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Scientists used AI to link cryptomarkets with substance abusers on Reddit and Twitter

An international team of researchers recently developed an AI system that pieces together bits of information from dark web cryptomarkets, Twitter, and Reddit in order to better understand substance abusers.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t track sales or expose users. It helps scientists better understand how substance abusers feel and what terms they’re using to describe their experiences.

The relationship between mental health and substance abuse is well-studied in clinical environments, but how users discuss and interact with one another in the real world remains beyond the realm of most scientific studies.

According to the team’s paper:

Recent results from the Global Drug Survey suggest that the percentage of participants who have been purchasing drugs through cryptomarkets has tripled since 2014 reaching 15 percent of the 2020 respondents (GDS).

In this study, we assess social media data from active opioid users to understand what are the behaviors associated with opioid usage to identify what types of feelings are expressed. We employ deep learning models to perform sentiment and emotion analysis of social media data with the drug entities derived from cryptomarkets.

The team developed an AI to crawl three popular cryptomarkets where drugs are sold in order to determine nuanced information about what people were searching for and purchasing.

Then they crawled popular drug-related subreddits on Reddit such as r/opiates and r/drugnerds for posts related to the cryptomarket terminology in order to gather emotional sentiment. Where the researchers found difficulties in gathering enough Reddit posts with easy-to-label emotional sentiment, they found Twitter posts with relevant hashtags to fill in the gaps.

The end result was a data cornucopia that allowed the team to determine a robust emotional sentiment analysis for various substances.

In the future, the team hopes to find a way to gain better access to dark web cryptomarkets in order to create stronger sentiment models. The ultimate goal of the project is to help healthcare professionals better understand the relationship between mental health and substance abuse.

Per the team’s paper:

To identify the best strategies to reduce opioid misuse, a better understanding of cryptomarket drug sales that impact consumption and how it reflects social media discussions is needed.

Published March 30, 2021 — 21:03 UTC

Covid 19

Why Trump’s social media network will be an epic failure

I’ve seen a lot of dumb startup pitches in my day, but a Donald Trump-branded social media network takes the stupid cake.

All I can figure is, we’re exactly two months away from the FBI’s birthday and team Trump’s determined to get the old agency the perfect gift this year. Or maybe Trump just really likes losing money

For those out of the loop here’s a video of Trump’s spokesperson discussing the matter yesterday:

Here’s the meat of Miller’s rambling:

I do think that we’re going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here, with his own platform. And this is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media, it’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does.

I honestly don’t think Trump’s stupid enough to launch his own social media network (Miller prefaced things with “I do think”). I’m more inclined to believe we’ll see Gab or Parler or something similar relaunched with a Trump partnership.

But, I really hope Trump starts his own network. As a journalist, it’s always nice to say “I told you so.” And, as mentioned, the FBI would love it. I just don’t see how anyone with a basic understanding of the tech market could imagine, even for a second, that this is a viable concept.

Here’s why:

  • If the network was technically sound, innovative, and viable without Trump, you’d have to be an idiot to launch it with him. Trump automatically cuts your potential US user base in half, and it gets worse in markets outside the US.
  • A Trump social media network has to be uncensored (or else, what’s the point?). But you can’t be both anonymous and uncensored if you want to avoid being completely disrupted by trolls, bots, and bad actors.
  • If it doesn’t allow anonymous signups, the FBI will park on it. And it’s safe to say a Trump network won’t have the resources to fight off the US government like Apple does.
  • Without self-regulation, an online business is unsustainable due to the limited number of hosts available at the scale necessary to support enough users to generate a profit.
  • There aren’t enough hardcore conservative advertisers for a Trump-branded social media network to operate under the traditional ad-based social media paradigm.

The core problem with a Trump network is the same with any advertising-based endeavor: you get more flies with honey than you do by trying to convince people the US government has been overthrown by a conspiracy against you.

It might sound like I’m trying to make a joke here, but I’m not. That’s the problem. Trump’s brand is built on convincing people he’s the rightfully-elected president of the United States without any evidence to support that claim. The number of advertisers willing to pay money to support that idea is bound to be slim.

The only upside here is that Trump’s really popular and people love to see what he’ll do next. The downside is that, at any moment, he could be associated with another violent coup attempt. Even if only indirectly, until he recognizes the absolute legitimacy of the current US government, he’s going to be inseparable from acts of violence committed in his name by those who believe his baseless lies.

And as long as that’s the case, his social media network won’t be able to exist on traditional advertising revenue.

Sure, there are other ways to fund a social media company. Trump could tap big-time conservative investors or come up with a subscription-based model. But none of those are sustainable beyond a few months.

Social media companies need massive user bases in order to be profitable. And if you’re already limiting your audience to people who don’t find Trump distasteful, it’s kind of silly to then further limit it to people willing to pay for social media.

Trump may have conservative support at the upper echelons, but his core supporters are the blue collar people who donate to his political causes. Like tithing at church, these supporters may not give in large amounts but they give often. And, also like tithing at church, the relationship completely changes when there’s a cover charge to get in.

You can’t keep a social media network running on VC investment alone, so without advertising bucks or a massive subscriber base, the network’s already doomed. Plus, it’ll have bigger problems than just convincing donors or users to shell out for the privilege of supporting Trump:

But let’s put on our imagination hats and our clown noses and pretend like a Trump-backed social media network could generate a profit. The next problem: Trump’s brand is anti-censorship.

Unfortunately for team Trump, the reality of operating a social media network is that you have two choices: either ban people from screaming “fire” in a crowded theater or live with a paradigm where a large percentage of users are only there to yell “fire” in crowded theaters.

If you don’t have rules against harassment, you’ll have nothing but harassment. That’s just internet 101. You can’t stop people from arguing. And, unless you ban liberals or censor anti-conservative rhetoric, you’re going to have a platform that’s inundated with people who oppose Trump, his views, and his supporters.

The alternative is a censored network endorsed by Donald Trump – which would be hilarious, really. Especially since conservatives are notorious for not understanding what the right to Free Speech is. 

Credit: XKCD

So, uncensored? Team Trump will have to do what no other platform has managed: find a company willing to host an uncensored social media network. Which probably won’t happen, at least not in the US.

It’ll have to at least have some rules that, for example, prevent the solicitation of minors, the promotion of violence, and the sale of illegal weapons and drugs. And, as Parler found out the hard way, even if you have policies against illegal activities and the promotion of violence, you have to demonstrate you’re capable of handling it quickly when users breach your terms.

Trump’s going to need one hell of an AI team to create some powerful content moderation algorithms. It’s one thing to brand your network conservative, it’s another to associate it directly with the face of the right wing conspiracy-theorist movement. That’s quite a target for bad actors.

In order for the Trump-backed network to do the bare minimum to obtain long-term hosting, it’ll end up being just as “censored” as Twitter and Facebook.

And we haven’t even gotten to what happens when the US government gives the Trump network the same treatment it’s given Apple for years. When every court with a hate crime in its district in the entire country starts subpoenaing the network’s entire database of user records, team Trump better be ready for a never-ending fight against law enforcement.

But, hey, don’t let me talk anyone out of signing up. It might sound like a bad idea on paper, but when you look at it from the FBI’s point of view: what could possibly be better than a social media network that aims to gather millions of anti-government conspiracy theorists in a single website?

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Twitter’s new ‘Communities’ and ‘Super Follows’ will make it more like Facebook and Patreon

At its core, Twitter hasn’t changed all that much in the past few years. For the most part, people use it the same as they always have — a mostly public-facing ‘microblogging’ platform. But the company today unveiled highlighted multiple upcoming features that could significantly change the way people interact with one another on the platform, in many ways making it more versatile — and more like some of its competitors.

The announcements came as part of Twitter’s ‘Analyst Day.’ here are some of the biggest ones.


Communities is essentially the Twitter version of Facebook Groups. It allows Twitter users to hubs where they can gather based on common interests or locations, an extension of the company’s current topics feature.

Per Twitter, Communites will make it “easier for people to form, discover, and participate in conversations that are more targeted to the relevant communities or geographies they’re interested in.” Twitter showed off some hypothetical groups around social justice, plants, cats, and surfing.

Super Follows

A litter Patreon, and a little Twitch, Super Follows allows Twitter users to, well, become ‘super followers’ of their favorite online accounts. Some of the exclusive perks Twitter is teasing include exclusive content and newsletters, discounts, supporter badges, and super-followers-only conversations.

It could help creators monetize their Twitter following, without asking people to leave the platform. The company also teased some kind of tipping feature for creators, but did not provide much details about how it would work. It did have a $4.99 /month subscription price in a mockup though.

These new features aside, Twitter also highlighted a couple of upcoming features that have been making the rounds the last few months.


Instead of removing character limits, Revue is a way for Twitter users to publish newsletters for their audiences — these can be free or be behind a paywall. Finally, there’ll be a place for you stick your lengthiest tweetstorms.

The feature was technically announced last month, as it comes after Twitter acquired a company named, you guessed it, Revue.


This one isn’t totally new for people who follow social media closely, but it’s essentially Twitter’s version of Clubhouse. In other words, it’s a place where you can actually talk to people using honest-to-goodness audio, although it features live AI captions for conversations as well.

The company has been testing Spaces since at least December, and the feature even has its own Twitter profile.

There’s no word on exactly when these features will land, but considering some of them are already being tested publicly, I’d guess sooner rather than later.

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Donald Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter

Donald Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

It finally happened: Twitter has permanently suspended @realDonaldTrump, the outgoing President’s personal account. In related news, cortisol levels around the world suddenly dropped to their lowest levels in four years.

Twitter says it suspended the account “due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” referencing the attack on the Capitol by a group of pro-Trump thugs that resulted in five deaths.

The company adds that although its “public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly,” these people “are not above our rules entirely and cannot use Twitter to incite violence, among other things.”

Twitter goes into further detail about the decision in a blog post, citing Trump’s latest tweets, which the company says violate its “glorification of violence policy.”

Tweets are no longer available on the @realDonaldTrump page, but the @POTUS account, which often simply retweets content from Trump‘s personal Twitter, is still accessible. It’s possible Trump will use this account for his rants instead, but @POTUS a government account that will be handed over to the Biden administration on January 20.

For many, the suspension will have come too late – – Trump‘s tweets have arguably incited violence many times over. But it’s something.

Developing…. Refresh for updates.

on Twitter