Weekly Axis Of Easy #33
In this issue:
- NSA has deleted data it was supposed to preserve for a lawsuit
- Twitter notifies 677,775 users that they’ve interacted with Russian bots during election
- Concerns mounting over social media addictiveness and censorship
- Amazon opens first fully automated, unmanned grocery store
- City of Toronto counsellor advocates accepting Bitcoin for property tax payments
The NSA has informed U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White, who is presiding over pending lawsuits against the agency that they have accidentally deleted all data, including backups they had previously pledged to preserve in anticipation of said lawsuits. The National Security Agency sincerely regrets the error and will take steps to prevent a recurrence. (Meanwhile, the Bush era FISA bill which enables warrant-less surveillance of US citizens was extended a further 6 years).
This week Twitter began emailing close to 700K users an FYI that they interacted with a “Russian bot” account during the 2016 election. Interaction is said to have taken form of “liking” or “retweeting” something emitted by the suspect accounts.
My favorite reaction to this was from Twitter satirist @RudyHavenstein who quipped:
“Just got an email from the Twitter that the @federalreserve account (which I thought was a parody) is actually private bank cartel propaganda.”
Apple CEO Tim Cooke is worried about what social media networks are doing to our children’s brains (so am I actually). He’s not alone. Podcaster Cris Beasley wrote a very good, short article on Medium about how social media platforms literally “hijack our minds” to maximize the amount of time we spend there.
(When you combine deliberately addicting our brains to our favourite social media platforms with ongoing efforts to “shape the narratives” of our lives, through censorship, shadowbanning and de-prioritizing non-conforming views it starts to look really dystopian…)
Continuing on a theme, Facebook announced it will start ranking news based on user generated credibility scores. According to the Zuckster, “There’s too much sensationalism, misinformation and polarization in the world today” and the line of reasoning seems to be that allowing people on social media to “score” items will allow cooler heads to prevail and dial it all down.
Amazon has opened the world’s first fully automated convenience store in Seattle. All you have to do is load the Amazon Go app on your phone and then you can walk in, take what you want and walk out. Easy peasy and Amazon doesn’t have to concern itself with that $15/hour minimum wage in Seattle (at least in that store). I often suspect the most vigorous political lobbyists for higher minimum wage laws work for the automation/kiosks and robotics sectors.
I mention this story to demonstrate the “telephone effect” and how “the news cycle” works. More than one person over the last week said to me “did you hear, Toronto is going to start taking tax payments in Bitcoin!”.
One of those people was my elderly mother, who was reacting to it as if it was going to be mandatory. I added it to my #AxisOfEasy list and when I sat down to write it and looked it up, turns out we’re talking about one guy: Scarborough-Agincourt councilor Norm Kelly is going to ask at the next city council meeting if this is something the city should be thinking about. It’s all over the news, and the TL;DR is “Toronto to accept Bitcoin for tax payments”.
We’re a long way from there folks, but it’s interesting that it may actually get a look from city council.
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