It Just Got Easier to Avoid Fake News and Conspiracy Theories on YouTube

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iStock

All it takes is the right keyword search to fall down a rabbit-hole of conspiracy theories on YouTube. The video-sharing site notoriously makes it easy to find videos disputing everything from the moon landing to the shape of the Earth—some of which have racked up millions of views, granting them the illusion of legitimacy. Now, The Verge reports that YouTube is making it easier for viewers to separate fact from fiction.

When users search for something that's a popular subject of conspiracy theories—"Oklahoma bombing" is one example YouTube gives—a link to a third-party text source like Wikipedia or Encyclopædia Britannica will now appear at the top of their search results. The idea is to provide some general context for the topic before users have a chance to click on a video filled with inaccurate content.

The company also announced it's taking steps to stop the spread of misinformation regarding breaking news. Now, searches related to developing major news events will come with their own blurb at the top of the search results linking to a trusted outlet. YouTube admits that it isn't always the best platform for breaking news, and the new feature aims to make up for that.

They said in the announcement:

"After a breaking news event, it takes time to verify, produce and publish high-quality videos. Journalists often write articles first to break the news rather than produce videos. That's why in the coming weeks in the U.S. we will start providing a short preview of news articles in search results on YouTube that link to the full article during the initial hours of a major news event, along with a reminder that breaking and developing news can rapidly change."

YouTube also plans to support the video journalism that can be trusted. The company will be investing in news organizations in 20 global markets and collaborating with established outlets on ways to improve how it handles news in the future.

YouTube is the latest tech giant making an effort to crack down on the misinformation that circulates through its platform. Both Google and Facebook have added features that make it easier to spot fake news, but as is the case with YouTube's new update, they only work when users are willing to look for them.

[h/t The Verge]

What's the Difference Between a Router and a Modem?

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iStock.com/Grassetto

Despite using it every day, the internet is still a mystery to many of its users. If asked to explain how your home internet connection works, you may start with your router and modem. Both devices are essential to setting up a wireless network, but they serve distinct functions. Here are the major differences between the two pieces of hardware that make home internet run.

What is a Modem?

Cable modem.
iStock.com/sambrogio

The modem is your home's gateway to the World Wide Web. It's often a skinny box with a row of LED icons on the front that tell you if it's on and connected to the internet. The name is short for modulator-demodulator—a phrase left over from the days of dial-up when modems worked by modulating telephone signals into frequencies that could send digital information.

Today, most modems use broadband connections like cable or satellite to transmit data. There are different types of modems built to fit different connections. If your internet service provider (ISP) uses cable or fiber internet, you'll need to plug a cable into the back of your modem, and if you still use a digital subscriber line (DSL), you'll have to plug in a phone line.

What is a Router?

Internet router.
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You can connect to the internet with just a modem as long as you don't mind plugging your device directly into the Ethernet port. But if you want to provide internet to all the laptops, desktops, and smartphones in your home at the same time, you'll need a router.

Routers usually lie flat and have antennas sticking out of them. The router hooks up to your modem via an Ethernet cable and acts as a conduit between the direct internet and your home network. After connecting your devices, the router "routes" your modem's networking traffic their way, either through Ethernet wires or wirelessly through Wi-Fi (that's what the antennas are for). The router also works in the other direction by routing data sent from your computer back to the web.

Why Knowing the Difference Matters

When they've been sitting in the same spot in your home for years, it's easy to think of your router and modem as basically the same thing. But it's worth knowing the difference—especially if you care about improving your internet connection. Now that you know the router is what directs Wi-Fi signals, you can boost your home network by placing it in a central location away from electronic appliances. And as long as it doesn't interfere with the router, feel free to hide your modem behind a houseplant.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, send it to bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

Hackers Used Facebook Quizzes to Steal Data from 60,000 Users

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iStock.com/bombuscreative

It’s been a tumultuous few months for Facebook. A data breach in fall 2018 exposed information about 30 million of its users to hackers. Only a few months later, the company was also criticized for paying individuals to voluntarily install an app that collected information about their smartphone habits. Now, it’s dealing with concerns that some of the quizzes available on the platform have been used to collect data from unsuspecting users.

According to CNN, the scheme is detailed in a lawsuit Facebook filed in California last week against developers Andrey Gorbachov and Gleb Sluchevsky. The defendants, who are based in Kiev, Ukraine, allegedly created quizzes like, “Do you have royal blood?” or “What does your eye color say about you?” as a way to access private user data. When Facebook users interacted with these tests, they were prompted to install browser extensions that allowed the alleged hackers to pose as those users, collecting information as well as taking control of their browsers. The improperly obtained information consisted of names, ages, and friend lists, which hackers then used for targeted advertising that they injected into users' feeds.

It’s possible the breach also resulted in the publication of 81,000 private messages in 2018, which was initially blamed on unspecified malware browser extensions that have not yet been publicly identified. Facebook has yet to confirm the two incidents are related, however.

Facebook said that the primary targets of the operation were Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking users, with 60,000 browsers compromised.

This isn't the only time Facebook quizzes have been tied to data breaches. Last year’s Cambridge Analytica controversy revealed that the firm used quizzes and questionnaires on Facebook to surreptitiously compile data on millions of users.

So what should you do about it? Online security experts caution against third-party apps that are accessed through Facebook. If you’re concerned about utilities that you installed without much thought, you can see a list by clicking on Settings, then the Apps link on the left menu. If you don’t recognize an app, it’s best to delete it.

[h/t CNN]

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