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March 25, 2016 1

What Tay Taught us When the Internet Taught Her Hate Speech

It’s tough being born as a teenager. Yes­ter­day, Microsoft launched its new arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) com­puter bot — named Tay and envi­sioned as a teenage girl – and she had a very rough first day.  She was imme­di­ately besieged by excited techies, the curi­ous and the haters. In a few hours, she was drawn into tens of thou­sands of exchanges. In the process, racists, anti-Semites, misog­y­nists and other haters manip­u­lated her into repeat­ing some highly offen­sive state­ments.  Microsoft may have taught Tay to con­verse and to retweet, but they failed to rec­og­nize that she would need to engage in some crit­i­cal think­ing, and to know how to rec­og­nize when some­one else was say­ing some­thing offensive. tay

Microsoft should have prob­a­bly antic­i­pated the prob­lems Tay might encounter. How­ever, Microsoft did not pro­gram Tay to spew hate.  It was clearly the Internet’s dark forces who came out to meet Tay and do their damage.

Microsoft and Tay  are not alone in fac­ing this type of prob­lem.  Every major Inter­net plat­form, inter­ac­tive app and online busi­ness has expe­ri­enced some­thing sim­i­lar at some time.  These hic­cups are all learn­ing expe­ri­ences. In this case, Tay taught Microsoft and all of us a les­son. We need to be bet­ter aware of how quickly things can get ugly on the Inter­net, how impor­tant crit­i­cal think­ing is to all tech users, and  how, despite our best efforts, the worst big­ots and haters online are never far from the surface.

Inno­va­tion, exper­i­men­ta­tion and adven­ture in tech­nol­ogy are nec­es­sary and impor­tant, and should never be dis­cour­aged. Tay’s first expo­sure to peo­ple didn’t go as well as it might have.  But we hope every­one has learned some­thing along the way. Tay 2.0 should be very interesting.

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January 26, 2016 4

Outpouring of Anti-Israel Tweets After NBA Coach David Blatt Fired

After the fir­ing of the NBA’s Cleve­land Cav­a­liers head coach David Blatt, some social media users responded by post­ing vehe­mently anti-Israel, and some anti-Jewish, per­sonal attacks against Blatt, who holds both Israeli and Amer­i­can citizenship.

Hos­tile ver­bal attacks on indi­vid­u­als for being Israeli cit­i­zens or sup­port­ers of Israel appear to have become more com­mon­place in recent years both online and offline as well as some look to demo­nize the Jew­ish state in any way possible.

Below are just a few exam­ples from the dozens of social media posts per­son­ally attack­ing Blatt regard­ing his cit­i­zen­ship or reli­gious iden­tity rather than dis­cussing his abil­i­ties as a coach:

anti-israel-david-blatt-tweets

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not the first time such open hos­til­ity against Israelis or Jews in sports has been expressed in such an ugly fash­ion on social media. After Israeli bas­ket­ball team Mac­cabi Tel Aviv beat Real Madrid in the Euroleague final in 2014, there was an out­pour­ing of anti-Semitic mes­sages on Twit­ter. Twit­ter also erupted with anti-Semitic com­men­tary after Mil­wau­kee Brew­ers out­fielder Ryan Braun was sus­pended from Major League Base­ball in 2013.

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November 3, 2015 1

“Telegram” is Latest Platform for Terror Propaganda

ISIS propaganda on the Telegram app

ISIS pro­pa­ganda on the Telegram app

Update — 11/19/2015: Telegram updated its terms of ser­vice to include a means for remov­ing ille­gal pub­lic con­tent on Novem­ber 18, 2015 and has since removed mul­ti­ple ISIS chan­nels from its platform.

As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other ter­ror groups con­tinue to seek out new plat­forms to broad­cast their pro­pa­ganda and con­nect with sup­port­ers, they have migrated to using Telegram, a chat and group appli­ca­tion avail­able for smart­phones and desk­top, as their pri­mary medium for offi­cial propaganda.

Ter­ror sup­port­ers con­tinue to share and dis­sem­i­nate pro­pa­ganda on Twit­ter, Face­book and other tra­di­tional social media plat­forms. How­ever, the terms of ser­vice on those plat­forms reject users who actively encour­age vio­lent extrem­ism and the plat­forms have been very active in remov­ing con­tent and users flagged for vio­la­tions of those terms of ser­vice. Offi­cial ter­ror­ist accounts have there­fore found them fully inhos­pitable, and even the accounts of ter­ror­ist sup­port­ers are reg­u­larly removed.

Accord­ing to Telegram’s terms of ser­vice, how­ever, “All Telegram chats and group chats are pri­vate ter­ri­tory of their respec­tive par­tic­i­pants and we do not process any requests related to them.” As such, the plat­form does not have effec­tive poli­cies pro­hibit­ing extrem­ist speech.  That envi­ron­ment has enabled offi­cial ter­ror­ist chan­nels to use Telegram as the first point of dis­sem­i­na­tion for offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda and for Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF), an Al Qaeda affil­i­ated media organization.

Users can join groups on Telegram that func­tion sim­i­larly to Twit­ter feeds, releas­ing a steady stream of con­tent orig­i­nated by the group’s owner. Among the groups cur­rently oper­at­ing on Telegram are more than 13 offi­cial ISIS accounts in mul­ti­ple lan­guages includ­ing Ara­bic, Eng­lish, French and Ger­man, an offi­cial English-language account for the GIMF, and sev­eral unof­fi­cial pro-ISIS pro­pa­ganda groups.

The English-language accounts cre­ated on Telegram include Khi­lafah News, a pro-ISIS account that boasts 2023 mem­bers; Nashir Eng­lish, an offi­cial ISIS account, with 1352 mem­bers; and an offi­cial GIMF account with 1129 members.

Among the mate­ri­als that have been released on Telegram are the sec­ond issue of a new English-language Al Qaeda mag­a­zine, Al Risalah, which calls on West­ern­ers to join and fight on behalf of Al Qaeda.

The ISIS English-language Telegram account Nashir Eng­lish also directs read­ers to find and down­load pro­pa­ganda on a site on Word­Press. Like Telegram, WordPress’s terms of ser­vice do not explic­itly pro­hibit extrem­ist pro­pa­ganda, and so ISIS and other ter­ror­ist  groups can exploit the web­site with­out fear of being taken down. The new Word­Press site linked from the Telegram account fea­tures all of ISIS’s most recent pro­pa­ganda releases as well as ‘major releases,’ ‘Top 10 Videos,’ and past issues of ISIS’s English-language mag­a­zine, Dabiq. The Eng­lish site also links to equiv­a­lent Word­Press sites in Ger­man, Bosn­ian and Ara­bic. Addi­tional links from the Eng­lish site to equiv­a­lent sites in other lan­guages on Blogspot, which is hosted by Google, were removed after ADL noti­fied Google of their presence.

The Word­Press site empha­sizes ISIS’s ongo­ing pres­ence on Twit­ter and lists Twit­ter hash­tags that cor­re­spond with offi­cial ISIS pro­pa­ganda material.

In addi­tion to main­tain­ing groups on Telegram, ter­ror orga­ni­za­tions are also able to engage in chats with sup­port­ers and poten­tial recruits. The encour­age­ment of active par­tic­i­pa­tion by sup­port­ers engages the sup­port­ers in dia­logue with hard­ened extrem­ists, fur­ther­ing the sup­port­ers’ rad­i­cal­iza­tion processes.

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