UTW Episode 26: Sandra González-Bailón

The Role of Research

In this episode, we chat with Sandra González-Bailón, who is on the faculty at the Annenberg School for Communication. Her research lies at the intersection of network science, data mining, computational tools and political communication. She is the author of Decoding the Social World, published by MIT Press in 2017, and was also the keynote speaker of the ACM Web Science Conference in 2019.

During this conversation, Sandra discussed some of her research about people’s news exposure — and what it surprisingly revealed. She also explains how the medium of data that gets studied — the web v.s. apps data and desktop v.s. mobile data — can impact results. And she digs into how exactly research can help the world — but also that the world needs to know the right questions to ask. To hear all this and more, take a listen of this episode.


UTW Episode 25: Nigel Shadbolt

Semantic Web Science

In this special 25th episode of Untangling the Web, we talk with one of the founders of web science, Professor Sir Nigel Shadbolt. He’s Principal of Jesus college and professorial Research Fellow in Computer Science at the University of Oxford.  As information adviser to the United Kingdom government, he encouraged the release of many 1000s of public sector data sets. He was knighted in 2013 for services to science and engineering.

During this episode, Nigel recounts some of those founding conversations and intentions surrounding the creation of the web science field, as well as some of his more recent work. Nigel, who was on the forefront of the Semantic Web, also explains exactly what that means — and what the web might look like today if it had expanded. To hear to this and more, listen to this episode.


Russian Government spat with YouTube over misinformation

The Russian government has threatened to block YouTube and take “other retaliatory measures” unless it reinstates two German-language channels of the state broadcaster RT which have fallen foul of YouTube’s expanded misinformation policies around vaccines

On Wednesday, YouTube deleted the two channels for violating Covid-19 misinformation guidelines prompting the Russian foreign ministry to call YouTube’s action an ‘unprecedented act of media aggression’ 

YouTube has stated that it would now block all anti-vaccine posts that contradict health authorities’ medical information about vaccines such as claims that flu shots causes infertility or the MMR vaccine can cause autism.

Posts that contain misinformation on the substances in vaccines will also be blocked as part of the updated policy.

The BBC reported that, RT’s YouTube channel RT DE had already received a warning from the platform for violating Covid-19 misinformation guidelines and was also issued a one week suspension from uploading content on the platform RT DE proceeded to use a second channel – Der Fehlende Part – to post videos that also violated YouTube policies. As a result, YouTube deleted both channels on Wednesday.

RT’s channels have been accused by German authorities of ‘manipulative’ reporting on anti-lockdown protests, and spreading divisive content ahead of last week’s election.


This article orginally appeared in Computing 30th September, 2021

Just let the AI handle it …

Having deligated its English-to-Swedish translation duties to an AI tool (Alexa perhaps ..?) Amazon announced

“We are pleased to open the doors for Amazon.se and offer Swedish consumers a selection of more than 150 million products, of which tens of thousands come from local Swedish companies,” said Alex Ootes, vice president of European expansion at Amazon, in a press release.

Upon reviewing feedback from local Swedish press Computing commented:

“Among those 150 million products, Swedish shoppers were surprised,  some no doubt delighted, to find an expansive range of “cock brushes”, “cock paintings”, “rape curtains” and “prostitute earrings”, although how many came from local Swedish companies was not made clear.”

Facebook CTO steps down

A change in the FB technology leadership team follows hot on the heels of  a series of reports last week by WSJ that discussed how Facebook “either ignores or fails to properly address numerous problems affecting users across its services”.

Included in the articles was the allegation that FB was fully aware that Instagram has had a negative effect on the mental health of teenage girls as well as how algorithm changes “made users angrier” and how Facebook is exploited by criminal gangs to recruit members.

FB has criticised the WSJ articles saying that they contain “deliberate mischaracterisations” and saying that they ” [make] a claim which could only be made by cherry-picking selective quotes from individual pieces of leaked material in a way that presents complex and nuanced issues as if there is only ever one right answer.”

The current FB CTO is to replaced by the head of FB hardware which some have seen as potentially signalling a switch away (or diversification) from the FB social media platform to alternative hardware-based products and services for the corporation.

article updated in the interest of balance  to include responses from FB critiquing the WSJ articles