Start Up: Twitter and Facebook at bay, the teens opposing the NRA, Samsung cutting OLED output?, and more


Growing new teeth could be a matter of taking an Alzheimer’s drug. Photo by Chapendra on Flickr

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A selection of 10 links for you. Not the subject of MPs’ letters. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

“Just an ass-backward tech company”: how Twitter lost the internet war • Vanity Fair

Maya Kosoff:

»

At the same time, her defenders say, [head of Twitter Trust & Safety, Del] Harvey has been forced to clean up a mess that Twitter should have fixed years ago. Twitter’s backend was initially built on Ruby on Rails, a rudimentary web-application framework that made it nearly impossible to find a technical solution to the harassment problem. If Twitter’s co-founders had known what it would become, a third former executive told me, “you never would have built it on a Fisher-Price infrastructure.” Instead of building a product that could scale alongside the platform, former employees say, Twitter papered over its problems by hiring more moderators. “Because this is just an ass-backward tech company, let’s throw non-scalable, low-tech solutions on top of this low-tech, non-scalable problem.”

Calls to rethink that approach were ignored by senior executives, according to people familiar with the situation. “There was no real sense of urgency,” the former executive explained, pointing the finger at Harvey’s superiors, including current CEO Jack Dorsey. “It’s a technology company with crappy technologists, a revolving door of product heads and CEOs, and no real core of technological innovation. You had Del saying, ‘Trolls are going to be a problem. We will need a technological solution for this.’” But Twitter never developed a product sophisticated enough to automatically deal with with bots, spam, or abuse.

«

I’ve known Del Harvey for years, as a journalist, so I’m probably a bit biased. But she’s not failing; Twitter’s problem is its drive for users instead of quality. It lives up to Mark Zuckerberg’s dismissive comment that “it’s a clown car that drove into a gold mine.”
link to this extract


Facebook battles new criticism after US indictment against Russians • WSJ

Robert McMillan:

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The Twitter comments of Mr. Goldman, Facebook’s head of advertising, also fueled disagreement about the intent of the Russian efforts. One of Mr. Goldman’s tweets said “swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal” of the Russian ads, and that “the majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election.”

On Saturday, President Donald Trump cited Mr. Goldman’s comment in support of the idea that Russia’s actions didn’t affect the election.

Following criticism that he was obscuring the intent of the Russians, Mr. Goldman later tweeted that “the Russian campaign was certainly in favor of Mr. Trump.” He also dialed back some of his claims. “I am only speaking here about the Russian behavior on Facebook. That is the only aspect that I observed directly,” he tweeted.

Clint Watts, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute who studied the Russian influence campaign, said the ads bought on Facebook were only “a much smaller part of a very large effort.”

“Mr. Goldman should have stayed silent,” Mr. Watts said, adding that playing down the effect of the influence campaign risked further angering Americans. “The public is upset that they got duped on Facebook’s platform. Facebook got duped,” he said. “It makes it seem like they don’t get it.”

While Facebook’s role in the Russian campaign is in the spotlight, some researchers who have studied the efforts note that it was far from the only institution to fall short.

“Let’s not mince words. The Obama administration did not react quickly enough to this problem. The intelligence community did not react quickly enough to this problem,” said Thomas Rid, professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University.

«

link to this extract


Scientists have found a drug that can repair cavities and regrow teeth • World Economic Forum

Kara Lant:

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Dental fillings may soon be left in the ash heap of history, thanks to a recent discovery about a drug called Tideglusib. Developed for and trialled to treat Alzheimer’s disease, the drug also happens to promote the natural tooth regrowth mechanism, allowing the tooth to repair cavities.

Tideglusib works by stimulating stem cells in the pulp of teeth, the source of new dentine. Dentine is the mineralized substance beneath tooth enamel that gets eaten away by tooth decay.

Teeth can naturally regenerate dentine without assistance, but only under certain circumstances. The pulp must be exposed through infection (such as decay) or trauma to prompt the manufacture of dentine. But even then, the tooth can only regrow a very thin layer naturally—not enough to repair cavities caused by decay, which are generally deep. Tideglusib changes this outcome because it turns off the GSK-3 enzyme, which stops dentine from forming.

In the research, the team inserted small, biodegradable sponges made of collagen soaked in Tideglusib into cavities. The sponges triggered dentine growth and within six weeks, the damage was repaired. The collagen structure of the sponges melted away, leaving only the intact tooth.

«

link to this extract


Here’s what it’s like at the headquarters of the teens working to stop mass shootings • Buzzfeed

Remy Smidt:

»

behind the scenes, they’re also just kids — sitting in a circle on the floor in the home of one of their parents, eating a batch of baked pasta, tweeting at each other, and comparing which celebrity just shared their post. There’s laughter and tears, and “Mr. Brightside” by the Killers plays briefly, but it’s also remarkably businesslike. There’s work to do and a seemingly endless number of phone calls to answer.


Remy Smidt/BuzzFeed News

“We slept enough to keep us going, but we’ve been nonstop all day, all night,” said Sofie Whitney, 18, a senior who estimated that she has spent 70% of the past 48 hours speaking with reporters. “This isn’t easy for us, but it’s something I need to do.”

Whitney told BuzzFeed News that “[she] wouldn’t like to return to school until the federal government starts making some progress.” Other student organizers have said the same thing. When asked how her parents might feel about this, Whitney responded, “I haven’t really discussed this with my parents, but I’ll deal with them.”

On Tuesday, the teens will travel to Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital, to push for a change in gun laws. On Wednesday night CNN will air a special town hall meeting with students and lawmakers. The teens are also planning the “March for Our Lives,” a nationwide March 24 demonstration that they hope will serve as the movement’s coming-out party.

«

The Tuesday attempt (to get assault rifle sales stopped) failed. But these kids are close to voting age, and they’re angry. There’s a wind blowing: 20 years ago, same-sex marriage wasn’t backed by a majority. Now, it is, quite apart from the legal side.

And guns are owned by a minority of Americans.
link to this extract


The car of the future will sell your data • Bloomberg

Gabrielle Coppola:

»

Picture this: You’re driving home from work, contemplating what to make for dinner, and as you idle at a red light near your neighborhood pizzeria, an ad offering $5 off a pepperoni pie pops up on your dashboard screen.

Are you annoyed that your car’s trying to sell you something, or pleasantly persuaded? Telenav Inc., a company developing in-car advertising software, is betting you won’t mind much. Car companies—looking to earn some extra money—hope so, too.

Automakers have been installing wireless connections in vehicles and collecting data for decades. But the sheer volume of software and sensors in new vehicles, combined with artificial intelligence that can sift through data at ever-quickening speeds, means new services and revenue streams are quickly emerging. The big question for automakers now is whether they can profit off all the driver data they’re capable of collecting without alienating consumers or risking backlash from Washington.

“Carmakers recognize they’re fighting a war over customer data,” said Roger Lanctot, who works with automakers on data monetization as a consultant for Strategy Analytics. “Your driving behavior, location, has monetary value, not unlike your search activity.”

Carmakers’ ultimate objective, Lanctot said, is to build a database of consumer preferences that could be aggregated and sold to outside vendors for marketing purposes, much like Google and Facebook do today.

«

Whooaaa horsey. First: Google and Facebook do not sell your data. They sell anonymised access to profiles – people searching for lobsters, or people who own old cars and live in Uttoxeter.

Second, I recall a lot of “smartphones with Bluetooth will mean retailers can beam special offers to you as you walk past in the street!” Hasn’t happened.

Third, if cars were to do this, I think they’d get hacked pretty fast to stop them doing it.
link to this extract


Israel confirms it will tax bitcoin as property • Coindesk

Stan Higgins:

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Israel’s government confirmed Monday that it would treat bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a kind of property for tax purposes.

The notice confirms past indications that the Tax Authority will regard cryptocurrencies as “a property, not a currency”, making it therefore taxable as such. The Authority’s position was first detailed in a draft circular issued in January of this year.

The circular explains that profits from cryptocurrencies will be subject to capital gains tax at rates between 20% and 25%, while individuals mining or trading cryptocurrencies in connection with businesses must pay a 17% value-added tax (VAT) in addition to capital gains tax.

That latter aspect – excluding broad swaths of investors from potential VAT charges – is in line with a trend seen in recent years since the issue gained prominence. The Israeli government started exploring the taxation of cryptocurrencies as early as 2013.

«

OK – but how will they determine that someone owns bitcoin in any appreciable amount?
link to this extract


Airfoil for Mac 5.7 rocks the HomePod • Rogue Amoeba

Paul Kafasis (of indie developer Rogue Amoeba:

»

Airfoil includes a built-in equalizer that lets you tweak your audio to get it just right. The HomePod sounds great, but you may wish to tone down its bass. Airfoil’s “Bass Reducer” preset is a great place to start.

Of course, if you want to go the other direction and really feel the music, the Bass Booster preset can help. Airfoil’s equalizer includes almost two dozen presets, and you can create and save custom presets as well.

Airfoil for Mac can even receive direction directly from the HomePod. That means you can use “Hey Siri” or the volume buttons to adjust playback levels. Even better, you can pass playback commands from the HomePod through Airfoil and on to supported sources. A single tap on the top of the HomePod will toggle play/pause, a double-tap will skip to the next track, and a triple-tap will jump back. Addressing Siri with these same commands works as well.

If you’re fortunate enough to have two (or more) HomePods, you can use Airfoil to send to all of them at once, with playback happening in sync. Airfoil has long been able to play audio to multiple devices in sync, and playback to the HomePod is no exception. Apple has touted multi-speaker sync as part of their delayed AirPlay 2 protocol, but it’s already possible today using Airfoil.

«

Not sure at this point why Apple hasn’t bought Rogue Amoeba. Its apps are so useful if you’re doing anything involving sound – which is a big part of its pro and semi-pro audience.
link to this extract


Tesla’s cloud hacked, used to mine cryptocurrency • Gizmodo

Dell Cameron:

»

In an email to Gizmodo, a Tesla spokesperson said there is “no indication” the breach impacted customer privacy or compromised the security of its vehicles.

“We maintain a bug bounty program to encourage this type of research, and we addressed this vulnerability within hours of learning about it,” a Tesla spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email. “The impact seems to be limited to internally-used engineering test cars only, and our initial investigation found no indication that customer privacy or vehicle safety or security was compromised in any way.”

According to RedLock, mining cryptocurrency is likely a more valuable use of Tesla’s servers than the data it stores.

“The recent rise of cryptocurrencies is making it far more lucrative for cybercriminals to steal organizations’ compute power rather than their data,” RedLock CTO Gaurav Kumar told Gizmodo. “In particular, organizations’ public cloud environments are ideal targets due to the lack of effective cloud threat defense programs. In the past few months alone, we have uncovered a number of cryptojacking incidents including the one affecting Tesla.”

Kumar said the attackers leveraged the Stratum mining protocol and evaded detection by hiding the true IP address of the mining pool server behind CloudFlare and keeping CPU usage low, among other tactics.

“Given the immaturity of cloud security programs today, we anticipate this type of cybercrime to increase in scale and velocity,” Kumar said.

«

Tired: hacking data. Wired: hacking CPUs to mine.
link to this extract


Samsung to slash OLED panel output as iPhone X slumps • Nikkei

Kenichi Yamada:

»

Samsung Electronics is to slash production at its OLED panel plant in response to customer Apple’s decision to reduce output of the iPhone X following weak demand.

Samsung Display now plans to manufacture organic light-emitting diode panels for 20 million or fewer iPhones at the South Chungcheong site in the January-March quarter. The initial goal was to supply panels for 45 million to 50 million iPhones.

The company has yet to decide its production target for the April-June period, but a further cutback may be in store.

The new target will reduce production at the plant to around 60% of the original plan. When it comes to the facility dedicated to making panels for Apple, the rate will fall to 50% or lower.

The Samsung group unit is looking to offset the impact by securing more orders from Chinese and other customers.

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Could be that Apple hit its targets early – or that it really has tapped out the buyers for the iPhone X. Or, perhaps, it has found an alternative OLED supplier – everyone has been expecting LG to come on stream.
link to this extract


Say goodbye to Android Pay and hello to Google Pay • Techcrunch

Frederic Lardinois:

»

At first glance, the new Google Pay app is basically a redesign of Android Pay, with a look and feel that adheres closer to Google’s own Material Design guidelines than the original. In terms of functionality, there isn’t all that much here that’s new. One notable change, though, is that the Google Pay home screen now shows you relevant stores around you where you can pay with Google Pay. That list is personalized, based on previous stores where you used the service, as well as your location. In addition, the home screen shows you all of your recent purchases and you can still add all of your loyalty cards to the app.

As Google’s VP of Product Management for Payments, Pali Bhat, told me, the team really wanted to make it extremely easy to get started with Google Pay.

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Personalising the list is a neat touch.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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