Throwing out the baby with the bath water when it comes to online hate and terrorism

An interesting thing happened last week. Google, that behemoth that gives us so much of our information these days, has decided not to run advertising in the lead up to this year’s Canadian federal election because it does not want to develop a registry of ads and advertisers (although it apparently did so for the US midterms and the EU, so it is technically feasible). I imagine that Google is afraid – or at least aware – of accusations that its platform is – and has been – used for fake accounts and disinformation campaigns as we have seen in other elections worldwide.

The use of social media to spread not only disinformation but also hate and violent messaging

Google’s decision fits into a larger problem: the use of social media to spread not only disinformation but also hate and violent messaging. We know, for instance, that jihadi groups and others mastered the arrival of the Internet and messaging apps to get their material to a vast audience, such that it appears possible for wannabe terrorists to learn as much as they need to make the leap towards becoming violent extremists themselves (and even learn to make bombs and related weapons).

The reaction to this phenomenon has been mixed. It took FaceBook, Twitter, Google and other providers a long time to realise just what their platforms were being exploited for, and as a result they have put in place algorithms to identify and remove objectionable content (or in some cases humans, although their experiences in reading and eliminating this garbage has had its cost – as this article in The Verge illustrates). The algorithms may be working a little too well: I think my podcasts (An intelligent look at terrorism) on YouTube may be filtered out because I use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Islamic State’ and the like, and I am AGAINST terrorism!

The algorithms may be working a little too well: I think my podcasts on YouTube may be filtered out because I use the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘Islamic State’ and the like, and I am AGAINST terrorism!

Then there is the background debate on what exactly constitutes terrorism or hate online, as this article from The Economist explains. An EU plan to impose heavy penalties on companies that allow this material to be posted may not work either, as this piece points out. The UK is considering a law that would call for up to a 15-year prison sentence for clicking on a piece of terrorist propaganda – ONE TIME!

In some countries more draconian ideas are being considered. When I was in Central Asia in January I learned that some regional governments had decided just to ban platforms like FaceBook in their entirety under the belief, I suppose, that no access means no violent or terrorist propaganda whatsoever. India is trying to force WhatsApp “to allow authorities access to any messages they request, as well as make those messages traceable to their original sender”, a big problem for a company that prides itself on its end-to-end encryption and privacy for its users.

Wow! I think it is time to step back and take a deep breath. It may very well be, in the words of The Economist, that “social media have made it easier than ever to propagate prejudice and target scapegoats. Ideas and insinuations that would find no place in the respectable media or political discourse can cascade all too easily from phone to phone“(referring to anti-Semitism), but are total bans and increased government snooping the answer? Is the problem that big, that dangerous and that irresolvable so that these drastic measures are required? We need to figure this out first before going there.

social media have made it easier than ever to propagate prejudice and target scapegoats
Social media have made it easier than ever to propagate prejudice and target scapegoats

In many ways this line of reasoning is flawed and could be applied in increasingly ridiculous ways. If we take down social media because terrorists, who represent an infinitesimally small proportion of humans, use, it why not go further:

  • Some terrorists have used cars and vans to run people over: ban cars and vans!
  • Some terrorists have used knives to stab people: ban knives!
  • Some terrorists have used golf clubs (see Rehab Dughmosh): ban golf!

See where this can end up?

I do not have all the answers to these challenges. I do think companies can do better at policing their platforms, both through better algorithms and having human eyes on violent material (although the latter needs to be managed better). I think that we need more knowledge on how this material affects people and how to mitigate the worst effects. I think we need to keep all this in perspective.

We cannot go back to a pre-Internet or pre-social media world, or rather we should not (if we do I am out of a job as a post-intelligence career blogger!). Humans are smart – we can figure out a better way to not give room for the jihadis and other terrorists and hatemongers without throwing out the digital baby with the online bathwater.


PewDiePie Supporters Hack Printers Again, But This Time With a Serious Intention

Another day, another story of how people are doing everything in their power to help a Swedish gamer stay on top of his game. So what if it comes at a cost of hacking printers?

Printers around the world appear to have been hijacked again with a message to subscribe to a popular YouTube vlogger, and improve their cybersecurity.

Those behind the attack are thought to be the same ones that managed to get a message in support of social media star PewDiePie printed out on 50,000 machines last month.

It’s claimed the latest attack has forced print-outs on double that number: with users around the world in the UK, US, Argentina, Spain, Australia and elsewhere taking to social media to post pictures. This time there appears to be a bigger message to users: protect your printers.

Read entire article PewDiePie Hackers Hijack Printers Again | Phil Muncaster | InfoSecurity

Fake Fortnite for Android links found on YouTube

Already, there are several videos on YouTube with links claiming to be versions of Fortnite for Android, despite the fact the game has yet to be released on this platform.

Swati Khandelwal of The Hacker News highlights the emerging threat in her article, Epic Games Fortnite for Android–APK Downloads Leads to Malware. Taking it a step further, I grabbed some of these malicious apps and took them for a spin.

The apps are not located on the Google Play Store. Instead, people have found them by searching “How to install Fortnite on Android” or “Fortnite for Android” in Google, or stumbling across links in YouTube ads. From there, the apps can be downloaded.

> Read entire article Fake Fortnite for Android links found on YouTube | Nathan Collier | MalwayreBytes

UK government tool detects ISIS videos before they go live

The Home Office claims that the tool can detect 94% of terrorist propaganda during the upload process.

Posted on The Verge | By James Vincent

Iraqi forces pose for a photo in Hawija in October 2017 after retaking the city from ISIS.
The UK government has funded the creation of a machine learning algorithm that can be used to detect ISIS propaganda videos online.It’s the latest move by the government to combat the distribution of extremist material on the internet. The tool was created by London-based startup ASI Data Science and cost £600,000 ($830,000) to develop. It will be offered to smaller video platforms and cloud storage sites like Vimeo and pCloud in order to vet their content. It won’t, however, be used by the biggest tech companies, including YouTube and Facebook, which are developing their own algorithms to detect extremist content.

According ASI, the algorithm can detect 94% of ISIS propaganda with 99.99% accuracy. It incorrectly identifies around 0.005% of videos it scans. This means, on a site with 5 million videos uploaded each day, it would incorrectly flag 250 for review by human moderators.

The software will be offered to web platforms that can’t afford to develop their own tools.

Read entire article UK creates machine learning algorithm for small video sites to detect ISIS propaganda | The Verge

An update on Google’s fight to keep terror content off of YouTube

Yesterday, Google updated us on its fight to remove terrorism related content from YouTube.

In the recent update on it’s official blog, YouTube described the video platform’s new steps to ensure better regulation of content that they deem hateful or related to terrorism and radical fringe ideologies.

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Videos of such a nature could include a number of elements, from extremist ideas, supremacist ideas, to speech that could be interpreted as hateful and offensively depicted violent content.

YouTube to demonetize & de-emphasize questionable videos

YouTube will sanction videos by demonetizing them, making them harder to find, and removing important key features. Such videos, once flagged by users and examined by YouTube’s staff, will see their comments section disabled, won’t appear in recommended videos, and won’t have recommended videos or other features such as ‘likes’ and ‘dislike’ available.

Google is is also hiring more experts from leading organizations (No Hate Speech Movement, Anti-Defamation League, Institute for Strategic Dialogue), showing curated playlists to people searching for sensitive keywords.

Youtube official blog

Read ”An update on our commitment to fight terror content online on the official YouTube blog.


Delays & cancellations continue at British Airways after a long weekend of disruption

British Airways is working to restore its computer systems after a power failure caused major disruption for thousands of passengers worldwide.

The airline is “closer to full operational capacity” after an IT power cut resulted in mass flight cancellations at Heathrow and Gatwick. Thousands of passengers remain displaced, with large numbers sleeping overnight in terminals.

BA has not explained the cause of the power problem.

So far on Monday, 13 short-haul flights at Heathrow have been cancelled. Heathrow advised affected BA passengers not to travel to the airport unless their flights had been rebooked, or were scheduled to take off today.

Passengers on cancelled flights have been told to use the BA website to rebook. Chief executive Alex Cruz has posted videos on Twitter apologising for what he called a “horrible time for passengers” and made daily updates videos on YouTube.

Cancellations and delays affected thousands of passengers at both Heathrow and Gatwick on Saturday. All flights operated from Gatwick on Sunday but more than a third of services from Heathrow – mostly to short-haul destinations – were cancelled.

Passengers slept on yoga mats handed out by the airline as conference rooms were opened to provide somewhere more comfortable to rest.

What went wrong at BA?

BA blames a power cut, but a corporate IT expert said it should not have caused “even a flicker of the lights” in the data-centre.

Even if the power could not be restored, the airline’s Disaster Recovery Plan should have whirred into action. But that will have depended in part on veteran staff with knowledge of the complex patchwork of systems built up over the years.

Many of those people may have left when much of the IT operation was outsourced to India.

One theory of the IT expert, who does not wish to be named, is that when the power came back on the systems were unusable because the data was unsynchronised. In other words the airline was suddenly faced with a mass of conflicting records of passengers, aircraft and baggage movements – all the complex logistics of modern air travel.

‘Extraordinary circumstances’

BA is liable to reimburse thousands of passengers for refreshments and hotel expenses, and travel industry commentators have suggested the cost to the company – part of Europe’s largest airline group IAG – could run into tens of millions of pounds.

Customers displaced by flight cancellations can claim up to £200 a day for a room (based on two people sharing), £50 for transport between the hotel and airport, and £25 a day per adult for meals and refreshments.

The airline said there was no evidence the computer failure was the result of a cyber-attack. It denied claims by the GMB union that the problem could be linked to the company outsourcing its IT work.

Gatwick Airport said it was continuing to advise customers travelling with British Airways to check the status of their flight with the airline before travelling to the airport.

Source: BBC

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5 lessons for entrepreneurs about preparing for crisis communications

Ubiquitous cell phone cameras mean every embarrassing mistake you or an employee makes is made in public.

In a time where you can pretty much bank on cell phone cameras capturing every moment, it is more important than ever for brands to make smart decisions when it comes to delivering on promises to their customers. Those who don’t keep this at the forefront of their public relations strategy will feel the wrath of the YouTube generation.

In 2011, a FedEx driver was filmed throwing a package containing fragile electronics over a private fence instead of delivering it the door. Earlier this year, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on camera berating one of his drivers. And most recently, United Airlines came under fire for forcibly removing a passenger from a flight when he refused to be involuntarily bumped — and you guessed it, the whole thing was caught, in several different angles, on cell phone cameras.

There’s a lot to be said about crisis communication but at the forefront of this issue are the lessons we can integrate moving forward. In another company’s misfortune, savvy entrepreneurs always find a way to capitalize. Here are just a few things that can be gleaned from United’s snafu:


1. Hope for the best, but plan for the inevitable worst-case scenario

No one starts their company hoping that they’ll end up on the front page in the worst possible light. But the brands that successfully stay out of the negative limelight have plans in place for when a crisis does happen. In the examples cited above, only FedEX made the most of the situation, immediately reaching out to customers to them know what steps had already been taken and what future changes would be made to ensure the issue is not repeated. As in any situation, the best advice is to be open, honest and proactive.

2. Understanding your customers is the key to a successful business

In the wake of United’s gaffe, Delta Airlines has come out looking like a shining alternative with their advanced polling practice. Here’s how it works: Delta asks passengers at check-in what price they’d be willing to give up their seat for. This helps avoid involuntary bumping for customers, and it also makes good economic sense. They can buy back any overbooked seats for the lowest possible amount. That is entrepreneurial thinking.

RELATED: Service failures will be perceived more negatively if they impact a group rather than individuals

3. Think digital

Formal statements released over a wire service need more reinforcement than they did 20 years ago. The most obvious solution to this is social media. Now the most common online activity, social media, has changed the way people think, interact and communicate — and entrepreneurs should take note. It’s important to meet your customers where they are, not talk down to them from a podium. This means engaging on social media, posting to a company blog, sending an email to loyal customers, and coming up with other creative responses that make sense for your market and your brand.

4. Reputation management is worth the investment

Whether or not you are paying attention, your online footprint cannot be erased. One angry customer with an unflattering photo can wreck havoc on your bottom line simply by posting to major review sites. A small social media brushfire can turn quickly into a raging reputation management inferno. Closely monitoring your online brand and responding to and interacting with consumers consistently will build up loyalty and social capital in a way that can counteract any damage before it even happens.

5. There is room for growth in the transportation industry

If anything, the recent spotlight on United has shown some holes in the way that overbooking is handled among every major airline. An enterprising individual with a great idea for solving these problems through technology, updated systems, customer communication or another solution that hasn’t been thought of yet, will have a captive audience.


Do you have more precious tips to share? Please share your experience in the comment section below! 

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Five tips on how Business Continuity principles can protect your YouTube channel

”Your video isn’t monetised because it contains content that might not be appropriate for advertising”

Since the recent update of YouTube’s Rules and Community Guidelines, many Youtubers wake up in the morning with the fear of seeing this notification on one or many of their videos.

As Youtube is now granting itself the right to remove monetisation from videos (or worst, from an entire channel), many are opening their eyes about the volatility of their source of income. In the last few days, many channels have reported having a good number of their videos un-monetised (Mr. Repzion, Philip DeFranco, Chris Ray Gun, ETC News…).

For a clear understanding on the impact of the news Guidelines on Youtuber’s day to day life, I recommend watching Boogie2988’s recent informative video in the subject.

Below are 5 Business Continuity principles that can be applied to ensure your YouTube channel survives tough times.

1. Perform a Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

Simple! And so effective! Every business, no matter their size, should know for how long they can manage to face an interruption. Some can stop their activities for 2 weeks, others won’t withstand an interruption of more than 1 day. Understand your business requirements and your customers’ expectations. Knowing how long you can afford to stop will help you to plan adequately.

Your BIA will lead you to a solution that fits your needs and the particularities of your business.

Like any work of art, your videos are your creations and should be protected

2. Keep a copy of your videos away

YouTube channels can be hacked. Or terminated. Make sure you keep a copy of your videos on your computer and maybe in another location. You don’t have to be the one that realizes 3 years of hard work just vanished into thin air. Why not keeping physical backup of your videos outside your place of work (ex. a USB stick in a safe)? Like any work of art, your videos are your creations and needs to be protected.

3. Always have a secondary reliable source of income

Accessing to online fame can happen in seconds. It can also end as quicly. Although it may be extremely lucrative for some, YouTube adds revenue is as volatile and unpredictable as it gets. You never know when you will reach the bottom of Youtube’s money jar. A secondary source of income will make you independent from your channel.

4. Have a plan

>>Learn to create and manage a Business Continuity plan with ContinuityLink BCM Foundation Training

Face it. On the day you lose your source of income, your mood might not lead you to make the best decisions and not everyone is good at improv. You need to know in advance how long you can stop your operations without killing your business and what you have in place to fix the interruption.

Some will want to prepare a back-up PC and equipment stored away in case of a PC failure. Some will want to create a few weeks’ worth of videos in advance in case of being unable to create new content.

5. Plan for the worst

Find the worst thing that can happen to your business and the worst time it can happen. Being prepared for this, nothing else will scare you.

plan for the worst.png

Your business is precious

Make sure you treat it as such! This might seem basic for some, too many still forget these important precautions. For many, YouTube is only a mean to enjoy free videos with friends or to kill a few minutes during the day. But for other, however, YouTube is a full-time job that needs to be protected.


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