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“The Impact of Russian Tweets, If Any, Was Limited”

Zeit Online

Did Donald Trump only become president thanks to Russian trolls? That explanation is too simple, argues a group of researchers. They found no evidence for it in a study.

The fact that Donald Trump was elected U.S. president in 2016 was partly due to the fact that Russian actors had influenced the electorate through ads and social media posts ­– at least that’s the gist of press reports and books on the subject. Researchers repeatedly proved that there were large-scale efforts from Russia to create sentiment for Trump and against Hillary Clinton on social networks. 

What is more difficult to measure is how much influence messages from Russian trolls actually had. For some time now, evidence has been mounting in research that there has been a tendency to overestimate their impact. A recent study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has concluded that Russian efforts on Twitter had virtually no impact on the election results.

 Jan Zilinsky is one of the authors of the study. The Slovakian-born economist works at the School of Social Sciences & Technology at the Technical University of Munich. His research focuses on how voters’ positions are influenced

In Order Not to Discriminate, We Might Have to Discriminate

Simons Institute Newsletter, 12/22/17

We all want to be unbiased. We don’t want to hire people based on their gender; we don’t want people to be incarcerated because of the color of their skin. Laws explicitly forbid discrimination on the basis of a set of “protected categories” like sex, race, religion, or age. The conventional wisdom is that fairness is best achieved when you try to be as blind as possible to these categories – for example, by having people apply for a job without stating their name and age or attaching a photograph. Then the employer would pick candidates solely based on their qualification for the job. But this assumption – the essence of many equality laws and court decisions – might be wrong. Mathematically provably wrong

The Clock Is Ticking

Spiegel Online, 8/8/17 (in German)

The “Doomsday Clock” that nuclear scientists use to show how close the world is to a nuclear moved closer to midnight after Trump took office. But how would he actually launch the deadly weapons? A video explains the chain of events.

Die Apokalypse war lange nicht mehr so nah wie jetzt – so zumindest sehen es US-Atomforscher. Seit 70 Jahren analysiert eine Gruppe von Wissenschaftlern die globale Sicherheitslage und gibt regelmäßig Einschätzungen heraus, wie groß die Gefahren für die Menschheit sind. Ihr Urteil wird symbolhaft auf einer Weltuntergangsuhr gezeigt – der sogenannten Doomsday Clock.

Mit der Wahl von US-Präsident Donald Trump zum mächtigsten Mann der Welt stellten die Forscher die Uhr um weitere 30 Sekunden vor: Der Zeiger befindet sich damit zweieinhalb Minuten vor zwölf. Das letzte Mal befand sich die Welt aus Sicht der Wissenschaftler im Jahr 1953 derart nah am Abgrund – damals hatten die USA und die Sowjetunion gerade ihre Wasserstoffbombe getestet