DataDownload: When deepfakes infiltrate politics

DataDownload: When deepfakes infiltrate politics A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

On Wednesday, we’re going to wake up and be sure of one thing. The future of information, news, facts, fiction, and deepfakes are going to loom large in our information ecosystem.

So, let’s get on with it. Typhoon Investigations turns out to be totally fake. The Section 230 hearings was social media show-trial.

But there’s good news too. Bloomberg Associates took a deep dive into digital cities, and the discoveries from 30 cities are riveting. Apple is drawing a bright line about the business they’re currently not in, search. Time takes a trip to 2023, with a reborn global economy. Ori Inbar takes us to 2030 and Spatial Computing. Looking forward is healthy, and relevant, and important.

And, for those of you looking for a digital hand to hold on election night — WNYC’s On The Media hosts Bob Garfield and Brooke Gladstone and are offering a rare live broadcast with music, comedy… and politics. A welcome alternative to the cable news onslaught.

Oh, and don’t forget to turn your clocks back one hour before you go to sleep Saturday night. Halloween, Daylight Savings, Full Moon, the Election. (+pumpkin pie)

That’s plenty for this week.

Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read How a Fake Persona Laid the Groundwork for a Hunter Biden Conspiracy Deluge

The convoluted, haphazard, and conspiracy-friendly Hunter Biden yarn floundered soon after it was disseminated, revealed for what it was: a last-ditch effort. Twitter initially took a particularly hard stance on the original New York Post story. However, the seeds of disinformation were planted a month before the purported laptop leak.

According to an NBC investigation, a 64-page document compiled by intelligence firm Typhoon Investigations was disseminated on right-wing online channels in September. It turns out that both Typhoon Investigations and the Swiss security analyst who authored the document — Martin Aspen — are fake. The image of Aspen (below) was created by an AI face generator (perhaps This Person Does Not Exist). The document turned out to be part of a broader smear campaign to “pizzagate” Hunter Biden.

8 min read

Read more Surprise! The Section 230 Hearing Wasn’t About Section 230

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on Section 230, “the 1996 statute that grants interactive computer services broad legal immunity for user-generated content while allowing them to moderate that content without fear of taking on liability.” The republicans took the hearing as a chance to decry Jack Dorsey on his measures against the Hunter Biden story, accusing him of censorship. Dorsey’s replies:

“Dorsey remained monkishly calm through these exchanges. In the case of the Hunter Biden story, he said, the company incorrectly applied its policy on hacked materials and reversed course in a day. Trump’s tweets weren’t censored, they were just flagged as misleading or dangerous and had extra context added to them. The Ayatollah’s tweets didn’t violate Twitter’s policies because they count as ‘sabre-rattling’ against foreign adversaries that the company tolerates from world leaders.”

5 min read

Read More Tech+Media Digital City Tools Bloomberg Associates recently came out with its 2020 Digital City Tools report, a massive (164-page) document containing case studies of how 30 city governments around the world are implementing technology to overcome urban challenges and raise quality of life for residents. The report covers 41 technologies across five areas — connectivity, data, city operations, transport and mobility, and safety and security — and how they help tackle city challenges and priorities. One particularly interesting use case — Helsinki’s Health Benefit Analysis tool, which analyzes a patient’s data and recommends appropriate actions and treatment.

“All data is pseudonymized and pulled from existing health records, giving medical professionals an overview of a patient’s test results, previous diagnoses, medication history, and more, all without disclosing their identity. The data is analyzed to highlight any ‘care gaps’ that may exist where a patient is not receiving the treatment expected based on their health record. High-risk patients are prioritized based on need of intervention and invited to discuss their health issues with a doctor.”

1 min read Read More Apple Reportedly Steps Up Effort to Build Google Search Alternative

Google is paying Apple (and LG, Motorola, Samsung…) billions to leave its search engine as a default option on iPhones. In fact, that’s precisely why DOJ is filing an antitrust suit against Google. Quietly, Apple is shoving the search behemoth to the side: when iOS 14 users search for something, they get Apple’s results. According to the FT, the company’s Applebot web crawler has become more active as of late, and Apple has recruited search experts in recent years (including Google head or search John Giannandrea in 2018).

1 min read Read More It’s 2023. Here’s How We Fixed the Global Economy

Economist Mariana Mazzucato transports us to 2023 — the pandemic is over, we’re on a path to recovery, and it’s time to reflect on what we did to get this point (and yes, she also predicts the upcoming election). It’s a very optimistic “future retrospective,” but given that 2020 was anything but conducive to optimism, that’s not unwelcome. Then again, Mazzucato’s fiction is as much a roadmap and a call-to-action as it is a prediction. Here are a few highlights:

8 min read

Read More What We’re Watching The Spatial New World of 2030

We’ve already traveled to 2023 with economist Mariana Mazzucato… why not go bolder and land in 2030 with Ori Inbar? Inbar’s 2030 self (in the form of a floating head) describes a world of Spatial Computing (“what you used to call Augmented and Virtual Reality”), where “everyone is using it as an essential part of their daily lives and can’t even recall a time when it wasn’t the case. Almost nothing works without it.”

14 min watch

Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: ‎Imprecision 2020: OTM’s Election Night Livestream

On The Media hosts Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield will be hosting a live election night show on November 3, “featuring expert interviews, music, comedy, and reflections and reactions from the OTM crew.” Watch it here on Tuesday!

Listen Now Virtual Events Virtual Event: View From The Top — Beth Ford, President and CEO of Land O’Lakes
Date: November 2, 2:45PM EST
Beth has been recognized by Fortune as one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders and Most Powerful Women and was named to Fast Company’s Most Productive People and Best Leaders lists, among other honors. Register Here.

Virtual Event: The Future of Retail & The Shopping Experience
Date: November 5, 12PM-1PM EST
Expert panel on the future of retail from sustainability, to AI and VR, to social-buying and everything in between. Register Here. A Deeper Look Translating Lost Languages Using Machine Learning

When we think of dead languages, we imagine Latin or Ancient Egyptian, or whatever cave dwellers spoke (it wasn’t grunts and mumbles). With so many languages spoken today (roughly 6,900), it’s easy to think that there are relatively few languages that have been lost to time. In fact, most of the languages ever spoken are extinct — an estimated 81%. Dozens are undeciphered — as in “we don’t know enough about their grammar, vocabulary, or syntax to be able to actually understand their texts.” There are so few records of these undeciphered languages that machine translation systems simply don’t have enough to go on. MIT CSAIL researchers recently introduced a new system that they say can translate dead languages by inferring relationships between languages.

“The algorithm learns to embed language sounds into a multidimensional space where differences in pronunciation are reflected in the distance between corresponding vectors. This design enables them to capture pertinent patterns of language change and express them as computational constraints. The resulting model can segment words in an ancient language and map them to counterparts in a related language.” You can find the paper here and the GitHub repo here. Perhaps we can finally crack the Voynich Manuscript

4 min read

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NYC Media Lab connects university researchers and NYC’s media tech companies to create a new community of digital media & tech innovators in New York City.