Start Up No.1,138: California’s nuclear option, how Hong Kong protesters organise, deal with Google Calendar spam, Android 10 reviewed, and more

YouTube’s in hot water again. It must be a day ending with a ‘y’.CC-licensed photo by Jorge Correa on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Try that for size. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

YouTube removes more videos, but still misses a lot of hate • WIRED

Paris Martineau:


On Tuesday, YouTube said it removed more than 17,000 channels and over 100,000 videos between April and June for violating its hate speech rules. In a blog post, the company pointed to the figures—which are five times as high as the previous period’s total—as evidence of its commitment to policing hate speech and its improved ability to detect it. But experts warn that YouTube may be missing the forest for the trees.

“It’s giving us the numbers without focusing on the story behind those numbers,” says Rebecca Lewis, an online extremism researcher at Data + Society whose work primarily focuses on YouTube. “Hate speech has been growing on YouTube, but the announcement is devoid of context and is missing [data on] the moneymakers actually pushing hate speech.”

Lewis says that while YouTube reports removing more videos, the figures lack context needed to assess YouTube’s policing efforts. That’s particularly problematic, she says, because YouTube’s hate speech problem isn’t necessarily about quantity. Her research has found that users who encounter hate speech are most likely to see it on a prominent, high-profile channel, rather than from a random user with a small following.

A study of over 60 popular far-right YouTubers conducted by Lewis last fall found that the platform was “built to incentivize” polarizing political creators and shocking content. “YouTube monetizes influence for everyone, regardless of how harmful their belief systems are,” the report found. “The platform, and its parent company, have allowed racist, misogynist, and harassing content to remain online—and in many cases, to generate advertising revenue—as long as it does not explicitly include slurs.”


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YouTube fined $170m for violations of children’s privacy • Ars Technica



YouTube does not require a user to register in order to view videos, the complaint (PDF) points out. As such, most videos are not age-gated. Anyone can view them, and millions of children under age 13 do. YouTube even boasted to toy companies Mattel and Hasbro that “YouTube was unanimously voted as the favorite website for kids 2-12” and “93% of tweens visit YouTube to watch videos,” the complaint says.

But while the company was boasting of its popularity with children in public, in private it promised that COPPA was not a concern, the FTC alleges. One Google employee wrote in an email obtained by the FTC that, “we don’t have users that are below 13 on YouTube and platform/site is general audience, so there is no channel/content that is child-directed and no COPPA compliance is needed.”

The company also does not treat channels or content explicitly aimed at children differently from other content for the purposes of advertising, the complaint says—that includes earning revenue from behavioral advertising, which relies on data collected from users.

“YouTube touted its popularity with children to prospective corporate clients,” FTC Chairman Joe Simons said. “Yet when it came to complying with COPPA, the company refused to acknowledge that portions of its platform were clearly directed to kids. There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law.”


YouTube’s indifference to the age of its users has always bugged me; you’re either under 18 or over, which ignores the gigantic differences between a 13-year-old and a child the day before they turn 18.

And that’s not a big fine for studiously ignoring the law for years and years. In fact, it’s derisory towards those affected.
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Why California may go nuclear • Forbes

Michael Shellenberger:


Last week, a California state legislator introduced an amendment to the state’s constitution that would classify nuclear energy as “renewable.” 

If the amendment passes, it would likely result in the continued operation of the state’s last nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, well past 2025, its current closure date.

Diablo generates 9% of California’s electricity and 20% of its clean, carbon-free electricity. 

It is also the most spectacular nuclear plant in the world, made famous by an employee’s photo of a humpback whale breaching in front of the plant.

“I’m not going to argue it’s not a long shot,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham. “But we can’t make a serious dent in slowing the warming trend in the world without investment in nuclear power.”

If Governor Gavin Newsom decides to support the legislation it would likely become law and Diablo Canyon could continue operating to 2045 or even 2065. 

That’s because Newsom, who was elected last year with an astonishing 62% of the vote, exercises extraordinary power over the legislature, particularly on energy.


California’s electricity utility, PG+E, effectively went bust earlier this year. They need nuclear.
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Google accused of secretly feeding personal data to advertisers • Financial Times

Madhumita Murgia:


New evidence submitted to an investigation by the Irish data regulator, which oversees Google’s European business, accused the US tech company of “exploiting personal data without sufficient control or concern over data protection”.

The regulator is investigating whether Google uses sensitive data, such as the race, health and political leanings of its users, to target ads. In his evidence, Johnny Ryan, chief policy officer of the niche web browser Brave, said he had discovered the secret web pages as he tried to monitor how his data were being traded on Google’s advertising exchange, the business formerly known as DoubleClick.

The exchange, now called Authorized Buyers, is the world’s largest real-time advertising auction house, selling display space on websites across the internet.

Mr Ryan found that Google had labelled him with an identifying tracker that it fed to third-party companies that logged on to a hidden web page. The page showed no content but had a unique address that linked it to Mr Ryan’s browsing activity.

Using the tracker from Google, which is based on the user’s location and time of browsing, companies could match their profiles of Mr Ryan and his web-browsing behaviour with profiles from other companies, to target him with ads.


Sneaky. And nobody in the US would know about it, of course.
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How Mexican app Bridgefy is connecting protesters in Hong Kong • LatAm List

Bridget Wood:


Bridgefy is a Mexican startup based in San Francisco that makes apps send messages directly from one device to another, without using Internet or SMS. The app is currently being used by protestors in Hong Kong, sometimes gathered up to one million strong, when the cell network is unable to keep up with demand. Protests in Hong Kong have been going on for months as the territory argues overs sovereignty with China and have flared up again in the past month. 

LatAm List interviewed Bridgefy co-founder and CEO, Jorge Rios, to learn more about the story behind the software and how it is being used to connect protesters in Hong Kong. 


The protesters also don’t want to use the mobile networks because they don’t want to be traced. Despite the government there rowing back on its extradition bill, the protests seem set to go on.
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Real-time maps warn Hong Kong protesters of police • Quartz

Mary Hui:


One of the most widely used real-time maps of the protests is, a volunteer-run and crowdsourced effort that officially launched in early August. It’s a dynamic map of Hong Kong that users can zoom in and out of, much like Google Maps. But in addition to detailed street and building names, this one features various emoji to communicate information at a glance: a dog for police, a worker in a yellow hardhat for protesters, a dinosaur for the police’s black-clad special tactical squad, a white speech-bubble for tear gas, two exclamation marks for danger.

HKMap during a protest on August 31, 2019

Founded by a finance professional in his 20s and who only wished to be identified as Kuma, HKMap is an attempt to level the playing field between protesters and officers, he said in an interview over chat app Telegram. While earlier on in the protest movement people relied on text-based, on-the-ground  live updates through public Telegram channels, Kuma found these to be too scattered to be effective, and hard to visualize unless someone knew the particular neighborhood inside out.

“The huge asymmetric information between protesters and officers led to multiple occasions of surround and capture,” said Kuma. Passersby and non-frontline protesters could also make use of the map, he said, to avoid tense conflict zones. After some of his friends were arrested in late July, he decided to build HKMap.


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Spam in your Google Calendar? Here’s what to do • Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:


all that a spammer needs to add an unwelcome appointment to your calendar is the email address tied to your calendar account. That’s because the calendar applications from Apple, Google and Microsoft are set by default to accept calendar invites from anyone.

Calendar invites from spammers run the gamut from ads for porn or pharmacy sites, to claims of an unexpected financial windfall or “free” items of value, to outright phishing attacks and malware lures. The important thing is that you don’t click on any links embedded in these appointments. And resist the temptation to respond to such invitations by selecting “yes,” “no,” or “maybe,” as doing so may only serve to guarantee you more calendar spam.

Fortunately, the are a few simple steps you can take that should help minimize this nuisance. To stop events from being automatically added to your Google calendar:

• Open the Calendar application, and click the gear icon to get to the Calendar Settings page.
• Under “Event Settings,” change the default setting to “No, only show invitations to which I have responded.”


Apple had a problem with this in 2016; now it’s Google’s turn to be targeted, which is happening (and Google says it’s working on a fix).
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Android 10 review • BirchTree

Matt Birchler:


Writing this review made me realize that iOS and Android are more in lock step with each other than I think they ever have been before. Things like dark mode are getting added to iOS and Android literally like 2 weeks apart and each of their digital wellness features are growing up at about the same time and pace. Meanwhile, lots of the new and welcome updates to Android 10 had this iOS user going “finally!” more than a few times. Updates around security, privacy, and gestures all made this iOS fan like Android more, all the while feeling very familiar. This is neither good nor bad, but inevitable. These platforms are getting quite mature and there is only so much low hanging fruit to be had.


It’s not the most in-depth review you’ll read, but I think it notes the things worth knowing. The differences between the two is becoming minimal. Android even gets apps to ask you if they can use your location! See what you’re going to have four years from now, Android folks.
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Trusted Face smart unlock method has been removed from Android devices • Android Police

Rita el Khoury:


Face unlock is more widely available on smartphones nowadays, but many of us seem to forget that Android has always had a barebones — albeit easily fooled — equivalent of the feature for years. Android Smart Lock’s Trusted face was added in 2014 and has been accessible to users on all Android devices until recently. Now, it’s completely gone from stock and OEM devices, running Android 10 or below.

The feature was accessible under Settings -> Security -> Smart Lock -> Trusted face. It didn’t use any biometric data for security, instead just relying on your face to unlock your device. A photo could easily fool it. The writing was on the wall for its removal: It was broken on Android Q Beta 6 and we know Google has been working on a more secure face authentication method.

But it’s not only Android 10 that no longer has the Trusted face option. We’ve verified that the option is gone from the OnePlus 6T, Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10, Nokia 3.2, all of which are running Android Pie stable. That’s because Smart Lock was never really part of the firmware, but was always controlled by Google Play Services…


And Google Play Services gets updated, and it goes away. Strange that after five years Google has only now decided that it’s not secure enough.
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USB-IF to continue confusing name scheme with USB4 Gen 3×2 • TechRepublic

James Sanders:


USB4 will be formally published at the USB Developer Days Seattle on September 17, and the USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) is expected to continue the widely maligned naming scheme for USB speeds introduced in February for USB 3.2, an engineer familiar with the USB-IF’s plans told TechRepublic.

As a quick recap, USB 3.1 Gen 2, increased the lane speed to 10 Gbps. A second 10 Gbps lane was added in the USB 3.2 standard, which the USB-IF calls “USB 3.2 Gen 2×2.” USB4 (which is not written as “USB 4.0”) will reach speeds of 40 Gbps, doubling the speeds again. USB4 was first previewed in March, when the USB Promoter Group announced that USB4 would be based on Intel’s Thunderbolt 3 specification, though specific details are expected later this month.

“Once the specifications are released, there will be a new round of confusion,” the source told TechRepublic. “It’s going to be USB4, but you have to qualify what USB4 means, because there are different grades. USB4, by definition, has to be [at least] Gen 2×2, so it will give you 10 Gbps by 2, that’s 20 Gbps. There’s going to be USB4 Gen 3×2, which is 20 Gbps per lane. 20 by 2 will give you 40 Gbps.”

The branding policy of the USB-IF is an apparent war against common sense, as new versions retroactively rename previously published standards, leading to widespread confusion among consumers.


You’re going to need to pass an exam to know which of these means what. Plus any cable over 50cm will need active circuitry included. Can’t cables just be, well, cables?
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Samsung’s Galaxy Fold will go on sale on September 6 in South Korea: source • Reuters

Ju-min Park:


Samsung Electronics Co Ltd’s first foldable smartphone, the Galaxy Fold, will go on sale on Friday in South Korea, a source with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday.

The highly anticipated device from the world’s top smartphone maker was originally due to hit the US market in April but the launch was delayed by screen defects detected in samples.

The phone will cost about 2.4 million won ($1,980) for South Korean buyers, the source from one of the country’s major mobile carriers told Reuters, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. The source did not provide further details.


Not cheap. Not cheap at all. If it isn’t robust, Samsung’s reputation will take quite a hit.
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You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: it seems that what people want the Apple Tag thing to do is locate their keys, backpacks, bicycles and suitcases. Sounds like it might sell OK, then.

7 thoughts on “Start Up No.1,138: California’s nuclear option, how Hong Kong protesters organise, deal with Google Calendar spam, Android 10 reviewed, and more

  1. Re. android review: maybe you could use neutral sources, not a self-defined “iOS fan” (sic). Breaking out of the iBubble is informative and liberating, you should try it sometime. By past form, Ron Amadeo’s review for Ars Technica should be excellent. GSM Arena’s is already out.
    I liked cnx’s not-a-review, but a list of new stuff, with a technical bend. Shows a lot more than just the front-facing iOS-adjacent features:

    • I chose Matt’s because he uses iOS, and so his comparison would be useful for others who do. I specifically wanted the comparison with iOS. I know that Ron Amadeo will do an in-depth review, but that wasn’t what I was after.

      The Verge has a review. It starts: “Android 10 is an operating system update that, like all Android updates, will not matter to most people for at least a year — more likely two or three.” Which is why Matt’s brief one does all the heavy lifting that’s required for now.

      • And I’m sure you’ll do the same for iOS and link a review from an “Android fan” ;-p

      • Re updates, the info on good vs bad OEMs is available:

        Again, OS updates are nowhere near as meaningful for Android as for iOS ( modular Android’s don’t include forst-party apps, security, cloud services, ecosystem features…), but if updates matter, the info on what to buy is available.

        Also, I’d bet a lot more phones get 10 more quickly this time around. Still not all so not enough though. I’ll probably wait for a native-10 phone myself so it has Mainline. Strangely, that key feature wasn’t even mentioned in your friend’s review…

      • Sorry, back to that again. The issue with starting off from an iOS reference is that it sneakily (and too often boatantly) biases the points of comparison and the whole analysis on both objective and subjective fronts.

        Android’s fortes are:
        – delightful even at low prices. An iOS-first user is bound to not care about the price, and miss the overall delight for a few niggles or even just differences. You still haven’t made a Redmi Note your primary driver for a month ?
        – overall utility that has no equivalent on iOS. No iOS user will bother loading their phone/tablet up with media for when offline, getting junk devices for the occasional nephews, use their phone as a remote or radio
        – few iOSers will even bother to realize that OS updates mean vastly different things in both worlds, that Regular Joes care little about privacy (and give it away to FB even on iOS), that homescreen widgets and USB peripherals can be crucial…

        You end up with something-something about jerky scrolling and slow updates, and apps not all being Dark on day one. All true, but missing the mark.

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