Monthly Archives: March 2016

When the Internet Acts as Judge and Jury

The Trump campaign made headlines today as usual, though this time around the case was slightly more unique and potentially much more appalling than the standard coverage. Let me save you the effort of Googling it:

Today it was released that Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s camptn rmanager, has been charged with misdemeanor battery after allegedly grabbing former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields following a Trump event in Jupiter, Florida early this month.

The incident has been a highly Twitter-ized he-said-she-said battle ever since the incident allegedly occurred. Fields isn’t the only witness to the potential violence;¬†Washington Post¬†reporter Ben Teriss claims he witnessed Lewandowski’s violent act against Fields.

coreyJupiter police have stated that their arrest report was not hinged on the two’s testimonies alone but also on surveillance footage that eventually surfaced and has been also posted on the internet. The footage seems to support Field’s story of Lewandowski grabbing “Field’s left arm with his right hand, causing her to turn and step back.” This sealed the deal with the police, who then moved forward to press charges.

Or course, the Trump campaign and its supporters have yet to be convinced. That’s not too shocking for anyone who has kept an eye on Trump’s campaign, as no amount of fact-checking or evidence-finding seems to throw his supports off track. Their camp has even set in motion a new hashtag train, “#IStandWithCorey.

The Trump campaign recently released a statement reading, “Mr. Lewandowski is absolutely innocent of this charge. He will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court.”

Of course, Trump isn’t the only candidate under Twitter fire for dirty campaign tricks. Remember right around the South Carolina democratic primary when the hashtag #WhichHillary started trending, eliciting more than 88,000 weets by 1pm ET? The Twitter had surfaced multiple times on social media as a way of raising awareness of when Hillary Clinton had “flip-flopped” on issues that are currently acting as her selling points in the primaries.

WhichHillary#WhichHillary was all over the internet after Clinton became involved in an altercation with Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams at a private fundraiser in South Carolina the Wednesday before the primary. Clinton did not address the activist’s sign, which sported a quote from Hillary Clinton during her husband’s presidential time in which she describes gang members as “super-predators” and said something along the lines of that they need to be “brought to heel.”

The hashtag is now used to bring to light many of Hillary Clinton’s political inconsistencies, from her stance on gay marriage to mass incarceration. It goes to show how much more power internet users have to incriminate people than the standard politically active person had, say, twenty years ago. Physical protests remain powerful, but online protests and trending hashtags are now worthy of campaigner’s attention and anxiety. Just how much power they hold remains to be determined, but I’m sure in a few years we’ll have data to tell us exactly that.

In this particular case, and despite the hashtag, Clinton led Sanders in South Carolina by a fairly large margin.

Google Plays Part in Stopping Zika

There’s a new virus on the loose, and it has nothing to do with hacking.

Last week, Google announced its contribution of US $1 million to the UN Children’s Fund in an effort to support the global fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

Additionally, a team of Google engineers has volunteered to lend their talents to UNICEF; they’ve signed up to analyze data and better understand the viral infection’s path.

zika2Google has also promised to match all employee donations with the intention of donating an additional $500,000 to UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization.

According to Google, the recent Zika virus outbreaks caused a 3,000% increase in worldwide internet search inquiries since last November. By February, the World Health Organization saw fit to declare a public health emergency regarding the virus.

Although the virus continues to be only partially understood, there are a number of alarming correlations with the virus and other major diseases. Microcephaly and a number of other birth defects have made the list, causing public health officials to recommend that women in areas near Zika outbreaks avoid becoming pregnant.

The spread of the virus is further obfuscated by the fact that four out of five people who contract the virus show no symptom. That and the widespread population of the virus’s primary transmitter, the Aedes mosquito, have caused the eradication of the disease to prove challenging.

That’s why Google saw fit to help; UNICEF is now working with the additional assistance of Google engineers and data scientists to create an open source information platform that will enable UNICEF and its partners to better target and isolate Zika response efforts.

“This open source platform will be able to process information like mobility patterns and weather data to build risk maps. We plan to prototype this tool in the Zika response but expand it for use globally,” stated Chris Fabian. colead of UNICEF’s innovation unit.

The open source data platform will be developed by Google software engineers John Li and Zora Tung as well as UNICEF research scientist Manual Garcia Herranz and UX designer Tanya Bhandari. The platform will be built to process data from different sources like weather and travel patterns and to visualize potential outbreaks.

At the end of the day, the platform’s main objective will be to identify the risk of Zika transmission for different regions and help UNICEF, governments and nongovernmental organizations to find the best possible way to focus their time and resources.

zika3“Financial contributions and donations are always beneficial, but it has hard to say whether or not tracking the virus itself will have significant contributions,” stated Sarah Lisovich, content strategist at CIA Medical.

“The symptoms are similar tot hose of other common healthcare conditions,” she continued. “Google is a leader in terms of research tools and putting forth tools to help understand the outbreak and bring more awareness and comprehension,” she concluded.

This isn’t the first time that big data analytics ave been used for the purposes of tracking and stopping an outbreak; analytics have been used to track malaria, dengue fever, and the West Nile virus for years. They enable researches to quickly turn of knowledge from billions of data points and supply the best input for predicting where the disease will show up next.