Source: BBC News - Technology | 24 Sep 2020 | 11:11 am
Source: BBC News - Technology | 24 Sep 2020 | 11:01 am
With less than six weeks to go until the U.S. Presidential election, Alphabet CEO and 2020 TIME100 honoree Sundar Pichai has reiterated his company’s commitment to fighting online misinformation on its platforms, particularly YouTube.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” Pichai told TIME Editor-at-Large and former Editor-in-Chief Nancy Gibbs in a wide-ranging TIME100 Talks interview that aired Sept. 23. “Misinformation can be dangerous. Online platforms can play a role in amplifying it. So the work we have done to understand what is either misinformation or low-quality content and make sure that doesn’t get recommended and shared has been the thrust of our efforts there.”
Following the 2016 election, both Alphabet (parent company to both YouTube and Google) and competitor Facebook came under fire for allowing a tide of fake news and misinformation related to the election to propagate on their platforms. Four years later, some are worried that a similar dynamic, exacerbated by continuing disinformation campaigns from outside the U.S., could impact the outcome of the upcoming election.
“There’s a lot more awareness, I think, so the scale of our efforts are significantly larger,” Pichai said, explaining that the company has more than 30 teams working on the issue, and that the internet giant has been in consultation with the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies. “We are all putting in a lot of effort, but we have to stay vigilant because the stakes are high in a democracy through an election cycle.”
“It’s where most of our effort is going into, particularly on YouTube,” Pichai said. “In fact, that’s been the single-highest focus for the team for the past three years now.”
Pichai noted that there is a certain amount of complexity surrounding the issue of misinformation from the perspective of an internet platform.
“The difficulty comes when there are areas which are nuanced and people don’t agree on the balance between free speech and what is the wrong kind of speech to propagate,” Pichai said. “That’s been hard at scale. That’s not an excuse. The amount we invest in these areas have significantly scaled up. I think we are making a lot of progress.”
However, the CEO stressed that his company understands the gravity of its role in maintaining the integrity of an election under high-stakes and historic conditions.
“Holding free and safe elections is as foundational to the functioning of a democracy as it gets,” Pichai said. “As an information company we view it as one of the most important responsibilities we have.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 24 Sep 2020 | 6:26 am
Source: BBC News - Technology | 24 Sep 2020 | 4:56 am
Source: BBC News - Technology | 24 Sep 2020 | 1:27 am
Donald Trump gave his blessing to Oracle Corp.’s bid for the American operations of TikTok, putting the popular video-sharing app on course to escape a U.S. ban imposed as part of his pressure campaign against China.
“I approved the deal in concept,” Trump told reporters Saturday as he left the White House for a campaign rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina. “If they get it done, that’s great. If they don’t, that’s OK too.”
The new company, which will be called TikTok Global, has agreed to funnel $5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. and set up a new education fund, which Trump said would satisfy his demand that the government receive a payment from the deal. “They’re going to be setting up a very large fund,” he said. “That’s their contribution that I’ve been asking for.”
Oracle plans to take a 12.5% stake in the new TikTok Global, while Walmart Inc. said it has tentatively agreed to buy 7.5% of the entity. Walmart’s Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon will serve on TikTok Global’s board of directors, the retailer said in a statement. Four of the five board seats will be filled by Americans, according to the statement.
TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance Ltd. is seeking a valuation of $60 billion for the app, according to a person familiar with the matter. Oracle and Walmart would pay a combined $12 billion for their stakes if they agree to that asking price. The final valuation had not been set as the parties worked out the equity structure and measures for data security, the person said. Terms are still in flux and the proposed valuation could still change.
The TikTok deal was forced by a pair of bans Trump issued in August over concerns that ByteDance posed a national security risk, thrusting the video-sharing app into the center of the president’s confrontation with Beijing.
Shortly after Trump signaled his approval, the Commerce Department on Saturday delayed by a week a ban that would have forced Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to pull the TikTok video app from their U.S. app stores on Sunday.
Trump is ramping up pressure on Chinese-owned apps in the weeks before the Nov. 3 presidential elections, citing national security concerns about the data U.S. citizens provide to them and the potential for Beijing to use them for spying. The president is trailing his opponent Joe Biden in polls and has sought to portray himself as tougher on Beijing than the Democrat.
TikTok said in a statement that it was “pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle, and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the U.S. administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the U.S.”
The company confirmed Oracle will host all its U.S. data and secure its computer systems. Oracle’s Generation 2 Cloud fully isolates running applications and responds to security threats autonomously, according to the statement, which eliminates the risk of foreign governments spying on American users or trying to influence them with disinformation.
“Oracle will quickly deploy, rapidly scale, and operate TikTok systems in the Oracle Cloud,” said Oracle CEO Safra Catz in a statement. “We are a 100% confident in our ability to deliver a highly secure environment to TikTok and ensure data privacy to TikTok’s American users.”
Oracle will get full access to review TikTok’s source code and updates to make sure there are no back doors used by the company’s Chinese parent to gather data or to spy on the video-sharing app’s 100 million American users, according to people familiar with the matter.
TikTok Global, together with Oracle, SIG, General Atlantic, Sequoia, Walmart and Coatue will create an educational initiative to develop and deliver an online video curriculum driven by artificial intelligence, according to the statement.
TikTok said it’s working with Walmart on a commercial partnership and said that it will take part in a TikTok Global financing round along with Oracle before an initial public offering in which the investors can take as much as a 20% cumulative stake in the company.
TikTok Global will likely be headquartered in Texas and will hire “at least” 25,000 people, Trump said. TikTok will need to hire thousands of content moderators, engineers, and marketing staff that were previously located in China and around the world. The company will also pay more than $5 billion in new tax dollars to the Treasury, according to the statement.
To sweeten the deal for Trump, TikTok promised to hire an additional 15,000 jobs, more than the 10,000 positions the company already pledged to fill earlier this year. It’s unclear if there’s a timeline to achieve that target, or guarantees that it will follow through. Facebook Inc., the largest U.S. social media company, employed about 45,000 people in 2019, while Twitter Inc. employed only 4,900, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Proponents of the deal told the Trump administration that the new company would be controlled by American investors by counting the passive stakes of existing shareholders in TikTok’s Chinese parent, people familiar with the matter said. Although ByteDance will have an 80% stake in the new company, existing U.S. investors hold a 40% stake in ByteDance. That tallies up to 53% ownership by U.S. companies and investors — although that doesn’t entail majority control or voter rights, the people said.
TikTok Global, which will be an independent company, will hold an initial public offering in less than 12 months and the stock will be listed on a U.S. exchange, according to the statement. After going public, U.S. ownership of TikTok Global will increase and continue to grow over time, it added.
While the Chinese government must now sign off on the transaction for it to go forward, as of earlier this week, ByteDance was growing increasingly confident that the proposal would pass muster with Chinese regulators, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg.
Early reaction from Chinese state media appeared positive. “This scheme is still unfair, but it avoids the worst result, that TikTok is shut down or sold to a U.S. company completely,” wrote Hu Xijin, the influential editor in chief of China’s state-owned Global Times.
Under the terms of the agreement reached early in the week, ByteDance would retain a majority of TikTok’s assets and control over the algorithm, with Oracle and other U.S. investors taking minority stakes.
Trump seemed to contradict that on Saturday. “It will have nothing to do with China, it’ll be totally secure, that’ll be part of the deal,” he said. “All of the control is Walmart and Oracle, two great American companies.”
Trump spoke with Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison and Walmart’s McMillon on Friday, telling them he still expected the U.S. government to receive a cash payment as part of the transaction, according to people familiar with the matter. They agreed to the educational donation as a way to satisfy Trump’s demand, one of the people said. ByteDance first heard about the $5 billion education fund from news reports, a company spokeswoman said.
The deal came together last weekend, the result of high-level negotiations between ByteDance, Oracle and top Trump administration officials after ByteDance rejected a bid from Microsoft Corp. and Walmart to buy the U.S. TikTok service outright.
Beijing has signaled it would greenlight a deal as long as ByteDance doesn’t have to transfer the artificial intelligence algorithms that drive TikTok’s service, Bloomberg has reported.
The Treasury Department said the deal is subject to a security agreement that requires approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius. The term sheet that’s been negotiated between Cfius and the companies will now have to be formalized in a document that details the mechanics for implementing the terms of the deal.
That document would likely include requirements related to the establishment of the new company, arrangements governing its relationship with ByteDance, whether an IPO is part of the deal, whether ByteDance will have to divest its entire stake in the IPO and what would happen if for some reason the IPO doesn’t occur, said Aimen Mir, a lawyer at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and a former deputy assistant secretary for investment security at Treasury.
In a video posted on TikTok with the caption #WeAreTikTok and we are here to stay, interim head of TikTok Vanessa Pappas thanked users for “sticking by us,” she said. “We’re here for the long run.” In the comments below, users said they were happy that the ongoing drama around the ban would subside. “This on and off situation is working on my nerves,” said @iamdavante, who has 4.1 million followers on the video app.
—With assistance from David McLaughlin, Nick Wadhams and Saleha Mohsin.
Source: Tech – TIME | 21 Sep 2020 | 2:22 am
The world of social media was a little quieter than usual on Wednesday: Celebrities ranging from Kim Kardashian West to Mark Ruffalo “froze” their Instagram accounts for 24 hours, to protest hate speech and misinformation being spread on Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.
“I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation,” wrote Kardashian West, who has 188 million Instagram followers, in a tweet on Tuesday, before encouraging her fans to join her.
I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation – created by groups to sow division and split America apart pic.twitter.com/XkxzABn7qw
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) September 15, 2020
The day-long freeze, during which the celebrities ceased to share photos or posts on either platform, was organized by Stop Hate for Profit, a coalition of nine civil rights groups that are asking Facebook to make policy changes to address online harassment and conspiracy theories that spread place on the platform. By Wednesday night, according to Stop Hate for Profit, the Instagram freeze was seen by over 1 billion people. (A Facebook spokesperson told the New York Times on Tuesday that it had no comment about the situation.)
But while the boycott temporarily reshaped the Instagram feeds of the celebrities’ collective millions of followers, it was also met with criticism. The critiques paralleled similar concerns about two other major social-media activism campaigns in recent months: #BlackoutTuesday, for which Instagram users posted black squares to show support for Black Lives Matter, and #ChallengeAccepted, a campaign that involved users posting black-and-white selfies in a declaration of women’s empowerment.
For all three, a central question dogged the hashtags: what could short-term social-media action actually do to create long-term change?
In fact, argues Tia C.M. Tyree, professor and interim Associate Dean of Howard University’s Cathy Hughes School of Communications, social media-activism can have a “major impact”—if it’s done right.
“Whether it’s Black Lives Matter or the #MeToo movement, people are taking to social media to voice their opinions and really call attention to some of the issues that have been problematic in U.S. society in past years and now,” Tyree says. “They’re able to get exposure in a different light because social media is so prevalent and pervasive in today’s world.”
According to Tyree, however, that power can only be realized if the campaign also exists offline. Despite the criticism, she thinks Stop Hate for Profit has the potential to be a good example of how an online campaign can go beyond a symbolic gesture. The Instagram freeze is part of a week of action organized by the coalition, which includes clear objectives like educating people about election disinformation and asking people to register to vote.
“These campaigns give everyday people a chance to do something larger than themselves, but there has to be online and offline goals and objectives,” Tyree says. “To offer up the idea that we’re not going to utilize a platform for a day is not a goal—it’s a tactic that should be used as an overall part of a bigger campaign to evoke larger change.”
The backing of an campaign like Stop Hate for Profit is not in fact necessary to make an impact, Tyree says, but it helps to have an established set of goals and ideas to back up the posts. She points to the way the hashtag #MeToo went viral when used in a tweet by Alyssa Milano. While Milano’s tweet brought the phrase to the mainstream, the movement gained momentum because the phrase’s creator Tarana Burke had long been doing the work of empowering sexual abuse and harassment survivors.
Ultimately, however, while social media can raise money and awareness, it’s only one part of a larger puzzle—one that won’t be solved by any single campaign. Tyree stresses that while the 24-hour Instagram freeze was created to draw awareness to the hate speech and misinformation on Facebook, the bigger issue that needs to be addressed is the existence of the hate itself and the realities of the world that produced it.
“Social media is a reflection of society,” she says. “We also have to put the mirror to ourselves and understand that this is really a reflection of who we are as a society.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 18 Sep 2020 | 8:44 am
Apple on Tuesday unveiled two new Apple Watches, a fitness subscription service, updates to its iPad lineup and more. It was the second pandemic-era virtual event for the company, and executives made multiple references to the outbreak and the need to stay healthy in “these difficult times,” as CEO Tim Cook put it.
Here’s a look at the six most interesting things Apple announced.
The $399 Apple Watch Series 6 improves on what’s already the best smartwatch around, including a feature that can potentially help people detect illnesses like influenza (or COVID-19) earlier.
That capability is powered by the Series 6’s new blood oxygen sensor, which uses a series of photodiodes and infrared LEDs to measure your oxygen saturation—the amount of oxygen in your blood cells—as you breathe. Apple is also teaming up with two research organizations to study how blood oxygen levels can be used to predict or help manage certain heart conditions.
Other external changes for the Series 6 include new blue and red offerings, an always-on altimeter that detects changes in altitude and barometric pressure, and an improved display that’s more than twice as bright as that of the Series 5.
The Apple Watch Series 6 also features a new S6 processor and the company’s U1 ultra wideband chip. Together, they make the Series 6 faster and enable new upcoming features, including an option to use the Apple Watch to unlock certain models of cars.
Still, with no change in the company’s claimed “18-hour battery life,” using the Series 6 for more than a day without charging remains an elusive desire.
Buy now: The Apple Watch Series 6
While the Apple Watch Series 6 is the company’s new flagship wearable, Apple also introduced a cheaper Apple Watch SE. The $279 SE lacks the blood oxygen sensor in the Series 6, and uses the last generation’s S5 processor, but features the same sensors—like the always-on altimeter—and the same improved display as the Series 6.
Apple is also continuing to sell the Apple Watch Series 3 for $199, giving consumers a pretty healthy lineup of price points for jumping into wearables.
Buy now: The Apple Watch SE
A more surprising announcement: Apple Fitness+, a workout streaming service designed to be used with the Apple Watch.
Fitness+ will feature high-quality workout videos like those you might find from companies like Peloton. Fitness metrics will be displayed and highlighted on screen during workouts when a trainer calls them out, and you’ll see a summary of your session at the end. There are 10 workout options to choose from, including yoga, cycling, strength, and rowing. It’s machine-agnostic, meaning you don’t need any particular equipment—aside from the Apple Watch.
Apple plans to add a new set of videos each week, all varying in terms of intensity, time, and exercise type. Each session includes a workout playlist you can import into Apple Music. Fitness+ starts at $9.99 per month or $79.99 per year. It will also be included in Apple’s new Apple One plan.
When you count them up, Apple already offers five services to paying subscribers, not including the newest Apple Fitness+ service debuting later this year. Apple One is the company’s attempt at unifying them into one plan—a less confusing ordeal for anyone trying to manage all their subscriptions. (Apple One doesn’t include AppleCare, the company’s technical support service. It also excludes the $25-per-year iTunes Match service, which lets users upload their own songs into their iCloud music library, allowing them to listen to those songs on up to 10 devices.)
Apple One’s bundled services are available in three different packages. The Individual plan includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage for $14.95 per month. The Family plan, which supports up to six family members, includes Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of iCloud storage for $19.95 per month. The Premier plan, which also supports up to six family members, includes all of Apple’s services—Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Apple News+, and Apple Fitness+ (when it launches)—along with 2TB of iCloud storage, and is available for $29.95 per month.
Compared to subscribing to each service individually, the Individual plan will save users $6 per month, while the Family and Premier plans will save subscribers $8 and $25 per month, respectively. While the trio of options is definitely great for those already using Apple services and looking to save a little cash, the inability to customize any of the plans is disappointing.
The updated eighth-generation iPad doesn’t do much to change course from its predecessor. It retains the same looks, Lightning port, and lack of support for the newer Apple Pencil, but gains a faster A12 Bionic processor that makes it twice as quick in the graphics department. Available Friday, the iPad will retail for $329, but schools can buy them for $299.
Buy now: New Apple iPad (8th Generation)
Apple showed off an updated iPad Air—with pretty familiar looks. Its design, nearly identical to the previous iPad Pro, ditches both the curved edges and Lightning port in favor of the much-desired USB-C port, along with support for the newest version of the Apple Pencil, as well as a smart connector on the back that works with the trackpad-equipped Magic Keyboard originally made for the iPad Pro. It’s available in five colors, including pastel-shaded pink, blue, and green.
Despite the lack of support for FaceID, there’s also an integrated TouchID sensor in the iPad Air’s power button, giving users a security measure while ditching the familiar home button.
The iPad Air also features Apple’s latest A14 Bionic processor. It brings improved performance that makes it 40% faster than the previous model. Despite its resemblance in both features and design to the iPad Pro, the new iPad Air will start at a comparatively reasonable $599, and launch next month.
Source: Tech – TIME | 16 Sep 2020 | 8:46 am
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