What’s new in tech
How fake news spreads online
“On Twitter, fake news spreads faster and further than real news—and bots aren’t to blame,” said Karen Kaplan in the Los Angeles Times. That’s the “dispiriting” conclusion of a massive, first-of-its-kind study from data scientists and social media experts at MIT, who examined the spread of thousands of tweets shared by millions of people over a span of 12 years. They found that compared with tweets about verifiably true claims, “tweets about claims that were undeniably false were 70 percent more likely to be retweeted.” Those tweets also spread faster: The time it took for a false claim to reach 1,500 people on Twitter was six times faster than for true news. False tweets about politics spread further than those in any other category, and when the researchers removed from the data set threads that started with bots, the pattern did not change.
Washington passes net neutrality law
“Washington has become the first state to pass a law that protects net neutrality,” said Thuy Ong in TheVerge.com. The bill, signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee last week, prohibits internet service providers from blocking apps or services, or from slowing down connection speeds. It also prohibits ISPs from offering fast lanes for certain sites. Although Oregon was technically the first state to pass a net neutrality bill, Washington has the first law on its books “where violations by all ISPs are enforceable” under the state’s Consumer Protection Act. Since the Federal Communication Commission last year added language specifically prohibiting states from crafting their own net neutrality laws, Washington’s law is likely to face legal challenges.
Why Alexa is laughing at you
Owners of Amazon’s Echo speakers recently began reporting that their devices were “laughing, seemingly at them, at unexpected and unwanted times,” said Brian Feldman in NYMag.com. The reports led Amazon to release a statement suggesting that the Echos were simply “incorrectly hearing themselves” being ordered to laugh. “We are disabling the short utterance ‘Alexa, laugh,’” the company assured Echo owners, adding they were also changing Alexa’s response to such a request “from simply laughter to ‘Sure, I can laugh’ followed by laughter.” Amazon’s response demonstrates another “remarkable shift” in how we interact with everyday tech. Not only are we having to deal with machines laughing at us, but the fix is largely out of our control.