Snap Maintains User Numbers, Aims for Profitability in 2019

The number of Snapchat app users will remain the same this quarter, news that was a relief to investors and helped propel Snap shares up 22 percent, to $8.62 in after hours trading. Since it went public in March 2017, Snapchat has competed with Facebook’s Instagram, which adopted many Snapchat features. Snap also redesigned the app, to the dismay of some advertisers and users. In Q4, Snap, with 186 million daily active users, was on a par with the previous quarter, although down one million from the same period a year ago. Continue reading Snap Maintains User Numbers, Aims for Profitability in 2019

WhatsApp Combats Fake News as India Preps for Elections

In India, where fake news on Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform has led to violence, company executives publicly described a plan to stop the flow of misinformation. India is WhatsApp’s largest market, and WhatsApp’s announcement comes as India prepares for its biggest election. Based on machine learning, said software engineer Matt Jones, the new system will use data of past activity to bar automated fake accounts and troublemakers at three stages: when registering, while messaging and when reported by others. Continue reading WhatsApp Combats Fake News as India Preps for Elections

AI-Powered Tools Assist Human Reporting at News Outlets

Robot reporters are on the rise, in use at Bloomberg News, The Associated Press, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times among other news outlets. The Cyborg system helps Bloomberg reporters produce thousands of articles on company earnings and analyze/write financial reports very quickly. Not only do business reporters find this kind of writing dull, but Cyborg’s speed helps it compete with rival Reuters. The other news outlets above use robots to report on sports, although the LAT relies on them for earthquakes. Continue reading AI-Powered Tools Assist Human Reporting at News Outlets

Amazon Has Growing Problem of Third-Party Counterfeiters

In the “risk factors” section of its annual report, e-commerce leader Amazon listed counterfeit products, stating that the company may be “unable to prevent sellers in our stores or through other stores from selling unlawful, counterfeit, pirated, or stolen goods, selling goods in an unlawful or unethical manner … or otherwise violating our policies.” This is a first for the tech giant, which had never discussed the ongoing problem. In principle, it has a “zero tolerance” policy but the site is full of merchants selling knockoffs. Continue reading Amazon Has Growing Problem of Third-Party Counterfeiters

Google Chrome Extension Alerts Users to Password Issues

To combat data breaches, Google has created a Chrome extension to provide a “password checkup” that compares users’ passwords with a database of four billion unique usernames and passwords that have been compromised. The extension works in the background, only showing a warning if it finds a match. That’s all it does: it is not a password manager that determines how weak or strong passwords are. Google accounts, often the key to a user’s email address, are breached mainly because people reuse passwords on multiple sites. Continue reading Google Chrome Extension Alerts Users to Password Issues

Alphabet Revenue Robust, But Costs of Diversification Grow

Alphabet’s revenue is booming, but its costs are also increasing, the result of its efforts to diversify beyond online advertising. Thus, although Internet search showed very strong returns, Alphabet shares fell in after-hours trading due to its shrinking margins and slower revenue growth. In addition to its Google search engine, Alphabet comprises YouTube and Waymo self-driving car divisions. The parent company’s increased spending on those two divisions in Q4 pushed margins down to 21 percent from 24 percent a year earlier. Continue reading Alphabet Revenue Robust, But Costs of Diversification Grow

Madefire and Magic Leap Collaborate on Comic Books in AR

Madefire, which makes digital versions of comic books, has collaborated with Magic Leap to debut its first Motion Book experiences in augmented reality on Magic Leap One Creator Edition, the developer version headset that costs $2,300. The comics are available in the Magic Leap World! Explore stories. In the past, Madefire has also collaborated with DC Comics and Marvel to create digital comics. Its platform, which is available on iOS, Android as well as Oculus Rift, offers 40,000 comics including Blizzard’s Overwatch comics. Continue reading Madefire and Magic Leap Collaborate on Comic Books in AR

Audible, Chooseco Team on Interactive Tales via Alexa Skill

Amazon’s Audible and Chooseco have collaborated on two new “choose your own adventure” children’s audiobooks. Available on Amazon Alexa-enabled devices via Chooseco’s Choose skill, “The Abominable Snowman” and “Journey Under the Sea,” designed by the two teams, feature professional voice actors and can be navigated by voice commands. The two stories together offer 65 different endings and, on Alexa devices with screens, show illustrations for story beats. Decision-making points in the story are signaled by a sound. Continue reading Audible, Chooseco Team on Interactive Tales via Alexa Skill

U.S. Resists Growing Chinese Sway in 5G Standards Setting

In September, Chinese companies and government institutes took a leading role in the International Telecommunications Union (ITU)’s efforts to establish 5G standards, holding eight of the 39 leadership positions, according to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. Verizon Communications is now the only U.S. company in a leadership role there. FCC member Michael O’Rielly stated that, “having a socialist government basically in charge right now is incredibly problematic for U.S. goals, and 5G specifically.” Continue reading U.S. Resists Growing Chinese Sway in 5G Standards Setting

Google’s AI White Paper Calls for Self-Regulation, Not Laws

After Google co-founder Sergey Brin wrote shareholders about the potential downsides of AI in April, chief executive Sundar Pichai released “guiding principles” for the company’s AI projects in June. This came after employee protests succeeded in getting Google to drop a Pentagon contract to interpret drone footage. Now, Google has released a 30-page white paper that stresses the benefits of artificial intelligence, arguing that its downsides can be avoided without more regulation “in the vast majority of instances.” Continue reading Google’s AI White Paper Calls for Self-Regulation, Not Laws

Ireland Is Investigating Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn and Twitter

Ireland, where many U.S. tech firms have European headquarters, is investigating Facebook in seven separate cases. Ireland’s data protection commissioner Helen Dixon reported that these probes are among 16 cases looking into Apple, LinkedIn, Twitter, as well as Facebook’s WhatsApp and Instagram. She added that the Irish and EU investigations are “centered on the activities of very big Internet companies with tens and hundreds of millions of users,” which would be “a very large factor when looking at the scale of a fine.” Continue reading Ireland Is Investigating Facebook, Apple, LinkedIn and Twitter

Locast Founder Offers Free Broadcast Streaming to Test Law

Attorney David Goodfriend is a law professor and founder of Locast, a free streaming service that enables audiences to get content from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS, on almost any device, at any time, with high-quality video. If this sounds like Aereo, the startup supported by Barry Diller that offered streaming content to subscribers, you’d be partially right. But the Supreme Court determined Aereo violated copyright law, forcing its closure, and Goodfriend believes he’s found a legal workaround: Locast is a nonprofit. Continue reading Locast Founder Offers Free Broadcast Streaming to Test Law

New York Settles with Devumi, Purveyor of Social Media Bots

The state of New York reached a settlement, announced attorney general Letitia James, with Devumi, a company that sold fake followers on Twitter and other social media platforms. Her investigation was prompted by a New York Times report about how the then-Florida-based Devumi raked in millions of dollars selling social media bots to at least 200,000 customers, among them businesses, politicians, reality TV stars, professional athletes, comedians, models and pornographic actors in New York and other states. Continue reading New York Settles with Devumi, Purveyor of Social Media Bots

Twitter and Facebook Uncover Deceptive Global Campaigns

In the wake of Russia using social media to spread misinformation, Bangladesh, Venezuela and Iran are following suit, the first two in order to assert government talking points and the latter to spread fake news on everything from the war in Syria to September 11 conspiracy theories. These social media disinformation campaigns come at a time that several countries, including India and the Ukraine, are preparing for national elections. Disinformation reportedly played a role in the recent contentious election in Brazil. Facebook and Twitter indicate they are investigating such misuse of their platforms and taking down offending accounts. Continue reading Twitter and Facebook Uncover Deceptive Global Campaigns

In a Win for Hollywood, Dragon Media to Shutter Its Services

In January 2018, Amazon, Columbia Pictures, Disney, Netflix, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. sued Dragon Media, which manufactured Dragon Box, a “free TV” box that allowed users to watch pirated video without a cable TV or streaming service subscription. The media titans just achieved victory in the case, with Dragon Media agreeing to shut down its services and pay $14.5 million in damages. Under the terms of the agreement, Dragon Media must shut down service in five days. Continue reading In a Win for Hollywood, Dragon Media to Shutter Its Services

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