Start Up No.1208: YouTube tweaks ‘hate speech’ policy, Trump fined and barred from NY charity work, Apple Pro Display XDR Cloth©, the 201x’s 100 gadgets, and more


TIME’s Person of The Year – but is one year enough? (Mural: Jody Thomas, in Bristol) CC-licensed photo by Andrew Gustar on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Greta Thunberg: TIME’s Person of the Year 2019 • Time

Charlotte Alter, Suyin Haynes and Justin Worland:

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For a moment, it’s as if Thunberg were the eye of a hurricane, a pool of resolve at the center of swirling chaos. In here, she speaks quietly. Out there, the entire natural world seems to amplify her small voice, screaming along with her.

“We can’t just continue living as if there was no tomorrow, because there is a tomorrow,” she says, tugging on the sleeve of her blue sweatshirt. “That is all we are saying.”

It’s a simple truth, delivered by a teenage girl in a fateful moment. The sailboat, La Vagabonde, will shepherd Thunberg to the Port of Lisbon, and from there she will travel to Madrid, where the United Nations is hosting this year’s climate conference. It is the last such summit before nations commit to new plans to meet a major deadline set by the Paris Agreement. Unless they agree on transformative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the world’s temperature rise since the Industrial Revolution will hit the 1.5°C mark—an eventuality that scientists warn will expose some 350 million additional people to drought and push roughly 120 million people into extreme poverty by 2030. For every fraction of a degree that temperatures increase, these problems will worsen. This is not fearmongering; this is science. For decades, researchers and activists have struggled to get world leaders to take the climate threat seriously. But this year, an unlikely teenager somehow got the world’s attention.

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This is well deserved; the only downside is that 11 months from now, they’ll be casting around for someone else to name as the person around whom the year is deemed to have revolved. (Quick test: can you recall who it was last year?) By its nature, there’s an implication that the Person only mattered this year; and then we can move on to other things. The climate crisis is here for the rest of our lives.
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YouTube will ban videos that ‘maliciously insult’ people based on race, gender, or sexual orientation • Buzzfeed News

Mark Di Stefano:

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“Beyond threatening someone, there is also demeaning language that goes too far,” reads the statement by YouTube’s vice president, Matt Halprin. “To establish a consistent criteria for what type of content is not allowed on YouTube, we’re building upon the framework we use for our hate speech policy.

“We will no longer allow content that maliciously insults someone based on protected attributes such as their race, gender expression, or sexual orientation. This applies to everyone, from private individuals, to YouTube creators, to public officials.”

…The company also said YouTubers who “repeatedly brush up” against the harassment policy will also be removed from the platform’s partner program and will lose the ability to make ad revenue from advertising on videos.

But the new update also raises questions about how YouTube would deal with “malicious insults” made by “public officials”. President Donald Trump, who has made numerous disparaging remarks about individuals based on their race, uploads videos to his YouTube channel and livestreams all his rallies to the platform.

During a rally in Pennsylvania last night, Trump revived the use of “Pocahontas” as an insult, referring to Democratic presidential nominee Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage. He even bragged that the slurs had hurt Warren in the polls: “She’s starting to crash again. I thought I knocked her down. I did that heavy, heavy Pocahontas deal.”

YouTube has looked specifically at Trump’s use of the “Pocahontas” insult. According to the platform’s policy team, it’s not a violation of the new policy because it is directed at Warren in a political manner, in an apparent effort to ridicule her for allegedly exploiting her heritage with voters.

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There’s always an exception for Trump, isn’t there? And how is “malicious” defined? It’s the usual cottonwool.
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Trump pays $2m in damages ordered by judge over misuse of charity funds, according to NY attorney general • The Washington Post

David Fahrentold:

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President Trump has paid $2 million in court-ordered damages for misusing funds in a tax-exempt charity he controlled, the New York attorney general said Tuesday…

In the 2000s, Trump began to use the charity in ways that benefited himself or his businesses, according to the attorney general’s lawsuit. He used the charity’s cash to buy paintings of himself and sports memorabilia and to pay $258,000 in legal settlements for his for-profit clubs.

Charity leaders are barred from using their nonprofits’ money for personal benefit.

Trump also used the charity to boost political campaigns — first, Pamela Bondi’s Florida attorney general campaign, and then his own 2016 campaign. Trump gave away Trump Foundation checks onstage at rallies, despite strict rules barring nonprofit charities from participating in political campaigns.

The New York attorney general’s suit drew heavily on reporting by The Washington Post during the 2016 election.

Now, the foundation will be shuttered. The consequences of this case will linger for Trump. Under the terms of the settlement, he has agreed to special supervision if he ever returns to charity work in New York.

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The lawsuit only began in 2018, so that’s quite a rapid result. I hope nobody’s surprised that Trump corruptly used a charity for personal gain and broke every rule surrounding it; it’s entirely in character. The Trump organisation wouldn’t say whether it’s going to count the $2m fine as a “charitable donation” because it went to charities. What’s the betting…
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49% of workers, when forced to update their password, reuse the same one with just a minor change • Graham Cluley

The aforementioned Cluley:

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A survey of 200 people conducted by security outfit HYPR has some alarming findings.

For instance, not only did 72% of users admit that they reused the same passwords in their personal life, but also 49% admitted that when forced to update their passwords in the workplace they reused the same one with a minor change.

Furthermore, many users were clearly relying upon their puny human memory to remember passwords (42% in the office, 35% in their personal lives) rather than something more reliable. This, no doubt, feeds users’ tendency to choose weak, easy-to-crack passwords as well as reusing old passwords or making minor changes to existing ones.

According to the survey, forgetting passwords is a big problem – with 78% of respondents saying that they had had to reset a password in their personal life within the last 90 days (57% said the same for the workplace). HYPR said that this was due to users’ forgetting their passwords, so I presume they are not including figures for users who have had password resets forced upon them due to a security incident.

«

Not surprising; we’ve gone in the past 20 years from a situation where you might need one password (for your email) to one where they’re needed in scores of situations – smartphone, social media sites, apps, email – and that has happened far faster than people have been able to adapt their tool use (eg password managers), with all the cognitive overload, and hence bad security, that implies.
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India proposes new rules to access its citizens’ data – TechCrunch

Manish Singh:

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India has proposed groundbreaking rules, akin to Europe’s GDPR, that would require technology companies to garner consent from citizens before collecting and processing their personal data.

But at the same time, the new rules also state that companies would have to hand over “non-personal” data of their users to the government, and New Delhi would also hold the power to collect any data of its citizens without consent to serve sovereignty and larger public interest.

The new rules, proposed in nation’s first major data protection law dubbed “Personal Data Protection Bill 2019,” a copy of which leaked on Tuesday, would permit New Delhi to “exempt any agency of government from application of Act in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order.”

If the bill passes — and it is expected to be discussed in the Parliament in the coming weeks — select controversial laws drafted more than a decade ago would remain unchanged. The bill might also change how global technology companies that have invested billions of dollars in India, thanks in part to the lax laws, see the nation of more than 600 million internet users.

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Give with one hand, take with the other. India’s government shows worrying signs of really overt authoritarianism.
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How to clean your Apple Pro Display XDR • Apple Support

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How to clean your Apple Pro Display XDR

Your Pro Display XDR has either standard or nano-texture glass. To prevent damage to your display, follow these important guidelines for cleaning the display panel and enclosure.

Clean the nano-texture glass:
Use only the dry polishing cloth that comes with your display to wipe dust or smudges off the screen. Don’t add water or use other liquids to clean the nano-texture glass.

Never use any other cloths to clean the nano-texture glass. If you lose the included polishing cloth, you can contact Apple to order a replacement polishing cloth.

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Though with the standard glass, you can “Use the polishing cloth that came with your display or another clean, dry, micro-fiber cloth”. Nano-structures, maxi-care, it seems.
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Scoop: China tried to get World Bank to fund surveillance in Xinjiang – Axios

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian:

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Chinese recipients of World Bank loans tried to secure funding for the purchase of facial recognition technology for use in China’s northwest region of Xinjiang, according to documents obtained by Axios.

The World Bank’s loan program in Xinjiang demonstrates the extreme moral hazard that is now facing any organization with operations in the region, where China has constructed a surveillance state and detained more than a million ethnic minorities.

In more than 8,000 pages of official World Bank Chinese-language procurement documents dated June 2017 and reviewed by Axios, Chinese recipients of the loan program requested tens of thousands of dollars for the purchase of facial recognition cameras and software, night-vision cameras, and other surveillance technology for use in Xinjiang schools.

The World Bank told Axios those funds were not disbursed. A World Bank spokesperson said, “As an institution focused on ending poverty, the World Bank knows that inclusive societies are key to sustainable development, and we take a strong line against discrimination of any kind. We promote equal access to opportunities, including education and training, so that everyone can seek to realize his or her full potential. We are fully committed to the integrity of our projects. We respond immediately when issues are raised, and we act based on facts.”

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Well done, World Bank.
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My paper reported the story of the boy on a hospital floor. Then online lies took over • The Guardian

James Mitchinson edits the Yorkshire Evening Post, which broke a story about a mother whose child with suspected pneumonia had to rest on coats because no emergency beds were available:

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On Monday night, one of our readers, a woman called Margaret, wrote to tell me that despite being a regular buyer of the Yorkshire Post (sister paper of the Yorkshire Evening Post), she had been let down by us. She’d seen a post on Facebook that showed we had not checked our facts. That social media post was from a nice, respectable, family-oriented lady who had a “good friend” working as a nurse at LGI [Leeds General Infirmary] who explained that our news story was in fact fake. This is despite all of the facts in front of Margaret – and all readers – on our part: including an explanation from the chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals General Trust and an apology – a sincere and heartfelt one – from its chief executive.

I faced losing a loyal reader because Margaret was taken in by the seeming warmth and sincerity of the manipulatively crafted words of a complete stranger. Someone who she did not know, could not contact, could not hold to account. This digital disease of our time was killing my business, imperilling the livelihoods of those employed on the titles I’m charged with looking after.

I wrote to Margaret to politely and sympathetically explain she had been the victim of a con. The source she cited had been tracked down by lunchtime on Tuesday: the woman whose Facebook post claimed the Jack Williment-Barr story was a hoax said that her account had been hacked and she had nothing to do with the allegations.

Unlike most cons, Margaret had lost no money. But she – like all of us – is in danger of losing something more valuable: the ability to discern between truth and lies in the news we consume, wherever we consume it.

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The deeper question: who writes the misinformation, and what is their purpose? Just for the lulz?
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Smart lock has a security vulnerability that leaves homes open for attacks • CNET

Alfred Ng:

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Smart locks are sold as devices that can make getting in your home more convenient, but security researchers found a vulnerability that makes it easy for hackers and thieves to do the same. 

On Wednesday, Finland-based security company F-Secure disclosed flaws with the “KeyWe Smart Lock,” which marketed itself as the “Smartest Lock Ever!” The lock sells for about $155 on Amazon and allows for unlocking doors through a mobile app. 

F-Secure’s researchers found that potential hackers could intercept network traffic between the mobile app and the smart lock, essentially stealing the keys to someone’s home out of thin air. 

“Unfortunately, the lock’s design makes bypassing these mechanisms to eavesdrop on messages exchanged by the lock and app fairly easy for attackers, leaving it open to a relatively simple attack,” Krzysztof Marciniak, an F-Secure consultant, said in a statement. “There’s no way to mitigate this, so accessing homes protected by the lock is a safe bet for burglars able to replicate the hack.”

The security researcher noted that this attack could be performed through network-sniffing devices, some of which can be bought for as little as $10. 

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I get a daily email from Indiegogo, and every item seems obliged to call itself “Smart” and “The Most… Ever” and often “AI”. Very often you can tell it’s none of those, though in this case “The Most Terrible Implementation Ever” might work.
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iPhones, Samsung Galaxy, and more: the 100 gadgets that defined this decade • The Verge

Nilay Patel:

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Gadgets in the 2010s were shaped first by the furious race to win the smartphone wars and then a furious race to create new kinds of hardware once it was clear that Apple, Google, and Samsung would dominate phones. And that hardware was tied to software and services like never before — every light bulb the endpoint of a cloud service, every speaker imbued with the voice of the data center’s soul.

USB-C was inflicted upon an unsuspecting public; our headphone jacks were taken away.

My favorite thing about gadgets is that they are intensely revealing: each one is a semipermanent encapsulation of a company’s trade-offs and priorities, and once they’re shipped, there’s no more PR spin or influencer marketing to hide behind. The processors are fast or they’re slow. The keyboards are reliable or they break. The battery lasts a long time or it dies.

Sometimes, the batteries explode.

And when gadgets work — when they really work — people do fantastic and unexpected things with them.

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Patel didn’t choose all of the gadgets, and there’s sure to be lots of discussion about the things left in and out; by calling them “gadgets” it avoids looking at devices that have made other real impacts (solar panels? wind turbines?), even while it includes the Toyota Camry and other not-very-gadgety things. A long read; maybe save it for Boxing Day. It’ll wait.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

3 thoughts on “Start Up No.1208: YouTube tweaks ‘hate speech’ policy, Trump fined and barred from NY charity work, Apple Pro Display XDR Cloth©, the 201x’s 100 gadgets, and more

  1. I’m not so sure of an “implication that the Person only mattered this year; and then we can move on to other things.”. After all, Time’s Person of the Year in 2016 was Donald Trump. (To be read in a very dry voice:) I don’t think it’s true that he only mattered that year, and we’ve moved on to other things.

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