How The Globe collected and analyzed sexual assault statistics to report on unfounded figures across Canada

Fourteen years ago, Statistics Canada stopped publishing unfounded rates, over concerns about the quality of the data. In “Unfounded,” The Globe and Mail has tried to fill the gaps in the data.

The Globe and Mail has been publishing a fabulous data-driven expose on how the police categorize one out of five sexual assault reports as unfounded. They have a web essay Will police believe you? that summarizes the investigation. There is another article on How The Globe collected and analyzed sexual assault statistics to report on unfounded figures across Canada. While this isn’t big data, it shows the power of data in showing us that there is a problem and prodding police departments to start reviewing their practices.

Brianna Wu appalled at FBI’s #GamerGate investigative report

Screenshot of text from FBI Report
From FBI #GamerGate Report

The FBI has released their report on #GamerGate after a Freedom Of Information request and it doesn’t seem that they took the threats that seriously. According to a Venturebeat story Brianna Wu (is) appalled at FBI’s #GamerGate investigative report.

Wu, who is running for Congress, said in an email that she is “fairly livid” because it appears the FBI didn’t check out many of her reports about death threats. Wu catalogued more than 180 death threats that she said she received because she spoke out against sexism in the game industry and #GamerGate misogyny that eventually morphed into the alt-right movement and carried into the U.S. presidential race.

It sounds like the FBI either couldn’t trace the threats or they didn’t think they were serious enough and eventually closed down the investigation. In the aftermath of the shooting at the Québec City mosque we need to take the threats of trolls more seriously as Anita Sarkeesian did when she was threatened with a “Montreal Massacre style attack” before speaking at the University of Utah. Yes, only a few act on their threats, but threats piggy-back on the terror to achieve their end. Those making the threats may justify it as just for the lulz, but they do so knowing that some people act on their threats.

On another point, having just given a paper on Palantir I was intrigued to read that the FBI used it in their investigation. The report says that “A search of social media logins using Palantir’s search around feature revealed a common User ID number for two of the above listed Twitter accounts, profiles [Redacted] … A copy of the Palantir chart created from the Twitter results will be uploaded to the case file under a separate serial.” One wonders how useful connecting to Twitter accounts to one ID is.

Near the end of the report, which is really just a collection of redacted documents, there is a heavily redacted email from one of those harassed where all but a couple of lines are left for us to read including,

We feel like we are sending endless emails into the void with you.

Obituary: Kelly Gotlieb was the father of Canadian computing

I recently came across the obituary in the Globe and Mail for Kelly Gotlieb was the father of Canadian computing who passed away on October 16th.

Kelly was in many ways the founder of computing in Canada as he ran the University of Toronto Computation Centre that intsalled the first computers in Canada. The obituary isn’t entirely correct as they mention FERUT as the first computer when it was actually the second computer, the first being the test UTEC Jr. which is mentioned in a Globe and Mail story titled “Junior Electronic Brain Cost $100,000” (Len Schrag, Dec. 13, 1951, p. 4) that dates from 1951.

The obituary also mentions how Kelly Gotlieb mentored Beatrice Worsley. She was one of two hired to go to the UK and figure out how to run the first computers they were installing. She got a PhD. from Cambridge with a dissertation on “Serial Programming for Real and Idealized Digital Calculating Machines” that Campbell (2003) argues was the first dissertation involving modern computers.

When we did a survey of Globe and Mail articles on computing from the early years in Canada we saw a broad curiosity about what computation could do. (Some of this has been reported in Before the Beginning.) We see the Computation Centre working with Music profs in 1957 in a Globe article “Strange Music Made By an Electronic Brain.” We see an article in 1961 that mentions concording and a new IBM coming. In 1964 there is a story about a project McLuhan was involved in to investigate the impacts of technology on culture and vice versa. I suspect Gotlieb was instrumental in promoting these and many other experiments in applying computing to different challenges across disciplines. By all accounts he was generous and a great promoter of computing. As the obituary says,

Dr. Gotlieb was a visionary, not only in the technical issues of machine computation, but also in their potential social implications. In the 1960s, he was chosen by U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, to be one of six world experts advising on how computer technology might assist international development. Years later, he served on Canada’s first federal task force on privacy.

Campbell, S. M. (October-December, 2003). “Beatrice Helen Worsley: Canada’s Female Computer Pioneer.” IEEE Annals of the History of Computing: 51-62.

Geofeedia ‘allowed police to track protesters’

geofeedia
From the BBC a story about US start-up Geofeedia ‘allowed police to track protesters’. Geofeedia is apparently using social media data from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to monitor activists and protesters for law enforcement. Access to these social media was changed once the ACLU reported on the surveillance product. The ACLU discovered the agreements with Geofeedia when they requested public records of California law enforcement agencies. Geofeedia was boasting to law enforcement about their access. The ACLU has released some of the documents of interest including a PDF of a Geofeedia Product Update email discussing “sentiment” analytics (May 18, 2016).

Frome the Geofeedia web site I was surprised to see that they are offering solutions for education too.

Barbie Careers Game Developer Doll: No Batteries Neede

From Slashtdot, Mattel has released a Barbie® Careers Game Developer Doll. She has “[b]right red hair and eyeglasses are fashion-forward with techie style!” This time Mattel has been careful not to be patronizing.

A laptop (with real game code graphics), tablet (with the game she is working on) and silvery headset expand the storytelling possibilities and career opportunities.

Inspire young gamers with this doll who is at the top of her game!

Godwin’s Bot: Recent stories on AI

Godwin’s Bot is a good essay from Misha Lepetic on 3QuarksDaily on artificial intelligence (AI). The essay reflects on the recent Microsoft debacle with @TayandYou, an AI chat bot that was “targeted at 18 to 24 year old in the US.” (About Tay & Privacy) For a New Yorker story on how Microsoft shut it down after Twitter trolls trained it to be offensive see I’ve Seen the Greatest A.I. Minds of My Generation Destroyed By Twitter. Lepetic calls her Godwin’s Bot after Godwin’s Law that asserts that in any online conversation there will eventually be a comparison to Hitler.

What is interesting about the essay is that it then moves to an interview wtih Stephen Wolfram on AI & The Future of Civilization where Wolfram distinguishes between inventing a goal, which is difficult to automate, and (once one can articulate a goal clearly) executing it, which can be automated.

How do we figure out goals for ourselves? How are goals defined? They tend to be defined for a given human by their own personal history, their cultural environment, the history of our civilization. Goals are something that are uniquely human.

Lepetic then asks if Tay had a goal or who had goals for Tay. Microsoft had a goal, and that had to do with “learning” from and about a demographic that uses social media. Lepetic sees it as a “vacuum cleaner for data.” In many ways the trolls did us a favor by misleading it.

Or … TayandYou was troll-bait to train a troll filter.

My question is whether anyone has done a good analysis of how the Tay campaign actually worked?

A Supreme Court Pioneer, Now Making Her Mark on Video Games

The New York Times has a nice story about how Sandra Day O’Connor, A Supreme Court Pioneer, Now Making Her Mark on Video Games. O’Connor is promoting a game called Win the White House from iCivics a education group she started in 2009. She has also involved her Supreme Court colleague Sotomayor. The article mentions how such educational games are getting more respect.

The involvement of the two justices in digital educational games underscores a growing belief among educators that interactive tools may improve students’ engagement in their own learning. In January, Microsoft introduced an educational version of Minecraft, the hit game in which players use blocks to construct elaborate virtual worlds. Last fall, Google unveiled Expeditions, a virtual reality system for classroom use that takes students on simulated field trips around the world.

The Malware Museum

There are a number of stories about The Malware Museum on the Internet Archive. This archive gathers a number of 1980s and 1990s viruses (just the animated parts) with emulators so you can run them and see their visual effects. The Toronto Star story has a quote from Hyponnen on the art of the early viruses,

“You could call it an art form,” he said in an interview. “These early virus-writers were expressing themselves with animations and sounds.”

It wasn’t until later that viruses started encrypting things and blackmailing you to decrypt them or doing other things to make money.

There is an extended talk (50 minutes) by Mikko Hypponen, the security specialist who gave this collection, on The History and the Evolution of Computer Viruses. The talk starts with the first PC virus BRAIN that he traced back to two brothers in Packistan to Stuxnet. (For a good book on Stuxnet see Kim Zetter’s Countdown to Zero Day.)

Silly Season for Eric Raymond

Eric Raymond, widely admired for his The Cathedral and the Bazaar, is now peddling social justice paranoia. See Why Hackers Must Eject the SJWs. He starts with the following,

The hacker culture, and STEM in general, are under ideological attack. Recently I blogged a safety warning that according to a source I consider reliable, a “women in tech” pressure group has made multiple efforts to set Linus Torvalds up for a sexual assault accusation. I interpreted this as an attempt to beat the hacker culture into political pliability, and advised anyone in a leadership position to beware of similar attempts.

See his “safety warning” at From kafkatrap to honeytrap. His evidence for this ideological attack seems to be gossip from trusted sources – gossip that confirms his views about “women in tech” and pressure groups and so on. This sort of war rhetoric closes any opportunity for discussion around the issues of women in technology. For Raymond it is now a (culture) war between those on the side of hacker culture and STEM, against “Social Justice Warriors” and what is at stake is the “entire civilization that we serve.”

Why are these important issues being militarized instead of aired respectfully? When did the people we live with and love become the other? Just how confident are we that we objectively know what merit is in the hurly burly of life?  What civilization is this really about?

Other reactions to this story include Linus Torvalds targeted by honeytraps, claims Eric S. Raymond in The Register and Is This the Perfect Insane Anti-Feminist Rumor? from New York Magazine.