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Five Reads: Taming Toxic Trolls

The Forrest Four-Cast: Jan. 11, 2019

Are Tech Companies Responsible for Toxic Content?
“It was a horror film,” Matthew Herrick told BuzzFeed News. “It’s just like a constant Groundhog Day, but in the most horrible way you can imagine.” He’s talking about the way his life went through the ringer after an ex-boyfriend targeted him with a slew of fake profiles asking for sex and drugs. Section 230 of the 1996 law known as the Communications Decency Act has generally been interpreted as immunizing internet services from liability for content posted online. But an on-going harassment suit against Grindr challenges that interpretation. If it succeeds, tech companies may have to radically rethink what to do about damaging content posted on their platform.

Learn more about this topic via the SXSW 2019 tracks on Tech Industry & Enterprise, Media & Journalism, and Continuing Legal Education.

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What’s the Matter with Reading Faces?
Researchers in Boston used AI to successfully detect rare genetic disorders based on photos of faces, reports Science magazine. Certain disorders, such Noonan syndrome and Angelman syndrome, are often associated with facial features such as almond-shaped eyes and small chins. The researchers trained a system named DeepGestalt on a photo database of 17,000 patients with 200 rare disorders, then tested it out with 500 new images. The system detected potential disorders 91% of the time, they say, showing promise as a tool to help doctors diagnose these disorders — and raising disturbing ethical issues.

SXSW 2019 speakers will relate other dispatches from the medical technology frontiers as part of the Health & MedTech track.

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Monks Got Game
The hidden valleys and rugged mountains of Tibet might not seem like obvious incubators for basketball. Yet, writes Louie Lazar in a great piece in the Atlantic, the sport is enjoying an unexpected surge of popularity in this land of the Buddhist monks, yak herders and other fascinating characters who are behind the surprising trend.

The SXSW 2019 Sports track will explore additional unexpected trends in Sport.

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Faking the “War On Cars”
From Aristophanes to Jon Stewart, satire and comedy have always had a political dimension. In this fascinating report in the Atlantic’s CityLab, reporter Laura Bliss shows how comic Kate McKinnon’s devastating role as a hyperventilating car-activist reshaped the public debate over the pedestrianization of Times Square.

Bliss will speak at SXSW 2019 on Mobility in Cities as part of the Cities, Government & Politics track.

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Are You Ready for GHIDRA?
After Wikileaks revealed the existence of the GHIDRA, the National Security Agency’s powerful reverse-engineering tool, the NSA surprised critics by announcing that it will open-source the software in March. GHIDRA is a disassembler — it looks at executable files and produces assembly code that can yield clues to the inner workings of malware, viruses, and other cyberhacks.

Check out the SXSW 2019 tracks on Coding & Development and Tech Industry & Enterprise for more advances in cybersecurity.

Five Reads Archive
January 4: Big Tech = Big Trouble
December 28: Austin is Weird and Wired
December 22: The End of Traffic
December 15: Guarding the Truth
December 5: Becoming an Obama
November 30: The Trouble for Juul
November 21: Life Is Good
November 16: Whither Facebook
November 9: Why Does the US Love Guns?
November 2: Esther Perel Knows Love

Hugh Forrest serves as Chief Programming Officer at SXSW, the world’s most unique gathering of creative professionals. He also tries to write at least four paragraphs per day on Medium. These posts often cover tech-related trends; other times they focus on books, pop culture, sports and other current events.

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Celebrating creativity at SXSW. Also, reading reading reading, the Boston Red Sox, good food, exercise when possible and sleep sleep sleep.

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