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THIS GOOGLE-FUNDED COMPANY USES ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO FIGHT AGAINST FAKE NEWS

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“Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it,” wrote Jonathan Swift over 200 years ago.

If that was the case back then, before telephones and radio, let alone Twitter and Instagram, imagine how much bigger the problem is now.  In fact, it’s so big that “fake news” has become a hot topic for those on both sides of the political spectrum. Gartner has gone as far as predicting that by 2022, we will consume more lies than truth.

But if technology has exacerbated the situation, there’s hope that it may also offer remedies. In particular, artificial intelligence – in its most useful current form, machine learning – can potentially be a powerful tool for sorting truth from fiction.

Machine learning is already being used by banks and financial institutions to comb through records of financial transactions, looking for tell-tale signs of errors or fraud, and then using that data to become more efficient – effectively “learning” without human input.

In the same way, algorithms can be trained to monitor media – across both social networks and news organizations – looking for tell-tale signs that any piece of output might be out of alignment with whatever objective truths are known regarding situations or events.

One exciting application of this technology comes from Belgium-based startup VeriFlix. They have developed a method of scanning user-submitted videos – which play an increasingly significant part in the output of most media organizations – and attempting to determine whether they actually are what they purport to be.

After winning funding through Google’s Digital News Initiative, the company’s technology is now being put to use by one of that country’s largest media outlets – Rourlarta, with promising results.

Founder Donald Staar talked to me about how the platform had evolved from its initial conception as a peer-to-peer crowdsourcing app for videos. Media organizations would make a request for video footage through the app, and any user within the correct geolocation could switch on their phone and start filming.

“Once the videos get sent to the platform we add a layer which first detects the content of every stream – so we can say what we see in the video, alongside the geolocation data and time stamp,” Staar tells me.

“And once the videos are tagged we can compare them to one another, so that if for example, one request results in 1,000 videos, we can compare the content of every video and if a majority of the videos show the same content, then it can verify the authenticity of what has been shot.

“If 800 videos out of 1,000 show the same thing then the probability that the video has been faked is very low.”

Veriflix uses the YOLO (You Only Look Once) real-time object detection algorithms to classify and label contents of videos, before passing that data through to proprietary algorithms, designed in partnership with KU Leuven University. These algorithms analyze the data, alongside timestamp and geolocation information passed through the application’s secure interface.

Staar says “There are two main advantages – the first is that media companies can now make sure that videos they use are authentic and shot in the location where they say they are taken, and not modified or doctored.

“The other advantage is that they are able to bridge the gap between themselves and their audience – let their audience become a part of the story, and source exclusive and verified content very quickly. It can be for small things, too – it doesn’t have to just be big, breaking news.”

As is common with those working in today’s AI space, Staar is keen to point out that the idea isn’t to put journalists and human fact-checkers out of jobs.

“It will not replace the job of the journalist – we will always need journalists to put everything in perspective, but to get the raw data, this will be a great tool.”

Of course, as technology advances, the tools that fakers use to attempt to pull the wool over our eyes are likely to become increasingly sophisticated. It’s already possible to make highly realistic videos putting words in the mouths of people who would, in reality, be very unlikely to say such things. This doctored video of Obama being rather rude about Trump is a great example (warning, contains explicit language)

Over time it’s likely we will see a continuation of the arms race which has always existed in the technology sphere – with good guys racing against the bad guys to be the first to deploy the latest and most powerful tools.

Fake news is unlikely ever to be fully eradicated – there will always be someone willing to present a skewed version of the truth to push their own agenda. However, it could be the case that tools like VeriFlix, or whatever comes next, will raise the barrier regarding the tech and expertise needed to hoodwink us, going some way toward making the world a more truthful place.

Bernard Marr is a best-selling author & keynote speaker on business, technology and big data. His new book is Data Strategy. To read his future posts simply join his network here.

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AT&T PLANS BUYING GUIDE: WHICH ONE IS THE BEST FOR YOUR NEEDS?

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So, you’ve been thinking about biting the gun and becoming an AT&T customer?

Good thinking, but which plan to choose? Clearly, the abundance of options in AT&T’s roster don’t make the choice any easy, but we are here to help.

A couple of weeks ago, we walked you through all the different plans in Verizon’s lobby, but now it’s time to subject AT&T to the same treatment.

Unlimited plans

AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced and AT&T Unlimited Choice Enhanced

Ever since AT&T caved in and finally offered truly unlimited plans last year, its Unlimited Plus Enhanced plan has positioned itself as the most-loaded out plan. This plan is perfect for families due to the flexibility of the included line options and the loadout of features, compromise with speed, streaming quality, or the ability to use a mobile hotspot.
Meanwhile, AT&T Unlimited Choice Enhanced is mostly the same unlimited data/text/voice calls ordeal, but it comes with less features and is a bit more affordable. Both plans are perfect for family usage scenarios, and choosing one over the other would highly depend on your stance towards video streaming quality, mobile hotspot, and speed throttling.
Here’s a rundown of the pricing of the different lines, and after that we’d rundown other notable features of the plan. Note that the prices below have AutoPay and Paperless billing discounts applied to them.

* – Prices after discount with AutoPay and Paperless billing.

It’s obvious that the more, the merrier.

As you can see, once you start adding new lines to the AT&T Unlimited Plus Enhanced plan, prices become more and more affordable, making them more and more palatable for the regular family of up to four out there, and overall, a better deal.

With prices out of the way, let’s see what the two unlimited data plans offer as far as data allotments, features, and speeds are concerned.
Common strengths of both plans:
  • Free HBO for life: Both plans give you HBO for life. That’s undoubtedly a boon for all fans of A+ TV shows from the likes of Game of Thrones, Westworld, The Wire and many others as HBO has one of the most loaded-out subscription services out there. Have in mind that the actual promotion will start within 2 monthly billing cycles. Of course, if you drop your Unlimited Choice or Plus plan, you automatically forfeit the HBO benefit.
  • Unlimited roaming in Mexico & Canada: Pretty self-explanatory, but with either Unlimited Plus or Choice you get unlimited roaming in both neighboring countries.
  • Unlimited texting from USA to 120+ countries: With either Unlimited Plus or Choice you can text, send pictures and video messages via MMS to more than 120 countries around the globe at no extra cost.
  • AT&T THANKS: AT&T’s benefit program allows you to get insider access to special events, various forms of entertainment like movies and music, as well as get expert help, and many others at no extra cost. The majority of these benefits can be explored and used from the dedicated AT&T THANKS app on the app stores.
  • Military discounts: If you’re qualified military personnel or a veteran you get 15% discount at every monthly bill.
Our verdict: If you want the absolute best unlimited plan on AT&T, you should certainly go for Unlimited Plus Enhanced. It has the most bells and whistles and you shouldn’t worry about throttling that much. Well, at least until you don’t go over 22GB of LTE data per line per month as you’re likely to experience temporary throttling at busier times. Additionally, the 15GB mobile hotspot allotments is well worth it, especially if you use your device to cast Internet in your immediate vicinity. Conversely, if you’re perfectly fine with a bit more throttling in busier time windows and don’t use your device as a mobile hotspot, you will also be fine with AT&T Unlimited Choice Enhanced.

Limited & Prepaid Data plans

If you’re looking for something else than an unlimited data plan, AT&T’s prepaid ones are here to help. But which one to choose – the eponymous AT&T Prepaid plans or the Mobile Share Flex ones? Let’s highlight all the features and intricate differences and help you make up your mind.

AT&T Prepaid

The good ol’ Prepaid plans are a perfect match for people that value flexibility over anything else. With no annual plan, credit check, or even an activation fee in sight, it’s as close as you can get to freedom when dealing with large corporations. You can have AT&T Prepaid in a variety of flavors, ranging from $30 to $85 per month, depending on your loadout and discounts. Here’s a rundown of the prices and features:
No matter which plan you choose, we highly recommend enrolling into the AutoPay program, which will automatically charge your eligible credit or debit card every billing period. With AutoPay, you eliminate the possibility of having your service terminated after not paying on time. That’s a great thing to have on its own, but the discount on the prepaid plans is another boon to consumers’ wallets.
You can save even more if you bundle multiple prepaid plans together. For a second and a third additional lines, you get $10 off on your total monthly bill, while for a fourth and fifth additional line you get $20 off. This means that you can save up to $110 per month if you combine five Prepaid Unlimited Plus plans, or $1,320 per annum. You can check out the interactive AT&T configurator right here.
Our verdict: From the get-go, we wouldn’t recommend the $65/mo plan as it’s pretty hampered when compared to the others. Sure, it comes with unlimited data in tow, but we don’t like the lack of mobile tethering functionality as well as its inability to stream 1080p video. Albeit pricier, the top unlimited data plan is definitely better value on all fronts. When it comes to the ‘cheaplings’, it all comes to whether you can live with as low as a gigabyte of fast-speed data per month and whether you travel to Mexico and Canada often – if no, you should probably go for the $40/mo plan, but if you are okay with less data and no free-of-charge roaming allotment.

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MAKE BETTER BUSINESS DECISIONS BASED ON TIME OF AD CLICKS

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Conversion tracking enables you to match each advertising dollar to its business impact and answer important questions like “How successful is my ad campaign?” “Which audiences are converting higher?” or “Which keywords lead to more sales?” The answers and related conversion insights will help you make better decisions for your campaigns. Based on your feedback, we’re making a useful change to our conversion reporting that will help you focus your business decisions and actions across our platform.

What’s changing?

1.  Conversions will now be reported based on the time of the ad click that led to the conversion.
2.  Assists will now be reported based on the time of the ad click that contributed to a conversion.

This will improve the performance of ad schedule bid modifiers, as they align better to the time of the click, instead of the conversion.

Let’s walk through an example to illustrate how this change will show up across our reporting.

  • Day 1: A user clicks on your ad (keyword 1) and browses through your website to see if you have a product they want.
  • Day 2: The same user clicks on another one of your ads (keyword 2) and, while on your website, adds a product to their cart.
  • Day 3: The user goes to your website and completes the purchase of the product in their shopping cart.

Both the conversion event and assist event will be reported to you as the time of the related ad click, making it easier for you to understand the customer journey and related conversion metrics.

Note that our platform will continue to use a last-click attribution model for conversion tracking. That remains unchanged with this update.

If you’re using auto-bidding, no actions are required because the algorithm optimizes using the historical data.

Before this changeClickConversionAssist
Day 1100
Day 2100
Day 3011

 

After this changeClickConversionAssist
Day 1101
Day 2110
Day 3000

What should I expect?

Websites where conversions typically happen close to the click event may not see much change in their reporting. Websites with longer conversion windows from the click event may see some fluctuations in their reporting for a short time as the new reporting data stabilizes. This will not affect any conversion activity on your website, just the reporting data to Bing Ads.

You can review this help article if you see discrepancies between Bing Ads conversion counts and third-party analytics systems.

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Sharing Options from WordPress.com to Facebook Are Changing

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We wanted to update you about an upcoming change Facebook is introducing to their platform, and which affects how you may share posts from your WordPress.com website to your Facebook account.

Starting August 1, 2018, third-party tools can no longer share posts automatically to Facebook Profiles. This includes Publicize, the tool for WordPress.com and Jetpack-powered sites that connects your site to major social media platforms (like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook).

Will this affect your ability to share content on Facebook? It depends. If you’ve connected a Facebook Profile to your site, then yes: Publicize will no longer be able to share your posts to Facebook. On the other hand, nothing will change if you keep a Facebook Page connected to your site — all your content should still appear directly on Facebook via Publicize. (Not sure what the difference is between a Page and a Profile? Here’s Facebook’s explanation.)

If you’ve previously connected a Facebook Profile to your WordPress.com site and still want your Facebook followers to see your posts, you have two options. First, you could go the manual route: once you publish a new post, copy its URL and share the link in a new Facebook post. (You can also share right from the WordPress mobile apps after a scheduled post goes live.)

The other option is to convert your Facebook Profile to a Page. This might not be the right solution for everyone, but it’s something to consider if your website focuses on your business, organization, or brand.

While Facebook is introducing this change to improve their platform and prevent the misuse of personal profiles, we know that this might cause a disruption in the way you and your Facebook followers interact. If you’d like to share your concerns with Facebook, head to their Help Community.

In the meantime, WordPress.com’s Publicize feature (and social media scheduling tools) will continue to be available to you for posting to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms.

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