Start Up No.1,160: the poker ‘cheating’ fight, TikTok bans political ads, cryptocurrency mining’s real cost, Paypal exits Libra, and more


Taiwan: is is an “independent state” or a “province of China”? It depends when you ask Wikipedia. CC-licensed photo by Matthew Fang on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Welcome back. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The cheating scandal rocking the poker world • The Ringer

David Hill:

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The fact is, the mystery was solved a long time ago. It’s just like De Niro’s Ace Rothstein says in Casino when the yokel slot attendant gets hit for three jackpots in a row and tells his boss there was no way for him to know he was being scammed. “Yes there is,” Ace replies. “An infallible way. They won.”

According to one poster on TwoPlusTwo, in 69 sessions on Stones Live, [Mike] Postle has won in 62 of them, for a profit of over $250,000 in 277 hours of play. Given that he plays such a large number of hands, and plays such an erratic and, by his own admission, high-variance style, one would expect to see more, well, variance. His results just aren’t possible even for the best players in the world, which, if he isn’t cheating, he definitely is among.

Add to this the fact that it has been alleged that Postle doesn’t play in other nonstreamed live games at Stones, or anywhere else in the Sacramento area, and hasn’t been known to play in any sizable no-limit games anywhere in a long time, and that he always picks up his chips and leaves as soon as the livestream ends. I don’t really need any more evidence than that. If you know poker players, you know that this is the most damning evidence against him. Poker players like to play poker. If any of the poker players I know had the win rate that Mike Postle has, you’d have to pry them up from the table with a crowbar.

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This is weirdly fascinating, though it all feels like circumstantial evidence; there’s absolutely nothing suggesting directly that Postle cheats in any way. But people love an internet rabbit hole.
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The broken record: why Barr’s call against end-to-end encryption is nuts • Ars Technica

Sean Gallagher:

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Much of the reasoning behind the need to prevent end-to-end encryption by default—an argument used when Apple introduced it as part of iMessage and repeated multiple times since—is that criminals are inherently stupid, and giving them protection by default protects them from being stupid and not using encryption.

Facebook has offered end-to-end encryption as an option for Messenger conversations for years now, and it offers the service as part of WhatsApp as well. But because encryption requires an extra (and non-intuitive) step to turn it on for Messenger, most people don’t use it—apparently even criminals sending messages they think aren’t under surveillance. It’s like the Dunning-Kreuger effect in that case—the belief is that criminals think they’re “using the juice” and it’s concealing them from being observed.

The problem is not all criminals are idiots. And while Facebook may have contributed massively to the reporting of child pornography in recent years, there are other services that even the idiots could move to if it becomes apparent that they’re not out of sight. Take Telegram, for instance—where much of 8chan moved to after the site lost its hosting—or WhatsApp or Signal, which provide end-to-end voice and messaging encryption. On top of those, there are a host of “dark Web” and “deep Web” places where criminals, including those exploiting children, operate.

Based on conversations I’ve had with researchers and people in law enforcement, there is a significant amount of tradecraft related to these types of crimes floating around in forums. Not all of it is very good, and people get caught—not because they didn’t have end-to-end encryption but because they used it with the wrong person…

…While fighting child exploitation, terrorism, or any other fundamental evil is vitally important, the risks posed by banning encrypted communications between citizens, customers and businesses, journalists and sources, whistleblowers and lawyers, and every other legal pairing of entities who may have some need to communicate in confidence are too high to justify mandating an untenable, universal, extraordinary level of access for government to communications.

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The Lib Dems are using data to profile every voter in UK – and give you a score • Sky News

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The Liberal Democrats are profiling every voter in the country by rating their political preferences, Sky News can reveal.

This includes which party they will vote for in the next election and whether they are a Remainer or Leaver.

The percentage ratings – there are at least 42 in total, although the identity of only 37 are known – estimate whether someone voted Leave or Remain in the 2016 EU referendum and predict how they would vote if there was a second poll in 2019.

Other scored characteristics include “Likelihood of being a Labour voter in 2019”, “Likelihood of being a core Lib Dem” and “Net difference in likelihood of voting for the Conservative or Brexit Party in 2019”.

The system, which uses a sophisticated computer model to generate the scores, also assesses personal outlooks, giving a percentage to “Likelihood of being a pragmatic liberal”.

The Liberal Democrats also use software which estimates the age and first language of voters by analysing their names.

The name Rowland Manthorpe, for instance, is categorised as “older: probably older”…

…The data used to create the scores comes from a range of sources, including the UK electoral register, phone and doorstep canvassing, anonymous online surveys, and publicly available data such as census area classifications, which categorise different regions according to their populations.

The Liberal Democrats also employed “consumer/market research data”, which it bought from a third party.

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Seems fair enough, and if you were running a political party wouldn’t you want to be able to focus your resources where they’ll be best used? This is just fighting fire with fire.
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Cryptodamages: monetary value estimates of the air pollution and human health impacts of cryptocurrency mining • ScienceDirect

Andrew Goodkind, Benjamin Jones, Robert Berrens (all from the University of New Mexico):

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we estimate the per coin economic damages of air pollution emissions and associated human mortality and climate impacts of mining these cryptocurrencies in the US and China. Results indicate that in 2018, each $1 of Bitcoin value created was responsible for $0.49 in health and climate damages in the US and $0.37 in China. The similar value in China relative to the US occurs despite the extremely large disparity between the value of a statistical life estimate for the US relative to that of China.

Further, with each cryptocurrency, the rising electricity requirements to produce a single coin can lead to an almost inevitable cliff of negative net social benefits, absent perpetual price increases. For example, in December 2018, our results illustrate a case (for Bitcoin) where the health and climate change “cryptodamages” roughly match each $1 of coin value created.

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China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits • BBC News

Carl Miller:

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Anyone can write or edit entries on Wikipedia, and in almost every country on Earth, communities of “Wikipedians” exist to protect and contribute to it. The largest collection of human knowledge ever amassed, available to everyone online for free, it is arguably the greatest achievement of the digital age. But in the eyes of [Wikimedia Taiwan board member Jamie] Lin and her colleagues, it is now under attack.

The edit war over Taiwan was only one of a number that had broken out across Wikipedia’s vast, multi-lingual expanse of entries. The Hong Kong protests page had seen 65 changes in the space of a day – largely over questions of language. Were they protesters? Or rioters?

The English entry for the Senkaku islands said they were “islands in East Asia”, but earlier this year the Mandarin equivalent had been changed to add “China’s inherent territory”.

The 1989 Tiananmen Square protests were changed in Mandarin to describe them as “the June 4th incident” to “quell the counter-revolutionary riots”. On the English version, the Dalai Lama is a Tibetan refugee. In Mandarin, he is a Chinese exile.

Angry differences of opinion happen all the time on Wikipedia. But to Ms Lin, this was different. “It’s control by the [Chinese] Government” she continued. “That’s very terrible.”

BBC Click’s investigation has found almost 1,600 tendentious edits across 22 politically sensitive articles. We cannot verify who made each of these edits, why, or whether they reflect a more widespread practice. However, there are indications that they are not all necessarily organic, nor random.

Both an official and academics from within China have begun to call for both their government and citizens to systematically correct what they argue are serious anti-Chinese biases endemic across Wikipedia. One paper is called Opportunities And Challenges Of China’s Foreign Communication in the Wikipedia, and was published in the Journal of Social Sciences this year.

In it, the academics Li-hao Gan and Bin-Ting Weng argue that “due to the influence by foreign media, Wikipedia entries have a large number of prejudiced words against the Chinese government”.

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Control the language and you control the thought, as Orwell described.
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TikTok says it won’t allow any political ads on its platform • ABC News

Catherine Thorbecke:

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As the 2020 presidential election nears, TikTok, the wildly popular video-sharing app among young people, said it will not allow any political ads on its platform.

“While we explore ways to provide value to brands, we’re intent on always staying true to why users uniquely love the TikTok platform itself: for the app’s light-hearted and irreverent feeling that makes it such a fun place to spend time,” TikTok’s vice president for Global Business Solutions Blake Chandlee said in a blogpost on their website explaining their policies for paid ads.

The video-sharing social media app, which reportedly has 500 million users, has become an especially popular place for young people to share DIY music videos.

“In that spirit, we have chosen not to allow political ads on TikTok,” Chandlee added. “Any paid ads that come into the community need to fit the standards for our platform, and the nature of paid political ads is not something we believe fits the TikTok platform experience.”

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1) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the platforms did this?
2) Chinese-owned app doesn’t want political advertising. That probably isn’t surprising.
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PayPal drops out of Facebook’s Libra payments network • WSJ

Peter Rudegeair:

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The San Jose-based payments company “made the decision to forgo further participation” in the Libra Association, the group backing the libra cryptocurrency, a spokesman said in an email. PayPal remains supportive of libra’s mission and will continue to discuss how to work together in the future, the spokesman said.

PayPal’s announcement comes days after The Wall Street Journal reported that Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc., and other financial partners that had agreed to back libra are reconsidering their involvement following a backlash from US and European government officials.

“Each organization that started this journey will have to make its own assessment of risks and rewards of being committed to seeing through the change that Libra promises,” said Dante Disparte, head of policy and communications for the Libra Association, in an email. Mr. Disparte added that 1,500 entities have said they are interested in participating in libra…

…“We believe that our more than 20 years of payments expertise can not only contribute value to the Libra Association, but it also gives us the opportunity to work with and learn from other leading organizations,” PayPal Chief Executive Dan Schulman wrote in a blog post in June. The post has since been deleted.

Lawmakers and regulators in the US and Europe were quick to criticize libra after it was unveiled in June, citing concerns about how Facebook and other companies involved would protect users’ privacy and stop criminals and terrorists from using it to launder money.

This summer, PayPal was one of a number of companies that received a letter from the US Treasury Department that asked for a complete overview of its money-laundering compliance programs and how libra would fit into it.

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China introduces facial-recognition step to get new mobile number • Quartz

Jane Li:

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From Dec. 1, people applying for new mobile and data services will have to have their faces scanned by telecom providers, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a Sept. 27 statement (in Chinese).

MIIT said the step was part of its efforts to “safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace” and to control phone and internet fraud. In addition to the facial-recognition test, phone users are also banned from passing their mobile phone numbers to others, and encouraged to check if numbers are registered under their name without their consent.

Most countries require some form of ID to sign up for mobile phone contracts—versus for prepaid services—but the facial-recognition requirement seems to be a first. In China, it’s only the latest example of the technology’s embrace by a government that is using it for everything from catching jaywalkers to nabbing criminals at concerts to social profiling, even as other countries go slow due to concerns over privacy and human rights. The new decree is an upgrade of China’s real-name registration system for mobile phone users launched in 2013, which requires people to have their national IDs checked and photos taken by carriers to get a new number. The facial-recognition step will match the image against the person’s stored ID.

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Suuuure, it’s to stop phone fraud. China really is becoming increasingly scary in its determination to have the most possible data on all its citizens, and to use that for control.
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Shingy reflects on his time at AOL and what’s next • NY Mag

Brian Feldman:

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Q: you think the reaction was overblown. But as someone who was looking at it from the outside, I think it looked like AOL — a company that, at that point, had a sort of stodgy reputation — was just trying and failing to be cool somehow.

David Shing (Shingy): I don’t think it was overblown. I just think it was if you’re inside media or you’re inside brands or you’re an executive in the media, you kind of get the context because there is context. When somebody comes on for three minutes or something, it just seems like the context is completely off. That’s why my comms team probably should’ve said no to it. And it ended up being what it was. It wasn’t overblown; I just think it was current and ripe for the picking. I just happened to be picked.

At AOL around that time, do you recall any internal reaction?

People thought it was fantastic. Kept them in the news cycle, made us seem far more interesting, meant we had interesting people that just didn’t — it wasn’t stodgy, it’s just a lot of people didn’t know that. I think I represented more of the “not stodgy,” if that makes sense. It’s this historical, 25-year-old brand. It wasn’t like, “Oh my God, now what?” 2014, 2015 is an interesting time anyway. Everyone’s trying to create the app of the century, iPad strategies, everyone’s having a crack at it, trying to be culturally relevant. I was just agnostic, talking about stuff that’s going on, whatever.

That fills in a lot of gaps

Really? I thought that stuff had been written about.

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I read this interview and it seems he wasn’t a performance. Though could anyone have performed like that?
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Closed curtains, phone chargers, clean remotes and other hotel hacks • Washington Post

Natalie Compton:

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Hotels are supposed to be designed with guests in mind, but sometimes the masterminds behind hotel planning miss the mark. You will discover these flaws when they’re annoying you from your bed at midnight. It’s the air conditioner that blows too forcefully on your head or the WiFi router blinking brightly. When hotel-room frustration strikes, turn to easy hacks to fix your problems.

Twitter became a helpful resource for travel-hack discovery after user Rick Klau posted a trick he saw on the site years ago that he says has improved every night he has spent in hotel rooms since. The hack: using a hanger to secure light-leaking curtains in your room.

The post by Klau, who is a senior operating partner at GV (formerly Google Ventures), resulted in more than 1,600 replies. Some gave other creative answers to Klau’s same problem, such as using binder clips or pen caps or old-fashioned clothespins to secure curtains together. Many of the responses addressed other hotel-specific issues with equally ingenious patches. Here are some of the best they offered.

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These are legitimately great. The one for the TV remote is maybe for the germophobic, but you can’t fault it.
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New in-ear AirPods with noise cancellation found in iOS 13.2 beta • 9to5Mac

Guilherme Rambo:

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Rumors about new Apple AirPods with noise cancellation aren’t exactly new, dating back a couple of years. But now a glyph found in iOS 13.2 reveals what the new AirPods with noise cancellation will look like.

They remind me of Apple’s old in-ear headphones, but wireless, similar to how the AirPods look like EarPods without the wires. The icon is found in a component of the system related to accessibility settings, suggesting that these will work as hearing aids, similar to what can be done with the current AirPods.

Other references found in the OS suggest the new AirPods will have different listening modes, with or without noise canceling, which is being called “focus mode” in the system. The new AirPods have the model code B298.

It’s possible the new AirPods with noise cancellation will be announced later this month, when Apple is expected to have another special event.

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It’s something of a guess that they’ll have noise cancellation – that feels more like a wish. But if they fit more ears, that alone would be an improvement. The current “one size has to fit all” is frustrating for some.
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1 thought on “Start Up No.1,160: the poker ‘cheating’ fight, TikTok bans political ads, cryptocurrency mining’s real cost, Paypal exits Libra, and more

  1. This is a devious, effective way to solve a problem: https://www.androidpolice.com/2019/10/07/google-will-force-oems-to-hide-their-custom-gesture-navigation-systems-in-android-10/

    OEMs have been doing nav gestures for longer than Google, and are oftentimes doing them better (I know I’m happy with my Xiaomi’s, and from the press they seem better than Google’s). But since gestures are a) undiscoverable and b) interference-prone (contrary to menus, you mostly can’t stack/juxtapose/… different sets unless you start being really picky about starting points/direction/velocity/hold/…), so Google has been working on the one gesture(s) to rule them all, and wants to get rid of alternative.

    So, OEMs are now only allowed custom gestures if the user enables them in settings, post-setup. This ensures 90% of users will never activate them and they’ll slowly die out. I think that move should be called IEing. Or maybe Netscaping.

    Anyhooo. The good news for casual users is that the 3-button bottom bar remains available, and that’s ergonomics genius.

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