Twitter CEO’s account hacked, offensive tweets posted

Twitter CEO and co-founder Jack Dorsey interacting with students at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi on November 12, 2018. (AFP file photo)
Updated 31 August 2019

Twitter CEO’s account hacked, offensive tweets posted

  • The messages contained racial epithets, and included a retweet of a message supporting Nazi Germany
  • Twitter blames the mobile phone provider associated with Dorsey's phone number for the "security oversight"

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter said Friday the account of chief executive Jack Dorsey had been “compromised” after a series of erratic and offensive messages were posted.
The tweets containing racial slurs and suggestions about a bomb showed up around 2000 GMT on the @jack account of the founder of the short messaging service before being deleted.
Some of the tweets contained the hashtag #ChucklingSquad, which was believed to indicate the identity of the hacker group. The same calling card was left behind during recent hacks of other high-profile social media personalities.
The messages contained racial epithets, and included a retweet of a message supporting Nazi Germany.
Twitter said that the phone number associated with Dorsey’s account was “compromised due to a security oversight by the mobile provider,” allowing a hacker to posts tweets to @jack by sending text messages.
Dorsey’s account has been secured and there was “no indication that Twitter’s systems have been compromised,” according to the San Francisco-based Internet firm.
It appeared that tweets posted on Dorsey’s account by the hacker were up for about a half-hour before they were removed.
Pinned atop Dorsey’s account was a tweet from early last year saying: “We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable toward progress.”
A barrage of comments fired off on the platform questioned why the Twitter co-founder didn’t secure his account better, and how disturbing a sign it was that the service couldn’t keep its own chief safe on the platform.
“If you can’t protect Jack, you can’t protect... jack,” one Twitter user quipped.

“It’s fundamentally an act of petty vandalism; the equivalent of spray painting a billboard above Twitter HQ.”

E. David Edelman, director at MIT

The news comes with Dorsey and Twitter moving aggressively to clean up offensive and inappropriate content as part of a focus on “safety.”
“This might be the only way to get rid of racist tweets on this platform,” a Twitter user commented.

Two-factor authentication
British-based security consultant Graham Cluley said the incident highlighted the importance of two-factor authentication, where a user must confirm the account via an external service.
Cluley advised people to make sure they use two-factor authentication and check which applications are linked to their accounts.
“While it looks bad, it’s important to remember this is not some state-grade hack,” said R. David Edelman, director of technology, economy, and national security project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“It’s fundamentally an act of petty vandalism; the equivalent of spray painting a billboard above Twitter HQ.”
Cybersecurity researcher Kevin Beaumont said the account appeared to have been hijacked “via a third party called Cloudhopper, which Twitter acquired about 10 years ago and had access to his account.”
Cloudhopper enables users to send tweets on their phones via SMS.
“While it’s tempting to laugh at the irony of it, the real-world consequences don’t make it funny,” University of Hartford communications professor Adam Chiara said of Dorsey’s account being hacked.
“Twitter can tell us that they are becoming more diligent with our privacy and security, but actions speak louder than words.”
The incident raised fresh concerns about how social media users — even prominent ones — can have their accounts compromised and used for misinformation, a point highlighted by Canadian member of parliament Michelle Rempel Garner.
“Between bots, trolls and abuse, I’ve been skeptical about @Twitter as a viable platform for some time now,” Rempel Garner wrote.
“But the fact it took the platform’s owner (@jack) about 30 min to get his hacked account under control is deeply problematic, and makes me worry as an elected official.”


Facebook researchers use maths for better translations

Updated 13 October 2019

Facebook researchers use maths for better translations

  • Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue
  • Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business

PARIS: Designers of machine translation tools still mostly rely on dictionaries to make a foreign language understandable. But now there is a new way: numbers.

Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue — even if a universal communicator a la Star Trek remains a distant dream.

Powerful automatic translation is a big priority for Internet giants. Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as Russia’s Yandex, China’s Baidu and others are constantly seeking to improve their translation tools.

Facebook has artificial intelligence experts on the job at one of its research labs in Paris. Up to 200 languages are currently used on Facebook, said Antoine Bordes, European co-director of fundamental AI research for the social network.

Automatic translation is currently based on having large databases of identical texts in both languages to work from. But for many language pairs there just aren’t enough such parallel texts.

That’s why researchers have been looking for another method, like the system developed by Facebook which creates a mathematical representation for words.

Each word becomes a “vector” in a space of several hundred dimensions. Words that have close associations in the spoken language also find themselves close to each other in this vector space.

“For example, if you take the words ‘cat’ and ‘dog’, semantically, they are words that describe a similar thing, so they will be extremely close together physically” in the vector space, said Guillaume Lample, one of the system’s designers.

“If you take words like Madrid, London, Paris, which are European capital cities, it’s the same idea.”

These language maps can then be linked to one another using algorithms — at first roughly, but eventually becoming more refined, until entire phrases can be matched without too many errors.

Lample said results are already promising. For the language pair of English-Romanian, Facebook’s current machine translation system is “equal or maybe a bit worse” than the word vector system, said Lample.

But for the rarer language pair of English-Urdu, where Facebook’s traditional system doesn’t have many bilingual texts to reference, the word vector system is already superior, he said.

But could the method allow translation from, say, Basque into the language of an Amazonian tribe? In theory, yes, said Lample, but in practice a large body of written texts are needed to map the language, something lacking in Amazonian tribal languages.

“If you have just tens of thousands of phrases, it won’t work. You need several hundreds of thousands,” he said.

Experts at France’s CNRS national scientific center said the approach Lample has taken for Facebook could produce useful results, even if it doesn’t result in perfect translations.

Thierry Poibeau of CNRS’s Lattice laboratory, which also does research into machine translation, called the word vector approach “a conceptual revolution.”

He said “translating without parallel data” — dictionaries or versions of the same documents in both languages — “is something of the Holy Grail” of machine translation.

“But the question is what level of performance can be expected” from the word vector method, said Poibeau. The method “can give an idea of the original text” but the capability for a good translation every time remains unproven.

Francois Yvon, a researcher at CNRS’s Computer Science Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences, said “the linking of languages is much more difficult” when they are far removed from one another.

“The manner of denoting concepts in Chinese is completely different from French,” he added.
However even imperfect translations can be useful, said Yvon, and could prove sufficient to track hate speech, a major priority for Facebook.