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Big Revolution - How to be a good armchair critic

Welcome to Wednesday's Big Revolution. And a special welcome to new subscribers, of which there have
July 25 · Issue #150 · View online
Big Revolution
Welcome to Wednesday’s Big Revolution. And a special welcome to new subscribers, of which there have been quite a few in recent days. If you have any feedback, you can always reply to this email.

Big things you need to know today
  • Google is bringing a grammar checker to Docs, as part of a brace of new A.I.-powered features in G Suite. Hopefully it doesn’t aggressively police use of passive voice (which is fine as long as you know when to use it) like most similar tools.
  • Elon Musk has been accused of personally calling the boss of a blogger who had been publishing negative stories about Tesla. Musk’s fans uncovered the man’s real name and employer, accusing him of trying to depress Tesla’s stock price so he could benefit by shorting it. How Tesla’s business intertwines with the company’s fandom and the ‘cult of Elon’ is fascinating.
  • Facebook’s outgoing security chief shared some blunt truths in an internal memo before leaving in March, it’s been revealed. Alex Stamos said the company needs to listen when people say a feature is ‘creepy,’ and it should be willing to pick sides in disputes about what content is acceptable. It’s timely that this news has broken now, as Facebook has once again declined to ban InfoWars.
The big thought
One of Twitter's cryptocurrency scammers.
How to be a good armchair critic
A little knowledge can be a deceptive thing. If you see a problem in the world, and know about current technologies, you can believe you have an ‘obvious’ solution. But it can often turn out to be much more complicated to deploy than you’d ever assume.
Take Twitter’s current problem with cryptocurrency scams. You might have seen these in the replies to tweets by popular figures in the world of tech. Scammers create an account and make it look like it’s one of these popular figures. So, username ’@as9uqfahaj29s’ might have Elon Musk’s profile photo and display name.
This account then replies to one of Musk’s tweets, making it look to the casual observer like he’s simply creating a thread. The 'fake Musk’ encourages his fans to send him cryptocurrency with the promise of getting more back via a 'giveaway.’
To counter this, Twitter has now banned non-verified accounts from using the display name 'Elon Musk.’ Presumably, similar measures have been taken to protect other oft-impersonated accounts.
The problem? At least one scammer has used a stolen verified account instead, as the screenshot above shows. They also used a non-standard letter 'n.’
Thinking about this problem, I tweeted earlier: “There must be a way to beat this problem based on language patterns of what people post in replies to verified accounts.”
Then it struck me; I had a good enough idea on paper, but am I a software engineer at Twitter? Do I know how technically feasible it is for them to apply filters like that to tweets? Sure, their current solution is a bit of a hack, but it should at least reduce the frequency of these scams.
The best armchair critic is a well-informed armchair critic. If you’re going to call out people for being wrong, remember to consider everything you know you don’t know (the 'known unknowns,’ as Donald Rumsfeld might say) first. Otherwise, your argument will fall apart at the first hurdle.
One big read
The Spy Who Drove Me The Spy Who Drove Me
Was this journalist’s Uber driver a spy, or was she just being paranoid? A good read, and a sign of the times.
One big tweet
Thoughts about trust in a world full of misinformation. Click through for the thread…
an xiao mina
There’s a common thread floating around that one of the risks of rising misinformation is that people will start doubting everything, that nothing will be true anymore. This story needs complicating.
4:33 PM - 24 Jul 2018
That’s all for today...
See you tomorrow. Don’t forget; you can help me reach more people with BigRevolution by sharing it with others. Just send them this link and encourage them to subscribe.
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