New data analysis competitions

How-to

Twitter, widely used around the world, has a standard interface for government agencies to request that individual tweets or even whole accounts be censored. Twitter, in turn, discloses country-by-country statistics about this censorship in its transparency reports as well as reporting specific incidents of censorship to the Chilling Effects web site. Twitter identifies Turkey as the country issuing the largest number of censorship requests, so we focused our attention there. Collecting over 20 million Turkish tweets from late 2014 to early 2015, we discovered over a quarter million censored tweets - two orders of magnitude larger than what Twitter itself reports. We applied standard machine learning / clustering techniques, and found the vast bulk of censored tweets contained political content, often critical of the Turkish government. Our work establishes that Twitter radically under-reports censored tweets in Turkey, raising the possibility that similar trends hold for censored tweets from other countries as well. We also discuss the relative ease of working around Twitter's censorship mechanisms, although we can not easily measure how many users take such steps.

Privacy

Photographers use all sorts of cameras to make portraits. But artists Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin chose an unusual and slightly unsettling route–capturing people with 3-D surveillance technology. Broomberg and Chanarin used a surveillance camera system called Vocord FaceControl 3-D to make portraits of 120 Russian citizens—including Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevic and poet Lev Rubinstein—for their series and photo book Spirit is a Bone.

Patrick Ball—a data scientist and the director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group—who has previously given expert testimony before war crimes tribunals, described the NSA's methods as "ridiculously optimistic" and "completely bullshit." A flaw in how the NSA trains SKYNET's machine learning algorithm to analyse cellular metadata, Ball told Ars, makes the results scientifically unsound.

It is worse than it looks:

To determine which employees might soon get pregnant, Castlight recently launched a new product that scans insurance claims to find women who have stopped filling birth-control prescriptions, as well as women who have made fertility-related searches on Castlight’s health app.

Tech

Hiring a lawyer for a parking-ticket appeal is not only a headache, but it can also cost more than the ticket itself. Depending on the case and the lawyer, an appeal — a legal process where you argue out of paying the fine — can cost between $400 to $900. But with the help of a robot made by British programmer Joshua Browder, 19, it costs nothing. Browder's bot handles questions about parking-ticket appeals in the UK.

Visualizations