MFA based on cryptographic keys stored on a secure physical device. Unlike one-time passcodes, security keys stored on physical devices are immune to credential phishing and can’t be copied or sniffed.

Democratizing APP

APP, short for Advanced Protection Program, requires the key to be accompanied by a password whenever a user logs into an account on a new device. The protection prevents the types of account takeovers that allowed Kremlin-backed hackers to access the Gmail accounts of Democratic officials in 2016 and go on to leak stolen emails to interfere with the presidential election that year.

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OpenAI reportedly nears breakthrough with “reasoning” AI, reveals progress framework

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 11:58pm
Illustration of a robot with many arms.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images)

OpenAI recently unveiled a five-tier system to gauge its advancement toward developing artificial general intelligence (AGI), according to an OpenAI spokesperson who spoke with Bloomberg. The company shared this new classification system on Tuesday with employees during an all-hands meeting, aiming to provide a clear framework for understanding AI advancement. However, the system describes hypothetical technology that does not yet exist and is possibly best interpreted as a marketing move to garner investment dollars.

OpenAI has previously stated that AGI—a nebulous term for a hypothetical concept that means an AI system that can perform novel tasks like a human without specialized training—is currently the primary goal of the company. The pursuit of technology that can replace humans at most intellectual work drives most of the enduring hype over the firm, even though such a technology would likely be wildly disruptive to society.

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman has previously stated his belief that AGI could be achieved within this decade, and a large part of the CEO's public messaging has been related to how the company (and society in general) might handle the disruption that AGI may bring. Along those lines, a ranking system to communicate AI milestones achieved internally on the path to AGI makes sense.

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“Superhuman” Go AIs still have trouble defending against these simple exploits

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 10:20pm
Man vs. machine in a sea of stones.

Enlarge / Man vs. machine in a sea of stones. (credit: Getty Images)

In the ancient Chinese game of Go, state-of-the-art artificial intelligence has generally been able to defeat the best human players since at least 2016. But in the last few years, researchers have discovered flaws in these top-level AI Go algorithms that give humans a fighting chance. By using unorthodox "cyclic" strategies—ones that even a beginning human player could detect and defeat—a crafty human can often exploit gaps in a top-level AI's strategy and fool the algorithm into a loss.

Researchers at MIT and FAR AI wanted to see if they could improve this "worst case" performance in otherwise "superhuman" AI Go algorithms, testing a trio of methods to harden the top-level KataGo algorithm's defenses against adversarial attacks. The results show that creating truly robust, unexploitable AIs may be difficult, even in areas as tightly controlled as board games.

Three failed strategies

In the pre-print paper "Can Go AIs be adversarially robust?", the researchers aim to create a Go AI that is truly "robust" against any and all attacks. That means an algorithm that can't be fooled into "game-losing blunders that a human would not commit" but also one that would require any competing AI algorithm to spend significant computing resources to defeat it. Ideally, a robust algorithm should also be able to overcome potential exploits by using additional computing resources when confronted with unfamiliar situations.

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German Navy still uses 8-inch floppy disks, working on emulating a replacement

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 9:59pm
An example of an 8-inch floppy disk. It's unclear which brand disks the German Navy uses.

Enlarge / An example of an 8-inch floppy disk. It's unclear which brand disks the German Navy uses. (credit: Cromemco, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The German Navy is working on modernizing its Brandenburg-class F123 frigates, which means ending their reliance on 8-inch floppy disks.

The F123 frigates use floppy disks for their onboard data acquisition (DAQ) systems, as noted by Tom’s Hardware on Thursday. Augen geradeaus!, a German defense and security policy blog by journalist Thomas Wiegold, notes that DAQs are important for controlling frigates, including power generation, "because the operating parameters have to be recorded," per a Google translation. The ships themselves specialize in anti-submarine warfare and air defense.

Earlier this month, Augen geradeaus! spotted a tender for service published June 21 by Germany's Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology, and In-Service Support (BAAINBw) to modernize the German Navy's four F123 frigates. The ships were commissioned from October 1994 to December 1996. As noted by German IT news outlet Heise, the continued use of 8-inch floppies despite modern alternatives being available for years "has to do with the fact that established systems are considered more reliable.”

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NASA’s flagship mission to Europa has a problem: Vulnerability to radiation

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 9:30pm
An artist's illustration of the Europa Clipper spacecraft during a flyby close to Jupiter's icy moon.

Enlarge / An artist's illustration of the Europa Clipper spacecraft during a flyby close to Jupiter's icy moon. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

The launch date for the Europa Clipper mission to study the intriguing moon orbiting Jupiter, which ranks alongside the Cassini spacecraft to Saturn as NASA's most expensive and ambitious planetary science mission, is now in doubt.

The $4.25 billion spacecraft had been due to launch in October on a Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, NASA revealed that transistors on board the spacecraft may not be as radiation-hardened as they were believed to be.

"The issue with the transistors came to light in May when the mission team was advised that similar parts were failing at lower radiation doses than expected," the space agency wrote in a blog post Thursday afternoon. "In June 2024, an industry alert was sent out to notify users of this issue. The manufacturer is working with the mission team to support ongoing radiation test and analysis efforts in order to better understand the risk of using these parts on the Europa Clipper spacecraft."

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Nearly all AT&T subscribers’ call records stolen in Snowflake cloud hack

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 8:42pm
AT&T logo displayed on a smartphone with a stock exchange index graph in the background.

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | SOPA Images )

AT&T today said a breach on a third-party cloud platform exposed the call and text records of nearly all its cellular customers. The leaked data is said to include phone numbers that AT&T subscribers communicated with, but not names.

An AT&T spokesperson confirmed to Ars that the data was exposed in the recently reported attack on "AI data cloud" provider Snowflake, which also affected Ticketmaster and many other companies. As previously reported, Snowflake was compromised by a group that obtained login credentials through information-stealing malware.

"In April, AT&T learned that customer data was illegally downloaded from our workspace on a third-party cloud platform," AT&T announced today. AT&T said it is working with law enforcement and "understands that at least one person has been apprehended."

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Much of Neanderthal genetic diversity came from modern humans

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 8:34pm
A large, brown-colored skull seen in profile against a black background.

Enlarge (credit: Halamka)

The basic outline of the interactions between modern humans and Neanderthals is now well established. The two came in contact as modern humans began their major expansion out of Africa, which occurred roughly 60,000 years ago. Humans picked up some Neanderthal DNA through interbreeding, while the Neanderthal population, always fairly small, was swept away by the waves of new arrivals.

But there are some aspects of this big-picture view that don't entirely line up with the data. While it nicely explains the fact that Neanderthal sequences are far more common in non-African populations, it doesn't account for the fact that every African population we've looked at has some DNA that matches up with Neanderthal DNA.

A study published on Thursday argues that much of this match came about because an early modern human population also left Africa and interbred with Neanderthals. But in this case, the result was to introduce modern human DNA to the Neanderthal population. The study shows that this DNA accounts for a lot of Neanderthals' genetic diversity, suggesting that their population was even smaller than earlier estimates had suggested.

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$500 aluminum version of the Analogue Pocket looks like the Game Boy’s final form

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 6:55pm
Analogue is launching another limited edition version of its Pocket console, this time with an anodized aluminum body and buttons.

Enlarge / Analogue is launching another limited edition version of its Pocket console, this time with an anodized aluminum body and buttons. (credit: Analogue)

Analogue has released multiple variations of the Analogue Pocket, its Game Boy-style handheld console that can play old cartridges and game ROMs using its FPGA chip. But until now, all of those designs have been riffs on the regular Pocket’s black (or white) plastic shell.

The company’s latest Pocket iteration might appeal more to people who prefer the solidity and durability of anodized aluminum to the cheap practicality of plastic. On July 15, the company will release a limited run of all-aluminum Analogue Pocket consoles in four different colors: white, gray, black, and a Game Boy Advance-esque indigo. The company says that "every single piece" of these consoles is "entirely CNC'd from aluminum," including not just the frame but also all of the buttons.

The new material will cost you though: each aluminum Pocket sells for $500, over twice as much as the $220 price of a regular plastic Pocket.

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New app releases for Apple Vision Pro have fallen dramatically since launch

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 6:40pm
Vision Pro, seen from below, in a display with a bright white light strip overhead.

Enlarge (credit: Samuel Axon)

Apple is struggling to attract fresh content for its innovative Vision Pro headset, with just a fraction of the apps available when compared with the number of developers created for the iPhone and iPad in their first few months.

The lack of a “killer app” to encourage customers to pay upwards of $3,500 for an unproven new product is seen as a problem for Apple, as the Vision Pro goes on sale in Europe on Friday.

Apple said recently that there were “more than 2,000” apps available for its “spatial computing” device, five months after it debuted in the US.

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Captain America: Brave New World teaser introduces Red Hulk to the MCU

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 6:13pm

Anthony Mackie wields the shield in Captain America: Brave New World.

Marvel Studios has dropped the first teaser for Captain America: Brave New World, star Anthony Mackie's first cinematic appearance as the new Captain America after the Phase Four 2021 TV miniseries, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This is the fifth film in the MCU's Phase Five, directed by Julius Onah (The Cloverfield Paradox) and building on events not just in F&WS but also the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk. The teaser feels like a half-superhero movie, half-political thriller, and with the tantalizing introduction of Red Hulk, it promises to be an entertaining ride.

(Spoilers for Avengers: Endgame and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier below.)

As previously reported, F&WS picked up in the wake of Avengers: End Game, when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) handed his Captain America shield to Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson (The Falcon) and Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes (The Winter Soldier), having chosen to remain in the past and live out his life with Peggy Carter. Sam and Bucky had to grapple with losing Steve and the burden of his legacy. Meanwhile, the US government had named its own new Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a decorated veteran and ultimate "good soldier" who thought he could better embody "American values" than Rogers.  

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Arduino’s Plug and Make Kit lets your hacking imagination run wild, sans solder

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 5:56pm
A hand adjusting a button or knob on an Arduino plug and make kit, mounted to a white whall on a yellow bread-board-like backing.

Enlarge / Having this on the wall, right by your front door, would serve the purpose of informing guests where your priorities lie. (credit: Arduino)

I know how to solder, but I do not always want to solder, and I think there are a lot of folks like me. Even if the act itself can be done (and undone, and redone), the friction of hauling out the gear, preparing a space, and fine-motor-skilling a perfect shiny blob can put a halt to one's tinkering ambitions.

Arduino's Plug and Make Kit official release video.

Arduino, the building block of many off-hours projects, has put the challenge to you, your kids, or anyone you know who just needs the right kit to fall down a rabbit hole, minus a dangerously hot iron. The Arduino Plug and Make Kit has at its core an Arduino UNO R4 board with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a built-in 12×8 LED matrix display. That board gets screwed into the prime lot on a yellow board, and then you pick from among seven other "Modulino" boards to attach. By "attach," I mean running one of those little push-in-with-your-fingers cables from the main board to a little board, and maybe daisy-chaining from there. All your boards fit onto the larger base with M3 screws and nuts, and the whole thing is powered by a USB-C cable (with USB A or C on the other end).

What can you plug in? A knob, eight LEDs, a proximity sensor, a motion sensor, a simple buzzer/speaker, a temperature/humidity sensor, and three simple buttons. With those things, the newcomer can make a low-key weather station, an 8-bit-style synthesizer, a smart lamp controller, and a few other things (registration required). Of course, those are just the starter projects put together by Arduino; on the web, in the corners of GitHub, and inside the curious mind, there are loads of other things to be built.

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Partial automated driving systems don’t make driving safer, study finds

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 5:10pm
A Nissan steering wheel with ProPILOT assist buttons on it

Enlarge / Nissan's ProPilot Assist was one of two partially automated driving systems to be studied for crash safety improvements. (credit: Nissan)

Driver assists that help steer for you on the highway haven't contributed much to road safety, according to a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the Highway Loss Data Institute. That's in contrast to other features often bundled together as "advanced driver assistance systems," or ADAS, many of which have shown a marked reduction in crash and claim rates.

"Everything we’re seeing tells us that partial automation is a convenience feature like power windows or heated seats rather than a safety technology," said David Harkey, IIHS president.

However, we should note that, as a follow-up to a pair of earlier studies published in 2021, the new research by IIHS and HLDI focused on two older partially automated driving systems, model-year 2017–2019 Nissan Rogues with ProPilot Assist, and model year 2013–2017 BMWs with Driving Assistant Plus.

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Elon Musk’s X faces big EU fines as paid checkmarks are ruled deceptive

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 4:52pm
Elon Musk's X account profile displayed on a phone screen

Enlarge (credit: Getty Images | NurPhoto)

Elon Musk's overhaul of the Twitter verification system deceives users and violates the Digital Services Act, the European Commission said today in an announcement of preliminary findings that could lead to a big financial penalty.

The social media platform now called X "designs and operates its interface for the 'verified accounts' with the 'Blue checkmark' in a way that does not correspond to industry practice and deceives users," the EU regulator said. "Since anyone can subscribe to obtain such a 'verified' status, it negatively affects users' ability to make free and informed decisions about the authenticity of the accounts and the content they interact with. There is evidence of motivated malicious actors abusing the 'verified account' to deceive users."

Blue checkmarks "used to mean trustworthy sources of information," Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said. The EC said it "informed X of its preliminary view that it is in breach of the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to dark patterns, advertising transparency and data access for researchers."

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Earliest known ancestors of scorpions were tiny sea beasts

Ars Technica - 12 juli 2024 - 4:35pm
Image of a brown fossil with a large head and many body segments, embedded in a grey-green rock.

Enlarge (credit: UNIVERSITY OF LAUSANNE)

In the early 2000s, local fossil collector Mohamed ‘Ou Said’ Ben Moula discovered numerous fossils at Fezouata Shale, a site in Morocco known for its well-preserved fossils from the Early Ordovician period, roughly 480 million years ago. Recently, a team of researchers at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) studied 100 of these fossils and identified one of them as the earliest ancestor of modern-day chelicerates, a group that includes spiders, scorpions, and horseshoe crabs.

The fossil preserves the species Setapedites abundantis, a tiny animal that crawled and swam near the bottom of a 100–200-meter-deep ocean near the South Pole 478 million years ago. It was 5 to 10 millimeters long and fed on organic matter in the seafloor sediments. “Fossils of what is now known as S. abundantis have been found early on—one specimen mentioned in the 2010 paper that recognized the importance of this biota. However, this creature wasn’t studied in detail before simply because scientists focused on other taxa first,” Pierre Gueriau, one of the researchers and a junior lecturer at UNIL, told Ars Technica.

The study from Gueriau and his team is the first to describe S. abundantis and its connection to modern-day chelicerates (also called euchelicerates). It holds great significance, because “the origin of chelicerates has been one of the most tangled knots in the arthropod tree of life, as there has been a lack of fossils between 503 to 430 million years ago,” Gueriau added.

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