Category Archives: Web Science Trust News

Darknet Policing at the Web Science Conference 2018

Written by Robert Thorburn

The 2018 Web Science conference, hosted by the Vrije Universitieit Amsterdam, not only featured the broad range of subjects one would expect from an inherently interdisciplinary field but also had a couple of surprises. In addition to the much anticipated Turing lecture by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, there were two further keynote sessions covering ‘The Best of WesbSci18 Papers’ and ‘The Future of Semantics on The Web’.

The first day of the conference, held on Sunday the 27th of May, followed a different path to the three primary days by having no keynote session and instead presenting 6 full or half day tracks on a set topic. The format of the tracks was varied, including some papers, panel discussions and presentations, but crucially also including industry practitioners. Prominently, the full day track on ‘The Evolution of The Darknet’ had participants from the Dutch police’s Dark Wet Team, the Dutch tax authority’s Financial Advanced Cyber Team and the UK National Crime Agency’s Dark Web Intelligence Unit. Bringing a diverse set of skills and experiences to the discussion, the participation of these practitioners massively enriched the discussion and provided the largely academic audience with unique insights into the practical realities of policing on the Darknet.

The subject matter presented during this track also ran the entire gambit from the Dutch police’s ‘Knock and Talk’ approach to minor offences, often dispensing justice in the form of embracement and a potential fine, through to the UK National Crime Agency’s operations against some of the most horrific online offenders. Interestingly though, a couple of common threads wove through the entire day’s discussions. Most prevalent was the need for an integrated approach between law enforcement agencies, the need for data sharing and use of software tools to significantly lessen the workload. On the latter count, the UK National Crime Agency’s in-house developed tools were particularly impressive.

One further standout point for the day was the high-level discussion around crypto currencies.  Well informed and generally positive on the use of and growth of crypto currencies, the Dutch tax authority’s Financial Advanced Cyber Team pointed out a couple of clear indicators of when fraudulent activity is indeed taking place. These generally included unnecessary transactions, transactions conducted at a significant premium and transactions that serve no purpose other than obfuscation. A prime example of the latter being the use of mixer services which are regarded by the Dutch authority as inherently suspicious.

Practitioners and academics engaging in such a nuanced discussion on a highly technical issue is one of the core advantages of a fundamentally interdisciplinary field such as Web Science. The 2018 conference set a high bar in this regard, but there is as always the opportunity to take things further. Hopefully, the 2019 conference will build on this basis and include practitioners from more fields. Either way, it is sure to be another resounding success.

ACM Web Science 2018 Conference – Events Day

ACM Web Science 2018 Conference – Events Day

There was a full day with various themed events which could be attended, ranging from the dark web to ethics. There was a PhD symposium also, where students presented on their thesis topics.

The digital sociology event which I attended, titled Understanding the political economy of digital technology, is associated with the British Sociological Association Digital Sociology Study Group. There was an amazingly diverse range of papers during this day-long session, and the papers were really thought-provoking. The talk that stayed with me all day was by Pip Thornton (@Pip_T) from Royal Holloway University of London titled ‘The political economy of a large-scale hypertextual Web search engine: a critique of linguistic capitalism and the side effects of Google’s advertising empire’. Pip spoke about auctioning off of words that are searched online on search engine platforms like Google. She mentioned the ‘So-called dementia tax’ as a case study which was a phrase purchased by the Conservative party during the General election as it because a really hot topic debated. The purchased results are pushed to the top of the search page, and the natural search results are pushed to the bottom of the search page, or the next page, which aren’t as frequently seen. The logic behind it is similar to the way that words are marketed and advertised by the commerce sector: controlling the flow of data. The political market is almost a side effect to the existing structured sale of word, which impacts the conversations being had elsewhere. Pip suggested that Google has allowed money to control its searches, much like Orwell’s neo-liberal thought police. The most fascinating part of the talk was when Pip spoke about the commodity of words. Following this thought, she had entered the poem Daffodils by Wordsworth into Google AdWords and displayed the results in the form of a receipt. The worth of the words had a monetary value, and the people in the room asked why some words were worth so much. Pip had looked into this and some were acronyms, like IT, and were worth more to businesses so are rated as a higher value. Pip had her receipt printer with her and had some receipts to hand out and review.

The rest of the afternoon was a poster session. Some of the posters will remain up until tomorrow, where the best one can be voted on. People met and mingled and discussed the amazing things that they had listened to. A fantastic first day!

Call for Registration and Scholarship Applications for the Web Science Summer School 2018

http://wwsss18.webscience.org/

*** IMPORTANT DATES ***
Scholarship applications by 15 April 2018
Official registration open: 19 March 2018
Early bird registration by 7 May 2018
WWSSS summer school: 30 July – 5 August 2018

The Web Science Summer School 2018 (WWSSS’18) will be held in Hannover, Germany. It is hosted by L3S Research Center and will take place from 30.07.18 till 04.08.18.

Web Science is the emergent study of the people and technologies, applications, processes and practices that shape and are shaped by the World Wide Web. Web Science requires mining and understanding data from the Web, requiring both technical skills for handling big (Web) data as well as fundamental understanding of the social, psychological or legal aspects underpinning online activities.

The WWSSS’18 will address the inter-disciplinary field of Web Science by focusing on lectures which tackle the aforementioned challenges in topics such as data science and data mining, big data processing, information retrieval, Web governance as well as the sociology and psychology of online interactions.

(http://wwsss18.webscience.org/index.php/schedule/)

The program includes keynote talks from prominent researchers in Web Science. Alongside lectures from experienced researchers, that will address major trends in Web Science, the Summer School will provide hands-on training in data processing, analysis and methods, team work, and opportunities to present current research. Participants shall work on specific tasks linked to the datasets provided, and will be mentored by local instructors. All teams will present the results of their work on the last day of the school.

(http://wwsss18.webscience.org/index.php/speakers/)

*** SCHOLARSHIPS & REGISTRATION ***
Registration is open to everyone interested with a registration fee of
200 EUR (175 EUR for early bird registration). Full time-students enrolled for Bachelors, Masters or PhD degree in computer science, digital humanities and related fields may apply for scholarship grants funded by the SoBigData project. The organizing committee will evaluate all applications. Every attendee with a successful application will receive a fee waiver. In addition, a minimum budget 300 EUR is reserved for every successful applicant for travel and accommodation refunds.
More details are available on the website.

**** CONTACT DETAILS ****
Follow the updates at http://wwsss18.webscience.org/, and do not miss the chance to be a part of this enriching experience! Please feel free to contact the chairs of the summer school or the local organization team if you have any queries: wwsss18@l3s.de

WSTNET Web Science Summer School – Hannover 2018

The WSTNET Web Science Summer School 2018 (WWSSS’18) will be held from 30th July to 4th August in Hannover, Germany and hosted by L3S Research Center.

The WWSSS’18 will address the inter-disciplinary field of Web Science by focusing on lectures which tackle the challenges in topics such as data science and data mining, big data processing, information retrieval, Web governance as well as the sociology and psychology of online interactions.

Alongside lectures that will address major trends in Web Science, the Summer School will provide hands-on training in data processing, analysis and methods, teamwork, and opportunities to present current research. Participants shall work on specific tasks linked to the datasets provided, and will be mentored by local instructors. All teams will present the results of their work on the last day of the school.

Speakers, tutors and the full program are currently being finalized.

Follow the updates at http://wwsss18.webscience.org/, and do not miss the chance to be a part of this enriching experience!

Tim Berners-Lee announced as the keynote speaker for the WebSci18 Conference

Photo: Henry Thomas

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, and the recipient of the most prestigious honour in computer science, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), the A.M. Turing Award, will deliver his Turing Lecture as a keynote speaker at the WebSci18 Conference on Tuesday 29 May 2018.

His lecture could not come at a more interesting time for Web Scientists, with the potential scrapping of Net Neutrality in the United States. Berners-Lee tweeted on December 12th, 2017 that Net Neutrality had allowed him to invent the Web and that by removing protections would mean an end to creativity and a disaster for the Internet.

The future of the Web depends on people like Berners-Lee, to act as a kind of steward, who can guide us in the right direction. Definitely, a date to save in the diary! Book your place for the conference now:

https://websci18.webscience.org/