Fake News makes me sad

While some of the blame for the surge in fake news belongs with organisations such as Facebook; it seems unfair to put it all on them. It’s up to us to do something as well. Mainly educating those around you who may inadvertently share such material.

Over the last few months I’ve come across a few articles to trigger this post. I don’t post much to Facebook, but tend to scroll through my feed several times a week. And with the amount of messed up stuff happening around the world, it’s making it harder and harder to discern what’s fake and what’s real. For whatever reason, it seems to be on Facebook where I notice most of these articles. Whether it’s just because of the number of ‘friends’ I have, or another reason, I see less such posts on other sites I frequent.

The first article I came across had the headline: “Your baby in you can also get pregnant if you have sex while you are pregnant – Minister of Health warns SA women on women’s day”. Now are ministers take a lot of flack for a lot of reasons. Often warranted. But some statements are too unbelievable to be true, which is generally my first indication.

The article is published by a website called “News at Last”. If you really want to check them out, their current domain is newsatlastsa(dot)online. Not believing this could be true, I checked out the website, and did some googling and searching of other news websites. No one else was reporting this. Based on this information, and the lack of any credibility or supporting evidence on the News At Last’s website, I deemed this fake news. Their only contact details are an email address on a domain that WebAfrica have listed as suspended.

More recently was an article published last week by HIN News – hinnews(dot)com. Apparently it stands for Happenings In Nigeria, but their logo looks like someone tried to poorly Photoshop the BBC News logo. Their Facebook page has a concerning million+ followers and likes.

I googled BBC news, and saved the first image. The HIN logo is a pixel for pixel copy of the BBC logo, besides the off-centred and off-colour text edit.

The article in question was titled “Breaking!!FARM MURDERS: US President Threatens To Intervene If South Africa Does Not Come Up With A Solution To Farm Murders.” Ignoring the two exclamation marks, the article was brief and ended with the author’s personal opinion on the matter. Odd for what one would suppose is an unbiased objective report on something that happened.

But it didn’t happen. Well not as far as I can tell. Nor can I find any reputable news site reporting anything related. While I’m about this, I’m going to throw Gossip Mill Msanzi, gossipmillsa(dot)com into this boat as well. They seem to be offering up the same garbage as the others, and whether intentionally or not, no credible news site should be posting articles without verifying the source.

The biggest problem, is these sites intersperse these fake articles with hoards of actual articles which they lift from larger news organisations, attempting to give them a credible appearance on first glance.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I implore everyone to take an extra look at those news articles. Especially the ones with the lovely clickbait titles. It’s hard to know for sure, but if you can’t verify it’s legit, rather don’t share it until you have reason to believe it’s true. On the same note, if you have friends and family posting articles which you know to be false, call them out on it. It doesn’t have to blatant and rude. Send them an email or PM, telling them you think an article they shared isn’t real and the reasons you think this.

I like to think that most of the people I know wouldn’t intentionally post false information, and approach them with that attitude. I want them to think twice next time a similar article comes up.

Logitech K750 ‘repair’

tl;dr: Thought keyboard was broken, only needed battery replacement.

k750Since the Logitech K750 was first released, I was a fan. But the $100 price tag put me off. It’s most noticeable feature is the fact that it has a bar of solar panels along the top of the board which are used to charge the built in battery. This should mean you never have to replace the battery. A dream come true to me, who in general is disposable battery averse. Besides that it’s a standard wireless keyboard that uses Logitech’s unifying receiver, I additionally like the style and design of the keyboard.

So joyous was I to find it on a half-price special at some stage, promptly ordering it and enjoying it’s use. Two years later, on returning from a short trip, the keyboard no longer worked. Not registering keypresses, nor activating any of it’s notification lights. The battery is not supposed to be replaced, but is relatively easily accessible, so I popped it out and measured the voltage.

ml2032The battery used is a rechargeable coin-cell battery, similar to what is used on motherboards, an ML2032 3.0V battery. My battery measured 2.9V, so I assumed it was still fine, and something else had gone wrong. The keyboard had a 3-year warranty I was still within, so after the retailer rejected me, I contacted Logitech who were kind enough to send me a replacement that continues to work perfectly.

This was over a year ago; in-between a lot has happened, but Logitech didn’t ask me to return the old keyboard, and I couldn’t bring myself to throw it out. I figured I’d salvage the solar panels or something. I found it the other day and decided to take another look. Although the battery comes out relatively easily, the keyboard’s faceplate is glued into place. So to disassemble it you have to pry that off, making reassembly difficult.

After that there are a number of screws to remove, and then the base separates, giving you access to the circuit-board. On the front are a few test-points. With my old battery plugged in, V_BAT showed 2.86 V and V_MAIN showed a steady 2.0 V. I tested some other components but couldn’t find anything notably wrong with the board. Solar panels provided a charge.

So I popped my battery out of my new keyboard, and lo and behold it worked. I measured the voltage and it reflects marginally over 3.03 V. Apparently a 0.15 V drop on this battery is enough to stop the keyboard working. I measured the V_MAIN on the test points, and it showed an match 2.0V, like with the ‘bad’ battery. This also meant my disassembly was completely unnecessary. So with it in pieces, I ordered a replacement battery.

Now I have two working K750 keyboards, although one is slightly disfigured.

Shady Practices (Antera/DomaSchooner Phishing)

I’ve recently gone through the process of moving one of my domains from one domain registrant to another. For a couple reasons, but cost and whois privacy are part of it. I’ve switched hosting providers a number of times, and that’s not an issue, but getting different domain registrants on the same page to ensure a downtime-free transfer isn’t a clear process to me, so during this time I was particularly susceptible to notifications about the transfer.

It was then that I noticed an item in my spam account titled “Domain Expiration SEO”. Now I didn’t notice the SEO in that title at first, and was immediately concerned about the terms “Domain Expiration”. The fact that it was in my spam folder at least made me immediately cautious, but the fact that they used my full name and postal address in the “invoice” confused me.

The email had a large title saying “Final Notice, your account is pending cancellation”, th email came from “info@antera.org”, a domain with no discernable website, and links on the page directed to “domaschooner.win”. What I don’t like is that the entire premise is that you’re about to let something that you had expire. In the meantime nothing could be further from the truth.

It seems they somehow identify domains that are being transferred, grab the whois data and then generate emails, in my opinion, hoping to catch people not paying attention into paying $86 for supposed SEO software.

If you pay close attention to the email, they do note that they “…do not register or renew domain names…” and their email disclaimer states “…This is not a bill or an invoice. This is a SEO purchase offer. You are under no obligation to pay the amount stated unless you accept this purchase offer…”. So while they do a good job of telling the truth, the immediate implication of the email implies something worse. So while probably not illegal, very shady.

Wikipedia article not indexed

Recently I’ve been doing some freelance writing for various people via the online service UpWork. For the most part these have been product reviews of some kind, with odd jobs in between. Recently I had the opportunity to create a Wikipedia article for a musician.

In the past I have on occasion made corrections to Wikipedia pages, but never created a new one before, so it’s been interesting to see the whole process and learn all the checks and balances that Wikipedia tries to employ.

By Wikimedia Foundation – Wikimedia Foundation, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Wikipedia is constantly barraged with new articles, some worthy, some not so much. An army of well-respected Wikipedia users man the front, patrolling new articles, marking them for deletion, offering improvement advice, and in some small cases, approving the articles. The problem is, everyone thinks they deserve a Wikipedia page, but that often isn’t true.

Wikipedia has a number of guidelines for what it terms, notability. Especially when it comes to living persons, notoriety helps determine whether someone is deserving of a Wikipedia page. It’s also frowned upon to create your own Wikipedia page, or to even create one for someone else, with the expectation that you place such information into comments when creating a new page (see conflict of interest).

Regardless of all this, I set about learning all this information and creating a new page for this person. Wikipedia has created a Draft space for articles. It means you can create a page, work on it for as long as you want, and then submit it for approval through the articles for creation process. During this time, the site is live, but is not part of the normal Wikipedia Article space. So other’s can see and edit the page, but it isn’t listed within Wikipedia. The goal of the Draft article is to help people build a proper Wikipedia page, before it’s made live.

So this is what I did. Over several days I successively built up a Wikipedia entry for the artist, and when I was happy with the content and references, I submitted it for review as a draft. Here a draft can either be approved (which will make it live), or rejected. In my case the page was reviewed, and a user suggested that I require further references.

So I went and found further references, updated the comments and waited. But now the article falls into a major backlog that both Drafts submitted for approval and live Articles fall into. There are too many pages for the moderators to get through them all. Usually articles which are made live, or which request approval go to the top of a list, get reviewed and life goes on. But now my article was stuck in the backlog, never to be reviewed again.

So I took the power granted to every user, and made the page Live myself. Usually when an Article is made live, it will go to the top of a new list of new pages. But because my article had been created two weeks earlier, it fell into the backlog of another round of moderation, called the new pages patrol. This isn’t a major problem. An article doesn’t have to be patrolled to go live. So the article was live, you could link to it within Wikipedia, and it came up in Wikipedia searches. However if a page is not patrolled, it cannot be archived by Google, or other search engines.

This was a problem. At first I couldn’t figure out what was actually wrong, and eventually came across an article which showed that an article had to be patrolled before indexing is allowed. Fortunately the people who made these rules recognize some of the shortcomings of Wikipedia, and if an article isn’t approved after 30 days, it can start to be indexed.

30 days later, the page still hasn’t been patrolled, but it now shows up when you search for the artist on Google. It’s been a fun project, and makes me appreciate the tens of thousands of people involved in the Wikipedia project, I Just don’t understand where they find the time.

PS: It’s still possible that the page I created will be patrolled at some stage. Hopefully by then the page would have grown a bit and the artist would have built up a bit more notability (he was in a grey area when it comes to this).