73 Computer Scientists Created a Neural Net and You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

The Internet is a strange place. The promise of cyberspace in the 1990s was nothing short of humanity’s next greatest achievement. For the first time in history, anyone could talk to anyone else in a vast, electronic communion of enlightened thought, and reasoned discourse. The Internet was intended to be the modern Library of Alexandria. It was beautiful, and it was the future. The Internet was the greatest invention of all time.

Somewhere, someone realized people have the capacity to be idiots. Turns out nobody wants to learn anything when you can gawk at the latest floundering of your most hated celebrity. Nobody wants to have a conversation, because your confirmation bias is inherently flawed and mine is much better. Politics, religion, evolution, weed, guns, abortions, Bernie Sanders and Kim Kardashian. Video games.

A funny thing happened since then. People started to complain they were being pandered to. They started to blame media bias and clickbait. People started to discover that headlines were designed to get clicks. You’ve read Moneyball, and know how the use of statistics changed baseball, right? Buzzfeed has done the same thing with journalism, and it’s working for their one goal of getting you to click that link.

Now, finally, the Buzzfeed editors may be out of a job. [Lars Eidnes] programmed a computer to generate clickbait. It’s all done using recurrent neural networks gathering millions of headlines from the likes of Buzzfeed and the Gawker network. These headlines are processed, and once every twenty minutes a new story is posted on Click-O-Tron, the only news website you won’t believe. There’s even voting, like reddit, so you know the results are populist dross.

I propose an experiment. Check out the comments below. If the majority of the comments are not about how Markov chains would be better suited in this case, clickbait works. Prove me wrong.

Palin hacking roundup

[David Kernell], the 20-year-old son of Democratic politician [Mike Kernell], turned himself in for hacking into Vice Presidential nominee Governor [Sarah Palin]’s Yahoo! email account. He was indicted on one felony count of violating the 1986 Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Although the charge would normally be a misdemeanor, the indictment invokes another statute, the Stored Communications Act to beef up its claim. Some lawyers are of the opinion that the U.S. Department of Justice overreached in charging [Kernell] with a felony. They claim that the government’s justification is flawed and relies on “circuitous logic”. [Kernell] has been released without bond, and instructed not to have any contact with [Governor Palin], her family, or any witnesses to the case. If convicted fully, he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. We also discovered that this isn’t [Kernell]’s first time in trouble. In high school, he received detention for guessing the password of the school server and obtaining access to some lesson plans.

Yahoo! employee accused of involvement with terrorists

[Mohammed Mansoor Asghar Peerbhoy], a software engineer at Yahoo!’s Indian facility, has been accused of involvement with one of India’s most-wanted terrorist organizations, the Islamic Mujahideen. According to investigators, [Peerbhoy] wrote and sent emails just before and after terrorist attacks in Delhi, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, and Jaipur in Rajasthan. [Peerbhoy] makes an unlikely suspect; he visited the U.S. on several occasions for work without suspicion, but authorities claim that he was a “mastermind” who hacked into wireless internet sites to send hostile emails. The local community and his family have rallied around [Peerbhoy], calling the arrest an attempt to “defame the Muslim community”. There are also claims that his arrest, and other similar arrests, were made to soothe political pressures and not based on any factual evidence.

[photo: josemurilo]