Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has branded the first two cases of Pegasus hacking anti-government figures as false. This is not the first time a political leader has denied its country’s association with Pegasus. More than 300 phone numbers were found in a leaked database of possible Pegasus targets in India, including opposition leader Rahul Gandhi. The current election commissioner, human rights activists, and government opposition politicians. Poland has allegations that the government has also used Pegasus to target and attack various opposition figures.
Citizen Lab also found that the phones of prominent opposition lawyer Roman Gertych and prosecutor Eva XXX Wrzosek were hacked using Pegasus. This is the third revelation in a week that the phones of opposition figures and a prosecutor in Poland have been hacked through Pegasus, which the NSO says is only sold to governments.
The evidence is there
There was evidence in 2019 that the Polish government purchased Pegasus from an Israeli manufacturer, although this was never officially confirmed. Earlier this year, Israel reportedly removed Poland from the list of countries allowed to buy spyware such as Pegasus. Deputy Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s Law and Justice Party, criticized allegations that the Polish government used Pegasus spyware to spy on its political opponents.
Last week, the deputy told Polish media that if Poland were different from other countries, Government services could not use mobile espionage techniques. Responding to the revelations, EU lawmakers said they would step up investigations into allegations of misuse of Pegasus spyware in member states such as Poland.
The other two Polish victims were Ewa Wrzosek, an outspoken prosecutor fighting an increasingly hard-line government. And Roman Gertych, a lawyer representing senior leaders of the Breizas Civic Showup Platform party in sensitive cases.
Polish state security spokesman Stanisław Ciern said that the Polish government does not conduct illegal surveillance and will only do so after obtaining a court order in appropriate circumstances. However, Amnesty International has confirmed that the phone of Polish Senator Brezas was hacked and confirmed the need to tighten international surveillance rules.
Polish opposition leader Donald Tusk, the new Civic Platform leader since October 2021, has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s use of Pegasus. Polish oppositionists call the movement the «Polish Watergate» and call for a special parliamentary investigation, fearing that previous elections could be jeopardized. However, the prosecutor’s office showed little interest in this issue.
Who’s gonna be held accountable?
Law and Justice leaders denied the hack and sometimes ridiculed reports of the results by refusing to launch an investigation. However, the Associated Press reports that the NSO’s Pegasus software has been used to hack the phones of government critics. This includes a senator who campaigned for the largest opposition party in 2019, leading to accusations that intelligence agencies are undermining democratic norms.
As part of the Pegasus project, 17 international media outlets, including The Wire, reported in July that opposition leaders, dissidents, and government officials were likely to be targeted by Pegasus. Last month, the Associated Press reported that the phone of Polish opposition Senator Krzysztof Roksa Brejza, who was leading the Citizens League movement, was hacked 33 times in 2019, allegedly by Pegasus. Mostly when Brejza led an opposition campaign to overthrow the Law and Justice-led government that Citizen Lab created last month.
Text messages stolen from Brejza’s phone were forged and broadcast on state television as part of a smear campaign in the heat of a race where the ruling populist party narrowly won. Polish state-run media published text messages from Brejza’s phone during the campaign.
In addition, text messages stolen from Brejza’s phone were forged to make it look like he set up online groups spreading hateful anti-government propaganda. It is important to note that state-controlled media reports cited altered texts.
Many affected by spionage
The Associated Press and the University of Toronto watchdog Citizen Lab found that Brejza’s phone was hijacked by nearly three dozen military-grade Pegasus spyware in 2019. While launching an opposition campaign to overthrow the right-wing populist government in parliament election.
While he was representing former Prime Minister and current OP leader Donald Tusk. Roman Gertych, an opposition lawyer, was allegedly hacked at least 18 times in 2019. Gertych announced that he and his colleagues have filed an application with the International Criminal Court.
Opposition parties are calling for a parliamentary inquiry into reports of the hack. The ongoing scandal over the alleged historical use of controversial mobile spyware by the Polish ruling party against an opposition MP raises questions about the legitimacy of the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections.
Fight for justice
A prosecutor who has spoken out against the government’s judicial review and a lawyer representing senior opposition politicians have also used the same spyware in multiple attacks. One of the first witnesses in the case was John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab. The specialized IT division of the University of Toronto confirmed that Pegasus software had been used to hack phones in late December.
A Senate committee is trying to shed more light on the hack that alarmed many in Poland. The country’s most powerful politician, Kaczynski, admitted last week that Poland had bought Pegasus, calling it an essential tool in the fight against serious crime. The committee plans to subpoena Jarosław Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s right-wing ruling party and deputy prime minister in charge of security, to testify under penalty of perjury.
Porn is no longer an El Dorado. Contrary to popular belief, the porn industry is not that shadow power that would generate billions by snapping its fingers, flouting laws, and ethics. Disconnected from the so-called “mainstream” world, this sector navigates its very own ecosystem, an “economic ghetto” where moral censorship goes first and foremost through economic censorship. This business, the source of many fantasies about easy money, is actually a sector heavily constrained by decisions emanating from the banking system and the various economic and financial players.
Yet pornographic production and distribution remain legal activities in the majority of Western countries. But with an annual turnover estimated at just a few billion dollars per year, the adult sector is only a minimum part of the whole of global e-commerce (estimated at $2,304 billion in 2019). Far from being so lucrative, this industry, beyond the legal framework taken by the United States, must organize and finance itself, away from the traditional e-commerce.
How do Visa and Mastercard rules of the game have an impact on adult websites?
To sell content on the internet, a porn site – like all online merchant sites – must be able to secure its credit card transactions with its customers. To do this, the sites go through financial intermediaries called payment service providers (abbreviated as PSP) or more commonly «payment processors». They can be banking establishments or specific solutions such as Paypal, Stripe, or HiPay.
Everything would go for the best if, at the start of the chain, VISA and MasterCard, the world leaders in payment systems – American Express simply refused porn transactions since 2000 – did not consider pornographic activities and more generally the adult sector as “high risk ”, thus justifying the application of strict conditions and rules. But why such treatment?
The main reason for this policy change orchestrated 20 years ago, comes from the problems encountered in terms of chargebacks (unpaid) in this market (the cancellation of a transaction by a customer with his bank following a dispute for fraud, a service not honored or a transaction carried out without its knowledge). Another reason comes from the fraudulent use of stolen bank card numbers: this is based on the “shame” that the victim would have to file a complaint about the fraudulent use of his card on adult sites.
A chargeback is not specific to adults websites – anyone can cancel a transaction with their bank – but it is more common in this sector for two factors: the backpedal of the customer ashamed of having subscribed to an adult website (cancellation of the transaction) and the aggressive marketing showed by some sites, the aim of which is to legally trap the customer via techniques of concealing the conditions of sale. Due to a high chargeback rate, VISA and Mastercard have therefore decided to place the adult sector as high-risk, along with online gambling or certain sensitive businesses. And for reasons of costly chargeback management, the vast majority of payment providers simply prohibit any transaction on porn sites.
Asked by The New York Times, Damien Guermonprez, chairman of the supervisory board of Lemon Way (a mainstream online payment solution), explains that the banks “prohibit dealing with this type of merchant, which is too expensive to manage”. The high risk would be expensive in treatment, a clever way of not saying that morally and economically, it bothers everyone.
Adult websites are getting poorer while its intermediaries get richer
To secure their transactions, adult sites must use other payment processors specializing in «high risk». They are called Epoch, CCBill, Verotel or SecurionPay, and operate identically to other payment processors, with one detail: the commission they charge to merchant sites per transaction is, for the main players in this sector, 3-10 times higher than that applicable to other market players.
For example: if the monthly activity of a website is more than $10,000 per month, Paypal will take 1.8% + 25 cents per transaction. At equivalent transaction volume, in the adult industry, Epoch will take 15% per transaction, non-negotiable.
The majority of commissions are based on the model to which you often have to add $ 500 to $1000 in fixed operating costs per year. It is impossible to reduce this amount unless your activity is very important or if you use more recent providers (such as Securion Pay or CardBilling by Verotel). To go down to “only” 4.9% + 35 cents per transaction, Lucas Dominic, CEO of Securion Pay explains: “The very high commissions in high-risk businesses were set years ago by companies. who continue to offer the same rates today. However, over the past decade, technology has changed dramatically and we can offer more flexible solutions for merchants that do not cost as much”.
An effort on their part which is also explained by more rigorous management of the sites the company deals with: “To prevent fraud, which is extremely important in this sector, we have a specialized team that checks each transaction carried out on our network”, but also by using machine learning to allow them to be “much more efficient than using static filters”.
Is this first obstacle imposed on porn merchant sites by VISA, Mastercard, and traditional PSP only an economic constraint? In reality, it is also moral: it is not so much about managing the fees associated with the risk of these transactions as it is about censorship from the payment systems that dictate what you are allowed to sell and not.
Adult websites: High-risk businesses or economic censorship victims?
On porn sites, particularly those that allow individuals to sell or broadcast adult content (Chaturbate, ManyVids, Clips4Sale, Fetlife, etc. ), the general conditions of sale are very precise with a long list of prohibited practices. These prohibitions do not come directly from the internal policies of these sites, but they are imposed by the payment processors, who themselves apply the rules dictated in advance by Visa and Mastercard. Some payment processors, such as CCBill, publicly display these rules, others such as Epoch only forward them to their customers; they generally correspond to the platforms’ terms of sale. While most of them seem well-founded to avoid illegal practices, others are more vague and arbitrary.
As the specialist journalist Lux Alpatraux explains on Vice, these rules accepted by all are not the only ones imposed by bank cards; they also affect practices that are certainly marginal but legal such as golden showers, certain practices in BDSM, eproctophilia, outdoors sex, erotic asphyxia, and others left to the discretion of payment processors. If you (almost) never see out-of-common practices in porn, it’s not about industry censorship, it’s just because it can’t be sold.
So Visa and MasterCard don’t just impose significant economic constraints on porn sites, they also dictate what you are allowed to see or buy. Double economic censorship tends to make adult business much more difficult to develop than any other e-commerce sector, while the representation of these sexual practices remains legal in many countries.
The erotic adult is persona non grata for the banking system
If you know these strict rules and accept them, is that enough to grow your online porn business? Without a bank, whether you are a corporation or an individual, it is almost impossible to conduct trading activity. However, to open a bank account, you must still be authorized to do so. Sex workers and companies operating in the adult sector face the first problem for their legal activities: the refusal of many banking establishments to accept them as customers.
Opening a bank account when operating in this area can feel like a real obstacle of course. Bank’s policies vary greatly from one agency to another and do not appear to be based on any specific internal regulations. For Wilfrid, banking advisor at Bank of America, it is a question of «the bank’s reputation and image, even if logically no one is aware that in such and such a branch, such and such a person has their bank account». So is it all in the customer’s head? “It’s all going to depend on the advisor you’re going to have in front of you, the agency you’re going to fall into,” he tells us. «In fact, you can refuse anyone to open an account without giving any reason.»
This unsaid practice is based on a fuzzy image question that can arise years after opening an account. This is the misfortune suffered by ex-actress and now camgirl Nikita Bellucci: “I had never encountered any problems and one day my transfers from Cam4 were blocked. My bank said to me: «It will not pass, we do not know where the money is coming from». I had to ask Cam4 to make me a contract, to reassure the bank, but even that did not work. All the money was sent home and my bank told me it was closing my account. » The real reason behind this incident? “The director of the bank branch I had always dealt with; I told her I was not doing anything illegal and she said it was a matter of image»
A brake for the self-employed but also larger companies. Laurent, a co-founder of the live platform UfancyMe, explains that the biggest difficulty in developing adult content companies comes from the banks: “It is a supposedly legal activity but in reality, we cannot exercise. Ethically, banks can go into other businesses like arms sales or the tobacco industry, but if there is a nipple on the screen, it is more possible for them, it is terrible shocking».
The sex tech industry needs to renew itself to keep the flame alive
To continue carrying out their activities, a large majority of professionals in the sector (independent or companies) go through other financial intermediaries. These payment solutions are not strictly speaking bank accounts, but virtual wallets that accept adult business. These solutions, whether they are called Paxum or ePayments, allow greater transaction flexibility between different economic players and leave the possibility of using prepaid cards. They are akin to virtual wallets, which act as a buffer between the adult companies and the banks, which, by the way, will take their commission on each transaction. The price to pay for a certain financial peace and not to have your transfers blocked.
Despite these brakes, the adult sector still manages to move forward, but unlike the start-up ecosystem, which relies on venture capital financing to grow, it does so mainly on its own funds. The funds in hundreds of millions of dollars (such as those obtained from Colbeck Capital and Fortress Capital by Fabian Thylmann in 2010 for the takeover of the holding companies Mansef and Interhub) and the development of Manwin (which became MindGeek after the resale of its shares)are exceptional figures.
Ditto for much smaller investments like those of Dorcel in the company Uplust in 2015. Investors who dare to go to the adult sector are extremely rare. However, the term sex tech (a neologism claimed by the advertiser Cindy Gallop, contraction of sex and technology) suggests that an ecosystem specific to innovation in adults does indeed exist.
Far from the easy money fantasies, it has been dragging for thirty years, the adult sector is a legal business heavily constrained by strict economic decisions. While it appears central to internet culture, it is developing on the fringes, treated with suspicion and mistrust by the other world, the one which, by contrast, calls itself «mainstream».
On the evening of July 16, 2019, Elon Musk and the Neuralink team organized a conference in San Francisco to present the progress of the work of the startup created in 2017. To better understand Musk’s last innovation, it was necessary to skin the video of the entire conference, the publication An integrated brain-machine interface platform with thousands of channels by Elon Musk and Neuralink, released in 2019 (12 pages), and the associated press coverage in the US tech press.
See in particular Elon Musk unveils Neuralink’s plans for brain-reading ‘threads’ and a robot to insert them – Not for humans, yet by Elizabeth Lopatto in TheVerge, Elon Musk’s Neuralink looks to begin outfitting human brains with faster input and output starting next year by Darrell Etherington in TechCrunch and Elon Musk’s Neuralink hopes to put sensors in human brains next year by Richard Lawler in Engadget. This allowed us to consolidate a maximum of information and illustrations for this article.
Neuralink’s presentation revolved around a technical solution of electrodes based on flexible wires implanted in the brain by a robot and controlled by an integrated circuit in a tiny box that can be integrated under the skull.
The first applications always target primarily the repair of a man suffering from various pathologies such as Parkinson’s disease, which is already treated with deep stimulation electrodes implanted in the subthalamic nucleus, motor control of artificial limbs.
For amputees via implantation of electrodes around the motor cortex at the lateral periphery of the brain, epilepsy, dystonia (involuntary muscle contractions), depressions, tinnitus, and finally, restoration of sight for the blind or hearing for the deaf. Such electrodes should also potentially allow disabled people to control a smartphone via related mechanisms associated with the motor cortex. This is the inventory provided by Neuralink.
Each use case will have its particularities: number of neurons to connect, their depth in the brain which can complicate the task, and their precise mapping for successful implantations. Not all these considerations were covered in Neuralink’s talk.
Neuralink is getting closer
Neuralink is not yet in the commercialization stage of its solution. They have so far tested it on rats and monkeys. They aim to obtain FDA approval to test it on humans by the end of 2020, in partnership with Stanford University to treat quadriplegic patients.
The next step would be to «increase» the abilities of people without disabilities, by connecting the brain directly to AI. It is, of course, a path much more distant in time, not particularly documented, and more uncertain. And Elon Musk wants to reassure us: “This is not a mandatory thing; this is something you can choose to have if you want”. Oh, God! It’s not reassuring at all, even presented in this light.
Beyond the classic media interest, the conference had another objective: facilitating recruitment tasks. Until now, the startup has secured $158M in funding, two-thirds from Elon Musk and it has 90 employees. Its president is Max Hodak.
Even if the project it’s still in an early stage, it is still worth exploring the four technologies presented by Neuralink: electrodes integrated with flexible wires, a robot to implant them, a chipset to control them, and software to operate them.
The connection with the brain passes through electrodes which are used either to measure the state of excitation of neurons by evaluating the electrical flows passing through them or by acting on them by electrical stimulation. The main novelty of Neuralink is miniaturized electrodes embedded in flexible wires. These threads are a quarter of the thickness of a hair and the size of a neuron.
Verification made: the diameter of a hair ranges from 17 to 181 μm depending on the case (source), the nucleus of a neuron has a size varying between 4 and 100 μm and the thickness of the Neuralink threads is between 4 μm and 6 μm. In comparison, the diameter of a red blood cell is 6 μm.
They created a 96-wire prototype comprising 3072 electrodes, so 32 electrodes per wire. They had two forms of wire: a linear version (A) or a tree (B), see below.
They have imagined twenty models that correspond to different geometries of biological neural networks to be targeted, and of which here are a few examples.
How are they made
These electrode wires are made with lithography techniques like those of CMOS semiconductor components. Neuralink even tested a process for manufacturing the chip and electrode wires simultaneously on a single wafer.
The advantage of these flexible electrodes is that they can track movement without damaging the internal brain. A soft body in a soft body is less dangerous than a hard body in a soft body. These electrodes would therefore be more suitable than those from Brain Gate, which were themselves produced by Cybernetics at the University of Utah.
They have been tested since 2002 in the USA, notably at Stanford, and aim to restore control of limbs. They allow the implantation of up to 128 electrodes.
Neuralink therefore mainly wants to increase the magnitude of the number of controllable neurons. The current model of 3,072 electrodes tested on rats could grow to 10,000 electrodes, which in itself is not a crazy progression.
Parkinson’s could be treated with them
Anyway, this technique would be better than the current stimulation systems for patients with Parkinson’s disease, which only includes about ten electrodes.
Of course, there are some reservations about this electrode technology. They seem adapted to the stimulation of cortical columns of the cortex but less adapted to the different parts of the limbic and deep brain, where Parkinson’s disease is treated.
Scientists are also wondering if their structure can resist the biological saline environment of the brain. Neuralink explained how it protects the processor but not the electrode leads.
Finally, these electrodes only measure the activity of neurons «in bundles» and without great precision. The measurement does not take place at all levels of connections between neurons, let’s say, for example, the famous synapses. This is sufficient, however, for the intended applications in the field of health.
The second technology presented by Neuralink is a large machine capable of implanting neurons with precision in the brain. Its design is not very detailed. In the demonstration, the robot implants wire electrodes on a rat’s cerebral cortex after drilling holes in the skull. It implants 6 wires per minute, containing 192 electrodes.
It does not implant these electrodes in the middle of the brain, obviously lacking an imaging system to navigate the brain «by sight». The robot has so far been used on 19 animals with an 87% success rate, or 2.47 animals in which it has not worked.
Neuralink believes that one day they will be able to use a laser to punch holes in the cranium instead of using a mini drill. The idea is to make this kind of operation as mundane as LASIK, the use of a laser to treat myopia. The goal is also to eliminate the need for general anesthesia for implantation. But this is a promise that only binds those who hold it because the technical solution remains to be found.
Are his promises real?
Elon Musk often behaves like Elisabeth Holmes, former CEO of the failed company Theranos: he sells first and tries to do second, and he succeeds… or not. Two years ago, for example, he indicated that his electrodes would circulate in the blood to go to the right place in the brain!
Human implantation tests are expected to start by the end of 2020, with neurosurgeons at Stanford University. Once FDA gives its approval, a process that typically lasts at least a year, we will therefore see if it takes place before the marketing of the 5 autonomous Tesla which is also planned before the end of 2020.
Seen up close, the robot is like a sewing machine. The flexible wire implantation technique is vaguely reminiscent of that commonly used in Abbott’s Freestyle blood glucose sensors. The installation device is a system that projects a needle into the skin, in the middle of which is a wire for the electrochemistry of the interstitial fluid under the skin.
The needle goes under the skin with the thread and then retracts, leaving the thread in the skin. The needle remains attached to a small, outdoor coin-sized sensor. The manipulation performed by Neuralink’s robot looks a bit more complex and controlled by different cameras, under the supervision of a neurosurgeon.
The third component of the system: electrodes control box. The latest prototype, tested on rats, contains 12 ASICs (specialized processors) each capable of processing 256 electrodes, or the 3072 of the 96 wires that come out. It is connected externally via a USB-C port. These ASICs are fairly simple: they contain analog / digital amplifiers and converters. They call it an “analog pixel”.
ASIC can detect neural impulses which provide a means of compressing the large amount of information captured by the electrodes
The sample information at a frequency of 18.6 kHz with 10-bit resolution. ASIC consumes only 750 mW. For comparison, a smartphone consumes about 3 W. But this power is indicated for a scenario of recording neural states, not for their activation.
The size of the test case is 2.3cm x 1.85cm x 2mm thick. The goal is to miniaturize all this on a 4 x 5 mm chip integrated into airtight packaging to be grafted into the head.
Designed to live inside you
These chips are designed to be implanted in the human body. They will be connected directly to a kind of comb of electrodes to be implanted in the brain by a robot. They will then be connected by a cable to a flat solenoid installed inside the head behind the ear.
This will allow communication with a receiving device equipped with a battery that fits on the ear, the Link, via an unspecified wireless transmission (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi?). The solenoid must be able to be used to transmit power to the chips, such as contactless recharging your smartphone in Qi Power.
Neuralink teams indicated that this architecture made it possible to easily “unplug” the system, a way to calm fears of control of the human brain by an external machine. This should be put into perspective when you know how easy it is to unplug from your smartphone in everyday life!
Neuralink plans to first implant up to four of these chips: three in the motor cortex and one in the somatosensory cortex, which is not far from it. Everything is then controlled by a smartphone app.
Software and algorithms
This is the least elaborate and documented part of Neuralink’s lecture. They presented neural activity diagrams obtained from laboratory rats. Capture tests had been performed in several areas of the cerebral cortex of these rats. We can even see how the threads are implanted in the cortex of the brain of these unfortunate rats.
Ultimately, Neuralink should develop mobile applications that will allow us to read our minds to avoid going through the keyboard to enter a text or a command to launch an action. This is far from truly being an «AI affair.» There is no connection with any intelligence since it is just a means of entering individual letters. But don’t worry, the electrodes do not allow the results of your web searches to be implanted in your memory!
They also envision much more sophisticated actions to control our moods, help us solve math problems and other increases in intelligence, but that seems quite far-fetched and very speculative. For example, to control our moods, we should place their electrodes precisely in the middle of the brain, in the different areas triggering the production of hormones such as those of pleasure, fear, or satiety (thalamus, hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala,…).
They don’t do it yet. This may not necessarily be impossible to achieve, but it is much more complicated than placing electrodes on the cortex on the outskirts of the brain. I also think, as in 2017, that this would be both the most questionable and feasible application of these electrodes. Initially, we would control depression and other PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and in the end, we would control moods! On the day of a vote, it might be useful!
Canada is a country that is in constant search of ways for making accessibility to knowledge and specialization a possibility within every citizen’s hands.
Proof of such comes with the fact that the country has a big variety of conferences throughout the year. The industry that we will be focusing on with this article is tech publishing, or a more familiar term: ebooks.
What does a tech forum have to do with ebooks?
There is a major annual conference which takes place in Toronto called Tech Forum. This conference is held targeting the ebook production community. One of the fundamental purposes of the Tech Forum is to be a source of strategic information, helpful for everyone involved in ebook development.
When ebooks first began to become popular, a commonly used term to define it was digital book. Today, this industry is much more than just a traditional book made digital. It has turned out to be a whole new industry.
There are hundreds of professionals developing strategies, data, analysis, technological progress and networks in order to advance in this industry. It is no longer just about digitalizing a book. It has evolved to be more complex than that, and therefore it now needs more in depth-specialized and technical formation.
The Tech Forum coordinates and gathers precisely all the above. The conference has another conference within, the ebookcraft, which was programmed to be held on March 21st and 22nd 2018, one being a workshop day and the other displaying the main conference.
To get a broader idea of what the Tech Forum has to offer in the ebook world, we can analyze some interesting and insightful details about the speakers that attended in 2017:
Saadia Muzaffar. Founder of TechGirls, a space for Canadian women working in math, science, engineering and technology. She focuses on tech leadership, entrepreneurship and business strategies.
She has featured in some of the most outstanding and influential magazines like CNN Money and Fortune Magazine, just to name a couple. She is an advocate for diversity in business and has spoken and written about it. Her last book project is titled: Change Together: A diversity guidebook for startups and scaleups.
Jiminy Panoz. This freelancer has been dedicated to working with French authors, and helping them make the transition to the ebook world. For this mission, he has developed special tools; he designs audits and interactive activities to support the learning and understanding of the digital world to these traditional authors. He also created and is working in his open source website called chapalpanoz.com.
Scaahi Koul. She is currently a senior writer at the famous platform, Buzzfeed, which has many followers through social media thanks to their innovative and informational posts.
Before Buzzfeed, Koul worked for The Huffington Post Canada, Maclean’s and Hazlitt as a professional writer. She also wrote many of her articles for other important publications through freelancing work.
Steve Murgaski. He is completely blind, and he’s also an extremely enthusiast reader. Murgaski works in this industry towards making it more accessible each day.
His work and experience consists of testing different types of websites to ensure accessibility. One of his areas of interest is supporting the creation of texts that contain graphs and mathematical symbols, and making that specific information understandable for people who are blind, with the use of braille.
He has recently partnered with the National Network for Equitable Library Service. The NNELS is an establishment owned and sustained in majority by Canadian public libraries. What they do is that along with authors, publishers and international partners, they take an original book and transform it into an accessible copied format for people who have certain print disabilities.
These types of disabilities fall under three big categories:
Severe or total impairment of sight or hearing or the inability to focus or move one’s eyes,
The inability to hold or manipulate a book, or
An impairment relating to comprehension.
As we all know, there is a big number of areas and genres when it comes to books. You can be a person developing in business, art, music, history, technology, leadership, social sciences, physics, languages, etc., and as long as you become an author of a book regarding your area of specialty, you will want to gain knowledge in ebook technology.
Today, technology is a magical source that can be used in favor of all those amazing authors that wish to transmit knowledge to the world. The annual Tech Forum in Canada is a definite enforcing step towards achieving that goal.
In today’s world, where we are all related to a non-stop offer of technology-based platforms, such as games, apps, specialized and technical software, we all are capable of understanding the term website.
Many people access websites an outstanding amount of time throughout a single casual day.
For example, do you have an idea of how many times you open Google to make a quick search? Or, how many times a month do you browse through an online store of any kind looking for something you need (or just want) to buy? Or, how often do you access a social media platform and check photos, news, messages, etc.?
Either if it’s for work, for socializing or for academic purposes, everyone has at least basic knowledge on how to use different types of platforms.
We are familiarized with how to browse an online store, search for a specific item, put it in our shopping cart or wish list, and proceed to specify shipping information and payment methods, right?
And, we also know how to login to our favorite social media platforms, browse through the news, update our status, change our profile photo, send an emoji and accept a friend request, correct?
Well, we may all know how to use these types of platforms and websites, because they are usually super user-friendly. What this essentially means, is that the entire work behind the making of these platforms is focused on making everything as easy, simple and identifiable as possible.
People dedicated to web design and web engineering have an amazing knowledge in how to make a website as simple, graphic and descriptive as possible; this turns out to be their main goal actually.
So, behind the fact that you know how to upload your latest selfie, was a web designer that chose exactly what colors, font, size and text to put on that favorite button of yours that reads: “change my profile picture”.
And while you as a user can see that command in the form of a cute button, the web designer programmed it all with specific codes and languages.
When it comes to webs, we refer to a world that has its own language. It is all about specific coding. HTML is the very first ingredient of the website recipe. HTML is the basic language; with the use of HTML it is possible to define the structure and all the text that shall appear on the desired website, platform, application, etc.
Has your internet suddenly collapsed or half frozen to the point where you are trying to access a certain website but all you can see is a bunch of strange alphanumerical combinations on a white screen looking something like this:
Well, that’s the HTML coding “behind the scenes” of the usual screen that you view as a user.
Now, the HTML language is very raw and has no design to it, it’s just plain text. In order to design the webpage and make it attractive and colorful, we need the help of the CSS language.
CSS is the language in charge of giving the layout; a good looking design to your platforms: colors, font types and sizes, images, background textures, etc.; to finally have a pretty interface.
Therefore if we make a recap of this article’s information, we have that the first ingredient for web designing is the HTML language, which duty is to set the basis and the foundation of the platform itself: it declares all the information that shall appear, in text only.
CSS is the second ingredient; it adds the “flavor”, color and presentation to the recipe.
As you can see they are all interconnected and they all need the other in order to be useful and helpful.
Now you have a small insight of the huge amount of effort and coding language the web experts need to conquer before being able to give you a fun, productive and user-friendly platform.
Cristopher Wylie, an ex employee of Cambridge Analytica gave one of the most controversial interviews ever, where he declared that the company that he used to work for, Cambridge Analytica, obtained personal data of around 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent, with the firm intention of creating micro targeting towards political ideologies in the United States.
But, first of all what is Cambridge Analytica?
Cambridge Analytica is a data analytic and propaganda company which was founded by Alexander Nix with the help of Cristopher Wylie. The idea of creating Cambridge Analytica came from Nix’s first company, SCL Group that specialized in influencing elections.
Wylie said in his interview that Nix wanted to create a more trustworthy company, one that could grasp onto more important and influencing people. Thus, Cambridge Analytica was born.
They named it after the prestigious university’s name with this objective of being viewed as more academic and intellectual towards Steve Bannon, an important client at the time. This is essentially the basis of the company; modifying the perception of people towards something or someone for political or commercial purposes.
The ICO's investigation into Cambridge Analytica was genuinely ground-breaking. See below: 'Data crimes are real crimes.' We've been hanging on for the final report. But today, we learned it will not come. Why?? It's deeply odd. Has the @ico been sat on? https://t.co/dnymzITeLH
Wylie stated that Steve Bannon’s ideology was “in order to change politics, we need to change culture”. From there they began plotting the plan to do so using the whole country of the United States.
The steps they believed in were: “we need to change the units of culture, which are people, in order to change culture, in order to change politics.”
The essence of their plan was the creation of a cultural weapon, purposed to fight in a political war. The money they needed to be able to carry on with their mischief, was provided by a New York billionaire; Robert Mercer, who invested 15 million dollars into Cambridge Analytica.
The strategy they had decided to follow at this point was to recollect personal data of potential American voters and combine it with a psychological profile. Once this would be done, Cambridge Analytica would be in charge of analyzing that data and applying micro targeting propaganda.
Now, the question was: how is Cambridge Analytica planning to obtain all that personal data at a country level?
Micro targeting propaganda consists of the creation of individualized propaganda according to what each person thinks, likes and believes, with the same goal at end. This means that even though they could target me based on my own psychological profile, and then target you with a different one of your own, the final result would be targeted towards the same obtained result; make us change our culture and ideology on a certain subject, person or political party.
Wylie expressed that he spoke to Aleksandr Kogan, who worked with Facebook apps that were developed for user personality tests.
The tricky part with these apps was that once a user joined it, the app automatically had access not only to that user’s Facebook profile, but also to every single one of their friends’ profiles.
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What this means is that if you signed into the app and you had 2.850 friends, the app now had unlimited access to 2,851 Facebook profiles; yours and your entire friend network, instantly. Their data pulling included “status updates, likes, and even private messages in some cases” states Wylie.
In a period of two to three months, Cambridge Analytica possessed personal information from 50 to 60 million Facebook users.
The company started to work with those user profiles; they studied them to the point of knowing what type of messaging a person is susceptible to: the tone, frequented platforms and websites, content, etc.
From there, Cambridge Analytica just had to organize their team of photographers, videographers, designers, psychologists and data scientists, amongst others, to lead them in making fake websites, news and blogs, and sourcing them to the corresponding type of person.
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This action had the objective of gradually changing what a person might think of something.
“This was the weapon that Steve Bannon wanted to fight his cultural war” said Wylie.
Cambridge Analytica has rejected all allegations put against them and Dr. Krogan has stated that all the work he did with and through Facebook was done legally.
Meanwhile Facebook lost around a 7% of value in the stock market on Monday, as soon as the news was out.
Mark Zuckerberg declared through his Facebook page that they are carrying a thorough and meticulous investigation to find out what truly happened and to take the needed actions in order to safeguard people’s personal information, as that is the heart of Facebook as a company: protecting the community.