All posts tagged: Technology

SpareRoom founder offers lucky pair $1 rent in New York: ‘I love sharing’

Rupert Hunt, whose roommate-finding service has actually shown up in the United States after success in the UK, states he shares his location by option: It can be life-altering

A dollar does not get you far in New York. A dollar can get you a weekday edition of the New York Daily News or the New York Post, however it wont stretch to the traditional New York breakfast meal of a bagel with cream cheese. For 2 fortunate individuals, $1 is all they have to pay each month to live in a 3,400-square-foot loft apartment or condo in the Greenwich Village area in New York City.

Jacob Castaldi, 22, and Cyrus Schenk, 26, moved into the house today, and for the next 6 months their lease will amount to simply $6 each. Thats all thanks to Rupert Hunt, creator of SpareRoom , a business that enables users to publish advertisements online searching for roomies and for a location to live. Intending to take on Craigslist for house listings, SpareRoom moderates advertisements and profiles to weed out frauds and permits users to pay a little charge to show their advertisements more plainly or get the very first dibs on spaces published on the website.

In addition to playing a roomie matchmaker, Hunt has actually been utilizing his own site for the previous 3 years to discover individuals to share his house permitting them to pay exactly what they might pay for while they follow their dreams. Castaldi and Schenk are the very first 2 roomies to cope with Hunt in the United States.

Paying simply a $1 month in lease is a dream come to life, inning accordance with Schenk. Paying a common New York lease average lease for a one bed room apartment or condo in Manhattan is $3,450 a month ran out the concern for him. Up previously, he has actually been making ends satisfy as a window cleaner. Needing to pay an overall of $6 in lease over the next 6 months will permit him to concentrate on releasing his own company: a business that offers skis that adjust to modifications in speed and surface. Castaldi hopes to release a viral marketing company while living with Hunt.

Hunts previous roomies have actually originated from different backgrounds: they have actually consisted of a film-maker, a visual impact artist, a chef and standup comic and a micro maker.

All of those roomies coped with Hunt a some point in between 2013 and this summer season, when he transferred to New York to supervise SpareRooms growth to the remainder of the United States. Considering that introducing in the UK in 2004, SpareRoom has actually developed about 7 million users there, and inning accordance with Hunt, every 3 minutes a user discovers a roomie through the site. In 2012, SpareRoom introduced in New York City. Hunt explains it as a pilot growth and includes that he wished to take the business United States growth gradually, one city at a time, reproducing its development in London by arranging speed-roommating occasions in addition to providing its online services. The occasions occur in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

It didnt grow rather as I was anticipating, he discusses, explaining that seo (SEO) method was a huge part of the business development in London. Due to the fact that individuals [ in the United States] were currently utilizing Craigslist they werent looking for roomies and New York the exact same method. We let it grow naturally.

Earlier this year, SpareRoom services appeared throughout the United States and Hunt moved from London to New York. Presently, SpareRoom is really near reaching a quarter of a million users in the United States, inning accordance with the business representative.

Hunt attempted SpareRooms services for the very first time in 2013 after separating from his better half. I enjoy sharing. I chose that I would continue sharing, he states. He looked for roomies anonymously, then in early 2016 he introduced a YouTube series recording his search for housemates in the UK. The electronic camera team made the procedure more difficult. As an outcome, when he released his look for roomies in New York, Hunt depended on a more casual Instagram video and Facebook advertisements to obtain the task done.

Most of the talk about the Facebook post resembled: Oh, this is a scam or Oh, where is he going to conceal the bodies? Hunt chuckles. There was a lot more apprehension in New York than there it remains in London.

To discover the best roomies to share his New York city house, Hunt went through 8,800 messages and enjoyed 967 video profiles prior to lastly deciding on Schenk and Castaldi.

I believed Id share once again due to the fact that I remain in a brand-new city. I do not know anybody. Its an excellent method to fulfill brand-new individuals, to broaden a social circle. I was going to do a pay what you can manage thing however then it struck me that 12 years after launching in the UK, I was running a start-up once again. I bore in mind that exactly what had actually provided me the break I had to do it was returning with my mum and papa and living rent-free for 6 months. I believed of this concept to pay it forward, pay me a dollar and exactly what dreams would you pursue if you didnt have to stress about lease for 6 months?

The 3 males are set to reside in the loft till June with a choice to restore. Hunt is unsure whats next yet he may remain in New York or he may go to San Francisco and Los Angeles to spread out the gospel of sharing there. The something he understands is that there will be more roomies in his future.

Living with the best individuals is much better than living alone, he states. Unlike many people, Hunt states that he deals with roomies as a way of life option and not for monetary factors. Cost, he states, can obstruct of discovering the best individuals. It can be a disappointment with bad individuals, however [with the best individuals] it can be a life-altering experience.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontSpareRoom founder offers lucky pair $1 rent in New York: ‘I love sharing’
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How Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias

Search and autocomplete algorithms prioritize sites with rightwing bias, and far-right groups trick it to boost propaganda and misinformation in search rankings

Googles search algorithm appears to be systematically promoting information that is either false or slanted with an extreme rightwing bias on subjects as varied as climate change and homosexuality.

Following a recent investigation by the Observer, which found that Googles search engine prominently suggests neo-Nazi websites and antisemitic writing, the Guardian has uncovered a dozen additional examples of biased search results.

Googles search algorithm and its autocomplete function prioritize websites that, for example, declare that climate change is a hoax, being gay is a sin, and the Sandy Hook mass shooting never happened.

google
Photograph: Google

Google
Photograph: Google

The increased scrutiny on the algorithms of Google which removed antisemitic and sexist autocomplete phrases after the recent Observer investigation comes at a time of tense debate surrounding the role of fake news in building support for conservative political leaders, particularly US president-elect Donald Trump.

Facebook has faced significant backlash for its role in enabling widespread dissemination of misinformation, and data scientists and communication experts have argued that rightwing groups have found creative ways to manipulate social media trends and search algorithms.

The Guardians latest findings further suggest that Googles searches are contributing to the problem.

In the past, when a journalist or academic exposes one of these algorithmic hiccups, humans at Google quietly make manual adjustments in a process thats neither transparent nor accountable.

At the same time, politically motivated third parties including the alt-right, a far-right movement in the US, use a variety of techniques to trick the algorithm and push propaganda and misinformation higher up Googles search rankings.

These insidious manipulations both by Google and by third parties trying to game the system impact how users of the search engine perceive the world, even influencing the way they vote. This has led some researchers to study Googles role in the presidential election in the same way that they have scrutinized Facebook.

Google
Photograph: Google

Google
Photograph: Google

Robert Epstein from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology has spent four years trying to reverse engineer Googles search algorithms. He believes, based on systematic research, that Google has the power to rig elections through something he calls the search engine manipulation effect (SEME).

Epstein conducted five experiments in two countries to find that biased rankings in search results can shift the opinions of undecided voters. If Google tweaks its algorithm to show more positive search results for a candidate, the searcher may form a more positive opinion of that candidate.

In September 2016, Epstein released findings, published through Russian news agency Sputnik News, that indicated Google had suppressed negative autocomplete search results relating to Hillary Clinton.

We know that if theres a negative autocomplete suggestion in the list, it will draw somewhere between five and 15 times as many clicks as a neutral suggestion, Epstein said. If you omit negatives for one perspective, one hotel chain or one candidate, you have a heck of a lot of people who are going to see only positive things for whatever the perspective you are supporting.

google
Photograph: Google

googlehomosexuality
Photograph: Google

Even changing the order in which certain search terms appear in the autocompleted list can make a huge impact, with the first result drawing the most clicks, he said.

At the time, Google said the autocomplete algorithm was designed to omit disparaging or offensive terms associated with individuals names but that it wasnt an exact science.

Then theres the secret recipe of factors that feed into the algorithm Google uses to determine a web pages importance embedded with the biases of the humans who programmed it. These factors include how many and which other websites link to a page, how much traffic it receives, and how often a page is updated. People who are very active politically are typically the most partisan, which means that extremist views peddled actively on blogs and fringe media sites get elevated in the search ranking.

These platforms are structured in such a way that they are allowing and enabling consciously or unconsciously more extreme views to dominate, said Martin Moore from Kings College Londons Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power.

Appearing on the first page of Google search results can give websites with questionable editorial principles undue authority and traffic.

These two manipulations can work together to have an enormous impact on people without their knowledge that they are being manipulated, and our research shows that very clearly, Epstein said. Virtually no one is aware of bias in search suggestions or rankings.

This is compounded by Googles personalization of search results, which means different users see different results based on their interests. This gives companies like Google even more power to influence peoples opinions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, he said.

Epstein wants Google to be more transparent about how and when it manually manipulates the algorithm.

They are constantly making these adjustments. Its absurd for them to say everything is automated, he said. Manual removals from autocomplete include are jews evil and are women evil. Google has also altered its results so when someone searches for ways to kill themselves they are shown a suicide helpline.

Shortly after Epstein released his research indicating the suppression of negative autocomplete search results relating to Clinton, which he credits to close ties between the Clinton campaign and Google, the search engine appeared to pull back from such censorship, he said. This, he argued, allowed for a flood of pro-Trump, anti-Clinton content (including fake news), some of which was created in retaliation to bubble to the top.

If I had to do it over again I would not have released those data. There is some indication that they had an impact that was detrimental to Hillary Clinton, which was never my intention.

Rhea Drysdale, the CEO of digital marketing company Outspoken Media, did not see evidence of pro-Clinton editing by Google. However, she did note networks of partisan websites disproportionately rightwing using much better search engine optimization techniques to ensure their worldview ranked highly.

Meanwhile, tech-savvy rightwing groups organized online and developed creative ways to control and manipulate social media conversations through mass actions, said Shane Burley, a journalist and researcher who has studied the alt-right.

google
Photograph: Google

What happens is they can essentially jam hashtags so densely using multiple accounts, they end up making it trending, he said. Thats a great way for them to dictate how something is going to be covered, whats going to be discussed. Thats helped them reframe the discussion of immigration.

Burley noted that cuckservative meaning conservatives who have sold out is a good example of a term that the alt-right has managed to popularize in an effective way. Similarly if you search for feminism is … in Google, it autocompletes to feminism is cancer, a popular rallying cry for Trump supporters.

It has this effect of making certain words kind of like magic words in search algorithms.

The same groups including members of the popular alt-right Reddit forum The_Donald used techniques that are used by reputation management firms and marketers to push their companies up Googles search results, to ensure pro-Trump imagery and articles ranked highly.

Extremists have been trying to play Googles algorithm for years, with varying degrees of success, said Brittan Heller, director of technology and society at the Anti-Defamation League. The key has traditionally been connected to influencing the algorithm with a high volume of biased search terms.

The problem has become particularly challenging for Google in a post-truth era, where white supremacist websites may have the same indicator of trustworthiness in the eyes of Google as other websites high in the page rank.

What does Google do when the lies arent the outliers any more? Heller said.

Previously there was the assumption that everything on the internet had a glimmer of truth about it. With the phenomenon of fake news and media hacking, that may be changing.

A Google spokeswoman said in a statement: Weve received a lot of questions about autocomplete, and we want to help people understand how it works: Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically generated based on users search activity and interests. Users search for such a wide range of material on the web 15% of searches we see every day are new. Because of this, terms that appear in Autocomplete may be unexpected or unpleasant. We do our best to prevent offensive terms, like porn and hate speech, from appearing, but we dont always get it right. Autocomplete isnt an exact science and were always working to improve our algorithms.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontHow Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias
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Franklin Foer: ‘Big tech has been rattled. The conversation has changed’

When the author Franklin Foer initially raised issues about Silicon Valleys power gamers, individuals took a look at me amusing. Now his work appears prophetic

The admission by Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg was disconcerting.

“Things occurred on our platform in this election that ought to not have actually occurred,” she stated in an onstage interview recently with Mike Allen, the reporter and Washington diary-keeper. “Especially, and really unpleasant, foreign disturbance in a democratic election.”

But Sandberg averted a string of follow-up concerns. What “things”? When precisely did Facebook see the “things”? Was it a great deal of “things”? Has the business looked after the issue? And why should the general public take Facebook’s word for it?

The Sandberg interview became part of a very first wave of troubleshooting by Facebook in a crisis that is simply starting to substance. Executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter have actually been contacted us to provide sworn public statement prior to a United States congressional panel early next month about exactly what occurred on their platforms in the run-up to the governmental election, now practically a year earlier. The business have actually likewise been approached by Robert Mueller, the unique counsel examining supposed ties in between Russia and the Donald Trump governmental project.

For all the consequences of Trump’s presidency, amongst the most unexpected might be the hostile analysis that has actually emerged of America’s star-dusted tech business, as awareness dawns of how Russia made the most of the business’ platforms– and their extremely successful fascinations with targeting people and content sharing, minus oversight– to raise Trump and attack Hillary Clinton.

“They’re being rattled in such a way where they’ve never ever been rattled,” stated Franklin Foer, whose brand-new book, World Without Mind: the Existential Threat of Big Tech , can be checked out as an exceptional prediction of huge tech’s public numeration. Speaking on the phone from Washington DC, Foer stated it would be an error to believe the federal government was striking the business yet “with its heaviest blows”.

“It’s simply to state that they’ve simply been so unharmed for so long, that even these reasonably harmless calls to turn over proof or to affirm are culturally and politically considerable.”

Foer’s book outgrew a cover story about monopolistic abuses by Amazon in The New Republic, the intellectually recognized, century-old publication of public affairs at which Foer took 2 turns as editor. At the time, Foer was wanting to transform the publication for the Facebook age after it was purchased by a co-founder of Facebook. His individual informing of that story in World Without Mind remembers a previous book where he utilized his nuclear-grade soccer fandom to describe globalization.

“I began dealing with this in 2014, when I did, individuals took a look at me amusing,” Foer stated of the brand-new book. “It resembled I was a hippy wailing into the wind, it seemed like, due to the fact that of the eminence that these tech business held. Unexpectedly, when the book came out last month, I had a radio host implicating me of spouting the traditional knowledge. The tide had actually turned so rapidly.

“The greatest issue is that Facebook and Google are these huge feedback loops that provide individuals exactly what they wish to hear. When you utilize them in a world where your predispositions are being continuously validated, you end up being vulnerable to phony news, propaganda, demagoguery.”

Official and public outrage is growing at the tech business with the awareness that an army of Russia-linked bots and giants running as imposter accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other networks had the ability to purchase advertisements and target an approximated numerous millions of Americans with political messages throughout the election. The strategies of the imposter accounts, which looked for to irritate users over hot-button social concerns, have actually highlighted a sneaking sense of the nation having actually been practically gotten into– and outmaneuvered.

 google /> Photograph: JasonDoiy/Getty Images

The present examination is all the complete stranger considered that huge tech has actually gotten a virtual totally free pass in its present version. For the last 15 years, legislators have actually shrugged as Amazon bulldozed its method to a near- monopoly in the book organisation and most each retail organisation. And nobody took much interest as Facebook controlled users’ news feeds, inflated its metrics to marketers and explore owning citizen turnout. Couple of appeared to care as Google scanned libraries loaded with copyrighted product and, like Apple, moved billions in properties offshore to reduce tax liabilities. These business continued to grow and squeeze almost every rival out.

The bigger concerns of possible risks presented by huge tech, on the other hand– as the business gather unlimited information about United States people to whom they constantly offer gadgets and items developed to make our lives constantly easier– have actually shown entirely outside the federal government’s ken.

Like no other occasion prior to it, Foer stated, the election of Trump has actually taken shape the sensation that the huge tech business– Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, Microsoft — have actually maybe been permitted to collect a little excessive power with somewhat insufficient oversight.

“The election is the important things that’s altered the discussion,” he stated. “For liberals, a great deal of it pertains to this mad sense that Facebook was in some way complicit in the Trump success. For conservatives, it’s their rote hatred of huge media, in the sense that gatekeepers who are liberal will constantly rig the system in favor of liberals. In the end, it’s a shared stress and anxiety.

“There are plainly emancipatory powers prowling within these brand-new innovations. When that power ends up being caught, and when uniqueness and our sense of company ends up being illusory– when power ends up being so deeply focused in a little handful of companies on which we all depend, then we are skewing in the instructions of dystopia.”

When Foer started dealing with his book, he was nearing completion of an extremely individual lesson about how huge tech might cannot measure up to its own high-minded objectives. 2 years previously, the Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes had actually dedicated a sliver of his fortune to purchasing The New Republic and persuaded Foer to take a 2nd turn as editor-in-chief.

Hughes, Foer composes, was “a legendary hero– boyishly innocent, remarkably abundant, intellectually curious, suddenly simple, and happily optimistic”. The publication developed a brand-new website without an identifiable advertisement existence and avoided seo and other uninspiring tools that contemporary media business utilize in the mission for clicks and the advertisement cash behind them.

The experiment ended after Foer released the Amazon cover story and Hughes, having actually recognized just how much cash he was losing, employed a CEO from Yahoo! who rebranded the publication as a “vertically incorporated digital media business”. A personnel exodus took place, with Foer in front.

“I hope this book does not encounter as sustained by anger, however I do not wish to reject my anger either,” Foer composes. In World Without Mind, his review of Amazon has actually progressed into a sophisticated polemic versus the huge business whose capability to please customers has for too long masked corollary threats for the economy, for individual privacy and, eventually, for the workout of democracy.

“It’s not that we have to toss our iPhones into the sea, or that we have to position the concept of an online search engine into an archive where just scholars with white gloves would have the ability to take a look at it,” Foer stated. “We must have the ability to form these innovations in a manner that they do not disrupt the functions of our democracy, they do not addict us, they do not control us.”

Foer welcomes the concern of exactly what type of guideline might remain in order– an old-fashioned monopoly-bust? A federal information security law?– by indicating London’s choice to de-license Uber, and to the effort in Europe to tame Google.

“I’m actually doubtful of the concept that there can be some regulative body that can manage Facebook and require it to act in a virtuous sort of method,” he stated.

“The Europeans are sort of searching towards the dismemberment of Google today, by attempting to sever the advertisement company from its search service. I believe that there’s some comparable sort of design that might be used to Facebook that would have the result of seriously injuring its monopoly and would have the result of making it act more virtuously.”

Foer likewise indicates an effort introduced this summertime by a union of significant paper and brand-new media business to obtain approval from Congress to haggle jointly with Facebook and Google over advertisement income and access to material. Even as they count on the tech giants to discover a broad readership, media business have actually been starved of advertisement income, and pressed in some cases to termination, by the very same business.

“That the media alliance is promoting regulative options is intriguing,” stated Foer. “That it’s not simply silently groaning about Google and Facebook, that they’re now actively pressing back. And I believe it’s shown in the protection.

“It’s relatively spectacular to take a look at the paper every day and to awaken to exactly what appears like a fresh mainstream media attack on huge tech, which is something I actually had not anticipated. New media had actually sort of laid prostrate prior to these men, and generally accepted their fate as type of being connected to Facebook and Google.

“It’s like a post-Soviet state having a color transformation to enjoy media rebel versus these business.”

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Marissa SafontFranklin Foer: ‘Big tech has been rattled. The conversation has changed’
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SpareRoom founder offers lucky pair $1 rent in New York: ‘I love sharing’

Rupert Hunt, whose roommate-finding service has arrived in the US after success in the UK, says he shares his place by choice: It can be life-changing

A dollar doesnt get you far in New York. A buck can get you a weekday edition of the New York Daily News or the New York Post, but it wont stretch to the classic New York breakfast meal of a bagel with cream cheese. Yet for two lucky people, $1 is all they have to pay each month to live in a 3,400-square-foot loft apartment in the Greenwich Village neighbourhood in New York City.

Jacob Castaldi, 22, and Cyrus Schenk, 26, moved into the apartment this week, and for the next six months their rent will total just $6 each. Thats all thanks to Rupert Hunt, founder of SpareRoom, a company that allows users to post ads online looking for roommates and for a place to live. Hoping to compete with Craigslist for apartment listings, SpareRoom moderates ads and profiles to weed out scams and allows users to pay a small fee to display their ads more prominently or get the first dibs on rooms posted on the site.

In addition to playing a roommate matchmaker, Hunt has been using his own website for the past three years to find people to share his home allowing them to pay what they could afford while they follow their dreams. Castaldi and Schenk are the first two roommates to live with Hunt in the US.

Paying just a $1 month in rent is a dream come true, according to Schenk. Paying a typical New York rent median rent for a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan is $3,450 a month was out of the question for him. Up until now, he has been making ends meet as a window cleaner. Having to pay a total of $6 in rent over the next six months will allow him to focus on launching his own business: a company that sells skis that adapt to changes in speed and terrain. Similarly, Castaldi hopes to launch a viral marketing agency while living with Hunt.

Hunts previous roommates have come from various backgrounds: they have included a film-maker, a visual effect artist, a chef and standup comedian and a micro brewer.

All of those roommates lived with Hunt a some point between 2013 and this summer, when he moved to New York to oversee SpareRooms expansion to the rest of the US. Since launching in the UK in 2004, SpareRoom has built up about 7 million users there, and according to Hunt, every 3 minutes a user finds a roommate through the website. In 2012, SpareRoom launched in New York City. Hunt describes it as a pilot expansion and adds that he wanted to take the companys US expansion slowly, one city at a time, replicating its growth in London by organizing speed-roommating events in addition to offering its online services. The events take place in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

It didnt grow quite as I was expecting, he explains, pointing out that search engine optimization (SEO) strategy was a big part of the companys growth in London. But because people [in the US] were already using Craigslist they werent searching for roommates and New York the same way. So we let it grow organically.

Earlier this year, SpareRoom services became available across the US and Hunt moved from London to New York. Currently, SpareRoom is very close to reaching a quarter of a million users in the US, according to the company spokesman.

Hunt tried SpareRooms services for the first time in 2013 after separating from his wife. I love sharing. I decided that I would carry on sharing, he says. First, he looked for roommates anonymously, then in early 2016 he launched a YouTube series documenting his search for housemates in the UK. The camera crew made the process more stressful. As a result, when he launched his search for roommates in New York, Hunt relied on a more informal Instagram video and Facebook ads to get the job done.

Most of the comments on the Facebook post were like: Oh, this is a hoax or Oh, where is he going to hide the bodies? Hunt laughs. There was a lot more skepticism in New York than there it is in London.

To find the perfect roommates to share his New York city apartment, Hunt read through 8,800 messages and watched 967 video profiles before finally settling on Schenk and Castaldi.

I thought Id share again because I am in a new city. I dont know anyone. Its a great way to meet new people, to expand a social circle. I was going to do a pay what you can afford thing but then it occurred to me that 12 years after starting up in the UK, I was running a startup again. I remembered that what had given me the break I needed to do it was moving back with my mum and dad and living rent-free for 6 months. So I thought of this idea to pay it forward, pay me a dollar and what dreams would you pursue if you didnt have to worry about rent for six months?

The three men are set to live in the loft until June with an option to renew. Hunt is not sure whats next yet he might stay in New York or he might go to San Francisco and Los Angeles to spread the gospel of sharing there. The one thing he knows is that there will be more roommates in his future.

Living with the right people is better than living alone, he says. Unlike most people, Hunt says that he lives with roommates as a lifestyle choice and not for financial reasons. Price, he says, can get in the way of finding the right people. It can be a bad experience with bad people, but [with the right people] it can be a life-changing experience.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/14/spareroom-founder-new-york-rent-rupert-hunt

Marissa SafontSpareRoom founder offers lucky pair $1 rent in New York: ‘I love sharing’
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How Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias

Search and autocomplete algorithms prioritize sites with rightwing bias, and far-right groups trick it to boost propaganda and misinformation in search rankings

Googles search algorithm appears to be systematically promoting information that is either false or slanted with an extreme rightwing bias on subjects as varied as climate change and homosexuality.

Following a recent investigation by the Observer, which found that Googles search engine prominently suggests neo-Nazi websites and antisemitic writing, the Guardian has uncovered a dozen additional examples of biased search results.

Googles search algorithm and its autocomplete function prioritize websites that, for example, declare that climate change is a hoax, being gay is a sin, and the Sandy Hook mass shooting never happened.

google
Photograph: Google

Google
Photograph: Google

The increased scrutiny on the algorithms of Google which removed antisemitic and sexist autocomplete phrases after the recent Observer investigation comes at a time of tense debate surrounding the role of fake news in building support for conservative political leaders, particularly US president-elect Donald Trump.

Facebook has faced significant backlash for its role in enabling widespread dissemination of misinformation, and data scientists and communication experts have argued that rightwing groups have found creative ways to manipulate social media trends and search algorithms.

The Guardians latest findings further suggest that Googles searches are contributing to the problem.

In the past, when a journalist or academic exposes one of these algorithmic hiccups, humans at Google quietly make manual adjustments in a process thats neither transparent nor accountable.

At the same time, politically motivated third parties including the alt-right, a far-right movement in the US, use a variety of techniques to trick the algorithm and push propaganda and misinformation higher up Googles search rankings.

These insidious manipulations both by Google and by third parties trying to game the system impact how users of the search engine perceive the world, even influencing the way they vote. This has led some researchers to study Googles role in the presidential election in the same way that they have scrutinized Facebook.

Google
Photograph: Google

Google
Photograph: Google

Robert Epstein from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology has spent four years trying to reverse engineer Googles search algorithms. He believes, based on systematic research, that Google has the power to rig elections through something he calls the search engine manipulation effect (SEME).

Epstein conducted five experiments in two countries to find that biased rankings in search results can shift the opinions of undecided voters. If Google tweaks its algorithm to show more positive search results for a candidate, the searcher may form a more positive opinion of that candidate.

In September 2016, Epstein released findings, published through Russian news agency Sputnik News, that indicated Google had suppressed negative autocomplete search results relating to Hillary Clinton.

We know that if theres a negative autocomplete suggestion in the list, it will draw somewhere between five and 15 times as many clicks as a neutral suggestion, Epstein said. If you omit negatives for one perspective, one hotel chain or one candidate, you have a heck of a lot of people who are going to see only positive things for whatever the perspective you are supporting.

google
Photograph: Google

googlehomosexuality
Photograph: Google

Even changing the order in which certain search terms appear in the autocompleted list can make a huge impact, with the first result drawing the most clicks, he said.

At the time, Google said the autocomplete algorithm was designed to omit disparaging or offensive terms associated with individuals names but that it wasnt an exact science.

Then theres the secret recipe of factors that feed into the algorithm Google uses to determine a web pages importance embedded with the biases of the humans who programmed it. These factors include how many and which other websites link to a page, how much traffic it receives, and how often a page is updated. People who are very active politically are typically the most partisan, which means that extremist views peddled actively on blogs and fringe media sites get elevated in the search ranking.

These platforms are structured in such a way that they are allowing and enabling consciously or unconsciously more extreme views to dominate, said Martin Moore from Kings College Londons Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power.

Appearing on the first page of Google search results can give websites with questionable editorial principles undue authority and traffic.

These two manipulations can work together to have an enormous impact on people without their knowledge that they are being manipulated, and our research shows that very clearly, Epstein said. Virtually no one is aware of bias in search suggestions or rankings.

This is compounded by Googles personalization of search results, which means different users see different results based on their interests. This gives companies like Google even more power to influence peoples opinions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviors, he said.

Epstein wants Google to be more transparent about how and when it manually manipulates the algorithm.

They are constantly making these adjustments. Its absurd for them to say everything is automated, he said. Manual removals from autocomplete include are jews evil and are women evil. Google has also altered its results so when someone searches for ways to kill themselves they are shown a suicide helpline.

Shortly after Epstein released his research indicating the suppression of negative autocomplete search results relating to Clinton, which he credits to close ties between the Clinton campaign and Google, the search engine appeared to pull back from such censorship, he said. This, he argued, allowed for a flood of pro-Trump, anti-Clinton content (including fake news), some of which was created in retaliation to bubble to the top.

If I had to do it over again I would not have released those data. There is some indication that they had an impact that was detrimental to Hillary Clinton, which was never my intention.

Rhea Drysdale, the CEO of digital marketing company Outspoken Media, did not see evidence of pro-Clinton editing by Google. However, she did note networks of partisan websites disproportionately rightwing using much better search engine optimization techniques to ensure their worldview ranked highly.

Meanwhile, tech-savvy rightwing groups organized online and developed creative ways to control and manipulate social media conversations through mass actions, said Shane Burley, a journalist and researcher who has studied the alt-right.

google
Photograph: Google

What happens is they can essentially jam hashtags so densely using multiple accounts, they end up making it trending, he said. Thats a great way for them to dictate how something is going to be covered, whats going to be discussed. Thats helped them reframe the discussion of immigration.

Burley noted that cuckservative meaning conservatives who have sold out is a good example of a term that the alt-right has managed to popularize in an effective way. Similarly if you search for feminism is … in Google, it autocompletes to feminism is cancer, a popular rallying cry for Trump supporters.

It has this effect of making certain words kind of like magic words in search algorithms.

The same groups including members of the popular alt-right Reddit forum The_Donald used techniques that are used by reputation management firms and marketers to push their companies up Googles search results, to ensure pro-Trump imagery and articles ranked highly.

Extremists have been trying to play Googles algorithm for years, with varying degrees of success, said Brittan Heller, director of technology and society at the Anti-Defamation League. The key has traditionally been connected to influencing the algorithm with a high volume of biased search terms.

The problem has become particularly challenging for Google in a post-truth era, where white supremacist websites may have the same indicator of trustworthiness in the eyes of Google as other websites high in the page rank.

What does Google do when the lies arent the outliers any more? Heller said.

Previously there was the assumption that everything on the internet had a glimmer of truth about it. With the phenomenon of fake news and media hacking, that may be changing.

A Google spokeswoman said in a statement: Weve received a lot of questions about autocomplete, and we want to help people understand how it works: Autocomplete predictions are algorithmically generated based on users search activity and interests. Users search for such a wide range of material on the web 15% of searches we see every day are new. Because of this, terms that appear in Autocomplete may be unexpected or unpleasant. We do our best to prevent offensive terms, like porn and hate speech, from appearing, but we dont always get it right. Autocomplete isnt an exact science and were always working to improve our algorithms.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/16/google-autocomplete-rightwing-bias-algorithm-political-propaganda

Marissa SafontHow Google’s search algorithm spreads false information with a rightwing bias
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Fashion week job swap: could I become an Instagram star?

Social media stars are wielding increasing power in the fashion industry; what happens when Jess Cartner-Morley trades places with influencer Doina Ciobanu?

The front row is a world divided. Montagues and Capulets, in bare legs rather than doublet and hose. Between the two blocs editors on the one hand, influencers on the other there is little love lost. Last autumn, American Vogue staffers branded the influencers pathetic, describing the job as turning up, looking ridiculous, posing, twitching in your seat as you check your social media feeds. The influencers hit back, branding their Vogue attackers as haughty and out of touch. (Get back to your Werthers Originals, was a particularly choice comeback.) We think they are airheads; they think we are fogeys. So, to find out whos right, I have arranged a job swap at London fashion week. Doina Ciobanu is 22, has 225,000 followers on Instagram (at time of writing), and attends shows as a model, VIP guest and brand ambassador. Ciobanu grew up in the former Soviet republic of Moldova, where she began blogging aged 16. She moved to Bucharest at 19, and now lives in London. For Saturday at London Fashion Week, I will do her job and she will do mine.

My job is to write about the shows. Writing to deadline frames my days and everything else designer interviews, checking out up-and-comers, analysing emerging trends has to fit around that. Doinas job is to provide online content, mostly self-portraits with fairly brief captions, some of which are arranged in collaboration with labels whose clothes or beauty products she wears in the photos. I am an expert; Doina is an avatar.

Julien
Julien Macdonald is interviewed by Doina Ciobanu. Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian

The unspoken fashion editor dress code is low-key. Black trousers and a navy jumper is fine. The goalposts have shifted over the past decade, as fashion week has become a more public event but still. Today, however, I am an influencer. So my first outfit is a new-season Gucci logo T-shirt, Mih wide-legged, floor-sweeping jeans, a checked Simone Rocha jacket with puffy sleeves, to which I have added my own black Nicholas Kirkwood shoes and a cherry-red Alexander McQueen bag that is many years old. The outfit feels cumbersome, both literally (I cant get the belt to sit right, and Im terrified of tripping over the hem of the jeans) and figuratively. It takes up a lot of mental space, being dressed like this.

I meet with Doina in a Pret near London Wall, around the corner from the Julien Macdonald show. She has come dressed as a journalist, in jeans and a black sweater, with her hair in a bun. But she doesnt look like a journalist at all, not just because the sweater is a fancy one that Julien sent over this morning for her to wear to the show, but because she is 22 and, like most of the new wave of influencers, absurdly beautiful. Imagine Kendall Jenner crossed with Emily Ratajkowski, and you get the idea: not just gorgeous, but with a specific aesthetic that is millennial catnip. Eyes disproportionately large, cheekbones defined even in repose, she looks like an animated Snapchat filter.

Doinas favourite book, she tells me, is Platos Republic. She reads newspapers in English the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times but fiction in Russian. (A lot of things in life, you can express them better in Russian.) Her life plan is first to build a brand along the lines of Chiara Ferragni, aka The Blonde Salad, the 29-year-old Italian influencer who has built a personal brand worth an estimated 10m, and then to become the first female president of Moldova. I have plenty of time, she says. I will do this first, and then, when I am 40, perhaps I will go into politics. I am 43. What have I been doing with all my time?

Outside the show, Doina greets the streetstyle photographers with kisses before obligingly recrossing the road so they can get a better shot of her arriving. And then crossing the road again, so they can get the shot again. And again, and again. She does this eight or nine times, allowing each photographer to capture the same reportage-style shot of her, apparently serenely indifferent to the lens. These images will appear on streetstyle blogs; the photographers will tag her, so she can find and regram the images.

Jess
Jess outside a show at London fashion week 2017. Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian

Being Doina is a complex business. Some brands pay her to model in their social media marketing, others pay her to endorse their products. An agent negotiates fees. He looks at what a regular model would get paid, and at what a top celebrity would get paid, and pitches me somewhere in the middle, she explains. A brand will send Doina images or samples of a new seasons products it could be a mascara or a piece of jewellery and if I like the brand and it fits my aesthetic, she will select pieces she is happy to endorse. But many posts are unsponsored, starring Doina in clothes she has bought or borrowed. These reinforce her aesthetic and voice, and build following.

The resistance of the fashion establishment to the likes of Doina is one part anxiety (the elite always fear becoming obsolete), one part snobbery (there have always been It girls who got photographed outside shows, but they used to be debutantes, the goddaughters of the elite, not young women from Moldova), and one part ethical suspicion that there is something compromised or false about the influencer role. This last part is tricky to unpick. Authenticity means something different for Doinas generation than for mine. A tiny example: halfway through our day, a shot appears on Doinas Instagram account of her in a cafe, captioned much-needed coffee between shows; we havent stopped for coffee. But when I bring it up, she is politely nonplussed by how baffled I am. In the run-up to busy periods, she explains, she will often prepare posts so as to have appropriate content ready to go. That the photo wasnt taken on the day doesnt strike her as in any way fake. Her social media isnt a logbook of her life, its a contemporaneous brand-strategy document. So long as shes the one calling the shots, then it is true to herself, because it is true to her vision of herself.

To Doina, being independent of commercial alliance is not aspirational. A generation who have grown up dreaming of becoming personal brands do not treat brands with suspicion. Now that every man and woman is her own brand, The Man is the bogeyman no more. If the designer of a dress she likes will pay Doina to wear that dress, thats not a compromise, its win-win. Indeed, she sees herself as a force for good. I want to get involved in female rights in eastern Europe, because no one is fighting for this, she says. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and its female population face significant discrimination. A 2010 study by the National Bureau of Statistics found that 63% of women had experienced psychological, physical or sexual violence from their husband or partner. In her efforts to use her profile to help the cause, Doina has been in touch with UN Women in Moldova, and with Versace, who are very interested in talking about female empowerment, she adds, as if the UN and Versace were two comparable platforms.

Doinas business model is resolutely digital, but her aesthetic is absolutely within the glossy magazine tradition. Her Instagram is all bubble baths in chic hotel rooms, soulful evening strolls along the Seine. My content is always aspirational, she says, and that takes time. I cant take a photo if theres litter on the pavement. So there is, inevitably, a disconnect between the carefree tone of her content and the effort required. The Julien Macdonald show runs half an hour late, so its a race against the clock across to London to a meet-and-greet for influencers with Gigi Hadid at the Tommy Hilfiger store, an appointment that is as significant in Doinas diary as any fashion show. Hadid, with nearly 32m followers on Instagram, is digital fashion royalty.

Doina
Doina greets photographers outside a London fashion week show. Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian

During fashion week, my life involves a lot of small talk with whoever I happen to be seated next to. But in Doinas world, communication through a screen trumps talking to the people who are around you every time. Its a numbers game: if an influencer has to choose between talking to the thousands of people who are with her on social media or the three people in her taxi, she will naturally prioritise the thousands. In the cab on the way to Knightsbridge, she breaks off our conversation to post a video on her Instagram story telling her followers that she is in a cab on the way to Knightsbridge. At the Tommy Hilfiger shop, influencers nod greetings to each other and get on with the business of posting photos to their followers. After the rush to get here, Hadid is running late and I am now regretting having passed up the opportunity to eat at Pret. The room is lavishly catered with beautiful food that does not seem intended for actual consumption. There are miniature burgers, but the beef patties are sandwiched between macaroons rather than bread buns. It looks shareable, but only in the digital sense. When Hadid arrives, she and Doina say hello and then, even before Doina has lifted her phone aloft, they both automatically fluff their hair and position their faces next to each other for a selfie video, which Doina immediately posts on her Instagram with the caption keep running into this beauty.

By now I am starving. But theres no time to stop, because we are racing back along the river for a fly-by visit to the Astley Clarke presentation at the Institution of Engineering next to the Savoy hotel, before a two-mile dash north to Bloomsbury and the JW Anderson show. Doinas sweet face clouds over when she realises she has been neglecting her Snapchat over the last couple of hours. If I forget, she says, my mum or boyfriend will text to nag me about it. She works every day from morning until midnight or 2am. At Christmas, she took three days off from social media. Those were my only days off in the past three years, she says. This is the only time I hear Doina being remotely negative about anything. Being an influencer might be hard work, but to make it lucrative it has to be aspirational, so you have to look like you are having fun at all times.

Doina
Doina and Jess arrive at a show. Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian

One of the key differentiators between editors and influencers is that while we wear the same clothes all day, give or take a 9pm black tie upgrade, influencers will often change into an outfit by the designer of each show they attend. So, on the way to JW Anderson, I commandeer the backseat of a British Fashion Council car to change into a skirt and shirt by the designer. The stress of being in my bra and knickers in broad daylight, fumbling to fasten shirt buttons in time to make the next show, rattles me more than any copy deadline does. I completely forget to put the coordinating earrings on, and give up on changing shoes, because the skirt is much too long and has a tentacle-shaped hemline that I swear is trying to kill me. But it turns out you do have to suffer for fashion. The killer skirt works. The photographers outside the show love it, and my picture ends up on American Vogues Best Street Style Pics from Londons Fall 2017 Shows. Still, you can tell Im not meant to be there: everyone else in the gallery is studiously avoiding eye contact with the photographer for the preferred candid format. I am smiling at the camera. Total sophistication fail.

Doina is much better at my job than I am at hers. After the show, we head to Emilia Wickstead, and soon afterwards she files her reviews to me for feedback. They are excellent. From her Julien Macdonald review: Female empowerment is a term du jour. But where New Yorks designers offered up feminism in the guise of slogan tees, Macdonald interpreted it through his concept of a future where clothes are made on-demand, tailored to the shape of every woman.

We go our separate ways for a short time, and when I see her again at the 9pm Versus show, I am reminded of the famous quote about Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire: that she did everything he did, backwards and in high heels. Doina has used the hour to change out of her jeans and into a fuchsia tuxedo suit with a black lace camisole and spike-heeled sandals. And me? I ate a pizza.

Doinas week as Jess: Im probably having more fun

I work hard at the fashion shows, but Im not going to pretend its not glamorous. You can see that on my Instagram feed, where Im skipping down a crumbling staircase in Paris or posing in a Louis Vuitton minidress in Milan. What you dont see is the behind-the-scenes effort: the months of meetings beforehand, the Google doc full of contact details for designers, so I dont end up wearing the same Gucci loafers as everyone else. You dont see the last-minute panics on show day: changing my outfit in the car while my driver tactfully waits on the pavement; shoving protein bars into my mouth between appointments.

Doina
Doina Ciobanu at a launch party in London. Photograph: David Benett

Ive always been fascinated by the journalists I see at fashion week. I like how serious they look. They are in their own world, while Im talking to my followers on my two phones. Were both working, but I feel like Im probably having more fun. I love print journalism; I love to feel a magazine in my hands; I know some people think its irrelevant these days, but I really hope that is not the case.

The Guardians fashion team asked me to make like a journalist and wear one simple outfit, rather than get changed between the shows. That was a liberation: no desperate rush to find somewhere to change. I even had time to buy a coffee.

At the Julien Macdonald show, it felt very strange to be taking notes, rather than pictures. Its such a tight space on the front row that a notebook and pen were useless. As soon as the clapping had finished, I rushed backstage, as instructed, to grab a quote. Macdonald was friendly, but I was in a crush of other journalists, everyone is muscling in, trying to congratulate him or ask questions. I had to manage all that, and say something intelligent, and take notes, too. Its very different from meeting a designer as an influencer, when Ill kiss them on the cheek and say, I love your clothes, and theyll say, You look beautiful, and thats it.

I wrote the review on my phone, while walking down the street between shows. It was stressful. Im used to writing one thing quickly on Instagram; I dont need to give that a lot of thought. But a lot of people are going to read this, and theres an additional layer of stress that comes from knowing that its the Guardian.

My next assignment, an Emilia Wickstead report, was harder. We were short of time, so I didnt go backstage to speak to her and had to come up with an analysis on my own. It was the end of the day, I was hungry, I was tired, my brain wasnt working. I started writing the piece on the way home; the deadline seemed impossibly soon and I was anxious to make it good.

I studied political science and history, so I love understanding the cause of events. Being a journalist for a day gave me a chance to flex those analytic muscles; as an influencer, you simply look at what looks good on people, what you think people would like. Id love to use my brain more in that way in the future, by getting more involved in activism, using my following for good. But I wouldnt be a journalist. Im an independent soul. Usually, when Im working, Im the brand. As a journalist, its not about you.

Doinas Julien Macdonald review

All hail female empowerment. Or so indicated designer Julien Macdonald backstage after successfully debuting his autumn/winter 2017 collection.

Female empowerment, feminism and their ilk are the terms du jour for the fashion set right now. New York fashion week gave collection after collection where womens rights were the focus. But where New Yorks designers offered up feminism in the guise of slogan tees and underwear surely destined for fame as a hashtag, Macdonald interpreted it through his concept of a future where technology has such an impact on fashion that clothes are made on demand, tailored to the shape of every individual woman.

For Macdonald that is, of course, a particular style of clothing and a particular type of woman. One empowered, one confident. If feminism is a thread that runs through Macdonalds winter 2017 collection, its the same feminism that the likes of Emily Ratajkowski can be found celebrating: that a woman can express herself and her person at a time of her choosing, Laura Mulveys male gaze be damned. Appropriate, then, that Ratajkowski has done much justice to Macdonalds designs before now.

Macdonald does a style and he does it well. His hallmark spiderweb dresses are still to be found, but increasingly with straighter lines and alongside dresses offering a sleeker and more futuristic vision. Macdonald told me that his inspiration was modern architecture, big cities [and] the metropolis. His autumn/winter 2017 may be inspired by a future landscape, but theres also an air of the imagined future that the likes of Fritz Lang once saw for us. Nostalgia, the present, and the future always go hand in hand.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2017/apr/07/fashion-week-job-swap-jess-cartner-morley-doina-ciobanu-instagram

Marissa SafontFashion week job swap: could I become an Instagram star?
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