Friday, June 24, 2016

Auschwitz Game Highlights Serious Holes in Google’s Review Process

June 23, 2016
Controversy raged this week over news that the Google Play store had allowed a free mobile game that promised players could “live like a real Jew” at Auschwitz.

For the second time in a month, Google’s review process was brought into serious question. But now, the game’s creators have come forward to say that was the point of the game.

TRINIT, a vocational school teaching video game design in Zaragoza, Spain, asked their students to design games that would test the strength of Google’s policy on hateful speech and inappropriate imagery during the review process, the institute told The Forward in an email.

“Surprisingly, Google denied almost all of the test apps, but [the Auschwitz game] was approved,” the institute said.

TRINIT said it pulled the game, which it said was nonfunctional and only included a start page, on Sunday night after realizing it had sparked media controversy. The institute said it received a notice from Google later that night notifying it that the app had been reported several times. Google confirmed to the Forward that the app was pulled from its store on Monday.

In addition to its Auschwitz game, TRINIT said it chose to pull other test apps from Google Play, including apps named “Gay Buttons” and “Kamasutra Dices.”

The school said it instructed students to test Google’s app policy by specifically testing themes corresponding to questions on a Google survey used in the app approval process. One question on the survey, shared with the Forward by TRINIT, asks whether the app under review contains symbols or references to Nazis.

Although the school said it replied yes to the survey question, Google still approved the submission.

A Google spokesperson said, “While we don’t comment on specific apps, we can confirm that our policies are designed to provide a great experience for users and developers.”

“This clearly indicates that Google needs to be more vigilant about its review process,” said Jonathan Vick, assistant director of the Anti-Defamation League’s cyberhate response team.

However, Vick also finds blame with the way TRINIT conducted its experiment and remains skeptical of the app’s true purpose. Vick told the Forward it concerns him that the school felt it was sufficient to take down the offensive app without issuing a statement, and he called on the school to explain itself in public.

“Review is a human process and any time people are injected into the equation, the margin for error increases,” Vick said. “Since the Google review process isn’t transparent, we don’t know where in the review chain someone approved the app, but it means more training might be needed for Google employees,” he said.

“If real, the experiment speaks for itself,” Vick said.

Google launched a new app review process last year with the goal of catching apps that violate its policies on hateful speech before they reach the Google Play store, including both machine and human review elements. However, the company is still in the process of fine-tuning the process and relies heavily upon community reporting to review the millions of game submissions it receives.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Cyberhate Arms Race - Making Better Haters

Cyberhate is only getting worse. More vicious, insidious, malicious and more technologically driven.

Online hate, either combating it or perpetuating it, requires the participants to continually escalate their position in an attempt to out-maneuver the opponent. An endless cycle of  anti-hate and more hate.

At the same time as we oppose haters online, we also make them better at hating. The numerous times David Duke's websites and YouTube channels have been taken down has served to teach him how better to evade the rules of the various platforms. The haters also make the anti-hate community larger, stronger and more innovative.

Cybrehate predates the internet. Active hate communities existed on pre-internet dial-up networks. Bigots, racists and misogynists have always invaded new digital technology as quickly as possible. Technology platforms have a checkered past when it comes to responding to hate, but the public and community organizations have been responding from the earliest days. ADL's first report on cyberhate was produced in 1985.

Unfortunately the cyberhate arms race often has the same  result as any arms race; someone loses control and shooting begins. James von Braun, Frazier Glenn Miller and many others who committed murder sprees were veteran protagonists in the cyberhate arms race.

When most of us lose a debate or an argument we do not pick-up guns. However, in a culture where people increasingly refuse to take responsibility for their own failures, winning the cyberhate arms race is important and not without responsibility.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beyond ((( ))): Three More Ways to Troll the Internet’s Nazis

Here’s how you can show anti-Semites that they’re outside acceptable online discourse, show solidarity with the people they harass, and take back Taylor Swift

This month, thousands of users took to Twitter to mess with the Nazis . Following media reports detailing how Trump-supporting white supremacists were targeting Jews online by placing parentheses around their names to harass and intimidate them on social media, Twitter users appropriated the symbol. The trend soon spread to politicians, celebrities, journalists, and more. From Atlantic correspondent ((((((Jeffrey Goldberg)))))) to West Wing and Scandal actor (((Josh Malina))) to Colorado congressman ((((((Jared Polis)))))), Jews and non-Jews alike showed solidarity against the anti-Semites. The movement even made The New York Times .
Beyond raising awareness about anti-Semitism online, the pilfered punctuation really ticked off the internet Nazis. The alt-right, as they call themselves, take great pride in their shared secret symbolisms. I personally received hundreds of tweets and emails from anti-Semites expressing upset at the appropriation of their nomenclature. Which only made doing it more fun.
In fact, making a mockery of the language of these anti-Semites performs a valuable societal function: It shows the haters that they are outside the discourse. Most anti-Semitic American trolls use anonymous accounts precisely because they are afraid of the opprobrium in real life should they openly express their bigotry. Mass ridicule of these racists reminds them just how marginalized they are, and keeps them at the fringes of respectable discourse.
With that in mind, here are three more ways you can troll the internet Nazis, show solidarity with the Jews they harass, and have fun doing it:
Appropriate their favorite hashtag: #WhiteGenocide
If there’s one thing that animates the alt-right, it’s their fear of an allegedly ongoing “white genocide,” in which minorities—African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, immigrants of all stripes—overtake the country and erode its formerly pristine “white” culture. Infamously, Donald Trump has repeatedly retweeted supporters promulgating this claim with the #WhiteGenocide hashtag.
Given how popular the tag is among the Twitter Nazis, it is practically begging to be repurposed:

I think the next stage of trolling the Nazis is to appropriate. As in:
"Oh man, I so failed Calculus today! "

There’s an added upside to this particular practice: It turns one of the alt-right’s nastier attacks against it. On Twitter, whenever a Jew expresses concern about anti-Semitism or other bigotry, alt-right trolls invariably pop up to exclaim , “oy vey, it’s anudda shoah!” Thus, they trivialize both the contemporary concern and the Holocaust in one ugly utterance. The phrase is even starting to seep into real-world discourse. Conservative journalist and Trump critic (((Ben Shapiro))) reported being confronted with it by a young Trump supporter at a college campus event. “He grins at me like it’s fine to say this sort of thing,” (((Shapiro))) recalled.
If the anti-Semites are going to mock a real genocide, the least the rest of us can do is return the favor and mock their farcical one.
Take Back Taylor Swift
Take a cursory glance at the accounts of alt-right trolls and it’s hard to miss their obsession with music star Taylor Swift . Prized as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryan idol, many of the bigots use her as their avatar, or reference her in their usernames. They have even created a catalog of Swift memes in which they attribute viciously anti-Semitic statements to her. Here, for example, is one that uses a quote from Nazi arch-propagandist Joseph Goebbels:

The appropriation of Swift by the neo-Nazis has become so pervasive that her lawyers have started trying to get the various anti-Semitic memes taken down.
We have a better idea: Take Taylor back for the Jews.

Use ours or make your own .
Remind them that “The Goyim Know!”
Another catchphrase of the internet inquisition is “the goyim know.” “Goy” is Hebrew and Yiddish for “gentile,” and the exclamation is typically used to suggest that the non-Jewish public is catching on to Jewish control of the media, economy, and government. An excellent example of this genre is the delightful anti-Semitic song “The Goyim Know ,” which imagines a conversation between two panicked Hasidim worried that their support for feminism, affirmative action, and immigration is being exposed.
Now, there is absolutely nothing to be gained from arguing with people who claim that Jews run the world. But it can be very entertaining to agree with them and take their paranoid delusions to hilarious new heights.
In this case, another Internet meme offers guidance. Nerd Twitter is fond of captioning photos of world leaders whispering in each other’s ears with “Hail Hydra,” a reference to the secret greeting used by a villainous undercover organization in the Marvel comic universe:

The Jewish analogue is obvious:

Now, go forth and troll some Nazis!
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