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Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994
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Archive for the ‘Current Events’

North Korea has officially banned sarcasm. What a wonderful idea! Truly a great move.

September 23, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Places No Comments →

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What it looks like when Kim Jong-Un crushes sarcasm

Behold the Glorious Leader pointing at things, with the Ghost of the Glorious Leader’s Father behind him.

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Action figures by Contra Bandidos.

AI in the war against troll farms and outsourced online hatred

September 21, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Technology 1 Comment →

Manila, Philippines. August 28, 2014. An employee working as a content moderator for Task Us sits in front of her computer at her cubicle on the 11th floor of the SM Aura Office Building Tower in the Taguig district of Manila. Task Us is an American outsourcing tech company with offices in the Philippines. (Photo by Moises Saman/MAGNUM)
Companies like Facebook and Twitter rely on an army of workers employed to soak up the worst of humanity in order to protect the rest of us. It’s a soul-killing job better left to AI. Photo: A content moderator from TaskUs in BGC.

Mass harassment online has proved so effective that it’s emerging as a weapon of repressive governments. In late 2014, Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro reported on Russia’s troll farms, where day laborers regurgitate messages that promote the government’s interests and inundate oppo­nents with vitriol on every possible outlet, including Twitter and Facebook. In turn, she’s been barraged daily by bullies on social media, in the comments of news stories, and via email. They call her a liar, a “NATO skank,” even a drug dealer, after digging up a fine she received 12 years ago for possessing amphetamines. “They want to normalize hate speech, to create chaos and mistrust,” Aro says. “It’s just a way of making people disillusioned.”

All this abuse, in other words, has evolved into a form of censorship, driving people offline, silencing their voices. For years, victims have been calling on—clamoring for—the companies that created these platforms to help slay the monster they brought to life. But their solutions generally have amounted to a Sisyphean game of whack-a-troll.

Now a small subsidiary of Google named Jigsaw is about to release an entirely new type of response: a set of tools called Conversation AI. The software is designed to use machine learning to automatically spot the language of abuse and harassment—with, Jigsaw engineers say, an accuracy far better than any keyword filter and far faster than any team of human moderators. “I want to use the best technology we have at our disposal to begin to take on trolling and other nefarious tactics that give hostile voices disproportionate weight,” says Jigsaw founder and president Jared Cohen. “To do everything we can to level the playing field.”

Jigsaw is applying artificial intelligence to solve the very human problem of making people be nicer on the Internet.

Read it.

Too much metaphor: The Brutal War of the Political Cats of Downing Street

September 18, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Cats, Current Events No Comments →

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Larry (tortoiseshell) of the Prime Minister’s Office in battle with Palmerston (black and white) of the Foreign Office.

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Both were adopted from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Other cats have since moved into the offices on Downing Street: whether they will promote peace or join the fray remains to be seen.

Cat Wars: Downing Street upheaval

The winning catchphrase

September 17, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events No Comments →

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What have you done?! This is what we think of Brexit.

June 25, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Movies 15 Comments →

Now What? (Or, It’s culture, stupid.)

May 17, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events 4 Comments →

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Rigodon, an art installation by Leo Abaya showing the presidents of the Philippines as players on a chessboard.

The people have spoken. Democracy has won. Why, then, have you fallen into this deep funk?

It is not simply that your candidates lost. In truth you were not that attached to them, but the options were limited. Over one hundred million Filipinos, and that is the prime selection. But that’s a topic for another time.

You can easily get over your candidates losing. It’s harder to deal with the fact that many of your assumptions about your country, your colleagues, even your friends, are wrong. (By “friends” we mean the family you choose for yourself, and not the millions you interact with in the social media.) You thought you agreed on basic principles—human rights, women’s rights, etc. It turns out that these may be set aside “for the greater good”. Are you so disconnected from your people that you do not understand this clamoring? Do you not understand your country?

Read my column at InterAksyon.com.