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Charter Can Charge Online Video Sites for Network Connections, Court Rules

43 min 57 sec ago
Charter can charge Netflix and other online video streaming services for network interconnection despite a merger condition prohibiting the practice, a federal appeals court ruled today. From a report: The ruling [PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturns two merger conditions that the Obama administration imposed on Charter when it bought Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in 2016. The FCC under Chairman Ajit Pai did not defend the merits of the merger conditions in court, paving the way for today's ruling. The case was decided in a 2-1 vote by a panel of three DC Circuit judges. The lawsuit against the FCC seeking to overturn Charter merger conditions was filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), a free-market think tank, and four Charter users who claim they were harmed by the conditions. The FCC unsuccessfully challenged the suing parties' standing to sue, and it did not mount a legal defense of the conditions themselves. Though Charter did not file this lawsuit, the ISP separately asked the FCC to let the network-interconnection condition and a condition prohibiting data caps expire on May 18, 2021, two years earlier than scheduled. Today's court's ruling seems to render Charter's petition moot as far as the network-interconnection condition goes, but the court ruling did not overturn the data-cap prohibition.

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Jack Daniel's Manufacturer Was Target of Apparent Ransomware Attack

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 21:30
Brown-Forman, a manufacturer of alcoholic beverages including Jack Daniel's and Finlandia, said it was hit by a cyber-attack in which some information, including employee data, may have been impacted. From a report: The company, which is based in Louisville, Kentucky, said in a statement it was able to prevent its systems from being encrypted, which is normally caused by ransomware attacks. It provided few other details about the incident, including when it happened or how the hackers accessed the data. "We are working closely with law enforcement, as well as world class third-party data security experts, to mitigate and resolve this situation as soon as possible," the company said. "There are no active negotiations."

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AMC Movie Theaters Will Reopen On Aug. 20 With 15-Cent Tickets

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 19:30
schwit1 writes: Moviegoers will have to pay only 15 cents for tickets at AMC cinemas on Aug. 20, when the chain starts to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak. The cheap tickets will be available at more than 100 theaters across the U.S. The deal, a throwback to the price the company charged when it was founded in 1920, is intended to lure customers who may be worried about venturing into a theater because of the risk of contracting COVID-19.

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Russell Kirsch, Inventor of the Pixel, Passed Away This Week

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 18:15
Computer scientist Russell A. Kirsch, the inventor of the pixel and an undisputed pioneer of digital imaging, passed away on Tuesday in his Portland home from complications arising from a form of Alzheimer's disease. He was 91 years old. From a report: Russell Kirsch may not be a name that you immediately recognize, but his contributions to computer science made digital imaging possible. Born June 20, 1929 in New York City to immigrant parents from Russia and Hungary, Kirsch attended Bronx High School, then NYU, Harvard, and eventually MIT. In 1951, he joined the National Bureau of Standards, where he worked for 50 years and helped to invent the pixel and create the first digital photograph. This 172 x 172 pixel image of his son Walden -- created in 1957 -- is now iconic, and was named one of Life magazine's "100 Photographs That Changed the World" in 2003.

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Google Plans To Eventually Replace Duo With Meet

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 17:15
An anonymous reader shares a report: With classic Hangouts on the way out, Google today has two video calling apps. However, that is one too many for the company, and sources familiar with the matter tell us that Google Duo will eventually be replaced by Meet. This decision is the result of Google placing its consumer communication services -- Duo, Messages, and Android's Phone app -- under the leadership of G Suite head Javier Soltero. After the unified team was made public in May, Soltero announced to employees that it does not make sense for Duo and Meet to coexist. Following the rise of work from home and remote learning, Google has moved aggressively to make Meet a Zoom competitor. Like Duo, it's now "free for everyone" to use and going after the same market. With all the focus on Meet, the new messaging chief opted to have the service become Google's one video calling service for both regular and enterprise customers. Internally, this is being described as a merger of the two services that is codenamed "Duet" -- a portmanteau of Duo and Meet. We're told by sources that this new direction and the reduced interest in building a dedicated consumer service came as a surprise to the Duo team.

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Facebook Goes After Apple

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 16:25
Facebook is seeking to force a face-off with Apple over its 30% in-app purchase commission fee, which Facebook suggests hurts small businesses struggling to get by during the pandemic. From a report: Facebook has never publicly gone after Apple, a key strategic partner, this aggressively. Both companies face antitrust scrutiny, which in Apple's case has centered on the very fee structure Facebook is now attacking. Facebook is trying to position itself as friendlier to small businesses than Apple, which also faces a lawsuit from Fortnite maker Epic Games over its commission and in-app payment restrictions. Facebook said Friday that it will launch "Paid Online Events" for small businesses in 20 countries around the world to charge Facebook users to attend their classes, instructions and other events. The feature could be useful for any small business or individual offering a service, such a preacher, musician, yoga teacher or cooking instructor. Facebook asked Apple to either waive its 30% cut or let Facebook go around it and process event payments via Facebook Pay, in either case letting event hosts keep all the revenue they generate. Apple declined, according to Facebook. "Really what we're pushing on right now is to make sure all tech companies who can afford to do so join us in supporting small businesses," Fidji Simo, head of Facebook App, said on a press call Friday. Hosts will be able to collect the full ticket price from Facebook users who attend their online events via the web or Android. Facebook says it is using its own payment system on Android and letting developers keep all the money.

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DNC, RNC To Test Limits of Virtual Events as Election Enters Final Stage

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 14:06
The Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, long mainstays of the US presidential election cycle, have been forced online, creating the biggest test yet for conducting life remotely during the coronavirus. From a report: Robbed of the energy of convention halls, the parties will seek to re-create that enthusiasm in high-production streaming events that beam their luminaries from around the country to online audiences. The Democrats, whose convention begins on Monday after a roughly month-long delay, have lined up the party's most visible figures, including former President Barack Obama. The Republicans, who will make their case for four more years in the White House, grab the spotlight on Aug. 24. Done with savvy and pizzazz, the Democrats and Republicans could galvanize support for their candidates -- former Vice President Joe Biden and President Donald Trump, respectively -- despite the absence of cheering crowds, over-amplified rock music and blizzards of confetti. If technical glitches hobble the proceedings, the parties risk broadcasting a mammoth Zoom call derailed by freezes, connection mishaps and mute fails.

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Google Has Stopped Responding To Data Requests from Hong Kong Authorities

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 13:06
Google will stop responding to requests for data from Hong Kong authorities with the search giant instead directing requests for user data to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the United States that is done in conjunction with the Department of Justice. From a report: The move comes after a new national security law imposed by China curbed political expression. Although Hong Kong officials have said that the law would only target a "small minority," human rights groups such as Amnesty International are concerned that police will use the new law as a way to crack down on government critics with those that are found guilty potentially facing life imprisonment. Google, Facebook and Twitter each announced in July that they were pausing the review of the Hong Kong government requests for user data to study the new law, with Google now taking the next step in stopping responding directly. "Since the new national security law was enacted in June, we have not produced data in response to new requests from Hong Kong authorities and that remains the case," a Google spokesperson tells CNET in a statement.

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Epic's Battle For 'Open Platforms' Ignores Consoles' Massive Closed Market

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 12:10
Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo demand the same platform control -- and the same 30% fee. From a report: Yesterday, Epic used Fortnite to essentially wage open war against Apple's and Google's mobile app marketplaces. First it added a discounted "Epic Direct Payment" option alongside the standard iOS App Store and Google Play payment options in Fortnite, in direct violation of those stores' policies. Then, when Fortnite was predictably removed from both platforms, Epic filed lawsuits against both companies, alleging "anti-competitive restraints and monopolistic practices" in the mobile app marketplace. That move came alongside a heavy-handed PR blitz, including a video asking players to "join the fight to stop 2020 from becoming '1984.'" But through this entire public fight for "open mobile platforms," as Epic puts it, there is one major set of closed platforms that the company seems happy to continue doing business with. We're speaking, of course, about video game consoles. The major console makers also all exercise full control over what games and apps can appear in their own walled gardens. When it comes to iOS, Epic says that "by blocking consumer choice in software installation, Apple has created a problem so they can profit from the solution." When it comes to consoles, Epic is silent about the same state of affairs. In this sense, consoles are even more restrictive than Android, where games and apps (including Fortnite) can be sideloaded without using the Google Play Store. Yet Google has earned a lawsuit for its role in this state of affairs, while the console makers have remained undisturbed. In addition to the business implications, console makers' total control of their marketplaces also has a direct impact on the types of content that players get to play. Any game that receives an Adults Only rating from the ESRB isn't welcome on any of the three major consoles, for instance. And if you want to use UWP to code an N64 emulator that works on the Xbox One, Microsoft will pull it down as quickly as it can.

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Google Resumes Its Attack on the URL Bar, Hides Full Addresses on Chrome 86

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 11:14
An anonymous reader shares a report: Google has tried on and off for years to hide full URLs in Chrome's address bar, because apparently long web addresses are scary and evil. Despite the public backlash that came after every previous attempt, Google is pressing on with new plans to hide all parts of web addresses except the domain name in Chrome 86, this time accompanied by an admittedly hover animation. The new look builds upon the animation-less hover reveal that's already in testing, but in contrast to that method, the improved variant also displays the protocol and the subdomain, which remain invisible in the older version. That's achieved with a neat sliding animation that moves over the visible part of the URL to make space for the strings preceding it.

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China Sets Trial Run For Digital Yuan in Top City Hubs

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 10:00
Chinese authorities will expand test use of the country's prototype digital currency across the nation's three leading urban clusters centered on Beijing, Shanghai and the southern cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. From a report: The move, announced by the Ministry of Commerce, expands the coverage area for testing the cyber currency to a potential user base of around 400 million, or 29% of the country's population. It has been trialed since April in four cities with a combined population of 41 million, Work on the digital yuan, which is intended to be interchangeable with the country's paper currency, started more than five years ago but accelerated after Facebook unveiled its Libra digital currency project in June 2019. Rising concerns that the U.S. could try to throttle China's access to the global dollar-based financial system, amid mounting tensions between Washington and Beijing, have fed further interest in the effort. "The digital yuan as a competitor of the greenback is more of a long-term phenomenon," said Andrew Collier, managing director of financial research company Orient Capital Research in Hong Kong. "Digitalization doesn't address the lack of free convertibility of the yuan," he said. "However the digitalization of the currency and other settlement systems gives an advantage to its (China's) institutions, which will be significant when the currency is liberalized."

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A Third of TikTok's US Users May Be 14 or Under, Raising Safety Questions

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 09:04
If Microsoft or another company buys TikTok before President Trump bans the Chinese-owned video app on national security grounds, it will acquire a giant community of devoted fans and a lucrative platform for selling ads. It might be buying something else, too: a big population of users ages 14 and under. The minimum age for using TikTok is 13. From a report: In July, TikTok classified more than a third of its 49 million daily users in the United States as being 14 years old or younger, according to internal company data and documents that were reviewed by The New York Times. While some of those users are likely to be 13 or 14, one former employee said TikTok workers had previously pointed out videos from children who appeared to be even younger that were allowed to remain online for weeks. The number of users who TikTok believes might be younger than 13 raises questions about whether the company is doing enough to protect them. In the United States, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires internet platforms to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information on children under 13. The operators of Musical.ly, an app that was merged into TikTok in 2018, paid a $5.7 million fine last year to settle accusations from the Federal Trade Commission that it had broken those rules.

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TikTok's US Employees Plan To Sue Trump Administration Over Executive Order

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 06:30
TikTok's US employees are planning to file a lawsuit challenging a Trump administration executive order they say would make it illegal for their employer to pay them. From a report: Last week, President Donald Trump issued an executive order barring any US transactions with ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, and its subsidiaries. The language of the order is broad, so it's unclear if it would bar TikTok from paying its employees. The Trump administration didn't respond to questions about how the order would impact TikTok's employees. The order, which would take effect Sept. 20, would effectively ban the short-form video app from operating in the US if ByteDance doesn't sell TikTok. Microsoft has acknowledged it's discussing a deal to buy TikTok's service in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Negotiations could be completed by Sept. 15, which is before the executive order's deadline.

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Instagram Wasn't Removing Photos and Direct Messages From Its Servers

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 03:30
A security researcher was awarded a $6,000 bug bounty payout after he found Instagram retained photos and private direct messages on its servers long after he deleted them. From a report: Independent security researcher Saugat Pokharel found that when he downloaded his data from Instagram, a feature it launched in 2018 to comply with new European data rules, his downloaded data contained photos and private messages with other users that he had previously deleted. It's not uncommon for companies to store freshly deleted data for a time until it can be properly scrubbed from its networks, systems and caches. Instagram said it takes about 90 days for deleted data to be fully removed from its systems. But Pokharel found that his ostensibly deleted data from more than a year ago was still stored on Instagram's servers, and could be downloaded using the company's data download tool. Pokharel reported the bug in October 2019 through Instagram's bug bounty program. The bug was fixed earlier this month, he said.

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'All Of My TikTok Followers Are Fake'

Fri, 08/14/2020 - 00:00
An anonymous reader shares a report: The followers poured in. Then the likes. Then tens of thousands of people watched my TikTok video. The clip itself was of a few Motherboard staffers winning a match in the hugely popular game Call of Duty: Warzone; TikTok is full of streamers and players uploading their wins or soul-crushing loses. The video itself isn't good -- there's no slick editing, no captivating TikTok personality talking to camera, and certainly no dancing -- but in a few short hours the video accumulated 25,000 views and over 1,000 likes. This is very little engagement compared to the most popular videos on TikTok, but it's not bad for my first ever clip uploaded to the platform. The video climbed through the rankings of one of the Warzone-related hashtags people use to share their games. But most of that engagement was fake. I bought the TikTok followers, likes, and views from a website that offers them all for sale. For around $50 in total I had artificially inflated the popularity of my TikTok clip, and, although my video certainly isn't about to go viral, potentially increased the chance for unsuspecting TikTok users to see it themselves. The news comes amid increased attention on TikTok, including not-yet-publicly verified claims from the Trump administration that the app poses a national security risk. Last week President Trump signed an executive order that would ban TikTok from the United States if the company isn't bought by an American company. TikTok plans to sue in response as early as this week, NPR reported. Microsoft is in talks to purchase TikTok.

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YouTube Bans Videos Containing Hacked Information That Could Interfere With the Election

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 20:45
As Democrats and Republicans prepare to hold their national conventions starting next week, YouTube on Thursday announced updates to its policies on deceptive videos and other content designed to interfere with the election. From a report: The world's largest video platform, with more than 2 billion users a month, will ban videos containing information that was obtained through hacking and could meddle with elections or censuses. That would include material like hacked campaign emails with details about a candidate. The update follows the announcement of a similar rule that Google, which owns YouTube, unveiled earlier this month banning ads that contain hacked information. Google will start enforcing that policy Sept. 1. YouTube also said it will take down videos that encourage people to interfere with voting and other democratic processes. For example, videos telling people to create long lines at polling places in order to stifle the vote won't be allowed.

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Single-line Software Bug Causes Fledgling YAM Cryptocurrency To Implode Just Two Days After Launch

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 18:01
A two-day-old decentralized cryptocurrency called YAM collapsed this week after its creators revealed that a software bug had effectively vetoed human governance. From a report: "At approximately 6PM UTC, on Wednesday, August 12, we discovered a bug in the YAM rebasing contract that would mint far more YAM than intended to sell to the Uniswap YAM/yCRV pool, sending a large amount of excess YAM to the protocol reserve," the YAM project explained in a post on Thursday. "Given YAM's governance module, this bug would render it impossible to reach quorum, meaning no governance action would be possible and funds in the treasury would be locked." The bug followed from this line of code... totalSupply = initSupply.mul(yamsScalingFactor); ...which was supposed to be⦠totalSupply = initSupply.mul(yamsScalingFactor).div(BASE); YAM, a decentralized finance experiment, implements a governance system (for making protocol changes) based on supposed smart contracts that allocates votes based on assets. [...] The code flaw locked up about $750,000 worth of Curve (yCRV) tokens in the YAM treasury, assets intended to serve as a reserve currency to support the value of YAM tokens.

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Intel Says New Transistor Technology Could Boost Chip Performance 20%

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 17:00
Intel on Thursday disclosed a new method for making transistors on semiconductors that its chief architect said could boost the performance Intel's next round of processors by as much as 20%. From a report: The Santa Clara, California-based company is one of the few remaining in the world that both designs and manufactures its own chips. But its manufacturing operations have become a concern among investors after Intel last month said that its next-generation chip-making process, called its 7-nanometer process node, would be delayed. Analysts believe the delays could cement the lead that rivals such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co have gained in making smaller, more power efficient chips. Intel's shares have fallen nearly 20% since the delays were disclosed. On Thursday, Intel sought to buck the notion that the single-number names given to each generation of chip process node tell the entire story by disclosing improvements on its existing 10-nanonmeter process node. It announced a new way of making what it now calls "SuperFin" transistors, which, along with a new material being used to improve the capacitors on chips, is expected to boost the performance of Intel's forthcoming processors, despite their still being made on 10-nanometer manufacturing lines.

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Facebook Abandons Broken Drilling Equipment Under Oregon Coast Seafloor

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 16:00
Kale Williams, reporting for The Oregonian: Lynnae Ruttledge was worried when she heard Facebook planned to build a landing spot for an undersea fiber-optic cable near her Oregon Coast home. Tierra Del Mar, where the 70-year-old retired government worker lives part-time, is a tiny community north of Pacific City with no stoplights and no cell-phone service. The enclave, all zoned residential, consists of about a dozen mostly gravel streets running perpendicular to an idyllic stretch of beach, each lined with single-family homes. Ruttledge and many of her neighbors worried about heavy equipment on fragile roads built over sand dunes. They worried about noise and vibrations from the drill needed to punch a hole under the seafloor thousands of feet out into the ocean. They worried about threatened bird species, like the snowy plover and marbled murrelet, that could be affected. Despite their concerns, and a vocal campaign to stop the project, construction began earlier this year. Then, on April 28, the drilling crew hit an unexpected area of hard rock. The drill bit became lodged and the drill pipe snapped 50 feet below the seafloor. The crew was able to recover some of the equipment, but they left the rest where it lay. Today, about 1,100 feet of pipe, a drill tip, various other tools and 6,500 gallons of drilling fluid sit under the seafloor just off the central Oregon coast. Facebook has no plans to retrieve the equipment. Edge Cable Holdings, a Facebook subsidiary responsible for the project, notified the county of the accident on May 5, but it did not explicitly mention the abandoned equipment. That information didn't emerge until a meeting with state officials June 17, nearly two months after the malfunction, said Ali Hansen, a Department of State Lands spokeswoman. "The delay in notification eliminated any potential options for recovery of the equipment," Hansen said in an email. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the company's new plan is to return in early 2021 to drill a new hole, leaving the lost equipment under the seafloor indefinitely.

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Epic Games Sues Apple

Thu, 08/13/2020 - 14:44
Epic Games has filed legal papers in response to Apple, read more here (PDF). From the filing: Epic brings this suit to end Apple's unfair and anti-competitive actions that Apple undertakes to unlawfully maintain its monopoly in two distinct, multibillion dollar markets: (i) the iOS App Distribution Market, and (ii) the iOS In-App Payment Processing Market. Epic is not seeking monetary compensation from this Court for the injuries it has suffered. Nor is Epic seeking favorable treatment for itself, a single company. Instead, Epic is seeking injunctive relief to allow fair competition in these two key markets that directly affect hundreds of millions of consumers and tens of thousands, if not more, of third-party app developers.[....] Contrast this anti-competitive harm with how similar markets operate on Apple's own Mac computers. Mac users can download virtually any software they like, from any source they like. Developers are free to offer their apps through the Mac computer App Store, a third-party store, through direct download from the developer's website, or any combination thereof. Indeed, on Macs, Epic distributes Fortnite through its own storefront, which competes with other third-party storefronts available to Mac users. App developers are free to use Apple's payment processing services, thee payment processing services of third parties, or the developers' own payment processing service; users are offered their choice of different payment processing options (e.g., PayPal, Amazon, and Apple). The result is that consumers and developers alike have choices, competition is thriving, prices drop, and innovation is enhanced. The process should be no different for Apple's mobile devices. But Apple has chosen to make it different by imposing contractual and technical restrictions that prevent any competition and increase consumer costs for every app and in-app content purchase -- restrictions that it could never impose on Macs, where it does not enjoy the same dominance in the sale of devices. It doesn't have to be like this. [...] Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear. At a market cap of nearly $2 trillion, Apple's size and reach far exceeds that of any technology monopolist in history. Epic just streamed this video to its users.

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