Category Archive : Technology

Twitter is really important for understanding our present political and cultural moment, and it’s really bad for American democracy.

Three-and-a-half years into a political era launched and sustained in large part by the social media platform, these two (related) views are indisputable. But pinpointing precisely what is so politically and culturally pernicious about Twitter can be challenge, in part because its awfulness has multiple dimensions.

There is, to begin with, its impulsive, hyperbolic, and viral character, often rewarding people with a nearly instantaneous, enormous global audience for making sweeping or extreme pronouncements on events — “that big explosion in Beirut was definitely a nuclear weapon!” — in a spirit of uninformed, visceral reaction. That makes Twitter one of the greatest mechanisms ever devised for spreading conspiracies and misinformation. It also makes it one of the greatest mechanisms ever devised for spreading disinformation — intentionally misleading and false claims spread by bad actors to sow mayhem and confusion for a variety of malicious aims.

Then there is Twitter’s facility for encouraging tribalism or what is often called the “siloing” of information. People can and do curate their feeds to ensure they hear and interact only with ideas and arguments that reinforce what they already believe, and dismiss anything that might prompt them to question it. Though for many the term “dismiss” is too passive. That’s because they also seek out the most extreme versions of ideas and ideologies they detest in order to reinforce the prejudices that prevail within their own meticulously curated digital world. They band together with allies and then go in search of monsters to destroy.

But what if the causality runs just as much in the other direction — not from tribalism to ideological conflict, but the reverse? What if certain people, at least, are motivated at bottom by a …read more

Source:: The Week – Tech

      

President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting U.S. residents from doing any business with TikTok or the apps’ Chinese owner ByteDance Ltd., beginning 45 days from now.

The move comes as Trump seeks the divestment of the popular video app, citing national security risks to the U.S. It threatens penalties on any U.S. resident or company that engages in any transactions with TikTok or ByteDance after the order takes effect.

“This mobile application may also be used for disinformation campaigns that benefit the Chinese Communist Party,” Trump said in the order, released Thursday by the White House. The data collection through TikTok “threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans’ personal and proprietary information — potentially allowing China to track the locations of Federal employees and contractors, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.”

TikTok representatives didn’t immediately respond to request for comment.

…read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

(RICHMOND, Va.) — Virginia has rolled out a smartphone app to automatically notify people if they might have been exposed to the coronavirus, becoming the first U.S. state to use new pandemic technology created by Apple and Google.

The free Covidwise app is available in Apple and Android app stores as of Wednesday. State officials, who emphasized that the app doesn’t track user location or collect personal information, announced public campaigns encouraging people to download and use it.

“We’re using every possible approach to fight this virus and keep Virginians healthy,” Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said in a prepared statement provided to The Associated Press.

The technology arrives nearly four months after Apple and Google partnered to create the software for public health agencies trying to contain the spread of the pandemic. Canada and a number of European countries have already rolled out apps using the tech companies’ framework.

The app, developed by SpringML, relies on Bluetooth wireless technology to detect when someone who downloaded the app has spent time near another app user who later tests positive for the virus. Those who test positive can anonymously notify others to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

The Virginia health department will verify positive test results and issue app users who want to report them a pin number tied to their lab records in order to prevent malicious actors from sharing false positives.

“Your device will share anonymous tokens via Bluetooth with other COVIDWISE users,” the app says. “If another user you’ve been nearby tests positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day period, your app will notify you.”

People who receive a warning of possible exposure can seek advice from the health department or their doctor.

Information on Virginia’s public health department website says the app measures close contact as within 6 feet of someone for at least …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

Employees at Blizzard Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard Inc., began circulating a spreadsheet on Friday to anonymously share salaries and recent pay increases, the latest example of rising tension in the video game industry over wage disparities and executive compensation.

Blizzard, based in Irvine, California, makes popular games including Diablo and World of Warcraft. In 2019, after an internal survey revealed that more than half of Blizzard workers were unhappy with their compensation, the company told staff it would perform a study to ensure fair pay, according to people familiar with the situation. Blizzard implemented the results of that study last month, which led to an outcry on the company’s internal Slack messaging boards.

One employee then created a spreadsheet and encouraged staff to share their compensation information. The anonymous document, reviewed by Bloomberg News, contains dozens of purported Blizzard salaries and pay bumps. Most of the raises are below 10%, significantly less than Blizzard employees said they expected following the study.

“Our goal has always been to ensure we compensate our employees fairly and competitively,” Activision Blizzard spokeswoman Jessica Taylor said. “We are constantly reviewing compensation philosophies to better recognize the talent of our highest performers and keep us competitive in the industry, all with the aim of rewarding and investing more in top employees.”

This year, Blizzard top performers received a salary increase that was 20% more than in prior years, and more people got promotions, Taylor added. “Our overall salary investment is consistent with prior years,” she also said.

Wage disparity has become a hot-button issue in the $150 billion video game industry as calls for unionization grow. A pro-labor group recently slammed Activision Blizzard for the pay of Chief Executive Officer Bobby Kotick. His 2019 compensation was worth $40 million at the end of that year, …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

(NEW YORK) — Microsoft confirmed Sunday it is in talks with Chinese company ByteDance to acquire the U.S. arm of its popular video app TikTok and has discussed with President Donald Trump his concerns about security and censorship surrounding such an acquisition.

In a statement, Microsoft said Microsoft and ByteDance have provided notice of their intent to explore a deal resulting in Microsoft owning and operating the TikTok service in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The company said it expects those talks to conclude by Sept. 15.

Trump said on Friday that he would soon ban TikTok in the United States. Trump and CEO Satya Nadella have spoken, the company said, and Microsoft was prepared to continue exploring the purchase of TikTok’s U.S. operations after their conversation.

“Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury,” the Microsoft statement said.

The White House did not immediately comment on the Microsoft statement.

Previously, there were reports that Microsoft was in advanced talks to buy the U.S. operations of TikTok, which has been a source of national security and censorship concerns for the Trump administration. Earlier Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo again raised the administration’s warnings about social media platform.

“These Chinese software companies doing business in the United States, whether it’s TikTok or WeChat — there are countless more … are feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party, their national security apparatus,” Pompeo said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“Could be their facial recognition patterns. It could be information about their residence, their phone numbers, their friends, who they’re connected to. Those — those are the issues that President Trump has made clear we’re going …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

(BRASILIA, Brazil) — Facebook announced Saturday it has obeyed a Brazilian judge’s order for a worldwide block on the accounts of 12 of President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters who are under investigation for allegedly running a fake news network.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes said Friday night that the company had failed to fully comply with a previous ruling ordering the accounts to be shut down, saying they were still online and publishing by changing their registration to locations outside Brazil.

Facebook issued a statement saying it complied due to the threat of criminal liability for an employee in Brazil.

But it called the new order “extreme,” saying it poses a “threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide.” The company said it would appeal to the full court.

Facebook also argued it had complied with the previous order by “restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil”.

“People from IP locations in Brazil were not capable of seeing these Pages and Profiles even if the targets had changed their IP location”, the company said.

Moraes said that Facebook ought to pay $ 367,000 in penalties for not complying with his previous decision during the last eight days.

He also had ruled Twitter should block the accounts. While Twitter said then the decision was “disproportionated” under Brazil’s freedom of speech rules and that it would appeal, the targeted profiles were disabled.

Moraes is overseeing a controversial investigation to determine whether some of Bolsonaro’s most ardent allies are running a social media network aimed at spreading threats and fake news against Supreme Court justices.

The probe is one of the main points of confrontation between Bolsonaro and the Supreme Court.

The president himself filed a lawsuit last week demanding the accounts to be unblocked.

…read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

(NEW YORK) — President Donald Trump said he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns.

Trump’s comments came after published reports that the administration is planning to order China’s ByteDance to sell TikTok. There were also reports Friday that software giant Microsoft is in talks to buy the app.

“As far as TikTok is concerned, we’re banning them from the United States,” Trump told reporters Friday on Air Force One as he returned from Florida.

Trump said he could use emergency economic powers or an executive order to enforce the action, insisting, “I have that authority.” He added, “It’s going to be signed tomorrow.”

Reports by Bloomberg News and the Wall Street Journal citing anonymous sources said the administration could soon announce a decision ordering ByteDance to divest its ownership in TikTok.

There have been reports of U.S. tech giants and financial firms being interested in buying or investing in TikTok as the Trump administration sets its sights on the app. The New York Times and Fox Business, citing an unidentified source, reported Friday that Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok. Microsoft declined to comment.

TikTok issued a statement Friday saying that, “While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok.”

ByteDance launched TikTok in 2017, then bought Musical.ly, a video service popular with teens in the U.S. and Europe, and combined the two. A twin service, Douyin, is available for Chinese users.

TikTok’s fun, goofy videos and ease of use has made it immensely popular, and U.S. tech giants like Facebook and Snapchat see it as a competitive threat. It has said it has tens of millions of U.S. users …read more

Source:: Time – Technology

      

(LONDON) — A Florida teen hacked the Twitter accounts of prominent politicians, celebrities and technology moguls to scam people around globe out of more than $100,000 in Bitcoin, authorities said Friday.

The 17-year-old boy was arrested earlier Friday in Tampa, where the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will prosecute the case. He faces 30 felony charges, according to a news release.

The hacks led to bogus tweets being sent out July 15 from the accounts of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Mike Bloomberg and a number of tech billionaires including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Celebrities Kanye West and his wife, Kim Kardashian West, were also hacked.

The tweets offered to send $2,000 for every $1,000 sent to an anonymous Bitcoin address.

Twitter previously said hackers used the phone to fool the social media company’s employees into giving them access. It said targeted “a small number of employees through a phone spear-phishing attack.”

“This attack relied on a significant and concerted attempt to mislead certain employees and exploit human vulnerabilities to gain access to our internal systems,” the company tweeted.

After stealing employee credentials and getting into Twitter’s systems, the hackers were able to target other employees who had access to account support tools, the company said.

The hackers targeted 130 accounts. They managed to tweet from 45 accounts, access the direct message inboxes of 36, and download the Twitter data from seven. Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Geert Wilders has said his inbox was among those accessed.

Spear-phishing is a more targeted version of phishing, an impersonation scam that uses email or other electronic communications to deceive recipients into handing over sensitive information. Twitter said it would provide a more detailed report later “given the ongoing law enforcement investigation.”

The company has previously said the incident was a …read more

Source:: Time – Technology