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Industry & Technology

TikTok: The story of a social media giant

BBC Technology News - 2 hours 57 min ago
How did the social media platform get so big and where could it be heading?

#MeTooSTEM founder admits to creating Twitter persona who “died” of COVID-19

Ars Technica - 3 hours 18 sec ago

Enlarge / Twitter drama erupted over the weekend when a much-beloved online persona supposedly died of COVID-19 complications—only to be exposed as a fake account/catfishing scheme by controversial neuroscientist and #MeTooSTEM founder BethAnn McLaughlin. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

A segment of science Twitter was rocked over the weekend by the discovery that a long-standing, pseudonymous online member had died of COVID-19-related complications. But grief quickly turned to shock, hurt, and anger when the deceased turned out to have never existed. Rather, it was a sock puppet account that we now know was created and maintained by BethAnn McLaughlin, a neuroscientist and founder of the #MeTooSTEM advocacy group whose Twitter handle is @McLNeuro.

"I take full responsibility for my involvement in creating the @Sciencing_Bi Twitter account," McLaughlin said in a statement provided to The New York Times through her lawyer. "My actions are inexcusable. I apologize without reservation to all the people I hurt. As I've reflected on my actions the last few days, it's become clear to me that I need mental health treatment, which I'm pursuing now. My failures are mine alone, so I'm stepping away from all activities with #MeTooSTEM to ensure that it isn't unfairly criticized for my actions."

This certainly isn't the first time a fake persona has manifested on social media. Way back in 2003, controversial American Enterprise Institute scholar John R. Lott Jr.. was outed by The Washington Post for creating a sock-puppet online persona, "Mary Rosh," purportedly a former student, and using it to mount spirited defenses of his work online. In 2017, there was the case of "Jenna Abrams," who boasted 70,000 Twitter followers; the fake persona was so convincing that she managed to spread a viral rumor that CNN's local Boston station had accidentally aired 30 minutes of pornography late one night in November 2016.

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Microsoft's TikTok grab: Inspired or naive?

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 16 min ago
High-risk, high-reward - Microsoft has announced it is in negotiations to buy TikTok.

Disney focuses on streaming as it falls to a loss

BBC Technology News - 3 hours 27 min ago
The giant firm will launch a new streaming site as it battles the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Mulan skips US theaters, will debut on Disney+ Sept 4—for an extra $30 [Updated]

Ars Technica - 3 hours 40 min ago

After delisting Mulan from a potential theatrical run in June, Disney has firmed up its plans for its newest live-action remake. Starting September 4, Mulan will premiere exclusively on Disney+ in various territories, including the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, according to Disney CEO Bob Chapek.

Unlike other Disney+ streaming premieres, however, Mulan will launch with an extra price point on top of the service's $7/mo subscription rate. Paying Disney+ users in the US will have to fork over an additional $30 for what Chapek described as "premiere access," which likely equates to a temporary rental of the film instead of full-blown ownership a la platforms like iTunes and Amazon Video. Other territories' rates have not yet been confirmed. (Chapek took the opportunity to confirm that Disney+'s worldwide subscriber numbers are somewhere near 60.5 million.)

[Update, 9:30pm ET: Disney has since confirmed that a $30 payment for Mulan will permanently unlock it in your Disney+ account, so long as you remain a paying subscriber.]

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Three seats, a V12, and a manual transmission: The GMA T.50 reveal

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 10:52pm

On Tuesday, Gordon Murray finally revealed his latest creation to the world. It's called the T.50, and in an age of heavy hybrid hypercars, near-instantaneous semiautomatic gearboxes, and driver-flattering electronic safety nets, it is a refreshing alternative with a minimum of electronic frippery; it even uses an H-pattern gearshift with an actual clutch pedal. But that makes sense when you consider Murray's last supercar: the McLaren F1. While many of us consider that car the greatest of all time, Murray disagrees—he describes the T.50 as improving on his mid-'90s masterpiece "in every conceivable way."

From the perspective of a car nerd of a certain age, Murray ranks up there with the greatest of the industry's greats. The bulk of his career was spent in Formula 1, where he designed cutting-edge, championship-winning cars for Brabham and then McLaren. After tiring of the racetrack, he turned his attention to detail to road-going sports cars, designing first the Light Car Company Rocket and then the McLaren F1, a three-seat V12 riot in carbon fiber that shattered records for acceleration, top speed, and list price, as well as blitzing the field in the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans.

After leaving McLaren, he set his sights on making the process of building cars more sustainable and created a new production process called iStream that would allow cars to be made with 60 percent less energy. But he didn't forget about sports cars. Murray designed a new car for TVR, although frankly at this point, the odds seem remote that it will ever enter production. And he also decided to revisit the supercar, this time forming a company bearing his own name to build it.

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Ford CEO surprises everyone by retiring after just three years

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 10:41pm

Enlarge / Jim Farley, left, and Jim Hackett at a January 2019 Ford event. (credit: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Ford has changed CEOs for the third time in six years, the company announced on Tuesday. Current CEO Jim Hackett will step down in October and be succeeded by his handpicked deputy, Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley.

Hackett made some significant changes to try to make Ford more profitable. Most dramatically, Hackett cancelled most of Ford's car lineup in the US so the company can focus on its more profitable trucks and SUVs. Ford then announced plans for $11 billion in new investments in electric and hybrid vehicles—even as it laid off almost 20 percent of its European workforce.

"We made some significant decisions in the earliest days that were quite controversial," Hackett said on a Tuesday conference call. "Getting out of the sedan business was a difficult question."

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Beware of find-my-phone, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth, NSA tells mobile users

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 10:09pm

Enlarge (credit: Christine Wang / Flickr)

The National Security Agency is recommending that some government workers and people generally concerned about privacy turn off find-my-phone, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth whenever those services are not needed, as well as limit location data usage by apps.

“Location data can be extremely valuable and must be protected,” an advisory published on Tuesday stated. “It can reveal details about the number of users in a location, user and supply movements, daily routines (user and organizational), and can expose otherwise unknown associations between users and locations.”

NSA officials acknowledged that geolocation functions are enabled by design and are essential to mobile communications. The officials also admit that the recommended safeguards are impractical for most users. Mapping, location tracking of lost or stolen phones, automatically connecting to Wi-Fi networks, and fitness trackers and apps are just a few of the things that require fine-grained locations to work at all.

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Apple’s Phil Schiller will step down from his role as VP of marketing

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 7:41pm

In addition to announcing new iMac models this morning, Apple took to its newsroom PR blog today to announce that prominent executive Phil Schiller will step down from his role as VP of Worldwide Marketing. However, he will continue on as an "Apple Fellow," and Schiller will still oversee various aspects of the App Store and Apple's events. Schiller has worked at Apple since 1987.

Greg Joswiak, one of Schiller's lieutenants and a 20-year Apple veteran, will assume Schiller's prior role and title. He is known as "Joz" to his colleagues, and he previously led marketing for some specific Apple products, such as the first iPhone.

Apple executives provided two public statements. First, CEO Tim Cook said:

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EU launching deep probe into Google’s planned $2.1 billion Fitbit buy

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 7:20pm

Enlarge / Logo of Google is displayed on a smartphone by logo of Fitbit in Brussels, Belgium on August 4, 2020. (credit: Dursun Aydemir | Andalou Agency | Getty Images)

Regulators in the European Union are launching a deep investigation into Google's proposed acquisition of wearables maker Fitbit after expressing concerns that giving Google access to Fitbit's user data could "distort competition."

The Commission's in-depth investigation will examine not only the potential outcomes for the advertising market if the transaction goes through, but it will also look at the effects of the deal on the digital healthcare sector and the potential for Google to lock competitors out of access to Android users.

Data provided by wearable devices "provides key insights about the life and the health situation of the users of these devices," Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission's head of competition, said in a written statement. "Our investigation aims to ensure that control by Google over data collected through wearable devices as a result of the transaction does not distort competition."

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Apple’s AirPods and wireless charging case are down to a new low today

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 6:41pm

Enlarge (credit: Ars Technica)

Today's Dealmaster is headlined by a new low on Apple's AirPods and Qi wireless charging case combo, which is currently available for $140 on Amazon. This deal price is about $60 off Apple's MSRP and roughly $30 off the usual going rate for this model on Amazon. As of this writing, it's only a dollar more than the non-wireless charging SKU as well.

We've written about similar deals in the past, and in general, the AirPods remain one of the few wireless headphones that need little introduction. The gist of things should sound familiar: there's a number of true wireless headphones that sound better and offer more robust features at this point—including Apple's own noise-cancelling AirPods Pro—but the base AirPods have become a phenomenon for being lightweight in the ear and wonderfully simple to pair and use with iOS devices. If you're an iPhone owner that already makes use of a Qi wireless charger, this SKU becomes a better deal, since the case here usually retails for $65 on its own.

If you don't want new wireless earbuds, though, we also have deals on Switch and PS4 games, a top Thunderbolt 3 dock, SteelSeries gaming headsets, and more. Have a look for yourself below.

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Amazon site advertises shoes using racial slur

BBC Technology News - August 4, 2020 - 5:41pm
The online retail giant removes an item for sale after complaints by an MP about offensive language.

Twitter faces FTC probe, likely fine over use of phone numbers for ads

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 5:20pm

Enlarge (credit: Anadolu Agency | Getty Images)

Twitter is facing a Federal Trade Commission probe and believes it will likely owe a fine of up to $250 million after being caught using phone numbers intended for two-factor authentication for advertising purposes.

The company received a draft complaint from the FTC on July 28, it disclosed in its regular quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange commission. The complaint alleges that Twitter is in violation of its 2011 settlement with the FTC over the company's "failure to safeguard personal information."

That agreement included a provision banning Twitter from "misleading consumers about the extent to which it protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information, including the measures it takes to prevent unauthorized access to nonpublic information and honor the privacy choices made by consumers." In October 2019, however, Twitter admitted that phone numbers and email addresses users provided it with for the purpose of securing their accounts were also used "inadvertently" for advertising purposes between 2013 and 2019.

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Sony's Spider-Man exclusive sparks backlash

BBC Technology News - August 4, 2020 - 5:17pm
The superhero will appear exclusively in the PlayStation version of Marvel's Avengers.

Trump pulls re-nomination of FCC Republican who stood up for First Amendment

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 5:10pm

Enlarge / FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly speaks during an FCC meeting in Washington, DC, on November 16, 2017. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

The White House yesterday withdrew its re-nomination of Federal Communications Commission member Michael O'Rielly, a Republican who has not supported President Trump's attempt to punish social media websites for alleged anti-conservative bias.

Trump had nominated O'Rielly to another five-year FCC term in March, and the nomination was awaiting Senate approval. But the White House unexpectedly withdrew O'Rielly's nomination, "announc[ing] the action Monday in a notice sent to the Senate, which confirms nominees," Bloomberg reported. "The notice didn't provide a reason for the decision."

O'Rielly's term technically expired in June 2019, but FCC rules allow him to stay through the end of 2020 even if he isn't re-confirmed by the Senate. O'Rielly has been on the FCC since 2013.

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British Dental Association members targeted by hackers

BBC Technology News - August 4, 2020 - 5:03pm
British Dental Association warns members that their bank details and case notes may be compromised.

Google Music shutdown starts this month, music deleted in December

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 4:58pm

Enlarge / Please don't hurt our music collections, Google. (credit: Google Play Music)

Google Play Music has been given the death sentence by Google, and today the company has announced a bit more detail about how its execution will be carried out. The main message from today's blog post is "back up your music now," as Google says it will wipe out all Google Music collections in December 2020.

We've known for a while that the shutdown would be sometime in 2020, but for most regions, Google has now narrowed it down to "October." Here's the full timeline:

  • Late August—Users will no longer be able to upload or download music through Music Manager. Pre-orders and purchases will be shut down.
  • September—Streaming shuts down for users in New Zealand and South Africa.
  • October—Global streaming shutdown. The Google Music app and website will cease to be.
  • December—Music collections get deleted.

At the time of the streaming shutdown, the app will have been showing shutdown messages for about five months. If a user has somehow missed all of those, two months with no streaming at all will hopefully be enough to get them to research what happened to Google Music.

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Take-Two says its $70 game pricing will be on a “title by title basis”

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 4:36pm

After announcing a higher-than-normal $70 MSRP for NBA2K21 on the PS5 and Xbox Series X last month, publisher Take-Two is now suggesting that increased price point might not be the standard for its next-generation console games going forward.

"We're definitely announcing pricing on a title by title basis," CEO Strauss Zelnick said in an earnings call Monday evening. "I would just observe, there hasn't been a frontline price increase for a very long time, although costs have increased significantly."

That's a fair point: the functional ceiling for high-end games last increased back in 2006 or so, when the standard rose went from $50 to $60 alongside the rollout of the Xbox 360 and PS3. When adjusted for inflation, the top asking price for big-budget games has never been lower, while development costs have never been higher.

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Apple’s iMac line just got overhauled, with the 27-inch getting the biggest changes

Ars Technica - August 4, 2020 - 4:00pm

Today, Apple announced changes to its iMac product line, with significant upgrades in the 27-inch model, a move to SSDs in the 21.5-inch model, and more performance at lower prices for the iMac Pro.

The 27-inch iMac still has a 5K display, and its chassis is the same. Those hoping for smaller bezels will be disappointed. That said, Apple is bringing TrueTone to this display, and it's offering the same NanoTexture tech we've seen in the company's Pro Display XDR as a $500 upgrade.

It's also getting 10th generation Comet Lake CPUs across all configurations, with 6- and 8-core CPUs standard. The top available CPU configuration is a 10-core Intel Core i9 with Turbo Boost up to 5GHz. 8GB DDR4 at 2666MHz is still standard, but the maximum capacity you can configure at purchase has doubled to 128GB.

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YouTube Music: Google to axe Play Music in October

BBC Technology News - August 4, 2020 - 3:59pm
The service heads to the digital graveyard as the company switches focus to YouTube Music.

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