Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Kremlin - Why Do People Say “Axe” or “Aks” - How to check if your computer has been tampered with

Forecasting potential misuses of language models for disinformation campaigns and how to reduce risk here

“OpenAI researchers collaborated with Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology and the Stanford Internet Observatory to investigate how large language models might be misused for disinformation purposes. The collaboration included an October 2021 workshop bringing together 30 disinformation researchers, machine learning experts, and policy analysts, and culminated in a co-authored report building on more than a year of research. This report outlines the threats that language models pose to the information environment if used to augment disinformation campaigns and introduces a framework for analyzing potential mitigations. Read the full report here.”

Why Do People Say “Axe” or “Aks” 

Shetland Islanders, descendents of Jamaican immigrants living in London, and African Americans all tend to say “axe” or “aks” instead of “ask” when speaking. Linguist Geoff Lindsey traces the history of differing pronunciations of ask/aks from all the way back to the beginnings of written English up to the present day.

See also Ask or aks? How linguistic prejudice perpetuates inequality and linguist John McWhorter on The ‘ax’ versus ‘ask’ question.

First, it’s important to understand that, as English goes, “ax” is a perfectly normal thing to have happened to a word like “ask.” Take the word “fish.” It started as “fisk,” with the same -sk ending that “ask” has. Over time, in some places people started saying “fisk” as “fiks,” while in others they started saying “fisk” as “fish.” After a while, “fish” won out over “fiks,” and here we are today. The same thing happened with “mash.” It started as “mask.” Later some people were saying “maks” and others were saying “mash.” “Mash” won.

With “ask,” some people started saying “aks,” and some started saying “ash.” But this time, it wasn’t “ash” that won out. Instead, for a while “aks” was doing pretty well. Even Chaucer used it in “The Canterbury Tales,” in lines such as this one: “Yow loveres axe I now this questioun.”

There is an element of chance in how words change over time, and we will never know why “aks” and “ash” lost out to “ask.” All we know is that the people whose English was designated the standard happened to be among those who said “ask” instead of “aks” - and the rest is history.

How to check if your computer has been tampered with Popular Science: “Whether you’re in an open office where colleagues regularly wander past, or live somewhere—like a college dorm—where you feel comfortable leaving your laptop unattended in the presence of relative strangers, it can be all too easy for someone else to sneak a look at your computer. 

If you want to keep your device secure in communal environments, your best bet is to stop unauthorized access in the first place. Still, there’s some detective work you can do if you suspect someone else has been using your device…”

Search engine manipulation to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda

Misinformation Review – Harvard Kennedy School – “The Kremlin’s use of bots and trolls to manipulate the recommendation algorithms of social media platforms is well-documented by many journalists and researchers. However pro-Kremlin manipulation of search engine algorithms has rarely been explored. 

We examine pro-Kremlin attempts to manipulate search engine results by comparing backlink and keyphrase networks of US, European, and Russian think tanks, as well as Kremlin-linked “pseudo” think tanks that target Western audiences. 

Our evidence suggests that pro-Kremlin pseudo-think tanks are being artificially boosted and co-amplified by a network of low-quality websites that generate millions of backlinks to these target websites. We find that Google’s search algorithm appears to be penalizing Russian and pseudo-think tank domains.”