Can Fake Accounts Save the Internet?

A lot of common assumptions about anonymity are complicated by the literature on how people actually behave online, as noted by researcher J. Nathan Matias. In studies, for example, anonymous actors tend to be more, not less, sensitive to group norms. More than half of victims of online harassment already know their harassers. While there is scant evidence that “real name” policies mitigate abuse, there is plenty suggesting that asking people to expose more private information can intensify it. Researchers have found that, in some contexts, the most aggressive commenters have been observed to be more likely to reveal their identities.

An analysis of nearly two decades of British press by Thais Sardá, a researcher at Loughborough University, however, found that coverage of anonymous spaces, often and imprecisely called the “dark web,” was “underpinned by a sharply negative characterization” of anonymity. When represented at all, positive uses of anonymity and pseudonymity are portrayed as narrow and exceptional; it makes sense for dissidents, for instance, but what does everyone else have to hide?

A reminder that not everything is as it seems, even when according to “common sense”. I too have theorised that anonymity has exacerbated things online but I guess it might not be the anonymity itself but the way an issue is handled online versus offline by those that are supposed to be handling it.

For example, what makes someone choose to report an actionable offence to Facebook rather than to the authorities?

In a phone conversation, Mr. Kesvani, who recently published a book on the online life of young Muslims, said his research subjects described anonymity and pseudonymity as ways to avoid the gazes of their families, to explore beyond their denominational communities and to socialize — in other words, more or less the same reasons any young person might desire privacy, online or off.

“In forums, you could be playful in your identities, but in your real world you’re constricted,” he said, recalling the internet where, and when, he came of age. The rise of universal social platforms, Mr. Kesvani said, has made a sort of privacy he took for granted growing up more scarce. “There’s this expectation that you should act online how you act offline,” he said. “Like, ‘You wouldn’t say that in the real world, why would you say that online?’”

Another thing to remember is that anonymity is a tool and can be healthy. It’s important to keep that in mind whenever legislation tries to mandate backdoors to encryption and more.

Phantom Warships Are Courting Chaos in Conflict Zones

According to analysis conducted by conservation technology nonprofit SkyTruth and Global Fishing Watch, over 100 warships from at least 14 European countries, Russia, and the US appear to have had their locations faked, sometimes for days at a time, since August 2020. Some of these tracks show the warships approaching foreign naval bases or intruding into disputed waters, activities that could escalate tension in hot spots like the Black Sea and the Baltic. Only a few of these fake tracks have previously been reported, and all share characteristics that suggest a common perpetrator.

Now there’s a nice thought. Though warships don’t actually rely on AIS so if anything goes wrong it won’t because of this. But it gets you thinking regardless.

Todd Humphreys is less optimistic. “AIS is an unencrypted system that had its origins at a time when engineers were more naive,” he says. “We should work towards a way of adding digital signatures to each one of these messages as they go out. That would be my hope, because this is a major security breach.”

All the proof you need that the military isn’t relying on AIS is the simple fact that it’s unencrypted.

Safari isn’t protecting the web, it’s killing it

I love Safari for all kinds of reasons, but that’s pretty much irrelevant to the overall argument of advancing the web in a way that doesn’t leave too much control on any one side. This is a long read, you can skip some technical parts if you’re so inclined and you’ll still get the gist of it.

Indie game developer says Facebook rejected his ad

Fanise’s rejected ad makes no overt political references, showcasing images of the virtual road trip while showing phrases such as “escape from a country in turmoil” and “reach the border.”

I bet that in trying to deal with as much questionable content as possible automatically, Facebook went so broad that such phrases are all it takes. If anyone actually thinks going this broad is a sign of genius, we’re all a lot worse than I give us credit for. And God knows I always try to expect the worst.

The email said the ad “may” have been rejected due to inclusion of real political figures, mentions of elections or “[i]mages, statements or slogans about social issues, such as the economy, environmental policy, or civil and social rights.”

“May”. That’s exactly the response once expects when being penalised for something.

Facebook Wanted NSO Spyware to Monitor Users, NSO CEO Claims

According to a declaration from NSO CEO Shalev Hulio, two Facebook representatives approached NSO in October 2017 and asked to purchase the right to use certain capabilities of Pegasus.

At the time, Facebook was in the early stages of deploying a VPN product called Onavo Protect, which, unbeknownst to some users, analyzed the web traffic of users who downloaded it to see what other apps they were using. According to the court documents, it seems the Facebook representatives were not interested in buying parts of Pegasus as a hacking tool to remotely break into phones, but more as a way to more effectively monitor phones of users who had already installed Onavo.

“The Facebook representatives stated that Facebook was concerned that its method for gathering user data through Onavo Protect was less effective on Apple devices than on Android devices,” the court filing reads. “The Facebook representatives also stated that Facebook wanted to use purported capabilities of Pegasus to monitor users on Apple devices and were willing to pay for the ability to monitor Onavo Protect users.”

Let me help you with this:

  • Facebook used MDM profiles in ways prohibited by Apple for non-business users.
  • Facebook used its VPN product, Onavo, to better monitor and analyse any and all network traffic going through it.
  • Facebook then thought that this amount of data isn’t enough and sought to find a way to monitor and analyse even more.
  • Facebook turned to NSO, an Israeli company that provides governments and agencies with software tools to crack and monitor devices and their users by exploiting security vulnerabilities that haven’t been discovered and patched yet.

Somehow, this is Facebook’s way to providing you with a better product. Amazing.