Posts tagged networks

How Facebook Knows Who You're Shagging

Via Quartz

Facebook can isolate your spouse or partner based on your network of friends. In a fascinating paper to be published next year, Facebook social scientist Lars Backstrom and Cornell University professor Jon Kleinberg reveal just how much insight can be gleaned from the structure of a network, illustrating both the value of what the American security establishment reassures us is “just metadata” and revealing Facebook’s baroque privacy settings as the faith-based garments of the emperor’s new clothes.

Read through for the details: What your Facebook friends list reveals about your love life.

Syria Goes Dark
Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

According to Dan Hubbard of Umbrella Security Labs: “At around 18:45 UTC OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.” Hubbart notes that the two top-level domain servers for Syria (ns1.tld.sy and ns2.tld.s) were unreachable earlier today. Matthew Prince at Cloudflare published a video demonstrating just how the routes into and out of Syria’s Internet were withdrawn.
This is not the first time Syria has suffered an Internet shut down. In November 2012, Syria suffered a severe Internet black out.  And as the violence in the region has escalated, we’ve documented campaigns of targeted malware attacks against Syrian activists…
…Yet during this time the Internet has largely remained available. While heavily censored, monitored, and compromised, the Internet has served as an important window connecting the world at large to Syria, and one way that international observers could connect with individuals on the ground in that country. A number of activists on the ground in Syria have access to  Internet via satellite links, which can connect them to the Internet but carries a high risk for detection, which can be life threatening.

The Syrian government blames the blackout on “terrorists”, according to the BBC, but security experts and activists believe the regime shut down the Web to interfere with rebel communications, possibly in advance of an a major offensive.
Image: Google Transparency Report shows Syrian Internet blackout May 7, 2013, via the EFF.

Syria Goes Dark

Via the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

According to Dan Hubbard of Umbrella Security Labs: “At around 18:45 UTC OpenDNS resolvers saw a significant drop in traffic from Syria. On closer inspection it seems Syria has largely disappeared from the Internet.” Hubbart notes that the two top-level domain servers for Syria (ns1.tld.sy and ns2.tld.s) were unreachable earlier today. Matthew Prince at Cloudflare published a video demonstrating just how the routes into and out of Syria’s Internet were withdrawn.

This is not the first time Syria has suffered an Internet shut down. In November 2012, Syria suffered a severe Internet black out.  And as the violence in the region has escalated, we’ve documented campaigns of targeted malware attacks against Syrian activists…

…Yet during this time the Internet has largely remained available. While heavily censored, monitored, and compromised, the Internet has served as an important window connecting the world at large to Syria, and one way that international observers could connect with individuals on the ground in that country. A number of activists on the ground in Syria have access to  Internet via satellite links, which can connect them to the Internet but carries a high risk for detection, which can be life threatening.

The Syrian government blames the blackout on “terrorists”, according to the BBC, but security experts and activists believe the regime shut down the Web to interfere with rebel communications, possibly in advance of an a major offensive.

Image: Google Transparency Report shows Syrian Internet blackout May 7, 2013, via the EFF.

How Much Does the Internet Weigh?

Spoiler: Not very much.

Bonus: Looking for the weight of eBooks? We got you covered.

Networked Activism

In early June Yochai Benkler spoke at the Personal Democracy Forum about the political power of networked activism.

Drawing on the campaign against the proposed SOPA and PIPA copyright and intellectual property laws, he describes the influential nodes (eg., TechDirt and the Electronic Frontier Foundation) that drove awareness and action on the issues. 

Important to the discussion is how radicalized media environments and information systems have changed the way politics, policies and democracy works.

A “loose” transcription comes from OpenCongress:

The networked public sphere is composed of layers. There are the traditional media organizations and they continue to play a role, but interestingly, in this dimension they are not in a privileged position. They are complemented by blogs that allow particularly engaged & knowledgeable individuals… to play substantial roles. We see the tech media, not at all political, playing a critical role. We see traditional NGOs also playing a large role as info brokers & sources of education, and amazingly enough, over 3 dozen special purpose action sites that are set up specifically to find a way to block the legislation… one or two of them stick, and they move forward, and they stop this piece of legislation.

Together creating a tapestry that is in fact the nature of the networked public sphere. No, not everyone is a pamphleteer, but we’re also not falling off a cliff. What you see is a complex relationship between NGOS & commercial organizations, between V.C.’s & activists, b/w traditional media & online media, between political media left & right and tech media, all weaving together a model of actually looking, learning, mobilizing for action, and blocking [SOPA]. This, ideally, is the shape of the networked public sphere.

Recommended Bonus: If you haven’t read it and are interested in how peer production and the information economy works, how the Internet can (and should) reimagine property and the commons, and how all this affects personal freedoms, read Benklar’s The Wealth of Networks (PDF). It’s simply one of the, if not the, most important books on these topics. There’s also an an ever evolving Wiki that you can dive into too.

Run Time: ~16:00.

Knight News Challenge: 50 Projects Move to Next Round

newschallenge:

We just finished selecting the 51 proposals that will go to the next round of the Knight News Challenge on networks. (You can see 50 of them listed below; one was a closed entry we don’t have permission from the applicant to share.) 

FJP: Congratulations to all involved and good luck!

For this year’s first Knight News Challenge, we intend to harness the momentum from people thinking about and building networks. In the course of our work, we often come across proposals to “build a Facebook that connects X and Y.” We want to move away from that. There are a lot of vibrant networks and platforms, on- and off-line, that can be used to connect us with the news and information we need to make decisions about our lives. This challenge will not fund new networks. Rather, we’re asking you to describe ways you might use existing platforms to drive innovation in media and journalism.

John Bracken, Knight Foundation. Announcing the Knight News Challenge: Networks.

The News Challenge will be open for applications starting February 27 and close March 17. Info at the link above.

As people increasingly share stories, videos, and tips through their networks, they are no longer just news consumers but news producers. There’s even a neologism coined to describe the shift from passive consumer to active producer: “presumer.” It confers an added obligation to evaluate what amid the clutter is worth sending on.

The Twitter Contagion

A study out of MIT explores how Twitter actually took root and was then passed among the digerati.

Via MIT:

MIT researchers who studied the growth of the newly hatched Twitter from 2006 to 2009 say the site’s growth in the United States actually relied primarily on media attention and traditional social networks based on geographic proximity and socioeconomic similarity…

…In their study of Twitter’s “contagion process,” the researchers looked at data from 16,000 U.S. cities, focusing on the 408 with the highest number of Twitter users and seeking to update traditional models of how information spreads and technology is adopted…

…As with most technologies, the growth in popularity initially spread via young, tech-savvy “innovators,” in this case from Twitter’s birthplace in San Francisco to greater Boston. But the site’s popularity then took a more traditional route of traveling only short distances, implying face-to-face interactions; this approach made early adopters of Somerville, Mass., and Berkeley, Calif. — cities close to Boston and San Francisco, respectively.

Video: By Jameson Toole, co-author of the paper. Each circle represents a US city containing Twitter users. Circle size increases as more users sign up in that location. When a location has reached a ‘critical mass’ of users, or 13.5 percent of all eventual users, the location turns red. The line being drawn across the center of the screen is a time series of the number of new users that signed up across the whole country in a given week. (ed note: paraphrased from the original.)

Bundled, Buried & Behind Closed Doors

Ben Mendleson, a masters student at the New School, created this 10-minute documentary on how Internet infrastructure actually works as part of his graduate thesis.

His primary focus, a Manhattan building that houses one of the world’s largest digital nodes.

The Atlantic has a Q&A with him for more.

Google Plussed
Google Plus is releasing a number of new features, one of which is Ripples (pictured above). Ripples visualize how a post is shared across the entire network, as well as within small networks (in G+ parlance, Circles). That is:

The ripple diagram shows this post spreading as users share it on Google+. Arrows indicate a user receiving the post, then resharing. Circles within circles represent a resharing sequence, so large circles indicate busy resharing.

Also released is Google Plus for organizations using Google Apps. This could be interesting for geographically dispersed editorial teams as they collaborate on documents. For example, a reporter has a story in Google Docs and she and her editor can hop into Hangouts (G+’s video conferencing) and co-create within it.
And finally, Picassa got an update. G+ uses this for image sharing and it now includes new editing filters. Google is calling this the G+ Creative Kit:

Google+ Creative Kit, [is] a fast and friendly way to make powerful edits to your photos. Now you can add that vintage feel to your vacation photos. Or sharpen those snapshots from the family barbeque. Or add some text for added personality.

For more, Mashable fills in the details.

Google Plussed

Google Plus is releasing a number of new features, one of which is Ripples (pictured above). Ripples visualize how a post is shared across the entire network, as well as within small networks (in G+ parlance, Circles). That is:

The ripple diagram shows this post spreading as users share it on Google+. Arrows indicate a user receiving the post, then resharing. Circles within circles represent a resharing sequence, so large circles indicate busy resharing.

Also released is Google Plus for organizations using Google Apps. This could be interesting for geographically dispersed editorial teams as they collaborate on documents. For example, a reporter has a story in Google Docs and she and her editor can hop into Hangouts (G+’s video conferencing) and co-create within it.

And finally, Picassa got an update. G+ uses this for image sharing and it now includes new editing filters. Google is calling this the G+ Creative Kit:

Google+ Creative Kit, [is] a fast and friendly way to make powerful edits to your photos. Now you can add that vintage feel to your vacation photos. Or sharpen those snapshots from the family barbeque. Or add some text for added personality.

For more, Mashable fills in the details.

Networking: Strong Ties Bind Transnational Corporations
A new study analyzing transnational corporations demonstrates the power a core group of 1,318 companies has over the global economy. The most powerful, not surprisingly, are banks.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, explores the network of transnational corporations — including who owns who among other economic relationships — and further discover that a super-connected 147 companies control 40% of the wealth in the total network.
(These “super-connected” companies are represented by the red dots in the image above. The “merely” very connected are in yellow.)
Via New Scientist:

[The study] combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations…
…John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.
Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core’s tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. “If one [company] suffers distress,” says Glattfelder, “this propagates.”…
…Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power, the analysis could help make it more stable. By finding the vulnerable aspects of the system, economists can suggest measures to prevent future collapses spreading through the entire economy. Glattfelder says we may need global anti-trust rules, which now exist only at national level, to limit over-connection among TNCs. Sugihara says the analysis suggests one possible solution: firms should be taxed for excess interconnectivity to discourage this risk.
One thing won’t chime with some of the protesters’ claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. “Such structures are common in nature,” says Sugihara.

Image: The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the global economy. Dot size represents revenue. New Scientist via PLoS One.
Study (PDF). 

Networking: Strong Ties Bind Transnational Corporations

A new study analyzing transnational corporations demonstrates the power a core group of 1,318 companies has over the global economy. The most powerful, not surprisingly, are banks.

The study, conducted by researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, explores the network of transnational corporations — including who owns who among other economic relationships — and further discover that a super-connected 147 companies control 40% of the wealth in the total network.

(These “super-connected” companies are represented by the red dots in the image above. The “merely” very connected are in yellow.)

Via New Scientist:

[The study] combines the mathematics long used to model natural systems with comprehensive corporate data to map ownership among the world’s transnational corporations…

…John Driffill of the University of London, a macroeconomics expert, says the value of the analysis is not just to see if a small number of people controls the global economy, but rather its insights into economic stability.

Concentration of power is not good or bad in itself, says the Zurich team, but the core’s tight interconnections could be. As the world learned in 2008, such networks are unstable. “If one [company] suffers distress,” says Glattfelder, “this propagates.”…

…Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power, the analysis could help make it more stable. By finding the vulnerable aspects of the system, economists can suggest measures to prevent future collapses spreading through the entire economy. Glattfelder says we may need global anti-trust rules, which now exist only at national level, to limit over-connection among TNCs. Sugihara says the analysis suggests one possible solution: firms should be taxed for excess interconnectivity to discourage this risk.

One thing won’t chime with some of the protesters’ claims: the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. “Such structures are common in nature,” says Sugihara.

Image: The 1318 transnational corporations that form the core of the global economy. Dot size represents revenue. New Scientist via PLoS One.

Study (PDF). 

The Transnational Super Network
If a bit of network theory will help buttress your arguments about how powerful transnational corporations run our lives, a recent paper exploring the interrelationships between them is a good place to start. 
In “The Network of Global Corporate Control,” a team of Swiss economists tease out global ownership structures and “network” influence of the world’s most influential companies. That is, they find which organization is connected to which other organization, and what the ownership and influence structure is between them. 
What they find is that a core group of 787 corporations controls 80% of this super-elite network, and a tightly-knit “super-entity” of 147 companies controls 40% of the network’s transnational corporations. 
Not surprisingly is the presence of financial institutions in the network. Also not surprising, the implications such a tight network has on global financial stability.

It is known that financial institutions establish financial contracts, such as lending or credit derivatives, with several other institutions. This allows them to diversify risk, but, at the same time, it also exposes them to contagion. Unfortunately, information on these contracts is usually not disclosed due to strategic reasons. However, in various countries, the existence of such financial ties is correlated with the existence of ownership relations. Thus, in the hypothesis that the structure of the ownership network is a good proxy for that of the financial network, this implies that the global financial network is also very intricate. Recent works have shown that when a financial network is very densely connected it is prone to systemic risk. Indeed, while in good times the network is seemingly robust, in bad times firms go into distress simultaneously. This knife-edge property was witnessed during the recent financial turmoil.

The study (PDF). 

The Transnational Super Network

If a bit of network theory will help buttress your arguments about how powerful transnational corporations run our lives, a recent paper exploring the interrelationships between them is a good place to start. 

In “The Network of Global Corporate Control,” a team of Swiss economists tease out global ownership structures and “network” influence of the world’s most influential companies. That is, they find which organization is connected to which other organization, and what the ownership and influence structure is between them. 

What they find is that a core group of 787 corporations controls 80% of this super-elite network, and a tightly-knit “super-entity” of 147 companies controls 40% of the network’s transnational corporations. 

Not surprisingly is the presence of financial institutions in the network. Also not surprising, the implications such a tight network has on global financial stability.

It is known that financial institutions establish financial contracts, such as lending or credit derivatives, with several other institutions. This allows them to diversify risk, but, at the same time, it also exposes them to contagion. Unfortunately, information on these contracts is usually not disclosed due to strategic reasons. However, in various countries, the existence of such financial ties is correlated with the existence of ownership relations. Thus, in the hypothesis that the structure of the ownership network is a good proxy for that of the financial network, this implies that the global financial network is also very intricate. Recent works have shown that when a financial network is very densely connected it is prone to systemic risk. Indeed, while in good times the network is seemingly robust, in bad times firms go into distress simultaneously. This knife-edge property was witnessed during the recent financial turmoil.

The study (PDF). 

Because it begins in homogeneity, a social network often quickly assumes a particular character - a culture, as we like to say these days - based on the people populating its early core networks and the way that they initially use the service. This foundational culture plays a crucial role in encouraging use and loyalty early on - it’s the magnet that holds everything together and pulls in new members. But if the foundational culture is too strong and too narrow it can end up limiting the eventual growth of the network. Magnets repel as well as attract. To succeed on a global scale, Facebook had to transform its early student culture to a more mainstream culture - it had to go from Shitfacebook to Straightfacebook. It has been very successful at that - it’s a heck of a lot easier to entice older people to a youth culture than to do the opposite - though in the long run its mature, increasingly white-bread culture may prove to be its Achilles heel. A hipper network could quickly siphon away Facebook’s younger members, leading to a network implosion of breathtaking magnitude.

Nicholas Carr, Rough Type. The G+ Spot.

Carr goes on to say that Google+’s specific appeal to the new media crowd is the secret to its early success. However, that same crowd is also creating G+’s originating culture which is too narrow and strong for the general public to latch on to. 

In fact, Carr writes that the cultural identity emerging on G+ might repel most normal folk ‘cause who besides the crazies wants to talk media technology all the time?

Mobile devices, led by the iPad and Android phones and tablets, have overtaken computers on Wi-Fi networks. In 2010, Windows and Mac OS X accounted for 64% of devices that accessed Wi-Fi networks, while iOS accounted for 32% and Android was just 1%. A year later, iOS and Android now represent 58% of Wi-Fi devices, while Windows and Mac OS X account for 36%. (source)