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Snapchat move normalizes, dismisses the dangers of deepfakes

Snapchat is introducing a new funny feature where it replaces the face of – wait that seems familiar. oh it’s just deepfakes, but funny?

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Snapchat is taking deepfakes and making them everyday comedy. Their latest feature will allow users to use their selfies to replace the faces of peoples in premade videos.

Snapchat Cameos is set to launch globally on December 18th. The feature will start with about 150 different videos for users to choose from with new videos to be added every month. Some users in France have already gotten to beta test Cameos. From early screenshots it appears that the videos remain cartoonish, lighthearted, and obviously fake.

We’ve talked about deepfakes potential to destroy reputations, companies, and even countries in the past. So, what happens when a dangerous software trickles down to the world of cat memes and silly dance videos?

The reality is this kind of technology is out there and it’s not going away. The optimistic response would be that the wide spread use of this technology will help people identify deepfakes better. At the very least, people will understand that faking videos in such a manner is a real possibility. If you can make a fake video with a just a few buttons on your phone, then anyone can. Plus, the videos are fun and provide another way for users to interact in the modern age. No harm done.

The pessimistic response would be that nothing is real anymore and you can’t trust anything you see on the internet. Users should be more vigilant than ever about the content they consume to avoid being bamboozled by seemingly reliable sources. Online trust is no longer an option.

I’m more of a happy medium kind of person. Deepfakes are here to stay – at least until we can improve the technology that identifies them and the laws that prosecute those who seek to spread misinformation online.

People should be vigilant of everything they see and read online, but that’s been true for a long time. It is easier than ever to create fake content that can have serious consequences for business and government. But, with this technology leaking out into the world of online comedy, people will be less susceptible to deep fakes and get a good laugh while they’re at it. Maybe we can have it all.

Staff Writer, Natalie Gonzalez earned her B.A. in English and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a writer and social media nerd with a passion for building online communities.

Tech News

Instagram helps pass social isolation with co-watching

(TECH NEWS) As social distancing become commonplace, Instagram responds with co-watching. The Newest way to look at and watch content with friends.

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Instagram co-watching

Deep into the second week of quarantine, third or fourth week for some of us, the isolation is starting to become quite real. Thanks to modern technology we can reach out to our friends and family without leaving the house, but it pales in comparison to the social lives many of us once enjoyed together. While you can certainly FaceTime or video call your friends, it’s still difficult to watch things together, mimicking the in-person experience. Many people have begun searching for apps that allow you to watch televisions shows and trending news together, so you can all see the same thing, at roughly the same time (thanks, lagging) and comment accordingly.

In a timely release, Instagram just launched a new feature called “Co-Watching.” This takes Instagram from a solo experience to a shared experience for up to six people. Co-Watching gives users the ability to video chat and browse through Instagram’s content together, thus making it more of a social gathering. The only downside to this feature, in my opinion, is that you cannot Co-Watch IGTV. Oftentimes, IG posts that are over the time limit are shifted to IGTV and you won’t be able to watch the full post with Co-Watching, but all other feeds and content on Instagram will be able through the new Co-Watching feature (except private posts, of course).

Ready to Co-Watch? Getting started is pretty easy, if you’re somewhat familiar with Instagram. To start, initiate a video call with whomever you want, up to six, in your Co-Watching party, by tapping on the arrow icon in the upper-right corner and select the video camera icon. You’ll see the video chat interface pop up and from there you’ll want to look to the lower right-hand corner for a “media” button, which looks like a mountain photo icon. Tap on that icon and you’ll see all the posts you’ve liked. Select a post or video from your favorites, or from Instagram’s recommended feed and whatever you tap will be shared to all your partygoers. If you’re watching a video, it will continue to loop until you or one of your friends select something new.

There are several other group chat/watching options currently available if Instagram isn’t your jam. Netflix can be used with the Party app. Netflix Party is available on Chrome browsers (on desktops or laptops) and allows you to synch your favorite videos with group chat. There is also the Squad app. It allows you to screen share anything on your phone with your friends. This works with texts, IG, Snapchat, Spotify, YouTube, Amazon, TikTok, and more. Start a group video chat with your selected friends, then broadcast your screen and start chatting. Squad is available in the App Store and Google Play.

While Instagram’s new feature is fun, the inability to share while watching IGTV makes it fall a bit flat for me. Have you tried, or will you try Instagram’s Co-Watching feature?

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Tech News

Broadband internet can save rural lives, especially now

(TECH NEWS) Will this bill finally put broadband internet access into the communities that need it most? Rural communities are quickly falling behind.

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Lack of information kills.

As in straight up will put you in the ground, kills.

Example: Did you know they sell apricot kernels by the bag as a superfood? Did you know that their seeds, as well as those of most stone fruits like nectarines, plums, and peaches contain a chemical called amygdalin? Did you know that amygdalin converts to cyanide in the human body, and will take your Whole Foods shopping behind out like a bag full of used N95 masks on trash day?

If you didn’t know, you know now, and if you knew before, either you’re a botanist, scientist, or some other positive -ist, OR you found out like I did. On the internet.

Y’all, my height, weight, and the calendar say the same thing: it’s not 1995 anymore.

There’s no ‘pounding the pavement’ to get a job, it’s on the internet. There’s no ‘Just call and find out’, you get put on hold and a robo voice tells you to get on the internet. PS, that last weird thing you saw your doctor about? They went to school, and they can authorize the tests, but they Googled that mess too, I guarantee you.

The web is an everyday utility in every country with steady lights and running water for more than 5% of the populace. So why are my folks in the wide open spaces being left out on this? Simply put, it’s a matter of companies not bothering to put the broadband infrastructure in place coupled with increasing charges in paying for the services in the first place. A new bill is looking to change that, and I am THUH-RILLED.

RJ Karney Director of Congressional Relations at the American Farm Bureau spearheaded putting Bill S.1822, AKA Broadband Deployment Accuracy and Technological Availability Act, AKA the DATA Act (nice one), in front of President Trump, and the payoff will payoff thusly if signed into law:

Rural communities will have better access to remote healthcare–physical AND mental, highly important to anyone for whom a doctor’s visit is a literal day trip.

Broadband usage will be tracked more accurately, allowing companies to get a glimpse into where reinforcements are needed most.

Those trackings will be used to decide where government funds will be allocated in order to facilitate internet implementation (say that 10 times fast).

20 Million Americans with no access to broadband, and the standard of life that comes with it will be granted the access they need.

Lovely, right?

And for everyone who likes the taste of leather out there, this isn’t a matter of the free market deciding not to provide a service because it isn’t profitable. No, dear reader, these companies have actively TURNED DOWN government funding to roll out faster internet in less populated areas, citing ‘We don’t wanna’ (my paraphrase) and ‘We know better than they do, and they don’t NEED this’ (also my paraphrase).

Even a city gal like me knows manure when she sees it.

I had a similar situation going on here in Austin. Once I moved out of the crappy apartments that just HAPPENED to be on the tail edge of a rich zip code, and into the crappy apartments by the GOOD taco places, my internet didn’t work right. Because the area had too many “poors” for -company name redacted, although it rhymes with Air BnB- to have put up the structures for working internet there. Despite the fact that my bill was not any lower.

It’s not okay.

Look obviously country folk aren’t stupid. I defy you to be as sharp as someone who has to get up at 5AM and drain a horse’s abscess without getting a hoof-shaped dent between the eyebrows. But especially now in our Covid-19 inundated world, we need info that you cannot just ‘know’. This is unprecedented stuff! For all I know, the virus feeds on the compounds in garlic, and I’m seconds away from a sweet n’ savory death due to all my ‘fight it off’ infused honey!

The issue is that no amount of good ol’ fashioned common sense is going to keep you from knowing not to feed your baby with contaminated Gerber’s that just got recalled because some sick douche-iot purposefully sneezed in the mashed peas. When I say ‘We need the information’, that WE means ALL of us.

Let’s hope for the best for this bill, and get everyone wired, hired, and fired up.

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Tech News

Mental health app tackles COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) GG life is an app backed by a psychology researcher to help people deal with a crisis. The COVID-19 outbreak seems like the perfect time to try it.

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GG Life

Mental health apps are a dime a dozen. GG Life is an app that purports to “use the power of inner-dialogue to heal, improve and progress.” Gur Ilany, creative director, designer and entrepreneur, posted on Product Hunt, “We’re excited to launch a product we’ve been working on for some time. My friend Dr. Guy Doron and I created over the last 2 years a mental wellness tool that helps people overcome their mental challenges.” GG Life is designed to help people cope and respond to crisis.

How it works

The app has different “journeys” which are the equivalent of levels. I started with the “Coping” journey. The first section introduces the topic. You are given an affirmation, one at a time. You pull (swipe) the positive statements toward the bottom of your phone and push the negative statements away from you toward the top of the phone. Each section only takes a few minutes. There are a few sections under each journey that assess your current state. The coping journey also has two “waves” sessions, which are a directed meditation exercise.

Pros

Dr. Doron is a clinical psychology researcher, who brings his extensive experience in OCD, anxiety and depression to GG Life. His background includes international studies and prestigious research grants. One of the things that makes GGAPPS unique is that they support their app with research on its efficacy. This research is being conducted in the US, UK Spain, Italy and Israel. You can actually read the academic papers that have been published about the app and its impact on people’s everyday life. The app is easy to use. It only takes a few minutes each day.

Cons

I did find the app to be a bit tone-deaf to people with chronic illnesses. In the Coping section, these statements came up – “I’m more likely to than others to get an illness.” Or “I’m more vulnerable than others to develop health issues.” You were supposed to reject them. I felt as if an immuno-compromised person might feel triggered.

The app is free to use, but if you want more journeys, it can be on the expensive side. The premium version costs $7.99/ month with a yearly subscription available for $59.99. Although it’s much cheaper than a counselor, it’s still an investment.

Does it work?

I’ve only been using GG Life for about three days, but I can see a difference in my mental dialogue. I challenge the negative thoughts more than I did before. I don’t know if that’s enough to recommend the app, but it’s certainly worth a download to try and manage obsessive thoughts about this crisis.

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