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Communications

US Presidential Election Was Most 'Talked About' Topic In 2016, Says Facebook (phys.org) 34

What may come as no surprise to Facebook users, the social media company announced in a blog post that the U.S. presidential election was the most "talked about" topic on Facebook in 2016. Phys.Org highlights the other most-discussed topics in its report: The bitterly contested election in which Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton was ranked as the leading issue, followed by Brazil's political developments which included the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, Facebook said in a blog post. On the lighter side at number three was the runaway success of Pokemon Go, the location-based augmented reality game for smartphone users. Other subject matters shared among Facebook's 1.79 billion users were more sober, with the fourth leading topic the "Black Lives Matter" movement, followed by the election in the Philippines of Rodrigo Duterte. Number six on the list was the Olympic games, followed by Brexit, the Super Bowl and the deaths of rock star David Bowie and boxing icon Muhammad Ali. Facebook said it measured leading topics by how frequently an issue was mentioned in posts made between January 1 and November 27.
Government

Congress Passes BOTS Act To Ban Ticket-Buying Software (arstechnica.com) 142

Congress passed a bill yesterday that will make it illegal for people to use software bots to buy concert tickets. Ars Technica reports: The Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act makes it illegal to bypass any computer security system designed to limit ticket sales to concerts, Broadway musicals, and other public events with a capacity of more than 200 persons. Violations will be treated as "unfair or deceptive acts" and can be prosecuted by the Federal Trade Commission or the states. The bill passed the Senate by unanimous consent last week, and the House of Representatives voted yesterday to pass it as well. It now proceeds to President Barack Obama for his signature. Computer programs that automatically buy tickets have been a frustration for the concert industry and fans for a few years now. The issue had wide exposure after a 2013 New York Times story on the issue. Earlier this year, the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman completed an investigation into bots. The New York AG's ticket sales report (PDF) found that the tens of thousands of tickets snatched up by bots were marked up by an average of 49 percent.
Movies

Apple Is In Talks With Hollywood For Early Access To Movies On iTunes: Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 49

Apple is talking with Hollywood studios to try and get iTunes rentals of movies that are still playing on the big screen. According to a report from Bloomberg, "some studio executives have been pushing to allow home rentals as early as two weeks after theatrical debuts and are considering a deal with iTunes as one option." Bloomberg reports: The most recent talks are part of longer-running efforts by Cupertino, California-based Apple to get new movies sooner, two of the people said. Such an arrangement could help iTunes stand out in a crowded online market for movies, TV shows and music. While the iTunes store helped Apple build a dominant role in music retailing, the company hasn't carved out a similar role in music and video streaming. Hollywood studios typically give theaters exclusive rights to new movies for 90 days or more before issuing them on DVD or making them available for online purchase. One of the concerns about iTunes is whether it will be a secure platform for delivering movies that are still in theaters, the people said. While Apple encrypts iTunes video files so they can't easily be duplicated, it's possible to use a camera to record a movie playing on a TV screen. A leak of picture that's still in theaters would jeopardize returns for the studios and cinema owners.
NES (Games)

Doyodo RetroEngine Sigma Is a Linux-Powered Classic Video Game Emulation Console (betanews.com) 91

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: The Nintendo NES Classic is quite an amazing console. True, it is not as powerful as modern game systems like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but it comes pre-loaded with many classic NES titles. Unfortunately, its strength is also its weakness -- those pre-loaded titles are the only games you can play. You cannot load other games, so you are stuck with what you got. As an alternative, some folks use software emulation and ROMs on their computers to play countless video game titles. Of course, there are moral concerns here, as you are often downloading the games illegally -- unless you own the physical copy, that is. Even then, it is a gray area. Today, a company called Doyodo launched a new Linux-powered emulation console on Indiegogo. The device not only plays NES games, but Atari, Game Boy, PlayStation 1, Genesis, and more. You play using USB controllers. In addition, it can serve as a media player (with Kodi) or a full-fledged Linux desktop. Some other features include 4K video playback, Wi-Fi networking built in, and a compact and portable design. There's even a deluxe version that ships with Bluetooth, an extra controller and 32GB of storage; the basic configuration includes just one controller and 16GB of storage. You can view the Indiegogo page here.
Businesses

T-Mobile CFO: Less Regulation, Repeal of Net Neutrality By Trump Would Be 'Positive For My Industry' (tmonews.com) 158

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TmoNews: T-Mobile CFO Braxton Carter spoke at the UBS Global Media and Communications Conference in New York City, and he touched a bit on President-elect Donald Trump and what his election could mean for the mobile industry. Carter expects that a Trump presidency will foster an environment that'll be more positive for wireless. "It's hard to imagine, with the way the election turned out, that we're not going to have an environment, from several aspects, that is not going to be more positive for my industry," the CFO said. He went on to explain that there will likely be less regulation, something that he feels "destroys innovation and value creation." Speaking of innovation, Carter also feels that a reversal of net neutrality and the FCC's Open Internet rules would be good for innovation in the industry, saying that it "would provide opportunity for significant innovation and differentiation" and that it'd enable you to "do some very interesting things."
Communications

Facebook Begins Asking Users To Rate Articles' Use of 'Misleading Language' (techcrunch.com) 113

Facebook is finally cracking down on the fake news stories that run rampant on its site and many other social media sites across the web. The company is rolling out a new feature in the form of a survey that asks users to rate articles' use of "misleading language." The feedback received will likely help Facebook train its algorithms to better detect misleading headlines. TechCrunch reports: The "Facebook Survey," noticed by Chris Krewson of Philadelphia's Billy Penn, accompanied (for him) a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the firing of a well-known nut vendor for publicly espousing white nationalist views. "To what extent do you think that this link's title uses misleading language?" asks the "survey," which appears directly below the article. Response choices range from "Not at all" to "Completely," though users can also choose to dismiss it or just scroll past. Facebook confirmed to TechCrunch that this is an official effort, though it did not answer several probing questions about how it works, how the data is used and retained, and so on. The company uses surveys somewhat like this to test the general quality of the news feed, and it has used other metrics to attempt to define rules for finding clickbait and fake stories. This appears to be the first direct coupling of those two practices: old parts doing a new job.
Media

Netflix Keeping Bandwidth Usage Low By Encoding Its Video With VP9 and H.264/AVC Codecs (slashgear.com) 75

Netflix announced last week that it is getting offline video downloads support. The company has since shared that it is using VP9 video compression codec to ensure that the file sizes don't weigh a lot. An anonymous reader shares an article on Slashgear (edited): For streaming content, Netflix largely relies on H.264/AVC to reduce the bandwidth, but for downloading content, it uses VP9 encoding. VP9 can allow better quality videos for the same amount of data needed to download. The challenge is that VP9 isn't supported by all streaming providers -- it is supported on Android devices and via the Chrome browser. So to get around that lack of support on iOS, Netflix is offering downloads in H.264/AVC High whereas streams are encoded in H.264/AVC Main on such devices. Netflix chooses the optimal encoding format for each title on its service after finding, for instance, that animated films are easier to encode than live-action. Netflix says that H.264 High encoding saves 19% bandwidth compared to other encoding standards while VP9 saves 36%.
Security

70 Laptops Got Left Behind At An Airport Security Checkpoint In One Month (bravotv.com) 168

America's Transportation Security Administration has been making some surprising announcements on social media. An anonymous reader writes: A TSA spokesperson says 70 laptops were left behind in just one month at an airport security checkpoint in Newark. "And yes, there are plenty of shiny MacBooks in that pile," reported BravoTV, "which can cost in the $2,000 range new." The TSA shared an image of the 70 laptops on their Instagram page and on Twitter, prompting at least one mobile project designer to reclaim his laptop. "The most common way laptops are forgotten is when traveler's stack a bin on top of the bin their laptop is in," the TSA warns. "Out of sight out of mind."
The TSA is also sharing pictures on social media of the 70 guns they confiscated at security checkpoints in one week in November, reporting they've also confiscated a blowtorch, batarangs, and a replica of that baseball bat from "The Walking Dead". They're reporting they found 33 loaded firearms in carry-on luggage in one week, and remind readers that gun-carrying passengers "can face a penalty as high as $11,000. This is a friendly reminder to please leave these items at home."
United Kingdom

UK Health Secretary Urges Social Media Companies To Block Cyberbullying And Underaged Sexting (betanews.com) 71

Mark Wilson shares his article on Beta News: Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has made calls for technology companies and social media to do more to tackle the problems of cyberbullying, online intimidation and -- rather specifically -- under-18-year-olds texting sexually explicit images. Of course, he doesn't have the slightest idea about how to go about tackling these problems, but he has expressed his concern so that, in conjunction with passing this buck to tech companies, should be enough, right?
Hunt apparently believes there's already a technology which can identify sexually explicit photos, and that social media networks should now also develop algorithms to identify and block cyberbullying, an idea the Guardian called "sadly laughable."

"Is the blanket censorship of non-approved communications for all under 18s -- something that goes far further than even the Great Firewall of China -- really the kind of thing a government minister should be able to idly suggest in 2016?"
United States

The US Government Funds A War On Online Fake News (bangordailynews.com) 359

An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: Congressional negotiators on Wednesday approved an initiative to track and combat foreign propaganda amid growing concerns that Russian efforts to spread "fake news" and disinformation threaten U.S. national security. The measure, part of the National Defense Authorization Act approved by a conference committee, calls on the State Department to lead government-wide efforts to identify propaganda and counter its effects. The authorization is for $160 million over two years...

The Senate Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, has approved language in the fiscal year 2017 intelligence authorization bill calling for new executive branch efforts to combat what it characterized as "active measures" by Russia to manipulate people and governments through front groups, covert broadcasting or "media manipulation." "There is definitely bipartisan concern about the Russian government engaging in covert influence activities of this nature," Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. "If you read section 501 of this year's intelligence authorization bill, it directs the President to set up an interagency committee to 'counter active measures by Russia to exert covert influence over peoples and governments.'"

Several senators on the intelligence committee also asked President Obama to declassify any information relating to the Russian government and the U.S. election.
Security

Hackers Steal $31 Million at Russia's Central Bank (cnn.com) 78

The Bank of Russia has confirmed Friday that hackers have stolen 2 billion rubles ($31 million) from correspondent accounts at the Russian central bank. Central bank security executive Artiom Sychev said it could've been much worse as hackers tried to steal 5 billion rubles, but the central banking authority managed to stop them. CNNMoney reports: Hackers also targeted the private banks and stole cash from their clients, the central bank reported. The central bank did not say when the heist occurred or how hackers moved the funds. But so far, the attack bears some similarity to a recent string of heists that has targeted the worldwide financial system. Researchers at the cybersecurity firm Symantec have concluded that the global banking system has been under sustained attack from a sophisticated group -- dubbed "Lazarus" -- that has been linked to North Korea. But it's unclear who has attacked Russian banks this time around. Earlier Friday, the Russian government claimed it had foiled an attempt to erode public confidence in its financial system. Russian's top law enforcement agency, the FSB, said hackers were planning to use a collection of computer servers in the Netherlands to attack Russian banks. Typically, hackers use this kind of infrastructure to launch a "denial of service" attack, which disrupts websites and business operations by flooding a target with data. The FSB said hackers also planned to spread fake news about Russian banks, sending mass text messages and publishing stories on social media questioning their financial stability and licenses to operate.
Transportation

Mercedes Unveils Digital Headlights That Project Street Signs, Markings Onto the Road Ahead (newatlas.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: Mercedes has just announced a conceptual new set of lamps that can not only adapt their light distribution to cater to the environment, but can project high-res visual aids onto the road ahead, such as makeshift zebra crossings for nearby pedestrians. The new system is dubbed Digital Light and features two million pixels that, with the help of algorithms and sensors that analyze the vehicle's surroundings, can each adjust their individual brightness depending on the scenario. An example of this might be a partial dimming to avoid blinding a cyclist. We have seen this kind of adaptive lighting technology before in systems developed by Fraunhofer and indeed Mercedes itself, although tuning it to control millions of pixels individually does appear to be new territory. But where the Digital Light system gets quite interesting is with the ability to project different objects onto the road. Imagine you are rolling up to an intersection in a foreign city with unfamiliar streets signs and the car, having collected the necessary information, projects a stop sign onto the road out ahead. Perhaps just as practical is the ability to shoot out strips of light that represent the precise width of the car, which could be pretty hand just as you try to squeeze through that extremely narrow gap. For what it's worth, Mercedes says it has already fitted it to a number of demo vehicles and reckons it will be on the road "in the near future."
Crime

Lawyer Sues 20-Year-Old Student Who Gave a Bad Yelp Review, Loses Badly (arstechnica.com) 90

20-year-old Lan Cai was in a car crash this summer, after she was plowed into by a drunk driver and broke two bones in her lower back. She didn't know how to navigate her car insurance and prove damages, so she reached out for legal help. Things didn't go as one would have liked, initially, as ArsTechnica documents:The help she got, Cai said, was less than satisfactory. Lawyers from the Tuan A. Khuu law firm ignored her contacts, and at one point they came into her bedroom while Cai was sleeping in her underwear. "Seriously, it's super unprofessional!" she wrote on Facebook. (The firm maintains it was invited in by Cai's mother.) She also took to Yelp to warn others about her bad experience. The posts led to a threatening e-mail from Tuan Khuu attorney Keith Nguyen. Nguyen and his associates went ahead and filed that lawsuit, demanding the young woman pay up between $100,000 and $200,000 -- more than 100 times what she had in her bank account. Nguyen said he didn't feel bad at all about suing Cai. Cai didn't remove her review, though. Instead she fought back against the Khuu firm, all thanks to attorney Michael Fleming, who took her case pro bono. Fleming filed a motion arguing that, first and foremost, Cai's social media complaints were true. Second, she couldn't do much to damage the reputation of a firm that already had multiple poor reviews. He argued the lawsuit was a clear SLAPP (strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). Ultimately, the judge agreed with Fleming, ordering the Khuu firm to pay $26,831.55 in attorneys' fees.
Security

Russia Says Foreign Spies Plan Cyber Attack On Banking System (reuters.com) 88

Russia said on Friday it had uncovered a plot by foreign spy agencies to sow chaos in Russia's banking system via a coordinated wave of cyber attacks and fake social media reports about banks going bust. From a report on Reuters: Russia's domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that the servers to be used in the alleged cyber attack were located in the Netherlands and registered to a Ukrainian web hosting company called BlazingFast. The attack, which was to target major national and provincial banks in several Russian cities, was meant to start on Dec. 5, the FSB said in a statement. "It was planned that the cyber attack would be accompanied by a mass send-out of SMS messages and publications in social media of a provocative nature regarding a crisis in the Russian banking system, bankruptcies and license withdrawals," it said. "The FSB is carrying out the necessary measures to neutralize threats to Russia's economic and information security."
Facebook

Facebook Knows What You're Streaming (bloomberg.com) 100

Facebook is gathering information about the shows Roku and Apple TV owners are streaming. The company then uses the Facebook profile linked to the same IP addresses to tailor the commercials that are shown to individual users. From a report on Bloomberg: For the past few weeks, the social network says, it's been targeting ads to people streaming certain shows on their Roku or Apple TV set-top boxes. It customizes commercials based on the Facebook profiles tied to the IP addresses doing the streaming, according to a company spokesman. He says Facebook is trying out this approach with the A&E network (The Killing, Duck Dynasty) and streaming startup Tubi TV, selecting free test ads for nonprofits or its own products along with a handful of name brands. This push is part of a broader effort by social media companies to build their revenue with ads on video. Twitter is placing much of its ad-sales hopes on streaming partnerships with sports leagues and other content providers. In October, CFO Anthony Noto told analysts on an earnings call that the ads played during Twitter's NFL Thursday Night Football streaming exclusives had been especially successful, with many people watching them in their entirety with the sound turned on. The participants in these partnerships don't yet have a default answer to questions such as who should be responsible for selling the ads or who should get which slice of revenue.
The Courts

French Man Sentenced To Two Years In Prison For Visiting Pro-ISIS Websites (theverge.com) 414

According to French media, a court in the department of Ardeche on Tuesday sentenced a 32-year-old man in France to two years in prison for repeatedly visiting pro-ISIS websites -- even though there was no indication he planned to stage a terrorist attack. Police raided his house and found the man's browsing history. They also found pro-ISIS images and execution videos on his phone, personal computer, and a USB stick, an ISIS flag wallpaper on his computer, and a computer password that was "13novembrehaha," referencing the Paris terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead. Slashdot reader future guy shares with us an excerpt from The Verge's report: In court, the man argued that he visited the sites out of curiosity. "I wanted to tell the difference between real Islam and the false Islam, now I understand," he said, according to FranceBleu. But the man reportedly admitted to not reading other news sites or international press, and family members told the court that his behavior had recently changed. He became irritated when discussing religion, they said, and began sporting a long beard with harem pants. A representative from the Ardeche court confirmed to The Verge that there was no indication that the man had any plans to launch an attack. In addition to the two-year prison sentence, he will have to pay a 30,000 euros (roughly $32,000) fine.
Security

Destructive Hacks Strike Saudi Arabia, Posing Challenge to Trump (bloomberg.com) 184

State-sponsored hackers have conducted a series of destructive attacks on Saudi Arabia over the last two weeks, erasing data and wreaking havoc in the computer banks of the agency running the country's airports and hitting five additional targets, according to two people familiar with an investigation into the breach. From a report on Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia said after inquiries from Bloomberg News that "several" government agencies were targeted in attacks that came from outside the kingdom, according to state media. Although a probe by Saudi authorities is still in its early stages, the people said digital evidence suggests the attacks emanated from Iran. That could present President-elect Donald Trump with a major national security challenge as he steps into the Oval Office. The use of offensive cyber weapons by a nation is relatively rare and the scale of the latest attacks could trigger a tit-for-tat cyber war in a region where capabilities have mushroomed ever since an attack on Saudi Aramco in 2012.
Businesses

Cyanogen Inc and CyanogenMod Creator Steve Kondik Part Ways (ndtv.com) 75

bulled writes: In the middle of a press release discussing the move of employees from Seattle to California, Cyanogen Inc notes that it has parted ways with Steve Kondik. It is unclear what this means for the future of CyanogenMod. NDTV reports: "Kondik took to the official CyanogenMod developer Google+ community recently where he voiced what he thought were the reasons behind Cyanogen's plight and blamed Kirt McMaster, Cyanogen's Co-Founder. 'I've been pretty quiet about the stuff that's been going on but I'm at least ready to tell the short version and hopefully get some input on what to do next because CM is very much affected,' wrote Kondik in a private Google+ community first reported by Android Police. According to Kondik's version, Cyanogen's turmoil is way far from being over. He claimed that Cyanogen had seen success thanks to the efforts by the community and the company. Though, this also changed how the company worked. Explaining how it all started to come down, Kondik wrote, 'Unfortunately once we started to see success, my co-founder apparently became unhappy with running the business and not owning the vision. This is when the 'bullet to the head' and other misguided media nonsense started, and the bad business deals were signed. Being second in command, all I could do was try and stop it, do damage control, and hope every day that something new didn't happen. The worst of it happened internally and it became a generally shitty place to work because of all the conflict. I think the backlash from those initial missteps convinced him that what we had needed to be destroyed. By the time I was able to stop it, I was outgunned and outnumbered by a team on the same mission.' Kondik also seemingly confirmed a report from July which claimed Cyanogen may pivot to apps. He further wrote, 'Eventually I tried to salvage it with a pivot that would have brought us closer to something that would have worked, but the new guys had other plans. With plenty of cash in the bank, the new guys tore the place down and will go and do whatever they are going to do. It's probably for the best and I wish them luck, but what I was trying to do, is over.'"
Social Networks

Facebook Developing AI To Flag Offensive Live Videos (reuters.com) 104

Facebook is working on automatically flagging offensive material in live video streams, building on a growing effort to use artificial intelligence to monitor content, said Joaquin Candela, the company's director of applied machine learning. Reuters added: The social media company has been embroiled in a number of content moderation controversies this year, from facing international outcry after removing an iconic Vietnam War photo due to nudity, to allowing the spread of fake news on its site. Facebook has historically relied mostly on users to report offensive posts, which are then checked by Facebook employees against company "community standards." Decisions on especially thorny content issues that might require policy changes are made by top executives at the company. Candela told reporters that Facebook increasingly was using artificial intelligence to find offensive material. It is "an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies," he said.
Media

Plex Media Player Now Doesn't Require a Subscription; Pass Users Get Kodi Plug-in (engadget.com) 84

Plex and Kodi, two popular home theater apps, can get both of them together. Plex has announced its new Kodi add-on so you can include your Plex library in Kodi (provided you're a Pass user). From a report on Engadget: The new plugin includes most of the features you'd come to expect from Plex, which means it'll play back nearly any video or music format and cleverly categorize your media library. It simply lets you run the two media centers simultaneously without losing any of your customizations. It's currently only available to Plex Pass subscribers (it will be released publicly soon) and it doesn't yet work with Plex Companion remote control, but it does sport a brand new user interface (UI) that Plex says helps to "showcase some of our new thinking."

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