Scientists find darknet drug markets have little influence on global trafficking


The darknet, cyberspace’s filthy flea-market for forbidden goods, isn’t the global drug network it’s been made out to be. According to Oxford’s new darknet drug map it’s more like your local pusher’s Etsy page than Amazon’s marketplace. The researchers used darknet web crawlers to scrape the marketplaces of several top underground markets including Alphabay, Hansa, Traderoute, and Valhalla. Data gleaned from the search was then organized geographically to provide insights into what effect darknet markets have on the global illicit drug-trade. According to their white paper, the team tracked and classified data pertaining to nearly 1.5 million trades occurring on…

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The Koch brothers say they will have “no influence” over Time Inc.’s iconic magazines

But they’re putting $ 650 million into a deal to buy the publisher

Charles and David Koch say they’re investing in the magazine business because it’s a good investment — not because they want media outlets to carry their conservative messages.

That’s the on-the-record answer to the question the media world has been asking for a couple of weeks, since we learned that the billionaire brothers were going to back Meredith’s bid for Time Inc.

Now that deal is official, and the brothers say they’re putting $ 650 million into the merged company but won’t meddle with it. From their press release announcing the deal:

“[Koch Equity Development, a Koch Industries subsidiary] will not have a seat on the Meredith Board and will have no influence on Meredith’s editorial or managerial operations. KED’s non-controlling, preferred equity investment underscores a strong belief in Meredith’s strength as a business operator, its strategies, and its ability to unlock significant value from the Time Inc. acquisition.”

It’s certainly possible the Kochs just think there’s a good deal to had here. And there are certainly other billionaires who have invested in media companies without monkeying with them: Warren Buffett has had a fondness for local newspapers. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal used to be a major investor in Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate.

It’s also possible that Koch’s media investment will be less expansive than it seems right now. As we said before, the next key question will be whether Meredith-plus-Time’s future involves Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and other titles that don’t seem to make sense in Meredith’s portfolio.

And in any scenario, the merged company is going to be slimmer than it is now. Time Inc CEO Rich Battista is supposed to leave when the deal closes — the two companies say that will happen in the first quarter of 2018 (though AT&T thought it would own Time Warner by now, too).

Battista won’t be the only employee leaving the combined company. Meredith says it can pull out “cost synergies of $ 400 million to $ 500 million in the first full two years of operation.”

Time Inc. employees, who have spent the last decade acclimating to yearly layoffs, know how some of those synergies will be achieved.

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Governments in 30 countries manipulated media online to silence critics, sow unrest or influence elections

The latest report on internet freedom by Freedom House finds online discourse in the United States is suffering.

It isn’t just Russia that’s spreading disinformation on Facebook, Google and Twitter in a bid to stir political unrest and silence critics around the globe.

A new report from Freedom House released Tuesday found that governments in 30 countries — not just the Kremlin, but also the regimes in Turkey, Venezuela and the Philippines — are now “mass producing their own content to distort the digital landscape in their favor.”

In Sudan, for example, the government maintains a virtual cyber army that has infiltrated Facebook, WhatsApp and other services in order to spread its leaders’ messages. In Venezuela, government forces “regularly used manipulated footage to disseminate lies about opposition protesters or the media, creating confusion” ahead of its last election.

The watchdog found that these efforts to manipulate information online — by governments or other forces — may have affected 18 countries’ elections, “damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate.” That included the U.S., where Russian-sponsored trolls fueled conflict around controversial debates like immigration, gun control and gay rights.

“The use of paid commentators and political bots to spread government propaganda was pioneered by China and Russia but has now gone global,” said Freedom House president Michael Abramowitz in a statement. “The effects of these rapidly spreading techniques on democracy and civic activism are potentially devastating.”

The conclusions came as part of Freedom House’s annual evaluation of global internet freedom, which found — once again — that government restrictions on their citizens’ internet use generally is on the rise.

Their report focused its efforts on 65 countries, studying their approach to online discussion and regulation between June 2016 and May 2017, and Freedom House awarded each government an internet-freedom score.

The lowest rating still belongs to China. Freedom House once again lamented the country’s historic, unrivaled limits on online speech, its penchant for hacking opponents and media organizations alike, and its willingness to imprison critics of Beijing’s leaders. Elsewhere, governments pursued their own new restrictions on online activity. For example, nine countries over the past year sought to block live video streaming for the first time, often to “halt real-time coverage of antigovernment demonstrations.”

In the U.S., Freedom House also sounded a note of alarm: It concluded that internet freedom in the U.S. had declined since the previous year, due in no small part to Russia’s election meddling.

Before and after Election Day, Kremlin-tied trolls had purchased ads and created profiles on Facebook, Google and Twitter, seeking to create chaos, rile up protesters and shift media coverage away from then-candidate Donald Trump. Those efforts are now the subject of scrutiny on Capitol Hill — and soul-searching in Silicon Valley — as lawmakers look to prevent Russia or another foreign power from meddling in U.S. politics ahead of the next election in 2018.

“While the online environment in the United States remained vibrant and diverse, the prevalence of disinformation and hyperpartisan content had a significant impact,” Freedom House found.

The watchdog also attributed its new skepticism about U.S. internet freedom to heightened harassment of American journalists online, not to mention efforts by the Trump administration, including a controversial — and quickly abandoned — attempt to unmask some of its prominent critics on Twitter.

Freedom House said internet freedom in the U.S. could be threatened even further as a result of the government’s ongoing attempt to undo its existing net neutrality rules. The regulations require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally.

At the same time, Freedom House also offered a subtle warning to regulators — in the U.S. and elsewhere — who are considering new laws in an attempt to thwart misinformation or other online ills.

By the watchdog’s estimate, 14 countries seeking to stop malicious bots and other nefarious activities on the web introduced rules over the past year that “actually restricted internet freedom,” perhaps unwittingly. That includes Germany, which instituted a new law in June 2017 that requires the likes of Facebook, Google and Twitter to take down content flagged as offensive in a way that “lacks judicial oversight.”

“When trying to combat online manipulation from abroad, it is important for countries not to overreach,” said Sanja Kelly, who oversees the production of the Freedom of the Net report, in a statement.

“The solution to manipulation and disinformation lies not in censoring websites but in teaching citizens how to detect fake news and commentary,” Kelly continued. “Democracies should ensure that the source of political advertising online is at least as transparent online as it is offline.”


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Russian Twitter accounts tried to influence the UK’s EU departure

Russia's attempt to influence Western politics through Twitter certainly wasn't limited to the 2016 American elections. Wired and New Knowledge have combed through the Russia-linked accounts provided to US politicians, and it identified at least 29…
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A new book examines German influence on modern day graphic design

Pioneers of German Graphic Design is a weighty 400-page tome by Jens Müller, on how art, minimalism, and commerce spawned a new form of visual communication. The book, published by Callisto, is the definitive text on how German designers influenced and shaped modern day graphic design starting in the late 19th century, and it’s pure coffee table eye candy. A deeper read reveals how the culture highs and ultimate societal lows in 20th century Germany bled into every aspect of life, including the field of graphic design.

In the introduction, Müller chronicles the introduction of graphic design following the industrial revolution. As early as 1848, when the German government stopped censoring printed matter, doors opened for the printing…

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