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This Week in Tech

The Alternative Facts version...

Welcome back to a world where, if you don't like the way reality is working, you simply replace it with an 'Alternative Version' that suits what you want to believe. The incredible stance taken by US President <shudder> Donald Trump's spokespeople has far reaching implications for the world your learners are going to inhabit (this could go on <shudder> for EIGHT years!). Basically the message is that it's OK to lie publicly - spread falsehoods - and then defend those falsehoods as 'Alternative Facts'. An alternative fact is a lie. Period.

Fake News

This week's blog has a lot of coverage about Fake News - simply because that has made it into the news a lot after the whole Trump fiasco. Here's a quick list

  • Comic: Dilbert's PHB (point haired boss) tweets fake news.
  • Mental Floss reports on a study about 'with training we can learn to spot fake news'.
  • Wired has a thoughtful article about how fake news is just propaganda in newer clothes - and that a lot of seems legitimate because it is generated by 'think tanks' and researchers that are themselves fake. Language teachers might find this article useful as they do have to cover propaganda in their syllabi.
  • The Citizen reports on fake news in SA with articles on how Three SA media organisations have been targeted by fake Twitter accounts
  • MyBroadband then posts on how the Huffington Post SA plans to fight back.
  • Fake news is dangerous and offensive. MyBroadband has a run down of various SA companies' actions when employees post offensive material to FaceBook. This is a great real life illustration of acceptable use / social media policy in real companies.
  • Google has banned (stopped showing adverts on - i.e. denied income to) over 200 'Fake News' publishers - ReCode via BoingBoing.
  • Even legitimate news organisations easily get caught out by suppliers of fake news. The pressure to publish quickly means that journalists don't always check facts as thoroughly as they should. A short while ago The Guardian ran an article on a possible backdoor in the WhatsApp messaging app. This article turns out to be spreading (and legitimising) fake news. More from TechCentral.

Beware the Alternative Online Sweetheart

He (or she) is better known as a scammer, fraud or con artist. And don't think that you can spot these heartless criminals easily. When you are looking for love you are vulnerable - you want to trust... The BBC has a short video clip about a University Professor who fell for a fake online charmer and lost about 140 000 pounds (nearly 2 000 000 rand) to him.

The development of the Barcode

The first item ever sold using a barcode was a pack of chewing gum. I never knew that. I found out by reading fantastic BBC article about the development of the barcode, its differing standards and how it is essential for making modern retail work. If you don't follow any other links from this weeks blog, follow this one.

Facial Recognition vs Passports

Here's an interesting concept - should we do away with passports and simply allow computers to identify us using facial recognition? Australia seems to think this is a good idea and has launched a project to implement facial recognition immigration control by 2020! Motherboard has the details. Besides the novelty of the concept, this is a great discussion topic for your classes. To make this work Australian authorities will need to access (and create) databases of facial identity profiles from around the world. The implications regarding tracking, privacy, etc. on a global scale are well worth stopping and thinking about.

Fighting the good fight

How many times have you seen adverts on web sites that you just know are fake - and possibly dangerous? Well try to imagine how bad it could be if all the publishers of this type of advert were not being actively defended against. htxt.co.za has an article on how Google has blocked 1.7 billion bad ads in 2016 alone.

Other links:

  • PC Gaming is big business

htxt.co.za has an article about how PC gaming made over $30 billion last year

  • HP recalls laptop batteries

HP has had to recall 100 000 laptop batteries as being dangerous. Lifehacker helps you find out if your battery is at risk.

  • Facebook publishes privacy basics - a guide

Facebook is trying to simplify the way users control who get to see their data / posts. May be a good idea to actually run through this with your class, looking at each setting and discussing its implications.

  • Finally a good use for CDs & DVDs!

Just look at this - makes you want to smile! All made from shards of broken optical disks...


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