TIME Security

Facebook and Twitter Users: Don’t Fall for MH17 ‘Actual Footage’ Scams

Be very careful which MH17 news stories you click on, especially on Facebook and Twitter, where scammers are exploiting the tragedy to spam you.

If you run across Facebook pages touting pictures of Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash victims, or tweets linking to reports on the disaster, warning: they may be fakes, harbor malware or redirect you to pornographic websites.

The BBC reports that fraudsters are exploiting the tragic destruction of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, ostensibly shot down by a ground to air missile on July 17, by bait-and-switching users with promises of shocking video footage or tribute pages to victims that instead link viewers to spam or other offensive content.

In one instance, a Facebook page was created the day the plane crashed that purported to have video footage of the crash itself, says the Daily Mail. Clicking the link promising the video redirected viewers to a spam site, which of course contained no such video. The Facebook page has since been removed, but security expert TrendMicro, which blogged about some of this cybercriminal activity on July 18, expects MH17 exploitation to continue.

In other instances, as noted by TrendMicro, people may be using the tragedy to boost web traffic, posting suspicious tweets with links to malicious sites harboring malware, but also seemingly legitimate ones in hopes of “gaining hits/page views on their sites or ads.”

So beware and think before you click, especially if you see claims like “Video Camera Caught the moment plane MH17 Crash over Ukraine” (as noted by the BBC). There is no such video, and the chances are all but certain you’re being gamed based on someone’s perverse attempt to mine an unspeakable calamity. What you can do, on the other hand, is report such suspicious activity to Twitter or Facebook.

TIME 2016 Election

Sen. Rand Paul Is Killing It On Twitter: 10 Tweets You Should See

Rand Paul's Twitter offers more than just politics. Here are 10 of the senator's best tweets, from selfies at Subway to Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise.

Presidential candidates simply need to tweet, but there has never really been one who knows how to do it well. Enter Kentucky’s Rand Paul, a United States Senator who calls himself #DJRandPaul on Twitter, who is already way ahead of the other prospective 2016 contenders in the Twitter primary.

In a world of staff run Twitter accounts overflowing with campaign promises and political jargon, he brings candor, absurdity and personality. Between the standard tweets about current events and congressional hearings, there are music videos, Subway photos and shots of his socks. Surely not every senator can be a DJ like Paul, but they can take note that sometimes a little entertainment value goes a long way.

For those who have not yet followed, here are some of Paul’s best Twitter moments:

He offers his unique interpretations of current events. The Kentucky senator tweeted his thoughts on the President and the NSA after Obama met with Pope Francis in Vatican City for the first time.

He snaps photos of his cardboard cutout self. Is that considered a selfie?

In his free time, when he’s not tied up with his senatorial duties, Rand is apparently a DJ – at least via Twitter.

The DJ does not rest, as evidenced by the ensuing slew of music videos posted on his Twitter feed.

Sometimes he combines his double lives, offering DJ picks with a political spin.

In one tweet, he dedicates Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” to Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), with whom he says he shares a “bromance.”

Cory Booker isn’t the only senator getting music video dedications though. Paul passively aggressively tweets not-so-subtle hints to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) about getting the vote over with already, in the form of a music video, of course.

Song lyrics never seem to be far from Rand’s mind when he’s tweeting, even at the Republican Party of Texas state convention.

But his Twitter account offers more than just music. There is also a blurry selfie at Subway, which Paul seems none too thrilled about. The other man pictured is Brad Woodhouse, the former spokesman of the Democratic National Committee, who now runs the liberal opposition research SuperPac, American Bridge.

And, the GOP socks. No words.

TIME Tech Policy

Why Twitter and the Rest of Silicon Valley Should Disclose Their Diversity Data

Twitter's IPO Spurs Horse Race Among Exchanges Seeking Listing
The Twitter Inc. logo is displayed on a mobile device for a photograph in New York, U.S., on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. Twitter Inc., which announced plans last week for an initial public offering, is still deciding whether to list on the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq Stock Market, setting off a horse race for the high-profile deal. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg/Getty Images

Twitter has become the largest media platform for minority voices on the planet. Everything from the Trayvon Martin case to the BET Awards has become the equivalent of a front-page headline on the site thanks to the social network’s trending topics, which aggregate the most popular conversations and present them to all Twitter users. Blacks over-index heavily on the site, with 29 percent of black Internet users in the U.S. reporting that they actively use Twitter in a recent Pew Research Center survey, compared to 16 percent of whites and Hispanics. In the same way Twitter owes much of its success to the early adopters who gave the site structure and the celebrities who gave it clout, it can also thank black people for helping it reach critical mass and climb to 255 million monthly active users.

So it’s disappointing that the company is so far resisting a positive trend in Silicon Valley, the disclosure of employee data related to race and gender. Chances are, Twitter’s employee roster looks a lot like its Bay Area competitors—overwhelmingly male and white. That’s not a dirty little secret in the Valley; it’s been the modus operandi for decades. The common race and gender tropes of tech startups are so ingrained that we now have an HBO sitcom to mock how far removed the tech scene is from the way the rest of the world lives.

Most tech firms have spent years resisting past entreaties to cough up demographic data. But the stonewalling ended in May, when Google published a diversity report revealing that the company is about 70 percent male, 61 percent white and 30 percent Asian. That set off a domino effect that led Yahoo, LinkedIn, Facebook and others to publish similar data. But huge consumer tech companies like Apple, Twitter and Amazon have so kept their own figures to themselves (Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the company will release its data “at some point“). Civil rights activist Jesse Jackson is planning an online petition and a social media campaign Friday to convince Twitter in particular to disclose its employee data. None of the companies mentioned responded to multiple emails from TIME asking whether they planned to release diversity reports in the future.

All of these companies, of course, are free to hire whoever they please. They work in a field so hyper-competitive that Google was once willing to give employees offered jobs by Facebook counteroffers within an hour. But anyone who’s ever held a professional job knows who you know matters as much as what you know, and many people in our so-called melting pot continue to maintain friendships exclusively within their own race. Minorities are at a natural disadvantage trying to crack into a world where no one looks like them.

Meanwhile, software development is one of the fastest-growing job sectors in the U.S., expected to grow by 23% from 2012 to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Historically underrepresented minorities are showing a greater interest in the field—20 percent of the students who graduated with a degree in computer and information sciences in 2012 were black or Hispanic, up from 16 percent a decade prior (at Google, by comparison, 5 percent of workers are black or Hispanic and 4 percent are multiracial). Making a commitment to diversity now means that a wider number of people will have access to these well-paying jobs in the future, a result that will help the tech sector remain prosperous and in-tune with cultural shifts as whites continue to decline as a percentage of the overall U.S. population.

Perhaps the companies that have yet to speak up on diversity fear the negative headlines that will come from admitting that their organizations are mostly comprised of white males. But an annual diversity report is a flag in the sand that indicates inclusiveness is important to a company, important enough to stake its reputation on. Diversity in the workforce has proven benefits for business, and it’s a savvy long-term marketing tool to help recruit employees who value diversity in their work life. The public pressure that naturally stems from such transparency will also encourage tech firms to partner with organizations already looking to boost involvement by women and minorities in computer science, such as Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and the national societies for black and Hispanic engineers.

Obviously this is not just an issue that affects Silicon Valley. My own industry has seen a declining percentage of minorities working in newsrooms, and men still outnumber women in journalism jobs nearly two-to-one. We could use some more transparency on these issues as well. All U.S. companies with more than 100 employees are required to send detailed demographic data to a federal agency called the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year, so there’s no reason they can’t share it publicly. The European Union passed a law in April requiring firms with more than 500 employees to publicly release data related to workforce diversity, environmental sustainability and human rights.

It shouldn’t take a government mandate to introduce transparency, though. Right now the tech giants are uniquely positioned among American businesses to take a leadership role on the issue of diversity in the workplace. Our country’s two most valuable companies, Apple and Google, reside nine miles from each other in Silicon Valley. They and their smaller competitors are constantly crowing about how their disruptive products and progressive worldviews are changing the world for the better. Well, here’s a dead-simple way to help fix the world: take that race and gender data you’re already collecting and let everyone else see it. Public scrutiny of the information will inevitably beget positive change.

TIME celebrities

Orange Co-Star Jason Biggs Apologizes for Malaysia Crash Tweets

Cast member Jason Biggs attends the season two premiere of "Orange is the New Black" in New York
Cast member Jason Biggs attends the season two premiere of "Orange is the New Black" in New York on May 15, 2014. Biggs sparked public outrage after a series of controversial Twitter posts about Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 shortly after it crashed. Eric Thayer—Reuters

The actor who sparked public outrage months ago about flight MH370 has done it again — this time about MH17

A series of tweets by actor Jason Biggs on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was reportedly shot down by a missile in a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists, has caused outrage on social media.

Biggs, who stars in Orange Is the New Black, wrote in a tweet that has since been deleted, “Anyone wanna buy my Malaysian Airlines frequent flier miles?”

While some saw nothing wrong in making what appeared to be a dark joke in response to grim news, many of his nearly 450,000 followers considered the tweet offensive.

Biggs initially responded to critics with a series of profane tweets accusing them of being overly sensitive, “You don’t have to think it’s funny, or even be on my twitter page at all,” he said.

However, he later deleted his initial tweets and offered an apology to his fans, “People were offended, and that was not my intent. Sorry to those of you that were,” Biggs wrote. “This is obviously a horrible tragedy, and everyone — including myself — is sad and angry about it. Sending positive thoughts to the victims and their families.”

The actor, who is best known for his role in the American Pie films, is no stranger to tweeting controversial remarks. In the days following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in March, Biggs also triggered outrage with a reference to the missing plane in a tweet about the U.S. reality-TV show The Bachelor.

TIME remembrance

Mia Farrow, Lena Dunham and Others Remember Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994.
Elaine Stritch performs at the Kennedy Center Honors on October 29, 1994. CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Celebrities in disbelief about her death

Elaine Stritch, the Broadway extraordinaire whose career spanned theatre, cinema and television, died Thursday at 89 in her home in Birmingham, Mich. A slew of Twitter reactions to Stritch’s death speak to her influence on the current generation of artists.

Here is what members of the communities she was a part of tweeted in her memory:

MONEY retirement planning

Answers to 5 of Twitter’s Most-Asked Questions About Retirement

Following a recent Twitter chat, a retirement expert expands on answers to queries about Roth IRAs, Social Security and more.

The Twitterverse has questions about retirement. What’s the best way for young people to get started saving? Are target-date funds good or bad? Should we expand Social Security to help low-wage workers?

Those are just a few of the great questions I fielded during a retirement Tweet-up convened this week by my colleagues at Reuters. Since my column allows for responses beyond Twitter’s 140-character limit, today I’m expanding on answers to five questions I found especially interesting. You can view the entire chat —which included advice from personal finance gurus from Reuters and Charles Schwab—on Twitter at #ReutersRetire.

Q: What’s the best way for parents to help young adult children save for the long term? How about Roth IRAs?

Roth IRAs are no-brainers for young people. With a traditional IRA, you pay taxes at the end of the line, when you withdraw the money. With a Roth, you invest with after-tax money, and withdrawals (principal and returns) are tax-free in most situations. That’s especially beneficial for young retirement investors, since most people move into higher income-tax brackets as they get older and make more money.

Q: How would you expand Social Security? Any current proposal appealing?

This question was posed during Twitter chatter about the difficulty low-income workers face building retirement saving, and ways to make our retirement system more equitable. Expanding Social Security may fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which argues that rising longevity should dictate reductions in future benefits, not increases. But this is a case where the conventional wisdom is wrong.

An expanded Social Security system is the most logical response to our looming retirement security crisis because of its risk pooling and progressive approach to income distribution. Social Security replaces the highest percentage of pre-retirement income for workers at the low end of the wealth scale.

Several ideas are kicking around Congress. Most would raise revenue by gradually phasing out the cap on wages subject to the payroll tax ($117,000 in 2014) and raising payroll tax rates over a 20-year period. Some advocates also would like to see a surtax on annual incomes over $1 million. On the benefits side, advocates want to increase benefits across the board by 10%, recognize the value of family caregivers by awarding work credits toward Social Security benefits and adopt a more generous annual cost-of-living adjustment formula.

Q: With the myriad questions about retirement, can “live” advisers really be replaced by automated advice and data-driven programs?

Online software-driven services—so-called robo-adviser services – can’t fully replace human advice. But they address a key problem: how to deploy retirement guidance to mass audiences at a low cost. Services like Wealthfront and Betterment interact with clients online using algorithms, with low fee structures—typically 0.25% of assets under management or less.

Another variation on this theme: services that deliver advice through a combination of software and human advice, such as LearnVest. One of the most interesting tech-enabled experiments is Vanguard’s Personal Advisor Services, which provides access to a managed portfolio of Vanguard index funds and exchange-traded funds, along with portfolio management services from a human adviser.

Vanguard charges just 0.3% of assets under management for the service. The service is in test mode with a small group of clients, and only available to clients with $100,000 to invest. The minimum will be reduced when the service expands, and it should be rolled out more broadly over the next 12 to 18 months, a spokeswoman says. Given Vanguard’s huge scale, it’s a venture worth watching.

Q: What’s the final verdict on target-date funds—good or evil?

We don’t have a final verdict yet, but target-date funds (TDFs) are doing more good than evil—though they generate plenty of controversy, confusion and misunderstanding. The general idea is to reduce the risk you’re taking as retirement approaches by cutting your exposure to stocks in favor of fixed-income investments—the “glide path.” But some TDFs glide “to” your retirement date, while others glide “through it.” Experts debate which is better, but you should at least know which type of fund you own.

Many retirement investors misuse TDFs by mixing them with other funds, a recent survey found. These funds are designed as one-stop investment solutions that automatically keep your account balanced; doing otherwise will hurt your returns.

Bottom line? TDFs do more good than harm by automatically keeping millions of retirement portfolios balanced with reasonably good equity-to-fixed-income allocations. And they are the fastest-growing product in the market: Some $618 billion was invested in TDFs at the end of 2013, according to the Investment Company Institute, up from $160 billion in 2008.

Q: Anyone know what the highest Social Security income is for a retiree today versus what’s expected 30 years from now?

This year’s maximum monthly benefit at full retirement age (66) is $2,642. The Social Security Administration doesn’t have projections for future benefit levels, but the answer certainly will depend on how Congress decides to deal with the program’s long-term projected shortfalls. Solutions could include tax increases (discussed above) or higher retirement ages. Boosting the retirement age would mean a lower benefit at age 66.

TIME

50 Smartest Celebrities on Twitter

Jimmy Kimmel, Samuel L. Jackson and Justin Bieber's mom are among the sharpest celebrities online, according to an analysis of their tweets.

When it comes to big brains and big followings online, Leonardo DiCaprio appears to best them all: the Wolf of Wall Street actor is the smartest celebrity on Twitter. DiCaprio scores higher than the rest when judged by a commonly used reading comprehension test. Here’s where the tweeting and famous rank, according to analysis of the reading levels of the tweets produced by the 500 most followed celebrities on the popular social network. Or test the reading level of any Twitter username.

RANKING NAME GRADE LEVEL
1
Followers
10,537,477
7.5
2
Followers
3,240,488
7.3
3
Followers
4,105,738
7
4
Followers
9,495,505
6.8
Followers
3,394,539
6.8
Followers
3,876,935
6.8
7
Followers
9,624,350
6.6
Followers
3,618,047
6.6
9
Followers
3,512,750
6.5
Followers
6,547,046
6.5
Followers
3,465,262
6.5
Followers
6,957,631
6.5
Followers
4,313,917
6.5
Followers
4,348,803
6.5
15
Followers
9,330,945
6.4
Followers
5,679,824
6.4
Followers
12,790,629
6.4
Followers
3,916,429
6.4
Followers
5,430,990
6.4
Followers
4,439,241
6.4
21
Followers
7,024,230
6.3
Followers
8,330,339
6.3
Followers
6,679,206
6.3
Followers
3,609,118
6.3
25
Followers
5,224,026
6.2
Followers
3,777,176
6.2
Followers
3,453,774
6.2
Followers
6,667,346
6.2
Followers
3,717,750
6.2
Followers
10,384,608
6.2
Followers
4,243,642
6.2
Followers
3,430,272
6.2
33
Followers
18,374,747
6.1
Followers
4,962,687
6.1
Followers
3,356,790
6.1
Followers
17,130,614
6.1
Followers
3,862,527
6.1
Followers
5,043,670
6.1
Followers
12,014,650
6.1
Followers
3,088,771
6.1
Followers
17,130,615
6.1
42
Followers
24,784,725
6
Followers
28,273,688
6
Followers
3,730,469
6
Followers
3,315,673
6
Followers
3,492,788
6
Followers
4,148,210
6
Followers
13,448,230
6
49
Followers
9,688,482
5.9
Followers
4,157,413
5.9

 

Methodology
The ranking above is based on a reading comprehension test known as Simple Measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG). The SMOG test measures the number of three syllable words used in a text to calculate the years of education required to understand it. An environmental activist, DiCaprio often tweets about “conservation” and global warming which may have helped him earn the top spot.

In a recent analysis of more than 1 million tweets, we found that messages on Twitter average a fourth-grade reading level. All of the celebrities above exceed that grade. To find Twitter’s smartest celebrities, we analyzed the last 20 tweets from the 500 highest followed celebrities (stripped of URLs and hashtags), then ran the results through the SMOG test to calculate reading level. SMOG is intended for processing English, so users tweeting in multiple languages were removed. Computer processing of natural language has its limitations. For example, the SMOG test can falsely read slang as multi-syllable words.

You can test your own Twitter grade level or anyone else’s here.

TIME movies

Here’s a Brand New Photo of the Reunited Napoleon Dynamite Cast

They reunited for the film's 10th anniversary

Last month, the good people who starred in Napoleon Dynamite got together to dedicate a fairly creepy bronze statue and take some photos to celebrate the movie’s 10th anniversary. It seems the celebrations are still going, because they reunited again and took a photo again:

Yup, that’s Jon Heder (Napoleon), Efren Ramirez (Pedro), Tina Majorino (Deb) and Haylie Duff (Summer). Then that other person you see in the middle is publicist Stephanie Kahan. We’re sad the rest of the cast didn’t make it for this, but it’s still a pretty flippin’ sweet photo.

TIME Internet

This Twitter Bot Will Create Your Very Accurate Portrait Out of Emojis

An excuse for deep self-reflection

A new Twitter bot called @emojidoll will create personalized portraits of those who tweet “me” at it. The randomized generator was programmed by former Flickr and bitly head of product Matthew Rothenberg and creates 15.6 million possible combinations of faces, shoes, hats, torsos, hands made out of handguns, balloons, and bananas. There is a distinct underutilization of the eggplant, though. For better or worse.

At best, you’re tipsy, sensei Santa with a butcher knife:

Twitter

At worst, you have poop for a face:

Twitter

(h/t: Daily Dot)

TIME NBA

LeBron’s Decision Sets Off Tweets of Congratulations and Wizard of Oz Puns

Cavs fans tweeted congratulations while Miami Heat fans were less than delighted

Less than an hour after LeBron James announced he would return to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers, the hashtags #TeamCavs and #TheKingIsBack as well as “Poor Wade” were all trending on Twitter.

The championship-winning player himself chose to announce his decision with an Instagram post, followed by a separate tweet linking to Sports Illustrated’s exclusive on his choice.

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert as well as fellow athletes and sports commentators also chimed in on the social media platform to offer words of congratulations or simply a well-timed Wizard of Oz pun.

Miami fans were slightly less enthused.

Tickets to see LeBron back at his home court and the Cavs’ chance at a championship also became topics of Twitter conversation.

Other Internet onlookers were at the ready to remind Cleveland fans of Gilbert’s infamous letter to LeBron (typed in Comic Sans font) after he left the Cavs in 2010, calling him a “coward” and mocking his nickname “King James.”

The letter remained on the Cavs’ website for four year and was only removed earlier this week. No hard feelings, King James.

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