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The most powerful Raspberry Pi now has 8GB of RAM

The most powerful Raspberry Pi now has 8GB of RAM

Aside from having more RAM, the new miniature PC is functionally unchanged. | Image: Raspberry Pi Foundation

The Raspberry Pi Foundation has doubled the maximum amount of RAM available in the Raspberry Pi 4 to 8GB with a new device it’s selling for $75. To take advantage of the RAM increase, the foundation is also releasing a new 64-bit version of its operating system in early beta. The new Raspberry Pi 4 is otherwise identical to the device that was announced in June last year, meaning it has the same ARM-based CPU, and HDMI, USB 3, and Ethernet ports.

8GB is a lot of RAM considering the Raspberry Pi’s size and price. It’s the same as many flagship smartphones released this year, and enough for an entry-level gaming PC. The Raspberry Pi Foundation says the additional memory should be useful for compiling large pieces of software, running heavy server workloads, or maybe just having more browser tabs open at once. We’re sure that it won’t take long for the community to come up with many interesting uses.

To take full advantage of the increased amounts of RAM, the foundation is also releasing a 64-bit version of its Raspbian operating system in early beta, renamed to Raspberry Pi OS. The Linux-based operating system currently uses a 32-bit kernel, which means it can’t fully use 8GB of RAM. If you’d rather not run beta software, then there are other 64-bit OS’s available for the Pi 4 like Ubuntu and Gentoo.

As well as the new 8GB model, the Raspberry Pi 4 is available with 4GB and 2GB of RAM for $55 and $35 respectively.

Microsoft copied its new Windows Package Manager from rival AppGet, claims developer

Microsoft copied its new Windows Package Manager from rival AppGet, claims developer

Image by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft surprised everyone with its new Windows Package Manager (winget) last week, but it looks like the company copied the core mechanics from a developer it interviewed and ghosted. Keivan Beigi, the developer behind package manager AppGet, has provided a detailed account of Microsoft reaching out to him last year with interest in his work before going quiet and then launching its own winget rival. It sounds like Sherlocking — a term that refers to Apple undercutting third-party apps by building their functionality directly into macOS or iOS — but in the Microsoft and Windows world.

AppGet is a free and open source package manager for Windows, which automates installing software on Windows PCs. It caught the attention of Microsoft last year, after Andrew Clinick, a program manager responsible for the app model at Microsoft, reached out to AppGet developer Keivan Beigi. The conversations eventually led to Clinick inviting the developer to interview for a role at Microsoft that would see him working on improving software distribution in Windows through his work on AppGet.

Microsoft’s winget package manager.

Beigi interviewed in December, and then never heard anything back from the company for nearly six months until he received a 24-hour heads up that Microsoft was launching winget last week. “When I finally saw the announcement and the GitHub repositories, I was shocked? Upset? I wasn’t even sure what I was looking at,” says Beigi.

Beigi claims the “core mechanics, terminology, the manifest format and structure, even the package repository’s folder structure” of Microsoft’s winget are all heavily inspired by AppGet. Microsoft only briefly mentions AppGet once in its announcement, in a throwaway line that lists other Windows package managers.

“What was copied with no credit is the foundation of the project. How it actually works,” explains Beigi in a separate Reddit post. “And I don’t mean the general concept of package / app managers… WinGet works pretty much identical to the way AppGet works.”

Beigi is now ceasing work on AppGet as Microsoft forges ahead with winget. In an email to The Verge, he says there would be no point competing. “I don’t think fragmenting the ecosystem will benefit anyone,” says Beigi. AppGet will now be shut down on August 1st, and Beigi is mostly unhappy with how Microsoft didn’t credit him for his work.

“The announcement was especially bad given how little credit was given to AppGet compared to other projects,” says Beigi. He’s looking for recognition from Microsoft more than anything. “I think some attribution / credit would be fair but I don’t think it really matters what I’d like to happen,” says Beigi, noting he has been blown away by the response to his blog post.

“When writing the article I tried to be as factual and fair as I possibly could,” says Beigi. “And it has been extremely gratifying to know that I’m not crazy and the whole situation was as unfair as I thought and outsiders tend to agree.”

Other developers of open source software have found themselves in similar situations where Microsoft’s own software has been heavily inspired by alternatives that are free and open source. Brisbane-based software developer Paul Stovell warned earlier this year that Microsoft does its homework on open source alternatives. If Microsoft releases its own competitor then, Stovell says, “it’s unlikely they didn’t do their research or weren’t aware of the alternative.”

We reached out to Microsoft to comment on the AppGet situation, but at the time of publication the company has not yet provided an explanation.

Gogoro’s Eeyo 1 is the ‘sports car’ of e-bikes

Gogoro’s Eeyo 1 is the ‘sports car’ of e-bikes

Images: Gogoro

Five years after Taiwanese startup Gogoro debuted with a slick electric scooter at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, the company has now unveiled the Eeyo 1 and Eeyo 1S, its first forays into the booming e-bike market.

They’re both stylish open-frame e-bikes aimed at a premium slice of that market — no surprise, given Gogoro’s history with its electric scooters over the last few years and CEO Horace Luke’s past as chief innovation officer at HTC. “We’re not making a traditional e-bike with a big battery, or a big basket in the front, or big racks you can bolt on,” Luke tells The Verge. “The idea was to build a bike for the population that said, ‘hey, I don’t want a [Chevy] Suburban. I don’t want a [Ford] F-150. I actually prefer the sports car.’”

As such, Gogoro will charge sports car prices when the Eeyo 1 enters its three launch markets (the US, Europe, and Taiwan) this summer. The 27.5-pound base model Eeyo 1 costs $3,899, while the top-tier 26.4-pound Eeyo 1s costs $4,599 — prices that make VanMoof’s premium $2,000-and-up e-bikes look downright affordable.

Both versions of the Eeyo 1 e-bike are made with carbon fiber frames, which accounts for a hefty chunk of their price tags but is what’s driving a lot of weight savings. The Eeyo 1 uses an aluminum seat post, wheels, and handlebars, while the 1S features carbon fiber in all of those places. The Eeyo 1 offers customers a choice between a soft “cloud blue” or bright “lobster orange” frame. The Eeyo 1S comes in “warm white.”

Crucially, both bikes are powered by what Gogoro is calling the Eeyo Smartwheel. Instead of attaching the battery to the frame or putting it in one of the tubes, Gogoro has placed it in a hub in the back wheel along with an electric motor and some sensors.

The company is not the first to package all of the e-bike tech in this way, Luke admits. But he says “most of [those other] hub solutions have been cheap solutions that go on cheap steel.” Gogoro is also preparing to make this wheel / battery / motor combo available to other manufacturers, and perhaps even as a standalone product, which could pave the way for new lines of revenue.

This is similar to the approach Gogoro takes with its other products. For instance, the company makes it possible for other manufacturers to leverage the network of swappable batteries that power its e-scooters, incentivizing giants like Yamaha to push into the electric scooter space earlier than they would have otherwise.

With a full charge, the 43.6-volt, 123Wh battery in the Smartwheel will last for about 40 miles in “Sport” mode and 55 miles in “Eco” mode. The e-bikes are pedal-assist only, so there’s no independent throttle, and they have a top speed of 19 miles per hour. A torque sensor in the Smartwheel will constantly measure how much effort the rider is putting in and send power from the battery to the motor to help out according to whichever mode they’re in. The Eeyo bikes are belt-driven (another carbon piece), which means there should be very little delay in the delivery of that power, and — hopefully — less maintenance over the long run. (Luke says the whole bike has been designed to cut down on maintenance, though that’s something that has to be proven out over time.)

There’s no regenerative braking ability, which means a lot charging. Riders have to charge the Eeyo 1 using a cord with a U-shaped connector that snaps to the hub of the Smartwheel. Gogoro will sell an optional charging stand to Eeyo 1 customers that removes the need for the cable, and the stand will also be included with a purchase of the Eeyo 1S. It won’t be as easy to charge as an e-bike with a removable battery. But Luke says the open frame and the reasonable weight should make it easier to throw an Eeyo bike over the shoulder to carry up a flight or two of stairs if need be.

Both versions of the Eeyo 1 will work with a companion app that lets customers see some basic information about the e-bikes, and will make software updates possible. Gogoro is touting a Tesla-style “proximity-based auto-lock,” meaning that the motor will unlock as they approach the bike and seize up when they walk away. There is no other way to activate the bike, though, and the app is the only way to change ride modes.

These tradeoffs come from the fact that Luke says Gogoro focused on “agility and fun over utility,” which means customers shouldn’t expect the Eeyo 1 and Eeyo 1S to necessarily outperform other e-bikes. If someone has kids or groceries to haul, Luke is willing to admit something like a Rad Power e-bike may be a better fit. The Eeyo 1 e-bikes are instead supposed to be daring, design-forward products, the kind of thing people either splurge to buy or aspire to own. And much like a high-end sports car, it sounds like they will be a little finicky to use.

But Luke promises excellent ride quality, especially thanks to the build quality and the lighter frame. He also says he hopes the Eeyo 1’s design and ride quality will inspire other e-bike manufacturers to add a little more of that sports car mentality to their utility vehicles, to give people a “more fun way to get around.” And before long, he’ll probably try to sell them the Smartwheel while he’s at it, too.

4 Great Sets of Headphones for $100 or Less

4 Great Sets of Headphones for $100 or Less

A plastic pig wearing headphones. no, seriously.

Gearstd/Shutterstock.comHeadphones are a great way of listening to music at a loud volume while not disturbing anyone else. A really good set of earphones can easily cost $300 or more, but you might not want to spend that much, or even not have that much to spend. Inexpensive doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, however.

Here are four headphones, on-ear or over-ear, that sound great and won’t break the bank or your heart if they are lost or broken.

What to Look for in $100 or Less Headphones

You might ask why you should even consider a $300 pair of earphones when you can get something that sounds good for a third the price or less. Here’s a quick checklist.

  • Active Noise Cancellation (ANC): Not every under $100 headset is going to offer the ability to reduce the ambient noise. But if you intend to use the headset in an environment where the surrounding noise would substantially reduce your enjoyment of the music experience, it’s a nice feature to have.
  • Bluetooth: Sometimes you don’t mind plugging in an audio cable, but wireless operation is a big plus. Unless you’re specifically looking for a wired-only headset, you’re going to want Bluetooth capability. Bluetooth 5 is the newest iteration, providing the widest range and better fidelity.
  • On-ear/Over-Ear: This is largely a comfort issue. Depending on the size of your head and ears (no insult intended), you might find over-ear headphones more comfortable to wear for protracted periods of time.
  • Audio Cable: If you frequently spend time at home listening to your music, you might want to use a direct audio cable connection rather than wireless Bluetooth. It’s less convenient, but with a direct connection, you aren’t limited by the battery life. The downside is that when directly connected via an audio cable, ANC rarely works because the headphones are not powered up.

Best Headphones for Sharing Music: URBANEARS Plattan 2 Bluetooth

Image of blue headphones
Plattan 2 URBANEARS

The $55 Plattan 2 Bluetooth doesn’t have ANC. But it does have something none of the others offer—something URBANEARS calls a Zoundplug. It’s a 3.5mm audio jack in the left speaker that you can plug a second set of wired headphones or earphones into and share the music you are listening to with a friend. It’s a cool feature.

And, while these headphones are inexpensive, they still manage to provide 40mm drivers, a collapsible/foldable design that is useful if you want to pack them in a carry-on or backpack, and Bluetooth connectivity. If you don’t need Bluetooth, a similar set of headphones without wireless capability, the Plattan 2, costs only about $33.

The Plattan 2 Bluetooth phones are on-ear rather than over-ear. This form factor often tends to squeeze your head after a short period of listening, so if you have a large head (no insult intended), you might want to choose a pair of headphones that fit over your ears rather than resting on them.

At this price, you don’t get any kind of carry case, and these headphones charge over micro USB rather than the now common USB-C. They’re also missing an audio cable, but if you want to use these in wired mode, a cable with 3.5mm plugs on both ends cost just a few dollars from Amazon.

However, it’s what you do get that makes the Plattan 2 Bluetooth an attractive consideration. Obviously, you get wireless Bluetooth connectivity, as well as 30-hour battery life. A simple single joystick control on the right earpiece lets you skip tracks, pause music, and answer calls. A microphone in the right earpiece picks up your voice when you answer a call, and if you’re using an iPhone or Mac, you can voice control things with Siri.

Best Headphones For Sharing Music

Urbanears Plattan 2 Bluetooth On-Ear Headphone, Dark Grey (04092111)

Affordable headphones with a 3.5mm jack on one earcup where a friend can plug in their headphone or earphone and listen to what you’re listening to.

Best Long-Playing Headphones: Edifier W828NB

Image of headphones
Edifier W828NB Edifier

At $90, the Edifier W828NB over-ear headphones are the second most expensive set in this roundup. But if you spend long periods listening to music without the ANC turned on, you might want them at the top of your list. Edifier claims an incredible 80 hours of play time with ANC turned off, and 25 hours with it turned on. When the battery runs low, a four-hour recharge extends your listening time.

In other respects, they are similar to most headphones at this price point. With a comfortable headband and earcups, these over-ear headphones feature 40mm drivers and easy-to-use controls that span both earcups with most functions on the right earcup and the ANC controls on the left one.

If you’re using these at home or in the office and don’t want to run down the battery, Edifier includes a 3.5mm audio cable as well as a standard micro USB charging cable. There’s no hard-shell carry case, but the box does contain a fabric carry bag and the earpieces fold up minimizing the amount of space needed to pack the W828NB phones.

Not all that common in many Bluetooth headphones, the Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) is still usable when the headset is connected via the included audio cable as well as when it is used in Bluetooth mode. The Edifier W828NB is available in white as well as the standard black. The downside to the W828NB is that it doesn’t include a microphone, so unfortunately you can’t make or receive phone calls while wearing it.

Best Long-Playing Headphones

Edifier W828NB Wireless Bluetooth Headphones – Ergonomic, Active Noise Canceling (ANC) – Black

Get up to 80 hours of listening pleasure with ANC turned off and 25 hours of music with ANC on.

Best Budget Headphones: Monoprice BT500ANC

Image of headphones
Monoprice BT500ANC Monoprice

At about the same price as the URBANEARS Plattan 2, the over-ear Monoprice BT500ANC provide good sound and comfortable listening with up to 25 hours of play time or 28 hours of talk time when using them with your phone, and will only set you back $60. They have 40mm drivers, which is somewhat standard in all of the headphones in this roundup, and fold up nicely for easy packing in your laptop bag or carry-on luggage. And, if you’re going to travel with them, you’ll appreciate the hard-shell carry case, something of a rarity at this price point. Also included are a micro USB charging cable and an audio cable with 3.5mm plugs on each end for when you don’t want to use Bluetooth.

The comfortable over-ear padded earcups make the BT500ANC easy to wear for extended time periods, and the Qualcomm cVc noise cancellation provides enhanced audio quality and noise suppression.

Controls are located over both earcups with the ANC on-off switch clearly marked with a small LED indicator light that glows when ANC is active. The micro USB port is also located on the same earcup. The opposite earcup contains a 3.5mm audio jack for those times you would rather not use Bluetooth as well as track controls to move back and forth between tracks and to raise or lower the volume. A button located between the track/volume buttons lets you turn Bluetooth on and off and accept or reject an incoming call.

Best Overall Headphones: IFROGZ AIRTIME VIBE

Image of headphones
Ifrogz AIRTIME VIBE ZAGG

The AIRTIME VIBE are the most expensive headphones in this roundup, but at $99 they’ll still get you a few pennies back from your $100 bill.

Most headphones in the $100-or-less category are pretty similar, and the AIRTIME VIBE doesn’t set a much higher bar. The phones feature ANC with a 20db reduction in ambient noise, which is significant if you are listening in a noisy environment like a plane. As with all of the phones detailed here, Bluetooth 5 gives you excellent wireless reception up to 30 feet from the source, so you can wander around your room or house and not have your music drop out.

Where the AIRTIME VIBE earns their somewhat higher price is in comfort. These are over-ear phones, so they don’t feel like you’ve stuck your head in a vise after listening. The soft-padded earcups let you listen for hours at a time, and the long battery life provides 25 hours of listening pleasure with the ANC turned on, and 30 with it turned off. Track forward and back connection controls are located on the right earcup, as are the micro USB and audio jacks. Also on the right earcup is the built-in microphone that lets you answer incoming calls. The topmost button on the right earcup turns the headphones on and off, and is also used to connect the phones with Bluetooth.

The AIRTIME VIBE headphones fold up nicely to easily fit in your carry-on or laptop bag, and are provided with a micro USB charging cable and a 3.5mm audio cable so you don’t have waste battery life if you can directly plug into the music source.

And, if you’re looking for a little variety, the AIRTIME VIBE are available in black, white, or blue.

Best Overall Headphone Under $100

iFrogz – Airtime Vibe in Ear Bluetooth Earbuds – Black

Available in three colors, the AIRTIME VIBE headphones make the most out of your C-note.

Please don’t buy this fake $350 anti-5G USB stick

Please don’t buy this fake $350 anti-5G USB stick

Scammers are trying to sell a $350 USB key with just 128MB of storage as an anti-5G solution. The “5GBioShield” went on sale recently in the UK priced between £280 and £330 ($343 and $405), and promises to use “quantum holographic catalyzer technology” to protect a family home against 5G. Unsurprisingly, the USB key is fake, and it’s actually a regular $6 USB stick that only has 128MB of storage. That hasn’t stopped conspiracy theorists from promoting it, however.

BBC News reports that the “5GBioShield” has been recommended by a member of Glastonbury Town Council’s 5G Advisory Committee. The town, known globally as the host of the annual Glastonbury Festival, has called for an inquiry into 5G over safety fears. Those fears have also led to conspiracy theories linking 5G and coronavirus in the UK in recent months, and some people have even burned 5G towers as a result.

The fake anti-5G USB sticks on sale in the UK.

An external member of Glastonbury’s 5G Advisory Committee, Tony Hall, recommended this device in a recent Glastonbury council report (PDF). He claimed “we use this device and find it helpful.” In the same report, Hall also claims that “flocks of birds [fall] out of the sky dead when 5G is turned on,” and that “people get nose bleeds and suicide rates increase.” The same report includes references that falsely link the spread of the novel coronavirus and 5G.

There’s no scientific evidence to suggest 5G is harmful to flocks of birds, that it increases suicide rates or nose bleeds, or that it’s even linked to coronavirus. Hall opposes the roll out of 5G in Glastonbury, and was appointed as part of nine members of the public to advise on the technology. “5G is the vehicle for total control and the ‘surveillance state’,” claims Hall in the same report. It’s certainly ironic that someone so fearful of 5G is happy to plug a fake 128MB USB stick into their laptop to protect themselves.

A security firm ordered one of the $350 USB keys recommended by Hall to investigate its “quantum holographic catalyzer technology.” After breaking the device apart, the researchers only found a 128MB stick that’s probably a rebadged USB stick made in China with an additional sticker on it.

“Now we cannot say this sticker does not have additional functionality unused anywhere else in the world, but we are confident you can make up your own mind on that,” says Phil Eveleigh, the researcher who dismantled the USB key.

BBC News reached out to the owners of the website distributing the fake anti-5G USB stick, and they brazenly defended selling a $6 fake anti-5G USB stick for $350. “We are in possession of a great deal of technical information, with plenty of back-up historical research,” said Anna Grochowalska. “In regard to the costs analysis your research has produced, I believe that the lack of in-depth information will not drive you to the exact computation of our expenses and production costs, including the cost of IP [intellectual property rights], and so on.”

Needless to say, please don’t waste your money on this junk, and remember: radio waves can only spread computer viruses, not human ones.

How to think about polarization on Facebook

How to think about polarization on Facebook

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

I.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal published a report about Facebook’s efforts to fight polarization since 2016, based on internal documents and interviews with current and former employees. Rich with detail, the report describes how Facebook researched ways to reduce the spread of divisive content on the platform, and in many cases set aside the recommendations of employees working on the problem. Here are Jeff Horwitz and Deepa Seetharaman:

“Our algorithms exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness,” read a slide from a 2018 presentation. “If left unchecked,” it warned, Facebook would feed users “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention & increase time on the platform.” […]

Fixing the polarization problem would be difficult, requiring Facebook to rethink some of its core products. Most notably, the project forced Facebook to consider how it prioritized “user engagement”—a metric involving time spent, likes, shares and comments that for years had been the lodestar of its system.

The first thing to say is that “polarization” can mean a lot of things, and that can make the discussion about Facebook’s contribution to the problem difficult. You can use it in a narrow sense to talk about the way that a news feed full of partisan sentiment could divide the country. But you could also use it as an umbrella term to talk about initiatives related to what Facebook and other social networks have lately taken to calling “platform integrity” — removing hate speech, for example, or labeling misinformation.

The second thing to say about “polarization” is that while it has a lot of negative effects, it’s worth thinking about what your proposed alternative to it would be. Is it national unity? One-party rule? Or just everyone being more polite to one another? The question gets at the challenge of “fighting” polarization if you’re a tech company CEO: even if you see it as an enemy, it’s not clear what metric you would rally your company around to deal with it.

Anyway, Facebook reacted to the Journal report with significant frustration. Guy Rosen, who oversees these efforts, published a blog post on Wednesday laying out some of the steps the company has taken since 2016 to fight “polarization” — here used in that umbrella-term sense of the word. The steps include shifting the News Feed to include more posts from friends and family than publishers; starting a fact-checking program; more rapidly detecting hate speech and other malicious content using machine-learning systems and an expanded content moderation workforce; and removing groups that violate Facebook policies from algorithmic recommendations.

Rosen writes:

We’ve taken a number of important steps to reduce the amount of content that could drive polarization on our platform, sometimes at the expense of revenues. This job won’t ever be complete because at the end of the day, online discourse is an extension of society and ours is highly polarized. But it is our job to reduce polarization’s impact on how people experience our products. We are committed to doing just that.

Among the reasons the company was frustrated with the story, according to an internal Workplace post I saw, is that Facebook had spent “several months” talking with the Journal reporters about their findings. The company gave them a variety of executives to speak with on and off the record, including Joel Kaplan, its vice president of global public policy, who often pops up in stories like this to complain that some action might disproportionately hurt conservatives.

In any case, there are two things I think are worth mentioning about this story and Facebook’s response to it. One is an internal tension in the way Facebook thinks about polarization. And the other is my worry that asking Facebook to solve for divisiveness could distract from the related but distinct issues around the viral promotion of conspiracies, misinformation, and hate speech.

First, that internal tension. On one hand, the initiatives Rosen describes to fight polarization are all real. Facebook has invested significantly in platform integrity over the past several years. And, as some Facebook employees told me yesterday, there are good reasons not to implement every suggestion a team brings you. Some might be less effective than other efforts that were implemented, for example, or they might have unintended negative consequences. Clearly some employees on the team feel like most of their ideas weren’t used, or were watered down, including employees I’ve spoken with myself over the years. But that’s true of a lot of teams at a lot of companies, and it doesn’t mean that all their efforts were for nought.

On the other hand, Facebook executives largely reject the idea that the platform is polarizing in the tearing-the-country-apart sense of the word. The C-suite read closely a working paper that my colleague Ezra Klein wrote about earlier this year that casts doubt on social networks’ contribution to the problem. The paper by Levi Boxell, Matthew Gentzkow, and Jesse Shapiro studies what is known as “affective polarization,” which Klein defines as “the difference between how warmly people view the political party they favor and the political party they oppose.” They found that affective polarization had increased faster in the United States than anywhere else — but that in several large, modernized nations with high internet usage, polarization was actually decreasing. Klein wrote:

One theory this lets us reject is that polarization is a byproduct of internet penetration or digital media usage. Internet usage has risen fastest in countries with falling polarization, and much of the run-up in US polarization predates digital media and is concentrated among older populations with more analogue news habits.

Klein, who published a book on the subject this year, believes that social networks contribute to polarization in other ways. But the fact that there are many large countries where Facebook usage is high and polarization is decreasing helps to explain why the issue is not top of mind for Facebook’s C-suite. As does Mark Zuckerberg’s own stated inclination against platforms making editorial judgments on speech. (Which he reiterated at a virtual shareholders’ meeting today.)

So here you have a case where Facebook can be “right” in a platform integrity sense — look at all these anti-polarization initiatives! — while the Journal is right in a larger one: Facebook has been designed as a place for open discussion, and human nature ensures that those discussions will often be heated and polarizing, and the company has chosen to take a relatively light touch in managing the debates. And it does so because executives think the world benefits from raucous, few-holds-barred discussions, and because they aren’t persuaded that those discussions are tearing countries apart.

Where Facebook can’t wriggle off the hook, I think, is in the Journal’s revelation of just how important its algorithmic choices have been in the spread of polarizing speech. Again, here the problem isn’t “polarization” in the abstract — but in concrete harms related to anti-science, conspiracy, and hate groups, which grow using Facebook’s tools. The company often suggests that its embrace of free speech has created a neutral platform, when in fact its design choices often reward division with greater distribution.

This is the part of the Journal’s report that I found most compelling:

The high number of extremist groups was concerning, the presentation says. Worse was Facebook’s realization that its algorithms were responsible for their growth. The 2016 presentation states that “64% of all extremist group joins are due to our recommendation tools” and that most of the activity came from the platform’s “Groups You Should Join” and “Discover” algorithms: “Our recommendation systems grow the problem.”

Facebook says that extremist groups are no longer recommended. But just today, the disinformation researcher Nina Jankowicz joined an “alternative health” group on Facebook and immediately saw recommendations that she join other groups related to white supremacy, anti-vaccine activism, and QAnon.

Ultimately, despite its efforts so far, Facebook continues to unwittingly recruit followers for bad actors, who use it to spread hate speech and misinformation detrimental to the public health. The good news is that the company has teams working on those problems, and surely will develop new solutions over time. The question raised by the Journal is, when that happens, how closely their bosses will listen to them.

II.

On Tuesday, Twitter added a link to two of President Trump’s tweets , designating them as “potentially misleading.” It took this action because Trump, as part of a disinformation campaign alleging that voting by mail will trigger massive vote fraud, was appearing to interfere with the democratic process in violation of the company’s policies.

Trump was outraged about the links, and tweeted about being censored to his 80 million followers. He threatened to shut down social media companies. He said “big action” would follow. At the direction of a White House spokeswoman, right-wing trolls began to harass Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, who has previously tweeted criticism of Trump. Members of Congress including Marco Rubio and Josh Hawley tweeted that Twitter’s action could not stand, and that social platforms should lose Section 230 protections for moderating speech — willfully misunderstanding Section 230 in the way that they always do. Late in the day, there was word of a forthcoming executive order, with no other details.

I could spend a lot of time here speculating about the coming battle between social networks and the Republican establishment, with Silicon Valley’s struggling efforts to moderate their unwieldy platforms going head-to-head with Republicans’ bad-faith attempts to portray them as politically biased. But the past few years have taught us that while Congress is happy to kick and scream about the failures of tech platforms, it remains loath to actually regulate them.

It’s true that we have seen some apparent retaliation from Trump against social networks — the strange fair housing suit filed against Facebook last year comes to mind. And several antitrust cases are currently underway that could result in significant action. But for the most part, as Makena Kelly writes today in The Verge, the bluster is as far as it ever really goes:

The president has never followed through on his threats and used his considerable powers to place legal limits on how these companies operate. His fights with the tech companies last just long enough to generate headlines, but flame out before they can make a meaningful policy impact. And despite the wave of conservative anger currently raining down on Twitter, there’s no reason to think this one will be any different.

Those flameouts are most tangible in the courts. On the same day as Trump’s tweets, the US Court of Appeals in Washington ruled against the nonprofit group Freedom Watch and fringe right figure Laura Loomer in a case purporting that Facebook, Google, and Twitter conspired to suppress conservative content online, according to Bloomberg. Whether it be Loomer or Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) fighting the bias battle, the courts have yet to rule in their favor.

In fact, as former Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler noted, Trump has even less leverage over Twitter than he does over other tech companies. “Twitter don’t sell political ads, they’re not big enough for an antitrust threat, and he’s clearly hooked on the platform,” Wexler tweeted. And whatever Trump may think, as the law professor Kate Klonick noted, “The First Amendment protects Twitter from Trump. The First Amendment doesn’t protect Trump from Twitter.”

Facts and logic aside, get ready: you’re about to hear a lot more cries from people complaining that they have been censored by Twitter. And it will be all over Twitter.

The Ratio

Today in news that could affect public perception of the big tech platforms.

Trending sideways: YouTube began fixing an error in its moderation system that caused comments containing certain Chinese-language phrases critical of China’s Communist Party to be automatically deleted. The company still won’t explain what caused the deletions in the first place, though some are speculating that Chinese trolls trained the YouTube algorithm to block the terms. (James Vincent / The Verge)

Trending down: Harry Sentoso, a warehouse worker in Irvine who was part of Amazon’s COVID-19 hiring spree, died after two weeks on the job. Sentoso was presumed to have the novel coronavirus after his wife tested positive. (Sam Dean / Los Angeles Times)

Virus tracker

Total cases in the US: More than 1,701,500

Total deaths in the US: At least 100,000

Reported cases in California: 100,371

Total test results (positive and negative) in California: 1,696,396

Reported cases in New York: 369,801

Total test results (positive and negative) in New York: 1,774,128

Reported cases in New Jersey: 156,628

Total test results (positive and negative) in New Jersey: 635,892

Reported cases in Illinois: 114,448

Total test results (positive and negative) in Illinois: 786,794

Data from The New York Times. Test data from The COVID Tracking Project.

Governing

Whistleblowers say Facebook failed to warn investors about illegal activity happening on its platform. A complaint filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Tuesday includes dozens of pages of screenshots of opioids and other drugs for sale on Facebook and Instagram, reports Nitasha Tiku at The Washington Post:

The filing is part of a campaign by the National Whistleblower Center to hold Facebook accountable for unchecked criminal activity on its properties. By petitioning the SEC, the consortium is attempting to get around a bedrock law — Section 230 of the Communications and Decency Act — that exempts Internet companies from liability for the user-generated content on their platform.

Instead, the complaint focuses on federal securities law, arguing that Facebook’s failure to tell shareholders about the extent of illegal activity on its platform is a violation of its fiduciary duty. If Facebook alienates advertisers and has to shoulder the true cost of scrubbing criminals from its social networks, it could affect investors in the company, the complaint argues.

Facebook ran a multi-year charm offensive to develop friendly relationships with powerful state prosecutors who could use their investigative powers to harm the company’s revenue growth. In the end, the strategy had mixed results: Most of those attorneys general are now investigating the company for possible antitrust violations. I never cease to be amazed how ineffective tech lobbying is, given the money that gets spent on it (Naomi Nix / Bloomberg)

A federal appeals court rejected claims that Twitter, Facebook, Apple, and Google conspired to suppress conservative views online. The decision affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit by the nonprofit group Freedom Watch and the right-wing YouTube personality Laura Loomer, who accused the companies of violating antitrust laws and the First Amendment in a coordinated political plot. (Erik Larson / Bloomberg)

The Arizona attorney general sued Google for allegedly tracking users’ locations without permission. The case appears to hinge on whether Android menus were too confusing for the average person to navigate. (Tony Romm / Washington Post)

India’s antitrust body is looking into allegations that Google abused its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app. The complaint alleges Google hurt competition by prominently displaying Google Pay inside the Android app store in India. (Aditya Kalra and Aditi Shah / Reuters)

Google sent 1,755 warnings to users whose accounts were targets of government-backed attackers last month. The company highlighted new activity from “hack-for-hire” firms, many based in India, that have been creating Gmail accounts spoofing the World Health Organization. (Google)

Switzerland is now piloting a COVID-19 contact tracing app that uses the AppleGoogle framework. The app, SwissCovid, is the first to put the Apple-Google model to use. (Christine Fisher / Engadget)

Silicon Valley’s billionaire Democrats are spending tens of millions of dollars to help Joe Biden catch up to President Trump’s lead on digital campaigning. These billionaires’ arsenals are funding everything from nerdy political science experiments to divisive partisan news sites to rivalrous attempts to overhaul the party’s beleaguered data file. (Theodore Schleifer / Recode)

A war has broken out on Reddit regarding how content is moderated. The feud started when a list of “PowerMods” began circulating, with the title “92 of top 500 subreddits are controlled by just 4 people.” (David Pierce / Protocol)

Twitter’s anti-porn filters blocked the name of Boris Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings, from trending on the platform. Cummings has dominated British news for almost a week after coming under fire for traveling across the country during the coronavirus lockdown. It’s nice to read a truly funny story about content moderation for a change. (Alex Hern / The Guardian)

Industry

TikTok’s parent ByteDance generated more than $3 billion of net profit last year. The company’s revenue more than doubled from the year before, to $17 billion, propelled by high growth in user traffic. Here are Katie Roof and Zheping Huang at Bloomberg:

The company owes much of its success to TikTok, now the online repository of choice for lip-synching and dance videos by American teens. The ambitious company is also pushing aggressively into a plethora of new arenas from gaming and search to music. ByteDance could fetch a valuation of between $150 billion and $180 billion in an initial public offering, a premium relative to sales of as much as 20% to social media giant Tencent thanks to a larger global footprint and burgeoning games business, estimated Ke Yan, Singapore-based analyst with DZT Research.

Facebook’s experimental app division has a new product out today called Collab. The app lets users create short music videos using other people’s posts, which sounds a lot like TikTok. (Nick Statt / The Verge)

Facebook’s annual shareholder meeting was held virtually on Wednesday. One item on the agenda was a call for Mark Zuckerberg to relinquish his position as chair of Facebook’s board of directors, and be replaced by an independent figure. Somehow it failed! (Rob Price / Business Insider)

Instagram will start sharing revenue with creators for the first time, through ads in IGTV and badges that viewers can purchase on Instagram Live. The company has hinted that ads would come to IGTV for more than a year, often saying the long-form video offering would be the most likely place it’d first pay creators. Any time creators are develop a direct relationship with their audience and profit from it, I get super happy. (Ashley Carman / The Verge)

Google is rolling out a series of updates aimed at helping local businesses adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company is expanding a product that allows businesses to sell gift cards during the government shutdown. It’s also allowing restaurants to point to their preferred delivery partners for customers that want to order through third-party apps. (Sarah Perez / TechCrunch)

About half of remote workers in the US report feeling less connected to their company, more stressed in ways that negatively impact their work, and say they are working more hours from home. The downsides could become prominent as more companies extend remote working deadlines beyond the coronavirus pandemic. (Kim Hart / Axios)

Things to do

Stuff to occupy you online during the quarantine.

Watch HBO Max. It’s here, and it’s totally diluting the HBO brand!

Turn your Fuji camera into a high-end webcam with this new software. It works over USB.

Subscribe to a new newsletter from Google walkout organizer Claire Stapleton. Tech Support promises to offer “existential advice for today’s tech worker.”

Replace your Zoom calls with a Sims-style virtual hangout. It’s a new twist on video chat from a company called Teeoh.

Call 1-775-HOT-VINE to hear audio clips of famous Vines. I just did and it was extremely charming.

Those good tweets …

Talk to us

Send us tips, comments, questions, and polarizing Facebook posts: [email protected] and [email protected].

Philips Hue TV sync box now supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision

Philips Hue TV sync box now supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision

Image: Signify

The box that syncs Philips Hue lights with whatever’s on your TV is getting a big update today: it now supports two major HDR standards: HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

At launch, the longly named Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box could analyze content playing at up to 4K at 60Hz, but it only supported regular HDR10. For people with newer TV sets or who are serious about home theater, that’d be a major miss, since the HDR10 standard and Dolby Vision are now more common and offer better image quality. Until now, the box has just done nothing when those higher-quality signals were passed through.

After today’s update, the box should work with a lot more systems and content. The device analyzes pretty much any video content that’s being passed to your TV, figures out the dominant colors, and then constantly changes nearby Hue lightbulbs to match the color. It’s supposed to provide a more immersive experience while gaming or watching movies. (Though your enjoyment, I’m sure, will vary — I can imagine the effect growing tiring.)

Today’s update also adds voice control to the sync box through Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, letting you turn it on or off, switch HDMI inputs, and more. It’s also now able to support controls from infrared TV remotes and Logitech’s Harmony universal remote.

The Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box sells for $230, though it currently appears to be out of stock at a number of storefronts, including the Philips Hue website.

You can no longer subscribe to HBO via Apple TV Channels

You can no longer subscribe to HBO via Apple TV Channels

HBO is no longer available as an Apple TV Channel for people who want to subscribe to it though the Apple TV app (via 9to5Mac). The change follows today’s launch of the new streaming service HBO Max.

Apple TV Channels first launched last year as a way to watch content from many different service providers all in one app, meaning you wouldn’t have to bounce around between different third-party apps to watch different content. Now, though, it seems HBO wants to push users to watch HBO Max content on the HBO Max app instead of through Apple’s.

If you already subscribe to HBO through Apple TV’s Channels, you can apparently still see it in the Apple TV app, but it won’t be updated to include content that’s exclusive to HBO Max, according to 9to5Mac. You also have free access to HBO Max thanks to a deal that was struck between Apple and WarnerMedia last month. When that deal was struck, Deadline reported that HBO Max would be integrated into the Apple TV app, but it appears that hasn’t happened yet.

There are a number of ways to access HBO Max, and my colleague Chaim Gartenberg has put together a handy guide on how you can stream HBO Max and how to know if you may already have access to it without needing to pay.

If you want to subscribe to HBO Max through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels portal, however, you can’t just yet. The issue, it seems, is due to contract negotiations, reports The Wall Street Journal, which is why the HBO Max app is not available on either Amazon Fire devices or Roku ones. Amazon is blaming the dispute on AT&T, which owns HBO Max operator WarnerMedia, in a statement provided to The Verge:

With a seamless customer experience, nearly 5 million HBO streamers currently access their subscription through Amazon’s Prime Video Channels. Unfortunately, with the launch of HBO Max, AT&T is choosing to deny these loyal HBO customers access to the expanded catalog. We believe that if you’re paying for HBO, you’re entitled to the new programming through the method you’re already using. That’s just good customer service and that’s a priority for us.

WarnerMedia defended itself in this statement given to Engadget:

We are thrilled that HBO Max is widely available at launch to customers through a variety of devices and distribution partners as well as HBOMax.com. Our goal is to make HBO Max available on every platform possible to as many viewers globally as possible so they can enjoy beloved shows from HBO, the Warner Bros. movie and TV library and a diversity of hit programming exclusive to HBO Max. We look forward to reaching agreements with the few outstanding distribution partners left, including with Amazon and on par with how they provide customers access to Netflix, Disney and Hulu on Fire devices.

Arizona sues Google over claims it illegally tracked location of Android users

Arizona sues Google over claims it illegally tracked location of Android users

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich has filed a lawsuit against Google over allegations the company illegally tracked Android users’ location without their consent and even when the location tracking features had been manually disabled, according to a report from The Washington Post.

The suit argues Google kept location tracking running in the background for certain features, like weather and for web searches using its search engine and Chrome browser, even after the user disabled app-specific location tracking. Only when a user dug further into the Android system settings and turned off broader system-level tracking did Google stop surreptitiously siphoning location data, the complaint argues.

Google has found itself in similar controversies in the past over location tracking of Android users. The company has responded to privacy concerns over the years with various stopgap measures like making it easier to auto-delete your location data, and cracking down on offending third-party apps that do so without consent. But its efforts to improve privacy protections and the various settings you need to monitor to ensure you’re not being overly tracked remain complex and confusing to average users, and it can often seem impossible to keep tabs on just how much Google knows about you and what sources of data it maintains.

Brnovich is asking a court force Google to pay back profits it may have earned from monetizing this data through ads served to Arizona residents. The Post says Arizona’s anti-fraud laws also might subject Google to $10,000 per fine violations. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“At some point, people or companies that have a lot of money think they can do whatever the hell they want to do, and feel like they are above the law,” Brnovich told The Post in an interview. “I wanted Google to get the message that Arizona has a state consumer fraud act. They may be the most innovative company in the world, but that doesn’t mean they’re above the law.”

Google and its YouTube subsidiary, as well as the other major tech companies, are facing a number of regulatory and legal quagmires right now, following antitrust and privacy enforcement in the European Union that resulted in multi-billion fines against Google over the last decade.

Now, US politicians and regulators are following suit and have begun engaging in a broad and coordinated effort across the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and state legislators to reign in Big Tech and enforce antitrust, privacy, and other laws. These are rules Silicon Valley has largely flouted over the last couple of decades as lawmakers failed to keep up with the pace of technological change and the scale of Big Tech’s ability to exploit loopholes and skirt regulation for monetary gain and market consolidation.

YouTube settled with the FTC last year for violations of Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), while Google is currently under investigation by all 50 state attorneys general and the subject of a broader antitrust probe led by the Justice Department.

Nvidia says developers must now opt in to include games on GeForce Now

Nvidia says developers must now opt in to include games on GeForce Now

Image: Nvidia

Nvidia announced a new policy for its GeForce Now cloud gaming service on Wednesday that means publishers and developers will have to opt into the platform to have titles remotely playable via Nvidia servers.

“Response has been strong with over 200 publishers committing to streaming on the service,” reads a blog post from Phil Eisler, Nvidia’s GeForce Now vice president. “Going forward, only the games that are opted in will be available on the service, providing confidence in the GeForce Now game library. Yet some publishers are still figuring out their cloud strategies. Those that haven’t opted in as of May 31 will be removed.”

The shift is meant to address disputes over licensing, as Nvidia was including games on the platform without the express permission of some game developers and publishers and then removing the software later, apparently after complaints in private negotiations arose.

Unlike Google Stadia, which requires you purchase a separate license to play a game in the cloud, Nvidia’s GeForce Now allows subscribers to access their existing library of games bought from storefronts like Epic and Steam. That approach has proved controversial because it raises important, largely unanswered questions about digital ownership and the underlying business models of cloud gaming. For now, it appears Nvidia would like to remain in amicable negotiation with its game publisher partners, many of which it works closely with on its PC graphics cards.

One positive note for subscribers is that the change should mean we see far less abrupt removals, as was the case when big publishers like Activision Blizzard and Bethesda yanked entire libraries earlier this year, after GeForce Now exited beta and became a paid service. As of today, publishers that do not opt in GeForce Now by May 31st will have their games removed. Nvidia also shared a list of currently playable titles that will no longer be accessible later this week, including titles in Sega-published franchises like Sonic and Yakuza.

GeForce Now already has lost or will soon lose games from these major publishers: Activision Blizzard, Bethesda, Capcom, Crytek, Konami, Xbox Game Studios, Rockstar, Sega, Square Enix, Take-Two / 2K Games, and Warner Bros. But Nvidia says its platform offers access to more than 2,000 titles, and it does include games from major publishers like Bandai Namco, Bungie, CCP Games, Electronic Arts, Epic, Riot, Ubisoft, and Valve.