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YouTube shooting suspect was angry site stopped paying her, father says | Technology

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The woman who allegedly opened fire at YouTube’s headquarters in a suburb of San Francisco, injuring three before killing herself, was apparently furious with the video website because it had stopped paying her for her clips.

Police in California named the shooter as Nasim Najafi Aghdam, 39.

Aghdam was “upset with the policies and practices of YouTube”, San Bruno police chief Ed Barberini said at a press conference on Wednesday. “This appears to be the motive for this incident.”

No evidence had been found linking her to any individuals at the company where she allegedly opened fire on Tuesday, he said.

Two of the three shooting victims from the incident were released from the Zuckerberg San Francisco general hospital on Tuesday night. A third, a male in his 30s, is currently in “serious condition”, a hospital spokeswoman said Wednesday morning. A fourth victim had been injured, but not shot, in the incident, police said.

Aghdam had visited a local gun range on Tuesday morning before going to YouTube’s headquarters, Barberini said. A Smith & Wesson 9mm semiautomatic handgun, legally registered to Aghdam, was found at the scene.

The alleged shooter parked at a nearby business and appeared to have entered YouTube’s campus through a parking garage.

Local law enforcement agencies are facing questions about a warning her father gave police before the shooting, including that he was concerned she was headed to YouTube’s headquarters, which is more than 500 miles from San Diego, where she lived.

Police in Mountain View, where Google is headquartered, confirmed that they interviewed Aghdam early in the morning before the shooting, after they found her sleeping in her car.

The department described her as “calm and cooperative”, and said that “at no point during our roughly 20-minute interaction with her did she mention anything about YouTube, if she was upset with them, or that she had planned to harm herself or others.”

While her father told police later that morning that Aghdam was upset with YouTube over her videos, and might have come to the area as a result, he did not “mention anything about potential acts of violence or a possibility of Aghdam lashing out as a result of her issues with her videos,” the department said in a statement.

The Mountain View department had not passed on any information about Aghdam to police in San Bruno, where YouTube’s headquarters is located, before the shooting, the San Bruno police chief said.

Aghdam’s online profile shows she was a vegan activist who ran a website called NasimeSabz.com, meaning “Green Breeze” in Persian, where she posted about Persian culture and veganism, as well as long passages critical of YouTube.

Her father, Ismail Aghdam, told the Bay Area News Group from his San Diego home on Tuesday that she was angry with the Google-owned site because it had stopped paying her for videos she posted on the platform, and that he had warned the police that she might be going to the company’s headquarters.

Ismail Aghdam said he reported his daughter missing on Monday after she did not answer her phone for two days. He said the family received a call from Mountain View police at about 2am on Tuesday saying they had found her sleeping in a car.

He said he warned them she might be heading to YouTube because she “hated” the company.

In a statement, the Mountain View police department said officers had found Aghdam asleep in her car around 2am on Tuesday morning, and that they had asked her a series of questions, including “if she was a danger to herself or others.”


Nasim Najafi Aghdam, in a photo from her website. Photograph: www.nasimesabz.com

Agdham told the officers that she was currently living out of her vehicle while she was looking for the job, a common occurrence in the Bay Area, which has struggled with a homelessness crisis that has left even working families with jobs living out of cars and RVs in quiet areas of Mountain View and Palo Alto.

Aghdam had been reported missing on 21 March, the San Bruno police chief said.

Questions about whether a better law enforcement response to tips might have preventing an attack have emerged repeatedly in the wake of high-profile gun attacks.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation admitted that it failed to properly follow up on two separate tips that the gunman in the Parkland, Florida, massacre in February was planning on attacking a school, including a call from a person close to suspect Nikolas Cruz, who noted that he was armed.

The incident also raised questions about security measures at Sillicon Valley’s lavish tech campuses. Law enforcement officials are “always looking for opportunities to harden targets or making environments as safe as possible for people who work there”, Barberini said.

A female shooter is a rarity: an FBI study of 160 “active shooter” incidents between 2000 and 2013 found only six incidents, or 3.8%, were perpetrated by a female shooter. Five of those six shootings were incidents of workplace violence, where women attacked current or former co-workers at the places they had worked. All of these female shooters used handguns.

One recent mass shooting, the 2014 San Bernardino attack, had a joint male and female perpetrator. Married couple Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire on a holiday party of Farook’s co-workers in 2014 with military-style rifles, leaving 14 people dead.

Aghdam’s social media posts highlighted pro-vegan views and criticised animal cruelty. She was also quoted in a 2009 story in the San Diego Union-Tribune about a protest by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals against the use of pigs in military trauma training. “For me, animal rights equal human rights,” Aghdam told the Union-Tribune at the time.

Many video creators on YouTube have spoken publicly in recent months about their frustrations with YouTube’s new restrictions on which videos can earn ad revenue, a change that many said hurt smaller video producers.

YouTube’s policy changes were announced following corporate outrage last year when an investigation found that ads for mainstream brands were being shown on YouTube videos advocating racist and extremist views. But video creators have said that YouTube’s response to this problem, including having some channels “demonetized”, ended up hurting small, independent video producers who tackled serious topics, not just videos propagating extremist content.

“She was always complaining that YouTube ruined her life,” Nasim’s brother, Shahran Aghdam, told the Bay Area News Group on Tuesday night.

YouTube terminated Aghdam’s account following the shooting. Her Instagram and Facebook accounts have also been removed.

A screenshot of a video posted on Aghnam’s YouTube channel before it was taken down showed her complaining that “YouTube filtered my channels to keep them from getting views”.

Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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How Cambridge Analytica works and turned ‘likes’ into political tool

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How Cambridge analytica works

The algorithm at the heart of the Facebook data breach sounds almost too dystopian to be real. It trawls through the most apparently trivial, throwaway postings –the “likes” users dole out as they browse the site – to gather sensitive personal information about sexual orientation, race, gender, even intelligence and childhood trauma. So exactly how cambridge analytica works and why it turned like in to a real world political tool.

A few dozen “likes” can give a strong prediction of which party a user will vote for, reveal their gender and whether their partner is likely to be a man or woman, provide powerful clues about whether their parents stayed together throughout their childhood and predict their vulnerability to substance abuse. And it can do all this without delving into personal messages, posts, status updates, photos or all the other information Facebook holds.

how cambridge analytica works

Some results may sound more like the result of updated online sleuthing than sophisticated data analysis; “liking” a political campaign page is little different from pinning a poster in a window.

But five years ago psychology researchers showed that far more complex traits could be deduced from patterns invisible to a human observer scanning through profiles. Just a few apparently random “likes” could form the basis for disturbingly complex character assessments.

When users liked “curly fries” and Sephora cosmetics, this was said to give clues to intelligence; Hello Kitty likes indicated political views; “Being confused after waking up from naps” was linked to sexuality. These were just some of the unexpected but consistent correlations noted in a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in 2013. “Few users were associated with ‘likes’ explicitly revealing their attributes. For example, less than 5% of users labelled as gay were connected with explicitly gay groups, such as No H8 Campaign,” the peer-reviewed research found.

The researchers, Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell and Thore Graepel, saw the dystopian potential of the study and raised privacy concerns. At the time Facebook “likes” were public by default.


Cambridge Analytica whistleblower: ‘We spent $1m harvesting millions of Facebook profiles’ How Cambridge Analytica works.

“The predictability of individual attributes from digital records of behaviour may have considerable negative implications, because it can easily be applied to large numbers of people without their individual consent and without them noticing,” they said.

“Commercial companies, governmental institutions, or even your Facebook friends could use software to infer attributes such as intelligence, sexual orientation or political views that an individual may not have intended to share.”

To some, that may have sounded like a business opportunity. By early 2014, Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix had signed a deal with one of Kosinski’s Cambridge colleagues, lecturer Aleksandr Kogan, for a private commercial venture, separate from Kogan’s duties at the university, but echoing Kosinski’s work.

The academic had developed a Facebook app which featured a personality quiz, and Cambridge Analytica paid for people to take it, advertising on platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

The app recorded the results of each quiz, collected data from the taker’s Facebook account – and, crucially, extracted the data of their Facebook friends as well.

The results were paired with each quiz-taker’s Facebook data to seek out patterns and build an algorithm to predict results for other Facebook users. Their friends’ profiles provided a testing ground for the formula and, more crucially, a resource that would make the algorithm politically valuable.

How Cambridge Analytica works

To be eligible to take the test the user had to have a Facebook account and be a US voter, so tens of millions of the profiles could be matched to electoral rolls. From an initial trial of 1,000 “seeders”, the researchers obtained 160,000 profiles – or about 160 per person. Eventually a few hundred thousand paid test-takers would be the key to data from a vast swath of US voters.

It was extremely attractive. It could also be deemed illicit, primarily because Kogan did not have permission to collect or use data for commercial purposes. His permission from Facebook to harvest profiles in large quantities was specifically restricted to academic use. And although the company at the time allowed apps to collect friend data, it was only for use in the context of Facebook itself, to encourage interaction. Selling data on, or putting it to other purposes, – including Cambridge Analytica’s political marketing – was strictly barred.

It also appears likely the project was breaking British data protection laws, which ban sale or use of personal data without consent. That includes cases where consent is given for one purpose but data is used for another.

The paid test-takers signed up to T&Cs, including collection of their own data, and Facebook’s default terms allowed their friends’ data to be collected by an app, unless their privacy settings allowed this. But none of them agreed to their data possibly being used to create a political marketing tool or to it being placed in a vast campaign database.

How Cambridge Analytica works

Kogan maintains everything he did was legal and says he had a “close working relationship” with Facebook, which had granted him permission for his apps.

Facebook denies this was a data breach. Vice-president Paul Grewal said: “Protecting people’s information is at the heart of everything we do, and we require the same from people who operate apps on Facebook. If these reports are true, it’s a serious abuse of our rules.”

Graphic to show key players in Cambridge Analytica story

The scale of the data collection Cambridge Analytica paid for was so large it triggered an automatic shutdown of the app’s ability to harvest profiles. But Kogan told a colleague he “spoke with an engineer” to get the restriction lifted and, within a day or two, work resumed.

Within months, Kogan and Cambridge Analytica had a database of millions of US voters that had its own algorithm to scan them, identifying likely political persuasions and personality traits. They could then decide who to target and craft their messages that was likely to appeal to them – a political approach known as “micro-targeting”.

Facebook announced on Friday that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and Kogan from the platform pending information over misuse of data related to this project.

Facebook denies that the harvesting of tens of millions of profiles by GSR and Cambridge Analytica was a data breach. It said in a statement that Kogan “gained access to this information in a legitimate way and through the proper channels” but “did not subsequently abide by our rules” because he passed the information onto third parties.

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Twitter briefly shut down @Bitcoin, sparking wild conspiracy theories

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Twitter suspended the @Bitcoin Twitter account, which is run by an anonymous user, over the weekend. The account was briefly taken over by a user who claimed to be Turkish, then a user who claimed to be Russian, before apparently being restored to its previous owner Monday afternoon.

“We do not comment on individual accounts so nothing to share,” a Twitter spokesperson said when asked about the suspension. “That’s some bullshit if you ask me,” the user behind @Bitcoin tweeted. “I’d like to know why my account was given to someone else, and then when it’s reinstated I’m missing 750,000 of my followers.”

The @Bitcoin account had more than 821,000 followers when it was suspended. Those followers disappeared, but it appears that Twitter is slowly restoring them.

The mysterious suspension naturally stoked conspiracy theories in the bitcoin community. The @Bitcoin account is supportive of Bitcoin Cash, also known as Bcash. Bitcoin Cash was founded by a group of developers, miners, and other members of the community who split off in August 2017, duplicating the bitcoin blockchain and establishing a new cryptocurrency, after a dispute over how to address the growing network’s scaling issues.

The relationship between Bitcoin Cash and Bitcoin, or Bitcoin Core, is acrimonious. Some Bitcoin Cash supporters suspected that their enemies on the Bitcoin Core side caused @Bitcoin’s suspension by falsely reporting it to Twitter for spam or harassment.

Some said they believed the account had been previously been hijacked by Bitcoin Cash supporter Roger Ver. The account, which was registered in August 2011 according to its Twitter bio, only began tweeting about Bitcoin Cash in January. At the time, @Bitcoin tweeted, “The ownership of this account has not changed hands. I became busy with other things, much has changed since then and I’ve decided to take a more active role in the community once again.” Ver claims he has no connection to the account, and that it “is owned by someone involved in Bitcoin since 2009.”

“I’d love to hear a public explanation from @twittersupport about why #bitcoin competitor #LightningNetwork investor @jack disabled this account, gave it to someone else, only to return it in the face of public backlash with 750,000 fewer followers,” the @Bitcoin account tweeted after being restored.

Some felt that the @Bitcoin account shouldn’t be used by anyone. “Twitter is a platform for people to promote their own agenda,” tweeted Nick Tomaino, a cryptocurrency venture capital investor. “Only right that @bitcoin stays inactive/suspended.”

Twitter started blocking cryptocurrency-related ads at the end of March, but confirmed it does not have content rules specific to cryptocurrencies.

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