Start Up No.1341: how Facebook fell in for Trump, remake the world!, Apple crunches the ad industry (again), in the eye of the Twitter storm, and more

A couple of years ago this was Apple’s fastest chip; what’s coming in a couple of years in its laptops? CC-licensed photo by Paul Hudson on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 11 links for you. All in a row. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How Facebook wrote its rules to accommodate Trump • The Washington Post

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg and Tony Romm:


Outrage over the [December 2015 Trump campaign video calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the US] led to a companywide town hall, in which employees decried the video as hate speech, in violation of the company’s policies. And in meetings about the issue, senior leaders and policy experts overwhelmingly said they felt that the video was hate speech, according to three former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Zuckerberg expressed in meetings that he was personally disgusted by it and wanted it removed, the people said. Some of these details were previously reported.

At one of the meetings, Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice president for policy, drafted a document to address the video and shared it with leaders including Zuckerberg’s top deputy COO Sheryl Sandberg and Vice President of Global Policy Joel Kaplan, the company’s most prominent Republican.

The document, which is previously unreported and obtained by The Post, weighed four options. They included removing the post for hate speech violations, making a one-time exception for it, creating a broad exemption for political discourse and even weakening the company’s community guidelines for everyone, allowing comments such as “No blacks allowed” and “Get the gays out of San Francisco.”

Facebook spokesman Tucker Bounds said the latter option was never seriously considered.

The document also listed possible “PR Risks” for each. For example, lowering the standards overall would raise questions such as, “Would Facebook have provided a platform for Hitler?” Bickert wrote. A carveout for political speech across the board, on the other hand, risked opening the floodgates for even more hateful “copycat” comments.

Ultimately, Zuckerberg was talked out of his desire to remove the post in part by Kaplan, according to the people. Instead, the executives created an allowance that newsworthy political discourse would be taken into account when making decisions about whether posts violated community guidelines.

That allowance was not formally written into the policies, even though it informed ad hoc decision-making about political speech for the next several years, according to the people. When a formal newsworthiness policy was announced in October 2016, in a blog post by Kaplan, the company did not discuss Trump’s role in shaping it.


Isn’t it amazing how every time something controversial involving a right-winger on Facebook comes up, Kaplan is there saying not to act on it? Every. Single. Time.
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Reddit shuts down r/The_Donald after years of problems with racism, anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories • The Washington Post

Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin:


Reddit shut down its popular but controversial forum devoted to supporting President Trump on Monday, following years in which the social media company tried but often failed to control the racism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, glorification of violence and conspiracy theories that flourished there.

The move against r/The_Donald, as the forum was known, came after its volunteer moderators and much of the community had left in recent months, moving to a website that mimics Reddit’s system of conversation and user voting on content but appears to have fewer rules. It is just one of several alternative social media sites, such as Gab and Parler, that have emerged in recent years, portraying themselves as freewheeling alternatives to more mainstream platforms.

The move by Reddit comes amid a broader crackdown by technology companies, including Twitter and Facebook, to try to rein in hateful, deceptive and other problematic content on their platforms, typically after high-profile scandals prompted action. Reddit also implemented its first policy banning hate speech on Monday and closed about 2,000 individual forums, what the company calls “subreddits.” The company already had a policy against “divisive language” in advertising.

Most of the closed subreddits already had become dormant while others, like r/The_Donald, had histories of policy violations. Reddit also closed the left-wing r/ChapoTrapHouse on Monday for violating platform rules.


Facebook’s “reining in” looks rather different from that of all the others, as already noted. Though this is really not much of a move, if it was already a ghost town. Though “2,000 others”? That’s a lot.
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Apple Silicon – first impressions • DIGITS to DOLLARS

Jonathan Goldberg:


Reading between the lines, they seem to be targeting desktop performance with highly improved power budgets. This is important because they could have done the inverse and built a very different product. This implies some incredibly powerful laptops, as opposed to ultra-long battery life on lighter devices. Which is interesting because that latter use case is an iPad, as most people use it today, which runs on a different branch of their chip family tree. Our interpretation of this is that they have built an incredibly flexible architecture that lets them assemble chip pieces like Lego bricks. This has big implications for the broader industry, which we will return to in tomorrow’s post.


I think this post is actually the more interesting one, since it makes a prediction about the forthcoming laptops. It’ll be comparatively easy to create laptops with the same external shape but more power: add more cores, clock the CPU a little faster. Apple has so much potential here.
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2020 iPhones won’t come with a power adapter or earbuds, says Kuo • The Verge

Sam Byford:


This year’s new iPhones might not have as much in the box as you’re used to. According to well-connected analyst Ming-chi Kuo, Apple is planning to stop including a power adapter and EarPods in the box with 2020 models, and will even remove the power adapter from the new iPhone SE’s packaging later this year. Kuo’s research note was reported on by AppleInsider, MacRumors, and 9to5Mac.

Apple is attempting to offset the cost increases that come with upgrading the iPhone range to 5G, according to Kuo. Smaller packaging would be more eco-friendly and also reduce shipping costs, since more phones could fit into a single shipment. (Encouraging more sales of AirPods can’t hurt, either.)

Right now Apple includes EarPods with all iPhones, a 5W USB-A adapter with the 11 and SE, and an 18W USB-C adapter with the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. Last year’s inclusion of the 18W charger came after years of widespread complaints regarding the slow 5W adapter, so it would be surprising to see it disappear so quickly. It’s not clear, however, whether that will be the case across the whole iPhone line.


I don’t think anyone would miss the adapter or the earbuds. If there’s a home that doesn’t have at least one spare set of each, I’d like to know about it. And when people upgrade, they… already have those things. Less electrical waste, too. Though this also tells us that, as expected, Apple isn’t going to get rid of the Lightning connector.
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Apple just crippled IDFA, sending an $80bn industry into upheaval • Forbes

John Koetsier:


Yesterday Apple killed the IDFA without killing the IDFA, by taking it out of the depths of the Settings app where almost no-one could find it — although increasingly people were finding it and turning it off — and making it explicitly opt-in for every single app. If an app wants to use the IDFA, iOS 14 will present mobile users with a big scary dialog [“This app would like permission to track you across apps and websites owned by other companies. Your data will be used to deliver personalised ads to you. Allow/Ask Not To Track”]

Would you say “yes” to allowing an app or brand permission to “track you across apps and websites owned by other companies?” Neither will 99% of consumers.

This is actually a genius move by Apple. Marketers can’t really get upset about losing the IDFA capability, because technically it’s still around. Apple gets to burnish its privacy credentials while not taking huge amounts of flack from brands and advertisers because, after all, who can argue with giving people more rights with their personal data?

And make no mistake: this is a great move for user privacy. But it’s also a huge problem for a massive industry.


The problem for the advertisers is that they won’t be able to track people, and measure the effects of their ads. Though that probably helps Facebook and Google, as ever.
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A Better World



The dates you can change are in yellow.

The dates you just changed are in pink.

Click on one of them to change the past!


It’s a fun game. I managed to wipe out Europe with my first one. It’s like that SF short story, “A Sound of Thunder.” (That link’s probably not legit.) (Via Sophie Warnes.)
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This coronavirus mutation has taken over the world. Scientists are trying to understand why • The Washington Post

Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach:


When the first coronavirus cases in Chicago appeared in January, they bore the same genetic signatures as a germ that emerged in China weeks before.

But as Egon Ozer, an infectious-disease specialist at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, examined the genetic structure of virus samples from local patients, he noticed something different.

A change in the virus was appearing again and again. This mutation, associated with outbreaks in Europe and New York, eventually took over the city. By May, it was found in 95% of all the genomes Ozer sequenced.

At a glance, the mutation seemed trivial. About 1,300 amino acids serve as building blocks for a protein on the surface of the virus. In the mutant virus, the genetic instructions for just one of those amino acids — number 614 — switched in the new variant from a “D” (shorthand for aspartic acid) to a “G” (short for glycine).

But the location was significant, because the switch occurred in the part of the genome that codes for the all-important “spike protein” — the protruding structure that gives the coronavirus its crownlike profile and allows it to enter human cells the way a burglar picks a lock.

And its ubiquity is undeniable. Of the approximately 50,000 genomes of the new virus that researchers worldwide have uploaded to a shared database, about 70% carry the mutation, officially designated D614G but known more familiarly to scientists as “G.”


Lab experiments suggest the mutation makes it more infectious. Or it might be an accident of sampling. (I’d go with infectivity. Evolution’s a hard taskmaster, and viruses evolve.)
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Coronavirus brings American decline out in the open • Bloomberg Opinion

Noah Smith:


In addition to worrying about their jobs and livelihoods, Americans must now be subjected to months of images of Italians casually walking around on the streets while they cower in  their houses. It’s a painful and stark demonstration of national decline. Even more galling, the U.S.’s Covid failure means that its citizens can no longer travel freely around the world; even Europe plans to impose a travel ban on Americans.

But the consequences of U.S. decline will far outlast coronavirus. With its high housing costs, poor infrastructure and transit, endemic gun violence, police brutality and bitter political and racial divisions, the U.S. will be a less appealing place for high-skilled workers to live. That means companies will find other countries in Europe, Asia and elsewhere a more attractive destination for investment, robbing the U.S. of jobs, depressing wages and draining away the local spending that powers the service economy. That in turn will exacerbate some of the worst trends of U.S. decline – less tax money means even more urban decay as infrastructure, education and social-welfare programs are forced to make big cuts. Anti-immigration policies will throw away the country’s most important source of skilled labor and weaken a university system already under tremendous pressure from state budget cuts.

Almost every systematic economic advantage possessed by the U.S. is under threat. Unless there’s a huge push to turn things around – to bring back immigrants, sustain research universities, make housing cheaper, lower infrastructure costs, reform the police and restore competence to the civil service – the result could be decades of stagnating or even declining living standards.


Or, you know, elect a competent president. That would be a start.
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The eye of the storm • The Critic Magazine

Marie Le Conte made a comment on Twitter which blew up. So now she’d become “the person everyone’s talking about on Twitter”, which is not who you ever want to be:


By the time I was in the pub after work, my Twitter app had become unusable; by the time I met up with two colleagues for dinner, I’d deleted the tweet in a panic. As often happens with anxiety-inducing memories, I remember little from that evening. We were at Bocca Di Lupo and my two companions were trying to discuss the project we’d been working on, but I kept glancing in panic at my phone.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like, being the main character on Twitter. People tweet at you, at first to criticise what you said, then insulting you for what you said, then trying to find other things you said to criticise and insult you for, then moving on to discussing your appearance, what you may be like in bed, and anything else they can think of. They also tweet about you, which is more disconcerting if you aren’t a celebrity, which I am not. They are no longer talking to you but about you to each other; it’s a book club and you’re the book.

At least a book is self-contained; when you become the main character, people take the dots that they have, link them up, then add some new ones where they think they should be and at the end of it there is a person they can attack, but only a small part of that person is you. It was decided I was a frustrated and uptight straight woman; I am bisexual. It was decreed that I was a racist white woman; I am mixed-race.


It’s a wonderful piece. “It’s a book club and you’re the book, and nobody wants to hear from the book.”
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Guy who reverse-engineered TikTok reveals the scary things he learned, advises people to stay away from it • Bored Panda



2 months ago, Reddit user bangorlol made a comment in a discussion about TikTok. Bangorlol claimed to have successfully reverse-engineered it and shared what he learned about the Chinese video-sharing social networking service. Basically, he strongly recommended that people never use the app again, warning about its intrusive user tracking and other issues. Considering that TikTok was the 4th most popular free iPhone app download in 2019, this is quite alarming.


It’s a long thread, because as he describes it “it’s a data-collection service thinly veiled as a social network”. Though isn’t what they all are? There’s some more disturbing stuff too.

This isn’t verified by anyone else, yet, but I wouldn’t expect that to take too long.
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A tech company spied on police brutality protesters • Buzzfeed News

Caroline Haskins:


On the weekend of May 29, thousands of people marched, sang, grieved, and chanted, demanding an end to police brutality and the defunding of police departments in the aftermath of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. They marched en masse in cities like Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and Atlanta, empowered by their number and the assumed anonymity of the crowd. And they did so completely unaware that a tech company was using location data harvested from their cellphones to predict their race, age, and gender and where they lived.

Just over two weeks later, that company, Mobilewalla, released a report titled “George Floyd Protester Demographics: Insights Across 4 Major US Cities.” In 60 pie charts, the document details what percentage of protesters the company believes were male or female, young adult (18–34); middle-aged 35º54, or older (55+); and “African-American,” “Caucasian/Others,” “Hispanic,” or “Asian-American.”

“African American males made up the majority of protesters in the four observed cities vs. females,” Mobilewalla claimed. “Men vs. women in Atlanta (61% vs. 39%), in Los Angeles (65% vs. 35%), in Minneapolis (54% vs. 46%) and in New York (59% vs. 41%).” The company analyzed data from 16,902 devices at protests — including exactly 8,152 devices in New York, 4,527 in Los Angeles, 2,357 in Minneapolis, and 1,866 in Atlanta.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren told BuzzFeed News that Mobilewalla’s report was alarming, and an example of the consequences of the lack of regulation on data brokers in the US.

“This report shows that an enormous number of Americans – probably without even knowing it – are handing over their full location history to shady location data brokers with zero restrictions on what companies can do with it,” Warren said.


Half of me would love to know how this cross-matched with people who then developed Covid-19, and half of me knows this is already an incredible privacy invasion. (Separate data shows that protests haven’t increased Covid cases. But reopening close-contact areas such as restaurants and shops has.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1340: Britain buys satellites, the NHS app cockup, faulty facial recognition policing, focus falls on Wirecard’s auditors, and more

Apple’s iOS 14 will tell you when apps grab data from the clipboard, and has already told on TikTok. CC-licensed photo by on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 10 links for you. Know where you are? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

‘We’ve bought the wrong satellites’: UK tech gamble baffles experts • The Guardian

Alex Hern:


The UK government’s plan to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in a satellite broadband company has been described as “nonsensical” by experts, who say the company doesn’t even make the right type of satellite the country needs after Brexit.

The investment in OneWeb, first reported on Thursday night, is intended to mitigate against the UK losing access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system.

But OneWeb – in which the UK will own a 20% stake following the investment – currently operates a completely different type of satellite network from that typically used to run such navigation systems.

“The fundamental starting point is, yes, we’ve bought the wrong satellites,” said Dr Bleddyn Bowen, a space policy expert at the University of Leicester. “OneWeb is working on basically the same idea as Elon Musk’s Starlink: a mega-constellation of satellites in low Earth orbit, which are used to connect people on the ground to the internet.

“What’s happened is that the very talented lobbyists at OneWeb have convinced the government that we can completely redesign some of the satellites to piggyback a navigation payload on it. It’s bolting an unproven technology on to a mega-constellation that’s designed to do something else. It’s a tech and business gamble.”

Giles Thorne, a research analyst at Jeffries, agreed. “This situation is nonsensical to me,” he said. “This situation looks like nationalism trumping solid industrial policy.”


This satellite company agrees you’d need to upgrade the satellites to get a navigation capability. (But they’d be very resistant to jamming.) And of course there would be satellite broadband, their original purpose, which nobody sensible wants because the latency is terrible.

The problem with LEO (low earth orbit) for GPS is that they go out of visibility so quickly. If you can’t keep a fix on a satellite for long enough, you can’t get the time on its atomic clock, so you can’t figure out your position. The 24 US GPS satellites are in MEO (medium EO) at 20,200km; the OneWeb ones are at 1,200km, and presently in a pole-to-pole orbit, though that can be changed.

This has the potential to be a money pit. Don’t say we weren’t warned.
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The rise and fall of Hancock’s homegrown tracing app • Financial Times

Pilita Clark, Helen Warrell, Tim Bradshaw and Sarah Neville:


The UK was one of the first western countries to start building a phone app. By mid-March, work was under way at NHSX, a body reporting to the health department. [Health secretary Matt] Hancock, a digital enthusiast, set it up last year to drag the notoriously analogue NHS into the 21st century.

Headed by a former diplomat, Matthew Gould, it soon discovered, as other nations would, that the task was far from simple. 

The app would have to rely on a Bluetooth system that was designed for pairing a smartphone with a wireless headset rather than trigger an alert that a stranger close to you was carrying a potentially fatal virus.

Figuring out how to repurpose this technology without draining a phone’s battery was just one of the early hurdles faced by developers around the world.

In the UK, however, there was another challenge. In other nations, the app was deployed as a back-up in established national systems where widespread testing helped teams of contact tracers track down those infected.

This was impossible in the UK, which was struggling to process more than [the unsatisfactorily low number of] 8,000 tests a day in March.

That meant the British app had to be shaped in a distinctive way, said several people involved in the early stages of its development.

Instead of triggering alerts about people who had tested positive for Covid-19, developers were initially told to build an app based on people reporting virus symptoms.

This had a ripple effect that ate up developers’ time, those familiar with the process said. First, an algorithm had to be built to try to ensure someone who claimed to have a cough or fever was telling the truth.

This, in turn, meant a database had to be built to hold and process huge amounts of confidential patient symptom data that would then have to be encrypted, anonymised and protected from hackers.


This is sure to figure heftily in the surely forthcoming public inquiry. There will be lots of “well it was impossible to know at that time”. Except that Apple and Google’s shift in early April offered the chance to get it right. But Hancock and the rest ploughed on. British exceptionalism: the wrong sort.
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TikTok App to stop accessing user clipboards after being caught in the act by iOS 14 • MacRumors

Juli Clover:


In a statement to The Telegraph, TikTok said that it accessed the clipboard to identify spammy behaviour:


“Following the beta release of iOS 14 on June 22, users saw notifications while using a number of popular apps.

“For TikTok, this was triggered by a feature designed to identify repetitive, spammy behavior. We have already submitted an updated version of the app to the App Store removing the anti-spam feature to eliminate any potential confusion.

“TikTok is committed to protecting users’ privacy and being transparent about how our app works.”


An update to remove the feature has already been submitted to the App Store , and a download of the new update confirms that TikTok no longer appears to be accessing the clipboard.

TikTok did not say whether the feature would be removed from Android devices, nor whether clipboard data was ever stored or moved from user devices. Other apps have also been called out for reading the clipboard, including Starbucks, Overstock, AccuWeather, several news apps, and more.


That TikTok statement is baldly self-contradictory, and a lie. TikTok isn’t transparent about how the app works, because nobody outside TikTok knew it was grabbing the clipboard until this. The protection of users’ privacy – ditto. I bet there will be some crowdsourced examination of the destination of clipboard contents using an older version. And of the Android version.

Equally, I’m surprised that any app gets access to the iOS system clipboard without the user explicitly invoking it. If I copy something in one app, why should any other app be able to see it without me switching to that app and invoking “Paste”? After all, if I copy a password in an app, does that mean any random app running in the background can see it? (App developers tell me: yes. This blogpost from February pointed out the problem.)

It’s impressive that iOS 14 is only in its first week in beta and that it’s already highlighted this sort of behaviour, but the ability to behave like this at all is peculiar.
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Wrongfully accused by an algorithm • The New York Times

Kashmir Hill:


The police drove Mr. Williams to a detention center. He had his mug shot, fingerprints and DNA taken, and was held overnight. Around noon on Friday, two detectives took him to an interrogation room and placed three pieces of paper on the table, face down.

“When’s the last time you went to a Shinola store?” one of the detectives asked, in Mr. Williams’s recollection. Shinola is an upscale boutique that sells watches, bicycles and leather goods in the trendy Midtown neighborhood of Detroit. Mr. Williams said he and his wife had checked it out when the store first opened in 2014.

The detective turned over the first piece of paper. It was a still image from a surveillance video, showing a heavyset man, dressed in black and wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals cap, standing in front of a watch display. Five timepieces, worth $3,800, were shoplifted.

“Is this you?” asked the detective.

The second piece of paper was a close-up. The photo was blurry, but it was clearly not Mr. Williams. He picked up the image and held it next to his face.

“No, this is not me,” Mr. Williams said. “You think all black men look alike?”


The algorithm had decided it was him, though. Hill has done such great work on facial recognition – she was the one who revealed how ClearView had swept up as much data as it could, a hundred years ago. Well, in January.
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Depixellation? Or hallucination? • AI Weirdness

Janelle Shane on an AI system which claims it can reconstruct a face from a pixellated image, but which reconstructed Obama as a white guy:


Biased AIs are a well-documented phenomenon. When its task is to copy human behavior, AI will copy everything it sees, not knowing what parts it would be better not to copy. Or it can learn a skewed version of reality from its training data. Or its task might be set up in a way that rewards – or at the least doesn’t penalize – a biased outcome. Or the very existence of the task itself (like predicting “criminality”) might be the product of bias.

In this case, the AI might have been inadvertently rewarded for reconstructing white faces if its training data (Flickr-Faces-HQ) had a large enough skew toward white faces. Or, as the authors of the PULSE paper pointed out (in response to the conversation around bias), the standard benchmark that AI researchers use for comparing their accuracy at upscaling faces is based on the CelebA HQ dataset, which is 90% white. So even if an AI did a terrible job at upscaling other faces, but an excellent job at upscaling white faces, it could still technically qualify as state-of-the-art. This is definitely a problem.

A related problem is the huge lack of diversity in the field of artificial intelligence. Even an academic project with art as its main application should not have gone all the way to publication before someone noticed that it was hugely biased. Several factors are contributing to the lack of diversity in AI, including anti-Black bias. The repercussions of this striking example of bias, and of the conversations it has sparked, are still being strongly felt in a field that’s long overdue for a reckoning.


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Woke capitalism • The Bluestocking

Helen Lewis, in absolutely blistering form in her newsletter (of which this is a special Sunday version because I think this topic is bugging her mightily):


Why is [Robin] DiAngelo’s book [“White Fragility”, about why white people are so.. fragile?, and which has gone to the top of the NYT bestseller lists] so popular? Again, look at economics. Every big company has recently poured money into “diversity training”. But it is often no more scientifically grounded than Myers-Briggs: the “implicit bias” test is controversial and the claim that it can predict real world behaviour (never mind reduce bias) is a shaky one. But it looks like something solid and quantitative – ooh! a test score! – and therefore metrics-obsessed modern companies (ie all of them) love it. People have been given the idea that confronting their own bias is the best way to address racism. (Also, let’s be honest, there are probably quite a lot of people who have bought White Fragility because they think of themselves as the kind of person who would read a book like that, without actually wanting to read a book like that. It’s a Social Justice Brief History of Time.)

Anyway, here’s Harvard Kennedy School professor of public policy Iris Bohnet:


“About $8 billion a year is spent on diversity trainings in the United States alone. Now, I tried very hard to find any evidence I could. I looked not just in the United States but also in Rwanda and other post-conflict countries, where reconciliation is often built on the kind of diversity trainings that we do in our companies, to see how this is working. Sadly enough, I did not find a single study that found that diversity training in fact leads to more diversity.”


Eight billion dollars a year! Imagine if you put that money into, say, paying all your junior staff a wage which allows them to live in the big city where your company is based, without needing help from their parents. You’d probably do more good at increasing your company’s diversity. Hell, get your staff to read White Fragility on their own time and give your office cleaners a pay rise.


“A Social Justice ‘Brief History Of Time'”. What a gut punch. (BHOT is famously the book everyone owned but nobody read.) But she’s absolutely right. Lewis ranges far and wide here: since it’s statue-toppling time, she’s noticed plenty of clay feet around the place. I love her comment: “the only question I want to ask big companies who chirrup on about ’empowering the female leaders of the future’ is this one: Do you have a creche?” Actions, not words. Don’t miss her analysis of why Stonewall is emphasising the “T” in “LGBT” either.
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Wirecard scandal puts spotlight on auditor Ernst & Young • WSJ

Patricia Kowsmann, Paul J. Davies and Juliet Chung:


Ernst & Young, auditor to insolvent German fintech company Wirecard, had questions related to unorthodox arrangements under which the company’s cash was held in bank accounts it didn’t control as far back as 2016, according to emails seen by The Wall Street Journal.

The auditor subsequently signed off on three years of Wirecard’s financial results with those arrangements in place.

Now $2bn that was held in those accounts has disappeared. Wirecard says the money probably doesn’t exist. On Friday, a German shareholder association filed a criminal complaint to the prosecutors’ office in Munich, where Wirecard is based, accusing EY auditors of missing the alleged fraud.

“We feel Ernst & Young’s auditing work was a disaster,” said Marc Liebscher, whose Berlin-based law firm is representing the private Wirecard investors who filed the complaint. “Our clients are convinced, Ernst & Young should stand trial.”

EY said it had been duped along with everyone else. “There are clear indications that this was an elaborate and sophisticated fraud, involving multiple parties around the world in different institutions, with a deliberate aim of deception,” it said.

…Investors who bet Wirecard’s share price would fall have been sending detailed complaints to EY for years, flagging their concerns and media reports that raised questions about the company’s accounting and business practices, based on letters reviewed by the Journal.

“They’ve basically turned a blind eye toward the critics that raised very serious allegations,” said Fraser Perring, who with his former partner, Matthew Earl, published an early report critical of Wirecard in 2016.


If it takes a whistleblower going to journalists for the fraud to unravel, then the auditors self-evidently haven’t been doing their job. The fraud was there to be found; as in so many cases (see also: Enron), it’s already visible in the books. But auditors hate to rock the boat: they’re the classic case of not understanding something if your job relies on not understanding it.
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Lest we forget the horrors: a catalog of Trump’s worst cruelties, collusions, corruptions, and crimes: the complete listing (so far): atrocities 1-759 • McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Ben Parker, Stephanie Steinbrecher, Kelsey Ronan, John Mcmurtrie, Sophia Durose, Rachel Villa, and Amy Sumerton do what I had hoped someone would do. (If you close your eyes and wish hard enough, the internet will crowdsource whatever you want.) Their “atrocity key” includes these categories:
– Sexual Misconduct, Harassment, & Bullying
– White Supremacy, Racism, & Xenophobia
– Public Statements / Tweets
– Collusion with Russia & Obstruction of Justice
– Trump Staff & Administration
– Trump Family Business Dealings
– Policy
– Environment

I thought they’d missed one in the “White supremacy, racism & xenophobia” from their “before January 2017” category: his call, in a full-page advert, for the death sentence for the five black suspects who were arrested after the rape of a woman in Central Park on the basis that he thought they were guilty of sexual assault. (They were exonerated on DNA evidence and the real criminal’s confession.) But it turns out Trump reiterated that lie in October 2016.

Needless to say, it’s a long, long read, even though they don’t really get started until he’s in office.
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Microsoft to permanently close all of its retail stores • The Verge

Chris Welch:


Microsoft is giving up on physical retail. Today the company announced plans to permanently close all Microsoft Store locations in the United States and around the world, except for four locations that will be “reimagined” as experience centers that no longer sell products.

Those locations are New York City (Fifth Ave), London (Oxford Circus), Sydney (Westfield Sydney), and the Redmond campus location. The London store only just opened about a year ago. All other Microsoft Store locations across the United States and globally will be closing, and the company will concentrate on digital retail moving forward. Microsoft says and the Xbox and Windows storefronts reach “up to 1.2 billion monthly customers in 190 markets.”

The company tells The Verge that no layoffs will result from today’s decision. “Our commitment to growing and developing careers from this diverse talent pool is stronger than ever,” Microsoft Store VP David Porter said in a LinkedIn post on the move.

A source with knowledge of Microsoft’s retail operations told The Verge that this plan was originally in place for next year, but was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


So wonderful how Microsoft calls it “a new approach” to retail. Approach as in full speed retreat. The cost: $450m (“asset writeoffs and impairments”). Began in 2009, had 116 stores in 2018, but the number had fallen to 82 at the time of closure. Sorry, “new approach”.
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Radioactivity hike seen in Northern Europe; source unknown • The New York Times


Nordic authorities say they detected slightly increased levels of radioactivity in northern Europe this month that Dutch officials said may be from a source in western Russia and may “indicate damage to a fuel element in a nuclear power plant.”

But Russian news agency TASS, citing a spokesman with the state nuclear power operator Rosenergoatom., reported that the two nuclear power plans in northwestern Russia haven’t reported any problems.

The Leningrad plant near St. Petersburg and the Kola plant near the northern city of Murmansk, “operate normally, with radiation levels being within the norm,” Tass said.

The Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish radiation and nuclear safety watchdogs said this week they’ve spotted small amounts of radioactive isotopes harmless to humans and the environment in parts of Finland, southern Scandinavia and the Arctic.

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority said Tuesday that “it is not possible now to confirm what could be the source of the increased levels” of radioactivity or from where a cloud, or clouds, containing radioactive isotopes that has allegedly been blowing over the skies of northern Europe originated. Its Finnish and Norwegian counterparts also haven’t speculated about a potential source.


It’ll be the Chernobyl Reenactment Group, won’t it.
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Start Up No.1339: America’s young Covid deaths, how to win big on Facebook, Myanmar internet blackout continues, sayonara Wirecard?, and more

Is $100bn enough to outfit the US with the fibre broadband it so sorely needs? Democrats hope so. CC-licensed photo by kip on Flickr.

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

Daily chart: when covid-19 deaths are analysed by age, America is an outlier • The Economist


Data released on June 16th by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) show that the country’s death toll skews significantly younger. There, people in their 80s account for less than half of all covid-19 deaths; people in their 40s, 50s and 60s, meanwhile, account for a significantly larger share of those who die. The median covid-19 sufferer in America is a 48-year-old; in Italy it is a 63-year-old.

Why is America such an outlier? Part of the explanation surely lies in the fact that America has a younger population than Europe does. America’s median age is just 38; Italy’s is 45. Another reason, perhaps, is that middle-aged Americans may be less healthy than their European peers, eg, because they tend to be more obese.

Whatever the cause, the relative youthfulness of America’s covid-19 victims means that the coronavirus is robbing Americans of more years of precious life. A recent study by a group of Scottish researchers estimated the number of years of life lost to covid-19 by age, taking account of the victims’ underlying health conditions. It found that in Italy, people who died in their 50s, 60s, and 70s typically lost 30, 21, and 12 years, respectively. Those in their 80s lost five years, on average.

Applying these estimates to the victims of America’s outbreak, a back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that covid-19 has so far shortened the lives of its American victims by 11 years, on average, compared with about nine years in the hardest-hit European countries.


Related, in some ways: Coronavirus cases rise in states with relaxed face mask policies.
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The dirty secret behind Ben Shapiro’s extraordinary success on Facebook • Popular Information

Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria:


What explains The Daily Wire’s phenomenal success on Facebook? Popular Information revealed part of the answer last October. But the full story is much darker. 

Popular Information has discovered a network of large Facebook pages — each built by exploiting racial bias, religious bigotry, and violence — that systematically promote content from The Daily Wire. These pages, some of which have over 2 million followers, do not disclose a business relationship with The Daily Wire. But they all post content from The Daily Wire ten or more times each day. Moreover, these pages post the exact same content from The Daily Wire at the exact same time. 

The undisclosed relationship not only helps explain The Daily Wire’s unlikely success on Facebook but also appears to violate Facebook’s rules.

The network of large Facebook pages promoting The Daily Wire are all run by Corey and Christy Pepple, who are best known as the creators of Mad World News. Facebook pages controlled by the Pepples include Mad World News (2,176,003 followers), The New Resistance (2,857,876 followers), Right Stuff (610,809 followers), America First (577,753 followers), and American Patriot (447,799 followers).

…How did the pages like Mad World News and The New Resistance grow so big? They did it by exploiting racism, religious bigotry, and violence.

Here is how it works. Most of the content on the five pages in this network consists of links to and, two websites owned by the Pepples. These sites identify incendiary stories — that are frequently months or years old — that prey on prejudice and fear. The sites then rewrite the stories with no indication that the story is old. This generates a “new” link that is able to thrive in Facebook’s algorithm.


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How CO2 boosters’ op-ed slipped by Facebook fact-checkers • E&E News

Scott Waldman:


A team of climate scientists working as approved fact checkers for Facebook evaluated a post last year by a White House-connected group that claims the world needs to burn more fossil fuels.

The researchers found that the post by the CO2 Coalition was based on cherry-picked information to mislead readers into thinking climate science models are wrong about global warming. The post, which was published originally in the conservative Washington Examiner, was an opinion piece that had been marked as false, in accordance with Facebook’s standards. The coalition, which is funded by groups that oppose regulations on fossil fuels, was prevented from advertising on the site.

It didn’t last long.

A “conservative” Facebook employee quietly intervened, overturning the fact check, and the misinformation was no longer labeled as false, according to the CO2 Coalition. The post was free to be shared, and a new loophole was created for the coalition and other groups that attack mainstream climate science.

After the quiet decision by Facebook, the coalition says it and other groups that attack consensus climate science can share content that climate scientists have labeled as misleading because Facebook will consider it “opinion” and therefore immune to fact-checking.

The CO2 Coalition is increasingly focused on using Facebook to reach more people with its message that climate change fears are overblown and that burning more fossil fuels would help humanity, Executive Director Caleb Rossiter told E&E News this week. He sees the battle over its climate-related posts as part of a larger proxy war over how to reach an audience outside of conservative media.

“It’s a huge reach. You can reach so many people both with your posts and your advertisements,” Rossiter said. “We’re kind of like Donald Trump. We’re not happy with the treatment we’re getting from the mainstream media, we resort to social media. That’s where our action is in larger part.”


I wonder if the “conservative” Facebook employee was Joel Kaplan, formerly of the GWBush administration. However I’m told by an Authoritative Source that Facebook doesn’t interfere in fact-checking, but that the CO2 Coalition appealed to the fact-checking org, which allowed that “opinion” didn’t qualify for fact-checking. Quite a loophole.
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Military stands firm in defense of western Myanmar’s internet blackout • Eurasia Review


A Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s official military] spokesperson said the leaking of sensitive information about military operations and positions was one of the primary reasons for an internet ban in parts of Arakan State that entered its second year over the weekend.

The secretary of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team, Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, was speaking at a news conference in Nay Pyi Taw on June 23.

“Military information such as which military column is moving from what location to which area is uploaded on social media,” he explained. “And there is some information that makes people in the country and abroad misunderstand the Tatmadaw. So, we have to shut down the internet in the region for security reasons.”

Zaw Min Tun described the internet embargo as also intended to put a stop to the dissemination of extremist rhetoric, hate speech and misleading information, saying the Tatmadaw had no plan as yet to recommend a lifting of the ban to the government.


Essentially, the Tatmadaw is concerned that its aggression against the many minority ethnic groups in Myanmar would be revealed to the world. It’s still a brutal, repressive regime which now understands how to warp the internet to its own use. (Thanks Jim for the link.)
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Google blew a ten-year lead • Second Breakfast

Will Schreiber:


something happened at Google. I’m not sure what. But they stopped innovating on cloud software.

Docs and Sheets haven’t changed in a decade. Google Drive remains impossible to navigate. Sharing is complicated. Sheets freezes up. I can’t easily interact with a Sheets API (I’ve tried!). Docs still shows page breaks by default! WTF!

Even though I have an iPhone and a MacBook, I’ve been married to Google services. I browse Chrome. I use Gmail. I get directions and lookup restaurants on Maps. I’m a YouTube addict.

Yet I’ve been ungluing myself from Google so far this year. Not because of Google-is-reading-my-emails-and-tracking-every-keystroke reasons, but because I like other software so much more that it’s worth switching.

At WWDC, Apple shared Safari stats for macOS Big Sur. It reminded me how much Chrome makes my machine go WHURRRRRR. Yesterday, I made Safari my default browser again.

…I’ve given up on Google Docs. I can never find the documents Andy shares with me. The formatting is tired and stuck in the you-might-print-this-out paradigm. Notion is a much better place to write and brainstorm with people.

The mobile Google results page is so cluttered that I switched my iPhone’s default search to DuckDuckGo. The results are a tad worse, but I’m never doing heavy-duty searches on the go. And now I don’t have to scroll past six ads to get the first result.


That last point is quite a point, though, isn’t it. Mobile advertising is the curse of Google.
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Wirecard collapses into insolvency • Financial Times

Dan McCrum in London, Olaf Storbeck in Frankfurt, Stefania Palma in Singapore and John Reed in Bangkok:


Wirecard filed for insolvency after the once high-flying payments group revealed a multiyear fraud that led to the arrest of its former chief executive.

In a remarkable collapse of a company once regarded as a European tech champion, Wirecard said in a statement on Thursday morning that it faced “impending insolvency and over-indebtedness”.

The first failure of a member of Germany’s prestigious Dax index is expected to inflict big losses on creditors and reputational damage on regulators led by BaFin and Wirecard’s longstanding auditors EY.

EY on Thursday afternoon said there were “clear indications that this was an elaborate and sophisticated fraud, involving multiple parties around the world in different institutions, with a deliberate aim of deception”, adding that “even the most robust and extended audit procedures may not uncover a collusive fraud”.

Wirecard’s admission a week ago that €1.9bn of cash was missing was the catalyst for the company’s unravelling. Founder and former chief executive Markus Braun was arrested on Monday on suspicion of false accounting and market manipulation before being released on bail.


I have two questions: first, what would have happened if there hadn’t been a whistleblower? Second, what use were the auditors, exactly? People keep ripping companies off, and auditing systems keep missing them.
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$100 billion “universal fiber” plan proposed by Democrats in Congress • Ars Technica

Jon Brodkin:


House Democrats yesterday unveiled a $100bn broadband plan that’s gaining quick support from consumer advocates.

“The House has a universal fiber broadband plan we should get behind,” Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Legislative Counsel Ernesto Falcon wrote in a blog post. House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) announced the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, saying it has more than 30 co-sponsors and “invests $100 billion to build high-speed broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities and ensure that the resulting Internet service is affordable.” The bill text is available here.

In addition to federal funding for broadband networks with speeds of at least 100Mbps downstream and upstream, the bill would eliminate state laws that prevent the growth of municipal broadband. There are currently 19 states with such laws.

…The bill also has a Dig Once requirement that says fiber or fiber conduit must be installed “as part of any covered highway construction project” in states that receive federal highway funding. Similar Dig Once mandates have been proposed repeatedly over the years and gotten close to becoming US law, but never quite made it past the finish line.


Infrastructure Week, but they’re saving it for after November. (The Republican-controlled Senate will surely block it, or not even discuss it – as has happened with lots of plans passed up since the Democrats took over the HoR.)
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Twitch reckons with sexual assault as it begins permanently suspending streamers • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:


Harassment and abuse issues have followed Twitch for years. In 2017, Kotaku said it was “incredibly easy” to find examples of harassment on the platform just by browsing around. A Fusion documentary looked at the sexist harassment a woman who is a top Hearthstone player faced on Twitch in 2016. Bloomberg called harassment “something female streamers have to deal with routinely” in a 2015 feature. In 2012, Giant Bomb reported on sexual harassment at a Capcom tournament that was hosted on Twitch. Twitch tightened its policies around harassment in 2018, but it’s not evident to many streamers that it’s had a real impact on enforcement.

The men accused of harassment and misconduct range from streamers with thousands of followers to those with hundreds of thousands of followers or more. Some of the stories involve incidents that happened on Twitch, such as men who were allegedly streaming while messaging underage fans for sexual photos. Others didn’t happen on Twitch directly but involve people in its community. Several people said they met an abuser through Twitch or that misconduct occurred at a Twitch event or an afterparty at a Twitch convention.


Harassment done by young folks (well, men): indistinguishable from previous generations’.
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Facebook executive admits to ‘trust deficit’ on call with advertisers • Financial Times

Hannah Murphy:


A leading Facebook executive has told advertisers the company is suffering from a “trust deficit” as it tries to stop brands joining a boycott over its policies on political content moderation.

The world’s largest social media group joined a conference call with almost 200 advertisers on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the discussion. Senior policy executives then defended Facebook’s decision to allow several controversial posts from US president Donald Trump to remain on its platform.

According to leaked audio of the call obtained by the Financial Times, Neil Potts, Facebook’s head of trust and safety policy, acknowledged that the company suffered from a “trust deficit” but added that it was “here to listen” to its clients’ concerns. The call was convened by the Interactive Advertising Bureau trade body in Canada.

The lobbying by Facebook comes as several high-profile brands — including apparel groups The North Face and Patagonia, and ice-cream maker Ben & Jerry’s — pulled advertising from the platform for July in protest against the company’s approach to content moderation. On Wednesday, Goodby Silverstein, part of Omnicom Group, with clients such as Cisco, BMW and Pepsi, became the first big ad agency to join the boycott. 

Mr Potts had been asked by the IAB on behalf of a member: “Why as advertisers we should risk our brands’ reputation by staying on your platform?” He had also been asked how the group was “reconciling the loss of faith in Facebook as a trustworthy source of information”. 

“There is a trust deficit. You try to make a decision and people disagree and maybe that builds that deficit even deeper,” Mr Potts said.


These are the people who Facebook really listens to. Political advertising is a tiny slice of revenue. Commercial is what really matters.
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Daily Cartoon for Thursday, June 25th • The New Yorker

Lisa Rothstein:


“It’s new. We place them in an endless video conference with everyone they couldn’t stand in life.”


Like something out of The Good Place.
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Steven Chu: long-term energy storage solution has been here all along • Forbes

Jeff McMahon:


The most efficient energy storage technology may be as close as the nearest hill, according to former Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and almost as old.

“It turns out the most efficient energy storage is you take that electricity and you pump water up a hill,” Chu said Tuesday at the Stanford University Global Energy Forum.

When electricity is needed, you let the water flow down, spinning generators along the way. Pumped hydro can meet demand for seasonal storage instead of the four hours typical of lithium-ion batteries.

“There’s been a resurgence and a new look at pumped storage because it is the one thing we do have, and we know it works and lasts a long time,” Chu said, highlighting it first in a review of energy-storage technologies.

Pumped hydro takes advantage of the efficiency of converting electricity to mechanical motion using an electric motor, and converting it back again using generator.

“Round-trip efficiencies can reach as high as 85 percent,” he said. “In terms of energy storage it’s really one of the best.”


But does also involve damming lots of rivers, with the attendant risks. No free rides.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1338: Apple fixes another antitrust problem, Google offers to wipe old data about you, how OSINT beat the GRU, fashion v ML, and more

Excellent social distancing: perhaps that’s why BLM protests didn’t spike Covid-19 cases. CC-licensed photo by quinn norton on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Le8.. elated? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Trump campaign weighs alternatives to big social platforms • WSJ

Emily Glazer and Michael C. Bender:


The Trump campaign, known for its social media savvy, is hitting digital roadblocks.

Facebook’s decision to remove Trump campaign political ads and posts last week, citing its policy against organized hate, surprised campaign officials. It added urgency to internal discussions about devising workaround plans if some of the world’s largest social media companies continue to remove or block content from the campaign and President Trump, people familiar with the matter said.

The campaign is unlikely to pull advertising on Facebook, campaign officials said, since it can reach around 175 million U.S. users. The campaign has spent $19.6m on Facebook ads so far this year. But the rebuke from the social media giant, following restrictions from Twitter and Snap’s Snapchat, has top campaign officials considering alternatives, such as moving to another, lesser known company, building their own platform or doubling down on efforts to move supporters to the campaign’s smartphone app, according to people familiar with the discussions.

But there is disagreement internally over what—if anything—to do next, the people said. No other platforms offer the reach of Facebook or Twitter, and with about five months until Election Day, time is running out. The situation has been described internally as “code red,” a person familiar with the matter said.

Still, while some content by Mr. Trump or the campaign has recently been flagged or taken down, nearly all gets through on social media outlets.

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale and others in the campaign have talked for months about building up audiences on alternative platforms, including social media platform Parler, a person familiar with the conversations said.


The “blocks” are hardly dramatic. Twitter makes people click on an overlay, and prevents the tweet being replied to, Liked or retweeted. (The latter must make quite a difference.) They can quote-tweet it. Facebook has taken down a couple of egregious Trump ads. How many egregious ones does it have lined up, exactly?

As for Parler – that’s hilarious. If Trump wants to vanish from view, that’s a great idea. Ditto for the smartphone app.
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Biden campaign continues to pressure Facebook and Twitter over Trump’s false voter fraud claims – CNNPolitics

Sarah Mucha and Donie O’Sullivan:


Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign is calling on Facebook and Twitter to remove false posts sent this week by President Donald Trump about foreign-backed voter fraud and stoking fears of a ‘rigged election.’

“Our campaign has sent letters to Twitter and Facebook demanding that this disinformation, which seeks to undermine faith in our electoral process, gets taken down immediately,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement.

In the campaign’s letter to Twitter, obtained by CNN, the campaign’s general counsel Dana Remus scolds the company for not taking action and argues the President’s tweets “creates the misimpression that the tens of millions of Americans who will vote by mail may have their votes drowned out by fraud.”

Twitter said Monday it would not take action on the President’s tweets.

CNN has repeatedly debunked Trump’s comments, and his primary allegation – that voting-by-mail leads to “massive fraud” – is completely untrue.


Biden clearly just trying to get a thumb on the scale here; to make enough noise that Facebook and Twitter will start getting an institutional “wait, though, what if” response when weighing up whether to do something about a tweet or an ad. Though I’d imagine the response might actually turn into “let’s just annoy them both”.
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Cities that had Black Lives Matter Protests have not seen spikes in COVID-19 • Buzzfeed News

Peter Aldhous:


More than three weeks after hundreds of thousands of Americans started taking to the streets to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, anticipated surges in COVID-19 cases have not shown up in the cities with the biggest protests.

Some commentators are already speculating that the lack of protest-related spikes in coronavirus cases means that social distancing rules are not so important if people are outside and wear masks — as many protesters did. Slate went so far as to suggest that “a much wider range of outdoor activities — sports events, beaches, swimming pools, playgrounds, and so forth — could be safely permitted much sooner than currently scheduled.”

But some experts say that leaping to this conclusion could be a serious mistake. “I do think it’s good news that we haven’t seen enormous outbreaks at this time,” Kate Grabowski, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University, told BuzzFeed News. “But everything that we’ve learned from the epidemiology of this virus tells us that people who are in close proximity with people who are infected are at risk.”

What’s more, a new analysis based on cellphone tracking data suggests a surprising reason for the lack of protest-related spikes in COVID-19: in the cities with large protests, the wider population actually spent more time at home during the demonstrations — suggesting that any surge caused by virus transmission at the protests themselves would have been countered by an increase in social distancing among the rest of the cities’ populations.

New cases per day for selected counties with protests

Peter Aldhous / BuzzFeed News / Via New York Times / USAFacts
Numbers plotted for any day reflect the average for the preceding seven days. Protests began on May 26 in Minneapolis and spread to other cities over the next few days.


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As fashion resets, its algorithms should too • Vogue Business

Maghan McDowell:


In 2018, futurist and academic Karinna Nobbs worked with a major cosmetics brand on an augmented reality try-on tool. During user testing, Nobbs noticed that some of the technology worked more effectively on white and Asian faces. For darker skin tones and older users, it was not able to track and place the content on the face, and lipstick would “wobble” on lips.

The brand solved the problem by training the algorithm to recognise more types of people, which also enabled the tool to better calibrate colour cosmetics. This experience demonstrated the importance of inclusivity to build an effective product, Nobbs says. It also shows that artificial intelligence and algorithms can be flawed.

Just like the humans that design it, AI can have bias. In fashion and beauty, this might manifest as online searches showing only certain types of models, or an image-matching engine mistaking legs for dark jeans. It might mean missing out on an entire customer segment or reinforcing harmful stereotypes. So as brands undergo a reckoning to be more inclusive and diverse, their data and algorithms are due for a closer look as well.

“Brands have come under fire for using creative that is offensive and discriminatory. If your AI has seen that in the data set and thinks it’s acceptable, it will most likely reproduce some of that offensive design,” says Ashwini Asokan, CEO of retail automation platform, which works with Thredup and Zilingo. “This is why there is no ‘one size fits all’ in AI. AI must adapt to your business, your goals, your aspirations as a company.”


Plenty more examples, too – often those ML systems are trained from clothes catalogues, and guess what? Those catalogues aren’t representative either. If those then feed into apps that “recommend” clothes, you can see that the problem can quickly become systemic.
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‘A chain of stupidity’: the Skripal case and the decline of Russia’s spy agencies • The Guardian

Luke Harding on Bellingcat, which used (mostly) open source intelligence to unmask the GRU’s poisoners:


Bellingcat revealed the identity of poisoner No 1 in a message on its website. Having unmasked one assassin, it seemed likely that Bellingcat would succeed in identifying Petrov, too. Sure enough, in late September I received an invitation to a press conference. It was to be held in an illustrious location: the Houses of Parliament, in an upstairs committee room, number nine. Its subject was Petrov’s real identity.

By the time I arrived, the room was full. I spotted a reporter from the New York Times, Ellen Barry, together with leading representatives from the British and US media. It was hard to escape the conclusion that power in journalism was shifting. It was moving away from established print titles and towards open-source innovators. The new hero of journalism was no longer a grizzled investigator burning shoe leather, à la All the President’s Men, but a pasty-looking kid in front of a MacBook Air.

Higgins and Grozev were there, as well as a Conservative MP, Bob Seely. I found a spot on a bench and sat down. The mood was expectant. Seely set the scene. He described Bellingcat as a “truly remarkable group of digital detectives”. Their success was due to an explosion of digital technology and a rise in digital activism, he said.

Grozev explained how Bellingcat had identified that Petrov’s real name was Alexander Mishkin. The search involved methods new and old. It found Mishkin in a car insurance database, as the owner of a Volvo XC90. The car was registered to the GRU’s Moscow headquarters at Khoroshevskoye Shosse. Next, they used Russian social media to get in touch with Mishkin’s student contemporaries. Did any of them remember him from their St Petersburg days?

Most didn’t answer. But two did. One said Mishkin had been in a different class – and that Russia’s security services had been in touch two weeks previously and instructed graduates not to divulge any information about Mishkin under any circumstances.


Britain’s love of CCTV effectively burnt the two GRU heavies, who then had to give media interviews. Remember, you’ve never ever seen James Bond give a media interview in a Bond film, for good reasons.

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Apple Silicon Mac mini dev kit looks like a desktop iPad Pro • Appleinsider

Daniel Eran Dilger:


Apple also detailed that its developer transition kit provides USB 3 connectivity over USB-C, as well a legacy USB-A ports and HDMI. This looks a bit like a Mac mini, but its really iPad Pro connectivity. New Mac minis support Thunderbolt 3, which can drive up to four 4K DisplayPort screens and support devices such as RAID storage and eGPU expansion. Thunderbolt 3 is an Intel specification that effectively works like a PCIe slot in the form of a cable. Supporting Thunderbolt 3 connectivity requires an Intel controller chip.

Most iOS devices only support USB 2, as well as support for a single 1080p HDMI video output, USB storage, and networking, all though Apple’s proprietary Lightning port using a dongle or a special cable. The newest iPad Pro models sport a USB C port which can handle the faster USB 3 specification and up to 4K video output using a USB-C DisplayPort monitor— as long as the display doesn’t also require Thunderbolt 3.

This makes it pretty clear that the developer transition kit isn’t a Mac mini outfitted with an Apple Silicon SoC, but rather an iPad Pro logic board hooked up to multiple USB ports, Ethernet, and HDMI for convenience. It sports the same Bluetooth 5.0 and 802.11ac WiFi, and can attach to an SSD for storage using USB-C.


Makes sense. Going to be really fascinating to see all the benchmarks in a few weeks when the kits arrive with developers. Apple has said that people aren’t allowed to run benchmarks on it or discuss it on social media. Let’s try to imagine how many seconds that’s going to survive.
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Keeping your private information private • Google blog

Sundar Pichai:


We believe that products should keep your information for only as long as it’s useful and helpful to you—whether that’s being able to find your favorite destinations in Maps or getting recommendations for what to watch on YouTube. 

That’s why last year we introduced auto-delete controls, which give you the choice to have Google automatically and continuously delete your Location History, search, voice and YouTube activity data after 3 months or 18 months. We continue to challenge ourselves to do more with less, and today we’re changing our data retention practices to make auto-delete the default for our core activity settings. 

Here’s how it works: Starting today, the first time you turn on Location History—which is off by default—your auto-delete option will be set to 18 months by default. Web & App Activity auto-delete will also default to 18 months for new accounts. This means your activity data will be automatically and continuously deleted after 18 months, rather than kept until you choose to delete it. You can always turn these settings off or change your auto-delete option. 


I’m going to be cynical and say that the half-life of usefulness for that data that they collect is a lot less than 18 months, so that this is a sort of “strategy credit” (or “strategy neutral”): it has no impact on their business, but makes it sound like they’re being nice to you. On YouTube, however, the default-delete period is 36 months, which shows you that it digs a lot deeper there.
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Tech firms face a stark choice between China and the United States in new cold war • Foreign Policy

Jacob Helberg used to work as a policy advisor at Google:


Chinese Christians who joined a Sunday worship service via Zoom were later arrested by the CCP. How long will Zoom’s American employees be content to cite compliance with “local laws” as their platforms are used to not only suppress free speech but also to enable the oppression of dissidents and minorities?

At Google, the answer was “not long.” Many of the company’s own employees turned against Project Dragonfly in an open letter to management.

Other firms could soon face similar quandaries. Amazon and Microsoft each operate cloud storage services in China. What would happen if the CCP pressured Microsoft to turn over information on a Chinese dissident if it wanted to keep operating in China? Ever since 2004, when Yahoo divulged to the Chinese government the email account of a newspaper editor named Shi Tao—who was subsequently sentenced to a decade of forced labor—this dilemma has haunted Silicon Valley. And what would happen if the CCP requested information on a user outside of China under the same conditions?

Finally, the most harmful weakness of “one company, two systems” is also the most overlooked: geopolitics.

Zoom’s recent takedowns are likely to intensify a broader reckoning within the technology industry, which is being caused not by market pressures but by strategic pressures. The coronavirus pandemic has amplified and accelerated the thrum of a new cold war between an autocratic China and a democratic United States.


Helberg reckons that tech companies will have to choose: China or the US?
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The App Store is a monopoly: here’s why the EU is correct to investigate Apple • ProtonMail

Andy Yen:


Apple’s iOS controls 25% of the global smartphone market (the other 75%, is largely controlled by Google’s Android). This means that for over a billion people (particularly in the US where their market share approaches 50%), the only way to install apps is through the App Store. This gives Apple enormous influence over the way software is created and consumed around the world.

Perhaps the most harmful expression of this power is Apple’s exorbitant 30% tax on developers, which is now the subject of antitrust investigations in both the United States and the European Union. To be clear, this is an enormous fee and would be intolerable in normal market conditions, but it’s particularly damaging if you offer a product that competes with Apple. It is hard to stay competitive if you are forced to pay your competitor 30% of all of your earnings…

…In January 2020, ProtonVPN submitted an update of its iOS app description in the App Store. The new description highlighted ProtonVPN’s features, including the ability to “unblock censored websites” with the app.

Even though ProtonVPN had been in the App Store since 2018 and the basic functionality of our VPN has not changed, Apple abruptly rejected the new app version and threatened to remove ProtonVPN entirely. They demanded that we remove this language around anti-censorship on the grounds that freedom of speech is severely limited in some countries.


It would be great if Yen didn’t overstate his case so badly. Apple has about 15% of the global market, and that’s pretty consistent down the years. The 30% charge is about the same as you see in bookshops – though most retailers add a 40% markup from wholesale. Plus the person who’s getting affected there is the customer. The app developer is free to set their own price to make up for the 30%; just pick a space where you’re not competed into the ground.

On the censorship point, that’s tricky. Apple knows that. The options are: make it possible for people to buy a device that’s really secure while they live in countries with onerous censorship, or stay out of those countries. Apple gets the sales, and dissidents get security. Difficult balance, but there’s more than one interpretation.
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Apple’s new ARM-based Macs won’t support Windows through Boot Camp • The Verge

Tom Warren:


Apple will start switching its Macs to its own ARM-based processors later this year, but you won’t be able to run Windows in Boot Camp mode on them. Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to PC makers to preinstall on new hardware, and the company hasn’t made copies of the operating system available for anyone to license or freely install.

“Microsoft only licenses Windows 10 on ARM to OEMs,” says a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. We asked Microsoft if it plans to change this policy to allow Boot Camp on ARM-based Macs, and the company says “we have nothing further to share at this time.”

Apple has been working closely with Microsoft to ensure Office is ready for ARM-based Macs later this year, but the company didn’t mention its lack of Boot Camp support at WWDC. It’s possible that both companies are still working toward some sort of support, but that would require Microsoft to open up its Windows 10 on ARM licensing more broadly.

Other methods to run Windows on ARM-based Macs could include virtualization using apps like VMWare or Parallels, but these won’t be supported by Apple’s Rosetta 2 translation technology. Virtual machine apps will need to be fully rebuilt for ARM-based Macs, and it’s not immediately clear if that’s even a workable solution for Windows on ARM or whether VMWare, Parallels, and others will commit to building these apps with Windows support.


Raises the question of why Microsoft only licences Windows on ARM to OEMs. Although as Warren points out, the number of Boot Camp users is pretty small. They’ll probably rush to buy Intel machines right up to the last minute, which will see them through the next four or five years, by which time there should be more clarity.

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Microsoft president swipes at rivals like Apple in urging scrutiny of app stores • POLITICO

Steven Overly:


Microsoft President Brad Smith called Thursday for greater antitrust scrutiny of the app stores run by rivals like Apple and Google, suggesting they have made it too difficult for small developers to build applications for their smartphones and other devices without agreeing to onerous rules.

“I do believe the time has come, whether we’re talking about Washington, D.C., or Brussels, for a much more focused conversation about the nature of app stores, the rules that are being put in place, the prices and the tolls that are being extracted and whether there is really a justification in antitrust law for everything that has been created,” Smith said during a POLITICO Live interview.

While he did not explicitly mention Apple and Google, the two companies whose operating systems run on almost all smartphones, Smith expressly criticized several practices true of their platforms.

Apple and Google both take a sizable cut of app sales and subscriptions through their platforms, and Apple in particular offers few ways to reach customers without going through its app store. Those practices have long been decried by certain app developers and they have now begun attracting the attention of antitrust officials on both sides of the Atlantic.


A dish served very cold for Smith, given that some of Apple’s top people testified against Microsoft 20-odd years ago in the antitrust case. (Specifically, Avie Tevanian over Quicktime.)
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Third-party accessories can now be integrated into the Find My app with iOS 14 • 9to5Mac

Filipe Espósito:


Apple has announced iOS 14 with several new features, including redesigned home screen, built-in translation, and more. And now, the company has just confirmed during the “Platforms State of the Union” keynote that third-party accessories can now be integrated into the Find My app with iOS 14.

Apple calls this feature the “Find My network.” Here’s how the company describes it:


Introducing a new program that will let customers locate your products using the power of the vast Find My network. With hundreds of millions of Apple devices around the world, advanced end-to-end encryption, and industry-leading security, users can locate their items within the Find My app with the peace of mind that their privacy is protected.


In other words, this basically means that any tracking accessory maker can sign up to use Apple’s technology, allowing those accessories to be monitored by the Find My app. Third-party accessories can benefit from Apple’s Find My infrastructure, including the ability to find them offline.

Although the company hasn’t provided further details, this has probably been changed due to Tile’s accusations of Apple’s anti-competitive practices ahead of the alleged Apple’s AirTags launch later this year.


So that’s another antitrust issue knocked away (though I expect Tile will complain about the details – there will be all sorts of privacy demands). I make that three antitrust issues down, and counting.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1337: female gamers rise up, Apple tweaks the App Store, Americans’ strong backing for climate action, a live LED Tube map!, and more

Guess how much of the food people pick up at a buffet comes from the first three items – whatever they are. CC-licensed photo by Second Judicial Circuit Guardian ad Litem Program on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 12 links for you. Yes, we are, briefly, elite hax0rs. (Thanks Walt for the pointer.) I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Dozens of women in gaming speak out about sexism and harassment • The New York Times

Taylor Lorenz and Kellen Browning:


More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.

The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.

Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.

Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage.

The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)


Plenty on this to come, one suspects.
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Two-thirds of Americans think government should do more on climate • Pew Research Center

Alec Tyson and Brian Kennedy on the latest polling from Pew:


At a time when partisanship colors most views of policy, broad majorities of the public – including more than half of Republicans and overwhelming shares of Democrats – say they would favor a range of initiatives to reduce the impacts of climate change, including large-scale tree planting efforts, tax credits for businesses that capture carbon emissions and tougher fuel efficiency standards for vehicles, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Public concern over climate change has been growing in recent years, particularly among Democrats, and there are no signs that the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened concern levels. A recent Center analysis finds 60% view climate change as a major threat to the well-being of the United States, as high a share taking this view as in any Pew Research Center survey going back to 2009.

The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults using the Center’s online American Trends Panel, finds a majority of U.S. adults want the government to play a larger role in addressing climate change.


Notice how even a majority of Republicans are in favour of tougher fuel efficiency – the complete opposite of what the Republican administration is doing. Wonder if this will be fodder for adverts in the presidential campaign.

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Check out this London tube map made from a working circuit board • ianVisits

Ian Mansfield:


A clever fusion of modern computer API data to provide the tube movements and traditional circuit board design come together in the TrainTrackr.

The board shows all twelve of the main underground lines: Bakerloo, Central, Circle, District, DLR, Hammersmith & City, Jubilee, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly, Victoria, Waterloo & City, and has 333 station points lit with LEDs.

The circuit board tube map requires a Wi-Fi connection and then pulls down live tube data from TfL’s open data API to make it come alive.

Two versions are available.

A smaller 20cm x 15cm model with all white lights. Or the larger 40cm x 30cm version which used coloured lights for each line – except the Northern, which sticks with white lamps.

You can buy the TrainTrackr from here.


Not cheap, but wonderful. The logical progression of Matthew Somerville’s 2010 hack to produce the Live London Underground map.
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Apple is changing parts of its app review process after the Hey controversy • Ars Technica

Samuel Axon:


the Cupertino company says it will no longer hold up bug fixes over guideline violations except where legal concerns are at play. Apple also says that it will offer new channels for developers to challenge its judgments.

Apple came under fire after it rejected a bug-fix update to email app Hey, which is made by Basecamp. Apple told the app’s developers that the app would have to incorporate Apple’s own system for in-app purchases or risk being delisted. Apple also claimed it should have rejected the app to begin with but that it only noticed the issue when reviewing the bug-fix submission.

The CTO of Basecamp took to Twitter with an impassioned thread accusing Apple of criminal behavior for insisting on a cut of the app’s revenues. The tweet thread sparked a great deal of discussion, not only about Apple’s take of app revenues, but also about the company’s failure to be transparent and consistent about App Store guidelines.

Here are Apple’s words on the developer website today:


Additionally, two changes are coming to the app review process and will be implemented this summer. First, developers will not only be able to appeal decisions about whether an app violates a given guideline of the App Store Review Guidelines, but will also have a mechanism to challenge the guideline itself. Second, for apps that are already on the App Store, bug fixes will no longer be delayed over guideline violations except for those related to legal issues. Developers will instead be able to address the issue in their next submission.



Well isn’t that interesting. Apple’s clearly trying to avoid the worst of an antitrust case, though I don’t think this will quite get it out from under what we shall henceforth call Vestager’s Hammer.
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HomePod to add support for third-party streaming music services like Spotify • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:


The status quo with current software is that the HomePod will answer all Siri music requests by initiating Apple Music. Third-party services like Spotify can [presently] only be played on the HomePod by way of AirPlaying a stream from another device.

…It’s currently unclear if other audio apps like podcast clients will be able to participate.

Later this year, Apple is expected to grow the HomePod family with a HomePod mini. Supporting services other than Apple Music helps expand the HomePod’s appeal. It also helps address some of the anticompetitive allegations the company is receiving, with Spotify filing a formal complaint to the EU last year that Apple explicitly disadvantaged competing music services to promote Apple Music adoption.


That’s two antitrust issues that Apple has addressed by way of tiny mentions on slides rather than mentioning them in its speeches: default apps and also the HomePod, which Spotify grumbled about.
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Apple rejects Facebook’s gaming app, for at least the fifth time • The New York Times

Seth Schiesel:


Since February, Apple has rejected at least five versions of Facebook Gaming, according to three people with knowledge of the companies, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential. Each time, the people said, Apple cited its rules that prohibit apps with the “main purpose” of distributing casual games.

Facebook Gaming may also have been hurt by appearing to compete with Apple’s own sales of games, two of the people said. Games are by far the most lucrative category of mobile apps worldwide. Apple’s App Store, the only officially approved place for iPhone and iPad users to find new games and other programs, generated about $15bn in revenue last year.

Apple’s rejections of the app from Facebook, a fellow Silicon Valley powerhouse, illustrate the control it exerts over the mobile software and entertainment ecosystem — clout that regulators are increasingly examining. On Tuesday, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, said it had opened a formal antitrust investigation into Apple to determine if the terms that the company imposes on app developers violate competition rules.

“We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers,” said Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission executive vice president in charge of competition policy.


The problem with Facebook’s app is that it would contain self-contained programs that run inside a self-contained program, which Apple treats as a potential malware threat, and also routing around its payment systems.
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What’s at the front of the line? • Seth’s Blog

Seth Godin:


A study of behaviour at breakfast buffets showed that the first item in the buffet was taken by 75% of the diners (even when the order of the items was reversed) and that two-thirds of all the food taken came from the first three items, regardless of how long the buffet is.

This means that optimizing marketers usually put the things they most want to sell first.

And that smart consumers benefit from adopting patience as they consider what’s on offer.

Of course, this game theory applies to a lot more than food.


Meaning you can tweak peoples’ diets so that they will eat more healthily – put the fruits and so on at the front of the breakfast buffet. From the days when people all used to line up for the same food.
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Can the cult of Bang & Olufsen last? • WIRED

Rob Walker:


B&O got out of mobile phones and MP3 devices entirely, and those cutbacks have helped it survive the global financial crisis. But the company is still struggling to adjust to the contemporary universe of products, software, and services. “This is about carving out our niche — our reason to be, really — in a market that has completely changed,” Mantoni says.

It’s open to debate whether the image projected by B&O’s products is even desirable nowadays. “There’s an ‘impress the neighbors’ quality” to this gear, says Lucian James, founder of brand consultancy Agenda, which specializes in the luxury market. “And that’s an embarrassing concept to a lot of people these days.” Louise Rosen, a 40-year-old brand consultant in Paris, illustrates the problem from the consumer’s point of view. Her Danish mother, she says, is of a generation that aspired to own the company’s wares: “Every electronic device in her house is Bang & Olufsen.” But Rosen has never bought B&O, finding its aesthetic off-putting. “For me,” she says, “it’s nonsense.”

Good taste is no minor matter in Denmark. “We are very aware that Danish design is something the world knows us for,” says Jeppe Trolle Linnet, a social anthropologist and consumer-culture expert in Copenhagen. For proof, go to the city’s Stroget shopping thoroughfare and step into Illums Bolighus, a stunning emporium with four floors of home-design products. You’ll see long-celebrated Danish creations like the refined housewares of Georg Jensen and the legendary PH lamps of Poul Henningsen, with their nested shades that tame glare by emitting reflected light; they were devised around the time B&O was founded and are still sold today. You’ll also see newer arrivals on the Scandinavian design scene: Normann Copenhagen’s amusing round-bottomed tumblers, Muuto’s clever tea-light holders that feature a slot to accommodate a match. These engaging wares make a collective statement about “thingness,” a palpable feeling that every object, no matter how trivial its function, ought to be treated seriously and built to last.


The article is a fascinating insight into the company’s slightly mad thinking, though it doesn’t answer the question posed in the headline. Looking at its financials, with three successive quarters in the red and revenues slightly down, you might not feel confident.
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Unsubscribe: the $0-budget movie that ‘topped the US box office’ • BBC News

Joshua Nevett:


In normal times, blockbuster movies usually dominate the box office charts.

The big-budget productions, directed by the likes of James Cameron, Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott, regularly draw the biggest crowds at cinemas across the US and beyond.

But on 10 June, one box office-topping movie was watched by just two people, in one cinema.
Unsubscribe, a 29-minute horror movie shot entirely on video-conferencing app Zoom, generated $25,488 (£20,510) in ticket sales on that day.

Nationwide, the movie hit the top of the charts, according to reputable revenue tacker Box Office Mojo.

The budget of the movie: a flat $0. How was that possible?


This is wonderful. (Like the B+O article, this is also stolen shamelessly from Benedict Evans’s newsletter.)
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Chinese study: antibodies in COVID-19 patients fade quickly • CIDRAP

Robert Roos:


A new study from China showed that antibodies faded quickly in both asymptomatic and symptomatic COVID-19 patients during convalescence, raising questions about whether the illness leads to any lasting immunity to the virus afterward.

The study, which focused on 37 asymptomatic and 37 symptomatic patients, showed that more than 90% of both groups showed steep declines in levels of SARS-COV-2–specific immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies within 2 to 3 months after onset of infection, according to a report published yesterday in Nature Medicine. Further, 40% of the asymptomatic group tested negative for IgG antibodies 8 weeks after they were released from isolation.

The authors said the findings suggest that it could be risky to assume that recovered patients are immune to reinfection, which may have implications for how long to maintain physical distancing restrictions.

The patients included in the study were among 2,088 people who were tested for COVID-19 because they were close contacts of confirmed patients in China’s Wanzhou district. Of those who tested positive, 60 had had no symptoms in the preceding 2 weeks but were hospitalized for isolation. Of those, 23 people who had mild symptoms on admission or soon afterward were excluded from the study, leaving 37.

…Among the main findings was that IgG levels in 93% (28/30) of the asymptomatic group and 97% (30/31) of the symptomatic group declined greatly during the early convalescent phase (by 8 weeks after release from the hospital). Antibody levels dropped by 71.1% in asymptomatic patients and 76.2% in the symptomatic group.


Speaking as someone who have Covid-19 (symptomatically) three months ago, this is bloody annoying.
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Novak Djokovic is latest tennis player to test positive for virus after protocol-flouting tour • The Washington Post

Liz Clarke:


Djokovic, 33, announced his positive result in a statement Tuesday morning, explaining that his family was tested upon returning to Belgrade after the tour stop in Croatia.

“My result is positive, just as Jelena’s, while the results of our children are negative,” Djokovic wrote, adding that he intends to self-isolate for 14 days.

Originally scheduled over four weeks in three Balkan countries, the Adria Tour kicked off with a news conference in Belgrade that included Djokovic, third-ranked Dominic Thiem, seventh-ranked Alexander Zverev and 19th-ranked Dimitrov seated side by side, without protective face masks, while fielding questions from several rows of reporters who also were not wearing masks.

On the court, there was no apparent effort to keep players from shaking hands or draping arms around one another following matches. And off the court, they danced and partied shirtless at a Belgrade nightclub.


Djokovic lost in the exhibition match, possibly because he was already ill. If he sickens to any significant extent, his career is effectively over: this is not a forgiving disease, and it’ll affect his stamina. Especially if in a few months he gets reinfected. Djokovic is an anti-vaxxer, by the way. (Wonder if he’ll stay that way if a vaccine becomes available?) Viruses, of course, don’t care about beliefs.
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Superhuman’s email app is overhyped and overpriced – The Verge

Chaim Gartenberg:


Superhuman is one of the most in-demand startups right now, with the invite-only app considered one of the most exclusive services in the tech industry. That’s impressive, for an email app. It’s even more impressive for an email app that merely accesses your existing Gmail account and costs $30 per month to use. The buzz — both from the company’s marketing and around Silicon Valley — is off the charts. Superhuman bills itself as “not another email client,” promising an inbox that’s been “rebuilt from the ground up” that will make you “feel like you have superpowers.” The website is peppered with accolades from startup CEOs praising how it has changed their relationship with email.

But does it live up to the hype? I spent a month using the service to find out.

Just getting into Superhuman, which launched way back in 2016, is a task all on its own. First, you’ll either need to submit a request for access or be invited by someone who’s already using the app. In most cases, that’ll put you on a waiting list — which, as of last June, was reportedly 180,000 members long — which may or may not result in the company contacting you to move on with your application.

Assuming that you are accepted, you’ll be asked to fill out a lengthy workflow questionnaire so Superhuman can learn more about how you use email — and whether your workflow is the right fit for its app.


We last heard about Superhuman back in July last year, when it was getting ragged for failing to protect users’ privacy. Still ridiculous, but it’s obviously just a Veblen good (or service), much as Vertu phones used to be. Oh, Vertu? Went bust because people realised they were after all fungible for cheaper things.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1336: Apple ARMs for the future, Hey makes hay, iOS14 lets defaults go, more on TikTok v Trump, Wirecard unravels, and more

It’s a mink, and you can give it Covid-19, and it can return the favour. CC-licensed photo by Conrad Kuiper on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 10 links for you. Still not elite. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Farewell Intel: Apple’s Mac processor switch explained • Digital Trends

Alex Blake:


Will Apple Silicon chips be as powerful as Intel processors?
This is a difficult question to answer, largely because few consumer companies have brought out ARM-enabled computers. One exception is Microsoft, which released the Surface Pro X with an ARM chip, claiming it offered three times the performance-per-watt of the Intel-based Surface Pro 6. The processors in Apple’s iPhones and iPads are ARM-based, too, and surge ahead of the competition. While this is not a direct comparison to Mac processors, it is encouraging nonetheless.

Added to that is reporting from Bloomberg, which claims Apple’s internal testing has shown its upcoming Apple Silicon chips outperforming Intel equivalents, especially in graphics and artificial intelligence, all while consuming less power. That was affirmed by Apple at WWDC, where it revealed its new chips aim to combine top-level performance with minimal power consumption levels. Indeed, that is exactly what Apple claimed was the motivation behind the switch.

As this is still a relatively unknown area, however, we will have to reserve judgment until we can review an Apple Silicon-based Mac. Apple did demo some of these chips’ performance in a Mac running on an A12Z Bionic processor, the same one used in the recent iPad Pro. In Final Cut Pro, the Mac was able to play back 4K video clips with live effects applied, as well as three streams of 4K ProRes footage.

Will my apps be compatible?
In a word, yes. Microsoft had to warn customers that some of their apps may not be compatible with the Surface Pro X. Apple seems confident it will not suffer the same fate, however. It says it already has many apps — such as Microsoft Office apps and pro-level apps from Adobe — ready to go from day one, as well as its own in-house apps, from Notes to Final Cut Pro.

There are a number of tools Apple is using to convince developers to make transition native apps over to Apple Silicon. Apple says a new version of Xcode will allow developers to bring Intel applications over in just a few days, using a new application binary called Universal 2 that works for both Intel and Apple systems.


Apple’s using a clever method of pre-translation (when the app is downloaded) and on-the-fly translation (when the app is run) to make the old apps run. Its experience from its previous two (!) processor transitions and separate OS transition has taught it how to get big developers on board. First hardware arriving before the end of the year. If it’s a Pro laptop, that will give developers an incentive to do the transition work there.

And the developer hardware is indeed a Mac mini, $500 (£480 in the UK) for a short-term rental.
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Apple approves Hey email app, but the fight’s not over • The Verge

Nilay Patel:


Basecamp isn’t done with the fight. The company has submitted a new version of Hey that meets the strict letter of Apple’s rules but clearly defies their spirit: the company will now offer iOS users a free temporary Hey email account with a randomized address, just so the app is functional when it is first opened. These burner accounts will expire after 14 days. Hey is also now able to work with enterprise customers, as Apple initially took issue with the app’s consumer focus.

Hey has not adopted Apple’s own in-app payment system or allowed users to sign up for its full, paid service through the iOS app. Instead, users will still need to subscribe by going directly to Hey’s website.

It remains to be seen whether these changes will thread the needle to Apple’s satisfaction, but Basecamp is clearly betting that Apple will have to allow future versions of the app now that it does something on launch. “We’re going to take Phil [Schiller] on his word here,” Basecamp CTO David Heinemeier Hansson tells me. “The chief complaint was that ‘you download the app and it doesn’t work,’ even though lots of apps work like that.”

“We’ve seen David’s tweets and look forward to working with you on a path forward,” Apple’s App Review Board wrote to Basecamp last week. “This update has been approved.”


Limited-time accounts… that’s clever. It would at least give you the opportunity to try it.

Patel’s summary of the story so far takes 12 points, covering quite a lot of ground. Still, a truce for now.

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iOS 14 will let you change your default email and web browser apps • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:


As part of iOS 14’s new features, users will be able to switch their default app preferences for the first time. Details are scarce currently, but one of the slides in the WWDC presentation featured a block that announced users will be able to change their default browser and default email app. This is a long-requested feature, as iOS 13 and prior versions of the operating system will always direct taps on links to Safari, and new emails start in Apple Mail.

The default app options arrive as Apple faces increased scrutiny from antitrust bodies about having monopolistic control over the App Store.


This wasn’t even announced, as such; it’s a little block in one of those “and lots of other things” slides. Clever, though: at the pace that antitrust investigations move, this will have been in place for ages by the time any decision is due.

We await news on the App Store, of course.
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What’s Facebook’s deal with Donald Trump? • The New York Times

Ben Smith:


Facebook has always had a keener ear to the right side of Washington than much of Silicon Valley, directed in part by Joel Kaplan, a Zuckerberg friend and former Bush administration official who is Facebook’s vice president of global public policy. But it began focusing intently on winning over the conservative media in the spring of 2016, when Gizmodo alleged that the content moderation on the short-lived Trending Topics product on Facebook “suppressed conservative news.” A right-wing apparatus that had spent decades claiming bias in the media turned its sights on the tech giant. And Mr. Zuckerberg gave them the response they’d always hoped for — he shut down the product, welcomed his critics to meetings and signaled that he shared their concerns.

The next year, Mr. Trump continued to push the norms of truth and civility, and the social media platforms began reckoning with their broader misinformation and harassment problem. That set him on an inevitable — and to his supporters, welcome — collision course with the new gatekeepers. Mr. Trump’s dependence on Facebook as an advertising vehicle — he spent $44m on the platform in 2016, and is expected to far exceed that this year — means that he needs the company as much as it needs him. And, as Mike Isaac, Sheera Frenkel, and Cecilia Kang reported in May, Mr. Zuckerberg increasingly embodies his company.


But in the scale of things, $44m isn’t a lot of money for Facebook, which takes billions every quarter. He could refuse political advertising altogether; Facebook would hardly notice the difference in revenue. I wonder if after November things will change on this. Zuckerberg says he thinks politicians should be allowed to advertise because that levels the field. But it doesn’t, and never has. It’s toxic because of the microtargeting that Facebook enables.

And the irony is that his head of PR is Nick Clegg, who was undone in 2015 by microtargeted adverts in the southwest of England run by the Conservative Party against the Lib Dems, which Clegg had led in coalition for the previous five years with the Conservatives. Facebook’s PR guy who stands up for its political advertising lost his last job because he was screwed over by Facebook’s political advertising.
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Did TikTokers and K-pop fans foil Trump’s Tulsa rally? It’s complicated • The Washington Post

Travis Andrews:


Writer Parker Malloy also put the blame on the campaign. “You’re giving way too much credit to people on social media and not nearly enough blame on Trump’s failure of a campaign for this one,” she tweeted. “The actual story is that the campaign used to be able to count on massive crowds to show up wherever he went, and figured that this first rally back would be a huge hit. I sincerely doubt they were making decisions based on RSVPs.”

Daniel Radosh, a senior writer for “The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,” tweeted that “the campaign promoted signing up as a signifier of support, which probably got a lot of Trump supporters to request tickets who never really had the commitment to follow through. The same way people RSVP for Facebook events as a Like.”

It’s impossible to know — and irresponsible to speculate — exactly how much influence the TikTok and K-pop fan campaigns had on the actual attendance of the event without seeing every single request receipt. But a few factors suggest that the prank may have at least partly inflated the predicted numbers.

Entry was not ticket-based, but first-come, first-serve, so there were infinite “tickets” available. “They emailed their entire campaign list the Tulsa invite, which also helps explain why a million people signed up. People click buttons,” former Obama administration official Tim Fullerton told The Washington Post. “As someone who has done this before, it’s something that happens.”

Instead, Fullerton said, the online movement probably “made it seem like there were more people interested than they thought, which probably means [the Trump campaign] did less to drive people to the event.”

The idea of organizing online to overwhelm a system with requests or reviews is nothing new. Fans or detractors have long grouped up to flood IMDb with reviews of movies that haven’t yet been released as a means of supporting or diminishing them. K-pop fans recently clogged racist hashtags with funny GIFs, rendering them useless. And, indeed, Trump’s critics have often inundated social media with images of empty seats at his rallies.


Also worth reading: the NYT reporting Trump’s anger at the many, many, many, many empty seats.
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Wirecard’s end, beginning in China? •


roughly $2bn is unaccounted for in a story that continues to unfold with the German payments processing company at the center. 

Just where the money went, if it was ever there in the first place, remains a mystery. Auditors have refused to sign off on Wirecard’s results. The stock price as of this writing on Monday (June 22) was down roughly 40 percent, and has plunged roughly 90% year to date. 

As Bloomberg reported Monday, at least one lender is mulling writing off roughly $90 million lent to Wirecard, and would not extend the line. The lender, the Bank of China, is one of more than a dozen commercial banks that all told have lent $2bn through a facility to Wirecard. That may pose a mortal danger for Wirecard. After all, extending the terms of the $2bn facility would require unanimous consent from the banks — and that united front, clearly, seems to be fraying. And if one bank refuses to go along, the borrower typically has to repay the loan in its entirety.  

Bloomberg noted that there has not been a final decision by the Chinese bank, and reports state that  most of the banks are eyeing extending the lending agreement. 

The “will they or won’t they” nature of the story spotlights the fact that much is up in the air. Because Wirecard did not release its audited annual results (for 2019) last week, the loans could be called in.


The FT has been following this for 18 months, ever since a whistleblower told it that there was accounting fraud around third-party businesses in Singapore and Dubai. Wirecard said there was nothing to see, move along.
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Microsoft is shutting down Mixer and partnering with Facebook Gaming • The Verge

Tom Warren:


Microsoft is closing its Mixer service on July 22nd and plans to move existing partners over to Facebook Gaming. The surprise announcement means Mixer partners and streamers will be transitioned to Facebook Gaming starting today, and Microsoft will no longer operate Mixer as a service in a month’s time.

Microsoft has struggled to reach the scale needed for Mixer to compete with Twitch, YouTube, and even Facebook Gaming which has led to today’s decision. “We started pretty far behind, in terms of where Mixer’s monthly active viewers were compared to some of the big players out there,” says Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of gaming, in an interview with The Verge. “I think the Mixer community is really going to benefit from the broad audience that Facebook has through their properties, and the abilities to reach gamers in a very seamless way through the social platform Facebook has.”

Microsoft is partnering with Facebook to transition existing Mixer viewers and streamers over to Facebook Gaming in the coming weeks. On July 22nd, all Mixer sites and apps will automatically redirect to Facebook Gaming.


So you chose to announce it on Monday evening just as Apple was announcing its move to ARM? You really wanted people to know about it, then.
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People probably caught coronavirus from minks. That’s a wake-up call to study infections in animals, researchers say • The Washington Post

Karin Brulliard:


The minks on Dutch fur farms first got sick in mid-April, showing symptoms ranging from runny noses to severe respiratory distress. They had caught the novel coronavirus from human handlers, the government later said, and soon farmed minks appeared to have passed it back to two other people, in the world’s first reports of animal-to-human transmission since the pandemic began.

The Netherlands has since culled more than 500,000 minks from 13 infected fur companies. The goal of the grim task, set to continue until the farms are virus-free, is to snuff out the possibility of the animals becoming a reservoir for the virus that causes covid-19, which could stymie efforts to end a pandemic that has killed nearly half a million people worldwide.

Some researchers say that although the chances of that happening appear minimal, the implications are too grave to dismiss. In a commentary published Thursday in the Lancet Microbe, researchers at University College London called for widespread surveillance of pets, livestock and wildlife. Studies on animal susceptibility have been small, limited and, in the case of pigs, conflicting, they wrote.


Conflicting pigs! And mink and cats. It really would be a hell of a thing if cats turned out to be a reservoir in which the virus can mutate and reinfect humans.
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Winnipeg grocery store owner says numerous customers have been victims of Bitcoin scams • Winnipeg Global News

Marney Blunt:


A Winnipeg grocery store owner is sounding the alarm over scams involving Bitcoin, after many of his customers were victimized.

Husni Zeid has put a large sign on the Bitcoin machine in his Food Fare store on Lilac Street, warning customers of phone scams involving the cryptocurrency. “A lot of people are getting phone calls saying that they have to transfer the money to Bitcoin regarding CRA; we’ve had Manitoba Hydro as well,” Zeid told Global News.

Zeid and his staff say it’s happening multiple times a week. “Yesterday (a) mom was in here and she said she gave all her savings to them and she was just crying. It was heartbreaking that she fell for it; it was sad,” employee Aura Morissette said. “And all she kept saying was ‘I have kids. (It) was awful.”

The Food Fare employees have also taken it upon themselves to help prevent customers falling victim to the scams. “As soon as we see someone (using the Bitcoin machine) and they’re on their cell phone, we always sort of interject just to make sure they’re not on the phone with (the scammers),” Morissette added. “Usually they are.”

Zeid says he’s fed up with it, and wants to get the machine out of his store. “It’s to the point where it’s (so) frustrating I’m making calls to the Bitcoin machine owner to remove the machine,” he said.

According to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, several types of extortion scams involve the scammers demanding Bitcoin as payment, and they often become threatening or try to play on emotions.


Not clear from the story whether it’s the machine itself that’s the scam, or whether it’s people who are somehow being extorted, or what. But sure, getting the machine out would simplify stuff.
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What comes after Zoom? • Benedict Evans

He’s been thinking about what happens to video apps, and apps that contain video:


There’s lots of bundling and unbundling coming, as always. Everything will be ‘video’ and then it will disappear inside.

An important part of this is that there seem to be few real network effects in a video call per se. You don’t necessarily need an account to join a call, and you generally don’t need an application either, especially on the desktop – you just click on a link in your calendar and the call opens in the browser. Indeed, the calendar is often the aggregation layer – you don’t need to know what service the next call uses, just when it is. Skype needed both an account and an app, so had a network effect (and lost even so). WhatsApp uses the telephone numbering system as an address and so piggybacked on your phone’s contact list- effectively it used the PSTN as the social graph rather than having to build its own. But a group video call is a URL and a calendar invitation – it has no graph of its own.

Incidentally, one of the ways that this all feels very 1.0 is the rather artificial distinction between calls that are based on a ‘room’, where the addressing system is a URL and anyone can join without an account, and calls that are based on ‘people’, where everyone joining needs their own address, whether it’s a phone number, an account or something else. Hence Google has both Meet (URLs) and Due (people) – Apple’s FaceTime is only people (no URLs).

Taking this one step further, a big part of the friction that Zoom removed was that you don’t need an account, an app or a social graph to use it: Zoom made network effects irrelevant. But, that means Zoom doesn’t have those network effects either. It grew by removing defensibility.


The way that Skype had become a last-choice in the pandemic has been amazing. I have a Skype account, but only really use it when I need to call a landline and record it. Zoom has, aha, zoomed ahead.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1335: Tiktokers v Trump, Apple and ARM and the App Store, the mystery of Tether’s growth, ceiling fan secrets, and more

Before she was a lip-sync star, Sarah Cooper worked at Yahoo – and her overnight success has taken 12 years. CC-licensed photo by Andrew Mager on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 13 links for you. Not elite yet. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

TikTok teens tank Trump rally in Tulsa, they say • The New York Times

Taylor Lorenz, Kellen Browning and Sheera Frenkel:


Brad Parscale, the chairman of Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, posted on Twitter on Monday that the campaign had fielded more than a million ticket requests, but reporters at the event noted the attendance was lower than expected. The campaign also canceled planned events outside the rally for an anticipated overflow crowd that did not materialize.

Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign, said protesters stopped supporters from entering the rally, held at the BOK Center, which has a 19,000-seat capacity. But reporters present said there were few protests. According to a spokesman for the Tulsa Fire Department on Sunday, the fire marshal counted 6,200 scanned tickets of attendees. (That number would not include staff, media or those in box suites.)

TikTok users and fans of Korean pop music groups claimed to have registered potentially hundreds of thousands of tickets for Mr. Trump’s campaign rally as a prank. After the Trump campaign’s official account @TeamTrump posted a tweet asking supporters to register for free tickets using their phones on June 11, K-pop fan accounts began sharing the information with followers, encouraging them to register for the rally — and then not show.

The trend quickly spread on TikTok, where videos with millions of views instructed viewers to do the same, as CNN reported on Tuesday. “Oh no, I signed up for a Trump rally, and I can’t go,” one woman joked, along with a fake cough, in a TikTok posted on June 15.

Thousands of other users posted similar tweets and videos to TikTok that racked up millions of views.


Welllll possibly, but probably not. What the TikTokers and K-Pop fans have done, which is worse for Trump, is really screwed up the campaign’s database. Those who used their real number (rather than a Google Voice or similar) to fake-register reported that they immediately got texts from the Trump campaign. So the campaign is definitely using this as a voter registration/get-out-the-vote scheme. And now it’s got about a million screwed-up ones.

When Trump last appeared in Tulsa, in January 2016 (as one of many candidates) he drew 9,000 people. This time: just over 6,000. (The average attendance across all his rallies in 2015/16 was 5,200; median 4,000.) That data point alone should worry the Trump campaign.
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Kuo confirms ARM at WWDC: 13.3in MacBook Pro and new 24in iMac will be the first ARM Macs, released as soon as Q4 • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:


Kuo confirms that an all-new design iMac is launching imminently, and it will apparently be Apple’s last new Mac featuring an Intel CPU. Starting in Q4 2020 / Q1 2021, Apple will begin its ARM transition with the release of the 13.3-inch MacBook Pro running on Apple silicon, according to Kuo. The updated iMac — featuring a 24-inch display with thinner bezels — is scheduled to switch to ARM at a similar time.

Kuo expects the Mac models will offer performance improvements of 50-100% over their Intel predecessors. The transition timeline proposed by Kuo is aggressive, and faster than some other reports. With Kuo’s bold claim that all new Macs will be equipped with Apple processors starting in 2021, there would only be room in the pipeline for the redesigned iMac as the last new Intel machine (aside some possible spec bumps to existing models in the fall).

Bloomberg previously reported that Apple’s first ARM machine would debut in 2021, featuring a 12-core processor. On a recent episode of the Happy Hour podcast, Mark Gurman implied a late spring/summer launch schedule for the product. Apple is not expected to announce any concrete hardware at WWDC tomorrow, just the fact that is beginning the chip transition.

Kuo says that Apple will discontinue the Intel 13.3-inch MacBook Pro when the new ARM-based model is introduced. The fate of the Intel iMac is not specified. According to previous rumors, Apple will announce a new iMac at WWDC featuring a new industrial design with thin bezels reminiscent of the Pro Display XDR, the Apple T2 chip and AMD Navi GPUs.


Wouldn’t have expected the 13.3in MacBook Pro to be the first laptop to go over. Perhaps it’s the most popular pro model. I do wonder a lot about the profit margin on ARM Macs: the CPU should be a lot cheaper. Wonder too if that’ll be reflected in the price.
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Interview: Apple’s Schiller says position on Hey app is unchanged and no rules changes are imminent • TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:


The current experience of the Hey app as a user downloading it from the App Store is that it does nothing. It is an app that requires you to subscribe to the Hey service on the web before it becomes useful.

“You download the app and it doesn’t work, that’s not what we want on the store,” says Schiller. This, he says, is why Apple requires in-app purchases to offer the same purchasing functionality as they would have elsewhere.

To be clear, this is against the App Store rules for most apps. The exceptions here are apps that are viewed as “readers” that only display external content of certain types, like music, books and movies — and apps that only offer bulk pricing options that are paid for by institutions or corporations rather than the end user.

Schiller is clear on our call that Hey does not fit these rules.

“We didn’t extend these exceptions to all software,” he notes about the “reader” type apps — examples of which include Netflix. “Email is not and has never been an exception included in this rule.”


You may say: when exactly did these “reader” rules come in, and howcome nobody made a noise about then at the time? As John Siracusa explains beautifully in the ATP podcast (go to 1h40m), the reason why you didn’t hear before is because Apple made the change quietly, and then has quietly pulled up apps that have now fallen into the trap when they next submit an update. So there’s no single point at which every “infringing” app was told of the rule change. Instead, a stealthy divide and rule process kept them each isolated.

Apple’s now a prisoner of its own conflicting desires: give the user easy ways to pay for apps (whether subscriptions, IAPs or outright purchases), make apps and payment as scam-free as possible, keep increasing revenue from the App Store. It’s the good-cheap-fast dilemma. At least one of them is going to break down.
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The iOS App Store brings users only because it’s the only choice • inessential

Brent Simmons is the author (originally) of the Mac apps NetNewsWire and MarsEdit, the first of which he has remade and put in a mobile version onto iOS:


This is a misconception that many people have — they think the App Store brings some kind of exceptional distribution and marketing that developers wouldn’t have on their own.

It’s just not true. It lacks even a grain of truth.

Setting up distribution of an app is easy and cheap. I do it for NetNewsWire for Mac with no additional costs beyond what I already pay to host this blog. This was true in 2005 as much as now — distribution is not some exceptional value the App Store provides.

And then there’s marketing. Sure, being featured used to mean something to revenue, but it hasn’t meant that much beyond just ego points in years. To be on the App Store is to be lost within an enormous sea of floating junk. No matter how well you do at your app description and screenshots — even if you get some kind of feature — your app will not be found by many people.

Build it (and upload it to the App Store) and they will not come.

Instead, you have to do marketing on your own, on the web and on social media, outside of the App Store. Just like always. The App Store brings nothing to the table.

So while it’s true to say that all of an iOS app’s users come via the App Store, it’s only true because there’s no other option.


The most puzzling thing about the iOS App Store for me: who on earth spends any time at all on its “Today” tab? Are there really people who turn to it, looking for thrilling new apps, or guidance on “how to get the best out of the iPlayer” (as it was on Sunday in the UK)? If that truly drives traffic, colour me amazed.

The whole App Store thing is a supertanker collision: it’s a little distance off, but calamity is inevitable nonetheless unless Apple takes some really dramatic evasive action. Also worth reading by Simmons: The App Store doesn’t make apps safe.
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Apple diversity head leaves as tech firms reckon with racism • Bloomberg

Shelly Banjo and Mark Gurman:


Apple Inc.’s head of diversity and inclusion Christie Smith is leaving the iPhone company, according to people familiar with the matter.

Last week, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook said Apple is launching a $100m Racial Equity and Justice Initiative, adding to the company’s response to the police killing of George Floyd last month. Earlier this month, Cook wrote in a letter to employees and customers that society needs to do more to push equality, particularly for Black people.

“To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines,” Cook wrote in the letter.

Smith joined Apple in 2017 after 16 years at consultancy Deloitte. Unlike her predecessor, who reported directly to the CEO, Smith reported to Apple’s Senior Vice President of Retail and People Deirdre O’Brien. The previous person in the role, Denise Young Smith, lasted only six months and left after apologizing for controversial comments she made about the mostly white makeup of Apple’s executive team.


To lose one head of diversity and inclusion could be unfortunate; to lose two in three years is.. more unfortunate.
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CGV introduces electronic visitor registration to combat COVID-19 • Korea Herald

Yonhap News:


CGV, South Korea’s largest multiplex chain, said Friday it will introduce an electronic visitor registration system based on quick response (QR) code verification technology at all of its theaters nationwide to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.

CGV’s announcement came after South Korea last week mandated QR code-based registration of visitors at bars, clubs and other entertainment facilities across the country, stepping up measures against COVID-19. Those facilities are required to use smartphone QR code-based entry logs for all visitors to keep records of their personal details.

Under the CGV system, anyone who visits a CGV theater to buy movie tickets is required to complete a personal authentication process by scanning a QR code at the ticket counter using a smartphone app and entering simple information on the screen.


That’s quite a procedure for watching a movie. (Thanks Patrick for the link.)
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Nearly $5bn in Tethers were issued since January. Why? • Decrypt

Amy Castor:


Just how much [real] cash is disappearing from the system in energy costs? According to an estimate published by researchers at the University of Cambridge, the Bitcoin network consumes more electricity than a small country—what [academic Nicholas] Weaver calls “obscene.” 

Based on 5 cents per kWh, the Bitcoin network needs to spend roughly $335,000 every hour, Alex de Vries, a blockchain specialist at Big Four accounting firm PwC, told Decrypt. That means someone has to be on hand to buy nearly $8m worth of new Bitcoin a day for cash—just to secure the system. 

Those costs are putting the squeeze on miners right now. 

They earn 6.25 BTC every 10 minutes in block rewards. At $9,000 per BTC, that equates to $340,000 an hour. At the moment, they have to sell every BTC they mine to pay electricity costs. (Previous to the halving event on May 12, it was 12.5 BTC, so they were earning more.) The average costs will drop to 2 to 3 cents per kWh between May and September, de Vrie said. That’s because over 50% of Bitcoin mining is centered in the Sichuan province of China, which benefits from lower costs of hydropower energy in the wet season.

Electricity isn’t the only cost miners have to bear. They have to pay for their rigs, which can run up to $3,000 apiece and need to be replaced frequently as faster ASIC machines become available. They also have to pay rent, taxes, wages, and all the other costs of running a business. All of these things need to be paid in real dollars or yuan, not Tethers, resulting in a steady net drain of cash out of the ecosystem. 


Basically: real money is being washed out of the bitcoin ecosystem by the demand for payments, which is being replaced by Tethers, a made-up cryptocoin that claims to be backed 1:1 by real dollars, except it isn’t.

What happens when all the “cash” circulating in the bitcoin system is Tethers? Then it will be cash in, cash out. Miners either go bust, or take on debt (in the hope of what? More cash coming into the system?). Or, perhaps, bitcoin’s price gets ramped by Tether issuance pushing up its apparent demand. It’s certainly ironic given bitcoiners’ complaints about central banks printing money: Tether is absolutely the money-printing central bank for bitcoin.
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Sarah Cooper’s 10,000 hours (or: How it took her 12 years to become an overnight success) • Trung T. Phan

Phan has pieced together the rise of Cooper (who does the wonderful lip-syncs of Donald Trump’s many absurd remarks) from her first comic doodle in a meeting at Yahoo in 2008 to today:


Just last week, Cooper signed with talent powerhouse WME and her next project is “a modern, comedic take on a Dale Carnegie book for Audible Originals.” 😂

How Cooper arrived here is no mystery. 

She has been honing her comedic skills publicly on the internet for more than a decade.

Her reps include office doodles, open mics, Twitter jokes, stand-up comedy, blogging, book writing and acting in short skits. 

In an effort to outline her 10,000-hour comedic journey, I went through hundreds of Cooper’s tweets, blog posts and videos.

Here are two key takeaways from my research:

• Keep experimenting. Gary Vaynerchuk equates social apps and digital tools to “crayons” that can be used to create new types of art. Cooper has experimented with every “crayon” available to find her comedic voice.
• Work in public. To find success, Cooper says, “You need to do a lot of work. You need to finish a lot of work. You need to share a lot of work.” The lesson here is that you never know who’s reading, watching or listening. If you’re already creating, you might as well put it out there and give your audience a chance to find you.  


Creativity takes hard, hard work over long periods. That’s so easy to overlook.
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Man reveals secret, dual-purpose of ceiling fans: ‘What type of sorcery is this?’ • Yahoo Style

Alex Lasker:


If you have a ceiling fan — particularly an ineffective one — it may come as a surprise that you’ve been using it wrong for years.

Anthony Bertoncin, a 20-year-old TikToker from Kansas City, Mo., left social media users in disbelief after sharing the simple trick on TikTok with his over 1.5 million followers.

“Today, I finally realized that my ceiling fan has been making my room a sauna for six years,” Bertoncin says in his clip, which has since been viewed over 2.2 million times.

After explaining his struggles with temperature control in his room, which led him to constantly leave his ceiling fan on, Bertoncin said that one day, a friend serendipitously showed him how to change the direction of his fan during a FaceTime call.

“While we’re FaceTiming, he switches the direction of his fan to heat his room in the winter,” Bertoncin said. “I’ve been suffering for six years, and I just now realizing my f*** up today.”

The science behind the switch is pretty simple. When a ceiling fan rotates counterclockwise, the slant of the blades pushes air down, causing a noticeable breeze, Today’s Homeowner explains.
When rotating clockwise, however, ceiling fans can produce the opposite effect by pushing air upward and gently circulating hot air that is trapped near the ceiling, making the gadget useful for all seasons.


Definitely one that all British readers with ceiling fans will find useful.
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Twitter will let you tweet with your voice • CNN

Kaya Yurieff:


the company said it’s allowing a “limited group” of iOS users to create tweets with their voice. In the coming weeks, all iOS users should have access to voice tweets.

The feature comes after the launch of a buzzy, invite-only app called Clubhouse, which encourages users to spontaneously drop into voice chat rooms. But it also potentially opens the door to new forms of abuse, whether it be verbal harassment or spreading hateful content via audio that could be harder to detect initially than text.

When asked how the company would handle any abuse of the feature, a Twitter spokesperson said it’s working to incorporate additional monitoring systems ahead of rolling voice tweets out more broadly. The spokesperson also said it would review any reported voice tweets in line with its rules and take action.

Twitter also said users won’t be able to use audio to reply to tweets.

Creating a voice tweet is similar to regular tweeting, but users tap a new icon with wavelengths on it to record. Voice tweets are limited to chunks of 140 seconds – an apparent nod to Twitter’s original character limit – but users can keep recording and it’ll automatically create a thread.


A 280-word tweet is about 50 words tops, which is about 30 seconds, so 140 seconds is very, very long. This would make sense if the intent were to help unsighted people “hear” Twitter, but it isn’t, and you could already include video with tweets, so this is a real headscratcher. Will there be automatic transcription? Twitter says no. In which case I think this will sink pretty fast. I click away from YouTube videos which begin “Hey guys how’s it going––” because I’m already bored by them. I’m not going to hang around for more than two minutes of burbling. (Thanks Wendy G for the link.)
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Just because they’ve turned against humanity doesn’t mean we should defund the Terminator program • McSweeney’s Internet Tendency

Carlos Greaves:


By now you’ve probably heard the news that a Terminator has killed another innocent civilian just days after the last innocent civilian was killed by a Terminator. This unfortunate incident has led to renewed calls to divert funding from the Terminator program and reallocate it into other services that would prevent Terminators from being necessary in the first place. But just because a growing number of Terminators have ignored their AI programming and begun slaughtering humans left and right doesn’t mean we should take the dangerous and radical step of defunding the Terminator program.

…Don’t get me wrong, we all remember Judgement Day, when the Skynet gained self-awareness and initiated a nuclear holocaust, killing millions. That was a terrible moment in our nation’s history. And the human uprising led by John Connor was definitely justified even though we felt like some of the violence and destruction of Skynet property was a bit unnecessary. But it’s important to remember that Judgement Day was initiated by a few rogue Terminators, and isn’t indicative of a widespread problem with Skynet. Yes, given Skynet’s response to the human uprising — where Terminators fired plasma rifles at the Resistance and mowed over legions of human fighters with HK-Tanks — one might conclude that there’s a larger issue with the entire Skynet AI.


Another piece of brilliant skewering by Greaves – who also wrote the utterly brilliant “Sure, the Velociraptors Are Still On the Loose, But That’s No Reason Not to Reopen Jurassic Park“. As the numbers show, the micron-sized velociraptors are quite happy about it.
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The doom where it happened • The New York Times

Bret Stephens on the character of John Bolton:


It took cynicism to work for a president whose character he disdained and whose worldview he opposed. It took gullibility to think he could blunt or influence either. It took cynicism to observe the president commit multiple potentially impeachable offenses and then sit out impeachment on the pathetic excuse that Democrats were going about it the wrong way and that his testimony would have made no meaningful difference. It took gullibility to assume his book would have any effect on Trump’s re-election prospects now. It took cynicism to reap profits thanks to a president he betrayed and a nation he let down. It took gullibility to imagine he’d be applauded as a courageous truth-teller when his motives are so nakedly vindictive and mercenary.
Above all, it took astonishing foolishness for Bolton to imagine that his book would advance the thing he claims to care about most — a hawkish vision of US foreign policy. That vision will now be forever tarred by its association with him, a man considered a lunatic by most liberals and a Judas by many conservatives.

I write all this as someone who shares many of Bolton’s hawkish foreign-policy views. I’m also someone who urged Bolton, while he was still in office, to resign on principle. It’s a shame he didn’t do so while he still had a chance to preserve his honour, but it isn’t a surprise. Only the truly gullible can act totally cynically and imagine they can escape history’s damning verdict.


Why, it’s almost as if Bolton makes serially bad judgements about the outcomes of his actions, and fails to learn from them even when they’re demonstrated to be incorrect; like a super-bad forecaster. Please tell me a single Bolton action or policy which has subsequently been shown to have led to the best possible outcome. I’m not even sure the moustache flatters him.

In other news, I’m in complete agreement with Bret Stephens, so the apocalypse must be near.
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2013: A day with Katie Hopkins: separating the Apprentice ‘superbitch’ from her soundbites • The Independent

Simon Usborne writes profiles for The Independent, and in 2013 observed that Hopkins [banned permanently from Twitter last Friday] seemed to be annoying people professionally:


I had emailed Hopkins via her website to ask if I could go along for the ride. I disagreed with everything she said, I told her, also sharing my concerns about what I might be feeding. But I wanted to find out what it pays, emotionally and financially, to court hatred, and what the rise of people such as Hopkins says about the outrage mill that large parts of the media have become.

…The week had started with an innocuous press release about the rise of unusual baby names. Hopkins got a call from a producer at This Morning, where she’s a regular. She outlined her views and agreed to appear. The day before, a researcher spoke to Hopkins for about an hour.

“They are a consumer purchasing a commodity – me – and I have to demonstrate its value,” she says. “They create not a script for the interview but scaffolding. That’s submitted to lawyers, who draw boundaries. People mock daytime TV as unsophisticated and populated by lame idiots seeking attention, but a lot goes into it.”

This account makes the shock of Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, her co-presenter, seem rather disingenuous. They knew what they were getting. Hopkins says she chatted with them afterwards, and that everyone was pleased about the debate.


And, as he points out, the clip went viral on social media, and Hopkins knew exactly how many views it had. What’s just as interesting to me, seven years after this was written, is how some of the TV and radio stations are trying, just a little, to dial back from the “outrage economy”.

On Twitter, she had more than a million followers. When I checked Instagram on Saturday (bio: “public figure”), she had fewer than 80,000. It was a couple of thousand past that by Sunday evening, but the need to post a photo and the lack of virality clearly hurts her.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1334: Facebook takes down Trump ads, US police in graphs, Google clones Pinterest, Chrome spyware campaign shut down, and more

The UK government is making a dramatic U-turn on its track-and-trace app. CC-licensed photo by duncan c on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 9 links for you. You get there eventually. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

UK abandons contact-tracing app for Apple and Google model • The Guardian

Dan Sabbagh and Alex Hern:


The government has been forced to abandon a centralised coronavirus contact-tracing app after spending three months and millions of pounds on technology that experts had repeatedly warned would not work.

In an embarrassing U-turn, Matt Hancock said the NHS would switch to an alternative designed by the US tech companies Apple and Google, which is months away from being ready.

At the Downing Street briefing, the health secretary said the government would not “put a date” on when the new app may be launched, although officials conceded it was likely to be in the autumn or winter.

…Ministers had insisted on using a centralised version of the untested technology in which anonymised data from people who reported feeling ill was held in an NHS database to enable better tracing and data analysis. This version was not supported by Apple and Google.

Work started in March as the pandemic unfolded, but despite weeks of work, officials admitted on Thursday that the NHS app only recognised 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Google Android devices during testing on the Isle of Wight.

…The Department of Health and Social Care refused to say how much had been spent on the effort, although official records show three contracts worth £4.8m were awarded to the developer VMWare Pivotal Labs for work on the app.


Back in April:


“Engineers have met several core challenges for the app to meet public health needs and support detection of contact events sufficiently well, including when the app is in the background, without excessively affecting battery life,” said a spokeswoman for NHSX, the health service’s digital innovation unit.


Germany, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Latvia, Switzerland and 16 others had already gone with the Google-Apple API. Again and again, the British government insists that it knows what to do better than everyone else. Again and again, it’s completely and utterly wrong.
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Facebook removes Trump ads for using Nazi imagery • The Verge

Russell Brandom:


Facebook has removed more than 80 ads placed by the Trump campaign for use of imagery linked to Nazism. The ads used the imagery of an inverted triangle, which the Trump campaign has argued is a “symbol widely used by antifa.” The same symbol was used to identify political prisoners in Nazi death camps, leading Media Matters to call it an “infamous Nazi symbol” with no place in political rhetoric.

Facebook agreed, ultimately removing the ads because of the Nazi-linked imagery. “Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” said Facebook’s Andy Stone in a statement.

Spread across official pages for President Trump, Vice President Pence, and campaign manager Brad Parscale, among others, the ads warned of “dangerous MOBS of far-left groups” causing “absolute mayhem” across America.

The extreme language is an extension of Trump’s weeks-long campaign against antifa, which has coincided with a spate of bizarre hoaxes claiming that violent agitators were bussing into rural areas to wreak havoc.

…The inverted red triangle has sometimes been adopted by anti-fascist groups, most notably by the UK’s Anti-Fascist Action group in the 1980s, in what historian Mark Bray referred to as a “reclamation … of the symbol used by the Nazis to label communists.” But among US anti-fascists, the symbol has been largely displaced by the dual-flag symbol and is rarely seen among contemporary groups.

As a result, many observers saw the Trump ads as a direct reference to the symbols used by Nazis to identify imprisoned political dissidents. In a statement to The Washington Post, Anti-Defamation League president Jonathan Greenblatt called the ads “offensive and deeply troubling.”


Second lot of Trump ads they’ve taken down; the first one over a census. And now it gets written about, so it becomes free advertising. Maybe Facebook should just make them invisible.
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American policing explained in a few graphs • Jerry Ratcliffe

Ratcliffe is a former British police officer who is now a professor at Temple University, Philadelphia :


Graph no. 1. This is from the second edition of my book “Intelligence-Led Policing“. The area of each box represents the volume of incidents in 2015 in the City of Philadelphia (about 1.5m in total). These incidents can come from verified calls for service from the public (something really took place as confirmed by a police officer), or from officer-initiated events (such as drug incidents). 

What is clear from the graphic is that violent crime plays such a small part in the day-to-day demands on police departments, even in Philadelphia, one of the more troubled cities in the U.S. While the media frets over homicide, it can be seen in the lower right as one of the least noticeable boxes in the graph. The majority of the police department’s workload is the day-to-day minutiae of life in a big city.


The violence graph further down the article is amazing, and really makes one thing there must be something to the lead in air/water theory.
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Google’s latest experiment is Keen, an automated, machine-learning based version of Pinterest • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:


A new project called Keen is launching today from Google’s in-house incubator for new ideas, Area 120, to help users track their interests. The app is like a modern rethinking of the Google Alerts service, which allows users to monitor the web for specific content. Except instead of sending emails about new Google Search results, Keen leverages a combination of machine learning techniques and human collaboration to help users curate content around a topic.

Each individual area of interest is called a “keen” — a word often used to reference someone with an intellectual quickness.

The idea for the project came about after co-founder C.J. Adams realized he was spending too much time on his phone mindlessly browsing feeds and images to fill his downtime. He realized that time could be better spent learning more about a topic he was interested in — perhaps something he always wanted to research more or a skill he wanted to learn.


“Keen”? Come on. It’s like Google – you know, you search for something, find out more – but a bit extra. They could call it, I don’t know, Google Plus.

And let’s not forget Knol, Google’s answer to Wikipedia, which somehow survived for four years. (It’s dead now.) Google Keep has survived, so it’s not just K-prefixed things that are doomed. Though I don’t see this coming close to the gazillion other networks out there.
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Huawei delays production of flagship phone after US crackdown • Nikkei Asian Review

Lauly Li, Cheng Ting-Fang and Naoki Watanabe:


Huawei has asked for halts to production of some components for its latest Mate series of phones, and has also trimmed orders of parts for the coming quarters, as it tries to assess the impact on its smartphone business of Washington’s tightening export controls, sources said.

The unveiling of the latest Mate series, usually in the second half of the year, is Huawei’s answer to Apple’s new generation of iPhones. Huawei, the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, usually adopts its most advanced processor designs for the Mate lineup, using chips from its own HiSilicon semiconductor design unit.

But the Trump administration’s action in May further restricting Huawei’s access to U.S. technology has left the Chinese company uncertain about HiSilicon’s ability to supply parts such as mobile processors, communication chips and artificial intelligence accelerator chips. The U.S. has issued orders to prevent non-U.S. suppliers from using U.S. equipment to produce chips to specifications drawn up by Huawei and HiSilicon.

That has forced the Chinese telecom equipment maker to reassess its inventory of HiSilicon chips and look at alternative suppliers for the Mate, as it tries to balance production of the smartphone with expected demand next year.

Huawei has delayed its mass-production schedule for the Mate series, according to two supply-chain sources familiar with Huawei’s smartphone manufacturing plan.


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Chrome might not eat all your RAM after adopting this Windows feature • ExtremeTech

Ryan Whitwam:


Chromium Edge rolled out to almost all Windows 10 computers in the recent May 2020 update. According to Microsoft, this update also implemented a new memory management feature in Edge known as SegmentHeap. In the latest version of Windows, developers can opt into SegmentHeap to lower the RAM usage of a program. Microsoft says it already added support to the new Edge browser, and it has seen a 27% drop in the browser’s memory footprint. 

As anyone who’s used Chrome regularly can confirm, Google’s browser has a way of running away with all your RAM once you get past a handful of tabs. However, Google has taken note of the new SegmentHeap functionality in Windows. A new comment in the Chromium open source project suggests the addition of SegmentHeap support on Windows. The comment notes that devices with higher numbers of processor threads will benefit the most, but everyone should get some RAM back. Testing individual machines with modified Chrome executables shows that SegmentHeap could save several hundred megabytes at least.


Given that Chrome gobbles as many gigabytes as happen to be free, that’s not such a great promise.
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Chrome spyware extensions exposed, millions affected • Android Authority

C Scott Brown:


In yet another instance of Google dropping the ball when it comes to Chrome spyware, a security research team called Awake Security found a ring of extensions all working together that compromised the security and privacy of millions of users.

After informing Google of the problematic Chrome spyware, Google removed over 70 extensions from the platform (via Reuters). However, those extensions and others that were part of the focused and organized attacks have already been downloaded over 32 million times.

Awake Security estimates this is the most far-reaching Chrome spyware effort to date. However, Google declined to verify that claim. It also declined to explain why it did not catch the activity itself.

These Chrome spyware extensions were usually disguised as tools that would, ironically, protect users from malicious sites. Some were also legitimate tools that would convert files from one format to another. However, while running, all the extensions could secretly siphon data from the user’s internet activity.

Using this data, the attackers could then obtain credentials for accessing both personal and corporate information. With so much business software usage happening in browsers nowadays, personal email accounts are no longer a big prize for attackers. Instead, Chrome spyware can obtain things like payroll records, corporate credit card accounts, and other highly sensitive information.

To avoid detection, the extensions would only transmit data from one server to another when the user was not using security software. In other words, the Chrome spyware was smart enough to know if security protocols were in place and then kill its illegal activity in response.


A lot of attention on the registrar which let 15,000 domains be registered by whoever did this (the source isn’t known); the suggestion is the registrar should have thought something was fishy.
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Book review: John Bolton’s ‘The Room Where It Happened’ • The New York Times

Jennifer Szalai:


Bolton, who refused to testify at the House impeachment hearings, may be the last person many Americans wish to hear from right now — not that he would ever deign to make any concessions to what a reader might want. “The Room Where It Happened,” an account of his 17 months as Trump’s national security adviser, has been written with so little discernible attention to style and narrative form that he apparently presumes an audience that is hanging on his every word.

Known as a fastidious note taker, Bolton has filled this book’s nearly 500 pages with minute and often extraneous details, including the time and length of routine meetings and even, at one point, a nap. Underneath it all courses a festering obsession with his enemies, both abroad (Iran, North Korea) and at home (the media, “the High-Minded,” the former defense secretary Jim Mattis). The book is bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much. It toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged.


In a comment here yesterday, regular reader Seth made this observation about Bolton:


Bolton’s position strikes me as fundamentally pragmatic. I see him as saying that he thinks Trump should be removed from office – and IF the Establishment was extremely serious about it, then he’d be happy to join the barricades. However, if this isn’t a committed effort, but just a show, he’s not going to immolate himself for the entertainment of the crowd. That’s his point about it being necessary to be subpoenaed. He wants the ability to say that his participation was legally compelled, even if he signals he was willing to be compelled. He’s not a Democrat. He’s a thorough Republican, and he’s willing to go against his own party’s President under certain conditions. But that’s not something he’s going to do for a futile gesture of moralizing. He’s a war-monger, not an opinion columnist.


All of which is true. None of which makes him, to me, any less of a coward in not speaking in front of Congress under oath.
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Death of Arizona man from chloroquine ruled an accident • Washington Free Beacon

Alana Goodman:


The death of an Arizona man who ingested a lethal dose of fish tank treatment in March has been ruled an accidental overdose by the county medical examiner’s office, according to a copy of the report obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Gary Lenius, 68, passed away on March 22, after he and his wife drank a fish tank additive that contained the drug chloroquine. The story drew national attention after the man’s wife, Wanda Lenius, said she and her husband ingested the substance because President Trump had praised chloroquine as a promising treatment for coronavirus. She subsequently told the Free Beacon that she had added a teaspoon of non-medicinal chloroquine powder, which is used to treat parasites in fish tanks, into glasses of soda that she and her husband drank.

The Mesa Police Department’s homicide unit has been investigating Lenius’s death since March. Detective Teresa Van Galder, who is handling the case, said the investigation is ongoing, but she does not expect that her findings will differ from the medical examiner’s office.

“I am still waiting on some other things to return prior to the investigation being officially completed,” Van Galder told the Free Beacon. “Unless I come across something I do not already have, I do not foresee the finding of the OME changing.”

…Lenius’s toxicology tests showed he had 17,000 nanograms per milliliter of chloroquine in his blood at the time of his death, indicating that he had ingested around 20 times the typical treatment dose.


Seems like this is the end of the road for this mystery. (A puzzle is something that anyone can solve; a mystery is something only one or two people can solve.)

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1333: England’s calamitous track-and-trace system, advertising in charts, Zoom goes for encryption, the pandemic rent drop, and more

OK, let’s talk about the new book from Evil Ned Flanders CC-licensed photo by Zach Catanzareti Photo on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 10 links for you. Test, track, trick or treat? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

England’s ‘world beating’ system to track coronavirus is anything but • The New York Times

Benjamin Mueller and Jane Bradley:


In almost three weeks since the start of the system in England, called N.H.S. Test and Trace, some contact tracers have failed to reach a single person, filling their days instead with internet exercise classes and bookshelf organizing.

Some call handlers, scattered in offices and homes far from the people they speak with, have mistakenly tried to send patients in England to testing sites across the sea in Northern Ireland.

And a government minister threatened on a conference call to stop coordinating with local leaders on the virus-tracking system if they spoke publicly about its failings, according to three officials briefed on the call, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.

Contact tracing was supposed to be the bridge between lockdown and a vaccine, enabling the government to pinpoint clusters of infections as they emerged and to stop infected people from passing on the virus. Without it, a World Health Organization official said recently, England would be remiss in reopening its economy.

But the system, staffed by thousands of poorly trained and low-paid contact tracers, was rushed out of the gate on May 28 before it was ready, according to interviews with more than a dozen contact tracers, public health officials and local government leaders. At the time, the government was making a barrage of announcements while also trying to douse a scandal involving Mr. Johnson’s most senior aide, who had violated lockdown orders.

…The government has denied that contact tracing was ever stopped, and said that to claim otherwise would be entirely wrong. However, in internal notes mistakenly forwarded to The New York Times in response to questions about why it initially ended contact tracing in March, government officials wrote: “The answer to this is we basically didn’t have the testing capacity.”


World-beating only in its ineptness. Truly amazing.
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News by the ton: 75 years of US advertising • Benedict Evans

Evans has a truly fascinating tour through how advertising, newspapers, and the internet have shifted over the past 60 years. The most significant part to me seemed to be this:


There are lots of things going on here, but I would start with the top line: advertising share of GDP started sliding immediately after the Dotcom bubble, had a major step down in the financial crisis and has been suspiciously flat ever since. That decline was very obviously concentrated in print but actually affected TV and radio as well. We think of TV advertising as being pretty much unaffected by the internet so far, but on this data it’s down by 40% as a share of GDP. The economy grew and advertising didn’t get its historic share of that growth.


The “share of GDP” metric has been a longstanding one, but that decline is noticeable. What’s surely changed is that the pricing bar for advertising has been lowered; in the days of solely radio, billboard and newspapers, the price for getting noticed was a lot higher. Effectively, GDP has gone up, but the cost of advertising has fallen.

The whole thing is well worth reading. Lots of graphs.
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End-to-end encryption update • Zoom Blog

Eric Yuan:


Since releasing the draft design of Zoom’s end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on May 22, we have engaged with civil liberties organizations, our CISO council, child safety advocates, encryption experts, government representatives, our own users, and others to gather their feedback on this feature. We have also explored new technologies to enable us to offer E2EE to all tiers of users.

Today, Zoom released an updated E2EE design on GitHub. We are also pleased to share that we have identified a path forward that balances the legitimate right of all users to privacy and the safety of users on our platform. This will enable us to offer E2EE as an advanced add-on feature for all of our users around the globe – free and paid – while maintaining the ability to prevent and fight abuse on our platform. 

To make this possible, Free/Basic users seeking access to E2EE will participate in a one-time process that will prompt the user for additional pieces of information, such as verifying a phone number via a text message. Many leading companies perform similar steps on account creation to reduce the mass creation of abusive accounts. We are confident that by implementing risk-based authentication, in combination with our current mix of tools — including our Report a User function — we can continue to prevent and fight abuse.


Seems reasonable and balanced. Hiring Alex Stamos to oversee security has made a big difference very quickly.
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Why Zoom doesn’t have product/market fit • Use FYI

Hiten Shah:


Product/market fit, as described by Marc Andreessen, “means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market.” It’s a concept that was first developed by Benchmark co-founder and CEO of Wealthfront, Andy Rachleff.

Sean Ellis developed a way to measure product/market fit by calculating the percentage of people who say they’d be very disappointed if they couldn’t use a product anymore. Once 40% or more people say they’d be very disappointed, that product is said to have product/market fit.

I conducted another product/market fit survey back in 2015 on Slack. Back then, Slack had product/market fit: 51% of people said they’d be “very disappointed” if they couldn’t use it anymore.

So where did Zoom net out?

We asked people “How would you feel if you could no longer use Zoom?” To our surprise, only 30% said they’d be very disappointed. That’s 10% away from the product/market fit threshold. And 21% away from Slack’s score back in 2015.

Half of people (49%) said they’d be somewhat disappointed if they could no longer use Zoom. The rest – 21% – said they would not be disappointed (“it really isn’t that useful”).

…The top reason people use Zoom is for work. That’s exactly where Zoom has the lowest product/market fit. Only 32% of those people said “Very Disappointed.” And they made up the majority too, with 89% of people who took the survey saying they used Zoom for work.


Apparently Sean Ellis is the “coauthor of Hacking Growth”. Never heard of it or him. (Should I have?) I think the answer would be different if people were prevented from using Zoom for a couple of weeks, and then asked if they wanted it back. I think they’d jump on it.
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‘Pandemic pricing’ is here: rents are dropping across the US • CNN

Anna Bahney:


At the end of May, Ilana Freund landed a deal on an apartment in New York City where she will be attending graduate school. She and her roommate signed a lease on a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village for $4,995 a month. It was a significant discount: Similar apartments in the building were going for around $5,300 before the pandemic took hold, according to the listing agent.

The two roommates were also given one month’s rent free and did not have to pay a broker fee, which typically would have cost them 12% to 15% of the annual rent.

“It has been crazy,” Freund said, “but we definitely got a very good deal.”

“Pandemic pricing,” as some agents call it, has arrived across the country as landlords react to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. With many people either losing their jobs or working from home due to the shutdowns, many tenants have chosen to leave their apartments behind in major US cities.


Going to be the start of a trend.
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Bolton’s book says Trump impeachment inquiry missed other troubling actions • The New York Times

Peter Baker:


Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,” citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. “The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Mr. Bolton writes, adding that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Bolton also adds a striking new allegation by saying that Mr. Trump overtly linked trade negotiations to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping of China to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” was obtained by The New York Times in advance of its scheduled publication next Tuesday and has already become a political lightning rod in the thick of an election campaign and a No. 1 best seller on even before it hits the bookstores.

…Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and asked if Finland is part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. He came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. Even top advisers who position themselves as unswervingly loyal mock him behind his back. During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, according to the book, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president, saying, “He is so full of shit.”


Hilariously, the Trump admin is trying to block the publication of a book that has already been printed and distributed. And as for Bolton telling Bill Barr – how stupid is that, exactly, when he had already watched Barr misrepresent the Mueller report to Congress? Did he seriously think Barr was going to take any action, given that he’s perhaps the most corrupt person in the place?

Bolton comes across as a huge moral coward: he would testify to Congress, but only if he was subpoenaed. He wouldn’t stand up and say it in his own right. In the WSJ he says “Had Democratic impeachment advocates not been so obsessed with their Ukraine blitzkrieg in 2019, had they taken the time to inquire more systematically about Trump’s behavior across his entire foreign policy, the impeachment outcome might well have been different.” Who might they have asked, exactly? The White House – that included Bolton – blocked everything.

The Washington Post also has a writeup. Honestly, it could be renamed Streisand Effect.
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Another company is giving up on AR. This time, it’s Bose • Protocol

Janko Roettgers:


Bose has become the latest company to throw in the towel on immersive computing, shutting down its ambitious Bose AR program. Key Bose AR employees have left the company, and partners have been informed that their apps will stop working in the coming weeks.

“Bose AR didn’t become what we envisioned,” a Bose spokesperson told Protocol. “It’s not the first time our technology couldn’t be commercialized the way we planned, but components of it will be used to help Bose owners in a different way. We’re good with that. Because our research is for them, not us.”

Bose’s change of heart comes as augmented reality startups have struggled across the board. Augmented reality startup Meta AR gave up on plans to replace desktop computing with dedicated AR headsets in late 2018. Last year, both ODG and Daqri shut down. And in April, Magic Leap announced that it was exiting the consumer AR business, laying off 1,000 employees in the process.

Bose had been pursuing a unique approach to augmented reality: Instead of superimposing images over a view of the real world, Bose AR was based on audio alone and provided walking directions, audio-based fitness instructions and games via compatible headphones. The company even built its line of sunglasses with integrated headphones and AR sensors. It now wants to utilize these sensors to simplify the usage of those headphones and glasses.

…The decision to end the program comes as the privately held company faces financial turmoil. Earlier this year, Bose announced that it would close all its retail stores in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan in response to mounting pressure from ecommerce. The closures, which affected 119 stores altogether, resulted in hundreds of layoffs. And in March, news broke that Bose CEO Phil Hess had departed at the beginning of the year. The company has since been led by former CFO Jim Scammon, who assumed the title of president and COO as part of the transition.


“Audio AR” really was the height of mad ambition. Included a $50m fund to kickstart app development for it. Wonder how much was actually awarded.
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Dear Apple: here’s how to stop the antitrust investigations • Astropad

Savannah Reising:


Big tech has been in a slow boil. After wild west growth and lawlessness, Silicon Valley is finally getting the scrutiny it’s avoided for years — and it seems that everyone has been feeling disillusionment towards Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook. Following our experience of  getting sherlocked (where Apple copied our product and included it as a free OS feature), we’re here to jump in with our own perspective on getting antitrust laws up to speed. 


The five are, if you don’t want to read the post:
(1) enable users to set default app preferences
(2) open alternate payment mechanisms that don’t require paying 30% or 15% to Apple
(3) allow app sideloading
(4) Give third-party devs equal access to APIs
(5) Stop sherlocking third-party developers. (To “Sherlock” is to add features/apps to the OS which third-party developers were already offering. Like, say, a browser.)

To which I’d say, re antitrust:
1) not relevant
2) Apple’s almost certainly going to be forced to do this in Europe
3) Apple won’t like this, but if it opens payment then won’t have to do it
4) not obliged to do this under competition rules, and won’t
5) you simply cannot tell companies to stop developing their products. That would be a restraint of trade.
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Justice Department proposes limiting internet companies’ protections • WSJ

Brent Kendall and John D. McKinnon:


Last month, President Trump signed an executive order that sought to target the legal protections of social-media companies, responding to concerns among some conservatives about alleged online censorship by the platforms. The executive order sought to impose limits on legal immunity for social-media companies when they are deemed to unfairly curb users’ speech, for instance by deleting their posts or suspending their accounts. The administration, however, can’t impose many of these changes unilaterally.

The Justice Department’s proposed changes will address the type of speech concerns raised by Mr. Trump, but they also extend more broadly, seeking to strip civil immunity afforded to tech companies in a range of other circumstances if online platforms are complicit in unlawful behavior taking place on their networks, the administration official said.

The department’s proposal, for instance, would remove legal protections when platforms facilitate or solicit third-party content or activity that violates federal criminal law, such as online scams and trafficking in illicit or counterfeit drugs.

Internet companies would lose immunity if they have knowledge that unlawful conduct is taking place on their platforms or show reckless disregard for how users are behaving on their sites. Without those legal protections, tech companies could be exposed to claims for monetary damages from people allegedly harmed by online fraud and other illegal activity.

The department also wouldn’t confer immunity to platforms in instances involving online child exploitation and sexual abuse, terrorism or cyberstalking. Those carve-outs are needed to curtail immunity for internet companies to allow victims to seek redress, the official said.

Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly voiced concerns about online-platform immunity, citing, for example, a terrorism case in which courts ruled Facebook wasn’t civilly liable because its algorithms allegedly matched the Hamas organization with people that supported its cause.


Barr can propose until he’s blue in the face (which would be fun to watch) but this is going to get nowhere in a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. And it’s hard not to think that these are already somewhere in law. Google was dinged for $500m in 2011 for advertising drugs from Canada in the US. The terrorism case is bonkers – is he going to prosecute the algorithm?
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Signal downloads are way up since the protests began • The New York Times

Amelia Nierenberg:


The week before George Floyd died on May 25, about 51,000 first-time users downloaded Signal, according to data from the analytics firm Sensor Tower. The following week, as protests grew nationwide, there were 78,000 new downloads. In the first week of June, there were 183,000. (Rani Molla at Recode noted that downloads of Citizen, the community safety app, are also way up.)

Organizers have relied on Signal to devise action plans and develop strategies for handling possible arrests for several years. But as awareness of police monitoring continues to grow, protest attendees are using Signal to communicate with friends while out on the streets. The app uses end-to-end encryption, which means each message is scrambled so that it can only be deciphered by the sender and the intended recipient.

“If you don’t have end-to-end encryption, by definition, there are other parties that can read your messages,” said Joseph Bonneau, an assistant professor of computer science at New York University who has researched cryptography. “That doesn’t mean that they necessarily do, but it usually means that they can and, in particular, depending on what jurisdiction you are in, they can be ordered to by law enforcement.”

…Signal has also already been tested. In 2016, the chat service withstood a subpoena request for its data. The only information it could provide was the date the accounts in question were created and when they had last used Signal. Signal does not store messages or contacts on its servers, so it cannot be forced to give copies of that information to the government.

“Facebook and Twitter feel like standing on the side of the street, just kind of like, yelling,” said Jelani Drew-Davi, a 25-year-old black campaign manager at Kairos, an organization that teaches digital organizing strategies to people of color. “Signal is like taking to someone I want to talk to, and going into a very quiet corner.”


It was also used by Hillary Clinton’s campaign team (and, for all I know, by Trump’s). They preferred it over email because they’d discovered email could get hacked when the DNC was hit. Little did they know..
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1332: Apple faces double EU antitrust investigation, tweet for science!, Instagram the news service?, Magic Leap’s last gasp, and more

It’s a nice target, but fewer steps will serve you just as well. But what number exactly? CC-licensed photo by Vaguely Artistic on Flickr.

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.

A selection of 9 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

EU opens Apple antitrust investigations into App Store and Apple Pay practices • The Verge

Tom Warren:


The European Commission is opening two antitrust investigations into Apple’s App Store and Apple Pay practices today.

The first investigation will probe whether Apple has broken EU competition rules with its App Store policies, following complaints by Spotify and Rakuten over Apple’s 30% cut on subscriptions and sales of ebooks through its App Store.

“We need to ensure that Apple’s rules do not distort competition in markets where Apple is competing with other app developers, for example with its music streaming service Apple Music or with Apple Books,” says Margrethe Vestager, the head of the EU’s antitrust division. “I have therefore decided to take a close look at Apple’s App Store rules and their compliance with EU competition rules.”

Spotify has claimed Apple uses its App Store to stifle innovation and limit consumer choice in favor of its own Apple Music service. Rakuten filed a similar complaint to the EU earlier this year, alleging that it’s anti-competitive for Apple to take a 30% commission on ebooks sold through the App Store while promoting its own Apple Books service.

Alongside the App Store investigation, the European Commission will also look at Apple Pay to assess whether Apple’s payment system violates EU competition rules. Apple has limited access to the Near Field Communication (NFC) functionality of its iPhone and Apple Watch devices, a move that means banks and other financial service providers can’t offer NFC payments through their own apps.


The Spotify one is likely to get sticky for Apple. As is the Rakuten case: I think it could well lose both. For the mobile payments, it’s less clear, since there are clear rivals in Google Pay and Samsung Pay.
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Why are Google and Apple dictating how European democracies fight coronavirus? • The Guardian

Ieva Ilves:


Latvia has some of the lowest Covid-19 infection and mortality rates in the EU, thanks to aggressive and intensive manual contact tracing. Latvia ranks high for smartphone use, so it was natural that we would leap at the opportunity to reduce the manual workload with the help of a smartphone app. 

Yet when it came to transferring our successful manual tracing methods to the digital realm, we ran into a brick wall. As a member of the team that built our contact-tracing app, I represent the Latvian government in discussions with Apple and Google, whose technology the app uses. In negotiations I have come to realise that much of the public discussion on contact tracing has been oversimplified, with major implications for our health and for health institutions fighting the virus.

A debate has been raging as to where the data from contacts is stored – either on the user’s phone, presumably guaranteeing privacy, or with the national health authority once a user tests positive for coronavirus and might have exposed others to it. This distinction has been labelled a conflict between centralised versus decentralised storage of contact information.

This is the wrong debate. The misconception comes with the term centralised, as if all interactions and contacts between app users were going to be stored in a government-associated server. This has never been the case. What governments need an app to do is to mirror what public health authorities do anyway in the analogue world: manually trace contacts between infected individuals and people with whom they come into contact.

In the manual version authorities do not reveal the identity of the infected person, be they a bus driver or a secret lover, nor do they explore the nature of the contact. The same approach ensuring privacy and data security can be achieved in the digital world. It does not have to be a binary choice.


Yeeaaah nope. Gathering all this sort of data into a centralised, person-named database is precisely what Google and Apple are protecting against.
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Hey is a wildly opinionated new email service from the makers of Basecamp • The Verge

Casey Newton:


With the world now in a seemingly permanent state of crisis, you may not be in the market for a new email address. And why would you be? Even in the best of times, getting a new email address comes with all the hassle of changing your phone number, without the minor upgrades that a new phone brings. Changing your email address feels like a pointless struggle in a world where the existing options, however unremarkable, work basically fine. Like changing banks, really. Or moving into a new apartment in the same building.

In any case, I’m sorry to report that it’s time to consider getting a new email address. The reason is Hey, a new email service from Basecamp. It’s a genuinely original take on messaging that feels like the first interesting thing to happen to email since clever apps like Mailbox and Sparrow repurposed your Gmail account, and it’s available in an open beta starting today. With a $99-a-year price tag and some pungent opinions about how email should work, Hey is not for all or even most people. But if you find yourself chafing at the stagnation of Gmail and Outlook, or are just looking for a way to screen out most people who would ever send you a message, Hey is well worth considering.


$99 per year? Is it 1999 again? Although early users are enthusiastic, for reasons that make little sense to me. (Running a mail app? Quit it. Running webmail? Close the tab. Distraction gone.) However, a huge kerfuffle has blown up over this app because although you can’t sign up for the app inside iOS, Apple is insisting that it should, and that then it should get a 30% cut of the sub. This isn’t too popular with the makers, as you can imagine.
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The Floyd protests show that Twitter is real life • The New York Times

Charlie Warzel:


A 2017 Harvard-Harris poll suggested 57% of registered voters had an unfavorable view of the Black Lives Matter movement. And yet, these conversations didn’t disappear off the internet when they left front pages. They were there all along, in plain view for those who sought them out. They continued, despite portrayals to discredit the movement as a violent fringe and specious claims that “systemic racism is a myth” perpetuated by the media and so-called social justice warriors.

But what begins online and is castigated as an unrepresentative view gradually builds consensus, in this case, tracking to our current moment. When, at last, it reaches critical mass it is treated as conventional wisdom by those who once dismissed it. According to a new Times analysis, “in the last two weeks, American voters’ support for the Black Lives Matter movement increased almost as much as it had in the preceding two years.” As my Opinion colleague Aisha Harris wrote on Tuesday, “all of a sudden, everybody seems to care about black lives.”

The undergirding movement and struggle has been there the whole time. It was an articulation of a better future, even when it fell on unlistening ears. It was real life.


His point is that the roiling mass on Twitter and Instagram generates the political energy that then spills out when a suitable event creates the opportunity.
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Does tweeting improve citations? One-year results from the TSSMN prospective randomized trial • PubMed


Methods: A total of 112 representative original articles were randomized 1:1 to be tweeted via TSSMN or a control (non-tweeted) group. Measured endpoints included citations at 1-year compared to baseline, as well as article-level metrics (Altmetric score) and Twitter analytics. Independent predictors of citations were identified through univariable and multivariable regression analyses.

Conclusions: One-year follow-up of this TSSMN prospective randomized trial importantly demonstrates that tweeting results in significantly more article citations over time, highlighting the durable scholarly impact of social media activity.


Yup: articles that were tweeted got significantly more citations. Get to it, scientists.

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Instagram ‘will overtake Twitter as a news source’ • BBC News


Just 26% of people said they trusted social media as a source of information about the virus. A similar percentage said they trusted news that had been shared via chat apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

National governments and news organisations, by contrast, were both trusted by about 59% of respondents.

Instagram is now used by more than a third of all people who answered the survey, and two-thirds of under-25s. And 11% use it for news, putting it just one point behind Twitter.

“Instagram’s become very popular with younger people”, said Nic Newman, lead author of the report. “They really respond well to stories that are told simply and well with visual images”.

Stand-out visual stories in recent months have helped – climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the coronavirus have all seen massive engagement on the platform.

“It’s not that one necessarily replaces the other,” Mr Newman said. “They might use Facebook and Instagram, or might use Twitter and Instagram.”

Instagram is owned by Facebook, which now reaches 85% of people each week. The company’s dominance in how stories are being told “remains incredibly important”, he added. The firm also owns WhatsApp.

The coronavirus pandemic also seems to have offered a temporary reprieve to a downward trend in how much news organisations are trusted. Only 38% of people said they trusted the news most of the time. Less than half – 46% – said they trusted their favoured news source.


Quite a weird to think of Instagram as a news source – sharing content is very limited, so it’s difficult for it to go viral – but it is where the young folk are.
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Google bans two websites from its ad platform over protest articles • NBC News

Adele-Momoko Fraser:


Google has banned two far-right websites from its advertising platform after research revealed the tech giant was profiting from articles pushing unsubstantiated claims about the Black Lives Matter protests.

The two sites, ZeroHedge and The Federalist, will no longer be able to generate revenue from any advertisements served by Google Ads.

A Google spokesperson said in an email that it took action after determining the websites violated its policies on content related to race.

“We have strict publisher policies that govern the content ads can run on and explicitly prohibit derogatory content that promotes hatred, intolerance, violence or discrimination based on race from monetizing,” the spokesperson wrote. “When a page or site violates our policies, we take action. In this case, we’ve removed both sites’ ability to monetize with Google.”

Google added that it takes into account all of the content on a website including comments to determine if a policy violation has occurred.

Google’s ban of the websites comes after the company was notified of research conducted by the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a British nonprofit that combats online hate and misinformation. They found that 10 U.S-based websites have published what they say are racist articles about the protests, and projected that the websites would make millions of dollars through Google Ads


After this article was published, Google clarified that The Federalist wasn’t demonetized *yet*, and that the problem with both sites was the content in the comments. The Federalist had a little time to “remedy” the situation, and within a couple of hours of the story appearing, Google tweeted that “we worked with them to address issues on their site related to the comments section.” The story seems very ropey – there’s no actual published research from the CCDH, the journalist seems to have gone to Google saying that the story would be that Google runs ads against racist content, but Google then switched things around.

As to Google’s ad-serving monopoly – you can’t post absolutely anything on a billboard (the billboard owner will have rules), and advertisers won’t advertise in places that support racists. Lots of them have policies on that.
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Magic Leap bet big on holograms — and paid the price • The Verge

Adi Robertson:


Launched in 2018, the Magic Leap One headset should have been mixed reality’s moment to shine — but it couldn’t match the hype the company had created.

Now, Magic Leap seems barely afloat. On May 21st, the company laid off around 1,000 employees before getting a last-minute $350m investment that many saw as a lifeline. The following week, founder Rony Abovitz stepped down as CEO. As the company shifts into survival mode, the dream of a market-shifting creative platform (best represented by the Magic Leap One) seems to be dead — or, at the very least, indefinitely delayed. Instead, the company is focused on products that can keep the company alive — business-focused applications built in the model of Microsoft’s HoloLens.

That raises an uncomfortable question: with the starry-eyed vision stripped away, what does Magic Leap have left?


Turns out: nothing to speak of. This is a comprehensive shovelling of dirt onto the perhaps still-twitching body.
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Tyranny of 10,000 steps was pedometer sales ploy • The Times

Will Pavia:


two studies, which together involved more than 20,000 Americans, have cast doubt on this [10,000 step-per-day] target. One study, involving more than 17,000 women between the ages of 62 and 101, showed the benefits of walking began to taper off after about 7,500 steps.

Another study, involving a younger cohort of about 4,000 Americans, aged 40 and upwards, suggested there were health benefits from more steps but also showed those benefits dwindling before the 10,000-step mark. Both studies note that the target probably derives not from hard science, but from a 1960s Japanese marketing campaign.

“More is better but the curve levels off,” said I-Min Lee, a medical professor and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Medicine, who was the lead author of the study on women.

Dr Lee began looking at the ubiquitous 10,000-step target because she worried it was counterproductive for some people. “I became really interested in the origins of the 10,000 because I work with mainly older women,” she said. “With many older women, if you ask them for 10,000 steps it’s like asking them to go to the moon.”

Her paper reports that the yen for 10,000 steps “probably derives from the trade name of a pedometer sold in 1965 by the Yamasa Clock and Instrument Company”. Dr Lee said that the company sold a wearable pedometer that was called Manpo-kei, which meant “ten thousand step meter”.

“The Japanese character for 10,000 looks like a man walking, that’s why they chose it,” she said. “It wasn’t rooted in a scientific study.”


I think we did know that the 10,000 step thing was totally made up, but it’s good to have the level where it actually is useful made clear.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified