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Social Networks

VR Devs Pull Support For Oculus Rift Until Palmer Luckey Steps Down (vice.com) 574

After it was revealed that Oculus founder Palmer Luckey backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America that is dedicated to "shitposting" and spreading inflammatory memes about Hillary Clinton, several developers of the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset have announced that they will stop supporting the headset until its founder steps down. One of the biggest developers for Oculus Rift, Insomniac Games, told Motherboard, "Insomniac Games condemns all forms of hate speech. While everyone has a right to express his or her political opinion, the behavior and sentiments reported do not reflect the values of our company. We are also confident that his behavior and sentiment does not reflect the values of the many Oculus employees we work with on a daily basis." Fez and Superhypercube developer Polytron also said in a statement, "In a political climate as fragile and horrifying as this one, we cannot tacitly endorse these actions by supporting Luckey or his platform." Motherboard reports: Motherboard has reached out to several other, more well-known VR developers who work with Oculus including Fantastic Contraption makers Northway Games and Job Simulator makers Owlchemy Labs. Northway Games couldn't be reached immediately for comment but tweeted the following: "What. The. Fuck. [accompanied with a link to the news via Kotaku]" and "Definitely using every fibre of my 'professionalism' to not tweet some tweets right now." Owlchemy Labs, which is currently developing for Job Simulator for the Oculus Touch controls, declined to comment either way. E McNeill, who has developed a couple of games for Oculus Rift and GearVR, suggested that like-minded VR developers raise money for Hillary Clinton's campaign to counter the money Luckey has raised for Trump. [E McNeill tweeted: "Idle Q: Would any Oculus devs join me in a donation drive for HIllary? We could aim to beat Nimble America's $11k. I'd start with $1k myself."] "This backlash is nonsense," said James Green, co-founder of VR developer Carbon Games. "I absolutely support him doing whatever he wants politically if it's legal. To take any other position is against American values."
Facebook

Indian Students Score a Partial Win in Facebook Privacy Dispute (bloomberg.com) 47

WhatsApp announced last month that it would stop begin sharing some of users' information -- phone number, contact information of people in your address book etc -- with Facebook. Two Indian students last month expressed their concern over this, adding that WhatsApp was "severely" compromising their privacy and those of other billion plus users, and that it was reneging from its original promise. They approached Delhi High Court, and after hearing from everyone, the bench of chief justice told WhatsApp that it must delete data of users who are opt out of privacy policy changes before September 25. Bloomberg adds: The Delhi High Court on Friday ruled that WhatsApp has to delete all data on users who choose to stop using the service before Sept. 25, when the new policy takes effect. Also, it can only share data collected after that date. However, going forward, WhatsApp is free to share information on users who haven't opted out. The court also asked India's government to consider if it was feasible to craft regulations to oversee WhatsApp and other messaging apps, though it didn't specify what form they could take.
Facebook

Facebook Inflated Video Viewing Stats For Two Years (cnet.com) 49

Facebook has admitted inflating the average time people spend watching videos for two years by failing to count people who watched for less than three seconds. CNET reports: The metric was artificially inflated because it only counted videos as viewed if they had been seen for three or more seconds, not taking into account shorter views, the company revealed several weeks ago in a post on its advertiser help center web page. Facebook has been putting a greater emphasis on video in recent years, particularly live video. In March, Facebook began giving anyone with a phone and internet connection an easy way to broadcast live video to the 1.7 billion people who use its service every day.
Businesses

Jawbone Fails To Pay Key Business Partners and Has Almost No Inventory In Stock: Sources (businessinsider.com) 67

BarbaraHudson writes: The battle between Fitbit and Jawbone may be coming to an end. Business Insider is reporting that wearable fitness maker Jawbone is facing some serious financial problems as the company has almost no inventory in stock and is running out of options to generate revenue. If you click on any of the products for sale on their site, it will say that they're all sold out. Business Insider reports: "Jawbone's Facebook page is littered with complaints from customers saying they have been unable to get in touch with a customer service representative to help with defective products. The Jawbone Facebook account has been responding to these issues, blaming a backup of complaints for the delays. A Jawbone spokesperson said the complaints were because of Jawbone's customer service restructuring. Another person close to Jawbone told Business Insider that there is almost no inventory left and the company is running out of options to generate revenue. The speculation among some Jawbone employees now is that the company might sell to a private equity firm if it can't raise more money, the person close to the company said. Jawbone also declined to explain why its inventory has sold out. A spokesperson said, 'they have sold through what they have to sell.' The company said it was not because it couldn't pay vendors though. It would not provide any estimate on when products would be available for sale on its site again, but did say it planned to make more products." The report says that, according to an internal NexRep email, the company cut ties with the customer service agency NexRep earlier this month after Jawbone failed to make payments. "The email, written to NexRep employees by a NexRep executive, claims that Jawbone is 'struggling financially' and that it couldn't pay NexRep for its services," reports Business Insider. "It also says Jawbone is 'fighting hard' to raise more funding. 'Jawbone is not able to pay us for past services, and their ability to pay us in the future is uncertain at this point,' the NexRep email reads." This resulted in "many staffers being laid off."
Republicans

Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey Is Secretly Funding Trump's Meme Machine (thedailybeast.com) 822

The founder of Oculus, Palmer Luckey, has backed a pro-Trump political organization called Nimble America that is dedicated to "shitposting" and spreading inflammatory memes about Hillary Clinton. In 2014, Luckey's virtual-reality company, Oculus, was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion. Forbes estimates his current net worth to be $700 million. The Daily Beast reports: "The 24-year-old told The Daily Beast that he had used the pseudonym "NimbleRichMan" on Reddit with a password given to him by the organization's founders. Nimble America says it's dedicated to providing that "shitposting is powerful and meme magic is real," according to the company's introductory statement, and has taken credit for a billboard its founders say was posted outside of Pittsburgh with a cartoonishly large image of Clinton's face alongside the words "Too Big to Jail." "We conquered Reddit and drive narrative on social media, conquered the [mainstream media], now it's time to get our most delicious memes in front of Americans whether they like it or not," a representative for the group wrote in an introductory post on Reddit. Potential donors from Donald Trump's biggest online community -- Reddit's r/The_Donald, where one of the rules is "no dissenters" -- turned on the organization this weekend, refusing to believe "NimbleRichMan" was the anonymous "near-billionaire" he claimed to be and causing a rift on one of the alt-right's most powerful organizational tools. Luckey insists he's just the group's money man -- a wealthy booster who thought the meddlesome idea was funny. But he is also listed as the vice-president of the group on its website. In another post written under Luckey's Reddit pseudonym, Luckey echoes Peter Thiel, the tech billionaire who used his wealth to secretly bankroll Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. The Daily Beast adds: "'The American Revolution was funded by wealthy individuals," NimbleRichMan wrote on Saturday. Luckey confirmed to The Daily Beast he penned the posts under his Reddit pseudonym. 'The same has been true of many movements for freedom in history. You can't fight the American elite without serious firepower. They will outspend you and destroy you by any and all means.'"
The Internet

Blizzard Is Getting Rid of the Battle.net Name (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: The Battle.net name is no more. Today Blizzard announced that it's moving away from using the Battle.net moniker when referring to its online services. "Battle.net technology will continue to serve as the central nervous system for Blizzard games -- nothing is changing in that regard," the company wrote in a forum post. "We'll just be referring to it as Blizzard tech instead." Battle.net originally debuted way back in 1996 alongside the original Diablo, and since then has been used to power iconic games like Starcraft, World of Warcraft, and more recent titles like Hearthstone and Overwatch. According to the company, as online multiplayer has become an expected part of its games -- and as Blizzard expanded to new platforms like Facebook Live -- the name was no longer needed. "When we created Battle.net, the idea of including a tailored online-gaming service together with your game was more of a novel concept, so we put a lot of focus on explaining what the service was and how it worked, including giving it a distinct name," the company explained. "Over time, though, we've seen that there's been occasional confusion and inefficiencies related to having two separate identities under which everything falls -- Blizzard and Battle.net."
Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Announce $3 Billion Initiative To 'Cure All Diseases' (venturebeat.com) 161

Yesterday, researchers on behalf of Microsoft said they will "solve" cancer within the next 10 years by treating it like a computer virus that invades and corrupts the body's cells. Today, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced a $3 billion initiative to "cure all diseases." VentureBeat reports: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a company created by Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan to "unlock human potential and promote equality," today announced "Chan Zuckerberg Science," a $3 billion project that aims to cure, prevent, or manage "all diseases in our children's lifetime." "That doesn't mean that no one will ever get sick," Mark Zuckerberg later said. But the program hopes to eventually make all diseases treatable -- or at least easily manageable -- by the end of the 21st century. "Our society spends 50x more treating people who are sick than on finding cures. We can do better than that," said Zuckerberg. A press release from the Initiative says Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan will provide "at least $3 billion over the next decade to help jumpstart this work." "The plan," as Zuckerberg called it, is to "bring scientists and engineers together, build tools and technology, [and] grow the movement to fund science." That plan includes a program called Biohub, a partnership between Stanford University, Berkeley, and UCSF that "will focus on understanding underlying mechanisms of disease and developing new technologies which will lead to actionable diagnostics and effective therapies." You can watch the full Chan Zuckerberg Science presentation here.
Oracle

Will Oracle Surrender NetBeans to Apache? (infoworld.com) 69

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes InfoWorld: Venerable open source Java IDE NetBeans would move from Oracle's jurisdiction to the Apache Software Foundation under a proposal... endorsed by Java founder James Gosling, a longtime fan of the IDE. Moving NetBeans to a neutral venue like Apache, with its strong governance model, would help the project attract more contributions from various organizations, according to the proposal posted in the Apache wiki.

"Large companies are using NetBeans as an application framework to build internal or commercial applications and are much more likely to contribute to it once it moves to neutral Apache ground," the proposal says. While Oracle will relinquish its control over NetBeans under the proposal, individual contributors from Oracle are expected to continue contributing to the project.

On Facebook, Gosling posted the proposal meant "folks like me can more easily contribute to our favorite IDE. The finest IDE in existence will be getting even better, faster!" InfoWorld reports that when aked if Oracle had neglected NetBeans, Gosling said, "Oracle didn't single out NetBeans for neglect, they neglect everything... I'm thrilled that the NetBeans community will now be able to chart its own course."
Education

Laurene Jobs Awards $10M To Pet Charter School Network of Zuckerberg, Gates 51

theodp writes: The XQ Institute -- a nonprofit backed by Laurene Powell Jobs (Steve's widow) -- announced the winners of its $100 million competition (Warning: may be paywalled) to rethink the American high school this week. Among the 10 lucky schools winning a $10M grant was Summit Elevate ("a new high school planning to open in Fall 2018"), part of the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-supported Summit Charter Schools network (HP CEO Meg Whitman is on Summit's Board). In announcing the grant, XQ praised Basecamp, Summit's personalized learning software platform that was developed by Facebook engineers, which Bill Gates has spent $1+ million on to get schools to adopt it (the NY Times characterized the Facebook-Summit partnership as "more of a ground-up effort to create a national demand for student-driven learning in schools"). U.S. education, it seems, is becoming The Game of Billionaires -- at last May's NewSchools Venture Summit, former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (now working for Jobs) was interviewed by former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education and Gates Foundation Program Director Jim Shelton (now working for Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan).
Facebook

Web Security CEO Warns About Control Of Internet Falling Into Few Hands (cnbc.com) 87

The idea behind the internet was to make a massive, decentralized system that wasn't under control of anyone, but that is increasingly changing, according to Matthew Prince, CEO of web security company CloudFlare. His statements come at a time when Google and Facebook and other companies are increasingly building new products and services and locking in users to their respective walled gardens. From a CNBC report: "More and more of the internet is sitting behind fewer and fewer players, and there are benefits of that, but there are also real risks," said Matthew Prince, chief executive officer of web security company CloudFlare, in an interview with CNBC. His comments came at CloudFlare's Internet Summit -- a conference featuring tech executives and government security experts -- on Tuesday in San Francisco. "If everything sits behind Facebook and you can't publish pictures like that, is the world a better place? Probably not," said Prince. "Before you know it, you could wake up and find more of the internet sits behind a small number of gate-keepers," said Prince. Putting that sort of power in the hands of a small number of people and companies "might not be the best thing," he said. Still, the wave of consolidation among the major internet companies is likely to continue, at least for now, he said.
Privacy

Right To Be Forgotten? Web Privacy Debate in Italy After Women's Suicide (ndtv.com) 424

The suicide of a woman who battled for months to have a video of her having sex removed from the internet is fuelling debate in Italy on the "right to be forgotten" online. The 31-year-old, identified as Tiziana, was found hanged at her aunt's home in Mugnano, close to Naples in the country's south on Tuesday, reports Agence France-Presse. From the report: Her death came a year after she sent a video of herself having sex to some friends, including her ex-boyfriend, to make him jealous. The video and her name soon found their way to the web and went viral, fuelling mockery of the woman online. The footage has been viewed by almost a million internet users. In a bid to escape the humiliation, Tiziana quit her job, moved to Tuscany and tried to change her name, but her nightmare went on. The words "You're filming? Bravo," spoken by the woman to her lover in the video, have become a derisive joke online, and the phrase has been printed on T-shirts, smartphone cases and other items. After a long court battle, Tiziana recently won a "right to be forgotten" ruling ordering the video to be removed from various sites and search engines, including Facebook.
Microsoft

Microsoft Has More Open Source Contributors On GitHub Than Facebook and Google (thenextweb.com) 118

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Next Web: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has really embraced open source over the past couple of years. GitHub, a site that is home to a number of the web's biggest collaborative code projects, has counted more than 5.8 million active users on its platform over the past 12 months, and says that Microsoft has the most open source contributors. Microsoft has 16,419 contributors, beating out Facebook's 15,682 contributors, Docker's 14,059 contributors, and Google's 12,140 contributors. The Next Web reports: "Of course, this didn't happen overnight. In October 2014, it open sourced its .NET framework, which is the company's programming infrastructure for building and running apps and services -- a major move towards introducing more developers to its server-side stack. Since then, it's open sourced its Chakra JavaScript engine, Visual Studio's MSBuild compiling engine, the Computational Networks Toolkit for deep learning applications, its Xamarin tool for building cross-platform apps and most recently, PowerShell. It's also worth noting that the company's Visual Studio Code text editor made GitHub's list of repositories with the most contributors. You can check out these lists, as well as other data from GitHub's platform on this page." GitHub CEO Chris Wanstrath said in an interview with Fortune, "The big .Net project has more people outside of Microsoft contributing to it than people who work at Microsoft."
Privacy

A Woman Is Suing Her Parents For Posting Embarrassing Childhood Photos To Facebook 412

Earlier this year, we ran a story which talked about how a parent could be sued by their kids for posting their photos on Facebook. Over the past two years, we have seen several such cases, and now we have another one. From a report on NYMag:An 18-year-old woman in Carinthia, Austria, is suing her parents over the 500-odd childhood photos they've posted of her on Facebook without her consent. "They knew no shame and no limit and didn't care whether it was a picture of me sitting on the toilet or lying naked in my cot -- every stage was photographed and then made public," she told The Local, an English-language Austrian newspaper. She went on, "I'm tired of not being taken seriously by my parents," who, despite her requests, have refused to take the photos down. The woman's father reportedly believes he's in the right to post the pictures because he took them. But her lawyer is adamant that if he can prove the photos violated the woman's right to privacy, her parents could be forced to pay damages and legal fees.
Privacy

None of Your Pixelated or Blurred Information Will Stay Safe On The Internet (qz.com) 139

The University of Texas at Austin and Cornell University are saying blurred or pixelated images are not as safe as they may seem. As machine learning technology improves, the methods used to hide sensitive information become less secure. Quartz reports: Using simple deep learning tools, the three-person team was able to identify obfuscated faces and numbers with alarming accuracy. On an industry standard dataset where humans had 0.19% chance of identifying a face, the algorithm had 71% accuracy (or 83% if allowed to guess five times). The algorithm doesn't produce a deblurred image -- it simply identifies what it sees in the obscured photo, based on information it already knows. The approach works with blurred and pixelated images, as well as P3, a type of JPEG encryption pitched as a secure way to hide information. The attack uses Torch (an open-source deep learning library), Torch templates for neural networks, and standard open-source data. To build the attacks that identified faces in YouTube videos, researchers took publicly-available pictures and blurred the faces with YouTube's video tool. They then fed the algorithm both sets of images, so it could learn how to correlate blur patterns to the unobscured faces. When given different images of the same people, the algorithm could determine their identity with 57% accuracy, or 85% percent when given five chances. The report mentions Max Planck Institute's work on identifying people in blurred Facebook photos. The difference between the two research is that UT and Cornell's research is much more simple, and "shows how weak these privacy methods really are."
Social Networks

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg On 'Napalm Girl' Photo: 'We Don't Always Get it Right' (theguardian.com) 196

Facebook will learn from a mistake it made by deleting a historic Vietnam war photo of a naked girl fleeing a napalm attack, said Sheryl Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer. The photograph was removed from several accounts on Friday, including that of the Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg, on the grounds that it violated Facebook's restrictions on nudity. It was reinstated after Solberg accused Facebook of censorship and of editing history, The Guardian reports. From the article:"These are difficult decisions and we don't always get it right," Sandberg wrote in a letter to the prime minister, obtained by Reuters on Monday under Norway's freedom of information rules. "Even with clear standards, screening millions of posts on a case-by-case basis every week is challenging," Sandberg wrote. "Nonetheless, we intend to do better. We are committed to listening to our community and evolving. Thank you for helping us get this right," she wrote. She said the letter was a sign of "how seriously we take this matter and how we are handling it."
Facebook

US Tech Firms Urge Congress To Allow Internet Domain Changeover (reuters.com) 128

Dustin Volz, reporting for Reuters: Major technology companies including Facebook, Google and Twitter are urging Congress to support a plan for the U.S. government to cede control of the internet's technical management to the global community, they said in a joint letter dated on Tuesday. The U.S. Commerce Department has primary oversight of the internet's management, largely because it was invented in the United States. Some Republican lawmakers are trying to block the handover to global stakeholders, which include businesses, tech experts and public interest advocates, saying it could stifle online freedom by giving voting rights to authoritarian governments. The years-long plan to transfer oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is scheduled to occur on Oct. 1 unless Congress votes to block the handover. The California-based corporation operates the database for domain names such as .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses that allow computers to connect. In the Sept. 13 letter, a copy of which had been reviewed by Reuters before it was sent, the technology companies said it was "imperative" that Congress does not delay the transition.
Facebook

Facebook Is Collaborating With The Israeli Government To Determine What Should Be Censored (go.com) 232

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: The Israeli government and Facebook agreed to work together to determine how to tackle incitement on the social media network, a senior Israeli Cabinet minister said Monday. The announcement came after two government ministers met top Facebook officials to discuss the matter. The Facebook delegation is in Israel as the government pushes ahead with legislative steps meant to force social networks to rein in content that Israel says incites violence. Israel has argued that a wave of violence with the Palestinians over the past year has been fueled by incitement, much of it spread on social media sites. It has repeatedly said that Facebook should do more to monitor and control the content, raising a host of legal and ethical issues over whether the company is responsible for material posted by its users. Both Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, two key figures in Israel's battle against the alleged online provocations, participated in Monday's meeting. Erdan's office said they agreed with Facebook representatives to create teams that would figure out how best to monitor and remove inflammatory content, but did not elaborate further. Erdan and Shaked have proposed legislation that seeks to force social networks to remove content that Israel considers to be incitement. An opposition lawmaker has also proposed a bill seeking to force social networks to self-monitor or face a fine. Facebook said in a statement "online extremism can only be tackled with a strong partnership between policymakers, civil society, academia and companies, and this is true in Israel and around the world." The company did also say that its community standards "make it clear there is non place for terrorists or content that promotes terrorism on Facebook." ABC News reports that "over the past four months Israel submitted 158 requests to Facebook to remove inciting content and another 13 requests to YouTube," according to Shaked. "She said Facebook granted some 95 percent of the requests and YouTube granted 80 percent." All of this adds to the censorship controversy that is currently surrounding Facebook. Last week, Norway's largest newspaper accused Mark Zuckerberg of abusing power after his company decided to censor a historic photograph of the Vietnamese "Napalm Girl," claiming it violated the company's ban on "child nudity."
Power

Steve Wozniak May Swap His Tesla For A Chevy Bolt (siliconbeat.com) 286

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a San Jose Mercury News article about "Apple co-founder and electric vehicle fan Steve Wozniak." Woz posted a picture of himself, smiling, next to a new, white Chevy Bolt. General Motors gave Woz the fully electric sedan for an extended test drive. He liked it. "I expect to be switching cars soon!" Woz wrote in a photo caption.

The battery-powered Bolt is due for release late this year. The four-door hatchback has an advertised range of 200 miles per charge, with a sticker price around $37,500. The EV will compete head-to-head with the Tesla Model 3. The Tesla entry-level sedan, expected to start at $35,000, will be released late next year.

It's interesting to read Wozniak's later comments on the post. "A lot of things wrong with the Tesla model S are done correctly (my opinion) in this car... It gets down to my product ideas of balance and getting the most from the least. Try to make things simple and affordable but very adequate. This car hits my sweet spot."

And in response to the obvious question, Woz replied "Maybe one Segway would fit. And a seat can be folded down."
Space

Elon Musk Asks Twitter For Help In Finding Cause of SpaceX Explosion (gizmodo.com) 266

On September 1, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and destroyed the AMOS-6 satellite that belonged to Facebook, which was going to be used to beam internet to developing parts of the world. Since the cause for the explosion has yet to be solved, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is asking for help via Twitter. Slashdot reader Thelasko writes: Elon Musk stated on Twitter last night, "Still working on the Falcon fireball investigation. Turning out to be the most difficult and complex failure we have ever had in 14 years." He went on to say, "Important to note that this happened during a routine filling operation. Engines were not on and there was no apparent heat source." Other Tweets mention a "bang" sound before the fire, and that SpaceX "have not ruled out" the possibility that something struck the rocket.
Facebook

Facebook Features 9/11 Conspiracy Theory as 'Trending' (slashdot.org) 251

Facebook is having a tough time with stories that trend on the social network. The company has been accused of gaming what it shows as "trending" on the site, and sometimes favoring things it showed to people. Not long ago, it fired the human editors who took care of it, but then earlier this month, a fake story about Megyn Kelly. It apologized for the slip, but it has happened again. The Hill reports: Facebook is taking heat yet again for its Trending Topics section after featuring a story from a British tabloid pushing a conspiracy theory that the World Trade Center collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, because of a "controlled demolition." Facebook users who clicked on the "September 11th Anniversary" trending topic Friday were presented an article titled "September 11: The footage that 'proves bombs were planted in Twin Towers.'"

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