FCC Will Move To Regulate Social Media After Censorship Outcry
An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge:
On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said that the agency will seek to regulate social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter at the behest of the Trump administration's executive order signed earlier this year. "Members of all three branches of the federal government have expressed serious concerns about the prevailing interpretation of the immunity set for in Section 230 of the Communications Act. There is bipartisan support in Congress to reform the law," Pai said in a statement Thursday. "Social media companies have a First Amendment right to free speech. But they do not have a First Amendment right to a special immunity denied to other media outlets, such as newspapers and broadcasters."
On Thursday, Pai said that the commission's general counsel said that "the FCC has the legal authority to reinterpret Section 230." He continued, "Consistent with this advice, I intend to move forward with a rulemaking to clarify its meaning." "Pai's decision to move forward with rulemaking follows a series of moderation decisions on Wednesday
made by Facebook and Twitter against a New York Post article regarding former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, who has been the subject of political attacks from the right throughout the 2020 presidential election," the report adds.
Facebook reduced the reach of the story, while Twitter banned linking to the story entirely. "These moves from Facebook and Twitter incited an outcry over conservative bias from Republicans," reports The Verge.
Oxford Scientists Develop 5-Minute COVID-19 Antigen Test
Scientists from Britain's University of Oxford have developed a rapid COVID-19 test
able to identify the coronavirus in less than five minutes. CNBC reports:
The university said it hoped to start product development of the testing device in early 2021 and have an approved device available six months afterwards. The device is able to detect the coronavirus and distinguish it from other viruses with high accuracy, the researchers said in a pre-print study. "Our method quickly detects intact virus particles," said Professor Achilles Kapanidis, at Oxford's Department of Physics, adding that this meant the test would be "simple, extremely rapid, and cost-effective."
Siemens Healthineers on Wednesday announced the launch of a rapid antigen test kit in Europe to detect coronavirus infections, but warned that the industry may struggle to meet a surge in demand. Although the Oxford platform will only be ready next year, the tests could help manage the pandemic in time for next winter. Health officials have warned that the world will need to live with coronavirus even if a vaccine is developed.
Google Music Shuts Down Smart Speaker Support and Music Store
started to shut down parts of its 9-year-old music service as it
transitions people to YouTube Music. Ars Technica reports:
The gradual shutdown started on Monday with the death of the Google Play Music Store, which previously let you purchase music for playback and download, as opposed to the all-you-can-eat rental services that dominate the music landscape today. Google's Music store was a section of the Google Play Store, which now just shows a message saying the feature has been removed. Google is getting out of the business of selling music entirely and now only offers a rental service through YouTube Music.
The other big feature shutdown is music playback on Google Home and Nest Audio speakers. While the Google Music app still works and you can start a playback through Chromecast, you're no longer able to start music by voice through Google Assistant devices. If you dig into the Google Assistant settings (that means opening the Google app on your phone, then hitting "More," then "Settings," then "Google Assistant," "Services," and finally "Music") you'll find that the "Google Play Music" option has completely disappeared. Now the only supported services for voice commands are YouTube Music, Pandora, Deezer, and Spotify. [...] Google Music is scheduled to completely shut down sometime this month. Right now, the only thing left is streaming via the smartphone app and the Google Music website.
Microsoft Will Share Digital Revenues With GameStop On Every Xbox It Sells
New details have emerged about a
partnership between Microsoft and GameStop that will see the retailer
receive a share of all digital revenues generated by a console sold in their stores. GamesIndustry.biz reports:
The agreement has been rumored, but investment advisor DOMO Capital Management claimed via Twitter that it had received confirmation from GameStop: the chain will get a share of all downstream revenue for customers it brings into the Xbox ecosystem this generation. Essentially, if a customer has purchased their Xbox Series X or S from any GameStop branch, the retailer will get a share of each digital purchase the user makes, whether its full-game downloads or downloadable content.
DOMO even claims this applies when the DLC is being purchased for a physical base game that was bought at another retailer, providing the DLC is being bought from the Xbox store. This also extends to pre-owned Xbox Series X and S consoles, with GameStop reporting to Microsoft every unit that it sells. It's unclear whether a similar arrangement exists with Sony.
Canonical Introduces High-Availability Micro-Kubernetes
An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet:
If you've been hiding under a rock -- and who could blame you these days? -- you may have missed how totally Kubernetes now dominates container orchestration. One way to quickly get up to speed on Kubernetes is with Canonical's MicroK8s. This is an easy-to-run and install mini-version of Kubernetes. And now Canonical has added autonomous high availability (HA) clustering to it. [...] Now, with HA, MicroK8s is ready to move from Internet of Things (IoT) implementations, testing out Kubernetes implementations on a workstation, or simply learning Kubernetes to bigger, better cloud jobs.
With the new MicroK8s release, HA is enabled automatically once three or more nodes are clustered, and the data store migrates automatically between nodes to maintain a quorum in the event of a failure. Designed as a minimal conformant Kubernetes, MicroK8s installs, and clusters easily on Linux, macOS, or Windows. To work, a HA Kubernetes cluster needs three elements. Here's how it works in MicroK8s:
-There must be more than one worker node. Since MicroK8s uses every node as a worker node, there is always another worker available so long as there's more than one node in the cluster.
-The Kubernetes API services must run on one or more nodes so that losing a single node would not render the cluster inoperable. Every node in the MicroK8s cluster is an API server, which simplifies load-balancing and means we can switch instantaneously to a different API endpoint if one fails.
-The cluster state must be in a reliable datastore. By default, MicroK8s uses Dqlite, a high-availability SQLite, as its datastore.
'Person In Jetpack' Spotted Flying Again Near LA Airport
There are reports of
an unidentified person flying in a jetpack near Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) -- the
second such incident in two months. The BBC reports:
A China Airlines crew said it saw what appeared to be someone in a jetpack on Wednesday at 6,000ft (1,829m), seven miles (11km) north-west of LAX, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The FBI is investigating the incident, as well as a similar one in September. It is not clear if either incident posed any danger to aircraft.
The China Airlines flight reported what it believed to be a person flying in a jetpack at 13:45 local time (20:45 GMT) on Wednesday, the FAA said. It said it then alerted enforcement agencies, who are now investigating the incident. "The FBI is in contact with the FAA and is investigating multiple reports of what, according to witnesses, appeared to be an individual in a jetpack near LAX," FBI Los Angeles Field Office spokeswoman Laura Eimiller was quoted as saying by US media. The airport authorities have so far made no public comment on the issue.
Facebook's Account Verification Leaves Some Quest 2 Buyers With 'Paperweight'
Quest 2 is the first Oculus headset to require a Facebook account at launch. False positives from its account verification system
may be leaving some buyers with no choice but to return it. UploadVR reports:
We're seeing reports from Quest 2 buyers who aren't on Facebook finding difficulty creating an account. Facebook's account verification system -- reportedly administered by a machine learning agent -- may ask for photographic evidence of identity. That evidence seems to be reviewed by a human, since it can apparently take weeks to process. Others trying to re-activate old accounts to use their brand new Quest 2 also report instant suspensions. Trying to create a new account also fails.
If the review fails or your account is suspended, there appears to be no recourse for appeal. Multiple buyers called the system a "paperweight" in their emails to us about their interactions with customer service and what they feel like they can do with the latest VR headset on the market. In an emailed statement, a Facebook spokesperson said Quest 2 customers should contact Oculus Customer support to work through issues. Facebook claimed to only have "a very small number" of Oculus users running into login issues. Among the screenshots from Twitter and Reddit users reporting issues are Oculus Support agents supposedly saying they're unable to help with Facebook account issues.
Robinhood Estimates Hackers Infiltrated Almost 2,000 Accounts
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg:
Almost 2,000 Robinhood Markets accounts were compromised in a recent hacking spree that siphoned off customer funds, a sign that the attacks were more widespread than was previously known. A person with knowledge of an internal review, who asked not to be identified because the findings aren't public, provided the estimated figure. When Bloomberg first reported on the hacking spree last week, the popular online brokerage disclosed few details. It said "a limited number" of customers had been struck by cyber-criminals who gained access by breaching personal email accounts outside of Robinhood, an assertion that some of the victims acknowledge and others reject.
The attacks unleashed a torrent of complaints on social media, where investors recounted futile attempts to call the brokerage, which doesn't have a customer service phone number. Robinhood, which has more than 13 million customer accounts, is now considering whether to add a phone number along with other tools, the person said. This week, Robinhood sent push notifications to users suggesting they enable two-factor authentication on their accounts. It also plans to send customers more advice on security, according to the statement. Several victims said they found no sign of criminals compromising their email accounts. And some said their brokerage accounts were accessed even though they had set up two-factor authentication.
Google Introduces Song Matching via Humming, Whistling or Singing
Google has added a new feature that lets you figure out what song is stuck in your head
by humming, whistling or singing -- a much more useful version of the kind of song-matching audio feature that it and competitors like Apple's Shazam have offered previously. From a report:
As of today, users will be able to open either the latest version of the mobile Google app, or the Google Search widget, and then tap the microphone icon, and either verbally ask to search a song or hit the 'Search a song button' and start making noises. The feature should be available to anyone using Google in English on iOS, or across over 20 languages already on Android, and the company says it will be growing that user group to more languages on both platforms in the future. Unsurprisingly, it's powered behind the scenes by machine learning algorithms developed by the company. Google says that it's matching tech won't require you to be a Broadway star or even a choir member -- it has built-in abilities to accommodate for various degrees of musical sensibility, and will provide a confidence score as a percentage alongside a number of possible matches. Clicking on any match will return more info about both artist and track, as well as music videos, and links that let you listen to the full song in the music app of your choice.
Remdesivir Has Little Effect on Covid-19 Mortality, WHO Study Says
The Covid-19 treatment remdesivir has
no substantial effect on a patient's chances of survival
[Editor's note: the link may be paywalled; alternative source], a clinical trial by the World Health Organization has found, delivering a significant blow to hopes of identifying existing medicines to treat the disease. From a report:
Results from the WHO's highly anticipated Solidarity trial, which studied the effects of remdesivir and three other potential drug regimens in 11,266 hospitalised patients, found that none of the treatments "substantially affected mortality" or reduced the need to ventilate patients, according to a copy of the study seen by the Financial Times. "These remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little effect on in-hospital mortality," the study found. The results of the WHO trial also showed that the drugs had little effect on how long patients stayed in hospital. However, WHO researchers said the study was primarily designed to assess impact on in-hospital mortality. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed. Remdesivir was one of a series of drugs used to treat US President Donald Trump after he tested positive for Covid-19. It was developed by US drugmaker Gilead Sciences, initially as a potential medicine to treat Ebola.
FCC To Move on Trump Plan To Weaken Social Media Legal Shield
U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said the agency will consider President Donald Trump's request to
weaken legal protections for social media companies such as Twitter. From a report:
The FCC will begin a rulemaking to "clarify" the meaning of a law that gives broad legal immunity to social media companies for their handling of users' posts, Pai said in an emailed statement. The action follows a request by the Trump administration for regulators to dilute the decades-old law that Facebook, Twitter and Google say is crucial. The request was called for in an executive order that Trump signed in May. Tech trade groups, civil liberties organizations and legal scholars have slammed the action and said it isn't likely to survive a court challenge.
Ubisoft, Crytek Data Posted on Ransomware Gang's Site
A ransomware gang going by the of Egregor has
leaked data it claims to have obtained from the internal networks of two of today's largest gaming companies -- Ubisoft and Crytek. An anonymous reader writes:
Data allegedly taken from each company has been published on the ransomware gang's dark web portal on Tuesday. Details about how the Egregor gang obtained the data remain unclear. Ransomware gangs like Egregor regularly breach companies, steal their data, encrypt files, and ask for a ransom to decrypt the locked data. However, in many incidents, ransomware gangs are also get caught and kicked out of networks during the data exfiltration process, and files are never encrypted. Nevertheless, they still extort companies, asking victims for money to not leak sensitive files. Usually, when negotiations break down, ransomware gangs post a partial leak of the stolen files on so-called leak sites. On Tuesday, leaks for both Crytek and Ubisoft were posted on the Egregor portal at the same time, with threats from the ransomware crew to leak more files in the coming days.
YouTube Bans QAnon, Other Conspiracy Content That Targets Individuals
YouTube said Thursday that it would no longer allow content that
targets individuals and groups with conspiracy theories, specifically QAnon and its antecedent, "pizzagate." From a report:
"Today, we are taking another step in our efforts to curb hate and harassment by removing more conspiracy theory content used to justify real-world violence," the company announced on its blog. The new rules, an expansion of YouTube's existing hate and harassment policies, will prohibit content that "threatens or harrasses someone by suggesting they are complicit in one of these harmful conspiracies, such as QAnon or Pizzagate," the post read. YouTube said it would be enforcing the updated policy immediately and plans to "ramp up in the weeks to come."
Amazon To Escape UK Digital Services Tax That Will Hit Smaller Traders
Amazon will not have to pay the UK's new digital services tax on products it sells directly to consumers but small traders who sell products on its site
will face increased charges. From a report:
The tax, which aims to get tech companies such as Amazon, Google and Facebook to pay more tax in the UK, is forecast to eventually bring in about $645 million annually to the exchequer. Amazon has already stated that the 2% tax on revenues made in the UK will be passed on to sellers but it will not be adding the charge to the cost of advertising on its platform.
According to a report in the Times, Amazon, which paid only $18.5 million in corporation tax on total UK revenues of $17.7 billion last year, will not have to pay the tax on goods it sells directly. The new tax is not being levied on sales, which would also penalise online retailers such as Tesco and John Lewis, but on the service fees that companies such as Amazon and Google charge third parties. With Amazon's third-party sellers facing a 2% rise in the amount they pay, the US retailer is effectively getting a price advantage on competing goods it sells directly to consumers. "This seems to me to be absolutely outrageous," said Lord Leigh of Hurley, the Conservative peer and former party treasurer, in the House of Lords. "It is clear that the UK government is not taxing Amazon properly and is allowing it to avoid tax on its own sales through the marketplace."
FAA Revamps Space Launch Rules as SpaceX, Blue Origin Expand
Commercial rocket ventures including Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin should get a clearer path to space under
new regulations that oversee non-government launches. From a report:
The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday announced it is replacing decades-old rules as it adapts to rapid growth in the industry to propel satellites and, eventually, private citizens into space. "This rule paves the way for an industry that is moving at lightning speed," FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said in a press release. "We are simplifying the licensing process and enabling industry to move forward in a safe manner." In addition to SpaceX and Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, companies founded by Richard Branson, are also trying to cash in on space tourism and small satellite launches. Other companies include Northrop Grumman, United Launch Alliance and Rocket Lab.
Senate To Subpoena Twitter CEO Over Blocking of Disputed Biden Articles
The Senate Judiciary Committee
plans to issue a subpoena on Tuesday to Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey after the social-media company blocked a pair of New York Post articles that made new allegations about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, which his campaign has denied. From a report:
The subpoena would require the Twitter executive to testify on Oct. 23 before the committee, according to the Republicans who announced the hearing. GOP lawmakers are singling out Twitter because it prevented users from posting links to the articles, which the Post said were based on email exchanges with Hunter Biden, the Democratic candidate's son, provided by allies of President Trump. Those people in turn said they received them from a computer-repair person who found them on a laptop, according to the Post.
"This is election interference, and we are 19 days out from an election," Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), a committee member who discussed the subpoena with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), told reporters. "Never before have we seen active censorship of a major press publication with serious allegations of corruption of one of the two candidates for president."
Google's Breast Cancer-Predicting AI Research is Useless Without Transparency, Critics Say
An anonymous reader shares a report:
Back in January, Google Health, the branch of Google focused on health-related research, clinical tools, and partnerships for health care services, released an AI model trained on over 90,000 mammogram X-rays that the company said achieved better results than human radiologists. Google claimed that the algorithm could recognize more false negatives -- the kind of images that look normal but contain breast cancer -- than previous work, but some clinicians, data scientists, and engineers take issue with that statement. In a rebuttal published today in the journal Nature, over 19 coauthors affiliated with McGill University, the City University of New York (CUNY), Harvard University, and Stanford University said that the lack of detailed methods and code in Google's research "undermines its scientific value."
Science in general has a reproducibility problem -- a 2016 poll of 1,500 scientists reported that 70% of them had tried but failed to reproduce at least one other scientist's experiment -- but it's particularly acute in the AI field. At ICML 2019, 30% of authors failed to submit their code with their papers by the start of the conference. Studies often provide benchmark results in lieu of source code, which becomes problematic when the thoroughness of the benchmarks comes into question. One recent report found that 60% to 70% of answers given by natural language processing models were embedded somewhere in the benchmark training sets, indicating that the models were often simply memorizing answers. Another study -- a meta-analysis of over 3,000 AI papers -- found that metrics used to benchmark AI and machine learning models tended to be inconsistent, irregularly tracked, and not particularly informative.
YouTube Bans Coronavirus Vaccine Misinformation
YouTube said this week it would remove videos from YouTube
containing misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, expanding its current rules against falsehoods and conspiracy theories about the pandemic. From a report:
The video platform said it would now ban any content with claims about COVID-19 vaccines that contradict consensus from local health authorities or the World Health Organization. YouTube said in an email that this would include removing claims that the vaccine will kill people or cause infertility, or that microchips will be implanted in people who receive the vaccine.
Anthony Fauci on the Coronavirus and the Prospects for a Vaccine
video here, you can watch excerpts from New Yorker journalist Michael Specter and Fauci's conversation, which encompassed the hard lessons of the AIDS epidemic, Americans' fraught relationship with scientific and medical authority, and possible time lines for the development and distribution of a coronavirus vaccine. The key questions, Fauci told Specter, are not just when a vaccine will be available but how effective it will be and how many people will receive it. These are just a few of the factors that will determine the answer to one of the more lighthearted questions posed by Specter, after months of distancing and isolation: "Will we ever be able to go to the movies again?" While cautious about making specific predictions, Fauci expressed optimism about whether Americans are ever again going to be able to watch a movie in a theatre. "Yes, we are, Michael," Fauci said. "And I'll even buy you a ticket."
The Great Barrier Reef Has Lost Half Its Corals
The Great Barrier Reef, one of the earth's most precious habitats,
lost half of its coral populations in the last quarter-century, a decline that researchers in Australia said would continue unless drastic action is taken to mitigate the effects of climate change. From a report:
Researchers studied coral colonies along the length of the reef between 1995 and 2017 and found that almost every coral species had declined. Colony sizes were smaller; there were fewer "big mamas," or older large corals that produce baby corals; and there were fewer of those babies, which are vital to the reef's future ability to breed. "Our results show the ability of the Great Barrier Reef to recover -- its resilience -- is compromised compared to the past, because there are fewer babies, and fewer large breeding adults," Dr. Andy Dietzel, the lead author of the study, said in a statement.
The study was published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society. Dr. Dietzel and other researchers from the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Queensland, Australia, measured changes in colony sizes as a way of understanding the capacity of corals to breed. Bleaching -- a process in which corals expel algae and turn white as water temperatures rise -- contributed to steep losses of coral colonies in the northern and central Great Barrier Reef in 2016 and 2017. The southern part of the reef was also exposed to record-setting temperatures in early 2020, according to the researchers, who cited climate change as one of the major drivers of disturbances to the reef. "There is no time to lose," the researchers said in their statement. "We must sharply decrease greenhouse gas emissions ASAP." "We used to think the Great Barrier Reef is protected by its sheer size -- but our results show that even the world's largest and relatively well-protected reef system is increasingly compromised and in decline," one of the researchers, Terence Hughes, said in a statement. The decline of "branching and table-shaped corals," which provide critical habitats for fish, was especially pronounced, the researchers said.
Twitter, Like Facebook, To Remove Posts Denying the Holocaust
Two days after Facebook
announced that it would block posts that deny the Holocaust, Twitter
decided to do the same. Bloomberg reports:
Twitter's policy doesn't explicitly state that denying violent events is against the rules, but the spokeswoman confirmed that "attempts to deny or diminish" violent events, including the Holocaust, would be removed based on the company's interpretation of the policy. "We strongly condemn anti-semitism, and hateful conduct has absolutely no place on our service," she said in a statement. "We also have a robust 'glorification of violence' policy in place and take action against content that glorifies or praises historical acts of violence and genocide, including the Holocaust."
Physicists Successfully Carry Out Controlled Transport of Stored Light
schwit1 shares a report from Phys.Org:
A team of physicists led by Professor Patrick Windpassinger at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) has successfully transported light stored in a quantum memory over a distance of 1.2 millimeters. They have demonstrated that the controlled transport process and its dynamics has only little impact on the properties of the stored light. The researchers used ultra-cold rubidium-87 atoms as a storage medium for the light as to achieve a high level of storage efficiency and a long lifetime. The controlled manipulation and storage of quantum information as well as the ability to retrieve it are essential prerequisites for achieving advances in quantum communication and for performing corresponding computer operations in the quantum world. Optical quantum memories, which allow for the storage and on-demand retrieval of quantum information carried by light, are essential for scalable quantum communication networks.
In their recent publication, Professor Patrick Windpassinger and his colleagues have described the actively controlled transport of such stored light over distances larger than the size of the storage medium. Some time ago, they developed a technique that allows ensembles of cold atoms to be transported on an 'optical conveyor belt' which is produced by two laser beams. The advantage of this method is that a relatively large number of atoms can be transported and positioned with a high degree of accuracy without significant loss of atoms and without the atoms being unintentionally heated. The physicists have now succeeded in using this method to transport atomic clouds that serve as a light memory. The stored information can then be retrieved elsewhere. Refining this concept, the development of novel quantum devices, such as a racetrack memory for light with separate reading and writing sections, could be possible in the future. The findings have been
published in the journal Physical Review Letters.